Thursday, 14 February 2019

Tea at the Ritz

Does anyone else detect the merest hint of spring in the air? The birds are singing before sunrise and after sunset, the frogs are sploshing into the pond in the evening if I venture into the garden and there are crocuses and even the odd daffodil. Also, the middle boy had a birthday (13!), and that signifies the end of the winter around here.

The littlest boy's class had a tea party for parents today to raise money for toilet facilities for communities in third world countries. Scones with jam and cream, ginger cookies with ALL of the decorations on them and, most popular of all, a chocolate cake piled high with chocolate balls, chocolate biscuits, chocolates and chocolate flakes. It had a definite theme.

The boys wore bow ties and served us nicely, although the littlest boy spoiled the effect slightly by constantly pushing himself over my shoulder to get to his giant ginger cookie after he'd served me. You don't get that at the Ritz. But it was generally lovely, helped by the thought that there are less than six months of the chaotic joy that is primary school left for him, and for me.

It degenerated happily into a balloon fight/football game between the boys, which is how it should be. None of the mums were crying yet, but I can feel it building. Secondary school isn't in the same league, although I did once have some very sophisticated fizzy orange juice on the lawn while being serenaded by the steel pan band. It lacked the unrestrained joie de vivre of ten year olds let loose with five balloons though.

The dog has been skating on thin ice again, eating things he shouldn't. He managed to get hold of a disposal glove on his walk the other morning, which impressed his friends, but me, not so much. I flushed it through with an oily sardine and thanked my lucky stars when it, well, I won't lower the tone, let's just say all is well, for now.

He had his hair cut today, so he is all velvety and smooth. His bestie will be surprised when she sees him tomorrow morning. She'll be all, 'Bert, is that you? For the love of dog what happened?' And he'll be all, 'I know. But don't worry, I'll roll in something in a minute and it'll all be good.'

Hope all is well out there. Any spring where you are? Scones? Or are you flushing yourself through with an oily sardine?

Friday, 1 February 2019

White and proper

I was going to say that it's a bit chilly, but in the light of how frozen some corners of the world are right now I am trying to man up and not mention the fact that it has gone below freezing. I made the most of the lightly frozen pond this morning by sliding off the ice along with a load of duck weed that I've been wanting to remove. It was the second time I've done it over the past couple of weeks (and probably the first opportunity I've had this winter) and I reckon with one or two more freezes I'll have a good proportion of it off. It really took over last summer and the water didn't get much light at all. There were frogs in the pond already pairing up and getting ready for spawning. I tried not to disturb them too much.

I've found a use for my fancy French soap (brought for me by the French exchange student), keeping it under my knitting so that the knitting smells all delicious, like lemon tree flower and lime tree honey apparently. It's a tip I got from Lucy at Attic 24, although I can't from the life of me find the right post now. And I think she got the tip from someone else. Anyway, it's working beautifully.

Are we all enjoying Brexit? I'm rather disappointed that it is dominating the news when we could be looking at the usual snow-day fare of children toboganning down hills and being generally thrilled about not being at school. I wonder if we would notice any difference if the drama wasn't on the news at all ever and we all just got on with our lives. Maybe the government could just issue a bulletin once a year and let us know how it's all gone. We could listen to audio books instead or just enjoy the quiet calm.

The dog got a massive amount of snow stuck to him in chunky ice balls on his walk this morning and had to be defrosted in the bath. He is curled up tightly now, warming himself up and dreaming of spring. I would like to do the same, but there are ravening hoards to be fed. All well with you?

Monday, 21 January 2019

Shallow and slack

And here it is in all its new shiny glory. I would have done one of those very attractive photos with a big mug of frothy coffee invitingly placed next to the notepad, but I think we all know how that would have ended. And being new to this coffee-drinking malarkey I only have instant which doesn't do the frothy thing. Baby steps.

The new laptop is connected to most of the important things it seems. Although I don't remember some login details, so I'm still using the old one too (two computers!), for this blog post for example. And Amazon. And other bloggy things like visiting and commenting on other blogs. So for quite a bit actually. Again, baby steps.

I am working on the new laptop which is a massive triumph in itself. I am finding it a bit cold though. The old laptop heats up beautifully, in fact at times the fan sounds a bit like Concorde taking off, and the underside is hot enough to make toast. The new one is all sleek metal efficiency and every time I touch the keyboard I wince a little. So cold! On the plus side, I can see the screen when the sun is out. Before I was reduced to putting one hand over my eyes and putting my nose up to the screen. I am all elegant sophistication now.

The littlest boy is happy to report that he is a Greater Depth Person at school. Something to do with which table you sit on I think. I should like to be a Greater Depth Person, but I fear much of the time I am hopelessly shallow.

The biggest boy has some new rollers for getting the knots out of muscles. I put my back out trying to roll up and down on one, plus it was really painful. I told him I don't have any tight muscles anyway, I am slack all over.

Bert's friend had a good tale to tell the other day. She was walking along with her person when a squirrel actually fell out of a tree and landed on her. Bert lives for the day this happens. I imagine it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and probably very memorable.

There is sad and worrying dog news locally as well. A dog was stolen the other day, very near here. The lady who did puppy training always told us never ever to tie our dogs up outside shops. Alas, someone did, thinking he would be safe, and he was taken. We gave Bert an extra squeeze when we heard.

Bert would be distraught if he was taken, as no doubt all dogs would be. He always likes everyone to be home, where he can keep an eye on them. When we are out, he waits at the window, sometimes hours past his bedtime, looking and waiting. Mine is the house with noseprints all along the windows. When he sees us, he stares and stares until he is sure it's us and then he vanishes from view to rush to the front door and gives us a big long lost greeting.

Here he is in a happy state of bliss, knowing all his people are home and he can relax.

Hope all have a good week. CJ xx

Monday, 14 January 2019

Bear says

I have shot myself in the foot in spectacular style. The biggest boy had been rejecting food containing carbs for a while, after reading a book that said they were basically the devil. So I happened across a Bear Grylls book in the library and got him that, in the hope that he would change his ways. A few hours later he announced in dramatic fashion that he had turned vegan. Sigh.

I don't object per se. I was a vegan for 25 years, so I know what it's all about, but it's just another complication in the horror of preparing the evening meal. I'm already contending with one or two people who don't like anything and all of the people who don't like something. I am trying to be positive about it all and I'm gathering up my nut roast recipes from yesteryear in readiness. There are many other things that Bear does not approve of apparently. Again, I am not complaining (much) (well, we all know that I am, but let's pretend I'm not) as I've followed much the same diet in the past. It's just that more and more I seem to be preparing different things for different people.

On the positive side, I can join in with the vegan things, so hopefully I'll start eating better. The sheer volume of food that the biggest boy can get through is a bit scary as well, what with all the sport and the gym workouts and the general size of him. Oh how much easier it would be if they would just all eat a sack of kibble like the dog. It would utterly revolutionise my life.

The littlest boy is happy to have a new Swiss Army knife with all sorts of handy gadgets on it. He persuaded me to let him get it with his hard-earned dog walking money when he saw it in the sale at the garden centre. He had to ask me about eighteen times before I said yes. After I'd paid he said, 'That was really hard work mum.' Sigh. He has taken to telling people he collects knives now, being as he has three. The first one was his original Swiss Army knife, the second one is a pen knife that he bought when he thought he'd lost the first one. So this is the third one, which I really didn't mean to let him buy, but I only have limited resistance to anything after lunch and I fear they have all worked this out.

In other news, I have a new laptop. It came a week or so ago, and it took me three days to pluck up the courage to remove the outer plastic bag. It then took me another four days to peel off the sticky tape. I still haven't removed it from its box. Can you tell I am a little reluctant? Someone suggested that I Get A Man In, so I am doing that. Even so, I know it will all be horrible and I will be reduced to a screaming, jibbering wreck, unable to access anything, with all passwords long forgotten. Plus, Windows 10! So basically, you may never hear from me ever again. Although I am keeping my old laptop, so perhaps all won't be lost. The new one was needed because I increasingly have children breathing down my neck asking to use it for their homework. Sometimes there is even a queue. So it was something that was needed, although it's taken me a long time to bite the bullet.

The computer guy suggested that I have the old one wiped and sell it, which gave me palpitations. I am writing him a huge sign saying DO NOT WIPE ANYTHING and sticking it to the screen. I'll be back again soon, or maybe I won't. Wish me luck.

Thursday, 10 January 2019


As the camellia buds fatten and the seed catalogues thump down onto the doormat I've been dreaming garden dreams. I went through a brochure or two and made a list of all the things I'd like to grow. Then I added up how much it all came to and went through it all again crossing things off. Then I thought carefully about how much time I have and how the dog and the children will squash it all down anyway and I went through it again trying to be realistic and crossed more stuff off. Then I had another look at all the pretty pictures (dahlia cafe au lait!) and reverted to the original list. Dreams and delusions are the stuff of life no? I'll probably end up somewhere in the middle. That dahlia has been crossed off for now, but I feel it will be back. Sometimes a thing sticks itself in my head and I get a bit obsessed. Although the snails round here have a real taste for dahlias so it could all end in tears. And of course there are the flying footballs and basketballs and cricket balls. But for now I am deluding myself that I can make a garden just like in the seed catalogue and it is making me happy.

Do you remember me telling you that I took up drinking coffee back in the summer? Well of course I am now hopelessly addicted. Even the dahlia is coffee! But I've come to the conclusion that the milk part of the coffee doesn't agree with me. After years and years of not drinking milk I don't think I can tolerate it very well. Yoghurt, kefir and hard cheese seem fine, but milk makes me bloated. And fat. Well something is making me fat, it's either that or Christmas. I am switching to soya milk and no doubt I'll be slim as a clam before you know it.

The town is in the grip of a spate of anti-social behaviour at the moment. Vandalism, graffiti and arson attacks. Everyone has quite a lot to say about it as you can imagine. The littlest boy saw the police chase (and catch) someone yesterday, so he and his friend were all agog. It has been very destructive, including damage to schools, burning down of a school building and the burning down of some allotment sheds, including one that really was show quality, so pretty and big and beautifully organised. It's been heartbreaking. There are lots of opinions about what should be done, and some people are showing their true colours and reverting to a more neanderthal approach. No doubt it will all blow over eventually, but at the moment things seem to be gathering pace. A documentary was made about this area a while back that cast it in rather a bleak light. It was slewed rather to make good viewing, and as a result has cast a bit of a shadow over the place. But on the up side, plenty of people are rallying round and pulling together and all that sort of stuff. The good balancing the bad hopefully.

Cricket practice started again at the weekend believe it or not, although it will be a long time until there's a match. Doesn't hurt to get one's eye in early though. I will leave you with dreams of sunny flower-filled gardens and scorching afternoons watching cricket. And don't blame me if it turns cold.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Dogs at the beach

It's been a fairly quiet start to the year here. In fact I ended up visiting an elderly relative in hospital on New Year's Day, which wasn't part of the plan. But onwards and all that.

We took the dog to the beach, which he loves. All that space and all those other dogs to run with. He did run off briefly, which was scary. I wonder if we need to do a bit more training. He's very good a giving you his paw for a bit of sausage and lying down and rolling over, but not quite as good at coming when he's called and dropping things he's not supposed to be eating. He has his priorities.

I seem to be amassing a big pile of books to be read in 2019. Sometimes it's a reassurance thing I think. If I've got lots of books to hand, I can escape from real life if it all gets a bit too much. Not that I have any reason to think it will, but I'm just generally a slightly anxious person.

In the big bookshop the other day one of the assistants in the children's section asked me if she could help. When I named a book she not only knew exactly where to put her hands on it immediately, but she'd also read it and could tell me whether it was suitable for 12-year-olds.

I told her a book the middle boy had loved (Andy Weir's The Martian - he said it was one of the best books he'd ever read), and she not only found me another one by Weir, but also recommended something else that the middle boy might enjoy. And she found a colleague who'd read the second Andy Weir as she hadn't read it. I was so impressed by their depth of knowledge.

For those of you with children who enjoy sciencey stuff, The Martian is brilliant apparently, but get the junior version without all the f-words in it - I understand there are a lot. On the subject of f-words, the middle boy watched a lot of Robson Green's fishing programmes a while back, as he loves fishing. Oh my goodness RG swears a lot. F****** fish practically became a family catchphrase.

I hope your New Years are all off to a cracking start. If not, you have my sympathy and best wishes; hang on in there and maybe find a good book to escape into. Until next time.

Sunday, 30 December 2018


cramp balls?

wood ears?

As usual I am galloping towards the New Year with a head full of plans and dreams and trying to ignore any niggling anxiety. It's always the same. Excitement and fear. But it's good to feel the feelings, no?

I've been working hard on the writing front, both the non-fiction, which earns the money at the moment, and the fiction, which is the dream. I've really enjoyed meeting more fiction writers this year. There's a group I go to occasionally where everyone is so knowledgeable and encouraging and I always come home really inspired and motivated. Slowly, slowly, I'm building a little network of writer friends, both in the fiction and non-fiction worlds, which I'm happy about - a while back I didn't know any at all. Now I'm starting to become immersed in those worlds, and I'm loving it.

The children still have loads of time off school, which is good. There are still leftovers to be finished off for one thing. Although on the subject of food, remember the twenty food photographs the biggest boy had to produce for his homework? He informed me the other day that he needs to take twelve more. Twelve! The first twenty nearly finished me off, and I honestly don't think I have any more photo-worthy dishes I can produce. I have already done my entire repertoire. I am trying not to think about it in the sure and certain knowledge that we can scream at each other about it later on in the week when I have work to do and time is almost up. We do our best work under pressure.

We went to the pantomime yesterday. I always think I'm not keen on pantomime, but I do enjoy it on the whole once I'm there. I like the time-honoured tradition of going to a theatre and being entertained by people. And I like going out for something to eat afterwards, I especially like that. The littlest boy and I can be lured almost anywhere with the promise of something delicious to eat. I am always dragging him along on the most tedious of trips simply by throwing in a packet of crisps or a good biscuit. I suppose one day he will stop being so happily enthusiastic about it all, but for now he is full of joy about pretty much everything.

Fungus pictures from a walk in the woods today. I'm guessing that they're cramp balls and wood ears. Wonderful. It's all deliciously damp and decaying out there. You can almost hear everything recycling itself. Nutrients returning to the soil, bacterial activity teeming.

And so it just remains for me to wish each and every one of you a very happy New Year. Thank you for coming here to visit, it means a lot to me. I hope 2019 contains some magic for you and yours and that your dreams come true. Happiness to you all. CJ xx