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.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Peak begonia













Spotted this pub yesterday which appears to have reached peak begonia. At home in the garden, things are waning, and I'm picking up windfalls every day. It's crumble season, although I think the apples and pears might have suffered a bit from the hot dry spell we had a few weeks ago. The pears in particular are on the small side and a bit, well, I don't know the horticultural term, but they're sad-looking.

Thank you for all of your good tooth wishes. It's on the mend I think, and I am eating proper food, although I wish I had more time to cook things. As ever, the weekday evenings seem to be a perpetual rush. But I am joining in with the fam now and not living on yoghurt and custard. Although I do like to just have a bowl of overnight oats instead when I cook them something non-veggie. Pretty much my favourite thing in fact, but probably not the most nutritious dinner. My appetite is just a bit jaded I think. Maybe from the iron tablets I've been taking, I'm not sure. It seems to be a bit of a vicious circle. The less healthy food I eat, the less I feel like eating it. I am needing to take myself in hand and give myself a stern talking to. Just as soon as I muster the energy.

The littlest boy and I took the dog for a walk yesterday afternoon and then to a dog-friendly cafe. Bertie hasn't really got the hang of Walking Nicely with a loose lead or of Sitting for long periods of time when he's away from home. On holiday he could go for hours on the beach without ever sitting down. But we persevere. In the top photo it appears that he is lying down quietly, but really it was a twenty-second interlude. Here is an outtake where I have him in more of a death-grip. We didn't stay long.


I spent the entire day today working hard in house and garden, and I'm absolutely worn out. Things are a little bit neater, but it does feel like the tip of the iceberg. I am trying not to worry too much about all the jobs though. There simply aren't enough hours in the day, so I'll do what I can and the rest won't be done and that's the way it will be. I shall learn to not get in a state about things in the wrong place and mess and untidyness, I shall. The biggest boy says to me, 'Mum, you are so NEAT'. He makes neat sound like a bad thing. I like neat. It's just the way I'm made. I do try to leave things unneat, but I just can't do it. A rod for my own back, I know. Sometimes I think people move things around just to torment me. Maybe I need hypnotherapy or something. Then people could leave a mess and I just wouldn't care. Wouldn't even notice. Of course the question is, would they notice? Probably, when they couldn't find their football socks or their pants weren't in the right place. It's tempting to try it and see.

Hope all is well out there with you and that your corner of the world is all neatness and order. Bertie says thank you for all your kind comments about his sausage trick. He is working on something new involving a hoop and a cushion. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Just custard for me please



A little urban snapshot for you today, from an end-of-hols trip to Bristol. The top one is Christmas Steps, a famous old street running down the steep hill into central Bristol. The biggest boy treated himself to a new skateboard with his hard-earned money, the middle boy bought fishing stuff and the littlest boy had a new knife, as he has temporarily misplaced his all-singing, all-dancing Swiss army knife and he finds it hard to be without one. He likes to sit and whittle things in the garden, nothing dangerous, I hasten to add.

Bertie has a trick that he would very much like you to see.


Look, little pieces of sausage balanced on the back of each paw, and he isn't eating them. Oh, the concentration this requires. Other tricks, like not chewing the washing, are still a work in progress.

I have a bad toothache this week, involving waves of pain followed by grumbling pain. It is all I can do not to devote this entire post to it actually. I was finally forced to the dentist, who was very sanguine about it all. I was braced for root canal surgery or antibiotics at the very least, but he complimented me on my brushing (he did!) and said that all it needed was some mouthwash as the gum was inflamed. On the home front it may have harmed my credibility slightly as it doesn't require any extraction or amputation, but I am as happy as someone with toothache can be.

I am eating only non-chew foods, which has got a bit boring already. Overnight oats, yoghurt, cream of mushroom soup and custard. I risked a slice of Wensleydale earlier and tomorrow I shall do something with an egg I think. If it doesn't clear up soon I can see myself ending up with scurvy.

The urchins have raced back to school and the house is quiet and calm. I miss them of course, but by the time half term comes around I shall be nicely used to the peace and order and I'll be in a flap again. It's a rollercoaster, no? It will soon be time for the littlest boy to look round the big school. I'm certain my baby is far too small to survive such a thing. All those beastly big boys! He would of course love to be home schooled. We could stay home together everyday, whittling things while solving quadratic equations and doing a bit of physics before lunch. Although I suspect he would soon be missing his school friends and all the fun they have together. He thinks he's not keen on school, but I think he'd miss it if he didn't go.

I had a little tidy of the garden at the weekend, in between the last of the cricket and the first of the football. It's made a huge difference about how I feel about it out there. Now it all looks (fairly) neat and tidy and I'm liking it again. Amazing what a bit of a trim and some lawn mowing can do. Very occasionally I sit on the back step for a moment when I'm supposed to be cooking the tea, and I soak up the peace and quiet. I can see the garden through the back of the all the plants, and it feels all green and calm and jungly.


I am off to root around the kitchen in search of more non-chew foods now. When I was little and I had a loose tooth I was allowed honey sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Sounds like a plan.