Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cherub's Twirly Skirt

I am in a knitting frenzy and made this in just three days ...

Isn't it cute? When I tried it on Cherub she spent some time spinning and twirling and then insisted on wearing it for the rest of the day - at least until she was caught in the rain and it got damp!

I was particularly pleased with myself for thinking to use adjustable elastic in the waistband. The skirt came out quite long so should fit her for a while.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Corner View: Best Kept Secret

The secret in our town centre ...

What is hiding behind the scaffolding?

This ...

Photo by Mags D on Flickr (Creative Commons)

A fifteenth century market cross.

Around the top are five statues, probably in honour of the five wounds of Christ. They are thought to be Christ the King, the Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus, St. Hugh of Lincoln, St. John the Baptist and an unknown king.

This is how it looked in 1803 ...

Visit Jane at Spain Daily for more corner views from around the world. Corner view is taking a break for August and will be back in September.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 27th July

Outside My Window ... raindrops on the leaves of the garden hedge.

I am thinking ... how nice it is to be at the start of another week. I am one of those people who like Monday mornings.

From the learning rooms ... closed for summer.

I am thankful ... Angel's eye is much better. She developed a nasty looking eye infection on Saturday, but thanks to antibiotic ointment it is clearing up nicely. Have to get it checked by the nurse today.

From the kitchen ... Angel made these best-ever chocolate brownies. They truly were. Chocolatelicious!

I am wearing ... pyjamas.

I am creating ... this cute little skirt for Cherub. I finally finished the socks for my brother and an almost done cardigan for Cherub. I am now on a Ravelry inspired knitting frenzy and getting through the skirt at record speed.

I am going ... to spend the morning playing with Cherub, cleaning the kitchen and freezing cabbages. My brother has been growing vegetables in my mother's garden.

I am reading ... About the Size of It: the Common Sense Approach to Measuring Things by Warwick Cairns, which was a random library find. I gave up on The Catholic Revival in English Literature by Ian Ker. Hard going.

I am hoping ... Star is enjoying herself camping.

I am hearing ... Angel yawning and Cherub talking to a glue stick.

Around the house ... yarn and knitting projects.

One of my favorite things ... chocolate brownies.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... Star gets home from her camp on Wednesday; a sleepover with dance friends for Angel; a BBQ with Tevye's sister and family on Sunday.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... according to Cherub this is "not a mess". Humph!

The Simple Woman is away for the summer, but you can find links to other daybooks here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Last Played

I just realised BBC iPlayer shows a list of the last items I watched. Apparently they were ...

  • Desperate Romantics
  • Youth Hostelling: The First 100 Years
  • How Woolies Became Wellies: One Woman's Fight for the High Street
  • The Apprentice
  • Railway Walks: The Birth of Steam
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
  • Lark Rise to Candleford
Next one up is a programme about the lunar landings.

What does this glimpse into my TV viewing habits say about me?

Friday, July 24, 2009

7 Quick Takes


1. The kitchen is finished. The carpet is finished. The workmen are - almost - gone. Unfortunately the (new) dishwasher has developed a fault, and a repair man should be turning up this afternoon.

2. Star has gone camping on the Isle of Wight for a week with her school. Serious, old-fashioned camping, with army issue canvas ridge tents, daily tent inspections and work details. The school has been running this trip for many years and it has a reputation for being both well organised and lots of fun.

3. I used up all the raspberries from our pick-your-own trip by making raspberry trifle and this raspberry-buttermilk cake (thank you for the link, Jennifer). For some reason the raspberries all sank into a mush at the bottom of the cake, but it tasted yummy. The rest got eaten with cream either in meringues or neat.

4. We are only a week into the school summer holidays and already I'm trying to get things organised for next term. We will be away for two weeks and the girls go back to school on September 3rd, which means we have three weeks left to replace all the various bits of outgrown or worn out uniform, PE kit and shoes. Angel has grown and needs new everything. Even her feet have grown after staying the same size of nearly three years.

5. Angel and several dance school friends are planning a "pointe shoe sleepover" next week. They all have to take pointe shoes and contributions for a picnic supper. I'm not sure whether they are planning an impromptu ballet or just a photo opportunity!

6. Eek! I just realised I need to add pointe shoes to the shopping list for next term. That means an hour's drive to a specialist dance shop. And a hefty price tag.

7. Cherub continues to be cuteness personified, albeit occasionally loud and stroppy cuteness. Her current favourite listening for the car is what she calls "The Tale of Jemerly Fisher".

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Corner View: Weekend Evenings

The idea for this corner view was to take pictures at 6.45pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I clean forgot until Sunday (when it wasn't possible anyway), so had to fall back on Wikimedia and Google Images.

Friday evening ... puttering on my laptop.

Saturday evening ... an impromptu dinner with K and A-Next-Door. We pooled resources and ended up with olive oil, crab claws, smoked fish, olives, cheese, strawberries, and white wine.

Sunday evening ... was spent with Harry, Ron and Hermione. I took the two older girls to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Visit Jane at Spain Daily for more corner views from around the world.

Next week's theme is "best kept secret". Need to think about that one!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Stuck in Mud

The girls (mine plus J and A-Next-Door) had a wonderful time at the pick-your-own farm yesterday.

Star did her best to get stuck in the mud. She nearly succeeded.

Cherub the Brave (not!) did her best to copy, which was fun until she discovered her feet had gone all heavy. Then she ran away from the mud squeaking in panic.

The wheelbarrow was too much of a temptation. Why walk when you can ride? Because the wheelbarrow is very unstable, that's why, as J-Next-Door (now recovered from her probably-not-swine flu) discovered.

Which, of course, did not stop Star from trying. Duh.

Some picking did get done, though mostly by myself and K-next-door. Cherub did her best, and Star contributed quite a bit. Teenage girls in giggly mode are not very useful, I'm afraid - though they did keep Cherub entertained.

We came home with a few strawberries (past their best now), red gooseberries, raspberries and peas. Today's to-do list includes shelling and freezing peas, making a couple of gooseberry crumbles, and thinking of something to do with a large tub of raspberries.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Test Post

I am testing out the BlogPress application on my iPod Touch.

It is supposed to let me add pictures, so as I am short of photos of Angel here is a random one from her 14th birthday ...

About to hit post. Will it work?

Simple Woman's Daybook: 20th July

Outside My Window ... watery blue sky after torrential rain at the back end of last week.

I am thinking ... how nice it would be if Cherub slept until 7am instead of 6.30.

From the learning rooms ... school holidays at last!

I am thankful ... to have my big girls home for a while.

From the kitchen ... chocolate caramel shortbread. Yum! Spaghetti bolognese for dinner.

I am wearing ... pyjamas.

I am creating ... those socks are so nearly finished. They would have been finished if I hadn't decided to add some extra length - they are toe-up socks so the length is easily adjusted, and I had more yarn left than I expected. I am all enthused by Ravelry, and longing to move on to something else.

I am going ... to the pick-your-own farm this afternoon, hoping for raspberries and peas.

I am reading ... The Catholic Revival in English Literature by Ian Ker and Buried Treasure by Victoria Finlay. Slowly. I am in a reading dip.

I am hoping ... for better weather today.

I am hearing ... an animal programme on TV

Around the house ... reasonable order. No furniture in the wrong rooms. No spare fridges. No carpet on the upstairs landing, but that should be sorted tomorrow.

One of my favorite things ... new Harry Potter movies. (We saw Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince yesterday.)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... fruit picking, dental appointments, seeing Star off on a week long camping trip with her school, shopping for school stuff with Angel, an evening out with Tevye (meal? cinema? we are not sure!)

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... I have finally been driven up the wall ...

The Simple Woman is away for the summer, but you can find links to other daybooks here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

7 Quick Takes


1. On Tuesday we had new carpet fitted in the living room, hall, stairs and landing and all the work we have been doing on the house this year was supposed to be finished. Not. The fitters drove nail into a wire under the floorboards near our bedroom door and shorted the electrics. Easily fixed, but they decided (reasonably!) that the wire was in an unsafe place, didn't meet regulations, and would have to be moved before they would put down the carpet on the landing. That meant the rest of the week living with underlay upstairs, two visits from the electrician, and now we are waiting for the carpet fitters to come back again next Tuesday to finish off. I'm very grateful we have been able to make lots of long overdue improvements to the house this year, but I have had enough of sharing my home with a stream of workmen and I'm looking forward to being able to relax and enjoy.

2. Within an hour of the carpet fitters leaving, I tipped over a large vase of flowers. Yes, onto the new carpet. Water everywhere. Fortunately, it was clean water.

3. The summer holidays start today. Angel has to go into school this morning, but as I am taking her out for lunch and she is then going to a friend's for a sleepover it should pretty much count as holiday. Tevye is taking Star and her friend to London for lunch at My Old Dutch. The girls want to go window shopping. Lucky Tevye!

4. I have discovered Ravelry. I've seen it mentioned by other knitters many times, but never got round to checking it out. This week I finally signed up. How did I survive as a knitter for over forty years without it? Imagine an endless selection of patterns (both knitting and crochet), an online space to store all your knitting information, and a kind of knitters' Facebook, all rolled into one. And more! I heart Ravelry.

5. I also heart the Next online sale. I bought ahead on clothes for Cherub for the coming winter and next summer: three pairs of joggers, two skirts, four long sleeved tops, two t-shirts, and two jackets ... all for £42.

6. Cherub likes numbers and counting, but is bamboozled by anything past twenty. This is entertaining when she plays shops ...

"How much do I have to pay, Cherub?"
"Ten pounds forty-sixty-seventy!"

And she likes pretending to tell the time ...

"What's the time, Cherub?"
"It's eight past nine twenty-one."

7. I think the older girls are frustrated would-be trapeze artists. They have been doing things with the swing in the garden that the swing is definitely not intended for. Angel has an impressive series of bruises across her stomach as a result. Don't ask.

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

To Dry? Or Not To Dry?

Our weather is downright unreasonable.

This morning I hung my laundry on the line ... I checked the sky, and there was plenty of sun breaking through the cloud, and enough wind to dry the clothes quickly.

By the time I reached the last few socks it was raining.

I took it all down again ... and by the time I got it back indoors the rain had stopped.

Even poor Cherub was confused. Note the interesting combination of summer dress and winter hat ...

Later on I complained to my mother and she pointed out that today is St. Swithin's Day:

St Swithin’s Day, if it does rain
Full forty days, it will remain
St Swithin’s Day, if it be fair
For forty days, t'will rain no more.
It had better be wrong!

Corner View: The Unveiling

I am from open coal fires, from Marmite, fish fingers and Wall's ice cream.

I am from the half-thatched farmhouse on top of the hill, with tumbledown barns, rutted drive and cluttered yard.

I am from hedgerows of hawthorn, elderflower and blackberry; from green pastures, corn fields and hay meadows.

I am from summer holidays and sandy beaches, from stoic countrymen in wellington boots, from village and countryside.

I am from cooks and teetotallers, from farmers and higglers.

From "do your best" and "mustn't grumble".

I am from Primitive Methodists, from John Wesley, harvest festivals and Sunday School anniversaries.

I am from Buckinghamshire farmland and wuthering northern moors, from roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

From the trenches of World War I, pheasant shooting in No-Man's-Land and poison gas; from haymaking in trousers tied with string to keep out the field mice.

I am from faded, nameless monochrome photographs, from Super 8 film of happy children playing, from slideshows of family holidays from years gone by. Beloved memories slip out of focus into distant genealogies. I am my past.

(A Where I'm From poem first posted back in 2006)

Visit Jane at Spain Daily for more corner views from around the world.

Swine Flu Central

Either we are stuck in the middle of a swine flu hotspot, or there is something else nasty making the rounds. It is hard to tell, given that the NHS is now into epidemic mode and treating anyone with swine flu-ish symptoms with tamiflu without bothering to test to confirm swine flu first. Both Angel's and Star's schools have confirmed cases (presumably diagnosed before they stopped running tests). Two girls in Angel's class are being treated, including J-next-door ... which given that all the girls flit between both houses puts us right in the firing line.

J is OK. She has had a fever and sore throat since Friday, but she is walking wounded with no complications or anything to cause concern. At the first sign of any fever here we will be straight in the queue for tamiflu, but other than that we are carrying on as normal - given the level of exposure there doesn't seem to be any point trying to avoid it. If, indeed, this is it. J's illness seems very like the one I had last month, which I'm pretty certain was not swine flu.

Whatever, I guess the flu is likely to catch up with us at some point (apparently in a flu epidemic they expect roughly a third of the population to get it), and we are being pretty laid back about it. While I am well aware swine flu can turn nasty - sadly a doctor in a nearby town died from it last week - for the overwhelming majority of people it is mild, and there doesn't seem much point in worrying unnecessarily.

In the immortal words of Dad's Army: "Don't panic, Mr. Mainwaring, don't panic!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 13th July

Outside My Window ... grey skies and showers forecast. Hoping they will hold off long enough for my laundry to dry. (ETA: Phew! Rescued it just in time before a heavy shower. 95% dry.)

I am thinking ... about how to find a rhythm for our days during the summer holidays.

From the learning rooms ... last week of the school year, with good final reports for both girls, and good Key Stage 2 SATs results for Star.

I am thankful ... that the girls' dance shows at the weekend all went well and they very much enjoyed themselves once they were over the initial nerves.

From the kitchen ... lemon cake just out of the oven; baked potatoes and chilli for dinner.

I am wearing ... black linen trousers, pink t-shirt, beaten metal pendant necklace, bare feet.

I am creating ... yes. Sock. I've done ... oh ... maybe ten more rounds since last week?

I am going ... nowhere today.

I am reading ... The Catholic Revival in English Literature by Ian Ker.

I am hoping ... for a warm, sunny, relaxing summer.

I am hearing ... a little traffic and soft hissing from the dishwasher.

Around the house ... dance show debris. Hair pins, tap shoes, odd bits of costumes.

One of my favorite things ... home made lemon cake.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... very little. We need some down time this week.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... I built the Playmobil castle for Cherub. Without instructions. I'm posting a picture here so that next time I know how it is meant to look!

The Simple Woman is away for the summer, but you can find links to other daybooks here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

7 Quick Takes


1. Good news to start with - the best sort of news! My blogging friend Melanie has a new baby, born yesterday morning.

2. Some more good news. The. Kitchen. Is. Finished. The fridge and washing machine were reinstalled yesterday morning. Everything is up and running. Bliss.

3. Two minutes after the kitchen fitter left yesterday morning, the gas repairman arrived. Until British Gas arrived to service the boiler last week, everything worked normally. After the service the heating came on and refused to go off (why does that happen in 80 degree weather, not in the winter?). A repairman came out, diagnosed a stuck valve, and ordered a new one. Yesterday's repairman fitted the valve (a ten minute job) ... and then found he couldn't relight the boiler. It took four hours, reinforcements from his supervisor, and a major overhaul of various things electrical to get it going again - proving, yet again, that given the age and decrepitude of our heating system a servicing contract is worth every penny!

4. I watched part of the final rehearsal for the girls' dance show last night. Two girls fell flat on their faces, the stage started to fall apart, lines were forgotten, small people didn't know where they were meant to be, larger people crashed into each other in the wings, quick costume changes weren't quick enough, and a couple of dances were a source of resigned despair to their teacher. It will all be alright on the night. We hope.

5. You know your daughter is growing up when you are part way round the supermarket before you realise you are wearing her shoes instead of your own.

6. A friend phoned to cancel a playdate for Cherub because her daughter wasn't well. Star took the call and passed on the message. I knew something had got scrambled when she told me little C had a "yawn infection". (And dim as I am, I didn't manage to work out that she meant a urine infection).

7. While I am on a botanical kick ... more bluebells. The British bluebell is on the left, the American bluebell on the right. You see - quite different. The British one is a more dainty, delicate flower. (Pictures from Wikimedia Commons)


You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

100 Species Challenge: Honeysuckle

Scientific name: Lonicera periclymenum
Family: Caprifoliaceae
Flowers: June to September

This native European honeysuckle is one of 180 different species of honeysuckle, most of which come from China. Also known by the common name woodbine, and referred to by Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton as eglantine (a name more often used for the sweet briar rose). Its rich, sweet nectar attracts moths, bees, butterflies and other insects.

100 Species Challenge Number 22
List of plants identified to date

Corner View: Places of Reflection

Our local country park, with ancient woodland ...

And a lake ...

Trees and water always make me feel peaceful, though with a three year old in tow there isn't much opportunity for reflection.

Visit Jane at Spain Daily for more corner views from around the world.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

100 Species Challenge: Bluebell

I have a backlog of flowers I have identified, so I'm going to try to catch up a bit over the next few days. Starting off with the bluebell ...

Scientific name: Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Family: Hyacinthaceae
Flowers: April to June

'I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it.' (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

The common bluebell is native to the British Isles and rare elsewhere (the American bluebell, Mertensia Virginica, is an entirely different species). Currently the native bluebell is under threat due to encroachment by the more hardy Spanish bluebell and hybridised versions. As a result it is a protected plant, and it is illegal to dig up or destroy bluebells.

In the language of flowers, bluebells are supposed to represent constancy and everlasting love. In folklore the bells were believed to call the fairies when rung; walking carelessly through a mass of bluebells disturbs the fairies and triggers their spells; and anyone who hears bluebells ring is supposed to die within a year. To bring bluebells indoors is considered unlucky.

Thinking about bluebells brought back a hazy memory of a Scottish folksong, The Bluebells of Scotland. You can find the words and music here.

100 Species Challenge Number 21
List of plants identified to date

Monday, July 06, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook: 6th July

Outside My Window ... blue sky and white cloud, but rain and much cooler weather is forecast for today and tomorrow.

I am thinking ... about the things I need to get while out shopping this morning. I really should write a list and not just try to remember them.

From the learning rooms ... Star will discover what class she will be in at school next year and spend a day with her new teachers. She thinks her whole year will be shuffled round, and is hoping to be with at least one of her three best friends.

I am thankful ... that the end of the kitchen refit is in sight. The floor is being laid today and tomorrow, then once the fridge and washing machine are reinstalled it will be finished.

From the kitchen ... absolutely nothing. The floor is being covered with cement and we can't even go in there today. Eating out tonight.

I am wearing ... new pink pyjamas, which hopefully make me look less like a giant pink lollipop than my other pair.

I am creating ... still the same sock. I am a cold weather knitter, and we have been having a heatwave.

I am going ... to IKEA to replace Cherub's little table and chairs. The table of the £12 IKEA set she has didn't stand up to my attempts to scrub off over exuberant scribbles and has lost much of the white surface. I need a few other oddments both from IKEA and from Asda (Walmart's British subsidiary) next door, and a trip there will keep Cherub out of the cememt in the kitchen.

I am reading ... The Catholic Revival in English Literature by Ian Ker. Hard going.

I am hoping ... that the girls manage to get through the week without mislaying any vital bits of dance show costume.

I am hearing ... a collared dove cooing outside.

Around the house ... now two fridge-freezers and a washing machine in the dining room. Dining room and kitchen both out of action.

One of my favorite things ... fresh juicy cherries.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... dance show week. No time for much else.

A Picture Thought I Am Sharing ... if you are going to play with a swimming pool, you have to dress appropriately

The Simple Woman is away for the summer, but you can find links to other daybooks here.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Patriotic Puzzlement

Lots of "Happy 4th July" posts on my blogroll got me thinking ...

(Pause to send belated good wishes to my American readers.)

Why do we have no national celebration day here in the UK? Should we? And if so, what would we celebrate?

I suppose that is not entirely true, in that Guy Fawkes downfall and the preservation of King James I and Parliament is still widely celebrated on November 5th, but Bonfire Night commemorates a single event, not anything fundamental to our nation's existence And there is the rub. We don't have a foundational event to celebrate. Our country grew more or less organically over time, and is in any case made up of four separate countries which aren't necessarily inclined to celebrate each other.

Since my childhood the United Kingdom has become more obviously fragmented. Scottish and Welsh nationalism has increased, with the kick-on effect that the English are now becoming more nationalistic. The Scottish, Welsh and Irish all have their own separate "parliaments" with jurisdiction over certain issues. The English don't, but there is some resentment of the fact that Scottish, Welsh and Irish MPs vote for measures that apply only in England. When I was a child the English flag - the cross of St. George - was never seen. Then it began to appear at football matches when the English team was playing, and now it has become more visible than the Union Jack (the red, white and blue flag of the United Kingdom). The Scots and Welsh always did use their own flags, and continue to do so. Unlike Americans who fly their flag with pride, the British rarely do. Few British families own even the smallest version of their national flag. It doesn't help that patriotism has been tarnished by extremist, racist political parties who splatter their literature with Union Jacks.

National days have been celebrated in the past. Empire Day was celebrated from the beginning of the 20th century to the 1950s, but became obsolete with the end of the British Empire. The late Victorians and Edwardians celebrated Trafalgar Day in honour of Admiral Nelson's great naval victory during the Napoleonic Wars, but that declined after the First World War. These days it is hard to imagine what could be celebrated as a national day throughout the United Kingdom. There isn't any obvious "Britain Day" - no "the United Kingdom starts here" landmark. The closest would be the Act of Union of 1707 which formally united England and Scotland, but the Scots, many of whom would like to see an independent Scotland, would laugh derisively at the idea of celebrating that, and in any case it has no direct relevance for the Welsh or Northern Irish. We have no formal constitution to celebrate, no beginning of a style of government, no obvious chronological landmark.

The United Kingdom is essentially an oddity ... a schizophrenic state. Ask a British subject their nationality and the answer could be any one of English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or British. While there was a British Empire it was easy for the inhabitants of the British Isles to identify themselves as British; these days not so much. The Scots and Welsh will mostly call themselves Scottish or Welsh. The English are confused. If asked my nationality I always say English; Tevye on the other hand always says British.

I'm pretty sure more people would describe themselves as English than was the case thirty or forty years ago, and I reckon it is time we got a special day to celebrate being English.The Scots and the Northern Irish already have specifically nationalist public holidays - St. Andrew's Day in Scotland, and St. Patrick's Day and Orangemen's Day in Northern Ireland. Why not give the English and Welsh equal treatment by making St. George's Day and St. David's Day public holidays? In the last few years I have noticed cards on sale for St. George's day, so there is already a trend in the direction of celebrating it as the English national day.

It seems that everyone else gets a day for patriotic celebration, and I want one too. St. George's Day would do nicely.

Mid-Life Motherhood: Time Slip - Part 2

Elizabeth's comment on my previous post reminded me of something else I meant to add. For her the hardest thing about mid-life motherhood is that her youngest daughter will have 22 years less time with her than her eldest child. I'm not sure why, but this doesn't particularly bother me - maybe because Tevye's mother died when he was six, so I would be grateful just to make it long enough to see all three girls into adulthood.

What bugs me more is that generation crunch kicking in again with grandchildren. Just as I am old enough to be Cherub's grandmother, I will be old enough to be her children's great-grandmother. I have seen in my own mother the difference in being a grandmother at 70 and a grandmother at 80. At 70 she was still fit enough to be an active, hands-on grandma; at 80 she isn't. She can hold Cherub, but she can't carry her. She can't babysit because she is no longer able to cope with the more physically demanding aspects of caring for a young child. It frustrates her, and I know that if I reach that stage, it would frustrate me.

Reading my previous post Tevye felt I was being unusually negative. And yes, for me this is the aspect of older motherhood that has most downsides, and one that I find a bit unsettling. The time slippage became a reality for me when Tevye and I started talking seriously about retirement plans. When pension quotes from his old company started arriving, we realised retirement was no longer something way off on the horizon, but close enough to need real consideration. And we had a toddler. Did. Not. Compute. And even though I have thought it through since, I still find it strange and confusing.

Not to worry. I have one more post on mid-life motherhood to write. A much more positive one.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Mid-Life Motherhood: Time Slip

One aspect of mid-life motherhood that never occurred to me until Cherub came along is the way it makes life stages slide around and crash into each other like tectonic plates.

Right now, for me the young (or not-so-young!) Mum stage has collided with the mother of older children phase. With Cherub I move in circles where even mothers with older children rarely have a child over 6 or 7, and many only have a 3 or 4 year old and maybe a baby or toddler. They talk about playgroups and lower schools; I'm more used to middle and upper school, SATS and GCSEs. Then most of my friends with older children don't have any children younger than 10, so are not exactly tuned in to potty training and toddler tantrums.

For Tevye there is a complete generation gap between himself and his work colleagues - or rather between his children and theirs. At 52 he is the second youngest of the seven who work in his office, whose ages range from early 50s to early 60s. None of the others have children still in school (the youngest just finished) and three colleagues are grandparents. Tevye has a child only just out of nappies.

As we get older this crunch between life stages - both our own, and ours compared to our peers - is going to repeat itself. The "empty nest" stage will be squeezed out completely between the family life stage and retirement. We will almost certainly be retired and living on a pension while Cherub is still at school.

The idea of being both an "old age pensioner" and the mother of a teenager is kind of strange. It has both positives and negatives. We are financially more stable than many younger families, having bought our house at a time when house prices were barely a third of what they are now, and I'm hopeful that having Cherub around will keep us feeling younger. On the other hand, parenthood gets more tiring with age, and the risk of health problems grows. And for us, missing out (at least partly) on the opportunity to spend time together as couple while (hopefully) still fit and well enough to enjoy it is a sacrifice. Of course, life comes with no guarantees whatever age one has children, and mid-life motherhood has plenty of compensations, but in effect we will lose a whole life stage.

Pros and cons, this peculiar time slip thing.

Friday, July 03, 2009

7 Quick Takes


1. Our nice, new, large fridge-freezer has been up-and-running since Monday, and supplying us with ice and chilled water through this week's heatwave. Bliss.

2. The fridge-freezer was disconnected again today, along with the washing machine, so that the kitchen floor can be levelled with a layer of cement first thing on Monday morning. Back to stuffing everything in the old fridge-freezer again for a few days. And no ice dispenser, so it is good that the heatwave is due to end at the weekend.

3. I got my hair coloured yesterday for the first time in years. This time it was motivated by the desire to cover up the grey hairs that are beginning to multiply. I don't mind them on my own account ... it's another mid-life motherhood thing. I'm aware that by the time Cherub is Angel's age I will be sixty, and for her sake I'm working on looking closer to fifty-five than sixty-five when I reach that age. I may be old enough to be her grandmother, but I don't want to look it.

4. It has been very noticeable this week that Cherub has moved on a stage in her play, with role play becoming a very big thing ... pretend visits to the seaside and the swimming pool, and games of "tooth fairy" are the current favourites. And shops, of course. Tooth fairy is a good one as it requires the co-player to go to sleep. Very restful.

5. Yesterday Star brought home a final costume list for next week's dance show. Why is there always at least one item that I knew nothing about? Where am I going to get flesh coloured footless dance tights before Sunday?

6. The boiler and central heating system was serviced today. This afternoon the heating came on and refused to switch off. The service people said they couldn't send anyone to fix it until Monday - when they won't be able to get at the controls because the kitchen will be full of wet cement. After some negotiation they agreed to send someone on Sunday. Then three hours after being turned off the radiators finally cooled down of their own accord. What malignant central heating gremlin decides that it should stop working in the winter and refuse to stop working in the summer?

7. I spent the shopping with Angel in Watford - she had a day off school, and wanted to go to the large Primark there. Said Primark was so large, and I was so overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, that I actually ended up buying two of the same thing by mistake. It was lovely to spend a day with just my biggest girl. It is too long since we did that.

You can find more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Book Review: The Lion First Bible

The Lion First Bible
by Pat Alexander

I have been looking around for a few months for a book of Bible stories for Cherub. With the older two girls I used The Lion First Bible, but our copy had gone adrift somewhere. Angel loved this book, but I don't remember reading it much with Star, and I thought it would be nice to try something different this time round. I browsed the children's Bible section at Borders, which had several, but none of them shouted "buy me". Either the text didn't flow well, or the story selection was too limited, or something else wasn't right. I wondered about The Beginner's Bible (we have a copy from Angel's Sonlight Curriculum days), which I remembered as vaguely similar to The Lion First Bible - they both have a wide selection of stories, and are in the same small, chunky format - but the simplistic, easy reader text didn't appeal. In the end I bit the bullet and bought another copy of The Lion First Bible.

Now I have it, I remember why I liked it. The pictures are not really my style - too cartoony - but the text is just right for a three or four year old. Interestingly, it doesn't look good. The short sentences look bitty, but read aloud they work. The stories lend themselves to quite dramatic reading, and have enough familiar points of reference to appeal to small children. Here is a sample from the story of Noah, which is Cherub's top pick so far ...

Bang! Bang! Bang! went the hammer.
Noah was building a boat - an enormous boat. Big enough for all his family. Big enough to save two of every kind of animal and bird when the great flood came.

God was very sad about his world. It was all spoiled now. The people were so nasty and unkind. All except Noah. Noah was nice. Noah was good. Noah was friends with God.

"I have to get rid of all this nastiness," God said to Noah one day. "The beautiful world I made is all spoiled.There's going to be a great flood. Enough water to take away everything that is bad. But you will be safe."
Then God told Noah to build a boat - The Ark.

Noah did as God said. He always did as God said.
Bang! Bang! Bang! went the hammer.
At last The Ark was finishd.

The animals were so excited.
"Quack! Quack!" said the ducks.
"Moo! Moo!" said the cows.
"Hurry! Hurry!" said the geese.
"Cheep! Cheep!" chirped the sparrows. "Don't leave us behind."

"All aboard!" said Noah. And God shut the door of The Ark behind them.
I like the range of stories included. There are 64 in total, 32 each from the Old and New Testaments. They are straightforward, simple retellings, with no attempt to add any sort of doctrinal "spin". And best of all, Cherub likes them.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Corner View: Staple Foods

Bread ... sometimes just the sliced stuff, but we prefer it fresh and crusty.

Vegetables ... potatoes, carrots, onions and broccoli are always part of my weekly shop. Frozen peas are a staple and we eat quite a lot of swede, parsnips, leeks, courgettes (zucchini), sweetcorn and cauliflower.

Salad vegetables ... all year round, but we eat more in the summer. The cherry tomatoes, peppers and cucumber are from the supermarket, the lettuce and spring onions (scallions) from my brother's garden.

Fruit ... bananas, apples and pears are staples all year round. Lots of strawberries at this season, and I usually buy plums and grapes plus whatever else is reasonably priced.

Meat ... I didn't get a photo but we mostly eat chicken and minced (ground) beef, and always some sort of roast meat (lamb, beef or chicken) on Sundays. Less often stewing steak or lamb, turkey steaks, or lamb chops.

Fish ... white fish (cod or haddock), salmon fillets and canned tuna are our staples. Sometimes we get trout instead of salmon, and Tevye likes sardines and kippers.

Statistics show that the British now drink more coffee than tea, but we fit the stereotype and drink more tea ... made with tea bags in a mug, always with milk and water boiled in an electric kettle (a domestic essential in British homes).

Visit Jane at Spain Daily for more corner views from around the world.

Next week's theme ... places of reflection.