Monday, September 15, 2014

Hollibobs part 2: A diggy and two Doras

So I'm sitting here wearing a scarf to ward off the morning chill, looking out at the trees in the garden that are just starting to go russety and using all my willpower to ignore Anthropologie's potentially ruinous emails about their autumn jumpers, and it strikes me that I still haven't written about our summer holiday in north Norfolk.

It was more than just a summer holiday, really. It was Samuel's first ever holiday, it was my mum's chance to get away and celebrate her recent well-deserved retirement. It was also an opportunity for me and Lucy to get out of our respective cities (for the second time in as many weeks) and relax a bit.

Granny K treated us to a week in a gorgeous – and extremely purple – cottage on the picturesque High Street in Blakeney. It was great for us all to spend some time together and Samuel, as usual, absolutely reveled in the company of his granny and his aunty. But, much to everyone's confusion, rather than calling them 'Granny' and 'Aunty', Samuel just decided to keep things simple and call both of them 'Dora'. He's been calling Lucy this for ages (we've no idea why), but now Mum too? Toddlers are weird. He'd wake up in the morning, stand in the doorway of his cute little attic room and bellow, 'DORA!' at the top of his lungs until they both appeared. Apart from these early morning alarm calls, I'm pretty convinced that Mum and Lucy loved his company too. Having said that, Samuel did give Mum a bit of a shock when she sat him on her knee in the car and he beeped the horn. Lucy managed to capture the moment on film for posterity.

We were based just a few minutes' walk from Blakeney's quayside. Families spent hours crabbing there (much to crustacean-phobic Lucy's abject horror), there was a little funfair with a teacup and saucer ride that proved to be the most exciting thing Samuel could ever have dreamed of, and the vast expanse of marshlands leading out to the sea seemed to stretch out for miles.

Blakeney is gorgeous. It has about three pubs, two restaurants, a small supermarket and a fantastic playground and, most importantly, it has a delicious deli that does a good line in lattes, French sticks and ready-made Thai green curries. It seemed to be solely responsible for keeping us going for most of the week.

Most mornings we hopped in the car and drove along the coast road, through weird and wonderful little villages like Stiffkey (which was in the middle of its annual scarecrow pageant – yep) to spend a few hours at the seaside – mainly at Wells-next-the-Sea. It's the most wonderfully family-friendly beach. Golden sands ideal for sandcastle action, gentle waves that make for perfect paddling and an amazing cafe that also does a good latte (regular readers may notice that this is *quite* important to me). It also boasts a 'Wash-n-Wag' for tourists of the four-legged variety and one of the world's biggest deckchairs. All the essentials, if you ask me.

And how did Samuel take to the seaside? Well, he loved it. He couldn't get enough of the feel of the sand under his feet and by the end of the week he'd immediately go to take his sandals off as soon as so much as spotted a beach. He loved the sea and couldn't believe he was allowed to jump and splash in the shallows to his heart's content. And the bucket and spade that mum bought for him? Well that was possibly his highlight of the whole holiday. He christened the spade, 'Diggy' and refused to let go of it at any point.

We also visited Brancaster and Sheringham, and celebrated Lucy's birthday at a gastro pub called The Victoria on the Holkham estate. I had a crab roll that came with a side of crisps in a crab shell. The birthday girl was not amused.

James didn't get to spend as much time there with us as we'd have liked (when you have a cat with heart problems, proper family holidays aren't easy to come by), but he was there for long enough for a small family photo-shoot in the shallows. North Norfolk was great. Flat and gentle, it's stunning in a sedate kind of way and I hope we'll go back again soon. We might even attempt to do another boat ride to see the seals next time. You'll notice that there are no photos of any seals in this post. That is because I spent the entire time on the boat trying to stop Samuel from screaming, and trying to avoid eye-contact with the 30 other seal-seekers in very close proximity to us who were wondering why I'd taken tantruming toddler on a boat. You live and learn.

And now for the obligatory photo dump before I get back to ignoring those Anthropologie emails. Honestly.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

36/52 and 37/52

The blog's been a bit quiet the past week or so. That's because the past week or so has sounded a lot like this:

Me: Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
Samuel: Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
James: Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
Me (looking at work project): Aaaargh!
Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
Samuel: Noisy, Mummy!
Me: Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH! I think I just wee'ed.
Samuel: No more, Mummy. NO MORE, MUMMY! Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
James: Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
Me (looking at work project): Aaaargh!
James: No, Samuel, you can't drive your ride-on car down those steps! NOOOO SAMUEL! Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
Me (looking at work project): Aaaargh!
Samuel: MORE PEPPA! Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
James (putting the 389th episode of Peppa on the iPad): Cough! cough! COUGH! COOOUUGGHH!
Me (looking at work project): Aaaargh!

That pretty much covers it. Last week was a bit pants, all told, but we're feeling a little better now. And, despite our collective illness and my mammoth workload, we still managed to squeeze some nice stuff in. Stuff like park visits in the sunshine. They never disappoint, as the first cheeky snap shows. Samuel is loving getting out and about and crunching the early autumn leaves with his new little red shoes. 

Today we also decided to do the sort of thing you should always do after a crap run of things: party. We booked tickets to a baby rave (I know, okay. Stop rolling your eyes.) at The Bedford in Balham on a whim because we thought it sounded like fun. And, joy of joys, it was indeed a bundle of fun. 

We all danced around like idiots, marvelled as someone fired a glitter canon while balloons were rained down upon us and took full (albeit responsible) advantage of the bar. Best Sunday afternoon in ages. Samuel couldn't quite believe his eyes and ears. The lights! The sparkle! The tunes! The opportunity to show off his groovy moves without somebody telling him to calm down because the lady downstairs might complain! 

I took terrible, terrible pictures, but I feel it would be wrong for me not to include at least one as a photo of the week since it commemorates Samuel's first proper disco. But, if the unique shapes that he was throwing are anything to go by, I think it's unlikely to be his last.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


This week I didn't do the ice bucket challenge even though I was nominated for it. Hair, you see. Obviously I made my donation, though. Anyway, we still had some bucket action going on around here courtesy of Samuel who spent an afternoon running around with his old baby bath on his head.

Have I mentioned how much fun he is at the moment? And how much he loves to dance? The dancing makes me so darned happy. He is also, in equal measure, very naughty and challenging right now. But it's amazing how quickly I forget that when he's throwing shapes with a bucket in his head.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hollibobs part 1: Queens of the mountain

I can't tell you exactly why me and Little Sis decided to climb Snowdon. I think I was just tired and weary of work and motherhood and the city and I wanted to escape it all for a couple of days and Lucy had some time off work, so we thought we'd go on an adventure. 

We could have gone to a spa or on a pub crawl or to a shopping centre. We're city girls and these are our habitats, after all. But, for the first time in my adult life I sort of heard the call of the wild and said that I quite fancied walking up a big hill. Lucy said she was up for it and suggested Snowdon because it's about as big a hill as they come. She knew someone who'd done it once, she said. 'How hard could it be?' we thought. And just like that, super casually, we'd planned to walk up a mountain.

And so a few weeks later we found ourselves in a little B&B in North Wales with no wifi and no proper walking boots and no knowledge of hillwalking or map reading and no plans to do anything other than to walk up a mountain. It was extremely exciting. 

We woke up the next morning, ate an excellent Welsh fry-up, drove to the foot of our randomly chosen path, the Pyg track, and felt like we were heading to Mordor. And then we started walking up, up and up, over jagged rocks and scree and streams ... and it wasn't like Crystal Palace Park one bit. 

I didn't expect it to be so scrambly. We had to get on all-fours a lot and kind of bound across boulders with all the grace of concussed Labrador puppies. And I didn't expect it to be so dangerous. Surprisingly, mountains don't conform to the sanitised health and safety regulations of the attractions that I'd generally visit. Literally one misplaced foot on the wrong slippery stone and it's goodnight Vienna. But there's nothing like the very real risk of death to make you feel alive, and I didn't expect to enjoy that as much as I did. 

A bit under three hours later and we were up at the top, knackered, soggy and with legs that felt like Cheese Strings but absolutely buzzing with a sense of achievement. We shuffled up the terrifying steps to the summit on our arses and caught a quick, beautiful, glimpse of the Irish Sea and, you know, all of Wales, before the clouds descended and we were in a white out. 

And then - utter joy - we went in the cafe. At the top of the mountain. It sold lattes and postcards and novelty fridge magnets and made two townies like us unbelievably happy.

And then for the descent. It poured down and our socks were soaked through, but it was easier in some ways because the pressure was off. And I also learned that you must never underestimate the pleasure that comes from passing shattered-looking people on their way up when you're on you're way down and telling them cheerily, 'Don't worry - you've only got another hour to go!' 

Honestly, the air, the exercise and the views - it was ace. And addictive. I'm desperate to get out of London more and climb more hills. I want to collect the other two of the Three Peaks and I'm already half-planning a trip to the Lakes next year. 

The only real problem we had was that when we got back down the mountain we couldn't announce to anyone that we'd been up it. No phone signal or wifi, you see. Annoying. You can take the girls out of the city ...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I'll write more about the holidays soon, but back here in the cold and rainy real world, work is busy and time is limited, so for now here is one of my favourite pictures of the three of us. It seems completely impossible to get a photo of all of us smiling/facing the camera/not obscuring our face with boater hats at the same time, by the way.

As an aside, a week in Norfolk has done nothing to help with my Right Move habit. Property Gods, I call on you to sort us a cottage within walking distance from the sea pronto!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


So we're on our hollibobs in north Norfolk with Granny and Aunty Lucy at the mo. A proper post will follow shortly but, for now, just check out how happy this little boy is to be at the seaside for the first time. And check out his impossibly glamorous Aunty Lucy who was celebrating her birthday today. And just imagine how incredibly sweet it is when every time we pack up to leave the beach we hear him say, 'Bye bye, sea.' 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Aaargh! I'm a day late on my photo of the week! This is the first time all year. But I've got a good excuse - I've been in the wilds of Snowdonia climbing a mountain and the wilds of Snowdonia don't really do 3G very well. More on that story later, but in the meantime back to Samuel.

This is a selfie we took this week. I am shameless - absolutely shameless - in my use of selfies as pacifiers. When he's upset or tantruming all I need to do is show him himself on my little phone screen and he calms down instantly. Genius.

This photo in particular seems to back up my recent claim that Samuel is 80% cheeks.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


So Samuel did this today. I'm not bragging or anything (I'm bragging), but are 20-month-olds supposed to be able to carry out death-defying feats such as this? James was barely helping him, by the way. He's totally sussed out climbing on his own.

Talking of James, Samuel is completely obsessed with him at the moment. Daddy only has to leave a room and close the door behind him to elicit a volcanic paddy. This morning as James took a shower, Samuel spent ages just lying in front of the bathroom door trying  to peek under the crack, sadly and repeatedly whimpering 'Daddy'. It was like a scene out of Greyfriars Bobby.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Freelancing and meerkat bubbles

Work has been keeping me nice and busy this past couple of months. I'm still astonished that I've had so much sent my way from the moment I started freelancing. I'm not at full capacity by any means, but I've been lucky enough to nab a couple of lovely regular clients, plus there's a big job on the horizon in the autumn that's really going to put me through my paces. I'm looking forward to it. 

I love the variety of stuff I'm getting to write, and I love never knowing what weird or wonderful request might pop into my inbox next. I love working from home too, and being totally divorced from any office politics. The more I work for myself, the more I wonder why I didn't make the leap years ago.

It's funny, though. The perception of working freelance is very different to the reality. I remember how, years ago, me and my fabulous then-boss Graham used to bang on about how we'd go freelance one day and we'd be just like Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City. From what I recall, we believed it would be all long lunches and laptops at Soho House. And between writing terribly clever articles for terribly glamorous magazines, we'd manage to squeeze in the time to carefully craft the first drafts of our great Rock 'n Roll novels.

I've got to be honest, my freelance life doesn't look *quite* like that. What actually happens (at the moment, at least, with our childminder on holiday for the summer) is that I barricade myself in the kitchen in the morning and try to concentrate on work for as long as I can before Samuel breaks in howling and James comes to retrieve him, sometimes by the ankles. This happens repeatedly. Then, once Samuel is happily engaged in another activity or whisked off up to the park, the cat tends to come in and create a stink in her litter tray. I sigh and think of Soho House.

By early afternoon the glare of the sun has chased me across the kitchen to the extent that only place I can see my screen is when it's resting on the high chair, so I relocate into the living room while Samuel and James nap. Once they're up again and the sun has shifted once more, I make the sofa in Samuel's room my refuge. At some point before dinner time, a serious nappy change will be required right in front of my 'desk'. You don't get that in an open office environment.

But, nappy changes and litter trays aside, I'm enjoying freelancing immensely. One of the big benefits, of course, is being able to bugger off and do something fun on the days when I've got no work on. That's exactly what we did on Tuesday when we went to the zoo in Battersea Park. The weather was scorchio and the animals were out in force. Not that Samuel cared about the animals too much - he just wanted to climb up slides the wrong way and no amount of, 'Look, Samuel! Monkeys!' or, 'Look, Samuel! Lemurs!' was going to change his mind on that. He did, however, acquiesce and join me in the tunnel that leads you to a plastic bubble in the middle of the meerkat enclosure. As you'll see from the photo, I was way more excited than him. But, with me as a mother, there's no way he's going to be able to stay that indifferent towards meerkats.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


So you know that thing where toddlers spend half an hour wailing and screaming and thrashing in a boiling hot, jam-packed train carriage, while you sit shhhhhshing like your life depends on it (and when you see the looks that are being sharpened and thrown your way by fellow commuters you realise that it quite possibly does), slinking down your seat in mortification and sweating the stressful sweat of the parent who has made the novice mistake of forcing their teething tot onto public transport in July and is being forced to suffer for it all the way 'till Clapham Junction and then you finally (FINALLY!) stand up to get them off the train and they instantly turn their frown upside down, smile cutely at all of the passengers they have been aurally assaulting since Gipsy Hill, wave and sweetly say 'bye-bye'? Well that was our Saturday morning.

But the train journey was worth every excruciating second when we arrived at our destination: Jo's house in Surrey. We had the most amazing afternoon sunning ourselves and playing in the garden with the loveliest children known to man. We ate immense amounts of food and caught up while Samuel had the time of his life in the paddling pool. Cora introduced me to Frozen while Finn introduced James to loom bands and we felt like we had a small glimpse into our future: the years beyond toddlerhood. It looked good, I'm telling you. And in the meantime we'll just have to travel by car a little more I think.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Check out the awesome Spider-man sunglasses Granny Pat gave Samuel this weekend. He loves them and thinks he's so grown up. We called him a cool dude, so now he says 'coooo' a lot, much like a pigeon. Other things he's saying a lot of at the moment include 'Bye bye, Daddy' (particularly when neither he nor Daddy are going anywhere - it's giving James a complex) and also 'Barry'. Don't ask.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


It feels like there's another toddler living at our place at the moment: Ba-bear.* Whenever Samuel has a meal, Ba-Bear must join us. I fed him a carrot stick earlier on. At least he's a healthy influence. Whenever Samuel gets put in his sleeping bag, Ba-Bear must get put in one too. Ba-Bear is the last person that Samuel says goodnight to (after he's offered him the last slurp of milk from his bedtime bottle, natch). Ba-Bear is the first person he calls out for in the morning. Hell, Ba-Bear even has a matching sunhat to Samuel. Ba-Bear is a curse and Ba-Bear is a blessing. Ba-Bear is Samuel's first proper best friend. 

*James thinks Ba-Bear is spelled Ber-Bear. He's wrong of course, but Samuel is not yet in a position to clarify spelling.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


There was puke this weekend. Lots of it and very few photos as a result. We put it all down to a bug Samuel's picked up in childcare. The poor love yakked six or seven times on Friday night (but he didn't cry once - bless him) and he felt rough for the rest of the weekend so we kept him indoors. That meant we had to stay indoors too in the main, and my plans for a boozy lunch with L had to be put on ice. But that's parenthood for you and I wouldn't swap it for any amount of Champagne cocktails in Soho (did that sound genuine? Excellent). Anyway, Samuel was a little perkier on Sunday so I managed to sneak out for a Pilates class - a real treat - and when I got home he and I played 'boo!' through my rolled-up yoga mat. This boy is a sweetheart.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


So here we are, half way through the year, and I've somehow managed to keep up my photos of the week. Well done me. So, to celebrate, I'm going to cheat and do a huge photo dump in this post. After all, this past weekend was a Granny K weekend, and a Granny K weekend always means photo opportunities galore. 

It rained all day Saturday, so we threw on our rain macs and dinosaur puddle suits and took advantage of a near-empty playground. Samuel threw his head back while he was on the swing and laughed at the pitter patter raindrops hitting his face. He couldn't have had more fun. And yet he still managed to find a way to have more fun by nicking off with James' flat cap and walking around the roundabout like a Frank-Spencer-saurus.

By contrast, the weather on Sunday was glorious so we whizzed up to The Horniman (which is fast becoming our second home - there are worse places to have second homes) where we sat in the sunshine surveying the views and the low-flying aeroplanes. We popped into the aquarium and the natural history gallery too, where Samuel marvelled at the giant walrus and mum and James repeatedly swung him up in the air to his utter delight. Top weekend.