Mrs Elizabeth Moody and her Children, by Gainsborough, hangs in Dulwich Picture Gallery.
DPG is Dulwich Picture Gallery
Sarah S is Sarah Siddons, the Victorian actress, whose portrait is also in DPG
Mr Linley is the Revd Ozias Linley, former schoolmaster and organist at Dulwich College
DC is Dulwich College.
Wednesday Jan 2
Mummy rang to ask when I’m planning to pick the boys up. She said she thought it was just for New Year’s Eve. Funny, she always says how much she adores seeing them. And she knows Sonja the au pair is away til the end of next week.
Celebrated the end of my New Year hangover with a cappucino in Dulwich Picture Gallery café, then a facial, manicure and highlights at Harold George. Almost feel human again. Sarah rang while I was foiled up; had a good gossip. Her agent’s putting her up for Lady Macbeth in the Scottish Play at the Young Vic, lucky thing, with scrummy Jude Law. Unsex me here, indeed.
Friday Jan 4
How long are school holidays, for heaven’s sake? Had to take the boys to my flamenco class this morning, because it clashed with Mummy’s yoga. They said they’d be good and I thought they’d just sit down and get stuck into their Playstations. But they thought it was hilarious and decided to join in at the back. Dolores said it was great and tried to get them to do the male parts. But there were definitely some black looks from the other ladies, especially as Tom is such a good mimic. They do take it all rather seriously. ‘It’s impossible to channel duende when there are children giggling behind you,’ as one lady told me afterwards. Thank heavens the boys go back next week.
Wednesday Jan 9
Dulwich College Lent term starts. It is lovely having the boys around, but, well, lovely to have a bit more ‘me’ time, too. Was planning to walk to school with them this morning, to give my new MTB trainers a work-out, but Mr M. was stamping around in a vile mood (lost his iPhone and refusing to use his Blackberry as everyone will think he hasn’t got an iPhone yet) so I ended up dropping the boys off in the Cayenne after helping him find it in the Smeg. The phone, not the car. Rang Sonja to check she’s really coming back from Poland by the weekend, but the line was terrible. Unless she really was herding goats.
Saturday Jan 12
Saturday, and no Sonja. No Mr M either, as his hedge fund has all disappeared for a ‘brainstorming’ session on the golf course. So up to me to hold the fort. Tom has mini-rugby at 10, so I just have time to drop him off before Sam’s cello lesson at 10.30. Managed to grab a croissant in DPG café (my nutritionist says my blood sugar mustn’t get too low) before loading the car up again with boys, mud, boots and musical instruments. No time to shop this week, so I dropped the boys off with Mummy for lunch, then dashed to East Dulwich Deli to stock up. Fortunately Mr M back in the afternoon, so I persuaded him to take the boys swimming, long enough for me to put my feet up and have a quick flick through Vogue. Really hate January. Isn’t it time the shops cleared out all the old sales stuff and brought out the new season? Realised forgot to get milk and bread. Oh well; let them eat pannetone.
Monday Jan 14
Sonja arrived back late last night, thank God. Apparently she’d been held at Heathrow since Friday on suspicion of being illegal. Honestly, why didn’t she just get them to phone us? Mr M is so good at sorting out that type of thing. Anyway, I finally got a lie-in while she did breakfast and walked the boys to school. Bliss. Tried to make a cappucino with the new Gaggia, but gave up. Nipped over to DPG café instead. Reviewed my New Year Resolutions. Damn. Haven’t done anything cultural yet.
Thursday Jan 17
We all went to the late night opening at the Dulwich Picture Gallery – that ticks the cultural box. Loads of people were there with their kids, and gorgeous Xavier, the curator, gave talks about the paintings. Maybe I should sign up for some art history classes. I’ve always been quite artistic. Unfortunately forgot that I’d decided to detox all January until after the third glass of wine. Bit academic after that. Luckily Mr M remembered to pick the boys up from their illustration workshop before we went home.
Monday Jan 21
Finally managed my NYR of walking the boys to school in my MTBs. They weigh a ton! Staggered into the playground 10 minutes late, with Sam whinging about how he’ll get into trouble from his new teacher. So I went into the classroom to explain. Well. No wonder bloody Sonja has been skipping off with them each morning, covered in make-up! Sam’s Mr Linley is rather stern-looking, but in a good way. He was very understanding about Sam being late. Nice dark eyes, dark hair a bit long over his ears, but then he’s probably an intellectual. Very firm chin. Mmn. Maybe I should reconsider joining the PTA. Sam says he plays the organ in chapel. I bet he does.
Tue Jan 22
Nightmare! Mr M’s mother Cornelia has written to say she wants to come to stay at the weekend. Can’t think why; she hated it last time. Tried to get Mr M to ring and fob her off, but he was in a terrible mood again this morning, muttering about credit reconfiguration and pulling in horns. In which case, I pointed out, we can’t really afford another mouth to feed. He told me not to be silly and that she pays the boy’s school fees, so she has a right to see for herself if they can actually read and write, seeing as they never write to thank her for their presents. I think that was the longest conversation we’ve had since New Year’s Eve.
Wed Jan 23
Had a lovely lunch with Sarah in Blue Mountain Cafe. She says I should just hand the boys over to Cornelia and push off to the last day of Harrods’ sale on Saturday. She’s never met Cornelia, of course. Anyway, she’s got the big Lady Mac with Jude, starting in April, so she’s thrilled. I sometimes think I should have persisted with my acting lessons. I’ve always been quite dramatic. Was so traumatised by fear of Cornelia arriving that I forgot about the detox again and we polished off a couple of bottles between us. Oh well, nearly February.
Sunday Jan 27
Am writing on the loo, as only room in house with lock on it. Anywhere else too dangerous. Cornelia sees all, forgives nothing. Must remember to lock diary in medicine cupboard afterwards, or maybe post to Sarah to open in the event of my untimely demise.
Cornelia arrived at 8am. On a Saturday! Well, of course I wasn’t dressed– who the hell is at that time? She swept through the house, nostrils flaring, mentally noting the empty wine bottles by the back door (for recycling, obviously, although they probably don’t have that in Scotland), unopened credit card bills by the front door, and every misplaced sock, shoe, school report or dustball in between.
The boys did their best, but poor Tom went stiff with fear when she tried to kiss him, and started stammering. He’s never done that before. Must break him of it sharpish – imagine being ginger and a stammerer! Sam’s the image of his father, all that blond hair, so he’s her favourite. Although whether that preference will survive his ghastly cello recital of yesterday afternoon is another matter.
Sonja’s claiming winter vomiting virus and has confined herself to her room. I don’t blame her. Although I admit, the sound effects are very convincing.
Ohgod Ohgod Ohgod. Cornelia’s off again, asking Mr M ‘if there’s any chance in this household of a nice, plain cup of tea.’ Better go.
Wed 30 Jan
Finally packed Cornelia back off to Edinburgh yesterday. Was so giddy with relief, I celebrated with a glass of bubbly or two at the new St Pancras champagne bar. Great fun – very dishy barman. But then accidentally got on the northbound Capital Connect and had to go all the way to St Albans before the damn thing stopped. Took hours to get home again. Thank goodness the ticket man was understanding. Needed another glass of wine at Pullens in Herne Hill before I could face the final leg of the journey. Eventually decided a cab was probably justified, in the circumstances. Thank goodness the cabbie was nice when I realised I didn’t have any more cash on me. But frankly, Mr M could have been a bit more understanding, especially as it was all his mother’s fault.
Saturday 2 February
Phew, January de-tox over at last. Sonja took Sam to his cello lesson, as I’d agreed to watch Tom playing mini-rugby. Sam’s teacher Mr Linley coaches the team, so it seemed only right to show a maternal interest. Took a while deciding whether my new high-waist flared jeans would look better tucked into high-heeled boots or out. Left them flapping, but regretted it after 10 minutes with my heels plugged into the Dulwich College mud, flares getting soggier and muddier by the minute. Ridiculous fashion. I’d have been better off in a pair of shiny black shorts, like lovely Mr Linley. Very muscular thighs, I couldn’t help but notice.
Mr M turned up at half time and wanted to know the score. Linley 2, Moody 0, in my opinion. I said ‘two-nil’ very confidently, but he snorted and went off to talk to one of the other City fathers. Then he spent the second half shouting encouragement to poor Tom, who was mortified. I’m not sure that ‘Kill him, Tommy!’ is appropriate for an under-8s match. Invited Mr Linley to join us for a drink afterwards at the Crown and Greyhound, but he blushed and said he had to get home for lunch. He lives in the college, poor man. We’ll have to have him over for dinner sometime. Maybe when Mr M is off on another business trip. Wonder what his first name is – I can’t carry on calling him Mr Linley like something out of Jane Austen.
Tuesday 5 February
Sarah rang in great excitement and said we had to go to the Picture Gallery. I thought maybe she’d heard that the Rolling Stones were going again, or perhaps Euan McGregor. [Charlie Watts visited in January, Euan McGregor last year] But she said no, it’s the new exhibition, a whole roomful of glorious nude men.[Guido Reni’s St Sebastians] Honestly, it’s time she found herself a new boyfriend. It can’t be healthy, getting this excited about paintings of a long-dead saint being pierced by arrows. Then again, they are rather lovely. Apparently they’re by a chap called Reni, which I thought was what you took for a hangover. We had a nice lunch afterwards in the cafe, and after a couple of glasses of wine Sarah practiced her ‘out, damn spot!’ speech for the Young Vic. Just a teeny bit too loudly, to be honest, although everyone did applaud.
Friday 8 February
Girls night out with Sarah, Mary and Elizabeth [Linley, also painted by Gainsborough. Elizabeth Linley eloped with playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan]. M and E are a scream – sisters I was at JAGS [James Allen Girls School] with. We went to a fab new café bar in Lordship Lane, Moroccan stylee, with cushions to lounge around on and great cocktails. Elizabeth is seeing some up-and-coming playwright chap, who Sarah said writes the most vile plays full of sex and death. A bit like Shakespeare, then, said Elizabeth, although Sarah pointed out that Shakespeare’s plays don’t usually need asterisks in the listings columns. Mary brought me up to date on her music career. Last time I saw her she was singing madrigals in an early music choir. She’s now through to the second round of Make Me A Musical Porn Star, which apparently is the next big thing in reality TV. She’s singing the songs of Kylie Minogue, ‘but much raunchier,’ she says. She should be so lucky.
Mr M still not home when I got back. Sonja says he rang to say the fund was having an emergency meeting that might go on all night. Something about French banks and rogue traders. How very 1990s of them.
Monday 11 February
Gaah. No-one told me it was half term this week. Usually Mr M books up for skiing – maybe he forgot. He’s been very busy recently. What am I meant to do with the boys for a week on my own? Rang Mummy to see if she could take them today. No answer – very mysterious. What can she possibly be doing?
Postcard arrived from Gstaad. Bother. Mummy’s gone skiing with her yoga friends. Visions of them whizzing down the piste in half-lotus position.
Boys were bored and whiny all morning, till Sonja suggested hiring the recumbant bikes in Dulwich Park. We all went and had fun zooming round the lake. Sam and Tom particularly enjoyed pretending to be out of control while heading straight for people pushing buggies, then braking at the last minute as the terrified parents prepared to grab the babies and run for it. Very naughty of them, really.
Thursday 14 February
Sweet card from the boys, with lots of lipstick kisses on the envelope. So that’s what happened to my best Chanel lipstick.
Mr M’s Valentine came in the form of an irritating note attached to the bank statement, pointing out that my gym membership is costing £80 a month, which works out at about £160 a visit. I suppose he’s right, it is a bit of a waste. Although sometimes I do pop in for a cappucino if I’m passing. Anyway, decided to take the bull by the horns and get a personal trainer instead. Daydreamed for a moment about joining the DC under-8 rugby team for a bit of coaching by lovely Mr Linley. Then rang Sarah to ask about her PT. She’s got two, so I asked for the number of the one who doesn’t make her work so hard her make-up runs off. He’s coming next week, so decided I’d better go for a run round the park to get in shape.
Bad mistake. I was gasping like a 200-a-day smoker by the time I got to the park gates, and horribly red in the face. Then, naturally, who should walk past, his nose in a book, but Mr Linley. He looked a bit startled, but smiled politely. Then he scuttled away muttering about being late when I asked his first name. Surely I didn’t look that repulsive?
Sunday 17 February
We all went to Mummy’s for lunch today, even Mr M who usually claims he has to work. Mummy was very excited about the lamb. She says it was marinaded in rosemary-infused olive oil made by her next-door neighbour, from olive groves on their estate in Tuscany. She gave it to Mummy as a thank-you for not telling her husband about the little incident with their skiing instructor last week. Honestly, old people these days. No sense of responsibility.
Mr M chomped through lunch in silence. Then he grabbed my arm when we went for a walk through the park, and said we had to have a serious talk. But the boys took that moment to mis-time their bike trick and ploughed into a double buggy, without hilarious consequences. So I don’t know what it was about. Maybe he wants my advice about how to spend this year’s bonus.
Tuesday 19 February
Can’t walk. Can’t lift my arms above my chest. Can’t breathe in very far. Everything hurts.
My new personal trainer came today. I thought he’d break me in gently –a fitness assessment, discussing my goals, talking through my motivation – but no.
He started by sneering at my trainers. Well, they were in Vogue’s New Year New You feature last month, I pointed out. He made me run up and down the road wearing them while he watched and sucked his teeth. Apparently I ‘over-pronate’, whatever that means. He was also disparaging about my hamstrings, which have been carefully modified over the years to accommodate 6-inch Jimmy Choos.
Then we were on to press-ups. Well, come on, surely only men and Madonna can really do press-ups. I thought he’d get the point when I couldn’t do the first one, but no, he had to watch me not do 10, then run round the park. I say round, but ‘to’ would be more accurate. Then I had to fail to do 10 more press-ups, in full view of Sonja, her au pair mates, and dozens of sniggering Dulwich toddlers.
I tried everything to make it stop. I tried rueful humour, doe-eyed winsomeness, even a few sparkling tears. Nothing. The man’s clearly inhuman. Then, when we finally made it back home, he nodded briskly and said I did better than Sarah did her first time. Hooray! He’s coming again next week.
Thursday 21 February
Decided to celebrate my soon-to-be-very-buff-indeed new body with a little light shopping. Bought an entire summer wardrobe one size smaller than currently fits.
Picked out a few sexy yet caring pieces for the parents evening tonight. I think the Prada skirt was just right, waisted (very this season) but slightly prim of hemline. And the v-neck cardigan looks great a bit too tight. Spent absolutely ages with Sam’s Mr Linley, doing my Princess Di lowered eyelashes bit when he asked where Mr M was, and I explained how terribly busy he is, but how I always made the boys my absolute priority. Unfortunately ran out of time to see Tom’s teacher.
Panicked a bit about the Harvey Nicks bill when I got home. Will present it to Mr M as a sort of bonus present; new me + new wardrobe = jealous colleagues when we go to the summer opera gala.
Sunday 24 February
Oh dear. There isn’t going to be a bonus this year. They spent it all on sub-crunched leverage prime rogues, or something. Mr M’s locked himself in the study with all the bank statements and credit card bills. He even found the ones I’d stuffed down the back of the Ligne Roset corner module.
I’m awaiting developments. He says he’s going to work out a new household budget. It’s a bit like waiting for the announcement of a new Pope. I’m expecting smoke signals any time now. I’m manicuring my own nails, to pass the time. He can’t say I’m not doing my bit.
Thursday 28 February
Mr M has presented me with a list of ‘household economies’.
- Cancel never-used gym membership. Consequences: nil.
- Take back too-small clothes from Harvey Nichols. Consequences: nil. You’ll never fit into them, anyway.
- Reduce hairdressing bill by at least half; suggest going less often. Consequences: barely noticeable, probably. Why not let your hair go back to its natural colour? Whatever that is.
- Use own Gaggia machine instead of buying several cappuccinos a day from cafes. Consequences: teaching you to use the Gaggia, again.
- Do weekly shop at Tesco instead of impulse purchases in delicatessens and farmers’ markets. Consequences: more reliable appearance of basic foodstuffs.
- Have lunch with Sarah S at home, using produce from Tesco. Consequences: who cares?
- Consider letting go domestic staff (Sonja). Consequences: quite possibly chaos. Needs further investigation.
It goes on for several more pages. I’m deeply hurt. What sort of life is that, anyway? Thank goodness he hasn’t found out about my personal trainer. Clever of me to pay him in cash. Quickly squeezed into my favourite new clothes and walked into the village, so I can say Harvey Nicks won’t take them back now I’ve worn them.
Monday 3 March
Had a brilliant idea. I’m going to start a business, to help with our troubled family finances! Then we won’t need to make any horrible household economies. Genius; don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before. Needs to be a gap in the market; something that local people really need. Will convene research summit with Sarah, Elizabeth and Mary over lunch at Blue Mountain. I’m sure Mr M won’t mind as it’s a business lunch. I expect he can put it through on expenses.
Thursday 6 March
Blimey. V lovely, v strong wine at lunchtime. All girls thought very brilliant idea to set up business. Wrote down lots of ideas. Quite hard to read notes, though. Think I need a little lie-down before the boys get home. Unfortunately burst my new Prada skirt – hadn’t tried sitting down and eating in it before. Must ask Mummy if she can mend it, as on economy drive. Bother, got hiccups now.
Sunday 9 March
Finally, five minutes to myself! Mr M really is taking this whole economy thing a bit seriously. He insisted we went to the horrible supermarket yesterday morning, and bought lots of own-brand groceries. V. embarrassing – I swear the check-out girl was sneering at the loo roll. And what if one of the neighbours had seen the non-free-range chicken? Social death, what with Jamie and Hugh and so on.
Then he stood over me while I made lunch, which frankly was quite horrible. Well, what do you expect from plastic bread, mild cheddar, limp lettuce, ‘balsamic-style’ vinegar and non-virgin olive oil? The boys rebelled at orange juice from concentrate. It’s not what they’re used to, poor loves. Mr M seemed to be enjoying it, although I notice he was reading the Weekend FT, instead of the Mirror, which I pointed out is quite significantly cheaper.
Anyway, he’s out now insisting the boys ride their own bikes in the park, instead of hiring the recumbants. So I’m trying to make sense of my notes from Thursday’s business meeting. ‘Style consultant’ and ‘personal retail advisor’ seem reasonably clear. But what’s a ‘motivational change manager’? Or a ‘domestic pictorial records editor’? Clearly need a follow-up meeting with Sarah, probably without the wine this time.
Wednesday 13 March
Actually, I like the sound of the pictorial records editor. Sarah says it means you help someone go through all their old photo albums and chuck out all the unflattering pics. Then you buy a tasteful new album for all the decent ones, which you blow up and crop so you always look nice. But now everything’s digital, you can learn Photoshop and just help people airbrush them before deciding which ones to post on Facebook. Trouble is, I’ve never quite got the hang of the computer.
Inspired, spent the afternoon going through our old photo albums, cutting Cornelia out of Christmasses and Christenings. I always look better when she’s not there. Sam was very interested and asked if he could have all the cut-out photos of her for his school project about family history. Reminded him to make clear that she’s not my bloody mother.
Saturday 16 March
Oh hell. Mr M wasn’t impressed by my editing of our family album. He also poured scorn on the idea that it could be a lucrative new profession. He even refused to accept my café bills as business expenses. Most unfair, considering he used to write Spearmint Rhino off against tax.
He made me go to the supermarket again, as punishment I expect. Honestly, how do people do this every week? And so many of them? I got into a terrible mess – I’d been browsing the magazines, then accidentally walked off with someone else’s trolley. Didn’t realise till I got to the checkout and saw it was mostly full of catfood. Then when I got back to the magazine rack, the woman was berating a terrified-looking manager about having been trolley-napped. She didn’t even crack a smile when I tried to explain that I’d been distracted by Vanity Fair’s Oscar edition. That’s cat-lovers for you.
Stopped off at DPG café for a cappucino to steady my nerves on the way home. Guess who was there, deep in the Times Literary Supplement? In fact, I didn’t even realise it was him until I’d plonked myself down and asked if I could share his table. He blushed deeply, said he’d be delighted, and knocked over the cafetiere.
Sunday 17 March
Ozias Linley. Wow. Oz? Ozzie? ‘Ozzie, darling, how lovely to see you.’ Ick, no. ‘Hey, Oz, are you free tonight?’ Bit more casual, but not really him. Wonder what his friends call him. Frankly, I was too stunned to ask.
Maybe I should stick with the 18th century formality and carry on calling him Mr Linley. But then he’d have to call me Mrs Moody and I always forget that means me. I usually jump a mile when someone says Mrs Moody and look around for Cornelia.
Perhaps it’ll have to be Ozias, after all. In fact, I think I rather like it. Shows a lot of character not to change it as soon as you hit your teens, anyway.
Maybe I should have asked him to call me Elizabeth. Oh well, too late now.
Tuesday 25 March
Made an emergency booking with my personal trainer, having eaten my own body weight in chocolate eggs over the weekend. It was Mr M’s fault. I’d bought loads of lovely Hope and Greenwood eggs for everyone; then he said it should be strictly Cadbury’s this year because of the economy. I panicked and ate all the H&G ones myself so he wouldn’t find them, before replacing them with cheap ones. And then I had to eat the one the boys had made me at school, which was great but rather fluffy. Sam admitted he’d had to bring it home before it was completely set, and had wrapped it in his sports towel to protect it. Started to feel a bit sick.
Decided it’s time to get serious about my new business. Obviously will need a new laptop computer, and maybe a business mobile phone. Bought What Gadget? magazine and sat in the café sucking my pen and trying to decide which colour laptop case would look most businesslike. Sat at the same table as last week for an hour, but no sightings of the lovely Ozias Linley, worse luck. Decided pink is a bit amateur and have almost definitely decided on a silver case. Although the mahogony-look is very stylish too.
Thursday 27 March
Took the boys over to Mummy’s for the day. Mummy’s yoga friend from the skiing trip was there having coffee and a crisis. Mrs Yoga’s husband found the digital camera chip which had her ‘unofficial’ skiing photos on it, including the ones of her with their instructor. He refused to believe she was just demonstrating how good the downward dog position is for stretching out the hamstrings. So now it’s all getting a bit messy and Mrs Yoga’s worried about how to hang onto the Tuscan olive groves, etc.
Which was when I had my brilliant business idea. Olive oil tasting parties! Like Anne Summers parties but with olive oil, wine, and maybe little breadsticks and olives and stuff, instead of scratchy nylon knickers.
Mrs Yoga was a little bit dubious, but I think I talked her round. We agreed we’d have it at Mummy’s house; I’ll handle the invitations and marketing, and Mrs Yoga will provide 10 bottles of different herb infusions for tastings. She’ll make enough money to hire a decent divorce lawyer and I can rescue the family fortune and ditch Mr M’s horrid household economies. Genius.
Sunday 6 April
Woke up to heavy snow for Tom’s 8th birthday! He was delighted and the boys ran out to get cold and wet.
Tom had requested Wii boxing. I was a bit dubious – isn’t boxing a bit violent for an 8-year-old? Then he asked Mr M and there was no going back. I suspect the main problem for Tom will be wresting the controls from his father and his City mates.
Tom was thrilled. He was soon having a marvellous time virtually beating up his big brother. Now I understand – first time he’s been able to do that, and at least there’s no real blood. Sam got fed up and went to practice his cello. So we all suffered for Tom’s victory.
I’d been in a complete panic about the party. Tom’s been to loads of birthday parties over the last year, all more elaborate than the last. Circus skills, cordon bleu cooking courses, rainforest theme parties with organic monkeys. Then he told me what he and his mates would really like was to hire out the recumbant bikes in the park, then go to McDonalds. What a relief. Although I’ve had to swear all the boys to secrecy about the McDonalds trip. I can just imagine the scene at the PTA – a Bateman cartoon of the mother who took the children to a non-gourmet burger bar. I’ve bought a whole load of recycled tissue paper to make party bags to hide the Happy Meal toys in.
Oh, and if you were knocked over by 12 eight-year-olds skidding round Dulwich Park on bikes in the snow – sorry. They had a marvellous time.
Sarah rang, gibbering with panic about her opening night on Tuesday. She was hardly listening when I asked her to be the guest of honour at our olive oil tasting. Which is probably a good thing, as she said yes without charging an appearance fee.
Saturday 12 April
Blimey what a hangover. Fortunately Sonja was able to ferry the boys around to their various activities, and Mr M spent the day on the golf course. I spent most of the day experimentally opening an eyelid, wincing, and closing it again.
Mary and Elizabeth and I went to the official first night of Sarah S’s play last night. And to the party afterwards. Now, I know it was supposed to be Macbeth, but most of my memory of the actual show is a bit of a blur. Why were they all in Nazi uniforms? I thought it was meant to be Scottish. I remember Sarah trying to explain that her Lady M was based on Eva Braun, which was very hard on her because of the horrible lace-up shoes and the rather brutal haircut. She’s upset that not even the Evening Standard has suggested she’s having an affair with Jude, seeing as they usually say that about all his leading ladies. She blames the haircut.
Anyway, they had industrial-strength cocktails at the party. Sarah S. was drowning her sorrows at not being romantically linked to Jude Law. Mary was drowning her sorrows at having been eliminated from the reality TV show Make Me a Musical Porn Star, for being insufficiently weepy when she explained why she wanted to win. Elizabeth was drowning her sorrows because her vile playwright boyfriend has been seeing an actress behind her back. My sorrows mainly consist of Mr M’s continuing economy drive, which means I can’t have a Chanel handbag, even though they’re clearly a great investment. That’ll do, I thought, and joined the general drowning.
Wednesday 16 April
A strange thing happened. I walked the boys to school, trying to make up for having been so useless at the weekend. Sam was lecturing me about drinking too much. They’ve been doing drugs and alcohol at school, he said, which sounded a bit alarming. But he said no, he meant learning about addiction and how people misuse substances as emotional crutches. Believe me, there’s no worse prude than a 10-year-old boy doing PSHE.
Anyway, Mr Linley, I mean Ozias, was on playground duty. I hadn’t seen him since our tete a tete last month in the café. He gave me a very sympathetic look, then drew me aside and said he’d always be very happy to talk, if ever I needed to. I’m not sure if he was suggesting a date – bit inappropriate, what with all the kids around – so I just laughed and said we’d have to have a drink sometime. He nodded sadly, and I came home.
Sunday 20 April
Spent the afternoon with Mrs Yoga and the boys, over at Mummy’s, putting together the plans for our big olive oil tasting party. We’ve got rosemary, chilli, thyme, tarragon and garlic infused oil, plus three grades of oil to use for salad dressing, dipping bread in and cooking.
Tom designed the invitations on Mummy’s computer. I’ve put a photo of Sarah on it, with ‘special guest’ in big letters underneath. Decided against using her press shots from the current production – they’re really not the most flattering. Not even Siena Miller could carry off that Eva Braun hairdo, as most of the reviewers have sadly pointed out.
Mummy has agreed we can have the tasting in her conservatory. We’re going to hire a lot of little olive trees, use Mummy’s collection of Tuscan pottery bowls, play Pavarotti and whack up the central heating. I hope to goodness it’s stopped raining by next Sunday.
Saturday 27 April
Huge panic! Realised I’d forgotten to get any wine for the olive oil tasting party tomorrow. Well, obviously, there’s Mr M’s cellar, but he made me promise not to touch anything stored sideways, after the girls and I accidentally got through £1200-worth of wine one Friday night.
Skidded into the Majestic carpark in the Cayenne and grabbed a couple of cases of Cloudy Bay. Was struggling to shift them into the car when, ta-da! Who should I see jogging past in his lovely rugby-coaching shorts but Mr Linley. I gave him a wave and he came over to help. He had a face like thunder, although he cheered up when I invited him to the olive oil tasting and told him that’s what the wine was for. He beamed and said he’d love to come. Can’t wait! It’s going to be such a fantastic success.
Saturday 3 May
A week after the big olive oil tasting, and I’ve finally plucked up the courage to do the accounts. Actually I think it went really well, all things considered. Shame that the Mediterranean skies of Saturday had disappeared behind big black rainclouds by Sunday. And a pity that the boys hijacked the iPod speaker thing, so instead of three tenors we had drum ‘n’ bass. But I think the massed ranks of potted olive and bay trees in Mummy’s conservatory gave a very Italian feel.
Loads of people came along, and most people bought at least one bottle. The chilli flavoured oil might have been a tiny bit too hot for some tastes – which explains why the wine went down so quickly. Mr Linley bought three bottles. Clearly not afraid of the hot stuff.
I’ve enlisted Sam to help me add up all the sales. Rather a lot of people to chase for money – honestly, did they really expect me to have a chip’n’pin machine? – and also rather a lot of expenses. Hmm. Fingers crossed for a result in the black… I’m determined to have a big cheque to present to Mr M to show him I really do have the makings of a top businesswoman. Preferably before my birthday next week. I’ve been dropping heavy hints about a Smythson laptop case like Samantha Cameron’s. Hope he’s picked them up.
Saturday 10 May
Phew, what a scorcher! Decided to take my new laptop into the garden to work this morning, as the successful freelance businessperson I clearly am. After much bashing of the calculator, Sam and I worked out that we’d made £102 on the olive oil tasting party, assuming everyone stumps up. Thrilled, I rushed out and invested it in a very light and pretty little laptop I can’t pronounce the name of.
With a little help from my lovely boys, I managed to get it to work, and even to connect to the wifi thingy. Or possibly to next-doors, but never mind. So now I’m, um, researching olive oil trends on Vogue.com and Net-a-porter, while drinking a nice cappucino (turns out Sonja knew how to use the Gaggia all along!). Mr M will be pleased.
Sunday 11 May
Ouch ouch ouch. Fell asleep in the sun yesterday; covered in blotchy pink patches. Still, birthday today! And I’m still 4 years younger than Mr M, as I pointed out to him this morning. To be honest, he could be 10 years older by the look of his baggy eyes this morning. He’s been working late again, but since the smoking ban it’s got really hard to tell how much late working takes place in the office and how much in the wine bar across the road. I used to be able to tell from a sniff of his jacket.
Anyway, he’d bought the lovely new laptop case and gave it to me with a mournful smile. ‘Might as well enjoy it while we can,’ he said, bafflingly. Then he took me to Claridges for dinner and got preposterously drunk. He’s a very mysterious man at times.
Friday 16 May
Ran round harassing people all day, and finally got all the olive oil money. Put the assorted cheques, notes and coins in an envelope to present to Mr M this evening. Was surprised to see his briefcase in the hall when I got home at 3pm.
He was sitting at the kitchen table looking very tired.
‘Ta-da!’ I said, and showed him the £102.
He rubbed his eyes and looked up at me. ‘The hedge fund’s gone bust, Liz,’ he said. ‘It’s all over. I’m so sorry.’
I’m not sure what we’re going to do.
Saturday 24 May
Saturday, and Sonja’s gone back to Poland. She says she can get a better job there now anyway. Mr M’s still refusing to get out of bed. So. It’s up to me to hold the fort.
Took Sam to his cello lesson. Asked the teacher how much we’d get for the cello, second hand. Surprisingly little; Sam’s musical career can continue.
Took Tom to his tennis lesson at DC. Paused to watch a vigorous game of men’s singles. Ozias Linley won with a blinding backhand, then loped over, wiping the sweat from his brow.
‘Time for that drink today, Liz?’ he asked. I was sorely tempted, but offered him coffee from my thermos flask instead.
Scooped Tom and Sam back into the car. They want to know what’s wrong with Daddy, as indeed do I. Back home, I surgically removed the duvet from their father and pushed him into the shower. We really need to talk.
Monday 26 May
It’s not good. Mr M says we can’t pay the mortgage this month. I thought we’d paid it off, but Mr M remortgaged last year when the fund got into difficulties. Hmm. He said he didn’t tell me because I’d only worry.
Feeling very daring, I suggested we put it on one of the credit cards. He said he’s been doing that for the past three months and we’ve now reached the limit on all of them. Which explains the embarrassing incident in Tesco yesterday. At the time I assumed their system just isn’t set up for platinum cards.
Went through wardrobe and ruthlessly pulled out anything with a designer label. Used my new laptop to put it all on eBay. Then put the laptop case and the laptop on eBay too.
Rang the building society and arranged a meeting for the end of the week. ‘Is that with Mr Moody, or just yourself?’ asked the girl, pertly. I wish I knew.
Friday 30 May
Mr M out of bed, but shuffling round house in dressing gown, eating cornflakes. So it was just me at the building society. Wore the only suit that didn’t sell on eBay and marched into the mortgage advisor’s office. He was about 14, and didn’t quite know what to do when I handed him an envelope full of eBay cash, paying off our arrears to date. I don’t think they see cash very often.
Anyway, I’ve arranged a payment holiday, which is all very well but we still have to repay sometime. So I popped next-door to the estate agent. He was thrilled to see someone looking solvent coming through the door. But less thrilled when I asked about the prospect of selling.
‘Thing is, Mrs Moody, there’s plenty of appetite for family homes at the higher end of the market, but no-one can release the equity to buy. Probably not the best time to sell.’
Hm. Will have to give this more thought.
Sunday 1 June
Got a phone call from the school at 9am. Due to an outbreak of measles (that’ll teach the homeopathic trendies to boycott MMR), half the cricket first 11 is unfit to play. So Sam and Tom both made the team!
The boys were delirious with excitement. Even Mr M looked pleased. He shaved for the first time in days. But then he skulked behind a tree for most of the match, avoiding city fathers.
Ozias Linley, umpiring, looked very suave in his cricket whites. He came over for a chat, and said he was a bit worried about an essay Sam wrote last week. Uh-oh. Arranged to go in after school on Thursday to find out more.
Chatted to the parents of Tom’s Philippino friend Ranjeel. Ranjeel’s dad is a lawyer for a big city firm, on secondment to London. Ranjeel’s mum is pregnant again and they want to rent a big family house for a couple of years. ‘You can only get six month leases – and the houses are so small!’ she moaned. I spy a possibility.
Thursday 5 June
Here’s Sam’s essay on My Family: ‘Mummy is drinking less whine, but Daddy is drinking more whiskie. He doesn’t go to work any more. Mummy is selling things to pay off our detts. I’ve put my bike lock round my chello so she can’t sell it. I’ll probably need it when I’m buscking on the street for mony for food. Lukily Granny Corneelia pays for the scoohl or I espect weed have to leeve.’
Honestly, where’s the Data Protection Act when you need it? I explained that, yes, we are going through a financial readjustment at the moment, but frankly I was more concerned by Sam’s appalling spelling. I said I’d try to reassure the boys that everything was going to be fine. Then I started to cry.
Mr Linley was very kind. He put his arm round me and mopped me up with his hankie. Very clean, monogramed. He said I could keep it, after I’d blown my nose in it. He said I was doing a great job holding things together and putting on a brave face. Then he said he had a proposal, quite modest, and he’d understand if I wasn’t interested. I leant forward and assured him I was very interested indeed…
Friday 13 June
I’ve got a job! I start work next week as a classroom assistant at the college. Mr Linley was right, it’s quite modest, but at least one of us is bringing some money in.
And Ranjeel’s family moves in at the end of the month. So that’s the mortgage covered, and the deposit will clear one of the credit cards. Now we just need somewhere to live.
Ranjeel’s dad’s law firm is looking for a deputy chief financial officer. I’ve been trying to persuade Mr M to apply. He’s being very pig-headed – keeps shaking his head and saying it’s a far cry from what he’s used to. Well, it’s not exactly what I signed up to either, but do you see me crying over spilt Manolos? OK, maybe just a little, but only when Sarah took me to see Sex and The City to cheer me up. Not the best timing for a girl who’s just sold off her entire wardrobe, as I pointed out.
Saturday 14 June
Took the boys house-hunting. They thought it was quite exciting, which was just as well. Unbelievable, the rents people charge for the most revolting places. The boys were quite keen on Brixton, which apparently would give them lots of street cred at school. I was thinking Herne Hill would be nice, near the Lido and the park. Not to mention Pullens winebar and Ollie’s Fish Restaurant.
The rental agent disabused us of our lofty expectations. ‘For your budget, madam, you need to look out, not in. Especially for a family home. Think zone four, maybe zone five.’ Oh, hell. Is there really life out there?
Saturday 21 June
Hooray for zone four! Found a neat little terrace house in Penge, with a garage and tiny garden, only minutes away from the train station. The boys turned their noses up at sharing a bedroom, ‘especially as Ranjeel’s got my old bedroom all to himself,’ as Tom pointed out. But it’s only two stops to school, so works out perfectly. We can all go together, I pointed out. They went into a huddle. A few minutes later, Sam came to ask if I’d mind sitting in another carriage, as that would be less embarrassing.
But I had a fantastic first week at work. I’m looking after the smaller boys, mainly making things out of tissue paper and playing in the sandpit. Don’t know why everyone makes so much fuss about working; it seems fine to me. And Ozias has shown me how to use the cappucino machine in the staff room.
Mummy and Mrs Yoga are round helping me pack the house up, ready for the move. Mrs Yoga’s patched things up with her husband, and they’ve decided to move to Tuscany full-time to put the olive groves on a proper financial footing. She says it was the success of the olive oil tasting party that gave Mr Yoga the idea. She asked if I’ll be her London agent. So that’s two jobs!
Mr M has finally agreed to go for an interview at Ranjeel’s dad’s law firm. Today he’s busy trying to sell the Cayenne (won’t go in the new garage and we can’t afford the petrol anyway) and buy a second-hand estate car. I think he’s secretly enjoying the frugality – reminds him of his glorious Edinburgh upbringing.
So, today’s the end of our Dulwich life. Liz Moody’s Fabulous Penge Life starts here!