Saturday, July 31, 2010

Budge up, end of the day and gardening.

I've been meaning to mention Louisa's birthday beautiful things -- there are 31 of them to mark the turning of her year.

And also, Lucy at Box Elder has been recording her beautiful things for a month. She says some very kind things about 3BT in her last post (I hope it's just the last post for now!) and I love the idea of swaddling Baby Badger in something as luxurious as ermine... if only.

1. A sparrow lands on next door's flowering shrub. And another. The first shifts to the next branch. This happens six times in quick succession. Our neighbours put seed on the top of the back wall.

2. Today has been tough. It's such a relief when Nick comes home. I can stop banging my head against a brick wall and start doing something I know I'm good at.

3. Now we have a garden, I have an excuse to watch Gardener's World. Also -- I like seeing Carol Klein on TV. She was a friend of my boss in the gardening magazine days and was one of the loveliest, charmingest, kindest people I've ever met.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chimney sweep, recovery and nurses.

1. The cottage across the carpark is covered in scaffolding. Now that the roofers have gone home, the family has climbed up to see the view -- a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The father lifts his teenage daughter on to his shoulders so she can pull ivy off the chimney stack, and she is shrieking and giggling as she stretches up.

2. Nick's mother is so much better -- she has a look of triumph about her; and she's moving to the rehabilitation ward after the weekend. "I just need to be able to lock my knees," she says. We show her Baby Badger's scan pictures and try to work out whether we are looking at ribs or fingers.

3. Across the ward, a nurse strokes a patient's forehead and talks to her gently about where she is. "They're so kind here," says the grandmother of 15 in a pink dressing gown who has stopped to visit. "I don't know how they do it."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Flood, done and dinner.

1. I'm close to finishing Stephen Baxter's Flood, which I've enjoyed very much. It's an epic about a global flood, seen mostly through the eyes of a group of former hostages linked by a promise to look out for each other. They come under the wing of a super-rich businessman who is determined to keep his genetic line and philosophy alive. I've got a bit of a soft spot for post-apocalypse fiction -- does anyone have any recommendations to add to this Amazon list which I started at some time or other?

2. I like to see the score marks from yesterday's to-do list pressed through on to today's.

3. Nick takes me out for tapas "because we haven't been out for a while."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Awake at dawn, bad dream and Sherlock.

1. One of my least favourite pregnancy symptoms is the constant peeing. From the start, I lost the ability to make it through the night -- they say it's preparation for the sleep-deprivation to come. The exact time varies -- but this morning, it was around dawn. The sky was shell pink and streaked with con trails, and I was glad that I had seen it.

2. About ten years ago, I had a back problem that caused pain in my hip. I dreamed that the pain was back, and that I was walking around an unfamiliar town trying to find a shop selling food for supper. The door was always round the next corner, down steps, along a beach, up some steps, under a bridge... Then I woke up, safe at home in bed, and there was no pain.

3. We've been really looking forward to Sherlock -- Mark Gattiss and Stephen Moffat's up-dated re-telling of Sherlock Holmes. I'm really fond of Mark Gattiss, and we know Stephen Moffat from Dr Who, but we felt a bit cautious. I have BBC drama series trust issues after Bonekickers (I know it was 2008, but it was THAT awful). However, it was great. I worked out whodunnit long before the detectives, which for me is an important part of crime drama, and there was a satisfying how- and whydunnit twist at the end. We both felt very welcomed because we recognised the Holmes references. "This is three-patch problem," says Sherlock (played by the lovely Benedict Cumberbatch) covering himself in nicotine plasters.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Little legs, new and improved baby and the hills have gone.

1. The Mother takes me for my 20-week scan. We admire Baby Badger kicking away like a racing cyclist, and after a lot of pushing and pulling on my bump, get a view of its heart. "About the size of a grape," says the operator. "You can see the valves working away." The image moves around, giving different views -- sometimes it looks as if BB is snuggled up in a duvet. Finally, the operator gives the all-clear: "Your baby has no abnormalities that I can see."

2. "She's become nice and we can take her out," they say. Their previously fractious baby sits demurely (apart from the occasional posset, which could happen to anyone) in a sling on her father's chest and examines the world around her with wide-eyed interest.

3. To come upstairs just before sunset and see that the far hills are hidden by rain clouds.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The lady in the next bed, meadow petticoat and cup of tea.

1. The lady in the next bed -- she has just asked me where I got my skirt, which she says is unusual and beautiful -- asks the nurse if she can have some blusher. "I look so pale, my darling." I hope her family brings her some.

2. An empty office block. A skirt of overgrown grasses and wild flowers.

3. That cup of tea is very welcome on this hot, still afternoon.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

New bread, tanks for the memory (sorry) and strawberries.

I was very pleased yesterday to get a message from James Heald, saying that a combination of 3BT and Pythagorean philosophy inspired him to start blogging. He is planning to spend 18 minutes a day writing, and here he talks about his aims.

I wanted particularly to mention this, because I know a number of 3BT bloggers tail off after a while. One reason is the format doesn't work for them. If that's the case, they might find a timed exercise, or a word count fits in better with their nature and lifestyle. 

I do think a limit is vital with writing -- it prevents blank page fright. I use this idea every day -- my to-do list includes items like 'Write 75 words on hair removal article' and '100 words on jam' (actual examples from last week). My thinking is 'Only a total loser would fail to write 75 words.'

So if your 3BT blog has withered on the vine, don't be disheartened -- try a different tactic. I still think I was very lucky to stumble, first time, on a formula that has worked so well for me. If writing a list of three things every day doesn't work for you, you are not a bad blogger -- you are a different blogger.

1. Simon has had his lunch on the train, but "I just want some of that new-baked bread."

2. Nick and Simon are bouncing off the walls when they come home from War and Peace -- they can't stop talking about the tanks and the Jeeps and the Lancaster Bomber flypast and the lone World War Two Swedish army re-enactor with his long-suffering wife.

3. To stain the chopping board by cutting up a punnet of strawberries. Just before dinner, I strew them with a little sugar, which will brings out the juice.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Elephant tree, biscuits and independence.

1. "Elephants!" says Daniel. It takes us a moment to work out that he's looking at the tree that Sarah gave me. My mother made the same comment when she saw it.

2. Ellie (who is still a bit shy) mouths "Thank you" to me when I tell her to go for it with the biscuits.

3. His two-year-old daughter thinks its hilarious. Our arms are full of flattened boxes, and no-one has a hand free for toddler wrangling. She sits on windowsills, climbs railings and veers off the path, doubling back and running rings around us. In the middle of the park, she stops short and lies down on the grass to smile at the sky.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bored now mum, voice of experience and food writing.

1. Mums-to-be lie in deep relaxation. The whole class is still and silent as logs. Apart from Baby Badger who is tickling me from the inside and trying to make me laugh.

2. Today there is time to sit on the sofa with my mother and look over a baby catalogue.

3. After supper, Katie brings out a pile of vegetarian cookbooks for me to look over. I wallow in accounts of vegan sticky toffee pudding, and silken tofu.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Man about the house, baking and cable guy.

1. Nick is at home for the day because he wants to supervise the arrival of cable this afternoon. I take him a cup of tea in bed and make him help me choose cutlery.

2. To take a batch of muffins from the oven when the timer goes off, and to discover that they are perfectly cooked.

3. The cable guy is a gadget head. He is almost as excited as Nick about the box and its features; but when he sees the iPad, he's like a school boy. "Lucky!" He says his wife won't let him have one, but I think her resolve would have softened if she'd seen his little face light up.

4. At 11.30pm, he (by which i mean Nick) comes to bed. We have Internet once more.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Midshipman, just ask and cucumber.

1. While unpacking, I picked Mr Midshipman Hornblower out of Nick's stacks and shuffled it on to the end of my reading queue. I was very taken by it -- he's a pleasingly frail creation, full of doubts and fears, but driven by determination to do well. C. S. Forster treats him so sympathetically that I felt Hornblower's pains and triumphs. The story clips along and I was almost afraid to put the book down in case something happened while I wasn't looking.   

2. To have a husband who can explain the intimate details of the Georgian navy AND knows what a taffrail is. 

3. Sparkling dew drops make a jewel of the cut end of my cucumber.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The set-up, sketch and alert.

1. There's a box that I've been ignoring -- a Sargasso sea of cables woven and tangled with peripherals. I comb out the tendrils, link everything together and throw the switch. We have a computer again. The Internet is expected on Wednesday.

2. The tv man makes a verbal sketch of a husband sulking on the sofa because "...and forgive me for saying this, but he wants what he's used to having, and he doesn't like it when he doesn't get it."

3. Behind the reception desk in A&E, they have a collection of toy meercats in medical uniforms. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lucia, cure and treasure boxes.

1. Life lessons in surprising places: E F Benson's social climber Lucia twists a crisis to her advantage, and never neglects a single opportunity.     

2. A cup of peppermint tea and a walk around the park sees off the unsettled feeling in my stomach.

3. Nick opens some boxes that have been waiting for his attention. Boxes of boyhood treasures - they remind me of the tin that Amelie found - are sorted, streamlined, admired and repacked.  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Throng, history and summer puddings. 

1. On a summer Saturday, around midday, there is likely to be a crowd hanging over the railings opposite the church of King Charles the Martyr. The bride is on her way, but the traffic has slowed to a crawl. The bridesmaids cluster like birds expecting to be fed. And the ushers shoo the groom back into the darkness. Once the spectacle is over, we cross the road and walk home round the back of the church and hear the organ closing off the processional. 

1. It's Louise's 30th birthday and Tena has brought 30 tiny presents. As the party progresses, she brings them out, and it's all "Empire Records!" and "foamy shrimps" and "slap wraps" and "Bodyshop soaps!"

2. Pavlova, which is a proper summer party pudding. And a chocolate torte which is so rich and boozy that I can only manage a single slice (although I have to be quite firm with Baby Badger on the matter).    

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Postbag, completion and the catch-up.

1. The postman brings a knitted hat for BB from the lovely Mary Garrett, and a rebate from our storage company. 

2. Nick comes home with the news that we are to complete on the flat early next week -- what a relief.

3. To catch up with Katie over a homey supper of mince and summer vegetables. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Heft, shred and pottering.

1. Sausages are on special offer at the butchers. I buy 3lbs wrapped in green and white checked paper. It feels like a good weight in my wine red string bag.  

2. I come across a diary from an unhappy part of my life. It is a sharp contrast with the way things are now -- I poured so much energy into longing for something I couldn't have. I pull out the pages and cram them into the shredder.  

3. While the potatoes cook, to walk in my garden. I tuck a questing bean stalk back into the trellis and wonder if a weed growing in a crack is actually a violet.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Job done, blue-eyed boy and device.

1. Nick marched through the door and announced that we needed to get cracking with supper if he was going to finish the bookshelf that had stumped him last night. "But I did it this morning," I tell him. Of course, he made all the mistakes first so I knew what to avoid.

2. If he wasn't chewing on my hair and dribbling in my ear, I wouldn't have believed eyes that blue existed outside manga fanfic.

3. You might have thought we were without water and electricity from my father's reaction. He sent me out to buy him an iPad, which I am to borrow until we get back on the Internet. Nick and I walk up to the pub at the top of the street, where they have wifi, so we can post some beautiful things and check the Ikea catalogue for bookshelves.   

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tin, in place and the finding.

1. ...and a second gift from Anna: a tin of gooey brownies.

2. To put new trays in the cutlery drawers and to know that if I reach for a fork, I'll get a fork. 

3. We have lost the screws for the bookshelf that we had been looking forward to putting up tonight. We have searched all the places where they should have been put, and now we are starting to worry that they are lost. I try to imagine what they would feel like, and how they would sound, and I remember tucking an unidentified clanking green bag into the utility cupboard. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

White flowers, stocks and further movement.

1. There is a jasmine in our courtyard. I've noticed and appreciated the scent, but until today, I hadn't looked properly at the petals. They are folded like the sails of a pinwheel -- although there are five instead of four. Somewhere I have an origami book with instructions for making a pentagon out of a paper square. I bet it would be possible to fold a few jasmine-style pinwheels from crisp white paper. But I don't suppose I could make them as dainty as the ones outside the back door.

1b. I have an errand on the industrial estate. Paulv has a break, so he comes out to see me while I shop.
2. Anna and Susannah come with stocks that smell of cinnamon. The colours remind me of my mother-in-law's wedding outfit -- hot pinks and royal purples.  

3. Nick has been feeling left out of the wriggling baby experience. He is always just a moment too late to feel our child pushing on the tent of my belly. But tonight, we wait patiently under the covers. Baby Badger gives a shove, as if to say "Where have you gone? What are you doing?" In the dark my husband's face lights up.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tree, last boxes and lamb chops.

Nick's mum is safe back home now -- thanks for the comments yesterday.

1. Sarah has left a strange little tree for me. It stands on a tripod of bloated roots like a mangrove, and has glossy green leaves. Nick's parents are horrified when I go to lift the pot -- Nick must carry it home for me, cradled against his chest.

2. We clear the last of the boxes out of the kitchen and turn the table round to its final position.

3. To grill lamb chops with garlic and rosemary tucked in between the meat and the fat. I really appreciate being able to grill without the smoke alarm going off. Also, to be able to buy a large pack of chops because I can freeze what we don't eat today.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Washing line, sister and out.

We're not going to have internet access for about 10 days now, so posting will continue erratic until then. I will catch up on the missing days -- I've got them in my notebook.

1. We find the washing line hooks in the courtyard, and a washing line that Nick has kept safe for the 20 years since he left home. A load of washing out in the sun makes the place look clean and homey.

2. In this heat, the ladies of ward seven look iller than ever. They make Nick's mother, who is sitting up in her chair, look positively healthy. A dementia patient calls again and again: "Please, I want to go back in. I want to go back in." Two bays down, a middle-aged daughter pulls aside the oxygen mask and wets her mother's lips: "Mum, mum, can you hear me?" The son across the bed looks anxiously on. A too-large and too-cheerful crowd round the bed downstream drowns out our conversations. Then Nick's sister Sarah walks serenely in, calm and cool despite the temperature, and suddenly everything seems a lot better.

3. We spent the rest of the afternoon collecting the left-behind bits out of the old flat and giving it a clean. We've moved backwards to the front door on a wave of boxes, dust sheets and cleaning kit. Finally, it's all outside and the floors are swept for the last time. My parents come to drive everything down to the new house.

4. To serve a guest with an iced drink after two years of no freezer.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ben-Fen, paramedics and book boxes.

1. Fenella and Ben appear just after breakfast -- they are mad curious about the new house. We give them the tour. Ben is now old enough to crawl, and asks in no uncertain terms to be held by Nick, and then by me. He grabs a handful of my hair and has a good chew on my thumb.

2. The paramedics for making Nick's mum laugh as they walked her out to the ambulance. "Shall we dance?" And "To the hospital? Or shall we just go down to the seaside?" They've come up from the Kent coast -- things must be busy tonight.

3. I go upstairs to tuck another bag away and see that Nick has emptied all the boxes and stacked our books all round the room.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Last of the books, garden and on the shelf.

1. Craig from brings our the last of our book boxes back from storage. As always, he provides an efficient and gentlemanly service.

2. A few days of sun and my garden is transformed -- the courgettes have put out wrinkled damp orange flowers. The basil looks like grown-up plants, instead of baby shoots.

3. Pulling open crates and lining up my books on the front room shelves. And finding the bag that contains the last of my summer dresses (before I'm too bumpy to fit into them.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Clean carpet, putting up the bed and hallo Baby Badger.

1. Vacuuming a completely empty room. The dust where the sofa was is definitely not a beautiful thing -- but it was very satisfying to see it vanish under the snout of my loyal Dyson.

2. The bed must be completely dissembled before it will go upstairs. Nick and I work together, forcing in slats and passing the allen key back and forth. At last, it stands secure in the middle of the floor, and the room feels like home.

3. I am lying quietly at the end of the day. There's a flutter on the inside of my belly. Baby Badger thinks I'm paying too much attention to the new house.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Offered, break and a gentleman.

We're moving house today -- I'm not sure how quickly we'll get internet at the new place, so there may be some delays and erraticisms in posting for the next few days. 

1. Putting a thing you reckon no-one will want on Freegle, and getting a huge response.

2. To take a break and have a cup of tea and chocolate biscuit. We finish the packet because we don't want to have to move it.

3. I pick up a three boxes for moving from a wine merchants at the bottom of town. They are not heavy, but they are awkward. "Excuse me, can I help you with those?" A shy, sweet man from a group of Asian lads off to play football takes two from my arms and walks with me to the crossroads where Nick is meeting me. He works at restaurant in town called Mooli, and they're picking up some friends at the Nepali Ghurka. He comes from Pokhara, a city that we visited in 2001 on a family holiday. We stayed there in a lakeside hotel after a two-week hike, and it seemed like heaven.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cotton wool clouds, crickets and early.

1. Today, town is looking particularly lovely from the top of Mount Ephraim. Great cumulo nimbus clouds scatter sun and shade across the roofs and parks.

2. Crickets -- someone has wound the hillside up and it is hopping round in circles like a clockwork toy.

3. Nick comes in early and sees my computer face. We go for a walk. When we get home, everything is all right again.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Beech hedge, hazel and pizza.

a. Rosey has put up some pictures of her expedition to Svalbard.

1. The lower part of this beech hedge has been shorn. We can't stop looking at the trunks which twist and turn like snakes. Through the tangle, down the bank, a rose the colour of pink Refreshers puts on a show for observant eyes only.

2. A copper hazel tree stops me in my tracks. The nuts are already out. Their velvet shells and stiff collars are the colour of rosé wine with the sun on it.

3. He brings out our pizza and whips the lid off the box: "Isn't that a work of art?" At Firebelly on Mount Ephraim, they are proud of what they do.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Late breakfast, the cat and bookmarks.

a. The 3BT event at Oxfam Bookfest was great (see below!). It was particularly reassuring to see so many familiar faces -- and I very much enjoyed telling people about 3BT. Perhaps some of them have wandered over today to see what the blog is all about. Also, I enjoyed encouraging people to write beautiful things on slips of paper and put them into books.  Plutarch has written his account of the event on Now's the Time.

b. I really liked this Guardian article about Tove Jansson, who created The Moomins. This sentence seems particularly 3BTish:

"A theme running through the Jansson family was to pay attention to things that were, in their opinion, beautiful," says Sophia. "A shell, a stone, a flower, a story."

1a. To see a familiar face when I first arrive: Sarah Salway has come with her two just-come-home children. "What can we do to help?" asks Rachel. She and Hugh fill in some bookmarks, and Sarah takes my picture.

1. He tells me that he is finding it hard to think of a beautiful thing so soon after a late breakfast. "Millionaire's breakfast," he says. "Smoked salmon with scrambled eggs and a coffee -- iced." He is wearing wrist bands for the Hop Farm Festival, and tells me that Bob Dylan is playing tonight.

2. She shows me her beautiful thing -- "Molly the cat is always so pleased to see me."

3. She smiles right back at me and says that she doesn't want to enter the children's bookmark competition (her sister is working on an intricate entry). She wants to look at the books. Once she has picked an armful of History Girls, she comes back and writes a beautiful thing on a bookmark -- "Somewhere to sit and read".

3a. I see on Facebook that Tim says he slipped his beautiful thing (which he wouldn't show to anyone) into a Gor book.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Perk up, love and cooler.

It's my day at Oxfam Bookfest (in case anyone has forgotten!). I'll be at the Chapel Place Oxfam Bookshop in Tunbridge Wells today from noon to 3pm. 

1. My courgette plants have drooped in the full sun. I move them into the shade, and marvel at how quickly the leaves perk up again.

2. Her love is so fierce and absorbing that her attention always turns back to this wailing, difficult baby. If that's how I am going to feel about Baby Badger, I am not afraid of anything.

3. In these hot days, my evening glass of soda water and Angostura bitters (cool with condensation) is very welcome.

Friday, July 02, 2010

16 weeks, backroom stock and how to be a mother.

1. There is another 16-week mother at my antenatal yoga group. So I'm not the baby of the class any more.

2. I go down to Oxfam to prepare for Saturday's Bookfest event. The manager shows me their box of interesting items found in books (school photos, ancient letters, yellowed pages fallen from French novels). Then we rifle through the backroom stock in search of 3BTish books for the window display. If you're in TWells tomorrow (Saturday 3 July) between noon and 3pm, please pop in and say hi, and write a beautiful thing on a bookmark to slip inside a random volume.

3. Louise comes round -- she brings news about her new job, and a birthday present. It's a book of tea-time recipes. She says it's because I'm going to be a mother, and mothers need to know all sorts of recipes that no-one else does.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Summer fruit, packing and guest room.

a. Lucy over at Box Elder recently wrote a rather lovely description of 3BT, and she's been recording her own, illustrating them with her beautiful photographs.

b. I'll be at Oxfam in Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells, on Saturday from noon to 3pm helping them to celebrate their bookfest -- do come and say hi if you're in the area.

1. Someone has dropped a box of jewels in among our vegetables... My mistake: it's strawberries (which, on reflection, is even better).

2. I feel anxious about the move, which is next week. I fill a couple more boxes and immediately feel better. The empty shelves are reassuring. I hope we can achieve the same feeling of light and air in the new house. We'll have to be thoughtful about acquiring new possessions.

3. We invite a friend to stay -- because this time next week, we will have a guest bedroom

Lolly, rabbits and fairy festival.

1. As we walk, the grinding, crunching sound of Bettany working on a chalky double lolly. 2. Midsummer afternoon on the common -- rabbits gr...