Friday, 7 August 2020

Gondolier school









I'm finding it hard to believe it's August. Everything is still a bit surreal. My strict news diet (reading the headlines and the odd articles once a day) means I am sometimes surprised anew by it all. It still seems to be the main topic of conversation so often, which is understandable, but I'd quite like to talk about something else.

The articles I read are usually on other things. The fish on the Miami Bay webcam called Oval who has no tail, the sniffer dog who got to sit in the Speaker's chair and Elon Musk's tweet, 'Aliens built the pyramids obv'. Which set me to wondering how it is that people who are clearly absolutely barking get to be so rich and powerful.

The littlest boy is toying with the idea of becoming a gondolier. He pictures it as being paid to go paddleboarding all day. We googled it and discovered there is all sorts of learning involved, culture and history and so forth, which he found slightly offputting. And he was also surprised to find out it was mostly done in Venice. I'm not sure where he pictured himself doing it. Bristol Docks maybe? I think Italy would suit him rather well, he could have pizza for lunch every day.

I'm wondering how school will go down when September finally rolls around. A bit of an adjustment I imagine. And possibly a shock to the system of those who have managed to avoid almost all learning for the best part of six months. Let's not think about that today.

I am all braced for a warm weekend. I picture myself sat in a deckchair in the shade somewhere with a good book and a cold drink. Of course the reality will probably be racing round Doing Things, preparing endless food, clearing up endless plates and getting cross when no-one helps. But all in all, that's good too.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Dog cunning






Bertie has a friend who is a labrador. She knows exactly when I get the good doggy treats out of my bag, in fact she knows before I get them out. Then she sits down in front of me, all obedience and big brown eyes until one comes her way.

In fact, the tasty treats usually come out when Bertie is being naughty. He runs off and does something he shouldn't, I call him back and he gets a treat. I know, I know, but the idea is that he is being rewarded for the good thing, ie. the coming back. I think that's the psychology behind it anyway. But sometimes I wonder... Anyway, there is a theory in this house that his clever friend eggs him on to do a bad thing so that they can both have a treat. Are we all being played do you think?

Cricket is back. Hand sanitising every over and NO TEA, but it's a start.

I've had a satisfying feng shui-ing of a kitchen cupboard, involving getting rid of things dated 2019 or earlier and making plans for the borderline edibles. Morello cherries, I'm looking at you.

Otherwise it's been all work, work, work, interspersed with guilt about not doing exciting things with the children. Although of course they probably don't want to do exciting things with their mother. But that doesn't stop me feeling as though I should be taking them out somewhere and Doing Something. All in good time I guess. Exciting adventures your end?

Thursday, 16 July 2020

Books and gardens










It's been busy, busy, busy here, for me at least. Which has meant a huge amount of guilt at not being around more for the urchins. Some of us are feeling a bit flat and, well, like many others I suppose. I had a moment in the garden earlier today, which was a good tonic though. I can see why gardening is prescribed for cheering people up.

Despite the busy work stuff, or maybe because of it, I have no news at all. School, such as it was, is ending, although I feel some people should maybe do a little learning over the summer holidays so as not to completely forget everything. I suspect they will all be rusty come September.

The cricket club is making noises about possible meetings and games. There is football training, after a fashion. And they have all had a haircut. I am still rather in my little bubble. Not sure what I miss and rather fed up with talking/thinking about it all.

Reading has been lovely. In the early evening I sit down with a book for half an hour, once the house is tidy. It is utterly blissful. I've been doing some work afterwards, just to keep on top of things, but that half hour is such a treat.

My neighbour gave me a beautiful scented candle the other day, by way of a thank you for a small errand, lavender and bergamot, so I will be lighting that later. She made it herself and it is a thing of beauty and smells divine. I also have some little rosemary and bay tea lights because I read somewhere about rosemary being good for focus and clear-headedness.

The garden smells rather lovely at the moment as well. A mixture of roses, nicotiana and fig tree. The latter has a lovely scent at times, surprisingly in autumn as well, when the leaves drop off.

I hope all is well out there with you all. I am hoping for some sunshine soon so that I can add a half hour reading in the garden to my day. I am easily pleased.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

All you can eat fruit buffet









The garden is full of fruit and also full of birds eating the fruit. Blueberries, tayberries, raspberries, mulberries, strawberries and pounds and pounds and pounds of cherries. Blackbirds and robins and starlings and sparrows and pigeons. It's wonderful. There are two big cherry trees at the end of the garden and the birds are gorging themselves. There's another cherry out the front, so plenty of fruit to go around. I have been picking and stoning and freezing, they are such a treat in the winter.

The new little waterlily in the pond is flowering. The birds are splashing around there more than ever before as well. It's nice to see the garden becoming a little haven for them. Unless the dog happens to spot them of course. At the moment so many of the birds are juveniles, coming along with their parents and wrestling with a giant raspberry or trying to hang upside down and pick a mulberry. The robins are incredibly tame, flying down to poke around in the soil right next to me in the hopes of a worm.

Shops are gradually opening in the little town centre here, although the Council have infuriated shop owners by making the high street pedestrianised. It really is very quiet now. I went in the wool and houseplants shop yesterday and they seemed astonished to see a customer. The stationer was complaining about the lack of business as well. It's supposedly to allow people more space, but the pavements are pretty wide so it wasn't really an issue. Anyway, there is nothing but space now.

I don't really have any plans to do anything exciting such as go out or have a haircut, I'm happy quietly pootling away with the odd chat with a friend or a walk. We do have a couple of outside trips on the cards, but that's about it for now. It's an odd sort of time isn't it. Some people doing all of the things, some people doing none of the things and businesses trying to survive.

It's good to see bookshops opening again, although we don't have one in town any more. I think I would be conscious of how many books I took off of the shelves that then had to go on the quarantine trolley. I do like to take them all down and read the back cover and flip through a few pages. No doubt we will be back to that eventually, so I shall be patient.

Homeschooling is a bit of a battleground as it no doubt is for almost everyone else. Unless I actually stand over people and watch what they are doing they tend to wander off around the internet and get distracted. Have any of them actually learnt anything? Who knows. The littlest boy has made a very fetching row of owls out of toilet roll tubes (art) and watched many videos for drama and PE, but I haven't seen much in the way of maths and no science at all.

The biggest boy has been doing baking and piano, which will no doubt come in useful in life somewhere along the line but probably won't be much help when it comes to A-levels. The middle boy has hurt his arm and claims to be unable to do anything useful at all. I am wondering if that would work for me as well.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Hair today







The dog finally had a lovely haircut. He had pretty much turned into a sheep. Now he is all slim and streamlined and can run like the wind again without being blinded by his moustache blowing up in his face. Above is a 'before' shot.

There is no other news, none at all. I am feeling a bit flat. Can anyone relate? I don't know why really, there's nothing particular I can put my finger on. It's not as if I'm normally zipping off to a lively office and living in a social whirl. I think maybe it's the slower pace of things. I always do much better under pressure, when there's not enough time. Ridiculous isn't it. Now I have time to do everything I've gone all sluggish and I can't really be bothered.

The littlest boy did his music homework this morning while I was working. It involved a lot of fancy tapping on an empty baked bean tin. It went on and on and on. It was a bit like a steel drum and almost put me in mind of the Caribbean. After about two hours I put my head round my laptop and said, 'CAN YOU NOT FIND SOME SENSIBLE HOMEWORK??? MATHS OR ENGLISH OR SCIENCE OR FRENCH OR HUMANITIES.' He is cherry-picking. This morning was PE (which seemed to involve watching videos), coding a computer game and incessant tapping of the bean tin. Where are the quadratic equations and future pluperfect verbs?

I have made him show everyone else in the house at length what he'd learned so that they could share the joy. He made me learn the routine as well, except that I wasn't allowed to hold the bean tin, I had to pretend. It wasn't quite the same to be honest.

There's been quite a lot of piano playing as well, which I'm sure the neighbours are enjoying. The piano is really out of tune, but I'm not sure I want to fork out and have it tuned only to have it sit there untouched for ages. The biggest boy is teaching himself, I'm quite impressed. And also feeling a bit guilty that I never gave him the opportunity to have lessons. Ironically, the other two did have lessons but didn't hugely enjoy practice, while the biggest boy probably would have done. Can't get it all right though, eh? Although I wouldn't mind nailing the odd thing. Maybe one day.

How are you all, my lovelies? All good I hope. Hair okay?

Thursday, 11 June 2020

When Scrabble turns ugly








lockdown hair at its finest


Oh look, a photo of me. When I started blogging I think I thought there would be lots of photos of me, but of course there never are because I am the one holding the camera. But on a dog walk by the river someone else held the camera (I was glamorously holding a poop bag of poop) and they snapped this, which was nice. Just so that they know I was there, you know.

The littlest boy had a birthday, which he loved, lockdown or no lockdown, there were still presents and ice-cream cake and a watermelon, which he begged me for. We are still working our way through it, they're quite sizeable aren't they?

He had new parkour trainers, a parkour t-shirt, a parkour hoodie and a parkour handbook. Happy as a clam.

We have pretty much done everything there is to do now, except play Monopoly, which is simply far too dangerous to be undertaken in the pressure-cooker environment of a semi-lockdown. Scrabble had its moment in the sun, but after initial hilarity (is hamteeny a word?) even that turned ugly. Some people felt that the whole point was TO WIN AT ANY COST and that it was a 'to the death' sort of a thing. I steered us on to Bird Bingo afterwards which has far less scope for violence and is beautifully illustrated.

If you have any suggestions for entertaining medium-sized boys, I would be glad to know them. The littlest boy made about 500 paper aeroplanes the other day and is thinking about getting a drone now, but again I fear that it may result in bodily harm or at the very least traumatise the dog. All I really want is some peace and quiet. Just two minutes would do.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Danger and excitement

Cheese scones; butter

Madame Alfred Carriere



Bridge to Wales - still a forbidden land



Here at Above the River Towers time is expanding and contracting in strange ways. Some of us are busy (that would be me) and some of us have whole long days stretching out emptily in front of us for months ahead.

It's a curious combination. I forget sometimes how it must feel for the urchins to wake up each day and wonder what they might do for the next 14 hours or so. Then I whiz round doing all the things, and getting grumpy because there's not enough time. Then I slow down and do things with them, then I realise I am all behind. I have less time than before, they have all the time in the world. I am not complaining, just adjusting.

There has been a little baking and making and I even climbed a tree a couple of evenings ago on another golden, sunny dog walk. The littlest boy goaded me into it. I did really well getting up there, but then I was stuck and I couldn't get down. In the end I fell out. Of course I did, you knew I was going to say that before I even got the words out. No harm done though. Well, reputational harm only and to be fair that was always shaky.

As well as falling out of a tree, I also cracked the screen on my phone. It was balanced on top of the sultana jar, charging, and it fell down about 7 inches and broke. I was idly surfing the internet to see what should be done about such a thing, when I discovered that in fact it is very cool amongst the Young People (millennials and suchlike) to have a damaged screen. It tells the world that your life is all excitement and action. So you will see me now, moving smoothly round Aldi, brandishing my cracked phone, with the devil-may-care coolness born from knowing that, yes, I am the sort of dangerous person who balances expensive gadgets on the top of sultana jars without a thought for the risk.

Any danger and excitement at your end? Do tell.