Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lilies, mince pie and early.

1. My anniversary lilies opened on Sunday. The stigma is coated with velvet the colour of aubergines, and the white petals have a zing of cold lemon yellow up the middle.

2. "I just fancied a mince pie," says the mother. Then she puts the kettle on.

3. Alec goes to bed early -- very early -- at his own request, and Nick comes home to a tidy, quiet house, a plate of sandwiches and a gently steaming cup of tea.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rejoice, wipe and mountains.

1. While we are waiting, I get chatting to a lady on another table. She says a lovely thing about Alec: "He makes me want to sing and dance with happiness."

2. Tim reaching over to wipe Alec's nose during lunch. I get a lot of pleasure from... well from Tim's pleasure in the time he spends with Alec.

3. We go to bed early and do some reading. I pick up one of the graphic novels Nick gave me on our wedding anniversary. It's an adaptation of HP Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. I first read this novella during the year I was Tim's housemate, on his recommendation; and it was a throw-away Lovecraft reference that helped bring me and Nick together. But anyway, Ian Culbard's illustrations -- they are reminiscent of Tintin -- convey the oddly claustrophobic (given the Antarctic setting) feel of the original. And I think the cover is just perfect.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Water vapour, control and roast dinner.

1. A shaft of long low winter sun hits the water vapour in the bathroom, showing how the air currents move and swirl. I stand in my towel fascinated, watching the illuminated specks dancing as I breathe.

2. Alec finally  makes himself understood -- he wasn't asking me to change the radio station, or dance with him. He wanted to the remote control.

3. Perfect crackling, and perfect roast parsnips.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A word from Alec, bagels and home farm.

1. I wake up super early with a knot in my stomach. Nick is half-awake beside me, and I tell him that I'm feeling anxious. Alec rolls over in his cot and pulls the cord on his music box. "See," says Nick. "Alec doesn't want you to worry either. He wants us to listen to Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

2. There is one step in the recipe that I'm a bit wary of: the poaching. I can't help but imagine my bagels falling apart in the seething water. But they bob around and puff up -- they take on the texture of wobbly thighs, however. They smooth out as they bake, and turn reddish brown and glossy.

3. "Oh, really," I tell the lady on the rapeseed oil stall, "I grew up in Staplehurst."
"Small world," she says.
I tell her which farm.
"That's the one," she says. "The big field behind the white cottages."
Really small world. And I buy a bottle of her oil.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cake, wonder and early night.

1. A little brown cardboard box containing a piece of cake. I'm glad I stood my ground and waited, rather than rushing straight into work.

2. I have been working all afternoon on two separate computers -- an office Mac and my own PC. I've had my Gmail account open on both machines, and I've been using both to send emails and download pictures as the need arises. Sometimes I've had the same email open on both machines. I still can't quite believe it's OK to do that, but I've never yet had a problem.

3. By the time Nick gets in, Alec is asleep. We have a whole, long evening ahead of us -- and then we spoil it by dozing off so Nick's supper is late...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Rigid, planet and found my phone.

1. When I try to put Alec in the pushchair he grumbles, arches his back and goes rigid. It's irritating because it's cold and dark and I really want to get us home. But it's funny, too, because my mother recently described me doing exactly this as a baby; and I'm very flattered that he would prefer to be carried in my arms; and it's amazing to see him expressing himself so clearly.

2. The first star is so bright that it must be a planet. It's in the eastern sky and we are walking straight towards it. I can't wait to see Alec find out about space.

3. To see my lost mobile phone glowing down the back of the sofa.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lunch, climbing and up and down.

1. A bacon roll and a cup of tea. Lovely.

2. Alec is climbing up me at the soft play area -- he's got the wrong idea somewhere. I lie back and let him climb along me instead and my back slowly unpings. Last night was tough, and I seem to have picked up a bit of tension. "You look like you could stay there all day, Clare," says Laura. It's tempting... If only bacon rolls and cups of tea were allowed in the ball pit.

3. It didn't even occur to me in planning today that to get home we would have to bump the pushchair up the station footbridge and down the other side. It's just as well , because I would have worried about it, and it wasn't as bad as I imagined.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thorn tree, voice and wrap up.

1. From the train I catch sight of a hawthorn tree glowing red with berries alone in the middle of a misty field. Just that image, before Alec calls me back.

2. Rosey phones in her lunch break. It's strange to think of a person in the Antarctic having a lunch break; and it's strange to think of our voices going back and forth across that distance. She has seen more penguins, and says that later in the year, as the long night approaches, you get round-the-clock sunsets.

3. A shout outside the window interrupts my work. It's my parents and Alec off out for a walk. I send them back inside to get another blanket for him. It's not very cold, they tell me, and Alec is a hot little body. Of course I trust my parents totally where his care is concerned, but there is some pleasure to be had in bossing your own mother and father around.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All right, new sister and anniversary.

1. The postman has brought the parcels, the engineer has mended the internet and my work on the magazine is done. All's right with the world.

2. She leaves her mother and her granny and her seven-week-old baby sister to come and stare at Alec. I tell her that he wasn't much fun at first. He was just cross. "That's what she's like," says her mother, pointing to the tiny baby on her chest.

3. Nick and I curl up on the sofa to eat chocolates, drink fizzy wine and enjoy the books he has given me.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cava, chocolates and fruit.

Our internet went down for a few days, hence the interruption. Everything is OK now. It's been pleasant chatting to each other, and wondering about things, rather than rushing to look them up.

Rosey has written a few posts about her new life in Antarctica, or Auntarctica as we call it now. I'm sure she'd be glad of a few comments to say hi! She's very far away.

1. We open a bottle of Cava to drink slowly throughout the day as we celebrate our wedding anniversary.

2. Nick and Alec come home proudly bearing a box of chocolates the size of an occasional table.

3. To cut pieces of fruit and hand them to my boys.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My bath, time and my milk.

1. To loll in the bath -- by myself, without someone using me as a step ladder or trying to feed.

2. In Marks and Sparks, I suddenly remember that I'm supposed to be listening for the alarm on my phone, telling me it's time to get home. I pull it out of my pocket just as it goes off.

3. Alec detaches himself and squirms feet first off the sofa. I tell him that if he doesn't want milk, then I'm going to offer it to Blue Lamb. Blue Lamb loves milk. Alec looks horrified and asks to be picked up again.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pyjamas, meet and early to bed.

1. At Alec's nursery, everyone is wearing pyjamas to raise money for Children in Need.

2. If I hadn't stopped to buy a cupcake (only I discovered when I came to pay that I had no money on me) I wouldn't have run into He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, on his way back from buying a dinner jacket.

3. Afternoons at work and nursery have tired us out. By the time Nick gets in we are both asleep.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mop, progress and phone.

1. To clean the high chair area with a wet mop and put down fresh newspaper.

2. "Are we doing all right?" I ask the designer. "Yes," he says. "I think we are."

3. "He was playing with this," she shows me the toy phone. "When I said 'ring ring' he picked it up."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back to sleep, morning and which one.

1. An unhappy baby cheers up enough to fall asleep in my arms. I roll him very carefully on to the bed next to me and snuggle down beside him.

2. Alec falls asleep after his morning feed and I leave him in bed and go upstairs to cuddle my sleepy husband.

3. Alec has been gobbling down his cereal (he likes them soaked in milk and then put one-by-one on his highchair tray). When Granny comes in, he squirms round, trying to get to her. Then he remembers his breakfast and squirms back again. Then Granny. Then breakfast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Work, gutted and making the bed.

1. At 9.30, I leave work and go home to where Nick is waiting to start his day. "It's amazing what you can do in an hour," I tell him.

2. "Oh!" I am dismayed and despondent. "Supper is going to be late." I had assumed that the fishmonger had cleaned and gutted the dabs I'd bought for us. They were intact. "Brave girl," says Nick, as I search for information about preparing flat fish. It's not so bad really in the end, and they are delicious.

3. We stand Alec in his cot while we change our bed. He watches us shaking out the duvet, and then picks up and shakes his own blanket.

3a. I come to bed late and crawl into the clean sheets. They feel so good that I want to wriggle and squirm right across the bed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Schoolgirls, Mrs K and on the floor.

1. A group of ten schoolgirls in the street sounds like a busy stream on a very still day in the height of summer.

2. Godfather Tim brings the lovely Mrs Knight to lunch.

2b. In the November fog, approaching her house feels like the opening scene of a gentle ghostly fairy tale novel.

3. We put Alec and Xavi on the floor and they reach out to touch each others' faces.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Apple, construction and rosemary.

1. There is nothing quite like Alec eating an apple with his four (nearly five) teeth.

1a. Cat says: "Ellie has started writing books. Luckily, she hasn't finished one yet. It would be awful to be beaten at book writing by your five-year-old daughter." Later I am allowed to see a work in progress. It is like an illuminated manuscript. Every single letter has been outlined and coloured.

2. Ellie is building an undersea castle for her Playmobil mermaids and mermen from a shoe box. I help cut out crenelations for the towers (which are, of course, made of cardboard tubes).

3. At the bus stop, Ellie hands me a rosemary leaf to put in my pocket -- for remembrance, perhaps?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Steps, tell me and shall we.

1. We have been wedging Alec's toddle truck against the wall so he can stand up holding it, but it won't run away with him. Today he sees me go round the corner and sets off after me, one wobbly step at a time, pushing the truck in front of him. Nick hovers close by, and we are both amazed..

2. Something upsets Alec during dinner. I give him some milk to cheer him up, and put him back in his high chair. He throws another wobbler. I ask him what the matter is, and he takes my hands and puts them on his ribs. "Pick me up, Mummy, just pick me up and give me a cuddle."

3. "Shall we have some ice cream?"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reading, jonquils and a story.

1. ...and he's asleep. I should get up and do... and do... important things. Instead I lie back in bed and read for a while.

2. The Mother's jonquils peeping over the top of the computer screen.

3. I tell Alec three times, four times, five times on the way home that I'm going to hang my coat up, change my shoes and put supper in the oven before I feed him. This time he waits calmly for his milk, rather than crying and raging with frustration.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fitted in, chemists and crunching.

1. "I know," says the receptionist. "It's horrible when you it hurts to feed them. Let me think how I can help you... I can fit you in at ten to twelve. It won't be with your usual GP but..." I can't thank her enough for her kindness. I'm so glad she understood and didn't trivialise my problem.

2. The smell of a pharmacy -- I don't know what it is, but it hasn't changed since I was tiny.

3. The sound of Alec crunching on a bread stick.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Giraffe, bus and writers.

1. Sophia has a plush giraffe looking over her changing table. Alec is fascinated by its long eyelashes and gentle face. Sophia also has a beautiful pink and white nursery, with a princessy net over her bed, an embroidered sampler and a knitted tea set. Our nursery is full of books...

2. It's already dark, and a long way home. The traffic is so bad that I have no idea when the bus will come. I tell myself that if it arrives just as we get to the next bus stop, we'll jump on. Then I wonder what Nick would say about pinning my hopes on such an improbable event. But as we crest the hill, there it is, full of light and coming round the corner.

3. To see some favourite writers -- Francis Spufford and Sara Wheeler -- on TV. It's like meeting old friends. Francis Spufford is less posh and academic than I thought; but travel writer Sara Wheeler is just as glamorous, and I admire her even more than ever.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Service, home early and recycling.

1. When I come back I find that my mother (who is looking after Alec) has hung out the washing and emptied the dishwasher.

2. The laptop runs out of battery at 4pm. When I go downstairs to fetch the cable, I discover that Nick has come home early and is bouncing the baby (who looks very pleased) on his knee.

3. Remembering -- just before I get into bed -- that we need to put the cardboard out for the dustmen. The box was so full it was leaking into the can box and spreading into the cupboard under the stairs. It really needed to go, and I would have hated to have to get up and do it in the wee small hours.

Launch, deep blue and Downton

1. Alec launching himself off the side of the pool with more enthusiasm than style. He goes under water and comes up coughing and smiling.

2. I drift into a charity shop on the way home and a deep ocean blue catches my eye. It's a knitted jacket, pure wool the label says, from Guernsey. Dense and heavy and rather bohemian, it's a steal at £6.50.

3. To -- finally -- find time for the new series of Downton Abbey.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Dust, gap and reflection.

1. When Nick and I go down to retrieve the balls Alec has dropped on Nana and Grandad's kitchen floor, we am impressed at how clean it is. "I sweep it every day," says Grandad, "And mop it a couple of times a week. He goes on to wonder idly about the make-up of 'flick'. "It's from us, I suppose," he says. "And dead people." It makes me think of a poem by Emily Dickenson --
This quiet dust was Gentlemen and Ladies,
And Lads and Girls:
Was laughter and ability and sighing,
And frocks and curls.
2. As I am putting Alec in the push chair, I feel a light touch on my back where my top has ridden up and my trousers are too loose. "It wasn't me," says Grandad.
"You get yourself a longer vest," says Nana.

3. There is a flashing orange light in the car park on the other side of the lake. The elongated shadows of walkers fall into its reflection on the water.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Warm enough, masks and mash.

1. I put my hand into the push chair footmuff -- again -- to check that Alec's little legs are warm enough. It's toasty down there, and he laughs because he thinks I'm being very silly.

2. We are stopped in the park by two masked 12-year-olds (one balaclava, one Guy Fawkes). "Did you know Scientology is scam?" Yes, we did, thank you.

3. I put a spoonful of mashed potato and squash down on the highchair tray. Alec lets out a joyful squeal and slaps it with both hands until it is flat enough for his liking. Then he eats it in fistfuls.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Box, snowflakes and hugs.

1. There is a large -- and I mean large -- and sodden box in the sitting room when I come down in the morning. We had a delivery yesterday afternoon and the driver left it under a tree in the front garden. No-one saw it in the dark, so it sat out in the rain all night. Nick must have spotted it as he was leaving for work, and brought it in. The cardboard mushy tears apart easily, and the contents is safe.

2. To catch a man pasting the snowflakes on to Hooper's window.

3. "He really hugs me," says the nursery nurse. I'm glad someone else thinks Alec gives good cuddles.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Jog on, meatballs and accident.

1. "Tell him to jog on," says Oliver. "It's what all the young people are saying these days, I believe."

2. The meatballs go down well in the highchair zone -- hardly any ends up on the floor. It's very satisfying to serve something that Alec seems to like -- although I think it might be just that he's putting on chub for a growth spurt, rather than any comment on my menu choices.

3. Alec does a little poo in the bath -- but it lands on the lid of the wipes box and can be disposed of without too much inconvenience.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Village news, first dog and traces of Halloween.

1. Katie-who-I-used-to-work-with is waiting for us at the station. She is half shy, half proud of her village. It's on our newspaper patch, but I'd never been there before. It's a bit like visiting Middle Earth in some ways.

2. Alec meets a dog for the first time; and he is Doris' first baby. She licks his feet and hands, which he likes very much.

3. To spot traces of Halloween -- a wisp of cobweb in a rose bush. A witch's hat stuck in a rosemary bush. A pumpkin on that doorstep and a plastic skeleton on a hedge.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Bye bye, warm cake and last thing.

1. After my mother has gone, Alec waves sadly at the closed door.

2. Banana bread with chocolate chips -- warm.

3. To be the one to lock the door and turn out the lights.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Diver, mother and baby-safe.

1. Alec gets bored of picking a sinker up off the step below in the pool, and instead tries to jump through the water and into my arms.

2. Today I am nothing but a mother. I pace up and down Tonbridge High Street with my baby sleeping in the sling and I feel happier than I have done for days.

3. Godfather Tim says he has something for Alec. It's a crocheted Cthulhu, complete with stubby wings and glowing red eyes. "They're baby-safe," he says.

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...