Wet towels

Winter tyre swing. Photo by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

I left the towels on the line for three days before I gave in and brought them in to dry indoors. The days have been full of fog and mist down here in the South West. Yesterday we drove out in search of deep wooded combes and ridgeway views. High above the haze, the sun was determined to shine, casting the world in diffuse rays, glittering dewdrops, and long shadows. We always count a walk an especially good one if we stumble across a tyre swing. On this walk, we not only found a tyre swing but also a classic wooden tree swing, both hanging from the same oak tree. That makes this walk a great walk! We picnicked beneath a hedgerow on a sloping field, watching the sun burn away enough of the fog for the blues and greens of the sky and the fields to tint the shimmering white.

Back at home, still swathed in fog, dreary news filling the airwaves, we counted the Christmas trees which have been popping up in windows around us for days now. I am holding my ground against Little Owl’s persuasive efforts for us to get our tree up. It’s not even December yet. I suspect it will end up going the way of the towels. 

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Blackberry brambles on the allotment in Autumn. Photograph by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk).
Blackberry brambles on the allotment

Exciting news!!! The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle has gone to print! It’s turning into a real book as we speak. Eeeekkkk! 🙂

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Queen Elsa and the Three Kings

A mask though a window.
A cheeky face on my rounds

Little Owl and I spent a morning on the allotment planting out strawberry runners on a bare patch and putting the dahlias to bed. None of the old chaps dig their dahlias up for the winter so we’ve followed their advice, cutting down the stems of ours after the first frost and covering them with a cosy blanket of manure. The last job I must fit in before the end of November is sowing my broad beans in the vague hope I’ll outwit the black fly next year.

Last week I joined the other PTA mums (sadly, we are only mums!) for a zoom meeting (remember when the verb ‘to zoom’ meant something totally different?!) to discuss Christmas. It’s strange thinking about December without a nativity, carol concerts, or the Christmas Fayre. We’ve been putting our heads together to think of ways to make it Christmassy for the children anyway, including a virtual Christmas party where one of the teachers puts on a disco in the hall which we beam into each of the class rooms. It could work!

I have yet to break the nativity news to Wren. As a reception child, this would have been her big year. With her halo of white blond curls she would have been a shoo-in for an angel. She’s been practicing hard for several of the nativity roles, prancing around the house in full fancy dress. Did you know one of the kings was actually Queen Elsa from Frozen? We only learned she had worn a pink frilly tutu under her uniform to school today because one of the TAs let us in on the secret having helped Wren in the loo!

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Gunpowder plot

Bonfire by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

At the weekend we had a fire in the back garden for Bonfire Night. As regular readers will know I love Bonfire Night. While I can’t say I’ve got much sympathy with the Catholic vs Protestant gunpowder plot origins, I love the pre-gunpowder tradition of lighting fires at this time of year to ward off the harshness of the coming winter. We usually gather with my family at my parents’ house to light a fire and dance around their garden with sparklers as fireworks fill the night sky above us. Then there is the PTA firework display at school, full of oohs and aahs, burgers and hot dogs, surrounded by many dear friends. 

This year the latest lockdown meant it was just the five of us in our little garden. This summer we found a rusted chiminea (if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to look it up!) in the street, the bottom hanging off. Big Dreamer dragged it home, scrubbed it and rubbed it down, then sprayed it black. It was perfect for our bonfire this weekend, flames licking the top of the funnel when it really got going, much to Finch’s delight. We ate our baked potatoes, toasted our marshmallows and waved our sparklers, all the while thinking of our family and friends, sending them (and you too) sticky, sparkling love.

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Rainbow over Robin Hood's Bay by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

We had a wonderful and much needed few days away in Yorkshire over half term, thankfully not curtailed by the incoming lockdown. I don’t have strong opinions about this lockdown either way. I know many do. I’m too exhausted by it all to even begin to untangle whether the government should have acted sooner, or whether they should be acting now at all in the way they are. I’m tired of the statistics, and of the speculation which seems to make the numbers fit every available viewpoint on the spectrum. All I know is that I felt deeply weary at the thought of being restricted again, and by the thought of the soaring levels of tension I know I will be returning to when I put my nursing hat back on tomorrow. Amongst the steep fishermens’ ginnels of Robin Hood’s Bay we forgot about it all for a few days, and I’m so glad we did. I’ve brought some treasured memories back home with me to get me through the next bit… the rush of the sea against the harbour wall, Storm Aiden shaking the windows while we were safe and warm beside the log burner, the low winter’s sun gilding the North York Moors. I hope you have some golden treasures you can take out and savour over the coming weeks too.

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Sunset through an attic window with starfish. Photo taken by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (hannah-foley.co.uk)

I love the word ‘gloaming’. Technically, I think it means twilight. To me it means the very end of twilight, just as the last bit of light is being sucked from the sky, and the stars are coming out. During the gloaming, I love to sit on the top step, at the very top of the house, just for a few minutes. The house is full of the bustle of bedtime. I sit on the stairs in the darkness, looking up though the skylights. For a brief moment all the world disappears, and in a funny way I sort of disappear myself, lost in the wonder of the last dance of the day’s light, and the first of the night’s. And then I am called, and it is back to lost pyjama tops and PE socks for tomorrow.

Next week, I am theoretically on annual leave for half term, and we are planning for a trip up to Yorkshire. Whether this will actually transpire is a whole other matter, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Either way I will be absent from the blog. See you on my return!

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Publication date!

Cover of The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle. Artwork by Xavier Bonet
Cover artwork by Xavier Bonet

Exciting news folks! We have a new publication date for The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle…18th March 2021. Put it in your diaries folks!

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Storm Alex

This morning I’ve been watching the footage of the storm damage in France. An orange-roofed chalet clings impossibly to the side of a sheer mountain, a grey slash showing the path of a landslip, a slither of tarmac on a literal cliffhanger where a road once ran. In another image a lorry I initially mistook for a toy buried in the debris of the high tide mark on a beach, is submerged in thick mud, only part of the cab visible. The clear-up operation will be enormous and my heart goes out to all those affected. We seem to have got off fairly lightly here in the UK. The worst that happened to me at work on Saturday was that I couldn’t get a patient’s keybox to open my hands were so slippery with wet.

Yesterday we layered the kids up in their all-weather gear and went out anyway, never mind the gales. We slipped and slithered across muddy fields, holding onto our hoods at the top of a big hill. The cows eyed us warily, clearly assured of our madness, while they sheltered on the lee side of the trees. We picked up an apple each, being offered for free at a farm gate. Wren took great delight in jumping in huge puddles in the lanes, splashing us all. Wet and windswept, but rosy-cheeked and exhilarated, we returned home for hot chocolate by the woodburner, very thankful for a warm, dry house to come home to. 

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Cosmos at the allotment by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)
Cosmos on the allotment

Little Owl looked up from her homework the other evening, “Did you know Edward the Confessor died with no hair?”

“Really? Wow, that’s interesting…” A long silence as I registered what she’d said. “No hair? That’s a funny fact to be learning.”

I looked over her shoulder at the text. Edward the Confessor died with no heir.

Last week was a week for homework grapples. Finch has a whiteboard to do his sums on. It’s the modern equivalent of a slate and chalk. He slipped it under my nose as I was cooking tea one evening. He’d written 3 and 5 in two boxes next to each other. He bounced about enthusiastically. He loves maths. 

“How many numbers can you see Mummy…” he lowered his voice, barely able to control his excitement. “…with your eyes turned up to top volume?”

“On top volume? Well…” 

Meanwhile Wren is busy learning her sounds for phonics. She has flash cards, which we go through each night as well as her reading book. I turned over the next card in the pile, ‘Sh’.

“S, H makes sh,” I said.

She stared at me then burst out laughing. “Oh Mummy, no it doesn’t! Sh? Pfff!” 

And that was that. She will not have that S, H makes sh. Every time she looks at me she laughs about it, as if to say, honestly, the things my mum comes out with! Good luck to her teacher is what I say. I’ve never yet been able to change Wren’s mind about anything she’s convinced herself of. It looks like she’ll be reading “she” in her own special way for some time to come. 

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A moment

Photograph of raindrops on rose leaves by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.hannah-foley.co.uk)

I am not long back from school drop-off, and I’m taking a moment before I head off to my writing desk. I’ve made myself a coffee. Now I’m sitting, mulling things over, watching the rain trickling down the windows. I hope you get to take a moment too amidst all the busyness and uncertainty today. Sending love 🙂

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