Monday, March 31, 2014

Gold dust, taking over and clap hands.

1. To marvel with Alec at the gold dust in my bath from the Golden Egg (he thought it was a golden potato) that was among my Mother's Day surprises. He climbs in with me and I'm glad to have him because it gives Nick a bit of space to prepare lunch.

2. To remember that I have a husband who can cook a roast dinner -- even with a noisy baby issuing orders from the corner of the kitchen.

3. I bring Bettany upstairs for some bub and when she sees me getting into bed with the Kindle and my water bottle, she claps her hands.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Compost, cool and mover.

1. My compost sack is once again, to my surprise, full of compost. It never gets old, the transformation of decay.

2. On a warmish day, to do some work on the shaded side of the house involving water and rags. It is mild enough to sit Bettany on a rug nearby so I have some company, too.

3. "Where's Bettany?" We're looking under the table and wondering if she's fallen out of the back door -- but then we hear her in the front room. We still forget, from time to time, that she no longer stays where you put her.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The pilgrimage, one of us and hurrying away.

1. In the dark hours I am administering a dose to my feverish boy. I glance at the clock, 3.30am, and instead of worrying about my child, I think of Lucy, who will be starting her long pilgrimage to Joe's funeral.

2. I have been pacing around the cemetery while I wait. When I return to the crematorium there is a man sitting on a sunny bench -- a sunny bench just right for watching and observing and recording life and nature. He is scrawling in a generous loose hand on an A4 pad so I know, I just know, that he's one of us. "Are you here for Joe Hyam's funeral?" he says. It's Tristan of The New Emotional Blackmailer's Handbook.
"I've come in my eight ton truck," he says. Later Lucy and I see it pulling out of the gate, hurrying away from all the small talk. We wave like mad -- we can see his mirrors, perhaps he can see us.

3. Joe's coffin looks too small to contain all those words and all that wisdom and all that good cheer. I give it a wave as I leave the chapel, just as I would have seeing him and Heidi across the park. I think he's hurried away, though, gone somewhere more congenial.

4. It is marvellous and rather comforting to see variations of Joe's features in his family's faces and in their manners and in their voices.

Friday, March 28, 2014

By the hand, the call and doing it now.

1. Anthony unselfconsciously leads Alec by the hand.

2. It is rather a relief to get the call: Alec has had a bad nap, is upset and has a temperature and he needs picking up from nursery. He tells me that during naptime he dreamed I was mending the roof and dropped my hammer. Apart from that, he seems quite cheerful, thanks to a dose of paracetamol. It's only an hour and a half until Bettany's pick-up so I put him in the pushchair and we go out for tea.

3. To get a task done that I was planning to cram in tomorrow morning.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

You deal with it, gums and blue fur.

1. To be able to hand over this morning's bedding crisis to our lovely cleaner.

2. I hand Bettany another piece of pasta and marvel at what she can eat with those gums of hers.

3. I come to the till feeling guilty about buying good quality, well designed, expensive clothes for a mere child, and my own child at that, how indulgent. The shop assistant scans the Cookie Monster blue furry jacket (that Alec needs badly because his old sweaters now expose his forearms) and tells me that it has been further reduced. When I show Alec later that evening he says it is so soft that everyone will want to cuddle him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Up, transaction and listening off to sleep.

1. To discover that I can still lift Alec, wellies and all, on to my shoulder when he is too tired and cross to walk.

2. I apologise to Alec for being cross and rather harsh; and he very elegantly apologises for the thing that made me lose my temper in the first place.

3. Alec and I drift off to sleep to a Beatrix Potter audiobook. I wake up in the middle of Johnny Town-Mouse and enjoy Timmy Willie's pleasure at going back to his garden.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Walk in the woods, jumping spaniel and pick-up.

My sister-in-law Sarah has put some of her jewellery on Etsy: do have a look and see what you think. I particularly like the fruity beads: they remind me of a necklace I had as a child.

1. To stamp through the woods on a warmish spring morning with Alec. Under bare branches and sunlight like watered down fruit juice we discuss plans for the summer: I would like to take him camping (he is surprised to learn that we own a tent); and he would like to go fishing.

2. A spaniel the colour of very cheap milk chocolate jumps over the ditch, ears and legs spread wide.

3. At nursery they hand me a smiling Bettany. It's a bit different from picking up baby Alec: who generally greeted me with a wall of rage.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The lie-in, blossom tree and talk.

1. I manage to keep the children dozing until after 7am. Nick comes down to see where everyone is and when he sees his drowsing family, he gets into bed behind me. We drift back to sleep and stay there, warm and safe, until nearly 8am.

2. The hillside trees are bare in drabs and fawns and ochres, except one that is covered in sweetie pink blossom.

3. Bettany muttering "da-da-da" and "ta-ta-ta" to herself as she potters about, moving from sitting to standing and back down again.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spiced apple juice, winter purslane and removal.

1. A polystyrene cup of hot spiced apple juice to warm my hands on a rather wintery March day.

The leaves and flowers of winter purslane
Winter Purslane: photo by Curtis Clark via Wikimedia Commons
2. The salad man has winter purslane. I have a weakness for soft leaves, such as this and lamb's lettuce. Winter purslane's bizarre appearance -- the leaves grow around the flowers like a dog's surgical ruff -- appeals to me because it looks somehow unfoodlike and it makes me think it might have fallen from another planet.

3. After lunch I announce that I will be removing myself to the sitting room with a Cadbury's Creme Egg and the new Interzone. I manage to read the editor's letter and one (very short) story before I am interrupted.

3b. We are watching Green Balloon Club on Cbeebies -- its a nature programme with child presenters. Alec tugs my arm. "You know the girl, the girl in the yellow jacket? She a big girl."
I clarify which of the presenters he means -- it's the youngest, blondest girl.
"Her! I LOVE HER," he shouts and then runs behind the sofa.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spoons, music and conked out.

1. The way Alec asks to be fed when he is cross or sad at mealtimes. It is hard work, like having two babies; but I know there will come a day when he won't ask for "spoon it spoon it".

2. It's been a tough day, no-one is napping and Alec has been testing, testing, testing his boundaries since the moment he woke. At supper time I remember that music sometimes brings everything back together. It's a bit desperate and a bit uncertain, like trying to repair split mayonnaise with hot water. It's not entirely effective, but I feel better for having tried and it was fun while it lasted.*

3. Oh what a blessing: they both fall asleep at 7pm.

* We have two Spotify playlists: a general one and one called Everyone Sit Down and Shut Up.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rice, two fine ladies and my husband.

I was very sorry to see that my first blogging friend Plutarch, AKA Joe Hyam from Now's the Time, died recently. I was always pleased to see him, his wife Heidi and his red scarf or his black beret in the distance on our walks around the Grove. I would adjust my speed to ensure our paths crossed so we could swap items of interest. His kindly attention, first by email and then in person, when I started this blog (he stumbled across it quite by chance and was intrigued to discover we lived a couple of streets apart). His twinkly eyes, birdlike scrutiny and his general refinement and taste impressed me; when I discovered that he was a former journalist I realised that his good opinion had some weight. It was part of what gave me the confidence to go on writing day after day after day. I was incredibly flattered when he used the 3BT format on his blog -- although I always felt he did it better than me. Joe lived well and he wrote about (and drew and photographed) the enjoyment he derived from all the small pleasures there are to be had.

Some fine tributes have appeared from Joe's close friends, two on Tone Deaf, one here and the other here  and a portrait on Box Elder, and an account. I want to spend some time reading back over the 3BTs that relate to him -- there are a fairly large number and I want to crystallise my memories of him into something coherent that I can share.

1. Alec listening to the seaside noises made by handfuls of dry rice. Then he looks for buried treasure in it, pretends to bake cakes with it, hides spoons in it for me to find and makes footprints in it. He has a small melt-down when I take it away; so that was a successful play session.

2. Baby Ella and Bettany staring at each other. Bettany crawls all round Ella, and Ella reaches out to touch where Bettany's hair would be if she has any. Ella recently learnt to sit unsupported (except when she gets distracted) and Bettany has just started to pull herself up to stand.

3. To sit with Nick and have his support while I sit up late and write about these sad things.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smooth, on the mend and clean again.

1. This morning has gone well -- Bettany took her bub at 7am, rolled over and went back into a deep sleep. I bring Alec downstairs and dress him with my own hands; he is so co-operative that he has time to eat for a first breakfast (he has a second at nursery); and we all remember to say the things he likes to hear at the door: "See you later Alligator" and "Have a good day". After the door shuts Bettany is still asleep so I get some work done and eat my breakfast alone.

2. My poor Bettany looks less like spots covering a girl and more like a girl with spots.

3. I am so pleased to see our cleaning lady: she has been away for a couple of weeks and the relief cleaner we had lined up refused to come when she heard about the chicken pox (not that I blame her at all, but our house does get so sad and dusty if not attended to diligently).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Conspirators, Beanies and Copper.

1. Bettany wakes first from the nap. I am hurrying around preparing an activity for Alec. I'm going to bury some chicken bones from lunch in the garden and get him to dig them up as dinosaurs. Bettany and I become conspirators rifling through a box of ornaments in the attic in search of a skull.

2. In the same box is a kindle of Beanie Baby cats that I inherited from my grandmother. I have kept them carefully with the tags attached all these years because I labour under the delusion that these saggy little felines are worth something (they are really not). Within minutes I am hooking a reddish pulp that was once one of the tags out of Bettany's mouth. She laughs at me as if she knows these things are worth more as toys than as Ebay listings.

3. To read a comic book to Alec: he is fond of Copper, dreamlike scenes from the life of a boy and his dog. I used to feel I needed to explain the imagery and all the 'givens' that we use to make sense of social interactions, but now I hold back. Alec asks if he wants to know; and I am rarely able to second guess the odd bits of information he wants to fill in his worldview's gaps.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fond, notebook and flowers.

1. I catch my parents looking out of their kitchen window at Alec. My mother says: "Look at him out there playing with sticks on the lawn. It makes it all worth while."

2. To have a quick nosey into my mother's illustrated cookery notebook. I hope she learns to work the scanner soon so I can have some of her pages for my own notebook.

3. To pick the survivors out of a finished vase of flowers and put them in small bottles so we can enjoy them right up until the end. Now the large vase has gone there is more space on the table.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Going out, artist's house and still cheerful.

1. Bettany sighs and rolls over. I roll over in the opposite direction, put on my shoes and adjust Alec's cover. Then I hurry downstairs, past Nick sleeping on the sofa and out of the front door into a bright afternoon.

2. The excellent Anna has organised an excursion for interested parties to the home gallery of artist Renate Keeping. She is the wife of illustrator Charles Keeping, whose work I must know from my childhood (but none of the editions laid out rang any bells with me). For me personally, Renate's soft sculpture work was the most fascinating thing. She has devoted an entire room to her autobiography, a freize that goes round and round a room on different levels, a stitched account using rubbish as as a template. I loved the way nearly every member of the group found something to identify with. I drew a sharp breath when I read about Renate striking items off her shopping list for fear that Strontium-9 might get into her children's food.

2b. Afterwards in the car going home I mentioned another thing that scares me into rigid silence, something I thought was just me, and one of the others blithely added her own story and said it was not uncommon. I am so grateful that the artist helped open my mouth.

3. Bettany is still cheerful, despite her spots. She has fared much worse than Alec -- the blisters are jostling for space now, crowding each other so they are almost stacked. But she is smiling and practising the exercises to strengthen her standing muscles.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Catching up, not an emergency and burnt sugar.

1. To spend just a little time catching up with Katie and her girls over breakfast. I stop in on my run -- it's just not happening for me today and I'm glad of the break for a drink of water and a chat.

1b. It's quiet now that the menfolk have gone out and I am bubbing Bettany, so I call NHS111 to find out about her chicken pox. They ask me a lot of questions to make sure it's not an emergency we're having. It's irritating to have to go through it all every time, but I do feel a little stab of gratitude because my baby is smiling up at me. When a breastfeeding baby smiles you can see their tongue curled round in that particular, loveable way.

2. The burnt sugar taste of the caramel cappucino I enjoyed while "going out for a cuppacopy" with Alec this afternoon. And when the last mouthful of foam went down the wrong way, a glass of water appeared at my elbow. Fine Grind on Tunbridge Wells High Street is rapidly moving up my list of favourite coffee places.

3. Rosey is home. To chat with her and to try to talk about things other than the babies: Bettany is laughing to hear her voice, though, and Alec wants to tell Granny something important.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pater familias, calm again and no coats.

1. We wake to find that Mr Law has left the house, presumably after gazing upon his sleeping family with a deep sense of paternal satisfaction.

2. Well! That was quite some tantrum. Now that er- we'll call them Child A so as not to embarrass anyone- Now that Child A is calmly sitting on a bench eating a snack and surveying the happy people racing round the sunny day park, I feel rather accomplished.

3. I realise that we have left the house without our coats.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tale of the Dinosaurs, free senses and wipe my hands.

I've got really badly behind again -- we're having a tough time with sleep at the moment, but we'll come through eventually.

1. Alec sits very still on the sofa listening to an audiobook of Peter Rabbit. Then he listens to half of Squirrel Nutkin. Only then do the questions about dinosaurs begin. It seems he was looking over my shoulder as I downloaded the Beatrix Potter collection, and thought I was getting the book with the purple dinosaur on the front.

2. Thursday afternoons, once the children are safe in nursery, are rather an assault on my senses. Freed from all the distractions of motherhood I notice pink cherry blossom and an elderly couple at the bus stop who move their heads like tortoises and a curious punning numberplate on a taxi and... and... and... It's all a bit much.

3. It is satisfying to clean Alec's very grimy hands with a baby wipe. He ran one palm along the crash barrier outside Hoopers, and I think even he was horrified by the result.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sleeping on, green apple and syllables.

1. This morning Bettany and I can sleep... and sleep... and sleep. It's nearly lunchtime when we wake up properly.

2. I am rather pleased that in the selection of macarons there is a green apple flavoured one that delights Meredith.

3. When we are alone again Bettany talks "Da-da-da-da-da". The syllables come tumbling out of her mouth as if she can't stop.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Getting out, observing and bees.

1. I am so proud of us for getting out of the house this morning and all the way up the hill to the doctors with Bettany's sample.

2. The way Alec occasionally stops to pick up a twig or an old leaf "for Daddy". The way he stops to examine muddy places in case there is a bear footprint. The way he stares intently in the bushes and then tells me that there is bear's den in there, and that the bear is eating a little boy (a naughty boy).

3. Bees -- I'm suddenly noticing fat bees investigating sunny banks and rotten logs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Schedule, marvel and stopping a bus.

1. Bettany's doctor's appointment is at an absurd time, right in the middle of supper. I am so glad I realised that it would be easier to get the children out of the house and give them a picnic tea in the park on the way.

2. I  listen with astonishment as a woman in the waiting room tells me that 15 months ago her son lost a slice of his lower leg in a motorcycle accident -- but that they've been regrowing the bone on a frame, stretching it millimetre by millimetre, and that they've taken muscle from his shoulder to replace that lost from his calf. We really do live in an age of miracles.

3. "What you doing, Mummy?" asks Alec in astonishment as I raise my arm to the traffic. The swaying double decker bus slows and halts -- what power have I.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Advice, small action and mango.

1. Alec says to a distraught Bettany "Take a deep breath."

2. Our Abel and Cole veg box this week came with a leaflet which contained the following story:
Some of our pineapples come from small villages in the West African country of Togo. A teacher in one of the villages wrote: "Now that you are regularly selling our pineapples, my school is always full. Beforehand, the children only attended school when their parents didn't need them to go out and sell their fruit in the markets".
For some reason this gives me a lot of satisfaction. I suppose it assuages my guilt about importing tropical fruit; but also it makes me feel happy that a rather small and easy action on my part could do some good in the world.

3. The amount of pleasure a ripe mango gave our family. When she sees me cutting the peach yellow flesh up Bettany shakes her arms and hoots and squwarks until I give her a fist-sized stick carved from the side of the stone to gnaw on. The rest of us enjoy smaller pieces from a single bowl.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

In passing, saved and cheeky.

1. "They", by which I mean the advice-givers, stress how important it is to look after your marriage when you have children. I suffer terrible pangs of guilt because Nick go for days meeting only on the stairs. Generally one of us is holding the babies while the other does a chore or has a break. But twice yesterday Nick and I found ourselves working together. First thing after breakfast we hung the washing out in the garden; and in the evening we left Bettany in the corner amusing herself with Alec's box of people while we washed up and mopped the kitchen. It will seem tragi-comic to some people that the best we can do for couple time is chores; but I value these minutes because there is no pressure to enjoy ourselves and no expectation of romance. And to my mind that makes these times, in a gentle, homely way, rather magical.

2. To pull out a March edition of a gardening magazine from three years ago and take a few ideas and plans away from it. I took this particular mag for a year and then stopped because I didn't have time to read it each month. I'm glad I kept all 12 copies -- I'm normally not happy to hoard old magazines unless there's something specific in them that I really liked.

3. Alec has not eaten any lunch, which means no Milky Bar. The way he wanders into the kitchen at 3pm, climbs into his chair and says "What about my Milky Bar?" When I say "No", he laughs at me.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Broad daylight, poorly boys and mischief.

1. To wake up of my own accord from a deep sleep into broad daylight.

2. Alec takes the mother's snowdrop because "poorly boys need flowers".

3. On a number of occasions today I have discovered Bettany up to what can only be called mischief. Chewing cables, pulling books out of low shelves and sucking them, picking up food from the kitchen floor. I do miss the convenient little bundle that I could leave anywhere - but I am glad to see her growing, even if the sound of progress is the sound of my books being shredded.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Exit, diction and not liked.

1. To finally get out of the house alone, to put the rubbish out, to pick up some supplies and have a hot chocolate and a cake and a read of my magazine.

2. The mother and I have a very quiet and fond laugh at Alec's characteristic diction: "Juthst put the thtick in the depot over thayer, crew!"

3. Alec in his bedtime tantrum says he hates me and that I'm not very nice. I tell him that I'm not there to be liked, I'm there to look after him; and this seems to be the right thing to say.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Bright, prune and care.

1. It is warm enough and bright enough that I can open the back door and let the children tumble in and out as they please.

2. To take out all my frustration on the jasmine bush by giving it a damn good pruning.

3. Alec still won't get his chicken pocky body into the bath, but at least tonight I'm allowed to wipe him down -- and, more importantly to my maternal mind, check that none of the spots have become infected. He asks to have his back rubbed while I am settling him off to sleep and I can feel the nobbles through his pyjamas.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Aunt, reluctant gardener and very tired.

Thanks to whoever nominated me for a MAD Blog Award -- your support is much appreciated. I'm in very grand company though, and there are a lot of nominated blogs.

1. The soft knock on the door that signifies the arrival of an aunt who isn't scared of chicken pox.

2. I force a reluctant Alec into his coat and shoes and make him help me with the weeding in the front garden -- just to get him out under the sky. He is soon making a mud pie for the worms with "sugar and icing and strawberries on top."

3. I can tell Alec is very, very tired because he is listening patiently to Jeremy Fisher without asking any questions.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Swapping, soon and moral support.

1. I nurse one child, the other starts crying. I switch. Now both children are crying. I switch again. And again. And again. At last Bettany falls asleep; and then Alec.

2. It's bedtime and everyone is crying at once. I tell myself firmly that this is not like afternoon nap time because Nick will be home very soon.

3. Nana calls to ask after the patient. She has posted him a get well soon card.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Call for help, the right thing and chicken pox.

1. To be able to call for Nick at 4am and get help with my puking baby. He changes the sheet and takes Alec away while I find clean clothes for Bettany. And he is there again half an hour later, fetching a towel and filling the water bottles.

2. It is mid morning on a Sunday and I would normally be cooking. I am sitting in bed with Bettany sleeping, draped limply across my knees. This feels like the right thing to be doing.

3. The speed with which Alec's spots appear is rather marvellous.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Lamps, familiar faces and moas.

1. Twice on our trip to London teenage boys are caught in Bettany's gaze, and just before we are swept apart they reach out to stroke her head.

2. In among the crowds of unknowable faces to spot some friends from home.

2b. Bettany snuggled up with Godmother Jo -- a bit of refuge in a full museum.

3. Alec finds three moas in the Natural History Museum and is very pleased about that.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Patient, running ahead and pedalling.

1. She is so patient with her teething toddler who wants to be carried everywhere and can't stand to be away from her. We talk about how days like this are not so bad if you can just focus on your poorly baby and on nothing else.

2. The sight of Alec and his friend running ahead down the street for some reason delights both of us mothers and we smile at each other.

3. Alec has been racing on his scooter with a boy on a bike. "He's very good with the pedalling," I tell his mother when we pass on our looping circuit.
"He's only just recently got it, so he's still a bit unsteady," she says, but she smiles so I think she liked the compliment.