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 ...