The main reason why I came to the UK nine days ago rather than travelling with Richard in a few days' time is so that I could help Tim with proof-reading his third year dissertation, and four other essays or commentaries. They're all rather important and he was feeling somewhat overwhelmed. And while I can - and have - proof-read by email, he prefers notes hand-written on a print-out. One essay is due on Tuesday, the rest on May 3rd. However we shall be in Carlisle until May 2nd (which is a public holiday) so he really wanted to get everything finished and handed in before Easter.
25,000 words is quite a bit to proof-read in a week, and not everything was written. But we seem to be doing all right. The essay due on Tuesday was proofed, tweaked, printed and handed in on Friday. The dissertation has had its final comments from Tim's mentor, and will have its final proof-reading on Monday. The other three assignments are in various stages, but the end seems to be in sight.
In between proof-reading, I've enjoyed spending time with a very good friend (on Tuesday), one of my brothers and his wife (on Wednesday), meeting a long-time email acquaintance (on Thursday) and spending an evening with some other friends (on Friday).
As well as that, Tim and I have played Settlers of Catan regularly, to help him relax. I've slightly lost track, but I think we've now played three two-person games, two (or is it three?) three-person games with my mother, and one particularly good five-person game on Wednesday:
It's a mark of Tim's stressed state that while he usually wins rather more than half of the games he plays, he hasn't yet won a single game since my arrival.
There's one other thing I planned to do this week - I wanted to find a suitable outfit to wear for Daniel and Becky's wedding, which is in two weeks' time. I knew I wouldn't find anything suitable in Cyprus; I searched several online stores before I left, and didn't see anything very inspiring. But I knew there are plenty of clothes shops in Birmingham, and thought I'd be spoilt for choice. I expected to narrow the search down to two or three shops, perhaps half a dozen possibilities, and would then get Richard to make the final choice when he's here. He does actually like clothes shopping, while I decidedly don't.
Knowing I'd be seeing various friends, and wanting flexibility, I bought a weekly bus pass on Monday. Off-peak only, but that's not a problem. I have no need to travel before 9.30am or between 4.30pm and 6.00pm. I might be frightened of the London Underground, but I am quite competent with Birmingham buses.
Kings Heath - walking distance from here - is my usual first port of call. I like browsing the charity shops, and there are several clothes chains where I've bought clothes before - Peacocks, Bon Marche, Store 21 (which used to be BeWise). They usually have plenty of stock, the prices are reasonable, and I like the styles.
Huh. This year, despite it being on mid-April, the shops are full of floaty sun-dresses. Either skimpily short, or full-length. I don't want either. Part of the problem is that I really don't know whether I want a dress with a sort of 'shrug' (if that's the word), or a skirt and top with some kind of jacket, or a trouser suit. I'd be most comfortable in the latter... but am not entirely sure how well that would go down as 'mother of the groom'.
Kings Heath proving uninspiring, my friend on Tuesday took me to a couple of shops in Bearwood that had some possible outfits, but none that leapt out at me. On Thursday I searched around the City Centre - BHS, Debenhams, other branches of the shops I'd already seen, Primark... I even swallowed my pride and went into Marks and Spencers. In all the shops, as in Kings Heath, I saw one or two tops that I quite liked, and some colours that were 'my' colours... but, again, nothing I really liked, nothing that stood out as being appropriate.
Yesterday I went to Northfield which used to have some reasonable clothes shops. I did manage to find a good backpack at an excellent price... but the shops in general looked very run-down and had less of a selection than Kings Heath. Still, I had a very scenic ride back, on a bus I had never used before that drove through the attractively leafy suburbs of Bournville, where we used to live.
Today I went to Kings Heath again. I even looked through the charity shops - I like them anyway, and just occasionally there's a lovely outfit in my size. Not this time. I didn't spend much time - I was buying one or two other things anyway - but have to admit that I did begin to feel just a little frisson of concern, since I have to find something within the next two weeks... and four of the days in the next fortnight are public holidays.
I'm well aware that it's a good problem to have. I'm extremely thankful that I don't have the major concerns so many of my friends and relatives have - health worries, family troubles, money problems, and worse. I'm extremely blessed by so many people and circumstances, and am very much looking forward to the wedding.
But it would be nice if I knew what I was going to wear...