Tuesday, 31 May 2011

guys and girls

The sun has finally come out! The honeysuckle smells sweet and the lilies are seriously considering flowering.

This weekend saw the traditional stag do for Lovely Older Son and Hen do for Lady Sunshine. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, these didn't involve bawdy songs and too much alcohol, not with those two. The lads went to an outdoor activities centre where they had a great time doing archery, climbing things, falling off things, and running round things, followed by dressing up in padded Sumo suits. They were supposed to wrestle each other but invariably fell over and couldn't get up again without assistance. This was followed by a curry. What is it about blokes and curry?

I gave orders beforehand that nobody was to sustain any fractures. "If you break your leg, don't come running back to me!" A few grazes and bruises were sustained, but nothing permanent.

Lady Sunshine, Daughter, and friends were altogether more civilised. They painted pottery at one of those cafes, ate pizza in a restaurant, and returned home for party games including dressing Lady Sunshine in white bin liners and loo roll. All was rounded off with a Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

Now, that I would like. When Daughter next comes home, perhaps we can organise a Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Or Mad Fascinators?

Sunday, 29 May 2011


She of the Stories said that it's windy in the valley today, and the same goes for the island. Little Princess Almondflower wanted to play on the shore and I didn't dare let her. At the very least the sand would have blown into her eyes. Instead, we went to sit on the staircase outside Brother... it's no good, I always want to say Fir - Brother Juniper's turret, and looked down from the window. Every time a treetop shivered and leaves turned silvery in the gust she'd say 'ooh', and when anything flew past - a leaf, a bit of broken branch, or a bird veering off course - it was 'whoosh!'.

I admit I wasn't really listening when she said 'whoosh, FINGAL!', and looked up to see him swinging past the window, waving. A moment later he came again the other way, backwards. Of course, Fingal couldn't blow away in a high wind. He, Tide and Todd had rigged up some ropes from the battlements and were swinging about like acrobats. I didn't tell the princess how they'd done it. She'd want to have a go herself, and she is much too little. It's really too dangerous for Tide, but you know what otters are. I'm glad I'm a squirrel.

Fingal may not fly away in a high wind, but other things do. A little mole in a big cloak took to the air yesterday and it was only a flying leap from Urchin that saved her. I hope Apple has plenty of hat pins.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Classic funny

So there we were, eight of us, all sitting together in a hobbit hole. That is, it feels like a hobbit hole, except that it's so lined with books that I suspect the house is built of them and when you take one off the shelves you do so with great care and skill, otherwise the house falls down. It was the home of my fun and inspiring friends, C and S, where we always end up laughing a lot and talking about books.

I've known many book people in my time, but I've never met one quite like C, who has read everything ever written in the English language at least, and owns most of it. Conversation turned to classic humour, and the discovery that my great friend Daphne hasn't read Three Men in A Boat (Jerome K Jerome). HOW HAS SHE LIVED? And what a treat she has waiting for her!

It turned out that lots of us loved P G Wodehouse. Those books read as naturally as if a monocled gentleman was telling you the story over a drink by the fire. What C told us was that Wodehouse redrafted every book ten times before he was satisfied with it, and read his way through Shakespeare every year. Yes, it takes a lot of effort to make something seem easy.

We also told each other to read the Molesworth books (Willans and Searle) and James Thurber. And Terry Pratchett.

Any more recommendations, please?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


As I was outside the other day trying to detach myself from the sticky stuff, Much drily remarked, 'she'll be there while next Tuesday'. SO I need to explain the Yorkshire use of 'while', as it was explained to me many years ago.

'While' is used for 'until'. 'I'm working while six today', or 'he won't be back while Thursday'. 'you can tell 'im while t'cows come 'ome, 'e won't listen'. (Yorkshire tends to drop its aitches, too, except, strangely for 'haitch' when they add one.).

I was told the following story about the Yorkshire town we first moved to, but I've heard it about other places in the country, too. Long long ago, when they first introduced traffic lights, a sign was put up which read, 'wait here while light is red'. After a week as an accident blackspot with the local pedestrians traumatised, they changed it. 'Wait here until light is green.'

Monday, 23 May 2011


I should have asked Fingal, Corr, and Needle. They know all about sticky traps.

I recently bought some sticky stuff to keep the greenfly off the roses. The idea is, you hang it up close to the rose bed and the greenfly stick to it. The instructions, which I followed to the letter, said something like 'peel off protective cover from sticky thing. Hang sticky thing near roses'.

Now, you, being clever - or any of the three intelligent animals named above - would spot the mistake. I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and didn't. It ought to say ' hang the sticky thing near roses, then peel off the protective cover'.

The sticky stuff really works. My sleeve stuck to it, and my left hand, then my right hand when tried to get the right one off. It stuck the wire thing I was using to hang it up, then it stuck to me again. Never mind, I'll know better next time, assuming that it works and there is a next time.

After a stormy night, it's caught two greenfly and a rose bush.

Friday, 20 May 2011

rumbling in the valley

The trouble with snoring is that you don't know if you're doing it or not, unless, of course, you come out with such a roar of a snore that you wake yourself up. I've just bought ear plugs.

But last night, babysitting for the Golden Child and her brother, I was really a bit alarmed. When it was time for her brother to go to bed we tiptoed up the stairs very quietly so as not to wake her up, but honestly, if she could sleep through her own snores, she could sleep through a Harley Davidson with a dodgy exhaust roaring through the nursery. I sat with her until her breathing was calmer and she had a little murmur to herself in her sleep. Her mum told me later that the GC always snores like this when she's teething, poor little thing.

I feel a story coming on. The princess who snores so loudly that everyone moves out of the castle? A boy who goes on a quest to find a cure for his little sister's snoring? The Champion Snore Contest? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, 18 May 2011


I've now lived for thirteen years in Yorkshire, first on the edge of the North York Moors and now in the valley. Perhaps one day we'll go back to Northumberland, or even move to the warm south. (But my sister would disown me.) In the meantime, however long I stay here, I will always be an offcumdun. Offcumdun is the Yorkshire word for a newcomer. I think I'm an accepted one.

One aspect of Yorkshire that I had to learn pretty quickly was the accent and dialect. I'd heard people trying to do Yorkshire accents and saying t', and thought it was an exaggeration. Then we came to the valley and heard it all 'time.

T' is an abbreviation for 'the'. 'She's gone to weed t'garden'. 'She planted trees int' garden',
'there's a cat sitting ont' wall', 'take this to t'post office'. Sometimes it's not even a t', just a glottal stop.

Eeh, well, this won't buy t'bairn a new frock. I've got t' e-mails to to do, and I 'aven't washed t'pots yet.

Monday, 16 May 2011

An English May

Yesterday morning I was woken by the most beautiful dawn chorus, with sunlight filtering through the blind. From the second floor window I could look down on bright, leafy treetops.

This morning, I'll swear I heard the sparrow coughing by the river. Force Eight gale sweeping rain down the valley. Looked down from the window and couldn't see a thing. Later observations proved that my poor little garden is almost horizontal.

I spent the weekend in the south west, which is always at least five degrees warmer than here. Lovely Older Son, Lady Sunshine, her mother and I were doing a bit of pre-wedding stuff, and I got to meet the people from her home church. There was time to drive round some of those idyllic west country villages, too. Three hours later we were welcomed by Yorkshire wind and rain on the motorway. I need another weekend of wedding stuff.

In the meantime, normal life, or as near as it gets to normal, goes on. Today was a journey across Bronte-esque moorland to a happy wee school near Oldham to launch their Book Fair. This meant some reading, chatting, answering questions, making them laugh, and generally inspiring them about the joy of reading. What a lovely lot they were. And yet again, a small school with a great staff quietly working miracles every day.

Friday, 13 May 2011

wet wet wet

At last I can get back on to the blog - the host was down for a while. We've had rain on and off for the last two weeks, and the garden is thriving.

Briefly it's dry, mostly it drizzles, and sometimes it absolutely sluices. By the time I got home from toddler group yesterday I was soaked from the knees down, as my very pretty new raincoat only goes that far. Unfortunately I had the wrong shoes on, so I was squelching. Just time to change before going out again to spend the afternoon in the company of a small child and a rabbit - until the rain stopped and I took the child out in her pushchair (without the rabbit). I got her back home safe and dry, but by the time I got myself home it was pouring again.

By the end of the day I was in need of a long soak in a hot bath. Now, I'm not a great one for anything cosmetic-ish. I don't often wear make-up, my hair has never had a colour put on it, and it must be thirty years since I last wore nail varnish. I do like perfume but it has to be animal friendly.

Lately I was delighted to find out that my favourite perfume is now available in a shop not far away! It's made by a small ethical Scottish company called Arran Aromatics, and at one time you couldn't get it anywhere south of the Tyne. When I found it for sale locally I treated myself to one of those little packs of small sized soap, bath gel, and so on. I thought lovingly of it as I was running the bath yesterday, and tipped some of that precious, fragrant bubbly staff into the water. Heaven.

I haven't yet told you what it's called. It's 'After the Rain'!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

I couldn't possibly tell you

I've done a lot of work today on a book I might write. But like all works in progress I can't say anything about it at this stage, so instead I'll tell you something else.

Last night I found a cow in my handbag. It mooed.

The cow was not altogether unfamiliar to me. The previous afternoon I had spent a couple of hours looking after the Golden Child and her big brother, and the cow is part of a farmyard set they have. We had been playing at hiding things and finding them again. This meant that the GC always put my keys in the same place and I had to find them and be greatly surprised, and she found this hilariously funny. Clearly she hadn't quite got the concept of hiding things. But how did the cow get into my handbag?

You will be glad to know that I phoned her father this morning to let him know about the whereabouts of the cow, and it hadn't been missed.

This morning, coming back from physio, I ran for a bus. This may seem like nothing to you. You may be accustomed to run for fun, for your life, for parliament or for president, but I ran for a bus. It's the first time I've run, I mean really run, since I injured my back, and what's more, I caught it. But only because the driver stopped for me.

PS to American readers - what we call a handbag is a purse in the US, yes? So what do you call the thing you keep your money in, because we call that a purse?

Monday, 9 May 2011


It's very very late and I ought to go to bed. But today has been a broken-up day, spinning even more plates, and I didn't get as far as the blog. So I will write the blog and go to bed.

I will tidy up the sitting room because Tony has a meeting in there tomorrow, then go to bed

I will make a list of all the things I need to do tomorrow and all the people I need to contact then go to bed

I will leave tomorrow's work all ready to start on, then go to bed

I will hang up the clothes that need to go in my wardrobe so I can get into bed

I will get out of bed and check that I have turned off the gas fire

I will go to bed.

Friday, 6 May 2011

spinning plates

It feels like spinning plates. But it's fun.

Having done all that 'catching up' that Gleaner was so mean about, I had to flit off to Cardiff - a long journey - to hear Daughter play the flute. That sound was so beautiful, I forgot to have stage fright on her behalf. (If you think your own stage fright is bad, try having it for somebody else.) So well done, Lyrical One, and I don't know where your gift comes from but it certainly isn't your mother. Then we had lunch with some lovely friends followed by a very special and happy mother/daughter time. I suppose we should have wandered about in the park, in the fresh air, for free, but we didn't. We went to John Lewis and I spoiled her a bit.

But on the train to Cardiff I had already made a long list of things to go in the post, people I needed to get in touch with, an author event to be organised, letters and e-mails to answer, after-school club to be prepared, and all that stuff to do with accounts that you have to do when you're self-employed. And is there anything in the house to eat, and I haven't planted the things I brought back from Harlow Carr, there are greenfly on the roses and beetles on the lilies, and there's so much washing, perhaps I should just throw it in the river with a bucketful of soap powder and jump up and down on it.

And birthdays coming up. Wedding stuff to do. Bills to pay. And I haven't done my physio exercises.

And writing something might be a good idea.

Oh, help, I've got more smashed plates than a Greek wedding.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


I don't know what she thinks she's doing today but she hasn't written a single word. First she went to her physio class. Really. If she was well enough to do all that walking last week, and wander round those gardens yesterday, AND catch a bus this morning, she doesn't need a physio class.

Then she started doing what she called 'catching up'. That's what comes of a week's holiday. It's been all letters, e-mails and phone calls all afternoon, then she and Lady S sat down and made flower garlands for the wedding. Out of tissue paper! That wouldn't have done for My Lady Aspen's wedding. Oh, and she might even get round to the washing and cleaning eventually. And she did find time to cook.

Lady Aspen used to make such dainty meals. I don't suppose she knew what potatoes were, let alone scrubbing and baking them and filling them with cheese, as She of the Stories did today. She of the Stories! Peasant of the Potatoes, more like.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Highlights 2

Lovely Older Son is being a Grumpy Old Man where the Royal Wedding is concerned, so Lady Sunshine and I have just been winding him up with talk of The Dress and The Flowers. Tony and I watched the wedding with my sister and one of her horse-minded friends, so their wedding highlight was the riderless horse in The Mall. Apparently it suddenly had Republican sentiments, bucked off its rider and ran for freedom. But my highlights of the day were -

- The perfect composure of the bride, her simple elegance. I loved the dress and she carried it so well

- The trees in Westminster Abbey

- the bride's maid of honour - at least eighty per cent of young men in this country are now in love with Philippa Middleton. That gown was studied simplicity and looked perfect on her, and I loved the way she walked down the aisle holding the two tiny bridesmaids' hands

- those young attendants. The tiny ones were so adorable, though poor little Grace seemed to find it all too much by the time they were on the balcony. The two page boys and those two impossibly pretty little royals - Lady Louise and The Hon Margarita - proved that you can behave impeccably and still have a great time

- the Vows. Those two spoke confidently, looked into each other's eyes, smiled like conspirators, and seemed to me to have that understanding - you and me, together we can take on the world.

- the procession back, with those assorted young attendants all waving and smiling from the carriages, urged on by Prince Harry and Philippa, and having the time of their lives

- the drive away in the Aston Martin

- finally, of course the Silly Hat in the Abbey Competition. Some very strong contenders.

So that was the Royal Wedding. Every blessing on the Royal Marriage.