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.

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 ...