The Gallery: Sunshine

One of the nice things about having a larger than average age gap between children is watching your youngest go through the same experiences that your eldest did. Seeing The Baby doing the things that her big brother did five years ago not only gives me a chance to enjoy these stages all over again, but also sends me into a warm, fuzzy state of reminiscence as I remember what The Boy was like at the same age. Continue reading



The above picture shows the miscellaneous pile of Stuff I have just cleared off my bedroom floor: Stuff deposited by my children over the past 24 hours or so. It includes a broken pirate ship (The Boy), a bath book (The Baby), a Primary Times mag (Boy), a rubber (Baby) and a tyre from a toy monster truck (owned by The Boy but appropriated by The Baby), among other things.

I know I’m not alone in having children who are obsessed with Stuff, but at the moment, I feel like I’m drowning in it. By Stuff, I mean random and mostly useless objects that don’t have a designated place to live and so get dumped on the nearest flat surface. A quick look around the lounge right now reveals a notepad, a whistle and a packet of Fruit Pastilles on the windowsill, a book (Stories for Six-Year-Olds; yep, The Boy has incriminated himself there) on the arm of the sofa and a sun hat in the middle of the floor, and that’s *after* tidying up. I know there is also a roll of Sellotape on the stairs and a baby shoe wedged down the side of the kitchen bin – a location that will elude me when I’m searching everywhere for it in the morning. Continue reading

Bookworms and bedtime

The Boy has been a proper pickle at bedtime for a while now. I’m fortunate in that he doesn’t come out of his room or call out for me; on the contrary, he’s as stealthy as can be in an attempt to avoid being caught red-handed. It’s all because he can’t resist reading after lights-out. Every evening, I sneak upstairs to find him under the covers with a book, squinting in the darkness.

We’ve tried pretty much everything to get him to go to sleep at a semi-reasonable time. We confiscated his bedside light after a run of nights where I found him flat out with book in hand and the light still on at 11pm. Then we confiscated the torch that he denied all knowledge of having in his room – despite the fact that it was in bed with him when I checked on him before going to bed myself. We tried withholding pocket money, giving extra pocket money for going to sleep nicely, threatening him with missing days out/parties/playdates because he’d be too tired, but nothing will come between The Boy and his books. Continue reading

Mama who?

The Baby is a chatterbox. We had an inkling that she would be from about six months, when she started babbling with gusto. And now, at 15 months old, she doesn’t stop talking. Not all of it makes sense, of course, but a lot of it does.

She says ‘hiya’ and ‘bye bye.’ A lot.

She says ‘uh-oh!’ if someone drops something on the floor. Just to point out their mistake.

She tells us when she wants to go upstairs, outside, or on the slide. When she’s at the top of the slide, she shouts ‘go!’

‘Slide! Slide!’

She can name a veritable menagerie of animals, and make their corresponding noises, including a very good ‘clip clop’ sound whenever we walk past the stables on the school run. Continue reading

The Gallery: Picture postcard

I’m going to let you into a secret. A secret that is, it seems, as shameful as admitting that you enjoy kicking kittens, or would rather eat vegetables than chocolate.

Here goes…

I don’t like travelling.

I know, it’s terrible, isn’t it? But it’s true. When all my sixth-form friends were pondering their gap year options, I just couldn’t wait to get to university. When, on the forums I frequented at the time, fellow wedding planners were booking their honeymoons to Australia, Borneo and NYC, I was looking at the Thomas Cook brochure for the Dominican Republic. And now, I see my friends taking their children to Florida, the Jordan, Namibia, while the furthest I’ll go with mine is the Med.

Don’t get me wrong, I love holidays. But for me, a holiday is about getting somewhere as quickly as possible and staying there – with perhaps a day out or two. On top of that, I have *absolutely* no idea where I would start with booking an unpackaged holiday. I wouldn’t even know how to rent a car at my chosen destination, let alone book a flight, source a suitable, uninfested apartment and transport a family of four between those two locations.

My lack of wanderlust makes me feel incredibly unsophisticated and unworthy. As far as I can tell, admitting that you don’t like travelling marks you out as the worst sort of ignoramus. But I can’t help it. And my family is no better. Both husband and son travel incredibly badly, and given the performance The Baby puts in when strapped into her car seat, I’m guessing she’ll be no better.

So shoot me. We’re not as uncultured as our propensity to picking holidays from the Thomson brochure would imply. We’re bright people, we read, we talk, we watch QI, for goodness sake. We just don’t travel (unless you count Center Parcs…).

This all makes this week’s Gallery a bit of a challenge – especially as I prefer to photograph people than landscapes – but I do have evidence that holidays in the UK can be good. Not as good as Africa or the Middle East, for sure, but good enough for us.

Isle of Wight, summer 2011

Sunset at West Bay Club, summer 2011

Isle of Wight Steam Railway, summer 2012

Beside the seaside

Tomorrow morning, when The Boy goes to school, instead of his bookbag, he’ll be taking this:

They’re off to the seaside, you see. On a coach. And the sun is going to be shining.

He’s just a bit excited.

The Boy is very lucky that in that his teacher this year seems particularly keen on school trips. So far, his class has been to the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, the pantomime, and Stevenage Museum for a Victorian day. Tomorrow’s outing to Southend-on-Sea, however, sounds like it’s going to be the best yet. They’ve been learning about the seaside in their literacy and geography projects, so the trip is meant to tie in with their classwork, but frankly, it sounds like an excuse for a bit of a jolly to me. It’s been planned at the very last minute, to take advantage of the good forecast for this week (the letters only came home yesterday), but the short notice is no bad thing. The Boy is bouncing off the ceiling already; imagine if he’d had weeks to look forward to his trip.

It sounds like a wonderful day out, but I always feel a bit anxious when They Boy goes off on a school trip. As far as I can remember, the most adventurous trip I went on at primary school was to Bristol Zoo – and that was in Year 6. I don’t remember any trips at all in what is now Key Stage 1, although we did walk to the park for a whole-town centenary celebration when I was about eight or nine. The Boy is only six, and the thought of him being out in the big wide world without parental supervision is a bit nerve-wracking.

What if he wanders off and gets separated from the group? Or dashes into the road in front of an oncoming car? What if his coach is involved in an accident on the motorway? You seem to hear about school coach crashes on an alarmingly regular basis – or is that just because my mummy radar is hyper-alert to those stories?

Okay, I’m thinking of the worst-case scenarios here. It’s far more likely that any disaster to befall The Boy will by relatively minor; falling over into the sea, for example, or losing his glasses, or (by far the most likely option) throwing up on the coach. Note to self: must tell teacher about his propensity to vomiting in transit.

But while I’ll be giving The Boy a pep-talk about staying with the group, behaving himself on the coach, listening to instructions and telling the teacher is he feels sick, I know that the odds are stacked in favour of them all having an amazing day out. I’m really quite envious. On the agenda – apart from the coach trip, which is bound to be a highlight – is a train ride along the pier, a picnic, making sand sculptures, collecting shells, paddling, and having a ride at the amusements. Oh, and to top it all off, they’re going to stop for ice cream, too.

I wish my Year 1 teacher had been like The Boy’s.