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.