Sunday, 19 October 2014

A little taste of the big city

I took the biggest boy to London on Saturday.  It was his first visit, and apparently he was the only person in his class who had never been there.  He's quite often "the only person in the class who...".  Anyway, we had a clear itinerary.  Natural History Museum (Stuffed Birds Department), Stanley Gibbons (three million stamps) and a little bit of the iconic stuff.

How gorgeous are dodos?  (Or should it be dodoes, like tomatoes?)  It's a tragedy that we don't have these beautiful creatures any more.  Look at those wonderful tail feathers.  Of course it probably didn't help that people were capturing them and stuffing them.  Look at that face.  There's nothing even remotely like a dodo now.

We flew through an area about capturing images.  It was wonderful, I could have spent longer there, but the stamp shop was beckoning.

Look at these beautiful botanical journals.  Exquisite.

Outside there's a small wildlife garden.  Sheep and moorhens in the middle of London.

We ate our sandwiches sat on a bench overlooking the grass at the front of the museum, then set off on a trek.

I absolutely love this building covered in plants.  It's so lush and tropical looking.  I'm not quite sure how it's all done, but it's clever and I wish there were more like it.  It reminds me a little of a balcony near where I used to live in Bristol.  I always like to see plants squeezed into unlikely places.  Gardens created where before there were none.  Greenery for those in the middle of a city.  Love it.

It just so happened that there was a TUC march and rally in London on Saturday.  It meant that lots of the roads were closed.  It was great to be able to walk down the middle of huge roads that are normally so busy.

We only took one tube, and spent the rest of the day walking, walking, walking.  After the stamp shop on the Strand we headed for Trafalgar Square.  The biggest boy climbed up Nelson's Column a little and we took touristy photos and ate cookies by the fountains.

Then we went to look at the river.

We found more wildlife - a cormorant, enjoying the late afternoon light.

The sun came out and everything was just right for some pictures.

We found the London Eye (hard to miss!) which the biggest boy was happy to see.  We read The London Eye Mystery recently and really enjoyed it, so it was exciting to see the actual Eye.  We counted the pods and looked for the red VIP one.

We wandered down to the Houses of Parliament to end our trip.

I'd forgotten how beautiful and thrilling and tiring London is.  So much to see, it's hard to know where to start, which bits I needed to show him, which things are too wonderful to miss.  The architecture is stunning.  Left to my own devices I could spend days wandering the streets, taking photos of the amazing buildings.  Every type, every style, every period.

Another day I'll take the others, but this was just for the biggest boy.  A little treat to maybe make up just a little for missing his school camp because of his broken kneecap.  I bought him some stamps and an ice-cream and he declared the day to be pretty excellent.

By the time we left the sun had set and the lights were on on Chelsea Bridge.  It was a perfect ending.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

This week

I'm trying really hard to like autumn, but honestly sometimes it's a struggle.  The cold, the damp, the piles of rotting leaves everywhere.  People seem to stop picking up after their dogs.  Do they think there's so much stuff on the ground anyway it doesn't matter?  Makes me VERY cross.

I know some of you live in hot places where autumn is a delicious breath of fresh cool air.  But here I'm closing all the windows and living with piles of damp washing.  I'm missing the warmth and the sunshine and I just don't much like all of the dying plants.  I know it's part of the eternal cycle, and of course an important part, but right now I'm in that adjustment phase.  I do love winter, once everything is cleared away.  The cleansing cold, everything pared down and stark.  Maybe it's the messiness I don't get along with.  I like to pick things up when they drop on the ground, not leave them to rot.  I'll be okay in a week or two when I've acclimatised.

On Monday I dragged the children to the mall to buy a few essential winter things.  It was looking ever so slightly sparkly.

I treated myself to a new bread knife.  I know how to live.

The old one was so blunt that it was a major effort every day to slice the bread.  I always make my own in a bread machine, so a bread knife is something I use all the time.  The old one didn't even scratch my skin when I rubbed it on my hand.  When I pressed my thumb onto the new blade, it sank straight in.  Honestly, it's scarily sharp, it flies through the bread, even the crusty bits.  I've got a cut on my thumb now.  And also a few bruises from falling over in spectacular fashion on the Tesco petrol forecourt on the way home.  One minute I was walking up to the car, the next minute I slipped on some greasy tiles and vanished from view, much to the boys' surprise.

I gave in and bought apples today.  I've been trying to make everyone eat pears from the garden, but they tend to go without instead.  So I gave in and filled up the fruit bowl.  They're all mad apple eaters, this lot won't last long.

I've just dyed a rather blue jumper dark red (Burlesque Red as it happens), and now I have a deep purple jumper.  Much better.  Unfortunately I didn't realise there was a stray beige linen napkin and a pale honey coloured face flannel in the washing machine when I gave it a post-dyeing wash.  So now I have a mauve napkin that doesn't match the others and a face flannel ditto.  Never mind, it's no biggie.  Although it did make me wonder if I should avoid things that stain other things purple, I'm starting to sense a pattern emerging.

I'm enjoying the dark evenings, if not the sodden days.  A good book (recommended by Leanne when I met her in the summer) and a little sparkly knitting.

Okay, autumn might have its good points.  If you can think of any more, please feel free to share.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Typing, baking, rats

A little post waiting to be opened.  Yesterday was the day, the biggest boy's eleventh birthday.  We bought him a stamp album with some bird stamps and a typewriter.  All things that he'd asked for.  He was thrilled.  I'm always happy when the boys are grateful for their gifts, when their friends have i-pads and Kindles and smart phones and all sorts of everything.  No doubt the time for a laptop is not far away, but we're not quite there yet.

I found the rose being blown about madly in the garden and rescued it to be enjoyed inside.  Hasn't the weather been wild and autumnal?  Not much outsideyness this week.  The lighthouse belongs to the middle boy.  He saved all of his pennies for ages, and bought it at Lizard in Cornwall in the summer.  He spent ages deciding to buy one and then choosing the right one.  He's a lot like me, even the simplest decisions (what do you want in your sandwich?) have to be carefully considered for ages.  Anyway, I'm glad he chose something that he can keep for a long time, rather than a bit of plastic.  It's made of a type of serpentine rock, which I think is unique to that area.

I've been in the kitchen more this week.  A reaction to all of that wind and rain.  I made these with coconut, cashews and dates.  I decided they were a health food and it is therefore acceptable to eat them two at a time.

The biggest boy requested a chocolate tart for his birthday tea.

I forgot that the pastry shell was in the oven for a while, but it was still okay.  And no soggy bottom.  I made little jam tarts with the leftover pastry and filled them with the windfall jelly.

There was a dead rat at school yesterday at pick-up time.  The corner of the playground was ineffectively screened off with six traffic cones.  The littlest boy told me I didn't want to know what was there.  I said I did.  He said I really didn't.  I said I really did.  He told me with quite a lot of relish that it was a dead rat.  We tiptoed into the danger zone to check it out, along with several other breathless small boys.  It was.  Under a bush at the edge of the playground.  He was a bit thrilled that flies were starting to gather.  I was a bit mystified that someone had gone to the effort of finding traffic cones and setting them out instead of just popping the rat into a bag and into a bin.

There's been something furry behind the shed at the allotment.  I might have mentioned it before.  He shot out when I was rearranging the stuff there and dodged into the compost heap.  He was a bit big to be a mouse.  I like to think of him as a passing water vole.

Wishing you all a fab weekend.  The sun is shining here, the homework out and no-one has been reduced to tears yet.  It's looking good.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Rain, chillies, books and a little wistful musing

Suddenly autumn is here.  Wind, rain and bits of tree all over the place.  It will take me a while to get to grips with it.

On the window a couple of jalapeno peppers are trying hard to ripen in the gathering gloom.  The plant is making a little two stemmed gesture to the weather I think.

I've been decluttering and getting out the winter clothes.  Winter school uniform is back, and the boys went to school in shirts, ties and long trousers yesterday.  It also happened to be school photo day.  It's always a delight to see what the photo of the three of them together looks like.  I sometimes wonder if there's some sort of unofficial competition to see who can make the most hideous face.  For only twelve English pounds, a copy can be mine for all eternity.  Hard to refuse.

The littlest boy has discovered reading.  He is obsessed with the Sea Quest books.  While my opinion of them is best left unprinted, he is reading, non-stop, even at school in his lunch break, so I daren't say anything.  I just hope he eventually loves proper books just as much.  Anyway, our book shelves are rather crowded, so I've taken some of the more babyish ones out and given them to Oxfam.

I've written before how I struggle a little with these bittersweet moments.  I have so many happy memories of snuggling up with little people and a pile of books.  They all absolutely loved being read to, for hours and hours.  I still know the words to many of the books off by heart.  In fact if someone says something over the tea table that reminds me of one, I'll start reciting it.  "Here's Duck who thinks, this sunny day, the beach is just the place to play."  Genius.  Some of the books I just couldn't bear to part with.  The Pumpkin Soup ones by Helen Cooper have the most beautiful illustrations.  And Hairy Maclary and Zachary Quack, oh how I loved it.  "Over the lawn and asparagus bed, ran Hairy Maclary to hide in the shed".

So some have gone, some have stayed, and there's a little more room on the bookshelves for some of the wonderful books I've been finding for bigger readers.  I read to the two younger ones every night, and we've just started "The Dreamfighter and Other Creation Tales" by Ted Hughes.  They're a little reminiscent of Kipling's "Just So Stories" - tales of how various creatures came to be the way they are.  It's tricky to find something that both of them enjoy.  If it requires too much concentration, the littlest boy loses interest.  He is very quick to tell me a book is rubbish if the first page doesn't grab him.  I'm thinking I might make a place here with a list of the books we've enjoyed.

Thank you for all of the kind birthday wishes, it was indeed mine.  This week it will be the biggest boy's too, he'll be eleven.  His last year of primary school is under way.  The application form for secondary school is waiting to be done.  I haven't got round to it yet.  Not sure why.  I think I'm a little bit scared.  What if it's not okay?  I know, I know, I'm being silly.  I'll get to it soon.

We walked in the local woods at the weekend.  Lately we've been exploring our local area a little more.  There are some lovely spots, and it always amazes me how peaceful and rural it feels just a few minutes from home.

I might not live in the country, but I can smell it from here.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Before the rain

I've spent the day washing bed linen and watching it dry in the growing breeze.  Rain is coming after a long dry spell and I wanted to take advantage of being able to hang things outside while I could.  The beds are made now, little people are snuggled into fresh sheets.  Windows will be closed soon, squashes have been stored in the garage and outside things have been put away.

It's been a good week, almost like summer during the day.  It started with the mini football tournament that was the littlest boy's first official match.  How big he looks now.  He scored a goal from a free kick and did a world class slide tackle, so he was jolly happy.

Down at the plot things are still blooming, bees are still buzzing and there are still optimistic buds.

I'm making the most of the last of the salad crops.  Cucumbers and tomatoes will end soon.  Lettuce will go on a while longer, but the end is nigh.

Thursday was harvest festival at the church.  I remember harvest festival when I was little, there were always baskets of fruit and vegetables from the garden and homemade jams and chutneys.  Now they like to have tins from Tesco.  It just doesn't look the same displayed up the front.

When the service ended there was half an hour before school pick-up time so I went for a short walk with the other half, down past the castle and off across the fields.

Just as we turned to come back the farmer let a whole field of cows across the track.

There were dozens of them, moving quite quickly, obviously in a hurry to be somewhere, and quite, shall we say, muddy.  But time was pressing, so in the end we dodged in between them.  Probably not good farm etiquette, the ones that we walked in front of stopped dead.  I muttered, "As you were ladies" as we shot off up the track before we were rumbled by the farmer as impatient townsfolk.  We made it back in the nick of time, happily untrampled.

There was a bit of a birthday that day as well, but no need to dwell on it.  Nice slice of carrot cake, happy handmade cards, lots of hugs, nuff said.

I'm almost looking forward to a little autumn weather.  My pjs are on, I'm curled up in the sofa, I'm knitting a scarf, I'm ready.  Wishing you a good weekend.  CJ xx