Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chocolate, knocking down and dropping.

1. They give Alec a large chocolate button with his cup of milk and he mentions it from time to time for the rest of the day.

2. To stand on the steps of the Town Hall and crane our necks to watch the demolition work on the old cinema site.

3. I discover that I can persuade Alec to stop dawdling by flinging down handfuls of conkers drawn from the recesses of the pushchair hood. He runs after me to pick them up and then hurries to get in place beside me to make sure I don't drop any more.

3b. To spot adults picking up a few conkers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dancer, wild places and puff balls.

1. While I am impatiently grating a carrot I catch Bettany bobbing up and down in time to my aggressive strokes.

2. On what might be the last warm day of the year, to pack a flask of tea, two mugs, some biscuits and an emergency banana for an afternoon walk on the common. We find a pile of hay which Alec 'bayonets' and then rebuilds several times, helped by Bettany trotting up and down with wispy handfuls. We find what might be a troll hiding in the bushes and the bones of what Alec says is a Meat Eater.

3. I loathe people who mindlessly destroy mushrooms -- but I do love to see Alec stamping on puffballs to make a smoky cloud of spores. I have taught him test them first: only leathery ones that yield to a gentle poke can puff. I hope it will encourage his interest in natural history to branch out from dinosaurs and yetis.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Double decker, nap and plums.

Sarah Salway has posted about using my old love The Pillow Book as a creative writing tool.

1. Every time we hop on a bus to go up town Alec asks if we can go upstairs a double decker. The answer is always 'No, because we have Bettany in the pushchair' or too much baggage or the buses that hop around town are all single deckers. At breakfast today Nick says he is going to take Alec to Tonbridge on a double decker bus. And moreover they will buy some winter clothes for Alec (which is a task I am glad to see scratched off my to-do list).

2. With Alec out of the house Bettany is bored enough to take a long nap.

3. I make a crumble out of a bowl of plums that have come ripe all at once. The recipe says to drizzle with a teaspoonful of honey and roast them before putting the crumble on -- I am dubious about anything sweetened with honey. Honey is so rare and expensive now that it needs to be the main event, not just a sweetener. In the end they are delicious and the honey flavour comes through to great effect.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fanclub, swing and taken.

1. When I go out to load up Granny's car with everything we need for our day out at Penshurst Place. I look back at the front window. Her screaming fans -- both of them -- have their joyful faces pressed to the glass.

2. To push Alec in a birds' nest swing: he looks like a sorcerer riding on a magic flying disc.

2b. A garden made of rooms laid out so that it is hard to tell what is coming next. I catch a glimpse of a tall fountain of water but cannot see how to reach it. There is a topiary bear over there, and we run towards it only to find that we've scampered straight past a yew porcupine with branchy spines tied into place with twine.

3. Two children not much larger than Alec take a fancy to Bettany. When I look up they are, one on each hand, walking her very definitely away from us. 'Where are you going with our baby?' I ask them.
'We wanted to show the little fella to our mums,' they tell me pointing over to the other side of the playground.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lunch, nasturtiums and chipping.

1. It is very satisfying to provide a lunch that everyone eats.

2. I always hesitate to pick the flowers from the garden: I always have so few. But two interesting nasturtiums (one dark velvety red and one clear cadmium yellow) have popped up in a corner away from any windows by the compost bin and I don't want to miss out on them -- so I pick the lot.

3. Our photos have got a bit out of control. I spend time chipping away at the task and re-discover some memories.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

News, reading and not worried.

1. My phone rings at about the time Nick will be getting on the train. My heart races, ready for bad news and action. He's just calling to say that Alec went off to nursery with a confident thumbs up.

2. To eat lunch alone, while reading, because Bettany is having a good deep nap.

3. It is such a soft Autumn afternoon that we go to the park. Her son is so tired that all he wants to do is sit by her and Bettany is content to sit on the ground playing with conkers and sticks. We talk about the usual primary school place worries, and other mothers come by and join in, adding their concerns to the mix. Afterwards I reflect that we are so so blessed. Mothers in different parts of time and space would be talking about an outbreak of measles or polio or cholera, or a war coming in from the next valley or whether the rain is coming to break the drought.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Jolly, emergency and good report.

3BT has got a mention in the local paper along with a few other Tunbridge Wells blogs.

1. A rather jolly librarian welcomes us to a Baby Bounce and Rhyme session that we were not expecting. She is very cheerful and a lot of fun so the session flies by and both children join in. Someone was singing harmonies in a few of the rhymes -- I wonder if it was her. Afterwards Alec is very brave and asks her to help him find a book for Bettany.

2. Alec gets stuck edging along the embankment in the park on the wrong side of the fence. 'Emergency! Help, help, call the firemen.'
'I don't think they'd be terribly sympathetic, Alec. Here, I'll lift you over.'
'Give me your phone, Mum, and I'll dial 999.'

3. After yesterday's trials, to be able to give Nick a good report of the day's doings: Alec joined well at the library, ate plenty, looked after Bettany and had no tantrums. And no meltdowns from me, either.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Knight, quest and burn.

1. The homeless guy with blue eyes who distracted Alec from his refusing-to-walk tantrum by offering him a go on his blue guitar.

2. To make a cup of tea and sit at the table with Alec and a large picture book (it's Henry's Quest and I have to explain things like 'post-apocalypse' and 'peak oil' and 'collapse of civilisation'). He has a lot of questions, mostly about the overgrown safari park.

3. I splash hot oil on my hand at supper time. I've done enough first aid courses that I put it under the tap almost before I've stopped swearing.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Remedy, on a stick and escaped.

1. To remember a really simple, effective home remedy: a slice of cucumber and a quiet sit down for an itchy eye.

2. At the food festival we find a stall selling sausage wheels skewered on sticks. They are perfect for Alec.

3. Bettany conks out after lunch so we leave Alec with our favourite babysitter who never judges (the TV) and sneak upstairs for a nap in the big bed. We get forty minutes before anyone notices.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bringing lunch, held and fungus.

Today my phone has been reminding me that it would have been Plutarch's birthday.

1. To be the one bringing lunch.

2. To see my goddaughter, who turned one this week, taking such pleasure in being held by her mother. She snuggles in and almost shines.

3. On the way home I hesitate, turn and take the pretty way. I am lucky enough to find this strange and wonderful fungus by the side of the path. It looks like a lacy cabbage.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

No, up down and best face.

1. 'I just want you to know now,' I tell Alec as we close that garden gate, 'that I will not buy anything for you in town. No icecream, no sweets, no toys, no books, no comics. So don't bother to ask me.'
'What about comic books?' he asks -- I think genuinely innocent.
'I am not buying you anything.'
It works.

2. I used to tell people that married life was better for me than single life because the highs and the lows were less high and less low. Having children has shaken things up again. It took two tantrums to get out of the house, but Alec is now feeding the imaginary hippopotamus that lives under the old bowling green and Bettany has just discovered dandelion clocks.

3. There is quarter of an hour until Nick gets home and I am ready to sink into a sulky corner of the sofa with my Kindle. Instead I make some nachos, open a bottle of wine and open the back door. I am glad I did -- we get about quarter of an hour in the twilight garden before Bettany wakes up.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ice, listen and his version.

1a. Alec and I make chocolate crispies. They are cooling on the worktop when Bettany comes down from her nap. She can't see what they are, just that they are in cake cases. She signs 'Please,' covering her delighted mouth with one starfish hand.'

1. Bettany strutting about bandylegged with the stick of a Minimilk held firmly in her hand.

2. To put on my current audiobook, Caitlin Moran's How to be a Woman, without worrying about her scandalous words influencing small ears.

2b. When I try to collect Alec from nursery he hides himself in a stack of tyres and says he is staying there all night. (It is a bit exasperating when four out of five drop-offs feature a red-faced person clinging to my clothes and crying that I mustn't leave him.)

3. At the end of the day Alec tells Nick about his icecream: 'It was sort of bobbles and you twisted the lid and it made a hole and you tipped it back and they went in your mouth but they didn't and I couldn't do it. So Mummy tore off the bottom, tear tear tear, and she had a spoon and then I could eat them.' I feel quite good about my problem solving skills and the fact that I had a spoon in my handbag.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leader, waiting and calling.

1. Bettany is not often in charge but as it's a quiet afternoon I let her lead the walk. She meanders up and down the High Street, climbing into shops, putting litter in bins and pressing her cheeks against cool plate glass windows.

2. There is a gleaming convertible parked in the High Street. In the passenger seat is a boy asleep, head thrown back, mouth open. His dad sits in the driver's seat with his newspaper.

3. Nick and I are discussing Alec, who is asleep in bed. Bettany stands up and, nappy rustling, walks with great purpose to the bottom of the stairs and says 'A-la! A-la!'

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Egret, low tide and watch.

1. The crisp white curves of an egret inspecting the beach stripped bare.

2. To walk with Alec out to the sea: his first low tide. He is half delighted half horrified by Pett Level's mud -- just as we were when we were small and inexperienced. I remember the contrast between the sunwarm surface covered in blown sand and cool mud beneath. I am worried that the pub where we are about to get lunch with throw us out if we are too muddy though, so I pull him away and take him off to look at mussels and the petrified forest.

3. My father sits vigil as Alec splashes where the sea meets the shingle. I remember him watching us in the same way and somewhere in my head a switch clicks and I turn all my attention to Bettany who is pulling at my top and signing 'Please.'

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A random read, beans and hedge trimmings.

1. 'He chose it for you, I've no idea where it came from.'
Her small son has brought me a historical thriller about the Indian mutiny. I think I'll give it a go.

2. She says 'Beans on toast is so comforting.'
I am glad to be able to help on a day that has been hard for her.

3. I am stuffing hedge cuttings into a rubbish sack. I bought rather expensive extra-strong dark green ones for this purpose and I am very glad to have paid extra to get the right bag for the job.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Going ahead, bedtime story and Alec's beautiful things.

1. I went on ahead up the hill with Bettany in the pushchair, slowly and steadily, while Alec and Nick stopped for a look at the fire station. After a long, slow walk I stop and glance back. There's no sign of them. The pavement is blocked by a lorry and some workmen. I wait, talk to Bettany. The jam clears. We wait some more. Then remember that Nick has my phone, my keys and my purse. I turn round and set off back down the hill, getting crosser and crosser because I can't call to find out what's going on and I can't even give up and go home. They are still on the fire station forecourt -- but when I hear that they were offered a tour and that Alec wore the station officer's helmet, sat in an engine and had a go with the hose I find it is easy not to be angry.

2. To sit in bed with just Bettany snuggled up to me. We read Each Peach Pear Plum (she thinks it's all about dogs and ducks. Alec at the same age thought it was about trains).

3. And finally, a word from our sponsor. Alec said that his day was good because 1. Sugar! (we had icecreams at the park and biscuits for afternoon snack). 2. He visited the fire station. 3. He watched Steve Backshall on telly.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

BFF, bug hunt and conkers.

1. We are touring the new building at the nursery -- Bettany has been playing with Nick quite happily, and then she spots a member of staff that she knows well but doesn't see often and it's all 'ALLO-ALLO-ALLO!' until he comes over to see her. He picks her up to show her the mirror and the fish. When we have to leave I reach out to take her but she screeches and clings to his shirt. Little beast.

2. Alec's bug hunting equipment: a toy frying pan, a plastic sandwich bag, a plastic spade and a whistle. He likes to hide behind a tree and blow the whistle. When I find him, he asks 'How did you know where I was?'

3. To put a few conkers in my pockets.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Feeding the fish, watched over and lemons.

1. We have been deftly evading Alec's questions about feeding the fish (there is a sign asking us not to for the good of their health) when the tropical ranger appears with a bucket of pellets. He warns us to be careful of the sturgeons, which are as long as Alec as is tall, because they splash.

2. While we are lined up on the garden path with all our baggage Linda-next-door puts her head out and says she is just checking we weren't strangers stealing the veggie boxes that she noticed on our step earlier: "I was going to take them in for you," she adds.

3. To walk into our own kitchen -- it smells, for just a moment, of lemons.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Enthusiasm, owl and bike.

1. Sometimes (several times a day) I am tempted to grab Alec by the ears and tell him to cheer the hell up and stop complaining. It is so early, before 7am, and I do not know if I can summon the double cheerfulness required to sell the activity that I, with much thought and consideration, have picked out for him. 'It's mini jet skis,' I tell him, bracing myself to defend the £5.50 20-minute session with every last volt of my willpower.
He smiles in the grey light and says 'Yes!'

2. The moment when The Mighty Thor appears: he is a very young and vocal burrowing owl who scampers across the woodchips on legs that are much too long for his fluffball body.

3. I am sad to be returning our rented bikes -- but I am glad my last run is with the trailer only lightly laden (one sadly unloved child's bike with stabilisers and pedals that 'go round too fast', instead of my two fat, bossy offspring). I thoroughly enjoy whirring through the woods along smooth cycle paths.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Buoyant, slides and kingfisher.

1. 'A red one, like the coastguard,' says Alec about the buoyancy aids. He is suddenly much more confident and talks about rescuing me from the wave pool. We head for something called Lazy River, which turns out to be a sort of circular corridor with a current. We whirl round several times clinging to each other and very excited. On the fifth rotation we pass an elderly lady clinging to the rocks by the entrance. 'They've taken the rope away,' she calls to another lady bobbing past. Grab my hand!' She's still there on our seventh time round and I think her friend was not trying very hard to escape.

2. 'You go and have your swim,' says Nick gently but firmly. I leave him getting the children changed and scamper off to find the water slides and the rapids. I had forgotten how much I love waterslides and feel like a naughty school girl when I scuttle back up for a second go, and join a group of hooting, stamping men in their early twenties on a horrible thing called a water piste which dumps you very fast and suddenly into deep water.

2b. The nervous stout party who I came across at the bottom of the first slide in the rapids -- she was clinging to the rocks and wondering about getting out. While I was bobbing around in the current she announced decisively that she had come this far and... oooops, down she went towards the next pool.

3. Nick reports that in the pond behind our lodge he saw a kingfisher, not just the usual flash of blue but actually a kingfisher perched on a dead branch.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bolt, spa and my evening.

1.This is the morning of my spa session. I bolt out of the lodge as soon as I can and race down the hill on the bike without the trailer -- I would have gone faster still if it weren't for the pesky zig-zags in the path. It's mostly boardwalk, which makes a very satisfying dumpety-dumpety noise. The spa still wasn't open so I ran twice round the lake to make sure I deserved my morning off.

2. The spa is everything the brochure promised: it has about... fourteen (I'd lost count by 10am) different sorts of bath. I lounged warm tiles, on hot wooden slats, breathed steam scented with fresh rosemary, ylang-ylang, eucalyptus and salt, floated in an outdoor pool, scrubbed myself with ice and bounced on a waterbed.

3. To be able to pour a glass of wine and sit down with my husband not much after 7pm.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Anchors aweigh, ducks and butterflies.

1. To be loaded up and setting out.

2. I am rather horrified to discover that there is a pond not far from the end of our unfenced garden -- but then  Bettany shouts 'Duck-duck!' They, and a single moorhen, are quite happy to snap up bits of bread end from our hands.

3. To spot red and white admirals in the patches of evening sunlight. They are most interested in a plant with fuzzy discs of ointment pink flowers that I have an odd feeling is distantly related to cannabis.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Forecast, going down and a list.

1. To look at the weather forecast and see that next week will be fine.

2. The children are asleep -- finally -- and we can have a chocolate.

3. To draw up a list of the things that can only be packed in the morning and then go to bed.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Disengage, sign and detail.

1. I got up earlier than I wanted to this morning. It is wonderful to hand over to Nick and totally disengage myself from the tangle of children, washing, everything.

2. Bettany approaches me and makes sucking noises. "You want some bub?"
She smiles broadly and lays a finger beside her nose.

3. To get some small but important detail about our holiday. It sends us into a delightful frenzy of planning and speculating.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Magic carpet, things to eat and mothering skills.

1. To be swept up by our friends and whisked away into the deep Sussex countryside on a visit. I like this particular friend because we both speak nineteen to the dozen -- mainly about work with words -- and I never feel as if I ought to be polite and slow down for her.

2. Diana's garden is full of good things for our children to eat. I crack nuts with my teeth and hand the kernels to Alec; I lift Bettany up to pick white grapes from the vine. I am sent off to find "a collapsed tomato plant in a tyre", but the seeds from our haul are running down my greedy baby's sleeve by the time we get back.

3. I am astonished and awed to see Diana's daughter-in-law arrive with a baby on one arm and a bouncy chocolate brown puppy attached to the other -- that's some accomplished mothering going on there.

4. Bettany bites the back of my leg as I reach up to put something in a larder. I read the riot act and put her on the doormat. She doesn't seem to understand but sits there so patiently and politely that I want to melt, but of course I can't because biting is becoming habit of hers and is about as serious as it gets in the infant world.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Guilt, sympathy and serendipity.

1. My mother calls to say they are just having a coffee on the High Street. "Don't let Alec have anything to eat so close to lunch," I tell her, but I can almost _see_ her shifting guiltily from one foot to the other. Alec arrives home later and with an air of great virtue hands me half a blueberry muffin.

2. I was very grateful for the sympathetic look I get from nursery's deputy room leader as I thrust a furious Alec at him.

3. To walk into one of those secondhand bookshops with unnatural geometry and put my hand on exactly the volume I didn't know I needed (and to realise they have a sale on). It's one of countryman BB's memoirs, decorated with his deep, dark scraperboard illustrations.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Boletus edulis, new shoes and deep sleep.

1.Our cleaning lady mentions that the mushroom season is coming.

2. To put Bettany in her new shoes and let her march importantly about on the Pantiles.

3. Late in the afternoon Bettany falls asleep on my lap on the sofa. I don't often settle her there any more and it reminds me that time is ticking on.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Adventurer, more and back to the table.

1. To sit on the manicured, mannered lawns of Calverley Grounds while Alec pretends to be wildlife expert and adventurer Steve Backshall catching fish for his supper (I am pretty sure the real man would not crawl into his mother's tent if he found a spitting cobra in his sleeping bag, however).

2. My greedy small children gobble up their suppers and ask for more, more, MORE please.

3. I made it back to the Tuesday Knights table and had a thrilling night helping to explore a very trappy dungeon. We rather surprised Gamesmaster Tim by responding to a wandering bear by hanging back rather than charging in with axes raised. And he introduced an innovation: each of us was asked to recount an incident from our characters' past. The reward was a card that gave us a useful bonus to be used later in the game -- and even this tiny bit of roleplaying reminded us just how much investing in your character enhances the fun of games night.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Autumn days, cuddles and eating.

1. We get out earlyish to take Bettany to nursery. The sky is clean and clear and the air is cool --  now it's September I can enjoy the start of Autumn rather than feeling sad that Summer is all used up.

2. While we are waiting for pudding Alec says 'I like cuddles, give me a squeezy one.' (he is not a particularly demonstrative person, and a lot of our affectionate interactions still involve bub so this request gave me a lot of joy. It means my limits are taking effect and that we are moving onwards and upwards).

3. Alec declares that he doesn't like French Toast but later I see him putting the cubes I have given him into his mouth, one by one.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Lunch, appreciation and quietly working.

1. Meatballs in a tangle of spaghetti -- and to remember that, for now, Alec prefers his sauce on the plate rather than on the pasta.

2. Nick's "Ohhh, that looks good."

3. Bettany working away quietly at her lunch. My memories of her are a series of snapshots and tableaus -- very different to the Technicolor 3D THX experience that is Alec.

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 ...