Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Waiting, boys and poorly.

1. On a frosty day, early, three pigeons wait on chimney tops just touched by the sun.

2. On the bus, a boy hiding in a sad grey hoodie first tells some other boys to leave him alone, but then comes and sits with them. At their stop, they bump fists and say, 'Sorry, bro.' Then a fourth boy comes down from the front of the bus, bumps his fist and takes a seat across the aisle. 

3. Bettany would prefer that we give her all the little packets of tissues. provide lip balm and ensure she doesn't miss her activities. Alec, on the other hand, is very poorly. To feel better, he needs strategic distractions and a pharmacoepia of quack nostrums, like obscure essential oils, cough socks, vitamins and plenty of vapour rub.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Sleeping in, gap and everything at the same time.

1. We sleep and sleep and sleep. It's 11am when we wake up properly.

2. Our very competent landlord holds out his sticky hands for a piece of kitchen roll and says that this is why he's not allowed to do caulking.

3. The children tumble through the door and try to tell us everything all at once.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Wintertime, standing around and chips for supper.

1. For a few days now people have been commenting that it really feels like winter now. The trees on Broadwater Down are no longer orange and brown; they are grey in the sunshine. 

2. Standing waiting on the edge of the football pitch, at last we have time to catch up.

3. To come home carrying a parcel of warm chips.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Observe, smooth and waiting.

1. To stand for a moment observing the drifts and layers of morning mist.

2. I realise that of course there is time to smooth Bettany's ruffled feathers and tell her that it's usual to be a bit anxious before you go and have your hair done in a completely new style.

3. It's my turn to do the Scouts run. It's an hour and a half, in a hall that is just a bit too far from home to make walking back worth it. I wait in the pub -- which has an open fire and two older men gossiping -- with a pint and then a half of bitter, my notebook and a nice soft pencil.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Nothing but dust, toothpaste and Saturn.

1. On the front path is a scattering of what looks like snow. It is dust from the top of the wardrobe that is now gone from our back bedroom.

2. When I ask, it turns out that there actually is a type of toothpaste that has fluoride, but no SLS or peppermint.

3. I have to explain to Bettany that contrary to what I told her last night when I wanted her to hurry along, the planet Jupiter does not eat children. It's actually Saturn that's the dangerous one. We can see both of them out of the attic window.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Across town, discovery and albums.

1. I catch that baby's eye, right across town, watching me through his mum's screen.

2. Alec discovers Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester's Fur Frauen ist das kein Problem, a modern performance of a hit from the 1920s and is astonished and delighted. No, I don't know either.

3. Not long before bedtime Nick and I get a moment to look through our wedding pictures -- twelve years have passed in a flash.     

Monday, November 22, 2021

Transfer, flock and cake.

1. The children have been complaining pretty much every step of the way. The moment when they start scuffling and arguing with each other instead of moaning at us.

2. A dozen magpies rise from the field ahead of us.

3. It's teatime and at last she can serve us her chocolate cake.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Not seeing fungus, tomatoes and buttered crumpet.

1. I divert my walk round the park across the meadow on the off-chance that I might see the coral-red devil's fingers fungus that someone posted on social media yesterday. 

2. I suddenly realise that the green tomatoes that have been ripening on my desk are all bright red.

3. A buttered crumpet appears at my elbow towards the end of the afternoon.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Doubled, judge and falling asleep.

1. A flock of pigeons, shaken by some startle from the roof of the station, doubled in number by their shadows on the red brick walls of Hoopers Department Store and on the bridge of the railway..

2. Bettany has taken Granny for a ride... I mean to the toy shop. She marches in carrying a large pink box and says, 'It's a craft, so you can't judge me.'

3. Alec is out for the evening and Bettany doesn't want to go to sleep by herself so I sit on the sofa and wait with her. Her sighs and snuffles and grunts get quieter... and quieter... and quieter.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Supermarket, lift and prints.

Hiroshige: Man on horseback crossing a bridge (Wikimedia Commons)
1. Here's the new Lidl catalogue to flip through while we drink coffee. When I was small, supermarkets were exciting: bright, plasticky and modern in the best possible way (rather than ethically questionable and a bit tedious). Lidl -- somehow, in its own Euro way -- captures some of that early 1980s magic.

2. Instead of a dark walk home, we are offered a lift in a luxurious car with enormous leather seats. 

3. I have had enough of reading: instead I stare at a book of Hiroshige prints until I am too sleepy to focus.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Chart, beckon and snack.

1. Nick draws from his bag a long cardboard chart that Nana has made for the children so they know what they need to do each day when they arrive home.

2. Bettany has been moaning all the way there, but now a girl from school is beckoning from a door at the back of the hall. She hands me her coat and doesn't even look back.

3. Alec feeds me pieces of popcorn from his bedtime snack.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Bored, jackets and experimental.

1. Alec complains that he is bored, because for reasons of his own he has secured the Xbox controller with  an elastic band and now his car is racing independently into the television screen's artificial distnce.

2. Nick, it turns out, has a suit jacket for every decade. He talks about his memories of them before consigning them to the charity pile.

3. I have written quickly without much thought for the reader, trying to get two voices to tell the same story at the same time. It's definitely experimental; and now I'm called on to read it aloud to the class.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Rhyme, holly berries and stop.

1. Bettany is murmuring the rhyme from the story I've just told.

2.Heavy red holly berries hang bright in the morning's mist.

3. The day halts for remembrance silence at 11am.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Wet grass, recall and arnica.

1. Ahead of me are my own footprints in the wet grass.

2. I am far away, deep in a morass of text when to the top of my play queue come Cerys Matthews' warm, intimate renditions of Welsh folk songs.

3. The lady in the chemist has slipped a sachet of arnica gel in with the support for Alec's sprained wrist.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Vulnerable, gracious and smudge.

1. It makes me feel more than a bit vulnerable to be interviewed by Sarah Salway about my writing practice in a short video, but I'm so glad I did it. We even 3BT live on camera by way of a workshop exercise -- to my surprise I come up with three completely different beautiful things for the previous 24 hours. (Sarah has a collection of extraordinary short fiction out, by the way -- Not Sorry.

2. The mother who brought Alec back from his football match said he was a gracious loser.

3. Alec's post-football bathwater is brownish when he gets out, but he still has a smudge on his face.

3b. Bettany muttering darkly about the strictness of other people's mothers.

Tuesday, November 09, 2021

Sweetpea pods, accepted and clean shoes.

1. The crackly, papery feel of the sweetpea pods I am clipping from the vines to save for seed.

2. My afternoon is turned upside down by an email saying that one of my essays has been accepted for an actual book. (There's a long lead-time, but I'll share when it's available).

3. All the children's shoes, clean and shined, in a row on the doormat.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Ginkgo, moon rise and job done.

1. I deliberately take the route that goes past the ginkgo tree with its bright sour yellow leaves.

2. There is a narrow moon -- tarnished copper -- just above the horizon.

3. When I come up the stairs, the first thing I can see is the chest of drawers Nick and I have put together.

Friday, November 05, 2021

Mag, pink sky and The Willows.

1. At coffee time Nick brings my Fortean Times upstairs.

2. I happen to look up at the right moment and spot a pink glow on the clouds -- all we get of sunset.

3. Today's uncanny story, as recommended by The Classic Horror Blog, is Algernon Blackwood's novella The Willows. It's one of the uncanny classics, but this is my first time reading. It reminds me of the Penguin classic travel books I loved as a child -- two men canoeing down the Danube camp on shrinking island for two unsettling nights.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Morning cuddle, chocolate hearts and favourite.

1. We hear Bettany's alarm go off, and then her thumping footsteps coming up the stairs for a morning cuddle.

2. At coffee time I find two heart-shaped lebkuchen in the biscuit tin.

3. At the bonfire, in the dark, a smallish person, well bundled up in waterproofs, runs up to Alec and says, 'You're my favourite Year 6.'


Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Collar, bacon and soil.

1. Alec turns up his crisp collar to put on his tie.

2. At lunchtime, coming downstairs to the smell of bacon.

3. Shaking soil off the roots of a dead tomato plant.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Not talking, welcome and sky watch.

1. Surprise! Our neighbours are at the soft play centre. She says, 'I'm working. It's the only two hours I've got.' That's great, because I'd planned to sit with a coffee and read.

2. The casual, welcoming friendliness of really good pub staff during a quiet lunchtime.

3. Jupiter -- I think -- is hanging bright and clear to the south.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Break in the weather, a lesson and bag of books.

1. After a morning of watching heavy rain and anxious messages, the sun comes out in time for the party.

2. Bettany is working at a cross-stitch tiger on card while eating fruit pastiles and watching a sitcom. Her fingers pick up black from the print on the card and the orange thread gets darker as she works. I think about telling her to wash her hands, but decide that she will work it out for herself in due course.

3. Alec shows me the new books he has brought from town, all with neat, clean pages and sharp corners. He says I might like to read some of them.