Category Archives: Thoughts

Ten things to be grateful for after a difficult year

reasons to be gratefulI’m not alone in saying this year’s been a bit of a bummer (x 500). Aside from the UK and US making some of the worst decisions in both of their histories, we’ve had some pretty rough family times, house problems and work issues. So I’ll be toasting the new year more heartily than usual.

But before then there’s the small matter of a big family Christmas and we’re hosting for the first time (eight people and three bedrooms – I love a challenge!) so that’s something to look forward to. And in between the ripped wrapping paper and pine needles, I thought it was time to reflect on the brilliant things that have happened this year as well. There’s always something to be grateful for – here are my 10:

  1. Baby D is much less of a baby than he was 12 months ago (in fact, can I even call him a baby anymore *sob*?) 2016 was the year he turned one and started walking and talking – his favourite words being ‘mun’ (moon) and ‘trak-tor’ – and his personality started shining through.
  2. Scrip is now a fully fledged school girl. After my emotions before her first day she is loving it more than ever. Although the tiredness is another story…
  3. We had our first nativity. Almost a post in itself! And my mum could have written a Sunday Times critique on the performances – once a teacher…
  4. The house is starting to look a little bit more like my Pinterest boards (starting to). And I’m now a dab hand at DIY, spotting a pressure problem with a boiler at twenty paces and fixing the broken doorbell (again).
  5. The garden is also taking shape. Once an overgrown jungle with the odd dog poo delight it’s now family friendly and we’ve used it loads this year. We’ve also discovered the joy of firepits!
  6. I’ve started a business! Yes, really. I still can’t believe it but I’m really enjoying it. I’m here at Carnsight Communications if you want to see more.
  7. Scrip can now ride the beautiful bike her grandparents bought for her and really enjoys it.
  8. They’re both enjoying the water in their weekly swimming lessons.
  9. Almost a year after we bought the house and ten months after we moved in, we’re’re still enjoying our new area. We love going back to London but we’re also loving exploring here.
  10. And my husband and I have spent plenty of time together – adversity can bring you together, even if it is over a supermarket saag aloo rather than in a fancy London restaurant.

So I’m definitely making the most of my remaining 19 sleeps until we welcome in 2017.

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From city to country – nine months in

City to CountryA lot can happen in nine months, as I know well. And a lot has happened these past nine months. As well as our move to the country, I’ve started my business, my husband’s started a new job, Scrip’s started school, Baby D has started not one but two nurseries, we’ve made lots of house ‘discoveries’ (mostly costly ones), we’ve had some difficult family news, some positive family news and so on.

On balance, I love it here. I miss family and friends in London and beyond but I don’t regret the move. I love the green, the space and the fresh air. I’ve started to make some lovely friends and so have Scrip and Baby D. But every move comes with adjustments and here are 9 that I’ve had to make (and am still making).

  1. Winter = wellies. Not your flimsy, floral, occasional-snow-day-in-London novelty wellies. Here you need hardcore, thick wellies even if you’re just popping to the shops. It was wet and muddy when we moved here last February and it’s starting to be like that again now.
  2. Milkmen make sense here. The village shop is fantastic and well-stocked but doesn’t open until 9am. We’ve made a fair few early morning trips to the garage 15 minutes away to get milk for breakfast but now the milkman is our new best friend.
  3. Amazon is also your friend. We wanted to be close to Bath, which we are, but when it’s all about getting in your car and parking and traffic, it’s so much easier to order online. Plus, if you’re out, Amazon can leave it in a safe place without you worrying how safe that place actually is.
  4. Everyone says hello. I can understand why you don’t greet everyone you come across with a smile and a cheery ‘hi’ in London but I forgot that wasn’t the norm across the country.
  5. The sky is quiet. It’s like that time a few years ago when aeroplanes were grounded. We get the occasional flight from Bristol overhead or local small planes but there’s no constant hum (we did used to be in the Heathrow flight path). It’s still.
  6. The wildlife is lovely. I grew up with the great outdoors being a big part of my life and I’m hoping the children will, too. There are beautiful birds of prey all around, pheasants all over the fields, owls in the garden and we think we may have a resident hedgehog.
  7. Whereas Scrip was surrounded by tube trains and buses, one of Baby D’s first words was ‘tractor’ (and it’s still a firm favourite) as they regularly rumble along the road.
  8. We now have serious log burner envy. The smell of woodsmoke in the village in the evenings is incredible. A wood burning stove is on our wish list but is way below things like fixing our external leak, unfortunately, so we may have to wait a while.
  9. Village life is village life. Having both grown up in villages we were apprehensive about moving from a big city to a small village but we’ve been made to feel welcome here, and having children means there’s a lot to get involved with. It’s an adjustment, but one we were prepared for.

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Parents’ views wanted: homes and gardens

Blogging in a coffee shopThe furniture specialists at Rattan Direct are on the hunt for parents’ opinions. They’ve put together a 2 minute survey (I’ve just done it and it really does take 2 minutes) on how people are using their homes and gardens now and at Christmas time (yes, it’s less than two months away…)

There’s also a section on that source of many a family argument, Brexit, and how it might affect spending. It makes you think. We’ve just been given planning permission (hooray!) for a home office/family room and extension which we’ll hopefully do in phases. So we’ve been talking to local building firms recently.

In the short term builders seem busy and to have ample work on the go but in the longer term, who knows? There’s a lot of uncertainty around pretty much all future spending at the moment.

I’ll be looking out for the results soon. Here’s the Rattan Direct survey (no personal details required).

A collaborative post with Rattan Direct.

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So, are you missing London?

missing londonI still love going back to London. We all do. When people ask if we miss it it’s a difficult question to answer. I think my husband does more than me. I love being back there – the buzz, the scale, the opportunities – but I’m seeing it through different eyes now.

I don’t feel like it was the best place for us to continue our family life, and that was one of the most important reasons for moving. However, I didn’t fall out of love with it (when you’re tired of London etc.) and I’m glad it’s still only an hour and a half away. My sisters live there as do some really good friends and I do miss them.

I’m enjoying our life here and making friends at Scrip’s school, our local toddler group and in the village generally. I love the fresh air, big skies and space. I love the fact we can hear owls in the garden and see buzzards overhead. We can walk to school past fields and hills and head out to pick blackberries from our door.

So, I do wish I could bring some of my London life here – particularly my family – but I appreciate why we moved and everything we all have here.

Best of the West – five recommendations for under fives near Bath

five under fiveWhen you have children or start looking after them, you discover an area in a way you never did before. When you move house, you get to do it all over again. I’m really enjoying seeing what this area of the West Country has to offer families. Seven months in, here are some of my favourite day trips so far in the Bath area.

The classical one – The Roman Baths
This was a no brainer and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. I first went with my mum, a historian, when I was quite a bit younger and I still remember its amazing beauty and sense of place. Years later, I’m pleased to report that Scrip really enjoyed our visit. There were children’s activities to complete but what I found particularly good were the holograms of Roman people projected into some of the baths. It really brought everything to life. The Baths are very popular, so expect crowds.

The one for small children – Ugly Bugs
It’s cheap and cheerful and my two love it here. Plus there are fish and chips for lunch: what’s not to love? It’s not far from us in Warmley and, while it’s not plush, it’s clean and not too crowded as they stop entry when all the tables are taken. It’s also a manageable size so you can see the children at all times (unless they refuse to move from the ball pool, as Baby D sometimes does). It suits small children age five and under. Arrive early for half price entry.

The outdoors one – Westonbirt Arboretum
We came here for Autumn colour last weekend, but still found lots of green leaves after our Indian summer. It was still lovely. The treetop walkway was a highlight as was the den building area. With a newish walker on small legs we didn’t get very far in a few hours and we only scratched the surface. Dogs are only allowed in certain areas but we seemed to see quite a few of them along the way. Entry is quite pricey – as is the food – so it could be worth looking at a year’s pass.

The local one – Dyrham Park
My cousin – who grew up near Richmond Park – wasn’t particularly excited about seeing the deer here, for obvious reasons, but they’re still pretty exotic to me and you usually spot the fallow herd on a trip to Dyrham Park. It’s very close to our new house and it’s a lovely spot – a country house (currently being renovated) enclosed by swooping hills on the entrance and with more formal gardens behind. The play area has ride-on tractors (perfect for our resident farm vehicle spotter, Baby D) and there’s a nice cafe.

The Harry Potter one – Lacock Abbey
I’ve only seen one of the films (or half of one, I think) but some of Harry Potter was filmed at Lacock Abbey and you can see why they chose it. It’s a lovely, atmospheric building and it’s been a winner with Scrip on a few occasions. Downstairs is the 13th Century Abbey; upstairs is the Fox Talbot residence, which is interesting in itself but also because it was one of the birthplaces of modern photography. There are some good children’s activities, including a playground just outside, and lots for grown ups to see. Make sure you have a walk around the National Trust village, too.

Phrases I thought I’d never say

drying dayI’m back to my pre-baby weight now (it’s taken 16 months this time around) and am wearing so many more of my old clothes. I’ve also had a few days away with my grown-up family on my own and I had a bit of time (and sleep) which helped me realise I’m feeling much more like myself. Although it’s definitely a new version of myself.

I guess it’s a normal part of adulthood but the new me says things the old me might shudder at. And she says them without irony.

Along with warning my children ‘It will all end in tears’ (and knowing I was right) last week, these are a few utterances that have come out of my lips recently..

  • It’s a good drying day [seriously – when did the washing become the first thing I thought about as I opened  the curtains?!]
  • Oooh is it that time already [at 10pm]?
  • Are there any more good boxsets on?
  • Do you fancy a hot chocolate [not Horlicks quite yet]?
  • I’ll just whizz the hoover around.
  • Just a spritzer for me [and I actually mean it].

On the eve of my little girl going to school

Going to school

 

Tonight you let me wash your hair
No fuss, as if the water wasn’t there
You dried yourself and put nightclothes on
Tolerated the toddler’s evening fun
You chose two stories and patiently waited
You spelt out some words, really concentrated
Then I kissed my little girl goodnight
Set the gro-clock, turned off the light
And closed the door on our life so far
Four and half years of my biggest star.

You’re excited, apprehensive, keen to start
I echo your feelings, but there’s also a part
That can’t let that eager little one go
Feeling sadness I’m trying not to show
School’s like a marker, a new path we must find
And I’m worried we’ll leave a little bit behind
I know you must learn, and change and grow
The journey’s exciting and there’s a long way to go
But in a way I suppose you’ll always be
My bright, loving baby, indefinitely.

 

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Mummy Times Two

Haven or Hell – 7 spaces to embrace with kids

Haven or Hell with kidsLast weekend was a family one with grandparents, in-laws and Scrip and D’s cousin staying nearby. Just 17 months apart, the girls played together so well while Baby D padded behind, only being distracted by anything that looked like a ball, a coin or a stick…

An unsettled Sunday meant we headed out for the day to the Avon Valley Country Park, which was good fun. Despite the dry forecast it started to rain, so we made a beeline for the the indoor picnic area. A stark, temporary structure, I would have previously shunned this particular spot. Now, with soggy children in tow, it was a haven.

That made me think how I now see other spaces in a totally different light, post-children. Here are a few that come to mind:

  1. The supermarket cafe – once firmly avoided, now embraced. Good source of food bribes and generally offers a pretty cheap lunchbox.
  2. Service stations – formerly a necessity to be endured, now a little light at the end of a long tunnel (particularly if you tend to inhabit the M25 or A30 as frequently as we do).
  3. Petrol stations – ditto, on a smaller scale. A chance to stretch legs and stock up on chocolate buttons.
  4. WH Smith’s magazine/comic aisle – all that colour, all those cartoon characters, all that cheap plastic. So many gleeful smiles.
  5. Soft play – the noise, the smelly socks, the chaos…and the yelps of delight from children as soon as they enter. Although I still avoid busy times where possible and I follow my husband’s soft play survival guide.
  6. Ikea – and we haven’t even tried the creche yet! Children young and old seem to enjoy playing pretend houses and that’s before they’ve even got to the play area. I challenge you to try and leave without an oversized toy in tow.
  7. Pets at Home – is it just me or is this shop a great mini zoo/wildlife park for those of us who don’t even have pets? Just don’t try and feed the rabbits…

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In memory of Jo Cox

I sat down today to write a blog
Just a few thoughts about life through the fog
About work, about children, about my day
But then the news took my words away
I didn’t know Jo Cox, the female MP
Whose life was cut short so terribly
I know of her actions, her incredible drive
Her desire for peace, keeping hope alive
I know she has a husband whose recent statement
Was so touching and so eloquent
Also two little children who are far too small
To suffer so terribly from this all
What can we say? It makes no sense
There can be no amends, no recompense
No alternative parent, alternative wife
Just a void for the rest of their life
No replacement for her powerful voice
Trying to do good, giving positive choice
Attempting to bring the world together
Then suffering this now and gone forever
I hope in her name we can carry on
To overcome the hatred; it must be gone
And in the meantime we will celebrate
Her vast achievements, before this fate
A mother, a wife, a female MP
So special, so vibrant, an inspiration to me.

My irks with home working

Home WorkingIt’s been a tough couple of weeks, with yet more change and adjustments that need to be made, some much bigger than others. One of the positives (I’m starting to over-use that word) is Baby D’s new nursery which has so far gone well. I say new as after just a week’s notice (!) his first nursery closed its doors eight weeks after he started, and we had to find another one pronto and get him fully settled in. Thankfully, day one at nursery two went very well (despite the over-tiredness in the boy I put to bed an hour or so ago).

With both children in childcare full time, I had a day to work, work, work. I’m enjoying working for myself (although I have to say I’m now over the initial euphoria of being at home with a hot coffee and a laptop screen not being pawed at or slammed shut).

We’re creating a home office but in the meantime it’s the kitchen table, once the breakfast things have been cleared away. There are so many positive parts (that word again) to working for myself and I sometimes pinch myself that it’s actually happening. However, there are also the niggles that only come to light once you start. Here are a few things that have made me wish it wasn’t just me here today:

The printer – I consider myself reasonably tech savvy but I fail to be able to default to the right printer (why do I have a list of 15??), print on the right side of the paper or push page 20 of said paper in far enough to keep on printing.
My new email account – where’s the IT support when you need it? Answer – thousands of miles away on a virtual chat (probably answering a lot of other queries at the same time). I can receive but I still can’t send, a week later…
The workman’s drill – do you choose a day when there are no children to trip over pipes and wires or have a full day of drilling when you’re trying to have a client phone call?
The coffee overload – hot, freshly brewed coffee? Mmmmm. How many cups can I enjoy without getting the shakes? Not as many as I used to I realise as I bounce to the door to greet the postman manically.
The housework – not the temptation to spend my whole time doing it – the opposite. I feel like I need to make every moment of work count so I end up with a house messier than the days with the children plus a basket full of wet washing.
The mum guilt – it’s still there, niggling away. This isn’t a vanity project – I’m earning money for the family as well as doing something I hope I’m good at. Plus hopefully setting a good example for my children. But working from home feels the same as going out to work – you still get those moments where you feel you should be with your children, rational or not.

However on balance what a privilege to be able to do this and hopefully fit my work around my life rather than the other way around. I’m off to pick up the children (once the coffee shakes have subsided).

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