Monday, July 26, 2021

Cancelled, climb and strawberries.

1. My disappointed friend tells me about her summer cold. I tell her about our torrential rain. A picnic in the park will be no fun for anyone.

1b. Alec tidied and dusted the stairs the other day. The clear space and the unexpected free time give me the courage to tackle the first floor.

2. In the rain a snail climbs up the water butt.

3. We have a lot of strawberries and they are sweet, fragrant and delicious.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Freedom day, toasted cheese and workbooks.

1. To open the butterfly cage and let our four painted ladies out into the sunshine. One of them flies straight off, one of them has to be lifted out on the dish of fruit. One climbs on to my fingers before leaving and the other sneaks off when no-one is looking.

2. Nick has made toasted cheese sandwiches for supper.

3. Bettany informs me I will be looking at her school books while she has her bath. She brings them to me, a bulky stack in a split  plastic bag. It's funny to contrast the assignments she has really run with, writing page after page in her precise print; with those that she didn't think was worth her while (a work sheet where she had to fill in  the adjectives in a story, and she'd written either big or small for every single one).

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Leadership, chat and feeding up.

1. Bettany is very pleased that the head is welcoming us at the gate because it means she can personally give him the gift and card we've brought to thank him for keeping us all safe through prudent leadership.  Usually we just pitch in to a group gift for the teachers, but Bettany wanted to give her own this year. She looks very proud to be carrying them in.

2. It takes a while to get home because I keep finding people to chat with: I haven't done a school run in ages.

3. I put a piece of melon down for the butterflies. Within minutes they are perched on it, their long tongues uncurled to enjoy the juice. We will release them tomorrow, so want to make sure they've got their strength up.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Loot, seeds and skid.

1. Bettany brings home her end-of-term loot -- an inflatable globe and a certificate as a prize for reading lots, and glorious pink and green dream catcher.

2. The rattle of columbine seeds falling into an envelope.

3. A middle-aged man on a folding bike does a joyful skid-turn in the empty road.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Editing, writing and chatting in the garden.

Madonna with the Iris -- workshop of Albrecht Durer

1. This week I have two tightly-written books on my desk. They just need a few pats and queries to get them into shape.

2. I run a writing workshop based on paintings -- like this one above -- from the National Portrait Gallery and one of us has the joyful experience of a poem popping out almost fully formed.

3. To take a phone call in the garden on a hot evening.

Image from the National Portrait Gallery shared under creative commons.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Monks, walk in the woods and emergence.

1. There are two monks leaning on the railings on the other side of the road. Under their orange robes they are wearing thick socks and walking boots. I wonder how far they have come, and where they are going.

2. On a hot morning, to walk through the shady woods to bring a very tired Bettany home from her sleepover.

3. I look up and see that three of our butterflies have come out of their crysalises.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Digestif, PE film and sing-a-long.

1. At the end of a meal, a really good cup of coffee, and time to drink it.

2. We come home to find that Alec and Nana have videoed his PE lesson to show his class at the afternoon video call.

3. The lovely Tom Carradine and his family are taking a summer break from the weekly sing-a-longs. We have watched pretty much every single one from the beginning of lockdown -- first me and Nick watching alone, and then the children joined us. The Thursday livestreams gave a structure to our week, and gave us insight into music hall culture -- as well as a rollicking good time. We often find ourselves humming the tunes days later, and I think that this familiarity with them is a gift that will last for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Cancel, printing and on my way.

1. There are roadworks somewhere near our house, and the racket is stopping me from focussing. To block out the noise with music on my headphones.

2. A parcel arrived this morning -- an Etsy order from a printmaker. I opened it immediately and looked through the bright papers. Now Bettany wants to look through it as well so we do and I enjoy it all over again.

2. To look at a project and feel like I'm on the home straight.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

By the front door, chat and two Marys.

1. I'm glad I put the tomato plants by the front door so I automatically check them over as I wave the school party off in the morning.

2. How easy it is to arrange a video call with a friend in another country.

3. Mary Shepherd's illustrations to Mary Poppins. No-one else ever seems quite right.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Biscuit, tunnel and award.

1. I definitely want the biscuit that comes upstairs with my morning coffee.

2. In the woods someone has built a mysterious tunnel out of branches. I am so tempted to walk through, but it is clearly child-sized and not for a tall woman carrying a rucksack.

3. Thanks to the diligent volunteers that support her Beaver colony (and Nick persistently documenting her activities), Bettany gets her Chief Scout's bronze award. I don't think she realises what an achievement this is. Chief Scout's Bronze is hard work, with dozens of parts to collect and in a normal year the leaders can offer a programme that lets a Beaver have all the experiences they need as long as they show up to most meetings and do some badges at home. But with meetings held under infection-control restraints, and a lot of extra responsibility heaped on them, often at short notice, leaders have focussed on surviving rather than thriving. On the whole, I'm pleased Bettany is heedless, because that means she is protected from the anxieties of these pandemic years. But I do appreciate this award with my whole heart, and I hope that is enough for all the excellent leaders of Scouting in Tunbridge Wells.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Fairness, neighbours and orange ball.

1. Bettany is away on a sleepover. It is very pleasant to cuddle him in our bed without needing to referee or set hard boundaries about who can lie where.

2. Today it difficult to get away down our street because there are so many neighbours about: we all want to stop and chat after so many months of isolation and wet weather.

3.  Throwing and catching a bright orange ball with Nana. 

Friday, July 09, 2021

Baked potatoes, summer plans and ride.

1. The smell of baked potatoes has reached my desk, so it might be nearly lunchtime.

2. The children are starting to talk about their plans for the summer holidays, which makes it seem within reach.

3. While we are staring into the vivarium before bed, we spot Slugmilla riding on the back of a snail. The snails like to sleep on the roof, hanging upside down like bats, and when the snail reaches its roost, Slugmilla slides off -- rather huffily, I thought -- and makes her way back down to ground level. 


Thursday, July 08, 2021

Woodlouse, vivarium and cheering.


1. I find the most enormous woodlouse climbing up the garden wall. He is as long as my fingertip, and glossy gunmetal grey instead of the speckled drab of our usual cheesy bugs. When I catch him, he rolls into a satisfying little ball. We keep him in a collecting jar with a spoonful of compost so the children can see when they get back.

2. Bettany houses the woodlouse in her as yet unused vivarium along with a handful of bits from the compost heap. We add a couple of snails, and soon realise that a lot of smaller cheesy bugs and a tiny slug have come in too. They move busily around the space at their various paces, and it is compelling viewing.

3. Through the open window to hear the football fans cheering all over town.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Control, pips and rage.

1. One of the best things about being a freelancer is that I have complete control over how I choose to balance rest and work when I am ill.

2. Scooping the pips out of the middle of a melon.

3. Bettany is very tired so she is raging that she hates everyone. I settle myself on to the sofa in the children's room and ask if she would like a cuddle. I have never seen a child move so fast.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Growing family, feeding squirrels and correction.

1. Our caterpillars are now the same length as the first two joints of my little finger. Naughty George and Fat Geoffrey are no longer distinguishable by their small and large sizes.

2. To chuck a little piece of bread for a squirrel. It comes over, hesitates, then takes it and runs up the nearest tree to enjoy its snack in peace. 

3. Bettany correcting Alec's mispronunciations when he is reading to us; and Alec's tolerance for this.

Monday, July 05, 2021

Up, just in time and lime blossom.

1. We take Bettany and some of her friends to Clip n Climb to celebrate her birthday. There is a lot of climbing (for the girls) and a lot of clipping (for us) -- but everyone seems to have fun, and I am pleasantly surprised at how gracefully they manage the small frictions among themselves.

2. To come down on to the platform -- hurrying only a little -- just as the train arrives.

3. The scent of lime blossom is everywhere now.

Friday, July 02, 2021

Arrival, airship and evening gardens.

1.  I spot my friend (with new baby) pulling into the carpark and I am so excited to see them that before I know what I'm doing I've run down to meet her.
 
2. As we are sitting outside a bakery a passing older man tells us to look up. The Goodyear blimp is sailing quietly overhead.

3. In the evening to walk out and notice people pottering in their gardens amid lush midsummer foliage. 

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Good news, comedy and reading for pleasure.

1. The chair of our editing group asks us to share some good news. One woman says she has just that moment received an email to say she's got a job she applied for. My screen lights up with enthusiastic faces.

2. The way Alec likes to listen to a Radio 4 comedy podcast while he has a bath.

3. To finally make a proper start on The Dresden Files, which I've been longing to read for years. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Left behind, invoices and reading.

1. I spot a left-behind fork propped against the croquet club railings. 

2. To do my invoices at the end of a very long month.

3. I get Alec to read to us from The Black Cauldron so I can use the time to stitch a nametape into his new swimming trunks. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Slow, caterpillars and sticky.

1. Our birthday Bettany takes her time opening her presents. Though she starts just after 5am, she doesn't get through them all and has some left after school.

2. It's probably a mistake to name caterpillars, but we do it anyway. We're a bit worried about George, as he is smaller than the rest and seems determined to climb up to the ceiling, rather than lounging around eating like the others.

3. Today the Beavers are making bird feeders by coating cardboard tubes with honey and birdseed. It is interesting to see how different the children are: some dig right in and enjoy getting sticky; others carefully handle everything with their fingertips. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Melon, table time and orchids.

1. The kitchen smells of the melon in the fruit bowl -- we'll have to eat it today.

2. To spend some time building Lego and painting a desk tidy with Bettany.

3. To come to a glade where orchid spires are growing. We bend down to catch their faint once-a-year perfume. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Bramble flowers, very slowly and butterflies on their way.

1. The rose-like flowers of brambles. 

2. We make our way to Alec's friend's house very slowly because the boys want to play catch, scramble around on the rocks and go a longer way round. 

3. There are thick tangles of black caterpillars on the stinging nettles by the path.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Scent, cricket and gardening in the dark.

1. A scented birthday present arrives for Bettany and perfumes our bedroom.

2. Alec comes home so bursting with joy about the cricket he has played at Cubs that he seems to be in two places at once. 

3. I spend the evening planting up tomatoes and cucumbers until it is too dark to see -- by which time it is bedtime. I have put them by the front door so we can be sure of supervising them properly.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Light work, mould and time.

1. To have a light work day. 

2. In Bettany's woodlouse jar a piece of strawberry has grown an extraordinary crop of white flossy mould. It makes me wonder why people don't deliberately grow mould gardens. 

3. Alec prefers to wash himself these days -- I love the bit of time I have while he does this. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Uke, ghost stories and lyrics.

1. Bettany reminds us five minutes before departure that she wants to take her ukulele to school. We remind her that it is not tuned, so she can't. There are tears. When I get back from the school run, I find that Nick has spent an hour teaching himself to tune it so it will be ready for next week.

2. I discover that I never did finish listening to an audiobook of dramatised ghost stories by M R James's. So I've got a bit of a treat in store. 

3. For our writing class, Anne has looked into songwriting, and tells us what she has discovered. Our faces light up as we understand -- properly -- that verse, chorus, middle eight and coda are just lines of poetry. And that we can all write poetry, so we can probably write passable lyrics.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Sweetpeas, woodlice and enough.

1. I come downstairs after my phone call to find a bunch of scented sweetpeas in their auntish colours on the kitchen table, as well as some birthday presents.

2. Showing Bettany how to catch and care for pet woodlice.

3. To go to bed feeling as if I've done enough work for today.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Rain coming, old books and the shout.

1. We smell and feel the rain coming before it arrives.

2. Bettany's old school books are stuffed with crafts and photographs of class activities. As she takes me through the thick black pages, she can't believe how small she and her friends were two years ago.

3. I am sitting at my desk at the top of the house when I hear a shout. Alec and Nick on their way back from a cricket match in the rain have seen me through the open window.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Alarm, watering and books.

1. I wake very early and sit up to read. After a time, the alarm goes off and Nick wakes and the children come up. I settle into the tangle of family and promptly fall asleep.

2. Nick helps me to heft watering cans around the garden.

3. All in a moment I suddenly realise how much I have missed sharing my books with people.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Beans, parcels and four.

1. To find little pods growing on our broad beans.

2. Parcels and packages are piling up in a crate in our bedroom -- we've got two birthdays coming up.

3. Alec comes home from his cricket match absolutely buzzing. He hit a four and everyone clapped.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Waffle, lawn and handover.

1. The soft crunch of a waffle lifting off the iron.

2. I love the June light on a lawn of uncut grass, and seeing the variety of seedheads.

3. On a hot evening to bring the smoothie pops that Alec made this morning out of the freezer. Both children have made them in recent weeks, and I feel as if it is a task I can hand over to them.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Eclipse, cod and reading.


1. Nick and I watch the eclipse from our garden. It does not affect the light or temperature much, but it is rather marvellous to see that little bite taken out of our sun. 

2. For lunch Nick proudly produces a tray of cod in a tomato sauce with roasted fennel. 

3. To read a book that is really beautifully put together.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Voice acting, sky and target.

1. The slightly manic voice acting in the episode of Zombies Run Homefront I follow by way of exercise.

2.  To be able to glance up at the sky as I work and to feel the air on my cheek through the open window.

3. To push on through and finish a piece of work.

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Mushrooms, pinks and time to read.

1. At lunchtime I mix mushrooms with French dressing, knowing they will be ready for supper.

2. The clove scent of pinks.

3. There is time -- just -- to read to the children this evening before I sign on for games night.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Inset day, our friends and children.

1. It's inset day today: a little bonus Monday with a lie-in at the end of half term.

2. A little way off, we see Alec's friend on his bike; and later his mum stepping across the park for a catch-up.

3. To hurry home through the woods with a child holding each hand.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Pancakes, dog and seaside portaits.

1. To see a stack of pancakes disappearing.

2. As we come across the common I ask if we can quickly divert to check on the tadpoles in Cabbage Stalk Pond. When we get there, a nice little dog, terrier-sized with curly gingery hair, is just coming out of the water carrying an orange ball. She drops it at Alec's feet and looks expectant, so he throws it for her, a good cricketing throw. She races through the grass, leaping like Bambi, and brings it back to me. We play with her for a while, wondering where her owner is. In due course a woman with crutches comes along and claims her dog. We chat -- about the tadpoles, who can be seen wriggling away happily -- and the dog keeps bringing the ball back so we can throw it.

3. At the market we chat to the people at the wooden bunting stall. They have started making little seaside scenes out of driftwood and beachcombings. Although they are not exact portraits, they capture so well the coastal places of Kent and Sussex that we love. Here's Hastings with its tall black net huts; and Dungeness's black and white lighthouse and shacks with coloured roofs.

Friday, June 04, 2021

Geese, on the water and pignuts.

1. Bettany is intrigued by a woman feeding the geese by the lake shore. She saves her crusts so that she too can summon powerful, dangerous birds.

2. Even at this distance we can hear Alec and his friends shouting in their boats on the lake. Bettany and I hire a boat a bit later: the water is a good place to be on this hot, still day.

3. I use PlantNet to check the identity of a tiny, dainty umbellifer growing in the park. It turns out that it is pignut. I try to learn a few wild plants each year, and I'm so pleased to add this one to my collection. I'm tempted to dig for its edible root, but I think that the borough council and the friends of the park would prefer I did not.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Check-in, every sparrow and shushi.

1. The post-bank holiday check-in emails that remind me I am working with real people. I always like the human being sentence -- the one that remarks on the weather, or mentions the weekend. 

2. The news that the wildlife hospital declared Tim's rescued sparrow ready for release.

3. It's not great looking sushi, but we have fun making it and the children are getting some good knife skills slicing it up. 


Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Lollies, weeding and comedy.

1. During a period of warm weather, to slide ice lolly moulds full of orange and pink smoothie into the freezer.

2. To ensure we avoid the attention of the council's weedkiller man we pull out the briza grass and avens growing between the fence and the pavement. The soil smells sweet and damp, and even in that tiny gap there are big worms at work.

3. To sit back with a comedy podcast.

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Early, shopping and kebabs.

1. I've been waking early these past few days, and I love to eat breakfast in a quiet house.

2. Bettany patiently and insistently extracts me from my desk to go shopping for a new pencil case.

3. Nick is not delighted by the chicken and chorizo kebabs I ordered from the supermarket. They have fallen apart in the packet. 'It's just meat and sticks,' he says.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Brewing, cricket sounds and grievances.

1. Bettany has packed a potion kit and is ready to brew in the field. (that's the smoothie and pudding she made me when we got home.)

2. As we approach we can hear cricket sounds -- it's a Twenty-Twenty game, so a bit noiser than you'd expect, with shouts and music from the pavilion.

3. Cross, tired children cuddling up to tell me their grievances.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Walk, irises and bins.

 1. When I wave the children and Nick off I realise that the air is so soft and summery that the only course of action that makes complete sense is to go for a walk before starting work. 

2. In the park there are tall yellow and black irises, and in another bed the promise of another colour pairing that is too parcelled up to discern.

3. The children scampering around the house and up and down the street doing their dustbin duties. I only wish that they would do each part of the task without getting distracted and without arguing when we try to put them back on track.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

More toast, no rush and early night.

1. Golden syrup on toast.

2. This evening I don't have anything on so there is no need to rush through the children's bedtime. 

3. To go to bed early so we have time to read before we are too tired.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Browsing, spotted and starling.

1. To feel okay about browsing in a clothing shop.

2. Our neighbour spots me in a coffee shop for the second time and pantomimes mocking gestures through the glass to suggest that I spend more time drinking coffee than working.

3. In the High Street to look up and see starlings on a bird feeder.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Picture message, bluebells and dress-up.

1. Getting a message enclosing a picture collage of my neice.
2. I get my walk in a bluebell wood.

3. The smell of acrylic paint and sealer works its way up the house: in the kitchen, Nick is painting a shield so Alec can go to school as a Spartan warrior on Greek day. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Pondlife, tab and clear.

1. To stand for a few minutes before the rain comes watching tadpoles in a shallow pond.

2. The tab on the back of my DMs that I use to pull them on.

3. Alec takes a bent stick and unclogs the spring gully at Brighton Lake so that water rushes out clear and shining.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Red boots, fennel and tip.

1. An older lady wearing shiny scarlet lace-up boots.

2. The soft fronds of last year's fennel plants in a neglected public flowerbed.

3. To tip a quarter of a bag of epsom salts into my bath. There is something very satisfying and abundant about using a large quantity.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Greek week, seed and buzzing.

1. Nick brings home his haul from Lidl -- it's Greek week, so there's quite a lot of baklava.

2. To show Bettany that her sunflower seed has germinated.

3. Alec comes back from Cubs absolutely buzzing because he enjoyed the athletics activities so much. 'Apart from the skipping. I'm never touching a skipping rope ever again.'

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Microsalad, making history and botanicals.

1. My breakfast comes with dots and curls of microsalad.

2. At lunchtime we watch a live history event: the unstoppering of a witch bottle. 

3. We keep finding snack boxes full of plant material that Bettany has gathered for reasons of her own. To show her how to lay her leaves and flowers out on a tray to dry.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The future is coming, wild children and map.

1. To drink coffee indoors and talk about a future poetry event.

2. The Beavers scamper across to the wild bit of the park on a scavenger hunt. It is pleasant to be led by their interests across the tussocky grass and into the boundary woods. 

3. Bettany, who has never shown an interest in maps before, locating her school, Nana's house and our road.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Dry patch, dry clothes and vegetables.

1. We find the only patch of sun in a rainy morning and sit in it, just taking in the forest and breathing.


2. Nana won't let me 'sit in wet clothes' and so I put on her spare trousers and top without a fuss.


3. By the time I've finished there is a bright array of chopped vegetables ready for Nick to put in his noodle soup.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Vaccinated, coffee and puzzles.

1. I am passed from hand to hand by smiling people in masks and hi-vis, and when I stumble out through a service door into the bright May drizzle, I am partially vaccinated against covid-19.


2. A coffee, a piece of cake and a nice long chat with a good friend.


3. To sit with the children doing rebus puzzles because I am too tired to read to them.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Marmite, books and pears.

1. Buttery Marmite toast.

2. A parcel arrives -- it's a packet of books that I ordered from the marvellous Hunt Emerson's shop. They are signed and doodled and there is a scattering of stickers and a CD of his music. The thought that a famous artist would go to all this trouble brings a lot of joy. 

3. Some not very nice pears become sweet and soft when stewed with some frozen raspberries.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Poetry, confidence and quip.

1. To move lines of poetry around the page.

2. While we are waiting for pick-up, one of Alec's friends confides something that is bothering him.

3. To come up with a quip for a character at games night.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Boots, bluebells and robins.

1. I am looking for a fallen hairclip but  find an entire career of outgrown football boots. Nick promises to wash them and put them on a neighbourhood group so that other boys can get some use out of them.

2. In a copse, a drift of bluebells.

3. The loud song of a robin startles us.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Cleavers, cells and ghost.

1. The children pick bundles of succulent green sticky grass and chase each other with it.

2. Alec has filled two more cells in his blank comic book.

3. To remember that there is a final Battersea Poltergeist episode that I have not listened to yet.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Hug, book and sunset.

1. I hug Nick because I am frazzled. Alec wriggles in between us: he doesn't want to be left out. 

2. I'm starting to think the book we are reading is a bad fit, as it is about an Edwardian teenage girl having Edwardian teenage girl problems with her place in the world and her hunger for a better education. It is, though, exquisitely written. I ask them what they think and they both say they are enjoying it and don't want to stop.

3. The west-facing windows of the houses on the hill reflect soft pink light from the setting sun.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Normal, not sticky and marshmallows.

1. I have an enormous, exciting job on at the moment, but they don't need me this morning. It makes me remember why my boring normal routine is my  normal routine. 

2. The rainstorms are clearing the sticky aphids off the acer. It's a bit hard on the aphids, but it means I can garden without getting gluey residue all over me.

3. Alec is doing campfire cooking with Cubs, so we let Bettany toast a marshmallow over the gas ring.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Gulls, released and confidence.

1. Seagulls hanging in the sky, straining against the wind.

2. To be released from a meeting earlier than expected.

3. Alec tells me and Bettany that everyone knows two people in his class are in love because they keep staring at each other in lessons. 'We don't know why they don't just get together,' he says. We spend some time thinking up things that might be keeping them apart.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Potion book, get out of the bathroom and storm.

1. Bettany shows me her potion book and a jar with fallen flowers from the park floating in it.

2. Alec wants me to help with his wash, but also to leave him alone in the bathroom to get on with it.

3. On a night when the weather is throwing itself against the house to pull the covers over myself and take refuge in sleep.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Deer, orchids and haircut.

1. Nick reports that as they were going to school he and the children saw a deer standing on the common.

2. I don't have much time for chores today, but putting a drop of rainwater on the orchids doesn't take long, and I feel as if I've done my bit of gardening.

3. Watching Bettany reappear as her haircut progresses.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Hiding, shower and tease.

1. To shut out the world with a meditation podcast. (I recommend Moon Lover's Meditations.)

2. A little rain dampens the garden. I'll still have to do my watering, though.

3. Bettany teasing Alec and me about our city-building video game by pretending she's interested in trading with us.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Walking back, broccoli forest and end.

1. To walk back with another mum and our boys.

2. The children sticking broccoli spears in their mashed potato to make a forest.

3. The moment an alarm stops.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Stroopwaffle, streamers and starling.

1. Waming a stroopwaffle over my cup of coffee.

2. Across the field I can see Bettany and her Beavers playing with red and yellow streamers.

3. One starling in the playground has a worm. The other smaller starling wants it.
 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Fairy house, sticks and bread.


1. Bettany has dabbed spots on her toadstools in thick white paint and now it is time to arrange them in her fairy house. [Fairy house kit by Freckles]

2. The children running through the common chasing each other with sticks.

3. The smell of warm bread coming up the stairs.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Greeting, lost doll and sleepy.

1. My massage therapist's elbow bump greeting.

2. Bettany is howling because she has lost a tiny doll at the park. I give her the cat that sits near my desk to hold and she gradually cheers up, but continues grumbling quietly about her loss for the rest of the evening.  

3. To feel soft and sleepy after listening to an episode of Moon Lover's Meditation podcast.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Over, haul and pudding.

1. For some weeks I've been fretting quietly about chairing a fiction editors' discussion over Zoom. Now it's done, and I was really lucky to have some supportive helpers. We think it went well. 

2. Nick shows off his haul from the new Lidel.

3. Bettany has invented a surprise pudding -- chilled malt loaf pieces with purple icing and sprinkles. At least she's showing an interest in cooking.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Haircut, puppy and weeding.

1. I come downstairs to find Nick has been to the barbers and now has a velvety head.

2. You miss an awful lot when you're in a hurry. There's a woman walking in the park with a black labrador puppy, all big feet and soft, unformed features. She looks like she expects a compliment and a chat -- but I can't stop today.

3. The clear patch of ground that I have just weeded. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Together, weeding and oxalis.

1. To sit cuddling both children as we get ready to face our days.

2. I spend ten minutes weeding in the front garden and get a good neighbour chat while I do it.

3. Tiny oxalis plants seem too  delicate to push their soft green leaves and spindly stems out of the leaf litter along the base of the park fence -- and yet there they are.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Stock, cricket ground and happily occupied.

1. To return to my chicken stock and find the carcass has fallen quietly apart.

2. The cricket ground feels more like itself now the soil has dried out and the daisies have appeared round the edges. In winter, walking round feels like an intrusion at a time when the place would prefer not to be seen.

3. Nick tells me later that Alec had a little smile on his face throughout his online art class.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Brisk wind, baby news and silent companion.

1. Our coats dry fairly quickly in the brisk wind that has got up following the shower. 

2. To get news that a friend has had her baby.

3. While I am working, Alec comes up and quietly reads a comic nearby.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Curled buds, come with and dance.

1. The curled buds of tulips hiding among the leaves.

2. To my surprise, Alec says he'd like to come with me.

3. Bettany's dance camp can't do the usual end of session show, but they perform one of the dances  -- 'Stick it to the Man' from School of Rock in the car park, and it's glorious to see how much a good teacher can achieve in two days. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Buzzards, dance camp and fairy forest.

1. To catch sight of buzzards circling.

2. To collect a smiling Bettany from her dance camp.

3. To find a cushion of moss that looks like a fairy forest. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Unexpected snow, orange jelly and giggles.

1. The moment between opening the blind to see unexpected snow and realising that it is going to spoil your plans for the day.

2. Bettany has made orange jelly with peaches in it for supper pudding.

3. I get the giggles during writing group.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Snip, bath and satisfactory work.

1. To snip off a few dead hyacinth heads in the garden.

2. Alec announces that he will be taking a bath this evening. And can he listen to a podcast. He suggests I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue, and promises that all the rude jokes go over his head. 

3. To have spent an entire weekend focusing on my own writing with a Solus Or virtual retreat.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Joke, watering and tired.

1. My goddaughter has been sending us daily jokes. Today she picks one that Bettany suggested. What is the Sheriff of Nottingham's favourite dessert? Robin Pud.

2. The little can I use to water the orchids makes a soft glugging sound.

3. The children are very tired out from their bike ride in the forest and they are mellow and cuddly rather than keyed up and in denial.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Call, game and cardboard VR.

1. A courteous call early on to say that work will not be coming today. It's annoying not to have the money -- but it's lovely to have the time back and the looser schedule.

2. It is so unpleasantly cold out that we don't linger, but hurry home to wait for Nick there. Alec asks if I will play on the Xbox with him in this spare slip of time, so I do. 

3. Throughout the day Alec comes upstairs to tell me about and finally show me the virtual reality headset he is making out of a cardboard box and the iPad.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Comfort, prize and snowflakes.

1. I've been pushing forward withe a project that is outside my comfort zone -- helping to organise a professional development event -- and now I'm tired and aching and anxious. It is very cheering to snuggle in with the children, who are lying in bed reading. 

2. Bettany is of the opinion that she deserves a prize for trying to be less bad tempered. Luckily I have a spare Frozen pop-up pencil, which she likes very much.

3. I should be working but I am watching flurries of snowflakes whirling across town.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Out, weather and slow to start.

1. To put on my shoes and leave the house.

2. Is that snow?

3. Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three is excruciatingly slow to start, as tedious Prince Gwydion infodumps a load of nation-level back story and central casting farmboy Taran moans about his identity crisis. As I read it to the children I can see why Alec has abandoned it. But then Gurgi and Eilonwy turn up, and the story seems to come alive. I think it's the character-level conflict: poor Taran can hardly bring himself to associate with either of them, but he has to, or he can't move forward -- and it's like the lights have gone on in the story. 


Monday, April 05, 2021

Chocolate for breakfast, visit and in the woods.

1. To eat large pieces of Easter egg for breakfast.

2. My parents come to visit for the first time in over a year to sit in the garden, drink Champagne and see how much the children have grown.

3. In the April woods, still bare but so very nearly in leaf, to see the children running about among the trees, now behind us, now ahead.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Buds, call to work and Easter box.

1. I spot a few buds on the bare stems of the wisteria. 

2. Towards the end of the day, a pleasant conversational call about some work.

3. Bettany plays on the floor with the coloured eggs and toy rabbits, lambs and chicks that we've brought out of the Easter box.  
 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Other editors, glam and disconcerting shoot.

1. As always it is good to talk with other editors, even if it is in yet another Zoom meeting.

2. Bettany asks me to help her look like a diva for her dance class watching week. She wants hair chalk and eye shadow and glitter on her cheeks, and will I paint her nails.

3. I notice a strange waving.... thing in one of the pots of sunflower seedlings. It looks like the shoot of some disconcerting alien fungus but as I look I notice wings and eyes. It's a small cranefly emerging from it's pupa.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Greeting, eggs and hot cross buns.

1. On this warm spring morning, with restrictions newly lifted, an older man greets me with a jaunty 'Fine day!'

2. A tree decked out with little eggs. Bettany loves a good Easter tree, althought she is less fond of walking, but perhaps I can tempt her out here  soon.

3. The smell of toasting hot cross buns.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Bulbs, walking time and reviews..

1. Candy pink tulips, still streaked with green, have popped out now. In the middle of the pot the deep velvet blue hyacinths are still going, scenting the back garden. 

2. Robert and I walk across the Common to pick up the children from school: peaceful time to catch up.

3. Our writing group has a lot of fun this evening. We're writing product reviews, with a focus on the absurd. The laughter and lightness are a relief and a joy.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Baby, brother and coloured cakes.

1. A message from my mother to say that Rosey has had her baby.

2. A call from my brother to say he has arrived home safely from Antarctica.

3. Bettany's rainbow fairy cakes come out of the oven and they are much brighter and more beautiful than I expected.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Cross off, wren and Word glitch.

1. I drop off a parcel and cross a nagging task off my list.

2. In the park to catch sight of an impossibly small red-brown wren with its tail stuck up in the air.

3. I ask for help with a Word glitch on an editing forum and get a whole host of helpful tips and explanations.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Yellow, cheese and sketch.

1. Patches of yellow blossom have appeared on the bare twigs of the forsythia hedge.

2. At supper Nick puts the cheese board on the table.

3. Alec sitting in bed working away in his sketchbook-journal.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sick day, leaving cakes and journal.

1. Poor Alec is sick, so we keep him off school. It means a lot to me that we can do this without worrying about work commitments.

2. It's fun to leave a couple of cakes on a friend's doorstep.

3. To see that I am approaching the last pages of the journal that I use for gaming notes. It makes the sense of time passing tangible, and helps me remember the sociable times we've had playing together.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Coffee, cleaning and chocolate eggs.

1. A really good cup of coffee shop coffee and a socially distanced walk on the common.

2. It is satisfying to clean grime off white-painted window crosspieces.

3. Bettany interrupts my work to ask very nicely if she can have a few extra mini eggs for her Beavers activity -- making chocolate crispy nests.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Loaf, recyling and brownie.

1. Alec is hungry and cuts himself a cheeky slice off the end of the loaf that I have just brought out of the breadmaker.

2. To discover that Amazon will give me a little bit of cash for my very old Kindles.

3. Eating a small piece of Bettany's brownie after supper.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Pram, scone and calm.

1. I spot a personal trainer working with a mother who has a pram parked off to one side.

2. The children have picked out a maple and pecan drop scone from the new bakery. Nick brings it up on a plate with a cup of tea and it is delicious.

3. Often dress-up days at school are just stressful with tantrums and last-minute costume changes. But this evening the children talk about what they want to wear tomorrow and help me find it and name it.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Loan, unscripted and long.

1. As I am coming home from my walk I fall in with a neighbour. We end up discussing roleplaying games, and by the time I step through our door I'm holding a brand new game that he'd like me to take a look at.

2. Half listening to Bettany chuntering away to herself in the bath. She making a pretend YouTube video about potions.

3. Alec folds his improbably long body on to my lap for a cuddle before bed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Hum, no rush and vaccinated.

1. Bettany, as usual, claims that she didn't like the film we sat her in front of while she recovers from a bug. Not one of the songs, and none of the characters met her approval. But later I heard a snatch of a tune muttered under her breath.

2. The clock on the station tower tells me that I've timed it right so there is no need to hurry up the hill.

3. Nick got the call earlier today that he can have his first dose of vaccine. When he returns at supper time to say all done, he's bought parcels from the new cheese shop to celebrate.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Tiny gardens, ghosts and tiny island.

1. Showing Bettany a few of the things growing in the garden, including the vigorous crop of lambs lettuce growing around her fairy house. Another fairy garden, a shallow pan, has filled with mossy humps and hummocks.

2. To sit with Alec chatting about the Usborne Book of Ghosts, which was much prized when I was little,  and has recently been reprinted.

3. We stumble across the story of Palmerston Island: an English sailor founded a dynasty that still lives there today. If you haven't tried the Radio Garden app, by the way, it's well worth your time. It allows you to navigate a world of radio stations on a globe map.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Cousin call, break through and time.

1. The way my sister's toddler asks for Alec and Bettany as soon as the call starts.

2. One of the steps in the archaelogy course Nick and I are doing is to try copying the shale pendant found at Starr Carr. I have a go at drilling a piece of slate using a flint. The moment I break through is remarkably satisfying.

3. We've gone for a slide-in-the-oven ready meal this evening, which means there is time to relax before supper.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Sprouts, reading and artefact.

1. The marvel of finding a sprouted acorn at the bottom of the compost heap. But also the beanstalks that have grown on the kitchen windowsill from hard dry beans. 

2. Alec takes over reading our book when my voice gets tired. We end up discussing the best voices to use for the different characters.

3. Nick and I sit in bed marvelling over the stone age pendant found at Starr Carr. It seems like science fiction to experience an object remotely -- but that's the power of skilled observation and thoughtful analysis by expert archaeologists.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Easier than expected, together and orange slices.


1. I need to deal with officialdom. I'm patient and persistent, and it is much easier than expected.

2. After lunch, Nick and I change the children's beds. Housework is much easier when there's two of you doing it.

3. To bring bright slices of blood orange to the supper table. They warm the room on this wet night when darkness fell early.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Tea, exercise and houseplants.

1. When I come downstairs there is a cup of tea waiting for me.

2. I really didn't want to exercise this morning, but the storytelling on Zombies Run! is just that good. 
 
3. To gather our few houseplants in the bath and wash the dust off their leaves.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Return, cutting and shanty.

1. With enormous relief we send the children back to school. 

2. To show Alec how to take a cutting from a leggy lemon-scented geranium.

3. At bathtime Bettany is singing a fragment of The Wellerman, which she says she's picked up from an advert. It's fun to play a few different versions so she can learn the rest of the words. 

Monday, March 08, 2021

My daffodil, way and PTA.

1. The first daffodil in my north-facing front garden has opened. I know there have been daffs in the supermarket for weeks, and they are all over other people's gardens -- but this one is my own.

2. Because we are breaking in the children's new shoes we walk to Nana's along the road. It's boring, but very quick, and it makes me appreciate our usual ramble through the woods.

3. The PTA is making a tiny surprise for each of our children on their first day back to school. I can't help out this time, so I didn't join in, but I can see the buzz on the WhatsApp group and I so much appreciate their energy and enthusiasm.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Height, parcel and ghost.

1. When I come downstairs Bettany makes me stand against the wall so she can measure my height for her maths worksheet. 

2. Our friends send us a surprise Ocado delivery of olives, chocolate eggs and Champagne as lockdown loosens.

3. Listening to the finale of The Battersea Poltergeist on BBC Radio 4. I'm still in #teamonthefence. I find the storytelling around hauntings fascinating, much more so than the levitating girls and teleporting objects; and this series covered it really skillfully and ethically.

Thursday, March 04, 2021

Fog, coffee and learning.

1. It is a very misty morning, so that the buildings across the car park are barely there. I tell Alec about the time when he was a very tiny boy and called me to look out of the window on a foggy morning because he did not understand what had happened to the world.

2. The sound of Nick's tread on the stairs -- he is bringing me coffee while I work.

3. To sit in bed doing a few tasks on an e-learning archaelogy course with Nick. 

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Down/up, tomatoes and compost.

1. The beans have put out hairy roots and leggy stems.

3. Bettany quietly eats most of the tomatoes I sliced to go with our lunch. She enquires about a flavoured salt I had forgotten to put on the table.

2. Under the dry leaves is compost ready to use, and the rotted stem is all that remains of our pumpkin.


Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Spontaneous cuddles, parcel of books and ship tracker.

1. When the children go back to school I will miss the spontaneous cuddles.

2. A parcel of books arrives -- this time I've ordered things I actually want to read, rather than books I should be reading. 

2b. The whole school is studying a picture-only book called Journey by Aaron Becker as part of World Book Day, and I ordered a copy. The children have only seen it on screen and Bettany in particular is very excited to have our own book.

3. To use a ship tracker to see Uncle Rob's progress towards home.

Monday, March 01, 2021

Plastic tut, alone and wave.

1. We passed a box of 'free to a good home' things on our walk. Bettany picked up a plastic toy that might be a tiki bar. She has been playing with it ever since, adding characters to it from our 'people' jar.

2. In the woods I steal away for a moment alone.

3. As we are crossing the road a friend drives past waving wildly.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Strawberry smell, easy errand and crocuses.

1. There is an unnatural strawberry smell in the High Street that puts a smile on my face because it reminds me of something that I coveted as a child (not sure what, just that I didn't have it and wanted it very much).

2. An errand I expected to be complicated turns out to be pretty simple.

3. There is a mist of purple at the bottom of The Grove where the crocuses have come.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Light, air and roots.

1. This morning without being asked Alec opens the shutters of our bedroom so I have enough light to type.

2. To open a window and feel new air hurrying into the room.

3. My beans have put down roots.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Break, shortbread and dust.

1. Even though I don't particularly want to, I take my five minute stretching breaks after each hour of work.
2. A piece of Bettany's shortbread arrives on my desk at tea time.
3. To slide fluff out of the dustpan and into the bin.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Shortbread, tired and world radio.

1. I come down to dinner and find that Bettany has made more shortbread. 
2. The children are very tired after a day of schooling -- to hear them call that they are turning out their lights half an hour earlier than usual.
3. To spend a cheerful twenty minutes playing around with Radio Garden, as recommended by my writing group. It allows you to navigate the world's radio stations on a zoomable map. We listen to Japanese morning radio, and wheezy men in the north Pacific discussing what women want in various decades, and catch the last sentence of a chilling tale from the Isle of Skye, and a cheery woman talking in Faroese, punctuated by the occasional 'hallelujah'.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Iris, shortbread and flowers in the woods.

1. Before breakfast the iris is a dark spike. After, it is three flashes of deep purple and lemon yellow.

2. To leave Bettany making shortbread while I do some cleaning tasks in the kitchen. 

3. On the far bank, across from a memorial bench, someone has planted snowdrops. In another place, there are crocuses at the side of a busy path.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Memory, viewing and rover.

1. Alec tells us at dinner that his happiest memory is waking up hungry in the middle of the night and coming downstairs with Daddy to eat rice pudding,  
2. We snuggle into the big bed to watch Carradine's Cockney Singalong live -- because it's half term and we don't have to worry about bedtimes.
3. News that the Mars rover has landed successfully filters into the merry-making.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Banana bread, chocolate and reading aloud.

1. Banana bread warmed in the oven.

2. In the middle of the afternoon when I am deep in work, Nick produces a piece of chocolate from some secret place.

3. Reading aloud to Alec from Lord of the Rings. Frodo and Sam are almost at the mountain. This section has a lot of topographical description which I find as much of a slog as the two hobbits did. But Alec continues after I must stop and later that evening he calls out to me that they've arrived at the mountain.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Pancakes, blackbird at twilight and crow.

1. Nana, Alec and Nick make pancakes for us all to mark Shrove Tuesday.

2, The glassy evening call of a blackbird.

3. We finally get to watch the Upstart Crow Christmas Special. From 2018. We'll watch the 2020 one later this week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Knock, plan and waiting.

1. The postman has to knock this morning because he has a heavy book parcel.

2. To make a pancake plan -- we're taking ourselves and our pancake pan to Nana's in the afternoon. 

3. After 9pm, I finally get to listen to the new episode of the The Battersea Poltergeist that dropped this morning.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Chocolate at breakfast time, pockets and not Pink Floyd.

1. Eating chocolate at breakfast time because it's Valentine's Day.

2. My mother-in-law has put a pocket in my previously pocketless pyjamas.

2. In the end we have to Google it, because Alec is so, so sure that Pink Floyd is responsible for 'Baby Shark'.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Rosey cheeks, behind and crackle.

1. When we go inside the children's cheeks turn bright pink. 
2. Turning round to look back at the sunset through the trees.
3.Walking on frozen mud and feeling it crackle under my boots.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Small tasks, snow and dance.

1. Today is a rest day: I spend a little time reading for fun after breakfast, and focus on small tasks and easy targets for the rest of the day.

2. We wake to a sprinkling of snow that is quickly gone and then enjoy a day of pretty flurries with large, feathering flakes.

3. Bettany bars me from her dance class watching week -- but five minutes before the end she comes and finds me for the final dance and I get to see the little Bettany dance smile that is, really, what I pay for when the dance class invoice comes in (although I am not allowed to join in because I'm still in my pyjamas).

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Ice rink, eggs and saved.

1. Watching people negotiating and navigating the car park behind our house. It is lan ice rink and I like all the different narratives -- two teenage boys with cans of drink deliberately walking up the most challenging part; 4WD vehicles going straight into a space; timid drivers thinking better of it; the dustcart coming by as if it's just an ordinary day; a dad with a tiny child on his shoulders; brisk ladies in bright puffer jackets with walking poles.
2. Nick has been experimenting with eggs by baking them in the oven. 
3. I have a long-awaited medical appointment in Tonbridge today, the first time I have had an urgent need to leave Tunbridge Wells since the start of the pandemic. It is snowing and there are no trains. My dad comes to give me a lift.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Snow, Harriet and one minute.

1. The park, frosted with an inch of snow, is empty and we are the first ones into the playground. We make footprints along the paths, and the children collect icicles to decorate their snowman.

2. We come to the end of our reading book, Harriet The Spy. It's quite a gruelling read, about a child navigating a huge life change as well as conflict and bullying at school, but we were swept along by the deft, light writing. And it let us talk in a non-urgent way about bullying and lies and truth and fiction and child neglect and snobbery and all sorts of things. It's one of those books that has jokes aimed at adults -- I read it as a child and I could tell there were things going over my head, and I'm so glad I've read it again, because it's very funny on that level, too. 

3. The exercise we do in writing is a revelation -- write a sentence in one minute to a particular prompt. A minute is ages in terms of a sentence, and it makes me think that, really, no little slip of time is too short for a writing session.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Early, snow and hot chocolate.

1. I've woken early and can't sleep so I go downstairs for breakfast. After a little while the children join me, scratching their hair into sleepy spikes, rubbing their eyes and complaining that the kitchen lights are too bright.

2. To glance up and see that snow is falling outside.

3. Alec asks for hot chocolate. To tell him that he can make it himself, if he likes -- so he does.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Green footpath sign, progress and bin.

1. After a short stretch of road walking, to find the little green footpath sign pointing into the hedge.
2. To look across the valley and see the way we have just come.
3. The children come scampering up the stairs to take my bin away for emptying. They argue in whispers about bringing it back and in the end one brings it and places it at the end of my desk; then the other takes it away and brings it back a second time. 

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Ginger cake, sunset and stirfry.

1. Alec runs upstairs to show me that he has obtained Granny's ginger cake recipe.
2. A sunset that turns the sky a deep orange-red that I didn't expect to see in nature. As the year turns towards spring the sunset moves out of view from my window. This week I have to crane to see it.
3. The pleasure Nick takes in his purple cabbage stirfry.

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Can do, birdsong and prints.

1. Before he leaves Nick tells me that I'll have to print Bettany's maths sheet for her. When the time comes, Bettany points out rather tiredly that I can't print a PDF directly from Teams. 'You have to click those three dots to download it and then print it.' Which makes me wonder if she actually needs help doing this at all.
2. In a quiet moment I can hear birdsong from my desk.
3. After a day of looking at words to focus on a book of Hiroshige's prints.

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Time passes, parcels and dates.

1. To look up from work and find that an hour has passed. 
2. A few parcels arrive -- I did my invoicing last week and now I've been paid so I could buy a few bits that I need.
3. To flip through an almanac checking what is going on in February -- Mars can be seen close to the moon in the middle of the month; there's imbolc, candlemass as well as St Valentine's Day; and the Chinese Year of the Ox begins.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Catkins, sit down and dusting.

1. To pick a few small sprigs of hazel catkins for Nana. 
2. Alec finds his hoovering work so exhuasting that he has to have a little sit down between areas of floor.
3. To finally get the high thread of cobweb  ont the landing that has been bothering me for a week.

Friday, January 29, 2021

View, downhill and waiting.

1. We come to the spot in the forest which I think of as Instagram Corner because it features in so many shots of wholesome family activities. There is already a man sitting on the bench breathing deeply. We keep our distance and stand watching rain clouds coming in from Sussex.  
2. Alec says that when they came here on a school trip, everyone spread out and ran down this hill.
3. I'd told everybody that we were going on a proper walk with no stopping but somehow we end up standing around watching the children poking clots of dead leaves out of a stream. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Fan theory, bath and phone conversation.

1. Bettany earnestly tells us about a Frozen fan theory she has discovered today. 
2. Alec lowers his lanky limbs into the bath until nothing is showing among the bubbles except his head.
3. A long refreshing phone call with a friend.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Crossover, more important and talk.

1. I hit send on an email to my goddaughter and see that while I was writing her mother had sent me a message.
2. 'No, Mummy, cuddling you is more important.'
3. Our neighbour calls me because she is upset about the trees behind our house being taken down. Talking it over helps us put our feelings  into words that we can -- perhaps -- use to help repair this situation.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Morning walk, piper and Burns Night.

1. On a crisp morning to leave the house alone and just walk.
1b. Alec comes up to tell me about a time-management disaster -- PE, assembly, a picture of a Mayan temple and all this English, and I've only got ten minutes. (I find out later that he's been sending gifs to his friend on messenger instead of getting on with his school work.) To tell him to take the easiest task first and let the rest follow. I'm hoping that perhaps these low-stakes experiences will help him avoid rougher times in future. 
2. There is an Australian playing the Star War March on bagpipes in Bettany's Beavers meeting -- because of course there is.
3. To settle on the sofa with Nick and watch BBC Scotland's Burns Night concert. Eddi Reader's wild Charlie is My Darling has always been a bit of a favourite on my playlist, but I can't bear to listen to her achingly sad John Anderson except on this one night. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Snow day, lap and origami.

1. It snows a tiny bit -- hard white pellets that are nearly hail and just enough to turn the ground white, but not for very long. The children run outside to the carpark and play in it before it vanishes.
2. Alec is almost too grown to sit on my lap, but he still finds a way to arrange himself.
3. I open an origami book on a project that calls for paper we don't have. But somehow, because Bettany wants to do it, we end up experimenting, and tweaking until we've made it.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Birdsong, contact and early bed.

1. The wind is still high but I can hear birdsong behind it, despite everything.
2. To half-listen to Bettany on a Zoom call chatting with one of her friends.
3. To go to bed early and just read.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Meal plan, sharpen and dark blue undersheet.

1. Alec checks the meal plan to make sure I've included the pasties he wants to cook for us.
2. To put a new edge on a kitchen knife and then use it to slice a tomato.
3. 'I feel like a playboy,' says Nick as he replaces the white sheet on our bed with a dark blue one. But playboys miss out on brushed cotton duvet sets, so we're one up on them. And it's possible that bedmaking is not part of the playboy lifestyle.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Tea, shut and chart.

1. There is a cup of tea waiting for me on the breakfast table.
2. I habitually make a point of keeping the shutters by my desk open until it gets dark so I can get a better idea of day and night -- but today Storm Christoph hits the back of the house and cold is rolling off the window into my workspace. It is a relief to shut that  out. 
3. It's very easy to get lost with larger editing projects and to start stressing about meeting deadlines. What really helps is logging progress on a chart that shows roughly how much more I have to do in the time I have.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Independence, pigeon and pictures.

1. We are lying in bed listening to Radio 3 when it becomes clear from the sounds downstairs that the children are getting themselves up and printing off their school work.
2. The pigeon sits in the back garden looking pointedly at us because no-one has opened the door and thrown out a cup of bird seed.
3. We play with surrealist imagery in writing group -- including making our own pictures. None of us are very good at art, but drawing loosens us up and when we write afterwards the resulting pieces are noticeably  uninhibited.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Hazelnut milk, wet woods and rest.

1. There is hazelnut milk to put in my coffee.
2. The woods are unpleasant, wet and muddy, and consequently not as crowded as usual. 
3. I have floated through the weekend in a leisure dream of home improvement TV and Carcassone and jigsaw pieces. On Sunday evening I find myself filling my pen to work at my writing. That, I suppose, is the subtle power of rest.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Small world, new oven and radio.

1. On this wet day the world has shrunk and from my window I can only see as far as the end of the Pantiles.

2. I am summoned downstairs by excited children to look at the dusty space under the worktop where the old oven used to be; and then a few hours later, to see the new oven that has been installed by our landlord.

2b. Alec announces that he wants to have a bath instead of a shower. It turns out that he has no idea how to run a bath; so Bettany does it for him. This has been a common pattern from about the time Bettany could walk, and Nick and I can see it continuing long after we are gone. 

3. I am too tired and grumpy to do anything this evening. I have a radio comedy recommendation sitting among my emails so I dig in with Conversations from a Long Marriage. 


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Interruption, snowdrops and crumpets.

1. Two roofers drop over the back fence to look at a couple of leaks. It is funny to be disturbed while I'm working by a man tapping on my third-story window.

2. There are snowdrops pushing white bells out of bare earth in a flowerbed.

3. To butter crumpets for the children's bedtime snack.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Full notebook, new book and remembering a detail.

1. To find my notebook is nearly full, and to wonder how that happened.

2. To start a new book with the children: we're reading Imelda and the Horned Owl, which was written by one of Alec's classmates (helped by her dad, the sci-fi author Andrew Wallace).

3. The games master wonders if we remember the names of some wines which were mentioned in passing during a gaming session back in early summer. Although Tim logs all our adventures on Heropress we all take a few notes as we go, and when I flip back through my gaming diary, I find the winelist -- complete with the modern-day prices we used to give ourselves an idea of the wine quality.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Walk, group and novella.

1. Alec is as terrible a procrastinator as I am, so he agrees to come for a quick healthy walk round the block before starting work. We see kiwi fruit hanging on a vine; a wary dog; swimming pool-blue tiles up a garden path; and we still make it back in time to get our work done.

2. We start a new term of creative writing. It seems like magic that a group of people can organise themselves into a helpful, supportive co-operative, even at such a difficult time as this.

3. It is very satisfying to read a novella because it is over so quickly that I can hold the entire story in my head.


Monday, January 11, 2021

Lego, freezing fog and inventory.

1. To sort through our vast Lego accumulation searching for the particular pieces the children want for the sweetie dispensers they are building.

2. The weather today is something rather magical -- freezing fog. Every twig of every tree is iced with crystals. We nearly miss it because we don't go out until late in the afternoon. As it gets dark the air temperature or humidity shifts a little and the ice falls away.

3. To count the shopping into the larder so I know that our cupboards are ready for the weeks ahead.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Walk, dinner and changing the bed.

1. We walk around a nearly empty park this morning. Bettany writes her name in the frost on the seesaw. I wonder who else will see it on this empty day.
2. When I ask at lunch what the children want for supper they decide immediately and simultaneously that what they would like is a Chinese takeaway. 'With crispy duck pancakes,' says Alec quickly. I order a set menu... and job done.
3. As my hour bell goes off Nick comes up the stairs to change the bed, so I get up from my desk and help him smooth sheets and shake pillows.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Revelation, printer and tax return.

1. To keep myself motivated I am working through a writing course.* I try a technique that seems really basic, that I learnt years ago as a way to fix a story that seems broken -- but suddenly I understand how to apply it much earlier in the process, and it is a complete revelation.

2. To hear the printer working when it has been rather unreliable.

3. We get our tax returns done. This is a task that hangs over us every year -- but it never takes that long once you get started. Over the years we've got better at record-keeping, so the information is easy to get hold of.

The course is on Domestika, with Shaun Levin. It's titled Creative Writing for Beginners -- but I always think that with writing it's worth going back to basics from time to time.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Musical beds, homefront and decorations.

1. I wake up in Bettany's single bed because she turned up in our bed in the middle of the night, kicking the covers off and wriggling between us. First thing Alec comes to join me for a moment and I marvel at how tall he has become.

2. PE is a Zombies Run Homefront mission -- thirty minutes for me, fifteen minutes for each child because they fight if they have to do it together. Then I hand them over to Nick for the rest of the day.

3. In the evening Nick and I take down the Christmas decs and afterwards our house seems huge and tidy.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Almond biscuit, easy meals and announcement.

1. Dipping an almond biscuit in my coffee.
2. I resent the amount of weekend time I need to spend cooking -- but I'm always pleased to dig an easy meal out of the freezer in the shape of a box of frozen tomato mince or parsnip soup for Nick to serve up later in the day.
3. We bring the children downstairs to see the prime minister announcing the new lockdown. It's unpleasant, discouraging news, but it seems important for them to see it. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

Gingerbread, hideaway and Marnie.

Sorry for the unannounced break. I was ill right before Christmas, and then, you know, Christmas happened. I needed a complete break from everything. But I'm back at my desk now.

1. We eat the last pieces of the gingerbread, rather rich and spicy, that we got for Christmas. 

2. Nick gets supper, and finding myself not needed in the kitchen I hide away upstairs to read a bit of my book.

3. We are reading When Marnie was There, which Bettany chose partly to annoy Alec because it didn't look very exciting. But we are enjoying it all the same, with much speculation about who Marnie is and asking so many questions about why Anna behaves as she does. I never liked it particularly as a child, finding it puzzling and a bit intense, although my own childhood copy has survived cull after cull of my books. Reading it now, though, I can see that it is very well put together and its honest treatment of children's emotions and unflinching portrait of parenting a damaged child makes for a compelling and uncomfortable read. There's a studio Ghibli film of it, which we might watch together.