Saturday 26 May 2018

Close shaves

It's been a tricky day for Bert. He had a close shave this morning. Literally. The groomer took him all the way back to velvet undercoat. Oh he's so soft. Like he's made of chenille. Then I took his old basket away and replaced it with a new one. The old one was full of holes and he was constantly pulling the stuffing out.

He found the new one very disconcerting. Once he'd dragged it round the room a few times and jumped on it he settled down with it upside down and rested his chin on it. It reminded me of a book that I used to read to the children, 'Schnitzel von Krumm's Basketwork' by Lynley Dodd. Schnitzel's family get rid of his stinky, scruffy, messy basket, but Schnitzel is not happy. He spends almost the whole book trying to find somewhere new to sleep, but nowhere is just right. In the end he gets his old basket back. We're trying to avoid that here.

By the end of the day Bertie was learning to love it. We are all waiting to see what colour the stuffing is. No doubt we'll find out soon.

The trickiest part of the day was when he went out for a walk with the middle boy and came home on his own. He was deep in disgrace. The middle boy handled it well, enlisting a couple of passersby to help in the search. Bertie stayed home and ate his tea while we went to rescue the middle boy. I hope Bert doesn't make a habit of it, especially as it involved crossing a road. It doesn't bear thinking about. Do dogs have nine lives? I'm hoping they do.

The garden is full of salad things suddenly, but I'm a bit behind on planting other stuff. No doubt it will all come together in the end. I'm looking forward to a couple of days of not doing anything much, although other people may have other plans involving me Going Places and Doing Stuff. Hoping all have a good weekend whichever way it goes for you. Thunder is forecast here. The middle boy is scheduled to spend some time in a tent. A proper English bank holiday. Enjoy.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Swinging from trees

The woods are utterly magical right now. We went to one maintained by the National Trust at the weekend, somewhere cool for the one with the thick fur coat.

The littlest boy swung on a vine which snapped. He landed literally flat on his back with all of the oomph knocked out of him. He was back up in a trice though, and minutes later swinging on another one. I asked him if he'd learned anything from the falling off moment. He said he didn't think so.

We swung around on a rope swing for a bit and just generally soaked up all the oxygen. I was still decompressing from all the royal wedding television the day before. Honestly, I don't think tv agrees with me, I almost need to detox afterwards.

It turns out that panna cotta is pretty much the same thing as a blancmange. An artisan blancmange if you will. And it has gelatine in it to boot. It turns out it is not the thing for me at all. Remember blancmange? Usually pink, sometimes pale yellow. I ate almost everything when I was little, wouldn't have dreamt of saying I didn't like something, except for broad beans, pears and grapefruit, I was allowed a free pass when it came to them. Anyway, I was never keen on blancmange, but from memory I ate mountains of the stuff. Don't intend to eat any more now, fancy Italian name or no fancy Italian name.

What I did make the other day was Nigella's hazelnut cheesecake. It's an absolute shocker, cream cheese and nutella (I used the Aldi version) and that's pretty much it. It went down a storm. Oh we're classy in this house.

The biggest boy has been playing a little adult cricket this season, which always includes an epic cricket tea. Honestly, you wouldn't believe the amount they feed him. It may be a strategy to slow them down, who knows. It's saving me a fortune in food. Once they're all in the team I'll barely have to feed them at weekends.

Hope you are enjoying the sight of me swinging about in the woods. Someone managed to make the rope spin round as well as back and forth, so that I felt quite ill by the time I got down. I am the worst traveller. Hope all is well with all. CJ xx

Saturday 19 May 2018


Well, the royal wedding was all rather lovely wasn't it. I watched the news the evening before and the news reader was all smiles and everyone was happy. It made a change I have to say.

The biggest boy was a little dismayed at how late in the day they were getting married. If it was him he'd have got it done early and spent the rest of the day eating mango panna cotta, one of his best things and apparently something that he heard would be on the menu. The littlest boy was waiting for The Kiss. They are big on romance in his class I think. In a half horrified and half thrilled sort of way.

The middle boy went out scooting, the biggest one had cricket, so in the end it was just me and the littlest boy. He is very entertaining company, certain at one point that the bloke up the road that we see dog walking sometimes was there (it wasn't, it was Earl Spencer) and waiting with glee for a rogue horse to break free.

So it all passed in a swirl of silk and bridesmaids and exquisite flowers and the most elegant dress and a mile long silk train hand embroidered (how many hours?!) with the most beautiful bride and horses and carriages and George Clooney and the stunning setting of an ancient chapel. I had to go out and walk about a bit this afternoon to re-enter normal life.

Occasionally there was coverage from Meghan's home town in America. It intrigued me that lots of people seemed to think we would all be eating sausage rolls and custard over here. Not together, but, even so. American friends, is this true? Is this how you picture us? Although sadly I have to admit I do serve sausage rolls and custard more than mango panna cotta. In fact, let's be honest, I've never served mango panna cotta. Blast it, it's true isn't it, we are a nation of sausage roll eaters. I am off immediately to look up a recipe for mango panna cotta. I shall from now on set my sights on higher things. Hope all had a good day. CJ xx

PS. Photo below for the littlest boy and all others who like the romance and the kissy stuff.

Monday 14 May 2018

Falling over and falling in

I've been out and about, here, there and everywhere. In the town it's the local arts festival. The biggest boy and I went to hear Simon King (wildlife cameraman and presenter) give a talk, which was pretty good.

I've taken a few sprigs of lilac from bushes down the back lane. And found a handful more lilac bushes in no mans land that I have my eye on. I do love lilacs, they have that brief moment of glory before the main flowers of summer get going. Flowers are still a miracle to be gushed over at this time of year I think, after months of mud and bare branches.

Down by the stream it is suddenly waist high with green things and cow parsley. The littlest boy fell in this evening. He was the only one to arrive at cubs dripping sludge from the knees down. By the end they are all usually pretty grubby, he just got in first.

The little community orchard has grass two feet high and a big old cider apple tree absolutely thick with blossom. I sometimes wonder why they keep the two old trees at the end of the orchard, but when I saw it in blossom I realised how spectacular it is. And I think there may be a little cider pressing done at the end of the season as well. It is cider country after all, or near enough to cider country. (For American friends, cider over here is alcoholic. If you just want apple juice, you need to ask for apple juice, otherwise you'll be falling over. If you want to be falling over, ask for rough cider. They pop a dead rat in that to get the fermentation going properly and it's pretty lethal by all accounts. I wouldn't know.)

I did the bird survey with the biggest boy down on the river yesterday evening. It was glorious there. It sometimes seems that 9/10s of the time it is freezing and deep in mud, but yesterday made up for it all. There were swallows flying overhead and a whimbrel out on the mud flats.

Over the road from us, swifts are building their nest. I could watch them for hours, swooping over the road, so fast, so agile.

This week at Cubs it was nettle soup making. The littlest boy absolutely loved it and wants it for his birthday tea. Everything at the moment is all about the Big Day, which is less than a month away now. He has asked for a pogo stick but mercifully has currently forgotten about the axe that he usually asks for. I imagine you could do a little damage with a pogo stick, but not as much as with an axe. (Although I fear he will be thinking, Challenge accepted.) Happily we don't have any large plate glass sliding doors here. So what could possibly go wrong? I'll let you know.

Friday 4 May 2018

They said it couldn't be done

Spring it is then. I saw a brimstone butterfly this morning. Grass everywhere is thick and green, green, green. The scent of the apple blossom is delicious, unlike the pear blossom which is frankly revolting. I wonder if it's just some people that don't like the smell of it, you know, maybe it's one of those things that smell lovely to some people and ghastly to others. I'm a ghastly.

The urchins are in the garden, breaking pots with scooters, bikes, cricket balls, tennis rackets, anything which comes to hand really. It's a triumph of hope over experience that I keep planting things, it really is.

The dog may have entered his teenage years. Suddenly, a couple of weeks ago, he got up and started being naughty again. I thought the teenage years were at around eight months of age, but apparently not. It's good job we are all scruffy round here. He has made it his job to make us all scruffier.

The biggest boy made me laugh this morning. I saw him walking to school with a friend while I was walking the dog after dropping the littlest boy off. He pretended he hadn't seen me/didn't know me. The first time he did that I kept looking at him to see if he'd smile or wave or something. Now I have got the hang of my 'I haven't seen you either' look. I did it to perfection I have to say.

I mended his bike for him yesterday. The chain was jammed solidly between the cogs and the frame and he hadn't managed to pull it out. I asked him if it was something I could do. He felt that, 'NO, IF I CAN'T DO IT, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO IT.' I said we'd have to take it to the bike repair place, which is conveniently round the corner. We're there literally every week with one bike or another. He muttered, 'He'll think we're HOPELESS.' I pointed out that we are hopeless. Anyway, I went outside, put on my heavy duty gardening gloves and using pure brute force pulled the chain out ALL BY MYSELF. I have literally told everybody I meet. Honestly, I am completely insufferable.

I went to a local literary festival the other day. It was absolutely brilliant. Completely inspiring and motivating. It was great to meet writers and hear their stories and learn a little about the writing world. I really must try and do that sort of thing more often. It has completely energised me. Any sort of writing is of course a very solitary business, and I have a lot of self-doubt, but everyone was so very encouraging. It is very much something I try and fit in in the evenings - the workday writing is non-fiction and very different. Often I'm tired by then, but so many people are in the same boat, and making it work. One mum writes from 9pm until midnight. I was hugely impressed as her children are small and no doubt very demanding in the day.

The irony is that now we've got the dog, I find I sleep better from all that walking and I'm not awake at 5.30am any more, which is a shame, because that would be the perfect time to write. But I'm squeezing it in where I can, a little every day.

Here in the UK a long, warm, bank holiday weekend awaits. Three days of sunshine by all accounts. I shall be telling people off for breaking things and chewing things, mowing the grass, making rice pudding (giant milk overload) and marching about the place with the teenage dog. Yourselves?