Saturday 28 July 2018

Dazed and confused

I spent almost the whole week watching the littlest boy playing cricket, and I can honestly say I now see the attraction of it all. Sitting in a chair, on the grass, staring vacantly into middle distance for hours and hours every single day has a very emptying effect on the mind. The grass was bleached, everyone was wearing white, the sun was blazing and I went slightly snow blind. By Friday afternoon I had lost all concept of time and space. Life had narrowed itself down to small boys, cricket stumps and blue ice lollies. I had no idea how many runs we had, who was winning or even what day of the week it was. I propped my parasol over my head and pretended to be concentrating, but really my head was totally empty. Nothing in there at all! Of course, there are those who say that is the normal state of affairs, but while I may appear vacant, all sorts of things are usually swirling round in panicky circles in there. So the emptiness was strange and wonderful. If you are ever offered tickets for five days of cricket, take them. You don't need to know anything about the game at all, it's just a sort of meditative brain cleanse. Don't let anyone tell you different.

Sadly it all came to an end, and we are having to reenter normal life where things are expected of me and I am required to think and act. Sigh. I am already wondering if there will be another one next year.

Back in reality we took advantage of a cooler day and galloped the dog around a bit. The land is dry and pale here, as everywhere. Dare I say I'm loving the weather, despite that. I like not wearing loads of clothes and never being cold and sun every day. And the cricket, let's not forget the cricket.

Next week I think we will tackle some of the chores. Uniform, that sort of thing. Get it out of the way, so we don't have to think about it any more. Then we can slide on into the fun stuff. I have a completely unrealistic pile of books to read, a mental list of places to go and things to do and work to be done as well. It'll get done or it won't, and I shall not be stressed about it. See, still chilled. Cricket, people, you heard it here first.

Monday 23 July 2018

When the cat's away

I spent the hottest day of the year so far sat in the middle of a grassy playing field watching the littlest boy play cricket, and I have to say, it was rather divine. I had a good chair and a parasol and a packed lunch and a good book and yes, it was blissful. Legitimately allowed to sit down and do not very much. It's not something I ever get away with at home.

I left the bigger boys holding the fort. They had detailed written instructions for making lunch, clearing away, dog walking and fruit picking. It was mostly successful although they did make a rookie mistake with lunch. They put the food on the table and wandered off to get something. By the time they returned to the table the dog had eaten a pile of cheese and most of a giant Scotch egg. (Friends from overseas, do you have such things as Scotch eggs? I feel they may be mostly an English thing. I'm not sure they even have much to do with Scotland. They are a nice hardboiled egg, covered in sausagemeat and rolled in breadcrumbs. English picnic cuisine at its finest.)

Lessons have been learned. The dog normally makes regular runs round the table at lunchtime, just to remind everyone of his presence, and that he is waiting for his lunchtime snack. Apparently today he just went and laid down on the sofa with a big happy sigh and a fat tummy. The size of his tea was adjusted accordingly.

I have just googled Scotch eggs, out of curiosity. Fortnum & Mason claim to have invented them in 1738, a quick glimpse of their version here. The one the dog ate was nowhere near this fancy. And apparently in the 1800s people ate them hot with gravy. What madness is this? Gravy on a Scotch egg, no, no, no.

My lunch was sadly unadventurous, cheese salad sandwiches and a packet of salt and vinegar, although I do have plans to cook nice things in the hols. The middle boy has asked to cook a meal or two, so I need to jump right on that before he goes off the idea. And the littlest boy is always game to join in anything and everything that's going on. Although I suspect that given free rein he would always make pizza. At the moment it's runner beans every day, I am sinking under a glut. And now I'm wondering if they would go nicely on a pizza...

The photos are mostly from a hot dog walk at the weekend. All this marching about the countryside with the dog is getting rather wearing. But it's good for me I know, so I shan't complain. I do rather miss civilisation sometimes though. The dog is not fit for civilisation. And to be honest the children aren't half the time either. And sometimes when I get there, civilisation is a bit of a strain. I did enjoy people watching at the cricket though. Some parents were quite, well, how shall I put it, vicariously ambitious. And all very nicely turned out. Their lunches were pretty good as well. I wonder if I am letting things slide. Maybe I should be getting up earlier and doing it all better and making the children be the best that they can be. I shall add it to my list of Goals For The Year. Hoping all are enjoying the sunshine, or at least getting to sit with your feet in the paddling pool. CJ xx

Thursday 19 July 2018

Brace, brace, brace

Imagine you grew some plants and nurtured them carefully, watering, pinching out, potting on, feeding. They were in lovely pots. There were flower buds and then flowers. Beautiful petals, opening carefully and slowly in the sun. You watered them some more. Every day. And fed them. The plants grew and the petals were all exquisite and there was fragrance and beauty and loveliness and all of the hard work was worth it AND THEN SOME BOYS CAME ALONG AND BOUNCED A FOOTBALL ON THE TOP OF THEM ALL AND THEN HIT THEM A FEW TIMES WITH A TENNIS RACKET AND KNOCKED THE POTS ABOUT A BIT WITH SCOOTERS. That is what my garden is like. I had a moment of going postal the other day, but sadly it has changed nothing. The plants are sad and flat. The urchins are ghastly. The dog is a beast. But this is how it is all meant to be, no? Everyone bursting with energy, fun to be had, outdoors all the time, happy, happy, happy. Me and my plants will try not to get in the way.

When things go quiet out there the butterflies return. There seem to be lots this year. They find a few blooms still standing. The marjoram is always popular with the pollinators, and so easy to grow. I just chop it back once a year. Couldn't be simpler. Low maintenance, lovely for the kitchen, adored by bees and butterflies. Every garden should have one.

School finishes tomorrow and I am bracing myself. It promises to be a humdinger of a summer. I shall try not to be too shouty about all the mess and the breakages. I think that when the children look back, these warm summer days are the ones they will remember. Hot, dusty afternoons playing in woods and by streams, ice cubes and fresh fruit, racing round on bikes and scooters, making dens and building things from wood, meals eaten late, endless sweaty evenings with midges and hazy pink light. That's how childhood should be remembered I think. And hopefully not too much of mother going beserk because someone trashed her fushia. I am a work in progress my friends, wish me luck.

Thursday 12 July 2018


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


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.