Freelance writer Square Sparrow lives on a rambling smallholding in rural Scotland with her husband (HunterGatherer) and, now and then, their three offspring. Other smallholding incumbents include one overly indulged feline called FatCat, a similarly rotund Highland pony called FatHorse, plus a flock of rather attractive Shetland sheep – known affectionately as the Chocolate Sheep because of their rich assortment of wool colours (and because of Square Sparrow’s passion for chocolate).
Friday, 20 December 2013
Square Sparrow 2013 - the Antidote to Round Robins
We wish you a berry Christmas!
the first Christmas catalogue of 2013 ricocheted off the doormat in early
August (and was promptly consigned to the recycling bin), Yours Truly has been trying
assiduously to avoid even the faintest mention of the festive season.
November is already but a distant memory, and December seems to be galloping past
at high speed – giving even Rudolph, Donner, Blitzen & Co. a pretty good
run for their money. Alas, it would seem that Yours Truly can prevaricate, procrastinate
and postpone no longer: the time has finally come to pen the annual epistle...
(now 22) spent the first half of the year continuing her pâtisserie
language studies in Paris, but at the end of June – much to her “grand chagrin”
– her stint in the fabulous French capital came to an end. After a patience-testing month minding dozens
of recalcitrant foreign students at a Cambridge language school, she spent
August completing a three-week internship with a commercial law firm in London,
which was followed by a week in their Brussels office.
they didn’t try hard enough to put her off their profession, and the upshot of
her summer brush with the law was a training contract with the said firm. This
means that once she finishes the French degree, she’ll fly off to a “coven for law
converts” in London, which will no doubt entail wearing more black gowns and poring
over yet more weighty tomes.
first things first: after a swift 10-day respite at home, our aspiring legal
eagle had to psych herself for her return to Oxford’s dreamy spires (though she
claims “perspiring dreams” more accurately describes the experience of the dreaded
final year at St Something’s).
She began the term training with the Blues ladies’
rugby squad, but her chances of Varsity were kicked into touch when a
(considerably larger) opponent landed on her ankle during a match, leaving it
only benefit of having to drop out of rugby for a while is that she has had
more time to devote to her customary marathon-length reading list, which
comprises around 100 impenetrable titles (none of which appeared even remotely tempting
to her cultural philistine of a mother!).
lure of France is, it would seem, strong among Sparrowholding incumbents,
because while the start of summer 2013 saw the return from Gallic shores of DD1,
the end of the summer saw 20-year-old DD2 depart for an ERASMUS year at
Aix-Marseilles University in the south of France.
Until May 2014, she will be based
in the picturesque town of Aix-en-Provence – rather alarmingly the third most
expensive place to live in France after Paris and San Tropez. This explains why
she, too, was obliged to spend most of her summer at a language school in
Cambridge, managing a house full of edgy teenage English students “with
perusals of her blog – the appropriately titled “An (Academic) Year in Provence”
– suggest that she is rapidly acquiring a Mediterranean sun tan the
French phrases essential to any self-respecting music student, including “Do
you know any sympathetic accompanists?” and “Where’s the nearest pub?”
is never too far from DD2’s thoughts, so she quickly sought out a local mixed
club, where (she claims) playing against men is “toughening up her game”. However,
anyone who has previously witnessed her physicality on the pitch in Scotland has
to feel a soupçon of sympathy for the poor unsuspecting French male hockey
players currently encountering the razor-sharp elbows of the “Ecossaise”.
(18) finally finished school in June, and it was debatable which were louder:
his sighs of relief or those of his teachers…He then spent most of the summer
honing techniques for avoiding tidying his midden of a bedroom, interspersed with
the occasional sortie into paid employment, e.g. using our garden wheelbarrow
to provide tent transportation services for festival-goers at nearby T in the
Park. Surprisingly, this proved a relatively
remunerative pursuit – almost compensating for the outlay on plasters for the myriad
blisters on his hands and feet.
the autumn, he took up residence in a basic-but-serviceable, six-person, third-floor
flat in Edinburgh with a “lovely” landlord who (we later discovered) has a
history of terrorising his tenants. Of course, after the heinous experience of
sharing a house with his invidious, evil mother for the past year, our intrepid
hero was unfazed by the prospect of one of Edinburgh’s worst landlords.
other news, he has finally found a way of making hockey pay (i.e. stop playing
it and coach other people instead) and is currently doing a creditable
impression of Tom Cruise while learning the dark art of cocktail mixing in a
hip and trendy Edinburgh pub. So if you want “Sex on the Beach”, apparently he’s
early October, our humble household had thus entered a momentous new phase:
after 22 years of full-on parenting, the final fledgling had flown the nest,
leaving HunterGatherer and Yours Truly frantically trying to remember what we
used to talk about in the BC (before child) era.
abound hereabouts in the form of a seriously untamed garden and
industrial-sized polytunnel (alias weed-breeding hothouse) plus 20 wild and
woolly Shetland sheep to chase after – though this is not recommended when
you’ve recently turned 50, are wearing wellies and are nursing a slightly torn
between all this, we attempt (when our middle-aged muscles permit) to play
hockey for our respective local teams and to fit in the mandatory day jobs, HG
wielding a spanner or a tractor and Yours Truly a virtual (red) pen. In short,
life is anything but empty – even if the nest is. Better still, although the
sheep may need herded occasionally, at least they don’t require picked up from
parties in the wee sma’ hours!
that remains is for me to thank you all for reading and commenting on this
eclectic collection of posts throughout 2013 and to wish you and your families a
wonderful Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year in 2014. As we say in these
parts, slàinte mhath J