Thursday, April 30, 2020

The swap, bouncy balls and Watson.

1. I hear the door go, and then voices downstairs. A lovely mum from school has come by with some dried yeast. We send her away with a geranium plant.

2. On the way out of the house I stuff my pockets with a double handful of bouncy balls.

3. I am finding Hound of the Baskervilles much more enticing than A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four. It seems more lively somehow, and relies less on Watson's astonishment at Holmes's smug deducing. Watson always strikes me as a bit of a sad character, somehow. He's a first-rate storyteller; but he lets first the British Army and then Holmes treat him terribly badly in order to get excitement and adventure that he is not able to generate for himself.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Reflection, brioche and the guess.

1. The reflection on a wet roof of a bird passing overhead.

2. The smell of toasted brioche bread.

3. Alec speculating about what might be going to happen next in the book we are reading. It's The Railway Children, and I feel as if I've reached peak motherhood.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Birds, run and writing.

1. Watching birds -- too far away to see what they are -- throwing themselves about the sky outside my study window.

2. I escape for a run around the park with Zombies Run.

3. Our Zoom writing group is starting to feel 'normal' now. I am leading but I lose connection briefly because of network problems. I had passed a plan around beforehand, and the session continues without me while I get back online. I've noticed we're much less shy about sharing our work.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Leftover, dandelion clocks and hot cross buns.

1. At lunch, the children fighting over a salad of leftover rice that I had assumed I would have to eat myself.

2. We're reading Beverley Cleary's Ramona and Her Mother and the other night there was a scene where Mrs Quimby looked out on to a rainy afternoon and wished she could sit outside on a cushion in the sunshine and blow dandelion clocks. So I thought of her as my children jostled with each other to get a particularly good one as we walked on the common.

3. Hot cross buns for tea.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Jigsaw puzzle, snooze and slash.

1. To spend a little time on the jigsaw puzzle we have under the PVC cloth on our kitchen table. The children sidle up and join me, adding a few pieces here and there.

2. I love the snooze feature on Gmail -- it means a lot to be able to put a message to one side until the new working week.

3. It is satisfying to sharpen a kitchen knife and draw it quickly across the dough before the loaf goes in the oven.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Yoghurt, zoetrope and light reading.

1. It seems miraculous to make more yoghurt by adding a little of the previous batch to a litre of milk. 

2. We've got distracted chatting and suddenly wonder where the children are. To spot them flickering through the gaps in the shrubbery. 

3. I am restlessly searching through the library's selection of ebooks looking for something light and easy that isn't checked out. And then I remember that I have a complete Sherlock Holmes loaded up and ready to go.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sprinker, loaf and promises.

1. We take our hour of exercise as a walk up to the cricket ground. The place smells of water on dry ground because they have the sprinklers on. It's a hot day and  the groundsman is way over the other side of the field. So the children run in and out of the spray for a few minutes when we arrive, and again for a few minutes before we leave.

2. To -- at last -- get a decent loaf from the starter I've been nursing on the windowsill. I let it rise all night, and then shaped it and let it rise until mid-afternoon. I think that I hadn't been giving it enough time before -- and this time I had better flour, too.

3. This evening was a bit exciting for the children. They watched livecast by the Tunbridge Wells District Scout leader, joining their friends at cubs and beavers in renewing their promises; and then they did the clap for carers in their uniforms. They were absolutely buzzing by the time we took them up to bed, but we felt very proud of them.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Equal, squeeze and the same line.

1. I nearly manage to pour equal coffee cups first time today. 

2. Alec comes up and gives me a really tight,  squeezy hug that make my ribs creak.

3. I've had a few nights of poor sleep so it's deeply satisfying to find that I'm reading the same line of my bedtime magazine over and over without really understanding it. I settle down among the pillows and I'm gone. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

FT, to talk and doll.

1. The new Fortean Times arrives, coinciding with an expected relaxing of my schedule.

2. After lunch, a nice long (socially distanced) chat with our neighbour over the garden wall. And then later, to talk in the park with another mum. It is almost starting to seem natural to stand six feet apart.

3. A colleague has been sending me cartoons from Punch, which I find very cheering. He sent one from 1859 showing a very Victorian papa in a top hat, cummerbund, watch chain and full whiskers walking down a city street holding the hand of his (equally Victorian) little girl. In his other hand, he is carrying her doll. It is titled 'TRUE COURAGE'. It made me laugh in particular because recently Bettany has been taking her doll to the park -- and of course she gets bored of being a mummy after five minutes and I'm left holding 'Baby', who has a slightly too real electronic cry and a manic laugh that go off if you are not very careful in the way you carry her. It is very satisfying to see something of my own experience represented in a scene from 160 years ago.

Also, the lovely Sarah Salway included this blog in her list of things that are cheering her up as she recovers from a bad case of coronavirus.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Mid morning, cartoon and darkening.

1. To stop work in the middle of the morning for a cup of coffee and a biscuit. 

2. Spotting the children watching a favourite cartoon from a few years back,  the excellent Phineas and Ferb.

3. During my writing meeting to watch the sky turn dark behind my laptop screen. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

No egg, butterfly kite and tear off.

1. 'Do you want an egg in your soup?' The children do not want eggs in their soup. Nevertheless, When we sit down to eat, there is a chorus of 'What's that in your soup? Can I have some? Why haven't we got any?'

2. The children have turned out a box of toys in search of something or other. I spot something shining in the pile -- an unopened butterfly kite, no larger than my hand. I slide it into my pocket for our park exercise.

3. To tear off last week's meal plan page and put it in the recycling.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Happy, new biscuits and reading for work.

1. Bettany confides to me that she is very happy she has a talking baby doll; and a walking unicorn.

2. Opening a new packet of biscuits at coffee time. 'Not healfy biscuits,' says Alec, looking at the packet with disappointment. But Mr Organic's Cocoa biscuits are delicious.

3. Digging around in the library's e-magazine selection, I find another old favourite, net -- which I remember as a gloriously enthusiastic publication about the sheer joy of the internet. It was gloriously bright and glossy at a time when the internet (for me, anyway, on a dial-up connection) was mostly white-on-black usenet posts and intimidating ftp servers. net is now 'the premiere print publication for web designers' and I understand about one word in ten -- although the long and helpful article on search engine optimisation was very much in my content-writing bailiwick.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Shower, happily ever after and a downpour.

1. We open the door to not much of a shower - just enough to wet the dust. Nick remarks on the pleasant smell and I can tell him that the word for it is petrichor.

2. As I turn the last pages of Howl's Moving Castle (a real classic by Diana Wynne Jones), it occurs to me that it's really more of a young adult book than a children's story. But Alec and Bettany are delighted by the way all the characters realise they love each other; and they want to know if there are more Ingary books with the same characters.

3. We are woken in the night by an absolute downpour, the first proper rain for a month. It is still a wonder to me that the atmosphere can hold so much water; and that we have so little control over it.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Pigeon, pause and reading material.

1. The children run upstairs to tell me that a pigeon has strolled into the kitchen and is now flapping around the front room. I decide that Nick is probably better off dealing with this alone and stay where I am.

2. Pausing during the Thursday evening clapping so I can hear people in the distance.

3. Finding that Viz! is among the electronic magazines offered by our library. It's not as funny as it used to be.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

At a distance, quick planting and social sewing.

1. While we're exercising out on the common we run into friends from school, and stand among the tussocks -- responsibly distanced -- speaking loudly and clearly as we catch up.

2. I found a few of those cards with seeds in them. This evening I have a spare few minutes so I quickly plant them.

3. A video call with Katie, during which we discuss our various makes, and I complete my embroidered bunny. It's a kit from Kiriki, but I don't think he's available any more, though they offer lots of other beautiful items.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Play, shamble and cooler.

1. To sit with Alec and play Lego Starwars for a few minutes, just to get him across a difficult bit -- until Bettany demands that I return the Wii-mote to her.

2. A video call from my sister, during which my small niece shambles about the kitchen and garden turning things upside down.

3. The temperature has dropped suddenly, and it makes me look forward very much to the summer heat.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Skive, replenish and glass of wine.

1. We skive off Joe Wicks' PE because it's bank holiday Monday.

2. The children's sweetie tins have been causing much anxiety because they were getting so low before Easter. They are much fuller now with bright treats in shiny wrappers, thanks to a lovely school friend who dropped an Easter basket round with sweets and a bundle of asparagus.

3. My aunt describing how, separated by a window, she has an evening glass of wine with a recently widowed neighbour.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Excited, slide and stitch.

1. Bettany climbs into bed with us very early. She says she had a bad dream, but really she is very, very excited about Easter. Nick goes off to sleep elsewhere, but I stay with her while she chatters, and eventually she goes back to sleep. In the grey light before I drift off I think that there won't be many more years when she is this excited about Easter.

2. In the park the children find a grassy slope and slide down it headfirst and arms around each other's shoulders.

3. The days have been merging into each other a bit, so I'm pleased to see my bit of needlework getting closer to completion.

PS: A few days ago, an old friend of Three Beautiful Things dropped me such a lovely email. He mentioned a blog and of course I tracked it down: Edible Reading. His corona diaries are well worth reading -- the story about the cauliflower curry during week one made me smile: we've had a fair few fails and near misses as we struggle to cook with unusual ingredients and improvise around missing items.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Fizz, isolated and reading aloud.

1. Nick announces that a Sodastream will be arriving this afternoon,  so I no longer have to go without my fizzy water while I read to the children.

2. There are two other families - both with bats and balls - in all the vast space of the cricket ground. 

3. Bettany complains long and loud that I'm not doing the wizard Howl's voice right. But Alec defends me, saying he likes the Welsh accent. It's a bit galling to have your audience complain,  but I'm pleased they're thinking about how the characters speak.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Real warmth, eggs and hot cross buns.

1. To feel real warmth in the air.

2. Bettany hangs colourful glittery eggs on the Japanese maple tree in the front garden.

3. Our hot cross buns are a bit rustic-looking because of an accident with the breadmaker, a shortage of strong white flour and because we're not yet entirely used to our sourdough starter. But they are OUR hot cross buns and they taste all right.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Pea shoots, sing-a-long and tired.

1. The peas Bettany planted in her fairy gardens are shouldering their way up out of the soil. And Alec has a sunflower shoot showing.

2. We liking tuning in to Tom Carradine's Cockney Sing-a-long on Thursday nights. It's fun to hear songs that you half remember, and the way the lyrics come edging back in your memory.

3. To crawl into bed feeling properly tired, so that the last few pages of your book don't really make much sense.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Rebels, choral arrangement and post-apoc domestic scene.

1. The children rebel against Joe Wicks' PE at 9am; but Nick puts on his exercise trousers, pushes back the sofa and does it anyway.

2. To dig around on Spotify and find the ethereal piece of music we were listening to the night before. It was a choral arrangement of Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending by Paul Drayton.

3. 'This is how I thought the apocalypse would be,' says Nick contentedly. He is fixing a broken toastie maker while I make chicken stock from the bones left over from supper.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Jackdaws, meal plans and running water.

1. The sound of two jackdaws -- Chack! Chack! Chack! -- chasing each other around the rooftops.

2. To sit with children and a cookbook planning what we might like to eat, if only we could get the ingredients.

3. Because of the leak under the sink we've had the water switched off for just over twelve hours. The plumber comes early in the day, and at bedtime we're still marvelling at being able to get water whenever we want by turning on a tap.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Reading by video link, help is on the way and the quick brown fox.

1. The children are reading to their grandparents by video conferencing. Alec chooses a Pooh Bear story, which we know Grampy likes. Bettany, on the other hand, steps up with the notorious poo and wee issue of Okido (the science and arts magazine for kids). Lucky old Granny, I think. And I'm grateful that Bettany can now read it to herself.

2. There's been a drip under the sink, and it's turned into rather a rush. During supper we get a call from the landlord to say that a plumber will come in the morning.

3. Before our meeting my writing group had been having a go at entries for a competition for a poem containing every letter of the alphabet. I'd half-heartedly played with pangrams, chasing jigging nymphs and angry dwarfs round the page before giving up. But the others come up with absolute beauties: even the quick brown fox can make you startle when it's placed with a fresh new image.

Monday, April 06, 2020

Tussock, pep talk and nothing.

1. Jumping from tussock to tussock.

2. Watching the Queen's pep talk all together as a family.

3. I've been working so many evenings this week that I am very grateful for a chance to snuggle up next to Nick on the sofa and just do... nothing.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Reading, knife skills and hollow.

1. My aunt very kindly listens to the children reading over Zoom so I can get on with a short story for a competition.

2. Alec has been learning to use a knife and wants to practise his skills at every opportunity, so he's more willing than usual! I ask him to cut up some mushrooms and he goes at it with such vigor that he turns them into mushroom mince. The children usually complain -- loudly -- about mushrooms. I keep putting them in food because they are really nutritious and I'm convinced they will get used to them eventually. Alec's mushroom mince disappears into the meal and they eat it without comment, despite knowing it's there.

3. Using a teaspoon to scrape the seeds out of a courgette to make a space for stuffing.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Goldfinch, camping in and dream.

Note: comments are turned off because I can't be bothered with the spam. If you'd like to say something, please email me (not you, spammers).

1. More birds: a goldfinch -- I always think they look a bit predatory with their blood-coloured faces, though the colours are lovely -- on the bare branches of the dying elder tree in the corner of the car park. It's the nearest tree to my window, and the only one I can see in any detail so the birds on it are always of interest.

2. The children are sleeping in a den tonight for their scouting district's Big Sleep Out. We haven't got enough garden for camping, so it's just in the bedroom.

3. Just as we switch out the light there is the pad of feet. Bettany comes running up the stairs to tell us that she's had a bad dream about an owl with a hand coming out of its bottom. She lies between us wriggling, and then when I suggest I could take her back to bed, she jumps up, and we set off back down the stairs, her leading. The last I see of her is her pyjama ankle cuffs disappearing into the den, and as I often do with our Bett, I feel a bit redundant.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Never, nuthatch and Fiasco.

Fiasco [Print+PDF]

1. The way Bettany answers 'Never!' when we ask her to do anything.

2. I spot a nuthatch in the Grove. I think of them as country birds, and it never occurred to me that we might find them in our home park, a circle of green a quarter mile round and two minutes' walk from the centre of town.

3. To hang out on Zoom with my gaming group. We played a new-to-us game called Fiasco, which calls for a lot of improv and off-the-cuff roleplaying. It felt amazing to just... play, and have fun and laugh with my friends. Fiasco is all about greed and poor impulse control and we ended up with a tale of smutty books, poorly-stored explosives and climate-change denial.
At present we're putting so much energy into self-restraint and it felt great to let go and make poor choices and selfish choices (even in roleplay) that resulted in hilarity, rather than total disaster.
I expect there will be a write-up on Tim Knight's Heropress in due course, and I'll link to it for those who are interested.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Eggs, date and pie.

1. The postman brings the Easter eggs, which makes me feel a lot happier. We have got our usual large family egg, and a few foil-wrapped ones to hide in the garden.

2. At lunchtime Nick says he has recorded a documentary about the illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, and would I like to watch it with him this evening on the sofa with some beer and a few chocolates. I would, very much. (The BBC documentary is excellent. It's presented by Mark Gatiss, who is a great favourite of mine).

3. The shepherd's pie that Nick brings out for supper. It is bubbling and golden with a tasty cheesy topping.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Yellow hedge, tiny people and snack.

1. There's a forsythia hedge over the other side of the car park, and the yellow flowers on leafless stems are always a joy. Picture: Michael Grant

2. As I pass the back bedroom I catch sight of the children. They've cleared a spot among the scattered dressing-ups and plugged in Alec's little radio and tuned it to a rock station. They are playing an intricate game with little plastic people. I don't stop to comment because observing them will alter their peaceful activity -- probably for the worse.

3. Nick brings me a plate of crispbread and houmous and a mug of chamomile tea as I work into the evening.

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 ...