The View from Atherton Court, Part VI

Ah, Sunday. Hello, blog post! Hello, Internet! Also? Hello, slightly better weather than yesterday! It is week nope-no-idea of lockdown, and things at Atherton Court have been going really well. I am going to tell you all about what we’ve been up to, but be warned! I’ve decided to try a slightly different posting style today; we’ll see how it goes. The plan is to be more concise than usual.

On with the experiment!

A Contactless Mother’s Day

Today, I placed a batch of mushroom ketchup, tied fetchingly in ribbon, on the porch of my parents’ house. I hope this will be understood as a gift, and not, say, as a rinsed-out olive jar half-full of brown sludgy liquid. Because, I mean, it totally is both of these things. The ribbon ought to help, interpretation-wise. Also, I made a fancy label.


It is funny, interacting with porches, not people. I feel like a cat, leaving things on doormats for people to find. Though, I mean, my gift has been pretty thoroughly cleaned, which you can’t really say about a cat’s verminous tributes.

The Basement

Alec is almost finished converting the basement from a mold-ridden horror to a space that it will actually make sense to store things in. Even things that we like, and wish to use again. No longer will putting things in the basement be rather like consigning them to the deep. No sir! We are going to have a proper basement. There is even talk of installing a gaming table down there. Which would be neat.

The Worst Hedge

On sunny days, Alec can generally be found outside, ripping out the firethorn hedges some former owner thought would be a great defensive perimeter for our property.

The Squirrel Feeder

I have developed a deep interest in my neighbor’s bird feeder. Because, look. It isn’t a bird feeder. It is a squirrel feeder. It has been designed not to feed squirrels, and, I imagine, designed fairly intelligently. It has been placed such that squirrels shouldn’t be able to get at it. And yet, every time I look out of my kitchen window, I see squirrels hanging off of the thing like psychotic little acrobats, while several birds look on, possibly in disgust.

A Story

I just wrote a new story. This is a big deal, because I’ve been a little bit blocked of late. So, huzzah! I am not going to tell you about the story itself, but I will show you the weird doodle I made in my notebook while I was working on it. Here it is:



I write all my first drafts longhand in a notebook. Or all of my fiction, anyway. I use one side of the page for the draft, and the other side for notes, edits, revisions, ramblings, research, and, of course, doodles.


And now, movies!


Dog Soldiers (2002)


Do you kind of want to watch Predator, only you’ve already seen it? Dog Soldiers to the rescue! A fun (where “fun” is defined as “gripping”) werewolf movie in which the werewolves are in a pack (why that is unusual, I don’t know, but it is) and the victim pool consists mainly of professional soldiers.


Species (1995)

I’d never seen Species before. Because the last time Alec tried to show me Species, I saw the first part of the first scene and then went on strike. I couldn’t get over the fact that they were going to gas a little girl.

This time, I saw the whole thing, and I liked it a lot. And it turns out that the little girl is a really terrifying space alien, who was being gassed not because people were mean, but for the good of the planet. Anyway, yes. Species is a cool movie. Mostly, it is about a terrifying space alien’s search for booty, and about the team of specialists following her around trying to prevent her from getting any.

I love that aspect of this movie best: the pursuit. The team of specialists is perpetually about ten minutes behind the murderously horny alien. If horny is actually the right word. She wants, she states clearly and at awkward moments, a baby.

Right. That is the other really great part of the movie. The awkwardness of the alien’s pillow talk.


Atherton Signs Off

That’s it for this week, folks! Have you done any home improving during the lockdown? If you write, do you write longhand? Have you become really, really interested in squirrels lately? Or birds? I get really excited about birds nowadays. And I now have a plant-identifying app on my phone, because I am also excited about plants. Do you doodle? Have you seen Species? Dog Soldiers? If so, what did you think?



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  1. 1. I like birds. This spring I have been especially excited and obsessive about the robins nesting just beside my front door. I take about a hundred pictures a day and then go through them in the evening throwing out almost all of them because they’re not quite in focus, or the leaves went in front of their faces, or nothing was actually happening because chicks spend most of their time hunkering down pretending, for the sake of any on-looking predators, that there’s nothing to see here. But a few of the pictures are awesome, and it’s all terribly exciting because I have watched them from eggs and they are now nearly fledged, and soon my babies will be starting to fly, and I will take at least a hundred more bad picture (and hopefully just a couple of good ones.)
    2. I like plants, too.
    3. I generally write poetry and outlines longhand, but I like to write prose text on the computer because I can type faster. And also because I can’t properly touch-type and thus am really really bad at typing up something that’s already been written out, as opposed to typing as I think. Far better to type in the first place than to find myself having to copy it later.
    4. Surprising no one, I have not seen any of your movies!
    5. Today is Day 59 at home for us. I considered carving tally marks on the wall somewhere, but decided that there weren’t really any walls I was willing to deface to that extent, so I just keep track on the calendar instead, which is boring, but effective.
    6. Hopefully your mother understood the mushroom ketchup as a gift, and did not misinterpret the ribbon as a Cunning Ploy with which to inveigle her into bringing a molotov cocktail into her house.

    • Hello Anne! I am glad you like birds. We had a neat thing happen to us, a couple of years ago, in the bird line. We have a goldfish pond, and one day we discovered that there was a duck sitting next to it, under a bush we’d recently planted. Sitting, we discovered, on a bunch of eggs. We therefore got to watch over Splorpy the duck (we named her for the noise of her somewhat ungraceful water-landings in our tiny pond) until her eggs hatched. Then, we got to see her conduct her little ducklings to a nearby canal. They all had to jump down a steep wall to get to the water, and one of them didn’t jump with the others, but kept hesitating at the brink, pacing back and forth nervously, obviously steeling himself for the ordeal. Finally, he flung himself over the cliff, with a defiant cry upon his beak, and a look of utter desperation in his little duck-eyes. Anyway, he landed safely and paddled off with his family. It was all super-cute and also splendid.

      I hate typing up my drafts. Absolutely hate it! But I do it. I typed up, for example, the whole of the novel I recently completed, from my notebook drafts. That was actually good training, morale-wise, because now typing up anything shorter than, say, 90,000 words does not seem like too big a deal to me. I am a fast but inaccurate typer. That is, the letters appear quite rapidly on the screen, but very often disappear quite rapidly again, because they are not the right letters. Delete is my favorite button.

      Tally marks on the walls is a compelling and satisfying notion, but I see why you ultimately elected not to do it.

      I like your idea about the Cunning Ploy. It made me chuckle.

  2. P.S. Congrats on the writing! =)

  3. I do enjoy your updates about life at Atherton Court. I hope your parents appreciate your gift and enjoy mushroom ketchup as much as you do. As a mom, I imagine they would love a hug from you, as well. This is a sadly hugless time.

    I have seen at least two squirrels in my neighborhood recently — but not eating from a bird feeder. Seeing squirrels here is an Event, because in the four decades I have lived in this area, I have never seen squirrels outside Balboa Park (the larger-than-New-York’s-Central-Park city park housing The World Famous San Diego Zoo), situated about five miles from my house.

    Home Improvement: Days before the stay-at-home order, we had scheduled a tile job for the tub area of the bathroom to start on March 30th. Because the small company had worked for us on a couple other jobs, all of us were happy to proceed, regardless. Well, not strictly without regard — the tile guy and the plumber wore masks. That left the scraping, wire brushing, and sanding of the window frame to me, followed by painting the waterproof paint that now needs sanding before I can paint it with the two sample colors we like so we can choose which one to use to finish the job. Plus, having new shower hardware meant I had to learn how to do big dry wall repair because the plumber doesn’t do drywall, and now our tile guys (who DO drywall) want to stay home till the lockdown is over. Good for me, I say.

    I’ve not seen either of the movies you mention, but I’ve binged a couple of Netflix original series (while I sew) that added seasons to their original 1 – 3 seasons. Of course, I had to re-watch the previous seasons before watching the new episodes because it’s been so long since the previous seasons first aired.

    My writing has taken a backseat to editing other people’s short stories to be included in a contest-related anthology, and editing one of my own for inclusion in a separate anthology to be released in mid-July. I have received feedback from my beta readers on the first chapter of a sci-fi novel that I’m very excited about, and will be able to return to as soon as I finish the short story editing.

    I don’t doodle as often as I jot down questions and thoughts about possible story ideas. I like your doodle of the “Swamp Lady?” — I trust you’ll share the story when it’s ready.

    • Hello Sue! I am glad you are enjoying these updates. They are interesting for me to write, because they put my week in some sort of perspective. And I, too, hope that my parents liked the ketchup. I haven’t received word from them yet about it, but… I mean, it is really pretty good. I can’t imagine that they will actively hate it.
      You have seen squirrels in your neighborhood recently for the first time? That is interesting. I didn’t know that squirrels were rare in San Diego.
      It is great that you learned how to do drywall repair. I think a lot of us are learning new skills, nowadays, as a sort of necessity. I haven’t, I think, exactly learned a new skill, but I am way better at cooking than I was. Oh! I sort of have a new skill. Sort of. You see, before the lockdown, Alec and I would go to the grocery store almost every evening, right after we’d decided what we wanted for dinner. We have a grocery store very close to our house, so there was never really a very compelling reason to limit our trips. Now, I have had to learn how to shop for a weeks’ worth of food (or, ideally, a little longer than that) in one trip. You know, planning ahead, thinking through things like, “I will wake up tomorrow, and I will eat toast with butter while Alec will have his cereal; at lunch, we will have sandwiches; for dinner, we will eat the remains of the roast… and then the next day…” Anyway, yes. I have learned planning-ahead skills. Huzzah?! I’ll go with huzzah.
      I am intrigued about all the editing. It sounds exciting. Can I ask what contest? Also, huzzah about being included in the anthology! Sounds exciting. Tell me about it, so I can order a copy!
      I go through phases of doodling and not doodling. I am glad you like my Swamp Lady! Is my handwriting very hard to read? I always wonder.

  4. I’m sure your parents will approve the gift. Sounds like you have spent your lockdown time well. I’m still seeing my mother because she needs 24/7 looking after, so my sister and I are splitting the week between us. It means, though, that I don’t get much other stuff done during my half week at home. I wash clothes and wash the floors and then simply HAVE to go out for a walk. Today I am going to a carpeting showroom to check out something to replace my damaged carpet(my water heater blew up and flooded my hallway)

    • Hello Sue! I hope they do approve my gift. I think they will; it is, in my opinion, really very tasty.
      Sounds like you and your sister are handling things admirably. And I know what you mean about the walks. Fortunately, I live in an area where it is fairly easy to maintain distancing while walking, and my friend made us some really nice masks, so we walk regularly. Seriously, I feel like a dog, nowadays, always wanting to go walkies.
      Oh no! Sorry to hear about your water heater. It is extra-hard, right now, to deal with these household crises.

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