I knew that blogging regularly might be a challenge given an already hectic life (and hence slow living aspirations!). I had, however, reckoned without: no internet for a fortnight, two flat car tyres to sort, a bout of illness and, somewhat dramatically, having to evacuate our house because of a gas leak!

Anyway, I’ve not forgotten my aspirations, so on with the blog…

I’ve a confession to make, one that doesn’t sit well with my love of nature and the outdoors. I’m really a (*whispers*) fair-weather person. In the winter I have to fight a natural urge to hibernate.  So when it comes to getting outdoors and connecting with nature in January, I’m not very good at it and the sofa often looks pretty appealing. Last weekend, though, was a bit of a gift – beautiful white sunshine, clear blue skies. We took the boys to see the wild swans at Welney, Norfolk and sat in a big heated hide with massive windows watching hundreds of swans, ducks and wading birds gather below us.

They had been fed which bought them super-close and the lake had partly frozen meaning we got to see lots of birds ice skating to the delight of my boys. It was frosty, sparkly, sunny, warm, there was tea, there was lemon drizzle cake. Perfect!

Less so the weekend before when it was peeing it down the whole weekend. My husband had suggested that we take the boys to find crayfish in some old watercress beds down the road and then grab a hot chocolate in the pub nearby. I was quite up for this until the rain . Then he said we should go anyway. Urgh. I deferred till the afternoon when it was supposedly brightening up. It didn’t. I honestly think if it hadn’t been for this blog I wouldn’t have gone. My husband offered to take the boys without me and I so nearly said OK great! I pictured myself clearing up a few bits round the house with something fun on the telly in the background. But then he looked at me, “Isn’t this the sort of thing you’re supposed to be doing this year?”


I went, grumpily. It was cold and 100% wet. But our clothes were warm(ish) and waterproof (enough) and it was kind of fun.

It was fun because the boys loved it everytime I turned over a big stone and revealed lots of water shrimps and slimy wiggly things, because we found a tiny jumpy frog, because it was a bit daft to be standing in a stream in the rain in our wellies in January and because we had hot chocolates and skinny fries with ketchup in the pub.

OK, so I am not going to pretend that this wouldn’t be a nicer spot in late spring/early summer, paddling bare foot and drying off in the sun with ice creams but I’m glad we got out there. And we’ve pretty much got through January for another year which is certainly to be celebrated.  Though I’ll also be celebrating when the gas men come back and mend all the big holes in our drive and the road outside our house!

Resolutions and the school run

Resolutions and the school run

There’s a reason for the cliché “the tyranny of the school run”. I’m dreading having to re-engage with it tomorrow. As a not-a-morning person it always ends up being a last minute rush for us, often involving leaving the house several times and, if I’m lucky, being watched by the guy across the road smoking outside his front door. So if there’s ever something I need to apply my new year’s resolution too, it’s weekday mornings. The uniform, book bag and water bottle are ready this evening (I’m aware this is normal in most households but I managed it about three times last term) but as I suggested in my last post, I’m aiming for something more than being a bit more organised. Since my oldest started school we’ve lost a lot of quality time together. I need a way of connecting rather than disconnecting with him on the school run so tomorrow we’ll leave the house a bit early and I think we’ll invite the wood elves to join us.

Let me tell you about the wood elves. I didn’t see them coming; they just showed up one day. We were walking in Hitch Wood in Hertfordshire, a magical place in bluebell time. Only it was October and there were no bluebells. Instead it was chilly in the shade, the leaves were already falling and our designated snack spot was a way off. So my heart sank when our oldest started complaining he was cold. And he was tired. And he probably had a sore fingernail or something. My husband slowed to walk with him but, ever impatient, I was further up the path. I cast around for things to distract him for a bit. There was a soft mossy bank on the edge of the path so I brushed a bit free of leaf litter and then arranged the most brightly contrasting autumn leaves I could lay my hands on, grabbed a couple of beech nuts and two feathers that happened to be on the ground nearby. “Look!” I called back to him, “The wood elves have left you a present!” It worked much better than I’d expected. “Really?” he ran up looking delighted, or at least now out of the grump zone. He carefully picked up the ‘presents’. “Are there really wood elves here Mummy?” “I think so.” And that was it, we were away. We found wood elf palaces just along the track in some amazing old coppiced hornbeam trees, more gifts of sweet chestnuts and feathers showed up on the path and when he called to them “Hello wood elves!” they showered leaves down on him (it was a gusty day).


Running ahead to look for more wood elf presents in Hitch Wood

Those were the Hitch Wood wood elves. We said goodbye to them with promises to return with Granny and Grandad a month or so later and he was full of the gifts that he wanted to bring back (mostly puddings, cherry crumble particularly).

But then there were the wood elves of the Ashridge Estate who lived in somewhat grander ancient oak trees and before I knew it we had our own family of wood elves living with us. For the remainder of the autumn term, they frequently joined us on the school run and would be dropped off at their own school in a laurel bush near the classroom. After school they would be picked up again, rarely forgotten although often ignored for the rest of the evening. I noticed they had more holidays and sick days than my boy, but I guess that was their prerogative.

It doesn’t seem to matter that when the wood elves talk they speak in a high pitched squeaky voice and that Mummy or Daddy are facing in the other direction, nor that Mummy’s voice isn’t very high so it often cracks with the effort. They are both real and unreal and that is the magic of the four year old’s world and a bit of the magic that has come back into our lives too. So I’m going to do my best to make time for it tomorrow morning.

I haven’t forgotten the post on the inspiration for this blog, more on that soon.