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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, ex...