Monday 22 February 2021

Writing and not writing: Day 6

Up early because MB is turning up at 7:20 this morning. After coffee and replying to a reader's email I start straight off with the comic-strip outline. In this story, I need three unrelated children to spend the night in the same house. This would have been easy before the pandemic, as they could do a sleepover. The current generation of children this is aimed at has never had a sleepover. How quickly will sleepovers come back? Will it just look weird? I'm saved from the problem after half an hour by the arrival of MB in a slightly subdued whirlwind of activity. 

I give her mum blister plasters, take delivery of MB's bicycle and other bits and pieces from her dad, and they go off to work. MB and I sit on the sofa to discuss what we will do today and she asks me to read her favourite page of Dinosaur Atlas, which is about the mass extinction meteor.  We then read about the internal structure of Earth and talk about continental drift, tectonics and the flood basalt of the Siberian Traps. We decide to make a marzipan model of Earth, with the layers in different colours, and possibly some tectonic models in marzipan. This takes over from llamas as the most-wanted marzipan project. 

But first we go outside to feed the chickens, and get distracted into playing on the swing for ages. And then, since we now have our coats and wellies on, she wants to go on a hunt for badger toilets in the field, so we do that. It soon turns into a full-blown badger safari and we're off hunting for sets and footprints and are three fields away laying a sand trap outside a set so we can see the footprints tomorrow. We run round the field (well, she runs and I walk fast as it's far too hummocky to be safe for running on a slope in wellies for big feet). I teach her how to work out how old the badger poo is so she can tell when the badger was last there and she spends happy minutes poking badger poo with a stick. We look for footprints of badger and fox and try to work out the details at a crime scene: scattered feathers that look like owl, but what eats owls? We see the first skylarks of the spring and I get wet feet in a bog, showing the £12 I spent on stuff to fix my wellies was wasted. She discovers what she is convinced is a badger prison and we make up stories about the imprisoned badger. It's actually a grating over the outlet from the rain drains so people (and badgers) don't clamber long the underground pipes as I used to at her age. 

By the time we get home it's nearly 11 and time for the dadly Zoom call. She has a strop because the laptop she uses while I'm doing the Zoom call is doing a slow update and she can't watch YouTube. I give her the iPad and a hot cross bun and go off to talk to the elderly one. Doing so, I spot an email query from an editor but don't have time to deal with it. We go in the garden for a bit and I offer to pay her £4 an hour to help with gardening so she can buy more Playmobil mermaids. After ten minutes she goes back inside. Feckless young won't stick with agricultural labour. Huh!

She doesn't want any lunch so I have a toasted sandwich and then we do the last important outstanding bit of her last lot of school work before the new half term starts tomorrow. Although she makes a fuss about doing it, she actually writes a whole page of A4 ('sprisingly' as she would spell it). I spend the next hour trying to scan and upload the work from the two weeks before half term using the intractable system the school has, and struggling with the nearly 50 pages they give us each week that have neither dates nor page numbers on. I give up and dump the entire lot of spare bits on a day picked at random. I immediately find another page that I haven't done, but it won't let me upload extras. I hate this system. I am extremely tech competent and I struggle with it because of the terrible design of both the interface and the paper pages. I add a note to say that I'm not uploading any more pages of 'rainbow writing' but she is doing them. It's just not worth my time. OK, so she hasn't made and video'd a puppet-show version of a story (of their choosing) but she has learned how to track badgers and worked out for herself that lava and magma are the same thing in different places.

At about 5:30 pm her dad takes her home, after we've had a good grumble together. They will go out again at 9 pm to pick up her mum from work and she will be back tomorrow morning, but not till about 11:30. Monday's work will be done 6-12 and some odd snatched moments later on. I go and deal with the editor's dinosaur queries (the number of queries has now increased) before heating up some left-over aubergine parmiggiana, but can't face doing any more of the comic-strip outline.

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