An occasional diary of days in the life of Jan Windle
Thursday, 22 November 2007
I had a birthday yesterday - not a big one, or at least only one digit bigger than last year's - and I meant to put some effort into marking it somehow. I seldom have done anything much on my birthday because it's usually raining and I'm usually working (in fact one birthday I had to take a public exam, and another I had to go to a Parents' Evening as a member of staff, till 9pm). Also I usually have a cold on my birthday because it's that time of year.
Well, this year I had the option of not working (in fact I didn't have the option of working as it happened becauseI didn't get a call from the agency). The rain cleared up the night before. And I didn't quite have a cold. Just a tickly throat and a bit of a lazy feeling which might or might not have been down to some virus fighting with my white blood corpuscles.
I was going to drive down to see my daughter in Southampton for a meal, then come back and go to the theatre with Olwen in Guildford. To see a play that looked excellent but maybe esoteric enough for us to get last minute stand-by tickets.
By 9am everything seemed to be out of my control and spiralling down into the usual bad news birthday syndrome, apart from the fact that I wasn't expected to go to work. To start with, Alice phoned and said she wanted to come to Guildford instead of me going there. OK, I said, we'll all three go to the theatre. Boyfriend Mark was coming too, she said. Good, I said (I like Mark) I would cook instead of taking them out to eat, and try to get four tickets for the theatre.
Next, I phoned the theatre to see how bookings were going. Sold out for the whole week, they said. Immensely popular. Served me right for being an intellectual snob. Of course everyone in Guildford would want to go and see a modernised version of Philip Marlowe's "Faustus".
My sore throat began to make itself felt, helpfully, so that I could say to myself, "Just as well, I'm going to need an early night and a hot toddy by six o'clock." I broke the news to Olwen that our evening's theatre trip was a non-starter.
I popped out to get some salad and dry pasta, took a couple of photos of the trees along the road (brilliant blue sky again after all the darkness earlier this week), and as there was still an hour or two to go before Alice and Mark would be here I started cutting down the hedge that grows much too fast all year round, outside the front door. The weather was perfect, still and cloudless.
When Alice and Mark came in they were carrying a huge heart-shaped carrot cake with candles lit in my honour:
and a present that was very heavy, about two feet long, and roughly cylindrical. When I unwrapped it, I found this:
It's an extraordinary pot. I couldn't help exclaiming that it reminded me of someone I used to know. Mark found this very funny and said he was impressed, did size really count? No, I said, it's not the size that jogs my memory, it's the shape.
It's a lovely lustre glaze and will look beautiful with dangly grasses in it. Alice told me off a bit and then offered to get the lunch ready. The cake was delicious. Luckily they hadn't put as many candles on it as the years of my birthday. I did that on my fiftieth and the cake caught fire and nearly destroyed the curtains next to the table.
We had a very pleasant afternoon, talking over the dinner table. Alice had work to catch up on at uni and they went off in the early evening. I was glad I wasn't going out after all because the cold that had been hovering all week was making itself felt and I was starting to sneeze a bit. I went for a rest, intending to have the early night that I very seldom achieve.
But I woke up at nine and went down to see what had been happening on Myspace. When I turned on the computer I was overwhelmed by all the messages and comments that friends had sent and were still sending. It was great to exchange messages with so many people, some of whom I didn't know remembered me at all! So thanks everyone, whether you sent me a message or not - you are all so different, unique, all (or almost all, I suppose I should say, because you never know!) real living people with whom I'm grateful and proud to be in contact.
It rained in the evening, but for once it didn't rain on my parade.
- Jan Windle
- Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom
- Like a butterfly emerging painfully in several stages I've morphed a few times in my life, from art student to teacher, from rebellious confused twenty-something to faithful wife and well-meaning mother, from bored middle-aged art teacher to egocentric freethinking Italophile and painter. For the last few years I've been writing poetry and painting, drawing illustrations for my own work and other peoples's, and sharing as much of my time as possible with Donall Dempsey, the Irish poet who has owned my heart since I met him in 2008. We've spent working holidays together since then, writing, painting and enjoying ourselves and each other's company in a variety of places from New York to Bulgaria. We visit the Amalfi Coast in Italy every year, on a pilgrimage to the country that that I believe saved my life from sterility and pointlessness back in 2004. I'm looking forward to a happy and creative last third of life - at last I believe I've found the way to achieve that. I have paintings to sell on my website, www.janwindle.com, and books and prints at www.dempseyandwindle.co.uk. But I'll keep on writing and painting whether or not they find a market!