1. To keep Bettany busy Jane gives her some oil pastels, a sheet of sugar paper and a vase of flowers.
2. Eating homegrown apricots.
3. As a freelancer, I love that moment each month when I discover that I've been paid.
1. I've promised Alec a frappe from a particular coffee chain as a reward for doing an extra tuition class. I discover that I've collected enough points under Microsoft Rewards to get a voucher that covers it. It turns out that I can load the gift card on to an and when the time comes to pay, I hold up my phone for scanning. This seems like a miracle.
2. Nick's cocktail comes with a huge globe of ice. It's delicious, and I wish I'd had it myself. Alec and Bettany are both astonished by the strawberry on a bamboo skewer in their smoothies. Alec imagines that I might buy him all three meals here on his birthday.
3. Two tables along from us, a dad has brought his really tiny daughter out for supper at The Ivy. Sitting in a highchair, she hides behind the menu and pops out to make Alec and Bettany laugh.
2. The little smile that Bettany does when we unexpectedly run into one of her friends.
3. To look at a Hiroshige print showing a shinto shrine then tumble down a rabbit hole of maps and tourist guides to better understand the place as it is now.
1. I led the last workshop, and one of the writers sends me an email to say that it has continued to inspire her this week.
2. In the summer evening to chat with neighbours in the street while our girls chalk pictures on the pavement.
3. Alec comes home from his cricket match bouncing with stories about the close win his team achieved.
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.
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).
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.
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.
|Madonna with the Iris -- workshop of Albrecht Durer|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.