Thursday, 30 January 2014


9.10am  The children are at school and order has been restored.  It's time to begin a little job I've been dreading for days.  Building a bed for the littlest boy from a flatpack, which has been delivered in no less than eight packages.

9.30am  The packaging is off.  It's no longer to possible to move around the kitchen because of the amount of cardboard.  The pieces are strewn about the living room, which is where the delivery man left them.  "Room Of Your Choice" was £20 extra.  Getting the thing made was £120 extra.  I'm starting to wonder if there's a reason for that.

10.00am  The nuts and bolts are sorted into about fifteen different dishes and labelled.  The actual instructions are disconcertingly brief.  One and a half pieces of A4.  I stare at them for a while and start sweating lightly.

10.30am  I carry some pieces upstairs to the littlest boy's room and do some more staring and some thinking.

The instructions start with two perfectly made end pieces.  My end pieces need construction and are in about sixteen different pieces.  The instructions do not explain how to put them together at all.  I start muttering.

11.00am  I've partly put the ends together, but it's now apparent I've done it wrong.  I take them apart again and put them back together differently.  It turns out they're still wrong.  I take them apart again and mutter a bit more.  I put them together in another variation.  I should have added some more bits in first.  I deconstruct them and I'm almost back where I started.

11.40am  The phone rings and it's the school.  I'm not to worry, the children are fine, but the middle one has fallen on his face and broken his glasses.  He is now unable to see.  I locate his old pair and take them to school, collect the broken ones and once home ring the optician.  I love the optician, and I love how eye tests and glasses and replacement glasses for children are all completely free.  It takes me but a moment to order another pair.  A high point in the day I think.

12.10pm  I try and get back in the zone.  It is becoming clear that the littlest boy (whose existing bed had been taken apart and removed) will not be sleeping in his room tonight.  Oddly, he had anticipated this when I explained to him a day or two ago that I would be making a new bed for him.  He said something like, "Ooh, so I'll be sleeping in your bed for a night!"

Other half locates a video on You Tube showing how to put this exact bed together.  He also rings the company.  Astonishingly he gets to speak to an actual person, who is incredibly helpful and emails more instructions.  I watch the video.  It has soothing music, a calming voiceover and a woman with an incredible French manicure smoothly putting the bed together.  I breath deeply and unclench.  Things previously unfathomable have been explained and I feel a slight glimmer of hope.

1.10pm  I eat a two cheese sandwiches and then a peanut butter sandwich and some salad and a strawberry yoghurt and spend some time wondering why the manufacturer didn't bother mentioning the enlightening You Tube video in their instructions.  Just teasing us maybe.

1.40pm  I clear up from lunch and put everything flatpack-related where it will be out of the way of the children who will be home in a couple of hours.  The day has slipped by and so far I've accomplished almost nothing.  Back to the flatpack.

3.00pm  With the help of the video things are finally going together, although I still only have two ends and two sides.  It's a captain's bed, with four drawers and a cupboard underneath.  I know, I know, what was I thinking.  But when I was ordering it, it seemed like a really good idea.  Somewhere for the littlest boy to keep his treasures, because he does love his treasures.  I suddenly realise what the time is.  School run.

3.25pm  The littlest boy is out first, full of happy joy as ever.  The middle boy is a bit pink from recorder practice and with a slightly bruised nose from the glasses-breaking incident.   I explain to the littlest boy that his bed isn't finished.  He doesn't display any surprise.  I suggest he sleeps on his mattress in the top room with the guinea pigs, and point out how it will be exactly like camping.  He is thrilled.  We head home and I make drinks for all.

4.00pm  The phone trills and I panic, football officially ends at 4 and I'm still at home, because it always goes on until 4.15pm.  It's a text from school.  Year 5 parents (of which I am one) are reminded of the Year 5 cake sale tomorrow, to which their children are to bring cakes.  Wha...???  I check the calendar.  No mention of a cake sale.

4.10pm  I wait at school for ten minutes for the biggest boy.  He's the last out, as always, and in a foul mood.

5pm  Tea is fast and early-ish as I need to take the middle boy to buy a warm coat.  He's been off colour recently and unusually is feeling the cold.  He's been shivering all the way to school in the mornings.  His thin coat isn't enough.  After tea I manage to take him to the shops without his brothers, who for some reason are desperate to come too.  I make a mental note - next time I need them to come with me I must try and leave them at home.  We find a good coat and I part with a good chunk of money.

6.50pm  We arrive back home.  The biggest boy is already in his pyjamas and the littlest boy has scratches on both sides of his face.  I don't enquire too deeply.  The last hour or so is fairly smooth.  The biggest boy is in disgrace, the middle boy has a new coat and the littlest boy is going camping.  I ponder cake choices.

8.45pm  All is quiet upstairs.  Downstairs I'm ignoring the drawers and cupboard part of the flatpack.  I'm also ignoring the impending cake sale.  I feel the need for a quiet moment instead of last-minute baking.  I feel the need to share.  Maybe even to rant a little.  Apologies.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


A little treasure hunting in a vintage shop.  I didn't buy anything, but it was such an Aladdin's Cave of delights.  This was part of the downstairs room, which was crammed with everything imaginable, including the saddest looking spaniel that the littlest boy completely fell in love with.  It had big brown red-rimmed eyes, and the littlest boy was convinced it was crying.  If it had been for sale I'd have brought it home.

On Thursday some treasure of a different kind arrived, all the way from the other side of the ocean.  The lovely Ellen of The Ellen Report sent me this beautiful yarn that I won in her very generous giveaway.  It's Tussah silk no less, which is extra exciting for me as I can't wear most wool, it makes me itch.  But silk, I'm fine with silk.

To be honest I'm a bit scared of using it.  I'm not a very good knitter, and I have a horror of not doing it justice.  It's very fine, lacy in fact.  I'm thinking maybe this, but I don't know if it's beyond me.  We shall see. It seems to have a sort of frill on it in a contrasting yarn.  I'm thinking I might use the same yarn for the frill as well as the main part. Any tips or suggestions gratefully received.

You might remember the middle boy had a little project last week, while he was off school sick.  He painted an oystercatcher and wrote a letter to the amazing Sir David Attenborough.  We're huge fans of Sir David here, and we've been watching Life of Birds recently, as well as looking at some of his books.  Middle boy wrote to say how much he enjoyed everything he'd seen and told Sir David a little about himself.  And just a few days later... a letter dropped on the doormat.  A handwritten envelope and a handwritten letter no less, from the great man himself.  I am absolutely blown away that he would take the time to write back to a little fan.  I'd heard that he's a generally good egg - carries his own bags on location and sleeps in the crew tent - no airs and graces, that kind of thing, but for him to take the time to write makes me think even more highly of him, if that's possible.

Around here the little people have been trying their hands at origami.  I give you a Roman helmet, a spinning top and a fortune teller.  Honestly, they've spent hours making various little things, it's been great.  And all from a library book.

This morning was a bit of a trial.  Torrential rain, wild winds (note the flag) and mud, oh the mud.  The biggest boy had a football match, which meant a couple of hours of standing outside.  It's taken me the rest of the day to warm up.

I managed to sneak five minutes (and only five minutes) on the sofa this afternoon to look at this fantastic book.

I'm starting to dream of spring planting.  This is Alys's garden.  Beautiful, no?  I'm so in love with it.  But I fear as it has no space for kicking balls around it wouldn't do at all for the little people.

I really like the way she's grown her garden, making production of food for her kitchen into an art.  I've been watching the programme that goes alongside on Youtube and remembering how much I enjoyed it when I watched it first time round.   I might try mixing my edible things with a few more flowers this year.

Eventually the sky cleared today.  Too late to be any use to me, I had already finished all of my going out.  But I did snap a couple of shots from the top room.  It looks nice, but I guarantee that it's squelchy underfoot down there.  At the football this morning I had to keep shifting to stop my boots sinking in the quagmire.  Tomorrow is my day for removing any last traces of mud from the house.  Actually, most of it's gone already, but I do like to restore order on a Monday.

So here we go again.  A new week.  I do hope it's a good one for all.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Four days in January

Despite the rain, we've been enjoying the odd bit of sun around here.

Saturday was a porridge kind of a day.  We needed oats to fortify us against the mud and the chill of morning football training.

As it happened, three out of the weekend's five football things were cancelled because of waterlogged pitches.  There was a bit of disappointment.  It wasn't mine.

On Sunday, the middle boy was unwell, so I took the other two to Slimbridge for some fresh air and birds.  The sun was out, and it was busy both with people and with lapwings.  They're such beautiful birds, with a lovely butterfly kind of flight.

Towards the end of the afternoon, the Bewick's swans fly in from wherever they have been grazing during the day for a feed at the Wetlands Trust.  They come here from Arctic Russia for the winter, and the staff at Slimbridge (and other WWT places) feed them with grain to build them up for the return trip and the subsequent breeding season.

We spent a while watching the little "garden" birds on the feeders.

As always, I was watching the sunset.  It's the most magical time of day for me.

It was freezing once the sun went down.  Time to go home for jacket potatoes and cranberry flapjacks.  We don't mess about when it comes to carb-loading in winter.   We're like Arctic swans in fact.

On Monday the middle boy stayed home from school and we played Monopoly ALL morning.  And we had hot chocolate.  And I ignored everything that needed doing.  Oh it was bliss.

He was off again today.  He had a little project on the go, which involved a letter and a painting.

I pottered round doing a few mundane chores, and I had a little wander in the garden.  On the way to Slimbridge at the weekend I stopped at a local farm for eggs and picked up this lovely plant while I was there.

It's a hebe, although I'm not sure which one.  The tops of the foliage are a beautiful deep red colour.  I'm not sure if it would normally flower in January, we shall see.  I also planted a little morello cherry tree in the front garden, which is basically a square of gravel at the moment.  I'm determined to add some plants this year, and this was the first.

The soil under the weed-proof membrane looked pretty dead, so it might need some work.  I added some manure and a granular soil improver.  I forgot to take a picture of the finished planting, but really, it's a stick poking out of the ground - nothing to see yet.  I'm hopeful for cherries in a year or two though, I haven't forgotten the ones that my neighbour gave me back in the summer.  I cooked them with sugar and poured them over Greek yoghurt, and honestly, it was divine.  The sharpness of the cherries made the yoghurt taste like cream.  The best thing I ate from the garden/allotment all season.

I can feel a little interest in the garden stirring at the moment.  I'm starting to make plans and think about seeds and wonder what I'll grow this year.  There's lots to be done, just as soon as there are some dry days.
The front garden will be a little project for the next couple of months I think.  It's north-facing, so I need to be a bit careful what I plant.  Morello cherries should be fine, but there's almost no sun, so I need to find some shade-lovers.  I'm thinking box, Christmas box, maybe bay, perhaps a hosta or two and ferns.  I've also got a little magnolia that might be nice.  Most of the plants are very small - they're cheaper to buy when they're small - so it might be a while before it starts looking nice.  And I'm not sure I'm really any good at making a garden look nice.  It might look kind of plonked together.  But I shall try and no doubt I shall learn.  I'm aiming for lots of green, and any suggestions you have will be gratefully received.

Friday, 17 January 2014

January energy

Aah, the weekend.  I've been gradually running out of steam this week, after a flying start.  But things are a little tidier at home now.  Lots of things have gone, there is space where before there was stuff and somehow my mind feels a little clearer too.  Getting something done and crossed off of a list makes me feel like I can get other things done too.  I do love the January energy.

I took most of the stuff to the local recycling centre, and managed to come back with only three things.  Firstly, two plastic plant pots to replace some of the broken terracotta ones.  No doubt they'll get broken as well, but at 50p for two I shall be less cross.  Possibly.  And I also brought back a dictionary.  At the very last moment when it was time to put it in the book bank, I snatched it back.  We do have a big dictionary already, but there's always room for another one I think.  We do love words in this house, and the dictionary often comes off of the shelf during a meal to look up the exact definition of something or other.  So it was rescued.  It's nothing special, it was mine when I was younger and it originally came from a second-hand shop, so it's quite old, but to my delight, the eldest was thrilled to find it on the bookshelf.  It's the simple things.

Still being watched by a guinea pig at all times.  This is the one that likes eating.

I sorted out my little sewing box this week.

The biggest boy helped me put all the thread in colour order.  Then I dropped the whole thing down the stairs and broke the plastic tray when the middle boy got under my feet.  Did I ever mention how clumsy I am?  Me and the middle boy tend to move silently about the place, so we're always colliding with each other in doorways.  I need to hang a bell round his neck.

The biggest boy patiently helped me put it all back again.

I spent a moment looking at some old things in the sewing box.  The metal gauge was my mother's, and I remember her using it when she made clothes for me.  The marking chalk and the thimble were as well, and no doubt the old wooden cotton reel too.

Something on my to-do list is to find a use for a couple of letter press trays I have.  I have a third one hung in the hall, filled with little 2" square photos.

Pictures from three or four years ago, together with the odd quote, a bit of map of a favourite spot, a pretty scrap of paper.

I'm a bit obsessed with Ordnance Survey maps.  I pick them up from second-hand book shops sometimes, and cut them up for various things - scrapbook pages, writing paper, covering things - I just love them.

Although I haven't done any work at the allotment for weeks (months?), we've been enjoying some allotment veggies this week, from the freezer and the store cupboard.  Yesterday I made a lentil and coconut curry with onions, broad beans, courgette and golden beetroot.  Today we had some roasted uchiki kuri squash.  I'm really impressed with how well they're storing.

This picture was taken at sunset, hence the extra golden glow.  The rain had actually stopped for a bit, but we've had so much today that the ground is sodden.  Two out of four of the weekend football things have been cancelled or postponed.  I have to confess I wasn't looking forward to standing outside in the mud for three-quarters of the weekend.  Two down, two to go...  Wishing you all a very good weekend.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

This has been so much fun! Goodbye.

I'm on a manic decluttering roll at the moment.  Nothing is safe.  I'm going deep and throwing out piles of plastic and all sorts of oddments that are no longer used.  In the darkest recesses of the garage I found what appeared to be an enormous dead rat on the floor.  In an act of enormous heroic bravery I poked it with a stick.  It turned out to be a toy hedgehog puppet.  But still, it could have been a rat, and I've impressed myself more than you know by not screaming.

Every so often as I declutter I have a Moment.  I'll pick up an old toy, one that each little boy played with in those long, happy pre-pre-school days, and I'll be a bit sad that things have moved on.  This was one such toy.

Fairly hideous, I'm sure you'll agree.  But the little people loved it.  It ended up living in the car, and on too-long journeys or when little people were sleepy at the wrong time, it was handed over to the back seat, and the noise of beeps and questions and cheering would fill the air.  As I picked it up and put it in a carrier to go to the charity shop I happened to press the "off" button, and the familiar voice said jauntily, "This has been so much fun!  Goodbye."  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  Oh it was fun, it really was.

But of course everything moves on.  It must, it's the way of things, and it's right.  I try very hard not to dwell on the passing of their littleness.  Instead, I take things to the Sort-It Centre and the charity shop and I tuck a handful of special things into the cupboard for, well, you know, and I take a deep breath and concentrate on enjoying the little people right now.  Because I know that in a year I will look back at photos of today and think, how much smaller they were.  We can't go back, but we can have a really good time right now.  And it is someone else's turn to enjoy Thomas the Tank Engine.

The guinea pigs kept an eye on me while I decluttered.  This is Mrs Armitage, the adventurous one.  She channels the spirit of Olga da Polga.  The other one, Lulu, mainly likes to eat.  It never fails to astonish me how much piggies eat.

I'm still enjoying the flowers on this cyclamen.  It's been going for weeks now.  And my favourite bit is the buds, they are so beautiful in the way their petals curl neatly around.  Such a pleasure in the depths of winter.

We received this lovely wedding invitation the other day.  So pretty, and so cleverly cut and folded.  The actual invitation is a hexagon card inside the folds.

It's not until the summer, so I've got a while to ponder what exactly the boys will wear.  In the meantime I'm pressing on with the decluttering.  I've got a big to-do list, and I'm not afraid to tackle it.  Onwards, always onwards.  You can probably feel me taking a really deep breath.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

SAS practice

We dragged the little people out for a walk this afternoon.  I've no idea why they feel the need to protest when we suggest it, because they always have a good time once we're there.  The middle boy is loving his SAS survival guide at the moment, so I told him he could get in some practice.  We headed up to Painswick Beacon in the Cotswolds, which is lumpy bumpy ground, perfect for SAS training.

The littlest boy insisted on carrying the rucksack with the drinks and cookies, until the cookies had been eaten anyway.

There's a stunning view from the top of the beacon.  The blue area in the middle of the picture is flooding, where the river has spilled into fields.

Sneaky SAS tracking techniques.

Back when I posted about a previous walk which resulted in blisters on little feet from walking in wellies, Sustainable Mum suggested second-hand walking boots.  I checked out Ebay and found that they are surprisingly cheap - less than £5 each.  So now they are all kitted out in some really nice and fairly new boots, and no-one complained about their feet at all.  Great tip SM, thank you.

At one stage we did actually lose the children.  They managed to circle round and end up in front of us in prime ambushing position.  It made them very happy to put one over on us.  Score one for the SAS survival guide.

I had to go and investigate these immaculate little trees.  Beech I think, and clipped to within an inch of their lives.

I'm so glad we went and made the most of the beautiful sunshine.  Days like this are precious.  Of course, I must be careful not to encourage them too far down the path of joining the SAS.  Next time I'll have to think of a new ruse.