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When my now-teen sons get too much, it’s good to remember the little boy times. I went for a blackberrying walk with a friend and her nearly-three-year-old, and it was so good to bring back those days of stress-free contentment.

Nearly-three-year-old will henceforth be known as Aragorn, as he has spent quite some time watching the Lord of the Rings films with his daddy and therefore marches around with at least one plastic or wooden sword in his hand declaring: “Mummy, I’m Aragorn!” At several points during our ramble he also interjected: “The Uruk-hai are coming!” Third-and-final son thought this was fabulous. He may be going on 13, but he still likes a good sword fight. Or a wooden sword versus plastic light sabre fight.

Aragorn set off on the ramble with four swords. He very soon passed one on to his mum, and soldiered on wtih three. After a little longer trudging through the mud he passed another one to third-and-final son, but he stuck with two swords come mud, water or cowpat.

The two boys attack a marauding hawthorn tree. I missed my chance to say “you’re hurting the Ents!” I shall have to save that for another time.

Aragorn ventured into some rather deep mud and had to be hauled out by the back of his trousers. Then I went back into the mud to get his welly which the mud had hung onto, and his mum performed heroically to get him back into his welly without both of them falling into the beck.

Third-and-final son, plus Willis and Sparky, found places to leap the beck. Aragorn, having rather shorter legs, had to trudge through it and then navigate yet more mud on the other side. But he never lost his grip on either sword or light sabre.

“It’s safe to cross now, mummy!”

Boys and dogs also found a fascinating gully made by floodwater, whilst mother-of-Aragorn and I were busily picking blackberries. Shortly after this Willis learned how to suck the berries off the brambles.

Back at the car, Aragorn plucked up the courage to meet Brego, aka Alice.


I have just endured the most angst-ridden morning I have had to put up with in a long time – and it wasn’t even my angst. Firstborn decided, half an hour before we were due to leave for sixth form college enrolment, that he didn’t want to go to sixth form. He wanted to go into the army RIGHT NOW and do something real. After a major effort to reassure, understand and persuade, I got him to go to the sixth form interview on the promise that he could leave at any time in the next two years, and we would go to the army careers office straight after.

So I had to drive the college, then down into Huddersfield town centre, then all the way home on the A62. I hate driving in Huddersfield and I loathe the A62. Horrible road. Full of big trucks. Noise and fumes. And after all that stomach-churning angst, trekking round Huddersfield trying to find said careers office, talking to the nice sergeant from the Parachute Regiment (firstborn’s chosen career path) and sitting through the army DVD, firstborn then decided that okay, he’d go to sixth form after all and join the army when he was 18. Halleluja! Except couldn’t we have done it without all the emotional storms?

At moments like this I remind myself to find joy in my carrots. Laugh if you like. But it worked for me the other day when I was having yet another research project breakdown. I went out to see to the guinea pigs, and noticed that some little carrots were growing in the window boxes which were supposed to contain a salad mix.

Here’s the salad mix. It didn’t turn out to be any salad we recognised, so we haven’t eaten it. However the plants look quite architecturally nice on top of the GP hutch, so they stayed.

These are the carrot tops.

and here are the carrots. A little stunted, as they’ve grown in a window box, but hey, people pay good money for round carrots so I’m fine.

This find prompted me to check on my deliberately planted carrots. I bought a packed of multi-coloured carrot seed at the Eden Project at Easter, and here’s the result:

I considered them a magnificent achievement, so rooted around to find a few potatoes – self sown from last year’s leftovers – and here they are:

Carrots after washing (above) and after chopping (below):

I am very pleased with myself. Maybe not as pleased as if I’d run a mile and a half in just over 9 minutes and made it into the Parachute Regiment, but still pretty pleased. The purple carrots lose the purple when they’re cooked, but the blonde stay beautifully blonde.

Yesterday afternoon was going to consist of a quick run for Sparky round the fields at m’parents, followed by more research project pain. But when we got there m’father announced: “Can’t go down the fields, stallion’s out with a mare.”

So it was going to be a quick walk round a couple of footpaths, until m’mother spotted us and said: “Oooh, I’ll just change my shoes!” And m’parents won’t use the footpath I was proposing to set off on due to contretemps with the comers-in whose land the path runs across, so the walk got longer.

And then we spotted – blackberries! And the walk slowed into an amble from bush to bush.

It’s a bit early for a big crop, and all I had with me was an (unscented) dog poo bag, but we came home with a pound and a half of fruit. So now my morning jobs include chopping up some cooking apple and putting berries and apple on to simmer and strain.

Sparky found blackberry picking very frustrating and spent quite a bit of time whining piteously. Fly the border collie will not play with her, and if Sparky approaches Fly’s stick the fur flies. Fortunately I also had third-and-final-son with me. He liked blackberry picking but he was also good with finding and throwing sticks.

Team bronze and individual bronze medals for Great Britain in the eventing. I was so churned up watching the showjumping phase yesterday afternoon that I nearly left the room. Really bad luck for Mary King, but then Tina Cook did so well! I was doing my best to be sportswomanlike and not cheer when the four people between Tina and a medal knocked a fence down, but it was very difficult.

Now it’s the turn of the dressage team but the blasted BBC isn’t showing Olympic dressage on any channel I can get. I’m going to have to try and watch online, which will further screw up my research project schedule.

My head feels like it’s going to explode, I have so many things to keep track of. I’m going to take third-and-final-son to the bookshop today as he is feeling a little neglected. He has also been very helpful and quiet as I try to get some work done, so he is due a treat. I was then planning to go into university and work in the library, but then son-in-the-middle announced that he was heading into town with friends today. As firstborn is off working with his grandad, I don’t want to leave third-and-final on his own for several hours so that’s another plan down the drain.

I really have had enough now. For two pins I could quit.

Today’s picture: third-and-final-son wandering along the beach near Redcar with his daddy.

Fabulous cross country round from Mary King. All fingers and toes are crossed for her for tomorrow.

Here’s the clip on the BBC.

The barbed wire fog lifted around lunchtime on Wednesday, after which I wrote about 1,000 words. Thank you God!

Got to get my head down this morning and write another thousand, so I can bunk off and watch the Olympics opening ceremony this afternoon. I love the Olympics. I get so excited you’d think I was going myself. M’husband I have been watching a BBC series, Olympic Dreams, which has featured a bunch of Team GB members preparing. It’s been really good, although I could have cried for Jess, the heptathlete in the last programme, who had to drop out of the team after being diagnosed with three stress fractures in her foot. The series also featured Lee Pearson, an exceptionally talented member of the paralympic dressage squad, who controls his horse with his bottom (!) due to having virtually no strength in his arms or legs. Puts me and my attempts to ride a circle to shame.

The eventing competition starts tomorrow, so as well as teaching all weekend I’ll be glued to the TV at unsocial hours. The cross country section is in the early hours on Monday, so I could get up really early for that and have a sleep later in the day. I’m also looking forward to seeing some top class dressage, especially the kur as I’ve never seen that before – heard a lot about it, but not got round to going to see any.

So here are some appropriate pictures: from Bramham horse trials earlier this year. I didn’t take these – third-and-final son took the first, with my camera (his reaction times are much better than mine so he didn’t have as many shots of horses’ bums as I would) and m’husband took the rest, with his superior camera.

I think that one is Oliver Townend, who didn’t make it onto the team this time.

And there’s William Fox-Pitt, who is on the team (again) and one of GB’s big hopes for a gold medal.

Fog and barbed wire – that’s what my brain feels like. This morning I wrote three lines in an hour and half, then went to the supermarket. This afternoon I have to tidy the sitting room, cos m’husband has people coming round at 5.30, make sausage rolls and sort out various class paraphenalia and phone calls. I could do without this. I cannot talk to m’sister, as she is hiding depression and unable to cope with me, so she is very abrupt a lot of the time. I can understand why she needs to avoid stressors, but it hurts that one of them is me. I would also, possibly, be more understanding if she was actually doing something, like eating properly or drinking enough fluid, to manage her mental state, rather than doing her best to ignore it. But then that’s me and my ways of coping speaking. Hers are very different.

Here’s something lovely: the lily which came into flower whilst we were away for a few days last week, and greeted us with its magnificence and smell when we arrived home on Sunday.

I love this lily; it makes me think of an Italian ice cream. M’husband is not so keen; he started sneezing and having watery eyes shortly after we got home, and he only finds relief when he’s at work. I could move it further from the house, I suppose, but I like to see it waving and nodding at me as I look out of the back door.

I have writer’s block, I’ve decided. Purely on the introduction section to the research project, but obviously this is quite a large part of the whole so being stuck, frozen and frazzled on that bit is not good. The results section is complete, and I can contemplate the discussion with relative calm, but I feel I shouldn’t be writing that bit without having the key themes worked out in my introduction.

I really don’t know what to do about it. I had a plan – write in the mornings, tidy up and/ or do other stuff with my children in the afternoon, teach in the evening (August is a very busy teaching month for me as many other teachers take time off) – but this morning that changed to:

1. Look at my overview paragraph for half an hour whilst eating breakfast

2. No inspiration forthcoming, so read other people’s blogs and emails for a hour, start to get a frazzled feeling in the bit of my brain at the bottom of the back of my skull.

3. Do some housework

4. Back to the computer, gaze at introduction for 20 minutes, start to panic.

5. Do some NCT diary stuff and print off lists and activities for tonight’s class.

6. My husband phones. I tell him I have writer’s block, he says “oh well”, and asks me if the post has come.

7. Google ‘writer’s block’. Decide to blog.

And there you have my day so far. It’s a couple of minutes off midday (lunch! There’s a welcome distraction) and then I have to take firstborn son into town to get a bus pass. I also need to water my tomatoes in the conservatory, then check the other tubs out in the garden.

Here are my Sungold tomatoes. There’s also a red variety, but they’re hiding among the leaves and not so easy to photograph: