Sunday, April 27, 2014


The last few days have looked a lot like this. Samuel hauls himself onto the footstool, stands up, and is then so delighted to have reached the summit of Mount Natuzzi that he does a jumpy, shrieky victory dance. I hover below with the concentrated frown of a firefighter ready to catch someone leaping from the window ledge of a burning building.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Grumpy faces and love bubbles

found this picture while I was up at my mum's recently. I love it because I love all things depicting early '80s fashion. Also, I love how it shows that Samuel's grumpy face is just like my grumpy face. We're both rather well-practiced in that regard. But what I love most about this photo is how happy my dad looks. Happy with his family and resplendent in his beardy, shiny-shirted glory.

I've been thinking a lot about my dad the past couple of days. There's nothing unusual about that, because I think about him all the time. But yesterday would have been his birthday – his 64th birthday – so I just thought of him a little bit more than usual.

It's weird. Everyone bangs on about time being a healer and all. About how the only way to deal with grief is by putting the hours in. I'm sure that's probably how things will pan out in the long run, but right now I'm just not feeling it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not upset or anything like that, it's just that I honestly think I miss my dad more now that I did back then when he died. I mean, I became pregnant pretty soon after we lost him, so I focused on that. Something wonderful to look forward to. Lots to plan. It was brilliant. And then Samuel arrived so I focused on that. I had a newborn. It was hideous, but I didn't have much time to chuck in the direction of grief.

But now? Well it's the toddler factor, you see. The grief grows in direct correlation with Samuel. I have this delight of a little boy who I see getting more fun, more interesting and more interested every day, right there in front of my eyes. And each time he learns to do something new – to kick a ball, roll a toy car along, build a, well, a thing with Mega Blocs or climb up on the foot stool and bounce around like a podium dancer in Manumission – I can't help but think about how much Dad is missing out on. How much he would have loved this little grandson. And then when I think about how amazing my dad was, I can't help but think how much Samuel is missing out on too.

It's not fair, right? No, it's not. But it's never worth letting your thoughts head in that direction, because down that road madness lies. 

So, Dad isn't around anymore, but that doesn't mean that he's forgotten. We talk about him all the time and will do so forever. And I'm just trying to make sure I pass on all the cool stuff he would have taught Samuel myself. Stuff like how the only acceptable accompaniment for a good steak is fried chestnut mushrooms. Or that there is no finer way to spend an evening than debating which season of The Wire is the best (Dad said 2, I maintain it is 4). How to roller skate (this may be a struggle for me). Algebra (this will definitely be a stretch). And how the best way to show someone you really love them is by stirring love bubbles into their tea. When Samuel is old enough to drink tea each mug will be so full of bubbles, they will tickle his nose.

Happy Birthday, Grandad Pat.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Crack problem

Samuel added a new word to his bijou repertoire today. 'Crack'. Two of his* current favourite stories feature the word very prominently (The Yoga Ogre and The Odd Egg. If you're not familiar, then please do treat yourself as I can't recommend them highly enough. Forget Dostoyevsky, these babies are literary gold.), so that's where it has come from. And that's cool - he's paying attention. What's not so cool, though, is walking round an eery south London playground in a sometimes threatening park with a child repeatedly shouting 'CRACK!' at the top of his lungs. Still, he looks super cute in the little Just William-style hat that James got for him the other day. So.


Monday, April 21, 2014


So here's how you know you're the parents of a toddler. It's 11.50am on a Bank Holiday Monday and you've already had a 'lie in', been out for an hour-long woodland walk and you're now standing with your nose pressed against the window of a pub, waiting for it to open in ten minutes. 

Times have certainly changed. Long, leisurely lunches are just memories these days. This becomes evident when the waiter comes over to take your drinks order and you look at the restless child next to you who has dog poo on his jeans and is throwing raisins in the air and you reply, all in one breathe, 'ITHINKWE'REREADYTOORDEROURFOODNOWCANWEHAVETHEFISHFINGERSPLEASE?'

I do love days like this, though. The walk we took was through the cute wildlife area in Norwood Park - it's kind of hidden down next to the train line and is maintained by volunteers keen on bringing a bit of countryside to the city, and it's a gem. Samuel walked most of it himself, hence the dog crap. But I'm really keen on getting him out in nature as much as I can. And, you know. To the pub too.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A woodland adventure

arrived back in London yesterday after Nannan's funeral. It had all gone as well as it could have, but it was draining. The realisation that she was gone. The weird family stuff that seems to be par for the course with a huge Irish family. And the memories of dad's funeral (held in the same church with the same priest and the same hymns) which hit me with unexpected force during I Watch The Sunrise. It was sad, but we were together, the weather was glorious and, as the sun blazed down upon the beautiful blood-red roses, I thought about how much Nannan would have liked it.

I didn't half miss my boys, though. So, reunited at last for the Easter weekend, we decided to go on an adventure to Sydenham Woods this morning - somewhere I've wanted to visit for an age. It's a good walk up there, but once you're through the gates (which, with a bulky Bugaboo that refuses to fold down, is a challenge in itself), it feels like the hustle and bustle of London is a world away.

Samuel treated the whole trip as a meet-and-greet with dogs, running towards any pooch that he spotted and looking nothing short of delighted if he was rewarded with a lick on the face. He giggled as he ran down woodland steps. And then up again. And then down again. It took us quite a while to make it around the whole wood. 

We had a few detours. Samuel would dive off the path if a nice-looking log caught his attention. And I was completely distracted by the ruins of an old monastery that we happened upon. And the bluebells in a sun-bathed glade a little further along the track? Pure springtime magic. I'm tired now but my heart feels lighter.

Monday, April 14, 2014


There's no doubt about it. A week or so at Granny K's house has left Samuel a changed man. When we arrived, his main form of communication was grunting. When we left, he was a complete chatterbox. He thrived on being outdoors all day, everyday, and that garden? Well he didn't half love it. He can now be considered a real dab hand with a trowel and a watering can. Also, we notched up a whole 9 days of next to no tantrums and in my book, that's pretty remarkable. This boy's a joy, I'm telling you.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fresh air

We're in that stressful limbo land between a death and a funeral that's all bittersweet memories when you look backward and uncertainties when you look forward. It's hard to watch my Mum's heart breaking and it's hard to feel like I'm being very supportive when I have a toddler in tow. But, actually, the toddler seems to be doing a pretty fine job of lifting spirits himself, and providing a perfect excuse for fresh air and time away from it all. 

Yesterday we visited Chatsworth and its amazing farmyard and adventure playground. If you're a parent with a curious and active child, it's basically Valhalla. Samuel got to sit on a bale of hay and hold a guinea pig called Badger (from their Guinea Pig Village. See? Amazing.). And the first thing he did? He leaned forward and gave it his signature gentle head-butt kiss. Heart melt. 

Gambolling lambs. Rolling hills. Civilised caf├ęs that do a good latte. It was the kind of day that ended with me spending way too much time on Zoopla fantasy house shopping for properties in the Peak District within walking distance of the Chatsworth Farm Shop. If only. IF ONLY!

Today we got our fresh air a little closer to home, visiting a huge local park with a an excellent climbing frame and some old tyres on chains. Passport to delirium for a one-year-old. Cue more baby photos. Sorry.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


'My Dora!'

I don't know why Samuel calls Lucy 'Dora', but I do know that he's very lucky to have her as an Aunty. And so does he. It's been a joy witnessing their mutual appreciation society this week. They both find each other hilarious and it only takes a cheeky glance across the room for one of them to set the other off. They're going to be trouble, these two.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fort Samuel

It was my Mum's birthday today and despite (or perhaps because of) the sad events of the past week, we decided it was important to celebrate it. We headed to Rufford Park for a huge carvery lunch, plenty of fresh air and a healthy dose of perspective. 

We took bread to feed the ducks. We soon realised that Samuel hadn't quite mastered this art when he kept gobbling up all the bread himself. But the ducks. Could there possibly be any creatures funnier than ducks? Samuel's hearty belly laughs would suggest not.

At the end of our stroll around the lake we discovered the most amazing kids' play area complete with huge sandpits and wooden forts. Samuel's eyes lit up as he ran all over the fort like a happy warrior, sometimes holding our hands, sometimes not. 

It was a happy day. Happy Birthday, Mum.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Back home

Samuel and I are back at my Mum's place. We'd planned this visit for ages - it was meant to be a relaxed week of fun with Granny but things haven't quite turned out like that. 

My wonderful Nannan died earlier on this week so there's a lot of sadness around. She was 98, but her passing still came as a shock. She was a tiny thing, but full of vitality and strong as an ox. Not only was she the kindest and funniest person that I've ever known, but she was also my inspiration. She had such a difficult life, especially as a child. And, get this, she had six children. Six! It's only when you become a mum yourself that you realise the sheer magnitude of that achievement - especially in the days before washing machines, Mumsnet and Dr Google. But the thing about my Nannan was that it really didn't matter how many children she had, or how many grandchildren (15 at last count), she still always managed to make each of us feel special. She always had time for us. And cake. And a schooner of sherry. I miss her and I'm sure I'll write about her again - and write about her better - soon.

In the meantime I'm just glad that we're here with my mum, and that little sis is here too. In between all of the arrangements that need to be made and the tears and the memories and the glasses of wine, we've been getting out lots with Samuel and he's been having a whale of a time. We've taken advantage of deserted playgrounds (everyone has a garden up here so playgrounds are totally underused - I don't think we're in London anymore, Toto), we've got giddy and rosy-cheeked at soft play and we had an interesting morning at the Sheffield Half Marathon today. Little sis was meant to run it and us to watch, but it was cancelled - a total shambles by all accounts - so she headed home with her friend. She didn't have her phone with her, though, so we went there regardless since we'd heard most runners still took part, albeit unofficially. It took us a long time - and numerous extremely complicated and protracted messages via mutual Facebook friends - to contact each other and work out what was going on, but we managed to have a fun morning there with Samuel anyway. And there may have been a little fairground train involved. And perhaps a Starbucks. We made the most of it, because as far as life goes, you have to, don't you?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


James had the day off work yesterday to hang out with us, but things got off to an inauspicious start when we awoke to find we had no water at all. Not a bit. Nada. Turns out that nobody else in Crystal Palace had any water either and there was a real greasy-haired, medieval vibe going on when we looked out of the window at the commuters en route to the train station. 

James suggested we just throw some clothes on and head out to the park sans showers. 'After all,' he said, 'would it really be so bad if, just for one day, you didn't put your make-up on to go out?'

I fixed him with the death stare. 

We didn't go out until after the water had returned several hours later.

The upshot of all of this was that Samuel was absolutely bouncing off the walls by the time we were ready to head out, so our mission was 'Project: Tire Out This Toddler'.

Up in Westow Park we let him run free and then run and run some more. Sitting and standing on roundabouts is not for him - it's far too passive - so what he likes to do is push them around. He must have walked that roundabout around at least 20 times. But did it tire him out? No. Through tunnels he crawled. Up and down the slide he went. He was still full of beans. Me and James were less so thanks to all the running around we were doing after him.  We were shattered. I briefly forgot about how knackered I was, though, when I laughed my head off at James getting bullied by two five-year-olds for hogging the slide and having to hastily dive down it with the grace of a terrified goat. At least we were all clean, though.