Friday, September 26, 2014

Light the fires of Autumn

The year has passed the three-quarter mark; equinox came and went last weekend and, looking out my window today, Autumn has landed.

It's hard to quantify exactly the moment in which Autumn falls. It slips through summer like a comb; takes out the bright things and keeps combing until the promise of wood-smoke creeps over the chimneys and bare legs need warm tights. 

Seed-heads take over from flowers, grass hits thigh-height; blue sky is not matched with heat, berries ripen, conkers drop.  Maybe it's the day the conkers are finished which marks the season change, for me. One day, you just know summer is over.

We all have our seasons, mine has always been Autumn.  Autumn requires nothing of me; I am happy for every day the sun still shines; food grows in the hedges, the air smells brilliant; we bundle up and steal the afternoon air; there is the expectation of pumpkins and fireworks and cocoa.  I don't feel guilty for sleeping in or for not going out... Autumn is quiet and wonderful.

The same may not be say-able about life's Autumn as we watch our elders head into Winter and drift away into the unknown, without us.  Winter can still be brutal, even in this 21st Century, raving with the promise of technological salvation.  Eyes and brains fog; bones brittle, skin and hair fall into snow; we fight against the winter within until one days it carries us away.

Autumn is here for me too, soon; I'm not sure I want to prolong my summer.  I'm waiting for the conkers to fall, hungering for the metaphorical woolly tights of life; looking forward to a long season of comfort and haven; hoping to put off Winter.  And, while I do that, here at the edge of all my Autumns, I'd just like to take this moment to remember all those who have crossed over, and to bless all those who are on their way. 

Now, let's light those fires and get out the marshmallows...

Friday, August 22, 2014



I'm writing this as a sort of a spacer; an ellipses between the 11 months of dead air which have blown through this site and an unknown period of air until the next post.

The blob, the spud, the boy himself is nearly 8.  Writing about him behind his back no longer seems quite so amusing.  He still does idiotic and very funny things.  He is obsessed with farts and cricket and minecraft and riding his bike and is desperate to start his own YouTube channel.  He's learning to code Java, he's reading the house dry of words.  He loves camping and the sea and picking blackberries and running.  He has skinned knees and elbows and likes his hair to be cut a specific length.  His report card was superlative but he's not top of the class.  He talks a lot and shouts a fair bit.  His room is medium tidy.  He loves the Kaiser Chiefs and and Dr. Who (and Dr. Seuss) and Harry Potter and dragons. He's made 5 loom bands but he's bored of them now. 

He's a boy, in other words, a 21st century boy.  He should be writing his own blog, not being written about in mine.

I have no idea what will happen to this blog next.  For us, life goes on.  The summer is nearly over, the blackberries are ripe; enjoy the sun while it's here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Like...

Well, here we are, the year seriously moving on.  It's been, for those of you not in the know, quite a decent year as years go.  Sunny, warm, full of things to do and one of the best summers I can recall in years.  We're now having the perfect Autumn; rain interspersed with warm sun, the leaves are turning perfectly and it's dusk when I pick the boy up from school.  We see bats in the park every evening now and the other day, an owl. 

This perfect fall is a source of frustration round ours at the moment however; the child is already tiring of walking home in the gloaming and today became insistent about demanding spring and summer back, despite winter not actually having arrived.  He was even willing to skip Christmas for the promise of camping.  Something may be wrong with him, come to think of it. 

He asked some fairly detailed questions about how many days it is going to be until summer, and then when I told him it was over 200 he started telling me what he thought about my answer and his sentences were full of phrases such as 'and then I was like' i.e. "So when you told me summer was so far away, I was like 'that's a long time' and now it's like, going to be winter I'm like 'I wish the winter was already over' but it's going to be, like, a really long time." 

The addition of the word 'like' as a quotative in his sentences is relatively recent; I'm not exactly sure when it arrived, but it's become a fixture since the onset of the latest school year.  The worst thing is that I'm not certain whether or not I use it in sentences myself and am in fact the model.  I recently subjected myself to the ordeal of listening to a recording of me talking in a meeting and realised that I hugely overuse the phrase 'you know' as a sort of sentence bridge or a pause when I should more properly be shutting up, so perhaps 'like' is equally a feature in my grammar and he's getting it from me.

Either way it's a sign that at 7, he's seriously grasping the things he needs to do to blend in and grapple his way up the ladder into adulthood, which I guess is all well and good.  I guess that misusing the word 'like' is possibly the least of my worries given that we're raising him in a massive urban pressure-cooker of a city.

In the meantime, it remains to grapple our way through the year, which time we have agreed to mark by the highlights to come - Halloween, Bonfire Night, Yule, Christmas, Equinox, Easter, Beltane and then camping.  Or rain.  One or the other.  Or, more likely both. 

But, it will be, like, fun.



Sunday, April 07, 2013

Easter

The Easter half-term holidays appear to have arrived only seconds after the last half-term holiday; it's a wonder my son learns anything at all given he's only in school five minutes at a time.

He has however appeared to learn something recently, although I'm not quite certain it's exactly what the school was aiming for.

This week we've been doing some child-care swaps and on Tuesday he had a friend over for the day.

After lunch, I found them playing 'crucifixion' in the living room, taking turns nailing each other to the 'cross', ie the sofa.  At one point they were chanting 'CRUcify him CRUcify him CRUcify him'.  It all ended when they started arguing about whether or not they could pull out their own nails.

I sense the finer points of their Christian education are being slightly lost in translation... I'm pretty sure that's not what the school had in mind...

... having blogged about it, I suspect the finer points of my education were lost long ago...



Monday, February 11, 2013

New Year. Bit late.

So, it's a new year, or at least it was a new year a few weeks ago. We've had a lot of new starts, the upshot of which are that we have somewhere new to live (hooray);  no money (boo, but what's new) and quite a lot of things to do.

I never make new year resolutions for all the usual reasons - plus I have a memory like a goldfish. This year, however, I have made a sort-of resolution - or at least, issued myself a challenge.

We were a bit homeless last year, which is to say that we were living in a few rooms with all our things in storage, bar the child's clothes and toys.

We expected to have moved by March, so I kept out my winter clothes and stored the rest.  This meant however that once the sun started to appear and all I had was jumpers and furry boots, a little bit of shopping was required.  By the end of the full 12 months, I had acquired a whole second wardrobe - along with a shopping habit.

Roll forward to December this year when the boxes were finally unpacked and I was faced with a true first-world problem - too many clothes.

The first thing I did was cull, robustly.  Three bin bags of kit went to the Barnardos shop right away and another went a few weeks later.

Having narrowed it down to things I couldn't bear to part with, I made myself a deal.  No new shoes or clothes for the whole year.  None. Further, I have to wear everything in my wardrobe at least once this year, or out it goes.

It's odd.  I thought that the simple act of not-buying things would be really easy, but now that I can't buy clothes I am obsessed with the spring window displays - which is bizarre because really I'm not much of a consumer; 60% of the jumpers I still wear are ones knitted or woven for me by family before I left home.  I'm nearly 50 so I think that counts for something.  The rest are ones my husband purchased because he couldn't stand to see me in 35-year-old knitting.  He may have had a point.

I essentially live in the same 2 pairs of jeans and 5 tops year round which is part of the problem.  I keep thinking I should wear something different so I dabble in the shops.  A dress here, a  pair of shoes there... so the wardrobe grows.  But it does mean that I have had been growing a pile of clothes that I never wear and that's what's going to change. 

I will wear them.  I will wear them and if they don't fit then I'm going to pass them on.  If I can't wear them, I can't keep them - and so, I am wearing them.  Every day I pull out something from the wardrobe that I haven't worn in a while.  I wore a trouser suit the other day that I haven't worn in about 3 years.  Looked great

I have no idea whether I will have learned a goddamn thing by the end of the year and frankly this isn't about lessons or denial or any other worthy thing.  I'm broke and I have too many clothes - it all seems to make sense.

In the meantime I've added 2 more charities to my list of automatic monthly donations (Sight Savers and Shelter) partly because clearly there will be a teeny bit of cash I'm not spending - and partly because I'm appalled at my own excess.

Happy New Year everyone, I'll be the one looking awkward in a dress.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Thread Bears...

For the last 25 years, 3 raggedy old teds have weathered cold, damp, dust and neglect, stuffed into a box in the well room of my parent's house. Once in a while, I dig around in it, hunting for this or that and I take them out, give them a squeeze and put them back.  Seems a sad fate for the bears I loved best of all.

So, this summer I brought them home.

Children I think have a natural instinct to love the underdog and despite his piles of adored new animals with hypo-allergenic super-soft stuffing, the boy has taken my old bears to heart.  Teddy, Panda, (apparently I was not a particularly imaginative child) and Timmy (originally my Father's and dating from the 1930s) have a place on his pillow at night - and by day, take their turns being allowed to watch him do his homework, play Minecraft, or build Lego.

Recently however, I noticed that Teddy had a particular smell.  Not a bad smell - a sort of sweet, chemical smell and I began to think critically about what a bear made in the 60s might have for stuffing.  The answer, apparently is 'powder'.

I ended up taking them all apart.

Timmy was the best.  Hand made, most likely by a relation, in the 1930s he was originally stuffed with sawdust, (some of which still lingered around the odd paw) however had been re-stuffed, with wool.   Panda had a remarkably sound but very weird moulded rubbery inner - but Teddy was stuffed with foam which had completely broken down.

Anyway, I found the whole thing fascinating.  I opened them, emptied them, turned them inside out and mended them, soaked them and washed them, re-filled them with washable stuffing which should take them through another 40-odd years, put new chamois behind Timmy's nose, bought Teddy some new eyes and stitched them up - and this is how it went.

 Before:


Not that tubby or chubby and definitely not stuffed with fluff:



(except for Timmy here...)

 ...and nobody knows (tiddly pom) how cold my toes... etc...*:



...and here they are.  Not quite like new, but as good as it gets for 3 bears with a combined age of 150:
 
And that's about it.  They might not look it, but I think they're pretty happy as teds go. They get cuddled and carted around and dropped on the stairs like real bears and, more importantly, when it drops below freezing in the well room they will be clean, dry and snuggled up underneath a duvet with someone who loves them. 

Sounds like a good winter to me.






 *obvious thanks to AA Milne for this bit


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Now we are six

It's been a big year.  It's been an odd year, actually with quite big chunks of stuff thrown in (more another day) - and now my little spud is 6.

He's not so little, as one might guess; at least not when compared with most of his school mates; next to whom he is a veritable tower of legginess.  Get him onto a crowded bus though and suddenly he's all tiny again; perspective matters when you're 6.

We got his first report card back in June; apparently he's a dreamer and doesn't listen to anything he's told.  Academically everything was fine and apparently he's a nice boy... until the day after the report card arrived when he was involved in a punch-up in the playground.  Short term it landed him 'on the wall' (a term I had completely forgotten about) for the rest of the last week of classes.  Long-term it probably gained him a best mate; anyway, luckily the report card came first.

I fretted about the report card for a while, because it's true, he is a dreamer who never listens; but then I went home and picked up all my old report cards... and, er... so anyway we're not so worried about him anymore. 

Although maybe we should be.

Anyway, we did some stuff this summer - stuff with our families, stuff with friends who are practically family.  We travelled, we hung out; er, and we played a lot of minecraft. 

So, after everything, Charlie turned 6 and just to prove it, he managed to crack his head open just like a real boy.  Then, yesterday morning, he took his glue head into his second year of school.  Year one, here we come.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

...double standards...

We have reading... not quite actual-in-fact reading but we have some nearly-reading and some pretty good guesswork and it's clear that reading is about to enter the child's world - or more precisely, the child's bedroom, after 'lights out'.

This is, of course, is nothing new.  One of the first clues I had that the Frog might be marriage material was when on an early sleepover he nervously picked up a book and confessed he liked to read a bit in bed; since then we have gaily traded book-lights in many a Christmas stocking.

While I am deeply delighted that my son is taking the first steps to a lifetime of sleeping next to a toppling pile of half-read novels, I am less keen that he has already realised that firstly, reading after he is supposed to be asleep is quiet and therefore he is less likely to be caught and secondly, that we are less likely to kick up a fuss than if we catch him playing Dr. Who and doing all the voices.

And what am I to do?  I have countless memories of being busted with my torch reading under the covers - something my mother was brilliant at working out mainly because that's what she used to do.  It's a family tradition! 

The thing is, I also remember being tired for school every morning and so of course I want to stop him - but the hypocrisy is dreadful.  I have recently purchased what I think is the perfect book light - and what, I ask you, is reading with a book light while ones partner sleeps other than the grown-up version of reading under the covers?  In fact, since we have moved and Charlie has temporary tenure in a double bed, I have been known on particularly insomniac nights to sneak into his room and read in there to avoid waking the Frog.

So... what am I to do?  For the moment we can insist on lights out as he can't really read much anyway... but give it a year or two and he'll be arguing his case - and I won't have leg to stand on.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Giraffes everywhere

So finally it snowed in London; an event my son considers to be so normal that only last week he was whinging about the on-going lack of the white stuff this winter.  Compare this to 1996 when I returned to 2 inches of snow after Christmas and my cabbie told me "It's like there's blinking giraffes in Trafalgar Square".

In fact Charlie has been begging me to visit his grandparents 'because it's always snowing in Canada'; (an imbalance of expectation which my Mother has made me promise to rectify by taking him out in the summer).

Needless to say he was delighted yesterday and here's the mandatory cute picture of boy-in-the-snow to prove it.


Thankfully it's all melting now - it was lovely while it lasted but that's all the snow I can handle - 24 hours and gone, brilliant.

In other news... well I have no other news.  These are the sorry facts of my life; my child is in the 'didn't he say something cute' phase which never fails to fill me with tedium when I read it on someone else's blog and I am working full time with barely a moment for a nice satisfying sneeze.

I will however pass on something which the child of a friend of mine did the other day.  She wrote, in her own spelling (she is 5) the words to The Gingerbread Man and managed to write 'Run, run you cunt' on a single line, which frankly made my day when her mother related it to me.  I hope it's enlivened yours.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I don't wanna grow up...

We moved just before Christmas.  I may have said this before.  Anyway, we are in temporary digs while we look for somewhere else to live and this is proving tricky.  Firstly, half the things I need are in storage; secondly, the place is somewhat, shall we say, 'dignified'.  Meaning, because it might need spelling out, that it is beautiful but decrepit - and utterly impractical.  It needs wiring, plumbing, insulating, flooring, heating, plastering, damp-proofing and, er, modernising.

That said, it turns out that we are brilliantly happy here, all except for the Frog who is finding the volume of doors that need closing, drafts that need excluding and lights that need turning out to be vaguely overwhelming, particularly given that I am not very good at most of the above and Charlie is rubbish at all of them.

I am used to a small kitchen - our last flat was bijou all round - however the kitchen here contracts the meaning of 'small' to the point where one might logically ask 'what kitchen?'; however it has one unexpected joy: the stove and all 2 feet of counterspace face a small breakfast bar with two stools.  Every evening Charlie sits at it, at eye-level with me, doing his homework while I cook his dinner. 

Turns out that this arrangement is brilliant, I am surprisingly even hoping to be able to mimic something like it, (yet magically larger), when we move.  Charlie and I spend this hour laughing and talking and fooling around together and he talks to me - properly talks to me - about his day, his friends and sometimes about the things that frighten him.

One of the most heart-breaking things that he says to me is that he doesn't want to grow up.  I mean, he wants to be in Year One at school, but he doesn't want to be six, he doesn't want to learn to read or to get taller or to to go school.  This doesn't stand up to much scrutiny as he wants to marry his girlfriend and have babies and live in a castle, but he really, really, really right now, doesn't want to grow up. 

Who knows what this is about.  I suspect it's because in the last four months he's started school, buried his cat, left his house and put half his toys in storage... I guess growing up hasn't been much cop recently.  He also talks about his dreams; they are often bad, filled with fire and loss; or sometimes good, filled, surprisingly, with cats - the same dreams I had when I was little and had just moved house and started school and left my cat in another country. 

Mainly though we make stupid jokes and invent rhymes and laugh. It's good.  It's good that we can talk about things with more depth than wondering where Dalek poo comes out;  I really do think there's something in being able to talk to one's child at eye level that makes conversation really flow.

We may not live here for long; Charlie will continue to grow up, Daleks will continue to have secretive poos and things will carry on changing but perhaps this is something that can stay the same, this conversation.


At least, until he becomes a teenager and stops acknowledging my existence completely....