I’ve just had two girls’ weekends away. Yes, that’s right, two. The first was a trip to Birmingham when I met up with my three sisters. It was our first ever weekend with just us (our mother died a couple of years ago and we’d mostly relied on family gatherings to get together), but certainly not our last. We took in The Parrot in Art at the Barber Institute, largely because Elizabeth Butterworth is a neighbour of my London sister. We went girlie shopping, a novel experience for me as the mother of two sons. We had an Indian meal and went to China Town for some of the New Year festivities. But mostly we talked and, with two of our number teachers, I am now an expert on the English education system with particular reference to special needs. I have to say that some of the stories from the Manchester area are very reminiscent of Scenes from the Battleground but perhaps without so much disenchantment.
My more recent weekend away was my annual trip to the Lake District with a Manchester-based friend from college days and another long-standing friend from Durham. We tried to work out for how many years we had been doing this trip and came out at somewhere between 12 and 16 or so. We always go in winter, hoping for snow on the hills and last year we were lucky with a fantastic day on Helvellyn followed by another on Blencathra. This year it was mild, damp and grey with barely a patch of snow in sight and, with the hilltops in cloud, we were less ambitious; Place Fell on Saturday and a stroll round Aira Force on Sunday. More teashop visits this year though! And lots of talk. It’s good to keep in touch with old friends.