Archive for July, 2008

To do, today

Thursday, July 31st, 2008
  • Laundry, ironing
  • Pack for long weekend away
  • Book tickets for Klimt
  • Finish and return manuscript
  • Child-wrangle (10 am: one child on sofa with tummyache so bad she thinks she is going to burst, requiring cuddles. Other child with bleeding nose, cause unknown, requiring cuddles.) (11.30: both playing happily and quietly, hoorah) (1.30 driving me nuts clinging to my leg) (2.45 washing kitchen floor???)
  • Plant lily bulbs and last two tatton plants
  • Tidy so we don’t come home to a tip (and I no longer have a cleaner, gah)
  • Order detergent
  • Sow veg seeds for autumn
  • Find book, which I have irritatingly lost with 50 pages left to read
  • Go and look at freecycle slide
  • Make dinner
  • Drive to Scotland

Back Tuesday

Weekend summary

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

We had 5 people to stay this weekend. Maxton has drafted my post about it for me: “My humdrum groundhog-day existence (I can hardly call it a life) washing nappies and cutting tuna fish into tiny bits  was temporararly transformed this weekend by the arrival of those monstrously testosterone laden young bucks (lock up your daughters!), Phil and Max.”

I needn’t add more.

Skipper Dupes a German U Boat

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

East Fife Observer, 13 July 1916

An interesting account given by Mr Alex Watson, Abbey Road, skipper of the motor fishing boat “Andrewina” on to which the German U boat transferred the crews of the Lowestoft steam drifter “Peep o’ Day” and the North Shields motor fishing boat “Annie Anderson”, which were submarined in the North Sea early last Wednesday evening. When lying almost becalmed, 18 miles from Shields, Skipper Watson stated all hands on board the Andrewina were turned out by the man on watch, who sighted a submarine and a small boat with a crew of eight men coming towards them. On reaching the Andrewina, the German in charge of the small boat stood with a revolver in hand and demanded the flag. He then turned to the submarined crew and inquired what type of craft the Andrewina was. The men replied she was a small fishing boat of between 45 and 50 feet, with no motor, although in reality she is one of Pittenweem’s largest, and measures 70 ft. He then asked if she would hold them all, and the men readily responded, “We’ll do if we get aboard her..” The submarine, Skipper Watson stated, one of the latest type, and carried three light quick-firing guns and one five or six inch gun on her deck. She lay only a distance of 100 yards from the Andrewina when the men were being transferred. When the German in the small boat set off to transfer from the submarine the crew of the Peep o’ Day, Skipper Watson said, “I grasped the situation, and as he had not previously boarded our boat, I ordered the crew to prepare the mast and set the sail ready, there being very little wind blowing at the time, and thus we duped the Huns that the Andrewina was a sail boat. Our small boat,” he added, “was hidden from their view, being covered by the mizzen sail on the port side.

When the submarine’s small boat arrived the second time, a member of the crew of the Andrewina ventured to ask, “How is the war getting on in Germany now?” and for a reply received “I wish to H— it was over and me out of this. The German in charge admitted that the Germans knew they were beaten, and the war, he said, would be over in three months. He was almost ruined, and wished the war had never started. However, it would soon be over and the British would win. The Germans, he admitted, were too hard pressed on both fronts now, but “when you go ashore you can tell the people we are not yet starving in Germany.” He stated he was sent across to sink all the fishing fleet and, he added “We will do it. If we fail to do our duty we will be shot when we return to Germany”. Bags of flour were taken from the doomed vessels before they were sent below, and one fisherman who forgot his watch had it handed back to him by the Germans. The fishermen were suffering from cold owing to their clothes being drenched, and were taken below to the cabin of the submarine and were kindly treated. They were also entertained for about two hours to gramophone selections. Skipper Watson also stated the Germans were very anxious to gain information and inquired if the trawlers carried guns on board, but needless to say the Scotch fishermen were not being drawn, and acted “green” on this point, even although the Germans threatened to shoot them. They also referred to the loss they had sustained in the recent naval engagement off Jutland, and prior to leaving shook hands with several members of the three crews, wished them good luck, and at the same time were overheard to remark that the Andrewina would have been a good prize, too.

The submarine, Skipper Watson stated, appeared to be going in the direction of the fishing fleet, and after she was out of sight they started their motor and made for Shields. The thick weather prevailing saved the fishing fleet, otherwise, in Skipper Watson’s opinion, many more crafts would have been doomed by her. This is the second narrow escape Skipper Watson has experienced, having, while fishing off Yarmouth only a year ago, captured a live German torpedo, for which he received a reward of £24.

* Cameron’s great-grandfather


Monday, July 28th, 2008

Went to the Tatton Park flower show on Thursday – yes, that’s right, two whole days off from being mummy in a week! Shocking. (Repercussions in the form of slightly clingy children are sometimes a price worth paying.) Despite getting halfway up the motorway before having Sara check my bag for the tickets, which necessitated a slight unscheduled visit home again, we were there bright and early and it was neither too busy nor too hot. First off we kind of fell into conversation with a woman who was hanging about by her own back-to-back garden; she looked vaguely familiar but as we tried to figure out what red flowers Sara might have spreading in her garden and then talked about her garden, I didn’t think much of it. Then I squinted at her name badge…hmm, lodge lane nursery sounds vaguely familiar; maybe it is near here. Eventually twigged that she was the nice lady from Bluebell Cottage who had shown Maggie her cat and tadpoles in May. Oops. Her garden was one of the nicest, anyway, inspired by Great Dixter and full of plants.

Coffee and doughnuts then onto the show gardens. Quite uninspired in general this year, I thought – there are usually a couple that make you think wow. Lots of nice plants (we scribbled notes and photographed) but most of the gardens just looked like somebody’s nice back garden. We did wonder if there was a dearth of plants to choose from with the iffy weather, but I don’t know. Even Chris Beardshaw’s, which won best in show, was just a couple of (well planted) borders and a lawn. A lawn! We watched some children doing a dance in wellies (briefly).

The floral marquee was very busy but we didn’t let that stop us filling the old-lady trolley with lovely plants. Favourite this year was “Disa“; a kind of fluorescent-bright cool orchid, which were displayed on a black background and looked absolutely stunning. I have two glowing in my front room now, which is not cool but hot at the moment and has no black background (they are still pretty). We spotted Joe Swift and Gordon Burns (he reads our local news) – who looked vaguely familiar but we did have to ask a random lady in a hat. Trendy plants included achillea, agapanthus, penstemons and lavender, while prairie planting at last seems to be on the wane. I fell madly in love with a wicker ball on a metal poley thing (I am not going to explain this very well – have a look at it here); you could sit, well almost lie, in it and I have fantasies of spending entire summers in there with a book (perhaps the nanny will bring one when she comes). It would look fabulous on our back patio if I only had a spare two grand.


Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

No sooner do I write a post here saying how good Rachel Unthank is, she (they) gets nominated for the Mercury Prize!

That said, go careful. I listened to the CD twice yesterday and that was it, the songs were locked in my head for the whole of last (mostly sleepless) night and still there now. They may never leave.


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Guess where Cameron and I went on Sunday?

Go on, guess.

No, not the garden centre (we did that Monday instead ha ha ha).

Nope, not B&Q.

Not even Borders for coffee-and-a-book.

We spent the day at the Lovebox London Weekender, and very good it was too. Mum and dad had the children and very kindly dropped us (and picked us up) at a tube station. We saw lots of bands we had never heard of, ate surprisingly good food (jerk chicken was fantastic), did lots of people-watching (Londoners dress so well compared with people in Chester! Though I do think non-spring-chicken girls should think very carefully before adopting the Kate Moss short shorts and wellies combo). The Howling Bells were not my cup of tea and we wandered off halfway through; Roni Size had a good sound but again, not my thing. When it started to rain we sheltered under the overhang of one of the smaller stages and caught the beginning of Rachel Unthank‘s set. Which was so fantastic that we stayed for the whole thing even though the sun came back out on about the third song: I even bought the CD afterwards. And got it signed.

Goldfrapp were (was?) good, and pleasingly bonkers with a stageshow that included dancing angels in bikinis, a maypole that turned into a pole-dancing pole, and dancers in bikinis and wolf heads. Oh, and costumes made out of what looked like the plastic recycling bin.

At last it was time for the Flaming Lips, the reason we had gone – this was their only UK date this year. Who completely out-bonkersed Goldfrapp (she must have been a bit miffed) with a giant bubble, balloons, streamers, smoke, dressed-up people and inflatable aliens. Brilliant. Had everybody singing along and dancing. I have some photos here, though we took the small camera for reasons of lightness so they are not that fantastic.


Friday, July 18th, 2008

I spent the morning with a new friend, as I have become aware that poor Tamsin spends nearly all her time playing with (or near) big girls and has hardly any playmates her own age. Come September she’s going to be billy no mates if I don’t do something. My new friend spent the whole time putting Tamsin’s new friend on the ubiquitous naughty step, even though as far as I could see she was not being the least bit naughty, while saying oh she is very tired we had a bad night and she started early this morning. Yet the child was not allowed to go for a nap because NapTimeâ„¢ was at 1. This is not my style – we don’t have a naughty step and I was entirely taken aback once when a visitor asked me where ours was as she wanted to put her child on it. But when the new friend asked me what my discipline technique was, I hedged, ummed and ahhed, muttered something about not being a fan of The Step, and changed the subject. So I am trying to get it clear in my own head (hence this long rambling post).

(She also looked at me askance when I gave the wrong answer to the question “do you have a routine?”)

I’ve been thinking a bit even before she asked, in the way that surely all parents of preschoolers or second toddlers (who are far more toddler than the first ever was) must, about rewards, “incentives”, punishments and so forth. I know I don’t usually go in for talking about my parenting philosophy (for want of a better term: I hope you do know, dear reader, that I am very much not the sort of person to have a parenting philosophy of any description) but bear with me and I’ll tell you all about the weeds on the allotment again soon.

So, I’ve been doing some reading – ivillage, naturally; Alfie Kohn; Faber & Mazlish; Scott Noelle; Naomi Aldort (though I cannot finish this book it is not for want of trying. It is far too preachy yet hand-wavingly unconcrete for me, but that’s not it. The main problem is – forgive me, I know she is American; I know I should translate; I know I should just get over it – I just cannot get past the very idea that I should say gee, what a bummer to my kids. Shudder.) For those of you who are reluctant – whyever would that be – to dash straight down to Borders*, this article gives you an idea of the sorts of ideas I’ve been mulling. Interesting, eh? (Topical, too, as this was in the news today.)

I am not entirely anti reward. If I didn’t reward myself with a lovely latte and a biscuit, goodness knows this house would be even dustier than it is now. But. This week as I collected M from preschool I was told that today she had got three stickers and as a result could choose a lurid lolly to take home! Wow. So, not unreasonably, I asked M (as her tongue rapidly turned blue) what the stickers had been for. One, she was pretty sure, had been for eating all her lunch. (This sets me off in a whole other direction: food battles is one of my things: especially with girls in this day and age, we pay as little obvious attention as possible to what and whether they are eating. But moving swiftly on). The others….nope, not sure. Being good, possibly. So I asked Katie, the preschool teacher. Who told me they were for “erm, stuff like sitting still and things”. Surely, surely if a child is being encouraged to build up her three stickers so she can get a lolly, someone in charge, and most definitely that child, should know what they are being given out for?

So: I continue to ponder in a conclusion-less manner whilst never getting out of the house without screeching get your shoes on right now! Which works: shoes go on and we are out of the door in a flash. It would just be nice to do it in a more peaceful fashion.

Of course I didn’t say anything at preschool. My other piece of parenting philosophy, which is as well applied to preschool and everybody else as children, is pick your battles.

*or your local independent bookshop


Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Just back in, and feeling the need to lie in a darkened room. Today’s plan had been the library until I cleverly remembered about the Unison strike. A diversion to soft play seemed clever, and also avoided the misery of town-on-the-bus-in-the-rain, only I somehow failed to realise (dur) that the schools would also be shut for the strike. Hell. On. Earth.

Blue horizontal stripes seem to be the last word in preschool chic, so once Maggie had gone she had gone, never to be seen again. Tamsin enjoyed the toddler area for a while – she doesn’t get to spend much time with toddlers so it was good having people to refuse to share with – but of course, being 20 months going on 4, wanted to play in the big bit. The slide at Wizz kidz* is very big and very fast, and there were an awful lot of children, so I had to go in too. Which was fine (actually it was good as we were all narky with each other this morning but have come home friends) but wasn’t exactly the lovely sit down with a coffee and a book I had envisaged when we left the house.

Thank you for your flapjack tips: I left the last batch in the tin overnight to get really cold and it was much better. You still very much needed a plate, as it disintegrates if you breathe on it wrong, but it can at least be attempted without a spoon. Today’s question involves bread: how do I make pumpkin seeds stick to the top? I can put them in the mix, which is fine, but when you buy a lovely expensive loaf from Betty’s, as I generally do when I visit my sister, it has seeds on the top too. I put them on but they never fail to drop off when I turn the loaf to tap the bottom. I’m wondering if I should be sticking them on with an egg wash, as their crust is a bit shiny.

*Why oh why?

Harvest, the sequel

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

harvest 160708Another allotment supper: we are having potato salad made with Charlotte potatoes, which are fantastic. I still have half a row of Epicure (“proper” new potatoes), which are absolutely delicious but require about 3 or 4 plants to be dug to get enough for a meal. One plant of Charlotte provided 1.4 kg today! I don’t know whether they are just a more prolific spud or if it is down to the layer of Pete’s special composty manure spread in the bottom of the planting hole. And you can see how lovely they look. Um, sorry, where was I…a potato salad made with Charlotte potatoes, dill and tarragon, and a shallot, all of which were grown with my own fair hands. You can also see some beetroot in there, and some assorted lettuce, which we will eat tomorrow.

Tamsin has learnt no!

Crops and children

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

We had a fine home-grown supper last night: cold roast beef (not from the allotment, clearly), new potatoes, baby carrots, basil and baby courgettes (some with flowers still attached). I felt very proud. Briefly, until I remembered The Weeds. Today, I picked (and ate before anybody else spotted it) the first ripe tomato. I only have two plants this year, after last year’s blight disaster, and am wishing for more. They look nice, tumbling over the sides of the chimneypots I acquired from freecycle.

It’s been very mundane here (hence no blogging). I had my hair cut for the first time in 6 months; we tried again with flapjack; Cameron went on a course; I did some work for the first time in a month. Are there any domestic goddesses out there? It tastes nice but never fails to collapse into crumbs. There must be a trick.

Tamsin is 20 months now, and trying to drop her nap. I remember driving miles with M at this age: with two, I just can’t do it. Nor can I sit upstairs with her for over an hour. If she doesn’t go off nicely, or we are not in the car at an appropriate time, she doesn’t get one. Which doesn’t affect her nights at all (she doesn’t sleep any better if she has it or does not: we wake every couple of hours regardless), probably a sign that she doesn’t really need it. If she has one, she doesn’t go off until 8 or 8.30 in the evening; if she doesn’t, she is grumpy from around 5* but asleep by 7.30. We are being very laid-back about it (apart from my near-unbreakable no sleep after 4 rule); she either has it or she doesn’t. We are managing about 3 a week.

*Currently raging because I put away the paddling pool.