Frannie is a year old now and in the middle of being a beautiful terror in our lives.
But when she runs, she flies. If she had wings, I don’t think we’d see her again. Once this lockdown is over, we are going to walk for miles on long sandy beaches. Until then it’s apologies to the *seagulls in the park.
*No seagulls were harmed. She just enjoys the chase, if it was a crisp packet it would be equally fun.
The wind is bitingly cold today. Straight from the North Pole and very bitter it is. Flurries of snow in my face and my hair.
A boot full of food to last the next week, no end to the lockdown as yet but we all are holding our breath and hoping.
The house we live in was built around 150 years ago by miners and their families working in the area. That means that at one point. there were families in these very houses, going through the last pandemic of 1918 when a flu virus ravaged through the world and took out indiscriminately, from our communities.
Also a place of birth, I know Gruff wasn’t the only baby born in this house, there have been many births too. He arrived on a mid Tuesday morning cheered on by a small handful of midwives (and a few neighbours stood outside listening to my swearing).
I have dreamt of death a lot in the last year, of about people I have lost, often I have conversations in these dreams with these people and they are angry at me. I’ve got no idea why, (for probably talking too much?) In real life I have no idea what I would say as I would really rather dream about dogs or food or a nice day on a warm beach getting sunburnt.
They say death is an end, but also a beginning, and of better times ahead. I’m clinging on to that thought a little to much right now.
School days are a strange business during these lockdown days.
No car run, no rush out the door in the morning.
Still, early to rise, in the dark for a morning check in, registration or daily work download.
Gone are the assemblies, singing and hanging up of coats and hellos to friends.
It’s find a space away from whiskers and paws and chewing mouths.
Please let mum have a coffee and I’ll figure out that maths I promise.
Dressed and ready but no where to go.
Funny, lonely business this learning on screens but there we are right now, in the midst of a pandemic and figuring out the area of Tom’s Toblerone chocolate bar.
Let me tell you a little secret, us mums are looking at you and are very glad it’s not them having to do this.
Children of 2020, you’re doing amazing, don’t ever forget that.
Very cold right now, just above freezing and it’s decided to rain so we are slipping our way around the streets tonight.
Even the billboard is half arsing the light.
There are warmer and lighter days ahead but this month is the queen of dark and cold and she isn’t shifting herself in any hurry. January won’t be rushed.
Dragging our way through this lockdown January.
Gloriously bonkers isn’t it?
Lying on the floor.
But looking up is always the first step to everything.
Where’s the cat?
What do you mean you haven’t seen her?
Walks fifty times past the studio window.
Well I’ve called her. She’s not coming, she’s probably on her rounds.
She’ll be back soon.
She is still not speaking to me.
This post is not about today.
This is about tomorrow.
Because tomorrow my children are going out on their own for the first time in over nine weeks.
They will meet with friends and do kids stuff.
While remaining two metres apart.
It’s your eyebrow raising, not mine…
But it’s time.
So as of Monday, we will be able in Wales to meet other people outside the house.
Within five miles.
And two metres apart.
We are happy but looking at it from a captive point of view, we are far from free. We can roam a little further.
This is far from over.
So much talk of it not being real, of it being as easy as flu.
The news says in an estimated study only six percent of France is actually immune to covid 19.
All about the “R” rate see?
Parents of children be warned, they are growing.
The lock down and spring combined has created a massive problem, literally.
You might not have noticed yet but you will. Or you may be like me and gawp in disbelief at the extra foot of difference sticking out of the bottom of trouser legs.
Or an emptied cupboard of sweets (you thought were safe) and there’s a smug child sat there looking full and very proud of themselves.
Or the fact they keep bumping their heads on things they used to happily walk under.
Or they just walk up behind you and tap you slowly on the shoulder…
“Hi mum, you look….smaller”.
This is happening right in front of our noses.
Please don’t panic buy shoes, I’ve only got wellies left now…
Can I have a sketchbook please? Need to draw some monster hands.
From the boy who hasn’t drawn since lock-down.
I’m beyond smiling. But I am being very cool about it and trying not to look. Of course I always have spares because to run out of sketchbooks would not be worth thinking about.
It’s hard not to peek okay?
The roads are busier now, there seems to be more people going out.
I wish you well, I’m glad you haven’t been affected or infected.
Maybe you will be lucky why should I judge you?
Why should I even bother to draw my curtains to look out at the road so busy with cars.
We all have our reasons, hard not to feel something when you hear the noise of cars back on the road.
The news is split into where you live now. Wales will continue the lock-down for three more weeks, opening garden centres for essential begonias and fast food drive throughs. In England there is talk of primary children returning to school but Westminster is still keeping parliament on reduced numbers. That’s nice.
The infection numbers have risen today.
This is not over.
Myles’ brother left his house for the last time today.
Long steps, hat off, the funeral director bows his head. The hearse leaves the house slowly, slowly down the steep hill to a small ceremony of fifteen at the crematorium. There can be no more.
The escort of twenty Welsh Water vans and the children in their rugby shirts waving from the sunny streets.
Goodbye Hugh, Swansea turned out for you today.
Thank you for always reading my blog.
Heaven has a huge cheeseboard but don’t eat the chives, your Dad picked them.
Rest in peace.
It’s the smart black trousers, tie and jacket. The shined shoes and ironed shirt. The one we all keep in the wardrobe for that occasion. The funeral. We take it out, check the moths have left it alone and iron the shirt again. Then we hang it up ready to wear.
I remember buying a suit when I was twenty seven, days before my mother died. I bought it ready to wear for her funeral, I didn’t want to be thinking about clothes, I didn’t want to be wearing the suit at all, nobody does but it is what you do. It is what everybody does.
Tomorrow the funeral will happen, and then the suit will be taken off and will go to the back of the wardrobe once more.
The walk was quiet tonight. My first steps outside today.
Tomorrow’s rubbish piled up outside each house. Black bags and pink plastic. Tonight’s litter dances around the empty streets in a happy scuttle, the ground is dry making for quick passage. Gloves, masks and cans of energy drinks race each other amongst the growing weeds.
The news is baffling, in England there is news of the lifting of restrictions but you’d need a code cracker to understand the words out of the Prime Ministers mouth. I don’t think anyone is the wiser right now.
Here in Wales, we are still grounded and we are still no go. There is still too much infection. The lock-down remains. We are allowed out twice a day, garden centres can re-open and fast food chains.
The shape of my cat with a squeaking mouse in her mouth can be seen leaping the walls of the back gardens in the evening sun.
That is not coming in the house.
It’s the 75th anniversary of V.E. day today and there is bunting everywhere. The street behind us have all moved into their front gardens and are having a socially distanced street party. The music is thumping away and I hear laughter. There is an eager d.j. on a microphone and children laughing.
The sun has been shining all day, a light breeze and dancing seagulls in the sky.
Our road is a little busier so there is no sitting outside in the spring sunshine here.
I didn’t make bunting, I drew it on the pavement outside with chalk. Coloured arms and a smudgy face.
We don’t really feel like joining in.
Myles’ brother will be cremated next week. It was sudden and quick.
He didn’t get to say goodbye. There wasn’t time. Cancer moves in that way, I know too well of that.
The sun shines on and the news can’t tell me enough how the lock down will be gradually eased and that it’s brilliant.
I see no good news yet, I see 30,000 dead.
I want to stop crying now.
I was going to write about the afternoon I spent in my greenhouse.
But Bonnie has beaten me with her enormous crater she dug that will fit all of the plants I’ve been growing in one go.
Now this is Swansea, this is the great, grey, gloom that descends when everywhere else is basking in sunshine.
And a bright green face mask. (Get off Bonnie you don’t know where it’s been).
The rubbish tells its own tale of the pandemic, gloves and masks litter the floor. Why the rush to drop these things? Does it chase you?
I hurry home just in case.
Tonight’s walk highlights, a blue protective glove on the floor, a few discarded face masks, a discarded hedge cutter and a pile of broken children’s toys.
The news tells us that the pandemic is peaking here in the United Kingdom.
I see graphs and charts and explanations of numbers. Beautiful graphics and animations. A huge moving virus. If it was that big, I’d be able to avoid it (like my washing pile).
The dead are numbers, on a chart. Wavy lines that ascend and now, like a roller coaster, are plummeting down and down.
Another day in.
Been anywhere nice?
I went up the greenhouse, poked at some seeds, sewed some more just in case knowing they’ll all come at once again but you never know…
Laundry basket was over flowing again so I rammed another wash in the machine.
Bumble bees were ginormous in the garden, did you know they were queens? I didn’t. Evie read somewhere that you only see the queens this time of year. These ones are black with red fluffy bottoms, I have no idea how they manage to fly being so huge.
The police helicopter has been hovering too above the houses for an hour this afternoon, the scream of police sirens in the distance made it all feel quite normal (well for the area I live in it did).
The week before I fell ill and the subsequent lock-down, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t function, I felt I was frozen, like you do when faced with a big task but you have no idea where to start so you just sit there, frozen. I had lots to do but I just couldn’t knuckle down, I was restless and annoyed with everything. The news made me scared, now the death numbers become a daily thing and the news has done a full u-turn and is trying to remind us that these are people.
And now I am again, frozen to the washing basket.
Darks or whites first?
There was a mass singing of the Welsh National anthem tonight at eight o clock, everyone was to stand on their doorsteps and sing for Wales and all key workers.
I bellowed it out at only a key that humpback whales and sonar can understand.
To everyone else it was painful and very annoying but I think the whole street appreciated my efforts.
I feel better now.
Sky for miles, air was fresh.
Can see a little bit of sea where the docks are.
No cars at all so me and dog walked down the middle of the road.
Was a lovely walk until I got nearer to home and saw most of Swansea police parked up outside a house attending an incident. All masked and gloved up and very serious. The news headline entered my mind of a forty year old mother apprehended for walking down the road with her dog illegally and it made me laugh.
Dream on Angie.
Oh well. Never a dull moment eh?
It’s not Christmas day.
We don’t have presents or a roast Turkey.
No tree with decorations.
But the Queen’s on the telly so be quiet I want to listen, this is historic, she doesn’t normally do this.
Who’s turn is it to make the tea?
I want a bourbon biscuit with that please.
The sun was beaming through the windows this morning.
Gruff and myself were up early. We’re both early risers so the pair of us tinker about (him with the animals, me with coffee), before the rest of the house wakes up.
Some school writing briefly with his bright red pen and then out into the garden where he has made a comfy chair for himself in the sunshine.
He hasn’t been outside for a few weeks now. I know we have the garden but it makes me feel sad when I think that the last time he was outside in the world was at school with all his friends.
What time is it?
What day is it?
I don’t know. I really had to look on a calendar to see it was Friday.
Apologies for apocalyptic look, it’s trending right now but us mums did it first.
We did our weekly shop today, Myles went this time, he tried a large supermarket but turned around when he saw the queues of people and trolleys.
He went to a smaller one instead and came back victorious with chocolate, crisps, pop, some vegetables and pot noodles. Other sensible things were bought but those are, (let’s face it) the ones that are getting us through this time inside.
The World is in captivity, closed in, shut down, no go.
We will paint Rainbows in our windows.
We will plant seeds in our gardens.
We will thrive on ten cups of tea a day and that forgotten pack of bourbon biscuits at the bottom of the draw in the kitchen.
We will watch the news on repeat, looping around until the information spills back out the other ear.
We will wonder what day it is, even though it isn’t Christmas.
We will stop buying.
We will stop.
So currently we are allowed to only leave the house for essential supplies and as infrequently as possible. One person is allowed to go. If you are over seventy years of age, you are told to stay in the house for the next twelve weeks and also if you are in certain medical at risk groups.
We managed to leave it a week so it was time to go to the supermarket, I picked my local one nearest to the house. List in hand I waited behind newly laid strips of stripey sticky tape laid out a two metre intervals in the car park.
I wore some plastic gloves, the woman in front of me wore a face mask. Another woman shouted at her young daughter to stop running up to people.
Somewhere up the line, a man coughed and everyone took a step back at the same time.,
A security guard waited outside and as one person left the shop, one was let in. It was a mixed queue of people, from women with prams and babies to elderly people. I had no judgement of these people, I am sure they all had their reasons to be here today and we all waited for our turn to go into the shop.
The shop was quiet and calm, I moved around with my basket putting in my shopping. Tins were in short supply as was bread but there was plenty of food for me to cook with and I certainly hope the panic buying has passed now as there are now strict guidelines on how many items we can buy.
The roads were quieter than I have ever seen today.
The sun still shone.
The death toll rose again.
I drove home and washed my hands.
My evening walk tonight was even quieter than last night. Hardly any traffic on our street lined with terrace houses and neatly stacked recycling bags of tins and bottles and grass cuttings from today’s lawn mowing. A broken mower has been dumped outside one house, its electrical cord hanging, severed after a mishap when someone decided looking the other way to the electric mower would be okay.
The electronic billboard wasn’t working tonight and I was glad not see the Covid 19 symptom advert. There has been news saturation for me today. Too many people still flocking in groups to enjoy the beautiful spring sunshine and infecting each other amid images of Italian and Spanish hospitals.
Tonight the easterly wind moves up the main road free from cars and carries the scent of fire from the hill over the valley. As the hill looms into view, the huge fire burning looks eerily beautiful and I take time out to watch the flames and smell the air.
My walk brings me to our local play park which has today been sealed up with red stripey tape and a notice.
The parks are closed in the city as of today to prevent the spread of the virus. The council says it is because the virus lives on metal and surfaces and therefore children are likely to spread it when they play outside.
My throat still hurts from last week but I feel well and the children are well which is a relief. We played in the garden today as our world became even smaller around us.
I’m walking the dog later at night so I can stay away from people.
I noticed a new electronic billboard being installed the other night. The first adverts are ringing out the message.
It is here and it is spreading so very fast.
We are in a new world right now. The new buzzwords are self-isolation, quarantine and death toll.
My children are making rainbows to put in the window today as the sun shines and the death toll mounts.
I’m dedicating January to the birds that come to my garden. I have no exotic varieties, just your average Joes of the bird world but to me they are wonderful and they think I’m great right now as I’ve hung three brand new feeders from my studio in an attempt to encourage more into my little urban garden.
My house is part of a Victorian terrace built by the miners and their families 150 years ago. A descendent lives a few doors up and says that they were built to house the families who kept chickens and grew their food here.
Fast forward a century or so and the city has grown around these houses and the mines have gone. But the wildlife is still here, hanging on and adapting to the pace of life and the endless rain.
Today’s post is in salute to the starlings that frequent my garden. Sleek and noisy little birds. Starlings are wonderful mimics of sound. They will copy what they hear and repeat it back with relish. Well you can imagine that Swansea is a feast for these little flocks of sound machines. From car alarms, mopeds to mobile phones it is never ever quiet around here and these little birds congregate on the telephone lines in the winter and belt out their whistle and chirps.
In deepest January they are most welcome to strip my feeders, tease my chickens and entertain me in my studio to a Swansea mega mix of noise. Demolishing fat balls within ten minutes and then entertaining me with their sound effects.
One summer morning you could hear the noise of a single alarm clock coming from an open window, within seconds, the voices of twenty alarm clocks were ringing out over the rooftops and telephone wires.
A little mix of my best bits at Christmas.
I wish you all a peaceful time and remember kindness is always better than a plateful of sprouts.
A poem I made.
I had some wine,
It went to my head,
And off I went,
early to bed.
Angie bakes six layers of different coloured sponge cake and leaves them to cool on the kitchen counter.
Renee cat comes along and takes a nibble out of EACH layer.
A) The level of swearing from Angie at the discovery of nibbled cake.
B) The exact percentage of remaining cake.
C) The exact amount of extra buttercream needed to cover the nibbled cake.
D) The amount of tea needed to calm Angie down.
Evie has a box.
Not just any old box.
It’s a box of happy things.
So when things get bad or sad.
She pulls the box down off the shelf and looks through it.
The box changes throughout the year.
(I think there’s a few conkers in there right now).
Sometimes mum sneaks in some chocolate…
There’s a bar of soap too as it smells lovely.
There’s fluffy and shiny things.
Small things of wonder that when picked up, replace sadness or worry with smiles.
What would be in your box?
Evie started her transition week for high school today. I remember drawing about her first adventures in school when I first started the blog.
And now there she is off to new ones.
And I’m reaching for the higher strength glasses to draw about it.
Gumball decided she was off to bigger pastures this morning. Never nice when they go.
We go way back the moon and me. I’ve walked many times in the dark over the years when the moon has been high and bright in the sky.
One night, I walked up the garden in my pyjamas, clutching a howling newborn. The moonlight was a welcome distraction whilst I soothed my little bundle of noise.
Some nights, the sky has been filled with the noise of drunks singing, some nights have been filled with barking dogs and other nights, there was simply the whisper of trees and wind.
One full moon, I heard the shrieks of a tawny owl over a floodlit valley.
I’ve huddled under a bridge while the moon shone, hoping my problems would melt away but it just shone as close as it could to my crouching figure in the shadows.
And one time, I walked in despair, neither caring nor looking and the moon continued to shine.
Last night I walked in the cold, solstice, moonshine and it shone right through me and dog for our whole walk.
I was taking a walk with an old friend you see.
I’m sure there are many people taking a walk tonight to escape this time of year and I hope they find their answers under the moon or at least know they are not alone.
Wishing you all a peaceful time at mid winter. To moonlit nights.
Our new puss has quite a penchant for little toys. She has already amassed an impressive collection of little fabric mice, stars and patchwork, catnip hearts.
They are stored in a little plastic tub every night and every night, when everyone is asleep, Renee starts her fun.
One by one, each little toy is carefully removed and starts it’s journey through the kitchen, into the lounge and up the stairs…so that in the morning we are greeted by a scattering of little soggy presents on the landing.
Even Bonnie is not forgotten, she normally gets a nice feather in her water bowl
And so, every morning, I bring down the little collection back to its box so Renee can do it all again.
I’ve found solace in my sketchbook throughout my life. In my childhood a means of play and expression. In my teens, a bolt hole from reality into which I would have most readily jumped in feet first and not looked back.
I rekindled my sketchbook habit back in 2010 when I was in my familiar black hole and needed to escape.
This comfort and silence. A non judging welcoming page, the smell and touch of crisp paoer. The sound of pen gently scratching lines that fill and dance through endless space.
I draw through line, space filled with cluttered thoughts and ideas. I am a drawer.
Be brave, come dream and make marks.
I’m busy. Filling up the paddling pool and various inflatable animals for the after school paddle club.
Think there may be other little paws wanting to cool down today.
Can’t be shown, won’t be shown. Has to learn it himself. Can’t think who on earth he gets that from.
Gruff’s spent all morning making his own robot out of tin foil and, a shoe box and a lot of sticky tape.
This is Evie.
Evie wears sparkly swirly things. Evie also likes maths, dinosaurs, unicorns, science and drawing.
Evie knows that every day can be a sparkly day.
Be like Evie.
It’s getting colder, think I need to put the heating on. We have a cold cat in need of heat.
Well it certainly beat doing the washing. Having fun this afternoon animating Bonnie.
End of September mornings are tough. Even alarm cat has slunk off to snooze somewhere.
The swifts and swallows have gone. Only to be replaced by the chatterings of gathered starlings weighing down the telegraph wires.
This is Millie’s expression on finding out that I may have bought her a “pink” scientific calculator.
I didn’t obviously but was it a bit cruel of me to let her entertain the thought for a while?
Seriously though, if you’re going to make calculators, at least start with a T.A.R.D.I.S. design not a pink one, although they may need to figure out how to make fluffy ones for Evie…
There is a particular way of getting into a conker. Leg up, heel aimed at the spikey little sphere and smash down with full force revealing your shiny prize inside.
Gruff has bought a new skateboard with his pocket money. It has shiny yellow wheels and a very cool design on the back.
It’s a tricky thing to master but he’s putting in the practice.
A nice big bit of antler. Bit of skill there jamming into your mouth sideways like that Bonnie.
So good to have understanding neighbours, especially when your son decides to invent a new form of golf (involving a jedi sword and a giant inflatable ball….)
No this isn’t like the Death Star Bonnie, it is not fully operation once it has been chewed and bitten. It will not bounce again and no amount of barking is going to put it back together…
The moment when you realise your teenage daughter is perfectly capable of watching television and being on her phone all at the same time.
Arnie’s purring is causing great swathes of hair to reverberate off his body. It’s quite mesmerizing…
If you can put the deck chair up yourself you can sit in it….well that one backfired didn’t it?
We are going camping. Gruff has packed all his teddies and toys into his minion rucksack but he has a dilemma.
We are not going just yet.
a) Unpack all of said teddies and toys so he can sleep with them.
b) Sleep with the entire rucksack?
Answers on a postcard.
Two weeks ago I harvested the last of our brocolli from our garden. It was riddled with green caterpillars. Evie had collected a fair few of them and put them in a mesh cage, (with the hope that they would pupate into butterflies).
This didn’t exactly go to plan. Most of the caged caterpillars were infected by a parasitic wasp and the resulting emergence of its larva wouldn’t be out of place in a Ridley Scott film.
One was left and had started to pupate in the cage but we noticed that there was another one attached to the window in our kitchen where an escapee caterpillar had chanced its luck.
We went away this weekend and came back this afternoon to the sight a newly formed cabbage (muncher) white butterfly emeging out of its chrysalis.
There never was a happier girl.
Evie has taken on the task of letting the hens out in the morning.
Today I noticed that the keys to the hen pen were missing. After scouring the house I gave up and decided to collect the eggs…
…and found a lovely warm set of keys under one of our hens.
Evie has been on her Brownie pack holiday this weekend and has been sorely missed by everyone. (Especially Gruff).
I love to walk in the rain, my dog does not. Two dripping wet, soggy creatures.
No children with me, all in school, all busy. Just me and the hound.
I remember the struggles with a pram. Wellies and raincoats, puddles and wet socks.
Roasted over a fire and eaten with both hands. Can you get any stickier than this?
One wants to boot his football, the other wants to chase it and wee on trees.
No pressure Mum, none at all, in your own time.
No pun intended on tonight’s England versus Iceland football game I promise.
Bonnie decided to slip out the front door tonight and cross a thirty mile per hour road. She ended up in the car park of our local Iceland supermarket.
Meanwhile her two frantic owners were galloping around the area asking every random person, child, animal, had they seen a large black dog with huge ears and a love of food.
The trail got warmer and warmer until the last group of people simply motioned to the car park excitedly and there she was, nose twitching, anticipating free food, just ourside the shop.
Shame it only sells frozen eh Bonnie?
You know that last bit of pudding? That last bit of strawberry pavlova sitting there on the table?
The one piece that everyone is looking at but is far too polite to ask for. The one that makes everyone pull a face like Christmas is over…
Well tough because whilst we were all yearning, Evie has just leaned over and scoffed it.