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.