Monday, December 21, 2020

Road ahead, nativity and comedy.

1. To spot some friends from school a little way ahead of us and to stop for a quick socially-distanced chat.

2. Bettany's Beaver colony suggests we might like to watch the nativity put on by Tunbridge Wells Salvation Army whose hall we meet in when things are as they should be. They livecast it on YouTube, and it's absolutely lovely. 

3. I put on an episode of I'm Sorry I haven't A Clue and it makes Nick laugh.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Care, visit and stop.

1. A husband who is willing to rub my aching back muscles.

2. A friend comes by with a bottle of home-made creme de cassis that glows warm garrnet red with the light behind it. We take a couple of turns around the park to catch up and it does us both good. 

3. To stop work quite a while before bedtime.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Parcels, gingerbread ruin and sausage.

1. To bring parcels sent by godparents, aunts and uncles down to the Christmas tree. It's satisfying to see the gifts stacking up, and to send out parcels of our own -- but also a very sad reminder that we won't see them this year.
2. Alec gleefully sends a picture of my imploded gingerbread house to his uncle.
3. Bettany has strongly hinted that she would like a big Italian sausage for Christmas. The one she would really like is sold by the slice in the extremely expensive new Italian shop; and the slices are bigger than dinner plates. I hope she is satisfied with the slightly smaller example that Father Christmas has sourced.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

2021, cards and pattern.

1. A delayed parcel arrives with next year's calendar. 
2. Bettany's stack of Christmas cards for her classmates.
3. The satisfaction of using a large stamping block. It never gets old, no matter how many times I repeat the pattern.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Grow, rags and wine.

1. I visioned myself stating the projects I want to grow and increase in the coming weeks beneath a beautiful silver crescent hanging elegantly in an indigo sky. The reality is that you can't see a new moon because it's completely dark. Also, it's cloudy, and this December moon goes new when it is below the horizon. And the children arrived home in the middle and interrupted me to tell me about their days. These are real life intentions, though, so I'm not going to let the perfect get in the way of the good. 
2. To dump six bags of old clothes in the rag bins at the firestation. We've found it difficult to get rid of rags  during the pandemic. It's made me hesitate to buy new things that we badly need, and the bags were cluttering up our storage space.
3. That glass of wine went straight to my head.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Lie in, another person and decimals.

1. To sleep in as long as I want to and still wake up before everyone else.
2. Godmother Larlie swings by with a Christmas box. We keep her on the doorstep chatting because we're so pleased to see another person.
3. Alec wonders at the magic of maths, until decimal sums seem to glitter like a treasure hoard.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Light, clear and dealt with.

1. This morning is strange lightwise as I move along the way home. In places streaks and wisps of mist; in places bright winter sun. But by the time I get to my desk there are dark clouds rolling in from Ashdown Forest.
2. Looking at my plan for the day and seeing that I have a good long clear stretch for working: no calls, no obligations.
3. Nick takes the malfunctioning smoke alarm away and deals with it.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Waiting, woods and silence.

1. When I come down both children are sitting calmly and politely on the sofa waiting for a cuddle.

2. To walk home through the woods -- even on a wettish, grey day with a flat sky it's soothing to be among trees. The real world seems miles away, although I can hear (in a muffled way) the traffic at the bottom of the hill.

3. The smoke alarm goes off right before supper. The silence when it stops.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Wildlife, fold and overtaken.

1. I enjoy finding Dave Bonta's Morning Porch in my inbox. I can't always visualise the wildlife he records, but I always get the feeling of it, one way or another.

2. Alec working on an origami paper star. I tell him that I always find those models really tricky -- no matter how many times I do them I can't seem to master the technique. 'It's like this, Mummy, look.' 

3. As I walk up the High Street I find myself overtaking three runners in high vis because they keep stopping to look in the Christmas windows.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Stitch, scent of Christmas and Alan Lee.

 1. To embroider during a phone conference that must be endured.
2. The smell of cinnamon, oranges and cloves in the Christmas decoration box from a pomander I made years and years ago.
3. Nick has brought a book of 'lost' Tolkien tales home from the library. To spend a little time gazing at Alan Lee's ethereal illustrations.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Longer loop, touchstone list and light reading.

1. To spot a Parcel Force van at the start of my walk, and again halfway round. And also to spot a runner who is doing a longer loop than me.  
2. I'm putting in an order for food for the next few weeks with a slight feeling of panic because 8 December is the last supermarket delivery slot I could get before Christmas Day. But as a family we wrote down everything we expect from Christmas on an A3 page. I've put it up in the kitchen, and I keep returning to it -- a touchstone, and a bright thread to follow. 
3. To read Andrew Wallace's light and funny Space Gravy late at night. He has caught the wonder and glorious, crazy variety of a setting in space that is 'vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big'.

Monday, December 07, 2020

Bacon sandwich, woods and chocolate.

1. I answer rather grumpily when Nick calls through the bathroom door because my mouth is full of toothpaste and the water is running so I can't hear him. It turns out the children have asked to have bacon sandwiches for breakfast and he would like to know if I want one too.

2. Our children running ahead of us through the wet winter woods. 

3. At the market we find a new chocolatier with complicated, exciting chocolates on offer. He is based in Hastings and there is a very distinct seaside feel to his range -- vanilla ice cream, cinnamon doughnut and salt water (a highly detailed salted caramel).

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Delivery, return and entertained.

1. A grim and determined-looking member of the school kitchen staff marches out to tell the delivery driver he'll have to wait until drop-off is finished before coming through the gate.

2. There is something satisfying about Nick bringing the children home rather late and covered in mud because they went the long way round home from school. He says they were looking for the epic puddle that we found last time it rained.

3. The children are watching a Christmas film as part of a Cubs camp at home this evening. It's so... quiet.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Help, adjustment and present.

1. I am standing under a shelter scrabbling through my pockets to sort out mask, headphones, gloves, hat, waterproof etc. A lady comes out of a doorway and asks if I'm searching for my mask. 'Because,' she says, 'I'd give you one if you needed one.'

2. Walking home I realise that the chiropractor has done something about the stiffness down the back of my legs.

3. I work pretty much full time and I'm the main breadwinner. So it's a real privilege that I can be present to help out when the children and Nick come home from school soaking wet after a rainy walk home.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Growing, enough looking and things that I had forgotten.

1. Facebook pops up a picture of Alec so small that he could hide behind the door of the washing machine cupboard. It's a reminder of how far we've come.
2. 'That's enough looking now,' says Bettany. I have to supervisse her dance lesson -- but she doesn't like me watching her.
3. When I dig into the Decmber the First box I discover a pair of festive typing mitts and two pairs of Christmas socks that I'd forgotten I own.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Dress-up, red pepper and choice.

1. To paint a dog nose on to Bettany for Stone Age day at school. 
2. A piece of roasted red pepper with my scrambled egg. It's heartening for the colour and for the meaty texture.
3. I'd meant to go to bed early, but instead I do my invoices because I am a bit behind with my work. That feels like a good choice today. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Planner, dull day and bad memories.

1. The postman brings my 2021 wallplanner. I'm not quite ready to admit that the year is turning -- but owning a planner feels like a step in the right direction.
2. The weather has been very dull, but at least the sun doesn't bother me in the afternoon by swinging across my computer screen.
3. I flinch at a challenging writing exercise -- a memoir of your own stupidity. It's painful to dig around in these memories -- but not as painful as I expected, and it feels safe to work on it in the good company of my writing group.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Plan, company and light reading.

1. As I remember things, I scribble notes on our Christmas plan -- paper chains, mayor's toy appeal, celery.
2. While I'm cooking supper Bettany is hanging around. She's listening to music on my phone -- but she's also pleased to take small tasks like putting things away, stirring a pan of sauce and deciding how much chocolate to add to the pudding -- and testing the chocolate.
3. Light reading only: I've got the audio book of Pauline McLynn's The Woman on the Bus, which is a charming, human story about redemption and addiction recovery in a small Irish town; and Space Gravy by Andrew Wallace, a comic space opera spy romp. My bedside table has a rampart of books about the apocalypse, but they can wait. The world will still be in danger once the pandemic is over.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Call, next book and shut off.

1. I have a call with a client that wanders a bit off topic -- but it feels so good to hear a real person's narrative.

2. The children have decided between them that we are going to read the next Morrigan Crow book now; 'and then we'll read the next dwarfs book.' Alec picked The Weirdstone of Brisingamen for our last read, and Bettany grumbled quite a lot, so I'm pleased she's keen to read the next one -- and I'm pleased that she and Alec agree on something, for once.

3. My phone has a new thing that makes it go monochrome at bedtime. The lack of colour cueing makes some apps unusable and the whole thing is so tedious to navigate that I am glad to switch off and put it to one side.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Patience, paint and comic novel.

1. I am too tired to be impatient while I wait for dog walkers coming the other way to cross the railway bridge. It feels nice not to have that constant buzz of low-level irritation.
2. I check with my cousin that a paint supply related to a good dramatic art feud is an acceptable Christmas gift. She replies that she'd been talking about Stuart Semple's paint The Blackest Black only the other day. So after confirming that I'm not Anish Kapoor, I buy some.
3. To discover that I have a lightweight comic novel in my Audible stash. I must have bought it in a sale and then forgotten all about it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Out of the dark, mind how you go and floating island.

1. To bring my paperwhite bulbs out of the cellar for the run-up to Christmas.
2. I'm increasingly wary of our PM, but I can't help but smile at his advice to be 'jolly careful' as we think about Christmas gatherings.
2b. Bettany refuses to look at the sunset, so I point out that she probably only has another 22,400 to look at and that they may not be as good at this one. She comes to the window.
3. One of my favourite parts of a fantasy novel is the bit where the characters are lifted out of terrible danger and hardship by supernatural help, and are given exotic food and clothing with magical protective properties. There's something so comforting about it -- that in your hour of direst need a lovely elf will ride in on a floating island and sort everything out, even if it is just for a couple of hours.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Routine, timer and map.

1. This morning is a struggle, but once I get going my routine carries me out of the door and out on my walk.
2. The weekly email from my work timer reminds me that I have been productively occupied, which soothes one of my human needs; and this week it tells me why I am feeling more tired than usual.
3. Alec takes my phone from me so he can find the places mentioned in the book we are reading.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Anniversary, willows and clotted cream.

1. It's our eleventh wedding anniversary this weekend. We take some time to flip through our wedding photos. As always I am struck by how many people wished us well as we set out on married life. The children stare at the faces of people now gone; and Bettany tells a version of me living a day four years before she was born that I should have left more room on the bench for Nick.

2. The bright red and yellow shoots of pollarded willows.

3. We spoon the rest of the clotted cream on to our apple crumble.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Delivery, visitor and orange slice.

1. A delivery arriving will always be exciting, even if it is just a bag of frozen fish or some drain cleaner.

2. Around the time I need to switch the lights on, one child or another comes upstairs to see me. This afternoon it's Alec. We look at the sunset, which is very blue and orange -- like a painting, he says -- and he tells me more about a book he's been reading at school. It's a collection of extracts from longer adventure stories. Yesterday he said he wanted to read some of them, but couldn't remember the titles. We worked one of them out from the details he could recall; and today he has the name of another: King Solomon's Mines.

3. While I work in the evening I chew on the orange slice from my drink.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Little dog in a hurry, brighten and stars.

1. A fat white scotty dog hurries ahead of its elderly owner, who is walking carefully round the park.
2. A quick video chat with another editor. She says that it 'brightens the day' which is really good way of describing it.
3. To pour Bettany's clay stars into a dark blue bowl.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Planning, declutter and toast.

1. Planning ahead for family treats is more important than ever; and somehow, even among all the pandemic logistics, there is more space and time to do this.
2. Bringing a bulky pile of old magazines to the recycling is an easy win.
3. Toast in the middle of the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Sympathy, new gadget and headlines.

1. I'm locked out because I've forgotten my keys. I get a lot of sympathy from our neighbour; and when I drop into a networking call I get a lot of sympathy there, too, when they spot that I'm sitting on the doorstep.
2. Nick washing up the plates for the new, improved toastie maker we've bought to replace our old one which has failed completely.
3. The sound of my writing group laughing at the strange news headlines I've pulled from the Fortean Times.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Tiny stars, birch leaves and bottle of wine.

1. I get some modelling clay out to make Christmas decorations. Bettany sets to work with a star cutter and makes about 100 tiny stars. What's she planning to do with them? That's nobody's business but hers. I can't help but worry as I think about that artist who filled the turbine hall at the Tate Modern with ceramic sunflower seeds.

2. The way fallen yellow birch leaves create an illusion of sunshine on a grey day.

3. We come home from our walk and find that Nick has opened a bottle of wine -- apparently the other players on his remote war games session had wine and he wanted some too.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Going, light and my turn.

1. A flock of birds hurrying across the sky

2. The glow of a reading light under Bettany's covers.

3. While Nick is busy with his gaming friends and the children are asleep, I get a go with the TV and the Xbox.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Avoid, open a blank document and geranium.

1. To see walkers on other paths across the common. Sometimes our gazes meet and we change direction to avoid meeting.
2. I feel uncomfortable about a story I wrote during a workshop. It's too close to reality, too unkind a portrait, not enough of a story. I am uncomfortable near the membrane between memoir and fiction and every instinct tells me to retreat. Nonetheless, I open a blank document and begin. In the end, I have a piece of fiction that I can share with the group.
3. I pull a few dead leaves off a scented geranium. This action  releases an interpretation of lemons.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wake, new edit and please buy books.

1. I don't remember falling asleep.

2. To start a brand new edit and feel that it's going to be a good one.

3. The children asking me to buy books for them -- Alec wants His Dark Materials; and Bettany wants more Morrigan Crow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Shattered, research and pitta pizzas.

1. I have a rough night and I start the day shattered. To pick up a cup of really good coffee and a brownie to bump me over a difficult beginning.

2. Before writing tonight we've been assigned a 'hidden gem' holiday spot to research and I spend a happy fifteen minutes acquainting myself with a place I don't expect to visit any time soon.

3. Bettany has cooked a pitta bread pizza as part of her Zoom Beavers meeting. It's so successful and quick that she makes more for our supper.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Omelette, in the front garden and seeds.

1. Nick announces that he's getting up to cook a Japanese rolled omelette for breakfast. When I come down a little later, he's looking very pleased with his new skill, and the children are refusing to eat it. We finish it off (it's delicious), and make some toast.

2. There's time to do a little tidying in the garden and have a quick gossip with the neighbours.

3. To find a lot of seeds in my pocket.

Friday, November 06, 2020

Fog, photo and herbal.

1. To open the shutters to a morning so foggy that the world has almost vanished. 

2. A woman crouches to photograph a robin at the corner of the park.

3. To examine the pictures in Culpeper's herbal and match the characteristics to plants I know.

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Sweetpeas, clandestine and letter M.

1. Today's task is dismantling the mess of wild sweetpeas that tumbles over our front fence all summer. Several people passing by stop to chat and to say how much they've enjoyed them. I offer seeds in their speckled black and ochre pods -- we've got plenty, and why not spread a little joy around.
2. I've had my eye on a couple of books in the window of a Hall's, which has been closed for the duration. Earlier this week I thought to email and enquire. I got a reply -- followed up with a phone call -- telling me when I could collect. Ringing the doorbell of an obviously closed shop to make a purchase feels definitely clandestine. 
3. 'Mummy, I need a letter M, come on!'  Alec is crouched in front of a Zoom meeting surrounded by a variety household goods arranged alphabetically. Cubs are doing a treasure hunt this evening.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Sun, dyed and podcast.

1. To stand in the doorway and let the winter sun warm my face.
2. 'I'm not having much fun,' says Nick glumly. The purple carrots in our soup have dyed the noodles. But the children are astonished and delighted by purple soup and pink noodles.
3. I love the podcast Everything is Alive because it suggests that we might find compassion everywhere.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Back, not quiet and probably not boxing but I'm not sure.

1. Unnatural though this might sound, I'm so pleased to be back at my desk.

2. We hoped that we could settle the children down with a calm, quiet bedtime. But this chapter of our book features a race between a giant cat and a rhinoceros. 

3. Bettany confides that in PE her class has been doing boxing -- which is strange, because I understood they'd been learning basketball. But apparently she climbed up on to the ropes and jumped on her opponent then hit him with a chair. She's called 'Smasher' in the ring. One of her friends is known as 'Volcano'. It doesn't sound much like boxing, but I'm definitely not allowed to query it at the next parent-teacher consultation. (Alec's class did do a few of weeks of boxing in PE last year, but he missed all the sessions because he was ill one week, and then, as he says, 'out for the day on school business'. If he's going to get hit with chairs by a girl named Volcano who doesn't play by the Queensbury Rules then I think it's just as well.)

3a. I pop downstairs in the middle of my writing group Zoom session to say goodnight to the children. They are looking at a book of Charles Addams cartoons. Will I explain why this one is funny? And what about that one?

Monday, November 02, 2020

Cook, gardener and mud.

1. To buy a secondhand cookbook for Alec and to know that he'll spend a happy couple of hours planning days when he will cook all the meals.

2. I go into the garden to move compost around and am joined by Bettany. She sets up a mud cafe in the front garden and serves cakes on leafy dishes.

3. We've tracked mud into the house. Nick says, 'I'll get the vacuum cleaner out.'

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sloes, puns and British wildlife.

1. To pick a few sloes from lichened branches in a wet hedgerow.
2. My parents' neighbour brings a few pages of Halloween puns to make us laugh.
3. To catch an episode of Autumnwatch, particularly one that features scuffling badgers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Box, away and LOTR.

1. A large box of crafting bits arrives. Bettany chastises me for not ordering every bit of plastic tut that she ticked in the catalogue, but eventually settles down to painting wooden Halloween decorations. 

2. Both children are whisked away on the same afternoon for socially distanced activities. We spend the time trying to remember what we like doing. In the end Nick watches baseball and I work on a short story.

3. Alec is with my parents this evening and I read to him over Zoom -- more tedious tours of Minas Tirith. Reading  aloud a list of marching allies, without feeling invested in the action and the plot, in Tolkien's wonderful prose is all right. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Meal planning, party planning and pumpkins.

1. To hide behind a stack of recipe books with the meal plan and shopping list.

2. Bettany informs me that she is worried about how much work she's going to have to do for our halloween party. I tell her about delegating tasks to different people, which pleases her immensely.

3. 'This is Alec's pumpkin,' says my father. 'And this is Bettany's. And this is the one they got for you.' It is weighty in my arms, like a large orange baby.

3a. We spend the evening on the sofa. Nick is watching a baseball game. Its narrative is so thrilling and extraordinary that I look up from my embroidered roses and leaves astonished.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Flare, story and chips.

1. The bright yellow flare of the ginkgo tree down the back of the Pantiles.

2. I am following the thread of a story, pulling and winding as I go. Suddenly the whole thing falls apart. But there's another, different story hidden inside.

3. We send the children up the hill to buy chips for supper.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Doorbell on a wet day, party planning and wrap.

1. The doorbell goes just after half past nine. The poor postman standing in the rain hands me a dripping plastic-wrapped parcel and an envelope that is falling to pieces. The doorbell goes just after half past ten. To bring a sodden husband into the house and put the kettle on for coffee.

2. While planning our family Halloween party Bettany and I discover that we have a dedicated spooky playlist.

3. Being wrapped in sheets during my massage.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Last chance, soup and read to me.

1. Rain is coming, and perhaps the groundsmen, too, so I go out of my way to once again shuffle in the leaves under the turkey oak.

2. Nick has become fast friends with the Japanese lady who runs a nearby newsagents and sweet shop. She has given him a couple of what look like teabags -- they are for making soup, though. We try some at lunch, adding pieces of dried dulse and bonito flakes. It does look rather like a rockpool, but it has a delicate, satisfying savoury flavour.

3. The children are very strict about their fifteen minutes of telly during the bedtime routine, and there is hell to pay if we try to skip it. But tonight Alec asks if I'll read to him. He's reached 'the boring bit' in Return of the King and wants me to read him over it. So we curl up on the sofa and enjoy a tedious tour of the lands surrounding Minas Tirith.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Paperwhites, getting dark and turkey oak.

1. There's a knock at the door, but by the time I get there, the person who has left a miniature bottle of prosecco and a huge slice of cake on the doorstep has gone. Of course it's Anna! We're due to meet by video chat to plant paperwhite bulbs for Christmas and drink a toast to the writer Elspeth Thompson.

2. It is eerily dark by the time we finish our picnic supper, but Bettany wants a quick play in the park before we set off for home. Twice bats fly in front of us and parts of the way are not lit. The path is slightly lighter than the woods, and it swings round unexpectedly before us. 'Are you scared?' I ask Bettany.

'No, because you're holding my hand tightly.'

3. The turkey oak at the corner of the Grove has dropped its leaves. We take a moment to shuffle through the great deep drifts of them before we hurry home.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Nerves, cooking lesson and just reading.

1. Bettany has nerves of steel and went into her dance exam as if it was barely a thing. She swaggered out quite cheerfully, too, and enjoyed walking away with a lollipop.

2. Between us, Nick's mother and I explain to him how to make the sauce for cauliflower cheese. We give him a step-by-step list of instructions written on the back of an envelope, too.

3. To spend some time with Alec, just reading our books in a near-empty coffee shop.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Footprints, bins and independence.

1. The field is empty, but there are footprints in the dew.

2. The flurry of activity after supper on a Thursday when the bins have to be put out. The children run up and down stairs bringing rubbish from all the rooms and then they scamper down the hill to the big bin. I'm not sure why and I'm not going to ask, but the one not carrying the bag brandishes a big stick.

3. That funny feeling when you are pleased that your children have lifted some of your parenting burden by doing more tasks for themselves, but you also feel sad because they are  moving out of your care.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Paperwhite, half term and replace.

1. Bettany brings a small parcel upstairs -- my narcissus paperwhite bulbs have arrived.

2. To discuss our plans for half term. Bettany would like a big box of crafting supplies from Baker Ross and Alec wants a day of eating snacks and playing video games.

3. To push books back into their spaces on the shelf.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Tree top, onions and tweak.

1. I generally sit with the children on the sofa in their bedroom while they wake up. I notice that if I lean backwards I can see through the window behind me to the very top branches of the great turkey oak in the Grove. The leaves are on the turn. 

2. Nick is exceptionally proud of his fried onions this evening. They are very good -- holding their shape but tinted with caramel brown.

3. We tweak the bedtime routine and find that it goes much more smoothly, with a better division of labour.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Dawn, birdseed and stay in.

1. I open the curtains in time to catch the smudge of pink across the sky to the south west. 

2. To throw some birdseed out of the back door.

3. On a rainy afternoon to get the call that an outdoor activity has been cancelled.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Rosehips, not wanted and voice from the past.

1. A little dish of rosehips collected on our walk yesterday. No-one is quite sure what to do with them -- but they glow absolutely certain red.

2. 'I hope you're not offended, Mummy, but we're having some Daddy, Alec and Bettany time and don't want you,' Alec tells me. It's just as well, because I've got a writing class this Sunday afternoon and I was feeling vaguely guilty about taking two hours off during a time of the week that usually devote to family.

3. To get a message from a blogger I haven't heard from in a long time. Raymond Pert over at Kellogg Bloggin' has kept the faith while I was away: he has been using the 3BT format since 2006. I was ridiculously pleased to hear this: it felt good to know that someone had kept the little flame alight when I could not. 

Friday, October 09, 2020

Little box, geranium and contrast.

1. Bettany asks for a little box of cherry tomatoes as a school snack.

2. I've had atar of roses geranium stem drying near my desk for a few weeks now. I occasionally catch the scent of it, and when I turn it in my hands the oils are sticky on my fingers.

3. I'm reading an irritating comic novel and it strikes me that the shouted 'ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET?' bits of the book -- mainly the stream of forced, shoehorned references to other humorous works -- contrast poignantly with the more subtle things that the author does do well: the relationship between the protagonist and her co-pilot, which neither of them fully understand, for example. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Cooler, soap and spinner.

1. This is the day when the air temperature changes. 

2. I give Bettany some old bits of soap in a net bag to play with in the bath. She makes long white foamy gloves for herself.

3. We are snuggled up reading when Alec comes upstairs to show us the Newton spinner he has made during his Cubs Zoom meeting. Bettany is amazed at how the colours mix to white, and also at how it spins on its twisted strings.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Not ready, run and gamers.

1. To point out to the children that they don't want to go to school because they are, at this moment, in bed, wearing their pyjamas and hungry for their breakfasts.

2. Today Nick needs to take Alec up to town after school, so as he passes the bottom of our road he sends Bettany running up the hill. She looks very pleased with herself with her curls and coat flying.

3. The simple pleasure of stuffing unpleasant and unwanted items into the backpack of a character belonging to an absent player during games night.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Escape, vulnerable and sandalwood.

1. To escape on a walk in the wet woods with my dad. 

2. We are invited to write about anxiety on our Zoom writing call this week. I noticed that to start with my writing closed off, and we shared less often in these screen meetings. But this week we all risked vulnerability by talking about our experiences of anxiety and the tactics we use to harness it, and to reduce its effects. It felt a bit magical.

3. I have been looking for the smell of sandalwood for a few weeks now -- no particular reason, just really want it, and I keep adding sandalwood chips and oil to online baskets and then not buying. I glance at the ingredients list on a pot of balm that's been sitting in my bedside drawer. It includes sandalwood. I open it and apply a good amount to my elbows and knees.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Return, long sleep and last half glass.

1. The children come home from two nights at my parents. We needed the break badly, but we've missed them and it's a relief to have them back in the house.

2. Alec has a long sleep in the afternoon and comes downstairs at teatime with his hair all sticking up.

3. To tip the last half glass of wine into the gravy pan.

Friday, October 02, 2020

The right moment, pumpkin and saving up.

1. My playlist comes up with a track that is remarkably soothing and kind at exactly the moment it is needed.

2. The pumpkin we bake for supper is grey-green, almost blue in colour

3. The children have been saving up for large purchases, and they hit their targets. I get to help them order the items in question.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Cafe, vitamins and draft.

1. To write in a coffee shop once again.

2. Nick, because he cares very much about our health, doles out carefully researched vitamin pills at lunchtime.

3. I'm working on a draft for Morgen Bailey's 100-word story competition. It falls out at exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

News, meringue and nuisance.

1. I love morning coffee, and hearing Nick's news from the school run and his visit to his mum.

2. My mother brings us a hazelnut and raspberry meringue, which we devour after supper.

3. The children have been a complete nuisance with their whoopie cushion this week. It feels really good to throw it out of the back door while threatening to nail it to the ceiling.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Company, a fine sunset and push on.

1. Coffee, cake and a friendly chat with a mum from school.

2. Our walk home takes us towards a fine sunset, a mix of slate grey cloud in tyre track shapes,and orange sky fading into blue.

3. I am almost too sleepy to participate properly in my writing group, but I push on through and enjoy some great writing from the others; and then I fall satisfied into bed afterwards.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Herbs, master and reveal.

1. Chopping fresh herbs in smaller and smaller and smaller pieces with a heavy knife.

2. The restrictions on meeting face-to-face are tough -- but it has opened up a whole world of remote writing workshops. There is no need to go anywhere: I can sit at my desk and benefit from the live, real-time expertise of masters of the craft.

3. The children's faces when it is revealed that Long John Silver is not the man that Jim Hawkins thought he was. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The sound of heavy rain, minutes and cake.

1. Waking to the sound of heavy rain.

2. To sit and cuddle the children for a few minutes before we go downstairs. It makes the mornings so much easier -- and we're lucky that we can do it. If both of us had to work outside the home it would be difficult to find the mindset and the time to do this.

3. During his Cubs Zoom meeting Alec made a mug cake -- except he had to make it in a conventional oven because we don't have a microwave, so it's more of an oven-safe dish cake. And the oven-safe dish was rather larger than a mug, so he was very generous with the ingredients, with the result that his mug cake serves four quite nicely.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Cooler, pirates and rest.

1. In less than an hour the air has gone from muggy to cool enough that I wish I'd bought a warmer jumper. The weather has freshened ahead of the rain that is coming over night. (I get a lecture from Alec later about how this is all caused by a storm in the Atlantic meeting cold air from Finland).

2. I am reading Treasure Island to the children. It is really very good, even though I have to keep stopping to explain things; and the children argue about how the voices should sound. I'm hoping to do Swallows and Amazons in due course, so they need a grounding in pirate stories.

3. A planned event is cancelled. I spend the evening doing... nothing much, and I am so grateful for a chance to rest.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bugs, picnic supper and moon.

1. I help out at Beavers, supervising four little fellas on a bug hunt. They scamper around, exclaiming about spider's webs and feathers then head straight for the hole in the hedge leading out of the park. I call them back and persuade them to stick their heads in the hedge to look for bird's nests. Then they find a place where the ground is soft and dig for earthworms until the Beaver leaders call us back.

2. To sit on the last bench to lose the sun and eat our picnic supper before we trot home through the woods.

3. In the course of my writing group's session the thin moon moves across the sky before my window.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Patience, coaching and handover.

1. It's been a busy morning and we are all rather frazzled. Nonetheless, and although it is out of our way, we decide to walk home through the woods -- and I think it does us good.

2. In our front garden Bettany has set up a stall selling packets of seeds. From the hidden green space behind the sweetpeas, where I have retreated to supervise at a distance, I hear Alec coaching Bettany, encouraging her to address passers-by with a cheery 'Hello, would you like to buy some seeds.'

3. When I get tired of grinding spices I hand the mortar and pestle over to Nick.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Mist, warming up and action.

1. To see a faint mist against the wooded flank of Broadwater Down.

2. Over the course of my half-hour fake commute the day warms up. 

3. I have been dreading starting the complaint process about a broken toy we purchased only in June. ?It seems so trivial, but the toy was not cheap and it's much loved and well used. Bettany's pointed remarks from the bath prod me in action and I start the process while I wait for her to wash. A short text conversation later and a replacement is on the way. Nick even has a shoebox in which to return the original.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Cake, ice cream and frogs.

1. Nick messages after the school run to say that he's having coffee with one of the mums. She sends back a slice of apple cake for me to have with my coffee later in the morning.

2. Ice cream with hot stewed fruit.

3. Bett is very overexcited after supper, so we take a walk around the block. We end up on the street with lots of frog statues, and we hunt them down one by one.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Destruction, sparrows and back.

1. It is terribly uncomfortable and confronting to listen to Alec's litany of facts about the destruction of the Amazon. It's really embarrassing to have him realise what an almighty fuck-up we've made (thanks Aquila and World Wildlife Fund). But I am so pleased that he is starting to understand the world's wider story. I hope that his understanding will translate into more empathy for the smaller home actions that are uncomfortable for him -- like eating mushrooms and lentils rather than processed foods; saying no to more Lego; sending him back upstairs to turn off lights; and rejecting the car lifestyle so he has to walk everywhere. 

2. To spend a few minutes watching sparrow drama in the tree below my office window.

3. It leaves me feeling disoriented, spacy and very tired -- but what a relief to have my back adjusted by Emma the chiropractor. For the last few weeks I have had no idea where I am in space, or what a relaxed, neutral position is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Puzzle, seesaw and dusk.

1. Alec, who is off school with a cold, comes up to quickly tell me that he has just completed a very difficult puzzle in a book. 

2. While I am bouncing the seesaw for Bettany a smaller girl comes running over. I step back so she can sit on the other end. She doesn't really know how to use a seesaw and is surprised at the jolting, but her mum gives her instructions and encouragement. Bettany looks uncommonly pleased, and bounces very gently until the other girl gets used to it.

3. On our return journey we walk in the dusk through places that are still warm from the day's sun; and places that are still cool from the day's shade.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Plants with stories, what you need and proper house.

1. At every turn there are plants that have stories. 'There's your mum's pinks; and this is that rose you gave me.' And I can see cuttings from my sage plant newly potted on; and a scented geranium grown from a cutting I took from a plant given to me, itself grown from a cutting. 

2. Bettany tells me that we need to spend a day shopping for fancy clothes that rich ladies wear, getting our nails done and going out for coffee and cocktails. She says, 'You've been working too much. In the middle of our day you will say, "What was I worrying about again? I can't remember."'

3. I spend an hour framing and hanging some prints I bought from my cousin Laura Thompson's Daydream Emporium. Nick looks at my handiwork and says, 'We've got pictures on the stairs like in a proper house.'

Friday, September 11, 2020

Secret flowers, school run and scones.

1. Under the flower troughs on the railings by the Pantiles there are bright blooms grown from last year's scattered seed.

2. I do my first school run. To see and talk to people we haven't seen for months on end.

3. There is clotted cream for our scones.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Newborn, unexpected and castle.

1. The news, with pictures, that our friend has been safely delivered of a baby girl.

2. A parcel arrives unexpectedly early.

3. To spend forty-five minutes swearing at a cardboard castle while the children bring together all their equipment for knights and princesses (not princesses, Mummy, I'm a queen).

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Coffee, tea and stars.

1. We know the warm days are running out -- who knows if this will be the last one of the year? To sit with friends outside the cafe at Calverley Adventure Ground and enjoy a coffee that merges into lunch.

2. On a warm afternoon a large mug of cold-brewed green tea with condensation running down it.

3. A letter in the Fortean Times has me fascinated: it seems there are a fair few people out there who, given the right conditions, can perceive the moons of Jupiter by naked eye. Jupiter and Saturn are this week hanging just above the horizon directly in front of our kitchen door. It feels just right this evening to waste some time before bed fiddling around with binoculars and swearing at clouds.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Conkers, plans and looking forward to bedtime.

1. The shining white insides of conker cases. And conkers arranged on the wall of a house with boots and scooters in the porch.

2. These last few days the children have been planning ahead. Bettany is collecting melon seeds to plant next spring; and Alec has spread rosebay willowherb seed in the garden in the hopes of attracting hawk moths.

3. Nick calls up the stairs to say the new Fortean Times has arrived. It makes me look forward to bedtime, when I can sit and read it.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Belter, Wolverine and reading.

1. Watching Alec playing cricket. He hits a couple of real belters, and I feel very proud.

2. At bathtime Bettany appears wearing a wolf hat and a pair of wicketkeeper's gloves. 'I'm Wolverine,' she says with utter conviction.

3. I push past the children's complaints and make them read 'our' book. It's a good way of getting the school's required listening-to-reading minutes in; and it saves my voice.

Friday, September 04, 2020

PTA, cartoon and rain.

1. One of the PTA mums has put together a 'tea and tissues' gift for the mums of new starters at school. It seems such a kind, welcoming thing to do. Of course, it is partly to encourage people to get involved with the PTA -- but I'm sure that some of the new starters will also really appreciate the message that the other parents are friendly and happy to help out.

2. The lovely Peppy Scott has drawn us a little cartoon of a family joke. I show Bettany at supper and her face lights up. 

3. When I go to close the roof light at the end of the day I can smell the rain.

Thursday, September 03, 2020

Chaos, walking home and return.

1. It's the first day of term -- after six months away from school. We wake up to discover that we are expecting the landlord and two hob fitters within the hour. It's actually fine: among the kitchen chaos the children forget to be anxious about the new school routine, and forget to act up.

2. Alec has started to enquire about walking to and from school by himself. 

3. The sound of the front door and the sound of the children's voices at the end of the school day.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Timing, waiting and slicing.

1. Bettany comes stumbling down the stairs rubbing her eyes and squinting through her mass of hair just as I am opening the wafflemaker.

2. To see Nick waiting for us by the sweetpeas when we come home from our walk.

3. To slice spring onions very finely.

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Blackberry picking, jigsaw and scrunchie.

1. I am glad I brought a box for blackberries out with us. 

2. A few nights ago Nick and I stopped doing the jigsaw at our bedtime even though we wanted to push on and place the last fifty pieces. This afternoon the children and I finish it up and they feel very pleased about that.

3. Bettany now has such long hair that it needs to be put up for school. And I suddenly realised that this would by my job each morning. I asked if we could have a practice after bath and she gave me a look. 'I can do it myself,' she said, pulling a scrunchie on to her wrist. And sure enough, she can put her own hair up.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Home, it walks and hearing voices.

1. Grampy brings the children home.

2. The spider robot Alec and I have just built doesn't walk. During supper, I realise why. With a bit more tinkering, it's soon stepping around the kitchen.

3. I've found our current read difficult to get into -- the story is exciting, and the characters engaging but I can't 'hear' the voices. So the accents wander, which is confusing for everyone. But suddenly this evening I hear one character speak, and then another.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Packing, cake and nickelodeon.

1. Alec doing his own packing to go to Granny and Grandpa's. He appears to be planning on a long stay, judging by the amount of clothing he is taking.

2. There just happens to be a slice of cake at coffee time.

3. Carradine's Cockney sing-along is an outside broadcast this evening, from Piano Pavilion, Westcliff-on-Sea. To open he sings along to a nickelodeon, which just seems like magic.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Fielding, tennis ball and return the favour.

1. Last cricket session of the season. Bettany chasing a ball outruns one of the boys and remembers to throw the ball back, rather than carrying it.

2. A toddler running after a tennis ball turns to look at me, checking whether I am watching her pick it up.

3. A football rolls towards us down the side road we are walking up. I return the Dutch woman's favour by stopping it and dribbling it back the way it has come until we see a little boy jogging to meet us.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Half hour, indoors and salt.

1. To take half an hour off and play Lego Marvel Superheroes with Alec. We don't have a specific quest in mind, instead preferring to run around the city throwing cars at each other.

2. The trees are thrashing in an August storm and we are indoors.

3. Salt crystals scattered across a tray of roasted new potatoes.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Horse, park and umbrella.

1. A godmother brings Bettany the hobby horse she has wanted for a long time. The look of genuine joy on my child's face. And also, later: the horse joins us at supper, eating a few wooden vegetables; Bettany dressed in her sheriff outfit clopping downstairs to tell Nick that 'this town ain't big enough for the both of us'; and finding her asleep in bed cuddled up next to the horse.

2. It's wonderful just to enjoy time with our friends, sitting sprawled in the park.

3. I do offer him a dignified umbrella -- but he and his children think that borrowing Bett's pink princess brolly would be more funny.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Not a race, abundantly available and pesto.

1. Bettany asks me to go to Nana's round by the main road while the Nick and Alec go across the estate. She pretends we're not racing them, but secretly we are -- and we win.

2. To point out to your children that there is no need for them to fight over an abundantly available resource -- in this case, acorns.

3. For dinner we have one of those recipes featuring ingredients that the children wouldn't usually touch with a bargepole -- watercress, anchovies and capers whizzed into a pesto. It is eaten with a lot of enthusiasm.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Spanner, football and request.

1. Grandpa brandishes the spanner he has brought to take the front wheel off Alec's bike for easier loading.

2. While we are unloading the car, the football rolls out of the boot and down the hill. I have to chase after it in my slippers. There is absolutely no hope of my catching it before it rolls into the High Street at the bottom, though. Luckily, a kind lady in big boots is game enough to stand in its way and catch it. It is all a bit absurd, and we share a moment of laughter. 

3. To Alec's unalloyed delight, Tom Carradine sings his requested song, 'I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair' from South Pacific.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Rain, what I wanted and fight.

1. Feeling spits and spots of rain on my arms. I am drenched by the time I get home. Being out in the rain comes with a whole bundle of experiences, from cold stinging dots to the water trickling down my neck to the sounds of falling water. I am grateful that I don't have to include 'anxiety about arriving at work soaking wet' to that list.

2. One of my clients has need of me again and we've got a meeting towards the end of the afternoon. I used to know how to use their conferencing system; but my skills have dried up. I have an anxious play to see if I can make it work. Then my 'handler' calls me to check that I know how to get in. He apologises for micromanaging -- but it's exactly what I wanted at this moment.

3. To start reading a new book with the children. Inevitably they fight over who gets to sit next to me, so I point out that whoever sits on the floor by my feet can make a nest of blankets and cushions. They fight over that, too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Re-heated pizza, a couple of hours and delivery.

1. We have re-heated pizza for lunch.

2. I have the children for a couple of hours this afternoon. I sit with them putting icing and sprinkles on little cakes. Then I play a video game with Alec. And then I start Bettany off making another gymnast.

3. Bettany (wearing her new school shoes) and I slip out into the summer evening to deliver some cakes.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Cones, acrobat and jasmine.

1. Nana makes us ice cream cones to eat on the way home. She is determined to get the ice cream right to the bottom of the cone.

2. Bettany and I use a craft kit to build a little acrobat who flips over on a twisted string when you squeeze two rods. She is very pleased with herself and says that 'Gymnast Judy' is her favourite toy in the whole house.

3. Nick has taken over making supper so I spend the time cutting back some jasmine shoots to maintain a human-sized width in the narrow space outside our back door. I don't like the sticky sap on my hands, but I do like the heavy perfume and the improved space.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Cool morning, check-in and dinner.

1. A cool, grey, misty morning. On my walk I snatch a couple of blackberries that are very sweet from all the sunny days we've had.

2. To get a check-in call from a client who has some good personal news to share; and we make some reassuring adjustments to my work. 

3. We are having a delivery from Bhaji Bhaji for grown-up supper and it's coming a little late, so I feed the children early, imagining they will watch a bit of telly while we eat in peace. But they thank me politely for the 'very nice starter' and then join us at the table for railway chicken, chaat and bhajis intended for two.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Bike, beach and waiting it out.

 1. A passenger on the train waiting at the other platform spots Alec's bike and explains with gestures that we should look out for the carriages with red markings as these have bike spaces.

2. The children, streaked with sand and mud, running and shrieking on the beach, collecting shells and dead crabs. 

3. The five of us huddling under one big umbrella while we wait for the rainstorm to pass. A lot of people hurry past us on their way back to the car park and we know that if we only wait, we'll have the beach to ourselves.

3a. Bettany finds two bright, newly painted pebble ladybirds on fence posts. I wonder if they are the work of the sturdy blonde teenage girl who pedaled past us in such a determined way five minutes ago.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Park, new soap and diligence.

1. The park is so quiet and clean and cool this early in the morning.

2. To pull a new bar of soap out of the dark blue tissue paper packet.

3. It takes a long time to settle the children and we go to bed rather late. I'm so tired that I'm tempted to forget about my physio -- but I do them anyway. It's perfunctory; but it's done.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Help, watching for Nick and gaming.

1. ...and when I turned round the children had put the sofa bed away without being asked.

2. We look down the street to see if we can spot Nick. Alec says he always looks for his hat, and I look for the way he walks.

3. I treated myself to a game on the children's Xbox, but got a bit frustrated that it didn't seem to be the lush fantasy world I remembered. I found myself scrabbling around underground being chased by angry rats while goblins shot at me and old men told me to go here and fetch that. It's too hot to sleep, so I crank it up. And within a few minutes I've emerged from the sewers to a vista of wild mountains and fields of flowers under a huge sky.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Home working, ice lolly and filthy.

1. Even this early in the day it is uncomfortably warm for walking. I am so grateful that I am returning home to work and that I can overheat in peace without worrying about professional appearances.

2. To remember that ice lollies came with the grocery delivery.

3. Nick brings the children home filthy, hot and tired from playing on a friend's waterslide.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Drink, flow and chalk.

1. A long drink of cold water in Nana's kitchen. She has taken over the naming of the children's clothes before school starts again. 

2. Even in this hottest part of summer the spring at Brighton Lake is still flowing. We poke dead leaves and sticks out of the gully until the water runs freely again.

3. Bettany has chalked encouraging words on the brick pavement in front of our house.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Escape, picnics and together.

1. Early in the day, before I start work I escape on my own and walk round and round the park with Zombies Run (no running for me until my back is better). An hour later, I get an email about how important it is to build a 'commute' into your day when you work at home.

2. Bettany has set up little picnics with her toy food all around the house. We keep finding them after she has gone to bed. 

3. When I check on the children last thing at night they are cuddled up together in one bed.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Catch-up, edge and ahead.

1. On a hot afternoon to have a chat and a catch-up in the shade.

2. To stare up at the places where the edges of an oak tree's canopy meet the sky.

3. Alec rides a little ahead of us down the path in shadow splashed and speckled with with sunlight.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Sky, amble and muttering.

1. To look up at a mare's tail sky. 

2. To amble home with friends.

3. Bettany muttering dark plans for vengeance against the boys who made the roundabout go faster than she liked.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Deliveries, help and less to do.

1. It's a day of small parcels.

2. Bettany stamping around in her pyjamas and pink wellies as she helps with the watering.

3. Unexpectedly my physio app has just a single exercise for me tonight, rather than the usual ten.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Feeding, moment and jigsaw.

1. The sparrows are still feeding their babies in the elder tree. It's now difficult to tell the adults from the juveniles until one bird starts popping food into another's beak.

2. Biting a nectarine that has been ripening in the fruit bowl and is now, this moment, perfectly ripe.

3. Alec rushes thrrough his shower because he wants to do a jigsaw with me. 

Monday, August 03, 2020

Ice creams, unseen and cuddle.

1. The children eating ice creams that they have bought with their own money.

2. On the surface of the pond are mysterious dimples and ripples as if things are happening under the surface and in the air that I cannot see.

3. At bedtime, everyone is a bit tired and cross. First Alec comes to sit on my lap for a calm-down cuddle, and then Bettany. She dozes, getting heavier and heavier.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Save, shade and non-stop.

1. The massage therapist helps me up and it saves me a moment of back ache.

2. To sit in the park in the shade on a rug and chat over coffee.

3. Grandpa brings the children back and Alec talks non-stop about the den he is building.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Snail, no rush and jigsaws.

1. A snail emerges sleepily from my watering can.

2. To have an evening where I don't feel in a rush. After bath, Bettany and I read story after story until the boys come home from cricket.

3. We listen to one of BBC Sounds podcasts, The Boring Talks. It's about jigsaws, and it makes us almost salivate at the thought of starting a new one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Go, wineberries and velvety leaves.

1. Letting the children decide which route we will take (up the hill and along the top of the park, as it happens).

2. Picking wineberries -- Jane describes them as 'raspberries by Haribo'. They are strangely sticky and leave my fingers feeling faintly waxy; and they are sweet and delicious. Bettany and I eat rather a lot as we pick (sorry Jane!!) When we look back at the stripped canes, the receptacles left behind are bright orange.

3. A plant with velvety leaves and a strange astringent smell that I remember from a day out at Sarah Raven's garden at Perch Hill.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Now I see it, note and insight.

1. I've been feeling troubled for days about an editing problem -- but when I come to write a report, the solution comes tumbling out.  

2. To think that you haven't heard from a friend in a while, and then to get a note from them.

3. A simple writing exercise produced to fill five minutes at the end of the evening brings up an insight that strikes me as worth examining carefully.

PS: The children and I are fascinated by Erwin Saunders' videos about pixie sightings, which were covered in the latest Fortean Times

Monday, July 27, 2020

Heft, honeysuckle and joke.

1. Rosey hands me my now toddler niece because she isn't ready to stand on the floor so soon after arrival. Feeling the unfamiliar heft of her.

2. Standing by the back door and smelling honeysuckle on the warm air.

3. Rosey and I burst out laughing and Annie, who can't have got the joke, giggles along with us.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Shared work, on the sofa and queue.

1. To share in the work of grinding a spice mix.

2. I've had a busy time with work recently -- one of my clients is getting ready for Christmas. The children tell me that after tea we will be watching YouTube videos about fairy encounters. So we do, cuddled up on the sofa, and it is very satisfying.

3. To be able to queue up and listen to a dozen covers of the same song. When I was a child this would have seemed like a fairy tale.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Watermelon, yoghurt and tick.

1. We've seen hints that a watermelon is coming in our fruit and veg box for some weeks. Finally it's here.

2. Mixing new milk with the starter I saved from last week's yoghurt never gets old. 

3. Ticking off tasks on a paper to-do list; or moving them along on a project management system. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Fishing, unblock and handprints.

1. The children 'fishing' with a stick, some string and a bent paperclip in the grandly named Brighton Lake. 

2. The chalybeate spring that fills the lake is clogged with mud and sticks. Showing Alec how satisfying it is to unblock a culvert so that the flow washes clouds of red mud down into the lake.

3. The red muddy handprints that Alec leaves on the stone wall.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Vapour, home and back.

1. In the early morning, vapour from a chimney trapped beneath an inversion.

2. In the middle of the morning the children come home. They mainly want cuddles and then to strew toys over the empty spaces of floor we've been enjoying in their absence.

3. While walking back slowly from cricket in the evening sun Bettany spots a garden full of concrete animals; and in a shady corner by the road, a place where fairies have been at work (at least that's what it says on a tiny slate).

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Blackberries, format and canes.

1. There are already blackberries ripe but sour on the common.

2. To untangle a formatting problem (I have no idea how the author managed to apply a different font to the apostrophes and quotation marks, nor why it was so difficult to change it).

3. It's time to put some canes up for my sweetpeas, which have already collapsed over the front fence in a mass of angular stems, curling tendrils and bright pink flowers and -- already -- a few soft green seedpods.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Wait, fried potatoes and break.

1. Nick makes us wait to see the signal change and the train depart.

2. To hear that Alec has been praising Nick's fried potatoes. He says they are better than Granny's.

3. My writing group has kept on trucking right through lockdown with no break for Easter or half term or bank holidays. We agree that we should take August off. Some of us admit that we're not writing except at these sessions on a Monday. But despite ourselves, we write, and find things that we want to continue working at during the week.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Fill, picnic in August and untangle.

1. The sound of the water butt filling up.

3. Planning to meet up seems a bit scary right now -- but a call about a picnic at the end of August seems doable, and actually very enticing.

2. To untangle a toy's long hair while watching TV.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Cut, go and summer evening.

1. The hairdresser hands me the scissors and so I can take some of my hair. 

2. The children jump into Grandpa's car without a backward glance. Alec has packed at least four pairs of shorts and asks if we will send his school work.

3. After supper, instead of convincing the children that, yes, they do need to go to bed, we go out for a summer evening walk. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Morning, lolly and escape.

1. The children climb into bed with us every morning. And no matter what, the second to arrive will complain that the first is lying in the spot they want. 

2. A large, bright orange ice lolly.

3. The children crowd around my phone to see the start of Carradine's Cockney sing-along. Then I shake them off, kiss them and run downstairs to join Nick on the sofa.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Unfamiliar, plate and thrushes.

1. We've been told by email to come in this way, walk here, don't touch that. But the diagram is difficult to understand and I have no idea where we should wait. There are enormous teenagers playing a serious match on the pitch, and no signs telling us where to go. To see across the field a group of people with children of a similar size to mine.

2. When I turn round I find that Bettany has got herself a full-sized plate and is unwrapping her sausage and chips.

3. We follow the pavement round the corner and suddenly  evening birdsong is all we can hear: two thrushes in red prunus trees are trying to outdo each other.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Fishes, note and underground.

1. We have a whole smoked mackerel for lunch. The children seem to enjoy pretending to be scared of it. I wonder what they will make of the trout Nick is cooking for supper wrapped in buttered foil.

2.  To put a note through a friend's letterbox.

3. We play a new improv game, Girl Underground, and end up on a surreal adventure with a talkative toy tiger, an acquisitive adventure chicken, a shadow full of holes and a pit of green slime.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Second pass, national treasure and wake.

1. The way a novel always seems better on the second editing pass.

2. During our writing video call we discuss -- with a lot of enthusiasm -- the new Talking Heads by Alan Bennett. For me, it's authentic presentation of characters observed kindly but neutrally. Bennett is beige in the best possible way.

3. I go to check on Alec last thing at night. He wakes up long enough to rub his face against mine and tell me he is having trouble falling asleep, and then rolls back over into his pillow, breathing gently again.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Shorn, bubble and pie.

1. The children stroking the back of Nick's newly clipped head.

2. A giant bubble shimmering and wobbling in the afternoon park. 

3. I sort of forget about supper -- but in line with my meal plan, pie and greens appear on the table at the right time.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Taken care of, seeds and pudding.

1. We wake up late and come down to find the the children have let the landlord in to make a repair and have helped him find the tools he needs in our toolbox.

2. Seeds are drying in the corner of the hall.

3. Helping Nick slide the gypsy tart he has baked on to a plate.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Smile, raspberries and potatoes.

1. To see Bettany smiling to herself during her dance class (She doesn't like me to watch her, but I have to be in the room).

2. We eat two boxes of raspberries for pudding, just by themselves. No cream, no sugar needed. 

3. We've been waiting for bedtime so we can listen to the latest episode of PlanetPotato podcast.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Park flowers, defender and looking forward.

1. Someone has put a pot of purple flowers on the wall in the park and nasturtiums are falling on to the path.

2. The children were scrapping in the park and when Bettany and I are talking it over at bath time I tell her that Uncle Robert used to call Aunty Rosey a shrimp because she was so little. 
'And did he call you fat, Mummy?'
'Yes he did.'
'I will destroy him. '

3. To have things to look forward to. 

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Coasters, mango and Pluto.

1. A hamabead factory has appeared in the kitchen and there are bright new coasters everywhere.

2. To cut up a mango that I think is going to turn out really sweet and juicy. The children are arguing over who gets the seed. I'm tempted to take it for myself.

3. Cuddling up on the sofa with Nick to watch a documentary about the marvels found on Pluto, including shifting nitrogen snow fields and an ice volcano. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Wait, overgrown and new potatoes.

1. I like the wait in the fishmongers because there is always so much to look at in the display -- from the stripes on the mackerels' backs to the scarlet lobsters to the pure orange scallop corals.

2. To cut back the overgrown perennials in our tiny garden until it feels like we can move around again.

3. We have new potatoes this evening, and it's so tempting to eat 'just one more'.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Enthusiasm, balloons and sounds.

1. The manuscript I'm editing next arrives with an enthusiastic email.

2. Bettany brings me a balloon to tie. I tell her about tiny Alex setting off in a hot air balloon made from the washing basket and two string bags filled with balloons. It turns out she's had a similar idea and is building her own in the front room.

3. Picking out the novel instruments in an Ennio Morricone track. His presence in the world will be missed.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Note, expedition and clear.

1. We leave a note on the door for Nick to say that we are going to the park.

2. I come back from my walk to find the children putting on full wet weather gear. They explain that they are going on an expedition to the eaves cupboards, 'to get footage'. The waterproofs are in case of spiders. Alec tells Bettany to put her hood up before she puts on her helmet.

3. To deliberately not pack the day full of tasks and odd jobs. 

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Slug, bubbles, grey.

1. To wonder how a finger-sized slug got into our locked compost bucket.

2. We are blowing bubbles in the street. A passing neighbour, normally reserved and dignified, stops to pop a few with a pointed finger. 

3. In Alison Uttley's semi-autobiographical A Country Child to catch a glimpse of her character Little Grey Rabbit in Susan as she hurries home from school in her grey cloak. Susan is a more complicated character, just as courageous but less protected by inherent goodness than the little rabbit.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Broadcast, mint and sleep.

1. To discover that Alec has been watching Doctor Who over Zoom with his friend by turning the laptop towards the TV.

2. Bruising mint for a cocktail. 

3. To be ready to sleep at sleeping time. 

Friday, July 03, 2020

Equipped, avocado and sweep.

1. Our afternoon park session leaves me feeling tight and tense. To go back upstairs and vanish into work. (it's not a great cure, but there are times when for a couple of hours I just need to feel as if I am competent and equipped with the right skills).

2. Slicing an avocado that is just perfectly ripe and then using the blade to slide the pieces onto someone's plate.

3. It is satisfying to sweep all the stairs in the house from top to bottom.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Telly, foam and chilli.

1. At breakfast Alec asks if I want to watch telly with him. At first I say no because I need to start work. But then I remember that there will come a time when he doesn't want to do anything with me. I watch two episodes of Teen Titans, and it's nice.

2. For her birthday we got Bettany a bath toy she has been asking for. It  turns soapy foam into pretend ice cream. Nick does bathtime this evening and he reports that it also serves beer.

3. In the evening I make a lentil chilli for tomorrow's dinner. The children smell it and come in looking for a taste.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Signs of life, shopping and background.

1. To pass a pub and notice signs of life: windows open, a radio playing and cleaning equipment on the bar.

2. Bettany hands over her birthday money to pay for a cowgirl outfit.

3. When he gets up for a drink he seems to vanish among the trees of his Zoom backdrop.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Aubergine, tinker and soothing.

1. The way an aubergine changes colour when sliced.

2. To watch Alec tinkering with a 3D model, swinging it back and forth, up and down on the screen. He's taught himself to use the app that comes free with Windows, and has been working with a friend over Zoom to create a steam engine. I love to see him quietly involved in a project. I like it when he responds to a problem that has upset him by stepping back to resolve it (sometimes literally with undo, undo, undo; and sometimes by taking a little break).

3. We've found a soothing local history podcast to listen to at bedtime.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Gasp, puppets and across my lap.

1. The delighted gasp when a child opens a gift that is something they really wanted.

2. The verses from The Gruffalo come tumbling out as we play with shadow puppets.

3. Bettany falls asleep across my lap.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Alone, cake and match.

1. We're having trouble getting the children out of the house. Nick says, 'Do you want to just go for a walk by yourself, and then when you come back, I'll go?'

2. When Bettany has finished decorating her birthday cake it is... quite something. To remember that though I baked this cake, it is not about me.

3. To find a piece of ribbon that perfectly matches the tissue paper I've used to wrap Bettany's presents.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

New, down and call.

1. Starting a brand new novel edit.

2. Alec is cross at reading time and says he doesn't like the book. But while I am reading he comes down from his bed and sits next to me on the sofa. 

3. A long and leisurely phone call with a friend when I was supposed to be making a meal plan and shopping list. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Quiet, iced coffee and company.

1. For a moment it is so quiet and still that I can hear the whirr and the clank of the crane working all the way down the end of The Pantiles.

2. Bringing a jug of iced coffee out of the freezer.

3. To take Alec along for the company.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Macaroni, tin and lollies.

1. Bettany is gluing out-of-date macaroni to a piece of card.

2. In our stash of things-that-might-be-useful there is a tin that is the right size for a pen pot.

3. To hand out ice lollies on a really hot day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Discouraged, dwarfs and raising.

1. I am discouraged by my lack of progress with my physio. From the start of April I diligently worked at rebuilding my core strength. And then I picked up a passing virus. The exercises and the heat therapy have become uncomfortable again; even an amble down to the woods leaves me aching; and I am so stiff in the morning that I need a paracetamol before I can get up. During my video appointment the therapist says sadly, 'It's one step forward, two steps back. ' When he acknowledges this, it makes me feel much better, and I am determined to press on. He adds, 'And your muscles will remember, so you'll get back on track sooner.' I queue up podcasts to keep me distracted from discomfort while I do my exercises; and line up reminders on my phone and to-do list about drinking water, stretching and taking paracetamol.

2. 'Who are the dwarfs in The Hobbit?' Alec demands suddenly as we come into the park. I discover I can reel them off almost without a hesitation (I think I would have forgotten Oin and Gloin if I hadn't recalled Gimli son of Gloin from Lord of the Rings).

3. When our little garden smells strongly of jasmine, to lift the watering cans and slosh some water around. It is warm enough to raise that petrichor rain-on-dry-ground scent from my pots.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Paid, hoover and sweet potatoes.

1. To -- finally -- receive a cheque of some money I am owed, this time written out in my married name.

2. Alec needs to run the hoover round as part of a Cubs badge. His enthusiasm leaves me with enough energy to attack another room.

3. The smell of roasting sweet potatoes.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Wensleydale, gaming and apricot.

1. Slices of apple with Wensleydale cheese.

2. Alec leads us on a roleplaying game adventure all over the kitchen table. We fight giant rats in exchange for a bed at an inn. Then we hear that a dragon has killed the king of goblins. Bettany declares herself queen and we go to the castle to let the goblins know there's a new boss in town.

3. The way the stone of a ripe apricot lies loose inside the fruit.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Love, birthday presents and stream.

1. 'Mummy, I love you more than the world. I know I shouldn't, but I do.'

2. A very long packet of beautiful pens and a weighty box of chocolate.

3. The golds and browns and shifting blues of sunlight playing on a stream through the woods.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Rainbow, flowerperson and first aid.

1. To comb hair chalk in rainbow colours through Bettany's curls for her end-of-term dress-up dance lesson.

2. Bettany should have been a... as she puts it, 'flowerperson' earlier this summer -- but the wedding has been postponed. Very kindly the bride and groom have sent her the dresses she would have worn so she can enjoy them as the chances are that she will have outgrown them by the time new date comes round. She is thrilled and tries them on very, very carefully.  

3. While I am rinsing hair chalk off our second born, Nick cuts his finger -- but it's okay: Alec, using his Cubs first aid skills, sorts everything out.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Sweets, clove pinks and sleep.

1. I'd forgotten that we'd ordered sweets from A Quarter Of until the box arrives in the middle of lunch.

2. My parents brought us a bunch of clove pinks and they have made the bedroom smell spicy.

3. To go to bed without any delay because we are both tired.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Done, right length and linen change.

1. To knock a task I've been dreading off the list.

2. The book we are reading has chapters that are the right length for a bedtime story; and they end at a comfortable, satisfying point.

3. To settle into a bed with clean sheets.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Takeaway, boxes and jasmine.

1. I take the children to get takeaway coffee and biscuits, because we can. 

2. We've bought a new food processor and it arrived unexpectedly today. By the time Nick and I have finished unpacking and investigating it the children have taken the boxes into the front room, changed into what they imagine mechanics wear and using a picture they've found on Google made a... 'is it garahge, Mummy, or a garage?'
I don't have the heart to tell them that most mechanics round here would call it a 'garridge'. Anyway, they have a lot of fun fixing cardboard box cars raised up on two chairs.

3. I spend the evening in the kitchen with the back door open enjoying the scent of jasmine while engaged in a convivial, challenging games night with the Tuesday Knights.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Jasmine, teatime and greeting.

1. The jasmine by the back door has flowered. Its scent follows me through the house.

2. While I'm deep in work a slice of cake and mug of tea appear at my elbow.

3. Alec is so determined not to go to bed that he asks to come upstairs and say hallo to my writing group.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Out, swing and jigsaw.

1. To pack snack and a map and get out of the house promptly.

2. We find a wild swing down in the woods. Alec says he's too scared to try it, but Bettany has a little go, and he is encouraged. It's funny to watch them daring to start higher and higher up the bank until Bettany properly scares herself and screams. Later she tells me that she was as brave as the time at Dreamland when she finished her ice cream very quickly and ran off to join the nearest queue so she could go on a ride by herself without Alec.

3. To let Bettany put the last piece in the jigsaw.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Sit out, wipe and helper.

1. I often cook pancakes for weekend breakfasts. Today, Alec takes over and I sit at the kitchen table with a cup of tea until I am needed.

2. To wipe a dusty surface with a damp cloth.

3. With Bettany helping, I start to pack away some ornaments that I don't want to dust. We're interrupted by a phone call. When I come back to the task Bettany has wrapped the lot.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Instead, excuse and daisies.

1. To wake up early and lie in bed reading instead of doing something productive.

2. To have a good excuse for buying lots of sweets (I need boiled sweets to suppress my cough, and Bettany has a birthday coming up).

3. To get round the garden I must push through huge, drooping daisies.


Friday, June 12, 2020

Distracted, fried egg and bubbles.

1. I'm on a call -- but there is a sparrow feeding its baby in the tree outside the window.

2. A fried egg for lunch when I assumed it would be scrambled.

3. At nearly seven, Bettany still gets joy from me blowing bubbles.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Dots of rain, replacement and birthday plans.

1. To feel dots of rain as I walk up the hill.

2. We've been using a coffee pot glass that is not quite the right size. It cracked earlier this week. I go up to town to an actual shop and buy a replacement glass (correct size) and a one for spare.

3. On our walk around the park Bettany and I discuss her plans for her birthday. It's nice to know what she has in mind, though I do try to steer her away from a chocolate cake with orange jam inside and peppermint icing on top. It makes it easy to think up nice things to keep her amused.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Plans, toads and meet.

1. To flip through a bulb catalogue and make plans for the spring.

2. We find two tiny toads clambering around grass stems and leaf litter on the common.

3. Nick has been at his mum's while we've been out walking. To catch sight of him coming along the path paralell to us on his way home.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

In the rain, large boards and make it work.

1. BBC Radio 3's sing-along song this week is 'Singin' in the Rain'.

2. The sight of builders carrying large plywood boards always makes me smile.

3. To fail at technology -- and then to make it work.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Done, not cheering properly and moon.

1. I tackle a chore that I've been putting off. The satisfaction of cleaning something dirty.

2. The children are pretending to be skiiers, and we've been cheering them on every time they pass us, with pretend cowbells and 'allez, allez, allez'. At the finish Bettany bursts into furious tears and shouts at everyone. It's because she thought we were just cheering Alec and not her.

3. To look at the moon through binoculars.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Open place, butterflies and one more.

1. We come to a high, open place in the forest and stand on the dusty earth to look through the hazey, scorching light at the hills on the edge of our world.

2. To see two butterflies chasing each other. 

3. We've got a long walk home but the children keep asking to do more things. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Unpack, ink and dance.

1. To come down at coffee time and find that Nick has unpacked the vegetable box that arrived this morning. 

2. The children come upstairs to tell me that they've made quill pens. I give them a couple of almost empty ink bottles and a bit later they return with a somewhat blotted thank-you note. 

3. I still find it miraculous that Bettany can learn a sequence of dance moves. And I love her satisfied dance lesson smile.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Visitor, poems and Groundhog Day.

1. My mother passes a cake and a bunch of sweetpeas over the back fence. Alec deals with them -- putting the flowers in water and the cake into one of our tins so Granny can take her own tin away.

2. To stroll over and see poems by my writing group (and by me) displayed on Sarah Salway's railings.

3. We have been cheered each week by Carradine's Self-isolation Singalong. This week, the relentlessly jolly Tom Carradine admits that he's been feeling down -- 'a bit Groundhog Day,' he says. I value knowing that under the performer there's a real person. I do think fans have a duty of care towards performers -- particularly those who are asking for contributions, rather than selling tickets. So it seems like a good thing that he feels safe enough to admit to despondency and disappointment in this joyful space he's created. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Elder, Arabian Nights and Planet Potato.

1. There are creamy white elder flowers on the tree below my window.

2. Bettany and I sit in the big bed looking at Kay Nielsen's luxuriant pictures for The Arabian Nights. It is difficult to explain some of the stories to her -- almost embarrassing, actually, to explain that as women we've supported a system which lets other people control and punish us for who we love and what we choose to do. By the way, you can take a look at Kay Neilsen's Arabian Nights on NPR.

3. Today we heard that our friend Anna Lambert and her potato marketer husband Cedric Porter have started a podcast called PlanetPotato. Nick and I waited until bedtime to listen, as it features a soothing list of potato names. It did not disappoint, and we think that some of you will enjoy this quirky, charming and erudite mix of potato news, history and analysis.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Bed, up and boy.

1. I wake up squashed on to the far edge of the bed because every time I turned over in the night Bettany snuggled closer to me.

2. To lie on the grass in the park staring up into the leaves of an oak tree.

3. Alec falls out of a tree and gets up laughing. His knees are filthy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Ice cream, shot and finished.

1. The smell of limes comes all the way to the top of the house. Alec is using a lemon or lime ice cream recipe given to me years ago for my cook's notebook by a friend's mum.

2. It's bank holiday Monday, so I drop a little kahlua in our coffee.

3. Last week a parcel of children's books arrived from my aunt. Today Alec brings them upstairs, saying he's finished the lot. I can't quite believe he's read so fast, but when I question him, it's clear he has read them. I remember being quizzed in the same way about my reading.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Timing, water and difficult email.

1. Just as we are about to leave the breadmaker beeps -- our loaf is ready.

2. The path runs along back fences and hedges. The sound of water splashing on flagstones and moving in a large container. Someone is -- perhaps -- cleaning out a pond or a hot tub.

3. I've been putting off a difficult email. To ask for -- and receive -- Nick's help with it.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A shower, pockets and sweetness.

Collection of moss photos from Tunbridge Wells CommonCollection of lichen photos from Tunbridge Wells Common
1. There is a sudden thunder shower.  The children put on rain coats, waterproof trousers and wellies and run into the street to stand in the rain.

2. Bettany fills my pockets with lichen. 'For our collection'.

3. The way artichokes lend an odd artificial sweetness to everything you eat subsequently.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Physio, van and cake.

1. The physio has got me using a foam roller. I don't love it. But today, because I've been sitting on a hot water bottle, I can feel a difficult muscle unpacking itself as I roll.

2. We recognise my brother's egg-yolk yellow van instantly.

3. Alec sends his uncle home with part of the ginger cake he made yesterday and careful instructions about not eating it until supper pudding so the stickiness has time to develop. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Wheels, gin and beer.

Alec pretending to ride an image of a bike made from sticks and leaves in the style of Andy Goldsworthy
1. School has set us an art assignment: An Andy Goldsworthy sculpture. Bettany and I do a circle, and then Alec adds a second circle and a bike frame.

2. A friend slips me a gin in a tin (still cold) as a thank you. I enjoy very much drinking it mid-afternoon.

3. 'This beer's vegan and unfiltered,' says Nick proudly. A bit later, 'It's got crunchy bits in it.'

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Letter, space and new bar.

1. At coffee time I handwrite a letter on paper I've been saving. 

2. To not try to solve a child's meltdown.

3. I've been washing my hair with tiny pieces from the end of a shampoo bar. But now I've got a brand new one, and it feels like luxury because it lathers up so quickly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

FT, wild flowers and clean sheets.

Diagram of Arum maculatum showing the elongated spadix
Diagram of Arum maculatum, or Jack-in-the-Pulpit 
1. When I come down for coffee, the latest Fortean Times is waiting for me.
2. In the Grove we find a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. We've been chatting about wild flowers, which is lovely, but they immediately name it 'willy flower' for its elongated spadix and dare each other to poke it. I decide that I might be better off supervising them from a distance.

3. To go to bed in clean sheets.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Coffee, supper and admin support.

1. To go down and make mid-morning coffee for myself and Nick; and to carry my mug back upstairs.

2. Bacon and eggs for supper.

3. 'That was fun,' says Nick, hitting send on a piece of editorial support work I've given him. I pay him a nominal amount for admin services each month, but I rarely call on him to check facts in his (many) areas of expertise. I should do it more often, as fact-checking can turn into a huge time sink. Today is also the day when I receive content from the two writers who help me out at busy times. It took me a long time to seek it out, but this support helps me to manage the 'feast or famine' lumps and bumps of freelance work.  

Monday, May 18, 2020

Long hair, elaborate and fallen oak.

1. I was well overdue a haircut before lockdown, and now my hair is very much longer than usual, and totally unstructured. Nick comes in while I am brushing it out and murmurs something about Pre-Raphaelites, which makes me feel better.

2. Bettany quietly working on an increasingly elaborate picture for her friend.

3. My back is too sore for me to join the others scrambling over a fallen oak, so I sit quietly on a mossy trunk and enjoy being in the woods. I notice that the side branches I am sitting among have grown straight upwards: the tree adapted and made a new life for itself after it fell.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Weekend morning, final onion and 11pm.

1. To sleep in and then make a fry-up.

2. With streaming eyes I tip the last onion into the pan.

3. To hear the 11pm chimes away across town through a fuzz of sleep. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Heating, science and new book.

1. To lie in bed listening to the central heating making its bumps and clanks.

2. Bettany runs upstairs to ask about supplies for some science experiments. It's nice to say 'yes' to most of them. 

3. To start reading a new book to the children. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Bouncy balls, cake and sing-a-long.

1. I throw down a double handful of bouncy balls on the hard path in the park. The children are embarrassed and we can't find one of the balls -- but I have no regrets.

2. During the NHS clap a lady comes round with gift bags full of cake, which is a cheering, neighbourly gesture and very much appreciated.

3. A glass of beer and a cockney sing-a-long with Tom Carradine makes my physio exercises less painful.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Work, looking on and book.

1. Tiny workmen in high-vis are moving around on the construction site that I can see from the window by my desk.

2. To look on as Alec sews a button to a piece of felt.

3. To know that though I have to work this evening, there's a good book waiting for me when I climb into bed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

How are you doing, banana bread and malevolent.

1. Our lovely school calls us up and asks how we're doing. So I ask for advice, and get kind reassurance.

2. I've seen commentary that banana bread during lockdown is a middle class cliche -- but ours smells amazing, and Alec made it without much supervision. 

3. To let Bettany go through my box of costume jewellery: she needs a costume for tomorrow's dance lesson, which has an Aladdin theme. She puts together an excellent Jaffar costume and lounges around looking malevolent and louche. She will almost certainly have changed her mind by lesson time -- my money's on the magic carpet.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Catch, IT problem and writing prompt.

1. To throw and catch a cricket ball under the trees in the park with Alec.

2. Nick comes upstairs and sorts out an IT problem that is beyond my skills.

3. We wrote to a really pleasing prompt last night: I am most happy when... We wondered if it would make us despondent to write about things we can't do now -- but afterwards we found it made us happier to spend a little time in memory; and to spend time in the memories of others, too.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Climb, stitching and stash.

1. Alec looks thoughtfully at the ladder-like handles of the drawers and the kitchen step. He's planning how he's going to bring his long limbs up on to the work surface so he can reach to program the breadmaker.
to bake his marmalade cake.

2. Bettany rifles through my sewing supplies and starts her own piece of textile art with fabric pens, velcro, silver thread and piece of white felt.

2. I rifle through my sewing supplies and find a piece of unbleached cotton stapled to the frame from a canvas. I started this about ten years ago, and then never got any further. But now I've got something in mind, so I make a start (in between threading needles and advising on bread machine programing).

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Birthday, glass of wine and tick off.

1. We get together on Zoom to admire my niece on her second birthday. She is very excited and shouts and points at the camera, and shows us the dressing-up shoes we sent her.

2. In the evening, to sit in the garden with a really nice glass of dry white wine and chat with some old friends on the screen on my phone.

3. My latest round of physio comes with an app. It's oddly satisfying to tick off the exercises as I do them, recording the pain level and how many of the reps I managed.

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Rake, herbs and co-operate.

1. I tell Alec and Bettany that in the next chapter of The Railway Children, one of the children gets impaled on a rake. They think I'm joking.

2. The herbs in the garden are now so lush and leafy that when I pick them for cooking I don't need to hold back.

3. To learn a new board game as a family. We're still playing rather co-operatively, but as we go along we can see ways to make it cut-throat and competitive.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Efficiency, roll and book.

1. Nick deals decisively and efficiently with a very much unwanted 16kg bag of self-raising flour that was delivered by mistake yesterday.

2. Alec rolling down the hill at the park 

3. To hand Alec a book I loved as a child -- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. 'Is it scary?' he wants to know. I have to admit that it is. 'But there are lots of happy and comfortable bits, too,' I promise him, thinking of the girls at the horrible school raiding the cheese basket; and Simon's cave with his geese and his chestnut bread,

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Copper beech, dance lesson and a good ruck.

1. The bright, deep red of a copper beech just coming into full leaf.

2. Bettany made a bit of a fuss about going home for her dance lesson. But while it was going on I peeped in at her and she gave me a little wave and a smile. She hates anyone watching her, so we have to put her and the laptop in the sitting room with the curtains drawn and the door shut.

3. A good ruck during D&D to help me forget my anxieties. We got in a fight with some evil druids and absolutely trounced them, despite some shocking dice rolls. Tim Knight has written up our adventures at Heropress.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Shine, dust and stop.

1. The shine on buttercups. (Yellow things from our walk yesterday).

2. To wipe dust off a surface.

3. I have to stop reading just as 'the game is afoot' and I can't wait to get started again tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Getting out of the house, things that embarrass us and clickbait.

1. The children request a duplicate of the walk they took with Nick on Saturday. It's a bit longer than our usual, and I have a call immediately after, so we're very firm with them about the consequences of all the things that make it difficult to get out of the house (not getting ready when asked to; refusing to put on socks; arguing about whether it's okay to bring a football; arguing about whether a coat is needed). And they are good as gold, so we have a long, relaxing walk.

2. On our walk, they confide in me about things that embarrass them -- namely, me saying hi to a boy we know who then ignores us; me photographing lichens; and having the wrong sort of football kit (not me for once). I make an effort to empathise while modelling a healthy disregard for the opinions of people whose ideas don't align with our own values.

3. At our writing meeting we make clickbait stories -- you know those tempting headlines that say 'The groom's mother asked the bride to change her hair and the reason will blow your mind'. And when you click through it turns out to be a tedious 30-page story designed to make you look at adverts. Anyway -- it's incredibly fun to write something that is not intended to give the reader a good time.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Re-model, blossom and bun.

1. While we are otherwise occupied, the children re-organise their bedroom. They wanted another quiet nook for reading, and ask for a new rug to make the floor more cosy.

2. There are so many flowers on the common. I catch beech, sycamore, holly and crabapple (which smells a little if you get your nose in close).

3. My saffron bun doesn't look as golden as the recipe promises (ran out of strong white bread flour again, so I had to make weight with wholemeal), but when I bite into it the new-shoes saffron taste is there.

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 ...