Monday 23 December 2019

What's on my list

The littlest boy and I made a foray to the zero waste shop in the city today. All the food is sold loose and you take your own containers. It's on a long street famous for the number of independent shops and we had a wander up and down. There were loads of little delis and wholefood shops and greengrocers and bakers and cafes. It really reminded me how great good can be. I forget that sometimes, living here with not much more than the supermarket. Not that I am complaining, it's just that I found it really inspirational, seeing lots of different foodstuffs.

There was a butcher's and a cheese shop next to each other, with chains hanging down over the entrance and a dog with his head stuck through the doorway, looking for his person and smelling all of the good smells. It would have made an excellent photo, but being as I was weighed down with bags I let the moment pass.

Otherwise we have been marching about the countryside with the beast. We were excited to find a new electric fence on one walk. There were lots of cries of, 'But is it actually live?' Of course, in the end we all touched it to find out. Honestly, I don't know what's wrong with us. It was in fact live. And we did all survive unscathed, although my hair seems a little curlier now. Could just be the humidity.

I took some winter solstice sunrise pictures from the window the other morning.

You can just see the castle in the first one, with its flag flying. I love to see the birds roosting at first light, it always seems so peaceful somehow. Whatever tumult is going on in the world, they are unconcerned. I have splashed out on the good bird food for the bird table to keep them going through the winter months.

On the subject of birds, I found out just the other day that 2.6 million songbirds are killed each year by olive harvesting machines. There's an article about it here, which explains how it happens. At night, the olives are sucked from the trees along with roosting birds. It's horrendous. We aren't eating olives here any more until we know that the practice has been stopped. If they were harvested during the day, the birds would be fine as they'd be able to fly away. But at night the lights confuse them and they're killed. So, no more olives for us. And as little as possible from China, given their record on human rights, particularly Muslims being thrown into concentration camps. There's a list of Things Mum Won't Buy in this house, and it's getting longer.

I remember when I was little we wouldn't buy things from South Africa. Every purchase is a vote for the sort of world we want to live in etc. etc. I'd be interested to hear if there's anything you avoid for ethical reasons. Always looking for more things to add to the list...

Friday 20 December 2019

Generation X actually

A glimpse of blue sky and a taste of sun, although I think it has rained every day since and the water is rushing down the streams. The dog's route across one bit of water was cut off this morning and he had to gallop through the stream to get to me. I try hard not to put the lights on until the children get home from school, but I end up peering at things in the gloom. It seems a bit much for them to get home to a house where the curtains are already drawn though.

Photos from a walk along the sea front. There's a marine lake there (penultimate picture) and people like to swim in it, even in the depths of winter. In fact they were diving in while we went past. In moment of madness sheer bravado I said that I would put on my swimsuit and get in next time we go there. For a second it all looked really healthy and invigorating. The truth is I can hardly bear to get in a heated swimming pool when the air temperature is sweltering. I think I am probably highly sensitive. Hopefully they'll all forget I ever said it.

We have a Christmas tree now. I was a bit sweary when the car ended up full of pine needles and then later when I'd hoovered and the dog knocked a load more off so I hoovered again and the dog knocked a load more off so I hoovered again and, well, you get the picture. I have calmed down now. The children have put all of the decorations out of the dog's reach, so every single bauble is piled on to the top third of the tree and the rest of it is completely bare except for a string of lights. It looks like goodness knows what, but I am channelling my inner calm and letting it all wash over me.

Here's an interesting thing. The children had an election, a day or two before the actual election. They had the parties' manifestoes to read before they voted. The Green party won and the Lib Dems were second. The Conservatives were last by quite a long way. From memory, that is exactly the order in which Greenpeace ranked the parties in respect of their environmental policies. I am hoping that the future will be brighter for the planet.

In other news, the children have had to explain their insults to me. That's how uncool I am. Apparently 'Ok boomer' is a thing Young People say to the Older Generation. Happily it wasn't directed at me, being only Generation X, apparently, but honestly, it seems I have to look up more and more stuff. Acronyms are out of control and jargon is rife, without people making up new insults.

We are all paddling towards Christmas, although a virus is circling and the urchins have had temperatures and headaches and are a bit on the floppy side. No doubt they will all perk up once they hear the jingle of distant sleigh bells. Hope all is well at your end.

Thursday 12 December 2019

Gold, frankincense and myrrh

I wanted to come here and write a post a couple of days ago, but alas I had no photos. I still have no photos except this one that I snapped in the city centre last week. I got in a horrible pickle with the one-way system (again) and ended up accidentally driving down a bus lane, for which I have been fined £30. Sigh.

The mud is really starting to take hold around here. I spent the weekend squelching about, firstly at the fishing lake, then through various football places. Today the dog seems to have a crispy underbelly which I am guessing is mud. The advantage of a brown dog is that I can just pretend that it's not there.

Anyway, almost no photos, and when I made a photobook as a gift the other day I realised that I don't have nearly as many of the children as I used to. They like to go about and do their own thing more of course, plus they are not so keen on having the lens turned on them. It was mostly moody shots of clouds hovering over Welsh mountains and the dog shooting past in a blur of fur and flying ears. Even he is not keen on the camera.

I have been ignoring the festive season and hoping that it goes away. For some reason it is causing me all sorts of anxiety and stress this year. I am spending far too long thinking about it, but I'm not quite sure why. I had some sort of a shouted conversation with the eldest about it. I couldn't quite follow it and I think I may have lost, but it was something to do with 2.2 billion people (his point), people just wanting stuff (my point) and presents being ancient and traditional, vis-a-vis gold, frankincense and myrrh (his point). Me: Oh, so you want gold, frankincense and myrrh do you??? Him: Wouldn't mind. I am working on it. Wouldn't want to disappoint.

The exciting local news is that there are four brand new trees on our morning dog walk, planted as part of a plan to put in 1,000 trees in the town. Bertie approves wholeheartedly and was straight over to check them out. Also, a dog was lost and then found, which is exactly the sort of happy news story I like to hear. You may recall I have sworn off of political news until something sensible happens, so I am on the lookout for cheery items by way of replacement.

On the subject of cheery, the library was utterly delightful today. I popped in on my way to the shops and the rain was hammering down on the skylight, the lights were on, the librarians were chatting happily in a quiet rain-induced lull and I was surrounded by books. I think I'd quite enjoy working in a library, although you know that as usual I am seeing it all through rose-tinted glasses.

I shall endeavour to take some photos soon. I'll creep up on the dog when he's asleep or something. In the meantime, a bientot.

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Cut to the quick

The beast and I went up past the allotments to walk in the woods at sunset today. There were all the browns and muted colours of winter and peace and head space. It was just us and the wild things. Bertie ran about making sure we were safe and that nothing was lurking in the undergrowth.

I managed the 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo which felt good. I just need to keep up the momentum now, which will be trickier.

I am thinking about Instagram. Should I be there? I don't really have any lovely things to photograph, that is the main problem I think. Just the brown things, of which the dog is one. Maybe the dog should have an Instagram account. I follow Alice Hoffman's dog you know, and very lovely she is too. But brown dogs photograph less well, so I am wondering if I need a more Instagrammable dog. Something in beige or light grey. It's a slippery slope.

The biggest boy was doing his French homework the other day. I peered over his shoulder. The question, written in French, was, Which do you prefer, holidays at home in the United Kingdom or holidays abroad? I read through his answer a couple of times.

Me:  Does that say that you like to go abroad but your parents have no money and don't like to do anything risky?

Him (after a long pause, then a smile which he clearly intends to be winning): Pretty much.

Me: I wonder if you should add in that your mother likes to be eco-friendly and therefore is not one for jetting off about the place willy-nilly, but conscientiously sticks to her principles, for which I greatly admire her and one day I hope I grow up to be just like her?

Him: We've got Health and the Environment coming up, that would go better in that topic.

Hmph. It better had. I do risky stuff. I cycled around Morocco on my own several hundred years ago and more recently I've been down the underpass near the big Tesco and eaten a samosa that was three days out of date. Honestly, they think I don't live.

It strikes me that children's homework must be quite revealing about their lives. Right from Year R when their Best Day Ever was going to the park and having an ice-cream or seeing Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, through to Year 11 when it's a damp week in Wales with the poverty-stricken olds or a month skiing in Barbados with excitingly risky parents. The littlest boy is not above making things up, which puts us in a much better light, although sometimes I have to admit it is alarmingly violent and pretty much unsupervised. I am waiting for a knock at the door.

I hope all is well out there and you are all being suitably risky and well-travelled. Mind how you go.

Sunday 24 November 2019


Sir Peter Scott's house

I took two of the boys to the wetlands place at the weekend. It was wet, which is as it should be. I saw a bittern, right in front of me, which was fantastic, normally they're so well hidden. I didn't even think to take a photo, I was so amazed.

The house in the third photo used to belong to the conservationist and ornithologist Sir Peter Scott, son of Robert Scott, aka Scott of the Antarctic. In his last letter to his wife, written when Peter was two, he wrote, 'Make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than games.' Shortly after writing it he died on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.

Sir Peter Scott kept captive birds on the water in front of his home for a while, but eventually wild birds started landing there and now all the birds there are wild. Bewick's swans spend the winter there after making the journey from Siberia. It's an incredibly special place.

I managed a bit of writing while the others were exploring. The sun was setting and overhead crows were calling and settling in the tops of trees. I do love the winter sunset, it's so atmospheric. I'm plowing on towards 50,000 words. Just eight days to go I believe. I have crossed the 40,000 word mark.

There was no cricket or football at all this weekend, which was novel. I'd like to say many other useful and organisational things were accomplished, but somehow it has flown by in a jumble of work and odd bits of half-hearted housework. There was a cricket presentation night. The biggest boy stayed late with the adult team. I asked him when he got home if he'd had a good time. He said, 'Yes. I spent all of your money but none of my money.' Thrifty, no?

I am still enjoying podcasts. It occurs to me that after a lifetime of listening to the news and current affairs, they have finally broken me. I had a really frustrating day on Friday, you know the sort of thing, when everything goes wrong, everyone is annoying and it rained on me and the dog, and then I got home and there was a letter from Boris Johnson on the doormat as some sort of coup de grace. Honestly, if the local MP comes round, I shall not be held responsible for my actions.

Anyway, podcast land is a very fine place and I may never go back to news and current affairs. There is so much else to know about and things to hear that leave me feeling warm and positive and happy. If you have any favourites, do let me know.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

The old woman in the cave

The top photo is sunrise down by the river. It was a bit on the damp side. That was Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon was indoor cricket. Sunday was football. I left home at 9.45am, had forty minutes at home at lunchtime then I was out again until 4.30pm. I have no idea how two football matches can take up almost an entire day. As a special treat I was allowed to watch the football while I ate my tea. I think I am almost ready to referee a match.

Last night was the town's Christmas lights switch on, always a big event. The children have pretty much ditched me now when it comes to this sort of thing, so after wandering up the high street and down the high street and catching up with a friend or two I took refuge in a coffee shop and wrote for a while. Still aiming for those 50,000 words. I did discover that the local wool shop still half exists though, which was encouraging. The other half of the shop is given over to houseplants. Which I thought was a pretty perfect (and dangerous) combination. I couldn't decide which plant to buy first, but you know I'll be back.

Tonight was my turn to help out at Scouts. Some nights are livelier than others. This was a lively one. Let's just leave it at that. I have had some chocolate and now I am having a sit down.

The littlest boy made me laugh the other day. I had just given him one of my lengthy and impassioned speeches about the importance of being honourable and sportsmanlike and never ever taking something to which you are not entitled (it went on a bit, to be honest I forget the exact point I was trying to make, but I believe it started being about not taking too many Tesco charity box tokens when you are only supposed to take one, even if you are using it to vote for your school to receive the big donation) and he said, 'You should be a quoter. You know, one of those people who makes up quotes. You're really wise. You're like a wise old woman who lives in a cave.' Oh, how wonderful that would have been if he'd just stopped at 'really wise'. Anyway, it made me laugh and shut me up, which was probably the whole point of it.

Hope all are having a good week. If you need me I will be thinking deep thoughts in my cave.