Wednesday, 29 April 2015


Oh yes, these boys can squabble alright. They certainly know which buttons to press. But they also know how to play together, to invent mad-cap games, to laugh and snuggle up together, to read to each other, to reassure each other. And that's so lovely to see.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

out and about

Last Sunday, at the tail-end of a trip to the Ulster American Folk Park, we had the quickest of quick visits to Springhill, a 17th century house. We were too late to get into the house but we had enough time to walk around the gardens and stroll up to the folly. It was charming and, at that time of the evening, peaceful with only the calls of ravens in the trees keeping us company. The boys had a great time using the haha as a trench and fighting 'the enemy' with stick guns. On the next sunny day we'll pack a picnic and go back for a proper, longer explore.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

dear diary

Not long after having Hugo I realised that there is not much you can actually do while feeding a baby, except gaze adoringly at them. Gazing adoringly at your baby soon wears a trifle thin, especially if they choose to feed every two hours, so I bought a cassette tape (yes, a tape ~ it was a long-ish time ago) of Diary of a Provincial Lady and hooted my way through several feeds. Recently I was lucky enough to get a copy of Persephone's Diary of a Provincial Lady and I swished through it faster than the arrival of Lady Boxe's expensive car. The diary records the daily ups and downs of family life in the 1930s, when being a mother of two and wife to one has its own (hilarious) difficulties, not least because the bulbs won't grow, the servants are threatening to leave and one never reads the right books, sees the right exhibitions or wears the right clothes.

January 22nd.- Robert startles me at breakfast by asking if my cold-which he has hitherto ignored-is better. I reply that it has gone. Then why, he asks, do I look like that? Refrain from asking like what, as I know only too well. Feel that life is wholly unendurable, and decide madly to get a new hat.

Monday, 20 April 2015


We had a day away this weekend. We packed a picnic and went adventuring. On the way home we stopped off at Springhill, but only briefly as it was closing. We managed a quick rummage around in the second-hand book shop there (in a teeny gate-lodge) and found treasure. The Shell Book of Roads may not be the most enticing sounding book but it is, in fact, an absolute delight. It's a slim volume published in 1964 and it details 12 roads, ridgeways, steps, ways, lanes or passes throughout the UK. There's a short, lively descriptive piece by Geoffrey Grigson and each is illustrated with David Gentleman's atmospheric paintings. There's also a line drawing by Peter Branfield to show which section of road is being discussed. 
Fosse Way
Sewstern Lane 
The Bath Road
The Antrim Coast Road
This one is my favourite. It happens to be a road we know well. Here's how Mr Grigson finishes his piece on the Antrim Coast Road

"Joining glen to glen, running round headlands and under cliffs which are black, white, and red, between the various blues of the sea and the slopes of viridian turf, crossing fast streams which rush down from the glens and the mountains, this is a wonderful scenic road at all times of the year, but especially in the flowery times of spring and early summer - the time of bluebells and primroses, very tall purple orchises, and roadside cushions of sea pink and egg-yellow tufts of birdsfoot-trefoil"

Friday, 17 April 2015


Sea finds. Smooth grained driftwood, delicate laced seaweed and opaque seaglass. A little collection to remind us where we come from. The sand has been washed from our clothes, the kites and barbecue have been put away and the boys have finished their first week back to school. In the middle of the week I got the sudden longing to be off exploring, away from routine and work and all the thousand little things that make up our days. Fling essentials into the car, buckle ourselves in and just go... But like the kite that swoops and dives in the seashore wind there are lines that tether us to our place, we can't just leave. Can we?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


At a little cove on the edge of Cushendun, there's Cave House which is only accessible down a little path and then through a....cave. We walked through its drippy darkness (you can't see much of the house as there's a locked gate when you get through the cave) but how Famous Five is that??

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside! Look at those blue skies. And of course it's fresh enough to blow away any cobwebs. We played in the park, ran down the steep hill where the bunnies live and walked along the prom, watching out for pirates (them) and ferries (us). Love, love, love the sea.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

wild garlic pesto

We've just returned from a weekend by the sea where we enjoyed our first barbecue by the beach. Well, okay, barbecue might be a bit grand considering it was only hotdogs and toasted marshmallows. But it was by the sea, in the sun (and the wind) with our toes in the ocean. That's impressive, right? Anyway on our return home after a quick garden inspection I saw that the wild garlic clump was looking good, so I made this wild garlic pesto recipe from Circle of Pine Trees. Oh, it's SO good. It's a real Spring treat and easy, peasy to whip up. We ate it with griddled toasts but it would be delicious with pasta or maybe as a topping on a big bowl of pea soup.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

just the two of us

Yesterday evening, with the warmth of the sun still on our faces Mide and I took a stroll to the lake. It was just the two of us and the dogs. He chatted happily as we walked along the road and having no other distractions meant I could listen and give him my full attention, rare enough in our busy family. We climbed down the steps and walked across the field to the water."Mind the cow pats," he laughed and off he ran between the gorse bushes. At the lake side I sat on a rock and he found a stick to dig through the mud. Then he threw stones into the lake, laughing with each splash. The dogs jumped into the water with gusto, chasing these imaginary fish, much to Mide's delight. "I love doing this!" he said. It was hard to leave but the sky had changed, the air was cooling and it really was time to go. We walked home, his muddy stick still in his hand. He jumped on my shadow, saying "got you!" and shrieked when I stood on his. He stopped often, delaying, watching ants and wanting to step on every stone along the road. I remembered to let him, not to rush him, to enjoy and embrace this time together. Just the two of us.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

April reading

Hugo, who is twelve, does a lot of reading. It's hard to keep up with him. He likes a wide variety of books but they have to be exciting, have complicated plots, a bit of gore and preferably be fat and in a series. I had read a lovely review of The Letter for the King on EmilyBooks and I thought of Hugo.

But then I thought of me. 

And I'm so glad I did. It's my book for April for Circle of Pine Trees The Year in Books. Imagine you are 16 and are on the cusp of becoming a knight. Imagine you are suddenly called on a quest. A secret quest to deliver a letter, the contents of which you do not know. Enemies are all around you. Who can you trust? How far will you go to deliver this letter? How long will your courage hold? It's such a different book to my last one (The Light Years, which I loved and, like Hugo, I'm delighted it's in a series!) but I have to say I'm gripped and look forward to it each evening when the household quiets and stills and medieval life and chivalry take over.

Sunday, 5 April 2015


Easter morning. Of course there has been (modest) chocolate consumption. There were even hot cross buns and crumpets for breakfast. Now the back door has been flung open, the boys are playing in the garden and Kevin is finishing some dry stone walling, the thrush that haunts the elder tree providing a running commentary throughout. The rain has finally tired itself out and we are left with overcast skies and warm, welcome Spring air. Inside on the table sits willow branches tied with garden string, their furry buds decorated with paper and felt chicks and rabbits. Later we'll eat roast lamb and perhaps do a bit of visiting to family. All in all a gentle Easter.

Thursday, 2 April 2015


About ten days ago Mide sent a drawing (of a meerkat) to his hero. David Attenborough is known for his amazing nature programmes for the BBC Natural History Unit and I'm sure I'm not the only person with an animal obsessed six year old who loves watching them. So I wrote a letter to say how much we loved them and Mide supplied the drawing and we posted it off.  Mide has a couple of very definite ambitions - to go to the Natural History Museum in London to meet Dippy the Diplodocus, to be a paleontologist and to meet David Attenborough. It's so important to have heroes. Someone you believe in and someone you admire. Or simply someone who appeals to you. And yesterday David Attenborough replied to Mide, sending a letter and a photograph. I cannot tell you how much that meant to Mide. And how much it meant to us that he took the time to do that.