This last week has seen me away from home a lot and having a de-Greg break. First, Kay was away on a week-long school trip, so I felt I could sneak off to help my mother, who lives alone some sixty miles away and is in ill-health. Normally I am reluctant to leave Kay alone with my husband, as it ends up with Kay having to look after him, and I don't like to expect that even of a 16-year-old. So, with Kay out of the equation, I went off to my mother for about 5 days to do such things as her gardening for her, battling with rampant weeds - there is one variety that seems to grow six foot high in as many weeks! We also did a big shop to fill up her cupboards and freezer until my next visit - usually in about 6-8 weeks' time. I changed bedding, painted garden benches, tidied cupboards. We had some nice quality time too sitting in her sunny garden, or drinking coffee at a nearby cafe. I even took her to a favourite pub with a lovely view and we drank shandies in the dying evening sun. Considering she never gets out of the house, as she is crippled with arthritis, she looks forward to my visits where I can take her out and about in the car. I took Snoopy with me this time too - my mother always loves to see Snoopy and I couldn't guarantee that Greg would remember to feed him, if I left him behind. The break away from home did me good. However when I got home, Greg had not eaten any of the food I had left in the freezer for him or taken his pills left in the pill organiser for the entire period of my absence. He survived on bread and jam. And whisky.
Yesterday, with Kay back from her school trip, she and I went up to Sheffield for the day. It was so good to get away from London for a second time in a week. We went for the Sheffield University Open Day for prospective undergraduates. These days all the universities have open days to show off their campus and facilities. You can reserve seats for talks on your interested subject as well as have campus tours and tours of the accommodation you might live in. All so different from when I applied to university and just put arbitrary names down on a form in an eeny-meeny-miney-mo-sort-of-fashion. Kay is particularly interested in short-listing Sheffield, because she likes the sound of the course, and, as neither of us has ever been there, we were keen to see it. I had the usual preconceived ideas of an industrial town suffering from depression, but from the moment we arrived at Sheffield station and got the tram into the town and on to the university, the town wrapped itself around us. True, it is home to the Full Monty film, where there was a lot of unemployment following closure of the steelworks, but now the city seems alive and full of the buzz of regeneration. New buildings are springing up with incredible state of the art architecture, even within the university. Even the fountains that greet you at the station alone are an incredible sight. A long wall of stainless steel with water running down it, then water cascading down steps to join a pool where it whooshes up into the air and then dribbles out of rills to got through the whole process again. We fell in love with the campus, the course it offers and the accommodation village for the students. Large areas of the town were very green and open. The older housing, particularly to the west, was old grey-stone villas, perhaps once the homes of the wealthy with servants. The final accolade came when my daughter saw the shops in the city centre and there were all the stores she normally frequents at home. To put the icing on the cake, the people are so friendly and so unlike the frostiness of Londoners. All we have to do now is hope that Sheffield likes her as much and offers her a place!!