Friday, December 31, 2010

All clear, time to kill and going up.

1. The paediatrician finally makes it round to my bed for Alexander's pre-discharge examination. "I'm very pleased to see you", is the first thing I say, so relieved am I at the thought of going home.

2. I lie in the dim blue light of my cubicle enjoy Alexander's company while I wait.

2b. The father from the next bed who showed us how to correct the straps on our mystifying carseat.

3. I bring my son to the very top of the house as soon as we come in. This is important to ensure he goes up in the world. I am crying by the time I get to the attic, and he looks at me with wide, curious eyes.

4. Katie has left a parcel of tiny treats for a tearful new mother.

A first, eye contact and advisor.

Thank you so much for all the messages -- we really appreciate your good wishes. I wonder what Alexander will think in years to come when he realises just how many people were looking forward to his birth.

We've got some pictures, and will be putting them up very soon.

1. The midwife is so busy showing me how to change a nappy that she ends up dealing with Alexander's first poo instead of me. I do learn a lot, though. "Keep hold of his ankles -- it's like holding two wine glasses. Otherwise he'll get his feet in it. And before you fasten the tabs, make sure his winkle is pointing down."

2. I'm struggling to master breastfeeding, but watching my son watching me as he suckles is very pleasing.

3. "Talk to Jill," says the midwife when I tell him about my breastfeeding woes. "She's very good." Jill  comes to my cubicle later. It feels as if she has with one hand corrected our feeding techniques, and with the other hand neatened my bed, organised my possessions, refilled my water jug and cleared away an empty plate missed by the supper crew.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For valour, perfection and nearly there

Today a special guest post by Nick...

1. My wife's courage and stamina as she painfully brings our baby into this world. I'm so proud of her.

2. Our new little boy, Alexander, perfect in every detail, with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. Like his dad, the young chap soon shows a talent for eating and sleeping.

3. Just before going to bed, I see England need only three wickets to retain the Ashes -- could this day have been any better?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Still they come, leftovers and professional

1. Parents arrive with still more presents to open for Christmas.

2. The Christmas pudding tastes even better the second time through the cooking process.

3. The midwife takes time to explain everything clearly and precisely.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Signs of Christmas, flaming brandy and here's looking at you kid.

1. Chocolate coins in the fruit bowl.

2. Warming brandy in a ladle. White vapour pops into blue flames, which I pour over the Christmas pudding.

3. "Of all the gin joints, in all the world..." We snuggle up on the sofa to watch Casablanca.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Small gifts, joint effort and ghost story.

1. The Mother left us a mysterious bag, which we open before we get up. She has packed it with small presents for both of us, and we take it in turns to pull something out -- bright wooden Christmas decorations from Russia and a large box of truffles; particularly for Nick, a train magazine and a small dustpan and brush for sweeping crumbs off the table; a soft and pretty pair of socks for me, and even some posh changing bits for Baby Badger.

1a. For breakfast, we eat soft panettone studded with raisins and the tenderest citrus peel.

1b. As we leave for our walk, I notice that the bulbs I planted back in November have reached up, questing through the cold soil.

2. Sitting with Nick and working out the timings for our Christmas dinner. Nick stuffed the chicken, and made pigs in blankets. I looked after the roasties, parsnips and carrots and brussels sprouts.

3. My cousins sent me Susan Hill's The Small Hand -- a ghost story in a luxurious little book. The pages and the cover are thick and textured, and the prose is creamy and satisfying. I think she's being very canny to remind people of why they might want to continue buying paper books, rather than using an e-reader.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Clear the way, on the move and room at the inn.

Love this story from the BBC about a train conductor who was both compassionate and not a jobsworth.

1. The park keepers have cleared the ice from almost all the paths in The Grove and in Calverley Rec.

2. I am lying in the bath. Nick brings me a single chocolate on one of the best plates. He stays to watch Baby Badger moving my bump around.

3. Nick rings the birthing centre to check they will take me if it all kicks off on Christmas Day. The midwife tells him that she likes a Christmas Day baby: "It means more publicity for us." We can but hope.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Remedy, treecreeper and wrapping up.

Just wanted to wish everyone a bright midwinter -- things always seem better once the days start getting longer. I've really appreciated the kind messages about Baby Badger and the birth. You'll hear all about it as soon as possible after it happens: I have briefed Nick to within an inch of his life about posting the news.

1. "Are you feeling tearful?" she asks. She fills the dropper with Rescue Remedy and I obediently open my mouth.

2. A mouse-like scuttle catches my eye at the base of the turkey oak. It's a treecreeper, running over and over the bark hunting for insects. It's very well camouflaged, but it's clockwork motion and white belly give it away.

3. While Nick wraps his Christmas presents, I cut up last year's cards for gift tags.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Good neighbour, melting and mince pies.

1. An early-morning scraping noise turns out to be a man with a barrow shovelling grit on our road.

2. Nick goes to the front gate. "I can hear the thaw." He says it's a tick-ticking sound.

3. A dozen mince pies (made by a husband) cooling on the side.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Untangled, advice and delivery.

1. Nick has got the tape tangled up while wrapping presents. I take it from him and make it straight again.

2. "...And a good walk home might get things moving," says the midwife. The roads are black again, and we're both wearing boots, so we take her advice.

3. At midnight, our gate clangs. "There you are," I tell Nick. "Revellers are using our recycling boxes as toboggans." He goes to look. It's Paul V dropping off a Christmas card.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Daffs, secrets and basket.

1. The Mother says that when her bunch of daffodils have opened, Baby Badger will come.

2. Nick comes back from town with bags that I'm not allowed to look at.

3. My father brings a mysterious rustling basket with a gold and spotty ribbon wrapped around the handle -- a Christmas present from my aunt.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blackbird, snow day and clearing the ice.

Sarah Salway reveals that she would like to be called Syd in an interview on Norm Blog, and she also demonstrates that she has excellent taste in blogs :-)

1. Nick peers through the curtains and says: "There's an enormous black bird sitting on our tree."
I am feeling oversensitive and superstitious. "Crow or a raven or what?"
"No, a blackbird."
Which is somehow all right -- because no-one ever used a blackbird to create an ominous atmosphere.

2. The park is full of children in sledges and extraordinary hats (the pointed turquoise felt pixie affair is my favourite, followed closely by the Spiderman mask). Their shrieks of laughter are dulled by the snow.

3. The mother says there were men clearing the ice off the pavements outside the station... "So I thanked them as I went by."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

From the sky, coming up the hill and tidings.

1. My brother's recent text message describes the scene best: "It's snowing the biggest flakes I've ever seen. It's like a billion down sleeping bags have exploded."

2. Louise calls to say she's in the area. I open the front door on to the clear cold air. She is walking up our hill in her pink anorak.

3. To hear that one of our Christmas cards has arrived.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sliding, first to see and dumplings.

1. Boys in the uniform of Nick's old school slide cockily down the snow on the High Street. Everyone else steps like wading birds from bare patch to bare patch. If you weren't so worried yourself about the ice, you might think that they are walking slowly because they want to look (really look) at the snowy world.

2. Cutting open a pumpkin and being the first person to see the seeds.

3. "Will you make some dumplings?" I ask the mother, and she does.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Try this, a good time of year to be born and tidying.

The ever inspiring Fiona Robyn has a plan for January. She keeps a blog called A Small Stone -- it's a daily piece of observational writing, very short, very much in the spirit of Three Beautiful Things. She also runs a zine called A Handful of Stones, which accepts other people's submitted stones. But she's taking things a step further for 2011, when she hopes people will join her in producing a whole River of Stones. If you've been reading 3BT and thinking 'I should do something like this too', but have found it a struggle to get going, or if you're a lapsed 3BTer, perhaps Fiona's river will work for you.

1. The midwife suggests a treatment that might help get labour going. "Do you want to give it a go?" I feel as if we are a pair of naughty school girls.

2. "It's a good time of year to be born, and I should know" says the pharmacist. "My birthday is Christmas Eve. My brother is Boxing Day and so's my granddaughter."

3. I come home to find the mother has swept up the leaves in the back yard.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Resting, cake and the blender.

1. To lie on the sofa and watch recorded episodes of The Simpsons until I fall asleep.

2. The mother has brought us a particularly moist and sticky piece of chocolate cake from one of the Italian delis in town.

3. We try the new blender for the first time -- I am so grateful to have a jug large enough to do the whole lot in one go, and the soup comes out smooth as cream. The other thing I really like about it is that it has an iridescent panel on the front that makes CD-style rainbows.

4. She says that her daughter claims she remembers sitting in her tummy eating bones and scraps of food!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Polishing, stamp and done for me.

1. Putting a shine on the taps in the bathroom.

2. I've been using rubber stamps to make wrapping paper. It's a bit rough and ready but very satisfying when the image is perfect.

3.  My mother cooks supper for us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Posting, hey bring that back and one over.

1. To cram Christmas cards into a nearly full post box.

2. He makes off -- rather unsteadily (Fenella says he's had a growth spurt) -- first with my bag, and then with our marriage certificate in its plastic pocket. I retrieve the certificate: he just likes waving the scrunchy plastic.

3. How strange -- I thought I'd ordered exactly the right number of Christmas presents from Lush, but I find there's a bubble bar called Christmas Eve left over. It turns my bath water midnight blue and makes the bathroom and the landing smell of jasmine and gardenia.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sleep, running dog and lamb chop.

1. I'm sleeping a lot at the moment. I know this, because Nick brings breakfast up on a tray, saying things like "We'll try to get up a bit earlier tomorrow".

2. A white german shepard is running from corner to corner of the basketball court in the park.

3. Nick presents me with a perfectly grilled lamb chop.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Get back, chocolates and muffins.

1. Writing Return to sender across an envelope window using a fine permanent marker.

2. Walnut and coffee crunch from Hotel Chocolat -- what a divine combination.

3. Taking a tray of muffins out of the oven.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pick a panettone, pedicures and toes.

1. There are so many panettones to choose from that we stand for a moment with our mouths open. "Chocolate and orange; crunchy almonds on top; wine soaked raisins with citrus peel; wine soaked raisins without citrus peel; chocolate and fig..."

2. Four NCT mums-to-be sit placid and patient while their pedicures dry. When we leave, everyone wishes us good luck.

3. Pulling back the end of the duvet to admire my raspberry pink toes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Up next, not bored and afternoon nap.

1. At the end of the class, the yoga teacher dedicates today's work to whoever is due next. This week, it's me and Baby Badger. "But you're very welcome to come back next week if you haven't got anything better to do," she says.

2. "Are you bored yet?" asks the midwife. I have to say that I'm not -- there are always so many lovely ways to fill the time.

3. I don't wake up until Nick comes home.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What we miss, Christmas shopping and tea talk.

1. "Cheese. Runny cheese." "Stilton." The NCT mums are anticipating the births of their babies.

2. A large parcel has arrived for Nick. He says it's a present from Baby Badger to its dad. I put it away until Christmas.

3. A mug of cranberry and sanguinello tea and a quick catch-up with Katie.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Keep in touch, captured and in the window.

Wow, it's photographarama today. First, two beautiful things from my mother.


a. Today a white van came rattling down the track and a small movement in the far top corner of the field turned into an avalanche of sheep pouring towards us bleating anxiously. 'I hope you've brought something for them too' I said to the delivery man. 'How odd' he replied and climbed back into the van... after handing  me the parcel from John Lewis. A natural lambskin for carseats and strollers!

b. Every where has been covered in frost all day and this morning a pure white pheasant appeared on the garden steps, but not for long.


And here are my beautiful things:


1. Two of my friends post on Facebook pictures of their babies. Oli is doing a tarot card series of his son (I particularly like the Tower built from Duplo, and the guest appearance by a big sister as the Priestess); while Paul has posed his little boy in tableaux from famous films. The Good, The Bad and Ugly -- baby in poncho and hat with bread stick hanging off his lip -- leaves me crying with laughter.


2. PaulV comes round and takes the last batch of bump photos -- "The light is lovely," he says, pushing me out of the back door.


2a. Anna sends me home from tea in her office with a plate of scones and gooey chocolate cake.


3. Across the car park, in a top window there is a lit-up Christmas tree. Better than an advent calendar. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Waiting, technology works and no more hot water.

1. My mother comes to keep me company while I wait. We go up to town for a few bits of Christmas shopping, and then have lunch in Hoopers restaurant. "Your father and I did most of our courting here," she says.

2. I plug the new laptop into the printer for the first time and it prints a page off for me.

3. To get out of a bath that is becoming uncomfortably cool.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Baby tip, historic homes and what I liked.

1. A lovely comment from Julia on this post about my beautician's take on night feeding. I can't wait to tell her that her thought has touched someone else as well as me!

2. We watch a historical documentary, At Home With The Georgians, in which Professor Amanda Vickery describes the origins of good taste and home-making using diaries and letters. One of the voices was particularly touching: a gauche bachelor of 24, writing in code, who was worried that his nerves would make him unable to get his future wife (he didn't marry until he was 43) pregnant.

3. Last thing at night, as we are falling asleep, we talk about our day: "I liked helping you with the dusting." "I liked the mashed swede." "I liked your sausage casserole." "I liked..."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thaw, cloud and frying pan.

1. Over night, warm rain comes and makes dark holes in the snow.

2. We make up the bed with white linen, shaking air into the pillows and duvet. I take my afternoon nap in a cloud.

3. Eggs and bacon for supper with sauté potatoes and savoy cabbage cook Jamie Oliver-style in Worcester sauce.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

He got through, card and redwing.

This post at The Refrigerator Oracle -- Open Your Eyes! -- is a good one for all 3BTers.

1. Frost ferns covered the empty milk bottles huddled on our doorstep -- the snow has defeated our milkman since Monday. Today I wake to the dull clunk of Nick bringing two full bottles into the house.

2. The first Christmas card, hand delivered.

3. Over the wall in the neighbour's bird feeding tree, I spot what looks like a thrush -- but there's something slightly off about it. It lifts a wing and displays a russet patch -- oh, a redwing, of course. I hope it has spotted the pyracanthus berries over the road.                                    

Friday, December 03, 2010

Footprints, through the snow and feeding on fruit.

1. Lines of paddy paw prints over the snowy carpark clue me in on the night life.

2. The doorbell rings. The triumphant Abel and Cole man hands over our veggie box.

3. Each cluster of pale orange rowan berries is weighed down by snow. The high branches are weighed down by feasting wood pigeons.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Service, blackbird and ginger biscuits.

1. The sound of the man from the end house sweeping snow off our road.

2. Blackbird at the pyracanthus berries disturbs a spray of snow. Later, its chook-chook-chook alarm call disturbs the evening's dead silence.

3. A batch of ginger biscuits cooling in the kitchen. I love the way they come out of the oven soft and puffy, and then harden into crunchy, hard biscuits.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Snow day, feed the birds and first winter.

1. Waking up to a snow day. It's lovely to have Nick home, but I'm very jealous that he gets to work in the attic with its view right out of town.

2. I throw down some bird food and top up the pan of water. Before long, I count 13 sparrows picking up seed.

3. I like seeing my friends' Facebook updates about their babies seeing snow for the first time.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Little brown job, turkeys and puppy.

1. "Sort of skulking?" "Yes, and picking bits out from between the paving stones." "That's a dunnock." Another of our home birds identified.

2. My parents' neighbour has four turkeys in a pen in the woods. They are pleased to see us and come to the fence to show off their green-black plumage. One of the males fans out his tail for us.

3. He brings his great dane puppy out to meet us. Its colour makes me think of a batch of biscuits -- pale gold to soft tan. He says its spent the short afternoon testing the boundaries of his garden.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sponsored post: Shop and win a year's salary


If I happened to win £40,000 -- Paypal is calling it a year's salary, but I reckon I could make it stretch further than that, as it's way more than I could ever hope to earn in a year, even in my wildest dreams -- I would use it to stretch out my maternity leave for another year so I could hang out with Baby Badger and watch him or her discover this world full of beautiful things without worrying about paying the bills. Children grow up so quickly, and you only get one chance to enjoy each stage of their lives.

If you think you could use £40,000, just use PayPal for some on-line shopping -- Find out more.

Anyway -- with Baby Badger due any day now, and Christmas looming, there are still a few bits and pieces on my shopping lists, so I can think of lots of ways to enter this competition.

From Boots: I could do with a Grobag Night Light for those small hour feeding sessions; and the hollow-eyed new parents who visited our NCT class had one thing to say "Infacol"; I'm also yet to purchase some muslin squares (partly because I'm convinced I'll go into labour the moment I do). And a changing bag -- this Tiny Tillia looks neutral enough that Nick wouldn't mind carrying it! Finally, I'd pick up a squeaky, jingly, crinkly Sir Prance-A-Lot toy.

Lloyds Pharmacy would be the next stop for maternity gear: A TENS machine; Lansinoh is another tip from hollow-eyed new parents, likewise a nose clearing device for the inevitable colds and snuffles; Milton sterilising tablets; and prints of our favourite photos.

Superdrug is always great for little stocking fillers -- particularly as they have a three for two offer on at the mo. I particularly like these bright Naturals Bath Fizzer Trios; this Tutti Cuti purse (this might end up in MY stocking, as I have a summer outfit that matches all these colours); and this string of butterfly lights is rather appealing. I would buy this Thomas Musical handwash because it's totally daft. And finally, this Vaseline Lips Tin -- I always have one of these small tins about my person when I'm wearing new shoes, because there is nothing like Vaseline for preventing blisters.

Fragrance Direct -- I would buy this Burt's Bees Pomegranate and Cranberry Scrub as a gift for someone, but I can see it 'getting lost' and ending up in our bathroom! I've been warned by an experienced mum that a stay in hospital can be very hard on your hands, so I've vowed to treat myself to another of Burt's products: Almond Milk Beeswax handcream. One of my most enduring Christmas shopping memories is picking out Bronnley soaps for various grandmothers and great aunts -- Fragrance Direct has a good range of these, including a set of nostalgic shop tins, each containing three soaps -- I love the Post Office and the Chocolate Shop. And I'd also pick up a bottle of Rose Bath Relaxant.

Another stop in my virtual shopping trip would be Fig Leaves for some nursing bras: Midnight Grace has some pretty ones: Lilly, Rosie Posy and Bittersweet are particularly appealing; but then I would be practical and get a plain black and white two pack like Holly. And I'd also pick up a nursing chemise as a treat for myself.

Some of my best maternity wear has come from fashion giant Asos -- in the summer months, I wore these scoop neck vests as tops, and now it's colder I'm layering them. These three-quarter sleeve tops have also been great because they go under summer dresses as the weather turns colder. I'm on the look-out for a pair of black boots -- these Mango pull-ons would be lovely. And finally I can't resist this Ramones T-shirt for Baby Badger -- they do say that you get given loads of new born clothes and none for when the baby is older!

Enter now for your chance to win

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Sunday morning, warming up and tracking.

1. Nick takes me out for breakfast -- at 10am the streets are Sunday silent and the air is so cold and still that it feels as if we are watching the world through glass.

2. Hot chocolate with a peak of foam on top and flecks of chocolate melting into it.

3. He calls down from the attic: "Darling wife, I can track our pizza on-line!"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Foodie, still waiting and squirrel.

1. After breakfast, Nick sits up in bed with the magical recipe book sent to us by Joe in Vegas. It's a stout and hefty volume specialising in west coast food. There's an entire section -- with trouble-shooting tips -- on cheesecake, which is Nick's absolute favourite thing in the world.

2. In the shop where we buy our dried fruit, the lady at the till says: "Haven't you had that baby yet? You've been pregnant for ages."

3. A squirrel sits high in a tree, tail curled over its head, chattering to itself -- possibly complaining about the problems it's been having digging beech mast out of the frozen soil. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Seeds, tax return and melting.

1. To throw down a handful of birdseed.

2. To send off my tax return -- it's another item crossed off the list of things I must do before Baby Badger comes.

3. Grated parmesan curls writhe on the hot surface of a shepherd's pie.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Snuggly, biscuits and night feeds.

Katie has posted a picture of the blanket she made for my increasingly spoilt baby.

1. No-one is getting much sleep at the moment -- I can't turn over in my sleep any more, and I can't sleep in one position for very long. I whisper my apologies to Nick as I make another awkward turn to get back into his arms. He says: "You're not being annoying -- you're being snuggly."

2. There are malted milks on the biscuit plate at yoga.

3. My beautician tells me to treasure the night feeds -- "When the moon is shining through the window, and it's just the two of you, and they open their eyes and look up... It's so, so special."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Meeting for coffee, Christmas shopping and shift.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, all you USA people. Today, I'm thankful for a trouble-free pregnancy.

1. A bunch of yellow roses, a toy giraffe for Baby Badger and someone else's baby sitting on my knee and grabbing my nose.

2. The delivery man puts a large parcel in my hands.

3. The midwife says that Baby Badger has shifted over to a better position -- just hoping it can keep up the good work until the big day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Long morning, us next and sleep.

1. I am so glad we have an 11am start.

2. After the class, we tell each other how amazed we are at the visiting mother's ease and confidence with her eight-week-old son. We are all wondering how we are ever going to get that stage.

3. To wrap myself up in the duvet and sleep until Nick gets home.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tea, thinking of Christmas and Katie's parcel.

1. A mug of licorice tea.

2. The mother buys for us a wooden Christmas tree to decorate with those little German ornaments I like so much. I'm thinking fondly of December 1 when we can open the Christmas boxes and start getting out a few decorations, and maybe our collection of Christmas books.

3. We come home from an NCT gathering and find a plump parcel on the doorstep -- Katie has dropped round a knitted blanket in heathery colours and a baby-grow ("The force is strong in this one").

Monday, November 22, 2010

Late bee, taking tea and winter duvet.

There's a new edition of Sarah Salway's extraordinary book Something Beginning With... It's a love story written in alphabetical order, and Neil Gaiman is a fan.

1. A bumble bee out late in the year works at the lemon yellow berberis bells.

2. Tea for two in front of a log fire, with a waiter who kept telling us "There's no hurry. You've got as long as you want." In between sandwiches, scones and cakes, we look over our wedding photographs.

3. We put the winter duvet on the bed and snuggle underneath it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flowers, stretching and red on white.

Today is our first wedding anniversary. It's hard to believe it's been a year already. I don't think I've ever been more content in my life. We'll be returning to the hotel where we tied the knot later on today for afternoon tea.

Nick and I have been so touched by all the love and support we've had from the people close to us, and from people who haven't met us face-to-face. I love this picture because when I saw it, it brought home how much effort people made to come to our wedding, and also the fact that they cared enough about the memory of it that they wanted to take pictures.

1. The anniversary itself is on Sunday, but we've sort of stretched out the celebrations across the whole weekend. Nick brings flowers back from town. He says he picked this bunch "because the white ones reminded me of the white roses in your wedding bouquet." The white ones turn out to be ornamental cabbages -- creamy white, flushed mauve in the centre with tiny beads of green on the edge of each petal.

2. Doing a few cat stretches to help BB get into position. I'll be considered full term on Tuesday.

3. Deep red cayenne pepper scattered over white cauliflower cheese.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter window, not going out and in capable hands.

1. The florists who did our wedding have the most fantastic winter window display -- glass round-bottomed flasks, each containing a single white exotic flower, suspended on fishing line and surrounded by fake snow and silver glitter.

2. Using the internet to cut a swathe through the Christmas shopping.

3. Nick takes over supper, turning sausages and mashing potatoes and carrots while I catch up with my emails.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spindle, better and sound effects.

1. A spindle tree with the orange seeds just bursting out of the pink cases cheers me up as I struggle up the hill across the park.

2. "I feel so much better for that," I tell my yoga teacher at the end of the class.

3. By chance I come across an old friend on Radio 4 -- a thriller adapted from Sei Shonagon's The Pillow Book. It is beautifully done in terms of sound effects and voice acting. The Empress, in particular, is astonishing  -- refined and restrained and authoritative all at once.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Filling, fluff and fathers.

1. To find a spoonful of dulce de leche in the middle of my banana muffin.

2. She sleeps on under hair like dandelion fluff.

3. Some NCT graduates have been invited to bring their babies to our class. We pepper them with questions about hospital bags and nappies. "Did you cry?" challenges one of the dads. "Yes," says the other.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Outdoors, roll and washing.

1. This is a day for people who work outdoors. One of the groundsmen is taking a break from chasing leaves around -- sprawled on a sunny bench enjoying the unexpected sun.

2. An unevenness in the floor makes the exercise ball gently nudge the back of my chair -- you'd be better off sitting on me: think of your posture.

3. Piles of folded washing waiting on the stairs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Certificate, bitter and dads.

1. Nick has a certificate from work praising his diligent and tenacious work on a project -- and there is a small bonus attached.

2. Amaretti for elevenses.

3. At the antenatal class I like catching the other dads patting their partners' bumps.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Scarlet suit, pork and science fiction.

1. Katherine (who took our wedding pictures) brings us a beautiful scarlet snow suit to bundle our baby in.

2. The butcher was right -- we didn't need to do anything (except keep the joint dry) to get good crackling.

3. We watch Mark Gatiss' First Men in the Moon -- his naive Cavor was excellent, and I loved the schoolboyish glee at their first steps on the moon. I've also been having some fun getting my head round cavorite and its possible applications.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Not nothing, sit down and supper.

1. I pick up from the library What Mothers Do: Especially When it Looks Like Nothing which I have seen recommended over and over again on parenting sites. I am hoping it will help me lay to rest some of the haunting remarks I've heard from my friends about empty days spent doing "nothing".

2. Baby Badger has been feeling very heavy lately, and really going for it with the Braxton Hicks contractions. It's so good to sit down for a few minutes, and whenever we are out, I'm constantly looking round for a bench!

3. Nick makes a huge pie -- we eat very late, but it's very good, full of tasty steak and kidney and juicy mushrooms.

Day off, robin and midwife.

Two more new 3BTers today -- Africa, My Africa (a teacher working in Uganda) and Crazy Thoughts from Slovenia. I've added them both to the Roll of Honour -- please email me and let me know if you should be on the roll but aren't.

1. Nick takes a day off work -- he has holiday to use up before Christmas, and we are very aware that time for the two of us will be in short supply very soon.

2. While we are eating lunch a robin comes down to inspect the back yard. There was a robin who joined a sea eagle warden in his study on Autumn Watch earlier this week, and I've always been a little envious of my parents' robin, too.

3. We go to another antenatal class -- this time with independent midwife Anja Metzner. She is very refreshingly direct, excusing lines such as "Midwives get very excited about poo" and "When talk about sex to get labour going, I really mean lovemaking" with "I'm sorry, I am German". I feel very privileged to have a share of her passion and wisdom, and at the end, I overhear Nick telling someone: "I think I'm ready for it now."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Silence, trim and not isolated.

Erin and Shopgirl (who has the most beautiful white rabbit) have both started new blogs in the last few days -- check out A Blessing A Day and Something Good in Everything.

And I've added two people who blog 3BT-style to the Roll of Honour -- Talking to Myself in Public and Musings and Confessions.

1. A muffled boom makes the yoga class jump. "What was that?" We are still on edge here in Tunbridge Wells from the bomb scare that cleared the town centre two weeks ago. "It's the eleventh of November, and 11 o' clock." We fold ourselves into child's pose to think of heroes and sacrifices.

2. Such a relief to get my hair cut short. It sits much better now, and I feel as if I am showing the respect I feel for myself.

3. I was afraid that motherhood would be an isolated business -- but this cafe is full of NCT groups jiggling prams and feeding babies.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Contrast, find the baby and no trouble.

1. It's such a bright beautiful day. The woods are wearing rags of autumn colour still, and the contrast with the winter branches makes me want to look and look.

2. The midwife says: "I can feel a back here, and I think this is a bottom up here." She says that I'll get some strange feelings in the next few weeks as Baby Badger grinds its head down into my pelvis.

3. When the time comes to make my next appointment, I ask the mother (who has offered to drive me there) when would be convenient. She shakes her head -- she doesn't mind. The midwife says: "First grandchild is it? Nothing's too much trouble, is it." I'm loving all the attention you get from being pregnant.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not up yet, biscuits and next time.

1. I'm still in my dressing gown because I couldn't sleep until it was time to get up. She says: "Oh, it's because Baby Badger wanted to play." I hadn't thought of it like that... all the disrupted sleep could be my body's way of adjusting to the new hours I will be keeping.

2. Euro-biscuits -- I love those tempting multi-lingual packets in Lidl with their promises of almonds and gingerbread and chocolate.

3. Games night again -- the last one before Baby Badger. It's strange to say good bye to people and to say: "Next time we see you, we'll have a baby."

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

End of autumn, woodsmoke and circles.

1. Walking through the park in the rain. Cold air. Cold sky. Warm reds and golds hang on bravely.

2. The smell of woodsmoke on a rainy day.

3. We've been walking in circles all morning, she says in a text. I assume it's a metaphor for a frustrating day. No -- walking round and round holding a couple of Mum's fingers is Ben's new favourite activity.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Changing the bed, nursery and meet you at the abbey.

I am told by a reliable source that 3BT has been mentioned in the latest issue of Writing Magazine -- so if you've come in from there, welcome.

1. To pull the sheets off the bed, rip open the duvet poppers and drag the stout pillows from their cases.

2. People keep asking if the nursery is ready. It's certainly full of stuff, but 'ready' is pushing it a bit. I roll up my sleeves and go in -- unpacking bags and boxes, checking age labels and matching like with like. We now have a box of toys, a pile of bedding for the wash and a shelf of changing kit.

3. The last Downton Abbey. Drama! Intrigue! Dresses! Revenge! We watch it live for once -- the interminable ad breaks are perfect for catching up with the quips and commentary on Twitter.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Parcel, parkin and park.

1. We've been waiting a few days for a mysterious parcel -- it turns out to be a wedding present from my aunt, who very kindly delayed her gift so that we could get something we really needed for the new house. We picked a carving set, but we'd completely forgotten. This made opening the parcel (as always beautifully wrapped) rather thrilling.

2.  The parkin that I baked last week is finally ready to eat. The recipe says it needs to mature for a week -- preferably in a wooden box. It's definitely stickier and more gingery than it was last Saturday, so I'm glad I was patient. My recipe comes from The Great British Book of Baking, which is a very welcome addition to the kitchen. It's a spin-off from the TV series The Great British Bake-Off, and speaking of which, I've been enjoying the blog of Ruth Clemens, one of the most entertaining contestants. She's really generous with her recipes, too.

3. "Are we going to church?" asks a small boy carrying a ball in a shopping bag. The two teenagers with him look bemused: "We're going to Calverley Rec."

Saturday, November 06, 2010

No coat, flowers and fizzy wine.

1. It's wet and windy, but I only have to walk about 50 paces to work. I don't even bother putting on a coat.

2. Nick brings me  flowers -- they are the colour of broken orange pekoe tea with no milk. He says there is one extra in the bunch: the florist had a leftover from making a floral spaniel for someone's birthday.

3. I have been craving fizzy wine for weeks -- imagine waking up at 3am and wanting it so much you can feel the stem of the glass in your hand. I give in and have a glass with my supper (toast and gooseberry jam).

Friday, November 05, 2010

Put together, tasting notes and the party continues.

1. I am really appreciating my freezer -- I don't so much make a moussaka for supper as assemble it.

2. Tina brings a bottle of wine -- she says she selected it for the tasting notes on the label, which list its charms as black cherries, toasted wood and vanilla. I take a sip of Nick's and find the cherries, and the vanilla. I think the wood needs more time.

3. I go off to bed, and lie there dozing and reading poetry and listening to Nick and Tina laughing downstairs.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Cake, guest bed and parent talk.

Susan emailed to let me know that she'd posted her 'how I found 3BT' story on her blog, Notes from Innisfree. It was mentioned in a sermon at her church -- so thank you to that pastor, whoever you are!

And I had another message this morning: Sandy wanted to tell me about the 1,000 Crane Mission -- a project to release 1,000 paper cranes, each inscribed with a positive word, into the wild. I really love these projects that reach out, hoping to touch the lives of random strangers.

1. My mother appears, and she has some cake.

2. We have guest staying tomorrow night. I hunt down the bag of visitor's linen and make up the bed in the attic. 

3. We have our first NCT class. They separate the mums from the dads to help us mix. We're talking about how we've found our pregnancies. We can hear the dads roaring with laughter next door. "They're just talking about beer and football," someone says. When we are alone again, I ask Nick what they said. "We talked about when it came real for us. I told them about Baby Badger kicking me in the back."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Learning a lot, huntress and inevitable.

1. Caroline calls me out to coffee on the Pantiles with some of her NCT friends. As always, I learn a lot from talking with mothers and babies.

2. Maggie sitting on my knee looks thoughtfully at my poppy, and then kills it and tries to eat it.

3. I get stuck in to my tax return -- and find that I've been carefully filing the papers I need together under T (possibly for 'tax').

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Next generation, like sand and communication.

Lynne Hackles wrote about her Golden Notebook habit in a comment yesterday. She writes about her notebook (and more generally about being a writer in her blog -- I Should Be Writing.

1. A red-headed boy carrying a copy of the Financial Times is taking long steps to keep up with his father.

2. I am learning to love the process of rubbing fat into flour.

3. Nick comes home with his first mobile -- which is sad in the same way that a child starting school is sad, or asking you not to hold his hand any more. But with BB on the way, I'm glad I can communicate with him when he's not in the office or at home. I was having visions of ringing South Eastern to ask if they would put an announcement out at the London terminus: "Would Mr Nicholas Law please go home as his wife is in labour."

Monday, November 01, 2010

Changing times, local paper and nasturtium.

1. The clocks go back today -- which means we'll get up in daylight again on work days. We're looking forward to our lie-in tomorrow.

2. One of the books I dug up recently was The Framley Examiner. It's based on a website offering archives of a lovingly realised fictional local paper. If you've ever worked for a local paper, you'll recognise the characters -- the local politician with a strange obsession; the local businessmen pushing a doomed product; reporters unhinged, incompetent and arrogant; and village news correspondents who email 8MB bitmap scans of their minutes. You'll recognise the errors caused by woolly thinking, careless subs, burnt-out contributors and editors desperate to fill the space.
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3. A self-seeded nasturtium sprouted late this summer in one of my pots. I think the seed must have been buried quite deep, and the shoot was late because it was working its way up. It's put out orange flowers, which are still going strong and bringing a welcome splash of clear, living colour -- as opposed to the dying reds and suffering yellows of autumn.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Russets, blanket and new computer.

Quite a few people have been saying in the comments that they've only recently discovered 3BT. Welcome! But are you all coming from the same place, I wonder? Do let me know who sent you -- it's always nice to say cheers to people who mention 3BT.

1. My heart sank when I saw russets in our vegetable box. Their rough skins set my teeth on edge, and I can hardly bear to touch them, let alone bite into them. But there they are, and they ought to be eaten. So I set to work with a potato peeler, and I'm so glad I did. The flesh is crisp, like those early apples that I crave so much, but denser and more fragrant.

2. Caroline comes round with a present for Baby Badger -- it's a hand-knitted fleecy blanket, which we love immediately. I love these home-made presents -- there are good wishes in every stitch, I think.

3. I'm writing this post at the kitchen table on a new laptop. I'm getting too ponderous to run up and down stairs to and from the computer in the attic; and things aren't going to get any better once BB arrives. We've been discussing this for some time -- but this week's desktop malfunction galvanised us into action.  So the new laptop -- Nick picked out a selection in our price range and that he felt would be powerful enough for our needs. Then he asked which I'd like and I went for the one the colour of the red leather armchairs in a gentleman's club. We bore it back in triumph from the industrial estate, and now I'm enjoying making myself at home on it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Company, early home and parents on the loose.

1. Normally I'm alone in the editor's office. Today I've been moved into production -- it's lovely to have a bit of company.

2. Nick comes home early, and we have a quick nap before I go out for dinner. He has a hard evening ahead watching the World Series.

3. Susan describes going out with her NCT group -- "We went and saw this comedian, but he wasn't very good, and we drank all this wine and started heckling him. Then we went to the Pitcher and Piano and danced round a table."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Blessing, something for everyone and bonus.

1. We had no internet connection yesterday -- I got as far as turning everything on and off, and then got disheartened at the thought of talking to our service provider. But today it must be done. When I turn on the computer, however, it's all working -- one of those mystifying blessings.

2. While shopping, I spot a stall selling calendars depicting rats; and pigeons. Also, Twilight.

3. Something that I really like about being pregnant -- I'm never cold. Normally, I suffer at this time of year from that bone coldness, that I'll-never-be-warm-again feeling. Not this year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not lost, sparrow and chilli.

My cousin Amy dropped me a line to say:
I was on a trip with uni to the design museum and while we were all waiting outside there were three or four teenage guys with skateboards taking it in turns to skate along a bench and jump off the end. Watching them were two little girls of about three or four who were jumping up and down and squealing with excitement every time one of the skaters jumped! Our tutor commented that it was good to have a fan base!

1. While tidying, I find a box of books that never got unpacked. It contains a number of treasures that I thought I'd lost, and I feel very pleased.

2. A sparrow picks at something invisible between the paving stones.

3. Almost the last thing I am aware of before I fall asleep is the faint burning in the lines of my fingertips from the chilli I cut up for supper.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Size, support and advice.

1. My midwife warned me that everyone will have an opinion about the size of my bump. "Don't worry about it," she said. "They don't know a thing." Today, one person tells me that I'm looking big; and another tells me I'm looking small -- both intended as compliments, rather than expressions of concern.

2. The mother brings supper, and then takes us to a tour of our nearest hospital. I'm glad to not cook for myself -- and I'm very grateful that she can give us a lift on such a wet and horrible night.

3. The midwife who shows us round tells us that she has six children, and that her husband says her badge should read "Madwife". She tells us that we only have to deal with one contraction at a time -- "You can do anything for 60 seconds, can't you -- that's all they are, 60 seconds." A lot of faces relax and lighten. Later she tells us that the first nappy is black and tarry. "It gets everywhere. Then they kick, and it's all over their little feet. Messy." I whisper to Nick that of course he can have the honour of doing the first nappy.

4. In the home-from-home suite, there is a woman in the first stages of labour. When Nick sees the size of her bump, he vows to step up the stretch mark cream routine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back to bed, ready for winter and birds.

1. I go looking for a writing group -- but it's half term, so they're not meeting. Good -- I can go back to bed.

2. It's such a beautiful day -- and I have plenty to do in the back yard. I plant a few bulbs, and feel pleased at the sight of fresh compost in the pots. I also cut down the tired mint -- it makes the rubbish bag very fresh smelling.
 
3. A high flock of birds -- each one small as stubble on a man's cheek.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Earlier, shoes and found in the fridge.

Natalie commented the other day to say that she has started her own 3BT blog. Go Natalie!

1. We think we should probably get up. I guess that it must be at least lunchtime. It turns out that it's only twenty to eleven.

2. Nick's dad is still thrilled with the results of his cataract operation -- "The curtains when I woke up the morning after. All those reds and greens." Plus he is thoroughly enjoying the sharing of his gory eye surgery story. Now he has gout -- but it seems that even this cloud has a silver lining. He can fit into a pair of shoes (the colour of a freshly picked up conker) that were previously too big. "They're handmade, look, beautiful. We found them in a charity shop for £6."

3. "This is going to be more of an amuse bouche than a bowl of soup," says Nick looking anxiously at the single serving that is going to have to do for two of us. But there's some cream that needs finishing, and leftover cold potatoes in the fridge to help it stretch -- and he's baked a fine loaf of bread, too.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Recipe for sir, curtain up and fried fish.

1. At the farmer's market, the fishmonger's assistant has transformed from a sullen teenager to a brisk, cheerful stallholder. He says to Nick: "This is a recipe for you, Sir -- beer batter. The beer needs to be very cold and fizzy."

2. The windows in Hoopers department store are now hidden behind red curtains. A notice announces that all will be revealed on November 6. Every year, they borrow ballet costumes for a magical Christmas display. We run into Katie on the way down the hill, and she speculates on this year's theme -- Peter Pan, she reckons.

3. A rapid web search reveals that beer batter should be the consistency of emulsion paint. I tell Nick, and point him towards a bowl, a whisk and a large pan. The fish is delicious -- crisp and golden brown.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lie in, practice and clean bath.

1. Nick has a day off, and we sleep in until almost noon.

2. The carrycot portion of Baby Badger's transport arrangement arrives. We put it together to make sure it's all in order. When I come into the sitting room where Nick is watching a baseball game, the cot is in the corner. "I'm just practising," he says.

3. The bath bomb -- which smelt deliciously of orange and spices -- has left brick red scum round the bath. It's very satisfying to clean it off.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stores, the hunger and first grandchild.

Zee has written about taking the time to notice. I liked her friend's thought about making each day special by making one thing stand out in her mind. That's one of the reasons I keep 3BTing -- I'm not happy with the idea that days slip away un-noticed and unloved.

1. First frost. I catch a squirrel in the act of digging up its winter food stock.

2. The after-yoga biscuit wasn't enough. I bought and ate a sticky bun on the way up the hill. My chiropractor tells me that when she was pregnant she once got the hunger and had to go over the road to the cafe in the park. "About three of my clients walked past -- what they must have thought of their chiropracter eating something as unhealthy as egg, beans and chips."

3. "There's no mistaking that," says my mother, embracing the part of me that contains her grandchild-to-be.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sleep, I know you and left to my own devices.

1. I feel as if a grey tiredness blanket has fallen over me. My head is drooping at breakfast. I go back to bed.

2. I know the girl in the shoe shop -- I know what her name is -- but I can't place her. So I screw up my courage and ask. "I was wondering the same thing about you," she says. "I know we didn't go to school together..." Then I remember: "Little Irish Jason! We must have met at one his parties."

3. Nick is out tonight, so I amuse myself by watching three episodes of The Simpsons on the trot.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Up a ladder, storm and chocolates.

1. I am woken with the horrid words: "There's no hot water, darling girl." I send an unwilling husband up a ladder to check the boiler. "Yes, I know you're going to be late," I tell him, "But I thought you'd be more cross if I went up by myself." Lucky for us, it's just that the central heating needs repressurising -- the landlord has left a helpful note next to the valve -- and the house is soon full of ticks and clunks and warmth.

2. There's a storm coming in -- oily black clouds are looming over us, the light is tobacco stained and a wild sunset is rampaging on the horizon. The landlord hopes he can get home before the rain comes in from Sussex.

3. There are two chocolates left, that is all.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hungry, bags of books and we must wait.

Rosebud -- don't know if you saw my comment on the Barbara Pym post, but I'd be delighted to put my (secondhand) Jane and Prudence in the post to you if you can't get hold of a copy yourself. Drop me an email with an address.

1. So hungry. Bread pudding at 11am. Moist, dark, full of fruit, sanded with white sugar.

2. Sarah brings round two bags of writing and poetry books and tells me to pick out what I want. While we are talking, I remember that it was her who turned me on to Barbara Pym.

3. To lie in a warm bath. I hold my book up high so that at the bottom of the page I can see Baby Badger roiling and writhing across my mushroom white belly. It must be getting tight for space in there now. I can only counsel patience -- eight weeks seems like forever for me, too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Help, dinosaurs and leaves.

1. Two boys -- maybe seven and eight -- in sunglasses sit waiting on the edge of the Pantiles. The bigger one helps the little one untangle the cord of his headphones, arranging it behind his ear and down his neck. The little one looks rather like a kitten, or a young chimp, submitting to a thorough grooming.

1a. Katie brings Baby Badger a yellow and green t-shirt from Ireland -- it says "The leprechauns made me do it."

2. Nick comes back from his gaming show at Crystal Palace. He took a walk around the park while he was there -- he said rather wistfully that it was full of dads and babies -- and came back with photos of the Victorian concrete dinosaurs. They are strange creatures lurking among the tree ferns -- they resemble crocodiles with dinosaur heads. The palaeontologists who designed the display believed that dinos were rather more primitive in the leg joints than we give them credit for today. The display makes me think of 1950s illustrations of the future, but in reverse.

3. Children in our park treat the fallen leaves like snow. They fling them at each other, hide under them and marvel at this strange new world.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tired, parcels and transport.

1. "Don't look so sad," he says as he gets ready to go out while I am still in bed. "You're just tired because you're growing our baby."

2. Nick brings parcels back from the Post Office -- among them this Moomins Cookbook, which he ordered because he thought I deserved a treat. It's a quick and charming introduction to Finnish cookery, illustrated with Tove Jansson's line drawings and spiked with quotes from the books.


3. Nick orders everything we'll need to transport Baby Badger while I have a kip.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sleep, Venice and semifreddo.

1. On the way to London, I had a kip on the train.

2. We go to the Canaletto exhibition at the National Gallery -- it's paintings of Venice for the grand tour market. I found it fascinating to compare pictures of the same views hung side by side; and to spot repeated themes -- Canaletto has put a chimney sweep in a few of this pictures; and his nephew Bellotto often adds in a small person in a red cloak.

3. Ice cream studded with hazelnuts.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Red-white, up and refill.

1. In Calverley Rec, three groundsmen discuss a problem with the bedding plants: "They unloaded the trays in groups of red and white, but we didn't know that and we've mixed them up." They make me think of that Alice in Wonderland scene where the gardeners are trying to paint a white rose red  before the Queen of Hearts discovers them.

2. The first thing Ben does when he is put on the floor is climb up on to my lap.

3. Pouring new spice -- caraway seeds -- into a jar.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Enough, twist and Barbara Pym.

1. There is quite a lot of lemon curd left in the bottom of the bowl -- not enough to put in a jar; but enough to go on top of my yoghurt at lunchtime.

2. Downton Abbey -- we watched Sunday's episode, with its jaw-dropping I-did-not-see-that-coming plot twist.

3. I wish I could remember who suggested Barbara Pym's books -- I picked up Jane and Prudence and I think it's wonderful - a steely account of 1950s middle class match-making.. The quote on the cover is from Philip Larkin, who lays aside his curmudgeonly cynicism to say that he'd rather read a new Barbara Pym than a new Jane Austen. Lucky, lucky Barbara Pym.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Merger, whole body happiness and adventure.

1. If you're enjoying Downton Abbey, and you like Harry Potter, I'd like to strongly recommend Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones. Put-upon Conrad is sent by his uncle up to the big house charged with getting a job as a servant and doing away with someone he should have killed in a former life. He finds himself working alongside Christopher er... Smith another fake servant who will be familiar to fans of the Chrestomanci books.

2. She reclines in her stroller and when she smiles her arms and legs get involved, too.

3. Pete's Tuesday Knights adventure sees our spies on a training exercise with our US colleagues in Maine. To cut a long story short, the president of the Republic of Ireland is kidnapped, and we are given the task of searching a supposedly haunted mansion before she is smuggled across the border to Canada. Pete spends the evening reassuring us that our American friends are not taking the piss and that there are no vampires. "This is set in the real world. No, you can't buy a holy symbol and a chainsaw from the local store. There are no clerics in town willing to be hired." Personally, I'm not convinced by the store keeper -- but he and his Canadian friends are not going to get away with it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lie-in, stop and progress.

1. We have an accidental lie-in -- Nick thinks he turned the volume on the radio alarm clock down while he was dusting -- and we wake more than an hour after our usual time. First, it felt good to sleep in. Second, how wonderful to have a husband who dusts.

2. To lay down a burden.

3. My husband says as I cross the room to greet him: "You're starting to waddle now."

Monday, October 11, 2010

Transmission, assistance and party.

1. The first thing Nick says when I wake up is that when I sleep snuggled up behind him, he can feel Baby Badger moving against his back. I'm amazed to discover that BB can kick that strongly and not wake me up, and pleased to think that the two of them get some time alone together.

2. Katie has put a call out for bulb planting assistance -- so I go round and spend a few hours in her sunny back garden -- in return, I get lunch and two slices of chocolate cake.

3. There is a children's party going on in the hall across the hill. Little voices roar out cheesy pop music -- "Hey-ay-ay baby, will you be my girl?" and laugh at the DJ's jokes. A few brave souls get up to sing: "Twinkle twinkle little star" and from one rebel: "Happy birthday to you, stick your head down the loo..."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Listening, curious gentlemen and hot water bottle.

Thanks for all your compliments about the picture I posted the day before yesterday -- I feel quite glowy with pride.

1. I am down on my hands and knees planting spring bulbs under the weeping plum willow in the front garden. Passers-by can't see me, and I hear all sorts of secrets.

2. Earth worms -- clean pink and grey like city gents -- heave themselves out of the soil and wave their pointed noses at me: what's all this digging about?

3. "I like doing little things for you," he says, filling me a hot water bottle to take to the concert in a church with hard seats.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Apples, don't call me babe and shoes in the hall.

1. I like those crisp, sour apples that don't keep very well -- take your eye off them for a moment and they turn grainy and soft. I keep them in the fridge and move them one by one into the fruit bowl.

2. On a very trying day, I get a text message from Oli to say that he has just laughed out loud remembering the time he accidentally called the publishing director 'babe'.

3. To come home from work and see Nick's shoes in the hall.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Better, head massage and picture record.

1. I tell my yoga teacher that I'm feeling much less anxious this week. "That's the pregnancy hormones kicking in," she says. "They do, about week 30."

2. The chiropractor gives me a head massage; and then some advice on how to sit correctly. Which I am following now, honest.

3. PaulV comes round and takes some photos of me and Baby Badger at 30 weeks. He says that the blind in our kitchen makes an ideal studio backdrop.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Small world, sun comes out and ginger biscuits.

1.Heavy rain, low cloud. The world goes as far as the end of the car park, and stops. It has shrunk like a wool sweater washed too hot.

2. The sun comes out, and the Met Office promises that it's here for the next few days. The entire nation is relieved.


3. Freshly baked ginger biscuits stacked up to cool (they're to big to fall through the holes in the rack).

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The find, not me and post.

1. I've been trawling charity shops for a squat and heavy glass vase. I saw an orchid potted up like this (the roots need light) in a magazine, and I thought it was more stylish than the clear plastic pot that contains mine. Today, I find just the right vase. It's dusty and smeared, but the dishwasher will take care of that.

2. I get a call from one of my editors. She says that from the office window they can see an ambulance in our road. "It's not for you, is it?" I tell her it's not me, and she's gratifyingly relieved.

3. Two parcels (a book about Chinese military uniforms and some yellowing fanzines) for Nick, and a Postcrossing card for me. A good letter day.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Pans, mushrooms and lemon cake.

1. The Mother and I pick out a set of weighty saucepans -- wedding present. The bags wait un-opened in the kitchen so Nick can open them when he gets home from work.

2. Mushrooms the colour of fallen leaves have put their umbrellas up on the wet grass.

3. Sharp lemon juice has soaked right into the snow soft crumb of my cake.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Dreaming of the south, bag and imperfect words.

Word Imperfect is back in action with her invented meaning word game -- go on over and join in.

1. That book that Caroline thought I'd like -- she was quite right. I do really, really like it. Tim Gautreaux's Waiting for the Evening News: Stories of the Deep South. It manages to be both dark and up-lifting. These are stories about people who fall and fall, and come back stronger and wiser.


2. Nick shakes off his umbrella and pulls from his bag: a very large box of chocolates and the latest Gardener's World magazine.

3. I was emailing secret chef -- yes, we have a clandestine restaurant in the area -- asking for a quick interview, and my spell-checker flagged the word restauranteur. A quick search later, and I discovered that the word is actually restaurateur (although my spelling is just about tolerated in more liberal circles). I've never noticed that -- never seen it mentioned in all the newspaper style guides that I've read. But that's the English language for you: she's always got something new to amuse and intrigue.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Autumn, iron and marker pen.

1. Nick's dad seems pleased with the result of his cataract operation -- he says he can see the trees changing colour.

2. I can taste the iron in these dark green chard leaves.

3. To have a marker pen handy for writing on freezer bags and spice jars.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Back to work, boys and the bride returns.

1. It's getting close to 2pm on a rainy Friday. The pub door spits office workers, all with coats pulled over their heads.

2. She's not at home. Dad answers the door with a dribbly son on his hip. "We're doing things that Mummy wouldn't approve of," he says.

3. Katie comes down with my mixer -- it made all the cupcakes for her wedding. She is relaxed and happy and brown from her honeymoon, and it's great to sit and talk it over while the rain streaks down outside.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Bare earth, a comfort and some gifts.

1. The park keepers are clearing the beds in the park. The bare brown earth is as pleasing as the bright bedding plants. Later, I come across them doing the same outside the town hall. The planting was ornamental vegetables. Someone has put the red stemmed chard to one side, perhaps for their dinner.

2. I get myself a muffin and a hot chocolate and write a few thank you cards.

3. She comes round with a book I might like, a deep red cyclamen and (as someone who has been there, done that) lots and lots of reassurance about work.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wet pigeons, supper for two and late night.

1. Pigeons on the ridgepole, black against the rain smudged sky. You know we're in for a long, wet day because they haven't bothered to find shelter. I'm so glad I'm not a pigeon.

2. Louise comes for supper -- we sit at the kitchen table and talk babies and sewing with small people.

3. Nick comes home late because he has been out to dinner. He is ever so slightly the worse for wear, and even more fond than usual. It reminds me of when a normally rather reserved assistant art editor I used to work with told me that the night before his girlfriend had come home after an evening out, and he was still delighted about it. "She was so pretty and giggly and happy and it made me love her even more."

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Snooze, shorthand and addressing a duke.

1. It's Nick's first day back at work after his week off. He hits the snooze button and goes in late.

2. Reading back my shorthand.

3. I went to a lunch party for literary ladies on Monday, and everyone was full of the new Sunday night costume drama, Downton Abbey -- except me, because I hadn't seen it. Now that it's not football night, we can sit down to watch the scheming would-be heiresses and ambitious staff slug it out in a stunning country house. We are completely entranced. I felt bad about inflicting it on Nick; but he gets very caught up, and at the end he says the writer Julian Fellowes Got It Right because he is properly posh. "He knows how people would address a Duke."*


* Say the Duke of Westminster is your landlord. If by some chance he came round to collect the rent, you might want to show some deference and address him as "Your grace" -- "Sorry about all the sheets, your Grace. We could really do with a new washing machine. One with a condensing dryer."

If, however, he was just popping in for a coffee, you would be meeting him on equal terms, in which case, you call him "Duke". "Milk and sugar, Duke?"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gone home, birds and sequel.

1. I get an email from a proofreading client. He's finished his course and is going home -- boo, because his material was fascinating and challenging. But he's recommended me to a colleague, which is very satisfying.

2. I pick up a sewing kit I bought last year -- some birdy Christmas decorations from Buttonbag. I thought I'd better get them done in time for BB's first Christmas. They are meant for children, and I notice that in contrast to the sewing kits I had as a child that you are not told to be neat -- quite the opposite in fact, because the instructions call for visible stitches and raw edges. I never finished anything when I was little because I always felt as if my inevitable mistakes spoiled the project. Of course perfection has a place, but if you despise your efforts that fall short, you'll definitely never achieve it. I hope I can teach Baby Badger that -- it really shouldn't have taken me 30 years to learn!


3. I've picked up Stephen Baxter's Ark -- it's the sequel to Flood (which I've mentioned before), although the events run concurrently. It's set in the near future, and deals with a rapid rise in sea levels. In Flood, the protagonists took to rafts; but the characters in Ark are part of much more ambitious plan -- to find a new home off-planet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stitch, light and baby gear.

1. To see Ellie start to get the hang of sewing. She picks colours from my floss box, and I show her how to sew buttons on to a piece of fabric, and how to thread a needle. Then I stitch a lazy daisy flower and she makes the centre in tiny orange stitches.

2. Daniel finds a lampshade in the attic and puts it on his head. "I'm a light."

3. Today, Cat and Alan have brought us a carload of bits for Baby Badger; then Ian, Caroline and Maggie roll up with a carful, too. We put the rocking moses basket by our bed -- just to see if it will fit -- and then tuck it away until the time comes. We sort the bags of clothes by size, and marvel at the tiny newborn onesies. Our friends say that they are glad to be rid of their baby clutter -- but we are so grateful for this equipment and the advice that comes with it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Retrieval, ripe and first concert.

1. These plums are disappointing. I bake them into Delia's oat and plum slices, which are not.

2. I have my doubts about the replacement plums, too. They are deep aubergine purple -- some of them -- but streaked and shaded with green as if they might not be quite ripe. I pull one out of my shopping bag on the way home. Very sweet, very juicy and very plummy.

3. This piece is pushing the boundaries of music. It's pushing the boundaries of what a clarinet can do, with haunting polyphonics and hysterical screeches. Baby Badger reacts with some hefty kicks that are visible through my dress. "Your first concert," whispers Dad proudly.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fibre, cakes and colours.

1. On the train, a mother tries to explain why brown bread is better than white without mentioning anything indelicate. "Wholegrains. It's got wholegrains in it." "But why is that better?" "It's less processed." "What does that mean?"

2. On the cake plate are Victoria sponges, one inch in diameter.

3. We walk through the rooms at the Wallace Collection, mostly ignoring the pictures because the decor is so astonishing. One room is the green of the deep sea or haematite, another is wedgewood blue, a third the colour of marrons glacé.

Sponsored post: Free time at the museum


In Catcher in the Rye, the hero talks evocatively about visiting his city's museum on a rainy afternoon. When I was younger, if we were out shopping, my mother would sometimes leave us to amuse ourselves in the town museum -- it was (and still is) free, and warm and out of the rain. She would come back 20 minutes later and we would still be crouched by the first case, entranced by the animals marching two-by-two into Noah's Ark. We also discovered that if you trod on a certain place on the floor, a single piece of meat in the toy butcher's shop would swing. The next room was set aside for natural history. We would stand and stare at the case of drooping privet leaves, hoping to see a stick insect move -- or at least some stick insect poo falling to the floor.

The village where I grew up had a museum, too -- and for us children, the most talked-about item was a mummified rat that someone had found while restoring their house. In my memory, it is the size of a small cat, with bared teeth. I went back recently, and it seems to have shrunk.

The museums in London were also huge treat -- we had our favourite items in each, and would dart in just to see one thing, which was worthwhile because they were free. At the Natural History Museum, I was content to see the brontosaurus skeleton right by the entrance and then leave. My little sister would always insist that we climbed to the top of the hall, though. Small and determined, she would march through the collection of stuffed mammals to find her Fairy Pink Armadillo -- wrinkled and white and whiskery no bigger than your hand.

In the V&A, there is a gallery dedicated to cast iron, and they have a 1960s casserole dish on display exactly the same as the one my mother had at home. Looking at it in a glass case gave me such a strange, shivery feeling -- as if, you know, maybe, we ourselves would one day be history. I still walk through that gallery whenever I visit the V&A -- even though I have now inherited my mother's red casserole dish and could look at it any time I want.

And once you have had enough of treasures, why not grab some food. Pizza Hut is offering a Kids Eat Free deal, which runs now until 9 January 2011. For every adult main course or adult lunchtime buffet purchased, an accompanying child can choose from either a FREE 2 course kids meal (includes a drink) or a FREE kids lunchtime buffet (includes pizza, pasta and salad). Find more details about the offer at http://bit.ly/a1DhgJ

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Brownie, pride and the bed.

1. The rain has just started. We walk along St John's and get some lunch at Basil. They do the best brownie ever -- it's gooey and tastes of bitter chocolate.

2. The midwife apologises again and again for missing my vein -- I think she must take great pride in her work.

3. We take the bits of bed that are cluttering up BB's nursery up to the attic. A bedspread and a few cushions later, and we find ourselves with a comfortable place to sit in Nick's rooftop lair. We spend the evening lounging around on it listening to the lovely Bettany Hughes discussing Sappho.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

When life throws you lemons, dental health and nightmare.

1. Anna brings gossip and lemons -- part of a gift for a friend. The kitchen smells citric for the rest of the day.

2. Nick has been to the dentist and feels very sorry for himself. I tell him have been beside myself with worry all morning, imagining myself in one of those real life magazines: "My husband only went in for a filling and came back with NO HEAD."

3. I'm dreaming that I'm in a crowded place. Pain in my calf makes me shout. Faces look down at me curiously and I have no idea what to do. Then: "Is it cramp?" Kind hands flex my foot and lead me back down into the pillows.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Green, job done and off the line.

1. Snipping a few herbs over my soup.

2. I start to pump up my exercise ball, get discouraged and go for a nap instead. Nick wakes me up by bouncing it -- now fully inflated -- across the bedroom.


3. I like to bring in the washing when it's just getting dark.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dressing the baby, dancers and technical fault.

1. The postman knocks -- he has a large but light parcel. It's a set of baby clothes, handknitted by Heather. So now I have something soft and warm to wrap my baby badger in. The little shoes make me want to cry.

2. I'm working upstairs in the early evening, and the window is open because the attic can be stuffy when the sun has been shining. I can hear the mechanical clack-clack clack-clack of a flamenco class in the TocH Hall.

3. All my biscuits fall through the wire cooling tray. "We need one with smaller holes," I tell Nick (who is proud that he has bought the finest baking equipment money can buy. He points out the bleeding obvious: "Next time, bake bigger biscuits."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ceps, basket and papers.

Gabi Hampson has just emailed to ask if I would give a shout out to The Project Group -- it's a social enterprise based up north in Shropshire. Adults who have been in contact with mental health services get together and create things both beautiful and useful from recycled materials -- such as bags from tractor inner tubes, and accessories from broken zips. 

The group is up for a Future Friendly award, which will give them a much-needed £10,000, but they need votes to win! So Gabi hopes you will do three beautiful things:
1. Watch the video -- go to www.futurefriendly.co.uk and click on The Future Friendly Awards link. The five finalists are listed on the left.
2. Vote for The Project Group.
3. Talk (or blog if you're that way inclined) about it.

1. We take a turn round the garden and my father shows me the ceps that have popped up this year. So far, he hasn't been able to catch any of them before the maggots, though, and their velvety brown caps are riddled with yellow holes.

2. "We should have bought something to put them in." But a seed tray lined with nut leaves does very well for the late summer raspberries.

3. Emptying old folders into the recycling bin.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fairytale, blushing and speech.

1. Katie's dress sparkled and prickled with light. Veiled in church she looked her usual elegant self, but ethereal, too. A proper fairytale bride.


2. The folk trio played Linden Lea, and the elderflower cordial and the canapes kept coming.

2a. Jules spent most of the day blushing -- he looked as if he might burst with pride and happiness as he showed off his new wife during the first dance. "I'm actually glad she made me do those lessons," he said.

3. I inhaled mineral water at a very stupid quip in the best man's speech. He said that the hospital staff still referred to the day Jules was born as 'Ugly Friday'. It's exactly the sort of thing Rosey and I would say to Robert.


4a. One wall of the marquee was a designated hat display -- all the fascinators and feathered headpieces were pegged up to keep them safe. "Now that's attention to detail," said someone at our table.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The force be with you, yes really and beauty.

Today Katie-who-I-used-to-live-with is getting married to her adored Jules. They've put so much work into the wedding -- can't wait to see the result. And knowing Katie it will go so smoothly that they'll have plenty of opportunities to appreciate the process. It's a perfect September day, just right for a country wedding, and it's an auspicious start to many years of happiness.

1. My new dressing gown in certain lights resembles a Jedi robe. Which leads to: "This is not the wife / cup of tea / Weetabix you are looking for."

2. "Who finished the Toblerone?" "It was Baby Badger."

3. I don't often wax my own legs -- but whenever I do, I remember exactly why I am happy to pay someone else -- someone skilled -- to deal with the mess and stickiness for me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pips, breakfast meeting and bread pudding.

1. The radio alarm goes off in the middle of the BBC pips.

2. I've got an early meeting, so I leave the house with Nick and kiss him goodbye at the station.

3. This mouthful of bread pudding contains both an astringent cardamom seed and a piece of apricot.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Shawls, chocolate and carotene.

1. Kevin turned up at games night on Tuesday with two baby shawls -- as used by his now teenage children. "You'll need a few of these," he says "Babies are messy." I carry the bag up to the nursery, and it smells of clean washing.

2. A piece of Toblerone -- the large airport kind.

3. My soup has turned out autumn orange.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Violas, payment and shut up.

1. To spend some time with my mother at the garden centre discussing the relative merits of violas and wallflowers. I love violas for their surprised but neat faces -- I think they are afraid of spoiling their carefully pencilled-in make-up. As soon as the vegetables finish and some pots come free, I'm going back for a couple of boxes.

2. Clients who pay very promptly and electronically.

3. There's been a car alarm yipping and wailing ever since we got into bed. I go to the window muttering that I am really going to give it something to go off about if I can work out which car it is. It falls silent and does not start again.