Monday, June 30, 2014

Free to a good home, meeting up and fixed.

1. Outside Homebase is a stack of pots, just the sort I wanted, that are free to a good home.

2. We split up to do errands this morning: I to run out with Bettany in the pushchair, a fistful of batteries for recycling and some plastic bags; and Nick with Alec on his scooter and all the glass from yesterday's party. I have a good run and a look round the garden centre; and then across the car park I am very pleased to see a handsome grey head at work among the recycling bins.

3. With the help of a video, a razor blade and a precision screwdriver set I replace my broken laptop screen. It is very satisfying to make this sort of repair.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Reflection, slide and celebration.


Today Bettany is ONE.

1. To snatch a quiet moment in the garden chatting with Audrey, who is as good a mothering mentor as you are likely to find.

2. Bettany manoeuvres herself until she is lying on the slide, hanging on to the top with her fingers. Then she lets go -- everyone gasps, but I can see her reflection smiling in the metal slide.

3. "That was a punishing day," says Nick. "Fun though." We calculate that we had 25 people through the door at one time and another -- how lucky is our Bett to be loved by that many people, and how lucky are we?

3b. The crowd of fizzy wine corks on the shelf.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hiding, sharing and hygiene.

1. Alec hiding in the curtains to peep out at my aunt and cousin.

2. Alec passes his ice cream dish across the table and asks me to give Bettany some.

3. The generally serene and restrained Aunty Biddy roaring with laughter as Alec explains to her the dangers of JOCK ROT, which is the fate of small boys who do not dry themselves properly.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Seeds, scientist and furious child.

1. Across the bare soil in this pot there is a fuzz of green: Nana's charity flower seeds are coming up. Other pots are further along: here is a packet of Abel and Cole's bee seeds; there a birthday card or a soap label that boldly claimed it had viable seeds pressed into the paper.

1b. Lately Alec has been asking questions when things go wrong between us. I appreciate the chance to examine and explain myself and to hear that things are OK between us again; and I marvel at the easy, fearless way he forgives and moves on. I would love to preserve that, to save it for his future friends and family.

2. At the end of nursery they report that the children asked to do science so they let them loose in the kitchen to make a mess with flour and jelly. Apparently Alec shouted "Let the science begin!"

3. I startle up from the sofa when I hear a furious child crying, but it isn't one of ours, it's somewhere in the evening outside.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wardrobe, Granny and wild.

1. To get time to sort though the bags of clothes and put together outfits for Bettany. Dressing her will be fun again now that she has the right gear for the weather and for crawling and climbing.

1. Alec's shout of "Granny!"

2. We have time to kill so we wander round while Bettany sleeps in the pushchair. The Mother talks about the wild flowers and grasses that have made themselves at home in pavement cracks and neglected gardens and where walls meet the ground.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fossils, moth and garden tea.

1. Janey brings Alec an interesting stone full of fossils to put in his treasure box.

2. Laura says that last night they spotted a strange man closely examining their door. When challenged he explained that he'd delivered a leaflet earlier in the day and spotted a rare moth so he'd come back with his camera and a moth book.

3. They bring me a cup of tea in the garden.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lie quietly, invalid's lunch and a change.

1. Alec is still not quite himself so I let him lie on the sofa watching TV all day. The outings to and from Bettany's nursery session are enough exercise and it feels good not to be constantly nudging him to try more useful activities.

2. To make up a lunch with teeny tiny tempting morsels and to see it all eaten.

3. When we get home, to take Bettany straight upstairs and bub her off to sleep in a cool, quiet room.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Poorly boy, visit and no thinking.

1. Alec is quite definitely poorly: the sort of ill that it's easy to deal with because he has an obvious fever and takes himself straight back to bed after breakfast.

2. He perks up, however, when the landlord arrives to fix the roof. He brings his son, who is Alec's age and a splendid little chap, solid and sturdy where Alec is tall and lanky. He asks all sorts of questions and accepts each answer with an "Oh," which I like because you know he's heard and possibly understood.

3. There is a nice easy, no thinking required cold chicken from the butcher for lunch.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Growing up, climber and outside.

1. Some of the ladybird larvae are pupating. They look as if they have held their noses and puffed themselves up as hard as they could, until their orange shiny parts have stretched and bulged and their prickly black parts have fallen away. "Imagine if you went to bed spiky and black and woke up smooth and orange," I tell Alec as I help him settle down for sleep.

2. Bettany climbs up on to the nursing chair. The look of fat satisfaction on her face.

3. Now we have a table and two chairs in the garden and a bit of warm weather and a bottle of fizzy wine we can sit outside for a while.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cavalry, parcel and letters.

1. The birthday cavalry comes, Aunty Katie and Ella with a balloon ("We got some smiles coming through town") and a chocolate cake. They take us out to lunch -- oh it's glorious to have someone to help Alec put his shoes on. I throw caution to the wind and have both a glass of wine and some pudding. By the end of the meal, because I have sat with Alec on one side and Bettany on the other, my cream linen skirt could be used as an illustrated menu.

2. An intriguing parcel arrives from Lucy Box Elder. There are presents for each of us -- most particularly for Our Betts, a knitted cotton jumper with three apple buttons. Lucy explains that haute trois pommes describes the height of someone about Bettany's size.

3. I discover that Katie has also sent me an Amazon voucher so I blow it on the next two books of Roger Mortimer's Letters, Dear Lumpy and Dearest Jane. I've previously devoured with relish the first book, Dear Lupin, which is letters to his son. His two daughters, Louise and Jane have jumped in with their own collections. Lumpy is more of the same, an affectionate account of middle class family life told by a witty, bookish father. Jane has more of the daughter's voice, and digs deeper into the past. I start with Lumpy, telling the children that we all need a quiet lie-down on the bed. They are surprisingly compliant.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Purpose, one-to-one and language of flowers.

1. I particularly enjoy a run when I use it as a way of getting from B to A (A being home, I wouldn't want to arrive at B all hot and out of breath) or to do an errand.

2. When I pick Alec up from nursery I discover him asleep in the quiet corner on a pile of cushions. Everyone else is outside but they have stationed a kind and motherly member of staff nearby to keep an eye on his scabby knees, round cheeks and softly moving breath.

3. Nick brings home sunflowers and spiky eryngiums, which match my mood perfectly.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gnashers, mess and waiting for you on platform two.

1. I forgot to say on Monday that Alec found Bettany's first tooth, bottom left at the front. He's been telling everyone how he put his finger in her mouth and felt something hard and there it was! Today she throws back her head and I can see that the two top front teeth have arrived.

2. To be caught by a smart friend in the middle of Calverley Road with a particularly chocolatey daughter.

3. Today Nick is the man who comes up the stairs from platform two and is greeted by his son shouting "Hallo Daddy!"

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Incorrect, no bigger than a 50p and climber.

1. I have a quiet laugh at Alec playing with a pirate ship: "Ha ha, me timbers!" and later on when he tells me that he is a "bolagneer, you know, who climbs mountains." (No, I've got no idea, either).

2. As we are getting ready to leave the hairdressers a customer walks in off the street to ask about re-colouring her hair to cover a dark patch on her crown. "You know me, I'm honest," says the hairdresser. "I love the colour and I wouldn't touch it if I were you, not for that little patch. I'll do it, but I'd be charging you £60 and it's no bigger than a 50p."

3. The children are busy climbing the banks in the park. I lie on my back and look at the sky (until I realise that Bettany will soon be so high up that I won't be able to retrieve her. She looks rather horrid when she climbs, I'm sorry to say, something like Gollum, though she is very efficient).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Drumming, money's worth and a bee.

1. A mysterious drumming mystifies Alec and me in the park. It seems to be coming from all directions at once because of the echo. We set off on an expedition to find it, but when I suggest it might be a giant stamping, Alec makes excuses and says we need to go back to the swings.

2. When I pick up Bettany from nursery they tell me she has soiled two nappies, which makes me feel I've got my money's worth.

3. "We spent about 20 minutes sitting in the High Street watching a bee on the ground," says Rosey when she and Alec return from their walk. "I don't think it was very well," she adds in a whisper.
"We put it in a tree and gave it some of my apple juice," says Alec.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hydro engineering, trash talking and just a moment.

1. To come round the corner and discover my father and Alec working on an elaborate system of old gutters, hoses and bricks.

2. My parents come back from their walk wondering what the bigger boys who Alec challenged to a race made of him with his blazer and rather pink bike.

3. I only went outside to put my new cucumbers in the cool spot by the compost sacks but somehow I find myself pulling tiny weeds out from among seedlings, and then I get captivated by the fennel safari.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Legs, easy and going down.

1. Grandad compliments us on Bettany's fine fat legs.

2. Someone greets me. I look up but don't recognise them, and then I do. A former colleague who has found love and started eating again. We catch up, pretty much finishing each other sentences. "Being single was-"
"I know, so lonely and so scary-"
"I can't believe I spent the best part of decade worrying that-"
"-and when you did find someone it was so, so easy."

3. Late at night, to rub my cheek on Bettany's sleepy head. Her hair has started to grow out now and her fine baby down is nearly all gone.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Sleeper, voyage and safari.

1. Today Bettany takes two great long naps.

2. Alec sitting in his toddle truck, which is tied with garden twine to a large cardboard box. He says it's a boat, and would I pour some water on the ground to be the river so he can go sailing the oil-dark seas around Greenland. He propels himself down the garden by turning the front wheels with his hands and peers into a pastry brush spyglass, straining to distinguish icebergs in the dead white fog.

3. There is drama among the fine green tracery of the fennel plant. Aphids the colour of chocolate limes have colonised the stems, followed by punk rocker ladybird larva and lanky spiders marbled cream and freckle-brown. And a few blackfly stand nervously on the cottony shells of their eggs: tourists dropped off in a bad part of town by a careless coach driver.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Foresight, still there and sit down with a garden book.

1. I am glad I caught Bettany and removed her dress before she got into the mud pie.

2. I pass the same bench on my way home my hat is still there.

3. I now have fifteen minutes to look over Sarah Salways beautiful new book, Digging Up Paradise. I got a tiny taste of its eclectic content last night at the wonderful launch party. I wanted to know more about the now vanished Kentish pleasure garden where you could see a blindfolded man dancing a hornpipe over dozens of eggs; and to read about Sarah's experience at the magical Margate Shell Grotto.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Family business, wait and the pick-up.

1. The lady who runs the ink shop has her two small children playing behind the counter and the sample prints are shots from a family photoshoot.

2. The time I spend in waiting rooms now seems like a bit of respite rather than wasted time.

3. I don't quite to like to ask as it seems a lot to expect, but Granny says "Shall I go and get Alec?" And I can stay here and calmly put Bettany to bed now while she is looking tired.

3b. As I am leaving for the launch of Digging Up Paradise, Alec pays me a very pretty compliment. I remember this and feel a little guilty later when social media guru Gaynor Edwards says she laughs whenever my normally sweet and happy Twitter stream is interrupted by an exasperated account of his tinksy exploits.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Only ginger, sitting with sadness and stay on the surface.

Today Godfather Tibby joined us for a few hours. Here are his beautiful things:

1. Alec tells me when he grows up he wants to be a "scientist-pirate-astronaut-fireman"

2. Alec is the captain of the spaceship (the large climbing frame in the park) and declares the ship is blasting off to Mercury. One child only wants to go as far as granma's house, so the ship stops there on the way. Alec promises to pick him up on the return journey.
3. "We only sell olive juice and olive cake," the 'shopkeeper' tells me with great authority. "I don't know where he's got this thing about olives from," his mum tells me as we watch the kids play.

And here are my beautiful things:

1. Goddaughter Ella's hair sticks up like dandelion clock fluff, only ginger.

2. We're looking after Aunty Katie's eldest this morning. "You all right?" I ask her, rather redundantly because she's sitting on the sofa weeping. "I know it's hard to come to a strange place without your mum."
"Yah," she says bravely, scrubbing her hand across her eyes, as if she understands that sad passes (very different to Alec who always behaves as if he will be sad forever and ever). She investigates the jar of small toys and Alec's treasure boxes while I get on with some chores and soon she feels ready to join the Alec-Tibby-Bettany expedition exploring a cave upstairs.

3. "Crew, I'm going in," says speleologist Alec Law as he prepares to wriggle down under the duvet. "You stay on the surface where it's safe," he tells Aunty Katie's eldest, who is sitting on the edge of the bed placidly putting small toys into a purple shopping bag and taking them out again. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Swap, not interested and exit.

1. 'You be the norglet and I will be the mummy,' says Alec.
I enjoy a fine fifteen minutes demanding forbidden snacks, whining and asking to use the pot at awkward moments.

2. We are reading Darth Vader and Son and we come to the page that refers to the Han-shot-first-Greedo-shot-first schism. I start explaining it to Alec and he stops me: 'Why are you telling me this?' He's quite happy to get his jollies from identifying with the four-year-old hero.

3. I am stuck under an Alec who is just at the point of dozing off when I notice Bettany looking speculatively over the edge of the bed. She turns round, reverses herself off and drops the floor. The next thing I hear is a self-satisfied giggle and the plat-plat-plat of her crawling off on to the landing. I would not have been surprised to hear her whistling The Great Escape theme tune.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Both working, want toast and showing love.

Here is Westwardfive's take on Three Beautiful Things, Seven Secret Smiles. I like the remark on the 'welcome' page about the blog acting as a memory bank.

1. To work in the front garden while Bettany climbs in and out of the front door. She is standing by herself now, and very pleased about it. She pushes herself up, waves her arms around making 'Eeee-eee-eee' sounds and then plops back down again.

2. Bettany reaches up for a bite of my toast, smacking her lips to let me know she thinks I should share with her.

3. When I put the milk bottles out I notice that some creature has pooed in the front garden. 'I'll deal with it,' says Nick, looking round for a plastic bag, 'because I know you hate doing it.'
Romance comes in so many forms.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Grown-up/still small, writing news and stocks.

1. Alec boldly says he will sit in the waiting room while I see the physio -- but decides to come in with me at the last minute. I love the fact that he's even contemplating such a grown-up thing.

2. To bump into a writer friend in the butchers and to mention -- for the first time in actual spoken words -- an idea I'm playing with to use up some of this mummy-writing material (by which I mean all the funny little stories about the children). It's lovely to have friends who ask the sort of questions that allow one to share this sort of news. I don't know what the butcher thought, though.

3. The cinnamon scent of stocks on the High Street flower stall.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Frivolous, shark attack and my boy.

1. To dress Bettany in a particularly frivolous bubble skirt dress in ice cream pink with a pattern of grey umbellifers. It's a pass-on from my goddaughter who is too auburn to wear pink. Our Betts looks a picture, and the skirt is short enough that it doesn't interfere with her (now very fast) crawling and climbing.

2a. "But why didn't you make me put socks on at home?" Alec wails.
His sandals are rubbing, and I stupidly assumed I had a pair of emergency socks in the changing bag. I lead him into Fat Face and look around -- no boy socks. As we are leaving one of the staff asks if we're OK.
I explain the sorry story and he says "Ohhh, that happened to me on holiday. Wait a moment, I might have something for you."
He comes back with packet of socks. "I've got these. But the only problem is, they've got sharks on and might bite your feet." He lifts Alec, who is much revived, up on to the counter and helps sock up.
It does the trick and we make it home without any more problems.

2b. "They are lovely children," he says as he walks on past us eating our picnic supper on a park bench.

3. Bettany is asleep when we get home so I bath my sticky, tired, scab-kneed, blister-heeled boy and sit on the bed enjoying our Deluxe edition of Where's Wally. Alec looks for Wally; I look for all the extras, like Woof's tail, and the missing hat bobble.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Flying the flag, colour mixing and appreciated.

1. Bettany has been decorating a flag of Valencia at nursery. They show me pictures of her at work. I look up at the flags drying in the window and spot her distinctive and not altogether authentic red diagonal swipe shown in the photo.

2. I suddenly remember how much I enjoyed playing a long-neglected game on my tablet -- Blendoku is a sort of crossword but with colours.

3. I look down and see Bettany rubbing her face against my newly waxed legs.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Talk, receiving and dash.

1. Catherine arrives while Bettany is asleep. We can talk, just the two of us, no guilt, no worry, for the first time in years.

2. I thank the postman as he hands me a parcel and some letters and he says "That always makes my day, when someone's happy to receive a package."

3. At the place where the pavement narrows just beyond the station I spot an office girl running down the hill towards us. I stop and let her go through. She has a smile for us, despite being in a headlong dash for a train.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Missing the dentist, affectionate and lunch.

1. As we are leaving with our teeth passed for action Alec says in such a sad voice 'I miss the dentist.'

2. On the other side of the hall I spot Alec's friend and her dad . While I am saying good morning Bettany climbs out of my arms and into his, clinging to him with all four limbs. He looks at me rather awkwardly around and over her heartfelt embrace and says that it's nice to get a hug.

3. She has made plates of small thises and thats for the children, ready the moment we arrive for lunch.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Secret garden, kissed and all in bed.

1. I'm not sure if Alec and I should be eating our lunch in this quiet green space with daisies and dappled sunlight beneath us but the gate from the street was open and a theatre garden is almost public.

2. When we get to nursery Bettany is sleeping in her favourite practitioner. We chat about her morning, and then, very gently, she kisses my baby, as if she knows how delicious Bettany is, and hands her over to me.

3. To spend part of the afternoon rolling around on the bed with the children, giggling, complaining, scrapping and cuddling. There ought to be a verb for the sort of movement made by a family on a bed.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Great outdoors, out of my hands and off to sleep.

1. To sit on the grass under the trees on the Common. Bettany is chewing a stick and I'm building a tiny house of twigs while Nick and Alec climb trees.

2. 'Alec's just been sick all over the kitchen.'
I call back down the stairs 'I'm bathing Bettany.'

3. To cuddle my poor boy off to a comforting sleep.

3b. 'I've scalded myself, I've been yelled at, kicked, widdled on, pooed on, sicked on, had food thrown at me and I've fallen out of a tree. I'm quite glad to be going back to work,' says Nick as we sip our end-of-holiday glass of wine.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

For tea, don't mention it and the real deal.

1. To find a couple of homemade scones in the bottom of the freezer -- these are particularly good recipe from Abel and Cole, carrot cake scones. I put them out ready for tea.

2. The physio is baffled and bit offended that the knots in my shoulder don't seem to be shifting. Or, rather, they are shifting, but across to my arm and then back to my shoulder. It suddenly occurs to me that we are chatting about the town's primary school situation and how it will affect Alec. We stop that right away and agree never to mention it again.

3. Nick and Alec come back from their walk with the news that there was an actual pilot, in his uniform, complete with insignia, in the Aeroplane Bookshop.