Wednesday 28 November 2018

Be careful what you wish for

Thank you all for your well wishes for Bertie. He is happily mending, still taking it easy in his basket by the radiator, but getting wigglier by the day.

I thought a while back how lovely it would be if I didn't have to go out and walk the dog every few hours, and I could just stay inside out of the wind and the rain and the cold. It turns out that is only good for a couple of days, then you start to feel like a pudding. I always tell the children that walking to school is good because it gets oxygenated blood pumping round the brain. It feels as if that is what I need. I need to be out there in a force ten gale, with horizontal rain lashing me, puffing up the slope by the stream, breaking into a run now and again. Then the indoor warmth and comfort feels earned. It's a contrast. If I have it all the time it's a bit stifling. Bert and I are going to break out soon and run up the street like mad things.

He has mostly been confined to the hall, to stop him from jumping up on the sofas, which the vet has Strictly Forbidden. There isn't much to do in the hall. Lie in your basket. Lie on the floor. Lie on the doormat. Pull the corner off the doormat. That's pretty much all the options. In the living room it's far more exciting. You can add lying on the cosy sheepskin sofa. Lying on the other sofa. Looking out the back window to see what's going on in the garden. Lying on the end of the sofa to look out of the window to see what's going on in the street. The list is endless.

I bought Elmet by Fiona Mozley the other day. Anyone read it? There's no time for reading at the moment though as NaNoWriMo comes to an end. I have written over 40,000 words now, but there are only two and a half days left, so I need to be typing at warp speed over the next three evenings. But Elmet is there waiting for me when the pressure is off, although it would be good to maintain some momentum. You may be asking why I am here, chatting to you, when I should be writing. Prevarication my friends, prevarication. I may even clean the bathroom. But it would be really good to get to 50,000 words by the end of Friday. I'll give it my best go.

In town the Christmas lights have been on for over a week now. They are even on at 2pm. Eco living hasn't reached this far out yet. Class hasn't either to be honest. Around here some people are optimistically compiling lists for F Christmas. Other people are hoping for a winter fishing trip. Bertie and I would just like to see the sky and smell the heady combination of woodsmoke and pig farm that you get round here when the wind is right. Sometimes you don't know what you have until it's gone.

Saturday 24 November 2018


Did I say something about having a productive week this week? I'm sure I did. Remind me not to make such predictions or express such wishes ever again. The dear little dog managed to swallow something and ended up in dog hospital having an operation to remove it on Tuesday. The staff were wonderful, and although they didn't manage to pull the item out the same way it went in, they looked after him well when they operated. The middle boy and I were touched to see on the (lengthy) itemised bill, an entry marked 'Warming patient'. When the night vet rang me with an update, he said Bertie had got a bit cold, after a long anaesthetic, but they were keeping him warm.

Needless to say, I spent most of the two days he was away not really focusing on anything and leaping up every time the phone rang. He is home now, and on painkillers and antibiotics and I am living in fear of it happening again, or him eating something toxic to dogs such as chocolate or sultanas or him running off and getting into trouble. Honestly, my anxiety levels are through the roof. I have no idea how to keep him safe, it is so HARD.

The thing they removed was like a bit of hard rubbery pipe. We couldn't identify it at all. I think he must have picked it up on a walk. The hospital had two other cockapoos in, also for eating things they shouldn't have done.

Would you like a peek at the patient? Ssh though, because he is sleeping, and if he wakes up he will starting jumping about the place with no regard at all for his stitches.

He is on bed rest for ten days.

In other news, I am several thousand words behind in NaNoWriMo. I have seven days in which to write 18,000 words. If I do 3,000 a day I'll be fine :)

I had a little tidy of the garden while the dog was away, in lieu of concentrating on work things. Leaves swept up, anything that looked like it could be swallowed by a small dog removed, tulips in. The apple trees have been pruned and there are tiny little rosehips there, where a rambling rose flowered all summer long.

Tooth dramas continue, now it is the littlest boy's turn, with a couple of wobbly ones. There is apparently someone in his class who gets £10 from the tooth fairy. TEN POUNDS! That's $12.82 for my American friends. £200 in total for all of the teeth. Round here the tooth fairy usually forgets and has to be prompted. And it is guaranteed that she will not be leaving ten pounds. She is from a different division.

Any little dramas with you, or is it all peace and relaxation? I am hoping for the latter for you. Enjoy the rest of the weekend all. CJ xx

Sunday 18 November 2018

Winter light

Suddenly the sunset seems to come very early. Yesterday it was a huge orange ball on the horizon by 4 o'clock. I said to the children, 'Wow, look, look at the sun. Don't look at the sun! But almost look at it. Without burning your eyeballs. Right, everyone stop looking at the sun.' It was glorious. I nearly drove into a ditch. Honestly, I am so easily distracted by a pretty thing.

I can feel the scrumptious winter cosiness setting in. Lamps lit in the afternoon, books and hot drinks, candles and knitting, but not too close mind. The truth is, I haven't had time for sitting around and enjoying it all yet, but I like to know it's there, just in case I do. That's part of the charm of bookshops for me, the thought that I'll have time to go home and curl up with a book for an hour or so. I usually don't, but I don't ever give up hope. And I always have a nice pile of books at the ready.

I am pressing on with the 50,000 words. I am determined to run at everything full tilt this week, after not getting enough of anything done last week. I have a clean(ish) house and the laundry is done, so I'm feeling positive. Wishing all a good week, with lots all of the things you want.

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.]


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


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.