Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shunting yard, tinplate and the golden dog.

1. I am admiring a tiny railway layout based on a Southern States shunting yard, all peeling paint, tattered posters and rusting metalwork. "It's scratch built," says the owner proudly. "Apart from that yellow building." Then he hands the controls to Alec. "Have a go. Press that red button."
Alec does, and the rusted little diesel moves jerkily forward and stops. "Press it again, Alec."
The look on my little boy's face as the train stops and starts its way along the track is worth double the entrance fee.

2. There is a tinplate layout which I like very much. "That's from 1955," says the exhibitor about his station. "And that's from before the First World War. German."
I am just marvelling at the very British advertisements that plaster the tinplate walls when a Thomas train comes racing past, whirring frantically. "It's clockwork," says the exhibitor. "So's this." He picks up a bus, "And this," a bright shiny taxi complete with tinplate driver. "There's something about tinplate. It gleams."

2. The Mother takes Alec off into the garden to pick blackberries and I settle down to some work. All of a sudden, there's a large golden dog in the room. I ask it where it came from and it trots out into the sitting room, the dining room and wanders round the kitchen before jogging on out of the front door.
Later my mother says she found its owners running up and down the road looking for it.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Art, theatre and takeaway menu.

1. Alec's key person hands me a folder of his art. She has drawn farm animals all over it in a copper-coloured marker. I think Alec will enjoy looking at it later. And I know Nick will enjoy the contents, so I put it out in the sitting room so that he will see it as soon as he comes in.

2. "Is this theatre of food?" asks Nick as I slap a couple of gleaming silver and grey striped mackerel fillets into the pan. They have been marinating all afternoon in wasabi and ginger and soy.

3. I picked up a menu for the new sushi place yesterday, and after supper, I remember that I wanted to show Nick. Even though we've just eaten, we read down the descriptions and, when we discover that they'll deliver, we plan a future supper.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The heat, look-a-like and no more rice.

1. Alec always radiates heat -- he gets that from Nick. In the cold dark hour before dawn, he wriggles in close, pressing his lovely hot back to me.

1a. Alec opens one of his books and shows me a picture that he insists is like a girl at his nursery; and another that looks like his favourite practitioner.

2. Alec and Baby Loey play peep-o around the water jug at lunch. In between peeps, Baby Loey stuffs fat fistfuls of rice into her mouth.

3. When I come home from dropping Alec at nursery and running my errands, I am grateful all over again for Katie's help in clearing up the rice blizzard left behind after lunch.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cutting out, cafe and roll over.

1. I give Alec some biscuit cutters to play with. Instead of trying to make biscuits, though, he presses them carefully into a sheet of playdough to make repeating designs.

2. To spend a rainy afternoon in Alec's favourite cafe, with good cake and sympathetic company.*

3. He comes off the bub, rolls over on to his back, murmurs: "Mummy Daddy Alec" and then he's asleep.

*Manna on the High Street -- he can't walk past without saying in a hopeful voice: "Bic-bic?"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cup of tea, it rains and autumn apples.

1. That cup of tea that the excellent women give you when you arrive at a toddler group. That cup of tea that I don't put down because it seems like such a liability in a room full of small anatomies hurtling about at knee height. That cup of tea I drink while it's still hot because Alec doesn't want my attention right now.

2. As we leave the house, it starts to rain heavily. But we don't care: Alec is under the rain covers and I'm going to change when we get home. As I puff up the first hill in the park, the sun comes out and shines up the last of the shower.

3. I love all the sharp crisp apples that are only worth eating in the autumn. They vanish from our fruit bowl like snow -- I eat them while I'm working, without really thinking about it. Often there isn't even a core left, and I have no idea how many there were to start with.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Depths of winter, monkey man and naming names.

I got some news today that makes me want to share a link to a suicide awareness organisation like Safe Kent. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, in the UK you can speak to The Samaritans and globally, Befrienders Worldwide. I know some of you walk in dark places: please don't make your journey alone.

1. During our Skype conversation, Auntarctica spots the yellow freesias in the background. "Ohh, look at those! Are they daffodils?" It occurs to me that she might not have seen flowers for quite some time.

2. I feel mean for encouraging Alec to monkey along the side of the swimming pool by moving the purple ball that he wants just out of his reach. Hand over hand he goes and my slippery boy gets the ball before I can grab it. Instead of chewing on it, he rolls it away and sets off after it.

3. When Alec hears my mother's voice he makes such a delighted sound. For a few minutes he is so overwhelmed with joy that all he can do is point to things and name them for her: "Door! Light! Mummy!"

Monday, September 24, 2012

Entente cordiale, first run and cheese on toast.

1a. I come down and find Nick and Alec down on the floor drawing on a sheet of newspaper.

1. The little girl at the other table waves at Alec, and as soon as she is allowed down, she comes over to see him. "Say hallo, and come straight back," her mother tells her. Alec hides his face, but warms up when she returns with a toy train. She is nine months old, and French. Her aunts egg her on: "Get his number, get his number."

2. I take Alec in the pushchair with me for my first run: I've got a lot to do today, and it just seems efficient. He laughs at the running bits, and shouts: "Quickly, quickly!", which is encouraging. It's not as shymaking as I though it would be: I think because I'm concentrating on Alec, rather than on myself.

3. Nick and Alec watch the grill intently, with Alec standing on one of his little chairs. We are having cheese on toast for supper. We cut thin crustless fingers for Alec to nibble. He eats them all, except the last one, which he throws grandly on to the floor.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Say my name, a dress and going to sleep.

1. I often hear mischief, rather than see it (the ripping of nappy Velcro, or the clatter of a toy falling downstairs, or just a naughty-sounding silence). When I do, I say: "Allll-ec!" as severely as I can. The usual response is a nervous shriek of laughter. Lately, he's taken to declaiming his name in an eerie imitation of my tone. I want to give him a more positive example to copy, so I try saying "Alec" when I'm pleased with him, filling the word with as much admiration and affection as I can muster. He still seems to prefer the severe version, though.

2. It's Saturday, why shouldn't I wear a dress today.

3. We all lie together in the big bed waiting for Alec to wind down and fall asleep. It's warm and dark and Nick and I doze a little.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I didn't mean to go to sleep, festival and freesias.

1. I fall asleep while I'm putting Alec down for his nap. When I wake up, it's 12.30. He is supposed to be at nursery at 1pm. I'm still in my pyjamas, and there is nothing for lunch. I do feel well rested, however, and Alec seems very chipper, too.

2. There is a festival just outside town this weekend and outside the station there are piles of tents and boxes of beers and a man with a hobby horse unicycle.

3. The freesias Nick brought home the other night are coming out one by one. They are firelight yellow and look very brave in a blue glass vase. I can't see freesias without thinking of my brother's reception teacher -- when she got married she had them in her bouquet; and she had the children re-enact her wedding as part of the curriculum. There is a picture somewhere of my brother as a guest, and tiny Joby Williams as the groom in a brown velvet suit, and a tiny little bride in a pale orange dress. Mr and Mrs Watts must be well on their way to their 30th wedding anniversary.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Work, other babies and starfish hands.

1. I talk with Tara about proofreading and feel inspired. She says that if I am wise and confident, I can earn enough to make a real financial contribution to the household (not just hair ribbon money) and -- this is even more important -- retain my skills.

2. To run into Jo while negotiating the teetering wonderland of household goods that is Jeremy's Homestore. She is bravely navigating with her double pushchair. Freddie, who is the same age as Alec, now has a scattering of freckles across his nose and looks very handsome. And behind him is Ruby, who looks serene, and is, I am told, already sleeping through.

3. I run into another mother with a new arrival -- just two and half weeks old. She has wriggled her arms up in the sling so that her starfish hands are either side of her face.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Filled card, going back and laundry.

1. "...and your next coffee will be free." To fill up a loyalty stamp card. 

2. "It's not like you left the Norglet on the Pantiles," says Nick. The first thing I told him when he got in was that I felt stupid for leaving Alec's blue sippy cup behind on the bench where I'd been watching him running around on the bandstand. Then Nick adds: "Do you want me to go and get it?"

3. A folded basket of clean laundry.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Installation, treasure and result: happiness.

1. While my back is turned, Alec gets into the cutlery drawer. He lays a few spoons on a chair, and then puts all the knives and forks out on the floor in chevrons and arrows and rows. There is an absinthe spoon with an eye on it pointing towards the washing machine in a significant manner. Later I find a whisk in the bottom of the watering can and a fork in the garden.

2. We find a horse chestnut case that has just split to reveal the polished conkers inside. We take it home for Nick to open.

3. We've got very behind with the household accounts, and I have been fretting about incomings and outgoings and stray sixpences. It's a huge chore, but it feels good to sit down -- together -- and start to deal with it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Nap, walking home slowly and the hug.

1. Alec's morning nap goes on... and on... and on. He wakes twice, but makes it clear he just wants bub-and-back-to-sleep. At quarter past two, I hear him chatting to himself. I go up and tell him it's lunch time. "Lish lingers?" he asks, full of hope.

2. I walk slowly home with Alec on my shoulders. I can tell by his dull tired weight that he is not in the mood for "Quickly, quickly" or bouncing. He likes hearing the names of trees, though, and trying the words for himself.

3. I go downstairs to find Nick and get the hug I've been wanting all day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New table cloth, indulge and stock.

I'm joining in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Genre blogfest... because, well why not?
  • Movies: My favourite genre of movie would be anything about space because there is nothing like a big old screen full of alien landscape.
  • Music: My playlist is a mixed bag, but... britpop reminds me of being a teenager, when I felt overexcited and happy about everything (apart from any setbacks, which were unmitigated disasters of the worst possible kind). In the days of pogoing to Park Life my emotions were turned right up to eleven. I don't miss the high highs and low lows -- but I do like remembering them.
  • Books: I know short story is not a genre, more of a form, but not enough people read them, so I am giving them a shout out. I don't have the headspace at the moment for leisurely novels but I can cheerfully nibble on a short story, or a novella. I get a lot of pleasure from my subscription to Interzone and the new writing section of Mslexia. And may I also recommend Tania Hershman's book of flash fiction The White Road to people who find short stories too long. She is a science writer, as well as a writer writer, and 
  • My guilty pleasure is... Pulp. When times get tough, I heft my huge copy of The Chronicles of Conan down from the bookshelf and disappear into a time before time, when men were men and women's clothing kept falling off. Whatever problems beset me, I can always see how Conan would make it all better: WITH A BIG SWORD. I also harbour a soft spot for HP Lovecraft, because the day I met Nick, I asked him for help with spelling Cthulhu, and that made him think I was a suitable woman.
1. To come down to breakfast when you have a brand new table cloth. It has a map design, which pleased Nick immensely when we found it. There was a choice of sepia or primary colours, and we went for the colours because good cheer trumps good taste.

2. Alec is a lot better today, but he's still a cuddly boy who wants to spend a lot of time sitting on people's laps, particularly at meal times. It's rather pleasing to indulge him without feeling guilty.

3. A pan of stock boiling at the back of the stove. Nick says: "You're like a 1950s housewife." I'm assuming it was a compliment.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cool head, shutting myself away and among strangers.

1. At 4am I see that I am an idiot for trusting the thermometer over my five senses. I give Alec the clean nappy, the biscuit and the drink of water that he is asking for, and the spoonful of paracetamol that he needs.  He settles down for some comforting bub, and not much later sighs and rolls over. He's properly asleep, breathing softly and his head no longer burns to touch.

2. "I am having a bath," I tell Nick and Alec after breakfast. "There are instructions about when to put lunch in the oven on the table."

3. The kindness of strangers.
a. Yesterday I said yes to a post of Freegle. Today, a lady rings up to say I can have some of her hollyhock seeds, and would I like some cosmos and some Verbena bonariensis plants. "It's purple, and it sort of floats," she says by way of description.
b. We have another hangout on Google+ for our science fiction and fantasy course. It feels as if we don't talk much about the books, but I do come away knowing a lot more about Ray Bradbury, and with some stories to look out for; and I feel as if the other students are real people, not just ciphers.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Granola, meeting for lunch and home alone.

1. We eat homemade granola for breakfast -- I've never made if before, but it was so easy and delicious that I will again. I think there are some recipes in the Sunset Cookbook that Joe sent over, and maybe in one of Heather's Schmecks books: it sounds as if it ought to be American in origin. Gran-o-la. Gran-ola. Gra-nola. Alec calls it 'lola'.

2. I love to meet for lunch the sort of friends who want to see Alec, and who are not offended by my retreating into the child-bubble when he asks for my attention. He is very good, though, and they remark on it afterwards.

3. Suddenly realising that Nick is home late, so I have the evening to myself.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cabbage white, in the queue and the hug.

1. To watch a cabbage white butterfly dipping and zigging and zagging in our tiny garden.

2. I do that thing my mother used to do that was SO EMBARRASSING. I unload my groceries at the checkout and then realise that I have forgotten a thing. I contemplate leaving it but it's a vital part of Saturday supper and I will have to send Nick out to get it. I apologise to the checkout man (he offers to pack my bags) and smile vaguely at the people behind me in the queue and dash back. The checkout man is still at scanning when I get back.

3. I've upset Alec: He really did not want his nappy changed. When he is clean and dry again, I stand him up and give him a cuddle, pressing my cheek to his wet face. He squeezes me right back.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bitter, while you were sleeping and all gone.

Sorry for the unscheduled break in posting -- Alec has a cold and our evenings have been rather broken.

1. The bitter streak in pink grapefruit juice.

2. It suddenly occurs to, while Alec is drifting of into his morning nap, that I could have a bath.

3. At snack time, I remember that there is one muffin left. We split it, and it's delicious. The only bad thing is that for the rest of the day Alec keeps looking up at the empty tin on the draining board and saying "Muffmin?" in such a plaintive voice.

4. Alec's wooden plane had a bad landing, "Oh dear, Mummy!" He's holding one set of wheels, and the other two are on the floor.
"Daddy will mend it," I tell him, with every confidence. "Let's put it up safe, and Daddy will mend it."
Late at night, when I come down to the kitchen, I find the plane lying on its back, wheels secured, and the pilot standing on its undercarriage, waiting for the glue to dry.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Torchlight, sitting up and slain.

1. Nana has a new game for Alec: getting him to catch the pool of light from a torch. He never gets frustrated by things he can't catch: he just laughs when they jump out of his reach and then tries to catch them again.

2. I sit Alec up on a cafe chair. He seems rather more serene and dignified than when we use a highchair, and he doesn't wriggle or try to stand up.

3. The sudden hush when we realise that Tim's character is dead, slain by a nameless NPC's perfect double zero.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Let's go, swinging and writing an essay.

1. I love those Mondays when everything has been made ready the night before. The moment I am sure Alec isn't going to take a nap, we put our shoes on, load up the backpack and leave for the station.

2. While Tim pushes Alec on the swing, I lie back on the grass and watch thin wracks of cloud passing overhead. I don't have long, but it is deeply relaxing. Thanks Tim, I really needed that.

3. To bash out the essay for the science fiction and fantasy course. We're reading Herland and A Princess of Mars this week. I find a topic I feel strongly about, and the arguments leap out of the text. I had thought I wasn't reading thoroughly enough in the snatched moments and late nights available to me, but more had gone in than I supposed.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Interactive, slow help and paintwork.

1. We have to pretend to eat all the food in this book; and to pick bugs out of the monster's hair in that book.

2. To not be in a hurry. When I'm rushing, I don't want any 'help' but when there is all the time in the world, I love to give Alec tasks like measuring seeds into the bread mix, or putting muffin cases in the tin. Afterwards, I stand him on the worktop so he can look down into the bread machine and see the dough forming.

3. I examine the little chairs drying in the sun and think that Nick has done a pretty good job: a few wobbles, but better than I would have managed. Then he comes back with a fistful of whisker-thin paintbrushes. The next time I go out, the paintwork is flawless and Nick is looking very proud of himself.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sleeping alone, grubby toddler and first fruits.

1. It's taking a while to get Alec off to sleep at nap time. I really need to go down and put the lunch on, but I'm anticipating a noisy protest. "I'll be back in three minutes," I tell him. I put the chicken in. No sound from upstairs. I scrub some potatoes, my ears pricked for howls of rage. Then I go back up -- to find him sprawled asleep on a pile of books.

2. I bring Alec home from our afternoon walk. His hands are sticky (and there are handprints on my cream skirt). His face is dusty. There is an apple core wrapped in a disintegrating tissue in my bag. His shorts have a grey patch on the bottom and the hems are black. He looks like a proper little boy, and I feel like a proper mother.

3. To pick my first tomatoes.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Lucky late, sleek and painting.

1. The delivery driver comes late, lucky for us because I forgot to put last week's boxes out for him.

2. "Do you want it dried with some body, or smooth and sleek?" asks the hairdresser. I ask for body, but then I remember that my hair pretty much dries itself with body; and that sleek is not something I can achieve on my own.
"Actually, can I have it sleek?" On the way home I run into Alec on a nursery outing. He doesn't seem to recognise me (or perhaps he was studiously ignoring me because Mummy does not belong at nursery).

3. To sit on the doorstep (it's a hot day) and sand and prime a pair of little chairs for Alec. Nick will paint the top coat at the weekend.

Friday, September 07, 2012

An opinion, magnetism and graphologist.

1. As I am giving Alec his breakfast of cereal hoops, he says very confidently: "Me like 'oops." Well, me like hearing that my little boy has an opinion on such important matters.

2. Nana gave Alec a little fridge magnet in the shape of a cat. He has been discovering that it sticks to certain things, and I keep finding it in odd places, like on radiators and on the bath and on the fire surround.

3. I finally get round to showing Nick this story about a graphologist in the Courier. The reason I wanted to show him was that in the paper version, they give some sample handwriting reports -- including mine. The graphologist said, among other things: 'She will have a quality that men like. She can wrap men around her little finger. She will come over well. They will say “if you meet Clare, she is a girl and a half”.' Me rather like this, too.





Thursday, September 06, 2012

Not coppers, hallo pillars and stuck.

1. To discover that an old money box is full of pound coins and not coppers.

2. It's been a hard year for butterflies here, so I'm happy to host a few caterpillars on my tangle of nasturtiums. And of course, it means that in the afternoon Alec and I can read The Very Hungry Caterpillar...

3. ...which you haven't properly experienced if you have not had to pretend that your finger is desperately stuck in every single one of those die-cut holes.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Small trains, on the toes and up.

1. The men jog alongside their gauge one trains, giving them a push every now and again to help them along. They look exactly like dads teaching children to ride bicycles.

2. The dog licks Alec's toes and he laughs. When she walks off, he waves his feet at her, hoping she'll come back and do it again.

3. There is a time -- about three minutes while my mother and Alec are occupied with a bowl of water -- when I can lie on my back and just stare at birds sporting high above me in the deep blue vault of the summer sky.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Pink milk, being us and an icecream.

1. Slurping up the last drops of a pink milkshake. Alec drinks half of mine, because he likes straws -- and then goes for Godfather Timothy's as well.

2. Tim is rather amused by something he heard through the hedge: "Our neighbour's two-year-old asked where we were: 'Where are Tim and Rachel?' When she was told we weren't around, she said she was going to be us. She asked her mother to call her Rachel."

3. ...And when I look up Alec is under the climbing frame licking an ice cream being offered to him by a boy of about the same size. It's funny because earlier in the day he joined some little girls who were pretending that the climbing frame was an icecream van.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Camera, well met and cold back.

1. Nick shows me the pictures he caught of his dad and Alec tinkering with the kitchen timer. "It's like a sentimental Victorian genre painting," he says.

2. As we come up the High Street, I spot Nick's sister and the great nephews coming the other way: they are heading to Nana and Grandad's for lunch. We stop for a chat and a catch-up. "Aunt Nick," says Dylan pointing at me "And Uncle Nick."
"And Baby Nick," I say pointing at Alec.

3. My back gets cold while we're watching Doctor Who because I have leant right forward in all the excitement.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Getting out, catch and brambles.

1. I had been planning to do this and planning to do that in my free time on Saturday afternoon while Nick looks after Alec... but Nick says: "Let's all go out," so we do. It's what I really wanted to do, anyway.

2. We are watching quite an ordinary thing, a couple throwing a ball for their dog (which is black with white paws). It races across the path by the rocks and then leaps, twists, snaps and trots back with the ball in its mouth. "Dog catch ball," says Alec. His first sentence.

3. To drop the blackberries we picked this afternoon into bowls of yoghurt.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Let's have lunch now, attachment parenting and possibly a dog.

1.  I let go of the idea that we cannot start lunch until after noon. It just seemed wrong before -- but suddenly  today, it seemed less wrong than the alternatives: making my poor wilting toddler wait an arbitrary half an hour or giving him a snack that would fill him up before lunch.

2. The mother in front of me in the queue at the new green grocers has her toddler in a sling carry that I've never seen before. I ask her about it, and while we are chatting her little boy asks to nurse, so she pops him on. It's just the sort of quick slurp that Alec likes to take from time to time.

3. Alec's key person hands me some of his artwork. "I think it's a dog," she says, turning it round.