Looking nothing like this picture

26 March

Something is due to happen to the clocks tonight; either they go forwards, which means we lose an hour in bed, or they go back, which means we get an extra hour in bed. I can never remember; it’s one of those things I just don’t quite get. I also don’t exactly get how old someone is from their date of birth. Do you subtract the year from whichever year we’re in now? Or add a year on because they were 0 when they were born? The only way I can effectively do it is on my fingers (discreetly of course, although it’s difficult to discreetly count on your fingers with your hands behind your back. Impossible, in fact, which makes it a pointless exercise. Like so many other things in life.)

I don’t think this necessarily makes me stupid, though. It’s just a tiny part of my intellect that’s been mislaid. Like the one lost piece in a jigsaw. Only not that important, so it’s probably the equivalent of a missing bit of sky in the top left corner, rather than a crucial part of a castle, or the end of someone’s nose.

Mr Young doesn’t see it that way, though. Mr Young gets exasperated with me every time this happens to the clocks. Which, obviously, is twice a year.

“It’s spring forwards and fall back,” he says. “You spring forwards an hour in the Spring, and fall back in the Fall. Although that’s an Americanism,” he concedes. “But I suppose you can’t exactly autumn back in the Autumn.”

“But you can spring backwards and fall forwards,” I point out. “So that doesn’t really work as an aide memoir, does it?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he says. “No one springs backwards. And you don’t fall forwards.”

“Yes you do!” I say. “It’s perfectly possible. Of course you can spring back. And lots of people fall forwards. They do it all the time.”

He goes off muttering – I’m pretty sure I hear him say, I’ll make you fall forwards in a minute, but I’m not entirely sure.

27 March

Naturally, what with the clocks going forwards or backwards, I have my usual panic this morning about what time it really is.

“Has this clock been changed? And what about this one?” I ask, going from room to room.

“Yes,” says Mr Young patiently. Although sometimes he says no, and I have to work out what time it should be and we go through the whole fall back/spring forwards debate all over again. Which probably takes up an hour in itself. So by the time we’ve done all this, we’re both confused about what time the clock should say.

Never mind. At least I know how old I am. Give or take a year.

At something o’clock, Mr Young tells me we’re going to the new garden centre. If pressed, I would estimate that our marital harmony, marked out of ten, is roughly an eight, which is probably pretty good when compared to the national average. But this means that there remains a glaring two out of ten for marital disharmony.

Garden centres account for probably half of that two (i.e one out of ten. Oh yes. I didn’t get a B in my Maths ‘O’ level for nothing, you know.)

I loathe garden centres.

It’s unfair, I know, and I have never been able to explain exactly why I don’t like them, but nonetheless I do. Every time Mr Young says cheerfully, “Come on. We need to find some new shrubs for that middle border/sort out which vegetables we’re going to grow/look at some climbing plants for the pergola,” I become as sulky and irritable as a thirteen-year-old with an illicit vodka hangover.

But I can’t think of a decent excuse today, so he manages to drag me along anyway, with promises of, “Come on! It will be great! You’ll enjoy it – we can go and look at swing seats for the patio.”

This is a shameless bribe. He knows I have visions of myself rocking glamorously in the shade, with a tall glass of Pimms and a good book, while he sweats over a barbecue.

He’s very pleased with himself for luring me along, but sadly, our visit fails to get off to the unprecedented flying start he’s hoping for because of the brass band. (A rather surreal attraction in the horticultural world, I can’t help feeling.)

Just as if someone has tipped them off about my garden-centre aversion, the musicians are arranged in an enthusiastic semi-circle right next to the parasols, deckchairs and tables.

They finish tuning up just as we arrive. And launch into some sort of brass bandy-type music as Mr Young and I sit together on the nearest swing seat.

“This is quite comfortable, isn’t it?” shouts Mr Young.

“What?” I shout back.

“I said, it’s quite comfortable.”

“But I don’t like the colour,” I yell.

“What?” he shouts. And so on. We try out about five swing seats in all, doing our best to mime our opinions about the comfort, cushions and colour of each one (one word, two syllables, sounds like...etc) but it’s not a successful exercise.

We escape to the aquatics department. Mr Young has a weakness for aquarium (and yes, I know it can also be aquaria. I didn’t get a C in my Latin ‘O’ level for nothing, you know) and enthusiastically points out all the different types of fish.

Personally, I think they seem to be doing a lot of frenzied and unnecessary swimming backwards and forwards. I always thought that watching fish would be a rather soothing experience. But I guess it’s not easy to float serenely or hide behind your own private bit of coral with the trumpet solo of Land of Hope and Glory thudding through your tank.

28 March

In preparation for the warmer weather and the necessity of revealing my arms, I have enlisted the help of Jillian Michaels, whose DVD promises to get me Ripped in 30. She’s American, so I have taken this into account and assume she means she will get me toned in 30 days, rather pull all my muscles in 30 minutes, but having done the routines a couple of times, I’m not too sure.

“I want that butt screaming!” she yells at me during squat thrusts and mountain climbers.

“Come on!” she shouts as we do our jumping jacks together. “I’ve got 30 stone women who can do this!”

My butt is screaming today (stop doing this to me, it’s screaming, to be precise) and Mr Young has told me to stop thudding about in our bedroom because he’s worried about the ceiling in the sitting room below.

“I don’t think I’m going to Do Jillian tonight,” I tell Harriet. “I’m a bit tired.”

“You’d better, Mum, “ she says reprovingly. “Otherwise she’ll come round and tell you off.” We both believe there is a 10% chance that this might actually happen. Jillian is a very authoritative woman.

Harriet is also Doing Jillian, with more success than me. Something to do with her being younger, slimmer and fitter, I expect.

I Do Jillian after all, in spite of being tired, having a screaming butt and the trembling plasterwork below, and just hope she doesn’t notice that my squat thrusts are slightly lacklustre.

Damn my own mistaken belief that I have enough determination to reach the pinnacle of physical perfection.

30 March

a) good thing: Harriet is still in the process of spring-cleaning the house thoroughly

b) bad thing: I feel guilty every time I leave a dirty mug on the side and now have to tidy things away before she shouts at me

c) good thing; she has cleared out all the kitchen cupboards of everything past its sell-by date

d) bad thing; she has cleared out all the kitchen cupboards of everything past its sell-by date so the shelves are now empty

I’m not sure where her enthusiasm for cleaning has come from. I’d like to pretend it’s from me, but it’s not.

I can spray Mr Sheen and flourish a duster as well as the next woman/man (political correctness), but sadly, that’s all it is. Spraying and flourishing. I’m too easily distracted. After a flourish or two and a bit of a tidy, I find something I thought I’d lost, which leads me to putting it where I’d thought I’d put it in the first place so that I don’t lose it again, and I usually find something else to distract me in this place that I’d forgotten was there.

31 March

Mr Young is in the garden this morning. I am doing some ironing; this is my contribution towards Project Housework.

When I’ve finished, I go outside to see what he’s is up to.

“Let me tell you what I’m planning,” he says, and takes me round the garden, pointing to different places and, presumably, explaining what shrubs and plants he’s going to buy. (I say presumably because I’m not actually listening, having long since glazed over.)

“That sounds wonderful,” I say.

I tell him that he’s in charge, and I trust him to do exactly as he sees fit.

I tell him to surprise me with our fabulous new-look garden once he’s been to the garden centre, fought his way through the brass band and done all the hard work.

Then he can show it all off to me.

And I’ll spring backwards with surprised delight.