Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nesting, voice and no Marmite.

1. To tempt Alec away from the telly I tip a bag of cushions and blankets out in the nursery. He comes upstairs and makes us play baby birds hatching out from under a table cloth; and then baby dinosaurs.

2. "The man in there," says Alec as we pass Fine Grind, the espresso bar on the High Street. "I like him. I love his voice."

3. Alec looks at my piece of bread and Marmite and tells me confidently that Marmite is bad for his tummy. "It gives me indigetics and makes me swallow up." Luckily for him I wasn't planning to share.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Extra jam, womankind and water.

1. I notice Alec slipping extra jam into the dimples on his tray of jammy thumbprint biscuits.

2. Alec tries to scramble up the bank to talk to a small girl playing on the terrace above us. She has been  accidentally on purpose dropping her ball down to us. Alec falls over. And gets up for another go. He has to lie on his front and wave his short-trousered legs around to get over the top, but he is not deterred. She is bemused by his gift of leaves -- but her mother and I make melty faces at each other.

3. It's a warm day so I set out in the garden a tub of water. I issue some interesting containers and a few threats about there being no more water if he tips it all out in one go. I imagine Alec will spend a happy half hour (no, let's be realistic, ten minutes, tops before he gets bored) pouring water in and out, learning about volume and improving his motor skills.
"Can I put my feet in?"
When I look up again he is naked and sitting in the tub, which now contains about two inches of very muddy water. It does keep him busy for half an hour, though.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A short bath, bunny and for me too.

1. Twenty minutes doesn't seem like long; but it was relaxing and it feels pleasantly profligate to jump out of the bath before it has cooled down.

2. There is no queue to meet the Easter Bunny at the shopping centre -- and it turns out you get a free photo, and a chocolate egg. Alec wouldn't look at the bunny; the photo is really nothing special; but I loved the speed with which he opened and ate the egg; and the chocolate on his cheeks afterwards.

3. Bettany has started using a sign to communicate. It's not a conventional hand sign, but if she sees food that she wants she smacks her lips until you give her some.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

French toast, quick and hollandaise.

1. Sweet and salty together: French toast and very crisp bacon.

2. How quick and easy it is to bake bought meatballs into bought tomato sauce and serve it with spaghetti.

3. The instructions on the hollandaise sauce pot make me laugh: "Usually served warm, rather than piping hot".

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Porridge, lion tamer and sweeping up.

1. The days when Alec puts away an entire bowlful of porridge.

2. It's one of those days when I feel like a lion tamer. I don't know what the cleaning lady must think of me barking orders at my children. I tell Alec fiercely that he must wait for me to soothe Bettany off to sleep before he comes and has a cuddle and some bub. It doesn't feel right at all -- but I've been trying to be kind all morning and all I've had back is a whiny voice and sulky looks. He lies meekly down on his bed, suddenly patient and calm. He is asleep before Bettany and I can sneak downstairs by myself.

3. To take out my frustrations by giving the backyard a good sweeping. It looks better each time I do it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Addresses, the story and not being sick.

1. I open my mouth to correct Alec when he addresses Aunty Katie's husband as Aunty Jules, but then I see the look on Jules' face and I shut it again.

2. When Alec says he doesn't want to go to nursery I tell him that Bettany and I spend all afternoon talking about him and then argue about who gets to kiss him first when we see him. He stops stropping and looks rather pleased at the thought.

3. Finally, a day in which Bettany doesn't throw up.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Calm down, my glasses and out for an hour.

1. The text from Nick to say that Alec had calmed right down by the time they got to nursery.

2. I want to hold on forever to the memory of Bettany's face when she plays with my glasses. She pulls them off my nose and waves them wildly until I take them back. She tilts her head back and to the right to receive them and she holds her head still while they slip down her little nose, smiling all the time.

3. Even just an hour of sushi, good company and wine with PaulV and Caroline is good. I can't stay longer because Bettany is still on her milk-only diet and she needs a lot of feeding to keep her going.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Going out, newts and epic journey.

1. The line of bags at the front door, ready for a day out.

2. My father and Alec fishing for newts with a home-made net.

3. Bettany and I make an epic journey through the night to Tonbridge Cottage Hospital to see an out of hours GP. Bettany is, of course, laughing and waving at the receptionist by the time we get there.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Beard, shower and relief.

1. Bettany reaches up to pat my father's beard. She's never seen one close to before and is intrigued.

2. A shower of water falls from the gutter three storeys up. Alec stands underneath it enjoying the sound and the feel of it on his hood. We consciously picked out superior rain gear so we can say a resounding "YES" to things like this.

3. Nick comes home and I can hand him Miss Party Pants and then usher my poor tired Alec off to the silent house of sleep.

Monday, April 07, 2014

I love you, off to sleep and last of the gin.

1. Bettany is sick in the night. While I am putting the bed to rights I notice that the mark on the sheet is in the shape of a heart.

2. Nick calls me upstairs to finish settling Alec off to sleep. Our boy is away -- and in his own bed, too -- before I get there.

3. There is only a tablespoonful of gin left but I manage to make us a couple of martinis. It's been a tough old weekend.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A marvel, wise words and book learning.

1. "Daddy! Look what Mummy got just for me! It's called CORNFLAKES!"
I always thought cornflakes were the boring breakfast cereal -- I shall never look at them in the same way again.

2. To get some wise words and advice from a sensible group of mothers. Their stories tally: I should nurse my sicky baby for two minutes and then give her a ten minute break. We are both relieved to get a rest from the puking.

3. When Bettany is sleeping heavily on my lap we taste the cheese that Nick bought at the market. Without his cheese book we'd never have known that the dark line through the middle is ash -- the original technique required the cheesemaker to sprinkle soot over the morning curds before covering them with the evening curds.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Oyster, wedding and rage.

1. "I want to eat an oyster at Easter!" says Alec as we pass Sankey's seafood bar.

2. There is a wedding on the bandstand. We get close enough to hear: "And for the first time I present the new Mr and Mrs Milton." I get something in my eye.

3. I am trying to chivvy Alec home but he is having none of it. Three workmen laugh at us, which makes it seem slightly less devasting.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Man at work, done and feeding.

1. We hear a scraping noise outside and open the front door to investigate. A man is hoeing weeds out of the cracks in the pavement. We chat to him while he works. Alec shows him some interesting stones. He pulls off his gloves to examine one. "I'm such a geek about history and archaeology," he says in his broad Yorkshire accent.

2. I look down at my course unit and realise that I've done enough. It needs to be packed up and sent off.

3. To offer Bettany clusters of rice grains and fragments of chicken with my chopsticks.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Miniature daffodils, good news and coming home early.

1. I planted up pots of miniature daffodils very late, but they are now flowering outside the back door. This is a treat.

2. To hear that two friends have had positive health news.

3. Another treat: Nick is coming home early.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Free, fennel and emergency,

1. I look at my two sleeping children, both snuffling through snotty noses, and think how blessed I am because I can go downstairs and have breakfast on my own, without having to look after anyone else.

2. The roots of the fennel I am moving have busted right through the liner in the bottom of the bed and I must be strong and gentle to free them. I give it a good water and hope it will be happy in its new home.

3. Alec interrupts the bedtime story to take a phone call about a "fire on house". He jumps into his naw-nee and zooms to the scene. "What's the emergency?" he asks me in a manly voice.
The fire is soon out and he asks me to resume the story.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

A present, the rush and wide awake.

1. Alec is held up -- he is picking slender magnolia petals off the pavement. He comes running after me and pushes them into my back pocket. "A present for you, Mummy."

2. I lift my droopy naptime boy up on to my shoulders so that we can hurry even faster to pick up Bettany. I've missed her bundly weight and her "Da-da-da-da" and the way she follows us from room to room.

3. He was sleepy, but now he is telling Nick all about the best bit of his day: "And do you know what we did that I liked best?" dramatic pause "WE CLIMBED A TREE!"

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gold dust, taking over and clap hands.

1. To marvel with Alec at the gold dust in my bath from the Golden Egg (he thought it was a golden potato) that was among my Mother's Day surprises. He climbs in with me and I'm glad to have him because it gives Nick a bit of space to prepare lunch.

2. To remember that I have a husband who can cook a roast dinner -- even with a noisy baby issuing orders from the corner of the kitchen.

3. I bring Bettany upstairs for some bub and when she sees me getting into bed with the Kindle and my water bottle, she claps her hands.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Compost, cool and mover.

1. My compost sack is once again, to my surprise, full of compost. It never gets old, the transformation of decay.

2. On a warmish day, to do some work on the shaded side of the house involving water and rags. It is mild enough to sit Bettany on a rug nearby so I have some company, too.

3. "Where's Bettany?" We're looking under the table and wondering if she's fallen out of the back door -- but then we hear her in the front room. We still forget, from time to time, that she no longer stays where you put her.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The pilgrimage, one of us and hurrying away.

1. In the dark hours I am administering a dose to my feverish boy. I glance at the clock, 3.30am, and instead of worrying about my child, I think of Lucy, who will be starting her long pilgrimage to Joe's funeral.

2. I have been pacing around the cemetery while I wait. When I return to the crematorium there is a man sitting on a sunny bench -- a sunny bench just right for watching and observing and recording life and nature. He is scrawling in a generous loose hand on an A4 pad so I know, I just know, that he's one of us. "Are you here for Joe Hyam's funeral?" he says. It's Tristan of The New Emotional Blackmailer's Handbook.
"I've come in my eight ton truck," he says. Later Lucy and I see it pulling out of the gate, hurrying away from all the small talk. We wave like mad -- we can see his mirrors, perhaps he can see us.

3. Joe's coffin looks too small to contain all those words and all that wisdom and all that good cheer. I give it a wave as I leave the chapel, just as I would have seeing him and Heidi across the park. I think he's hurried away, though, gone somewhere more congenial.

4. It is marvellous and rather comforting to see variations of Joe's features in his family's faces and in their manners and in their voices.

Friday, March 28, 2014

By the hand, the call and doing it now.

1. Anthony unselfconsciously leads Alec by the hand.

2. It is rather a relief to get the call: Alec has had a bad nap, is upset and has a temperature and he needs picking up from nursery. He tells me that during naptime he dreamed I was mending the roof and dropped my hammer. Apart from that, he seems quite cheerful, thanks to a dose of paracetamol. It's only an hour and a half until Bettany's pick-up so I put him in the pushchair and we go out for tea.

3. To get a task done that I was planning to cram in tomorrow morning.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

You deal with it, gums and blue fur.

1. To be able to hand over this morning's bedding crisis to our lovely cleaner.

2. I hand Bettany another piece of pasta and marvel at what she can eat with those gums of hers.

3. I come to the till feeling guilty about buying good quality, well designed, expensive clothes for a mere child, and my own child at that, how indulgent. The shop assistant scans the Cookie Monster blue furry jacket (that Alec needs badly because his old sweaters now expose his forearms) and tells me that it has been further reduced. When I show Alec later that evening he says it is so soft that everyone will want to cuddle him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Up, transaction and listening off to sleep.

1. To discover that I can still lift Alec, wellies and all, on to my shoulder when he is too tired and cross to walk.

2. I apologise to Alec for being cross and rather harsh; and he very elegantly apologises for the thing that made me lose my temper in the first place.

3. Alec and I drift off to sleep to a Beatrix Potter audiobook. I wake up in the middle of Johnny Town-Mouse and enjoy Timmy Willie's pleasure at going back to his garden.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Walk in the woods, jumping spaniel and pick-up.

My sister-in-law Sarah has put some of her jewellery on Etsy: do have a look and see what you think. I particularly like the fruity beads: they remind me of a necklace I had as a child.

1. To stamp through the woods on a warmish spring morning with Alec. Under bare branches and sunlight like watered down fruit juice we discuss plans for the summer: I would like to take him camping (he is surprised to learn that we own a tent); and he would like to go fishing.

2. A spaniel the colour of very cheap milk chocolate jumps over the ditch, ears and legs spread wide.

3. At nursery they hand me a smiling Bettany. It's a bit different from picking up baby Alec: who generally greeted me with a wall of rage.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The lie-in, blossom tree and talk.

1. I manage to keep the children dozing until after 7am. Nick comes down to see where everyone is and when he sees his drowsing family, he gets into bed behind me. We drift back to sleep and stay there, warm and safe, until nearly 8am.

2. The hillside trees are bare in drabs and fawns and ochres, except one that is covered in sweetie pink blossom.

3. Bettany muttering "da-da-da" and "ta-ta-ta" to herself as she potters about, moving from sitting to standing and back down again.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spiced apple juice, winter purslane and removal.

1. A polystyrene cup of hot spiced apple juice to warm my hands on a rather wintery March day.

The leaves and flowers of winter purslane
Winter Purslane: photo by Curtis Clark via Wikimedia Commons
2. The salad man has winter purslane. I have a weakness for soft leaves, such as this and lamb's lettuce. Winter purslane's bizarre appearance -- the leaves grow around the flowers like a dog's surgical ruff -- appeals to me because it looks somehow unfoodlike and it makes me think it might have fallen from another planet.

3. After lunch I announce that I will be removing myself to the sitting room with a Cadbury's Creme Egg and the new Interzone. I manage to read the editor's letter and one (very short) story before I am interrupted.

3b. We are watching Green Balloon Club on Cbeebies -- its a nature programme with child presenters. Alec tugs my arm. "You know the girl, the girl in the yellow jacket? She a big girl."
I clarify which of the presenters he means -- it's the youngest, blondest girl.
"Her! I LOVE HER," he shouts and then runs behind the sofa.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spoons, music and conked out.

1. The way Alec asks to be fed when he is cross or sad at mealtimes. It is hard work, like having two babies; but I know there will come a day when he won't ask for "spoon it spoon it".

2. It's been a tough day, no-one is napping and Alec has been testing, testing, testing his boundaries since the moment he woke. At supper time I remember that music sometimes brings everything back together. It's a bit desperate and a bit uncertain, like trying to repair split mayonnaise with hot water. It's not entirely effective, but I feel better for having tried and it was fun while it lasted.*

3. Oh what a blessing: they both fall asleep at 7pm.

* We have two Spotify playlists: a general one and one called Everyone Sit Down and Shut Up.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rice, two fine ladies and my husband.

I was very sorry to see that my first blogging friend Plutarch, AKA Joe Hyam from Now's the Time, died recently. I was always pleased to see him, his wife Heidi and his red scarf or his black beret in the distance on our walks around the Grove. I would adjust my speed to ensure our paths crossed so we could swap items of interest. His kindly attention, first by email and then in person, when I started this blog (he stumbled across it quite by chance and was intrigued to discover we lived a couple of streets apart). His twinkly eyes, birdlike scrutiny and his general refinement and taste impressed me; when I discovered that he was a former journalist I realised that his good opinion had some weight. It was part of what gave me the confidence to go on writing day after day after day. I was incredibly flattered when he used the 3BT format on his blog -- although I always felt he did it better than me. Joe lived well and he wrote about (and drew and photographed) the enjoyment he derived from all the small pleasures there are to be had.

Some fine tributes have appeared from Joe's close friends, two on Tone Deaf, one here and the other here  and a portrait on Box Elder, and an account. I want to spend some time reading back over the 3BTs that relate to him -- there are a fairly large number and I want to crystallise my memories of him into something coherent that I can share.

1. Alec listening to the seaside noises made by handfuls of dry rice. Then he looks for buried treasure in it, pretends to bake cakes with it, hides spoons in it for me to find and makes footprints in it. He has a small melt-down when I take it away; so that was a successful play session.

2. Baby Ella and Bettany staring at each other. Bettany crawls all round Ella, and Ella reaches out to touch where Bettany's hair would be if she has any. Ella recently learnt to sit unsupported (except when she gets distracted) and Bettany has just started to pull herself up to stand.

3. To sit with Nick and have his support while I sit up late and write about these sad things.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smooth, on the mend and clean again.

1. This morning has gone well -- Bettany took her bub at 7am, rolled over and went back into a deep sleep. I bring Alec downstairs and dress him with my own hands; he is so co-operative that he has time to eat for a first breakfast (he has a second at nursery); and we all remember to say the things he likes to hear at the door: "See you later Alligator" and "Have a good day". After the door shuts Bettany is still asleep so I get some work done and eat my breakfast alone.

2. My poor Bettany looks less like spots covering a girl and more like a girl with spots.

3. I am so pleased to see our cleaning lady: she has been away for a couple of weeks and the relief cleaner we had lined up refused to come when she heard about the chicken pox (not that I blame her at all, but our house does get so sad and dusty if not attended to diligently).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Conspirators, Beanies and Copper.

1. Bettany wakes first from the nap. I am hurrying around preparing an activity for Alec. I'm going to bury some chicken bones from lunch in the garden and get him to dig them up as dinosaurs. Bettany and I become conspirators rifling through a box of ornaments in the attic in search of a skull.

2. In the same box is a kindle of Beanie Baby cats that I inherited from my grandmother. I have kept them carefully with the tags attached all these years because I labour under the delusion that these saggy little felines are worth something (they are really not). Within minutes I am hooking a reddish pulp that was once one of the tags out of Bettany's mouth. She laughs at me as if she knows these things are worth more as toys than as Ebay listings.

3. To read a comic book to Alec: he is fond of Copper, dreamlike scenes from the life of a boy and his dog. I used to feel I needed to explain the imagery and all the 'givens' that we use to make sense of social interactions, but now I hold back. Alec asks if he wants to know; and I am rarely able to second guess the odd bits of information he wants to fill in his worldview's gaps.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fond, notebook and flowers.

1. I catch my parents looking out of their kitchen window at Alec. My mother says: "Look at him out there playing with sticks on the lawn. It makes it all worth while."

2. To have a quick nosey into my mother's illustrated cookery notebook. I hope she learns to work the scanner soon so I can have some of her pages for my own notebook.

3. To pick the survivors out of a finished vase of flowers and put them in small bottles so we can enjoy them right up until the end. Now the large vase has gone there is more space on the table.