Monday, 27 August 2012

10 things

  • I was going to make a mixed berry cake. The children said they would do it for me. They separated the bowl of mixed blueberries and redcurrants into two piles and turned it into a Union Jack cake.
  • Iced Union Jack cake by Cam & Livvy
  • Yesterday we celebrated our first wedding anniversary.  First anniversaries have the theme of paper, so Graham gave me an anatomy colouring book, which I have been longing for ever since I first applied for my nursing course.
  • Anatomy homework
  • I start three weeks today.  THREE WEEKS!
  • Tess has fueled the excitement further still, by sending me this wonderful Ladybird book as a Good Luck present.  I adore all the 70s and 80s uniforms in it, and desperately wish that an old-fashioned nurse's cape with red sashes was part of my uniform.
  • Present from Tess
    I want to wear a cape like this
  • I have four litres of homemade chicken stock sitting in the fridge, after roasting a chicken on Saturday - two litres of giblet stock, and a further two litres from the carcass of the bird. I am compiling a list of favourite soups, which is getting longer by the minute.
  • Although, actually, I think really good chicken stock is best used in risottos, where its flavour can shine through.
  • I have a long list of favourite risottos too.
  • I finally found the pink aircell blanket that Olivia had as a baby, and bound it like the blue ones I did last winter.
  • Bound blanket
  • I am reading Almost French, by Sarah Turnbull and enjoying it enormously.  She writes with both love and honesty about living in Paris.  I'd love to live in Paris.
  • London is pretty wonderful though.  There is a growing sense of expectation about The Paralympics, which start in just two days' time.  Olivia is the only one in our family who has tickets this time (she is going with school) - and the rest of us are all rather envious.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


This summer has a dreamlike quality to it. 

Evening sky

The children are poised between childhood and adolescence - they remind me of wet butterflies, emerging from their chrysalides.  This summer they don't want to go on trips, or have adventures.  They don't want to be entertained.  They want to read, to draw, to lie full length on the sofa and mull over ideas.  These moments of reflection are interspersed with days at friends' houses, or the arrival of friends at our house.  I expect there will never be another summer quite like this one - by this time next year the children will have changed again.

And I know - I really do - that I too am poised on the brink of change.  I sit outside in the evening, listening to Radio 4, and reading books about study skills.

  Reading and radio

The last time I was at University I had never heard of the phrase 'study skills' and every essay was an exercise in winging it.  This time, things seem more professional - I think my essays may be much better structured, and certainly more crafted, as a result.
Triffid tomatoes

I enjoy this stillness, and this reflection.  Perhaps I am picking this up from the children.  There are two weeks of holiday left for them, and just over three weeks for me - plenty of time for more dozing on the sofa, philosophical discussions about Modern Warfare III, baking of cakes and reading of books and kindles.

I am enjoying this unstructured, floaty sort of summer very much.

I like you too
Summer 2012 - I like you too

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The cake is a lie

After watching the first episode in the new series of The Great British Bake Off last night, Cam combined his two favourite pastimes of cooking and computer games and baked a Portal-themed 'reveal' cake this afternoon.

I have no idea what these references mean, and neither will you if you have not played Portal.  But Cam was chuckling to himself in a knowing way at all stages of his cake-making, and had very precise ideas about the cake's shape, colour and message.  So I presume if you were a teenage boy you'd get it.

And here it is in all its geeky glory - The Grand Portal Reveal Cake:

The Portal reveal cake, by Cam
"The cake is a lie"

Cam's Portal cake
Orange and blue marbled sponge inside
I think the most important thing in a cake is that it tastes good, and happily this one does - despite the garish colours and sinister message.  It doesn't make me want to play Portal though.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Here and now

The last two Olympic weeks were extraordinary, and glorious. Cam had a wonderful time at the Closing Ceremony, and although the BBC didn't show much of his bit on their coverage of the ceremony, he didn't care.  He had seen Usain Bolt and The Pet Shop Boys, had his photo taken with loads of soldiers, high-fived an armed police officer (he found this even more exciting than seeing Usain Bolt, I think) and, best of all, had his name and photo in the official programme. 

Olympic cast member
Olympic cast member

Here is a clip of his section from YouTube - if you pay very close attention you will glimpse a few seconds of the children in blue between about 3 mins 30 and 4 mins!

I went to school to collect him at 11pm on Sunday evening.  All the parents applauded the children as they came off the bus, still in full costume and make up, and all as high as kites. We thanked the teachers too, who had given up so much of their own time to chaperone the children these past few months.

Cam with wings
Home from the Closing Ceremony - demonstrating his moves

The next day, he wore the sparkly blue tracksuit to walk round to our friends' house to feed their hens.  I think this was done purely to embarass Olivia.  Now he knows how much she dislikes the outfit, I'm sure he'll be wearing it more often (or perhaps threatening is very bright...).

Water nymph and his sister

The Olympics are now over - but our summer still continues.

Right now I am drinking coffee and listening to the children potter about upstairs.  Olivia is lying on her bed, reading new library books and a new copy of The Beano, whilst smoothing down her new fringe.  Cam is lounging on some cushions on his bedroom floor, reading his Kindle and starting conversations with anyone who walks past about Minecraft.  I am wearying of discussions about Minecraft.

The hens in the garden are stretched out, sunbathing, and ignoring next door's cat who is lying on top of the fence, glaring at them.

I've just hung out a load of washing, and my fingers smell of tomato leaves because I always run my hands through the leaves as I walk past the plants.

When I've written this blog post I will spend a couple of hours in the kitchen - making a batch of yogurt, baking some biscuits and making a chicken salad for the children to eat for lunch tomorrow while I spend a couple of hours at the hospital helping out with other people's lunchtime.

We are having an ordinary sort of week - quietly productive and very satisfying.  I know that come September when the children are back at school and I am at University full-time there won't be any more weeks like this for a long time.

Olivia's had a fringe cut in
New haircut for Olivia

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

10 things

There's so much fizzing about my head at the moment.
  • Cam came back from yesterday's Closing Ceremony rehearsal covered in blue body paint.
  • He has been rehearsing with some Very Famous People and is not remotely star-struck.  I am though.
  • I have finished my first crochet project.  What started off as a blanket, morphed into a shawl, and then eventually ended up as a scarf - because I had become so bored with making Granny Squares.  I love the final article though.  Full details on Ravelry.
  • Purple squares student scarf
  • Becoming a nurse means that I have to have a whole range of vaccinations.  Most of these vaccinations require blood tests first, to see what levels of antibodies I have for those particular diseases.
  • This means that I have been stuck full of needles today, and have loads more to come over the next month.  I have a sore, bruised arm and am now very sympathetic towards patients who require endless blood tests and injections.
  • I've made a rhubarb and orange cake today.  It smells very good indeed.
  • I've downloaded the Isles of Wonder soundtrack, and it is much better than the grumpy review in The Guardian would have you believe.  It is quite wonderful in fact, and takes me back to the euphoria of the Opening Ceremony in an instant.
  • I have been doing anatomy homework before I start University.  Did you know that the proper, anatomical name for your big toe is hallux?
  • We're off to the Olympic Park again tomorrow - this time to see a whole morning of athletics.  Absolutely cannot wait.  We will be seeing Mo Farah in the 5,000 m heats.
  • I never saw Downton Abbey when it was on the tele.  I have now got Series 1 from LoveFilm and can see what all the fuss was about.  The costumes and the hair are quite as wonderful as Maggie Smith.

Sunday, 5 August 2012


We all have different ways of assuaging the guilt that comes with watching hour after hour of television.  The Olympics has been so entertaining and exciting that we have probably watched more television in the last week than we have in the whole year so far.

  • Graham does his pilates exercises on the floor in front of the television
  • Olivia makes cardboard medals to put up in the window - one for each medal that Team GB wins.  Some days it has been very hard for her to keep up.

  • Keeping up with the medals
    Medals in the window
  • I am studying anatomy.  I have holiday homework to do before I start at University in September.


  • Cam is watching the least television of any of us, because every few days he has day-long rehearsals for the Closing Ceremony.  In tomorrow's rehearsal he has to wear make-up.  He's rather alarmed about that.
Men's time triall
Moving from our front room to the pub to watch Bradley Wiggins win GOLD in the men's time trial

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Flowers and flags

This way please - awesome volunteers
Olympic Park over there -->

We've had two incredible days in the Olympic Park so far this week, watching inspiring sport in person and on the big screens, soaking up the festival-like atmosphere and pinching ourselves that this day has finally come.

But from two days of amazing memories, what I shall remember most are the flowers and the flags.

  Olympic flowers

Wet poppy

Red hot pokers

Flowers and stadium

The Park is full of flowers - great banks of them rising up from all the waterways that wind around the stadium.  Olivia and I spent hours taking photos, trying each time to get that perfect shot.

Olympic flower meadows

So many other visitors were taking photos too.  I chatted to people with cameras who had come from Australia, the Netherlands and the USA to be at the Olympics.  Everyone exclaimed over the beauty of the flowers before they discussed the sport.

Many of these people were wrapped in flags, or dressed in national colours.  We had come with our giant Union Jack, and Cam also bought a Brazilian flag when he discovered that Brazil was one of the teams playing in the handball session we had tickets for.

The ENORMOUS McCarthy Coronation flag
Olivia, Cam and Graham with our enormous Union Jack

Cam supports Brazil
Cam turns Brazilian for the day
Olivia and I spotted a great many sweet, fat babies in patriotic babygros and one charming toddler wearing stars-and-stripes tights.  We learnt what Montenegro's flag looks like (red, with a magnificent double-headed eagle and shield in the centre), we admired the Dutch people's wholly enthusiastic approach to wearing bright orange curly wigs, and we argued over which flag was which for France, Russia, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Olympic flags and flowers. A riot of colour and a feast for the senses.

Cam and Graham
Cam and Graham, with flag cloaks

Livvy photographs flowers
Olivia and her macro button