Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Done, Ritter Sport and tab.

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.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Fifteen, west-facing windows and low moon.

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.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Bank, hot water bottle and zine.

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.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Out of the fog, blue/orange and last of the Baileys.

 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.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Dawn light, dance and soundscape.

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.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Slip, cave and simile.

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.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Massage, lunch and object.

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.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Below the sun, wash and video of Mark Almond making mince pies.

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.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Stack, sunset and almanac.

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.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Winter scented, bubbles and closed door.

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.

Monday, January 03, 2022

Extra day, pantomime and hat.

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.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Fog, no chore and help.

1. The fog has closed our world off to one street.

2. Finding that the dishwasher didn't go off last night, so there is no need to empty it.

3. Alec says, 'Shall I take the key and run home to let the Sainsbury's man in?'


Friday, December 17, 2021

Walking home, next round and dance class.

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.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Early, crow and gift.

1. In the half light before the blinds are opened, I realise that Alec has pretty much dressed himself before coming upstairs, although he is hoping I'll button his shirt for him.

2. A crow on a gable.

3. To take from my father a heavy gift intended for my mother-in-law.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Spend, different view and drawing.

1. To spend a £50 voucher in one whizz round the supermarket by not saying no to anything.

2. I climb into Bettany's high sleeper and see the world through the window from a different angle.

3. To find Alec at Bettany's new desk working on a drawing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Paperwhites, tiles and painting.

1. To glance over at my paperwhites: another of the five has burst out of its buds. I wasn't going to this year. We plant them as a symbol of hope, and to remember the journalist Elspeth Thompson. But I've had a succession of dud bulbs and limp strappy leaves flopping blindly over the Christmas mantlepiece, and I got discouraged. But Anna made me -- literally dropped a packet of good quality bulbs round so I had to plant them. Every time I look over at the brass pot of creamy white flowers by the kitchen door, I remember her optimism in the face of discouragement. 

2. After days of dust and disorder, our bathroom is re-tiled and we can move our things back in to their familiar places. It's a thrill to glance up and be surprised by the new tiles every time I go up the stairs. 

3. Bettany says again that she would like one of Uncle Steven's paintings in her room, and it's not the one Alec wants for his room.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Assistance, more room and lift together.

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.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Sticks, gift and tinkering.

 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.

Friday, December 03, 2021

Cake, massage and questions.

1. A slice of chocolate cake with our coffee.

2. To let a massage therapist treat the place in my lower back that I try hard not to think about too much.

3. The moment I draw breath the children batter me with questions about the story. 

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Weather, Christmas box and where's my book.


1. I happen to look up and the sun is shining golden through a rain shower. The light on the rain mist has hidden all but the nearest buildings. A cloud passes over the sun and all is revealed.

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.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Cuckoo clock, long parcel and pop.

1. Alec has picked the enormous, detailed German cuckoo clock advent calendar that I was admiring last week. Luckily for him, it's reduced in price.
2. A long parcel arrives -- the first of the Christmas shopping.
3. The pop of pulling embroidery thread through a place already tightly stitched. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Waiting, boys and poorly.

1. On a frosty day, early, three pigeons wait on chimney tops just touched by the sun.

2. On the bus, a boy hiding in a sad grey hoodie first tells some other boys to leave him alone, but then comes and sits with them. At their stop, they bump fists and say, 'Sorry, bro.' Then a fourth boy comes down from the front of the bus, bumps his fist and takes a seat across the aisle. 

3. Bettany would prefer that we give her all the little packets of tissues, provide lip balm and ensure she doesn't miss her activities. Alec, on the other hand, is very poorly. To feel better, he needs strategic distractions and a pharmacoepia of quack nostrums, like obscure essential oils, cough socks, vitamins and plenty of vapour rub.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Sleeping in, gap and everything at the same time.

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.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Wintertime, standing around and chips for supper.

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.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Observe, smooth and waiting.

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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Nothing but dust, toothpaste and Saturn.

1. On the front path is a scattering of what looks like snow. It is dust from the top of the wardrobe that is now gone from our back bedroom.

2. When I ask, it turns out that there actually is a type of toothpaste that has fluoride, but no SLS or peppermint.

3. I have to explain to Bettany that contrary to what I told her last night when I wanted her to hurry along, the planet Jupiter does not eat children. It's actually Saturn that's the dangerous one. We can see both of them out of the attic window.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Across town, discovery and albums.

1. I catch that baby's eye, right across town, watching me through his mum's screen.

2. Alec discovers Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester's Fur Frauen ist das kein Problem, a modern performance of a hit from the 1920s and is astonished and delighted. No, I don't know either.

3. Not long before bedtime Nick and I get a moment to look through our wedding pictures -- twelve years have passed in a flash.     

Monday, November 22, 2021

Transfer, flock and cake.

1. The children have been complaining pretty much every step of the way. The moment when they start scuffling and arguing with each other instead of moaning at us.

2. A dozen magpies rise from the field ahead of us.

3. It's teatime and at last she can serve us her chocolate cake.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Not seeing fungus, tomatoes and buttered crumpet.

1. I divert my walk round the park across the meadow on the off-chance that I might see the coral-red devil's fingers fungus that someone posted on social media yesterday. 

2. I suddenly realise that the green tomatoes that have been ripening on my desk are all bright red.

3. A buttered crumpet appears at my elbow towards the end of the afternoon.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Doubled, judge and falling asleep.

1. A flock of pigeons, shaken by some startle from the roof of the station, doubled in number by their shadows on the red brick walls of Hoopers Department Store and on the bridge of the railway..

2. Bettany has taken Granny for a ride... I mean to the toy shop. She marches in carrying a large pink box and says, 'It's a craft, so you can't judge me.'

3. Alec is out for the evening and Bettany doesn't want to go to sleep by herself so I sit on the sofa and wait with her. Her sighs and snuffles and grunts get quieter... and quieter... and quieter.