Tuesday 26 September 2017


The puppy dog is looming large around here this week. I have writing to finish by Friday, but he is proving a big fat distraction. I threw an old chenille throw in the washing machine yesterday because he'd made it grubby. Went on the school run. Came back to find it had completely disintegrated in the washing machine. Honestly, you've never seen anything like it. The poor machine was beeping and flashing and had put a sad little message in its screen saying SUD. It probably wanted to say WHAT IN THE NAME OF GOD ARE YOU DOING TO ME but it couldn't form the words. So that was the rest of the morning gone, sorting out the hideousness of it all.

Today there's been garden digging, house chewing, oh, you know, all of the things that there are to be done in a puppy's busy day. I bought a new throw. He chewed it. Right now he's lying next to me on the sofa being adorable though so it is all almost forgotten.

What with all the writing and puppy wrangling there hasn't been too much time for reading lately, but I've been enjoying The Dry by Jane Harper. All that searing central Australian heat. Years without rain. Great atmosphere, pressure cooker tension. I'm also reading about forest gardening. A wilder and more natural way of growing. It's effectively building a little ecosystem where everything works together. I'm wondering if it could be implemented in a small way in the garden. What I need is a bit of land, an allotment or something...

I'm thinking it might be time to knit a nice seasonal scarf. This morning was deliciously damp and misty. I am programmed to start knitting when the weather reaches peak autumn. So far we have yellow and red leaves, dewy mornings, spiders, fruitfulness and nights that are longer than days. It's time, no?

Thursday 21 September 2017

It's not pretty

There isn't much prettiness left in my garden now. The tomatoes are hanging on, dripping with dew or rain depending on the time of day, ripening oh so slowly. The autumn raspberries are small and fidgety. Pears are full and heavy. There's a spider in his web between the fence and the bin. He has until Tuesday when the bins need to go out. He's already done some excellent running repairs, possibly even a whole new web. All those hours of work, I do hate to break a spider's web.

What can I say about this petunia?

It's called Vanilla Raspberry Star. When I bought it it had a few flowers in the deepest purple imaginable. One or two of them had tiny hint of a pale stripe, but they were mostly dark, dark, dark. Fast forward a couple of months and it's absolutely covered in these mad gaudy stripey things. Fine if that was what I had planned, but it's in a pot with a deep red dianthus and a pink geranium (photo above the chillies) and to be honest it's all a bit much. One of those gardening surprises. I'm used to it now, but it's certainly eye-catching.

I was going to do some sort of fancy collage effect to tone down the pictures a bit but it seems that Picmonkey now require money from me for such things. I shall have to look elsewhere. Any suggestions blogging friends?

I have been writing like mad this week, in fact I should really be writing now but you know how it is. The biggest boy peered over my shoulder. 'That's bad grammar, you've started the sentence with a subordinate clause.' Huh? They didn't teach that sort of thing in my day. No idea what one is. I defended myself gamely. 'I'm going for a more colloquial feel.' 'You can't, it's bad grammar. Let me just change it for you.'  Next he told me that wormeries was not a word. I googled it. 'It IS a word, look, "Wriggly wiggler wormeries, Wormeries for sale, Worms suitable for wormeries", IT'S A WORD.' I need a room of my own.

The autumn feel has kicked in properly now. It's all apple crumble, muddy football boots and a damp dog. His short legs mean that his dear little tummy (can you tell he's asleep right now?) gets soaked in the grass every time we go out. I debated putting a warm hot water bottle under his basket to dry him out. I managed not to, but once it gets properly chilly you know I will. I'd get him one of those nice plug-in heat mats if I thought he wouldn't destroy it in five minutes flat.

We are locked in battle over the pond at the moment. Did I tell you about when he fell in at 11.15pm? We'd popped out last thing to look at the grass and as usual the frogs had started plopping in the pond at the sight of us. He was intrigued and thought he'd have a look. I went into the kitchen hoping he'd follow. There was a god-almighty splash. I ran back to the garden. There he was on the grass, dripping pond weed.

It turned out when I looked the next day that in scrambling out he'd knocked some slates into the pond. While I was putting them back I thought I'd might as well clear it out. This is one of my least favourite garden jobs, what with all the Things lurking in the bottom and frogs jumping out all over the place. I took out the iris which had grown huge as well as the water lily and put back small pieces, just two little clumps of iris in fact. Ever since then he has been pulling them out of the pond about five times a day. He was banned from the garden today, but had still managed to get a clump out before 7am. I've cut all the leaves off but it doesn't deter him. He hasn't beaten me yet though. Every time he pulls them out, I put them back in. Who will win? As we used to say in the casino, place your bets please.

Monday 18 September 2017

Monday blues

Urgh, what a Monday. One of those days when it all goes wrong. Oh, nothing monumental, and I feel like a spoilt diva complaining, but I woke up in a grump and now a whole day of unproductiveness has gone by and I'm in even more of a grump.

Spent the morning wrestling with an email problem and got absolutely nowhere. You know that point when you want to throw the laptop through the plate glass window.

The dog was annoying ALL DAY. Running round the garden dragging the clean washing through the mud. Getting his paws wet, then coating them in earth and running through the kitchen TWICE, once straight after I'd cleaned up from the first time. The morning dog walk did not go well. He doesn't like to Walk Nicely, he would rather do that demented spaniel thing of running about getting under my feet, sniffing everything and trying to eat all the litter.

I gave up on the writing and put up a towel rail instead. Turns out it's not quite straight. This sort of thing matters more than it should to me I'm afraid. I opened a new phone, but it has to be sent back. I taped up a box of papers for the courier with the lable inside. I stood in something nasty (both shoes) while chasing the dog round the garden. The washing got soaked in a sudden shower. Oh I could go on but I won't. It sounds ridiculous now I've written it down and I feel like I'm standing here stamping my foot. I am pulling myself together immediately and tomorrow I shall be a completely different, lovely, patient and good-natured person.

Any tips for unslumping oneself?

Photos from a great afternoon up on the common running about the place with the dog and playing happy imaginative games.

Friday 15 September 2017

Sun on our noses

that moment when the sun comes out
In between the showers there's still a breath of warmth and sunshine. The bees are making the most of it, visiting the cosmos, always the cosmos, and the dahlias. There a geranium I'm in love with and I want to save it for next year.

It's called Tomke I think. I just adore that deep red colour in the garden, it really speaks to me for some reason.

I'm a big fan of mending things about the home. The hanger in my ancient peg bag broke. I couldn't bear to part with this fantastic vintage flowery fabric. What would I replace it with? Some plastic basket from China? It wouldn't be the same.

So I stitched on a bit of ribbon. It does the job, hopefully it will last another decade or two...

Here's the outtake with a puppy nose in the picture.

He likes to be wherever I am, doing whatever I'm doing. Even if he's sleeping he'll get up and follow me into the garden to make sure he doesn't lose me. If I pop out for an hour he greets me as though I've been away for a month. Every time.

He is very keen on his pheasant. It must awaken some deeply rooted drive to pick up limp things and carry them around. We found a dead guillemot on the beach on holiday (a big seabird). I had images of him trying to bring it home with him. Kept him well away.

As he grows he's become a bit barkier. At night he feels it his duty to warn us of anyone who might be passing or chatting or loitering. And he's very vigilant when it comes to reflections in the window. Will he ever work out he's looking at himself??? Anyway, he takes it all very seriously.

On the subject of seabirds and creatures getting into scrapes, CT has alerted me to two separate seagull incidents in South Wales. They both fell into curry and turned bright orange. This seems a bit of a strange coincidence. Is something going on that we don't know about? Here and here should you need to see pictures. If you can't view it, just imagine a big white bird soaked from head to toe in tandoori sauce. It seems like something that would happen in one of Malcolm Pryce's Aberystwyth novels (Last Tango in Aberystwyth etc. etc.). Can anyone shed light?

Tuesday 12 September 2017

The Above the River ethos

I seem to be short of photos at the moment. There are none from the weekend and there are none from this week so far. Maybe because I haven't been anywhere very exciting. Life can be a bit like that sometimes can't it. It would have been fun taking skateboarding photos at the skatefest at the weekend, but we didn't go - puppy, rain, no car, six hours of standing in said rain with said puppy etc. In the end the sun shone, but it was too late and we missed it. And now of course it's dark. Once the sun comes up tomorrow I'll take a photo of a mug or something just to have a recent picture. It doesn't feel quite right otherwise. The above picture is of Bristol Central Library, the bit where you can sit quietly and work. I used to go there when I was doing my law degree. Now I'd go there and write if I had a chance. There's something energising about being somewhere like that. The quiet swirl of thoughts and curiosity. Everyone beavering away at bettering themselves or creating or planning. Surrounded by all that knowledge and information. It's all there.

I was going to do a Day in the Life post but I failed to take photos. It was a bit of a failure of a day in some ways anyway. Zero work accomplished, but I do have a clean and tidy house, almost nothing in the laundry pile, food in the fridge and I finally got an electrician to come and sort out a phone thing and a dodgy socket. I told him, It fizzes and cuts out a bit and one of the prongs gets really hot, but I find if I kick it hard the power comes through again. He looked alarmed at the recklessness of it all. Later on I had a conversation with the littlest boy on the way home from school. A boy was threatening to jump off a high wall. Girls were screaming and worried he would break a leg.

Littlest boy: Girls are like that. They're so sensible, they don't like anything wild and crazy. 

Me: I wasn't, I liked wild and crazy. 

Littlest boy: I'm like you then. But you're not wild and crazy now.

Me: (with a touch of melancholy): No, I'm all grown up now.

I guess it's his turn to do the crazy stuff now. And I can be a girl and worry about it all.

I picked up a Home School Agreement for him to sign yesterday. It's basically a page setting out what the school expects from him and me and what they will provide in return.

Me: Can you sign this baby, it's just the Home School Agreement?

Littlest boy: Can I read it first?

[This is the child of lawyers indeed.]

Me: Okay.

[Pause while he reads it carefully.]

Littlest boy: What does ethos mean?

Me: Um, oh, you know, what the school would like to do that is, um, good, and, um, that sort of thing...

Littlest boy: Do I have to sign it?

[Awkward squad - that's from me I fear.]

Me: Well, they'd like you to, it's your education agreement with them.

Littlest boy: What if I don't agree with it, it's like they're forcing me practically.

Practically is one of his favourite words. Probably gets that from me as well. The form disappeared. I'm assuming he signed it, but maybe he's returning it for further negotiation. Perhaps he has an issue with their ethos, particularly after I explained it so beautifully.

So that's all from around here. No pictures, no adventures and a damp squib of a day. The Above The River ethos if you like. I have a load of writing to do so I have very high hopes for the rest of the week but of course there will still be no pictures and precious few tales of derring-do. I am making a note to have an exciting weekend.

Sunday 10 September 2017

A little light yarn bombing

Discovered this yarn bombing in deepest Pembrokeshire while looking for a chippy, you know how it is. I managed to snap a few quick pictures before I had to run to keep up. I always seem to be taking really quick photos then hurrying along, trying not to get left behind.

The hare is particularly lovely isn't he. And the Queen's Guards, I like them a lot. We have a saying in this house when someone's in our way which comes from a silly little video of a hapless tourist getting in the way of the real Queen's Guards. He's milling around outside Buckingham Palace as the Guards approach. His wife says to him, "They're coming through Derek, mind. Mind. MIND." Derek doesn't grasp it at all and barely moves. The Queen's Guards come marching through him and he goes flying. When we first discovered it the boys re-enacted it quite a bit in the living room until some people were on the floor in pain. So now we just try to do the words. "Coming through Derek, MIND," whenever we need to get past each other.

September is truly here. It's been a weekend of mud and showers. On Saturday the middle boy actually lost a trainer in thick mud. He went to a fishing competition and was trying to get some water out of the lake apparently. The mud sucked his trainer off and by the time he got someone to help him the mud had closed over the trainer and it was lost forever.

Today was all football boots and wellies and the dog galloping through wet grass until he looked like a drowned rat. I took him for a final walk as the sun set. It was lovely to get out for a moment's peace and quiet and feel the wind blowing in my hair. Although to be fair it had been blowing in my hair most of the day, but combined with the peace and quiet it felt different somehow. Lights were coming on in people's houses and it all looked cosy and Sundayish. Bertie had a gallop with a friend and has been a nice puppy ever since. As opposed to earlier when he was less nice and stealing the washing, chewing the house and generally moving from one naughty thing to the next.

When I got home the other half was on the phone. Some lovely person had found the middle boy's missing trainer from deep in the mud and it will be returned to us. A result no? I rescued the other one from the bin and crossed New Trainers off the to-do list. Happy.

Monday 4 September 2017

Notebook season

A weekend of two halves. Saturday: glorious sunshine, cricket, which you will see I watched attentively, walking the dog in the woods when all that sitting down got too much and a few light snacks on the grass. Sunday: rain, football, wet dog.

Bertie had his eyebrows trimmed the other day, the better to see us all. They gave him a bit of a wash and brush up as well and he was returned to us more than a little perfumed. I preferred the puppy smell. It was strong enough to fragrance a whole room. The perfume that is, not the puppy smell, that was nice and pretty much undetectable.

The grooming place had a whole menu of extras you could add to your dog's pampering experience including a blueberry facial, paw wax, a hydrating butter treatment, fresh breath foam and a spritz of perfume. A blueberry facial. How would that even work? Bertie should be counting his lucky stars. Although a little soothing paw balm might be a nice thing after all that beach galloping. There was something about nose moisturising as well. Maybe that's where the hydrating butter goes.

Dog training continues apace. I was in trouble when I let Bertie eat the bit of sausage he was supposed to be Leaving. I thought I detected a micro hesitation, at which point I thought I was supposed to reward him. Apparently not. Everyone also needs to work on Waiting At A Door as well. A lot of rushing through in front of one's person which isn't the done thing at all. Waiting Nicely is what we're aiming for. Lots to work on. Next week it's recall.

School is off and running and the shops are nicely full of new notebooks. Some people love shoes; I'm a notebook and bag person. All the endless possibilities for adventure and finding an inspirational spot to sit and write. Scribblers amongst you, don't waste the opportunity, get out there and find yourself a new notebook while they're in season. Before you know it we'll be on to Hallowe'en and you don't want to be full of regret for opportunities lost.

Saturday 2 September 2017

Tales from the summer

Writing at the indoor skatepark. This is grand luxury for someone accustomed to standing outside watching various sporting things in the rain. Shelter! Hot drinks! A sofa! The spaced used to belong to Damien Hirst so it has all sorts of creative energies flowing through it. Well, it has sofas anyway and maybe the ghost of a cow or two. Looking at the photo I feel I have to say that I wouldn't normally put my feet on a table, especially not with shoes on. But at the skatepark it's almost de rigeur. Picture by the littlest boy.

We went to the woods on the hottest day last week so that the dog could gallop around in the shade. There were excellent vines for doing the Tarzan thing. And butterflies, including this one - a silver washed fritillary I think. Photo by the biggest boy - I'm hopeless at photographing butterflies and missed it completely.

The garden had got away from me a little over the holiday so we had a big tidy of it last weekend, including dragging all the pots out and weeding the patio. This is just about everyone's worst job, especially those over 6'.

I finally grew a dahlia this year and the bees are loving it. Down at the allotment there was a sunflower.

On the subject of the allotment, I have decided to give it up for now. As you can imagine, it takes a serious number of hours to keep a plot in reasonable shape, and while I'm trying to establish myself as a freelance writer I simply don't have the time.

It's a bit sad, but I know it's the right thing to do. Someone else with more hours to spare will make better use of the land. And the garden is more than enough for me right now. It's also been tricky to get down to the plot with the puppy. It had got to the stage where it was a problem hanging over me, so there's relief mingled with the disappointment. A weight off my mind. Now I can concentrate on the other weights.

Summer is rolling on around here. There is still cricket to be played and sunshine to be enjoyed. Although tomorrow there are three football matches and a forecast of rain. A new season begins. I'm in.