Sunday, July 31, 2011

Orange flowers, over the garden wall and the mops.

1. After breakfast, we sit in the garden -- I do some watering and sow a few pots of lettuce. I give Alec some nasturtiums to play with, and I'm taken by the way the orange flowers match the orange bears on his sleep suit.

2. Our neighbour peeps through the gate at Alec. We gossip -- "Was that Grayson Perry in your garden the other week?" And she had Coming Round the Mountain stuck in her head after overhearing me singing it to Alec in the garden. "Don't apologise -- you've got a nice voice, and I heard you singing, and heard your baby laughing and I felt like I was intruding. Don't apologise, these houses are so close together, we all hear each other." We really do -- I quite like it, though. You never feel alone if you can hear other people chuntering on with their lives.

2c. Ailsa plays Alec's favourite bouncing game, "This is the way the lady rides" -- she has some other verses that we didn't know, though. Alec looks bemused and pleased -- I know this bouncing talking thing, but it's not Mummy, and it's not the same riders.

3. We are struck with indecision in front of a display of mops. We need something to keep our floor clean, but what? There is so much choice. Another shopper comes up beside us and says: "I use that one." She has a speech impediment, and doesn't reply when I ask her about it. It occurs to me that she might have impaired hearing. I think she is very brave to help out strangers in a shop. "It's really good, that one. But the one you're holding is better value."  I turn to face her and try to speak more clearly when I thank her for her advice.

3. We clean up all the reduced chocolate we can find in town -- factory seconds, broken bars all get dropped into our shopping bag.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bump, coming in and shouting at old ladies.

1a. This is a morning when I really need my mum. I call, and she comes.

1. To meet Katie-who-I-used-to-live-with and see her looking even more bumpy, and to feel so happy I can't stop smiling at her. Of course I've always been happy for friends who are pregnant with a much-wanted child -- but since Alec was born, it makes me feel... buoyant. I must be remembering how happy I was, and I suppose that their choice is affirming my choice, too.

2. Copy and pictures that I had given up for lost come in like stray sheep scampering to catch up with the flock. And Martin offers me half his bacon sandwich so I don't feel jealous (I had porridge for breakfast, so I'm immune to bacon).

3. My mother says she and Alec have been sitting on the bench at the bottom of the road. "He wasn't wearing his hoodie, but he was shouting at old ladies. They loved him."

Friday, July 29, 2011

The bath, sharpening and adrenalin.

1. Alec is as unsettled as I am after a difficult night. I wish we could go swimming -- a train ride, a change of scene, cool water, a bit of floating and perhaps tea with Godfather Tim would do us both the world of good. But it's not possible today. I run a bath and we splash around together. Alec is more secure at sitting up since we last  did this, and it makes life so much easier.

2. To sharpen the carving knife on the steel -- screswish, screswish.

3. Alec is calling from his cot for someone to reassure him. He doesn't understand that the commotion that woke him was me falling downstairs, and that the person he wants most is being comforted by the only other person who would do. I sit on the sofa with Nick, and I want to go to Alec, but I'm too shaken. Then the adrenalin rush clears my head and I can go him.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cunning devil, family and favour.

1. It's been a horrible morning. I put Alec in his highchair to give him some lunch and he starts grizzling -- events have upset him, too. "Alec, give me a break," I tell him, and put my head on the tray. He shuts his mouth, smiles and makes a grab for my glasses, which makes me laugh.

2. My aunt and cousins come round and are kind.

3. When I come to thank Wynn Anne for her favicon, I tell her that this is one of those times when things are terrible, but something lovely pings out of this blog. I know she herself made the icon as a kind gesture to a near stranger, but what I mean is, she did me a kindness in response 3BT. It's one of those times when I'm very glad I keep it up.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flirt, ladybird and nasturtium.

Wynn Anne very sweetly made me a favicon for 3BT -- it should be appearing soon, and it will help those people (like me) who have lots of tabs open on their computer.

1. Alec in a room full of women. He looks left, smiles, hides his face in my chest, looks right, smiles and hides his face again. At his six-week check the GP said he was a flirt, and I'm starting to fear she might have been right.

2. On our black iron railings is a ladybird -- glossy as the black snooker ball, but bearing two scarlet rings.

3. A nasturtium seed I saved from last year's crop fell between the paving, germinated and grew. I've been trying hard not to squash its succulent peppery stems -- but it's right next to my tool crate, so it gets moved and pushed around. It went on growing, and it put out a bud. The bud has opened into an extraordinary velvet red-red-red -- I'm so surprised that I call out to Nick, and he leaves the washing up to see. It doesn't look like the picture on the packet at all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Colour combination, the squeeze and distress call.

1. I have a funny craving at the moment -- it's for a colour combination. Alec is wearing a lot of blue and orange, and I've been putting orange nasturtiums in blue glasses on the table.

2. Granny Nane and Alec are burning off some energy on the bed. Once I get to a safe place with dinner, I go upstairs to join them. Alec smiles when he sees me. I pick him up and he puts his arms out and gives me a squeeze.

3. I post a frustrated status on Facebook. One friend provides practical help, and another provides sympathy for the real cause of the problem. Ask and you shall receive, indeed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stitches, weeding and the good point.

1. On the Oxfam stall, I am leafing through a book about 19th century embroidery techniques, and thinking "I bet I could do that, too" about some cutwork on muslin, when Nick asks if I would like it. I think for a moment and realise that I would, very much.

2. The man at the bottom of the terrace is weeding his garden path. The damp red bricks smell of turned earth.

3. I ask Nick what he liked about today: "When I bought you a book and you kissed me."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Soda bread, that's my ice cream and Conan.

I've got a column in the Courier from this week -- I forgot to say on Friday. I think it's only in the paper though. If anyone has come from there, thanks for looking in, and I hope you enjoy 3BT.

1. My first loaf of soda bread -- it's a bread emergency and I don't have time to make a yeast leavened loaf. It is rough and round with butter-yellow crumb, and it tastes savoury and salty.

2. While I am chatting and my attention is elsewhere Alec leans out of his sling and eats my ice cream, nom, nom, nom.

3. Nick gave me The Complete Chronicles of Conan as a prize for giving birth to his son, and I've only just got round to it now. It's a lovely book in itself, and the stories are crackingly well written -- just like I remember from the first time I read them. The Cimmerian is a splendid creation: he has raw power and raw passion and raw tastes and raw good manners. Also, he and Nick share an origin story in my life -- both came to me through Godfather Timothy.

By the way -- has anyone else been listening to BBC Radio 4's Classic Serial -- it's an evocative adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Titus books. Mervyn Peake is one of my favourite artists, and Gormenghast would probably be my desert island book.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Go go go, sunflowers and the birthday.

1. "I can't stop her," says Nick's dad. "She goes off to the shop and up and down the stairs. Where's your stick?" he calls as she opens the back door.

2. Nana shows us the sunflowers that grew from the birdseed she put out last winter.

3. It's Paul's 40th birthday and Nick lets me out for the evening to celebrate. I arrive not knowing anybody but Paul and his wife Tara -- but soon discover that I'm talking with the waitress who served us tea a couple of weeks ago, and a midwife I met at a breastfeeding clinic. Also -- Paul's mother has made him a photo book of his whole life so far, and we learn that as a child he used to breed prize guppies, build robots and that he once lived on a road called Meteor Street.

Friday, July 22, 2011

To the pool, entertaining the baby and waiting.

1. It's not our swimming day, but we need to pay for next term's classes, and Alec has been... well a bit whiny, because he is bored and dis-satisfied with everything. So I pack the swimming bag and set off for the pool. As we come out of the station, I see Godfather Tim stumping up the road, which is a pleasing co-incidence. And we get our swim free because without realising it, we've collected points.

2. Alec starts groaning theatrically on the train -- it seems that the high summer countryside on the most beautiful stretch of railway line in the world* whizzing by at 40mph is now passée -- and I don't have a toy with which to distract him. I turn him round to face me and sing his favourite songs into his ear. As we get off the train, the man sitting across the aisle from us says "That improved the journey, thank you. He's going to have no problems with attachment or train journeys now."**

3. Nick is waiting for us at the top of the station stairs.

* my opinion, please don't be cross if you visit and it's not.

** actually, looking at that, he could have been being sarcastic. Does anyone else think he was being sarcastic? I can't imagine that he would have enjoyed Alec whinging, though.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Artist, babies all round and found toys.

1. Grayson Perry came round to talk with my NCT group about middle class taste -- class taste is the subject of his next series of tapestries; and his creative process is the subject of a documentary. So we had a Turner Prize winning artist sitting at the kitchen table, all the NCT mothers and the babies, and a camera man and a sound man, while the director sat on the stairs chuckling at the footage as it came in (Nick told me that -- I was too busy pouring fizzy wine). Grayson Perry himself was charming, but he asked challenging questions, and he watched and watched and watched us -- that I found disconcerting, like when Alec has a good look at me doing something mundane. But that's creative people on a mission for you -- and I'd have been disappointed if I'd thought he wasn't observing us. To look at, he reminded me of the sandstone that my parents' barn is built from because he's blondy-red-gold, and he's rough but weathered smooth at the same time.

2. At one point everyone round the table had a baby -- including GP, who was holding the sleeping Alec (I was entertaining one of the twins). I think that everyone should be dandled by a celebrity so they can drop it into conversation at dinner parties.

3. It's been a day of improvised toys -- Alec entertained himself for quarter of an hour before lunch with a cabbage leaf (it's OK, it was organic). And once the film crew had gone, he, Henry and Freddie Two got hold of the Financial Timeses (it's OK, it's a broadsheet) we keep for putting under the high chair. They had a good look at the share prices, and then ragged the lot into shreds and gummed pulp.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Find, caterpillars and empty dishwasher.

1. I trickle down the hill by way of all the charity shops. In British Heart Foundation I find a Barbara Pym novel and a baby pair of tweed plus-fours that match a shirt and jumper of Alec's.

2. Tiny green and black caterpillars lie side by side on a sorry-looking nasturtium leaf. Fill your boots, little'uns -- there's plenty of nasturtiums, and life is short.

3. The dishwasher finishes while we are listening to the radio, so we put everything away. It feels good to go to bed and leave the dishwasher empty.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

These are for Julie who commented the day before yesterday -- the throat chakra, which governs the thyroid, is blue, so I looked out some blue beautiful things as I thought they might help with the healing.

The very first post concerned blue, and I found the blue sweetpeas yesterday and the day before. And surprising delphiniums at Chartwell, and a blue azalea closer to home, and squills, bluebells and my mysterious blue plant food. There's people's eyes -- Alec's are still blue, but Poppy's are changing. There are skies and skies and skies and skies. There's snorkelling in Turkey, and blue glass charms.

I was very fond of the blue tits that hung off my bird feeder at the old flat. I love the blue of smoke and of bonfires and of brandy flames and of car exhaust. There are the blue gentians that stand out so clearly in my memories of Nepal, and the meconopsis that I've never written about, but was so bright it looked man-made in the browns and duns of a newly thawed Himalayan meadow. There are berberis berries and Doctor Manhattan and tonic water in sunlight and finally, vervet monkeys.

1. I accidentally duck Alec while we're swimming. He comes up coughing and to my surprise, laughing. I apologise, of course, but I don't want to make a huge thing of it. It took me a long time to learn to go under water as a child, so I hope my baby will always be this relaxed about it.

2. Tim says, as he offers Alec spoonfuls of potato, "I don't know why parents don't just spend the whole time looking in wonder at their babies." I resolve to spend more time doing just that.

3. I've been struggling all evening with what should have been a simple piece of writing. It needs a cut -- but I just don't have the courage to pare away any of the ideas I have fought so hard to express. I get in the shower, and suddenly know exactly what I have to do, and I have the resolve to do it (but in the morning, because it's late now).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blue peas, bouncing and gammon.

1. I can't get over those sweetpeas -- I find one that is Mediterranean blue, and another that is the colour of the sky between the stars on a clear full moon night.

2. Alec giggling as we toss him in the bed sheet, plump him up as if he were a pillow and throw the duvet over him. He's starting to anticipate the bed linen games now -- he smiles broadly when we put him in his cot and clear the clothes off the foot of the bed.

3. To jab cloves into the crisp layers of an onion -- it's going to flavour the gammon I am boiling.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dry spell, candy and hit a six.

1. The rain stops towards the end of the afternoon, and we are so out of here. We cram on shoes and the sling (Alec is lucky he is the right way up) and dash out into the new-washed air.

2. The sound of M&Ms rattling as you dip into the packet.

3. We sink into the sofa to watch the joyful Bollywood Twenty:20 extravaganza Dil Bole Haddipa. The dialogue is so smattered with English phrases that I begin to think I understand Hindi. From the moment the heroine hits six balls for six, and we discover that the captain of the local team has a handsome son and is desperate to win a match, you pretty much know what's going to happen next.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Two boys, out of the sun and flower box.

1. We put our two boys in the back of Jo's car, and they look across at each other. I think they're still surprised by the idea of other babies.

1b. Jo comes up with two excellent beautiful things -- I hope she comments and shares them!

2. On a hot, hot day, to go to the cinema for a newbies show. I feel guilty to be wasting the sunshine -- but then I remember how much I worry about Alec burning; and how cross he gets when the sun is in his eyes.

3. We get home and on our cool doorstep is a Friday Flower Box from Molly Dishwasher, a gift from Anna. There is a bunch of sweetpeas in blues and indigos and violets; dahlias like red velvet cushions; and closed green-white beaks of lilies. By nightfall one of the lilies has opened into a star bigger than my hand.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Last Christmas, early and Miranda.

1. I start reading the last of my Christmas books -- although there's still my present for giving birth (The Complete Conan) before I can start on my birthday books. Books no longer feel like a slog, now I've got more spare time, and I've mastered reading while feeding.

2. Nick comes home unexpectedly early -- early enough to give Alec his supper, which means I can concentrate on my own bowl of pasta instead of doing one spoon for me, one for you, one for me, one for you.

3. I love Miranda because it portrays so accurately and kindly and funnily a single woman in want of a husband.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Brown-eyed boy, chalk protest and conversation.

-2. He looks like a nice, ordinary, everyday man in shorts and football top -- you'd see him in your pub and grunt a comment about the weather. But he walks around town addressing people, and no-one knows how to react. "Beautiful dress you're wearing!" "Afternoon!" "That's the trouble with mobile phones..." He sees me and Alec and stops short, staring at our Moby wrap. "That's brilliant! I like that!" I smile and say cheers, because I quite agree.

-1. She speaks slowly -- as if the words take a while to come down -- but moves quickly, sitting, standing, sitting. My gaze flicks from the delicate greenish tattoo on her upper arm to the toddler sleeping in her buggy. It's a good likeness.

1. This brown-eyed boy is the youngest of our NCT group, and he feels small and soft compared to Alec -- or perhaps he's gentler and less squirmy than my thuglet. I think you could hand me the babies one by one in the dark, and I would know which one was Alec. I could probably have a guess at some of the others.

2. In the bus shelter, someone has chalked "Capitalism isn't working" and "If you don't like what you see, see what you can change." I like the fact that they have not used paint or pen that must be scrubbed off.

3. While we are waiting, a bulky man hurries across the road and starts chatting to us. He says he's on Jobseeker's Allowance -- has been since August, but it's only until he passes his driving test. He catches two buses in for a gardening work experience placement, then two buses home each day. "As soon as I've passed I'm going to get a Mondeo, with room in the back for my tools." He gives me his driving instructor's business card.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Off to sleep, crispy and foil.

1. As we roll the pushchair home, Alec grumbles himself off to sleep

2. I have fried the bacon too much. It's starting to char, and I have to hold the pan under the extractor fan to keep the smoke alarm happy -- but the crumbled pieces stay crispy in our scrambled eggs.

3. Scrumpling the foil from the cooking chocolate.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wet, rescue and nasturtiums.

1. We are having a terrible nappy day (the health visitor says he's OK, we just need to cut back on the fruit and bung him up with stodge and protein) and the two that were only wet were very welcome.

2. Rosey comes to rescue me for the day -- she holds Alec and makes him laugh so that I can give the house some love and do a bit of writing.

3. My nasturtiums with their clean scarlet and flame flowers, and their tangle of brittle fleshy stems and their peppery smell, and their blown-out umbrella leaves.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Grandville, handiwork and shadow.

1. Our library has a small but imaginative collection of graphic novels -- to my delight, we find the second of Bryan Talbot's Grandville series, a scientific detective romance thriller about an anthropomorphic badger.

2. Alec holds a piece of new potato in his entire hand and presses into into his mouth.

3. The low sun stretches a thrush's shadow up the pavement.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Porridge, doughnuts and Malteasers.

1. A bowl of hot porridge. (I have loathed porridge (sticky, slimy, glutinous oats and hot milk, ugh) my entire life -- and suddenly I can't get enough of it. I think it's something to do with all the pulpy foods we're spooning into Alec.)

2. Our greengrocer now sells bread -- and the occasional cake. Today there is a tight-packed tray of soft, fresh terracotta-coloured doughnuts. The world is full of disappointing doughnuts (stale, chilled from the freezer, damp, dusted with icing sugar -- I'm still resentful, Grey College Durham, 1995-1998; rancid oil taint -- Greggs, I'm looking at you) so I make a point of buying and devouring any good ones that I come across. This one is excellent -- crisp and soft and new bread chewy with garnet red jam.

3. Sucking the chocolate off a Malteaser, and letting the centre fizzle away on my tongue.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Staying in, going out and girls' night.

1. Alec and I sleep on past the time for leaving while rain hisses down outside.

2. The day improves immeasurably once I stop trying to do housework, pack Alec into the sling and walk out with no particular place to go.

3. "You look very pretty," says Nick as I dust on a little face powder. And then I get the hell out of there before Alec wakes up again.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Purple haze, french bean and rice noodle.

1. Our wisteria is having a second blossoming --not as fulsome and generous as the spring effort, but no less welcome for all that.

2. The lead shoot of my french bean coiled round and round the cane.

3. When half the rice noodle is has been sucked in, it occurs to me that perhaps giving it to Alec was a bad idea. I go to pull it out -- but he sucks back harder. He is quite affronted when I fish in his mouth for it -- but the whole six inches really has gone.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Reading, giggling and last feed.

1. Now that Alec is bigger, I can read while I feed him -- ain't life grand! This morning I finish off the book Rosey gave me for my birthday, The House of Many Ways by the much-missed Diana Wynne Jones. It has her usual, satisfying click-into-place ending. I also forge ahead with Annie Proulx's Accordian Crimes. Her books make me want to be a better, braver writer, who isn't afraid of dark places.

2. From the hall I hear a familiar giggle -- but that can't be my son, because he's in a very grumpy mood today. But it is -- Charlie is tickling him, and he's having hysterics.

3. I've started eating my supper early with Alec. Once his bedtimes were horrible -- I'd be on edge because I was ravenous, and he'd be on edge, too, and sometimes I'd still be sitting there at nearly 9pm. Now the last feed is a calm, dozy time. In the dim light I read a little, dream a little, snooze a little. Alec's eyes droop, his sucking slows and he drifts gently off to sleep. At about twenty past eight I lay him in his cot and go downstairs to join Nick.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Meadow, find the baby and upstairs downstairs.

1. She leads me through a clot of French students, past a cottage garden full of sprawling perennials and bird feeders ("This is the bit that looks like someone's garden") and over a bridge to Greyfriar's meadow, walled on one side, with an arm of the river on the other. There is a thick herbaceous border, a broad lawn path and a swathe of wildflower meadow.  "It's my favourite place in Canterbury," she says.

2. I follow the directions and find the mother, Rosey and Alec cool in the shade. Alec has sweet potato round his face, and looks pretty cheerful. I don't think he's been worrying about me at all -- even though I've been worrying about him.

3. I climb up the cool spiral staircase to the museum's reception, and am led halfway back down, back up and then over a glass bridge and down another cool tower stair (smelling of stone and iron) to a bright glass and brick space that will soon be a coffee shop.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

One hand, subbed and voice.

1. While I'm getting lunch from the counter, Alec falls asleep on his godfather -- who has to learn rapidly how to  eat with one hand.

1. While we are eating lunch on this hot bright day, a tiny lady in a coat and hat -- she looks like a character from a Miyazaki film -- shuffles in and orders a sausage roll at the counter. When she reaches the till, she puts a handful of coppers on the counter, and turns out her purse, which is attached to her trundler with a piece of chain. It is painfully empty.  "Don't worry, Mary," says the cashier. "We'll sort it. You're in here all the time... I know, I know, they took your purse. Don't worry about it. Go and sit down, and I'll bring it over."

3. "What is it, darling?" The mother is wondering why I've left her holding my puree-covered son and gone to the door. "I heard Daddy's voice," I tell her. "It's too early," she says. But minutes later his car comes down the drive.

4. We put Alec to bed in a drawer padded with a cellular blanket. We've stuck religiously to the bedtime routine, and I've tucked Snorgle Dog under the blue fleece to help him feel at home. I feed him to sleep as usual, and when he goes heavy, try to put him down. His eyes pop open, and he makes it quite clear that he is much too excited to sleep. When I go back in, he is still waving his arms and legs and babbling to himself.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Bed lumps, burgers and cake stall.

Alec's fans have been quite active these past few days.

a. His great aunt wrote about and pictured him on her Sixty for Sixty blog -- while you're over there, check out her 60 beautiful things -- long past and recent past and any time. It's a grand achievement, and think I would struggle to come up with 60 beautiful things over three posts (but perhaps I'll be better at it by the time I'm 60).

b. Godfather Tim wrote about today's adventure.

1.To amuse Alec while we make the bed -- he's about the size of a fat pillow, so he gets plumped along with them; and we each take two corners of the duvet and bounce him on it; and then we drop the duvet on him to play "Where's the Baby?" (he's not very good at that, being too wriggly-giggly).

2. At the market, a blond farmer is selling burgers made from his own cattle. "Go on," he says, "try some." It's delicious and juicy. "We've got some tofu for supper," I tell Nick doubtfully. "To-what?" says the farmer. And I think to-what indeed and buy us some burgers. There's a time and a place for tofu -- it's supposed to be a good weaning food, for one thing; and I like it for weeknight suppers, fried golden or floating in a clear soup.

3. "Everything is 50p, even the bags," they tell us on the cake stall. So it's millionaire shortbread for our tea.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Dress, celebration and scramble.

1. Small Maggie is wearing a yellow ochre and turquoise dress.

2. We gather to celebrate the 30th birthday of Mr Ian Read, Courier Editor. I spend a few moments thinking of his early years at the paper -- in particular, I remember him and another reporter (now a respected journalist in New Zealand) singing at midnight under the window of my flat on the High Street.

3. Feeding our boy is a bit hit and miss these days. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn't. Tonight, he does like scrambled eggs -- he likes his own scrambled eggs; and he likes a big spoonful of mine, too. And then he goes on to like a ripe plum with horrid sucking noises.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Out, event and just like me.

1. To get out of the house in under fifteen minutes.

2. The last time we went to Baby Bounce and Rhyme at the library, we had to push through a crowd of about 50 mums and babies. Alec didn't enjoy it, and I felt totally overwhelmed. This time, there were about 20, and Alec is now a bit more experienced. He recognised some of the songs, and smiled when he heard them.

3. We are lying in bed when from Alec's cot there comes a single, delicate snore. "I love him so," says Nick. "He's just like me."

Friday, July 01, 2011

Cut-out, ladybirds and feet in mouth.

1. My cousin Amy brings me an intricate cut-out butterfly birthday card.

2. The aphids are now all gone, and the ladybird nymphs have turned themselves on their heads and wriggled out of their spiked skins. They are gradually becoming shinier and smoother and glossier and redder and spottier. More and more often I see a fully grown ladybird scuttling under a leaf. The tree is right by the front door, and I can't help telling everyone about them, even people who are not as fascinated as me. When I tell Janey, she's out there with her camera almost before I've finished.

3. Alec is still amusing himself and us by putting his feet in his mouth during nappy changes. He does it so comically that I laugh just thinking about it. I'd love a record -- a picture, I mean, because it's hard to capture the particular expression on his face in words. But give the circumstances (he won't do it with a nappy on) it's hard to get a tasteful image. His great aunt, however, deploys her magic camera with pleasing results.

Art book, gossip and watermelon.

1. Among my birthday presents is a new book of Tove Jansson's art, featuring lots of bits I've never seen before. 2. Stopping for a ...