Thursday, 15 November 2018

A few of my opinions







I have had the three most unproductive days known to man, and I've finally given up and come here to say hello instead. All sorts of things popped up to stymie me yesterday, including a new GP practice refusing to take me on, requiring research, a letter of appeal etc., you know how it is, a high-maintenance dog, all sorts of paperwork errors, website problems, foreign cheque-cashing problems, oh, I shan't go on, but you get the picture.

Then today the middle boy stayed at home being unwell. This involved a lot of sitting opposite me chatting, some cooking, involving more input than I was expecting, printing off of logic puzzles, lots of discussion of said logic puzzles and on and on. The dog was more excited than usual, having someone else around, plus the cooking which involved both cheese and tuna (tuna pasta bake), so he spent longer than usual running around destroying various bits of laundry, then the littlest boy came home with a huge amount of News, a whole bag full of muddy stuff (forest school) and the need for large amounts of food AT ONCE.

So here I am. I have basically given up trying to do anything constructive - writing or editing articles, fixing aforementioned website problems, blah, blah, blah.

I went to the bank to open an account. One of the big ones. You know, the ones that spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on advertising to persuade you to open an account with them. Barclays, since you ask. I asked nicely if I could open an account. She said that I could, but the lady that does it only works Tuesdays and alternate Thursdays. She was there today but couldn't possibly fit me in. I asked nicely if I could see her on Tuesday. No, that wouldn't be possible, she was fully booked. I said very nicely that it seemed odd, I thought they would want people to open accounts with them. Instead of nodding and sighing and doing a bit of sympathetic eye-rolling, which would have made me feel that we were both on the same side, she got very defensive and said that they were only a small branch and couldn't possibly open accounts except on Tuesdays and alternate Thursdays. I said very nicely that I thought I would try a different bank after all, but thank you anyway. Honestly. They try so hard to get people in the door to open accounts, and there I was, wanting to open an account. Now I am taking all my millions and going to the one down the road. They pretty much dealt with me instantly. It wasn't hard, I am an enchanting and easy customer.

Sorry for the rant. I am feeling a bit ranty today, and the words fly out of my fingers faster than you would believe. I am behind on NaNoWriMo, which is making me a bit cross. I was doing fine until three days ago, then there wasn't enough time, and then yesterday there wasn't enough time and today I am here sulking and ranting. It is halfway through November now, and I should therefore have 25,000 words. In fact I have 21,742. I shall not be discouraged though. Onwards, etc.

Are we all enjoying Brexit? Gosh, some people think they're important don't they? Jacob Rees-Mogg I'm looking at you. I'd better stop before I give you my opinion on Trump and his tweets about France. Do leave me a cheery comment, or tell me to get a grip of myself, stop complaining about ordinary stuff, which I know I'm lucky to have and to get the hell back to my 50,000 words.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

For The Fallen

Photo by Laurentiu Iordache on Unsplash
For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, 
England mourns for her dead across the sea. 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, 
There is music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; 
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Lawrence Binyon

Friday, 9 November 2018

Being dramatic (again)






Autumn is full throttle here at Casa Above the River. Wind and rain and a mass of red and gold cherry leaves swirling about the garden. As I type, a draught is blowing through the closed window. The dog is sat with his nose pressed to the glass, keeping an eye on the street. His people are out, and he is waiting for them, while simultaneously guarding against potential intruders. It's getting dark, on an overcast afternoon, barely quarter past four but I'll be putting on the lamp soon.

Amongst the baring branches of the trees in the back garden there have been dozens of goldfinches. This year seems to have been a bumper year. I counted over 50 the other day, flying in a flock between the trees and backwards and forwards to a feeder. The starlings have been doing their usual mass descent onto my neighbours' grapevine, which is still full of fruit. They suddenly all appear, go mad for a couple of minutes, then, poof, they're gone.

The biggest boy spotted a sparrowhawk in the neighbours' tree this week as well. It was a fantastic bird to see, so close to the house. You may be forgiven for thinking we spend all our time peering into the neighbours' garden. Well, it's possible we do. They are lovely, they don't mind at all.

I girded my loins and made a return trip to the dentist yesterday. It went something like this.

Me:  It's getting a bit better I think. Maybe just a few more antibiotics and it will be all better. [I should point out that I am normally against antibiotics, but the pain had turned me into someone I didn't recognise. You know, like when a rhino or a tiger goes on the rampage, destroying villages and eating children, and when they finally capture it, it turns out to have toothache - that was me.]

Dentist: No, that won't work. It will need to come out eventually. You could try using mouthwash.

Me: Hmm. I think it's almost better though. You wouldn't give me just a bit more of the antibiotics, just to clear it up?

Dentist: No, they won't work. The tooth will need to come out eventually. We could do it now.

This went on for a bit.

Me: Oh, I suppose I don't have a choice then. Okay. Yes, do it.

Dentist: Shall we do it now?

Me: Okay, do it. [Needle approaches]. HANG ON, I'M NOT SURE NOW. If I had more antibiotics I think it would clear up.

Dentist: You could try mouthwash.

Me: (Sadly) It won't work. It really hurts. Oh, go on then.

[Dentist numbs mouth and leaves it to work for a couple of minutes, then pokes my gum with instrument of torture.]

Me: I CAN FEEL THAT, I CAN STILL FEEL IT, IT HASN'T WORKED YET, I'M NOT NUMB, I CAN STILL FEEL IT.

Dentist: You can just feel the pressure, it's all numb.

Me: IT'S NOT NUMB, I'M FEELING IT.

Dentist: Open a bit wider. [Crunch]. There we are, all done.

Me: Oh.

Dental nurse: [Inserting gauze pad] Bite on this.

Me: [Surprised] Tha wathn't ath bad ath I thaw it woo be.

No pain at all! Turns out I was all nicely numb after all. And it turns out I'm completely dramatic when it comes to teeth. Never mind, all done now. I am looking forward to the return to actual proper food. I have some nice stuffed pasta in the fridge, and I might even manage a finely chopped salad. Anything scrumptious planned for yourselves over the weekend? I hope you enjoy. CJ xx

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Slices of quince







Thank you for all of your tooth well wishes. I have completely failed to heal it by the power of the mind and I'm in absolute agony. I did go back to the dentist and get some antibiotics, after trying my very best to avoid them. They haven't worked yet, but I am travelling hopefully. And also looking after my microbiome, which I have nurtured carefully with all manner of probiotics. Mostly at the moment it's yoghurt and kefir because of the whole inability to eat anything proper.

I am tired of the pain now to be honest, and tired because I'm not sleeping well, and no doubt those around me are tired of, well, me I should think. Never mind, it's not the end of the world, no doubt it will all resolve itself somehow. I am missing the pleasure of eating things though. Now I look at a plate of food and calculate the amount of pain it will cause me. Right, that's quite enough whingeing I think. I'm unbearable and I know it.

I got hold of a few free quinces the other day. They are sitting waiting patiently for me to summon some food enthusiasm. I have in mind Nigel Slater's quinces in a soft crust - a bit of an almond quince crumble thing I think. The quinces were outside of a house I happened to be driving past. A woman came out and I thanked her for them. She told me not to thank her, they were dreadful things! Maybe she hasn't met Nigel.

I decided to take the plunge and do NaNoWriMo. I have written 5,010 words so far, and they are all fairly rubbish. But 5,010 is a good number, no? And it'a a tenth of the way there! We'll gloss over the fact that they're rubbish.

I had a wander round the house yesterday to see what everyone was reading. Derek Landy and Skulduggery Pleasant for the littlest boy, he loves it, Rick Riordan for the middle boy and a huge pile of absolutely everything for the biggest boy. Wildlife and landscape photography, working out, eating well, cricket, art, skateboard designs, it's all there.

I'm reading a book by Philip Pullman, one of my favourite authors, to the younger two at the moment. The Amber Spyglass is an amazing story, the last part of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Does anyone have any must-read children's books to recommend?

The pile of books is mine, for any spare moments there might happen to be.:) While I'm NaNoWriMo-ing, I imagine that will pretty much take up all the time. Well, that and feeling sorry for myself. I shall be all lightness and delight next time I promise.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Still toothache





Day 1 of half term and already I feel that the children have squeezed me dry financially. A few quid here and a few quid there. Just a snack or two. A thing and another thing. I may start leaving my purse at home. Or maybe I'll just stay at home. It's cold out there all of a sudden. The first swan arrived on the estuary today all the way from Siberia.

The photos are of a little poppy-themed yarn bombing we spotted on our travels. The whole little town was bedecked with them, it was lovely. I think I shall look for a crocheted poppy this year, with the money still going to the Poppy Appeal, but a nice yarny one.

I still have toothache and it's driving me bananas. I have ordered soup books from the library in a bid to eat something healthy. I have to admit my diet has been rubbish for a while now. Not nearly enough vegetables. Too much dairy and oats. Things that don't hurt my tooth to eat. But it can't go on, I know I'm not doing myself any favours. A little neglect isn't the end of the world, but it wouldn't do to get in the habit.

On the writing front, I am thinking about doing NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. The idea is you write 50,000 words in the month of November. Now I've written it down it sounds like madness. I have no idea where I'd find the time, but I think it's probably one of those things where there's never a perfect time. If I've given up by day 3 you'll need to pretend you never heard me say I'd do it.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Murder, trifle, slamming things





I am trying to work out how to murder someone. It's a writing thing, not an actual thing you'll be happy to hear. Nonetheless, it doesn't feel very healthy, devoting thinking time to it. I wish it could just sort itself out and I would sweep in and solve it. But alas, I must do the killing as well as the thrilling denouement. I'll let you know how it goes. I am leaning towards rohypnol and a quick shove into the docks. But I'm also going to need to weigh the body down. You see, not healthy. Let's talk about something else.

The biggest boy went to France for a week and is now all continental. He also had a birthday and got braces - it has all been going on for him. He's finding eating tricky, not least because they've sort of propped his teeth apart to stop him actually biting them together. We are all mystified as to how he is supposed to chew things. Does he have to eat soup for two years? Of course, we should have asked at the time, but he was a bit stunned by it all and I was struggling to stay awake (bad sleeping again). I am compiling a list of things that can be eaten without teeth. Gnocchi and trifle, here we come.

I have been busy, busy, busy here, but frustratingly no-one else in the house appears to have anything to do. I am grinding my teeth and building slowly towards explosion point. It's a common thing I think, that the woman of the household does almost everything. And the more capable the woman is etc. I shall say no more, but imagine me simmering away and slamming things.

Hence the weekend promises to be tense. I would rather love to decamp with my laptop to a cafe and come home when it's all over. But of course I would miss the urchins after half an hour. Well, at least after a month or two. So we will all rattle round together and no doubt it will be good. I shall concentrate on keeping my mouth shut and Getting On With Things. Wish me luck. And if any bodies bob up in the docks, it almost certainly will not have been me.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Bore da






A fancy house no? Legend has it that a wealthy merchant had it built so that he could climb the tower and watch his ships coming in to Bristol up the river. Photos from an afternoon in the city, having a Change Of Scenery. Since we've had the dog we haven't been into town much at all, so at the weekend we went for a wander on the downs and around the nearby village. A nice change, but Bertie prefers the wide open places where the lead can be put away and he can be all free range.

Thank you all for your great suggestions on how to deal with anxiety. I have read your comments several times, and taken note of everything mentioned, all excellent ideas. I shall refer back to them from time to time as needed. As well as being good suggestions, your words were encouraging and made me feel not alone in feeling anxious on occasion. So thank you.

In other news I am toying with the idea of learning a few words of Welsh. Every time I go there I wish I could speak it. Or at least pronounce a few things. And now we have the mighty internet, I'm sure it can all be done online. It was either Welsh or Italian, or maybe Spanish. But as we can actually see Wales from here and I'm not likely to be in Spain or Italy any time soon, I thought I'd start local. And before too long it will be free to go there when they remove the toll from the bridges (at the moment it costs £5.60 to go to Wales). There will be no stopping me then.

Have you ever learned another language since school? I don't imagine it's easy, but just a few sentences would be very satisfying to know. I do love listening to people speaking it. And oh, the accent, perfection, I love it. The biggest boy and I went on a boat trip a couple of years ago when we were in North Wales, and I could have listened to the boatman (captain?) talk for hours.

I'm off to investigate online Welsh now. Until next time my friends, hwyl fawr.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Vegetables and all the good stuff







I seem to have a photo shortage here at the moment, but I do have homegrown olives. They are small but plentiful. I don't imagine they'll be edible, but the hot weather (I assume) has spurred the olive tree into production. It never looks particularly happy, and I can never work out why. It's on a south-facing patio and I make sure it has plenty of water. Maybe it would rather be dry. But anyway, I have olives.

I know you can't eat them as they are. I bought some from a souk in Morocco once when I was cycling there and tried it, and they made my whole face crumple up. There must be some mysterious alchemy involved in the curing process. If they look fat enough I will do a little research and find out.

In the meantime there is the luxury of summer fruit from the freezer and windfall apples. Crumble anyone?

I am wrestling with a little anxiety at the moment. The vague, unsettling sort. A touch of insomnia, some teeth clenching. All ridiculously unnecessary. I am considering yoga or meditation. Does anyone do these things? Do they work? I'm sure they must, lots of people swear by them. I think it would take a lot of practice to empty my mind. Although of course some would say that my mind is already fairly empty.

I think I shall choose a happy, cosy book next time as well. I am reading Jane Harper's Force of Nature at the moment, which I'm really enjoying, but I read something really unsettling on holiday, and slept really badly. It was a good book, just a bit disturbing. So in the interests of anti-anxiety I shall re-examine my reading pile and remove the less positive stuff for now. Less murder!

I also need to start eating better. I don't have a huge appetite at the moment, and I know I haven't been eating enough veggies. I wonder if the iron tablets are to blame. I just need to get back in kilter, balance it all. Vegetables, healthy reading, a little light meditation. Fortunately the dog makes sure I get some walking in every day. We went down to the river this morning with his whippet friend. It wears him right out, trying to keep up with those long, graceful legs. Which means I can work without interruption for a little longer before he makes me get up and entertain him.

I was feeling a bit peaky this morning, so I laid down for a bit. Despite the whippet running, he took half of the stuffing out of his basket and then licked my face until I got up. There's no peace to be had. Wishing all a good, stress-free weekend. CJ xx

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Does my dog look good in this?





Autumn is here, so I have new knitting on the go. I've thrown caution to the winds and bought some actual wool. It's soft as a cloud, so we will see whether I'm okay wearing it. I'm usually not, but I think I might be lucky this time. I bought it online and when it turned up it look more sort of mauve that I imagined. It's called Madre Perla, which sounds far better than mauve, but I'm wondering if I should have gone for something with a bit more oomph such as Amoroso which is a riskier deep red. I have been reading about Decision Fatigue and debating whether I did my online shopping at the wrong end of the day. Apparently Barack Obama wore a 'uniform' every day, so he didn't have to waste any of his decisions on clothing. I think I shall implement the same thing here. There are so many miniscule decisions to make every single day, I get quite grumpy by the end of it. Or maybe I'm just innately grumpy. Yes, that's probably it.

Anyway, knitting, on the go. A scarf, of course, as that is all I can manage late at night when I have my knitting window. That or a blanket. It's sat on one of my new napkins, which I bought to replace the ones that Bertie has chewed. An ebay find, and I like them so much that I've decided not to use them in case he chews them as well. I am doing the same thing with my new tea towels, which are safely tucked away in a drawer.

I also have new cushions. I know it sounds as though I have been on a mad spending spree, but the dog has done his worst and everything has gone all tatty. The cushions lived on top of the piano for a few days, out of reach, but I finally plucked up the courage to put them on the sofa. The littlest boy said to me yesterday, 'The new cushions really suit Bert.' I have decided that henceforth that is how I shall make all of my soft furnishing decisions. No looking at complex questions such as examination of eco-credentials or washability or where things were made, I shall simply ask, 'Will the dog look good on this?'


Friday, 21 September 2018

Thermos at the ready






Gloomy photos from dusk at Bath the other day. I went to a novel writing thing, which wasn't very good, I should have gone for a wander round the old streets instead. The person I had gone to listen to was squeezed in at the end for a short while. I would have liked to hear more of what she had to say. But never mind, I was a little motivated, so all was not lost.

You find me bracing myself for a weekend in the wind and the rain watching the children do outdoor things, mostly football. Sometimes I pretend I'm outdoorsy, but the truth is, deep down I just love being at home when it's cold and wet. I tell myself that I will appreciate it all the more for standing outside for six hours. I take little treats along for myself. A hot drink, something tasty to eat, a book, in case I have the luxury of ten minutes in the car, something else tasty. Honestly, I'm such a wuss. One of the biggest boy's best insults is when he says to one of his brothers, 'You're so special.' For example when they have something different to eat because they don't like what I've made everyone else, or when they get a lift because it's raining. Well, I am special too and I will go all damp and shrivelly if I'm exposed to too much rain and cold without a sufficient level of treats to sustain me.

Bertie and I have been making regular forays to the community orchard this week, in the wake of the high winds. There are lots of windfalls to be had, Cox's Orange Pippins no less, the king of apples, and I have helped one or two out of the tree as well with my ball flinger. There's a bit of a technique to it, although to be honest I haven't entirely mastered it yet. Quite often the apple lands on me or Bert. Sometimes he picks it up and runs off with it. But I do have a very good apple crumble in the fridge. I am planning on taking the littlest boy, who is as you know a top tree climber. He'll shin up and get a few good ones from the outer branches with any luck.

On the second visit there was a cat there. Bertie was absolutely beside himself - a cat, and he not on his lead! He was spinning round and round like a whirling dervish, and barking and racing in (but not too close) and back out again. At one point he turned his back for a moment and the cat shot silently up the Cox's Orange Pippin tree. Bert turned back round, and oh, his face. Hang on, where did it go? Cat? Cat? Where are you? There was a cat wasn't there? But, but, where..? Oh the confusion on his dear little face. The cat sat up the tree watching his every move. I left it in peace and didn't bother with the Cox's apples that day.

Has anyone seen that trailer on BBC1 for a sort of game show with little coloured suitcases - red, blue, yellow, orange, green? I honestly thought for a moment it was for a programme about Brexit. I am now officially unable to distinguish between politics and game shows. It's slightly worrying.

The wind was whipping little white-topped waves into the river this morning when we went for a walk with our whippet friend. Now I have a cold. Not caused by the wind of course, but by all of the germs the children have bombarded me with since going back to school. I thought I had avoided it, but I can feel myself gradually sinking into uselessness. Maybe I will be excused football duty. No, that's just ridiculous, there are no days off for colds. I will strap on my Thermos, wrap all my scarves around my head and be a complete martyr for the entire weekend. And yourselves?

Monday, 17 September 2018

The seaside town











The beach has taken on a more end-of-season quality now. Deckchairs are still out, but jumpers are on. Children are still in shorts and a t-shirt and demanding ice-cream, but the rest of us have a coat to hand and are eyeing the hot drinks. Bertie loves it more this way, and I think I do too. It's more bracing. He can run and run without having to lie down and pant, and we can walk over miles of sand and enjoy mostly just the company of other dog owners and a few kite surfers.

The biggest boy is doing photography at school and had an assignment to take some images in the style of Martin Parr, so the beach was the perfect place. Lots of ice-cream stands and bucket and spade stalls and people doing the seaside things. It's a typical Victorian seaside resort; if you look beyond the seafront chippies and cheap bars there's a whisper of its former splendour to be seen, but on the whole anywhere on the front has been commercialised in some way. A couple of streets away there are rundown Victorian terraces, once grand, but now split into flats and bedsits. The occupants don't have the money for the upkeep of the grand buildings, so they are falling gently into dilapidation. Maybe one day they will be 'gentrified' again, such is the circle of things.

I like visiting the beach town. All life is there. The summer days are a raucous jumble of children and adults trying to control them and stalls and shops selling the horrible ubiquitous plastic rubbish. As night falls the atmosphere changes and the revellers take over. There are pimped up little cars making endless noisy circuits of the sea front, boys in tight tops with tattooed, suntanned skin, hanging around in tense groups, waiting for something to happen. Girls fluttering around the edges, short skirts, all the make-up, expectations high. You know how it is when night falls in the summer.

A couple of streets back from the front it's edgier in places. Dark corners and seedy bars, drugs deals and muttered half-conversations that only make sense to those in the know. Energy with nowhere else to go spilling out into a fight, drama created for the sake of creating drama, for something to do. Action, to give the night a purpose, to make a memory.

For some it attracts while for some it repels. Some just like to go and watch and take it all in. Life, and lots of it.