Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Footsteps, chasing and in the pot.

1. Alec stops crying when he hears Nick's footsteps at a little before 5am. I am glad to hear them, too.

2. Rosey comes swimming with us -- she does great work chasing the runaway Alec round the changing rooms (he locks himself in one of the gents' cubicles and shouts at us to get away from his train carriage) and then around Tonbridge Castle. It is very pleasant to watch him ranging and exploring without needing to run after him.

3. I introduce Alec to reading on the loo. We run though Pirate Pete's Potty twice, and as we start a second book (one with lots of dripping) he announces that he has done "a big widdle in the pot".

Monday, April 29, 2013

New leaves, whistling and detail.

1. Bright green leaves on a hawthorn hedge.

2. As we come through the front door, the sound of Grandad whistling.

3. It dawns on me that the 'chips' Alec is complaining about are the tiny snips of chive on his potatoes. I pick both of them out and he digs in.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pineapple, resting and relief.

1. Alec doesn't like pineapple, so I snaffle it the last pieces.

2. To lie in bed and let my mind wander.

3. A few sips of milk for a case of heartburn.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dinosaurs at home, details and grape hyacinths.

1. While we're waiting to see the photos of Alec's afternoon at nursery he shows me two plastic dinosaurs, both long-necked herbivores. "Mummy dinosaur and baby dinosaur. Oh no, baby dinosaur fall down. Mummy dinosaur pick him up." He twines their necks and then lays them down side by side, saying "Have some dinosaur bub." I open my mouth to explain the crucial difference between mammals and reptiles, and then I shut my mouth.

3. I love the little details that she picks out about Alec's afternoon: "I asked him about his holiday and he said 'Steam train!'" and "I was painting some letters for our springtime display and he came over and asked to help."

3. Among the artwork on the wall are some very effective grape hyacinths -- a long stroke of green paint and then little blue fingerprints for the petals.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Train, in the garden and saying no.

1. I can hear Alec and Godfather Timothy in the front room playing with Alec's Bumpity Train (it's his scooter with his toddling cart full of bricks tied to the back as a tender full of coal). Alec is telling Tim to get into the carriage (the two little chairs) and Tim is saying that he is too big. I was confronted by the same request yesterday.

2. There is suddenly enough mint in the garden that I can pick some for the potatoes. Chives, too.

3. "They didn't do that blowing in your eye thing did they? I hate that more than anything," says a horrified Nick when I tell him about my eye test (they'd used a puffing thing to test the pressure of the fluid in my eyeballs). He continues anxiously, "I thought they'd got a new machine so they didn't have to do that any more."
I say "Next time just say no. You don't have to let them do anything you don't want."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Our time, cleaning out the cupboard and cuddles.

1. We wake up and have a cuddle -- and no-one tells us: "It not kissing time, it bre'fas' time. Put your glasses on and go downstairs."

2. Our bedroom cupboard (fondly known as Narnia because it goes back far further than it should) is a mess and has been a mess for a long time. There is no floor space. The rails are clogged with empty hangers and out-of-season clothes. If you go in for bed linen towels fall on your head. The Christmas decorations are always in front of the thing you want. There's an unbagged duvet somewhere on the floor, and I know the iron is in there... but I haven't seen it for months. I pull everything out, then dust and vacuum. I cull a few things that have been kept I know not why and bag a few things up that shouldn't be loose. Then I put everything left back, this time in a rational way. I end up with floor space and an empty shelf. I could not have been more pleased if Aslan had padded out with a couple of fauns riding on his back.

3. My mother brings Alec back after lunch. For the rest of the day, whatever we're doing, he keeps giving me spontaneous cuddles. I've missed him too.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New babies, watching for Granny and a walk in the evening.

1. There are several tiny babies at playgroup this morning. They are lolling on people's shoulders and looking woozily around. I suddenly feel a satisfying longing for my own tiny person: up until now I've felt only apprehension when I think beyond the birth.

2. Granny rings to say she is just leaving. Alec climbs up on the arm of the sofa so he can watch for her -- I do try to explain that she'll be about half an hour, but he doesn't seem to care. She's taking him away with her for the night to give Nick and me a break.

3. We go out for tapas and when we've finished, Nick says "I want to go for a walk and show you off." We only go a little way, though: we're looking forward to having the big bed all to ourselves.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Finishing the porridge, tulips and found keys.

1. Alec never finishes his bowl of porridge at breakfast. I always clear the table and leave his bowl by the sink meaning to deal with it later. Then I park him in front of CBeebies while I go upstairs to dress. When I come down he has retrieved the bowl and is sitting guiltily on the rug (eating in the front room is frowned upon) spooning up cold porridge as fast as he can.

2. All the beds at Tunbridge Castle are planted up with row upon row of tulips tight closed like green fists. A passing grandmother tells her granddaughter that "They need some sun on them before they'll open."

3. To find my lost keys (they were in Nick's jacket pocket: he'd found them in his study but got distracted while bringing them downstairs. I thought they'd be in one of his pockets, but didn't quite like to search before he got home).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Apple, out on the line and nearby.

1. I hand Alec two pieces of apple and he says: "One for Daddy".

2. I open the washing machine expecting to find a load of wet laundry... but it's already out on the line.

3. To work while Nick and Alec play with the farm on the floor next to me.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Before the leaves, our guest and Nick is there.

1. To catch the woods on a sunny day before the leaves are out.

2. Of course we love Alec's company, but it is lovely when he goes down for an afternoon nap and we get our guest to ourselves for a while.

3. One of those crises that keeps escalating. Nick is there to clear up while I calm Alec down.

4. To keep Alec focussed on his supper I tell him that the paper parcels all contain elephant poo. When we open them he exclaims: "Oh my goodness, cake!"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A good boy, no change and remembering.

Here are some sketches from life that my cousin Laura did of Alec a couple of weeks ago. I think she was very brave to follow him round with her sketchbook: she much prefers to have the time and space to get every part of her incredibly detailed work exactly right.

1. The B&B owners say how well-behaved Alec was; the taxi driver who took us to the station let him sit in the driver's seat while we were packing the book; and the London cabbie said he is "a smashing talker" (they'd had a bit of a chat about whether London Bridge was going to fall down as we were driving over it).

2. The little clump of violets by the back door seems to have doubled in size while we were away (apart from that the house is exactly as we left it).

3. I settle the over-wrought Alec down for an afternoon nap and then Nick and I go through our photos and talk about our best bits of the trip.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Donkey, spider monkeys and out of the wind.

We visited Banham Zoo today and found ourselves amazed and astonished and charmed by turns.

1. Douglas the Poitou donkey. He is as tall as a good-sized horse and covered in long shaggy fur. He looks like something out of a cave painting. He makes me think of extinct giant Ice Age versions of animals -- woolly mammoths, aurochs and deer with vast antlers.

2. The spider monkeys curl up their long limbs and somersault around their enclosure. Suddenly they spring open for a quick tussle among the rocks and then leap up the mesh walls, climbing higher and faster than seems wise or possible.

3. On a day when the biting East Anglian wind is racing across the fields to warm up in the new tropical house.

4. When they ask for volunteers I nudge Nick hard. He asked to hold aloft a cup of nectar. Two lorikeets in paintbox colours thrum across from the stage and perch on his hands for drink.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chickens, derelict and lungwort.

1. "It's certainly the most unusual view I've ever had from a B&B window," says Nick. Our room looks out over a small paddock containing the family's half dozen chickens and geese. They are endlessly fascinating -- we watch them squeezing nonchalantly under the gate if they fancy a wander round the garden or a raid on the horse's dropped food. And once the cockerel with his glossy plumes flying rushes a goose who is bullying one of his hens. I like them best when the wind is behind them so their tail feathers are blown forwards.

2. We go to visit the gardens and steam museum at Bressingham. Everyone apologises because the Nursery Line, which used to run through a working nursery ablaze with colour now runs through a derelict wasteland of abandoned polytunnels. I rather like it though -- it's an unusual landscape, post-apocalyptic. I comment on the vast glass house now full of lusty goat willow that is flowering well ahead of the trees outside. The guard smiles wryly. "You don't want to be up there when the wind is high. Glass panes flying everywhere."

3. The gardens are rather bare and earthy just now (except the winter garden, right) -- but the new mulch smells delicious. There are a few things out -- the sheer variety of pulmonarias astonish me. In our garden it's a thuggish creature with flopping smothering unhealthy-looking spotted leaves and flowers like the reds and blues in a dirty paintbox. Here there are dozens of genteel cultivars with neat, shapely leaves and flowers in astonishing intense sapphire and crimson; or shell-like pinks and blues. I want them all.

4. Peering through the window of a one-time royal train and seeing that it has a bath.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Noticing Alec, looking around and tractor.

Sorry I've been quiet for a few days -- we were having a short holiday in Norfolk.

1. At the station police are everywhere, ominous in their hi-vis body armour and encrustations of kit. But two of them notice Alec trotting along beside me and they smile and wave at him as they pass.

2. Nick pauses before he starts climbing the station steps. I try to hurry him up. "I'm on holiday," he says. "I'm looking around."

3. Norfolk is full of tractors -- we've been pointing them out to Alec along the way. The taxi driver slows right down for our little boy's viewing pleasure as we pass a huge red one parked by the side of the road.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Back to bed, bumble bees and sheltered spot.

1. To send a tired husband back to bed: his breakfast can wait.

2. There are bumble bees about: Alec spots one by the river. I see another investigating a sunny wall at the castle. And at home there is a third hanging hopefully around our jasmine bush.

3. It's sunny sometimes today but the wind is brisk. While I wait for Nick and Alec to wear themselves out at Tonbridge Castle I stand in a sheltered sun-warmed fold in the wall. I try to imagine some of people who have been appreciating the same spot since the 13th century. Most recently I've seen a man in a mobility scooter sitting here on the warmer Mondays. At that moment he comes round the corner.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Borrowing a granny, fan and common people.

1. Alec appropriates Maggie's granny for the duration of the party. He makes it clear that I am not wanted with a firm "Go away, Mummy" and later I catch him helping her eat her scone with jam and cream (that'll be his third, then).

2. To watch a small child's "SQUEE" moment as she opens a large and important birthday present. I, too, am a fan of  Jessie from Toy Story 2.

3. To go for a walk on the Common without our coats on.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Foraging, digger and firefighters.

1. I escaped this morning to attend a foraging event on Hargate Forest. It was put on by the Woodland Trust but run by Sunrise Bushcraft (which is an inspiring organisation in itself). It felt so good to be out in the open air and it felt great not to be thinking about the needs of another person (the conveniently packaged Little Tiny Baby doesn't count). We took a two-hour stroll and then ate a sustaining lunch (our guide, as well as having a herbal medicine qualification, was a regional Masterchef finalist). I didn't expect to find much food out there: our spring is very late this year, but even small specimens tell great stories. I got a name and some properties for a familiar but unknown plant: avens, which has roots that can be used as cinnamon. And our guide made a startling observation about primroses (all parts good to eat): until the flowers are out it is very hard to distinguish them from foxgloves (all parts poisonous).

2. The bushcrafters' dog is a brown and white spaniel who is obsessed with digging. Every time we stop she disappears into the mulch with such enthusiasm. There is something about her waggling hindquarters and muffled wuffing that makes me think of Alec.

3. "Alec has had the most exciting morning ever," says Nick when I get home. I had left them watching YouTube videos of fire engines zooming through London and it seems that Nick had the brilliant idea of taking a walk up to the firestation to peer through the windows. While they were hanging around an actual firefighter came out and invited them in for a better look. Which is how Alec got to climb up into a fire engine and wear a helmet... and then the firefighter turned on the flashing lights.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Between the alarms, working out and I think I see it.

1. That ten minutes between the alarms, when Nick comes down and cuddles us, is the warmest, safest time of the day.

2. I put Alec's lunch in a bowl so that it can cool while I go upstairs and wake him. I expect a fight because he is a grumpy devil after a nap -- but then I hear the shuffle-pat shuffle-pat sound of him making his way down the stairs. Sometimes, sometimes, lunchtime just works out.

3. To smile right back at someone who always seems faintly amused by everything.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Water, going to sleep and he did want a nap.

1. "That's a nasty cough," says the waitress. "Glass of tap water?"

2. I reject a miserable afternoon in which I spend all my energy on staying awake and feeling guilty about not getting anything done.

3. When I dropped Alec at nursery he was adamant that he did not want a nap. When I pick him up they laugh. "He slept for an hour and went off in about five minutes." When I ask what their secret trick for getting him off to sleep is I am told that they stroke him between the eyes. "It works with all the children. Their eyes get heavy after just a few minutes."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gifts, observing and can't put it down.

1. Susan and her boys bring a cup of coffee for me and gingerbread man for Alec. Both are much appreciated.

2. "If you want to ask me something while I'm talking," she tells her son, "Say 'excuse me'."
A moment later, Alec touches my arm and says "Scuse me?" I marvel at my observant boy because this is not something I've ever tried asking him to do.

3. I am completely unable to put down Andrew Martin's steam train murder mystery The Necropolis Railway which I borrowed from Nick. The hero, Jim Stringer's flat voice is hypnotically compelling and I find myself totally immersed in the seedy, smoky London setting.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Doing his own thing, schedule and in the rain.

1. I suddenly realise that this is the second day in a row that Alec has occupied himself in the front room with his railway while I dress upstairs in peace. Yesterday I felt anxious because he was being so quiet. Today I can hear him narrating the action and I feel quite content (and rather proud).

2. When I enquire about my whooping cough vaccine I am told that they can fit me in later this afternoon. I text the mother to let her know I'm going to be late back and she replies that they are down at the Pantiles bandstand "making a noise".

3. To walk home through the woods in the rain. It seems quiet, but it is loud enough to cover the traffic.

3b. On the Lower Cricket Ground a man all alone kicks a football and chases it, kicks it and chases it, with the enthusiasm of a busy dog.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Two toddlers, dirty hands and tag team.

1. "Swim to Clarey!" Katie tells Baby Loey (who is looking less and less like a baby every day). And suddenly I am holding two toddlers against my bump.

2. Alec's hands are filthy because he has been patting car wheels and running his fingers along the (closed today) miniature railway track and goodness knows what else. They are proper little boy hands.

2b. When I drop the contents of Alec's nappy into the loo he says: "Little poo gone to find mummy poo. Have some bubby."

3. We struggle to get Alec off to sleep. Nick and I tag team, hour by hour, all evening. One soothes Alec while the other cares for themself and the house. I have hardly spoken to Nick today, except to tell him about supper and Alec's needs. Just before 10pm I am showered and ready for bed and we swap over once more. The drowsy Alec and the warm place where Nick has been lying are like the cuddle I've been wanting all evening.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Clear ears, run for it and getting better.

1. Every morning I've been waking up with a blocked up ear. That moment when it, quite suddenly and without my doing anything much, clears itself.

2. I tell PaulV about the running game Zombies, Run! (you get zombie related narrative to encourage you to run, and accumulate equipment towards long term objectives to keep you coming back for more). He looks it up and says "It's made me look forward to my run tonight."

3. I think my cold is leaving: when Nick brings the washing in I can smell that lovely clothes-aired-in-the-garden scent.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The sun comes out, escape plan and sitting out.

1. The thermometer has been hovering around 0C for the last... well it seems like about a year. Today we're up to 5C and it is warm enough to walk around the house without a jumper on. And the sun is out, bright enough to make you blink.

2. I persevere with the stories and some nursing, but it is clear that Alec is not going down for a nap this afternoon. I'm just trying to think of an impromptu activity (baking?) when Nick comes in "I'm too agitated to sleep," he says disconsolately. I am very glad to have the husbandly company. We go out for a stroll and have a snacky picnic tea in the park. We use a succession cocktail sausages to keep Alec walking in the right direction. It's very effective -- although probably not approved of by any parenting expert.

3. To sit in the sun and let the world happen all around me. Nick and Alec are off in the shrubbery, and down in the Italian garden and all over the place. I have become very passive and lazy as this pregnancy goes on: I'm not going to waste energy fighting it, though.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Sharing, averting a meltdown and wait until you get home.

1. "Mummy, would you like a little tiny bite of my chocolate?"

2. There is about to be a meltdown because I have offered hot cross bun and a cup of milk as a snack instead of "cakey in paper or a bic-bic from up there".
I am really quite tired and not at all in the mood for a tantrum. "Well all right then, would you like a cupful of earwax and snot?"
And while he is giggling about this piece of wit I manage to quickly re-brand the bun as a Viking bun and the milk as Viking juice, both of which go down very well.

3. I am relieved and delighted to hear that Nick didn't get his supper from "the new hot-dog stand at Charing Cross" because his train was about to leave. Our house is already a menagerie of sickness and would not be cheered up by a weekend long bout of indigestion.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Joining in, the right person for the job and easy banking.

1. A small voice recites a few lines from the book we are reading.

2. The woman behind me in the queue is being lovely to the three small children in her care. She calls them "darling" and "gorgeous" and her focus is on them all the time. There is not a trace of stress or impatience in her voice and they are serene and compliant. I gather from the conversation that she is their nanny. It's always a pleasure to watch someone with the childcare temperament at work -- I envy her (and her charges), and I wish I could focus on Alec in the same unselfconscious manner.

3. I go to the bank expecting a fight. I have a fistful of ID and a heart full of determination. "I can do it as a direct transfer if you like?" she says. ... "There, it's gone through."

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Covering, affection and future baths.

1. A wonderful aunt who is prepared to cover for my mother who has to attend Rosey's graduation up north right in the middle of my birth window.

2. The way Alec sits up straight on the sofa beside me. He doesn't want to cuddle up or sit on my knee, but he does want to be right next to me. Later, after his nap, he waits on the landing for me to come up the stairs. When my head is level with his head he reaches through the bannisters and hugs me.

3. A call from Anna to say that she is in Lush, Covent Garden and would like to buy a present for her "gorgeous pregnant friend", what would I like? A few hours later there's a tap at the door and when I go down a mysterious someone has left a bag on the step and run away.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Settle down, staying here and cleaning silver.

1. He won't tell me what's wrong -- I don't think he knows himself. He's just not happy, lying there thrashing and making the uh-uh-uh noise that our code for "I want something". I do all the things I need to do to be comfortable myself and then we sit together in the dark before dawn. I distract him until he is calm, and then I hold him until he is quiet. Eventually all the kick and the discontent goes out of him and I can roll his sleeping body on to the bed beside me and try to get some sleep myself.

2. I wake to Nick saying that he is working from home today.
"But..."
"You're not well and he's not well. I'm staying here."
Later, during one of his breaks, I clear the diary and feel very relieved.

3. The magic of cleaning silver by putting it in a bath of salty water with a piece of aluminium foil.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

New face, daze and looked after.

1. I think at first that all the introductions are a joke, because we haven't been together for so long -- but when I get into the kitchen properly I realise that there actually is a new person here. My brother has brought a girlfriend home for the first time ever.

2. My mother wandering round the house in a daze because Rosey is doing all the cooking.

3. I've gone down with yet another stinking cold and I feel terrible. Nick really needs a break from wifing and fathering, though, so Alec and I go to Barn for the day. Everyone is so kind to us: we get driven there and back. Alec is whisked away for nappy changes and taken off my hands at lunchtime. From time to time he appears next to the sofa to tell me something or (on one occasion) to stuff a breadstick in my dozing mouth.

PS: Here are Janey's pictures of the day; and some of the incredible solar system mobile she has made for Little Tiny Baby.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Sharing, taking over and steampunk.

1. "Mummy, you 'av some," says Alec offering his Easter egg. Later in the day I give him a white chocolate bunny and send him upstairs to wake Nick from his afternoon nap. "I'm sure Daddy would like a bite."
A while later they come down again. "I've wiped the chocolate off him."
"And did he let you have some?"
"He did, a little tiny bite."

2. Nick takes over lunch -- having lamb, and he does very well by choosing to slow roast it. His potatoes are perfect, too. It's very relaxing being assistant cook, rather than being responsible.

3. I've been enjoying the steampunk podcast The Clockwork Cabaret while I work. I particularly appreciated being re-introduced to the pith-helmeted rapper Professor Elemental; and discovering the (steam)punk band The Men who will not be Blamed for Nothing.