Sunday, 6 October 2019


The new Philip Pullman book is here, in all its gold-tinged glory. I have been sighing and running my fingers over its beauteousness. I shall read it to the younger urchins just as soon as we have finished our current read, Cogheart by Peter Bunzl. The series has the most wonderful covers, and they are cleverly continued inside the cover, as if viewed from behind.

The dog is on a diet. Before the summer holidays he used to walk with his cocker spaniel friend every single morning. She would chase him all the way along, and wrestle with him and chase him again and if he ever tried to sit down for a rest she'd run faster and faster circles around him, jumping over him as she shot past, until he felt obliged to get back up again and join in. She was utterly unrelenting, in the manner of a particularly strict personal trainer, and looking back it was a hard full-body workout. He weighed in at 9.9kg. Then the summer holidays came and schedules changed and we no longer walk with her. A mere ten weeks later I was horrified to discover that he weighed 12 kg. That's an extra two kilos, 20 percent of his body weight. Like a person going from 10 stone to 12 stone in under three months. And the only difference has been the morning walk. We still do the same route, but no cocker spaniel chasing us down.

Needless to say he is on a diet. And I need to make the time to walk with his more energetic friends again, his whippet chum and his cockapoo mucker, as well as his personal trainer. It occurs to me I need something similar. Someone to force me into running about the place. Although right now I'm a bit snowed under with work so it will have to wait a while... I'll add it to my to-do list.

There are olives in the garden, but they're a bit on the small side - not much flesh (unlike me and Bert) so I'm not really inspired to do much with them. And I don't know how to tell if they're ripe. I suspect they're not, now that the chilly autumn mornings are here. The black tomatoes are still all hanging on the vine, not really ripening in any visible way either. We have mountains of windfalls, from the garden and from an aquaintance in Wales. I am trying to use them before the rot sets in, but I need to be fast. I am making ALL of the apple recipes.

The biggest boy scored a hat-trick at football today. A rare occurrence as he is a defender. I fear I have banged on about it too long and I have been declared embarrassing. Sigh. ('Remind me how many goals it was today again?' 'Three you say, and what do they call that?') Yes, I know, I know, I'll shut up now.

Now that the autumn term is well and truly under way there seem to be a hundred and one things to attend. Football, cross country, cricket (yes! it's indoors), parents' information evenings, helping out at open days, oh the list is endless. I am doubting my grammar now. Seems or seem? Sam would know, but she can't comment any more. I fear there is a blog glitch. I would ask if anyone else is unable to comment, but, you know... Anyway, I hope all is well out there, and the madness is held at bay. As with anything remotely stressful I am as ever adopting the head in sand approach. Except when it comes to dog chub, then I am ON IT.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

With great power...

Despite it all, there are still flowers and tomatoes. Over at Coastal Ripples, Barbara is stockpiling jam in readiness for the apocalypse. I have notebooks, but the edible things keep getting eaten, so the whole stockpiling thing is tricky. There is quite a lot of high protein porridge that Someone wanted and then failed to eat though, so we could plough through that, and I also have more jam than usual after a good fruit year in the garden.

The eldest made his debut as a football referee at the weekend. He was asked to cover an under-12s match. Happily not one that his youngest brother was playing in - that might have been quite spectacular if they'd had a disagreement. I was quite nervous on his behalf. We went through all the rules and the signs and I gave him lots of tips such as, 'Remember to count them before kick off' (I watched half a match with an extra player on the field once).

He told me that the referee was in charge of everyone at a football match, even the coaches. We pictured Jose Mourinho turning up and getting lairy and the biggest boy sending him to the dressing room. I reminded him that with great power comes great responsibility. He said he wouldn't be having any swearing and they'd be straight off. I pointed out they were eleven, so he'd probably be fine on that score. Although it's not guaranteed.

I went to watch, mostly to make sure the opposition's parents didn't kick off or criticise any borderline off-side decisions, in which case I was ready to barge in shouting, 'LEAVE MY BABY ALONE YOU BEASTS'. In the event it was probably the best-tempered match I've ever watched. He looked very responsible with his whistle and stop-watch. And he earned fifteen pounds for an hour's work.

Is anyone else starting to wonder if democracy is quite the thing? It would work if the decent good people wanted the top job, but things being what they are it seems to be the shouty irresponsible ones who want power and fame and to be looked at and admired and the decent good people just don't want to be torn to shreds by the media and the ghastly power/fame/admiration/shouty bunch. I am leaning towards the idea of a benevolent dictatorship. Under someone like Greta Thunberg or the the lovely central heating chap who refuses to take any money from those who can't afford it and actually wrote on the invoice of an elderly lady with leukaemia that she should have 'no charge under any circumstances' and that they would go to her at any time, 24-hours, as she had an ongoing problem with her boiler.

Greta could just tell everyone what to do, and everyone would do it, and none of us would have to worry any more because it's a dictatorship so we couldn't do anything anyway. All those in favour...

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Concrete proof of the law of attraction

Surprisingly tranquil photos from a weekend when I whizzed round the house and garden like a mad woman. The dog walk was good, and so was the bird survey down by the river. Little peaceful interludes.

I also discovered something rather disturbing. It all started when I called Isambard Kingdom Brunel an idiot because he swallowed a coin. The middle boy took me to task, saying that in fact he was the second Greatest Briton Of All Time, after Winston Churchill. Hmm. Anyway, I found the poll and IKB is indeed at number 2, coin-swallowing notwithstanding. The disturbing thing was the lack of women on the list. Other than a handful of queens and Margaret Thatcher, really very, very few. And yet, included were John Lennon, Robbie Williams, Richard Burton, Enoch Powell, Aleister Crowley and, at 17 on the list, Michael Crawford. Michael Crawford! Am I missing some huge deed of great national importance he's carried out?

I was going to name some British women that should be on the list, but I didn't know where to start. Scientists, politicians, activists, maybe even a civil engineer or two, who were able to get through life without swallowing a coin. I am hoping times are a-changing, but I think it is a slow process. Incidentally, the coin was stuck in IKB's lung and they had to hang him upside down and shake him to get it out, after six weeks of life-threatening attempts to cut it out etc.

The littlest boy has apparently been reading Unsuitable books, full of violence and pestilence and pus according to the middle boy, who read them before him and has declared them to be too old for him. Apparently it's 'jaw-dropping zombie horror'. They have names like The Dead and The Fear. Oh dear. I am adding it to my list of things to worry about, although of course prising them away from him will be tricky, you know how small boys love a bit of pestilence.

In other news, I have been thinking about the law of attraction. Is it actually a thing? It sounds utterly ridiculous, that by thinking about the things you want or need, they will magically find their way to you, but it actually happened to me the other day, so I am reconsidering my sceptical stance. I was mulling over the purchase of Barbara Kingsolver's latest book, Unsheltered, which I really wanted to read. I popped it in my online shopping basket to think about. And then, I walked into my local library and there it was, right in front of me, on the trolley. Not even on a shelf where I might have missed it, but almost leaping out at me. As if it had FOUND me.

The law of attraction is a mysterious thing. There has been a bestselling book about it which has sold THIRTY MILLION COPIES. Again, am I missing something? Apparently all you need to do is vibrate at the same frequency as the thing you want and it will find its way to you across the ether. Well, something like that, I haven't actually read the book, you know how it is. As we speak I am trying to manifest a new sofa and a chocolate eclair. Nothing so far, but I'll let you know.

Friday, 13 September 2019

The magic bean

I've grown a motley assortment of tomatoes this year, including some almost black ones called Indigo Rose. There are loads of them, so they've done well outside, which lots of varieties don't around here, but they're all, well, almost black. It's slightly offputting, and apart from anything else I can't really tell when they're ripe. They do seem to go slightly pink underneath and inside when they're ready. I'm not sure I'd grow them again though, they're not something you can easily slide past the children. I've also got some Artisan Pinks and some green stripey variety that I can't remember the name of. I think I must have been having a moment when I did my tomato choosing this year.

The littlest boy is setting in to big school, although he has apparently got lost quite a few times. His brothers have seen him wandering around miles from where he is supposed to be. I have restrained myself from yelling MY POOR BABY IS NO-ONE LOOKING AFTER HIM??? but of course you know that I am thinking it inside.

Last weekend marked the transition from football to cricket. The last cricket match was on Saturday, and it was pretty chilly. Football started on Sunday and it was so deliciously warm that I went and stood in the shade at one point. Long may it last.

I have failed in both my news diet and my food diet. Well, the food diet never got started to be fair. I was undone by a tray of the most amazing cherry and dark chocolate flapjack. It was honestly all I could think about all day until it was gone. I have sworn never to make it again, it was shockingly good, but oh, the lack of willpower. I also started listening to the news again, but only in short bursts. Just the headlines, which are frankly more than enough.

I served a lightly steamed caterpillar by mistake the other evening. It was very traumatic, especially for the littlest boy who was the one who had it on his plate. It's enough to put one off broccoli for life.

My white wisteria grew a bean this year, which I've never seen before.

I'm wondering what I'll get if I plant it. Maybe some exotic new pink and white striped variety. Who knows. Right now it is hanging in the sun ripening. I suspect it will probably only have one bean in it, as the pod doesn't look very full up at the top. I'll definitely try and grow it when it's done. Perhaps I'll get a magic beanstalk.

Well, a random assortment of not-really-news today, but it's that time of year here. Back to normality, and a check-in with writing goals and that sort of thing. There's been some decluttering and some organising and some new regimes, and of course some anxiety, and I'm about to press my nose to the grindstone, any minute now. Hope all is well with you and that September is treating you kindly. CJ xx

Friday, 6 September 2019

An egg in my beer

It seems to be burr season out there. The dog got about a hundred stuck all over his face and at one point his ear velcroed itself to the top of his head. Oh how we laughed.

The top two photos are from a month ago; the harebells are long gone now. Looking back at summer photos is a bittersweet thing isn't it. There's something about the longing for summer that cuts right to the core of me sometimes. Of course, I'm sure it wouldn't be so golden if there was more of it, if you see what I mean. So I have had a quick sort through the wardrobe and made sure jumpers and leggings are to hand.

I went to a cricket match last weekend and took a thick coat just in case. In the end it was deliciously hot. There's another one this weekend, so I shall wear shorts and maybe take the coat just in case. Don't want to tempt fate. Sadly it's not the Ashes that we're going to watch - more in the vein of eleven year olds whacking the ball as hard as they can, but it will be taken just as seriously by some of the dads...

I came across a handy little phrase that I thought you might like the other day, while perusing the thesaurus. I was looking for another word for 'benefit', and the thesaurus suggested 'an egg in one's beer'. In fact it doesn't really mean 'benefit', it's more along the lines of 'You've already got x, y and z, what more do you want, an egg in your beer?' Anyway, I am storing it up, waiting for a suitable opportunity to drop it into the conversation. I do love odd little phrases.

I am once again contemplating healthy eating, having put on weight over the past few months and also feeling tired and a bit lacking in oomph. In fact I don't have the energy to make healthy meals at the end of a long day, which I'm sure is something lots of people find. I think meal planning could be the way to go, instead of standing in front of the fridge at 5 o'clock hoping that inspiration will strike while eating a snack and wondering why I'm not feeling like eating something good. Also, exercise - I should do some. Sigh. I shall start next week.

Wishing all a good weekend. CJ xx

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

The calm before the revolution

Goodness me, wasn't the bank holiday weekend wonderful? How often is there a whole glorious three days of sunshine? It's all the more lovely for being so rare I think.

We left the dog at home with the biggest boy lest he overheat in his little fur coat and headed for beautiful Bath. There was a delicious holiday feel everywhere. Picnics in the park, everyone strolling through the streets at a happy slow pace, coffee to be drunk on the pavements and up the little side streets. Wonderful.

I took the littlest boy into the fantastic Mr B's to spend his book token. The staff are all incredibly well read and can tell you what you might like to read next if you tell them what you enjoy. The littlest boy took an inordinately long time choosing a book. Like me, he doesn't like to rush an important decision. Or any decision at all.

Encouraged by your comments, I have continued my news fast and I am very much enjoying it. I know almost nothing of the current political situation, after years and years of being all up on current affairs. Ignorance is indeed bliss. I wish I had known sooner. The first I will know of the revolution is when the lights go out and there are no more plastic wrapped pre-peeled oranges in Tesco. At which point I shall be laughing as I have stockpiled enough notebooks to last me twenty years and I grow my own vegetables. Plus I've read The Hunger Games so I know how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. I am utterly fearless.

On that note, I am off to finish some work so that I can get out in the garden tomorrow and plant out my little kale plants. Come the revolution we won't want to be short of iron. Or indeed kale crisps. And I wonder if it is time to let the littlest boy have that axe he is always on about. Thoughts?

Sunday, 25 August 2019

The parenting rating scale

Goodness me, urchins are expensive to run, aren't they? I am reeling from all the uniform-buying, the days out, the ice-creams, the odd little things they persuade me to buy (so many!) and the shoes, oh the shoes! What on earth did I used to do with all my money? I like to think I'm fairly thrifty, but it's a battle a lot of the time.

Anyway, above are more photos from beautiful Wales, mostly to calm me down. There was less shoe-buying there.

I asked the older two to rate my parenting today, after I felt some criticism pointed in my direction after failing to adequately chastise the littlest boy for some misdemeanor or other. In my defence, the older two have so effectively worn me down over the years that I have nothing left. The scale was 1-10, where 1 was absolutely shocking parental failure on all fronts and 10 was all-round excellence. The biggest boy felt that I was a solid 4, with the middle one giving me a 5, or possibly even a 6. I shall wait until I have done something especially indulgent to ask the littlest boy, when I shall be confident of a 10.

A picnic is planned here tomorrow, what with the weather being set unusually fair for a bank holiday. All those wet ones make the sunny ones more lovely. Although a wet bank holiday has its own charms I think. A trip to the bookshop is also planned, which is pretty much my happy place. The littlest boy has a book token to spend, given to him after he did a kind thing for a friend. He is not one for making quick decisions (hence one hour and forty minutes spent in the trainer shop yesterday - me and the middle boy gave up and sat slumped on the seat waiting for the end of days) so it should be a long visit. It will be my reward for the trainer shop horror. Hoping you have a happy thing planned too. CJ xx