Wednesday, 20 November 2019

The old woman in the cave

The top photo is sunrise down by the river. It was a bit on the damp side. That was Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon was indoor cricket. Sunday was football. I left home at 9.45am, had forty minutes at home at lunchtime then I was out again until 4.30pm. I have no idea how two football matches can take up almost an entire day. As a special treat I was allowed to watch the football while I ate my tea. I think I am almost ready to referee a match.

Last night was the town's Christmas lights switch on, always a big event. The children have pretty much ditched me now when it comes to this sort of thing, so after wandering up the high street and down the high street and catching up with a friend or two I took refuge in a coffee shop and wrote for a while. Still aiming for those 50,000 words. I did discover that the local wool shop still half exists though, which was encouraging. The other half of the shop is given over to houseplants. Which I thought was a pretty perfect (and dangerous) combination. I couldn't decide which plant to buy first, but you know I'll be back.

Tonight was my turn to help out at Scouts. Some nights are livelier than others. This was a lively one. Let's just leave it at that. I have had some chocolate and now I am having a sit down.

The littlest boy made me laugh the other day. I had just given him one of my lengthy and impassioned speeches about the importance of being honourable and sportsmanlike and never ever taking something to which you are not entitled (it went on a bit, to be honest I forget the exact point I was trying to make, but I believe it started being about not taking too many Tesco charity box tokens when you are only supposed to take one, even if you are using it to vote for your school to receive the big donation) and he said, 'You should be a quoter. You know, one of those people who makes up quotes. You're really wise. You're like a wise old woman who lives in a cave.' Oh, how wonderful that would have been if he'd just stopped at 'really wise'. Anyway, it made me laugh and shut me up, which was probably the whole point of it.

Hope all are having a good week. If you need me I will be thinking deep thoughts in my cave.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The whites of our eyes

In between the rain there have been some glorious autumn moments here. This morning on the dog walk there were golden leaves catching the sun as they fluttered down from a cloudless blue sky. Bertie and his gigantic labradoodle friend were cantering along in slow motion as if they were in a movie. Well, actually his friend looks as if he's in slow motion, while Bertie was running at top speed with his tongue hanging out and the whites of his eyes showing (there's a bit of fear over the sheer size of his chum). Anyway, it was all glorious.

Saturday on the other hand was practially wall to wall rain. We did an extra big early morning walk before the rain started, which made us feel incredibly smug, then I hunkered down and did some writing and that was all rather lovely as well.

Happily Sunday was sunny for the Remembrance Day parade. The church and castle photos were taken then. The littlest boy looked very smart as he walked along wearing his poppy and I tried not to cry as I always do.

The biggest boy is deep in the midst of exams and I am panicking on his behalf. Everything has all gone very Real all of a sudden and before I know it they'll all have to decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives. You can definitely see the whites of my eyes. I have finally worked out what I want to do with my life (be a fiction writer) but it is taking a while to get there to be honest. If only I'd known when I was 16. Sigh. From memory, I think I wanted to be a stuntwoman or a shepherdess. Either of which would actually have been great. I feel those particular ships may have sailed now though.

I have a new saying for you which I'm certain you'll love. The biggest boy discovered it. It is Finnish, and for when someone is not quite thinking straight - you say their Moomins are not all in the valley. I am spending this week trying to work it casually into conversations.

How are things at your end? Relaxing in the sun, or showing the whites of your eyes? Dreams being chased or do you still look at sheep and sigh wistfully? Moomins all safely in the valley? Do let me know.

Monday, 11 November 2019

In remembrance

Photo by Laurentiu Lordache via unsplash

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

What, you egg!

It's all small dramas here as usual. I am trying to rise above them and not quite managing it. A couple of days out with the urchins went well (fishing, birdwatching, scooting, that sort of thing), but the damp days at home trying to work while simultaneously providing industrial amounts of food has been less marvellous.

The biggest boy and I have done a couple of things together. Firstly a sixth form open evening, which was scary (the Future, looming large!) and inspirational (some fantastic teachers and loads of youthful enthusiasm) and wistful-making (he will leave). Plus I am not sure how to get them from here to where they are going. It is all sorts of terrifying.

We also went to see Macbeth, as he's doing it at school. He has taken to speaking mostly in lines from the play, and it was all rather apt when the middle boy came in earlier on dripping blood from his hands after a particularly nasty cat-related incident (a paw came through a letterbox and scratched him while he was delivering something). He washed his hands in the sink while the biggest boy said helpful things like, 'What bloody man is that?' and 'A little water clears us of this deed.'

Of course the insults are the best bits. 'Filthy hag!' 'You cream faced loon,' and my personal favourite, 'What, you egg!' Honestly, there is no stopping us.

In other news, I am bracing myself for NaNoWriMo, the writing of 50,000 words of a novel in November. I was hoping to be a bit further on in the whole plotting thing, but you know how it is, time etc. I am going with what I have.

I am on a continuing news diet, absorbing just a headline or two before retreating. Nice to see the US President giving undecided voters the benefit of his wisdom. Instead of the news I am listening to writing podcasts. A  much better use of my time I think, and it leaves me feeling all positive and warm and glowy, whereas the news leaves me feeling shouty and anxious. Although it might be fair to say that shouty and anxious is my natural default state on damp days when the urchins are in close proximity.

Wish me luck with NaNo. There is work to be done and food to be shopped for and a whole load of other life stuff to get through first, and of course the whole lack of anything resembling a proper plot, but I am filled with the sort of hope you get before you actually plunge into the whole hard work thing.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Low Level Disruption

A day's birdwatching in Somerset with the biggest boy. That's Glastonbury Tor in the distance. I suggested we go and have a vegan meal in Glastonbury on the way home (a really hippy town, for those who don't know it). It turned out it was too alternative for him. It's wall to wall crystal shops and witch shops and hemp shops and even a dreadlock place. Sadly closed, don't think I didn't think about it... The people all looked wonderful, colourful and different and with all the hairstyles. There was even a dog on a motorbike. He said, 'I just want to eat somewhere normal.' (The boy, not the dog. Although maybe the dog was thinking that too.) I used to go to Glastonbury quite a bit, and several of the cafes were still the same. He wasn't convinced, so we went somewhere normal. I fear small town living has not prepared the urchins for the wider world.

On the subject of the wider world, I see that Donald Trump has referred to himself as having 'great and unmatched wisdom'. I am not quite sure what to make of that. It sounds like the sort of thing I would say to the children. If he tried it in this house he would be told off for sarcasm, they are very strict on sarcasm here you know. Or maybe he actually believes it. What goes on in that 'so great-looking and smart' (that was his too) head of his? He says he is a stable genius. Could it be that the opposite is true? Isn't it time for a new President yet? It's been a very long four years.

Anyway, back to the Somerset levels. It was a glorious day out there. Peaceful, vast and teeming with wildlife. Within the first fifteen minutes we'd seen a bittern, a marsh harrier, a Cetti's warbler, a little grebe, a great crested grebe and a great white egret. It's a wonderful landscape, reclaimed from the destruction left by the peat industry and painstakingly planted with reeds by hand that RSPB staff grew from seed. There are (from memory) around forty pairs of bitterns there now, which is an amazing achievement, as they are fairly rare. It's quite the success story.

The littlest boy was given a detention in a gross miscarriage of justice. His brothers were thrilled. 'He's only been there a month!' It took them far longer. Apparently the boys behind him were talking and the teacher thought it was him, so he got a warning. Then he was hot after PE so he opened the window without asking and that was it, bam, detention. Oh dear. He was not happy. I discovered there are different numbers for each crime. For example, number 4, Low Level Disruption. Apparently there are loads. Not sure what number Opening Window Without Permission was, but I'm guessing fairly far down the list. Anyway, we have (mostly) moved on from the injustice of it all.

Sunday, 6 October 2019


The new Philip Pullman book is here, in all its gold-tinged glory. I have been sighing and running my fingers over its beauteousness. I shall read it to the younger urchins just as soon as we have finished our current read, Cogheart by Peter Bunzl. The series has the most wonderful covers, and they are cleverly continued inside the cover, as if viewed from behind.

The dog is on a diet. Before the summer holidays he used to walk with his cocker spaniel friend every single morning. She would chase him all the way along, and wrestle with him and chase him again and if he ever tried to sit down for a rest she'd run faster and faster circles around him, jumping over him as she shot past, until he felt obliged to get back up again and join in. She was utterly unrelenting, in the manner of a particularly strict personal trainer, and looking back it was a hard full-body workout. He weighed in at 9.9kg. Then the summer holidays came and schedules changed and we no longer walk with her. A mere ten weeks later I was horrified to discover that he weighed 12 kg. That's an extra two kilos, 20 percent of his body weight. Like a person going from 10 stone to 12 stone in under three months. And the only difference has been the morning walk. We still do the same route, but no cocker spaniel chasing us down.

Needless to say he is on a diet. And I need to make the time to walk with his more energetic friends again, his whippet chum and his cockapoo mucker, as well as his personal trainer. It occurs to me I need something similar. Someone to force me into running about the place. Although right now I'm a bit snowed under with work so it will have to wait a while... I'll add it to my to-do list.

There are olives in the garden, but they're a bit on the small side - not much flesh (unlike me and Bert) so I'm not really inspired to do much with them. And I don't know how to tell if they're ripe. I suspect they're not, now that the chilly autumn mornings are here. The black tomatoes are still all hanging on the vine, not really ripening in any visible way either. We have mountains of windfalls, from the garden and from an aquaintance in Wales. I am trying to use them before the rot sets in, but I need to be fast. I am making ALL of the apple recipes.

The biggest boy scored a hat-trick at football today. A rare occurrence as he is a defender. I fear I have banged on about it too long and I have been declared embarrassing. Sigh. ('Remind me how many goals it was today again?' 'Three you say, and what do they call that?') Yes, I know, I know, I'll shut up now.

Now that the autumn term is well and truly under way there seem to be a hundred and one things to attend. Football, cross country, cricket (yes! it's indoors), parents' information evenings, helping out at open days, oh the list is endless. I am doubting my grammar now. Seems or seem? Sam would know, but she can't comment any more. I fear there is a blog glitch. I would ask if anyone else is unable to comment, but, you know... Anyway, I hope all is well out there, and the madness is held at bay. As with anything remotely stressful I am as ever adopting the head in sand approach. Except when it comes to dog chub, then I am ON IT.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

With great power...

Despite it all, there are still flowers and tomatoes. Over at Coastal Ripples, Barbara is stockpiling jam in readiness for the apocalypse. I have notebooks, but the edible things keep getting eaten, so the whole stockpiling thing is tricky. There is quite a lot of high protein porridge that Someone wanted and then failed to eat though, so we could plough through that, and I also have more jam than usual after a good fruit year in the garden.

The eldest made his debut as a football referee at the weekend. He was asked to cover an under-12s match. Happily not one that his youngest brother was playing in - that might have been quite spectacular if they'd had a disagreement. I was quite nervous on his behalf. We went through all the rules and the signs and I gave him lots of tips such as, 'Remember to count them before kick off' (I watched half a match with an extra player on the field once).

He told me that the referee was in charge of everyone at a football match, even the coaches. We pictured Jose Mourinho turning up and getting lairy and the biggest boy sending him to the dressing room. I reminded him that with great power comes great responsibility. He said he wouldn't be having any swearing and they'd be straight off. I pointed out they were eleven, so he'd probably be fine on that score. Although it's not guaranteed.

I went to watch, mostly to make sure the opposition's parents didn't kick off or criticise any borderline off-side decisions, in which case I was ready to barge in shouting, 'LEAVE MY BABY ALONE YOU BEASTS'. In the event it was probably the best-tempered match I've ever watched. He looked very responsible with his whistle and stop-watch. And he earned fifteen pounds for an hour's work.

Is anyone else starting to wonder if democracy is quite the thing? It would work if the decent good people wanted the top job, but things being what they are it seems to be the shouty irresponsible ones who want power and fame and to be looked at and admired and the decent good people just don't want to be torn to shreds by the media and the ghastly power/fame/admiration/shouty bunch. I am leaning towards the idea of a benevolent dictatorship. Under someone like Greta Thunberg or the the lovely central heating chap who refuses to take any money from those who can't afford it and actually wrote on the invoice of an elderly lady with leukaemia that she should have 'no charge under any circumstances' and that they would go to her at any time, 24-hours, as she had an ongoing problem with her boiler.

Greta could just tell everyone what to do, and everyone would do it, and none of us would have to worry any more because it's a dictatorship so we couldn't do anything anyway. All those in favour...