You have to feel sorry for Mum this weekend. Her main 'hobby' if you like is chatting to chums on the Guardian readers' chat forum "Guardian Unlimited" (GU). Over ten years or so she has got well into this, made some very firm friends many of which she has met in real life too.
They discuss serious stuff like politics as well as more superficial subjects like cooking, make up etc, and often also take off in flights of fancy imagining they are in a private club where they all can adopt bizarre personae and construct histories or comment on the decor and catering. They have been going so long now that some of them have got even friendlier and got married, had children or sometimes fallen ill and helped each other through bad times.
Big shock then on Saturday morning when Diamond (who's another ardent GU-er) phones Mum to say that the Guardian newspaper has decided to close the service, no longer support it, take down the site with no warning. They are distraught.... bereft! They Twitter and Facebook in protest but it is to no avail. They are cut adrift. What will they all do - how will the contact each other to decide what they are doing?
Luckily enough of them have each other's real email names and addresses (on GU they use secret 'handles' like CB radio names in the 80's) that they find another site which will have them (all be it the same, no-longer-supported software) and the word spreads. They battle their various ways in. It's like a survivors camp after a traumatic natural disaster, an earthquake or a flood, they all hug each other and chatter excitedly as they compare notes on how the disaster was for them, how they found out, how they battled through and found everyone again, and then how they are worried that person x or y has not appeared yet.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, we head for Hastings again to look up Pud Lady. We must go via Canterbury, so we decide to go a bit different with the food and drink - instead of French fizz, Dad decides to try a sparkling wine in champagne style but made in Tenterden in Kent. Climate change is warming up England's SE and it is now getting more sensible to 'do' champagne in Kent and Sussex than in the original area of northern France around Riems and Epernay, but because the real thing has protected geographical status, they cannot call it 'champagne'.
As well as the fizz, Mum and Dad buy some of the meal deals now in M+S (we're doing 'posh' coz it's the Pud Lady and she's worth it!), a fish casserole but also a creamy, coconutty mild fish curry. This latter is a bit tongue in cheek. Pud Lady is 82 and had been married to Stamp Man for going on 55 years for all of which Stamp Man liked his good old English meat and 2 veg. Spaghetti Bolognese was about as 'foreign' as he'd go and Pud Lady always gave a slight impression that she'd love to go a bit more adventurous was she not reined in by Stamp Man. She has never, to Dad's knowledge, tried curry, chilli, anything too garlicky, bizarre cheeses (always Cheddar), sushi, Chinese or anything else 'beyond the pale'.
So Dad introduces the mild curry as only a small taster portion so that Pud Lady can at least try it and decide whether it's anywhere she wants to go exploring. "Curry?" says Pud Lady, raising her eyebrows in alarm but, fair play to her, she tries it, commenting on the hot after-flavour (only hot compared to what she is used to!) but eating it (and the real menu of fish casserole) and leaving her plate clean. Dessert is an apricot version of 'Tarte Tatin'. She looks quite pleased with herself as if she feels she has passed an important test, or a milestone. More importantly she finds some oxtail bones in the fridge from her meal yesterday with Dad's brother "T-fer" which she gives to us.
And of course, this is Hastings, where Pud Lady's wild and wooded garden gives access through badger holes under the fence to all the other gardens in the 'Crescent' (of roads) and Dad cocks a deaf 'un as I slide under and go off exploring the neighbouring territory.
Hope you're all having a great weekend