BPs in France

I have just had a lovely week with Jude, Ed, Ella and Maddie – despite the unseasonably cool weather and two days rain. (Kate and family were meanwhile having a hot, exotic holiday in Mauritius.

Their visits are always action-packed. The parents normally go on a long walk before breakfast, while I look after the girls. On one day Ella and Maddie joined them on their usual Esparon-Bréau trek, only this time they reversed the route and continued along the ridge to Molieres (I reckon about 12 kilometres).

On perhaps the coolest day we visited the impressive knights templar fortifications at La Couvertoirade. On warmer days we enjoyed pottering around as usual down by the river near my house, at Le Rieumage, once with our traditional BP picnic. Ella and Maddie even paddled in the river’s icy water – Ella even swam, albeit rather briefly.

A highlight was the now routine trip to our splendidly arranged accros branches (tree climbing) centre. It is a wonderful setting, high up on the Causses above le Vigan, with courses at a different levels – green, yellow, blue, red and black (the latter mainly for adults full of adrenalin). Both girls have come along tremendously in their confidence and skills. Maddie really enjoyed it for the first time, successfully negotiating courses green 1 and 2. Ella whizzed through the yellow courses and tackled blue 1. I didn’t see much of this as it was so high above us. Perhaps the main accolade should be for the parents, who accompanied their children. Jude, who hates heights, had once again to face the horrors of the green course, including crawling through a tunnel designed for children. Ed had been praying that Ella would decide against tackling the tall, tall tree at the start of the blue course – and then had to face climbing it himself. Ella has been on a few tree climbing courses in England, but says this one is the best. She admitted to being afraid but then pleased with herself at having overcome her fear.

There was of course an Easter egg hunt and lots of chocolate eating. But there was also much happy pottering around the garden, playing complicated imaginary games which involved much running up and down the terraces and of course, long sessions on the double swing, with both parents nobly doing lots of pushing.

Meals cooked by Ed were as usual a highlight, with energetic conversation by all. And the weather meant we played more games than usual, from Pelman to the game which we are all now addicted: Monopoly Deal This has little to do with Monopoly, its parent, but is a game of luck and tactics. I’m probably the worst player and Ella the best.

Now it is all over. They are back in London, and the washing machine has run its last cycle.


In the UK

I’m here to attend memorial events in Cambridge for my friend Graeme, who died last year – a short trip, dates constrained by my concert on Tuesday evening and family arriving in France this weekend.

My uneventful flight was enhanced by the presence of a huge number of French school children, going over for an Easter trip to the UK. Next to me sat a small 14 or 15-year-old, who politely offered me some of his Toblerone. He came from Clermont l’Herault and the girl next to him from the village of Octon on the Lac de Salagosse.Ah, I said, I knew a girl of her age who lives in Octon – Mattie, the daughter of some winemakers. Oh yes, she said, Matilde. Small world!

The boy switched to English – good English. I congratulated him on his accent and asked how he came to be speaking so well, had he been often to the UK? No, he replied, clearly pleased at the compliment. He had been once when small with his parents, and once to Sri Lanka, where he practised his English. Otherwise, he tried where possible to watch films on TV in English. He added, with some pride, that this was a cultural trip for children who had performed well in their English classes. Good luck to him, and bravo for the good manners shown.

As usual I was struck by how much colder it is in England and cursed myself for yet again not bringing a warmer coat. It’s is only a few degrees less than in France, but I think the lack of sunshine and increased humidity makes it seem much more.

I have been staying in Dulwich, with Kate and family, so have seen a lot of my grandchildren, Otto and Willow, now nine and seven. I’ve never been good with small children, so I am enjoying all the grandchildren getting older, and watching their very distinctive characters evolve.

Then, via a quick detour to Kentish Town for lunch with my brother-in-law, Peter, up to Cambridge to stay with my cousin, Ursula. She and Nick (away in Berlin) have a delightful house looout over Jesus Green and five minutes from the town centre. It reminds me of many academic houses I have known in Oxford: books, books and more books, piled up in every room and in bookshelves narrowing all passageways. And a decor cheerfully ignoring modern fashions – plumbing and paintwork dating back decades. I was staying in an attic room which was once occupied, when the house was digs, by Ian Macewan (see next blog entry!).

Nice to get to know Ursula’s two daughters, Helen (post doc researcher linguistics researcher at Surrey University) and Frances (!) who works n the Oxfam bookshop.

And now, on a long, tortuous train trip to Gatwick Airport = made worse by major rail problems.

UK visit

I’m  sitting in the departure lounge at Gatwick Airport after a hectic ten days in London.

Family

I divided my time between Jude’s family at Bromar Road and Kate’s at Red Post Hill, starting at jude’s.

How lovely to see the girls, who grow taller and maturer every time I see them. My first day I went down to see years four and five at Belham  Primary perform a nativity production (written by teachers and children) . It was brilliant. I have never seen so many children perform with such energy and enthusiasm. They have an excellent music teacher (the benefit of being a newly created academy – much as I am against them). Ella, tall, serious and distinguished looking, was one of the three kings. She sang her solo beautifully  I’m sorry I missed Maddie’s show – I think she was the back end of a camel .

After three nights I moved on to Red Post Hill. In the following days I went to three shows with the grandchildren . First Grimms Fairy Tales with Kate’s family. When Otto, who was sitting next to me, said in a loud voice that he was bored and wanted to leave, I rather agreed with him.  I’m not keen on adults bounding around pretending to be children  but after the interval the tales got blacker – and better. Still, I was a bit disappointed, given the reputation of the company , Philip Pullman.

We then had lunch in Cote Brasserie, on the Thames Path, beside the river. I remember this area in the fifties when everything was derelict.  I used to step through bombsites to sing in a madrigal choir near Southwark Cathedral. Now this part of the south bank is dominated by luxury flats and restaurants. The place is buzzing with life.  I can see why this stretch of the south bank of the Thames has become a play and strolling area for Londoners and visitors. 

Then, while the Gillies and friends went home, I moved on to my next appointment: Rumpelstiltskin with the Bennion Pedley and friends. (This was my first visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hall complex. The architecture may be brute concrete 60s style but what a comfortable theatre to visit – modern bars, loos and open spaces and seats with leg room.)

The reviews of Rumpelstilskin have been a bit sniffy, but I loved it. It was completely bonkers, better appreciated by the grownups than the children maybe, full of fast moving wit and bizarre pantomime, wonderful modern lighting effects and excellent music.  The children seem to have enjoyed it, even  Maddie, sitting next to me seemed rapt.

On Christmas Eve I went with the Gillies to the East Dulwich cinema for an afternoon of popcorn and musical – Mary Poppins Returns. It was slickly produced, with some enjoyable cameo roles for Meryl Streep and Colin Firth, but to be honest I preferred the loony Rumpelstiltskin to Disney.

At last, at last, Christmas Day arrived.  I don’t think Otto in particular could have borne the suspense of much more anticipation. The BPs arrived and there was a morning of feverish present opening, excitement, frustration when things didn’t work (or parents had forgotten the batteries!) and pleasure at giving.  However, as I watched the feverish ripping open of a mountain of packages, I found it so difficult not to descend into censorious bah-humbug mode, remembering the smaller, more abstemious haul of our childhood. That did not stop me wearing my new clothes with great pleasure for the rest of the day!

Christmas lunch, cooked by Ed, was of course delicious.  A traditional affair, turkey breast and trimmings and a rich assortment of vegetables. And later, a superb Christmas cake. As usual, I ate too much….

For the two families the evening was somewhat blighted by the need to prepare for their departure, at the crack of dawn, for a sun and swimming mini-holiday in Tenerife. Sad for me, as I would have liked to see the children for longer. 

A day of technology

Kate, Jude and I had given Deb a much needed replacement iPad, a refurbished, two-year-old model (the same as mine). 

Bringing it into service and transferring all data from her old one proved a lengthy exercise. Deb had forgotten her Apple password, so trekked across London to hunt it down in her house.  First I had to bring her old iPad up to date, which required several mobile phone conversations with Deb, always a major challenge, complicated by her popping in and out of underground stations! In the end I decided to create a new password for her, and by the time she returned, her new iPad was up and running. Given that Deb has neither a truly operational phone nor a computer, the iPad is essential to her – and to us, as it is the only way to get in touch with her!

Old friends

The next day I went to Richmond to see my two oldest friends: Christine for lunch and Sally for tea. Both visits merit a blog post of their own, but suffice to say that these are two very special people for me. And happily I’m also fond of their spouses!

Christine has not been well, with a bad attack of shingles, and Roy beat me in the medical drama stakes, describing with gusto, his self diagnosis of a heart attack and the dramatic trip by taxi to the Royal Free, where he still an Important Person, in preference to an ambulance trip to Kingston hospital.

I even fitted in a trip to Finchley to have lunch with Deb and her friends Kay (who was at Oxford with her) and Alan and their daughters.  Nice food (Turkish restaurant) and good conversation.  But what I will remember was an extraordinary little exchange.

The woman at the next table came across and said, very apologetically, that she was sure she knew Kay from some time in their past. They eventually established that they had been to the same primary school in Hampstead. I fail to recognise people from last year, let alone from over 60 years ago!

Yesterday I continued my meeting up with old pals.  I had lunch in the Tate Modern with Mimi, who ran the information department of Citizens Advice for England when I was doing the same thing in Scotland.

She may be in her eighties now, but Mimi is still an astute, energetic and amusing friend.  The food in the Members’ Room was indifferent (Mimi is going to pursue this!) but we sat for hours nattering, and then wandered round some of this huge gallery and took the lift to the top to gaze (with mixed feelings) at the rapidly changing landscape of London.  We were somewhat baffled that people could have bought at huge prices the apartments beside the Tate. I wonder if they knew that the Blavatnik Building would give people a prime view of their sitting rooms. I’m not a fan of the architecture of the Tate Modern and many of its rooms leave me cold, but we whizzed through these and concentrated on a few with old favourites or new discoveries.

We talked of our love of travel.  I confessed to Mimi that, despite my daughters’ misgivings – health permitting – I wanted to visit Iran and visit beautiful towns like Shiraz and Yazd.  It seems a logical next step having loved the Islamic architecture of Rajasthan and Istanbul. “Ah yes,” said Mimi. “A good idea – I went there a couple of years ago”!  She has given me the contact details for her excellent guide, so maybe I will manage to set this up for the autumn of 2019.

Brexit and Uber

Like my last trip to London I indulged in several Uber trips, in an effort to conserve my energy.  I hit particularly lucky with the three drivers, from Bulgaria, Rumania and Poland, who were all interesting to talk to. All three said how much they enjoyed being Uber drivers, because of the flexibility in working hours and the people they met.

Inevitably conversation turned in all three cases to Brexit.  All three were Remainers, although interestingly the Bulgarian was the most diffident.  He had studied economics before coming to the UK he said, and if he found it difficult to understand the complexities of the Brexit possibilities, how could other people make informed decisions? So he was for leaving such decisions to elected representatives rather than referendums.

The Pole divided his time between being an Uber driver and builder. He would personally be OK, he said, as there became a shortage of Polish builders (he has the right to stay already), but he reckoned it was a complete and utter catastrophe for Britain.

Given the problems with the Gatwick Express, I took an airport minicab back to Gatwick.  This was not an Uber driver and unlike the others, he was not particularly friendly and drove too fast.

Whatever the wrongs to the Uber system, I have to confess that I do find using it greatly aids my  rushed visits and I enjoy my chats.

My habit of talking to strangers

I’m finishing this entry in the evening, after a very long day – the plane was held up for over an hour with a mechanical problem. Having opted for Special Assistance, I was in a warm bus beside the plane.  I felt sorry for other passengers possibly standing in an overcrowded departure lounge.

I was sitting beside a French couple who had been on my plane to Gatwick.  As usual I got into conversation with them… … Two of their children live here, so they have just had a complicated Christmas with some relatives who spoke spoke only English, others who spoke only – not quite sure which – Indian language, and her husband who speaks only French. We have exchanged contact details so I look forward to meeting up with them again.

 

Never again

As I listened to the bells tolling at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I thought of the grandfather I never knew – of the father my mother never knew. I wondered how our lives might have been had he not been killed in 1916.

Major Ronald Greig was a professional soldier – he had already got the DSO in the Boer War and was an experienced 40-year-old officer in the Royal Engineers when he died.

I have little idea of what he was really like. I get the impression of a nice, easy going, probably quite charming man, but without the  apparent liveliness of the family he married into.

What would have happened if he had lived? Well, for starters Tish, my gran, a young war widow overwhelmed by life with three small children, would not have remarried. (So I would not have acquired an additional aunt and three lovely cousins.) Nor would she have started the liaison/friendship with Dick Mitchison in 1927 which lasted till his death in 1970. And our family would not have benefited from all the rich friendships, that still continue, with his family .

So would Ronnie and Tish have lived happily ever after? Hmm.  I’m never quite sure.  I always wonder whether being an army wife would have really suited my fun-loving, capricious granny.

The First War had dealt her a double whammy: the year after Ronnie died, she lost her favourite brother, David. In some ways I wonder whether this death did not affect her even more.

David Clutterbuck was the middle of three brothers. The oldest, Lewis, came back from the war a damaged man.  We never asked gran what really happened, but he spent most of his life abroad – a remittance man, paid to stay away from home.  The youngest, Walter, survived the First War and ended up a major general at the end of the Second War.

My mother once took us to Winchester College and showed us the war memorial for David’s class.  I think the entire class was wiped out.

That led me on to remembering reading Vera Brittain’s sad ‘Testament of Youth’ and watching the powerful 1930s American film of the German book ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’.  Two works to push you towards pacifism.

To end, the unbelievable news that Donald Trump stayed indoors rather than face the rain for an Armistice day event at a cemetery holding the graves of American soldiers! While Merkel and Macron make symbolic gestures of peace and unity, he once again makes bellicose gestures and statements and fails to understand the symbolism of what he is supposed to do.

And I wonder what he made of Macron’s statement:

Le patriotisme est l’exact contraire du nationalisme. Le nationalisme en est sa trahison.
(Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.)

 

Chris

It is ten years today since Chris died. I try not to think of his miserable last few days but instead the fortitude with which he faced ill health over the previous two years, and above all our splendid adventures over 40 years together.

I wish he were here to see his daughters continue to grow in wisdom and kindness and to know his four grandchildren (He would have been a lovely grandpa.) In fact I just wish he was here.

That’s all. I’m not going to attempt to reflect at length here on this clever but complex man, capable of showing scorn or anger when faced by bureaucratic incompetence or academic pretension, capable of being an old grump in the house, but intrinsically kind, generous and principled, loving the good things in life, especially happy here in France, smiling jovially at his guests and many friends, and above all, loving his family.

Later in the day

I dont have my photo collection while in hospital. But here are three memories. Well, the first – a newspaper cutting from 1962 –  is not a memory, since I didn’t know Chris then. But I remember very well how often he said his involvement with the American Civil Rights Movement changed his life.

The two photos that follow are taken from Jude’s reposting on Facebook today. I took the picture of Chris in Paradise Square, Oxford (a charming but  insalubrious area since sadly replaced by concrete nothingness) during our first years together. The second photo was Chris in a typically happy mood at the table with his family.

Oh. I’ve just realised that of course I have more photos of Chris on my site.

Gillies’ visit

The Gillies left on Monday.  Since then I have cleared the house, been to Ganges for my glaucoma check, got passport photos ready for next month’s trip to the Prefecture in Nimes – and resumed my local social life.

Now, time to reflect on the Gillies stay.  There are more photos than for the BPs. For some reason I took more and also now I have more time to put them up.

The two families overlapped for a few days and immediately embarked on an active weekend tree climbing and canoeing. Both were a great success – so much so that the Gillies returned for a second tree climbing visit.  Otto, who is also not keen on tree climbing, surprisingly went back for the second trip and managed very well. They continued also with more walks than normal.  Bravo to them – Otto and Willow are not keen walkers but managed much better than last time.

On the night before the BPs left, the children organised a disco.  The definite dancing star was Otto, who performed some current routine effortlessly, unlike the adults…

Another party highlight was Steve’s birthday.

His present from Kate was a magnificent ‘action camera’ (GoPro): a tiny device which Steve can attach to his head when cycling or swimming underwater.  The first trial, on the accrobranche trip was thwarted by the children discovering they could use voice commands to active or stop filming! Later Steve took some splendid footage in the pool which must get my hands on.

The pool was of course the main centre of activity during their stay.   The inflatable canoe I had bought proved a hit, with Willow showing instant skill. Otherwise lots of jumping in, squirting, splashing, and lounging.

There was a lot of time spent on electronic devices.  I have to admit that this was partly the grownups’ fault: we had become addicted to the card game, Monopoly Deal, introduced to both families by Ed.

There was also some splendid writing and drawing. Otto wrote a very touching entry in his new note book and drew his (imaginary?) band, made up of his mates at school

Willow produced a carefully crafted cutout and started a story, ‘The Lost Tiger’.  She is a perfectionist and every time she made an error, she tore it up and started again. Her handwriting is amazing for a six-year-old; she reminds me so much of my schoolfriend, Christine, with the same range of talents: handwriting, art, maths and sport.

Suddenly their week was over.  Back to the grind for the parents, two more weeks of holiday for the children, who will be meeting their new childminder next week.

 

 

 

Family arrives

After that enticing bout of rain, we were back to hot humid weather. Then yesterday this came to an end with more thunder and rain. The temperature dropped to the upper 20s. Quite chilly!

Jude and family arrived to this new fresh but cloudy scene, bronzed from their activity-charged stay on the Île de Rey. Ella and Maddie plunged straight into holiday mode: passionate greetings with Poppy, some intensive sessions on the double swing, and then a swim. Maddie has developed a powerful if idiosyncratic doggy paddle since last year, while Ella can do a superb, stylish crawl.

Lovely to have Ed in charge of the kitchen again. And after supper I was introduced to a new, really good card game, based on monopoly, but more skilful.

UK visit

Back home in France, I’m sitting at my desk, gazing out on a green, green landscape, and above it blue sky with the odd fleck of passing white cloud.  And it is warm – well, warmer than London.

This must have been the coldest and wettest UK trip in my memory, but despite this, I had some lovely moments.

I originally timed this trip to say goodbye to my dear friend, Graeme, but he died sadly ten days before. Coincidentally I bumped into his sister, Clare, when in Richmond, so I was able to say again how special Graeme was.  I won’t be able to go to his funeral, which is the day I take my next friend, Sally, to the airport.

I usually manage to see Sally or Christine – my two oldest school friends, who both still live in Richmond.  This time I had lunch with Christine and her husband, Roy (just recovered from emergency heart surgery at Easter!) at their perfect Richmond pad (ground floor, three bedrooms, spitting distance from the river).

I think it is 66 years since Christine and I found ourselves together in Class B at the Vineyard Primary School . Two years later we were both in Form 1B at Tiffin Girls School – and eight years later, both went to Oxford.  There were also games of tennis, picnics, cycle rides CND marches and trouble together when we arrived home too late.  When you grow up together like that, it creates a lifetime bond. It is great that the friendship with Christine, and indeed with Roy, goes on.

This was the only non-family event in my week (if you discount an abortive shoe hunt).  I spent the first three days with the Gillies (Kate and family). There were trips to Otto and Willow’s schools in Dulwich, some guitar strumming and with Otto, taking Willow to her gym class (a graceful natural – not Filson genes, I suspect) and reading them both books.  As they grow older I find it so much more satisfying to spend time with them.  I was not a natural toddler granny, I fear.

As usual, I respect the family wishes for lack of detail or photos of the children, but I cannot resist an attempt capture the absolutely stunning transformation of their ground floor, which now has a huge kitchen/dining/sitting space, with this panoramic photo:

Then I moved on to the BPs (Jude and family), where the three days were dominated by Maddie’s fifth birthday. We started with her actual birthday on Friday, when after school I took Maddie and three equally loud and excited five year olds to the local upmarket cafe, accompanied by a (slightly) more sedate Ella and her friend, Mae.

The long suffering nanny, Katie, then took the younger contingent home, still  in the pouring rain, of course, while I went with Ella and Mae (and her very nice dad) to their choir. This turned out to be an excellent, robust event with children from various schools, who sang with great gusto and lack of inhibition.  I was amazed to discover later that Ella and Mae only started the main song, which they sang with confidence, complete with dramatic hand gestures, last week.  And while I was there, they started another song, the old favourite ‘Scarborough Fair’. I wished the children here could have heard the enthusiasm and discipline of these young singers.

Sunday’s highlight was of course the Birthday Party, which Maddie shared with Sammy, the little boy with whom she shared nursery school and, initially, nanny.  Most of the children came from The Villa, Maddie’s old – private – nursery, although several have moved to the Belham, the primary school which Maddie finally got into a fortnight ago. She has yet to acquire Ella’s passion for Belham, with memories of the vary special Villa still too vivid.  But I think she is coping.

The party was a hoot – 20 very loud children running riot in a church hall, with an almost equal number of adults hovering nearer the Prosecco bottle. After tea there was a superb entertainer, Mark, and his sister, Kate, who come from an animal rescue centre which seems to combine entertaining children with educating them about caring for animals. The children adored all the animals, from the soft, plump rabbit, to the prickly but beautiful hedgehog and the grand finale, Henry the Python.

Everybody started with a go at holding the chameleon (which also tried its best to hide on a trainer), and most took on the snake (parents included).

I can’t resist finishing on a technical note.  Unlike France, England has embraced contactless payments with enthusiasm. My British bank, Nationwide, supports Apple Pay (unlike my French bank, Credit Agricole).  This means that instead of using cash or cards, I can use my phone to make payments – or better still, my Apple watch.  Travelling on trains or buses, paying for shoes or coffee or clothes, I kept my bag firmly zipped up and instead, double clicked on my watch and placed it over the payment screen. Apart from needing coins for Maddie’s birthday present, I think I may have opened my wallet twice in a week.

I’m cold!

I never learn. I keep coming to the UK with inadequate layers of clothes. And  then I seize up with cold.

When packing on Monday morning I knew that it would be a good ten degrees colder in London. Shall I wear my trusty lace ups which have seen me through the winter?  Nah, I thought. Apart from the fact they would either fill up half my case or make me die of heat wearing them on the journey, I reckoned I could handle the temperature change. After all, morning temperatures can be a good 15 degrees below the afternoon, and I appeared to have no difficulty dressing minimally when popping into Bréau for bread.

Well, in one sense I was right. The journey to the airport was distinctly warm – I had the car roof open all the way.  So was the wait – the looong wait – at the airport.  As usual I waited as long as possible before going through customs to the claustrophobic hall beyond,  and when we were called for embarkation, I remained firmly seated, rather than joining the overheated queue towards the plane. How very right I was, and how grateful was the young family with two small boys who copied my strategy.

It turned out we had the aviation equivalent of leaves on the line: a bird in the engine. It had apparently collided with the plane on landing, and now a dozen men in bright orange appeared to be peering endlessly into the left engine, presumably checking that no remains of roasted bird had made it into the jets. Ninety minutes later we finally made it aboard – only to have a further delay waiting for EasyJet at Gatwick to email technical clearance.

Landing at Gatwick was a cold shock, from which I still have to recover. Apart from fatigue (not sleeping well)  I think the problem is adjusting to the high level of humidity. It is clearly my internal thermostat that is not working: the Gillies family, with whom I am spending the first part of the week, seem impervious to this chilly spell, even though they too had a bout of glorious sun a week ago, and wander around house and garden lightly clad.

 

 

 

Easter holidays

Yesterday I waved goodbye to Jude and her family after what must have been the record wettest family holiday. 

Kate’s family arrived first, when conditions were marginally better and the children enjoyed a treasure hunt, organised by Kate, as well as having a garden bonfire (Otto strumming the guitar beside it).

When Jude and family arrived the sun actually came out for a couple of days and we had a near normal Easter break. 

What gave me great pleasure was that for the first time all four children rushed round the garden, and made the swing area their own base. 

When discussing what they like about visiting Granny, Poppy of course heads the list (and Granny. of course, they say hurriedly). But now they have added ‘Granny’s huge garden’. 

We even managed to pack in a picnic at le Rieumard, the clearing beside the local river, before the weather deteriorated.

In the evenings they laid on a couple of shows (choosing the terrace outside my bedroom, currently a messy building site, as their theatre).

Jude’s family are great walkers. Willow joined them a couple of times. And Otto, whose problems can make prolonged activity particularly testing, managed one good walk too.

In respect for my family’s desire for privacy, I have just put up a few fairly anonymous photos

Early Easters are marked by two family birthdays, first Jude’s:

and then three days later, mine – in this case a milestone one reaches with very mixed feelings- 3/4 of a century. I reproduce the messages here not to massage my ego but because I am touched by the loving affection of all four children.

Here are Otto’s dramatic statement, Willow’s immaculate writing and Maddie/Mabbie’s newly acquired signature skills:

followed by Ella’s story of The Family: