Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lie-in, end of the line and over the wall.

1. Nick is taking today off, so we have a mid-week lie-in. I bring Alec into our bed and feed him until he dozes off norgled up between us.

2. Two teenage girls join the end of the queue. "I don't actually know what to do. It's ages since I've been in a library."
"We could just sort of look around until we find some books about Tunbridge Wells."
"We used to come here all the time with my old school, just to like read."

3. I can hear Nick speaking to a man out in the back garden, which is puzzling, because our back garden is surrounded by high walls. When I look out, it's Ed-Who-I-Used-To-Work-With, with Ellie. He's standing on a barrier in the car park to look down on us.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Watching the rain, poached and six month parcel.

Here is Alec yesterday at six months old -- my brave boy is trying some bread and cheese for the first time.

1. We are watching the rain from just inside the back door. I'm on a chair and Alec is sitting between my feet. He starts to declaim to the hissing air, waving his arms to underline his points. A draggled pigeon listens as if it understands, but the sky goes on pouring out water.

2. I love to cold poach thin salmon steaks with lemon and herbs by pouring boiling water over it and leaving it for 20 minutes. It makes the tenderest, juiciest coral pink fish. Alec mouths a few fragments, hesitates and then swallows.

3. Nick brings home a six month parcel from Godmother Charlie. It contains a book and some much-needed clothes (his legs will keep getting longer, and the poppers on his old vests strain so).

Sponsored post: Joe Delucci's Gelato

I've often passed the ice cream stand in the bottom of the Royal Victoria Place, but I've always had shopping on my mind and a baby in my arms... but today, I had a voucher, as well as a husband to carry the baby (and any shopping that might arise), so I grabbed the chance to sample Joe Delucci's wares.

The first thing I learnt was that it's not ice cream -- it's gelato. I had a cone of coffee (grown-up and bitter) and nocciolata (which tasted of chocolate, and of nuts without the usual soggy, tooth gumming clumps of nut), while Nick went for a tub containing one scoop of stracciatella (snow white, generously studded with chocolate chips) and one of toffee (caramelly). All the flavours were dense and creamy and not too sweet -- apparently this denseness of flavour is because gelato is not served as cold as regular ice cream; and also it has less air beaten into it.

I was an idiot to wait so long to try Joe Delucci's gelato, because it's delicious. I am slightly worried about the effect on my figure if I'm going to be getting a cone every time I pass -- but astonishingly, the fruit varieties are fat free (not sugar free, alas!) so they could be a low-guilt treat every once in a while. There are 30 flavours, and they are adding to the range all the time, so there's plenty to explore.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pull up, look down and let the night in.

1. "He stretched out his arms," says an astonished Godfather Tim, "so I took his hands, and he pulled himself up!"

2. She is in her late teens, blonde hair, about six months pregnant, proudly wearing a sugar pink tube top and a maxi skirt. She sits between two lanky boys of the same age. They are all looking down and marvelling at her changing body.

3. It's a bright, hot midsummer night, and it seems disrespectful to watch TV. So open the back door to let in the twilight and play cards in the kitchen.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Half year, cool contrast and hummingbird

1. We go along to a six month party for one of the NCT babies. It's amazing to see how much has changed in six months. The babies are interacting with each other now, and if you sit two of them facing each other, they'll smile and reach with sea anemone hands to touch each other's hands and faces.

2. On a bright hot day to come into a cool, dim house.

3. A bobbing blur at the jasmine. A hummingbird hawk moth. It's easy to believe it's a tiny bird.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Saffron, dunnock and new threads.

1. This morning the kitchen smells of saffron -- orange threads are soaking for saffron buns. Later, there's the silky feel of the dough, and the bright yellow buns rising under damp tea towels.

2. A dunnock skulking furtively under the gate into next door's garden. I don't care that he's a little brown job -- I like seeing him in our garden.

3. Alec is ready for bed wearing one of the new sleep suits that Nick choose for him -- it's warm orange and biscuit brown with turquoise poppers. He looks very retro and, I think, pleased to be wearing a brand new, well-fitting garment.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reading feeding, the wall and coming home.

1. Now that Alec is bigger and better able to support his own weight, I can read while I feed him. I finish another of my Christmas books -- time to take it downstairs and put it with the others in the series. And time to take the next one off the to-read pile and put it on my bedside table.

2. We both hit a wall after lunch. I take Alec upstairs and give him a feed. He drowses, and I nod over the first pages of my new book. When I look down, my nipple has fallen from his mouth. I roll him off and lie down next to him. We sleep until 5pm.

3. The text message I was too sleepy to check is from Nick, to say he'll be home early -- just an hour to wait now.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Patient, drying and home.

1. "Is your child all right?" wonders my boss on the phone. Alec is squirming in his bouncy chair, and as the meeting progressed, he has lost interest in the toys I've been throwing at him.
"I'll just put you on loudspeaker and give him a feed," I say.
"Tolerant and flexible," says my boss proudly. I think he's referring to himself, but he could mean Alec.

2. It rains while we are up town -- and I've left the nappies out on the line. But I was cunning, and left half the load drying inside, slower but surer.

3. Through the gap at the bottom of the blind I see Nick's silvery head bobbing up the street.

Hair, year eleven and weaning.

1. There is a pause, and then my hairdresser says: "It's best to not think about it too much. We all lose hair all the time." It occurs to me that she is quite right, and I feel much better

2. Three schoolboys get on the train. They're on their way to an exam -- American history GCSE, I think, from the mention of the great depression and FDR and an alphabet soup of acronyms. Then "What's in the bag?"
"I'm staying over tonight. There's a crowd of us-"
"Where's my invitation?"
"Up your arse."
He looks hurt, and the first boy reaches across and strokes his fringe tenderly. "No, really. It's not our people, it's the college crowd."

3. The NCT mums are weaning their babies. It's an exciting but scary time -- we're frightened of mess, and of choking, and of spoiling our babies' taste for food. We sit round in Michelle's front room and share tips and tastes and moral support.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Honesty box, praise and pottering.

1. The gate of the corner house is propped open by a table of tomato plants and an honesty box.

2. The waitress says that our four babies were better behaved than the child at the next table.

3. The baby has gone to sleep. The husband is watching a ball game. The rain has stopped. It's still light. I spend 40 minutes pottering with a pair of secateurs and a rubbish bag, cutting back unruly wisteria and weeding the gravel in the front garden and tidying up scattered pots round the back.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Give us bread and roses, feet feat and cookie sheet.

1. The kitchen this morning smells of new bread and roses.

2. The babies did the first part of their Duckling certificate today. One of the tests is to kick a ball around the pool while on their backs. Alec has been doing this very well for the last few weeks (he really likes kicking). Today, however, he lay back and put one foot in his mouth. I'm still smiling at the memory, and the instructor took pity and gave us another go.

3. One of my birthday presents was a new cookie sheet -- so this batch of ginger biscuits did not end up squarish from being crammed in too close.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Celebrate, roses bloom again and understory.

1. "Don't you want to save it until you have something to celebrate?" wonders my father as I hand him the bottle of Champagne that we keep stashed in our fridge. Let's see... Last week, Rosey got her PhD and accepted a job offer in her dream location. Today it's fathers' day. Tomorrow is my birthday. The next day is midsummer. Then it's your ruby wedding, followed by Rosey's birthday, and Alec will be six months old. If that isn't an excuse to pop a cork, I don't know what is.

2. I love my June birthday because my parents bring roses from the garden -- and an assortment of wildlife. By the time we serve lunch, a spider has started building a web between two of the vases.

3. While we are admiring the artist's work, two boys -- one with a bow slung over his shoulder -- roll past our knees and commando-crawl under the sofa.

4. Clean white birch trunks glow in the wet garden.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sit, anticipation and foot in mouth.

1. I turn round from dusting the bookshelves to find that Alec is no longer lolling against the pillows. He has leant forward to examine the grey fur of his badger puppet and is sitting unsupported.

2. It's all about surprises -- but only if he knows they're coming. I'm playing yaaaaah-BOO with Alec. He is giggling like a loon, and I have a very vivid memory of doing the same with Dr Rosey Grant when she was about the same age.

3. As I lift my son from the changing mat to the bath, he somehow manages to get a soft pink foot in his mouth.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

All's well, red hat and Poirot.

1. This morning I was close to tears when Nick left for work. I'd had a rotten night, and just wanted to go back sleep, but Alec was awake and lying in his cot whining for attention. At 10am I am glad to reassure Nick with a text message saying that we have had a nap and both feel much better.

2. It's really too wet to leave the house, but Alec's theatrical groaning and my vile mood are not going to improve if we stay in. To cheer myself up, I slap Mary Garret's knitted apple hat on Alec's head. He looks very jolly, and his head has grown so it no longer lolls over one eye. He even smiles when I show him his reflection in a shop mirror, and a group of people leaving the cafe stop to say how handsome he looks, which cheers us both up for all of half an hour.

3. Finding a previously unseen episode of Poirot among the trackless wastes of our cable's on-demand service.

Friday, June 17, 2011

One on each knee, service and excluder.

1. She swaps her breakfast bar stool with the mother sitting on a kitchen chair so she can take a solemn pre-schooler on each knee. "I don't know what you do if you have three," she says.

2.  She isn't serving me, but seeing the sling and the sleeping baby, she picks up my dropped umbrella and offers me a small bag "So it doesn't get your shopping wet". She says of the dead-eyed man behind the counter: "He's got a new baby."
"Two months," he tells me, which explains the glazed expression and the swaying.

3. To put the draught sausage across the bottom of the door.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Education, first scone and nudey time.

1a. which I forgot to say yesterday -- My sister is Dr Rosey Grant! She has finished her PhD, and we are all very proud of her.

1. My lifestyle has never been what you'd call Champagne, but maternity pay is not even a lemonade income. As a result, I'm looking rather tattered around the edges -- my slippers have split, and I feel very sloppy wearing them when Nick comes home at the end of the day. My mother took me and Alec out for a shopping spree for my birthday. It was lovely to look for some of the things I need and just buy them without thinking about the budget.

2. It was probably a mistake to sit Alec on my knee at tea time. Every time I lift my scone, he opens his mouth, thinking I'm going to pop some delicious morsel into it. He mashes his hand into the jam side and gives the bottom of the scone a gumming. Then he takes a drink from my water glass. I have to fish a soggy mess out of his mouth few moments later, and we are still vaguely sticky after a three babywipe wash, but he seems to think he's had a successful tea.

3. It's obvious that Nick's train is late, as he is normally home on the button every evening, and he isn't here yet. From the bedroom, I can tell from his arriving noises that he's a bit irritated. He comes up the stairs to find us, and is greeted by the sight of his infant son waving his feet in the air as he enjoys nudey time on the bedroom floor. Nick laughs, which pleases me very much.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Snuggle, more food and cool air.

1. Nick comes down from the study in the early morning. Alec is asleep in his cot, and I am awake enough -- but only just -- to move over so he can get in behind me. It feels as if we lie there, warm and safe, for hours. I ask him later, and it was only ten minutes.

2. The health visitor rather tiredly suggests that Alec is not sleeping because I need to give him bigger portions of real food. And there was me thinking it was because he was desperately unhappy in his cot and struggling with painful teeth.

3. It's a hot day, the photo shop is hotter still, and I think it was a mistake to put Alec in the sling. The staff ask if we would like to come and stand behind the counter under the air conditioner.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hands full, fingers and shower uninterrupted.

1. We've had a lovely swimming lesson, but I'm feeling a bit of a failure. So far, Alec has peed on my towel and on his baby grow, and I went into the loo with Alec in the sling over my one-piece bathing suit, thinking I was being all clever, only to discover that it is not possible to... you get the picture (or rather, I hope you don't). With this track record, I don't hold out much hope for us getting one of the few changing cubicles with a baby table. But a door opens before us and a lady on crutches comes out. "There you are darling, I'll keep this one for you." I am so touched by her kindness -- I know how much of a struggle it is to change when you have your hands full. "And I'll put the table down for you, darling." I tell her that she's made my day.

2. Alec has taken to grasping the fingers of strangers -- today, a lady who tells us she doesn't hate her ex-husband any more; and a man clutching an open bottle of rose wine in his other hand.

3. I really appreciate a shower that isn't interrupted by a cry for milk, milkies, miiiilllk, MILK NOW!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rowley-powley, from the past and retreat.

1. Ever since I decorated Alec's cot with a baby-safe mirror, we've been able to get ten minute's peace (and give him some valuable tummy-time) by lying him prone in front of it. He lifts up his head and practises his half-smiles (I can almost hear him saying: "Thang-you, thang-you very much.") This morning, I put him down and get back into bed to give Nick some attention. Alec rolls over on to his back for the first time, and lies there looking proud while we cheer him.

2. I give up on the idea of making a cake this weekend, and dig a bag of hot cross buns out of the freezer for tea. I'm very glad that past-Clare thought to put them in there. It was a wonderful gift and I will pay it forward to future-Clare.

3. We've had a succession of rough nights because Alec has been suffering with his gums. Nick agrees to sleep in on the bed in his study so he can get some rest, and I can do what I need to do to comfort the baby without worrying about disturbing my husband.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Open studios, have a go and everything stops for tea.

1. After Nick commented last Sunday that our days were slipping away, I made a concerted effort to plan and do something this weekend. We set out on a mission to look at some of South East Open Studios in Tunbridge Wells. We took the train to High Brooms and visited a gallery in a shed, where Clare Kelly was working on her paper cuts. Then we walked home the long way via a painter's turpentine-scented living room and a ceramics studio. In the damp garden, among the fantastical hanging planters, artists' spouses were waiting to be let back into the house and a guitarist was moodling around. He suddenly came out with Help by the Beatles, and everyone joined in.

2. "...And these are some pots made by visitors today," says Brigitt Head. "Would you like a go?" Would I? I've never tried making a pot, so I suppose I'd better say yes. And before I know it, I'm sat at a potter's wheel with a slippery, cat's tongue rough bowl forming under my hands.

3. Alec makes it clear that he has had enough of us talking art. We race homewards, but it's clear that he is very unhappy indeed. We decide to stop in town for late tea so I can feed him. I'm thinking Starbucks or Costa -- I know they are open until six. But we pass The Black Dog Cafe, which is now open during the evening. I know the cakes are excellent, so we turn in there. Alec is very quickly mollified, and I relax and enjoy my raspberry cheesecake cupcake. "We used to do this all the time," says Nick. I'm glad Alec reminded us that it's important to stop for tea.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

To the door, working time and less urgent.

1. She comes to the front door in the rain carrying her little boy on her shoulders.

2. I know Alec's tired because nothing will do, and he keeps rubbing his eyes, but he won't lie in his cot. I wrap him in the sling, and get nearly two hours of working time -- bliss.

3. I get a lovely smile before the "Milk NOW" cry begins. I listen hard to that cry, because it's getting rarer. He doesn't seem to feel so urgently hungry any more. I feel as if it might be the last time I'll hear it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Out with the babies, supplies and go to sleep.

1. There's an early message from one of the NCT mums wondering if anyone is up for a trip to Chartwell. I'm about to decline -- but if you say no to things, people tend to stop asking you; so I change my reply and say we'll be round with our sandwiches.

1a. She comes back from the garage with a bag of sweets: "You can't go on a journey without mints." I'm surprised to find that a Murray Mint is exactly what I do want.

1b. Gunnera -- the giant leaves make me feel as if I've shrunk like Alice in Wonderland.

1c. We shelter from the rain (that never comes) in Winston Churchill's studio. He kept his oil paints in a humidor, a gift from the Cuban government. I hold Alec up to the bronze bust of the great man, but he just squirms round to smile at me.

2. On a day that isn't as warm as it should be, she pours hot water from a Thermos and makes us cups of tea.

2a. We are both startled by the bright, bright blue of a delphinium in a border in front of a sun-baked brick wall.

2b. To stand on the high terrace lawn -- with all of Kent spread out in front of us -- and look up at the swifts that make long dives from the heavens to the eaves.

3. Our babies want to go to sleep, but can't. They are both fussing and a-heh, a-heh, a-hehing. The Canadian volunteer planting lavender says: "A nice bumpy ride in the stroller will do it." She's right -- it takes a while, but she's right in the end.

3a. To see another mother comforting her baby: I'm glad she goes into the mothering zone, too. It's a bit like a guitar trance, but with a baby.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Early start, new carrots and paper cuts.

1. One of the things I really miss in this new life is getting up early -- after broken nights, I'm normally not fit to be seen until after 9am. Today, it's a bright morning, and I'm keyed up instead of groggy and confused. I get up with Nick, and stay up to put out the washing and bake a cake. I wish every morning could be like this.

2. Laura serves batons of bright, crisp new season carrots with her homemade hummus. I want to scrunch them by themselves -- but it seems rude to ignore the hummus (which is excellent, with plenty of tahini and spices).

3. To spend an evening sitting at the kitchen table doodling on a piece of paper with a sharp scalpel.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Priorities, screen time and early to bed.

1. I am in a meeting about some work for the company at the top of our road. Through the open window, I hear a familiar howl of rage. "That's my baby! That's my little boy!" And I'm on my feet looking out of the window. My mother is taking him out for an airing, and she has it all under control -- but oh that cry... The publisher is very kind: "Do you want to go and see to-" Sound of running feet.

2. It's been a long day, and Alec is making it clear he wants more entertainment, and not the milk that I hope will send him off to sleep. I've used up my bag of tricks, and all my energy, but there's still half an hour before Nick gets in. Thank heavens for CBeebies Bedtime Hour. We watch 13 minutes of In The Night Garden before Alec decides he does want milk after all.

3. I get to bed on time and do a little reading before lying down. Nick and I lie in the dark and whisper until we fall asleep.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Making the best of it, after rain and insects.

1. We're waiting for the train to take us swimming, and after that we're having lunch with Godfather Tim. It was a scramble to leave the house this morning, because it's raining (everything takes twice as long when it rains), and I haven't checked my messages yet. There are two -- one to say that swimming school is cancelled; the other to say that Godfather Tim is cancelled as well. I think about getting a refund on our train ticket and going home -- but then I think about a rainy day stuck inside; and I've been telling Alec all morning that we're going swimming. So we go anyway -- it's free swimming, and Alec has an absolute ball splashing around among the pre-schoolers.

2. When we come out of the pool, the rain (it was the drizzly kind that gets in everywhere) has stopped. The air is sharp, clean and very still (apart from the odd drop falling out of the trees into the river). The trees are vividly green; and the river is so clear we can see the fish.

3. The little tree in our front garden has had aphids on the new shoots for a week or so. I was glad to see two ladybirds (one red on black, one black on red) moving among the leaves today. Also a yellow and black striped wasp, and an unreal jaggy little beetle with an acid orange flash on its back.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Standing up game, to us and angry.

1. We play the standing up game. I lie Alec on the bed and help him to his feet. He holds my two thumbs, one in each hand and wobbles this way, and that way before getting his balance. He looks very pleased with himself. "Don't let go," I tell him. "Don't let go." But as always when he's pleased with himself, he puts one hand in his mouth, and then the fingers of the other uncurl. He falls - bomp - on his bottom, bounces on to his back, laughs and reaches up for another go.

3. Shortly after Alec's birth, James and Kim invited us to see curmudgeonly Irish comic Dylan Moran about six months down the line. At the time, we booked my mother's grandmothering services, and wondered if we would ever summon the strength to leave our baby for an evening. But as the day drew near, we planned and anticipated. It was a wise present -- not just because we had an excellent night (I do like to hear Nick laughing out loud at a sweary Irishman) and because we looked forward to it; but because it was a gift that acknowledged and celebrated the married couple in this family.

3. My mother says she really didn't mind that Alec was furious with her for most of the two hours. "I'm a battered grandmother," she says. "It was odd, he kept looking round, in the corners of the room, and he kept trying to see round into the kitchen." He wakes up when I look into the cot and cries his angry food NOW wh-her, so I put him on, and he promptly falls asleep again. I'm sorry he was upset, but at least he was angry and not sad. He'll get the hang of evenings out.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Late sleeper, short films and revolver.

1. I am woken just before 6am -- Alec has been sleeping since 10pm. It feels very good to have had so much sleep.

2. While tooling around with the cable box menus, I stumble across the Virgin Shorts -- a festival of three-minute films. I jab at random and end up watching one called Sign Language. It is sweet and subtle and funny and I like it so much that I make Nick watch it, too. It's about a man who holds a signboard on Oxford Street, and a colleague who he can't talk to because "she's not union", and... well it's only three minutes -- you can watch it yourself.

3. I start to feel that it might be my turn to cuddle Alec, so I go up to the attic where the boys are listening to Material World. Nick says: "I put him on the bed and he turned round a whole 180 degrees to look at me."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Off my chest, kindness of strangers and gingerbread wife.

1. It's been a rough night -- I'm not sure, but I think it was FIVE feeds. I finally gave up on the cot and put Alec on my chest so I could at least doze. The boy has woken up and started to whine and wriggle down my body while sticking his fingers in my mouth and up my nose. I love to hear Nick say: "Shall I take him downstairs and give him some breakfast?"

2. Alec's hat blows off (it has room for him to grow) and flies into the middle of the road. I try to go after it, but it's bowling along, and my sandals aren't made for running after hats. "It's gone," says Nick (he has Alec in the sling, so he's definitely not running anywhere either. "It's gone. Leave it." We walk on up the street with Alec squinting crossly, when: "Excuse me, excuse me!" A man hurries up behind us, gives me the hat and hurries off, barely giving us time to thank him. We tell Alec that he can sometimes rely on the kindness of some strangers.

3. "The cake stall was there," says Nick as he comes in from the cricket match that was played this evening. During cricket week each year an enterprising family usually sets up shop on the lane leading up to the grounds -- but they haven't been there until today. He brings me a wobbly gingerbread lady generously decorated with gloopy purple icing and hundreds and thousands. She is delicious.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Asparagus, dog and plants in pots.

A few days late, but Fiona Robyn had a blogsplash on June 1 to ask people to write a Small Stone to mark their wedding day on June 18. If you haven't investigated Fiona's small stones (they're rather like beautiful things, but they don't come in threes, and they don't necessarily have to be beautiful), do check them out.

1. Last time we saw Nick's parents, his dad mentioned rather wistfully that he had never tried asparagus. We picked up a bunch on the way over there. It's been nearly a month -- I'd been feeling bad, thinking that the season would be over before we got there; or that it was just a passing fancy. But he is very pleased, and  goes over the cooking instructions a couple of times to make sure he has them.

2. A minibus tilts as it takes the roundabout. A black and tan terrier, tongue lolling, hangs out of the passenger window. "It must be a kaleidoscope of smells," says Nick.

3. To bring home new plants, and to give them a good soak in a bowl of water before planting.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Elder flowers, meringues and cake stand.

1. A fragrant brown box (of the sort that usually contains a slice of cake) arrives with our vegetable delivery. I've been lucky enough to win a prize in Abel and Cole's elderflower tombola. I could have gone and picked some myself, thinking about it -- there are trees in both the car parks. But I fondly imagine that these are Organic and Picked by Professionals, and they were a Prize, which makes them all the sweeter. It doesn't take long to get them infusing in a bowl of syrup for cordial. To me they smell a little like I do on a hot day -- the sweet notes, I mean, not the musky part of the smell. I hope the NCT mums who came for coffee don't think it's me letting myself go. I meant to indicate that it was cordial, not me, under cover of a good show-off about my domesticity; but I never got round to it.

2. Nick is off work today, and he distracts Alec while I make meringues -- I've never done it before, and I am amazed that such pure white foam can come from a natural product like an egg.

3. Nick's sister brought us a cake stand made from three fashionably mis-matched and chintzy vintage plates. The other mothers admire it, and even more satisfyingly, the meringues. I feel like a domestic goddess -- a minor one, a Lares or a Penates, rather than Vesta herself. Actually, I'm quite glad I didn't explain the elderflowers -- it might have been taking it a bit far.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

An honour, roses and rain.

1. Her three-week old baby makes an ominous rumbling. We wait the prudent quarter of an hour, and then they go up to our bathroom. "That was my first one away from home," she says afterwards. I feel oddly honoured, and I'm glad the bathroom was tidy. Tidyish.

2. My mother brings a bunch of the blowsy, scented roses that usually mark my birthday towards the end of June. They are early this year -- but none the less welcome.

3. I can never remember the word for it, but the smell of rain on a hot and previously dry day. I like the pricks of cold on my skin; and the splots and pits on the dust. And I like the hiss and the sudden movement of the air; and of people collecting themselves from all corners of the park.

Hardboiled egg, back in line and foxgloves.

1. I hardboiled a few eggs this morning. At lunch, I note that the one Nick is eating has a perfect yolk -- just a little soft. 2. It just t...