Sunday, 2 October 2011


Guilt snares, yet neither
Jewish nor Catholic am
I. Just a mother


It's such a beautiful afternoon, and all we've done all day is attend Lily's chapel concert (much digging of fingernails into my palm to stop myself blubbing) and go out to lunch with one of the ancient denizens of the village. When we return, Dusty is still lying flat out where I left her. She doesn't rise but her tail drums out a few little beats on the floor to acknowledge Lily.

What I really want to do is go for a lovely walk with Dusty and Lily, but one can't and the other won't.

'Come on, it's going to be our last day of sunshine this year,' I say. 'Let's go for a walk up Mistle Hill to see the sunset.' 

Lily is lost in the tvguide app on my iPhone.


Lily is walking 20 paces behind me, decapitating cow parsley stalks with her stick.

'Come on, Lily. You're really dawdling. I don't want to keep looking back over my shoulder and seeing you lagging behind.' I pause for her to catch up, but she stops to investigate a thistle. 'Come on! Walk beside me! You can walk at the same pace, but do it beside me instead of dropping back all the time.'

I stride ahead. The whole point is to get to the top of Mistle Hill before the sun goes down.


We are walking back, having missed the sunset. Lily is like a riding-school pony. She's smelt the scent of The Darling Buds of May and supper on the wind and has quickened her pace. I, knackered by all that marching uphill, am striking a more measured pace.

Lily grabs my hand. 'Come on! You're really dawdling! I don't want to keep looking back over my shoulder and seeing you lagging behind!'

I mock-glare at her and we both burst out laughing. 'The thing is, Lily,' I reason, 'I'm doing you a great service by going on at you, because it's giving you the skill to filter out irritations and follow your own path in life. Thanks to me, you're going to have fantastic self-control and Buddha-iness instead of being volatile and intolerant like me.

'Yeah, right,' she says, pulling me over a hummock.

Still, I should take heart that she listens so well, even when she's ignoring me, that she's able to quote me word for word.

Things to feel guilty about

1. Buying the Sunday papers and not reading them (with knock-on effect of failure-style guilt at inability to keep house tidy, but inability to throw out unread newspapers due to profligacy-style guilt, with knock-on effect of time-wasting-style guilt at reading Sunday papers on a week day in order to throw them out with clean conscience)

2. Inability to keep house tidy

3. Lack of self-discipline (with special reference to eating, working and sticking to intentions)

4. Inability to muster confidence to breeze into a job

5. Lack of achievements in my day

6. Dusty. I feel simultaneously consumed and empty on the subject. She didn't even lift her head to greet me this morning. But this evening she has perked up a little, even trying to bury her bone under the carpet. Nevertheless, she warrants her own things-to-feel-guilty-about list:

a) going out to lunch and leaving her (normally she would rather stay in the car all day than be left behind)
b) going for a beautiful walk without her
c) being too lazy and mean to cook her fresh chicken and vegetables
d) being unable to do anything for her when she's panting and her chest and heart are pumping away furiously
e) my reluctance to play the hand of God and have her euthanased
f) whether it's all my fault for taking her on that long bicycle walk at Easter, resulting in her being off walks for two weeks

7. Forever being on my daughter's case

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