Sunday, 11 April 2021

Into the light


More over-exposed photos from my camera, really must get that sorted. Although at the moment I am focusing on trying to get someone to fix my old laptop that I use as a second screen. It just needs a new cable putting in between the screen and the keyboard bit, but the local shop quoted me a ludicrous amount that involved ordering things from America and waiting for weeks and paying import tax and all sorts of ridiculousness. The he tried to sell me a new laptop. The piece I need is £3.50 on ebay. 

I also had a bit of trouble with quotes for new fencing. £1,600 for collecting a dozen new panels and dropping them into the pre-existing concrete uprights. I don't mind paying a reasonable sum for having a job well done, but given that the panels themselves cost less than £30 each, it seemed excessive. So I haven't tackled the camera thing yet. Plus, where would I go? 

I booked to take my eldest, the birdwatcher, to the wetlands place, then it was cancelled, and I booked to the take the youngest to a skatepark and that was cancelled too. Not complaining at all, but it was very exciting to write things on the calendar. Now we are back down to 'Worm Dog' and 'Check Miso - 6 Months'. (I made some homemade miso a while back, which needs to ferment for half a year). 

The barbers open tomorrow, but they are not operating a booking system so it will be queues the length of the high street I imagine. There is a serious amount of hair in this house, people are receiving comments. Not me, I did my own. And hopefully it will have grown back out in a year or so.

There is a serious cat problem in the back garden at the moment. With a missing fence panel at the back, it is a cat free-for-all. I had no idea there were so many. Bert is incensed. More so as he is not allowed out because of the missing fence panel and the risk that he would spot a cat and that's the last we'd see of him. 

Football has started up again, which is good, although I'd forgotten how long a match is and how cold it can be standing there watching. I think I have become soft over lockdown. All that nice warm inside time. 

News from your end? xx

Thursday, 18 March 2021



Blue skies down by the river and birdsong everywhere. I hear a woodpecker on my walks most mornings which is lovely. He is showing off a bit and staking his claim to his territory I think. 

It's been a week of small frustrations here. You know the sort. Banging your head against a brick wall with the Revenue. Ditto trying to open a bank account for a child. Trying to tell the printer that there is nothing wrong with the brand new genuine branded cartridge you have spent a small fortune on. Ordering a new printer, then ordering the ink somewhere else, then being told the printer is not in stock. My head felt dangerously hot at one point, I worried it might explode. 

The littlest boy has grown over the latest lockdown so that neither his school trousers nor his school shoes fit him any more. He had to take a note in so that he could wear non-uniform shoes as they are being quite strict at his school these days after a number of rather shambolic years. The middle boy also seems to have grown out of his school shoes. He pointed out that they were bought for him way back in August, so it is no surprise that he needs new ones. Good grief. He has only worn them for about three months. 

Anyway, I am being all calm and zen about it all now and not getting het up about things I cannot control. Well, okay, that is absolute rubbish, but it's what I aspire to.

Bertie had a hair cut last week, which he absolutely loathes. He shakes like a leaf when he realises we're headed for the groomer's. I practised walking past her house with him last night to try and get used to it, but it didn't work at all and I ended up carrying him. I wonder what he objects to so much. She does shave him quite closely in places.

My camera isn't working properly at the moment. On an ordinary setting it lets in so much light that a picture is almost entirely white, so I have to put it on a really dark setting. Not sure if it is fixable, but it is making taking pictures tricky. Maybe it's time to look for a new-to-me one. The biggest boy did mutter something about giving me his old one, but I fear I would be told off all the time for slinging it carelessly in my bag. Any sort of definitive action is slightly beyond me right now for some reason, so I will no doubt just stumble on taking over-exposed things or too dark things and muttering under my breath. 

I hope this post didn't come out as too much of a moan. I am very chipper really, just slightly short on any actual news. How are things at your end?

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Mind the frog

Lockdown reading. I seem to recall muttering something about taking more photos last time I passed this way. What I actually meant was for next time...

Has anyone read Where the Crawdads Sing? It has such good reviews, I was so excited about the idea of reading it. Then I started it and it was so utterly dismal at the beginning I couldn't stand it. Lockdown reading has to be very carefully selected I've found. But I did wonder if I should have persevered. Then the library asked for it back, so that was that. If anyone can persuade me to give it a proper go I shall be happy to hear from them. I have annoyed myself rather.

I thought Three Hours was excellent. Hard to say much about it without spoilers, but one line in particular was very damning I thought. More than just a simple entertaining story.

Sir Philip Pullman remains my favourite writer and his Daemon Voices On Stories and Storytelling is exceptionally promising so far. The sort of book where I want to write down all the quotes. 

And hopefully Intuitive Editing will help me faff around with the manuscripts. Tiffany Yates Martin seems very knowledgeable on the subject. 

And with that, my to be read pile is looking a bit small. Do send any recommendations my way.

In other news, the frogs have gathered in the pond and there is frogspawn. I always feel so sorry for them at this time of year, I see them wandering the streets in the evening, desperately searching for a pond. They are so few and far between. I told a group of teenage boys the other evening to mind the frog, who was sat in the middle of the pavement trying to be invisible. I looked back to check they'd obeyed and found them giving it a ten-foot berth, which made me laugh. 

The Bewick's swans have headed back to the Arctic tundra for the breeding season. They had a bit of a false start this year, when the cold weather swept in from the East. Four days after leaving, they turned up again, which is really unusual. Safely on their way now though. 

And one final sign that spring is in the air, the clunky, ringing crash of a skateboard shooting across the patio at high speed and smashing into a terracotta pot. Sigh. I spent Sunday afternoon sticking them back together - the skateboard one and the ones that the frost got. Everything is (briefly) together now.

The urchins may be on their way back to school next week. It will be strange without them. How are things in your neck of the woods? Frogs? Books? Skateboards? Do tell. CJ xx

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Fat rascals and obnoxiousness


Well that's rather a dismal selection of photos isn't it. The first one is from two weeks ago as the littlest boy's snowman slowly sank in on himself. His head was at a really jaunty angle for a couple of days and I was waiting for the moment when it fell off. It was pretty much all I had going on to be honest. Anyway, it rained and he dissolved in an instant, so there wasn't even any head-off drama. We haven't had any snow since.

Then the middle boy had a birthday. And that is all of my news. If that looks like a yule log it's because it is a yule log. I didn't make one at Christmas (sometimes it just seems as if there's enough food) so he asked for one for his birthday. Fifteen already. I tried to interest him in an online locked room game, but he just laughed incredulously and explained that such a thing relied on teamwork and cooperation and we never spoke of it again. 

Chess has been big here lately. Nothing to do with the television thing, haven't seen it, but the urchins are rather obsessed nonetheless. They have a timer now, which I thought would be a good thing, but it turns out I can't concentrate on going quickly, thinking up moves and pressing a timer as well, it is just all too much. 

The littlest boy had an absolute triumph the other day when he beat everyone in the house in one day. The biggest boy said, 'How come when he plays dad he's really bad but when he plays me he elevates himself to international Grand Master level?' The littlest boy went around singing 'I'm the best' for quite a while. Yes, in case you were wondering, we are all totally obnoxious in this house. And deluded.

I am making a resolution to take more photos. Maybe even one a day. I used to do that, but it was a lot easier when the urchins were small and did cute stuff and didn't mind a camera pointed at them too much. The littlest boy and I made some cherry fat rascals just now, from a Sam Stern recipe, so I shall start with a picture of them if I can. They're quite big, but Sam made them twice the size. I can't say I've ever had a fat rascal, I wonder if they're supposed to be the size of a saucer??? I'm not objecting you understand, it's just when I do baking I usually like to end up with more than five of a thing.

I've been taking the ice off of the pond every morning, a good centimetre some days, which is very unusual. I did it originally to lift off all the duckweed, which works a treat for getting rid of it, but then I realised how much the birds were appreciating the water, so I kept doing it. Yesterday a blackbird had a really long bath, which surprised me, given how cold it was.

I've sown some seeds, after being late with everything last year. Tomatoes and cucumbers and sweet peas and delphiniums. Although the hot tomato-ripening days of summer seem a long way off at the moment. 

How are things at your end? Good I hope. I shall be back anon with some actual photos and more tales from the sharp end. CJ xx

Sunday, 24 January 2021

A miracle in bread


Obligatory snow shots from the morning dog walk. Otherwise it's been on the damp side. I did have something absolutely amazing to show you, but sadly now I don't. This is what happened... You may recall I bake a loaf of bread most days in a bread machine. The urchins get through a LOT of the stuff. Well, this morning when I went to take it out, there was a big flake stuck to the side of the tin, and when I removed it, it was shaped just like Great Britain, yes it was. A giant breadcrumb in the shape of Britain! I know! I showed the littlest boy, who was suitably impressed, then I eased it onto a plate and told him I'd show the others, who would also be amazed, and then I would photograph it. 

Anyway, fast forward a couple of hours and we fell out about something or other and he stomped off into the kitchen AND ATE IT. The lesson being, if you ever come across something truly phenomenal you should take a picture of it immediately. I am of course hugely disappointed, I was almost certain it would go viral, if not make the front page of The Times. Honestly, you would have been lost for words. It had East Anglia and John o' Groats and Stranraer and Pembrokeshire and I bet I could even have found Northern Ireland if I'd gone back in the bread machine. There was quite a bit of Cornwall missing, but other than that it was pretty miraculous. 

Otherwise I'm not sure I really have any news. Does anyone else? I've been working a lot and doing the odd bike ride, but otherwise staying below the parapet and powering on through. 

The littlest boy is doing his online lessons opposite me at the dining table, which is brilliant because he has me on tap to fetch things for him whenever he needs them. It's quite funny hearing him in a lesson. I pretend not to hear anything, but of course I am listening to it all. Well, his bits anyway, he wears headphones. His PE teacher said that mums and dads could join in the workout, but sadly he wouldn't let me. Maybe next time...

Hope all is well out there and that everyone is hanging onto their sanity. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Do not pass go

The Bristolian pronunciation made me laugh

Greetings lovely people from the good ship 2021. I hope this finds you well and ready to tackle the New Year with all the fantastic clean, cold January energy. I do love summer, but I always feel far more productive when it's a bit chilly somehow.

Board games are still in full swing here, being thrown across the room almost daily. Monopoly is an absolute horror, and yet I still find myself saying, 'Oh go on then, just a quick game,' when someone suggests it ten minutes before bed. Honestly, who invents these things?

The littlest boy and I made a trip to the mini zoo nearby. I was very taken with a tree in a pot. A blue cedar? I'm not sure. I do love a nice shaped evergreen in the depths of winter. We spent a long time walking through a wilderness zone without spotting anything much. I was happy that the animals had enough space to disappear, although a glimpse might have been nice.

Homeschool has been rolled out across Above The River Towers. The littlest boy gets to sit opposite me while he has his lessons. It gives him the opportunity to ask for snacks every twenty minutes. I felt the drama teacher may have slightly lost control of it all this afternoon. There was a lot of sniggering and apparently some people were blowing into their microphones and messing about. Oh, and she was appearing on the screen upside down. I really felt for her and was all mummish and stern.

The school seem to be making a pretty fantastic job of it all this time, after the first lockdown when no discernible learning seemed to take place at all. Not in this house anyway. 

I managed to write 100,000 words across November and December in the end, and now I have shrieked to a halt. More discipline needed I feel. I should write that on a Post-It and stick it to the wall.

How are things in your corner of the globe? Good I hope, all things considered. I'm sending you wishes of a very happy and successful New Year. And recommending that you do not even consider Monopoly during lockdown, if you have one. CJ xx

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Merry and bright

Ready or not, here it comes. A bit of baking left to do here, which I'll try and squeeze in somehow. I'm not exactly taking a break over Christmas, but working from home means I'm always here anyway and I can be flexible.

The littlest boy and I made a foray into town this afternoon, more for the exercise than anything. We went to the garden shop for tasty dog snacks. The high street was really quiet. It was closed to traffic early on in the pandemic, which has upset the retailers because of the loss of passing trade. I'm hoping there won't be any losses of the independent shops.

A friend of mine has just opened a plastic-free shop, which is pretty brilliant. An antidote to the horrors of festive packaging. 

I have a couple of little outings planned, but some of the things we usually do and places I wanted to take the urchins are in different counties, and we're surrounded by lower tiers, so we'll no doubt be staying closer to home. 

I've been enjoying walking about the place on these short, dark days. I love midwinter, in particular that last hour of daylight which always seems so magical. Walking home, with lights going on in people's houses, having somewhere warm and dry and cosy to go to, it's such a good feeling. The dog has been less impressed with getting wet paws three times a day, but no doubt he'll toughen up.

On the subject of toughening up, the middle boy made me laugh earlier today. We were talking about the different years at school no longer mix and how it's all one-way now, so there is no more shoving of Year 7s (the youngest ones - 11-12 year olds) out of the way in the corridor in brutal fashion. I felt they wouldn't be properly toughened up. He said they also wouldn't learn proper respect for their elders. On reflection, perhaps an entire tradition will be completely lost. When they get to years 10 and 11, will they instinctively know to knock the smaller people flying? Or will they be all polite and well-mannered? It could change the whole basis of civilisation. 

Anyway, I shall stop blithering and wish you all the very best for the season. Any festive baking to be done your way? I need to knock up a nice nut roast for the vegans/vegetarians and a vegan chocolate pudding for the vegans/people who don't like Christmas pudding, then I feel I must be just about ready. There is food in the fridge (or at least, there was yesterday, which isn't necessarily quite the same thing), the dog has a good variety of snacks plus an exciting new flat squirrel toy to play with, in lieu of an actual squirrel, as they've proved devilishly tricky to catch, and just one door left on the advent calendar. It is a Christmas at the Palace one, and if the last big double door at the front of the palace does not reveal the Queen and a whole bunch of corgis I will be mightily disappointed. I will let you know.

Have a lovely day, and see you on the other side. CJ xx