Monday, November 30, 2020

Plan, company and light reading.

1. As I remember things, I scribble notes on our Christmas plan -- paper chains, mayor's toy appeal, celery.
2. While I'm cooking supper Bettany is hanging around. She's listening to music on my phone -- but she's also pleased to take small tasks like putting things away, stirring a pan of sauce and deciding how much chocolate to add to the pudding -- and testing the chocolate.
3. Light reading only: I've got the audio book of Pauline McLynn's The Woman on the Bus, which is a charming, human story about redemption and addiction recovery in a small Irish town; and Space Gravy by Andrew Wallace, a comic space opera spy romp. My bedside table has a rampart of books about the apocalypse, but they can wait. The world will still be in danger once the pandemic is over.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Call, next book and shut off.

1. I have a call with a client that wanders a bit off topic -- but it feels so good to hear a real person's narrative.

2. The children have decided between them that we are going to read the next Morrigan Crow book now; 'and then we'll read the next dwarfs book.' Alec picked The Weirdstone of Brisingamen for our last read, and Bettany grumbled quite a lot, so I'm pleased she's keen to read the next one -- and I'm pleased that she and Alec agree on something, for once.

3. My phone has a new thing that makes it go monochrome at bedtime. The lack of colour cueing makes some apps unusable and the whole thing is so tedious to navigate that I am glad to switch off and put it to one side.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Patience, paint and comic novel.

1. I am too tired to be impatient while I wait for dog walkers coming the other way to cross the railway bridge. It feels nice not to have that constant buzz of low-level irritation.
2. I check with my cousin that a paint supply related to a good dramatic art feud is an acceptable Christmas gift. She replies that she'd been talking about Stuart Semple's paint The Blackest Black only the other day. So after confirming that I'm not Anish Kapoor, I buy some.
3. To discover that I have a lightweight comic novel in my Audible stash. I must have bought it in a sale and then forgotten all about it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Out of the dark, mind how you go and floating island.

1. To bring my paperwhite bulbs out of the cellar for the run-up to Christmas.
2. I'm increasingly wary of our PM, but I can't help but smile at his advice to be 'jolly careful' as we think about Christmas gatherings.
2b. Bettany refuses to look at the sunset, so I point out that she probably only has another 22,400 to look at and that they may not be as good at this one. She comes to the window.
3. One of my favourite parts of a fantasy novel is the bit where the characters are lifted out of terrible danger and hardship by supernatural help, and are given exotic food and clothing with magical protective properties. There's something so comforting about it -- that in your hour of direst need a lovely elf will ride in on a floating island and sort everything out, even if it is just for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Routine, timer and map.

1. This morning is a struggle, but once I get going my routine carries me out of the door and out on my walk.
2. The weekly email from my work timer reminds me that I have been productively occupied, which soothes one of my human needs; and this week it tells me why I am feeling more tired than usual.
3. Alec takes my phone from me so he can find the places mentioned in the book we are reading.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Anniversary, willows and clotted cream.

1. It's our eleventh wedding anniversary this weekend. We take some time to flip through our wedding photos. As always I am struck by how many people wished us well as we set out on married life. The children stare at the faces of people now gone; and Bettany tells a version of me living a day four years before she was born that I should have left more room on the bench for Nick.

2. The bright red and yellow shoots of pollarded willows.

3. We spoon the rest of the clotted cream on to our apple crumble.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Delivery, visitor and orange slice.

1. A delivery arriving will always be exciting, even if it is just a bag of frozen fish or some drain cleaner.

2. Around the time I need to switch the lights on, one child or another comes upstairs to see me. This afternoon it's Alec. We look at the sunset, which is very blue and orange -- like a painting, he says -- and he tells me more about a book he's been reading at school. It's a collection of extracts from longer adventure stories. Yesterday he said he wanted to read some of them, but couldn't remember the titles. We worked one of them out from the details he could recall; and today he has the name of another: King Solomon's Mines.

3. While I work in the evening I chew on the orange slice from my drink.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Little dog in a hurry, brighten and stars.

1. A fat white scotty dog hurries ahead of its elderly owner, who is walking carefully round the park.
2. A quick video chat with another editor. She says that it 'brightens the day' which is really good way of describing it.
3. To pour Bettany's clay stars into a dark blue bowl.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Planning, declutter and toast.

1. Planning ahead for family treats is more important than ever; and somehow, even among all the pandemic logistics, there is more space and time to do this.
2. Bringing a bulky pile of old magazines to the recycling is an easy win.
3. Toast in the middle of the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Sympathy, new gadget and headlines.

1. I'm locked out because I've forgotten my keys. I get a lot of sympathy from our neighbour; and when I drop into a networking call I get a lot of sympathy there, too, when they spot that I'm sitting on the doorstep.
2. Nick washing up the plates for the new, improved toastie maker we've bought to replace our old one which has failed completely.
3. The sound of my writing group laughing at the strange news headlines I've pulled from the Fortean Times.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Tiny stars, birch leaves and bottle of wine.

1. I get some modelling clay out to make Christmas decorations. Bettany sets to work with a star cutter and makes about 100 tiny stars. What's she planning to do with them? That's nobody's business but hers. I can't help but worry as I think about that artist who filled the turbine hall at the Tate Modern with ceramic sunflower seeds.

2. The way fallen yellow birch leaves create an illusion of sunshine on a grey day.

3. We come home from our walk and find that Nick has opened a bottle of wine -- apparently the other players on his remote war games session had wine and he wanted some too.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Going, light and my turn.

1. A flock of birds hurrying across the sky

2. The glow of a reading light under Bettany's covers.

3. While Nick is busy with his gaming friends and the children are asleep, I get a go with the TV and the Xbox.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Avoid, open a blank document and geranium.

1. To see walkers on other paths across the common. Sometimes our gazes meet and we change direction to avoid meeting.
2. I feel uncomfortable about a story I wrote during a workshop. It's too close to reality, too unkind a portrait, not enough of a story. I am uncomfortable near the membrane between memoir and fiction and every instinct tells me to retreat. Nonetheless, I open a blank document and begin. In the end, I have a piece of fiction that I can share with the group.
3. I pull a few dead leaves off a scented geranium. This action  releases an interpretation of lemons.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wake, new edit and please buy books.

1. I don't remember falling asleep.

2. To start a brand new edit and feel that it's going to be a good one.

3. The children asking me to buy books for them -- Alec wants His Dark Materials; and Bettany wants more Morrigan Crow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Shattered, research and pitta pizzas.

1. I have a rough night and I start the day shattered. To pick up a cup of really good coffee and a brownie to bump me over a difficult beginning.

2. Before writing tonight we've been assigned a 'hidden gem' holiday spot to research and I spend a happy fifteen minutes acquainting myself with a place I don't expect to visit any time soon.

3. Bettany has cooked a pitta bread pizza as part of her Zoom Beavers meeting. It's so successful and quick that she makes more for our supper.


Monday, November 09, 2020

Omelette, in the front garden and seeds.

1. Nick announces that he's getting up to cook a Japanese rolled omelette for breakfast. When I come down a little later, he's looking very pleased with his new skill, and the children are refusing to eat it. We finish it off (it's delicious), and make some toast.

2. There's time to do a little tidying in the garden and have a quick gossip with the neighbours.

3. To find a lot of seeds in my pocket.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Fog, photo and herbal.

1. To open the shutters to a morning so foggy that the world has almost vanished. 

2. A woman crouches to photograph a robin at the corner of the park.

3. To examine the pictures in Culpeper's herbal and match the characteristics to plants I know.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Sweetpeas, clandestine and letter M.

1. Today's task is dismantling the mess of wild sweetpeas that tumbles over our front fence all summer. Several people passing by stop to chat and to say how much they've enjoyed them. I offer seeds in their speckled black and ochre pods -- we've got plenty, and why not spread a little joy around.
2. I've had my eye on a couple of books in the window of a Hall's, which has been closed for the duration. Earlier this week I thought to email and enquire. I got a reply -- followed up with a phone call -- telling me when I could collect. Ringing the doorbell of an obviously closed shop to make a purchase feels definitely clandestine. 
3. 'Mummy, I need a letter M, come on!'  Alec is crouched in front of a Zoom meeting surrounded by a variety household goods arranged alphabetically. Cubs are doing a treasure hunt this evening.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Sun, dyed and podcast.

1. To stand in the doorway and let the winter sun warm my face.
2. 'I'm not having much fun,' says Nick glumly. The purple carrots in our soup have dyed the noodles. But the children are astonished and delighted by purple soup and pink noodles.
3. I love the podcast Everything is Alive because it suggests that we might find compassion everywhere.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Back, not quiet and probably not boxing but I'm not sure.

1. Unnatural though this might sound, I'm so pleased to be back at my desk.

2. We hoped that we could settle the children down with a calm, quiet bedtime. But this chapter of our book features a race between a giant cat and a rhinoceros. 

3. Bettany confides that in PE her class has been doing boxing -- which is strange, because I understood they'd been learning basketball. But apparently she climbed up on to the ropes and jumped on her opponent then hit him with a chair. She's called 'Smasher' in the ring. One of her friends is known as 'Volcano'. It doesn't sound much like boxing, but I'm definitely not allowed to query it at the next parent-teacher consultation. (Alec's class did do a few of weeks of boxing in PE last year, but he missed all the sessions because he was ill one week, and then, as he says, 'out for the day on school business'. If he's going to get hit with chairs by a girl named Volcano who doesn't play by the Queensbury Rules then I think it's just as well.)

3a. I pop downstairs in the middle of my writing group Zoom session to say goodnight to the children. They are looking at a book of Charles Addams cartoons. Will I explain why this one is funny? And what about that one?

Monday, November 02, 2020

Cook, gardener and mud.

1. To buy a secondhand cookbook for Alec and to know that he'll spend a happy couple of hours planning days when he will cook all the meals.

2. I go into the garden to move compost around and am joined by Bettany. She sets up a mud cafe in the front garden and serves cakes on leafy dishes.

3. We've tracked mud into the house. Nick says, 'I'll get the vacuum cleaner out.'