Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Pour, bookshop and woodsmoke.

1. The espresso for our affogato comes in a little cup with a pouring spout.

2. We discover a barge that is also a bookshop: a tidy, swaying space lined with books of every genre, to suit all tastes. The bookseller sits by the door, welcoming and observing his customers from a tangle of blankets, beard and hair.

3. Walking along a canal; the smell of woodsmoke from the stoves on the narrowboats.

Friday, December 15, 2023

Pink sky, around the mud and caraway.

1. We get up at around dawn in these short days, and so I catch the sky turning pink.

2. The beaten path that goes up the bank and round the muddy place on the track.

3. Caraway seeds in my coleslaw.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Skater, extras and bao buns.

1. Early session: one woman has the ice to herself.

2. My package includes a sticker and free sample of wrapping paper.

3. There are fat white bao buns for supper.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Treasure, obscure and meat.

1. Digging into the Christmas boxes, I'm finding all sorts of things that I bought in the January sales last year and hid away.

2. What I really like is half-listening to an obscure piece of music on Radio 3, with the knowledge that later today I can check the schedule to find out what it is and then -- if I feel like it -- seek it out on a streaming music service.

3. In my bowl of soup this evening there are pieces of chicken from the roast we had at the weekend.  

Monday, December 11, 2023

Elf, our stall and sojourn.

1. Bettany jumping up and down to see her reflection in the mirror -- she's dressed as an elf so she can help at Santa's grotto.

2. Our room at the school Christmas Village fills with people eager to knock the elf off the shelf with Nerf guns. In a quiet moment, I flip through the notes in the cash box and feel satisfied with our contribution.

3. Alec has been reading My Family and Other Animals and wonders if we could possibly move to Corfu so he can have a tutor.

Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Charity shop run, work complete and not ice.

1. Bringing donations to the charity shop with Nick to carry the awkward things. 

2. Sending an edit back when I have very little to say, except that I enjoyed and had fun working on it.

3. It's a wet night, and I have so much to do before I go away, but Bettany wants to practise skating ahead of her class treat to the ice rink later this week. So we join the crazy folks who can't stay off the ice, even when their gloves are soaked and they leave a wake in the puddles lying on the rink.

Monday, December 04, 2023

Baking, applause and supper.

1. The clatter of a tin on the oven shelf.

2. I am a little early to collect Bettany from the show she's watching. From the café, I can hear the finale and the applause, and feel it, too.

3. I leave Alec with his dough: he seems to know what he's doing, adding milk and flour and complaining by turns that it's too wet and too dry. Half an hour later, we're eating pizza scones for supper.

Friday, December 01, 2023

Leftover curry, advent coming and folk music.

1. There is leftover curry for lunch, and Nick even finds a bit of meat that the children did not gobble up last night.

2. Just before bed, there is a flurry of excitement as the children open the parcels containing the advent biscuits sent over by Bettany's godfather.

3. Half listening half drifting off to sleep to an ethereal industrial track by The Unthanks.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Crossing the road, nuthatch and scone.

1. The van driver who flashes his lights and slows his approach so I can cross the road.

2. A nuthatch, in grey jacket and scarlet cap, comes round the the trunk of the next lime tree.

3. There are warm scones with jam and cream for tea.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Getting on with it, clear sky and going to be early.

1. I am out so early that I'm passing families on their way to school.

2. A day without rain -- a few bright stars and a huge moon tonight.

3. We go to bed well before we are ready and read until we want to sleep.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Wardrobe management, on offer and parsnips.

1. The knot of sleeves and legs in the bottom of Bettany's wardrobe is much less intimidating once it's pulled out and sorted into piles of tops and bottoms and dresses to keep or pass on. 

2. The satisfaction of finding exactly what you want on offer.

3. From somewhere unholy Nick has found a recipe for Mexican parsnips to help shift the backlog in our fridge without straying much from the cuisine he has planned for tonight.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Underfoot, teatime and evening plans.

1. Treading fallen red berries underfoot.

2. At teatime we have scones with cream and Granny's blackcurrant jam -- just because.

3. To our surprise, Bettany asks to watch the colourised Dr Who 60th anniversary special with us.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Dawn, flock and winter coat.

1. 'Salmon-coloured sky,' says Nick as he opens the shutters. 

2. Watching the pigeon flock circling the bowl of our town.

3. Drawing Alec's winter coat out the storage bag, I feel my hands warming up.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Loaf, supper and evening TV.

1. There is a loaf of banana bread in the tin for tea.

2. There is re-heated macaroni cheese for supper, hot and crisp from the oven.

3. Lying across me, Bettany laughs tss-ss-ss at The Simpsons

Monday, November 20, 2023

Autumn colours, practice practice practice and modeller.

1. Now the drizzle has stopped smattering and the sun has come out, the oaks on the common glow in their autumn colours.

2. It's grand when your children get great results that you can show off; but I value far more Alec's daily piano practice, and the way he rehearses every food tech lesson at home beforehand. 

3. There are streaks of paint in the bathroom sink and on the towels, but also a tiny wizard on Bettany's desk that is no longer grey.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Listening in, straight and planet.

1. As editor for this project, I haven't had much to do yet except listen and try to understand the concepts I'm going to be helping people write about. I feel like a small mouse nibbling my way round a very large nut.

2. Now both children are out of the house, I can quickly put their rooms straight -- picking up clothes discarded in the rush, straightening furniture and tidying away books.

3. In the sky right above the top of our road hangs a bright planet, encouraging me up the steep cobbles. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

In the crowd, fallen leaves and signed hardback.

1. Bettany elbows her way to the front, points me out among the crowd of parents and gets permission to leave. 

2. She is cross and has to pretend she is not enjoying shuffling the fallen leaves.

3. Not long ago I treated myself to a signed hardback. Now, sitting up in bed, I start to read.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Not work, semi-precious and stop.

1. It's early. No one else is up. I take my book downstairs and read (not for work, for pleasure).

2. At the market there is a rocks and minerals stall with tiny mushrooms carved from semi-precious stones. Bettany wonders if they might appear in her stocking.

3. I am tired of spreadsheets and mystery transactions. And so I stop for the night.

Friday, November 10, 2023

Soup, through town and wake-up.

1. I don't love the smell of chicken soup during breakfast -- but I do love Bettany's dedication to taking a flask of hot food for her pack lunch.

2. As we go home, Alec quietly shares with me bits and pieces of information about his walks to and from school.

3. For the rest of the day, I benefit from the wake-up I got from my morning dash into town and back.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Passing, leaf and things in the dark.

1. The rain radar suggests that the storm will pass soon enough.

2. A maple leaf like a broken star lies on the stair where Nick took off his shoes.

3. We walk home on a wet evening scaring each other with stories about things in the dark.

Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Starry night, passion fruit and glad I checked.

1. I spend a few minutes in a rabbit hole enjoying Van Gogh's Starry Night, which is the theme of the washi tape I've used on this week's planner.

2. I don't know why, but it's difficult to get hold of fresh passion fruits -- often as not, they're not in the delivery and I get a refund. But today, there are two of them, unprepossessing greyish balls that they are. Bettany likes them when they've had a few days in the fruit bowl to go crumpled, so the juice inside is sweet and concentrated.

3. Around midnight I remember and slip out of bed to look at the sky. I don't see the northern lights; but I'm glad I checked.

Friday, November 03, 2023

Rain radar, hols and sharpener.

1. It's school run time, and as the rain radar predicted, the downpour has stopped.

2. Marking up the school holidays, bank holidays and inset days on a new calendar.

3. A really good pencil sharpener.

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Above, runners and rain.

1. A sparrow on the fence looks down at me looking up at the sky.

2. The running club, by sheer weight of hi-vis numbers, forces the traffic to let them cross. 

3. The rain has started and we are indoors.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Coming home, phantasms and mulled wine.

1. The sound of the doorbell and then boys' voices as Alec arrives home with his entourage.

2. Half-seen things: a woman with a deflated dinosaur costume round her waist; a father carrying a sleepy pumpkin home; ghosts under damp sheets; the darkened lanterns in houses that have run out of sweets.

3. Warming up with a second mug of mulled wine.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Tribe, sweetmaking and getting on.

1. A roving band of teenagers is going up the high street ahead of me. In the centre, boxed in for protection, is a lad with a vision impairment using a cane to navigate. He also uses it to whack the ankles of the boys in front. They lead him round and round the metal columns that hold up the church porch before they go through the doors.

2. Up the stairs comes the scent of toffee -- Bettany and Nick are busy on the stove.

3. Occasional shouted questions about asthma suggest that Alec is getting on with his homework.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Make-up, box of chocs and music time.

1. Bettany carefully applying lipstick and an overstain to make it even more pink before going for her shower.

2. Nick reveals that a delivery came from Coastal Cocoa a few days ago that he hasn't told me about. 

3. Lying in bed catching up with Mark Radcliffe's folk show, we hear a song that leads us to a happy chat about our lovely holiday in Broadstairs, which was seething morris sides during the folk festival.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Piano, stewed fruit and dressing for dinner.

1. The sound of Alec demonstrating his piano practice to Granny.

2. Granny has left boxes of jewel-crimson stewed raspberries in our fridge.

3. Just as I am finishing work for the day, Bettany appears at my side dressed for dinner. So we pick an outfit for me, as well.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Inclinations, no argument and looking up.

1. To chase my inclinations doing work of one kind and another.

2. Instead of arguing with tiredness, my child slides easily into bedtime.

3. Even after we work out that what we spotted was Starlink satellites climbing up the sky like a row of celestial ducks, it still seems like a wonder.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Turning, exact and radio on.

1. From my window, trees singed orange by frost and shortened days.

2. The piece of parmesan in the back of the fridge is exactly the weight the recipe calls for.

3. Alec and I finally have space to sit together and hear the bonus episode of Yeti on BBC iPlayer.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Too warm, price wars and snow.

1. Really it's too warm for coats today and we should have left them at home.

2. Today I've been planning meals and doing a supermarket order and picking up a few supplies for dinner. Reflecting on what I've bought, I realise that I haven't had that moment of 'how much?' shock. Prices seem to have stopped rising; and we've settled into money-saving habits.

3. Now that Bettany has tried skiing, the snowy episodes in Ronja take on a whole new significance.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Leaf fall, how scary and stitches.

1. This week there are green-orange leaves caught in the water gully. 

2. He comes up to ask me how scary is The Haunting of Hill House, which he has taken the library.

3. I turn on the radio and sew names in a few items that are being taken on the year 6 residential.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Long shadows, nearly and worms.

1. Our long shadows fall down the road ahead of us.

2. It's cold today -- nearly hat weather.

3. In the turned soil fat worms are at work. With our gloves on, we can touch anything.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Handing over, knitting and listening.

1. Up the stairs come the sounds of Nick handing over a bookshelf that we don't want to a man who does want a bookshelf.

2. Bettany asks for more wool to feed her French knitting habit.

3. What is important right now is sitting and listening to music on the radio together.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Winter plans, time slip and the sound of rain.

1. Shoots of cleavers, sticky on my fingertips. Instead of hiding in the soil as seeds they have plans to overwinter in the green.

2. I am half-listening to Bettany watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It feels like a timeslip.

3. Even through my headphones I can hear the rain falling outside.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Mackerel sky, boxes and plums.

1. When I glance up, the high clouds have stretched into a mackerel sky.

2. Our kitchen is steadily filling with boxes -- we're moving some books into storage (aka The Special Collection) to make a bit more space at home.

3. I come downstairs early to find Bettany in a sulk because Nick and I ate the plums in meringue at lunch (in our defence, these plums had been in the icebox since Sunday). Because I'm down early, there's time to show her how to make more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Filed, technology and functional.

1. Filing last week's to-do list.

2. By some miracle of technology the recording I made at a lecture has been turned into a transcript; further miracles of technology allow me to search for the actual names of the people mentioned, rather than the transcription AI's guess.

3. I was excited to listen to a Star Wars themed sleep story, but I don't remember any of it because it worked so quickly.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Pictures because it did happen, small business and geraniums.

1. The photos from last night start to appear on the group chat (we went to a Columbian supper club with dancing until midnight).

2.Alec and his friend want to make cookies and sell them to people passing by. I like half-listening to them working out how to do this, and solving problems as they go.

3. I pot on my geranium cuttings. File > save as against winter.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Digestive, hardboiled egg and water.

1. Sinking a chocolate digestive biscuit into my coffee.

2. My hardboiled eggs have come out perfect -- yolks deep yellow.

3. Where I have to stand waiting, there is a rill beside the road and so all I can hear is sound of running water.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Forecasts, sunset and evening TV.

1. We've somehow failed at having an almanac session so far this month. I bring the books down to coffee and we check out the astronomical and astrological forecasts. There's an eclipse coming; and Neptune might be visible if you have a telescope and a good sky map.

2. As winter approaches, the place where the sun drops below the horizon moves into the frame of my window.

3. We lie across the sofa, both drinking fizzy water, watching Ronia the Robber's Daughter.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Catalogue, parcel and starlings.

1. Nick brings the Lidl weekly catalogue home at coffee time. We pore over the flimsy pages, examining the coming Eastern European week, and the orange and black Halloween offerings.

2. Putting a parcel in the post. The price has gone up to nearly £5, but it's still cheaper than taking a day off work to deliver it by hand.

3. A few starlings -- probably not enough for a murmuration -- taking test flights from the top of the tower.

Monday, October 02, 2023

Daisy, cookies and badge.

1. We don't have a lawn, and I miss daisies very much. But last summer a good Bellis perennis appeared in between the paving stones. It was such a high footfall spot, though, that I dug them out and put them in a shallow pan planter to see if they would do. They've made themselves at home, and I have high hopes for next spring. 

2. Alec returns with some of the cookies he and his friend have baked.

3. The gold back of Bettany's deputy head girl badge gleaming on her desk, ready for tomorrow.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Transport, showtunes and smooth journey.

1. There's something rather hopeful about a city so full of bikes that parents and children cycle together at rush hour. 

2. At the very back of this slow, near-empty train, someone is singing showtunes, taking requests and enjoying the unusual acoustics.

3. It's been a slow journey, but I pretty much walk on to a Tube train, and then on to a train heading towards home. I've had plenty of time to read, and plenty of time to think about everything I've seen and done today.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Sausage rolls, case and horror shorts.

1. The sausage rolls come out of the freezer pale and cardboardy. But 25 minutes in the oven and they are crisp, golden and tasty.

2. A friend has lent Bettany exactly the kind of suitcase she wanted for her school residential trip.

3. Another editor recommended The Magnus Archives podcast for its eerie horror short stories, and I listen to a couple as I wind down for the evening. It has the framing device of a frustrated and misanthropic archivist trying to make sense of a disorganised archive of uncanny experiences. The stories are satisfying and original, very much in the spirit of the not too horrible Victorian tales that I enjoy.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Geese, nails and tea.

1. Still half asleep, I hear geese going over the roof. Autumn is here.

2. Bettany paints my nails, and then I paint hers. 

3. I really was very ready for that cup of tea.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Flown, TV night and wet socks.

1. The fly with has been bothering me while I'm meditating for the last couple of days finds its way out of the back door.

2. It's just us girls this evening. Bettany lines her babies up on the sofa so we can all watch Red Dwarf together. But it's a scary one ('Quarantine'), so we follow up with a Mabel-centric episode of Gravity Falls.

3. A rather bouncy Alec returns from Scouts, boings up the stairs to see me, and bobs about the room telling me how wet his socks are.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Look up, fighter and falling asleep.

1. I'm looking in the wrong place. Both girls are up near the ceiling in Bettany's high sleeper. 

2. Games night. My reporter character is standing in the right place to shoot a depraved Nazi sorcerer (they're the worst kind).

3. I fall asleep holding my phone on which I'm listening to Doreen Carwithen's East Anglian Holiday and playing a word puzzle.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Disappearing, buoyant and shortbread.

1. Downstairs there are seats away from the air con, the loud speakers and people talking. I vanish into Mrs Gaskell's chilling historical novella, Lois the Witch.

2. A buoyant child bursts out of the audition, confident and content, whatever the outcome.

3. Even in the garden I can smell the shortbread I have baking in the oven.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Lyrics, biscuit and getting rid.

1. I've got some non-wordy tasks to do, so I can play music with lyrics -- namely Vashti Bunyan's sweet, otherworldly folk songs. They are like nursery rhymes from an alternate reality.

2. In the biscuit tin I find a jammie dodger.

3.The cardboard packaging that we've been storing for what feels like months is out in the garden awaiting the dustcart.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The let, manners and using the piano.

1. There is a holiday let in view of my office window. Watching people arriving and searching for the key never gets old.

2. Uncle Yoghurt takes a spoonful of Bettany's pudding and she has the good manners to ignore this.

3. Bettany and I assert ourselves into Alec's room and announce that we are using the piano to practise her audition piece. Over our la-la-laing we can hear him telling his gaming friends that we will be gone soon.

Friday, September 08, 2023

Word, improvement and pub.

1. Bettany finds a word funny for some private reason, murmurs it a few times and chuckles.

2. Dropping strawberries and blueberries on to a shop cake. 

3. Stepping outside in the dark, at the bottom of the hill and over the road the wash and flow of people having a good time spills out of the pub.

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Water on a hot day, free sample and out doors.

1. The sound of a bubbling fountain on a very warm day.

2. The pharmacist provides a free sample of the fancy face cream I was considering.

3. Listening to Bettany reading while doing a little gardening.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Almond cakes, iced tea and evening cool.

1. She brings soft almond cakes for pudding.

2. In the fridge I have a jug of lemon iced tea.

3. Sifting compost as the evening cools.

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Flat pack, ice lollies and helper.

1. From time to time, I am summoned down to help with the bed building.

2. At 4pm, everything stops for rocket ice lollies.

3. There is a lot of cardboard packaging to put away until recycling day. A helpful child appears at my elbow, willing to do some folding.

Monday, September 04, 2023

Break-up, autumn planting and in the park.

1. The sound of Nick breaking up the old laundry basket so that it can go out to the bins.

2. Pulling end of summer weeds out of a container, topping it up with compost and putting in some autumn bedding plants -- an interesting twisty grass, some lychnis seedlings with soft silvery leaves, a few scented pinks and some dark red geums.

3. In the park, towards the start of evening on a hot day, it's cooler and there's another mother free to chat.

Friday, September 01, 2023

Last, gift of music and a large box.

1. The receptionist notes with (I think) some regret that it's nearly the last session.

2. A lad comes out of the music shop carrying a guitar-shaped box, followed by a very pleased-looking grandmother.

3. Alec has the new desk chair he has been pining after. But the children are more interested in the box it arrived in.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Bay leaves, finder's fee and slug.

1. To pull the bay leaves out of the mince we are having for supper tonight.

2. I am promised a finder's fee for some snippets of news I've discovered.

3. At last we catch the slug that has been leaving silvery trails on the kitchen mat.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Back to base, the clean up and plan.

1. After lunch on an unbearably hot day, two office workers returning with boxes of ice lollies. 

2. Showing Alec how to scrape sticker residue off the outgrown bunkbed that we are cleaning up ready to sell. It's not a task he loves, but he finds some satisfaction in peeling off a long strip of Lego tape.

3. We have a plan for this evening: to lie in bed listening to music.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Spices, beetroot and snipping.

1. At coffee time we go over what Nick is making for supper, and I pick the herbs from the garden and locate the spices he needs. 

2. Slipping the skin off a cooked beetroot.

3.  Beside me, Bettany is snipping something from a magazine.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Circling back, familiar things and small repairs.

1. Our conversation keeps circling back to the bits we enjoyed about our holiday -- a couple of exceptional meals; getting out so early that the dogwalkers were still on the beach; our single sea bathe; an eclectic little museum; and lots and lots of resting in quiet, shaded rooms with our books and devices. 

2. That feeling of coming back to our own kettle and beds and garden (in the four days we've been away, the gladioli have flowered and the beans have ripened).

3. In our absence, the landlords have done some repairs around the house. Paintwork that previously looked a little scruffy is now white as new snow; the bathroom sealant has been redone so it's clean and fresh again; and the oven works once more.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Flora, radio and cooling.

1. To take Keble Martin's Concise British Flora and a cup of tea into the garden for a quiet sit-down in the sun.

2. Alec and I sit in the very warm bedroom listening to I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue.

3. Once the sun comes off the roof, I open the blinds and shutters and let the cross draught do its cooling work.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

On the common, shower and cleaning.

1. Out early walking on the common. It is looking particularly lovely, and rather pleased with itself in the morning sun.

2. A short rain shower, mid-afternoon.

3. My child is so desperate not to go to bed that she is learning how to clean the bathroom.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Epsom salts, puff balls and blackberries.

1. You need a strongish solution of Epsom salts for them to work their magic, and it's very satisfying to empty half a bag into the bath.

2. Among the leaf litter puff balls are ripening the colour of chamois leather.

3. Among the brambles, gleaming blackberries.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Looking forward, midges and on the sofa.

1. At the end of the afternoon, I have a herb walk to look forward to.

2. Looking up the bank at the thousands of midges dancing in the dusty evening sun.

3.  Bettany and I sit almost back-to-back on the sofa with our devices, playing the collaborative game The Past Within

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Tyler is busy, magic shop and teacake.

1. Since 2015 I've been waiting to direct Alec to the text game Lifeline so that he too can connect with Taylor, a stranded astronaut.

2. Today I walk down the hill to investigate a new herbal apothecary that appeared as if by magic on Castle Street. I have a good chat and book myself on to a guided walk across the common.

3. With my 4pm cup of tea, an orange-flavour marshmallow teacake.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Afternoon, chefs and suspension bridge.

1. Alec and I step out into the wet afternoon sun, blinking in the glare and sneezing at the smell of wet pavements.

2. For supper, Nick has made a chicken pie; Bettany has made a watermelon basket.

3. On the MOOC I'm working through, they show newsreel footage of the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940. The suspension bridge deck ripples like a ribbon (as the voiceover says), and there is some cognitive dissonance in watching it, not to mention the apparently calm demeanour of the motorist who abandons his car halfway over and strolls towards the camera. 

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Sign-off, lavender and practice.

1. My tasks today include two novel sign-offs. It's satisfying to see these projects go on their way.

2. As I am weeding out seedy plants from the front border, the scent of lavender around my hands.

3. There is time in the evening to listen to Alec's music practice and marvel at how, little by little with each practice session, he is improving.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Bounce, nest and line.

1. For most of our visit, out of the corner of my eye, the four children have been visible on the trampoline, either bouncing or lying in a heap talking about important child things.

2. In the old privy I find a swallow's nest, which must be fresh this year because the moss showing over the lip of the clay cup is still green.

3. I go with Alec to the greater barn where Uncle Tim has set up a slack line. It is anchored at one end to one of steel beams and at the other to a tractor that is swallowed up by the vast space. Alec can now get himself on to the line, and walk five paces.

4. As I open the rooflight, three jackdaws launch from the roof of the outbuildings.

5. Bettany calling out flower names as we walk down the lane.

6. Taking a last long look at the view across the valley, noting the positions of the hills, the hedges and the field walls.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

Coffee time, stuck indoors and desk pad.

1. During lockdown we got into a habit of halting everything for coffee at the kitchen table in the middle of the morning. I still look forward to my caffeine, biscuits and company.

2. The weather is so vile that I'm glad to be at my desk all day.

3. When Bettany is supposed to be getting ready for bed she is working away adding more data to a drawing on her A3 desk pad -- something she's seen today that she wanted to express or capture. 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Chop, bakery and recipe.

1. The chives, which I subjected to a brutal post-Chelsea chop a few weeks ago, are looking fresh and green again -- just right for new potatoes.

2. I have never seen children get dressed so quickly -- we're going to the bakery to buy bread and some cakes for later.

3. Alec has made 'nacho cheese' from a recipe he's found on-line and is very pleased with himself.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Fruit, through the door and pile.

1. Janey brings a tumble of fruit -- apricots velvety and blushing pink, apples, grapes and tomatoes in all the colours.

2. My small nephew pretends to squeeze himself through a fairy door.

3. Most of the children are piled into the bird's nest swing, holding on to each other and crowing and giggling and shrieking.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Xylem, yeti and shoppers.

1. I cut slivers of purple carrot with a vegetable peeler for Alec's sandwich. The bright yellow xylem is an expected surprise.

2. Towards the end of the afternoon, when I've hit most of my work targets for the day, I pause for a moment and realise I'm getting a headache. So I sit with Alec and listen to the BBC's yeti podcast -- which is very good indeed.

3. Nick and Bettany return triumphant from their day out in Hastings with a shopping bag full of dresses.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Nectarine, Nick's supper and finding a dress.

1. There is one nectarine left, ripe today, and I am the first one down to breakfast.

2. Nick has made a fish pie and a macaroni cheese for supper tonight, and he is very pleased with himself.

3. Bettany has discovered a red and white dotted dress in the back of her wardrobe.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Yellow/white, tying in and iced cakes.

1. To start with, I put a smear of yellow butter on the rim of the bowl for comparison. When the butter inside the bowl is beaten white, I know it's just right for giving a light crumb to my seed cake.

2. Very late with this task because it's been so wet, but I've finally got around to tying in the sweetpeas on the front fence.

3. I'm not fond of icing cakes -- no patience for piping and sticky hands; buttercream smeared with a knife blade is all I want to do. Now suddenly my daughter is strong enough to use a piping bag and do it all herself.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Decongestants, contented and cucumber slices.

1. During my breastfeeding years I couldn't take decongestants. I still forget that this is now an option -- what a relief it is to take a pill and relieve the pressure in my ears.

2. Our neighbour's baby, lying fat and contented in her pushchair, has a big smile for me.

3. Bettany relaxes in the bath with a face mask, complete with cucumber slices for her eyes.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Veggies, co-incidence and brilliant.

1. Nick has found a new recipe for peas and carrots to go with our curry. The cheerful orange and green are much needed on our plates: the chicken korma he has brought out from the freezer is delicious, but monotone.

2. One of those co-incidences: I'd been writing content about air travel after surgery, and one of the dangers was that the volume of wind in your guts increases threefold because of decreased cabin pressure. Towards bedtime, Bettany brings me her book of fascinating body facts and opens it on the page about why going on an aeroplane make you fart.

3. We watch a couple of episodes of the Fast Show -- with a few stops to explain Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall; unlucky Alf's swearing parrot; Tina Turner; and to discuss our disappointment that Brilliant Kid's ideas about the future never came to pass; and also for me to get over my shock when Paul Whitehouse complains that three pints for a fiver is a bit pricy.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Just for bees, catch-up and late at night.

1. Of course the new cafe -- called The Hive -- has insect-friendly planting, with honey bees nosing around us as we sit in the sun.

2. A quick chat with the man who brings the supermarket delivery.

3. Coming home late; the soft thunk of the car door; something night-scented in our road; Alec's face below the sash of his bedroom window.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

One more chapter, tonic and game time.

1. Reading just one more chapter to Bettany.

2. The chick-hiss of a tonic can opening.

3. I've had the solo game Wreck This Deck waiting for a few days now. This evening, I'm not needed elsewhere, so I begin.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Dragonfly, balloons and nougat.

1. Alec darting across the path trying to catch a dragonfly.

2. Bettany has drawn faces on balloons and they are leading their best soap opera lives, alternately kidnapping, adopting and orphaning each other. Our day is punctuated by surprising bangs and requests to blow up or knot more balloons. 

3. A bite of homemade nougat.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Watermelon, plant stall and painted.

1. This little watermelon is particularly tasty, and no one else has noticed yet.

2. We pass a plant stall with a donation box. Bettany asks for a little cactus, and I see no reason to say no to that.

3. Alec comes to show me the tiny details he has painted on his gaming figures.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

A change, during the wait and a lottery.

1. Yesterday I baked overripe pears to get them out of the fruit bowl. They are transformed -- sweet, firm and tasty instead of mushy and watery.

2. While waiting for Bettany's toenails to dry, I paint my own fingernails with her shell pink polish.

3. I have a little time this evening to tumble down a Wikipedia rabbit hole about probability and sortition, shipwrecks and missing persons.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Guilt, bookmaking and wave.

1. My neighbour swears me to secrecy about the pastry she is eating, and then we guiltily share some gossip but are caught by the friend I'm meeting.

2. I emerge, blinking, fingers gluey and smudged, from the little book I've been making at an art workshop (part of Tunbridge Wells Fringe). 

3. As I am waiting to cross the road, the bus I've just got off pulls away. From the back seat, the affable man I'd been chatting with about the view, his day by the sea, his recovery and his long journey home, gives me a cheery wave. 

Monday, July 10, 2023

Potatoes, even smaller and sweetpeas.

1. The smoothness of potatoes in the dusty earth.

2. The left-behind brown shells of dragon fly nymphs cling to reeds by the water. I draw one up the reed for a closer look. Its empty tail still articulates, and it clings to the ridges on my fingers as if alive. Pale mites run in circles over the glossy chitin armour plates.

3. The silky great-auntish colours of sweetpea flowers.

Thursday, July 06, 2023

In the house, not doing and escape.

1. There's a teachers' strike today and Alec is at home with us. I like knowing he is breathing and moving and working somewhere downstairs. He occasionally sends a WhatsApp asking for money or proofreading services.

2. I see a garden task that needs doing; but I don't do it.

3. Events conspire and I have a chance to escape for the evening to an open mic event -- Word Up at the Forum. 

3b. There is time -- just -- between supper and the time I must leave to take Bettany to the park for a practice on her new skates and a go on the swings. We discuss what I might read tonight, turning over the relative merits of the different texts in the open mic folder on my phone. She gives me notes and queries as I rehearse a couple.

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Show, cancelled and rain sound.

1. On a whim, despite our fairly complicated schedule, I got tickets for myself and the children to a circussy magical acrobatics touring show -- Splash Test Dummies. I liked glancing along the row and seeing my children leaning forward with open mouths, or little smiles; and other people's children so excited they were standing up. Anyway -- if they come to your town, make sure you go and see them: it's proper laugh-out-loud, gasp-out-loud stuff.

2. We come out of the theatre blinking in the light, and I find my evening plans have been cancelled so we can discuss the show at our leisure.

3. I sit down to read to the children, and through the window behind me I can hear the rain.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Other eyes, long and handbag.

1. The kitchen is full of homework and chocolate-making. My cousin and I find our way into the front room, which we don't often use for socialising and chatting. But it's not a bad space for just sitting, and I wonder if I can make more use of it.

2. At the cricket ground, Alec and his bat are long, and his shadow in the evening sun is even longer. 

3. At story time, Bettany is still wearing over her pyjamas the crocheted bag that my cousin gave her  today.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Parcels, stickers and honeysuckle.

1. A day of parcels.

2. I bring my new stickers up to show Alec and he selects some for his laptop.

3. Honeysuckle has scrambled over the willow in the car park and over next door's back wall. The scent lies in our garden.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Ohh, ten candles and tilia.

1. A very satisfying 'ohh' from Bettany as she opens one of her birthday presents.

2. Carefully jabbing candles into a chocolate cake and wondering how my youngest child came to be ten.

3. Noticing the scent of lime blossom in the park.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

From China, dance and supper.

1. Looking at the copy on a box of Chinese-made bath bombs and enjoying the 'that'll do' translation. It promises to 'soothe the senses of stress and anxiety'; and a 'downright satisfying-to-watch fizzing effect'. There are lots of good reasons to have reservations about buying Chinese-made goods from Amazon and Temu -- but there's this feeling that we are buying directly from smallish trading companies (judging by the often small and eclectic selection of goods in their Amazon stores and the addresses on the packaging), made up of actual people who maybe were at the meeting in which the boss baulked at paying for a decent translation service; and who thought to include in the box a cunning little plastic claw to open the bath bombs.

2. Watching Bettany with her little smile on the stage at the Do4Kidz dance school's presentation evening. And seeing the younger children performing the dances she learnt in years gone by.

3. Afterwards, in the midsummer twilight, we catch the bus back into town and have a pizza together.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Teapot, moth and smoke.

1. Tea from a large blue willow pattern pot.

2. We stop to look at a dead moth, luminous grey on the dark shaded leaf litter, weightless as a shadow on my hand.

3. The smell of campfire smoke in Bettany's hair. 

Monday, June 26, 2023

Strivers, drifter and the find.

1. Across the fence my neighbour and I spend a little time observing what grows well in our part of the world -- namely a covetable grass that has escaped from the garden over the road into a crack in the carpark's tarmac. And why Spanish daisies thrive down in the bin alley but reject our careful planting and nurture.

2. Digging around in the crate containing our marble run, I find the dried body of a bone white spider so light that it floats, hanging on a breath of wind coming through the back door.

3. Just after 10pm on Sunday, after a whole weekend of looking, I find Alec's bushcraft whistle-with-a-compass in one of Nick's dad boxes. He is examining  another stash of things that might one day be handy and doesn't witness my triumph. So I blow -- very gently -- to alert him.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Cheesy bugs, wild strawberries and birthday meal plans.

1. I lift a pot and among the iron grey cheesy bugs milling about is one the colour of rust.

2. Among the wet greenery, to find a few -- very few -- wild strawberries.

3. Helping Bettany plan her birthday food with reference to a unicorn-themed cookbook.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

What I want, Chalet School and even more beautiful things.

1. I take half an hour to read something that I want to read.

2. A friend who often sends me items of interest from his own researches has picked out some quotes from Elinor M. Brent Dyer's Chalet School -- because of course, the family is called Bettany. I realise that  our own Bettany has no idea that such a thing as the Chalet School series exists. She's starting to read more complicated books, and likes girl-led narratives, so I very much enjoy telling her all about it.

3. A most wonderful birthday present: a large old fashioned book, rather loose in the bindings, called A Thousand Beautiful Things by Arthur Mee. It's an anthology of poems, quotes and pictures. In the introduction, it says you could let it fall open at random and find something to enjoy. At bedtime, I have some quiet time to enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Chocolates in bed, a meadow and banners.

1. First thing, Bettany and I eat chocolates in bed because it's my birthday and why not.

2. A neglected garden with a fine meadow on the front lawn.

3. The first thing I see when I come into the kitchen is the birthday banners Rachel has put out for me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Fruit box, bells and snack for tomorrow.

1. My parents arrive with a large box of homegrown strawberries for us.

2. The Canterbury bells have come out next door -- both white and purple; and the hairy alliums, which we've been waiting to marvel at since they were planted.

3. Alec packs a piece of shortbread and a piece of flapjack for tomorrow break.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Rain at last, boldening and lifting the bonnet.

1. From under cover, watching the rain falling straight out of the sky.

2. With some support from Nick and Bettany, I'm helping out at Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival's closing event. Our contribution is to take over part of the garden (the under cover bits) at The Forum music venue to provide a space where anyone can write and display their poems. Some friendly people from Arts Without Boundaries have a go. This means so much because in previous years they've been shy about sharing their thoughts, writing them down and hanging them on the line. 

3. The headline act, Harry Baker, feels comfortable enough with us an audience to crack open some new material, and lifts the bonnet on the emotional engine that powers his sunny, playful spoken word act.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Workshop, grasses and fox.

 1. Zoom workshop. One participant has their camera covered because where they are, it's after 11pm. Someone reads lines addressed to their gauzy image -- but there is no response. Thousands of miles away, a poet sleeps.

2. The evening sun shines down the slope and through the various, various grass heads.

3. 'There's the fox.' And sure enough, there he is in the middle of the lawn, glaring at us drinking wine on a school night. 

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Tidy-up, pint and something for everyone.

1. Fifteen minutes with scissors, string and watering can make all the difference to the garden and to my head.

2. On a very warm day, after a bit of a rush to get here, taking a sip of my pint as I walk away from the bar.

3. The randomness of what poets bring to an open mic event. There are calls for revolution; mallard penises, caterpillars, spiritual visions, a donkey, teenagers and the Downing Street cat.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Foresight, scent of wet ground and listening in.

1. I've had the foresight to put on cold-brew coffee first thing, and at coffee time, in this heat, we drink it from tall glasses with a little milk and some ice.

2. The scent of wet ground from next-door's watering.

3. Poking about on Spotify I discover it has put together a playlist of folk music for me -- some familiar, some not. I'm rather struck by Vashti Bunyan (who had a brief music career in the late sixties, was erased by disillusionment and motherhood, and then sprouted anew in the 2000s and is now getting all of the respect), and by The Copper Family (who look like they've just come in from laying a hedge, or cutting a ditch). And of course there's my Lockdown favourites, Ninebarrow and The Full English. And Spotify being Spotify throws in some songs from Bagpuss as well -- because why not.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Voice, mango and sweetpeas.

1. At the door, unexpected, a pleasant familiar voice.

2. There's a mango in the fruitbowl, larger than three fists, dimpled like a fat lady's thigh.

3. A few scented sweetpeas in evening dress colours, stems wrapped in damp paper.

Monday, June 12, 2023

Not much, salad and knocking in.

1. In this heat, there is not much that can be done productively. We all do a little work and go for a little walk to check out the cricket at The Nevill Ground and the market on the Pantiles.

2. I remember a noodle salad that we had last time it was this hot; and Nick makes something similar with the vegetables we have in the fridge.

3. The tap-tap-tap sounds of Nick and Alec knocking Alec's new cricket bat.

Friday, June 09, 2023

Job done, fifteen minutes of quiet and Anne Frank.

1. The moment I realise that I could get this edit finished by the end of the day. 

2. The children try to get out of their bin day chores by taking themselves off to the park. We have fifteen minutes of quiet, before they come back, having argued.

3. To my astonishment, Bettany asks if we can read The Diary of Anne Frank next; and negotiations open with Alec, who is not keen on books about real things.

Thursday, June 08, 2023

Swift, grass and reaching the ground.

1. The children wonder what I'm looking up at, but before I explain that there is a lone swift sweeping the sky for insects, they've hurried on to something else.

2. For the time of year and despite the dry weather the grass in the grove is soft and green.

3. Here and there, among the shadows of the trees, red-gold evening sunlight reaches the ground.

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Baking, green grocery and mistake.

1. The flapjack I baked at the weekend is leaving the house in snack boxes and pack lunches.

2. No pomegranates this week -- but I'm very pleased that after scrolling right down to the bottom of the fruit department, I found two expensive passion fruits. They are Bettany's favourite and she asks for them every single time I do a grocery shop.

3. Two large pigeons flop down in the garden, see me at work emptying drought-struck pots and quickly pretend they've got somewhere else to be.

Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Bulletin, more work and herbs.

1. From time to time, a message from Nick about how the cricket is progressing.

2. Job interview. This feels like work that will sit well in my portfolio, and I will enjoy it very much.

3. Bettany has collected a few herbs from the garden to put in her pedicure footsoak. When I drop them into the warm water, the scent of lavender rises up.

Monday, June 05, 2023

Run out, good paper and buttercups.

1. Coffee time comes and we realise we have run out -- except then we remember there's a bottle of coffee syrup in the fridge. We drink it iced with shots of amaretto and remember the pandemic, when the coffee pot glass cracked and coffee was sometimes hard to come by.

2. I think I could get used to making up my planner each week on a pad of fancy Rhodia paper.

3. In the dusk, buttercups gleam like a dragon's hoard.

Friday, June 02, 2023

No argument, more shortbread and more writing.

1. The children take the rubbish down the hill to the bin alley without too much arguing. 

2. It's been a day of people popping in, so it's lucky I made another batch of shortbread this morning. 

3. I bring myself and a piece of flash fiction to an open mic night. It feels really good to be among writing people, and to be back reading again. 

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Print, woodruff and on my feet.

1. I am invited to marvel at and even touch a 500-year-old print that has just arrived through the post.

2. A carpet of woodruff in a shaded spot -- rosettes of golden leaves and white flowers.

3. The sun heat saved in the balcony's surface soaks through my socks.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Repair, tunes and shortbread.

1. In the dark garden last night, I noted a pleasant watery noise. But this morning, it is still going on, and it is less pleasant because from my desk I can hear it slapping on the gravel after a long fall from a displaced overflow pipe. Towards the middle of the morning, a black van halts on the double yellows and a man in gym kit gets out. He stretches out an extending ladder and makes a two-minute repair with plumber's tape. Job done.

2. It turns out that Alec has never heard 'The Next Right Thing' from Frozen 2, so we listen to it, and some other music and one thing leads to another; and now I have Blur's 'Ong Ong' as an earworm.

3. My shortbread works out all right -- probably because this time I've properly internalised the idea that cornflour and corn starch are different things.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Attention, mites and no longer there.

1. A mother exclaims with exaggerated joy, trying to get the attention of her toddler, who is balanced like a flour sack on a smart trike being pushed by dad. The trike bell sounds ting-ting even when they are out of sight.

2. A drab little tit bird chases mites not visible to us on the white back wall.

3. After a good declutter, I almost fall over my feet trying to step round a crate of books that is no longer there. (Oxfam Books, we'll be seeing a lot of you in the next few days!)

Monday, May 29, 2023

Growing things, scone and cherries.

1. Taking a breath of garden air first thing I see that the sunflowers seeds in Bettany's pots have put up their heads.

2. We discover that Alec's school offers a scone with clotted cream as a breaktime snack option, which seems very fancy -- but also, very understanding of what schoolboys really appreciate.

3. I remember last thing at night that there are cherries in the freezer that would go well with the waffles and chocolate spread the children have planned for breakfast. I go downstairs in the dark and put them ready.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Toadflax, blackbird sings and going over.

Cymbalaria muralis growing in the angle between a brown-painted wood gate and a white-painted brick wall.

Cymbalaria muralis growing on a white-painted brick wall.

1. Shout out to my frenemy toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis): a pernicious weed that quickly smothers a container and is hard to eradicate because it grows from tiny pieces of root and drops its seeds very readily... but also pretty with its mauve and yellow flowers, and it has a dramatic habit of growing straight out of an inhospitable vertical surface.

2. On the aerial two doors up, a blackbird sings for anyone who is listening. Two sparrows sitting just below mock it with raucous shouts of 'TWEET!'

3. Rather low, a vintage aircraft goes straight overhead, heading across the clear sky to the coast. It's airshow season.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Evening cricket, no-mow May and train coming.

1. Through the laurels, the sound of men playing evening cricket.

2. The grass is shimmered with buttercups and stands of grass heads in all their varied glory. I really appreciate no-mow May.

3. Then we run back because a train is going under the bridge we've just crossed.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Paper, snails and nectarines.

1. To my astonishment, they have A5 pads, unpunched and with no margins -- just the way I like them -- in The Range.

2. Snails, bothered by my gardening activities, wave their horns from the high places in the compost heap. 

3. It's the time of year for nectarines and peaches that are perfectly ripe and juicy to an undignified degree.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Passing through, cakes and drowned out.

1. A low sound from the sky: a helicopter flies straight on overhead, taking its troubles elsewhere.

2. At teatime, remembering that we have a tin of chocolate rice crispie cakes.

3. The TV's dialogue is nearly drowned by the birdsong from outside. We have to turn up the sound and draw the curtains.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Sparrows, black bee and revolution.

1. The sudden movement of sparrows touches our garden.

2. A little black bumble bee working round the alkanet flowers.

3. We have to keep stopping to discuss what's going on, but Bettany seems to enjoy watching Les Misérables (2012), which she's picked out for this evening's entertainment.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Early, golden light and foraging.

1. Bettany insists that we will be leaving early for school, as she wants her photo taken on the giant deckchairs advertising the new well water in the Pantiles.

2. To ride on the bus in the half hour before sunset on a day when the light is golden from the rain clouds massing behind us.

3. I pass a girl still in school uniform, walking her dog with one hand and carrying a bunch of grass in the other -- maybe for a rabbit or guinea pig at home.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Early, just seeds and float.

1. I was expecting Nick home towards the end of the afternoon, but he comes in time for me to make him a sandwich for lunch. 

2. The Cubs have a minibeast hunt, and a vegetable-related activity. But one lad just wants to plant more seeds. So I sit with him and let him get on, answering questions as required.

3. Willow fluffs floating in the evening sun.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Crack, underside and waiting to weed.

1. To be the one who opens a watermelon.

2. Lifting a slice of french toast to see the underside is perfectly cooked.

3. The ferny soft green leaves and little pink flowers of the wild geranium that infests our garden. In due course I'll weed it out, but for now, it's very attractive. The same for the green alkanet -- the bees love its china blue flowers, and even though the roots grow very deep and hard, I won't weed it out yet.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Ash leaves, waiting out the storm and afterwards.

1. Before the long weekend the nobbled branches of the ash trees were bare. Now they carry yellow-green leaves.

2. I'm rather vexed that a soaking is inevitable, but I do like the mixture of people crowded into the library vestibule, pausing until the storm passes.

3. ...and sure enough, there's a rainbow on the way home.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Last minute, May flowers and faded grandeur.

1. The small shop across the park always astonishes because it sells things that people might want at the last minute -- like ingredients for a full English breakfast, tomato juice and headache pills.

2. Turning into our gate, I feel satisfaction at the flowers: pink and white daisies, twinkly blue flowers on the alkanet, dandelions, old gold pansies, bluebells, London pride's pink spotted offering and even the cleavers has white blooms as tiny and faint as distant stars.

3. Bettany uses a little gold paint to apply some faded grandeur to her scarlet shoebox shadow theatre.

Friday, May 05, 2023

In the wind, black tulips and blue mugs.

1. Now the cherry blossom is blowing across the street.

2. I am very pleased indeed with the black tulips in the back garden.

3. For sale they have an artist's blue ceramic mugs with little hands at the base of the handles, giving them an appearance of determination and authority on the shelf.

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Cherry blossom, warmer soil and summer shoots.

1. To walk under a cherry tree bowed down with bubble-gum pink blossom.

2. When I push my hands into the soil to make space for planting, it's much less cold than it was last time. Warmer weather is here.

3. Shoots of freesias and glads poke out of the bare soil in their respective pots. Ready for later.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Bunting, over the road and spider.

1. Every time I walk up or down the street, there is more bunting.

2. The library's first floor window is on a level with the walkway over the road. Outside the flat on the corner, a man sits on a white chair at a white table enjoying the evening sun. 

3. Supper is briefly halted while I catch the spider that fell out of Bettany's plate. When I finally have it in hand, I realise that it has all along been clasping its own supper. I put it outside to enjoy its ant in peace.

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Promised rain, clay cakes and condensed milk.

1. We have left it late in the day to go out, and we will almost certainly be caught in the promised rain, going by the dark clouds and the rise in humidity. The shower, when it comes, is completely contained within the time we are in the supermarket. We walk home in clear light and air that smells of petrichor.

2. Putting Bettany's tiny clay foods into the oven to harden. Today's batch was three donuts and some avocado toast.

3. The shocking increases in food prices have made doubly welcome the treats in the red hamper we won in the PTA's Easter raffle -- this evening, a tin of condensed milk with our mandarins. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Space/time, my own hands and structure.

1. For the first time in ages, I've got a gap between books. So I take it very slowly today. Rather than efficiently rushing my content writing task, I stretch it out with some reading round to generate ideas for future posts. I pause to bake biscuits, go for a walk and do a little housework.

2. I've been digging around without gloves because I can't take out these columbines for transplant without feeling the roots. Now my fingers are burning from the cold soil's insults. I put my hands under tap and wash them until they are my own again.

3. 'Can I do that?' asks Bettany. I push the collapsing cardboard bakery across the table to her. In not too long, we have a plausible structure and Merida, Moana and a few space marines are drinking frappes and eating cherry pies.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Tipping, evening library and jonqs.

1. At the crossing a mother tips her pushchair backwards to make her daughter giggle. 'I used to do that to you,' I say to Bettany. 

'I know. I liked it.'

2. Nick has been gloating about going to the library after the tutoring drop-off. Today I've finished early, and it's my turn to go. I sit for half an hour by the window with an enormous art book that is far too big for us to own at home. Life in Bruges and Venice continues. People talk quietly. Someone plays the piano.

3. Coming in from the cold to a warm room scented with jonquils. Nick is not so fond, but they won't last forever.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Worms, return from the battlefield and lunch.

1. As I weed, small spring earthworms come to the surface -- just the right size for feeding baby birds. Hard luck on the worms, but think of them transferring nutrients from a winter of decay in the soil to nestlings that in a couple of weeks will be fully fledged birds of the air.

2. Not too tired and not too wet, Alec returns from his history trip and tells me about it in his school accent, which will have fallen away by supper time.

3. I remember to tell Nick that even a fancy ready meal for lunch is not as nice when he's not there to put it on my plate and eat it with me.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Old gold, copper beech and macarons.

1. Trays of old gold violas take my fancy: buy one, get one free.

2. Folded ready, the leaves of the copper beech are waiting.

3. To stack macarons -- chalky green, buff, ochre and beige -- on a bright plate with a few strawberries.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Missed, violets and no work.

1. There is a sudden splat on the pavement before the toes of my boots. From the oak branches twenty feet above me a crow launches itself, slow and dignified, into the grey sky.

2. Violets put out their faces on the bank.

3. I open the dishwasher to empty it, and it's still dirty.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Mocha, school run and keys.

1. Inexplicably, because though it used to be my drink of choice I haven't had one for years, I suddenly and vividly want a mocha -- so I take my notebook to a coffee shop and have one. It's delicious.

2. A kind friend deals with the school run so I don't have to take a chunk out of my working day. 

3. Alec asks me to play his piano piece so I can see what he's learning.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Industry, high/low and sauce.

1. Bettany is at home today, resting and recovering from a respiratory infection. I scatter toys and craft and science sets around the kitchen and retreat to my desk. Each time I come down, there is something different going on: bracelets decorated with stick-on gems; cartoons on the TV; a circuit to make an alarm sound; microscopy; pirates vs Scooby Doo. 

2. There's a chill in the air today that makes me wish I'd worn my hat. There are no highs and lows like those of an English spring.

3. A taste of the sharp Cheddar sauce from the children's macaroni cheese.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Spaced out, leftovers and five minutes.

1. When I arrive for my massage, there is spaced-out man at reception asking how to go about booking his next treatment. Looks like his session did the trick.

2. Nick arrives home and organises a supper that clears the fridge of leftovers. We've been in survival mode for a week now, and I've been throwing things on the table without much planning. But now we've got some space to think and breathe.

3. 'You've only read for five minutes,' says Alec rather crossly. But the next chapter is very long, and we are all rather tired so I decline to continue.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Pizza, long view and drying out.

1. A photo on WhatsApp to show that Alec has successfully cooked his pizza unsupervised.

2. To look out over a long view and compare it with my map.

3. It is so quiet that I can hear the water seeping out of the sodden bank. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

Hail, tartlets and raspberries.

1. I'm not happy at the thought that it's going to shred my tulips; but there is something unlikely about a hailstorm -- solids falling from thin air seems like magic.

2. Just as I am coming downstairs for a five-minute screen break, there's a tap at the door. Our friends have left a small gift of Easter tartlets on the doorstep. 

3. I can't think why my skin smells of raspberries until I remember that I helped Bettany wash her hair with new shampoo.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Purple tulips, washed bright and mystery.

1. Last year or the year before, I planted dark purple tulips with long spiky purple petals. These bulbs generally don't do a second year in pots. But one has come up again, and I remember how smart and stylish the garden looked that spring.

2. It will rain again later, but for now the sky is washed bright.

3. We watch the first part of Hugh Laurie's Why Didn't They Ask Evans -- idyllic setting; sparky romance; and great one-liners -- and I go to bed turning the mystery over and over in my mind.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Here I am, throwing a ball and on TV.

I realised a few days into our skiing holiday that I never explained where I was going -- apologies for that. But we're back to normal now (just about).

1. This time, I'm ready for the flurry of communications that mark the day after a long weekend. They used to cause me anguish because they disrupted my work plans. But now I've noticed them, I can accept the 'hallo, I'm here; where are you at?' messages, and even take control by sending out a few of my own.

2. Looking from the window of the bus on to the lower cricket pitch I see a man throw a ball for his black and white dog. The dog just stands there.

3. The children ask very enthusiastically if we can watch David Attenborough's Wild Isles this evening.

Friday, March 31, 2023

End of term, unboxing and send.

1. Bettany's dance teacher is wearing pink sparkly bunny ears.

2. The children's excitement at the unboxing of the enormous red hamper we have won in the PTA's raffle.

3. Hitting send on an application.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Fog, buzz and rollers.

1. A strange yellowish fog has settled over us during the night. It turns the view from the window into something extraordinary -- but I don't have time to get bored of looking at it today.

2. There's a bit of a buzz in the family WhatsApp group: a photo of my niece has appeared on CBeebies this morning. 

3. Bettany with rollers in her hair watches the apprentice.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Ready for summer, no waiting and not raining.

1. First thing I go outside to brush the mud off Bettany's shoes and my gaze falls on the blank surfaces of the pots I planted up earlier in the week with summer bulbs.

2. There are plenty of people clustered around the bus stop, which suggests I won't be waiting long.

3. Of course the rain has stopped by the time I rush out of the house in my waterproofs and wellies -- but at least it's not an uncomfortable, cold, dripping outing.

Monday, March 27, 2023

About last night, cutting and practice.

1. The pictures and stories from last night's party start to come in and bring a lot of pleasure to us with our hangovers.

2. Because of the price of meat, we've had to cut the lamb curry with a tin of chickpeas. But it still smells and tastes amazing, and perhaps the chickpeas make it a little more nutritious. 

3. The hesitant sound of Alec's piano practice, underlaid with his counting. I think I like this much better than any concert or perfected piece (which is lucky, because he will spend a lot more time practising than performing).

Friday, March 24, 2023

Planting in layers, waiting and winding down.

1. I realise that under the crocuses that are just now finishing under the driving rain I have planted crimson tulips.

2. It's a wet afternoon and there's nothing to be done but waiting, and nowhere to be but here.

3. It's been a busy, unusual day with too many moving parts. In the evening, once everything has wound down, I go back to work.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Our biscuits, new pens and daisy.

1. At coffee time, there are dark chocolate ginger biscuits. 'These are for adults only,' says Nick as we put them away separately from the family biscuit tin.

2. I clear out my gaming pencil case. Next month, when I've forgotten this, I will be surprised by some new pens.

3. One lawn daisy -- bright white and looking up -- has planted itself between the paving stones in our back garden.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Footnotes, tea and up the Amazon without a paddle.

1. I think I'm supposed to be listening to a meditation podcast but I keep getting distracted by the asterisk leaves of cleavers at the foot of the hedge.

2. Jo offers a wooden box of teas to choose from, which strikes me as much more civilised than our heap of boxes and plastic jars.

3. In tonight's game, we are making our way very slowing up the Amazon on a barge. It seems a very civilised way to travel, despite the rain and the heat and my character even bashes out an article on last episode's exorcism... only then we're attacked by giant mosquitoes.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Spices, yew pollen and grape hyacinths.

1. Going through the spices to see if we've got everything we need for what Nick is making for supper.

2. To pull on the branches of a yew tree and shake out the pollen so it shines in the sun.

3. In a pot of lank, straggling leaves I find grape hyacinths shouldering their way up like greenish blue mushrooms. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Street stories, cleaned and picked for the team.

1. Our neighbour describes the day jewellery robbers pursued by police rode a scooter up our street and into the park, flinging their booty into the bushes as they went.

2. After a morning of rain, the air is new-washed. When I rinse some plant pots in the back garden, the water shines and glitters and gleams in the clean light.

3. Imagine our excitement when we discover that Alec has been picked for the team in an away hockey tournament.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Little room, a good morning and our lunch.

1. We wake to the radio sounding out A.E. Housman's poem Loveliest of Trees, which is one of my favourites, particularly at this time of year; and particularly when I'm busy and feel I can't prioritise things like blossom trees.

2. It's a beautiful morning, clear air and bright sun, with triangles of frost where the gables' shade falls on the roof.

3. For no special reason, except that it's just the two of us today, Alec and I order in sushi for lunch. It arrives late and we end up eating it naughtily and in silence while he has a remote history lesson with headphones on and the camera off.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Meal plans, cancelled plans and filling my hands.

1. Nick mentions that he has filled the gaps in my meal plan for the rest of the week with recipes from a library book on Middle Eastern cookery

2. I'm sad and sorry that my evening plans have been cancelled -- but also pleased because I won't miss out on reading to the children and hearing about their days.

3. Debobbling a jumper is a tedious task, but it's mindless and fills my hands while I listen to the excellent golden age crime podcast Shedunnit. And at the end of it, my jumper looks much more respectable.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Forecast, without a hat and tea with lemon.

1. The weather forecast reminds us that these foul conditions are not forever: the wind is swinging round later in the day.

2. It's blowy and wet, but it's warm enough that I can go out without a hat.

3. My pot of tea comes with a couple of lemon slices. 

Monday, March 13, 2023

Skiing, poke around and cooking from scratch.

1. I have my first skiing lesson for many, many years. The instructor takes me right back to basics -- how to position myself, how to move my feet -- and it makes all the difference. I please myself immensely by fitting another turn into my run, and by getting almost to the top of the rise at the end.

2. To poke around the garden centre with my parents.

3. 'Mummy and I are cooking from scratch,' Nick says when asked about supper.

Friday, March 10, 2023

More crocuses, magpie and muffins.

1. On this chilly, wet morning when spring seems further away than ever, I spot more crocuses -- this time the white and purple striped variety -- reporting for duty. 

2. A movement through the glass draws my attention. The tail of a magpie leaves the frame.

3. I bake a batch of muffins by myself and without having to assist anyone or support them in managing big feelings when things go wrong (which they don't).

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Early snow, work station and mischief.

1. I wake rather early and am the first in the house to know that it has snowed overnight. When I open the shutters, bin men are making the first footprints. One of them is taking a photo -- but I'm not sure if it's for work purposes or because he likes the look of the untouched snow.

2. My new monitor stand is an upgrade from the old one. Once we've screwed it all together and clamped it to the desk, we marvel at how easy and effortless it is to adjust the screens.

3. While I am reading to them, the children share some stories of school mischief. Their reactions are a mix of irritation at the disruption, interest in the reactions of their friends and the teachers, and joy in the comedy of it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Crocus, very cold indeed and comfort.

1. Another dark purple crocus is standing guardsman straight outside the back door.

2. It's a bitter, bitter evening and I'm very glad I've got a ski jacket to wear. 

3. There's nothing to do this evening but listen to podcasts in bed among a pile of pillows.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Takeover, chess and re-reading.

1. Nick takes from my hands the task of choosing and buying a new monitor stand for my desk.

2. To be beaten by your own child at chess. Although I'm told I put up a good battle and used my queen well.

3. There is time before lights-out -- just -- to read a chapter or so of a very comforting book, The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

Monday, March 06, 2023

Nutmeg, scilla and catkins.

1. To grind a little nutmeg in the mortar and pestle.

2. Poking up through the dead leaves, a few summer blue scilla.

3. Catkins hanging from every hazel branch.

Friday, March 03, 2023

WFH, very pink and planets.

 1. The teachers' strike means that Alec is working from home. I like the occasional updates that he rockets breathlessly up the stairs to bring me. Less pleasing is when he interrupts me to ask if I can come and find the pen he has dropped.

2. Bettany tries on the brand-new bargain basement ski suit that my parents have found for her. It is very, very pink.

3. The proximity of Venus and Jupiter, glittering distantly in the duck-egg blue evening sky, surprises me as I'm wrapping up my day's work. I can't resist sharing the marvel of it on social media. At supper, Nick reports that it's been on the news.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Installation, found it and nearly done.

1. I meet some friends for coffee and we visit the new installation at the library. It's not a life-changing experience; but being there with friends is life-affirming.

2. In the last shop -- a local indie, as it happens, for max virtue -- I find the perfect hairband at an acceptable price.

3. With some pleasure, I see that I am two thirds of the way through this tedious book. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Forsythia, urban legends and raindrops.

1. To spot a smattering of yellow on the forsythia hedge across the way.

2. Bettany and her friends have discovered the joys of urban legends, and we are treated to the highlights during supper.

3. Bettany and I have cut out a lot of felt raindrops for her World Book Day costume. But now they are pinned on to the skirt, I'm wondering about the minimum amount of sewing I can get away with. 'My mother will do those,' says Nick confidently. 'Or some of them.'

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Special fried rice, that one bar and not seeing it.

1. I come down to find Nick and Bettany intent on a large pan of special fried rice that they have made together.

2. There is one bar that is troubling Alec -- to hear him try it just one more time. 

3. We don't see the Northern Lights because of cloud cover, but it is enticing to think that we might.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Equipment, gamers and coffee.

1. Quite suddenly we find ourselves buying brushes and model paints for Bettany.

2. Across the hall I note Nick, Alec and Harvey gathered seriously round a miniature western scene, tape measures and dice ready.

3. It's possible that it's because I'm very hungry, rather cold and definitely uncaffeinated; but the coffee that I order with my lunch tastes really, really good.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Nephew, hunter and orienteering.

1. I have Jim on my knee while he drinks his box of apple juice. It's pleasant to see my brother-in-law's expressions and features flitting across his face.

2. The others have moved on, but we spot that the chameleon, clasping a branch with its mitten hands, is eyeing a striped cricket at the top of its enclosure. We wait patiently for a few moments. POW -- the sticky tongue shoots out and the cricket is gone. 

3. Scouts tonight is a night orienteering course, all around a park in Tonbridge. I've got three lads (not Alec because being in a group with your own mother is social death), all of whom are game, but not too competitive, so we alternate between jogging over the grass and ambling alongside the Medway's many channels looking for some of the checkpoints.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Daffs, free ride and no fuss.

1. To spot a couple of daffodils in pots, still wrapped in their sepals.

2. The man standing at the bus stop with me has a vision impairment, so I let him know when the bus is arriving. He uses his bus pass to pay me on as his assistant and we chat all the way into town. I am entirely astonished when he correctly judges my age after laying a hand on my cheek. And I notice that each time I use an emotion word, his hand goes to my jaw to discover my expression from the muscle tension there.

3. It's a little late, but homework has been done without too much fuss, and so I read a chapter to the children.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Batter, flip and win.

1. Mixing batter by hand -- according to the notes on the recipe, this four-egg quantity is too large for the whizzulator. It doesn't seem like much work if I take it slowly and let my mind wander around an editing problem.

2. Flipping a pancake and feeling satisfied by the spotting on the cooked surface.

3. To achieve a comfortable win at Monopoly -- and playing with adults, so no need to worry about managing anyone else's feelings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

First day of term, out of the house and on it.

1. Once everyone has left the house on the first day of term, I sit down with my Fortean Times for half an hour.

2. I come downstairs to scenes of jubilation: after ten days of false alarms, phone queues and broken promises a courier has come and taken Alec's defective laptop away so it can be replaced.

3. 'Sainsbury's are here, but Bettany and I are on it,' Nick calls up the stairs.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Baking, music practice and better times.

1. The kitchen is a mess of sticky smears, used utensils and rainbow-coloured crumbs -- but Bettany has cakes for the bake sale.

2. To hear Alec firmly counting to himself as he practises his music. 

3. To watch Digging For Britain, and see archaeologists at work in bright sunny days. At this time of year we need a reminder that the weather will get warmer and the days longer.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Snowdrops, cocktails and parcel waiting.

1. A couple of snowdrops present themselves for duty in the garden: I'd given up hope of them coming this year. 

2. Our lunch comes with a free cocktail.

3. On our return we find a parcel hidden in the garden. A large hardback book: Nick's valentine gift to me. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Mist, board game and supporting information.

1. I wake early enough to wonder at the mist settling on the town.

2. There's time at the end of the day to play a board game with the children. It's a bit argumentative; and no one is sure who won, but we had a fun half hour; and perhaps we'll do better at it next time.

3. It's quite late, but we sit up in bed flipping through Alec's Lord of the Rings concordances to try to make sense of the The Rings of Power. One more episode to go. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Moon by day, round the park and stars.

1. This morning a whisper of moon hangs faintly in the blue sky.

2. After dark, Alec and I go out and circle the park for half an hour -- him running and me walking -- to get some fresh air. From the slope by the Compasses I see his stick figure in silhouette before the lights of Buckingham Road. 

3. Tonight, the winter stars arrayed for us to wonder at.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Baking, making and three chapters.

1. There's a smell of warm sugar and butter from the flapjacks that Alec has in the oven. 

2. Once again, Bettany has convinced us to help with a craft she has found on a Korean YouTube channel. This time, though, everyone knows what they're doing, and the work goes rather faster, with less swearing and no reprints.

3. We're running early, so this evening I read three chapters to the children.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Not much, penguin photo and catches.

1. Pots of muscari don't look like much at this time of year (not compared with crisp tulip shoots nosing their way up) but their straggling leaves are a welcome sight nonetheless.

2. A photo of penguins from my brother tells us that he's back at Rothera after a long season on Thwaites Glacier.

3. An author mentions in her acknowledgements a couple of very pleasing general knowledge catches.

3b. Both are poems this evening are by Eleanor Farjeon, who is one of my favourites.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Catching the bus, lights and in character.

1. I've given up on the bus and am standing in line for a train ticket when I see the 402 pulling up the hill. A brief, undignified run is needed, but I catch it.

2. To turn and look down the hill at the lights of Tonbridge lying spread before me. When he answers the door, Tim wonders if I'm looking for the moon, which is huge tonight, and keeps peering through the window at our games night.

3. In our game this evening, my character prefers to take photos, rather than piling in to help with the fight; and I get a style point for acting in line with her insatiable need to get the story.

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Terrarium, no more interaction and PHSE.

1. There is moss and compost all over the table. Nick is making some adjustments to his terrarium.

2. As he passes the table where I am deep in reading the landlord murmurs 'Hi Clare' and no more interaction is needed.

3. The children are having a good giggle and a lively discussion about the content of Alec's latest PHSE (personal, social and health education) lesson, which featured lots of taboo words.

Monday, February 06, 2023

Sellable, not for him and unsupervised.

1. We've done our best to clean up an unwanted but still usable school bag; but it's still slightly greyish and I have my doubts about whether the charity shop will be able to sell it. I ask before donating, as I don't want them paying to dispose of it. The volunteer almost pulls it out of my hands in her eagerness to give it a second life.

2. The baristas try to hide their laughter when Bettany asks if I'll buy a hot chocolate for her, but not get one for Alec.

3. We come home to find that Alec, completely unsupervised, has written a paragraph about his home, and translated it into English: that's a good chunk of his homework. 

Friday, February 03, 2023

Dawn, wonder pens and after nightfall.

1. 'What are you doing? Get back into bed!' says Bettany severely. I assure her that I'm just looking out of the window at the pink sky. I can't help but think of it as a warning to shepherds, though, and expect rain later.

2. I've seen these friction-erasable pens spoken of with a mix of reverence and wonder on embroidery forums. Everything I'd heard was true -- the marks miraculously vanish when I pass the iron over them. 

3. I bring Bettany's completed number day T-shirt upstairs to her darkened room. She is fast asleep.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Networking, sticky and pamphlet.

1. Even though I have a deadline today, I put my head into a zoom call for local editors. I'm very glad I did: freelance editing is a very isolating business. The work needs deep focus, and I can do it much better if I'm not tied by the social obligations of an office environment; but seeing live faces and hearing people's stories in their own voices always perks me up.

2. While the men are out, Bettany and I spend a satisfying fifteen minutes decluttering the sweetie cupboard by finishing some open packets and throwing away anything that seems too sticky, or that we don't like. 

3. At last there's time to sit down with a new poetry pamphlet -- Charley Barnes' Leaf-eater. I'd recommend it to anyone who is fond of dogs, or has experience of small children; and anyone who wants to see the winter world in a completely different way. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Four-minute shower, boys and nougat.

1. To achieve the four-minute shower presently prescribed by this winter's arbiters of virtue.

2. Far below me, through the white noise of my work, I can hear Alec and his friend hooting and laughing at the video game they are playing.

3. After supper, while the children are distracted, we cut a few slices off a piece of nougat and quietly eat them.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

All well, pigeon and ales.

1. A text message with 'All is well for now' news.

2. An enormous wood pigeon with ill-fitting feathers stumbles around the garden looking for sunflower hearts. It resembles a chaotic friend with a drinking problem who has arrived two days late, still wearing last night's evening dress, for your child's first birthday party.

3. The landlord quietly leaves on my table a heavy-bottomed taster glass of the pale ale he has just put on. It's nice -- light like unripe fruit and a bit different to the metallic bitter I'm drinking.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Tape, parables and extra person.

1. Gently removing the last of the painter's tape.

2. I'm cooking supper and half listening to Alec moaning about his scripture homework, which involves writing about the meaning of parables. I suddenly find myself saying, without really knowing where it comes from, 'Read the next couple of verses: Jesus literally explains the sower and the seeds, step by step. It's the only parable with an explanation.' I think that 2,000 years ago, the disciples must have shared Alec's feelings, and perhaps made some of the same grumbly noises.

3. A few chapters ago, the children and I noticed an extra character present in a scene and wondered if there had been a mistake. But now all is explained. It's very subtly done; and I hope the editor got the same pleasure as us.

Friday, January 27, 2023

Rain, productivity and showing things to children.

1. Raindrops like rhinestones on Alec's blazer -- he just caught the edge of the rain.

2. When I come to look at Toggl Timer and to fill in my work data for the day, I realise just how much I've achieved -- and just how tired and broken I was last week when I was ill.

3. To explain to Bettany something we've seen on Horrible Histories, I end up playing some Bee Ges videos. Does showing children things they've never seen before ever get old?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Porridge, fennel and drinks.

1. We climb to the top of Tunbridge Wells to see the famous view -- but the town's bowl is concealed under mist as thick as porridge.

2. In the mushroom soup that I have for lunch is the taste of fennel.

3. Bettany and I drink fancy orange juice topped up with soda water and all the ice we can find. Mine also has a shot of fennel vodka -- probably it's cocktail name would be Unfamiliar Screwdriver That Came With The Lamp You Bought Online.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Grey cloud, macaroni cheese and taxes.

1. After days of hard, bright frosty weather under an all-seeing sky, the grey cloud is a relief.

2. There are two trays of macaroni cheese for supper, as half of us are a bit under the weather.

3. ...and now my tax bill is paid.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Quick change, heads down and lights out.

1. Before I begin work, I glance out of the window. The world is very beautiful this morning, with layers of mist, and sunlight picking out the frost on certain roofs. Minutes later, it has clouded over; the sunlight, and the magic, have gone.

2. At the table with Alec, heads down over his English homework. 

3. Lights out at 10.30. We are both very tired.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Lanterns, raspberries and meat.

I'm very pleased to pass on the news that United for Ukraine has sold out and the profits of £5,000 have been sent to DEC. If anyone still wants a copy (£9.99 plus postage), I may be able to track one down -- just ask.

1. We break, bend and tape willows, and our lantern frames take shape.

2. With a spoon I pile broken defrosted raspberries on a chocolate cake so the juice runs down.

3. Slices of deep pink duck breast, cooked by Nick, to eat with our noodles.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Saturn, freezing point and snowdrops.

1. With binoculars, we get sight of Saturn just after sunset. The same sky has Jupiter, Mars and Venus laid out.

2. In the centre of town, the ground is wet with dew; on Woodbury Park Road, the night's frost has formed already.

3. In the dark, under the streetlights, a few snowdrops still stand, injured and virtuous, in the grass along Civic Way.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Heart, sea monkeys and solar system.

1. The heart on surface of my flat white. It's been a difficult morning, and the care is welcome.

2. Bettany's sea monkeys are now so large that they are visible across the room, bouncing around their tank of brine on their shrimpy business.

3. It is possible to see Venus, Jupiter and Mars all at once tonight. Nick says it gives you a sense of your place in the solar system. An hour later, Bettany and I go out to observe Cancer coming into view above the rooftops -- but it's clouded over. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Toad, falling asleep and cold weather protocol.

1. I'm late down to supper. Alec sticks his head round the bathroom door to tell me that Daddy's toad in the hole is spectacular and delicious.

2. Nick and I are trying to watch telly but leaned up against him under a blanket on the sofa, I am falling into sleep.

3. Owing to the cold weather, Nick has got out the flannel bedding, which is very comforting on such a night. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Last page, walnuts and winter quilt.

1. And quite suddenly I hit the last page of a notebook that I haven't been getting on with. 

2. The smell of toasting walnuts.

3. The temperature is dropping: to spread the blue and white winter quilt over our bed.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Adjusting, promising and flames.

1. The teacher steps around the class adjusting blankets so we are not cold in our practice. 

2. Next door already has a promising daffodil bud.

3. The blue brandy flames on our Christmas pudding. Alec turns the lights on and off several times to wonder at the way they disappear and re-appear.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Submit, eating well and stars through the clouds.

1. Nick has to stand over me while I do it -- but at last I submit my tax return. 

2. We have the fancy Christmas pasta for supper: striped sombreroni baked in tomato sauce; and for pudding Nana has sent four small ginger curd pastries. 

3. I'm not sure when on my walk it happened, but the rain has eased and now I can see a few stars between the clouds.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

No blisters, application and toastie.

1.  There are tree surgeons working over the road. I ask for some advice about the increasingly not small tree in our garden, and they sort it out in exchange for four cups of tea. It's a job that would cost me a long time with a handsaw, and a lot of blisters. It's done by the time I bring out the tea tray.

2. While Alec and I are applying for his bank account, I tap an information link which re-starts the entire process. When I start to apologise, he says it's not my fault; it's because the system isn't working. I thought this very kind of him, and astute.

3. At supper time, Nick presents me with a baked bean toastie.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Pillows, against the rain and gaming table.

1. A parcel of new pillows arrives. They burst out like clouds of steam.

2. It can rain as hard as it likes: I'm in full waterproofs, and I've borrowed Alec's wellies.

3. I am so astonished by Tim's new gaming table -- which he has been keeping a secret since it was ordered in the summer -- that I gasp at each new revelation. First the top lifts off; next there's a green baize playing surface... that could be lifted off to reveal a map table... and then there are extra little tables to attach for your drink and your notebook; and a special desk for the GM, too. The whole smells pleasantly of new wood and polish.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Earlier, front room and seconder.

1. I keep thinking it's later than it is and seeing the actual time is a pleasant surprise.

2. The pub this evening has the air of the front room belonging to a caring, nosey, cheerful, busy family who take a long time over greetings and goodbyes. 

3. Bettany hands me her badges --  including a brand new leadership stripe.

Monday, January 09, 2023

Escape, feature and lost works.

1. Earlyish, I leave the house for a massage.

2. The landlord is kind enough to check whether I see the smear of toddler handprints up our staircase wall as a feature to preserve or something that we would like painting over. (It's the second one).

3. While I am virtuously tidying I discover a whole stash of Alec's art from the last school year, much of which I've never even seen before.

Friday, January 06, 2023

Rose creams, nativity art and last days of Christmas.

1. They're only from Lidl but these rose creams are very good.

2. Nick says that for this evening he has an educational video about art depicting the nativity.

3. There is so much space in our living room now the tree is down. We will be finding things that should be in the Christmas boxes for weeks, though.

Thursday, January 05, 2023

Bulb catalogue, moon and later in the evening.

1. At coffee time, to flip through the deJager catalogue (with its typical botanical illo on the front) and make some planting decisions. 

2. Between the chimneys, behind a scrim of cloud, the moon. 

3. Nick returns from his hour in the pub and catches me setting out port and stilton. We drink and eat a little and discuss what he's been reading.

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

Door, poor weather and taster.

1. Hearing Alec's back from school knock.

2. 'It is so horrible out there that people coming the other way were nodding and smiling at me.'

3. Bettany requires that I take a bite of her Japanese snack to confirm that it is not the octopus balls flavoured one. I don't know what octopus balls taste like, though.

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Forward planning, art complete and TV.

1. We settle round the kitchen table with our coffee and a stack of month-of-the-year books and almanacs to check seasonal crafts, astronomical happenings, our horoscopes, racing tips, interesting and curious events, lucky bingo days and what we should be planting in the garden.

2. Alec comes up very proudly to tell me that he has done has art homework (drawing a branch with snow on) without making a fuss.

3. As promised by the reviews Ring of Power is a bit slow and unthrilling. Looks nice, though, and is exactly the sort of high fantasy TV I've always wanted more of.

Monday, January 02, 2023

Early, up and a good read.

It's been a while, and I didn't mean to be away from my desk for so long --  but I really needed the break.

Susan Norvill, who edited United for Ukraine, an anthology of poetry and prose in support of the Ukrainian people, reports that Boudicca Press has paid the profits of £1,750 to DEC Ukraine. I am very proud to have been part of this project. There may still be a few copies available -- let me know if you'd like one, at £9.99 plus postage.

1. Before the children get up and make judgy remarks we finish the bottle of fizz at breakfast.

2. The hopeful green of narcissus shoots shouldering their way out of the compost. Thank you, Anna. Thank you, Elspeth.

Cover image of Can You Feel the Noise by Stewart Foster

3. Alec has passed me one of the books I gave him for Christmas because he liked it so much. I start to read just before bed and find that I really don't want to put it down.

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 ...