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.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Shopping, game and questions.

1. Nick goes out for our weekly shop with a bit of a tricky list. I didn't hold out much hope for capers and linguine... but they appear thanks to the magic of the corner shop.

2. Playing a game with Bettany is still rather 'Let the Wookie win!' But there's less board flipping than there used to be and she's more willing to help tidy up.

3. To sit near Alec as he reads and field the questions he has about the story. 

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Radishes, waterproofs and rest.

1. There are fat crimson radishes in our veg box, with clean, fresh-looking tops that will make a great salad. 

2. Though it's raining heavily the children announce that they are going out anyway. They put on the full waterproofs that they usually reject as being 'embarrassing' and scamper around the park, rolling on the grass and gleefully sitting in puddles. 

3. To suddenly remember a thing you wanted to listen to at a point when you know you need to rest.

Friday, May 01, 2020

Children's voices, cashflow and hailstorm.

1. We get the children video-chatting with their friends, and it's nice to hear different children's voices.

2. It's a bit of a juggling act when you're a freelancer. I want to maintain a stream of regular work to keep a good cashflow going; but I do need to take the odd big project on to bump up our income. And each month when I'm scheduling my work I have a horrible moment when it all seems like too much. Then I remember I have a few reliable, trustworthy colleagues I can hand routine work over to.

3. I am deep in my work when the sudden wild hiss of a hailstorm -- the sort that sets off car alarms -- brings me back to the world.

Hardboiled egg, back in line and foxgloves.

1. I hardboiled a few eggs this morning. At lunch, I note that the one Nick is eating has a perfect yolk -- just a little soft. 2. It just t...