Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Into the wind, instructions and absolution.

1. The rain is sheeting down and the wind batters shoppers across the precinct as if they were nothing but litter -- but I am so glad to have escaped, by myself, for a little while.

2. Nick pronounces himself pleased with the instructions I left regarding lunch.

3. We had a cheese straw fail yesterday: we told Alec he could have one for his train snack.
I thought Nick had them and Nick thought I had them. Alec gave us a very disappointed look, folding his arms and bowing his head. I compounded matters by promising to buy a box to go with our tea, but M&S didn't have any. I had to patch Alec up with a firm talking to on the train: "Stop asking for cheese straws. I'm very sorry you are sad, but nothing you say or do will make me give you a cheese straw because even though I said there would be cheese straws, there are no cheese straws."
He mentioned it again this morning.
Today I bought a box of cheese straws and gave them to him: "Here are cheese straws. You can have one. After that, do not mention cheese straws again. In this family we forgive and move on." The look on his face suggested that it was all OK between us.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Light morning, like and marching orders.

1. We have to leave early this morning and (a) it is easy to get out of the door because Nick and I prepared everything last night; and (b) the light is such that I feel as if I'm viewing the common through a jar of honey.

2. He says that Bettany is the first baby who has liked him.

3. Alec, from his vantage point on Nick's shoulders, shouting bossy orders to a line of his elders and betters. "Fall back in! Full steam ahead!"

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Three boy, on the phone and rolling over.

Dinosaurs go ROAR
1. Today is Alec's third birthday. There are calls and messages and callers all day to let him (and us) know he is loved and valued.

2. While Alec is out trying his new scooter enhancements Cat calls. Bettany coos and laughs for her godmother and we have a satisfying and informative parenting chat. Later I find a sung message from all of them for Alec, complete with piano accompaniment.

2b. One of Alec's small friends comes by with her mother in time for early afternoon tea. Alec is still out, but when he returns we all run to the door and he greets her with a warmth and a charm that pleases me very much. She is a day younger than him, and we were all in hospital together. I'm glad someone else finds it hard to understand where the time has gone.

2c. We watch Howl's Moving Castle, which Alec has been very interested in for some time. I've noticed recently that when something he wants comes to pass he gets scared. As the opening titles faded he said "I'm just going to get my drink" and disappeared. He watched the first 15 minutes from the doorway, only joining us on the sofa when he felt safe.

3. When Alec indicates he has finished his evening bub. Sometimes he rolls over, sighs and is gone. Tonight he said: "Put the bubby away" and then he was away himself.

Picture by Polly Coupee

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My own shopping, toy and not free.

1. To get to the supermarket -- it's lovely to have someone else do your shopping for you, but they never know to get the things I don't know I want. There are a few ex-Christmas bargains to be had, and I want to buy a few treats for Nick.

2. The cleaning lady brings her son, and he brings an amazing radio controlled robot. It boxes its way around the kitchen in response to a motion activated controller. Alec is scared (he pretends he wants to look at something minute on trouser leg) and then entranced. I have to tell him off for taking the toy without asking. When I next turn round Nick is playing with it, and I almost tell him off, too, as the cleaning lady's son is looking as if he would like it back.

3. As it happens I don't get the evening of freedom I was anticipating. Although Alec went off very early and very easily, Bettany is not in a mood to be put down so I ended up stuck on the sofa with her. But I enjoyed looking forward to a possible evening of freedom anyway.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Not forgotten, food parcel and nightlight.

1. I whisk a fretful Bettany away from lunch. My mother brings a bowl of pudding up to us in bed.

2. We bring a food parcel home with us -- it's a relief not to have to think much about meals for the next few days.

3. Alec's new nightlight glowing on the bookshelf.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Escape, pair and waiting with me.

1. To slip out of bed, following Alec downstairs leaving Nick and Bettany sleeping.

2. Alec and my brother sitting side by side at a table, heads bowed over Alec's new tiny trainset.

3. Nick waits up with me for Bettany to settle down.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Confidence, going down and Father Christmas.

1. I squidge into the car between Alec's and Bettany's seats. Alec tells me, very joyfully but quite confidentially, that while I was faffing about remembering forgotten things, our neighbour came and knocked on his window.

2. The last of the guests come late, but earlier than expected. Bettany has her party pants on and they help tire her out enough to sleep.

3. From the edge of sleep I hear the bells on Rosey's door jingle faintly and the soft crackle of Christmas Eve cellophane.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Trial, rescue and the storm.

1. Alec has been testing, testing, testing the boundaries all day. To sit at the kitchen table and listen to him playing with his Lego. He is testing, testing, testing the limits of his materials -- how long can he make his vehicle?

2. The characters in Alec's rescue game have to shout to each other to be heard over the storm. At bath time I hear him ordering Nick around and addressing him as "Crew".

2. I stand at the attic window so entranced by the rain sheeting down the road and across the car park that I eat five chocolates without noticing. "It's like being in a carwash," says Nick coming up behind me.

Monday, December 23, 2013

An aunt, snow and not buying it.

1. "We're back, and we've found an aunt." I only sent them out to get a few groceries -- Aunty Sarah with her bag of presents is a treat indeed.

2. There was artificial snow on the Pantiles. Cannons were blowing great fat flakes down on to the crowds. People were standing entranced with clots of foam in their hair, filming, taking pictures and looking on. Children were stamping it into puddles. When I called Nick to let him know he said they'd seen it and that Alec said it didn't taste very nice.

3. I go into a shop to buy a little bowl for Bettany's Christmas. As I walk towards the till my phone goes. It's Nick saying he and Alec are at home, having successfully purchased the very bowl I am about to buy.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Score, looking away and peace maker.

1. Nick tells me with some pride that he scored a second hole in one in the game Alec calls croquet. He knocked an airflow golf ball into a loo roll tube with a mini cricket bat from a distance of three feet.

2. The way Bettany sometimes smiles back at us and then turns away as if it's all a bit shy-making.

3. Nick is in the bath when Alec wakes and I take Bettany with me when I go up. I have to bub them both to stop a fight breaking out. Bettany's free hand wanders all over, patting my chest and Alec's face and in his hair and I can't do a thing about it because both my hands are stuck under children. Alec gently but firmly takes her hand and holds it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Help, cheering and tissue paper.

1. Alec wants to know, "Can we ring somebody?"
So we ring Granny.
"Granny, can you come here now. Mummy needs you."
And before too long she's on her way.

2. Katie appears with a small present for Bettany and some cheering words.

3. Bettany lies on her rug rustling a piece of orange tissue paper, pulling it up over her face, peering out from under it and laughing at me.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Not worse, up again and sing-song.

1. I was feeling crestfallen because my shoulder seems worse again. The physio is cheerful though: "Of course having a cold will make it hurt with the muscle pains and so on."

2. Having said that, I did lift a flagging Alec up on to my shoulders without much trouble.

3. To peer between a row of people crouched on tiny chairs and see Alec singing along with his friends. And to see every staff member with at least two children on their lap.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

New beginning, cereal and comforted.

1. The way a cup of coffee, a sit down and some breakfast banish the horrors of the night.

2. Chocolate breakfast cereal.

3. It has been an impossible day -- stuck indoors because I'm going down with the cold that has kept Alec up in the night, and now a text saying that the cavalry is not coming until later. My temper frays and I snap at everyone. Alec snuggles in next to me. He pats my arm and says "There there" and strokes my back and asks if I feel better yet. I do, much.
I think of all the times I have tried to comfort him when he's angry and sad -- and got an enraged to response to "there there" and had my patting hand shoved away. I always think it can't be working, but now I know it does.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

At lunch, travel guide and the return.

1. Alec whispers a question about his rude noise machine. I tell him that if he must, to take it into the front room as it's not very polite while we are eating lunch. Our guest hasn't heard all of the exchange and wonders what is going on. The windypop sounds and the muffled giggles give the game away.

2. I am captivated Ian Mortimer's The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. For a start I love travel guides to places you can't reach. And every time I open it I discover something enlightening -- the idea that the average age of the population drastically affects the behaviour of a nation is (very obvious) but new to me.

3. I've been out of the room for about an hour. Bettany's face lights up when I come back downstairs and she coos and crows and even laughs a little.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book quacks, mulled wine and tired man.

1. It is a grim afternoon for book quackery -- we get a lot of queries from wet and weary Christmas shoppers -- but we get a few advice-seekers and manage to take the education fund at Oxfam Books round to £1,000. Sarah Salway and I are still offering advice so if you want us to recommend a book we're on Twitter as @threebt and @sarahsalway -- you pick up your book and make a £5 donation at the shop in Tunbridge Wells.

2. A jug of mulled wine appears from Shambles at the bottom of Chapel Place.

3. Those evenings when Alec leads me upstairs well before bedtime. He has been out all afternoon scootering and taking joy rides on the festive land train that has been moving shoppers up and down town.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Glazed over, packet of prints and battery pack.

1a.  "And how old are you, Alec?" asks Father Christmas.
"I'm five months old." He'd been enjoying a game of babies this morning.

1. "Would you like a bag... I've asked you that already, haven't I."
To chat with glazed over shop assistants. There is a real buzz about town, though it's not so crowded that shopping is unbearable.

2. A packet of photo prints ready for Christmas presents.

3. We work like this now: Nick plays with the children while I clear a track from the back door to the front room and a space in the corner. I play with with the children while Nick brings the tree in and puts it in the stand.

3b. "Now look at this: see the spring, and see the smooth end? They go there. And feel that bobble on the other end? That goes there." Nick teaches Alec how to put batteries in the Christmas lights. I love his patience and his kindness.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Crib, gala performance and faint light.

1. I pack up Bettany's Bednest* ready to go back to the hire place. I think about how up until a few days ago I was feeling very sad about this because it's such a fantastic piece of kit. However I came in the other morning and found that she'd rolled over, rotated herself 180 degrees and was gnawing on the side. Time to move into a more grown-up bed, I think.

2. A friend has invited me to a gala performance at Trinity Theatre -- their children's Christmas show, Roald Dahl's The BFG. Being a gala performance there are lots of familiar faces from the town's arts scene and I'm glad to catch up and chat with some adults. It's a splendid show with clever puppetry and animation. The whimsy and magic that I recall from the book are all there (I'm surprised at how well I remember the text, I must have read it several times) but it's less dark than I remember, though it would have been too scary for Alec.

3. Coming home and seeing a faint light from the bedroom window. Nick and Alec are talking in whispers while Bettany sleeps in her basket. Alec and I chat about the play: he loves hearing about the scene where the giant whizzpops in front of the Queen. I can't wait to read the book with him.

* A bednest is a sidecar crib that puts her in bed with me, but in her own secure space. I can reach over and bring her in for a feed and then put her back without getting out of bed. We went for the hire option because we didn't want to have the bother of storing it and selling it on once we'd finished. I strongly recommend it to anyone about to have a baby -- you can find out more here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Worth reading, enlightened and world going past.

1. As I am leaving the house an older lady passing up the hill asks if I used to have a Courier column. "It was always worth reading," she says.

2. Enlightenment is sometimes terrible.
She tells me what her daughter said: "Mum, I'm so tired I could top myself."
"Of course," she continues, "Lots of women feel like that sometimes."
"We don't really want to be dead, but it seems the only way to have dark and quiet where nobody wants you," I say.
"Exactly."

3. "I love this window," says one staff on the first floor in Lush. "You see the whole world going past."


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Not waiting, baker and bravery rewarded.

1. I tell Alec that Howl's Moving Castle is on TV at Christmas. He throws a tantrum because "Why can't I be a bigger boy and watch it NOW?"

2. He tells me that he won a baking competition at school with... (his English is a work in progress and he can't remember the word) "I roll them out and cut them, one, two three in dinosaur shapes..."
"Ah, biscuits?"
"Yes, biscuits."

3. I first offered the dinosaur egg bath fizzer to Alec on Monday when the hot water came back on. He was concerned in case it contained a real dinosaur that would eat him. The fact that it is slightly cracked added to his worries that it might suddenly hatch. Today he has screwed up the courage to use it. In the middle is a tiny green plastic... we think it's an iguanadon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Compliment, stop and cheering up.

1. I come downstairs in my exercise clothes and Alec says: "Ohh, look at you! You're wearing squashy trousers." He's copying the tone my mother used when she saw him in his new clothes. I'm not sure what he meant by squashy trousers, though.

2. I do three quarters of an hour of proofreading work and no more. There is more to do, but it feels good to stop and turn to my family work.

3. Nick's evening has been spoilt because he has ended up holding a fractious Bettany while I run up and downstairs between poorly Alec and my work. I am glad, in the end, to find him in the sitting room listening to Radio 3 with her.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Waiter, blessing and senses.

1. The Pizza Express waiter who lifted Alec into the high chair because he saw I had Bettany in the sling. And he brought our pizzas to the table cut up.

2. As we are leaving Oxfam Books an older man compliments Bettany and the way she is snuggled up against my chest. He is rather magical looking, like a gnome, and he is carrying a bag of cake. It is always lovely to be complimented so we chat a little and he puts his hand on her head in a way that looks rather like a blessing. Alec comes over and asks for some attention. The man puts his hand on Alec's head, too, and gives him a compliment, as if he understands what it's like to have a new baby sister that everyone wants to admire. Alec quiets and looks rather wondering.

3. I've noticed Bettany taking a lot of pleasure in her senses. When I put her down on the changing towel she wriggles her back against the rough fabric and giggles. And she pats my skin and makes happy little gulping noises as she feeds. She lay for 15 minutes shredding a piece of rustley tissue paper. Her favourite toy at the moment is a long flat piece of Alec's Duplo -- she waves it around until it gets into her mouth and then she gums it triumphantly. It got lost earlier and she fretted and fussed until I twitched aside another toy to show her where it was.

PS: The reason I was in Oxfam Books, Tunbridge Wells, was to do a little bit of setting up for an event I'm doing on Sunday 15 December from 1-3pm with Sarah Salway: We're going to be Book Quacks. We will be helping our clients to solve their lifestyle problems with book prescriptions. A consultation is just £5, which goes to the Oxfam education fund, and you get a book.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Modern conveniences, stealing Bettany and lick.

Today Polly Coupee swung by with a disc of pictures from the shoot she did with us last week. This is my favourite family portrait.


1. Thank heavens for grocery deliveries and for takeaway lunches, for washing machines and for forgiving guests.

2. To steal Bettany away from the action -- from time to time I can see she feels overwhelmed or she is asking for milk so I whisk her away to one of our bubbing nests and spend some time enjoying my baby and having her all to myself.

3. As Godmother Jo is leaving Alec leans over as if he is going to kiss her... "Oh lovely, a nice lick," she says with admirably good humour. I tell Alec off -- but Nick says that he did give her a generous hug before I came downstairs.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Wooden houses, saving it for Christmas and exactly 24.

1. On the High Street one of the estate agents has a window display of wooden houses made from laser cut birch. Every time we pass I pretend Alec is desperate for a look -- really it's me. I assumed the houses were way out of my decorations budget... until I saw two for sale at the Pantiles Christmas Market for a fiver each. I treat myself to one and put it on the mantelpiece so I can smile at it while I feed Bettany.

2. Nick and Alec return from their special lad and dad outing -- a ride on a steam train and a visit to Father Christmas. Alec has an unopened parcel in his hand and he says he wants to save it for Christmas.

3. "What are you doing, she counted them out, there are exactly 24 in there!"
"But I only asked for 12," I tell Nick once I've spat the date pip into my hand.
"I could have sworn you said two dozen," he says uncrumpling the shopping list and peering at it.
Fresh dates are such a treat, and now we've got 12 that are not needed for my Arabian lamb stew.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Me again, nursery run and night noises.

1. A gaming session with Meredith makes me feel like a me again, not a mummy (not that I mind being a mummy, but it feels so good to step out of that character for an hour or two).

2. All the dads coming off the train, urgent in flapping coats to do the Friday evening nursery run.

3. To sink into bed and hear Bettany snoring softly in the cot and to feel Alec's hot little back against mine.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Patisserie, high wind and strange doings.

1. To buy up the last of the macarons for tomorrow's game. I always like going into La Roche, the patisserie on the corner, because I like to see the bright and fanciful cakes arranged on the cold white marble counters.

2. A rush and a scutter of leaves blows past me on the road home.

3. I warn Alec that there are all sorts of strange things on the High Street (it's late night shopping). We peer into a jewellers and see a wicked witch and a fairy godmother. "I'm a nice witch, really," she says and to prove it hands Alec a bag of chocolate. And then Father Christmas appears. "His eyes are like saucers," she says.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Postcards, parcels and self-sufficient.

1. Postcards arrive. Alec won't let me read his. He informs me "It says: Dear Alec, how are you?"
I read Bettany's for her -- Grannie misses her and Alec.
Alec brings his over to the sofa. "Does it say she misses me?"

2. There are also parcels -- a secret Christmas present, some bean bags that I ordered off Etsy, that I have to whisk away from Alec and a large box of chocolates (ditto).

3. Every week Bettany lies on her blanket and watches us do Alec's ballet class. She is very patient and doesn't even mind when we gallop off down to the other end of the room. It reminds me of the self-sufficiency we thought we detected in her when she was first born, and it reminds me why we call her bundle -- because she seems to come bundled with everything she needs.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Saving the day, fighting back and leaf fall.

1. I've been up again and again in the night, what with one thing and another and I feel as if I have been nursing non-stop. I am worn out and utterly despondent. Alec wakes up, whines for bub and when I say no, takes a deep preparatory breath. "Stop that! Please don't shout," I tell him.
He stops, sits up, snuggles in close and pats my arm. "It's all right," he says.
I stop, too, and manage a smile.
"Have I saved the day?" (I wish I could express the inflection).
"You've saved the day."

2. "No, Charlie, not the baby!" This is the sort of cry I hear quite often wherever toddlers gather. I tell the mother that it's absolutely fine, that Bettany has seen much worse. He pats her face, she waves her hands and smiles and it's all rather adorable, until she gives his nose a good gumming.

3. The Grove is suddenly -- finally -- naked. Autumn was very nice, but it's winter now and time for bare trees and cold, dirty colours.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Pearly whites, turning a corner and siblings.

1. "Let's have a look at those beautiful teeth," says the dentist as Alec climbs on to the chair.

2. I'm definitely spending less time bubbing than I was, and Bettany is more self-sufficient than ever. While she lies on a blanket rustling a piece of tissue paper I clear a shelf that has been collecting clutter since the week she was born. I also find the time to give Alec's toys a quick organise, which he will appreciate (not in words, but by playing with things that he hasn't used for a while).

3. Alec has had a busy day, what with the dentist and then a visit from granny newly home from her holidays. He has a melt-down while I am bubbing Bettany in the run-up to bathtime. I end up nursing them both on the sofa. Bettany twines her fingers in Alec's hair, and Alec reaches up to hold her hand.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Letter, Christmas box and kneading.

1. "What shall I put?"
"I would like a fire engine -- a toy one," says Alec.
"And I'll put that you've been good this year, you've got a new baby sister and you've learnt to use the pot." I like having a natural opportunity to remind him of the great things he's achieved in the last 12 months. Later he and Nick will take the letter down to the post box.

2. To bring down the December 1 box and unpack the Christmas books. To squirrel away a few decorations to share with Alec over the next few days (the little German Christmas tree and the änglaspel*). To enjoy the splashes of red from my Christmas apron and the Christmas blanket. To put a wreath on the front door.

3. Kneading bread dough with my right hand as well as my left hand -- my right arm is definitely getting stronger again.

* It's called a rotary candle holder in English, but I think the Swedish is much more charming.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

On a blanket, help is on its way and nesting.

1. We have a family photo session with Polly Coupée. It is hard to relax until we all lie on a blanket to be photographed from above. There is so much wriggling and laughter that we hardly notice what is happening overhead.

2. The boiler is now leaking. I leave a message for the landlord and within moments, it seems, he appears at the door with a ladder and all the DIY know-how we don't possess.

3. To come home early from the walk -- it's so very cold -- and sneak upstairs with Bettany and the tablet. I give her a quiet, cosy, focussed, uninterrupted feed.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Grace, listening in and being boys.

1. Alec falls off a chair while I'm in the shower. With bad grace (because the hot water has been unreliable these last few days) I give him a damp cuddle and an arnica pillule. Afterwards I apologise for not being properly sympathetic. He says "But you gave me a cuddle and I felt better".

2. To sit in a cafe with Bettany and half listen to the conversations around us (some of which run along the lines of  "awww, bless her..." and "...such big eyes...".

3. When I pick up Alec from nursery I am told that towards the end of the day they opened all the rooms up and let the boys run around "just being boys. They encourage each other, shouting and jumping and when one gets tired the others wake him up." I think I'd have liked to see (and hear) it!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Are we, tiny adventure and booking up.

1. Alec asking -- again -- if we are going to the Natural History Museum this afternoon.

2. To step from an appointment into the misty afternoon. I cuddle Bettany close in to me and wonder what we should do with our free time.

3. To book up a visit to Father Christmas for Nick and Alec.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Joining in, in the other room and wide eyes.

1. There is a dear funny little girl at ballet who is as tall as Alec but much more sturdy. She waggles a severe finger at her naughty toes and smiles at her good toes but then frowns because they have not complied. She is not the best mover, but she is turner upper and a joiner inner and she will go far in life with that.

2. The sound of Alec playing with a train in the other room while we drink tea.

3. To notice that Bettany's gummy eye is wide and bright once again. I treated it with a squirt of my own milk, as recommended by the health visitor

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Not going, megatherium and pterodactyls.

1. At the imposing front entrance of the 'Natricity Museum' Alec loses his nerve and says he doesn't want to go in and see the dinosaurs. We promise him that there are plenty of other things to see and that he needn't look at dinosaurs, and he is happy with that.

2. I stop startled at a megatherium skeleton posed with a tree trunk as if it is munching on some high foliage. I knew they were large (giant sloth, see) and elephant-sized, but I hadn't processed the idea of an elephant-sized sloth. While I am staring I lose Nick and Alec. I find a glyptodon skeleton and lose them even more while I am picturing an ice age swamp abounding with car-sized armadillos.

3. Pterodactyls fossilised in sheets of rock in a tangle of wings and limbs like insects on a windscreen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Slow down, end of autumn and what are you doing.

1. Alec complains that his scooter goes too fast down hill. I make a suggestion. He gives it a try and I feel as if my heart will burst at the stylish way he uses his scooting foot to touch the orange brake.

2. The beeches in their end of autumn colours look like the heart of a log fire.

3. A particularly sanctimonious parenting feed on Facebook asks us to say what our children are doing right now -- "It gives such a wonderful snapshot of play!" My honest answer would be "Watching television and eating cake." I don't offer it up -- who needs a bunch of insecure sanctimummies lecturing you about activities more wholesome than TV?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Baking, breaking an egg and cheered up.

1. "This is pastry, son, not cakies. This is proper cooking."

2. Alec taps his egg as he's been taught, and puts his thumbs in. The yolk and white fall perfectly -- and then he throws the shell into the bowl after them.

3. Bettany is arching her back and grumbling as I change her. I turn my back for a moment and when I turn back she has done a tiny poo on the towel and is smiling and blowing raspberries as if she's never known a moment's hardship.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Company, stay away and tea merchants.

1. Louise comes and sits with me while I bub Bettany. It's good to finally chat while my mind is (relatively) unoccupied.

2. Alec holds my hand firmly and says I am not to go any nearer the large animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex in the toy shop "because it's a meat eater, Mummy".

3. The owners of Perk and Pearl, the new tea and coffee merchants round the corner greet Alec like an old friend. Last week they offered him a taster of fudge and now anyone who takes him walking is escorted in -- just, you  know, on the off-chance that there is another free sample available.

3b. I'd forgotten how much I like lapsang souchong -- the osprey variety we had for tea was particularly good, lots of smoke, not so much bitterness.

4. One I forgot from Friday: The Tunbridge Wells webcomic Miriam's Daily Adventures has gone a bit noirish recently as Miriam unravels a doppelganger mystery. I spend a happy few minutes catching up while Alec enjoys spotting local landmarks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A pink foot, one line and the whale.

1. When I turn back to Bettany she has a pink foot in her mouth and a blissful expression on her face.

2. Meredith brings a box of Paul's macaroons. "You do one line," she says, "And I'll do the other."

3. I tell Alec about Jonah and the Whale and he recounts the story back to me -- except that it's Alec who gets swallowed by the whale, and it's 'Mummy' doing the telling, not God.

Friday, November 22, 2013

To look, noticed and our anniversary.

Fourth Wedding Anniversary
1. I am glad to wait because it gives me time to look and look at my sleeping baby with her features sleep soft and translucent.

2. "They wouldn't do well in the wild, would they, babies. They're completely helpless," says the physiotherapist as if it has never occurred to him before. Bettany spends my treatment lying on a blanket practising her rolling and smiling whenever I catch her eye.

3. It's our fourth wedding anniversary. We mark it with Champagne and boxes of sushi in the front room. It is very romantic and sophisticated (apart from Bettany rolling around blowing raspberries in the background).

Picture by Katherine Pope

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Push, wakeful and soothing.

1. "Push my chair in!"
But I'm bubbing Bettany on the other side of the kitchen. "I can't reach you. You'll just have to stretch until I've finished."
He puts his feet against the table and shoves so the chair slides away from the table and towards me. "Now can you reach?"
This makes me laugh and I scoot my nursing chair in his direction.

2. I'm about to get back to work when I hear a sad little voice calling for me. "I want you to stay up here. I'm sad all on my own," and then he's asleep again.

3. Bettany is struggling with wind. To pick her up and hold her and kiss her through her flossy hair and to jiggle her until she falls asleep again.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tea in bed, distract and towers.

1. The offer of morning tea in bed.

2. Because Janey is here to distract Alec I can clear the lunch things completely, rather than piling everything into slidey towers on the work top.

3. To marvel at Alec as he leans long Duplo 'ladders' on precarious building block towers. He didn't have had the fine motor skills to do this a month ago.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How it works, good work and babysitter.

1. "...and my shoes are getting smaller so Bettany can wear them..." says Alec when I tell him that his old shoes have now gone away.

2. When I comment to next door's roofer that the storm must have created a bit of work for him he shrugs and says sadly "Yeah, but it's other people's misery, isn't it."

3. We leave Janey in charge of the children (one asleep, one watching silently with wide blue eyes) and go up the road to the pub where we have one drink and talk mainly about the children.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Flashing shoes, lorry and hanging on.

1. I have been secretly longing to buy Alec a pair of those shoes with flashing lights because... well because they weren't available when I was little and how cool is it to have flashing lights on your shoes? But they weren't available in his size, and then they weren't available in the style that fit him best... today however, he and Nick return from the library swinging a shoe shop bag. Little red lights flicker on Alec's shoes. "We got halfway up the hill," explains Nick, "and he complained that his feet hurt so we dropped into Jones and they measured him." He's gone up two sizes since September.

2. The lorry driver at the ice rink because he let Alec and Nick climb up into his cab. "And I pressed the horn because there was a car coming HOOOOONNNNNNKKKK!"
"And it was a properly big lorry," says Nick, "We had to climb up to here," he indicates the level of his head.

3. The autumn leaves that still hang on bravely into grey November for our viewing pleasure. Warm yellow leaves shimmering on a birch tree stand out today, and berry-red leaves on suburban acers.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Breakfast together, get out and stash.

1. At getting up time Bettany is still in a deep sleep following her unusual dawn feed. Alec and I go down to breakfast. He sits colouring until I am ready for his help with breaking eggs and stirring batter. In the past few weeks we've noticed that he has become a lot less intense and less demanding -- sad in a way because he it means he is less of a baby; but it does make him easier to live with.

2. I sometimes (often) don't do things that I really want to do because it is so much effort to get out of the house. Today I have Nick to help me get ready, which makes it less of a mission; and I am meeting Katie and her girls, which gives me the kick in the pants I need to get moving.

3. While searching for a tin to put the parkin in I discover a secret (forgotten) stash of Cadbury's chocolate cake bars. Yum yum yum.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pear, not my place and free mince pie.

1. To peel a very small pear and share it with Alec.

2. I put Bettany down on Alec's side of the bed and she giggles as if she thinks we're doing something naughty.

3. To find a free mince pie in our Abel and Cole box. And later, to go through the Christmas catalogue with Nick.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Trim, pot and shoulder.

1. Alec's lovely hairdresser turns her special tractor seat round so he can look out into the street while she works. (If you're looking for a child-friendly hairdresser in Tunbridge Wells, I recommend Cutz on Grosvenor Road).

2. I take Alec to the loo and offer him the pot. He says no. I ask him if he's sure, and remind him that the last few times we've eaten out he has asked to go just as our food arrived. "I not ask to go before lunch EVER EVER again," he assures me.

3. "...and you can stop protecting it," says the physio. For the first time in months my shoulders go back. It's partly because he's explained what's going wrong -- and partly relief because I've finally got treatment.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Reflection, not needed and mystery package.

1. To spot the reflections of a particularly good sunset on west-facing buildings, and to meander through the village looking for a viewing spot. And to hear Alec saying: "Look at the orange in the sky!" He told me there was no pink or grey, though (he was not entirely correct in this assertion).

2. Nick is late and both children are asleep. For an hour, no-one needs me.

3. A parcel arrives after 8pm and I can't remember what it is. I'm bubbing Bettany on the sofa so I have to wait and see (it's Christmas cards and rolls of wrapping paper from my Phoenix supplier).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Back at you, paperwhites and tactics.

1. Alec asks to watch a DVD. I am eating my breakfast and I think it's too early for watching TV and too early to debate this point so I tell him that I don't know how to work the DVD player.
"Mummy after breakfast you must practise and practise and practise until you can," he tells me earnestly.

2. Sarah, Anna and I meet to plant up paperwhites. It's becoming a bit of an annual tradition -- we started doing it because we wanted to remember Elspeth Thompson. We all loved her writing and her style and she was kind enough to encourage me in my writing career. We still miss her and are still mourning this friendship that might have been. The paperwhites are for me a pure white light in a dark time of year, and I plant them up because I know from her books that Elspeth loved them in her house at midwinter.*

3. To hear two mothers who are a bit further ahead than us cackling with laughter as they describe phoning their husbands when the children were crying just to make the point that being at home with toddlers is the hardest work you will ever do.

*This is a rotten time of year if you suffer from self-destructive thoughts -- please talk to someone, don't walk alone. There is an international directory of suicide prevention hotlines here for anyone that needs it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Searching, hand over and in from the car.

1. We wake late but can't quite believe it and go searching round the house for Nick.

2. On a Monday so dark and wet that it looks like 4pm even before we've had breakfast to hand over most responsibilities to my mother. She even comes and picks us up.

3. My father brings sleeping Alec, shod feet dangling, in from the car and takes him straight upstairs to bed.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Forgiven, brights and a sound.

1. At 7.34am Alec comes back downstairs and tells me that Daddy says he doesn't have any sweets in his attic. I apologise and say that I was mistaken in my previous assertion. He climbs into bed beside me and asks for a cuddle.

2. The trees are almost bare but the leaves still left are all kinds of bright where the low-angled sun hits them -- green, some of them, lemon yellow, crisp brown, orange.

3. Before Alec started talking he used to make a lovely sound when he discovered something surprising that he liked. He never does it any more. This evening in the bath I built a tower out of some plastic containers and lids from his bath toy bag. When he saw what I was doing, he made that noise.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gift of time, Katie's faces and out of the rain.

1. To give Nick a lie-in and then take the children away for lunch so he can have some quiet time.

2. To see Baby Loey doing Katie's expressions, and once, she looked just like Katie's mother.

3. To hurry through the rain with Alec safe in the pushchair bubble and Bettany in the sling peeping out of the top of my waterproof.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Menu, sitting still and exit.

1. "And we'll go to Wagamama and you'll have fish fingers..." (they call them cod cubes in panko breadcrumbs with amai sauce, but they are fish fingers with tomato sauce as far as Alec is concerned and he always asks for them. Once I dropped him off at nursery still clutching a cod cube because I was unable to prise his fingers open to remove it).
"I want spaghetti."
So he tries noodles instead -- I'm rather impressed that he remembered the other food choices as we don't go that often.

2. I spend the afternoon tanking Bettany up because I want to leave her for a couple of hours this evening. It is absolute bliss to sit down on the sofa with her and not feel I ought to be doing something else. This is where I am meant to be.

3. To burst free from the evening house leaving Alec and Bettany and bedtime in Nick's arms. I'm on my way to hear Chris Packham talk about conservation and photography; and to talk grown-up talk with Caroline during the interval.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Left foot, dungeon crawl and castle.

1. Bettany sucking her left foot with a very smug look on her face -- she has been fussing about it all morning, grunting at the effort of it and rolling over by accident

2. Meredith apologises for a short adventure, but I enjoyed my old school dungeon crawl with plentiful loot, lots of traps and shambling monsters, though I still seem to be rolling too many ones and twos and I came away with a mummy's curse. The curse is a great hook for next time.

3. At nursery they've been playing with a wooden castle all afternoon. She says: "I found it in the basement. I mended it and found a dragon and a queen and some knights." The dragon appears to be a dinosaur -- but I know Alec is very fond of knights and castles (and dinosaurs, too, for that matter).

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Laughing, wind in the chimney and key.

1. Why is Bettany laughing when I push Alec on the swing?  I wish she could tell me (Alec is laughing, too, but he always laughs on the swing).

2. The sound of the wind rustling the plastic bag full of newspapers I've stuffed up the chimney to block out draughts.

3. The faint chink of Nick getting his key out on the other side of the front door.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tint, benighted and tall tale.

1. The sunset and the dying chestnut leaves have tinted the fading daylight sepia.

2. I totally underestimate Alec's dawdling powers and darkness falls before we can get off the common. "We're benighted," I tell him, "and I don't like it."
"Don't be scared," he says from his seat in the pushchair, "I'm a big fella and I'll look after you."

3. To be invited in to one of Alec's narratives: "You be Canical Jack and I'm Alec" ... "Now you be the monster and don't give me back my telescope, and I'm Canical Jack and Alec."
I'm quite proud of the monster -- it makes Alec slightly hysterical, half laughing, half scared while Bettany giggles from her nest in the corner of the bed.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Museum, at twilight and expedition.

1. Alec has reached the dinosaur phase, with a particular interest in iguanadons, and so we walk up to the town museum which has some iguanadon fossils, including a cast of a footprint, and a rather fine piece of plesiosaur skull. On the way home Alec finds a stick -- it's an iguanadon and I am instructed to give him extra snack because he is sharing with it.

2. An anxious teenage boy waits at sunset by the basketball court. A boy in a red-edged grammar school jacket walks up the hill with girl so blonde that her hair glows in the fading daylight. The two boys embrace. The grammar school boy turns and walks back the way he came, leaving the girl and the anxious boy in serious conversation.

3. We run into an old friend from the disbanded Tunbridge Wells Fortean Society who reminds me of a field trip we made down to Pett Level where you can see fossil iguanadon footprints in the mud. "The one I like best," he says of the photographs he has somewhere, "is where it slipped and you can see the claw mark. It animates this 40 million year old footprint into an animal."

Monday, November 04, 2013

Lunch done, sliced bread and too tired.

1. To go downstairs to breakfast knowing that I cooked the main part of our lunch yesterday (and stashed a lot of extra portions in the freezer, too).

2. "...and of course," my father said a long time ago in answer to one of my infant enquiries, "the irony is that sliced bread is not great at all." He was thinking of the really cheap plasticky supermarket bread that goes mouldy before it is stale. A good loaf passed through the baker's bread slicer is a thing of beauty and convenience.

3. It is late and although I am ready for bed I am so tired that I can't bear to move myself and the sleep-heavy Bettany from the sofa. Then Alec calls from the top of the stairs so I have no choice.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Quality time, magnolias and future lunches.

1. We have a long wait but it's a chance to chat with Nick about non-parenting things (we talk about gaming, and I finally extract from him his plans for the campaign he had to abandon in 2008).

2. When I look up I notice that there is a back-lit photograph of magnolias on the ceiling.

3. To mark the date on future lunches before they go in the freezer.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Hand in hand, the sort of thing I would do and back home.

1. Alec and his blonde curly friend holding hands as they go off upstairs to play alone. We listen in on the baby monitor and hear them playing mummies and daddies.

2. "You two go and watch a video while we have our tea." I think this is odd because I admire very much my friend's strict stance on TV watching. When the tiny twosome are out of sight she offers me an open tin. Cadbury's Crunchie bars -- full size ones -- gleaming in their gold wrappers.

3. On Alec's nursery afternoons I continue my habit of having supper at 5pm -- I need a full belly to get me through the bedtime circus. It's nice to have eat out, just me and Bettany somewhere quiet, but there are few places (apart from chains) that do food at 5pm. I go for an unsuccessful wander in the rain and then remember there is a packet of rather tasty ravioli in the fridge at home.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Bus, nest and lanterns.

1a. Bettany is sleeping in so I forget the housework and sing some songs with Alec.

1. The bus is waiting for us at the bus stop.

1b. A man on the bus tells me that Bettany looks very happy in her sling; and later so does a passing bus driver; and the man in front of us in the queue at Maplins.

2. Anna has draped a duvet over a kitchen chair to make a sort of nest for me and Bettany. We chat while Alec and the girls run in and out with various requests -- can he have a cat nose and whiskers painted on? Can he have his toe nails painted? Another cakey? What about a fake tattoo?

3. The Halloween lanterns outside Alec's nursery that were not there when I dropped him off.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Not lolling, hand over and two babies on.

1. When I prop Bettany up on the sofa she doesn't loll over sideways.

2. An aunt and a cousin come to play with Alec and cuddle Bettany on a day when I feel frazzled -- that breathing space was so needed.

3. I end up nursing both children at once because Bettany is grizzling and Alec is tired. Alec wriggles and scriggles until he is holding Bettany's hand. After a time, he takes himself off (he couldn't get into his getting to sleep usual position), snuggles up beside me and falls asleep.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Magic, story telling and filling in.

1. I love the idea of Alec joining in the spell poses that "send the magic" to Tree Fu Tom on TV because it's supposed to have all sorts of developmental benefits, plus he always needs to burn off some energy -- but he's never willing. Today he confides that he would like to try, but he thinks it's too difficult. We talk about practising things that are hard; and we talk about how difficult I found copying a sequence of moves (it's still hard, but I find it easier now because of years of yoga classes and a brief craze for salsa). I promise that I'll try, too, so we can do it together.
This is how we both end up on all fours in front of TV summoning a magic ant.
When Nick comes home I tell him all about it. Alec looks so proud and goes through the sequence to show him.

2. It is very gratifying to be asked twice to re-tell a silly story "about the time I left you in the park and the wind blew your clothes off and you ran around nudey until the squirrels adopted you".

3. I skip a word while reading Alec's fire station book. He firmly puts me right.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inspection, licking the bowl and a good delay.

1. When the wind has died down Nick and Alec go out to inspect the house for damage. For the rest of the day Alec tells anyone who will listen that he and Daddy are going up on the roof to fix it (this is not going to happen).

2. When the ginger cake is in the oven I let Alec lick the bowl. "Pick it up," he tells me. Without really thinking about it I do -- and discover that it's because he wants to put his face in and lick it.

3. The nurse apologises several times for running so late. I don't mind at all -- it meant we had time for a feed before we went in.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Job done, in an emergency and clear up.

1. To go upstairs and discover that Nick has put away the laundry and made the bed.

2. Alec has set up as a firestation in the front room. He takes calls on a phone made playdough.
"Hallo, what seems to be the problem?"
"The railway bridge has fallen down," says Uncle Robert giving the Brio layout a nudge with his foot. "The diesel has crashed into Henry."
"I'm on my way. Naw-nee naw-nee naw-nee... Dad! I want to do a poo!"

3. At the end of the day to clear the front room by stuffing all Alec's den building cushions and blankets into a large bag.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jigsaw, you can carry her and ginkgo.

1. Watching Alec using all the different techniques as he does a jigsaw puzzle -- copying the picture on the box, putting together just the tractor bit, finding all the corner pieces... I feel very proud.

2. Godmother Jo cuddling Bettany in the sling -- it's great to have a rest from the carrying.

3. To pick up a couple of butter yellow ginkgo leaves. I can never look at one of those strange fan shaped leaves without remembering my mother telling me that ginkgo is an incredibly ancient species.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Either... or, bouquets and russets.

1. Further down the hill there are two children carrying great bouquets of the plane tree leaves that everyone else is walking over.

2. On a whim our father buys two wicker hampers as storage in his study. We carry them down through town and in the music shop a man says: "Either you're going on a picnic or..." he tails off, not quite sure what he thinks we might be doing.
"...or we're going on two picnics," says Rosey.

3. Rosey's boyfriend gives us a strange look as we complain about russet apples -- just horrid, like fingernails on a blackboard, until they are peeled (after that we can't get enough of them).

Friday, October 25, 2013

Treasure seekers, grab and outfoxed.

1. As we hurry away from Jane's with a  bag of gleaming sweet chestnuts from her garden we overtake an older Chinese couple picking up similar treasures from the pavement.

2. Bettany grabs Meredith's bracelet and tries very hard, despite her disobedient arms, to put it in her mouth. When we take it away from her she protests loudly and tries to manoeuvre herself so that it is within reach. I've seen her manipulating toys that I've handed her, but it's the first time I've seen her grab something of her own accord.

3. Tempers fray at snack time.
"Why did you throw your cereal across the table?"
"Because I want a biscuit."*
"If you don't want something you say 'no thank you' and put it to one side. If you'd done that I would have given you a biscuit."
"I did it because I a naughty boy."
"No, you're a good boy, which is why it was a naughty thing to do, and that's why I feel cross."
My logic leaves us both baffled for a moment. Then Alec says, "I do want my tsereal."
"Here it is." (I'm thinking, bless him, and I'm thinking, go me and my parenting skills.)
"No thank you." He puts it carefully to one side. "Now can I have a biscuit. A biscuit, please."
I've been outfoxed by my own creation. To say no would require an explanation of the subjunctive (would and will are interchangeable to a toddler) and it seems easier to note the lesson and to give him the most boring biscuit I can find.

*The correct answer is "Because I am two and a half and the parts of my brain that control impulses will not be wired up for another year. Plus I'm very tired."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stop, in the gutter, knee deep in stars.

1. Things are a bit fraught, Bettany is crying for this, Alec wants something else, I'm not dressed, the cleaner is due in an hour and I have no idea what I want her to do. I realise that I can pick one just thing. I choose Bettany, because she is the most unhappy. I lift her out of the cot and cuddle her. Everything stops spinning. Alec stops asking for whatever it is he wants and -- this is most wonderful and charming -- kisses me where my neck meets my shoulder and Bettany on the back of her head. It is just what Nick would have done.

2. Alec walks with one foot on the pavement and one foot in the gutter, "gammy-legged in gutters", just like the children in the poem. "Would you like to do it, too?" he asks.
"Yes I would."

3. The Turkey oak at the corner of the Grove has dropped all its leaves. The boys shout with joy and dive right in, sinking up to their knees in the great red and copper stars.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not shouting bottom, guide and story time.

1. "Alec, that's enough. Bettany and I are going upstairs because we don't want to hear that sort of thing."
He calls after us "But Mummy, I'm not shouting 'BOTTOM' any more, I'm not."

2. The Mother says that Alec baffled her by taking her off down Coach and Horses Passage "to see the cows". The mobile farm, which we saw at the food festival, is long gone, but Flossie's Ice Cream Parlour is still there so she bought him a tiny strawberry cone to make up for the disappointment.

3. To snuggle up at Alec's bedtime with some books -- The Very Hungry Caterpillar finger puppet book and Where the Wild Things Are.

Attention, lion in the library and juice.

1. Bettany's wide awake head and enormous eyes scanning the street scene from the sling always draws comment -- women in cafes point her out to each other and complete strangers chat to us at the traffic lights.

2. Today there is a lion in the library surrounded by a chattering crowd of children. Alec is so scared that he starts to shake. He clings to my arm. "Deep breath, Alec. It's one of the librarians -- you can see the zip on his back."
To see him open his mouth, drop his shoulders and take charge of his body.

3. While I am getting supper I am suddenly thirsty (breastfeeding mothers will know this). Hidden behind the fridge door I swig pineapple juice straight from the bottle.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Early risers, rain and subtle knock.

1. Alec wakes early, and so do I (I mean I woke on my own rather than because someone was drumming their heels on my back and shouting "Bubby!"). We go downstairs and have breakfast together in an unhurried, companionable fashion, and I can give Nick the gift of a lie-in.

2. A rainstorm hisses out of the stone grey sky. To watch from your window as other people are inconvenienced by it.

3. We have a late supermarket delivery. The driver explains that he knocked quietly because he thought there might be children sleeping (he was right).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kisses, a puddle and conkers.

1. "Does she like kisses?" Alec asks about my new goddaughter.

2. It takes us a while -- this is surprising given the morning's rain storms -- but we find a puddle eventually. Alec stands in it and muddies his rain suit almost to the knees.

3. To show Alec a handful of conkers.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Treats, work and heavy.

1. "It's best if you just leave him to it," says Nana as we watch Jimmy-dog nosing his Kong treat dispenser round the kitchen. He looks so surprised and pleased every time a kibble drops out that it is hard to resist helping him.

2. To look back over a couple of hours of work on my course. I am so pleased I was disciplined enough to put my bum on the seat and do the work.

3. Late at night to feel Bettany's weight change as she falls asleep.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Remember, rescue and supper.

1. To look out of the window at the sun gilded clouds and to remember that observing such things is more productive than staring at a computer screen willing the words to come.

2. In the middle of the morning to luxuriate in bed bubbing Bettany and half listening to Alec playing out a rescue scenario, taking on both roles. Nick is seeing to lunch and all the other work that is never done.

3. For late supper we eat fried eggs with parma ham in large white muffins.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Out of the way, second crop and shoes.

1. We all run upstairs to be out of the cleaning lady's way. "This is nice," says Nick, "to be lying on the bed while someone else does the hoovering."

2. To spot a few pinhead-sized spots on my mushroom farm -- a second crop of oysters is coming.

3. To pack our shoes into the new racks by the front door. They don't sway like the old ones, and they look more intentional.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Advice, work and cheek.

1. "I don't care if it's perfect," says Nick firmly about lunch. "I just want it done."

2. An envelope of proof reading pushed through the door means a bit of financial freedom and an hour of non-child-related activity.

3. To rub my cheek against Bettany's or Alec's -- both rose-petal smooth and softly curved.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Rhymer, museum and big eyes.

1. Alec laughing at the thought of watching a crane in the rain through a window pane on the train while drinking Champagne.

2. We let Alec lead us round the London Transport Museum. He boards buses of by-gone decades, presses buttons, shies at horses and bounces on defunct railway carriage upholstery. Nick and I take turns to sneak off to view at posters and to admire London Underground's design integrity. All in all, a satisfactory day.

3. No-one took any notice of Bettany dozing in the sling, expect a German lady tourist who, as we were leaving, commented on the pair of enormous blue eyes peering out from under my arm.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Flapjack, collection and creative plate.

1. Discovering that our flapjack has a layer of very dark chocolate on the bottom.

2. Cool pin badges displayed on a piece of ribbon -- this house is full of charming things carefully shown off to their best advantage. I look and learn a lot about collecting without clutter (I'm afraid part of the answer is to pass on your books as soon as you've read them).

3. They give Alec a plate decorated with a bald man and encourage him to give him grated cheese hair and a bread roll goatee. A little later, to my horror, I spot Alec mashing his cheese into a blob. "You should be eating that," I hiss.
"It's an eyepatch," he says quickly.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Housekeeping fail, Bettany laughs and smelling like home.

1. My housekeeping has slipped terribly and we are wasting food more often than usual because I plan to cook things and then don't have time, or because I don't have time to properly think through the shopping list. It's rather a relief to find that some of the onions in the fridge have gone bad so I can throw them out and make a dent in our daunting supply.

2. To get a little giggle out of Bettany -- a proper uncontrollable, spontaneous burst of laughter.

3. "Your sausage casserole makes the house smell like home."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lost, forgotten and shut.

1. The man carrying our pushchair and leading the way is walking too quickly. I don't want to lose him in the maze of corridors and I don't want to hold him up when he has been so kind. I look back and can't see Alec round the bend of the spiral stairs. The man is disappearing into the darkness. I am about to ask him to wait when I see Alec stumping grimly up the stone steps, banister in one hand, his yellow pot in the other. Later he tells me that he was 'prightened because I couldn't see you, but I kept going and then I did see you and I wasn't prightened any more.'

2. When we talk about it later, Alec doesn't remember that I was cross at having to pack up our picnic twice because he wanted to go to the loo. He remembers that I was pleased with him for using the pot, and that we had some cakey.

3. To shut the door on the rainy street.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Emergency, playing and cut up.

1. Alec asks me seriously "Is your fire on house?"

2. I feel so much better for a session of gaming. It's a tonic to disappear into a different world and think like someone else about problems that are not mine.

3. They want to show me Alec's painting of a hedgehog, but it seems he went to work on it with a pair of scissors and all there is to see is a scattering of dark grey scraps.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chocs, puffball and bundle.

1. The postman brings a parcel which I happen to know is a large box of chocolates.

2. To show Alec the pleasure of tapping a puffball to see the cloud of spores come out.

3. 'She's very a quiet baby,' says the ballet teacher about Bettany who has been waiting patiently on a blanket behind us.
'She's my cheerful little bundle,' I say.
'She's OUR little bundle,' says Alec.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Can't help, rolling and relief.

1. I am feeding Bettany so I can't help Alec at the toddler group craft table. With a bit of encouragement from the excellent women he produces a very fine hedgehog with tissue paper spines. They are much more hands-off than I would be, and I'm much more proud of the finished product than I would have been if I'd been 'helping'.

2. Bettany rolls over and looks very pleased with herself. Now she is not happy unless she's down on the floor where she can practise.

3. It's been one of those days: to hear Nick coming up the stairs.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Red and white, harvest and bringing them home.

1. Fairytale fly agarics pushing up out of the grass.

2. Alec brings me the bunch of grapes that he has just picked from the greenhouse. There is also a dish of wet walnuts on the table, and a dish of cobnuts.

3. To carry my sleeping boy up the stairs to bed; and to come down again to the dark front room and find Bettany in her carseat watching for me with big bright eyes.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Herbs, sweet and stitches.

1. To cook pork chops on a birdsnest of rosemary stems and bay twigs.

2. The toffee at the bottom of the saucepan in which I melted sugar, butter and syrups for my cake.

3. Nick has been going on and on (he hasn't, I am bad tempered) about an embroidery programme that he thinks I'll like (it's going to make me feel guilty about all the unfinished stitchwork I that I have stuffed in the cupboard). Worse, I know it'll be inspiring and I hardly have time to deal with inspiration now. Actually though, it's lovely to sit next to Nick on the sofa, to see women's work valued and celebrated and respected, and it feels good to experience this stunning work as a spectator because I really can't participate now.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Waking on a Saturday, one arm and lucky dip.

1. I wake and immediately feel discouraged at the thought of the day's hard work (I'm not at my best just after waking). This is quickly followed by "But it's Saturday and Nick is home!" Later I discover that Nick went through pretty much the same thought process.

2. Nick eating his pizza one handed while Bettany sleeps in the crook of his arm.

3. Because Alec has been good and because it's only 50p I point out the lucky dip in the corner of the Pantiles Papertole. At first he thinks he's handed over 50p to get a single packing bean, but is soon put right and comes away with a bouncy ball. We have a merry old time trying to catch it as it bounces all over the Pantiles.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Escape, dart and off duty.

1. To disappear into a book -- Cursed by Benedict Jacka. This is the second in his Alex Verus urban fantasy series. It's about mages living in modern London, like Harry Potter but less whimsical and more gritty. The book is full of cliffhangers and the plots rely heavily on the interplay of relationships, romantic relationships, working relationships and hard to explain relationships. When I'm not reading it I'm thinking about it -- this is exactly the sort of literary experience I like.

2. From time to time both children take a nap and I want so much to run down to the High Street and get myself something nice to eat that I don't have to share with anyone. But I can't wake my babies to leave the house -- and if I did, I would have to share. So this afternoon it's a great treat to leave my mother in charge while I dart down the hill to get a bit of tea.

3. My mother took Alec to nursery and later in the afternoon when I get a message to say that he's on the early train I ask Nick to collect him.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Lighten up, baby and rescue rabbits.

Wynn Anne asked me to post a meme, eleven things about me, so I've done it.

1. To ask the hairdresser to 'take some of the weight' off my hair. It feels so good afterwards. I'm at the hair-losing stage of my postpartum journey and it's good to have a shorter length, too.

2. Bettany sits on my knee throughout the cut, ogling her reflection and being admired by the hairdressers, who all say they want a baby too. 'If we're all pregnant next time you come in,' they say as we leave, 'it'll be your fault.'

3. Alec's nursery has just acquired two new rabbits. 'They're rescue rabbits,' explains the staff member who looks after them. I'm really glad to hear this as I know the RSPCA and similar organisations are inundated with poor little (mainly not so little) bunnies.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Affection, yield and stealing a sip.

1. Spontaneous cuddles from a small man still in his pyjamas.

2. Alec, much against his better judgement, yields to sleep at 6.30pm. The house becomes very quiet and very still.

3. To drink a few mouthfuls of Nick's cider. It tastes farmyardy but very refreshing -- Dunkerton's Black Fox.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

What clouds are, rude noises and salad.

1. Alec tells me that clouds are the con trails from the steam-powered 'eperlanes'.

2. A while back Anna gave Alec a box with buttons that make sound effects, mostly rude noises. For some weeks it's been in the back of the TV cupboard, I can't imagine how it got there or why it's stayed there so long... Alec pulled it out the other day and today he uses the fart and the burp buttons to amuse Bettany. Her laugh (like her presently rather vulgar sense of humour) is still undeveloped and a little hesitant -- it's a gravelly hur-hur-hur and she looks surprised every time it happens.

3. I get a box of salad from Juliet's to eat with our fish fingers at lunch -- I can see Bettany needs bubbing and I can't face preparing any vegetables. Juliet's salads are imaginative and more delicious than you can imagine -- a box of her salad can be a sort of Proustian experience because the flavours are so vivid that I always remember dishes from my past. Alec doesn't even take one bite of his so I eat it for him. (At toddler group the craft was a plate of food made from cut-out magazine pictures. He picked chocolate buttons, raisins, gummy bears and a cake. The grilled fish is only there because I made him put it on.)


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Practice, emptying and two tasks.

1. Watching a tiny smiley person practising walking in little pink shoes.

2. When the house bins are overflowing to take the bags of rubbish out.

3. While the milk heats for my hot chocolate there is time to tidy the front room.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Hold my hand, babbling and macaroons.

1. Alec sidles up to Maggie and asks if he can hold her hand.

2. We come across Anna's husband and tall blonde daughters. Alec is overcome by shyness and won't speak, but when they have gone he insists that he needs to say hallo to them. We run into them again and I prod him until he says his piece. He releases a breathless miscellany of chatter -- not sure if it's nerves or a sort of toddler bravado.

3. 'Take them out of the fridge half an hour before,' says the chef as he hands me the box of macarons. 'Otherwise they won't be soft -- I like them much better that way.' He seems anxious that I should enjoy his work in the correct way. I like my macaroons soft, too -- and I'm sure the flavours are better developed at room temperature. Two of them are sitting on a plate as I write this. I had to tell Nick off for trying to eat his too soon.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Found it, on the farm and coming up smelling of roses.

1. Finding a thing that everyone has been looking for. (Bathroom doorstop, in the laundry basket, where we'd all looked at least twice).

2. 'There's a hippamapotamus,' an awe-struck Alec tells me, pointing to the pig in the children's farm.

3. I was dubious -- but the meringue I've just bought really does taste of rosewater.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Falling downstairs, early supper and new boots.

1. The whumph sound of cushions falling down the stairs: I'm bringing them down so that I can help Alec build a tent in the front room.

2. After 4pm to find a place that will make me a sandwich. The steak baguette is delicious and it's quiet enough that Bettany can snooze on the sofa beside me. I even get to dip into the poetry collection I have in my bag.

3. To take the bits of cardboard and tissue out of a new pair of boots.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Homegrown, good taste and posy.

1. To serve my own homegrown tomatoes for lunch.

2. Meredith brings my favourite sort of muffin (raspberry and white chocolate) to our gaming session. (By the way, Meredith has opened an Etsy shop selling her one-of-a-kind beaded bracelets. Her excellent taste extends beyond muffindom so grab 'em while they're still available!)

3. I spot a withered posy of weedy flowers on a shelf at nursery -- I'm glad Alec isn't the only child who insists on bringing a flower or two in with him.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Can't see, dignity and just one conker.

1. I can't see what Alec and his friend are doing -- I'm stuck on the nursing chair under Bettany -- but I can hear the staccato giggling. "What's happening?" I ask my friend who is standing in the hall so she can watch them and talk to me.
"They're copying each other," she says.

2. When the teacher asks everyone to come up and get something from her bag Alec's face lights up -- for the last two lessons she has had flags as well as sparkly wands. But this week she has no flags. His expression drops and he turns his back on her.
"I'll put a wand on the edge of your mat," she says. "I really am very sorry, I picked up a different bag this week."
He ignores her offering and his face is stony. There is no tantrum and he doesn't ask to nurse (his usual cure-all for small troubles), which makes me feel even sorrier for him. After a bit he asks if he can cuddle Bettany. I am so proud of his dignity and the calm way he sits with his disappointment.

3. To use Alec's stick to knock just one conker out of the tree. The case was split but the nut was not quite ripe -- it still had a white chocolate-coloured splot on it that darkened to brown by bedtime.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A decent human being, reader and why I like her.

1. "Bringing another decent human being into the world is the most important thing you can do," says our neighbour, "Nothing else matters really." She's made me hold my head higher on the way to toddler group (and stopped Alec from having a tantrum about leaving the house because he really was very pleased to see her coming up the hill).

2. Towards the end of song time Alec wanders out of the circle. I am stuck under Bettany so I can't follow him except with my eyes. He finds a box of books, takes one out and sits looking at it -- it's one we have at home and I can see him muttering the words, which he has memorised.

3. There has been a lot of talk about Bella, the bossy older girl character from Tweenies. I ask Alec what he likes about her. "She is beautiful and she tells me what to do," is the answer.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Holding the baby, unexpected and lying in the bath.

1. To have a mother who comes round to hold babies and wrangle toddlers while I have a nurse appointment.

2. There's been an accident on the railway so I'm expecting Nick to be home an hour late. He comes early instead, walking up the stairs just as bathtime starts to unravel.

3. To lie in a bath with something bubbly from Lush reading a Terry Pratchett book and thinking kindly of my cousin Amy who gave me the bubbles and my dad who gave me the book. Then Nick comes up with a glass of pink fizz and a few squares of chocolate wrapped in gold foil so I think kindly about him, too.

Running, The Blackberry Gate and toys.

1. I go running and take Alec in the pushchair to give Nick and Bettany some time together. Alec wants to chat and this makes it hard to count my steps and think about my breathing, but it's good to have each others' undivided attention.

2. Alec names the rarely-opened gate from the back garden to the dustbin alley "The Blackberry Gate" (the alley is a jungle and we found the most fruitful bramble ever out there last week).

3. I've been vaguely tracking a theory of child development called Wonder Weeks and it suggests that Bettany at three months old might be interested in toys that showcase different textures. I spend the day offering her bits of fabric from my clothes and the furniture to hold. It's the first time I've played with her using things (as opposed to making faces and silly noises).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Know yourself, doing the garden and too busy.

1. "Mum, put the chocola' up high so a naughty big boy can't tinks it."
You've got to admire Alec's self-knowledge.

2. Bettany and her bouncy chair on the garden path and burn through the weeding that has been bothering me for a week and a half. I discover that one of the weeds is not a weed but a rather pretty lacy fern; and some of the bulbs are already putting green spires through the gravel ready for spring.

3. Rosey came for a visit today. We were so busy with a fretful Bettany and a busy Alec and piles and piles of laundry that I am hardly able to properly "see" her. She is off down to the ice again soon and I really wanted a proper catch-up. But while I am weeding I sit back on my heels and reflect for a moment. There are lots of things I can remember about her visit, and I think we did more "seeing" of each other than I realised.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sleep on, dragons and rag bag.

1. Alec, Bettany and I sleep in until after 9am. Actually, Bettany sleeps on even after that.

2. The burgers we are having for lunch are Dragonfly brand. Alec and I spend a good few minutes in the difficult period just before lunch pretending to be dragons.

3. To drop off a bag of rags and old clothes at the charity shop -- they are pleased with the donation and I am pleased to clear out some junk.

Friday, September 20, 2013

First laugh, dropping off and bedtime story.

1. While I am changing Bettany I tickle her ribs and she laughs for the first time.

2. After a tough morning, to drop Alec off at nursery.

3. Nick messages to say he's going to be late, and I find myself looking forward to cuddling up and reading Alec a story (we argue about who should choose a book and because neither of us will back down I end up reading the Aeneid in Latin -- can you see why we had a tough morning?).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Help, someone else to do it and resting all day.

1. I am ill, but I have a mother to call on for help.

2. The bed needs changing because of a nappy incident. I feel utterly defeated, but then I remember the cleaning lady is coming, and she does beds if I remember to leave the linen out for her.

3. To sit around nursing Bettany and resting all day. It's like the lovely period just after the birth when everyone was running round after me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Oldie but goodie, can I carry her and moving castles.

1. As I am leaving the front room I ask Alec to put his pants on. When I come back he is wearing them on his head.

2. "Can I carry her?" Alec wants to take Bettany across the hall to show the vicar. The image is rather adorable, but I make an excuse and try to distract him.

3. This morning we looked briefly at a book of artwork for the film Howl's Moving Castle. This afternoon, all he wants to hear is stories about steam-powered moving castles, particularly a naughty one that runs around -- skitter skitter -- on insect feet, and a daddy moving castle that wants a mummy moving castle and a baby moving castle.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Figs, picking blackberries and shelter.

1. Janey brings a box of velvet soft figs from her neighbours' garden. The smell is incredibly evocative to me -- it makes me think of my great aunt's garden; and of walking to work through St James' Park.

2. The blackberry bush in the dustbin passage that runs along the back of our row is just loaded. Janey and I fight our way down there (Alec has to be very brave because of the undergrowth and because he thinks there might be tigers) to take advantage of the free fruit. Bettany is not impressed with our frugality and sets up a furious howling. I can imagine our neighbours starting to wonder whether I have abandoned her down among the weeds and discarded fence panels. I sing and jiggle and pick and sing and at last she settles.

3. In a sudden shower to find shelter from the rain.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Universal baby-sitter, runaway and new clothes.

1. I hear the Fireman Sam theme tune coming up from the front room, and then Nick's footsteps coming back up the stairs to join me in a 10-minute lie-in.

2. Alec makes Grandad chase him. "I can't run after you," says Grandad, who is not as steady as he once was. But Alec skitters away shrieking with laughter, and Grandad hobbles gamely after.

3. Bettany is bursting out of her 0-3 month clothes -- that's lovely because she is growing strong and sturdy. It's also nice because I have several bags of hand-me-downs that are much more pretty and girly than the gender-neutral-veering-towards-masculine newborn gear she's been wearing up until now.

PS: One I forgot from yesterday was that Nick and Alec came home from the afternoon porgle with an ancient Thomas the Tank Engine book which was a free gift from the kind lady at Hall's Bookshop.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A look round, secrets and restraint.

1. Bettany leans back out of the wrap sling to have a good look around. I don't think she can see much yet with her fuzzy eleven-week eyes but she looks so delighted and overwhelmed and surprised, as if she is taking great deep drafts of the world. After a while she snuggles up against my chest (I always wear tops with a deep V-neck these days partly to give her a bit a skin put her cheek on, and partly for nursing access) and falls asleep.

2. At what is meant to be nap-time, Alec tells me about a girl at nursery called "Lisab'th" who is "not a little girl, she's a big girl". He says, "I might go to her house one day."

3. I refrain from reading ahead in the bedtime story book, and I feel good about that because it's a dreadful weakness of mine.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Averted, comic timing and watching Bettany.

1. Catching Alec before he used his step stool to "skateboard" down the stairs.

2. In a silent hospital waiting room full of nervous, grumpy people giggling quietly to myself at Bettany's burps and farts. An ominous nappy noise five minutes before my appointment wiped the smile off my face, though.

3. The technician who smiled at Bettany in the pushchair and tickled her feet while the doctor examined me.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Going up, on the road and game over.

1. I'm a bit wary when it comes to dropping off time -- Alec has gone up a room at nursery, and I'm afraid he'll object to the change. But he sees a familiar face and runs in, shouting that he's a big boy now. It turns out that several of his favourite staff have moved up with him.

2. An elderly man trundling a shopping basket in the opposite direction pauses to look at Bettany. I stop, too, so he can have a proper see. He admires her, and then tells me that his wife lost several pregnancies early on. "It's a long time since we've had a baby. Our daughter's 52." He says that really they had two babies: "With one of them, she got to four and half months along, so baby was fully formed."
His story made me feel very grateful for my own circumstances; and I was touched that he would share with me his story of those lost babies.

3. My character in Meredith's game is killed in a skirmish with some orcs. Meredith is as dismayed as I am -- more so, I think. For me, the chance that your character might die adds a certain frisson to the game. It's like gambling, I suppose, upping the stakes by putting love into your character makes it all the more exciting.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dance, parenting moment and discipline.

1. We talk about our plans for the day. "We've got a ballet class after lunch-"
"But I haven't got a skirt!"
"You don't need one. Men don't wear skirts for ballet. They wear... um... let's have a look on Youtube and see what men wear for ballet."
We watch Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fontayne in Les Corsairs -- I don't know the plot, so I tell Alec it's like when Daddy comes home from work, but in a desert. And then we watched Rudolph Nureyev on The Muppet Show (which I strongly suggest you watch, too, but swallow your coffee first).

2. I had a little chuckle to myself as I marched a tantruming Alec down the High Street. My little boy was shouting, "No, no, no, I don't want to go to Baby Ballet, it scary." Another special Tunbridge Wells parenting moment, right up there with the son called Galahad. (He was the only boy in the class, but he liked it very much, especially the part where he had to go up and get a flag to wave).

3. I need to go to bed. I summon the discipline I've been lacking for the past week and I go up.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Parched, just in time and together.

1. "Do you want a glass of water?" asks one of the other mothers at toddler group while I am bubbing Bettany. "I know how it is, you get halfway through and the dry horrors strike."

2. The intense but calm concentration and grim determination on Alec's face and in his body language as we race from toddler group to home, where the potty is (he did make it and was very pleased with himself).

3. I've been avoiding looking at the two full airers in the kitchen. To work through them both with Nick.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wet day, one at a time and nursing nest in the kitchen.

1. It's now raining (though the Met Office promised a dry day) and I have a sheet and a mattress protector on the line. There's no time to take it in; and no-where to hang it because the airers are both full with the backlog of washing. Oh well, they'll benefit from an extra rainwater rinse.

2. To relax at my parents' house: caring for one child at a time is very pleasant. I have nothing to think about except Fireman Alec's next emergency scenario; and whether or not to have another slice of Battenburg.

3. After Alec is asleep, to sit in the comfy chair that I moved into the kitchen the other day bubbing Bettany and catching up with Nick while he does the chores.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Grapefruit, development and posting.

1. This is such a sweet ruby grapefruit. It needs no sugar at all.

2. I am determined to get Alec out for a walk before it rains again and before Bettany notices that Nick doesn't lactate. Alec is not happy about this and clings to the door frame and garden gate and then plops himself heavily down in the road (he always forgets that he no longer has a big fat nappy bum). "I not want to go for a walk."
"Tough. I've got a snack and we're going up on The Common." I walk away down the street.
He picks himself up and hurries after me asking to hold my hand. He plunks himself down again 50 paces later. I walk on, he follows, asking for a nose wipe.
I'm OK with progressing like this until he calms down -- and he will calm down soon. I think proudly that three weeks ago he would have stayed sitting outside our gate until I could walk no further without losing sight of him.
Then it occurs to me that he has run after me each time because he can now imagine that I might keep on walking past the end of our street without coming back for him. It puts such a strange ache in my heart.

3. To post a batch of proof reading through a letterbox and run home, all free.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

New shoes, our spot and suspicious.

1. Alec's stampy new shoes. They are only half a size bigger than the last pair, but they look enormous. They smell of new leather. He is very pleased because they have a dinosaur on the sole and a 3D lenticular dinosaur on the side (Nick says it's lucky he likes them because they were the only pair in his size in the entire shop).

2. To bub Bettany in my cosy spot on the sofa under the front room window and read a new copy of Mslexia.

3. The suspicious face that Bettany makes just after she has latched on. She thinks someone is going to steal her bub (Alec has been known to knock her off and demand some for himself -- I am rather severe when he does this).

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Obedience, a kind word and using the pot.

1. While I'm feeding Bettany and waiting to chat with the breastfeeding peer supporter I discover that Alec will when asked trot away and fetch items from the pushchair which is parked round the corner and just out of sight.

2. When I see that the couple at the table next to us in the cafe are reading that newspaper that I don't give any attention to I immediately assume that they are going to disapprove of me and my unruly brood. I unpack everyone and organise them so they are comfortable. I am ready for a fight -- either from the couple or from my children.
Then the wife says very kindly "You've got your hands full." and then "You're doing very well." I am quite overcome and feel like bursting into tears.

3. Alec asks for the pot right in the middle of lunch. We've just sat down in a busy cafe. I have been asking him if he wants to go every 15 minutes all morning (he said he did once, and we ran down three flights of stairs only to have him deny everything).
"You don't, do you?"
"Mmm, no." Then a moment later he says. "I really need to widdle."
"Would you watch our things?" I ask the mother at the next table. I am stuffing Bettany back into the sling, grabbing the travel pot and the changing bag and trying to unstick Alec who has wedged his head into the back of his chair (don't ask).
"How long will you be?"
"Two minutes," I say over my shoulder as we fly towards the family loo. "Maybe five," I add more honestly.
Alec refuses to use the pot that I have been carrying round all morning because "It too small." It becomes more appealing when I show him that the only alternative is the terrifying porcelain thing in the corner (we'll work on that later). The relief I feel when he produces makes my praise for this achievement feel very authentic.

3.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Warm-cold, fussing and a little work.

1. To lie in my mother's bed with Alec and Bettany piled on top of me and Uncle Rob nearby. I am warm but the morning air coming in the open window is sharp and cold on my face.

2. The mother fussing over Robert's packed lunch and a small food parcel for us.

3. To get a call about a tiny bit of work.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Uncle, walking away and stubble.

I'm setting a tiny housekeeping mission once a week over here. Do join in and talk about your experiences.

1. My brother carefully dabbing dribble off Bettany's chin.

2. As we set off on an early evening walk, to hear Alec shrieking with laughter as he escapes Granny's clutches... again.

3. To come out of the woods and to see an open field in which stubble shines in the low evening sun.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Horse, quote and getting out.

1. He asks me to put the reins on him because he wants to pretend he is a horse.

2. 'Halp! Halp!' Alec has climbed up but is not willing to climb down again. I follow him up the rock, wary because Bettany in the sling is altering my centre of gravity. When I arrive he says 'Oh, thank goodness you've come!'

3. The tiny achievement of getting everyone out of the house.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

One cup, bramble and a day with Tibby.

1. A really delicious cup of coffee -- and not spoiling it by having a second.

2. Pulling down a bramble so Alec can pick the blackberries off it.

3. Godfather Timothy who does not judge and understands how tough it is to be two.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Earwax, glass of shiraz and cat come home.

1. A tiny amber bead of wax in the hollow of Bettany's ear -- it's the first I've seen and I'm glad because it shows another of her systems is working as it should.

2. A glass of wine with lunch. And afterwards, feeling soft, heavy and sleepy as I settle Alec down for his nap.

3. We've been looking for a friend's lost cat this weekend. Towards the end of the evening the message comes through that she's been sighted in the garden.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

No alarms, someone else making supper and long stories.

1. Grilling food here sets off the smoke alarm so we don't bother any more. It occurs to me that I could cook the lamb chops that have been haunting my dreams on a disposable barbecue. So we do, and they are delicious.

2. I am feeding Bettany so I can't make supper. Nick produces perfect beans on toast for Alec and me as if by magic.

3. We are a bit puzzled by Alec's enthusiasm for Beatrix Potter's Pigling Bland, a frankly disturbing tale of pig theft and imprisonment. And the gory tale of Squirrel Nutkin with the offerings of dead mice and moles. And for the convoluted stories about Little Grey Rabbit. It dawns on us that these stories are all long -- the cunning little devil is determined to stretch out storytime by any means possible. I suppose I prefer a lengthy story to potty requests that yield just a thimbleful of wee; and the pathetic 'I huuuuunnnnnngry' or the heart-rending 'I wait for Daddy to come'.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Paint, writing and fishmongers.

1. To  my surprise, Alec asks to do painting. It keeps him and his friend occupied while I get lunch, though it keeps us mothers on our toes as well -- breaking up fights, dishing out paper and opening paint pots.
Artwork drying on the washing line
2. To sit next to my mother (who is holding Bettany) and do a little writing.

3. I report to Nick about our day: '...and first thing we went to Sankey's for some fish and Alec walked very nicely all the way there and he asked if we could buy a lobster-'
'Yes, he'd been looking forward to that,' says Nick. I'd told Alec we were going to the fishmongers as soon as we woke up -- he doesn't like to be hurried into outings so I try to let him know what we're doing each day. Apparently they'd been chatting about it in the bathroom while Nick got dressed.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Bad habit, morning errand and Mrs Tiggywinkle.

1. We have got into the habit of plunking Alec in front of the TV in the mornings. It's a questionable habit but it gives me the space I need to bub Bettany, eat breakfast and get dressed. However, I make sure that I am on the sofa next to him for Q Pootle 5, a cartoon about chubby aliens on a rather lovely desert planet. It's a landscape of crashed space junk, craters, scrapyards and mineral lakes with spots of lush vegetation. I never get tired of looking at it (and I never get tired of cuddling Alec and discussing the plot).

2. Alec is much less wayward when we go out walking -- it is now possible to fit in a morning errand. We porgle down to Oxfam Books to pick up a paperback that's come to the end of the road. I'm going to grow mushrooms on it.

3. I know I loved Mrs Tiggywinkle as a child, but I'd forgotten why. On the last page Beatrix Potter claims to have seen the little door in the hillside, and now I come to read it again I definitely remember being delighted by this, and convinced that one day I would go to the Catbells and find it (and perhaps Little Town farm) for myself.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Petals, brave and out to tea.

1. Maggie solemnly hands me a couple of bright yellow daisy petals. 'These are for baby Bettany.'

2. 'I think you're very brave bringing both of them out,' says the nurse.

3. 'Is everything enjoyable?' asks the waiter. I look across the table at Alec nibbling on a piece of garlic bread and down at Bettany nursing away and at my pizza with Parma ham and rocket and I say with conviction 'Yes it is.'

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Beginning of the end, helping hands and defiance.

1. A friend captions a photo with a remark about the air holding a touch of the beginning of the end of summer. It's an observation that I like very much and it comes to mind when I open the back door at breakfast time and see a fine veil of mist beyond the back wall.

2. Katie comes to help at lunch. She brings us ice creams as well as good company and an extra pair of hands.

3. For the sour-faced ladies ranged along the Pantiles like bitter fruits on a high wall I have a defiant smile as I walk past with my raging toddler straining at the pushchair straps.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Posh talk, little pitchers and bright eyes.

1. During their last visit Grandad commented that Alec had picked up lots of 'posh talk'. If only he could hear the lad today as he peppers his sentences liberally with 'Awright'. 'You go upstairs, awright, and you say "halp halp", awright, and I rescue you, awright.'

2. At the end of a tough day Nick remarks that it won't be long before they go off to university. I laugh bitterly and give him a short lecture on some of the phonecalls one gets from student children. A treble voice in the corner of the kitchen pipes up, 'Dad, I been arrested. Dad, need more money.'

3. To look down at the Bundle-oo in my lap and see a large, bright-eyed smile. She's changed so much in the last few weeks. I sometimes look at her face at the end of a feed and think that she's grown since I put her on.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cousin, cucumber and complete families.

1. A cousin comes with cakes and spends the day making Alec shriek with laughter.

2. The ring of sparkling dew drops on the cut face of my homegrown cucumber.

3. There is a jazz festival on the Pantiles this weekend. Entire families -- from grandmothers like little white birds to fat toddlers surrounded by bright plastic cups and spoons -- sit at the tables outside Woods and The Grey Lady and the new hotel.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Our babies, home through the rain and a glass of water.

1. After lunch we stand in the park, me, Katie and Sarah, and watch our increasingly large babies running around on the grass. It doesn't seem that long ago that we were the ones running round on the grass.

2. Alec and I scamper home through the downpour. Alec in his shiny blue boots and rain suit is intrigued by this unfamiliar drenched world. 'Is de car doin' a widdle?' 'Where'd the water going?' 'What dat noise?'

3. To gulp down a glass of water after a salty meal.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pimpernel, bun and on the road.

1. A pimpernel flower fully open grows between the wall and pavement. Pimpernels close up their tiny scarlet flowers if it's going to rain later.

2. 'It's probably boring and hard,' she says to me as she hands Alec his little brown bun. But he's proud of it and when I have a taste it's OK. It's more appetising and less messy than the usual sticky items with icing  that melts all over the pushchair.

3. We are hurrying home because Ed and Eve are visiting. We run into Ed on the High Street and walk back with him to meet his missus on her way down the hill.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ladies' afternoon, questions and a giant moth.

1. In the afternoon Bettany and I retire to bed. She feeds and I read.

2. 'Can a hippamopotamus eat a bus?'

3. A giant velvety dark moth comes into the front room. We turn out the lights and catch it on the window with a glass so we can throw it back out into the night sky.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Girl toy, first meeting and no widdle.

1. I feel a bit miffed that the server put a toy Smurfette into Alec's meal box, rather than one of the boy Smurfs. But he's delighted with his 'little girl' and keeps smiling at her.

2. Great Granny Pat holds Bettany for the first time. 'I think she was very pleased,' says my mother afterwards.

3. 'There was no widdle,' admits Alec looking down at his empty pot.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dance, I want to look and calming down.

1. The splashes of light and shadow on the hill make the checks on an old man's shirt dance.

2. 'Go that way,' says Alec pointing back the way we've come. 'I just want to look at something.'
There's ten minutes before his haircut so I indulge, wondering if this is a delaying tactic.
'Over there!' He points across the road. An empty building has a series of sculptures by local art students in the windows. 'Lift me up! I want to see.'

3. I just want everyone to stop crying. There is too much sound and fury for one kitchen. I walk out into the garden with Bettany on my shoulder -- in the open air I can work out what to do next. Bettany stops crying. Alec comes out, too, and gets distracted by his watering can.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A lie-in, secret ingredient and in the garden.

Sorry for the silence -- I've been ill for the past few days and Bettany has been having a growth spurt so we went to bed and forgot about everything but feeding and resting.

1. Bettany has a lie in, so Alec and I scamper downstairs and give each other some undivided attention.

2. The Mother admits that the secret ingredient in her trifle is Mr Kipling's Almond Slices (with the pastry taken off).

3. To investigate the garden after being away from it for a few days. There is a new nasturtium out; and a few tomato side-shoots to pinch out; and the two cucumbers are almost ready to pick (which is lucky because we've nearly run out).

Monday, August 19, 2013

Watching, lunchtime and party report.

1. When it's just getting light I'm in bed, leaning back on a mountain of pillows. Bettany sits on my belly, leaning against my thighs. These grey light minutes are just for us.

2. We've had a few tantrumy mealtimes lately -- it's a pleasure to see Alec come to the table and enjoy eating a plateful of food. I think it's partly because he's hungry and partly because we used the timer. It's odd that he doesn't come to the table when I ask; but he will come when the tock-tick goes off.

3. I ask Alec what he liked best about the party.
'Girls,' he says.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Driven away, bacon sandwich and company.

1. The way the morning light chases away the night's outlandish fancies.

2. To sneak downstairs with Bettany and fuel up with a bacon sandwich for breakfast.

3. To have Nick's company for the last feed.