Monday, April 30, 2012

Team effort, cherries and red meat.

1. I boiled the kettle and brewed Nick's tea, but then got distracted by... well it was something Alec related. So Nick makes my pot of coffee.

2. Sour cherries in brownie.

3. To find small pieces of chorizo in my chicken casserole (they make it taste like roast chicken crisps, though).

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Eyes, donuts and respect.

Nick had a day of gaming, so Alec and I took the train all the way to Eridge on the Spa Valley Railway. As Alec says: "Toot toot!"*

1. Alec watches the little boy at the other end of the carriage, and the other little boy watches Alec. "It's a stare-off," says his mother.

2. I ask about the donuts, because their muffins are described as 'pre-packaged', and a packaged donut is a sorry thing. "They're from Sainsbury's," he says. And then: "I normally warm them up." Sold.

3. At Eridge the waiting room has a sign on the door asking us to "Please respect our carpet by removing your footwear if they are muddy or dirty". I notice that the carpets on the train are pristine, too. I also liked the notice instructing me to ask for assistance with baby changing. I was tempted, but perhaps they didn't mean they'd actually do it for me.

*Yes, I am miffed that he has a word for train before he has a word for me (I don't count bub-bub, because that's only part of me).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Time, opening and wait.

Auntarctica fans should check Rosey's blog, as she's done an epic set of picture posts about the Antarctic winter.

1. Sarah and Anna come to lunch, and we are talking so hard and so fast that I lose track of time (also someone has tinxed the clock on the cooker). Alec is more than an hour late for nursery.

2. I've been very sniffy about the new Morrison's which opened in the old Morrison's this week, but I do like a new supermarket. I like the way everyone is talking about it: "Have you been?" and reporting on their expeditions there.

3. On the way to pick Alec up I find Nick waiting at the station.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Finished, cupcake and extra.

1. I send Nick a triumphant text saying that all my work is done.

2. To buy a single cupcake from the new patisserie, which arranges its cakes in long rows on a cool marble counter.

3. "He hasn't been very gentle today," says Jay. Alec charges between us crashes a walker into the mirror den. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks he's been a bit of a ruffian lately. I tell her. "I think he's had a growth spurt and he's a bit unco-ordinated and overexcited." And I resolve to give him some extra cuddles tonight.

Runaways, aquarium and bouncing.

1. Alec, the mother and I run away to the seaside in the afternoon.

2. Rays shimmy over our heads. A strange long-nosed fish "Like a caricature of a politician," says the mother, startles us, and a funny spotty blob with buck teeth comes nose to nose with  me.

3.  At the end of the aquarium there is, of course, a gift shop. Alec marches straight up to a tub full of bouncy balls and grabs a double handful. He's away before I can contain him, and when a plastic dolphin full of bubble mixture catches his eye, he drops one of the balls and it bounces across the floor. I don't know which to chase

4. One of the black huts has a tiger striped mackerel painted on the side. The fisherman is cleaning a fish on a table outside. A woman with a very white face stands in the doorway.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Duty, search and not going out.

1. It's raining after breakfast, but Alec is happy to go out in his welllies and coat to give the birds their food. It's hard to convince him to come in, though.

2. I hop up on a stool to search the top of the wardrobe. Alec laughs to see me up so high.

3. I try to get us out for a walk between showers, but the rain starts up again. This happens three times, and then I give up. I feel rather glum because we haven't left the house all day, but it's a relief to have made a final decision.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Swimming badge, hot tea and before bedtime.

1. "Hang on a moment," says the receptionist. "There's a badge and certificate for Alec."

2. A hot cup of tea to warm my hands as we wait for the train.

3. Alec is really not going to sleep, and I'm starting to feel a bit useless. Then my father comes in and Alec leaps up, overjoyed to see his grandpa. So it's not my fault at all that he's all bouncy and overexcited. Plus he gets to hang out with his grandparents for a bit longer.

My Most Beautiful Things

Today I'm taking part in the My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash to celebrate beautiful things - inspired by Fiona Robyn's new novel, The Most Beautiful Thing. Bloggers from all over the world are taking part and writing or posting pictures of their most beautiful things today. Find out more here and see everyone else's blog posts here.

There are so many beautiful things in my life that it's hard to pick out the most beautiful ones. Of course there's Alec, but enough is written about him in the daily posts. There's Nick, too, who is the best and kindest of husbands, who always makes time to share my joys and sorrows and lets "the soft animal of my body love what it loves".

This blog is on the list, too. I still shake my head in disbelief at it. For so long I was told by people in authority and by society and by... well by myself that "Nothing you have to say is of interest to anyone." But when I said it in this blog, it turned out that it was very much of interest to some people, even strangers from far away places.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wildlife, dust and out of the rain.

1. "Tell Mummy what we've seen," says Nick as they come home from a walk on the common. Alec can tell me about the dogs (w-w) and the squirrels (tst-tst-tst). But he has more difficulty telling me about the stoat and the fox that crossed their path.

2. I've been staring at this dust for a week. I take up a cloth and wipe it away.

3. As the rain gets heavier, the coffee shop gets fuller.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Salad, dancing and cuddle.

1. To pick a few salad leaves from the garden.

2. We stand Alec on the table so he can dance with us to I'm a Believer.

3. I sneak up to the attic for a cuddle with Nick. He puts his glasses on the shelf by the bed and says: "I'm going to turn out the light."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Note, message and film.

1. "Thank you for your note," says the practitioner who hands Alec back to me at the end of nursery. "We had a good laugh about it." I usually write a few details about Alec's morning in his contact book, just things he would tell them if he could talk. Today I put: "Please don't laugh at his shirt, I've run out of clean clothes for him. He says he's off to Beluga Bar after this." Beluga is one of Tunbridge Wells' night spots, and it has a dress code. Most of the boys going there seem to wear large open collar shirts in pale colours, untucked but crisply ironed. Alec with his out-sized pink and brown shirt and cheeky smile, looked a lot like them.

2. I have to do bedtime alone tonight because Nick is working late. I come down once Alec is asleep and there's a text message from Nick to say he's nearly home.

3. I've managed to get some film Nick took of Alec off the camera and on to the computer. I show him in the evening. The footage is choppy for some reason -- but the sound is clear, and we enjoy the beautiful sound of our son.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Flavours,still raining and after the rain.

1. I'm just thinking the salmon we are having for lunch is going to be pretty dull, when I find a small piece of ginger in the fridge door; and then I remember there are some cubes of frozen lemon juice somewhere in the freezer.

2. When I come out of my appointment, it's still raining. Instead of walking home, I get another cup of tea in town.

3. When I look up from the laptop, the rain has stopped and the sun has come out. Town is every kind of gl-: roof tiles gleam; drops on a lime tree glitter; a passing car dazzles with the glare from its glass; the reflection of a shop window glimmers on the pavement and a clotted constellation glints from the rough tarmac.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Manners, Jolene and bras.

1. Instead of sweeping his unwanted food on to the floor as he normally does, Alec puts his bowl on the table. I've been asking him to do that for about six months now, and I'm so pleased that my extravagant praise is through-and-through genuine.

2. Warbling Jolene to distract Alec when he is protesting against a nappy change.

3. Our Oxfam Bookshop is collecting something unusual -- bras. I've changed size since Alec was born, so I take some old nursing bras down.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cavalry, timer and not worried.

1. It's raining again, and the bum situation means we can't go to any toddler groups for another 24 hours. Things do not look good. Then the Mother calls wondering if we'd like her to come over. Alec shrieks with joy when he sees her and smiles ear-to-ear.

2. While everything is calm and quiet, to put food in the oven, set the timer and forget about it until 1pm.

3. "Why can't you sleep?" asks Nick. "Are you worried?"
I'm not. I'm just excited about this and that, and making plans for the other.

Half the day gone, message and bottom third.

Sally in her blog My Beautiful Things drew my attention to this project by Transport for London to collect stories of kindness on the Tube. One theme that runs through these stories is that tiny, tiny acts (handing someone a tissue, smiling at a person) make a great difference to someone in distress.

1. It's been a horrendous night -- Alec howled and kicked through the small hours, and then he exploded two nappies between 7.30am and 8am. Swimming is definitely cancelled, and I'm glum at the thought of entertaining a grumpy boy at home with my just own resources. After breakfast, we go back to bed. When we wake up it's after 11am and half the day is gone.

2. A message from Nick: "I'll come home early."

2b. I feel rather sorry for myself because I slept through Alec's nap, so I'm not dressed and the washing is not done. After lunch, Alec falls asleep again. I feel as if I've been given a second chance.

3. I buy a hot chocolate to drink while Alec is on the swings. It's disappointingly insipid -- until I get to the bottom third, which is thick hot chocolate sauce.

4. The other night I woke up with a hankering for an old unfinished story -- just wanted to spend some time in my universe of clockwork airships, wax cylinder recordings and planty aliens. I dig it out, and I can see why I abandoned it, but I can also see where I might want to go next with it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Story sack, stairs and voice.

1. We leave the library with a stash of books and an exciting thing called a Story Sack -- it's a bag containing a book (ours is about squirrels) and related soft toys, a puppet, a guide to trees and a card game. All free to borrow, too.

2. It's very satisfying to brush dust and fluff down the stairs, and then vacuum it up at the bottom.

3. After Alec has gone to bed, I get up and go to the bottom of the stairs: "I keep thinking I can hear him calling," I tell Nick.
"It's on this bit of film," says Nick, who is playing with our camera.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Faces, finish and meeting a dog.

1. Alec in the kitchen and Maggie in the conservatory pressing their dirty faces against the window and blowing out their cheeks.

2. Alec is good at starting cakes, but I have to finish eating them for him.

2b. Ian says: "Things are good. Maggie is happier, and I've got a news editor. I feel like I've got my life back."

3. Caroline's parents give us a lift home so we don't have to take the bus -- I am very grateful because the time table is complicated and uncertain. Alec nearly faints with delight when he realises that there's a dog in the back with him. She sniffs him politely and he leans out of his seat, both hands out to welcome her nose. She licks his fingers and he giggles.

PS: This post on Recipe Rifle says it's about Kitty, but really it's about Alec on a bad day. Plus there's a new potato recipe.

PPS: Fiona Robyn is launching her latest novel by asking bloggers to post on the subject of 'My Most Beautiful Thing'. Jump in and give it a go.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Christmas box, slow down and bluebells.

1. I find a couple of Christmas books for 50p each, so I buy them and take them home. I push through into the back of our wardrobe to find the December 1 box. When I reach in to slide the books under the flaps, I can feel the red fleece throw and the rough linen of either the red tea towel or my frivolous apron.

2. Alec is a bit cross and scratchy over lunch. I can't work out what's the matter, and he's due at nursery. There's no rush, though, so I slow right down and try to find him again. I'm starting to learn that with small children more haste really is less speed, and it's definitely more effort.

3. The bluebells are coming on the shaded side of the house. They look chilled to me, blue with cold (I know I am), but I'm sure they are quite content against the cool bricks.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mackerel, oak and tired.

1. "You had one of these before?" the fishmonger wonders as he wraps our whole smoked mackerel. "I reckon they're the best you can get. They went slowly at the start: people were put off by the thought of the bones. But they're good value."
It was only £3.25, this fish. I made half of it into a milky, salty chowder. The rest will go in sandwiches, with some horseradish. As I pick over the meat (there are indeed long pearly bones), I nibble a few morsels, think of lemons and lick my smoky fingers. The soft dark flesh down by the belly is my favourite.

2. "Look, Alec, the Turkey Oak has leaves." The limp lime green leaflets look rather ridiculous on the massy giant at the corner of the grove, but of course they are thrice welcome, and will soon grow into proportion.

3. I am so tired I can hardly press the words into sentences. When I call for a word, it doesn't come, or the wrong words come, and they jostle, giggling and whispering instead of helping me to say. I press on, until at last I have something that will do, and I can click publish.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More soup, sun in the hills and on the up.

1. Nick takes the morning off to see a nutritionist. She says he needs to eat more soup for supper -- which pleases me very much because I have a dedicated soup book full of recipes that I am longing to try. South Indian Firewater, anyone?

2. Through the rain, across town and country, the sun is shining in the Sussex hills.

3. We are finishing lunch, Nick and I, chatting and sipping the last of our drinks, when it occurs to us that Alec is being very quiet. We let him down and he porgled off to play in the front room. We can hear him chatting to himself, but there's something... there's something not usual about it. When we investigate, he's not in the front room. He's waving at us from our bedroom doorway at the top of the stairs, and looking very pleased with himself. Time to fit the stairgate, and to teach Alec to climb safely.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Posting, butter cream and dusty leaves.

1. Louise watches Alec dropping spoons into the bottom of the dishwasher and says: "That could be a schema." It seems that as children develop, they get very into a particular theme (downward trajectories, enveloping, transforming) and will direct a lot of energy into exploring it. If a person is observant they can spot the current schema and give the child activities that build on it. Alec is into so much at the moment that it's hard to look at the whole picture (particularly when you're trying to cook lunch and keep him from playing in the bin), and it's too easy to dismiss a lot of his activity as tinksing and mischief. But Louise's comment  reminds me that some concepts of 'good' and 'bad' behaviour are more about my own convenience than about Alec's well-being.

2. Cupcakes because of the thick swirl of butter cream icing. We share a lavender one from the new patisserie on the High Street.

3. To clean the leaves of a dusty houseplant with a damp cloth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Song, tart and piano.

1. "That's recognisably The Wheels on the Bus," says my normally very quiet uncle, listening to Alec singing to himself.

2. The glossy deep red of my mother's cinnamon and raspberry tart.

3. My cousin's boyfriend doodling around on the piano in the lazy hour after a very large lunch. Dribs and drabs and fragments of Alec's favourite songs curl around the room like cigar smoke, twisting under the boyfriend's fingers as he plays with the themes. (My aunt has posted a picture of Alec jamming along on her blog).

Monday, April 09, 2012

Orgy of baaaing, rejoice and catch me.

1. "Well that was an orgy of baaaing," says Nick as he removes gingerbread crumbs out of our bed. Alec ate the gingerbread round his sheep while running round and round the bedroom. Once he'd finished it, for reasons best known to himself, he bashed his carefully nibbled sheep on the floor until the icing broke into pieces!

2. From the Christians on my Facebook stream, cheers of "Hallelujah!" on Easter morning. And the news that the poorly baby of a friend is recovering.

3. While I am waiting I release Alec from the pushchair and let him run around. I like it best when he races away and then looks back to see if I'm trying to catch him.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

The rest, blow your nose and treasures.

1. "You have a rest," says Nick as he takes Alec down to breakfast. So I let my whole self sink back into bed, and the next thing I know, it's two and half hours later.

2. Alec is rummaging in my bra while he has some milk. He pulls out my handkerchief -- he often does this so he can wave it around. This time, however, he takes himself off (with an audible plop), holds the handkerchief to my nipple and makes nose blowing noises.

3. When I turn the compost I find strange treasures -- a waxy orange centipede that might be a tiny angry dragon; a stem of lacy stars that were once tomato calyxes; a tangle of yellow roots that breathe mint.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Last pancake, locusts and new undies.

1. The last pancake was made with the thick batter at the bottom of the jug when the stove was at its hottest. It poured very slowly and when I flip it over, it is marked by concentric rings.

2. Town looks as if it has been attacked by chocolate-eating locusts. Among the battered boxes and broken eggs though, there are gingerbread biscuits decorated with sheep. In my head, I hear Alec baaaing at them, and very much want to take one home. There are sheep with no legs, no heads and no bodies. There are sheep with chipped ears and packets full of crumbs. Right at the back is one perfect biscuit. I take it home -- very, very carefully.

3. Two new pretty nursing bras from M&S. They are the pink and mink colours of strawberry and chocolate icecreams.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The green bag, character reading and back early.

1. I am on the phone to my mother when Alec wanders into the kitchen with a large green paper bag on his head.

2. Anna tells the woman at the next table that she should go for the Earl Grey tea bread. "It's sophisticated and understated so it would suit you." The woman looks surprised, and I think, pleased. Anna often has that effect on people.

3. Nick is home before we are.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Appointment, our boys and work of a village.

1. Alec and I have an appointment in the park with photographer Ellen Montelius. She is taking our picture as part of her series on Tunbridge Wells writers.* I feel oddly like Alice in the sunken garden among the red and yellow flowers and box hedges. Alec is delighted by the red and yellow lollipop that Ellen has brought along as a prop and a bribe. She takes our pictures separately and will stitch the scene together later on. To get Alec into the picture I put him down outside and chase him across the frame. We must look like something out of Benny Hill as we run backwards and forwards. The park keeper stops working and watches us with his mouth open as if he's about to say something.

2. Jane admits that she gets quite teary seeing our boys playing together. "It's something about the way they are the same size," she says. I just love seeing how Alec interacts with another person who is learning the social rules. One moment Alec is trying to take a toy off Anthony. The next moment Anthony reaches over and strokes his face. Then Alec hands Anthony half his sandwich.

3. We watch a documentary about art nouveau (I always forget how rude and funny Aubrey Beardsley is) and learn about the Watts Mortuary Chapel. First, it's magical and fantastical, like nothing else you've ever seen. It's 104 years old, but it still looks fresh and up to date. And second, it's the work of a village -- everyone pitched in and helped create the decorations. Wikipedia has more information and some pictures.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Birdseed, sneak and in time.

1. Alec's morning task is feeding the birds. I plop him down outside the back door and hand him a little pot of birdseed to scatter wherever he likes in the garden. Sometimes he tips the lot out in one go. Today he drops pinches here and there, concentrating mainly on the step up to next door's gate and my pot of mint.

2. To sneak a bit of chocolate out of the cupboard in the middle of the day.

3. We get home just as the rain starts, and just in time for me to save the washing.

3b. The smell of rain after a very dry month.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tinks, root and reading.

1. ...and when I turn back, Alec has -- somehow -- got a large pot of yoghurt off the table (without spilling a drop) and has his hand in it up to the wrist. And on further examination, there are three soft toys floating in the watering can. They are smeared with yoghurt, so perhaps he was trying to wash them. I put the laptop away after that and paid more attention.

2. It is astonishingly satisfying to grub out a good long dandelion root.

3. We race through supper and bath in double-quick time, so there is time for me to read to Alec before Nick gets home.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Escape, floor food and laughing at my jokes.

One of my favourite bloggers has started up again after an hiatus -- check out Amite Amoureuse.

1. Alec is squirming on my lap, and I'm looking longingly at the plate of food that I can't eat yet. The other children are rolling a football around at the back of the room, but I think Alec is awfully little to be off on his own. I'm so hungry and thirsty, though. I haven't even managed to get to my glass of water. "Nick, do you think he'd be all right porgling around?"
"Yes!" says Nick, and I let Alec slide off my lap. He hurries away, picks up the ball and runs off with it, his little legs rolling like a sailor's.

2. To my horror I see Alec sharing a piece of bread -- off the floor -- with Katie's small nephew. I know for a fact that his mother is very strict. I look her way to see if she's watching. Our eyes meet. She smiles and says: "They won't eat it if you give it to them on the table..."

3. Sitting between Chloe (the Christening girl) and Alec in their car seats on the way home. Chloe giggles daintily until dribble runs down her chin when I make "t-t-t" noises, and Alec copies me and giggles too.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

As themselves, talk and magnolia.

1. For lunch I made one of the recipes that came with our veggie box -- mushroom and toast fritatta -- and it was delicious, and quick, too. All the ingredients tasted of themselves, and a person eating it could recognise each one.

2. Alec has been very talky lately. He is practising and practising the sounds and the tongue movements. I go over the different sounds in my head: "Bwiya bwiya" and "budda budda bwi" and a liquid phrase of rolling ls and rs. I can't wait to understand what it is he wants to say.

3. The dainty magnolia on the corner is in full bloom now. We caught it the other day in the first few hours, when only half the blossoms were out. They were pink -- but it seems they fade in the bright light of day to pure white.