When shopping on Sunday I foolishly asked Georgina what she wanted on her cake. I’d been planning a Stuffy cake but no. Her response was immediately “Spider-man.” I foolishly agreed and then had several days of being reminded by her about the “Spider-man cake”. So I made a simple vanilla sponge cake, based on a hummingbird cafe cupcake recipe and iced it.
Clearly borrowing How to Draw the Marvel Way from the library as a teenager paid off. Although my lettering sucks.
After having a portion last night, she demanded “tiny bit more” but didn’t get it. The cake recipe has 10oz of sugar in it for making 12-18 cupcakes – no way does she get more than one portion of cake a day. This morning, one of her first requests on waking was for the Spider-man cake.
I am aware you can buy professionally produced cakes in the supermarket but that’s not the point. Until she gets to an age where she is horrified by wonky homemade things, she’s getting a cake made by me. I’m just hoping she asks for something easy to do…
Two years ago I had the Tour de France on in the background in a delivery room at the local hospital. This year, Georgina has got her own wheels.
The trike is a handmedown from my neighbours, and has been locked in the bike shed for about 18 months. I don’t think she’s be rivaling Bradley Wiggins or Victoria Pembleton just yet.
Continuing the “make do and mend” theme of the day, her other big present was a handmade toy. She loves Show Me Show Me on Cbeebies. It’s an unusual show in that it doesn’t have mountains of tatty tie-in merch. So, in the footsteps of my mother’s bold attempt to make me a Bagpuss in the 70s, I made her a Stuffy.
This is partially because she loves him, and partially because even 25 years after my last sewing class I can still make a cube. Tracking down all the fabrics took longer than the actual sewing. She’s already taken to putting things in his back pocket.
The last part of the day will be a Spider-man iced cake. I baked it last night and haven’t had a chance to ice it yet. I asked her last night what birthdays meant and she has told me it involves hats. So expect a photo she will be embarrassed about tomorrow.
She’s learnt her numbers (although is prone to starting to count at 4) and colours. She can also load the DVD player, with favourites such as Singin’ in the Rain, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Bagpuss. I moved them to a lower shelf after asking her to “put it back on the table” only to find her standing on tiptoe on a chair trying to reach the shelf where they were then kept. Her current bedtime books include The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Tony Robinson version of Odysseus. She helps water the garden, and weed it.
More tomorrow…I have to go and ice a cake the Marvel way.
Project Elton is a medium term bit of work in the garden. You might remember that two years ago, I had the garden pared back to the bone. Those bones included some lovely old paving flags – uneven, with strange grooves and not what anyone would call child-friendly. Naturally, I love them. I planted some sedum and some other things to try to soften the edges. The sedum is good on low traffic areas but just didn’t do the trick elsewhere.
This spring I noticed that no only was there grass in some of the cracks, but grass seedlings kept sprouting in one of the beds. This, then, is Project Elton. I let the grass grow. I transplant it into the cracks. I keep the grass trimmed to prevent too much of it running to seed. I don’t fret about stubbed toes.
For example, these triangular gaps were bare earth a month ago:
A quick note on this for any new blog readers: Haruhi Suzimiya is a Japanese schoolgirl unaware of her ability to alter reality. She runs a school club, the SOS Brigade, whose members are secretly dedicated to preventing her unconscious desires rewriting the world.
The next volume of Haruhi Suzimiya short stories is a mixed bag.
The first story, Endless Eight, made me groan. Anyone who has watched season 2 of the anime will understand the fear at “Summer’s almost over…”. Thankfully, the short story doesn’t have the same structure and was a lot more enjoyable than I expected. The big problem was with my own over-awareness of the plot. Suzimiya wants to have a fun-filled summer holiday, and the rest of the SOS brigade have to make it happen.
The next story, Day of Sagittarius 3, was my least favourite. I struggle to engage with stories that involve descriptions of battles – either actual ones or cyberfights – and this was no different. There’s too little emotional content, and too much dry description.
The final story, Snowy Mountain Syndrome, is exactly what I want in Haruhi. Mirroring their summer expedition to a Remote Island, the Brigade go to a ski lodge and get caught in a blizzard. This story delighted for several reasons, one of which is that it was the only one not yet adapted into anime. It was the most playful, and saucy, and made me remember why I started reading Haruhi to start with.
A teacher, Barbara Covett, gets drawn in when a colleague, Sheba Hart, is accused of having sex with a pupil.
This novella is in the first person singular, and is delightfully creepy. The waspish comments of the narrator, a frustrated history teacher approaching retirement, are entertainingly prim. The range of teachers at an inner city comprehensive are recognizable stereotypes that she precisely lampoons.
As the plot unfurls, Barbara’s obsession with ‘protecting’ Sheba becomes more unhealthy than Sheba’s madness in having an affair with a pupil. Her desperate desire for a special friend mirrors that of the teenage girls she teaches, although she would never demean herself with such a comparison. The hints of a backstory, involving a private school in Scotland and a previous scandal that meant Barbara had to move to a North London comprehensive, evoke The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. In another echo, Sheba doesn’t realise who betrays her.
The prose is crisp, sharply capturing a neat, waspish and thoroughly nasty mind. It makes you collude with Barbara by drawing you in with wit and humour at the start. So when the cracks start, the disgust you feel is all the stronger for having liked her.
I have realised I will not get time to write reviews on the backlog of books I’ve read in the last six months. The 200 word review idea should have helped, but it still needed time I rarely have. So here are extra short reviews of everything I’ve got stacked in the ‘to be reviewed’ pile…
In London’s By-Ways by Walter Jerrold, illustrated by E W Haslehust
Found in a charity shop, this is a pre-WW2 book that rambles around inner London. The text is OK, if prone to overlong sentences, but I bought it for the delightful colour illustrations by Haslehust.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
It’s great to read a contemporary American novel that has a proper ending, although the penultimate chapter seems out of kilter with the world created in the rest of the book.
The Pride of the Peacock/Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
Two enjoyable romantic romps, of which Mistress of Mellyn was the better. It benefitted from the Cornish setting with its hints of Daphne Du Maurier and Winston Graham.
Rivers of London/Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
I really want to do these two books justice with a proper review. Magical police procedurals with a heavy dose of London pyschogeography, jokes and no nice reset switches. The end of Rivers of London is proper nasty. Really, just go and buy them now.
Call the Midwife/Shadows of the Workhouse/Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth
Sticking with London, I read these over Easter. There’s an occasional reactionary tone that can be a jolt if you’ve seen the jolly Sunday night TV adaptation. But Shadows of the Workhouse left me in floods of tears at some of what happened to toddlers before the Welfare State existed.