Wednesday, 16 November 2011


  This week isn't very productive for writing, though I've been busy in other areas.

   It's my Grandma's 90th birthday on Wednesday, which is an achievement by any standards. As we were told she was dying imminently in 1995, it's even more surprising.

  Grandma has always been one of life's enigmas and eccentrics, and there is no time to do her justice here.  But we are all anxious about Wednesday, as she  has a few mental health difficulties.  She has bipolar disorder. For her, this means that she has a good day, followed by a bad day, then a good day.  On bad days, she can be vicious, rude and always petulant.  On good days, she is much the same at first, then 'warms up' as the hours pass, eating almost non-stop.  She will stay up until after midnight, giddy and high-spirited. Wednesday should be a good day, but every so often, she misses a step, and confuses us all.  To compound matters, she suffers with senile dementia too. It's advancing slowly, but it's there.

  Her birthday is meant to be a good day, so we are all going out for a meal at lunch time.  A few of her Irish relatives (all nieces now her sisters and brother are gone) are flying over to join us, and I am taking the children out of school to be with us.  Later in the day, we will have an open afternoon at her house for friends and neighbours to drop in for cake, tea and chat.  She is well-liked locally; a colourful character who shows her charm and sparkle as often as her under-slip. 

  I foolishly offered to make the cake for the drop in afternoon.  My Mum then foolishly offered to help me out.  (Clearly age and wisdom aren't always related). We chose a three tier beast of a cake that looked simple, and I baked it. I was proud of it, until the icing stage, when it became clear that, rather like a Victorian home, there was not one straight line involved. Each cake leaned, and was lumpy, and bulged.

  We deviated from the decorations in the book, at first just a little, but each decision then changed the next one, until it looked nothing like the plan.  We used pink icing for the top two tiers - it's Grandma's favourite colour; the more grotesque and Barbie-ish the better.  My six-year old thought it looked pretty, too.  She and Grandma get on well. 

  Apart from the fact the cake was wonky and bumpy and amateurish, we had such a time icing it.  Anything that could go wrong, did, from a toddler with a Poo Incident that required a shower (and yes, I had to get in with him) to a packet of icing sugar exploding on the floor.  Luckily, my sense of humour was healthy that day, and I spent the whole day laughing.  Perhaps it was hysteria, but I prefer to think it was the resilient laughter of a mature woman. Mum says we are never doing such a big job again;  I think it's the most fun I've had in ages.

  Best of all, when we came back to the cake on Tuesday, and added ribbon to disguise its spare tyre, and edible glitter to make it look pretty, and a few curling streamers and a 90 on top, it didn't look half bad.  It wouldn't win any prizes, and I'd rather be writing, but I think Grandma will approve.  Now we just need to get it to her house in one piece, and for her to get up on her birthday to see it.  I think I'll leave that part of the process  to Mum and Dad, and get back to making myself a concrete deadline for the second draft of my book. I might as well spend my time on the thing I love.

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