Tag Archives: Catch-up

October, you beauty

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Hello.

Here I am, which is unusual enough, because whenever I have a spare hour and have to decide between Lying Still or Anything Else, the Lying Still tends to win. It’s frustrating having to slow down, especially now the sickness has gone (whee!). I like to get on. I keep having to remember not to define myself by things I can’t always do.

I feel quite anxious about this pregnancy, in a way I didn’t with the others. Oddly my visits to the midwife make this worse, not better. Most of the time I can assume (or tell myself to assume) that everything’s fine. When I go to the midwife, I have to wait the agonising three minutes before she finds the heartbeat, and get test results back where ‘this is a little unusual, but nothing to worry about’, I mean CLEARLY I WILL NOW WORRY ABOUT THAT THING, WHAT DO YOU TAKE ME FOR.

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Still, without the sickness, I am gathering myself together again, bit by bit. Folding some laundry. Taking the boys out for walks in the woods. Making proper dinners, and eating them. Meeting deadlines, cleaning the kitchen. Reducing my snack breaks from seventeen a day to an entirely reasonable eight. On Sunday I wore a dress that I loved, and pushed Tim off to bed while the boys and I went exploring and did not eat a single bag of beef crisps all day, and it felt like the best day of my life.

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Yesterday I baked a new kind of apple cake that turned out to smell (like apples) a great deal better than it tasted (mostly like baking powder). Still, the baking was therapeutic, and it was a much cheaper way to make the house smell nice than dropping £30 on a White Company candle.

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I feel like doing a Rocky air-punch on the rare occasions I get to hand out fat slices of homemade cake after school. It makes me feel like Mary Poppins. Although –

H: ‘What are these on top?’

Me: ‘They’re called almonds.’

H: ‘Urgh.’

Me: ‘They won’t taste of much by themselves. You’re supposed to eat them with the cake.’

[Five minutes pass]

Me: ‘H, haven’t you started yet?’

H: ‘No, I’m taking out all of the Normons, because they look awful.’

Take that, Normons. Sorry for the body-shaming.

We’ve got our back-to-school bugs and September Rages mostly out of the way now, I hope (T is feeling ‘asspalootely better’, if you ask him). Both boys have settled into their new routines. We cycle to school whenever the weather’s kind, and then after school H and I do a mad dash from one playground to the other, a mile and a half away. T comes bursting out of nursery, jumper sleeves rolled up to the elbows, usually filthy and clutching all his bags, which he hands over to me before they race their bikes home. H would always win, except that T cheats.

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See? Cheating.

See? Cheating.

It feels like autumn has been slow in coming, but now we have crunchy leaves, misty mornings, and reddening holly berries all over the place. There’s a whole colony of enterprising mushrooms growing out of the gigantic pile of horse poo down the road, and I feel compelled to point them out every time we pass, for educational reasons. While also holding my breath. Motherhood is weird.

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I’ve been reading a lot. There’s something about cold weather that gives me permission to retire with a blanket and a book – which is what I really want to be doing all the time anyway. I read a very unusual book (From A Clear Blue Sky) about grief and siblings by Timothy Knatchbull, who was on Lord Mountbatten’s sabotaged boat when it was bombed by the IRA in 1979 (Mountbatten was his grandfather, and Timothy was in his mid-teens). Timothy survived, and so did his parents – just – but his twin brother Nicholas died. Years later he wrote the book to come to terms with the griefs he’d buried at the time. It’s not political at all, very honest and completely fascinating. I thought it was wonderful.

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I’ve also reread The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver has never written a better), Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (because I watched the BBC adaptation, and missed it), an Agatha Christie every other week (The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. FLAWLESS) and last week got hold of David Mitchell’s new-ish novel, The Bone Clocks. Which is as mad as David Mitchell ever is, and as delightful. And if poetry’s your jam, or you would like it to be, you must get hold of The Emergency Poet. It was compiled by a superhero woman who literally bought a discontinued ambulance and drove around in it, offering consoling poems to people who were struggling. What a life! It’s a gorgeous thing.

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Are you watching Poldark? It’s as beautiful as ever to look at, but I’ve been put off a bit this series by the fact that Ross Poldark is kind of a jerk. Look, screenwriters, if you want us to believe that everyone likes him, you have to give us some reason why. It can’t always be scything topless and glistening in golden fields. That combination of getting into debt, being surly and condescending to his wife and galloping worryingly near cliff edges is not calculated to set the heart afire.

Also Bake-Off. BAKE-OFF. Every episode brings us closer to the last one ever, and the fact that this series is so delicious is both helping and hurting. Like eating an entire plate of Tudor pies in one go (I would. Did you see them? I WOULD).

Who ate all the pies? (Me, probably.)

Who ate all the pies? (Me, probably.)

T helped me watch the first Harry Potter film a few weeks ago. Some observations:

‘Dumbledore! He’s the master…head’. (‘Headmaster?’ ‘Yeah.’)

‘Look, it’s Yogrid!’

‘Harry is using a… a feather crayon.’

‘My-knee? Who’s My-knee?’

(Harry, onscreen: ‘And Snape wasn’t blinking.’) ‘I’m blinking. Look.’

[sigh] ‘I am weally not a-pwessed.’

I’ll win him over eventually.

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What January has to say for itself

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Hello lovers. Let’s go rambling.

I make a point of not getting on with anything until T falls asleep. At the moment that means I slump over Twitter exhaustedly and with shoes on, for nearly an hour. He got used to Audible Fun Stuff going on after his bedtime over Christmas, so he likes to have a little cot-potter after lights-out. Just in case someone’s going to come and get him. He’s just given in, so I’ve taken off my boots, and am (Hades voice) ready to rumbllllllle. (H is sparko five minutes after I leave, of course. School.)

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We are back in a routine after a week of inevitable new-term sick bug. Last week we didn’t shift very far away from Netflix or pyjamas, and ran out of Calpol, and didn’t leave the house more than once for five days. That sort of week is rather nice for a day or so, then forms a very short runway to insanity thereafter. I know the theme song to our newest Thomas film now. KIDDING I KNEW IT ALREADY.

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Getting back to normal has made what was a pretty dreary January into something quite bracing and lovely. We walked back from school the long way yesterday afternoon. Watching them call for the Gruffalo in the middle of the woods and get comically stuck in mud-swamps made my head feel like it was opening up again at last. It’s very cold, bright and frost-glittered. Good skies. Indoors, I am making big lasagnes, shepherd’s pies, vats of enchiladas – and engaging in a running battle with Timothy where we turn the radiators on/off without the other one knowing.

We are keeping the kettle almost constantly boiling, and our favourite is mixing two spoons of hot chocolate with two spoons of Horlicks. If I tell you we call it a Choco-(W)Hor(e), will you think less of us?

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T feels very two this month. One blimming up and down after another. Stubborn. Delightful. Hideous. Hilarious. Beginning every other sentence with ‘I don’ WANT to’. Making his toys talk to each other. This afternoon he came to insist that he had a ‘twiceratops stuck down here’ (gestures at groin area). The only triceratops I know about is the size of Teddy’s head, but I brushed my hand down his front anyway. Nothing. I told him to go and play. About half an hour later I changed his nappy and, sure enough: a small plastic triceratops, embedded in his squishy toddler belly. Who knows how it got there. The triceratops is too shell-shocked to say. Never doubt the two-year-old, is the lesson from that.

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Oh, but you can give me a million years of four and I will take them off your hands. Four is the best. Four is your reward for getting through three without running away to sea to be a ship’s monkey. This evening H had to work through the letter B. He produced a whole row of them, pencil held carefully in his left hand, then wrote ‘Boo’. I told him about exclamation marks, and he drew one in precisely at the end, then put another one at the beginning too (!Boo!) ‘so it’s even more shouting!’ He laughed at the triceratops thing harder than I did, and ate all his lasagne. Four forever pls.

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I’ve just finished A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson, which is the companion piece to Life After Life, the book I love so much I keep it in my glove compartment for emergencies. The sequel made me feel so much some of my cells died from the strain. Life After Life is a gorgeous family-drama-with-reincarnation-twist, and is the most harrowing depiction of the Blitz I’ve ever come across. A God in Ruins does the same thing for the RAF bombing campaign over Germany, gives the beloved characters slightly disappointing lives thereafter, and ends with a twist like a gut punch. It’s gone back on my shelf, and I haven’t dared look at it since. Tomorrow I will be charging through January’s book club book, with ten hours till book club, because leaving books till the last minute and causing myself great stress is my ABSOLUTE speciality.

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We have just booked tickets to my brother’s wedding in the Spring. California, Oregon, Utah. I am utterly thrilled and also doing a full-body cringe at the expense of carting four humans across the Atlantic, as per. Please send your San Francisco recommendations if you have them! Even better if it’s food-related, but you knew that.

February is historically my least-favourite month (HOW CAN IT STILL BE COLD AND WITH NO GREEN ANYWHERE) but with enough skies like these, I think we’ll be alright. I think I could get on with January after all.

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Ooh, October, you’re looking well

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I have given myself a towering challenge this evening. Well, two. One is to get rid of today’s lone nappies lurking in our house without gagging. I will track each powerful stench to its source like a veritable crap-hound, and throw them into the bin where they belong. The other is to write a blog post in half an hour. I have been writing more essays than rambles, lately, and I feel like my ramble output has been a little disappointing. Sometimes it’s more important just to write than to write perfectly. Not that I ever do that either.

ANYWAY.

October is looking well so far. Ooh, October, you’re looking well. Those oranges really suit you. H is mostly out of his screechy rage-demon phase and is loving school. I’m amazed by what it’s done for him in less than a half-term. He’s drawing things voluntarily, obsessed with playing an exciting new game called Tag (!), joins the queue at the classroom gate when the school bell rings, and went for a playdate and pizza on Friday with one of his new friends (‘I needed a wee during dinner’. ‘Did you go?’ ‘I put up my hand and asked’.) He also calls the school dining hall The Great Hall, Harry Potter-style, which I CAN’T EVEN. If he’s got floating candles and golden plates going on and I’m sat at home with T flinging around chicken supernoodles, I’m going to be peeved.

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He had a Harvest Festival service at the little medieval church down the road last week. I have been looking forward to standing in a chapel bellowing ‘Cauliflowers Fluffy’, while children bring baskets of cup o’ soup up to the altar, since I gave birth. It was completely wonderful. We also sang the ‘Autumn Leaves’ one about jet planes and it felt like the jauntiest moment of my life so far.

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Our school runs have become very autumny all of a sudden. I am trying to walk or cycle most dry days. Cycling is more time-efficient but pulling both boys up the hill in the trailer, oh legs, forgive me. There’s a route through the woods that T and I take if we’ve got the time (it’s off-road, so he can walk), and it’s been all dew-dropped spider webs and misty fields for a couple of weeks. The other morning we saw red spotted toadstools, and I was so astonished to see one in real life, outside of an Enid Blyton book. It was like seeing Moon Face waving from the nearest Faraway Tree and making awkwardly racist remarks. We moved into this house in autumn last year, and it was a big part of why I fell powerfully in love with living here: all crackly russet leaves underfoot, red holly berries, cold blue skies and brown forests of ferns. Coming into the season again has been a real pick-me-up for the soul. And has reminded me how hideous my damp autumn hair is. Like a bad Meatloaf wig. Especially after cycling.

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I am trying not to be weird in the playground. It’s hard when you’re wearing a Meatloaf wig and have no small talk. People are nice. It’s an ongoing project.

Spending one-on-one time with T – for the first time, really – has been great. We go to a playgroup one morning a week (‘traydroup’) and he barges from station to station, shouting ‘HELLO’ in people’s faces, making pastry cheese twists and then scarfing them down at snack time. He makes the bull in a china shop look like a refined sort of chap. He’s talking mostly in sentences and is too brilliant for words.

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I am trying hard to find a good balance between the different parts of my life. My big, scary aim for this year is to try to get paid properly for writing. Urgh. Writing is such a vulnerable and necessary part of me that wanting to succeed in it makes me feel very exposed. I’ve been spending too much time thinking about it and feeling insecure about it. Then too many late nights generally. Last night Tim was out, and I was determined to read a single chapter of my new book in bed and then be asleep by nine, as a symbol of how totally adequate and in control of my glowing and brilliant life I am. But the book was H is for Hawk, and it was saturated in grief and love and a completely transporting description of falconry and nature: lyrical and coldly beautiful. So I read all of it, obviously. And I was about to feel terrible about missing another opportunity for an early night, when I thought that reading an excellent book all in one go was exactly myself. And then I got up to sit H on the loo, and that was exactly myself too. And I decided that all this was a bit of alright, and then I went to sleep.

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