Thursday, 15 October 2020

Challenge accepted

Greetings all, I hope this finds you chipper and enjoying the chilly autumn days. Photos from the wetlands place, which is looking beautiful. I took the biggest boy for a few hours to see what migrant birds were passing. We walked down to the river, past old World War II pillboxes (small concrete guard houses from where people could watch for invasion via the river).

They had sunk into the landscape a little and were covered in moss and sprouting grass in places. I aimed for a complicated metaphor about how horrendous it must have been when they were built and it was all new and terrifying and no-one knew what was coming and how scared people must have been, but I got lost along the way somewhere and it fell a bit short so we just sat overlooking the river and a field of cows and ate our sandwiches instead. 

The dog and I have been exploring a new park area that the local housebuilders have created. Our little town is being heavily built around, farmland disappearing at a shocking rate and thousands of newbuild homes appearing. The park must have been a planning requirement. It's quite nice and they've made a bit of an effort to encourage wildlife. There are also wooden sculptures about the place. Bert was horrified to trot round the corner and come face to face with a life-sized fox. He stopped and stared at it for ages, daring it to move, then skirted round it at top speed. He really has to summon up his courage for things these days.

Although I am still avoiding most of the main news, with just a cursory glance at the headlines once a day, the littlest boy likes to keep me updated on the important stuff via The Week Junior, a cracking news magazine for children. Honestly, it is so much better than the other news. Did you know for example, a rat has been awarded a gold medal for bravery for detecting landmines in Cambodia? He sniffs them out, but is light enough not to trigger them. 

And someone has reached a speed of 43 miles per hour in a wheelie bin, which is a new world record. We are feeling inspired in this house, I can tell you. Just waiting for bin day then there'll be no stopping us.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

The perfect last day of summer


Yesterday was utterly glorious. Not in any spectacular day-off, amazing trip sort of way, but just in the end-of-season perfection sort of way. All dreamy golden light and warm evening sun and a spectacular fiery orange ball sinking into the horizon.

It would have been good to sit in the afternoon sun with a book for a while, and I did think about it, but there was work to be done so I didn't. Which felt satisfying in a way, because the work got done, but I did feel the tiniest bit wistful that it was the very last afternoon of summer out there. 

It ended neatly, coinciding with the astrological end of summer. Today was still warm enough, but halfway through the day the sun went in and the washing felt the slightest bit damp and I thought, 'That's it, the season has turned.'

This evening, in a burst of gardening activity, I cut the grass before the rain sets it, pulled out the tomatoes, filled the kitchen window sill with all the green and orange ones, planted out some foxgloves I grew from seed, planted the elephant garlic and put some spare wood into the garage out of the way of the damp weather.

I have loved summer this year despite you-know-what. And maybe because of it. So many warm, sunny days, more time than usual spent in the garden, which has been lovely, and the garden has looked the better for it, and simple pleasures enjoyed. Walks with the boys and the dog, messing around in lakes, ice-creams and picnics, seeing friends outside and just a bit more thinking about the good things in life and really appreciating them.

And now it is autumn, and doubtless good things are ahead too. Let's not think about other stuff right now. I hope it was a good enough summer with you too. Onwards. CJ xx

Tuesday, 15 September 2020



Look, a library book! It must be six months since I've borrowed anything, but finally the doors are open again and books are back on the menu. Over lockdown the children ran out of books and started complaining about having to reread things. The middle one is reading some adult thrillers now, so if anyone can recommend exciting but fairly clean, non-graphic stuff I would be glad to hear. Although of course I am sure they are all far ahead of where we think they are/should be.

School has recommenced for all, which is exciting. The dog is lying on his back, snoring happily in the blissful peace and quiet. 

I have spent ALL THE MONEY on new shoes, blazers, trousers, shirts, pe kit and a rucksack and I am left quietly reeling at the amount of stuff needed. And at how quickly it is all grown out of. 

A fair few pears came down in the storm, but there are still dozens more. I never really know what to do with them all, they don't store well. Martha Stewart dries them, and I am thinking about that, but she says they don't keep for very long and you still have to freeze them, which isn't what I'm looking for. I was thinking they might keep for ages if I dried them. If anyone has any expertise in the area of pear drying I would be glad to hear of it.

The top photos are from the Lake District, which seems a long time ago now. I wouldn't mind being back there, floating around on a lake or reading a book in the shade or climbing a mountain. Holidays are all too brief sometimes aren't they. Although now that summer has returned, a deckchair in the garden is the next best thing. 

The youngest has been working hard at his English and French this week. He has written an alarmingly violent dystopian story involving mutant pigs, a virus call pigona virus, alien invasion and a nuclear bomb. I made a plea for a happy ending, but apparently that won't do at all when it comes to dystopia. The best he was willing to offer was a cliffhanger.

His French homework seemed to be a lengthy list of questions about home and family life that a social worker would be proud of. I scanned through a few of them and feel that we have probably failed. 

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Grace and elegance

Balmy scenes from the Lakes a week or so ago, when it was hot and glorious. Right now, as storm Francis rages, I imagine it's all looking a bit different. Very glad to have had such a good week there. 

Did I mention I went paddleboarding? In fact I didn't have a swimsuit with me, what with there not being any sea and me not imagining for a minute that it would be hot enough to swim in a lake. So I borrowed some swimming trunks and a t-shirt and strapped myself (tightly) into a life jacket and I was good to go. Actually, I only went because they (wisely) wouldn't let children out unaccompanied. Balancing on a board on top of freezing cold water isn't where you would generally expect to find me.

I concentrated really hard and did pretty well for a while. By 'pretty well' I mean I didn't fall off. But then there was a bit of swell and I lost focus and that was it, off I crashed in spectacular fashion. It took me a while to get back on. They'd shown us how to pull ourselves back on, but they'd neglected to explain what to do when the board flipped over on top of you when you tried to get on.

A gigantic pike (predator fish with ALL THE TEETH) was circling nearby as well, just to add to the tension. I sadly don't have any footage of me plummeting below the surface, but I do have a shot of me calmly drifting about the place.

I discovered that it was really relaxing to sit down and float about. In fact, you can lie on the board on your back and just bob gently up and down, which was far more my sort of thing. I was of course forced into racing and stuff and I may have fallen off again, I don't remember. At least it wasn't cold though. In fact, we were messing about in the lake because it was too hot to climb a mountain. 

We stayed in a lovely stone house, which was surprisingly hot inside. I always thought thick stone walls would stay cool. The stones had some gaps in them, which I think may have housed a bit of wildlife. One day I happened to be upstairs walking through my bedroom when I spotted a small snake slithering in the window and across the windowsill. UPSTAIRS! When I'd finished shrieking and managed to find a volunteer to capture it in a large Tupperware I calmed down slightly. It was a young grass snake, probably enjoying the warmth of the stone walls. Until it went inside and it all got noisy.

We released it into the grass and I went for a sit down with a cold flannel over my face. I made sure I shook my pyjamas out that night I can tell you. And looked under the bed, and in the cupboard and under the duvet. As a general rule, I'm not too shrieky and I'm all for lots of wild things roaming about the place, just not over me in the dark. 

Hoping all is well at your end. CJ xx

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Lakes and mountains


There is a bit of post-holiday, post-lockdown, post-five-months with-nothing-to-do disillusionment here, for want of a better word. The urchins have had enough I fear. I have told them tales of how in my day we entertained ourselves with nothing but a piece of string and a stick and thought ourselves glad to have it, but alas it has not seemed to help. 

The first half of it all was fine. All golden sunshine and energy and enthusiasm and fun with each other, playing games, going out for Permitted Exercise and general bonhomie in a tight situation. But somehow that has all evaporated, all the books have been read, all the things have been done, and done again, and there is nothing left to do but brother-baiting. I'm not complaining, I know how lucky we are, it's more of an observation really, and a wondering if it is the same elsewhere. I imagine it might be.

We journeyed to the frozen North last week, which actually turned out to be sweltering. A week in the Lake District, with the dog, mountains, kayaks, paddle boards and the biggest thunderstorm I've ever heard. All fabulous and a nice break away from the usual everyday stuff, which was particularly welcome for the urchins this year I think.

In other news, the dog has decided he no longer cares to go for walks. I've no idea why, it started before we went away. He simply doesn't fancy his morning and evening outings and when he does decide to move he is very picky about which route he is prepared to take. 

I actually have to carry him out of the house and up the road sometimes, and then he sits down and looks at me as if trying to communicate. I sometimes wish we could have a conversation, although he would probably just ask for more sardines and sausages, while I'd have serious things to say about his diabolical treatment of the cushions.

I am wondering if it is a bit of anxiety, worrying that his pack will go off without him while he's out. He is quite an anxious little chap and takes his job of looking after us all very seriously. It's a big responsibility you know.

Probably enough wittering for now, I hope all are well and that no-one has been thunderstruck. CJ xx

Friday, 7 August 2020

Gondolier school

I'm finding it hard to believe it's August. Everything is still a bit surreal. My strict news diet (reading the headlines and the odd articles once a day) means I am sometimes surprised anew by it all. It still seems to be the main topic of conversation so often, which is understandable, but I'd quite like to talk about something else.

The articles I read are usually on other things. The fish on the Miami Bay webcam called Oval who has no tail, the sniffer dog who got to sit in the Speaker's chair and Elon Musk's tweet, 'Aliens built the pyramids obv'. Which set me to wondering how it is that people who are clearly absolutely barking get to be so rich and powerful.

The littlest boy is toying with the idea of becoming a gondolier. He pictures it as being paid to go paddleboarding all day. We googled it and discovered there is all sorts of learning involved, culture and history and so forth, which he found slightly offputting. And he was also surprised to find out it was mostly done in Venice. I'm not sure where he pictured himself doing it. Bristol Docks maybe? I think Italy would suit him rather well, he could have pizza for lunch every day.

I'm wondering how school will go down when September finally rolls around. A bit of an adjustment I imagine. And possibly a shock to the system of those who have managed to avoid almost all learning for the best part of six months. Let's not think about that today.

I am all braced for a warm weekend. I picture myself sat in a deckchair in the shade somewhere with a good book and a cold drink. Of course the reality will probably be racing round Doing Things, preparing endless food, clearing up endless plates and getting cross when no-one helps. But all in all, that's good too.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Dog cunning

Bertie has a friend who is a labrador. She knows exactly when I get the good doggy treats out of my bag, in fact she knows before I get them out. Then she sits down in front of me, all obedience and big brown eyes until one comes her way.

In fact, the tasty treats usually come out when Bertie is being naughty. He runs off and does something he shouldn't, I call him back and he gets a treat. I know, I know, but the idea is that he is being rewarded for the good thing, ie. the coming back. I think that's the psychology behind it anyway. But sometimes I wonder... Anyway, there is a theory in this house that his clever friend eggs him on to do a bad thing so that they can both have a treat. Are we all being played do you think?

Cricket is back. Hand sanitising every over and NO TEA, but it's a start.

I've had a satisfying feng shui-ing of a kitchen cupboard, involving getting rid of things dated 2019 or earlier and making plans for the borderline edibles. Morello cherries, I'm looking at you.

Otherwise it's been all work, work, work, interspersed with guilt about not doing exciting things with the children. Although of course they probably don't want to do exciting things with their mother. But that doesn't stop me feeling as though I should be taking them out somewhere and Doing Something. All in good time I guess. Exciting adventures your end?