Sunday, December 29, 2013

What a difference a year makes

I'm not going to lie. Last Christmas was hideous. James and I received so many well-meaning cards telling us to enjoy this, our 'most special Christmas ever', and all I could do was look at the yowling six-week-old in my arms and wonder where my life had gone and whether our cheery correspondents were taking the piss. 

I realise how ungrateful that sounds. But the potent combination of the physical effects of childbirth and the psychological effects of sleep deprivation and new parent ineptitude do not a jolly Yuletide make. I remember feeling extremely sorry for myself when I realised that I still wasn't able to sit down on a wooden kitchen chair to eat my Christmas dinner. Samuel was tiny and precious and delicate and I was absolutely terrified of him. But last Christmas's one saving grace was the fact that my mum and my sister came down to stay with us and help us get through it.

But this year was different. This Christmas we enjoyed ourselves. This Christmas we drove south to visit Granny Pat for a yummy boeuf bourguignon and giggles aplenty. Then we drove north to stay with my mum and sister. In the back of the car for both journeys was a hardy, boisterous and sweet little toddler who still had no idea what Christmas was all about but who was going to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of it nonetheless. The tree. The presents. The living room floor covered in torn wrapping paper. Joining everyone at the table to eat Christmas dinner. Running around, dancing and bashing on the piano. The utter adoration of his Grannys and Aunty. He was a delight and loved the lot. And I loved watching him loving having an amazing time. Especially in the house where I happily spent all of my childhood Christmases. 

It was pretty textbook at home. Mum kept feeding us. The Baileys and Madeira kept flowing.  By Day 3 cabin fever kicked in and Lucy and I escaped for an hour to a retail park and reverted to giddy 14-year-olds in a discount beauty store. It was so much fun and our haul was impressive. By Day 4 we were in the midst of Chrimbo Limbo - we had absolutely no idea what day it was, we'd eaten way too many Quality Streets and we had way too much time on our hands. So I did what anyone would do. I ordered Miranda Hart's Maraccattack DVD. Just a normal Kiely/Chittenden Christmas, then. I love my family so much. Can't wait for the next one. 

Monday, December 23, 2013


No posts for a while. I guess that's because December has been pretty busy. And that is in no small part due to the fact we now have a bona fide toddler. Samuel's walking has come on in leaps and bounds this month and he's everywhere and into everything. To see him walk from the sofa to the toy box like a determined little old drunk makes me prouder than I could ever have imagined. But a nice sit down? Well that's definitely a thing of the past.

What else? Well the party season has been good to us. James has had various work nights out and I've broken the habit of a lifetime (Samuel's lifetime) and had a couple of nights out myself. And guess what? The world did not stop spinning because James did Samuel's bedtime bottle, and nor did Samuel suffer for my absence. If anyone suffered after V's birthday at The Elk in the Woods, it was me as a 1am bedtime isn't, it turns out, compatible with an energetic and early-rising baby. But I loved going out with my friends that night. I loved wearing a dress, getting a tube at night again and  being the person that I used to be. And it was the same last week when I met up with L for a preview screening of Inside No.9, the new show from half of The League of Gentlemen. That it was hilarious and chilling goes without saying, but the thing I really loved was just being out in the evening with a friend at a cinema (a CINEMA! What a novelty!) and just knowing that I can do this stuff again. 

Other things that have happened this month. Well, afternoon mince pie visits aplenty from good pals. Also, James, Samuel and I went to check out the new Crystal Palace Market restaurant one Sunday and it was glorious. Chilled out, quick and baby friendly - everything we want in a restaurant these days. What's more, we ate the most delicious burgers. We went along with some good friends and their kids who we've only really got to know since we had Samuel. I think if there's one thing I've realised this month - and probably this whole horror show of a year (which continues thanks to a leaking roof, but that's another story) - it's that we really are blessed with some excellent friends. And I know that some of them - some of you - read this silly little blog, so I just want to wish you the best Christmas. You rock. Yes, you.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A fortnight of red cup joy

My life doesn't revolve around Starbucks. Honestly it doesn't. I mean, yes, our friends Jo and Christian might have mentioned a Starbucks latte in the (somewhat customised) reading they did at our wedding. And, yes, I might have recently written a moany little blog post obsessing about how much I missed my daily Starbucks visits. But please don't judge me. I'm not fixated. Nor do I believe, as this article about the cutesification of society puts it, that civilisation peaked when it created the technology to make a red cup. I just really, REALLY love a gingerbread latte at this time of year. Am I a sucker for marketing from an evil capitalist corporation? Probably. But happiness is happiness however you look at it, right?

Imagine my joy, then, when I managed to get four (yes, that's FOUR!) gingerbread lattes in over this past fortnight. All of which, really, is a rather long winded way of saying that here is a catch-up on what I've been up to recently through the medium of coffee.

THE 'HUMOURED BY MY HUSBAND' RED CUP: We headed to Granny Pat's house in Sussex on Samuel's birthday, and whenever we venture that way, we drive past a tiny little Starbucks in a place called Hooley. After dropping several million hints upon approach to Hooley 'Oooh, we're almost in Hooley!', 'Am I mistaken or is there a Starbucks in Hooley?' etc), James rolled his eyes and very politely asked if I would like to stop there to get a gingerbread latte. He's a good man. And, cor, that coffee tasted good.

THE 'WE NEED TO GET THIS TEETHING BABY OUT OF THIS RESTAURANT BEFORE SOMEBODY KILLS US' RED CUP: The other week, Samuel and I set off on an adventure to London Bridge to meet L on her lunch break. Samuel was teething and a little bit grumbly on the train there, but I kept him nice and calm with my excellent mumming skills (that is, I kept throwing rice cakes at him and hoping for the best). Borough Market was bustling as usual. The last time we visited it was a scorching summer day and there were stalls selling cooling Prosecco spritzers, but this time the same stalls were selling steaming beakers of mulled wine. It was well festive. We didn't sample them, though, and instead headed to a Pain Quotidien to meet L and enjoy a nice tart. L was brilliant with Samuel and somehow managed to keep him entertained with her red fingernails and the super cute Spider-Man T-shirt that she's bought him for his birthday. Unfortunately, by the time the nice tarts were served up, Samuel's grumbles had turned to wails, the rice cakes had lost their magic powers, and we weren't the most popular of patrons. We had to take it in turns to bounce, jiggle and walk him around the place and then bolt down our lunches. We escaped as quickly as we could ... to the Starbucks around the corner where we got red cups to take out and strolled around the frosty streets trying to cram hours of gossip into the ten minutes that were left of L's lunch break.

THE 'WE'VE SURVIVED A LONDON TOURIST ATTRACTION ON A SATURDAY AND WE DESERVE THIS' RED CUP: Last weekend, my lovely NCT friend arranged a day out to the London Sea Life Aquarium for our whole group to celebrate all the babies turning one. It was a top adventure. Samuel loved banging on the tanks and getting up close and personal with the sharks and stingrays and speedy little fish. He was a bit non-plussed about anything slow-moving or the crocodile, which looked like it was playing musical statues. It's an absolutely massive place with so much to see, and if you have older children you could easily spend half a day there. We discovered, though, that with babies like Samuel who have specific nap-time needs, you kind of need to whizz around quickly, because by the time we made it to the penguins, Samuel was screaming with tiredness. We all ducked out before lunchtime, leaving the crazy-busy hoardes behind us and took a long and leisurely walk along the South Bank. We stopped off at Starbucks and treated ourselves to red cups to celebrate surviving our first big touristy outing as families. And yes, I may well have been the instigator of that stop-off.

THE 'YIPEE, I'M ON MY OWN AND WEARING DRY-CLEAN ONLY CLOTHES' RED CUP: Joyously, Brunch Club with C, L and V was on again this past weekend. Only it wasn't really Brunch Club at all. For one month only, Brunch Club became Afternoon Tea Club (it was on C's list of things to do before her baby comes along in March) and the destination was Brown's Hotel in Mayfair. I wore a silk top, a fake fur jacket, a smudge of eyeliner and not even a hint of baby sick. It was nice. It was great to catch up. We treated the unlimited nature of the afternoon tea as a personal challenge and wished that C wasn't the only one with an elasticated waistband. I rolled back to Victoria and saw that I had a while to wait for my train, so naturally, I headed to Starbucks to wait with a red cup. Every cloud and all that.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Into the numbers

So how do you do a first birthday? Samuel's big day was fast approaching and, as with most of the other parental quandaries we come across, we didn't have a clue what to do. On one hand, we knew it wasn't like he would ever remember any of the festivities. But on the other, we knew that we needed to mark the occasion with some kind of fuss and photographic evidence if we are ever to expect him to take pity on us and convert his garage into a granny annexe in 30 years' time when our meagre pensions have run out and we're eating tins of supermarket own-brand cat food. Evidently a party needed arranging pronto. 

We decided on an intimate soirée rather than a massive tented bash with live entertainment. This was for several reasons. Firstly, he doesn't have any friends. Secondly we don't have many friends. Thirdly, The Grumbleweeds weren't free. And, finally, given that he's a baby who's been known to have a full-on emotional breakdown when a packet of Snack-a-Jacks has been rustled in his direction, we felt that party overkill wasn't the way to go.

So we did what felt right. We bought cute dinosaur party hats. We ordered, and stuffed our faces with, Curly Whirly Cake from Konditor and Cooke (Samuel was quite taken with the frosting). We put up bunting. We called Granny K and Aunty Lucy and got them to hop aboard southbound trains to join us. The next day, we took him to visit his Granny Pat for further cake action. 

As far as birthday weekends go, it wasn't half bad. A little boy with a party hat on his head, a slice of cake in his hands and all the people who love him in front of him.

I'm still hopeful about the granny annexe.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday morning

Samuel coughs. I look at his pale face. A thick, yellow candle oozes from one nostril. Wasn't there once a band called '... And you will know us by the trail of snot'? I wonder, absentmindedly. We'll be staying indoors again today, I think. I really need a coffee.

I lay him down to change his nappy, but he doesn't want his nappy changed. He howls and screams as I wrestle his trousers off. I look at the time. I used to step into Starbucks every morning around now, I think.

Just as I manage to whip off Pampers's finest, we hear a noise of deep, guttural discontent behind us. The cat is throwing up her breakfast. Red cups, I think. I bet the red cups are out now

Samuel looks at me. Then he looks at the steaming pile of cat sick. Then he looks at me again. A grin spreads across his face. He wriggles free of my clutches and makes for the vomit at lightening speed. A new toy, he thinks. 'Catch me, Mum!' he thinks. There is poo all over his bottom. miss those daily gingerbread lattes, I think. All resplendent with their cinnamon sprinkles.

I chase him with baby wipes in one hand, wildly swatting off what I can, while using the other hand to slow him down before he reaches the toxic heap. It's like trying to stop Roadrunner. His arms and legs are still scrambling forward determinedly  but he's going nowhere. He isn't happy about it. 

Eventually I manage to pin him down with my leg and clean him up. His little teeth gnash at my pyjama bottoms. Then I set to work on the snotty nose. He's even less happy about this. 

I release him. He smiles a smile of instant forgiveness and crawls off to play with a story book. I turn my attention to the cat sick. 

Oh, for a red cup in cashmere-mittened hands, I think.

Monday, November 4, 2013

That work thing

One day last week Samuel and I spent the morning playing, listening to 6Music and dancing to Doves and Public Enemy. We were both still full of cold but it didn't stop us giggling. Later, when he'd gone down for his nap, I did the usual chores, had a leisurely lunch and then surprised myself by cranking out a few rows of my long-neglected knitting project. It was great.

As I sat there, I had a thought. It had taken a year to get here, but this was it. This was exactly how I'd hoped maternity leave would be.

And then I had another thought. I'm not actually on maternity leave any more. 

The fact of the matter is that I handed my notice in at work a few weeks' ago. It was such a difficult thing to do. My role had been a dream one - a copywriter at a cancer support charity that I love with all my heart. A charity which helped my family and I beyond belief when my dad was ill. A charity with a fabulous tone of voice that fully complemented - and even encouraged - my love of puns. Jobs as good as that are hard to find.

But I know I made the right decision for us. Childcare costs are astronomical - way too prohibitive for someone on a charity copywriter's salary - and my gut instinct tells me that I should stay home to look after Samuel myself. I've gone and got quite attached to him, truth be told. So that's that then.

Except that it isn't. Not quite. Writing is still important to me. Punning is a big part of who I am (few things beat the thrill of seeing a completely ridiculous headline of mine in print). And I'd be lying if I said that after years of earning my own crust I've found it easy to be financially dependent on James. I haven't. And that's why I'm going freelance.

I've no idea if it will work out, if I'll pick up much work at all or if I'll be able to find that elusive work-life balance that you hear mums talking about. But I'm rather excited about it nonetheless. So if you hear of anyone who needs some nice words, funny words, luxurious words, inspirational words or persuasive words, do tell them to give me a shout.

Now all I need to do is rustle up an online portfolio and decide whether or not I should include a headline I once wrote to promote a Lionel Richie album (Hello! Is it this CD you're looking for?).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A suspicious silence

You know that thing they say about how you should worry when your child is quiet? Well, they're not wrong. 

Yesterday we sat there drinking tea and remarking upon how much we were enjoying a chilled out Saturday morning and how great it is that Samuel can amuse himself so well now. He'd been quietly playing for ages on his play mat with his back to us. Hmmm.  

We took a closer look. He was eating our post. Munching away on a 10% discount mailer that James's team had produced. And ironically, by the time we'd got wise to his game, he'd eaten 10% of it. Mathematical skillz.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Samuel at eleven months'

I'm going to whisper it quietly. Just in case I'm tempting fate or I'm getting too ahead of myself, but I'm pretty sure about it. This is the month when everything has changed.

And the main change is that he's off. He's crawling like a demon, cruising round the furniture at turbo speed and he's even taken his first steps. He can go wherever he wants and get to whatever he wants. I'm generally right behind him, telling him in a panicked voice that he's not allowed in that particular place and that he can't have that particular thing. He's pulling himself up left right and centre, and the bumps and tumbles are coming thick and fast. 

But, neuroses and knocks aside, these latest developments are marvellous. All that frustration of being stuck in one place has evaporated and he's a far happier baby as a result. That's freedom for you. He quickly, and a bit clumsily, shoots towards the exit of whatever room he's in, then just as he's about to disappear out of my line of vision he looks over his shoulder with an enormous cheeky grin and makes sure that I'm chasing him. He's trouble, this one. And fun. So much fun.

And that's not all. This month he's started clapping. He claps enthusiastically when James comes home from work and he claps slowly and sarcastically while he's waiting for me to get his dinner ready. Meh. He's also shaking his head to say 'no' and he's repeatedly sticking his tongue out. He finds both of these things hilarious. He's discovered that the power button on the X-Box lights up and makes a pleasing beepy sound when you press it, so he spends ages switching it on, then off, then on, then off again.

This is the month when he discovered soft play with its bouncy castles and ball crawls. And, unlike most of the other baby activities he's tried, he didn't dislike it. Oh, and he thinks he can juggle. He can't juggle, but he watches us do it, then grabs a ball in each hand and holds them above his head and looks super pleased with himself. It's cute.

And, talking of cute, those curls. They get me every time. He's turning into a deranged Goldilocks. And those eyes. That giggle. How on earth did we manage to make that

Gushy, me? Yep. But that's eleven months for you.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A whole load of yuck

This past week has been all snot and sniffles at our gaffe. It started when I came down with a stinking cold in the middle of last week. My head felt like it was about to explode under the snot pressure, my nose ran like a tap, and I scared Samuel by spending many an afternoon with a tissue stuffed permanently up one nostril. Dignity, always dignity.

Pre-baby, a cold meant that I'd get to spend a day in bed, stressing about work but fully luxuriating in feeling sorry for myself and tweeting about the latest demented story line in Doctors. It doesn't work like that anymore. I mean, I still feel sorry for myself, and I still manage to find the time to tweet about Doctors (the other week, for example, it featured an extended Jane Austen-style costume drama dream sequence. In a GP practice in a suburb of Birmingham. Crackers.), but now I have a demanding little person who needs looking after no matter how rough I feel. It was a proper mum test for a couple of days. Luckily, James was excellent over the weekend. Not only did he look after Samuel and let me sleep in, but he also cooked a chilli that was so hot, I swear it cured my cold.

And, inevitably, just as I started to feel better, Samuel caught my lurgi and it's about a million times worse seeing him poorly. The little mite is so miserable he spends most of the day wailing with a clammy snot-smeared face. This might be one of the first times we've played a  family game of pass the germy parcel, but I doubt it'll be our last.

And, staying with the theme of all things yuck, TalkMum asked me to write a post for them for their conception month. It was published this week and you can find it here. I know, I know. Most people want to read about how someone they know conceived their child like they want to set fire to their own arm. But, really, it's not that grim or detailed and I'm hopeful that it won't make you want to puke up your pancreas. Also, it features Starbucks and a cat.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


The other day I found a half-eaten packet of rice cakes in the freezer and, later, an open packet of sausage rolls in the kitchen drawer where the hammer lives. The smell suggested that the sausage rolls may have been there for some time. 

It'd be lovely to be able to cry 'J'accuse!' while pointing at Samuel (I thoroughly believe that any day can be livened up with a little Gallic drama), but I know full well that I am the culprit. Bit tired, you see. But, as regular readers of this blog know, I'm not one to moan. Ahem.

Anyway, when I spotted this necklace on ASOS for a mere £6, I knew that it had to be mine. Not that I regularly spend nap times looking at popular shopping websites while shovelling mini Milky Ways into my gob. Ahem.

I'm wearing it rather a lot. I think it would make a super gift for any sleep-deprived mum or mum-to-be. Or, you know, anyone else who's a bit Makka Pakk-ed. Mums don't have the monopoly on tiredness.

Sleep well.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Letting go

'Your poor mother,' the health visitor cooed at Samuel during his one-year development review. 'With this kind of energy, when you get going she's going to be in real trouble.'

Sparks were flying from his feet as he bounced like a crazed Tigger and hung off a floor-mounted bead toy by his mouth. He giggled and lurched towards her. I immediately grabbed him under his arms to stop him falling. It was my natural instinct.

'Do you hold him steady when he's on his walker?' the health visitor asked.

'Of course,' I replied. 'He'll tumble over if I don't.'

'He might the first time,' she said. 'But then he'll learn. And he can do it. You just need to help him work out that he can do things on his own.'

I grumbled a little on the way home. The review had gone really well and Samuel was developing just as he should be, but I'm not a fan of being told what to do by health visitors. 

'I know my baby,' I muttered under my breath. 'And he just isn't ready to walk on his own.'

We got in and, just to prove my point, I immediately popped his walker in front of him. He grabbed it, I let go of him but got ready to catch him as he fell and ... he coolly and calmly walked to the other side of the room on it. No wobbles. No biggie.

He's growing up. I've just got to stop babying him and let him. 

It's made me wonder what else he might be able to do that I just haven't given him the opportunity to have a go at yet. James suggested that he might be able to pop down and collect the post for us by next week.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Indian summer

There's a man who lives in the house next door who has been striking up a bonfire every night for the past week or so. The tinder crackles pleasingly, the smoke smells delicious and, at dinner times, Samuel and I have had the perfect, cosy view of the flames from our kitchen window. I've been telling Samuel all about bonfires while I shovel hearty seasonal grub into his mouth. I even caught myself making up stories about how the man is burning evidence - bodies even - under the guise of garden waste disposal. Then I stopped myself as I realised that a ten-month-old probably wasn't the right audience for such gruesome theories.

Anyway, I digress. The point of my story is that although bonfire man is fully engaged in autumnal activities, he's also sporting a t-shirt outdoors on October evenings. The weather has been glorious for this time of year but I hear that the temperature is set to plummet from tonight and the season will begin in earnest. As such, I'm really pleased that we managed to make the most of summer's final fling this past weekend. 

Little Sis was down from Manchester for work so she took full advantage and spent a few days with her favourite nephew. Samuel was thrilled to see her. We pootled around parks collecting bags full of conkers for Little Sis's flat (they're a well-known spider deterrent, and I'm told that there's a big spider problem in Chorlton). We entertained Granny Pat on Saturday afternoon and giggled as Samuel danced and bounced until none of us had the energy to dance and bounce with him anymore. And then on Sunday we took a scorching walk to Dulwich where we all ate Sunday lunch in a sunny beer garden and kept  incredulously repeating, 'this is October?!'

I wouldn't have thought we'll be seeing a beer garden again until next spring, but I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing bonfire man again tonight. Perhaps in a jumper.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Samuel at 10 months'

You know, it's not easy being a ten-month-old. Samuel's completely aware of the world around him, but he can't really understand how it works yet. 

There are so many questions. Why does the cat (his favourite thing in the world) run away from him whenever he barrels towards her at breakneck speed? Why isn't he allowed to be left to chew on his high chair table in peace? Why does he have to wait his turn to pick a maraca out of a box at a baby class if he wants one NOW? And who is that other mummy in the mirror? The one who is always picking bits of rice cake out of her hair. The one who, while bending down to help him put his jacket on this morning, may have accidentally activated the pump dispenser of his eczema cream with her arse. And may have created quite a mess. Anyway.

He's a bundle of contradictions at this age too. He's both sweet and what might euphemistically be described as spirited (take a toy off him at your peril). He's not a bit shy but he's extremely clingy. He can't sit still for a moment but he can't really go anywhere on his own yet either. 

Life seems like one big emotional roller coaster for Samuel these days and pretty much all of his crying comes down to the frustration of not being independently mobile. He's SO close to crawling. And SO close to walking on his own. In the meantime he just reaches out for my hands, pulls himself up, and off we go ... quickly! 

He loves cruising around on the furniture. He loves the baby swings at the park. He loves his books and while most children his age develop an emotional attachment to a cuddly toy, he has done the same to a book about animals. He loves to laugh and has already developed a sense of humour as complex as nuanced as my own; one of us will burp and we will both giggle about it for ages.

But I think my absolute favourite recent development is that Samuel has learned how to hug. That once squirmy little wriggle monster will now wrap his arms around us and let us give him a bit of a squeeze. Maybe being ten-months'-old isn't so bad after all.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September can do one

Honestly. It can. If there's ever been a month that's taken great pleasure in pissing on our chips, it's this one. 

September. The month with all the uncertainty that surrounded James's emergency eye surgery. September. The month when, on Monday, we made our first, but I doubt our last, dash to A&E with Samuel. He had a mild rash which we weren't too worried about until the GP uttered phrases such as "can't rule out meningitis" and "better to be safe than sorry". Cue a mad dash to the hospital, a gut-wrenching wait and, finally, a simple shot of Piriton and a paediatrician's reassurance that it was just a virus. By the evening he was doing much better but, my, what a fright. That night, before I put him into his cot, I held him that little bit closer for that little bit longer.

September. The month when, two years' ago today, a family of four went into a different hospital in a different town and came out a family of three. The month when calendars and diaries cast their morose shadow and remind me, albeit ever so briefly, of those sad final days with Dad rather than the countless happy ones. The important ones. 

Oh and there are other things too. There are the bully boy freeholders who want to carry out major - and entirely unnecessary - works to our building and charge us thousands of pounds for the privilege. There's the end of my maternity leave looming on the horizon and the enormous decisions that need to be made about my future and about Samuel's. I'm absolutely convinced that I will pull my head out of the sand any day now. 

But whoa there, Drama Queen Doreen. This month might have been a bit of a roller coaster, but it's not all been bad. I'm coming out of it a lot more grateful than I was going into it. I'm grateful for my husband's sight. I'm grateful for my son's health. (And, since he's just learned how to stick his tongue out and decided that burps are hilarious, it's quite literally rude health.) I'm grateful for our family. I'm grateful for our friends. 

What's more I was thrilled to discover during last night's CBeebies Bedtime Story that I read Giraffes Can't Dance about a million times better than that bloke who plays Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire. And honestly, I can't tell you how good that feels. 

But, you know. Roll on October.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reasons to be cheerful

So James can see again. Not perfectly. It's fuzzy, there are crazy lights streaming everywhere and there's still a big gas bubble in his eye. The bubble is shrinking every day, though, and a tantalising little sliver of vision is getting bigger. And today, with a bit of careful positioning, he managed to see Samuel's face. Talk about joy. 

There's still a long way to go and we don't know how it will end. He's exhausted (or Makka Pakk-ed as we've started saying. We don't get out much.), dizzy and can't do too much, but he's getting better. And after an unimaginably dark week for him, there's suddenly a lot of optimism going on around Gipsy Hill. Crikey, how amazing is modern medicine? And how lucky are we to live here in this country in this era and to be able to benefit from it? It's not just James's sight that's come back, it's his chance to see his little boy grow up.

Anyway, getting a bit gushy there - I think  I'm a bit Makka Pakk-ed too. For that reason I was overjoyed when my mum swooped in this weekend to lend a hand. And aren't mums brilliant? She arrived with what appeared to be the spoils of a smash-and-grab at M&S Food and Krispy Kreme, took Samuel and packed me off to the hairdressers so I could get my roots sorted. Samuel was thrilled to have a bit of Granny time too. Legend.

And just in case we needed any more reasons to look be cheerful, me and Mum found one when we took Samuel to the park today. Somewhere between our front door and the playground, he dropped his beloved Sophie giraffe. I resigned myself to the fact that Sophie was gone for good - that there was no chance we'd ever find her again in London. And then, as we heading back, mum spotted her and laughed out loud. There she was, perched astride a plaque, with a panoramic view of the city behind her. Some kind soul had made sure she'd be spotted and reunited with her grumpy little owner. 

This week is going to be so much better than last week. I can feel it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Whenever a tower of stacking cups comes crashing down, whenever Samuel falls over, and whenever anything unexpected or scary happens, me and James shout 'Boom!' in a comedy fashion.

I suppose it's because we want Samuel to know that even though things may happen out of the blue, you can still deal with them without bawling. Well, over the past week we've had a 'Boom!' of our own.

Things had been going so well. I remember looking at my 'to-do' list last Tuesday morning and the only thing written on there was 'buy replacement rubber ducks'. I won't elaborate on why replacements were required, but I figured that if that was the most difficult task of my day, then life as a mum had to be getting easier. Then on Wednesday I took Samuel to James's office for a visit and it was lovely. James was beaming - he looked so happy and so proud to be showing off the boy. As the three of us squeezed into a work shower cubicle for a nappy change we giggled at the absurdity of the situation and I remember thinking, 'Cor, life is good.'

Samuel and I headed home and later that day I got a call from James. He told me that his vision had suddenly deteriorated in his right eye so he'd gone to hospital. He discovered that he had a detached retina - something that can just happen randomly if you're very shortsighted - and he needed an operation as soon as possible or he would certainly lose all vision in that eye. Boom! But the operation came with no guarantees and many risks. It might not work and he might lose his vision anyway. It would be a while before we'd know the results. Boom! All this came in the shadow of the fact that he only has extremely limited sight in his other eye due to another detached retina after a sports injury as a child. So, you know. Boom!

We knew that I couldn't join him at the hospital and I felt terrible about it. There was just no way I could take Samuel to Moorfields in the evening. He'd have gone berserk - and I suspect that we would have too. But nobody should ever have to come out of an operation blind, vulnerable and alone. I sent a taxi to collect him and I helped him up the stairs and into bed.

And bed is where he's had to stay ever since. You see, the operation involved inserting a gas bubble into his eye which pushes the retina back to where it needs to be and acts as a splint. In order to keep the bubble in exactly the right place, James has to lie on his left side for a week. He's allowed to get up for five minutes in every hour, but that's it. From what I can tell, it's a combination of tedium and terror. He can't see and he can't know what the future holds yet, but he has all the time in the world to dwell on the numerous 'what ifs'. He's handling it all incredibly, though. He's calm and he's dignified and he's funny.

The worst thing, he says, is that he can't see Samuel. He can't see him trying desperately to toddle around. He can't see his comedic look of confusion as he tries so hard to crawl forwards but only manages to go back. What's more, he can't go near him for fear of a flailing little limb causing even more damage to his eye. It's heartbreaking.

But Samuel is lightening the mood. He interrupts serious conversations with well-timed farts. He laughs like a donkey for no apparent reason and then blows raspberries at his dad from across the room.

We're a few days down the line now and James's sight does seem to be coming back, if incredibly slowly. It's just colours and shapes that look like they're being viewed through a fish bowl, but each day they seem to become more defined. I'm extremely optimistic. I know he'll be able to see again soon. I know it won't be long before he'll be able to read this post himself and see how fiercely I love him.

So yes. There's been a 'Boom!'. Things came crashing down. It's been unexpected and scary. But we'll deal with it. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Granny's garden

The London summer got to me this year. Samuel got bored of my company. Everyone headed out of town and the baby classes all went on hiatus which made the long days seem even longer. What's more, the combination of the dirty city heat and the fifty steps up to our front door made it difficult to summon up the energy to get out and about much anyway. It was time for a break. It was time to hit the reset button. It was time to head up the M1 and visit Granny K's house – my childhood home.

We had a blast. We were spoiled rotten. We did loads of stuff like visiting family, having old friends over, eating copious amounts of food and feeding ducks. But I think the highlight was having a beautiful garden on tap that we could walk straight out onto from the living room. Imagine that! A Londoner's dream. Samuel seemed totally amazed by it, and loved the feel of the grass under his feet. And in his scrunched up fists. And in his mouth. He grabbed and marvelled at the trees and stripped all low-hanging branches of their leaves.

And after a week or so with Granny K and Little Sis (who had the small matter of a 30th birthday in need of celebration), we got back in the car feeling happier and ready to enjoy London in autumn, my favourite season. I'd be lying if I said going away with a nine-month old baby was in any way relaxing, but the old adage is true: a change is as good as a rest.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

This weekend has been excellent because ...


1. Granny K came to visit on Friday. Samuel was nothing short of overjoyed and he laughed and laughed and laughed.

2. I met L, C & V for Brunch Club 2 at Dean Street Townhouse. I loved walking around Soho's quiet back streets on a Saturday morning. It's been way too long. I loved wearing the jewellery I can only wear when I'm off duty and free of grabby little hands. I loved having a couple of hours to properly catch up with the girls like I used to. What's more, I loved my brunch choice - it was, to all intents and purposes, a posh sausage and egg MacMuffin. Yum.

3. C popped back home with me to play with Samuel and brought with her an amazing Fisher Price cheetah. It was a massive hit and Samuel had a great time. 

4. Me and James finally started watching Breaking Bad. As the whole world already knows, it's brilliant. We're hooked.

5. I drove on a busy main road for the first time today. It was terrifying, but I did it. To be honest, I'm just thrilled that I didn't damage my driving instructor's car again, after the nasty scratch I gave it last week. Bit awkward.

6. We ate cherry pie tonight. Life is always good when there's a cherry pie in the oven.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Down on the farm

I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit that after living in Crystal Palace for two whole years, I hadn't visited its city farm in the park until today. I love animals! I love city farms! I don't really understand why I've been so remiss. Anyway, when one of my NCT friends suggested popping along today, I jumped at the chance. I absolutely loved it there. And Samuel? Well he wasn't so sure.

We agreed to meet at the dinosaur's head. As you do. It's right outside the farm. Samuel is getting a bit blasé about having a park full of stone dinosaurs on his doorstep. I worry that he will expect a triceratops looking on in the background every time he goes to play five-a-side somewhere. He will discover that life is cruel.

Once we were in the farm (which is FREE, by the way! FREE! In your face, Peppa Pig World!) we went to say hello to goats, sheep, ponies and ferrets. Then we happened upon some handsome looking llamas. I love a good llama. Samuel was non-plussed. 

Further into the farm we ventured. I marvelled at an aviary of beautiful birds. I clucked at some of those hens that look like they're wearing furry boots out of Game of Thrones wardrobe department. I even stroked a guinea pig called Bob. And Samuel? Well this photo of him with the biggest duck in the world kind of sums up his enthusiasm for the outing.

We stopped off for a coffee at the fantastic Brown and Green coffee shop (one of the best places for coffee in CP ) afterwards, and then we were homeward bound. And once we got in, Samuel started grinning and laughing wildly because he was thrilled to be reunited with his favourite thing in the world at the moment: a pack of baby wipes. I don't understand babies.