Sunday, 20 August 2017

Summer books

A little summer reading. A light novel for carrying around and dipping into whenever I have a spare minute. Although it's actually quite heavy to carry. I like to have a paperback in my bag for those occasional quiet moments. In fact I've just about finished it now and I think I'll read 'Love, Nina' next. I've seen mixed reviews but I shall give it a go.

The novel outlining book is a good one. I often have ideas as I read through it. And in fact I've been reading that and making outlining notes more than I have been reading.

I'm reading 'Northern Lights' to the children. It's one of my favourite books and I've waited a long time for them to be ready for it. I really didn't want them to have it too soon, before they were ready, and not enjoy it. But they're loving it, and I'm loving re-reading it. Philip Pullman is one of the best storytellers ever, I am such a HUGE fan. He has that magic touch.

Finally, Nigel is there helping me with the fruit glut. Mostly figs at the moment, but apples and pears will be along shortly. No-one eats the figs except me and I can't keep up. One a day is plenty really. Nigel has a few suggestions, but I still can't interest the others in them, even in a tart or with a good cheese. I just eat them raw. I prefer them just before they're perfectly ripe, with a little bit of a fresher taste and texture. If I had a dehydrator no doubt I could dry them for Christmas. Maybe Santa will bring me one.

How is everything with you? Enjoying these summer days I hope. They do seem to evaporate with very little to show for them except a light dusting of sand everywhere, scraped knees and a hundred outside adventures. As it should be. Tell me all, and any summer reading I should know about. CJ xx

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Me and m'puppy

'Get a photo of me with my puppy.'

Littlest boy: 'He's MY puppy.'

'Okay, get a photo of me with your puppy. Quick, there are ants on here. Hundreds of them.'

'Mum, there are THOUSANDS of them.'


Dog jumps down and runs away.

'Did you get one?'

'I got one after he jumped down.'

Catches dog.

'Quickly, okay, just take one quickly. Well, take a few because, you know, I won't look good in most of them.  ...   Have you taken one yet?  ...  TAKE THEM NOW, JUST TAKE THEM NOW.'

Dog runs off. Mother runs off shaking out t-shirt.

It's a really good bench no? Just had to have a photo on it, ants notwithstanding.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

With the wind in our ears

summer lunch from the garden

chocolate cake

It turns out that puppies are surprisingly hard to photograph. All that wild unpredictable motion. Brown ones are especially tricky. We took him on his first big outing today, up to the common. All that space. All those dogs. Grass higher than his head. Oh it was exciting. Seeing him galloping along with the wind in his tail having fun is very satisfying. I think the whole dog thing will grow on me. Just as soon as I've had the phone re-cabled...

We've been out and about in between showers, scooting and skating and puppy walking and even a spot of uniform buying. I'm trying to get that tackled early on to get it out of the way. Swimming has been a big hit this summer. Might be something to do with Adam Peaty. I tend to sit and watch, or to be more accurate not watch. I do a bit of writing or reading. It really is quite a luxury not to have to hover over the children all the time these days. A spot of peace! I try and use the time wisely. A little planning for the novel that I mentioned. Thank you for all of your lovely supportive comments, and for saying you'd read it, you are wonderful. Best write it now then.

Have a lovely Sunday. I shall be busying around doing the usual home / dog / garden / kitchen / children things. And trying to squeeze in a bit of writing time when no-one is looking and it's all peaceful. Might even get a whole five minutes. CJ xx

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Knitting a novel

We're still deep in puppiness here at the moment. If it goes quiet I jump up and shout 'Where IS he?' in a great panic over what he might be up to. I actually lost him this morning. He was herded the wrong way by a miniature schnauzer that he was too scared to pass and suddenly decided I must be off in the opposite direction and scampered off to find me. I had to sprint past peaceful Sunday morning back gardens shrieking his name in the exciting falsetto voice that the puppy training lady says they respond best to. He stopped in the end when he found a Jack Russell that he wanted to jump all over.

When I say I was sprinting, it was more of an uncomfortable flapping lollop. It felt as if I was running through treacle. Makes me think I need to work on my fitness a little. Early morning running again? I don't know how I stopped. Although of course now I will have to sneak out past the puppy. I'll give it some thought...

I'm also giving some thought to a novel idea I have. Not a novel idea, as in exciting or new,  I don't have any of those. But more of a fiction story thing. I have a rough plot and lots of ends and threads. They need to be woven together in some sort of order, neatly and coherently. I'm still doing non-fiction writing, but I'd like to write some fiction too.

I think I'm the sort of writer who likes to have it all planned out first. I need to know what everyone's going to be doing and work out the twists and turns. As I say, I have a whole ball of ideas. Some of them are even written down. But they need to be connected and the ends worked in neatly. It's a bit like knitting no? All of those individual stitches. Different strands being pulled together to make a pattern. No holes. And slow progress, row by row, until suddenly, one day, there's a whole thing. My knitting record isn't great, except for non-wearable items like blankets. But I've never let it stop me. I have a huge amount of optimism. One day I might pull it off, you never know.

I shall spend the day tackling the post-camping laundry mountain (only one child went away, but still, you know how it is) and thinking about threads and how to tie them all together. Wish me sunshine and good ideas.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

All the summer things

Life here has been passing in a glorious summer blur of sweet peas, blueberries, sun, watering cans, bees on herb flowers, green beans, raspberries, ice-cream, skies of every colour, long golden evenings, cricket, snatched moments lost in a good book, butterflies, clover flowering in the lawn and puppy dogs' tails.

Did I mention cricket? Six games in seven days the other week, with training on the seventh. But it's been lovely, a deckchair in the evening sunshine, you know the sort of thing. It's a short but intense season, all but over now. People are talking about the start of football training. I'm holding on to the summer for the next few weeks.

On the hottest day we went to the outdoor pool which was lovely.

In the garden I've been press-ganging the children into blueberry picking. The biggest boy was horrified to find once you've done it, it all needs doing again three days later. I've been making Nigel Slater's blueberry "muffins". The quotes are all important apparently - they're cakier than muffins, although to be honest I can't tell the difference. I might try this one next, I'm a big fan of almonds in cakes.

The biggest boy and I did our bird survey down by the river the other day. I spotted a common scoter all by myself which has elevated my status no end. I also found one of those helium balloons in the hedgerow. They're such a menace, especially the ones that are released deliberately and end up causing trouble for animals and wildlife. It's just littering.

Rant over. How is your summer going? We have another week of school here, but then we're free. We can't wait.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Alpha dog

no dog here; just a couple of cushions

It's felt like the onset of winter today. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but I did have to wrap up in several layers this morning and right now I'm seriously considering a hot water bottle. Summer was glorious though wasn't it. The sudden plummet in temperature has made me feel a bit peculiar though. Should I be knitting? Laying down fat for winter? Or replacing the flipflops that the dog destroyed? Maybe all three to be on the safe side.

The cricket season is pressing on at full throttle. I'm quite enjoying it in fact. I take a chair and have a nice read for half an hour while they warm up or mill around or whatever it is they do before the match. Then I stare into the middle distance and clap from time to time and listen to the internal voices. All very calming. It does go on and on though.

A dog savvy friend came round yesterday and within minutes had Bertie doing exactly what she wanted. It was poetry in motion, honestly. She was the alpha dog and he was bottom of the pack. Turns out the key is a firm hand and a bag of goat's cheese cubes. Of course it's not quite successful when I do it, and the rest of the family all have their own thing going on, so it can be a bit confused with occasional shouting (at each other, not the dog) but for one glorious moment there I thought, I can do this, I AM alpha dog. Well, we'll see.

He was officially allowed out today, so after school the littlest boy and I took him for a spin round the block. It went better than I imagined it would, Bertie was actually keen to keep going in the same direction most of the time. I managed to let the littlest boy have the lead the whole way round despite being in a state of total panic that he would drop it and that would be the end of it all. Brownie point for me I think. I am still very anxious about it all. No doubt I will wake up at 4am imagining the worst. What is it about 4am? The very blackest of thoughts emerge don't they? I try very hard not to give them head space and go to an imaginary happy place instead. Goodness, am I sounding slightly barking today? I have a feeling I am. I think I have a cold coming, plus going from summer to winter in the space of three days has all been very discombobulating.

How are you faring? Those of you in sweltering corners of the world should head for England instantly, it is all deliciously cool here. I'll get the kettle on. CJ xx

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Being a tree

managed to grow my own standard bay tree from a rooted cutting

the roses? no, that wasn't me

oh, well, okay, maybe it was me then

I'm taking a deep breath as I sit down to chat to you. Dog ownership is a thing of ups and downs I'm finding. But right now he's asleep. In a highly illegal spot on the sofa, but I am ignoring that for the sake of a little peace. You will of course recall how fond I am of a little peace. The sofa he is on is dark brown, with a mid-brown sheepskin on it (called Larry). Bertie jumps on when he thinks no-one is looking and flattens himself out in the middle of Larry and concentrates on being invisible. He looks up just by moving his eyes, not his head, all the better to remain undetected.

He is incredibly bitey, and his favourite person to bite is the littlest boy. We have tried all the things you are supposed to do: yelping - we really have perfected our yelps - standing like a tree or alternatively going limp. The biggest boy and I laughed so much one evening trying to go limp as a small rabid dog tried to tear us limb from limb. He was growling and shaking and sinking his teeth all the way in and I was yelling, "Go limp, just GO LIMP!" I don't remember the last time I laughed so much. I have a feeling it was verging on hysteria.

Being a tree is occasionally successful, but the littlest boy is unable to stop himself from backing away and trying to pick his feet up out of the way. Of course this is the most exciting thing possible to Bertie and he attacks all the more. This morning he tried entertaining him in the garden by blowing bubbles - a suggestion in his Puppy Training For Kids Book. Bertie bit his ankle and he promptly tipped the entire pot of bubble mixture all down his pyjamas. I thought it had gone over the dog for a moment and had visions of having to rinse it all out.

Anyway, it's hard work, but I'm sure you all know that already, you don't need me to tell you. I have not been the most patient person. I am feeling slightly fraught by the fact that I don't seem to get anything much done each day, and it's making me feel a bit overwhelmed. Oh, it will pass, I know, and I shall miss his giant-pawed puppiness when it's gone.

I drafted in the biggest boy to water the garden for me this evening. After he had finished the earth was still completely bone dry. Sigh. It's been done properly now (middle boy) and some small semblance of order is fleetingly here.

Are all enjoying the summer weather? I particularly like being able to be outside first thing and last thing without a cardigan. That doesn't happen often. Enjoy the rest of the week.