Thursday, 12 July 2018

502













For a brief interlude this evening, the children were out and so was the dog. I swept and washed the kitchen floor. Then I watered the garden. And dusted and hoovered, upstairs and down, got the sewing machine out to do some repairs, put away laundry and did some research I needed to get done. It astonishes me how much I can do when everyone goes away. It's like some sort of time warp.

Since they've been back, which has been about twice the length of time, I've banged on and on and on about it being bedtime, wandered round picking things up and washed two water bottles. I have all sorts of big plans about them Helping Out during the summer holidays though, I am very excited about it all. I envisage the sort of blissful domestic scene where children cheerfully set the table for lunch, help wash salad, pick berries from the garden, play happily (and quietly!) with the dog and each other and maybe even run the vacuum about the place a bit. Oh it's going to be wonderful. I wish I'd thought of it earlier.

Here at Above the River it turns out I have written 501 posts, this being number 502. I tend to miss the actual milestones of things. It all began five and a bit years ago. Goodness knows how many photos there are here. But I would just like to say, thank you all for stopping by and reading and commenting and being generally good eggs, it really is a very nice thing to have a little community of like-minded chums being all supportive and lovely.

We are hurtling towards the end of term at a rate of knots. Sports day - check, second inter-school sports day - check, school play - check, five hundred hours of cricket - check, ninety-eight hours of World Cup football  - check. Well, maybe I didn't watch the entire ninety-eight hours, it just felt like it. I shall say nothing more on that subject.

I see Donald Trump is in town. As a nation I feel we are all waiting with bated breath to receive the benefit of his wisdom. No doubt the Germans have been glad to have it explained to them that their problem is that they are totally controlled by the Russians. I should probably say nothing more about all that either. Instead I will bid you a fond farewell, until post number 503, all being well.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Rock










A random selection of photos from out and about. The last one was taken the other evening as I supervised the Cubs. They were down by the river looking at Interesting Cliffs and hitting rocks with things to see if they could find fossils.

Bob Dylan visited here once. Four months before the bridge was opened. There's a photo of him standing at the ferry terminal - long gone now. You can just about see the new bridge in the background.

Bob Dylan by Barry Feinstein, Aust Ferry, 1966
It's been voted one of the top five rock photos of all time. He'd been having a difficult time on tour. Waiting for the ferry to Wales he had plenty of time to think about things. A few weeks later he broke his neck by crashing his motorbike at Woodstock and spent the rest of the year recovering.

Anyway, things were much less gloomy down there with the Cubs on a hot July evening. The sky was blue and the air was full of pollen and bits of flying rock as the Cubs took it upon themselves to hack open all the boulders in the hopes of finding an ichthyosaur.

Gromits are back in force, in various locations, a trail of over 60 to try and spot. I accidentally typed 'trial' then, instead of trail. I fear it may be a bit of a trial if I am expected to find all of them. I shall try and limit us to just a few. My favourites are the ones out in the country a bit, where you can do a nice walk and find a Gromit at the end of it. Pounding the city streets looking for Gromit after Gromit can get a bit wearing.

I fear I am not very city-hardy any more. I popped in to Bristol the other evening for a writers' meeting. People everywhere! But it is good for watching. So many colourful, interesting and beautiful people. I love it for a bit, then I need to go home and have a sit with a damp flannel on my forehead for an hour.

Are we watching the football? So many ways to get a ball into the back of a net, and I have seen them all. I shall say nothing more about it, but enjoy the match if you're watching. And either way, have a good weekend.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Losing our tenuous grips on reality







There are a few midsummer roses in the garden, all sumptuous petals and heavy scent on the warm air. The sun is glorious until I have to go somewhere in it, then it's a touch too much. The boys have had days of sports. Bottles of icy water that melts before they get to school, hats and sunscreen for the younger two, a touch of sunburn for the eldest. Me: Are you going to wear sunscreen? Him: No, I'll be fine. Boys are invincible at 14. I told him that if he wants to look fresh and young like me when he is older he must apply the sunscreen.

I bought a fuschia at the weekend. The garden centre keeps sending me £5 vouchers that must be spent over the weekend. I warrant they think I'll buy other stuff while I'm there. They are right of course. I purchased two terracotta pots for the price of one. Then I broke on on the way home. Did I ever mention that I'm clumsy? I used the broken one anyway, it was just the top that was gone and of course the boys will no doubt break it properly before long.

I haven't had a fuschia in years. The garden faces almost due south and it's just too much sun for them, but this one somehow came home with me. I've spent the past couple of days moving the pot around as the sun goes over. It's not like I've got anything else pressing to do with my time.

The boys have watched football until they feel like they are in a whole alternative universe where only football matches exist. They are not used to so much screen time, normally there is no tv in the week. We will have to go cold turkey soon and reenter reality. We won't like what we see.

The dog has taken to lying down on his lunchtime walk and refusing to go any further. This was before the hot weather really kicked in. I have ended up carrying him on several occasions. He lies on his back and hangs his head down and lets his legs go all floppy. It's ridiculous, he looks like roadkill, people stop and stare. I think he imagines he is Cleopatra and shall be carried about the place at his whim. I have stopped midday walks while it's hot though, his dear little paws aren't made for hot tarmac. Instead he ambles about the garden looking for trouble. He usually finds it.

I've been picking berries like mad and making things like apple and tayberry crumble and Eton mess and just eating them as they are. Some have gone into the freezer for that delicious taste of summer in the long dark cold days of winter. The garden is quite demanding at the moment, but it pays me back with fruit and salad and flowers and tranquil space to watch hoverflies and butterflies and small brown dogs having fun. I can't complain.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Pollen, cricket teas and all of my shoes






Goodness, midsummer is glorious isn't it? Teeming with pollen, but utterly glorious. We walked down by the river today. The dog has spent the days since the cone came off galloping about in ecstasy and re-establishing the layers of pleuth and smells that he loves so much. Pleuth is our word for that sort of mud that is a dark greeny brown and very organic smelling, you know the stuff. A friend has the same dog as Bertie, only in white. Every time we go out he gets filthy. Get brown dogs my friends; Bertie has all the same dirt only I can't see it, so I happily pretend it's not there.

The biggest boy made me laugh today. I told him that the average woman has twenty pairs of shoes. He thought for a moment and said, 'In her life?' Oh so young and naive.

It reminded me of something I had written down in the little notebook I keep of funny things the children say. I went through it with the two older ones the other day and we were crying with laughter. A lot of the things were things the littlest boy said, so they were under strict instructions not to tease him about it. Anyway, the shoe thing...

Middle boy: Did you know that A in my class thinks that twins can read each other's minds and that they're always thinking exactly the same thing?

Biggest boy: They can't though.

Middle boy: No, they can't.

Biggest boy: I bet X and Y in Year R [twin girls] aren't thinking exactly the same thing right now. I bet one of them's thinking about girl stuff and the other one's thinking about shoes.

Middle boy: Yes!

Biggest boy: Girls always think about shoes.

Me: Not all girls think about shoes you know.

Biggest boy: You do.

Me (outraged): I do not! I'll have you know that I hardly ever think about shoes compared to some people.

Biggest boy (in tone of finality): You've got TWO pairs!

He played cricket for a grown-up team today, which has the advantage of including a big tea. He rated today's as second best for the season so far. They lost the match, but the scones were excellent and you could add your own jam and cream. He didn't hold back. I told him to eat raw vegetables and fruit when he got home. He said he'd already had potato salad so he was fine on the salad front. I said it's not green. He said in an outraged tone that it did have green in it. His eating habits aren't as healthy as they used to be. And the cookies I make seem to disappear really fast. I may have to alarm the fridge.

I went to a local literary festival event last night. I've been making an effort to go to more writerly things, even though it always seems to clash with something the children have on and involve all sorts of tricky travel arrangements. They are always really inspirational. I think I've said before how good it is to meet other writers, as a contrast to the alone time spent writing. It makes it feel less alone somehow, to know that others are out there tapping away at their keyboards late into the evening as well.

I shall leave you with something that the littlest boy said a while back, although I may have shared it before, if so apologies.

Me: It's St George's Day today.

Littlest boy: Why?

Me: I don't know

Littlest boy: Who even is he?

Me: The patron saint of England.

Littlest boy: Is he alive?

Me:  No, he's a saint, all the saints are dead.

Littlest boy: Even St David Attenburgh?

It's an easy mistake to make, no? Enjoy your summer weekend, see you on the other side. CJ xx

PS I do actually have more than two pairs of shoes.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Dog fun




Thank you all for your fast meal suggestions. I have printed out recipes and collected ingredients and I am ready to go. I am starting with egg and bacon pie and Singapore noodles (not together, although no doubt people wouldn't say no). Last night was orzo and I shall do some roasted veggies later in the week as well. All excellent ideas, thank you.

Bertie is having a good day today. At long last the dreaded cone is off. It must be blissful. No more banging into doors and scuffing along walls. Now he can slip through the thinnest of gaps in the blink of an eye. He went for a top notch run with his bestie this morning. Who had a good tale to tell. A couple of days back he got away from his people on a walk, ran the short distance home, shot past his front door, ran into a neighbour's back garden, through their kitchen and into their living room where they were eating sausages in front of the telly. Oh how surprised they were.

Bertie had his own tale of drama to tell as well. We were walking past the pharmacy the other day, Bert in his big flappy cone, when a Jack Russell, who had been tied to a big red wheelie bin, lunged at him, barking like an absolute maniac. As he lunged, his extendable lead extended all the way out, about 16' it seemed. Bertie and I were scuttling away around the corner and up the road in terror, as the Jack Russell's teeth were snapping at Bertie's backside. The Jack Russell built up a huge head of steam and when it finally got to the end of its extendable lead, the wheelie bin flew over and he dragged it a few feet up the road after us. Bertie and I were running for our lives by this time, and the pharmacy delivery man was doubled over with laughter. We were not dignified at all.

What astonished me was that even with all the noise of barking and crashing and the wheelie bin thundering along the pavement, no-one came out to see what on earth was going on. Either deaf, or it was just another day of dog ownership. Bertie doesn't always get on with Jack Russells. He sees a pair of them very regularly and they always make the most horrific noise when they see him and try and get at him. Now when he sees them, he does a sneaky little lunge at them to set them off. Then we scuttle off on our way leaving the owner trying to get a grip of them. You take your fun where you can get it.

We are of course overwhelmed by the World Cup in this house. Well, I'm overwhelmed, everyone else seems to be coping okay. They are endlessly entertained by it all. I am mostly being annoying by referring to Mo Salah as Mo Farrah and provoking heated discussions about whether Harry Kane is the most exciting player at the tournament. I've also been reminding everyone that the Kaliningrad Stadium was built on a rare wetland habitat that was home to many birds and other wildlife. All gone now though. Shame on them.

How are yourselves? Any new from the front?

Friday, 15 June 2018

Peak frazzle







I've reached peak frazzle this week, somehow, despite being determined to be organised and accomplish much. It occurs to me that I might hang on to what's left of my sanity if I drafted other people in to do the odd thing as well.

The dog has done his share of pushing me to the brink. He has been naughtier than ever in the past three or four days. Not sure why. He broke his cone on Wednesday evening, so we marched him along to the vet's and got another one. I am trying to minimise plastic consumption, but Bert really isn't on message. Within 24 hours he'd broken the new one, by pelting down the garden at full speed and cranging into something. Now I know I should have been in the garden, diligently holding his lead while he gently strolled about, but see I Have No Time above.

I tried mending the cone, but he thought it was some sort of chewing game I'd invented, so I left the cone off. Overnight he pulled off a scab, so we are back to cone life again now. Sigh.

The biggest boy was off school today with the sort of illness where you're okay to sit on the sofa eating and watching the World Cup but you couldn't possibly go to school, you know the sort of thing.

I got my half-finished cross stitch out the other day. And horror of horror I found I couldn't really see it well enough. As I already wear contact lenses for short-sight it is adding insult to injury to start becoming long-sighted as well. Although if I'm short-sighted I don't think that I can be called long-sighted, because I don't have long sight, if you see what I mean. Maybe I'll just end up being classed as blind as a bat. Anyway, I've stuffed the cross stitch back in its lovely pouch and put it away to think about another day. Anyone who comes here regularly will know I'm a big fan of the head in the sand approach to life.

Cricket has overwhelmed our lives completely at the moment. It seems to be on every day except Mondays, it's dizzying. Enough to make me wish for rain.

I am tired of preparing food. Tired, tired, tired. It's unrelenting. I think it's because of all the early teas before cricket, all prepared and eaten in a tearing hurry. If I was Nigella Lawson I'd be cheerily throwing together some amazing spread whilst entertaining guests, helping children with homework and looking ravishing. As it is I'm shoving half-washed salad into bowls (the middle boy had a bit of snail poo on his the other day, much to his brothers' delight), heating up oven chips and yelling at anyone who gets in the way. All while looking like goodness knows what. But I'm not complaining really, although I should like to be the Queen for a couple of weeks and have a footman bring me a perfectly boiled egg of a morning and walk the corgis for me.

If anyone has any excellent meals that can be put together quickly I shall be very happy to hear about them. Pasta is wearing a little thin in this house. Wishing all a good weekend. CJ xx

Friday, 8 June 2018

Ten random things







Red, white and blue. But where's the blue? I hear you cry. Here. Right here.


I thought I'd join in with Leanne, who has a lovely ten random things post up at the moment.

1. Let's start with the dog. Oh, he was so sad. Which made us so sad. We apologised and regretted and loathed ourselves. He didn't understand but loved us anyway. So we loathed ourselves even more.
A maelstrom of emotion. He refused to drink. In a stroke of genius I poured some water from a tin of tuna into his water, and hey presto, he loved it. You'll find your top tips here people.

2. Like Leanne, I too have a crab spider. He is lurking on the roses, waiting patiently for a bee to pass by. I keep going out to check on progress, with a sort of horrified fascination.

3. The rose is delightful, scenting the whole corner of the garden. I am spending far too much time gazing out of the window at the moment. It's all so green, I just can't stop. It's still at the stage where it's surprising.

4. Next on my to-do list is getting to grips with GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation for those of you from far away (it's an EU thing). While I'm happy to have less annoying phone calls and emails, it's all quite tricky and annoying for website owners and freelancers. That's probably why I'm here writing this instead of doing something from The List.

5. I found out the other day that I'm a bit low in iron. It was quite a surprise, I've always thought I was fairly healthy, but somewhere along the way all the iron has disappeared. I'd like to say I'm eating lots of dark green leafy things, but in reality I'm taking iron tablets and eating dark chocolate, the kind with 85% cocoa solids and not much sugar. I've convinced myself it's good for me. I don't think it's the easily absorbed sort of iron, but we'll gloss over that.

6. I am bracing myself for the last six weeks of school before the summer hols. It's usually ridiculously frantic, requiring a huge amount of parental involvement and payment for things. Much like the summer holidays themselves in fact. I am already thinking about Things To Do. Maybe making a bench from a pallet with the littlest boy (I know this probably comes under the heading of Far Too Ambitious Things that I dream up in spring and that seem like complete madness by the time summer comes around) and a bit of linocutting and printing, which the biggest boy might enjoy as well. Did you see Robert Gillmor on Springwatch the other day? He's one of the biggest boy's favourite wildlife artists. His linocuts are fantastic.

7. I've just started reading a book by a local indie writer. I really should do this sort of thing more often instead of relying on a diet supplied by mainstream publishing houses. Self-publishing is huge these days and some really great writers are choosing it.

8. I'm still working on fiction writing. I know I don't mention it much, but I am. Pretty much every evening. Time is always a problem, as it is for most of us. But I am carving out a little time each day. Slowly, slowly.

9. I've grown a wisteria up the back of the house, so now when I look out, the view is partly framed by leaves. I'm convinced that looking at green things is good for me. I saw a dusky pink one when I was out earlier and in the interests of being thrifty I didn't buy it. Now I'm wishing I did. But can I trust the label???

10. I am anticipating a quiet weekend. People have cricket to go to and there's a local ecology meeting, but other than that with the dog on minimal exercise I don't imagine I'll be required to go far. I am often envious of people who have lovely relaxing weekends, when I'm off here, there and everywhere, marching across the countryside and standing at the edge of football pitches. I'm hopeful I shall at some stage this weekend join the ranks of those relaxing at home. Although there's gardening to be done, writing to be written and GDPR to be comprehended and complied with. I shall no doubt be found looking out of the window with a blank look on my face. Wishing all a good couple of days. CJ xx