Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Resin, deer and message.

1. The smell of resin among the rain-wet sunset-lit pine trunks, 

2. A long way down the path, almost so far off that it is hard to understand what I am seeing, a deer waits, alert.

3. Alec and Nick are visiting a school this evening. Around the time we are expecting them back, I get a message from Nick saying that they are queuing for free food.

Awning, efficiency and borrowed.

1. She puts the awning up so that we can write to the sound of rain falling on it.

2. Nick efficiently sends a short shopping list to my phone.

3. During the pandemic, I really missed people lending me books, and lending my books out in return. I have three on the go at present -- and I love the implication of, 'I expect to see you again soon for the returning.' 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Enough talk, girls and after dark.

1. We've talked enough about our plans for the Tunbridge Wells Puppetry Festival, which shows we fancy and which ones clash with other plans. Now it's time to actually book the tickets.
2. Our little girls pass by me in the garden, on their way to the street where there is space to push their buggy up and down the hill. 'Aww, are you taking your babies out?'
'No. This is a rockstar and that's his bodyguard.'
3. I feel like I've been waiting for something all day -- it's not clear what -- and I can't settle to my work. At last, after sunset, when I've read to the children, whatever it is seems to have happened, or passed by and I can have a proper go at my editing.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Helpers, friends and morning glory.

1. To remember that I can ask the children to take on a few tasks, and they will actually do them: set up the waffle-maker, do some mixing, dust the stairs, fold the picnic rug.

2. To catch sight of our friends waiting outside the station.

3. I have been quietly seething at Liziqi's morning glories (7:38) because I have never succeeded in growing them. But today I spot that a single spindly plant, surviving against the odds in our front garden, has some furled silk parasol buds on it.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Walk out, clearing beans and icing.

1. There is time this morning to walk out and meet Nick on his way home from the school run.

2. Our beans are done now: the crop has slowed and they have stopped putting out new leaves against the snails. It's time to strip them out and let the vines sink into decay. The space they have left makes the garden seem more peaceful.

3. I come down to find Bettany diligently applying gel icing to the fairy cakes I made earlier for the school's MacMillan coffee morning. She asks me to help.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Brown door, strop and priorities.

1. Our neighbour is putting another coat of paint on her front door. It's a shiny brown that she says is a heritage colour for our street. It looks like well tempered chocolate.

2. Bettany is so rude and ill tempered that I leave her alone to get herself ready for bed. Not long after, she appears at my elbow and asks for help. She is comically affectionate for the rest of the evening.

3. I've been lent a book on time management, and it is such a relief to read that other people get distracted by and secretly enjoy the fun and novelty of a crisis. And that they sink into a tired ditch afterwards so the afternoon gets wasted, too. (Martin Scott's More Time, Less Stress).

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Packing, not missing the sunset and games night.

1. To spend some quiet time with Alec calmly packing for his school trip away.

2. Sunset is at our busiest time of day -- we're eating supper and persuading the children to take steps towards bedtime -- so I usually miss it completely. But this evening I'm on a train and I have a moment to look at the sky streaked pink and blue.

3. Our first in-person games night for eighteen months. The video meet-ups were very convenient; but I've missed the physical presence of my friends, the drama of dice rolling and the visual aid of figures and maps.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Gingerbread, chords and naming shoes.

1. Something has gone wrong with Bettany's gingerbread dough. It is disappointingly soft and can't be rolled and cut. We blob it on to a tray and it bakes okay.

2. Bettany has promised to practise the ukelele for a Cubs challenge. She started to learn at school, but hasn't got very far amid the year's disruption. I sit with her as she works through her book, and we have a laugh making something close to music with the two chords we know.

3. Putting names in all the children's shoes. I get ridiculously excited when I come across a shoe with a white lining -- it means I can use a marker pen instead of a fiddly shoe label

Monday, September 20, 2021

Spores, spiders and blackberries.

1. We find puffballs on the common and the children burst a few to marvel at the black smoke of spores.

2. The spiders have come back. One has strung a web in the ivy across from the kitchen window, close enough that we can see him watching and waiting.

3. I've nearly missed the blackberries -- but this time I remember to bring a box out with me. They are nearly over and I don't get many; I don't even fill the box, but it's enough to say that we've had blackberries this year.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Weeding task, glitter and grumbling.

1. To weed my oregano pot. For weeks when I pick oregano for a salad I've been dodging a poppy (now gone to seed) and a herb robert plant. They are not weeds elsewhere in the garden. There is a lychnis seedling in there, too, which I will save, perhaps tomorrow. 

2. There is glitter among the dust I have swept off the sideboard.

3. The sound of Bettany muttering grumbles about her day as she sits across my lap and watches a badly scripted YouTube fairy tale. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Knock, kick and comrade.

1. The tak-tak on the door that signals the arrival of my friend and her baby.

2. Someone has stuffed takeaway litter in a burrow under the wall. Someone else has kicked it all out again.

3. I bring Alec to his first Scouts meeting. The joy on his face when he sees a friend -- and the joy on the friend's face.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Epsom salts, comb and videos.

1. I love using epsom salts in the bath because you need such a lot of them. I weigh out half a kilo for Alec and bring them upstairs. He tips them into his running bath with a satisfying swish.

2. Detangling a doll's hair while I listen to Bettany reading.

3. With relief, I sink into Liziqi's beautiful world. I have no expectation of following her makes as everything is in Chinese, and there is a vast gap between her resources and competence and mine. There are times to be productive, and there are times to just watch. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Willow, hiding and moon.

1. To marvel at this season's growth on the willow that was cut down last winter. The shoots are now over six feet. I wonder which of them will grow into branches?

2. Nick comes upstairs to hide from Bettany: she has set up a supermarket in the kitchen and is forcefully recruiting customers.

3. The moon blurred gold behind clouds.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Bells, smoke and demonstration.

1. We hear jingling bells in the street below us. Bettany exclaims, 'Santa!' with a level of joy and wonder that surprises me, because she has unpacked and dismantled the Father Christmas story in great detail on several occasions. She squirms round to look out of the window: it's only a passing dog.

2. The smell of blue wood smoke at Forest School.

3. Alec in his wellies, down on one knee, showing his little sister how to use a fire flash.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Accept, old shoes and done.

1. To accept that today I will not be productive because it is the day of Alec's 11-plus exam.

2. To drop a bag of outgrown and broken down shoes into the recycling.

3. Alec returns confident, almost cocky. He is content with his exam performance.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Neighbourhood, change in the air and the rain.

1. The dog walkers caught us at the beer hatch buying a jug for our end of heatwave street party. 'Are you going? Be there in a minute.'

2. The party started to break up when the wind got up, blowing along the street lifting napkins and ruffling our hair and clothes.

3. The children and I watched the rain begin from their bedroom kneeling up on the sofa with our faces wedged below the sash window. A boy ran up our street in the growing dark, pulling against the parent who called him back.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Dew, table and sparrows.

1. The dew splashes my ankles as I walk around the cricket ground.

2. To find that Bettany has set up a little restaurant table in the garden.

3. Sparrows peering down at us from the gutters. I think they might be looking for water so I set up a shallow pan.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Tea, slow and cucumber.

1. Thinking that in this heat I need to drink more than usual, and then remembering that I have a box of liquorice tea.

2. It's hot today, but I don't have much work on so I can afford to take things at a slow pace.

3. To find that a cucumber has been growing un-noticed in the shade.

Monday, September 06, 2021

New path, greetings and tench.

1. We take a new path out of the industrial estate and find ourselves walking along the river, past a set of lock gates and through a cafe's outdoor space to the high street.

2. A joyful, friendly man in a red vest greets everyone who comes into the coffee shop as if he knows them well -- and perhaps he does. He gives his best shot at chatting with a man who communicates using sign language. The conversation is full of okay signs, thumbs up and comparisons of muscles.

3. Back at the lock the fishermen have caught a fish, 18 inches long, veiled in slime and glowing the same green gold as the river water. A tench, we are told. It waits patiently to be released.

Friday, September 03, 2021

Flowers, snails and back to normal.

1. I hurry to Nana's birthday tea cradling a large paper-wrapped bunch of flowers on my arm.

2. Nana has made herself a vivarium for small snails. 

3. The children tell us that they are all allowed out on the playground together now. And school start and finish times are no longer staggered.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Tomatoes, soap and reading.

1. The Sainsbury's man says he is impressed by my tomatoes, which -- so far -- have not succumbed to the blight.

2. It's the day for picking a new bar of soap from the tissue-wrapped selection in the bathroom cupboard. There are only two left of the original dozen but Bettany and I weigh up lavender versus vetiver, even though we know that both will be used eventually. 

3. Cuddling up with the children to read our current book, Peter Green and the Unliving Academy. We didn't find time to read any of it while we were away. It feels good to snuggle back into our old routines. 

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

That moment, wedding, and Minerva.

 We've been away for nearly a week to a wedding in Liverpool and then for a few days in Chester. Here are some highlights.

1. When I look up, the people ahead of us have vanished. I hurry ahead to see how they passed through a brick wall and find a doorway. I step through it, on to a quiet terrace above the Mersey where people are waiting in silence, just as the sun drops behind Birkenhead across the water.

2. The hundreds and hundreds of padlocks secured to the chains around the docks -- all representing promises.

3. I wonder if Bettany would like me to go with her when the wedding planner leads the flower girls round to the door the bride will use. No, she definitely doesn't want me.

4. The soft wave of kind laughter that greets the brides emotional apology for being late.

5. The man who reads a poem returns to his seat, and draws a finger under each eye to clear away his tears. (later Alec tells us that his suit with gold buttons is the best suit).

6. I turn round to find Amelia -- elegant and cheerful in her blue dress and coral shoes -- teaching my children to cross their eyes.

6. We leave the wedding before the evening party really begins. Bettany is furious. She won't say a proper goodbye to the bride and groom but stands creepily in the dusk bushes and then howls all the way to the taxi. The driver asks her what songs she would like him to play. She choses 'Blue Smoke' by Dolly Parton; 'Sun Spots' by Julian Cope; and a Hannah Montana tune. He comments that she has messed up the recommendations on the company's shared music account and says that his colleagues will laugh at him. 'Are we mates, you an' me?' he asks her in his broad accent.

7. A thing about this holiday has been enormous beds and vast bath towels.

8. We walk a long way to find the only in situ Roman shrine to Minerva in the UK in a park by the river. The image, carved into the wall of a quarry, is somewhat worn, but her robes, helm and owl are easily recognised and it was absolutely worth every step of the walk.

9. As we walk round the park the children wish so hard that the miniature railway will be running again today. We think that it might not be, because it's now the week when people start going back to school. But it turns out that it is running -- an inattentive teenage boy trundling delighted toddlers round tracks so narrow gauge that I can put my foot across them. I am so relieved that I pay them on immediately and they jump aboard.

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 ...