Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ladybird, bumping into my husband coming home and in the grand scheme of things.

1. I find a ladybird larva in the garden -- not many aphids for it to eat, though.

2. On my way to pick up Alec, I come round the corner by Hooper's and almost walk into Nick. "Shall we go together?" "Yes," I tell him, "But I'm carrying him home."

3. "...and I went to put a cold cloth on his bumped head and he said 'No!'" Alec says "No!" again later when I try to take off his t-shirt with a train on. I let him sleep in it, because... well, why not.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Sit back, conference call and petrels.

1. To sit back in an adirondack chair that is warm from the sun.

2. It's Rosey's birthday, and the family has organised a conference call with her. It is Alec's bedtime, but I open up the sofa bed and lie down. He walks around joining in the conversation, and then snuggles in for some bub. I stop talking and just listen to the questions (we always ask: "Is it completely dark? How dark then?" It must drive Rosey nuts.)

3. "All the birds have gone now," she says. "Except the stormy petrels. They're like... they're completely white and silent, like ghosts. Whenever you go out there's always one or two flying above the base. They must like the buildings... or the lights."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spotty dog, empty and dozing off.

1. She looks a bit fierce, but her spotty dog is so handsome that I tell her so. Also, I know that Alec is fond of dogs, and I like to see him greeted by a friendly one if the owner is happy with that. "Sparky!" she says. "Sparky, look at the baby!"
"Alec, woof woof. Look at the dog, Alec."
They ignore each other.

2. The playground is empty. The equipment is sturdy enough, but rather scruffy: colours faded to earthy winter tones, and the metalwork is blotched with patches of rust. It's eerie -- like one of those slideshows of the contaminated zone around Chernobyl. Then again, Alec doesn't hold anyone up and he can try to walk up the slide if he likes. There's no queue for the swings; and I don't have to chat with anyone.

3. I lie down next to Alec we settle in for goodnight bub. The next thing I know, Nick is waking me up -- very carefully so as not to disturb his softly snoring son. It's an hour later.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Twofer, about that... and my rest hour.

1. The wild strawberry I am potting on is not one but two plants.

2. I take Alec and a box of strawberries (full size ones this time) down to the Pantiles. I put him up on the bandstand so he can run around, but not go too far -- and to further encourage him to stay within reach, I help myself to a few strawberries. He comes hurrying back: "Trawby! Trawb-lyum nom!" and then sets off again to make a grubby handprint on the white paint of the back wall. Ooops.

3. It's a soft and warm day, just right for sitting on the Common with my boy asleep in the pushchair and an easy-going book open on my knee.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dunnock, related and round the towels.

1. I open the door on to a world so fresh and sharp that I think I must be wearing new glasses. I bend to pick up the milk and come eye-to-eye with a dunnock. She pauses. I pause, still bent over. Then she decides that we are just two women preparing breakfast, and that it's safe to get on with her day.

2. "I know I'm related to him," says my cousin Ellen, "But I do think Alec is particularly lovely." This pretty much sums up how I feel about the boy, too.

3. Alec shrieking with laughter as he runs in and out of the towels on the washing line.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Clutch, in the rain and last half.

A quick heads up for people in the Tunbridge Wells area: Ellen Montellius' portrait exhibition, Being, runs from Monday 9 July to Saturday 4 August. For more information, see the Trinity Theatre website.

1. This morning I clutch at sleep as greedily and as blindly as Alec moving in for a night time bub. And like Alec, my greed is not denied. I am too groggy to say "Yes please" when Nick asks if I want him to take Alec down to breakfast -- but he knows what I mean.

2. I am caught by three people I know, unburdened and all alone, feeling so light that I am almost dancing in the rain, on my way down to the Pantiles to look at the fair.

3. To quietly eat the last half gypsy tart without offering it to anyone else.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cold, back again and tart.

1. When I have a cold, to make up hot apple juice and honey, to take another paracetamol and have some breakfast. It's amazing how much better everything seems.

2. Everyone else goes out for the afternoon. I do a bit of work and then rest in the quiet of an empty house. But at the end of it, oh, I'm so pleased to see Alec (and Nick, too).

3. Jo is not from Kent and she's never had a gypsy tart before. I think she likes them in all their sticky, foamy, goopy, gooey glory -- but we only let her eat half, because they are very, very sweet. She displays satisfying horror at the thought of them being part of our school dinners.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Prepared, bath and a right pair.

1. I have everything laid out ready for lunch well before Alec wakes up from his extra long nap. I like this because I can concentrate on him.

2. I look down my to-do list, and there are so many lines. I've got about twenty minutes -- half an hour if I push it -- until I have to pick Alec up. I go upstairs and run myself a very quick bath.

3.  As I open the door of the buggy park, I hear a very familiar giggle from an upstairs window. When I go in, they say that Alec and the other little boy still waiting have been running in and out of the sensory room. "They've been mirroring each other: one pops round the door frame, and then the other. And one says 'Mummy' and so does the other." They are a right pair, the two of them. They are often the last two left on a Friday, and in previous weeks they've been described as "partners in crime". Alec comes home flushed and winded and wriggly -- I wish he could tell me all about his afternoon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Parcel, any minute and sherry.

1. The postman puts a parcel into my hands and asks me to take in a packet for our neighbours.

2. "Well," he says when I ask, "It's supposed to be any minute now. Look, if you press this, it'll tell you." He fiddles with the bus stop's touch screen. "The bus is at the stop," says a choppy computer voice. We both laugh. We are both pleased -- and relieved -- when it really does arrive a few minutes later.

3. To pour some sherry into the mince I am cooking for tomorrow. And then to add a bit more.

Thanks for the birthday wishes, folks -- really appreciate them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bagging, date and patience.

1. When Nick comes down with my birthday present, Alec is still asleep. We sit at the foot of the bed and I open my birthday presents, then put them back in the gift bag to look at later. When Alec wakes up, he takes them out. Perhaps he thinks it's about time he had a birthday.

2. Two courses are quite long enough for Alec to sit still on his own. He has been very good and eaten some breadsticks, some tomato, lots of lasagne and part of a yellow crayon (it did look rather like a breadstick). I bring him across the table and have him on my lap. The waitress brings his strawberry ice cream and we share it, spoon by spoon.

3. Chris patiently, and without a trace of anxiety about sticky fingers and grabby hands, shows Alec how to work the buttons on his camera.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Swimmer, sets and bad day.

1. Maggie bobbing in her armbands (she's eight months older than Alec) paddles like a little clockwork toy all around the pool. "Look, look," says Caroline. "I'm not holding her."

2. We pass a dog turd on the path. Alec points and says: "Poo! Poo! Poo!" (Sorry for another poo-related post, but it's rather marvellous the way people learn to put things into sets -- I didn't need to tell Alec what it was, even though the only poo he has ever seen is at home or in his nappy, not on a path in Tonbridge.)

3. The man behind us on the train says into his phone: "I'm in a padded cell ... yeah, that bad."
As we get off, Alec looks up at him and says: "Toot toot".
The man smiles and asks how old he is.

Pink strawberries, a bag of compost and stamps.

1. The Mother brings strawberry plants with magenta flowers, and a neat-waisted terracotta pot to grow them in. "There's compost, too, but Daddy says he bought you some last week..."
"I've got my own, too," I tell her, and show her the bag brewing in the yard. "But it's so hard to get hold of, and I'm always running out. Let's put it in the cellar and then it's there for when I need it."

2. To drop a heavy sack into the cool bricky dark of the cellar.

3. "A couple of weeks ago when you weren't here," I tell Tim, "We were walking past this Chinese takeaway and there was an elderly man in there sitting with one of the staff. They had a stamp album open on the table, doing their swaps."
"I was there," protests Tim, "And I noticed it, too."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day, Ruby and water.

1. We let Nick have a lie-in -- since it's father's day -- and this gives us time to set out his surprises: a card made by Alec, some French cheese, and his tea in a brand new blue mug. (He broke his old mug about a year ago, and felt a bit sad for it when he saw it in the Grayson Perry documentary). It also gives me time to reflect on how much I appreciate his help at breakfast time as I try to make pancakes and feed Alec enough dry cereal to keep him going without filling him up so he chucks his pancake on the floor.

2. She is a tiny person (older than Alec, but as slight and as quicksilver as a minnow). Her dad lifts her on to the deck of the climbing frame. "Stay there Ruby," he says. She darts out of reach. "Come back," he says. She darts again and is suddenly swinging out into space on the monkey bars. I've never seen a father move so fast.

3. To pour myself another glass of water from the jug on the table.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Noises, pot and forgotten.

1. During lunch I hear Alec chatting to himself upstairs, so I know he's woken from his nap. I go up to get him -- quietly -- and watch him unseen though the gap between the hinge and the door. He's sitting on the bed, his hair sleep tousled, looking with great interest at something out of the window. After a while he makes some of his favourite sounds, not words, just sounds that he likes to feel in his mouth. Then I go in, and he has such a smile for me.

2. "Now let's glaze the outside. Dip it like this," she says, showing me how to lower the bowl in so that an air bubble protects the inside -- which is to be shiny white. I know exactly what she means, because I do the same thing in Alec's bath, to amuse him by making a large bubble pop out from under a submerged cup.

3. "Was he all right?" I asked Nick. When we parted so I could go off shopping while they went to the park, Alec was howling: "Mummy! Mummy!" and I'd been feeling guilty for not... I don't know, explaining to him properly. "He was fine," says Nick. "We saw some flags and he forgot all about you."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

By myself, strawberry and to myself.

1. To sneak down before Alec wakes up and unpack the week's veggie box without having to think about a small person who wants breakfast and interaction and now Mummy now now now!

2. "There's always so much fruit to eat up on a Friday," she says, putting another strawberry in Alec's hand. He breathes the smell of the juice into my hair and ears all the way home.

3. To welcome my husband home for the weekend with a sleeping baby, so I get him all to myself for the evening..

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pointing, keyboard and fennel.

1. Alec goes to the loo on the floor, which is not in itself beautiful -- but what I did like very much was him telling me: "Poo, poo" and pointing out the location of each... er... piece.

2. It's very satisfying, isn't it, to clean out the fluff and crumbs in your keyboard.

3. In passing, to run my fingers through the soft top fronds of a fennel plant.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Face time, drop and more.

1. Rosey is looking after Rothera at night this week -- which means that in between patrolling for signs of fire and zombie attacks, she's allowed to use Skype. In that awkward hour between breakfast and nap Alec and I luxuriate in a half hour video chat with her. It's wonderful to see her face, and to show off my son to her (he points to her hair and says: "Air" and to her nose while saying "Nose"). She waves the laptop around to show us parts of the base, and I move our laptop around to show her the trees outside.

2. He is so quick. I can only watch in horror as he drops my half-full glass in to our curvy wedding present pitcher. Nothing is broken, though.

3. The Mayor's driver (no less) brings us more strawberries.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Out, park and cafe.

1. "I think we should go out," says Nick. It has been raining for the last 48 hours, and we're all feeling a bit cooped up. "Come on." So we go with Alec in the pushchair under the rain bubble. He is not impressed, but cheers up a lot when we sneak on to the station platform and watch some trains coming in and going out.

2. The rain quiet park -- just two hooded gardeners weeding the roses, and us.

3. We wash up in the new cafe on the High Street (it's in the church, and it's called Manna). They are very kind to our drippy persons, and the tea and cakes are cheap and delicious. Nick and I take it in turns to follow Alec up the stairs and carry him down again: he likes this arrangement very much. I can't help contrast his life with the lives of the street children recorded on the notice boards though, and the photographs of boys paddling in a rubbish-filled stream.

PS: Here's another link to the Grayson Perry documentary. I get about two minutes in total, and there's a lovely shot of Alec dozing in the artist's arms. It's also available on iTunes -- but I don't know how to make a link to that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hanging garden, warmer and sharing.

Look out for us on TV tonight, Channel 4, 10pm, having tea with Grayson Perry.

1. Down at the far end of platform two there is a vertical garden -- wild flowers cling like rock climbers to the brick wall on the embankment.

2. The way a cold swimming pool seems warmer once I've done a few lengths.

3. Godfather Timothy is charmed by Alec's kind sharing. Admittedly, our son was offering a piece of potpourri to a video of a train.

PS: Even if you think that the genre of toot-toot videos is not for you, it is hard not to be charmed by this film about some time spent on the platform at King's Langley.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Egg, tin can and no more work.

1. To roll a hardboiled egg and pick off the shell.

2. Chucking a tin can in the recycling box -- ours make a good hollow clatter because the box is in the cupboard under the stairs.

3. When I come downstairs after settling Alec, the washing up is all done and the floor is swept.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Proud walker, cricket and do it.

1. We've run out of clothes for Alec -- again -- so I dress him up in a brand new outfit that the mother left for him for our walk up to the park. It just so happens that his reins co-ordinate, and he looks very smart. Preppy, my mother said, because of the red and navy and stone palette. Nick says he looks like a 1950s footballer, because his shorts are so baggy and because of the number on the back of his shirt. Whatever Alec looks like, he's very pleased about it and stomps along grinning at everyone, his eyes crinkled, chin tucked in and his head tilted back.

2. It's a bright day, but not too hot. I'm so pleased because Nick has been flipping to the weather forecast, anxious in case this year's cricket week is another wash-out. At least he's had one clear good day -- he comes home very satisfied with the day's play.

3. When Nick goes up to bath Alec, I am firm with myself. I ask: "Under what circumstances would you regret planting up those vegetables you've got waiting to go in pots and growbags?" I can't think of any, so I do the work. It doesn't take long at all.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Escape, the last word and a question of snakes.

1. When he sees me, Alec comes barreling out of the nursery door, feinting and dodging his way past another parent and the practitioner who are trying to stop him.

2. "....and then he banged it again harder, so I said 'No, Alec.' And I asked him to come back and have a story with us. He said: 'NO' and ran away laughing." First (of many) use in the 'correct' context.

3. Caroline takes me to see the naturalist Steve Backshall lecturing at the Assembly Hall Theatre. He's very engaging and passionate, but my favourite bit was the Q&As, where the audience tested his knowledge. The best question came from a very small girl in the front: "What does my pet snake called Steve swallow mice whole instead of crunching them up?" If I had a pet snake, he'd be called Steve, too.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Come home, wet cuffs and curry.

1. Rain stops play and brings Nick home at exactly the right moment.

2. To get home and take a off a pair of trousers that have got wet in the rain.

3. Scooping up a bit of curry on a piece of chapatti.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Red juice, packed lunch and documentary.

1. Yes, yes strawberries taste delicious, but how much more fun to squdge them in your hands and let the juice drip down into gory patches on your shirt. Hours later, I am cuddling Alec in and he still smells of strawberries.

2. I am surprisingly gratified to get a text from Nick thanking me for his packed lunch.

3. We watch the Grayson Perry documentary, the Sunderland episode, not our episode, and it's charming, very endearing. People really opened up to him. I loved the club singer holding the hand of his mother's friend; and the three generations of women getting ready to go out for the evening. It looks as if they felt privileged to be a part of his work -- they were much more moved than us Tunbridge Wells people. I suspect that GP drew less on our personal stories for our tapestries; and also, perhaps we middle class folk are less surprised that a Turner Prize winner would be interested in depicting us. Or... perhaps they have a much better understanding than us of just how important this work is going to be!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wild strawberries, broad beans and chickens.

1. I give Alec a couple of wild strawberries, and the next thing I know, he's squatting down among the plants picking his own berries and stuffing them into his mouth. He offers the odd one to me, but always eats it himself before I have a chance to take it.

2. Breaking open a broad bean pod -- just picked -- to show Alec the beans that no-one else has seen pressed into the white foam lining. He tastes one, but doesn't think much of it. My mother peels and squeezes a a pair of emerald green bean halves out of the bitter jacket and suddenly he can't get enough.

3. My mother shows Alec the chickens on her new table mats. "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" she says by way of explanation -- because he can often manage an animal's sound when he can't get the word out.
He responds with a snatch of a tune I sing for him: "Cock-a-doodle-doo, my dame has lost her shoe. My master's lost his fiddling stick, sing cock-a-doodle-doo."
"We've got  song for every occasion," I say.
"Like Granny has."
I remember Granny singing that song for me -- as well as several others that Alec and I enjoy together.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Mashed potato, sleep and bath oils.

1. I love to see Alec working his way through a heap of mashed potato.

2. "Try to get some sleep," says Nick as he takes Alec off up to the park.
This morning, I caught myself passing the mirror. I look like an HP Lovecraft hero, haunted and hunted and hollow-eyed. A week of being awake when I want to be asleep has hit me hard.
I lie down, but I can't settle, and I still haven't slept when the boys get back. "I think I'm trying too hard to enjoy some me-time," I tell Nick -- but rather doubtfully. So I tidy the kitchen, take Alec into the garden to inspect our seedlings and then take him upstairs for his bath. It helps, because Alec makes me laugh, and because the garden is burgeoning after the sun and the rain.

3. A few months ago Sarah gave me a box of a dozen bath oils in vials, each one enough for a single bath. They are labelled with things like "Relax" and "Deep relax" and "Morning invigorate" and "Evening invigorate". I'm a bit cynical about aromatherapy -- but I always feel when I open the box that I'll find exactly what I need. I pour "Restore equilibrium" into a hot bath and climb in.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Passing fever, rib of beef and pageant.

1. A crowd of revellers woke Alec in the night, and now in the small hours he is burning hot. He lies passively against me in the dark, taking a little milk from time to time while he waits to feel better. Sometime in the dark he rolls away because at half past seven he has to crawl across the bed to tell me bossily to give him some milk and a cuddle.

2. Nick brought home a rib of beef from the butchers as our jubilee treat. We roast it quickly (basting diligently every five minutes) and eat it for lunch. The pink meat is the juiciest, tenderest, tastiest beef we have ever tasted. Alec is less impressed, but chews a few tiny pieces and then shovels in roast potatoes.

3. To have the jubilee Thames pageant on in the background. I dip in and out as I move through the house, and marvel at the Queen's fortitude -- she stood for the entire 80-minute cruise, and then again to watch the flotilla pass by.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Ratty, my time and shellfiish.

1. The rat comes out from under the bridge. His eyes are bright and his fur is glossy. He is brisk and certain, as if he knows what he is doing. Someone beside us exclaims and he darts back under, shy wild thing. I drop more bread for the ducks and wait for him to come back -- I want to look and know what it is that I can't stand about rats.

2. To lie on a rug in the sun and shade and read the latest Interzone while Nick and Alec go over there.

3. The orange corals of scallops -- it's one of those colours that you'd never imagine could happen in nature.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Unwound, over the wall and treacle.

1. ...and when I come upstairs the roll of nappy liners is no longer a roll. "Oh Alec, what have you done?"
He laughs at me and pulls a few more off. This is fun, isn't it.
"No, no, no!" I tell him.
"No, no, no!" he returns in a fair approximation of my tone.

2. "Toot toot," says Alec in the backpack. He's reminding me that if we walk down towards the station car park, we can look down over the wall and -- maybe -- see a train below us. There is one waiting, full of tired Friday night commuters on their way to the Sussex countryside. Alec watches it pull out. I watch the chef from the restaurant at the top of the high street having a break on the flat roof.

3. Black treacle dribbled over yoghurt. I like the way it forms curlicues and springs and spirals.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Seedling-led gardening, rabbit and supplies.

1. A tomato seedling has appeared in among the chard.

2. There are no rabbits in the shop window now, but Alec still makes rabbit noises (it's a sort of wet tutting noise!) when we pass.

3. I like a fridge so full of food it looks dark inside.