Bringing up the rear

Can’t believe I was only planting out stuff six months ago… now I’m bringing the last of the summer things in. There are a few bewildered leeks still out there – it’s not rained for weeks and they look bemused. I’ve got a few cabbages too – they seem to like the leek company. I’ve brought in what will be the last of the tomatoes – a full 2 kg of them, and a handful of peppers, chillis and cayenne peppers.

I’d noticed that the gate to the veg patch was open – Tilly no doubt. She’s small enough to wiggle out and pushes it right open. If Moll goes in, she gets stuck. Tilly likes to go and retrieve a tomato or two before bedtime. There’s nothing like a bedtime snack. She particularly likes the plum tomatoes, and if she comes in looking a bit sheepish, like Lennie when he stole a puppy in Of Mice and Men, then I know what she’s got. She’s taken to coming in, jumping on my bed and eating it up there with me when I’ve just switched the lights out. Funny little dog.

It’s strange how she disliked being petted at first – now she loves it. And she loves walks and playing. She mostly loves Fox. Every time Fox comes in, she goes absolutely loopy, skipping about. She really does skip. On the Kennel Club site about spaniels, it says ‘they are merry little dogs’ – and she is exactly that – merry. I gave her a bath before and she promptly went into the garden to roll about in the dirt. She’s such a happy little dog. I hate to say it, but I think having an older dog around in Saffy stifled her. And it made Saffy grumpy. I’d be grumpy too if I had a younger, prettier, skippier, thinner merry little blonde thing getting giddy around me. In the morning, she jumps up on the bed and then we have a little routine. She has about 10 minutes of petting and then I get up. By this time, she’s so excited she has to go out for a wee. She’s not called Tilly Piddles for nothing. When we’ve both emptied our bladders from being excited, she likes to come and jump onto the couch and roll around. Today, however, she was couch-jumping before we’d even got into the bathroom. Jake had left his Simpsons’ blow up sofa in the dining room and Tilly tried to jump on that. Unfortunately, being an inflatable, it moved back a good few inches. She tried again and slid off. She’s so cute.

Not only did that fail to stifle her merry enthusiasm, she also got more giddy when Fox came in. Occasionally, she makes really giddy noises when we come back, but she’s never done it for Fox before. He wasn’t perturbed. He just took it in his stride. She loves him so much. Either that, or she loves the fact she can finish off anything he leaves if she’s quick. I guess it’s a conditioning thing. But as each day goes, she gets more and more pleased to see him.

The chickens had taken full advantage of Tilly’s inability to close gates properly and were in there ferreting about among the last of the vegetables. They’re funny. They followed me about religiously, rooting around. There’s no way on earth you can dig anything with them around your feet. Marge has taken to pecking me, pecking Tilly and startling Moll. I did a big sneeze and they all ran for cover under the vines. Funny girls. I know now only to go digging if I’ve got a cold.

Still, a productive day. Roast cherry tomato soup for tea and sausage and bean casserole with the last of the plum tomatoes. I feel a need to do a survey of what’s worked and what hasn’t in the next couple of days, and plan out what I can do more of next year.

Hot water bottles, long pjs and cardigans in the morning here, now. Only raking, clearing and pruning to do and then it’s all calm til January. Time to get busy with other projects. Maybe, just maybe January will mean I’ve finally finished my first book. I’m working on a series of GCSE podcasts now – how scintillating! – and playing around with new software. Not sure what point there’ll be when the specifications change again, but some things never change. I guarantee the tired old ‘classics’ will still be on there. Seems like there’s a huge need for Inspector Calls¬†resources. Now I did this at school. Someone should have done something good with it by now, but they haven’t, so I’m going to. Hoorah. That’ll keep my fingers busy over the winter. I’ve also – hoorah – finished my cardigan.

When I was back in England, my mum told me the saddest of stories. It really bothered me. When she moved down to Stow after living with her grandma in Scotland, she took two little hats she’d knitted (she was only six – how cute is that?!) and when she started school, the class were learning to knit. My mum, proud of her achievements, maybe, or perhaps just a little startled she’d be doing something she could already do, told the teacher.

“No, Carol, I don’t believe you…” said the teacher.

My mum took her little knitted hats into school. The teacher called the headteacher.

“Did you make these Carol?”

“Yes.” said my mum.

“Can you tell me how?”

And my mum – aged seven – tried to explain. But it’s hard to explain how you do something like that, and the headteacher told her off for lying. How sad is that? The only time I ever told a student off for something profoundly talented was a boy called Nathan who’d lazily downloaded an essay from the internet. Contrary to popular belief, it’s easy to spot a cheat. They’re usually not particularly intelligent and they always pick something that’s far too good for them. I found the essay – it was on the first site I googled – and printed it off. I called him to my office.

“Anything you want to tell me Nathan?”

“No Miss.”

“All this is your own work then?”

“Yes Miss.”

“This bit about the sword of Damocles? That’s yours. Your own words?”

“Yes Miss.”

“You know the penalties for cheating on coursework? You could be stopped from doing GCSEs. In fact, it could mean all 250 other GCSE students are stopped too?”

“Yes Miss.”

“And still nothing to tell me?”

“No Miss.”

“So if I were to say I’d done a search and found this essay – word for word – on the internet – what would you say?”

“They must have stolen it, Miss.”

“And the fact that it is date-stamped with a date five years ago – does that mean they stole it from your 10 year old mind? Impressive!”

When a lazy boy called Nathan brings you a clearly copied essay, then you can call them a liar. When a sweet little seven year old brings you a little hat that’s clearly hand-made and clearly a treasured possession, then you marvel in their wonder. A school in Bolton post all their achievements online and their head gets enough publicity that people from all over the world congratulate his students. That’s what should have happened to my mum. She should have had the head teacher give her a gold star and treasuring her. I bet you one thing, too. I bet my mum’s little knitted hats looked better than my cardigan. Nevertheless, when I post pictures of it, I expect you all to be nice and not tell me I’m lying and I must have bought it in a shop. And if a dear little girl shows you something lovely they’ve done, make sure you tell them how wonderful they are. And mean it.

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