Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fred is Dead

One of the things I miss most about the UK at this time of year (apart from chocolate. OMG chocolate) - is daffodils. I love the fact that vast swathes of countryside, particularly bland and boring roadsides are suddenly covered in yellow. Everything just looks so cheerful, so hopeful.

This is my poor attempt at a California recreation:

A planter from Trader Joes. When these lovely daffodils finally succumb to old age and sporadic watering, I replant them at the base of our sycamore tree.

Not exactly a riotious springtime display - but these daffodils must be pretty hardy, because by God, they come up year after year through this concrete-hard California 'soil'. Nutrient-parched earth that is a constant reminder I need to start a compost bin. The real problem though is to do with that metal contraption in the middle. That's what we're really dealing with. We have a problem, and his name is Fred. Our backyard is gopher nirvana. A steeply sloping, beautifully drained rodent idyll and Fred, so-named by the girls, has made himself quite at home. I'll be damned if he gets my daffs.

He's a bit cocky is our Fred, and LK decided to teach him a lesson. Fred was too sharp for our metal traps, but was more than happy to poke his head out of his hole inches away from the playing girls, so LK arms Lucy with a mini baseball bat and instructs her to play whack-a-mole. Five seconds later and he turns round to find Lucy delicately hand-feeding 'Fwed' with clumps of clover. Apparently Fwed can be quite persuasive. He became a fwend. I could see LK thinking 'this would have been so different if I'd have had boys'.

Anna even made a pop-up drawing with Fred able to appear and disappear out of his hole:

This is Fred - compete with mouthful of clover.
Yes, we do own a hairbrush, but no-one can ever find it.

So far Fred has left my daffodils alone. We are arming ourselves with smoke-bombs, more traps, and the thought of raised beds, or even these cool pallet gardens:

Meanwhile, there I am thinking you know, gophers really aren't such a problem in the North of England, what have I signed myself up for....and then my brother sends me this photo:

Daffodils and snowdrops - allegedly.

and suddenly springtime in Southern California's not looking too shabby.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


The other day Lucy came home from school and said "Today I did calendar, and it is Tuesday and March and a number", which is exactly how this last month has felt (with apologies for a Valentines post stretching in to mid-March).

The truth is I am training for a marathon, which is coming up in just over two months. As a result, I spend 50% of my free time jogging slowly and stiffly up and down the Santa Barbara beachfront. To say I was naive about signing up for a marathon is an understatement. Not only did I not consider how it feels to run 16 miles only to contemplate the horror of another 10, I hadn't really thought through the time commitment. If I'm not working, I'm taking care of the girls, or sleeping. It takes me hours to run anything over 10 miles. LK is having to be very supportive, and thankfully he is. I think he and I both realize that the combined cocktail of endorphins and the meditative effect of long distance running is doing wonders for my mood and consequently our relationship.

Still, I often wonder what I've signed myself up for. 8 miles in, with a complaining left hip and nothing but 'Misery' by Maroon 5 on my iphone and I wonder why I'm not lying on our sun lounger flicking through Vanity Fair like the rest of Santa Barbara (actually - I've pretty much established that the rest of Santa Barbara is out running, it's that kind of town).

All this running has not left much time for writing, and I miss it. Fortunately I have my ever-entertaining muses, who provided me with this gem only last night:

Anna (pretending to be a school mistress): "Lucy, can you tell me what a cheetah likes to eat?"
Lucy: "erm, meat?"
Anna: yes (schoolmarmish eye roll): "but what kind of meat Lucy?"
Lucy: "I fink prolly like a herd of envelopes?"