Monday, 9 October 2017

Odds and sods

A random collection of photos today, from inside the Above the River casa. The dog is getting damp on these dewy mornings. He comes in and curls himself into a ball, the better to dry himself.

On Saturday the littlest boy and I took him up onto the common to get the wind in our tails. Bertie found the most putrid puddle of what looked like cow slurry, although suspiciously there were no cows anywhere around. Oh how he loved it. He paddled, he galloped through, and best of all he drank some. Honestly, it was dog heaven. The littlest boy and I danced round the outside trying to head him away from it. It just made him run backwards and forwards through it more. The nearby golfers stopped playing for a while to laugh at us. I was yelling things like, 'YOU FOUL BEAST'  as I went, adding greatly to their entertainment. The littlest boy declined to have him sat anywhere near him on the way home. He was plunged into a bath with very little ceremony and soaped up with some natural, lightly scented froth of a dog wash. To be honest I could still detect cow for a while afterwards, but it was a great improvement.

Have a look at this chap.

Three legs, but still going strong. After I took this he flew up and off into the sunny blue sky, it was like something out of a movie. All we needed was a crescendo of violins.

I've been enjoying local dog walking, as well as the whole slurry on the common thing. I've been inducted into a whole new community of people and dogs that I only ever viewed from outside before. Almost everyone stops for a chat when we're throwing a ball and having a gallop round. We know all the dogs by name and I chat to neighbours I'd only ever nodded at before. I meet friends at odd times of the day and spend a happy half hour catching up while the dogs wear each other out. It's been a pleasant surprise. It makes up for not seeing people on the school run; now I have the dog I am reduced to standing outside of the school looking sadly in through the railings.

I am trying a little bullet journalling at the moment. Anyone done this? It's all part of the quest to be more productive and use my time wisely. And you know how I like jotting things down in a notebook. If there wasn't a notebook involved I probably wouldn't be that interested to be honest. But give me a pen and paper and I'm happy. Can't be without one in fact. I have a small one in my bag at all times, just in case. In fact I have quite a lot of things in my bag just in case. I emptied it the other day and found, amongst other things, four lipsalves (lipsalve addiction), three pens, two allen keys (scooting children), a stick, fifty biodegradable poop bags and a chunk of dried sausage. Prepared for every eventuality. Except maybe dog paddling in slurry. I'm not sure I'll ever be prepared for that.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

About time

see the boy and the dog?

dog at 40 miles an hour

rain on the way
We walked the dog to the top of a mountain. The one that isn't really a mountain, but more of a lump. The littlest boy and the puppy ran to the top of course. Then the puppy ran back down. He hit warp speed about half way, it was terrifying.

The littlest boy found things to swing on, in the manner of Tarzan. He tried to get me to have a go too. I usually do, but it usually breaks so I tried to learn from my mistakes.

The puppy went for a wild mud walk with a puppy friend this afternoon. I stuck him in the bath afterwards. Oh the mud. It is October indeed. After a day of racing here, there and everywhere it is a pleasure to sit down and see at least one clean(ish) thing. I will work on the children later...

Around here the week got more productive after the shambles that was Monday. But it's still a bit of a struggle to find enough time for the whole writing thing. I've been dreaming of getting away. A few nights alone somewhere. Imagine all the free hours! Home is the usual unending treadmill of stuff to be done, you know how it is. Or even a writing evening would be good. There is one in the nearest city, just two-and-three-quarter hours of writing with other people, then chat afterwards. Fellow writers! Peace to write! Of course none of it will happen, but I dream that maybe one day...

In the meantime I am keeping on doing what I can, where I am, with what I have. Which is a little writing, on the dining table, in between loads of laundry, puppy walks, mealtimes etc. etc. I know it's the same for most people. In fact many writers have other jobs and squeeze it in around the edges. I always find it inspirational and motivational to hear about it. It keeps me going.

It's much the same for artists I think. And those in theatre. I was reading an article about how little stage actors and directors are paid the other day. Nowhere near enough to live on, it's a real labour of love. I can't find the article offhand, but it was a real eye-opener.

I did a series of interviews with local artists a while back for a local publication. Without exception they either had another job or someone help with a second income. And yet they were still fitting it in, passionate about making art and developing and learning. Motivational as I say. The most successful, in fact an extremely successful artist, who works full-time as an artist, told me about the year of no television when she produced eight works for a national exhibition that she won an award in.

So I shall keep going, slow and hopefully steady. And try and take the frustrations of things around here that suck time away in my stride.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017


The puppy dog is looming large around here this week. I have writing to finish by Friday, but he is proving a big fat distraction. I threw an old chenille throw in the washing machine yesterday because he'd made it grubby. Went on the school run. Came back to find it had completely disintegrated in the washing machine. Honestly, you've never seen anything like it. The poor machine was beeping and flashing and had put a sad little message in its screen saying SUD. It probably wanted to say WHAT IN THE NAME OF GOD ARE YOU DOING TO ME but it couldn't form the words. So that was the rest of the morning gone, sorting out the hideousness of it all.

Today there's been garden digging, house chewing, oh, you know, all of the things that there are to be done in a puppy's busy day. I bought a new throw. He chewed it. Right now he's lying next to me on the sofa being adorable though so it is all almost forgotten.

What with all the writing and puppy wrangling there hasn't been too much time for reading lately, but I've been enjoying The Dry by Jane Harper. All that searing central Australian heat. Years without rain. Great atmosphere, pressure cooker tension. I'm also reading about forest gardening. A wilder and more natural way of growing. It's effectively building a little ecosystem where everything works together. I'm wondering if it could be implemented in a small way in the garden. What I need is a bit of land, an allotment or something...

I'm thinking it might be time to knit a nice seasonal scarf. This morning was deliciously damp and misty. I am programmed to start knitting when the weather reaches peak autumn. So far we have yellow and red leaves, dewy mornings, spiders, fruitfulness and nights that are longer than days. It's time, no?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

It's not pretty

There isn't much prettiness left in my garden now. The tomatoes are hanging on, dripping with dew or rain depending on the time of day, ripening oh so slowly. The autumn raspberries are small and fidgety. Pears are full and heavy. There's a spider in his web between the fence and the bin. He has until Tuesday when the bins need to go out. He's already done some excellent running repairs, possibly even a whole new web. All those hours of work, I do hate to break a spider's web.

What can I say about this petunia?

It's called Vanilla Raspberry Star. When I bought it it had a few flowers in the deepest purple imaginable. One or two of them had tiny hint of a pale stripe, but they were mostly dark, dark, dark. Fast forward a couple of months and it's absolutely covered in these mad gaudy stripey things. Fine if that was what I had planned, but it's in a pot with a deep red dianthus and a pink geranium (photo above the chillies) and to be honest it's all a bit much. One of those gardening surprises. I'm used to it now, but it's certainly eye-catching.

I was going to do some sort of fancy collage effect to tone down the pictures a bit but it seems that Picmonkey now require money from me for such things. I shall have to look elsewhere. Any suggestions blogging friends?

I have been writing like mad this week, in fact I should really be writing now but you know how it is. The biggest boy peered over my shoulder. 'That's bad grammar, you've started the sentence with a subordinate clause.' Huh? They didn't teach that sort of thing in my day. No idea what one is. I defended myself gamely. 'I'm going for a more colloquial feel.' 'You can't, it's bad grammar. Let me just change it for you.'  Next he told me that wormeries was not a word. I googled it. 'It IS a word, look, "Wriggly wiggler wormeries, Wormeries for sale, Worms suitable for wormeries", IT'S A WORD.' I need a room of my own.

The autumn feel has kicked in properly now. It's all apple crumble, muddy football boots and a damp dog. His short legs mean that his dear little tummy (can you tell he's asleep right now?) gets soaked in the grass every time we go out. I debated putting a warm hot water bottle under his basket to dry him out. I managed not to, but once it gets properly chilly you know I will. I'd get him one of those nice plug-in heat mats if I thought he wouldn't destroy it in five minutes flat.

We are locked in battle over the pond at the moment. Did I tell you about when he fell in at 11.15pm? We'd popped out last thing to look at the grass and as usual the frogs had started plopping in the pond at the sight of us. He was intrigued and thought he'd have a look. I went into the kitchen hoping he'd follow. There was a god-almighty splash. I ran back to the garden. There he was on the grass, dripping pond weed.

It turned out when I looked the next day that in scrambling out he'd knocked some slates into the pond. While I was putting them back I thought I'd might as well clear it out. This is one of my least favourite garden jobs, what with all the Things lurking in the bottom and frogs jumping out all over the place. I took out the iris which had grown huge as well as the water lily and put back small pieces, just two little clumps of iris in fact. Ever since then he has been pulling them out of the pond about five times a day. He was banned from the garden today, but had still managed to get a clump out before 7am. I've cut all the leaves off but it doesn't deter him. He hasn't beaten me yet though. Every time he pulls them out, I put them back in. Who will win? As we used to say in the casino, place your bets please.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Monday blues

Urgh, what a Monday. One of those days when it all goes wrong. Oh, nothing monumental, and I feel like a spoilt diva complaining, but I woke up in a grump and now a whole day of unproductiveness has gone by and I'm in even more of a grump.

Spent the morning wrestling with an email problem and got absolutely nowhere. You know that point when you want to throw the laptop through the plate glass window.

The dog was annoying ALL DAY. Running round the garden dragging the clean washing through the mud. Getting his paws wet, then coating them in earth and running through the kitchen TWICE, once straight after I'd cleaned up from the first time. The morning dog walk did not go well. He doesn't like to Walk Nicely, he would rather do that demented spaniel thing of running about getting under my feet, sniffing everything and trying to eat all the litter.

I gave up on the writing and put up a towel rail instead. Turns out it's not quite straight. This sort of thing matters more than it should to me I'm afraid. I opened a new phone, but it has to be sent back. I taped up a box of papers for the courier with the lable inside. I stood in something nasty (both shoes) while chasing the dog round the garden. The washing got soaked in a sudden shower. Oh I could go on but I won't. It sounds ridiculous now I've written it down and I feel like I'm standing here stamping my foot. I am pulling myself together immediately and tomorrow I shall be a completely different, lovely, patient and good-natured person.

Any tips for unslumping oneself?

Photos from a great afternoon up on the common running about the place with the dog and playing happy imaginative games.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Sun on our noses

that moment when the sun comes out
In between the showers there's still a breath of warmth and sunshine. The bees are making the most of it, visiting the cosmos, always the cosmos, and the dahlias. There a geranium I'm in love with and I want to save it for next year.

It's called Tomke I think. I just adore that deep red colour in the garden, it really speaks to me for some reason.

I'm a big fan of mending things about the home. The hanger in my ancient peg bag broke. I couldn't bear to part with this fantastic vintage flowery fabric. What would I replace it with? Some plastic basket from China? It wouldn't be the same.

So I stitched on a bit of ribbon. It does the job, hopefully it will last another decade or two...

Here's the outtake with a puppy nose in the picture.

He likes to be wherever I am, doing whatever I'm doing. Even if he's sleeping he'll get up and follow me into the garden to make sure he doesn't lose me. If I pop out for an hour he greets me as though I've been away for a month. Every time.

He is very keen on his pheasant. It must awaken some deeply rooted drive to pick up limp things and carry them around. We found a dead guillemot on the beach on holiday (a big seabird). I had images of him trying to bring it home with him. Kept him well away.

As he grows he's become a bit barkier. At night he feels it his duty to warn us of anyone who might be passing or chatting or loitering. And he's very vigilant when it comes to reflections in the window. Will he ever work out he's looking at himself??? Anyway, he takes it all very seriously.

On the subject of seabirds and creatures getting into scrapes, CT has alerted me to two separate seagull incidents in South Wales. They both fell into curry and turned bright orange. This seems a bit of a strange coincidence. Is something going on that we don't know about? Here and here should you need to see pictures. If you can't view it, just imagine a big white bird soaked from head to toe in tandoori sauce. It seems like something that would happen in one of Malcolm Pryce's Aberystwyth novels (Last Tango in Aberystwyth etc. etc.). Can anyone shed light?

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Above the River ethos

I seem to be short of photos at the moment. There are none from the weekend and there are none from this week so far. Maybe because I haven't been anywhere very exciting. Life can be a bit like that sometimes can't it. It would have been fun taking skateboarding photos at the skatefest at the weekend, but we didn't go - puppy, rain, no car, six hours of standing in said rain with said puppy etc. In the end the sun shone, but it was too late and we missed it. And now of course it's dark. Once the sun comes up tomorrow I'll take a photo of a mug or something just to have a recent picture. It doesn't feel quite right otherwise. The above picture is of Bristol Central Library, the bit where you can sit quietly and work. I used to go there when I was doing my law degree. Now I'd go there and write if I had a chance. There's something energising about being somewhere like that. The quiet swirl of thoughts and curiosity. Everyone beavering away at bettering themselves or creating or planning. Surrounded by all that knowledge and information. It's all there.

I was going to do a Day in the Life post but I failed to take photos. It was a bit of a failure of a day in some ways anyway. Zero work accomplished, but I do have a clean and tidy house, almost nothing in the laundry pile, food in the fridge and I finally got an electrician to come and sort out a phone thing and a dodgy socket. I told him, It fizzes and cuts out a bit and one of the prongs gets really hot, but I find if I kick it hard the power comes through again. He looked alarmed at the recklessness of it all. Later on I had a conversation with the littlest boy on the way home from school. A boy was threatening to jump off a high wall. Girls were screaming and worried he would break a leg.

Littlest boy: Girls are like that. They're so sensible, they don't like anything wild and crazy. 

Me: I wasn't, I liked wild and crazy. 

Littlest boy: I'm like you then. But you're not wild and crazy now.

Me: (with a touch of melancholy): No, I'm all grown up now.

I guess it's his turn to do the crazy stuff now. And I can be a girl and worry about it all.

I picked up a Home School Agreement for him to sign yesterday. It's basically a page setting out what the school expects from him and me and what they will provide in return.

Me: Can you sign this baby, it's just the Home School Agreement?

Littlest boy: Can I read it first?

[This is the child of lawyers indeed.]

Me: Okay.

[Pause while he reads it carefully.]

Littlest boy: What does ethos mean?

Me: Um, oh, you know, what the school would like to do that is, um, good, and, um, that sort of thing...

Littlest boy: Do I have to sign it?

[Awkward squad - that's from me I fear.]

Me: Well, they'd like you to, it's your education agreement with them.

Littlest boy: What if I don't agree with it, it's like they're forcing me practically.

Practically is one of his favourite words. Probably gets that from me as well. The form disappeared. I'm assuming he signed it, but maybe he's returning it for further negotiation. Perhaps he has an issue with their ethos, particularly after I explained it so beautifully.

So that's all from around here. No pictures, no adventures and a damp squib of a day. The Above The River ethos if you like. I have a load of writing to do so I have very high hopes for the rest of the week but of course there will still be no pictures and precious few tales of derring-do. I am making a note to have an exciting weekend.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

A little light yarn bombing

Discovered this yarn bombing in deepest Pembrokeshire while looking for a chippy, you know how it is. I managed to snap a few quick pictures before I had to run to keep up. I always seem to be taking really quick photos then hurrying along, trying not to get left behind.

The hare is particularly lovely isn't he. And the Queen's Guards, I like them a lot. We have a saying in this house when someone's in our way which comes from a silly little video of a hapless tourist getting in the way of the real Queen's Guards. He's milling around outside Buckingham Palace as the Guards approach. His wife says to him, "They're coming through Derek, mind. Mind. MIND." Derek doesn't grasp it at all and barely moves. The Queen's Guards come marching through him and he goes flying. When we first discovered it the boys re-enacted it quite a bit in the living room until some people were on the floor in pain. So now we just try to do the words. "Coming through Derek, MIND," whenever we need to get past each other.

September is truly here. It's been a weekend of mud and showers. On Saturday the middle boy actually lost a trainer in thick mud. He went to a fishing competition and was trying to get some water out of the lake apparently. The mud sucked his trainer off and by the time he got someone to help him the mud had closed over the trainer and it was lost forever.

Today was all football boots and wellies and the dog galloping through wet grass until he looked like a drowned rat. I took him for a final walk as the sun set. It was lovely to get out for a moment's peace and quiet and feel the wind blowing in my hair. Although to be fair it had been blowing in my hair most of the day, but combined with the peace and quiet it felt different somehow. Lights were coming on in people's houses and it all looked cosy and Sundayish. Bertie had a gallop with a friend and has been a nice puppy ever since. As opposed to earlier when he was less nice and stealing the washing, chewing the house and generally moving from one naughty thing to the next.

When I got home the other half was on the phone. Some lovely person had found the middle boy's missing trainer from deep in the mud and it will be returned to us. A result no? I rescued the other one from the bin and crossed New Trainers off the to-do list. Happy.