1. 'Daddy hasn't eaten the Ritter Sport I gave him, and it's his favourite, rum and raisin.'
'That's because it's made of paper, darling.'
2. To pay the dentist and leave.
3. This week, the barman asks if I would like to start a tab.
1. The news that our good friend Tim at Heropress is marking his fifteenth year of blogging. What a great achievement. If you like gaming and Dr Who and comic books and 'all that's interesting' then hop over for a read.
2. We can't see the sunset where we are, low on the bank above Eridge Road -- but we can see west-facing windows blazing red like the heart of a bonfire.
3. Alec offers to climb the tree that has the moon tangled in its branches. 'I'll bring it down, then I can have it on a stick,' he says.
1. A bank of milky fog hides the way to school.
2. To tuck my new hot water bottle into the old case. It's like nothing has changed.
3. Alec shows me a handmade zine about sea creatures which one of the Hong Kong boys has made for him. We marvel at the perfectly formed letters, and his neat drawings of a whale and of an ammonite. The lad is still a bit shy with his English, and Alec is very touched by the gift.
1. This morning we are walking straight into a bank of fog... and then a few minutes later we are up the hill and back in the sunshine.
2. I'm on a deadline, but it is hard to miss the view on my left where the sky is shading from orange to blue.
3. I pour the last drips of the Christmas Baileys into glasses to help us relax into our evening.
1. Our house points the wrong way for seeing the dawn and it doesn't have much of a view to the north east, but there is a pink sky this morning and I run around throwing open blinds and curtains and doors to find a place where I can see more of it.
2. Alec and I lift our heads from our breakfast bowls to see Bettany improvising a dance to Euday L. Bowman's '12th Street Rag'.
3. I don't like being shut off from the world on my morning walks, but I do need something to motivate me. So I use bone-conduction headphones. This morning can hear the birds and it makes the extra cost worth it.
1. She treads carefully across the dark surface of the car park: black ice.
2. In due course I go upstairs and find Bettany in the sulking cave she has built from blankets under her desk.
3. 'This pear looks like a teenager.' The C-shaped slice is somewhat bruised from being cut with a table knife and handled by both children. I nod and smile and she eats it anyway.
1. I come away from my massage feeling much lighter and looser.
2. We eat a really good lunch to celebrate not having to cater to the children's mad whims as they are now back to school dinners. It is so satisfying that I'm completely uninterested in the pizza they are having for supper.
3. Each day Bettany brings to my desk a small object made from pink Blu Tack, glitter and small pieces of foil. Love them, not sure what to do with them.
1. The sun hasn't reached us yet but it is shining on the bellies of circling birds.
2. It's been a difficult morning. I take a shower at lunchtime and wash it all down the drain.
3. My friend Andrew sends me a BBC Archives video of Marc Almond making mince pies with Victoria Studd. I can't get over the bit where she helps him take his jumper off. Andrew's emails about miscellaneous interesting things are a reliable source of joy. He worked for the BBC and the short film is one of his edits.
1. There is a choice of a tall stack and a short stack of pancakes. Of course both children want tall.
2. At sunset to watch the sky changing by the moment, from salmon-pink highlights on the clouds to ashy embers to orange glow.
3. Last year I was given Lia Leendertz's lovely Almanac, a compendium of natural phenomena packaged in perfect little hardback. I got into the habit of reading it and the gorgeous The Magpie and The Wardrobe book at the start of each month to see what the stars were doing, and what work I should be getting on with in the garden. To pick up the 2022 edition -- as an ebook, because though the books are lovely objects, I don't want a shelf full of them.
1. To catch in passing the aroma of something discreet and winter-scented.
2. A bath full of bubbles and bright pink water.
3. We realise that Alec, cross because we've said screen time is over, has shut his bedroom door for the first time ever.
1. We discover that we've made a calendar mistake: the children go back to school on Wednesday, not Tuesday.
2. At the pantomime, laughing until tears come. I slide a look sideways and see that Bettany, who sat stoney-faced through the first act, is shouting at the actors about the ghost creeping around behind them, and even Alec has a little smile. He is nearly too old for the panto, so this year and next seem as precious as anything in my jewellery box.
3. In the re-arranging of the children's bedrooms, miscellaneous items came out of the wardrobes, including a purple straw hat. Bettany has taken to wearing it, tilted raffishly, while I settle her and Alec for bedtime, and when she is working at her desk.
1. At the end of school to give Alec a quick hug before he makes his own way home.
2. To get the news that a story I entered for a competition has got me into the next round.
3. The most pandemic 2021 thing ever would be the adults in their masks dancing with their children to 'Agadoo' at the end of Watching Week.
1. I ask Bettany to put the scanned shopping in my bag... and she does.
2. The front room and kitchen look much larger now they are not full of Ikea boxes.
3. I am expecting the mattress to be an awkward lift -- but then I realise that everyone is helping.
Sorry, I've been ill again.
1. By the front door into which I'm posting a mis-directed Christmas card are a few bundles of sticks bound with hairy string. Magic, or kindling?
2. Nick brings a packet of cheese and some fig paste -- he's been up town to get his booster, and the centre just happens to be near a cheese shop.
3. While we wait for Alec to go through the bathroom, Bettany and I tinker with a magic set. She is keen to learn a 'find the lady' trick involving cups and a soft ball. She thinks we will let her set up a stand in the street* so she can separate passers-by from their money.
* No, we won't.
2. We get the early Christmas decorations out. Things that seemed tired and gaudy on 6 January 2021 are fresh and exciting and charming on 1 December.
3. I have disappeared a few of the Christmas books to keep the collection a reasonable size and so I can buy some new titles if I fancy it. But Bettany asks pointedly for 'My special book about the little girl and her brother writing to Santa.' So I will have to un-disappear that one.
1. We sleep and sleep and sleep. It's 11am when we wake up properly.
2. Our very competent landlord holds out his sticky hands for a piece of kitchen roll and says that this is why he's not allowed to do caulking.
3. The children tumble through the door and try to tell us everything all at once.
1. For a few days now people have been commenting that it really feels like winter now. The trees on Broadwater Down are no longer orange and brown; they are grey in the sunshine.
2. Standing waiting on the edge of the football pitch, at last we have time to catch up.
3. To come home carrying a parcel of warm chips.
1. To stand for a moment observing the drifts and layers of morning mist.
2. I realise that of course there is time to smooth Bettany's ruffled feathers and tell her that it's usual to be a bit anxious before you go and have your hair done in a completely new style.
3. It's my turn to do the Scouts run. It's an hour and a half, in a hall that is just a bit too far from home to make walking back worth it. I wait in the pub -- which has an open fire and two older men gossiping -- with a pint and then a half of bitter, my notebook and a nice soft pencil.