Thursday, 19 December 2013

Inner sheep-dog

My inner sheep-dog is troubled.

By troubled I mean unsettled, discombobulated and partaking of a personal worry-fest.

Am I the only human to possess an inner sheep-dog? Surely not.

Sheep dog - the keen dog that rounds up its little flock, coaxes it into a safe pen, then guards it fiercely. 'Over protective' possibly springs to mind but wouldn't be strictly accurate - this sheep-dog is happy to let it's lambs stray, but worries if they wander too far, or into activities that the sheep-dog may not consider 100% safe. I suspect most mothers are sheep-dogs.

Or do you need to be both mother and in possession of an over-active imagination?

Currently, this sheep-dog's concern is that snow, plus slopes, plus planks attached to feet, equals potential hazard. Or many, many, many potential hazards. Skiing like sailing has been spoilt for me by having children. Instinct tells me that I have a duty to get to the end of the day without breaking anything or drowning. After all I am 'Mummy' and mummy is needed to wash, feed and read to her flock, before tucking them up in bed and wishing that tomorrow wasn't another day of danger in the snow, or on the water. Pathetic? Possibly. Innate? Definitely.

Wary, my inner sheep-dog struggles to relax into this game of skiing. She sees danger over the edge of every piste. Round each corner. With the fast approaching scrunch of every snowboarder. And on all button drags and chair lifts. After all a lamb might fall off. Or over. Or down. Or be squashed by an out of control adolescent with both feet strapped onto one plank. Lashings of mint sauce may be required.

Part of the problem is the clarity of the sheep-dog's visions of calamity. They wake me with a jolt, just as I am sinking into sleep. But they aren't quite hallucinations ... despite the above, I'm not going mad. Not yet.

So what is the cure? Indeed, is there a cure? Are you shouting "Therapy!" at this blog? Or "More alcohol!" Or are you quietly agreeing, as you too have an inner sheep-dog?

For now - I ski (very slowly ... apparently - as I am told again and again, with that resigned, softly monotonous-verging-on-irritated tone of voice. But better the steady, safe tortoise than the reckless hare, I say ... to myself); I smile; I laugh; I joke about falling over (me ... many times); I admire the scenery; I sup the vin chaud; I keep my worries to myself; and I stroke my inner-sheep-dog, quietly telling her it will be over soon and we'll all be safely back at home.

Will I ski again? - of course, no sheep-dog is ever going to let her flock go on holiday alone!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Ten things to consider when having a bonfire

Autumn - season of Halloween, Guy Fawkes and bonfires.So essentially a couple of months devoted to burning things.

When having a garden bonfire, there are a few rules one should observe -

  • never light one before the farmer has harvested the crop on the other side of the fence
  • avoid days when the wind would blow the smoke into the neighbours gardens or the road
  • never turn your back on it
  • and only burn things that were once growing. Leaves for example ...

Then there are the ten things to consider that if considered and acted upon make having a bonfire easy -

1. Don't embark upon bonfire building without friends. And a bench. Not for burning! For resting on. I can't remember when I last had time to sit in the garden, nor when I last wanted to sit in the garden and the bench wasn't covered in bird droppings.

2. The more friends, the merrier.

3. Wear a polo-neck jumper or a scarf. Because if you do the sparks can't fly into the gaping hood of your hoodie, bypass your open collar and burn your neck.

4. Build a fire break. It's best to do this before lighting the fire. If you do it after lighting the fire, you end up racing against time and smoke and sparks (!) to prevent the fire spreading into the to-burn pile.

As the picture shows - pile-to-burn on right, rapidly cleared fire break through the centre and bonfire on left ... already burning. Hmmm ...

5. When burnt on the neck, pretend that nothing has happened. You don't want anyone to think that you're a complete idiot.

6. And you don't want to frighten the dogs, although they are so busy gorging themselves on the rotting wood from the base of the to-burn pile that they probably wouldn't have noticed any wild flapping and shouting of 'Ouch!'

7. Arrange for the delivery of refreshments - mobile phones are a great way to order coffee. And emollient for burns.

8. Smile at Bertie Baggins who eating a tasty stick and lacking a table opts to use his uncle's head instead.

9. Take all day - it's Autumn; the leaves are damp; the bonfire is slow and smokey. Your lungs need a rest and you need lots of hot water for serial showers (no-one likes to sit next to someone who smells like a kipper). There are plenty of other things to do and fruit to stir and Christmas wishes have to be made. I know, I know - it was stir-up Sunday last weekend, but the Christmas cake is better late than never (last year was a never that I will never live down - the Christmas of 2012: the one without a cake!)

10. (and 11!) Stamping is necessary. A lot of stamping. And careful excavation of the to-burn pile. No-one wants to throw a hedgehog on the fire. Nor murder the mouse that ran into this cave at the base of the bonfire. Funny that - worry about chewed wires and housefires means that we are perfectly happy to trap mice inside the house, but the thought of a little mouse trapped in a bonfire brought my burning activities to an end. (He was still alive when I left ... )

Um .. I never could count. Ten things to consider here becomes eleven. Aside from the negative aspects of your carbon footprint, having a bonfire is a therapeutic activity - it's clearing, getting rid of the garden clutter, burning away the spores of diseased leaves, and a physical workout. And at the end of the day ...

... consider that it was a good one ( ... if a bit hot in places!)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

All those little things

Little things - the things that don't really matter, the things we can and do live without, the things we stumble upon and notice only when we're not too busy, the things that may not exist except in our imagination but that if we could capture and hold them would make our lives better - these are the little things I would wish for

  • intelligent grass (Yes! Getting off to an improbable start.I know. But stick with me, the probability of veering close to reality improves with the other little things below. For now lets get back to this one ...) - grass that senses when it is growing at the edge of a flower bed, aligns itself neatly in the horizontal plane and never creeps vertically down the precisely cut lawn edge and would baulk at the idea of throwing runners out onto the pristine soil between the flowers.( Hmmm ... if only it were pristine.)

  • bottled kisses - I'm not talking about the full mouth kiss of lovers but the familial peck on the cheek between parent and child - the kiss that says I love you utterly; that is unconditional and more precious than any material gift. It is the same kiss that the judgement of their peers forces children to suppress at the school gate but still crave at bedtime. It is the kiss that rewards a mother more than any whispered thank you. It is the kiss that cares

  • glasses that clean themselves; that never smear when touched; that sit obediently on the bridge of your nose without ever sliding either up (too close to your eyes where your eye lashes paint the inside of the lenses with tears) or down (necessitating the finger push and the inevitable smudged finger print)

  • dog biscuits that don't smell foul and that don't crumble into pocket gravel

  • time limited nail varnish - I haven't fully thought this one through, but Littlest likes to paint her nails, my nails, and the nails of any visiting friend (such are her powers of persuasion that many a young man has left our home hoping that his mother, girlfriend, sister, female neighbour has some nail varnish remover). Many too the Monday morning when Littlest has walked into school, hands in tight fists, so that no teacher will notice her nails. A nail varnish with a built in time-to-decay (say ... 24 hours) would also prevent my toes giving the impression that I make a habit of kicking stones around while not wearing any shoes. I know I could just remove the chipped paint with nail varnish remover but first I'd have to remember and second I'd have to find the time.

  • chocolate that is all-that's-good-about-chocolate but without the eat-as-much-as-me-as-you'd-like-and-you'll-get-fat element.

  • dog hair that becomes invisible as soon as it falls off the dog and lands on the floor. Or alternatively, dog hair that when swirling in playful eddies across the wooden kitchen floor is invisible to anyone male.

  • a world without wasps. And warfare. And viruses. (Those are pretty big things actually. And worth wishing for.)

  • an answer to the question - 'Why have you been lying to me for years? You told me lying was bad.' When you-know-who who eats the mince pies and pours the whisky back into the bottle is rumbled and found to be you-know-me.

  • an intelligent music player that would not only automatically match your mood but also sense when to play a song or poem or segment of narrative to make your spirit soar.

  • winter evenings, warm socks, a good glass of wine, a comfy chair, a good book and a sleepy, quiet house

  • more Sherlock. Roll on January 1st. But not before we have enjoyed Christmas.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Accommodating the mess

A mess is only a mess to the person who is bothered by it. If another person is not bothered by it, then it is very likely that to them it is not a mess. Therein lies the difference between mothers and daughters and their attitudes towards the daughters' bedrooms.

If you think this is a mess you are a mother. Or have mothering tendencies.

Heaps of books! Heaps!!!!!! Books are for stacking on shelves or reading

And as for older girls - what is it with them and bags? Bags that contain so little - an empty water bottle; the labels taken off new clothes; a crumpled magazine and only ever one sock.These bags are never binned. They're a scented reminder of the shopping experience, scattered in flocks across the bedroom floor.

I moved into Littlest's room with my own bags to gather rubbish and paper. And rubbish and paper. And rubbish and ... several hours later, had filled the boot of the car. Just in time for the recycling centre to close. Grrr!

Anyway ... not too much 'Grrr!' as tidying is pretty therapeutic. Especially the finding-of-forgotten-treasures-bit of tidying. Like the missing number block from the learning clock, the blackberry charger so nearly replaced, the hole-punch, many, many odd socks, and all the animals for the Noah's ark. And the dump will be open tomorrow.

Now, if you think this is an improvement, you are either of a mothering disposition

or a delighted Littlest!

Of course, it is also true that perhaps the biggest attraction of tidying a room, that has long been a mess, is that it is an activity so engrossing that there is no time left for anything else. All those more urgent jobs get bumped down the ladder. Tidying is, in fact, a form of procrastination. Maybe, if I didn't find the mess 'bothering' in the first place, I wouldn't procrastinate/tidy later.Which leads me to the unsettling theory that an untidy person may be far better at getting things done because they don't allow themselves to be distracted by the mess around them and therefore don't waste time tidying up.

Sigh. Is this a manifesto for messiness?

Do I tidy my other daughter's room tomorrow? Or do I respect her busy life and accommodate her mess?

Sigh again.

Think I am now procrastinating about procrastination.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

An escapologist, friends and Happy Sundays

Escapology is the art of freeing oneself from confinement and an escapologist is one who practices this skill. In Bertie Baggins's case, the skill was practised four times yesterday. We were alerted to the first, when a neighbour phoned to say that he had been contacted about a yellow lab loose in the village and wondered if it was one of ours. It was, and a rather timid, 'I'm-a-bit-lost' and 'Golly!-I'm-so-pleased-to-see-you' Bertie Baggins was led home. Bravado returned on reaching the garden and he promptly showed us how he had escaped under the gate: commando style - belly scraping the ground, as he squeezed beneath the wire.

So we repaired the gate. And he appeared on the drive. Outside the gate.

So Littlest and I walked round the garden and found two holes in the fence. Which we repaired with chicken wire and bamboo poles - yes! it was a bit of a botch, but the light was fading.

We went to pick the last of the apples from a tree near the gate. And Bertie Baggins appeared on the drive. If dogs can smile, he was grinning. He was winning this game!

But not for long. Humans can be very bad losers, particularly dog-owning-humans at risk of losing their dogs. Tricked with a lump of bread, Bertie Baggins spent a stint in 'chokey,' while we went out with torches, in search of holes.

Another hole, another repair and a rather disgruntled Bertie Baggins. His career as an escapologist has been halted. So far ...

From chasing dogs to chasing memories. I haven't been back to any of my schools. I haven't really kept in touch with any school friends. I haven't seen any teachers. But I do read the newsletters that arrive annually and remind me that I once was young. Was school as intense an experience for us as it appears to be for our children? When they're not physically at school, they are in second-to-second, blanket connection with all of their friends - they tap away 'chatting' in the car, over breakfast, while they do their homework and in bed. Every detail of their life is captured in fleeting photographs and miniscule comments. They are masters of linguistic brevity, indignant ululation and gibberish. Theirs is a powerful community made strong by the relative technological illiteracy of their elders. I look at them and the bonds they have made with their friends and I struggle to imagine anything breaking them. Even if they move away, which I did, I suspect social networking will maintain relationships in a way that letters and wired telephones could never do. Or maybe I was just a very bad friend ...

Last night, after far too may decades, I had dinner with an old school friend. And it was great. In appearance, we had both changed (well, you would after that many years! And humiliatingly, I briefly didn't recognise him when he unexpectedly opened the door to us ... I really hope the delay in my eye-to-brain-to-aaah!-recognition reaction was of sufficient brevity for him not to notice). But what hadn't changed was the easy camaraderie of a shared past and common values born of common experience. We talked into the wee small hours and time passed effortlessly.

Another thing that is ffortless is the sharing of food with good friends

- wonderful purple carrots and red pepper to roast

- caramelised onion and goats cheese 'tart' or 'flan' prior to baking

and fruit for a pear, bramble and gooseberry crumble, before ...

and after pictures

"Effortless" because feeding friends doesn't feel like a hassle, I keep recipes simple and I cheat where possible (the flan/tart pastry was from a packet).

And also because Bertie Baggins and Four-legged-friend woke me at 6.10 a.m., so I had plenty of time.

Time and friends made for a very Happy Sunday.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Dogs in the Autumn-time. And the curious incident of the disappearing music.

Autumn and dogs - I have no idea what Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins think about the changing seasons. I suspect they think very little, their brains being mere slaves of their stomachs, but if they notice the cooler air, the permanently damp grass and the bare earth in recently ploughed fields, the following thoughts might momentarily elbow past dreams of dinner.

Or snacks - 'C'mon, we know that camera is not the only thing you have in your hand.'

Autumn is a time for dogs to

  • fine tune their getaway skills - escape scenario: apples all over the ground; apple-gatherer, basket in hand; muzzle sneaked between apple-gatherer's legs and apples snatched in quantities that only just defy death by choking.

  • act dead and extremely heavy when someone needs to access an oven.

  • practice soft-lipped-thievery when helping to pick brambles.

  • partake in sprint training in order to run away effectively when yelled at due to overzealous risk taking i.e. the guzzling of possibly poisonous but exceedingly delicious fungi.

  • develop selective deafness when told to go outside. And outside it is raining. And windy. And cold.

  • pretend to be bears. Sleeping all day when it's chilly outside is a magnificent idea.

  • become very watchful. Watching for that half eaten biscuit casually discarded on the coffee table. Or crusty ends of pizza. Or manuscripts of Grade 1 singing exam pieces. After all, if the squirrels can stuff themselves through the autumn in preparation for winter is there any reason why dogs can't do the same?

  • decide conclusively that trees are ridiculous creatures - first they inconsiderately shed their leaves all over the ground, then their arms fall off.

  • and finally, develop an impassive 'Yes-we-know-you're-mad-and-don't-understand-why-you're-abusing-vegetables-but we're-sticking-around-til-dinner' face.

Email time - 'Dear singing teacher, unfortunately Littlest's music is in the dog ...'

Sunday, 27 October 2013

On appreciating art. Or not.

That Art comes in a myriad of shapes, forms and function is a commonly accepted fact. That what I consider art might be regarded by others as meaningless junk, ripe for trashing, is another. So how do we define art? What is it? And what is it for?

From our early Cro-Magnon ancestors who first painted on the wall of a cave in Lascaux, to the designer of complex computer generated images, people have produced works that some have called art. Art has a cultural, historical, geographical and spiritual past. At its best it transcends all of these. It can pull us together. Or push us apart.

What follows is about last Friday: a day when art wasn't got, then later - via some giant bubbles, a spire of glass and an evening of joyful music -  it suddenly was.

In the Times that morning, was a picture of  a Picasso soon due at auction where it is expected to fetch $1million. I showed the picture to Littlest and asked her to guess how much it might be worth.

"A lot," she replied, sighing as she barely looked up from her drawing. (She knows me too well and the type of teasing question I all too frequently - obviously - employ.)

"What's a lot?" I asked.

"Em ... ?" Still bored. Still drawing.

"Five hundred pounds?" She shook her head. "Five hundred thousand pounds?"

"That's ridiculous! No!"

"What if I told you it's probably worth a million dollars? Because it's by Picasso."

She studied the picture for a long, frowning, five seconds. "Who's he?" she exclaimed.

Just as well then that we were London-bound and planned to spend the afternoon in Tate Modern.

I love art galleries. They are a combination of all that is good about the hush of libraries; the colour, smell and light of a crisp Autumn walk at sunset; the squeeze in a child's hug; the brain kaleidoscope of reading a poem; the thrill of seeing an actor excel; the shiver of immersion in stirring music, and the delight in appreciating something that momentarily makes your soul sing.

But not everyone loves art galleries. Although, a bit of planning - go straight to level 3 and experience the less weird that Tate Modern has to offer, put food inside tummies, promise more food later and a sublime evening to look forward to - helps.
Tackling the issue of the discrepancy in age of those-who-might-not-normally-choose-an-art-gallery-as-afternoon-entertainment is trickier. Littlest was happy to briskly look, and to be cajoled back to look at things she might have missed - like the Picasso's. The elder reluctant gallery visitor was less willing to be brisk, except when it came to making judgements - the Rothko's were an early "I just don't get it" and "the bad holiday snaps" in another room provoked an incredulity that anyone pays for modern art let alone applies for grants to do so.

But the coffee was good. And the cakes. After which the elder reluctant gallery visitor decided that the Turner "would look good in our kitchen" and Monet's water-lillies were beautiful, if a "bit big." When we set off again, Littlest, forced to intersperse briskness with waiting, commented that it is strange how someone who doesn't get it can spend so long - so very, very long - reading every notice beside every art installation in every room of every floor.

What did Littlest like best about the Tate Modern? - the enormous bubbles blown by a street entertainer outside. It was a pity that there had been a queue for the Bloomberg big draw screens.

As we walked along the Thames, structural art soared above us

We had a marvelling mignon moment as we gazed up at the magnificent Shard. I wondered if our progress was halted in much the same way as ancient Eqyptians on first seeing the pyramids at Giza - a mixture of awe and pride in human inventiveness.

Art isn't just visual. I would argue for it being auditory too. And Friday night was an auditory treat. Which we all enjoyed.

All the King's Men (atkmlondon) were in excellent a cappella form. There is huge infectious joy from watching a collective expression of love of music, love of friends and love of true, honest fun, on a small stage, without any props and with only the energy of their voices and choreography. Amazing. And most definitely art.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

On going without breakfast and other stories

This is what happens when you find yourself not doing the school-run and think it a good idea to start the day with a brisk walk. And after fifteen minutes realise that a cup of tea was not a sufficient breakfast.

We thought that bread was ours!

Indignant dogs aside, I really should not have eaten their bread - pocket fluff of indeterminate origin does not taste good and the rest of the walk was spent with an even more loudly protesting come-on-!-you-can't-seriously-tell-me-that-was-all grumbling stomach. Plus the pulling out of bits of thread that had become wedged between my teeth.

Before I go on to 'other stories' - at the top of a field sheltered behind a hedge, we found a circle of twigs and dried grasses. The bed of a family of deer perhaps

Or nest of a giant goose (lots of geese on the move today)

Or a dragon cushion - sadly Littlest was at school: I'm sure she would have known - probably a fairy something-or-rather. Whatever it was, it clearly smelt good. Not even the remaining fluffy bread could tempt Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins away. The nest will smell far too strongly of dog for whatever it was to venture back tonight.

Other stories? ... in essence, one story, that of my appraisal: the appraisal that has to be completed by mid-November, that has to be done annually, that every year I promise myself I will not leave to the last minute, that this year I will not be paid for completing but still have to do, that is so brain-addling that I am over-over-dosed on caffeine, and that is so repetitive so repetitive so repetitive that I wonder if anyone really reads what is written or simply ticks the box to say 'Yep! It's been done.'

Hmmm ... okay, so there is a point to doing these things. And that point is the MSF - a terrifying invention whereby your colleagues provide you with anonymous feedback. How threatening is that!! Hideous. Except ... I suppose it is something from which we could learn. Or perhaps take encouragement. Or that might hammer the nails into the coffin of our careers, or push us off the precipice into another entirely different non-appraised career.

But in reality is any career not appraised. The brilliant (who would have guessed?!) Grayson Perry spoke this morning about how art is judged to be good. (Reith lecture, BBC Radio 4). In essence, the public, art curators and collectors appraise an artist via the statement of whether his work sells or not. It's the same with writers - if their books sell well, clearly they are appraised to have written well. Are tradesmen's references really any different to formal appraisals and aren't those of us working in health really just the tradespeople of the NHS?

I procrastinate as per ...

Back to the appraisal and dogs whose collaborative Multi Source Feedback of the Aga is entirely positive and displayed generously with their body language

That they compete to be closest to the heat, daily reinforces the positive feedback and strength of their feelings.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

A farewell to summer

"What wilt thou do when the summer is shed?"
AC Swinburne 'Itylus' 1864

In answer to Algernon Swinburne (what a wonderful name) ... remember it; savour it in the sweet bramble harvest and jars of apple chutney; and look forward to autumn - smoky bonfires, early sunsets, the demise of summer flies, and the promise of the crisp clear air of winter. 

Today this blog is a rant free zone - mellow, reflective ... it might even aid sleep. It's heavy on the gardening side of 'Walking the Dog's life. Light on Littlest - unmentioned apart from there. And experiments with a brief amble into literature - the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations to be precise: it has sat forlorn and forgotten for many a long month on a shelf next to my desk. I was feeling generous and thought I might give the pages an airing. Pretentious ... me!!! Nooo. Maybe a little bit. Anyhow, back to the blog in hand -

Memories of a summer past in pictures

My path before it became un-pathable

More blue. Actually purple, but like many a (purple) garden plant I think they're called 'blue'

Chianti sunrise looking towards Siena (July)

Back home and blogs not being scratch and sniff, I feel this picture mocks just a little

Summer warming up

Apples apples apples - lots and lots of apples

Botanic colour inspiration - white

and red hot. 

Brief blush of red at home

And finally, the crab depletion exercise

And so to autumn and leaves and clearing and wearing wellies again. But there are a few crab apples left on the tree, beyond Bertie Baggins's reach. And there are still brambles to pick. And sloes. And as Lord Byron wrote...

"Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all except their sun, is set."

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Owning a dog - why would you?

Why do we choose to own dogs?

Why do we welcome them into our once-upon-a-time-dog-hair-free homes?

Why do we tolerate them when they eat Littlest's favourite socks (always just the one sock from each pair)?

And why when the gnomic postman comes with his jumpy, bird-like, nervy twittering to the front door do we secretly wish that we weren't so understanding of his fear of dogs? And that they'd run out and bowl him over and lick him into liking them? Sadly, like a foundling bird handled lovingly but a bit roughly, I think he would die of fright before any 'liking' occurred.

I can think of several reasons for owning a dog and none of them has anything to do with finding the whole postman-being-afraid-of-dogs thing fairly amusing.

First, there's their eyes. Nothing looks at you with that total I-know-where-my-next-meal-is-coming-from devotion. It's easy to convince yourself that it's you they love and to seek evidence for this delusion in the tale of the Skye terrier Greyfriar's Bobby but loyal Edinburgh dogs aside it's the food and the provider of food that they are devoted to. As the day nears supper time, my two four-legged shadows get under my feet, follow me to the loo (they sit outside!), position themselves between me, the potatoes, the peeler and the bin and lie directly in front of my every step.Until I fill their tummies. Then as far as they're concerned I can do anything, go anywhere as long as I don't interfere with their need to sleep.

Second, is their faith. Blind trusting faith. No question. No argument. They believe in you. And knowing that is humbling. It rekindles a little belief in yourself.

Third, is that they effortlessly provide an ice-breaker. People open up and talk. About their dogs, about your dogs, about the pets they had as a child.

Fourth, is that they are therapy - for all the reasons above. Pat a warm head and the worries of the day seep away. Dogs make you feel better about yourself. They calmly sit by someone who is ill. A dog resting its head on the knee of a sick child, takes away the hurt and the pain. That's why they are used in hospitals and care homes. Even when Bertie Baggins helps himself to the newspaper and shreds it, that moment of anger is swiftly displaced by amusement at his expression that says "Oooh no, this wasn't me mum. Honest mum. It shredded itself!" And that amusement equals therapy.

Fifth, is that they are good for your health. Walk a dog, run with it, play Frisbee. Get out and get some fresh air and exercise.

Sixth, is that they make you laugh. Did you know that dogs can climb trees?

Seventh, is the company. I garden with my boys at my feet. I write as they lie on my toes, keeping them warm. I load the washing while they 'help' by pulling socks out of the basket. Together, we watch for the postman, crouching behind a hedge, ready to pounce ... no! No, no, we don't.

But it's an idea ...

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Ghosts and broken water mains

What mimics a torrent of rain, sounds like ball-bearings falling onto a snare drum, makes Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins rush barking out of the house and creates a river that runs down the road?

Littlest spent ages watching this water spout - like a spectator at a tennis match in which the player on the right is stronger than the one on the left, head turning left to right, fast flick back to left, then left to right again, and again. She was 'watching the water drops' - "They start all frothy like bubbles, then go round like balls at the top, before going splat and disappearing like mini-ghosts hitting the ground."

Mini-ghosts! Really?

I wish that I could see things again through the eyes of a child. To me it was beautiful, noisy, something that I had to do something about. To Littlest it was an excuse to get wet ... mainly. And something unexpected to wonder at.

'Mini-ghosts' is inspired and poetic and stunningly accurate. I can picture exactly what she means. It would be hard to catch on film, harder still in a drawing, but in the imagination her description sings.

If only I could pluck images like that out of the air ... or out of a water spout for that matter.