Come along for the ride!!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

She beams!

That was exactly how M put it.
"She beams".
She was right. There isn't any other way to describe the look on Annabel's face when Joseph pays her some attention. Not that he doesn't do it often - he is a very considerate brother - but when he goes out of his way, like a kiss on the cheek, on the forehead or her hand for example, then the look on Missy's face truly is priceless.

We were walking back from the library this morning and Poops decided to hold Missy's hand (she was in her buggy but feels more involved if she has a hand to hold). As he took it, M and I were watching her; closely.

Annabel looked up at him and then down to her hand as he took it. As he wrapped her tiny hand with his little one, a smile started to break on her face and she looked, almost in slow motion, back up at his face.

The look on her face was one of total adoration; I mean, total!

And it stayed that way.

For the next 50, 100, 200 yards, she just stared at him, smiling; thrilled that he should choose to hold her hand for so long considering all the distractions that we passed; huge, ripple free puddles screaming to be walked through, conkers sitting patiently, waiting; colourful and beautifully shaped leaves lying there, unclaimed.

I don't remember what broke the spell, what caused him to drop her hand? It didn't matter though. He had made her day without even realising it.

Whatever it was, it took his attention away completely and he probably forgot that he was holding her hand within seconds.

Not Annabel though.

She also turned her attention back to her surroundings.

But she carried that brief encounter with her brother for the rest of our journey home. "He held my hand" her face said. "My brother held my hand; he must love me a lot".

"She beams".

And he doesn't even know it!

For now.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Good gravy!!

I had a couple of topics which I wanted to refer to today. I wanted to describe the golf ball sized lump on Joseph's forehead following an "incident" in the playground which no member of staff saw. I wanted to try and explain how it felt sneaking out on him at breakfast club this morning as I knew he was gearing up to be upset. I even wanted to squeeze in a piece about how, throughout this period of upheaval for Poops, Annabel is soldiering on at nursery quite happily, even on her extra day.

That was until I stumbled across this (see pic) while Googling an image for todays entry. I'm still so excited I have to write in capital letters.


Oh lawdy, what to do, I cannot believe it! After being an avid reader of
Calvin and Hobbes for the past 10 years and collecting, bit by bit, all 16 of the official compilation books, to see them compiled into 3 hardback books is, well, words fail me. Before you judge though, Calvin and Hobbes is no more a mere cartoon strip for children than is The Simpsons.

The incredible thing about this 6 year old boy and his stuffed tiger, is that they clearly reminded me of what it is to be a child again. Ironic really, after my entry for yesterday, halcyon days and all that.

Before I had even become a father, the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips had genuinely allowed me to step back in time, allowed me to glimpse once more through the eyes of a 6 year old, albeit a naughty but also often misunderstood 6 year old.

How good were those long summer days? Or waking up and realising it's Saturday - no school AND there are cartoons on tv; all morning! Or pulling back the curtains to see that it had snowed heavily all night. Friendships, making a tree house, stuck in a boring class, stockpiling snowballs, teachers you don't like, the end of school bell ..... the list goes on.

If you fancy a different perspective on things or if you're about to become a parent or if you are a parent to young children, then get yourself one of the compilations, test the water, and when you're totally hooked, get this hardback edition of every official published strip there there ever was.

You'll thank me. Honest.

I alluded to the author Bill Watterson at the end of my very first blog entry.

It is indeed a magical world.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Giant African snails!

3 of them, enormous they are! Plus about 70 baby snails; all in a tiny fishtank in one corner of Joseph's new breakfast club. He's only been there yesterday and today but he seems to like it.

The staff are very nice, very friendly and welcoming and he seems relaxed. He had a bit of a wobbly lip when I left but I think (hope) that will pass.

The staff walk him and his friends down the hill to school where he hangs up his little red school bag, his jacket and puts his name band around his bottle of milk.

Talking of milk, the staff this morning invited me to make myself a cup of tea. This I duly did and reached into the fridge for a drop of the white stuff and came across a proper, old fashioned, glass milk bottle with a red and silver top!

I say "old fashioned" because I cannot remember the last time I used one. I have gotten used to cartons or the plastic bottle with a screw top lid. Not at breakfast club, oh no! I'd also forgotten how you have to push the lid slightly down to remove it and then just balance it back on top of the bottle when you're finished!!

Crikey, milk bottles and tops, blackcurrant ice jubblies, 10p Whizzer and Chips and sherbert lemons - oh boy!

You probably should recognise the above items to appreciate today's picture!

Halcyon days indeed!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rain, rain, go away ......

And it did!

After lashing down for the entire day yesterday, our plan to have a picnic today seemed pretty unreaslistic, but no. Not only did it stop raining, but beautiful sunshine and heat - 27 degrees of it - claimed the day for their own.

Richmond park - which is lovely at the best of times - was positively radiant today. Can a park be radiant? Well it was, absolutely. Everything was fresh and alive after the previous days soaking and we discovered a previously unknown piece of the park - unknown to us anyhow.

Our party was made up of the following; the four of us (as usual), two of M's oldest and bestest school friends (who happen to be one of M's bridesmaids - Mona - and Joseph's God-mother - Camilla ) and Camilla's two boys. Camilla took us to the most wonderful little corner of the park called Isabella's Sanctuary; a fenced and gated area which is straight out of the secret garden of Narnia.

It was breathtakingly beautiful. Not only to look at, but at one point I stopped walking, ahead of everyone, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. You could smell the flowers, smell the damp ground; all the while hearing nothing but competing bird song from every direction. I opened my eyes to see two tiny robins hop across the path, looking at me like an intruder on their patch. And then ....... a low flying aircraft broke the spell! Well, it was Richmond after all!!

We found an open patch of grass, spread out our picnic rugs and ate, talked and laughed for hours. The children were happy running around and we were happy catching up with each others news, gossip and stories.
Another short walk and an ice cream later and we made our way back to Camilla's parents who live right next door to the park (which is nice!) for tea and cake.

The nicest thing about today was seeing M and her friends together, laughing and chatting like they'd seen each other only yesterday. One lives in Scotland, one jets all around the world with work but today, they were just old friends again, swapping stories and updating each other on their lives.

It was smashing.

Poops and Missy had a great time but they were wiped out. They'd reached the "so tired we're hysterical" point, so we merely wiped the stray yoghurt out of their hair and put them to bed; another succesful Saturday duly accomplished.

G'night kids.

God bless.

Friday, September 22, 2006

All hands on deck!

There's no doubt about it; taking care of both children on your own is tricky. Yes, they are both smashing, yes, they are both generally very good but this doesn't get away from the fact that it is much harder work when you're on your own.

This was M's task yesterday evening thanks to my being involved in a very rare staff bowling match in the very funky Queens Ice and Bowl in West London. (Hey, if it's good enough for
Madonna ...... ).

We came second out of 10 teams - not too shabby if you ask me! We have medals to prove our superiority; over 8 teams anyhow!

So, as I said, this meant M was flying solo with collecting children, baths, bedtime and so on. And it is thanks to the Law of Sod that Missy would choose last night to trip over the rug outside J's bedroom and launch herself into the doorframe and giving herself a fairly nasty bump on the forehead.

Apparently she yelled.

A lot.

As those of you who read this blog regularly will be all too aware, yelling is something that Annabel is fairly adept at at the best of times. Stir into the mix a sharp whack on the noggin and oh Lord, batten down the hatches Mrs Miggins, there's a hurricane on the way, courtesy of my upset daughter. Thanks heavens for the magic of the Arnica plant!

She was crying, Joseph was crying, M probably felt like crying and I where was I? I was bowling in another part of London, having a beer and getting the odd strike or two

Ok then, just one strike. And a spare.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A poem from Joseph to all his friends at nursery.

I have been known to write the odd ditty or two in my time. Nothing fancy of course but enough to get my point across.
Anyway, I wanted to put a few words of thanks together for the staff at J's nursery on his last day. I've altered the original a bit to leave out the nursery name and location (for the sake of anonymity) but generally it is the same as the one we gave to the staff on Joseph's last day.
Any comments (as always) are appreciated.

I’ve been here at the nursery, since I was 6 months old
We’ve travelled here in summer heat, and through the winter cold
Although it was the priciest place my parents went to see
They paid the fees because they want the very best for me!!!

There were problems at the very start; management was none too good
My Dad was worried things weren’t being dealt with as they should
But then this new team came along and started things afresh
It went from utter chaos to a friendlier kind of crèche

This new team’s led by Nadia and she started a clean slate
Assisting her in all things new, her main man, Richard Waite
They went to work immediately, with new plans and great ideas
And promptly laid to rest, all the parents mounting fears

My journey went from Baby room then Little Learners one year later
To Learning Centre where I am now (for the older child they cater!)
I love coming here to see my friends, to learn while having fun
Carpet time and Lego or playing outside in the sun

My special thanks to Sarah, Salma, Shamsa and Sheri
They’ve all been really marvellous, always taking care of me
I can’t believe it’s time to go after nearly 4 whole years
Make sure you’ve all got handkerchiefs ‘cos I’m sure there will be tears!!!

I must give special mention to the nursery’s unsung hero
Without this person turning up, my weight gain would be zero
It’s Peter; he’s our resident chef (you couldn’t call him loud)
He’s cooked our meals day in day out, Gordon Ramsay would be proud!!

I hate goodbyes, they make me sad, so for now auf weidersehen
But don’t be sad, my sisters here, I will be back again
With my trademark bag of fruit, and of course, my handsome smile
I could stay one more year I guess, but you’re starting to cramp my style!

So thank you all, thank you so much, for helping me to cram
So much fun into my time here, and making me who I am
I’ve said it once, I will be back; it’s you I want to see
My home from home, just down the road, my special nursery

love from


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Many happy returns!

8.23am, 17th September, 2002; the birth of our smashing son Joseph and, for those of you without a mathematics qualification, today he turned the grand old age of 4.

A pirate theme, a huge marquee, skull and cross bones banners and balloons everywhere, all his friends from nursery, more food and cake than you can shake a stick at, et voila; one awesome party! (Not to mention a fabulous rum punch made by yours truly which went down an absolute storm).

It was great; the parents were happy (rum punch), the children were all happy (camaraderie and sugar) and we were happy as Poops was enjoying himself. It could have been very different however, as 2 hours before kick off, he was throwing up and complaining of stomach ache. "Call my friends and tell them not to come", he wailed. Thankfully, being the little soldier that he is, he rallied superbly and was a star!

Remember when I was saying how children don't need sugary or fatty foods; it's what they're brought up on that makes the difference? (
read it here). Anyway, there was one point where the majority of the children had wandered in from the garden, and made a bee-line for the end of the table that held the cakes, chocolate rolls and biscuits; a group of about 6 of them, all scoffing as fast as they could. Joseph on the other hand, was stood right down the other end of the table where the crudites were, looking well pleased with himself 'cos he was the only one that seemed to want to eat the cherry tomatoes! In they went, one after the other!!

We had a treasure chest piñata which was proving to be a little too tough so I had a good go at it. It was Sod's law that I would be the one to break it open!! Not just that, but I whacked it so hard, the small boxes of Smarties inside split everwhere and there was a mad scramble beneath the tattered box for a share of the spoils!

Everyone seemed to have a really good time. Joseph did well on the present front - his favourite being a Hot Wheels twin motorbike set that launch from a wind up ramp; it is pretty neat I have to admit - people left when the last of the rum had gone, the children went to bed, we tidied up before collapsing onto the sofa at 9pm.

Hopefully, Poops will remember his 4th birthday fondly. I know I will.

M is damn good at organising parties. If you want her to organise yours for you, get in touch.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The difference a day makes!!

Oh boy, where to start! I don't need me to remind you that Joseph started at "Big school" yesterday. He was a bit tearful when M left but apparently this only lasted 5 minutes. He had a good time though!

The bit that threw him was the fact that he was going to an after school club until we came home from work. By the time M and him went to see it however, he was tired and didn't really want to join in, look around, anything! To much to take in I think! And while it was a nice place, it was quite expensive. Everything we thought we would be saving from his nursery fees are being swallowed up in all sorts of ways, not least this new club!

But something fantastic has come out of all this. It would work out better if I were to cut a few hours from work and collect him from school myself! What a result! So, if all goes to plan, I not only get to leave work a bit earlier but (more importantly), I get to spend time with my smashing son!! Not a snatched hour after work but proper, quality "what shall we do together this afternoon" sort of time!

Maybe we'll go swimming? Or cycling?

Who knows. Who cares?


New school term? I'm ready for you.

Joseph's birthday on Sunday - Hot Wheels truck here we come!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

As one chapter ends .....

.... another begins! I took Annabel to nursery this morning - just the two of us!

Thursday "chez nous" is usually a hive of chaotic activity, "where are your shoes? Find them and put them on please. Have you checked their bags? Have they got a change of clothes inside? Why are you moaning? You want a cereal bar do you? We haven't time to watch television. No Annabel, take your finger OUT of there. Let's all get in the car, come one, come on ....... " and so on and so forth.

Not today though.

Just Missy and me. A relaxed, calm drive to nursery and then, getting out of the car, I realised - that was it. Annabel would now be going to nursery on her own; no Big Brother down the other end of the corridor. It is the start of M going one way with one child and me going in the opposite direction with the other.

It all just kinda sneaks up on you.

I'm talking about change.

You have your set patterns; so and so on this day, such and such on that day, pick up from here on the Friday etc. And then, in the distance, you see it - "change" on the horizon, a long way off, but it's there, heading your way and you discuss it, you try to prepare for it as best you can but then "POW", without warning it's arrived! Everything you were only talking about is HERE right now and you'd better do something about it!

It's a little bit sad.

I mean, you don't want your babies to stay babies, or your toddlers to stay toddlers; you want them to grow up strong, healthy and happy, have lives of their own.

But with each new progression in their lives, you come to understand that you can't go back. As pleased as you are that they've said their first word, you realise that with that first word now uttered, they won't be making that "goo goo gah gah" noise you've loved in previous months. As they take their first wobbly steps across the room towards you, they won't be crawling along the hallway wriggling their bottom in a way that used to make you laugh out loud!

Mixed feelings. Hurrah, they're feeding themselves with a spoon! Hurrooh, they won't be smearing yoghurt all over their face and making me laugh anymore!!

Good and bad, positive and negative, yin and yang.

Enjoy it while you can. That "baby magic" won't always be a part of the fabric of your daily lives.

Unless of course, you're going to maintain the patter of tiny feet indefinitely.

And we ain't!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Last day!

We have lift off!

This is it; Joseph's final day at nursery. He was full of smiles this morning when I took him in. That may have had something to do with the enormous bag of goodies M bought for his leaving tea party this afternoon PLUS a huge box of chocolates for the staff PLUS his thank you card to them all.

I know I've been banging on about it for a while now, but enjoy your last day of familiarity Poops - your daily routine is about to change big time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

T-minus 48 hours ..........

Just today and tomorrow to go.

2 days and counting .................

Monday, September 11, 2006

Go for main engine start........

And so his last week begins. Today, Tuesday and Wednesday at nursery and that's it!

Almost exactly 3 years and 6 months at the same nursery and Big School just around the corner.

3 days and counting ..............

Thomas the Tank engine vs Mister Men

This afternoon I took Joseph through a rite of passage which comes to all young men. One that will stamp an important mark on his psyche, standing him in good stead for his future role in society and relationships.

Yep, I taught him how to use the remote control for the DVD player!

Children's DVD's give you the option of watching all of the stories on them or picking and choosing which one you want to watch. Joseph likes to choose each Thomas the Tank engine or Mr Men story one by one. This is fine as we usually sit together to watch but there are times when I get called in from the kitchen because "Mr Uppity has finished, I want My Skinny now". So, I sat down and talked him through the commands and he got it; first time around!

"So what", I hear you cry. Well, if you'd seen his face when he realised he could control what appeared on the screen, you'd understand!

Television is scary though. M calls television "evil" - not in a New Age, White Witch kind of way you understand; it's just that you can be talking to someone who has one eye and ear on the screen whilst pretending to listen to what you're saying!

This was the case on Saturday morning. As everyone knows, it's the Law of England that anyone under the age of 10 years old is fully entitled to watch television on a Saturday morning until their eyes dry up and fall out. I remember watching Saturday morning tv into my teens. Ok then, 20's. Late 20's; whatever, the point is I was standing beside the sofa, asking J what he wanted for his breakfast. He was in a trance watching Robot Boy or something. It took me 3 attempts to get a response out of him!!

Like James Brown said; "This is a man's world. But he'd be nothin', without his remote control by his side".

Or words to that effect.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Meet the Parents

Today M, Joseph and I went to his new school in order to meet the staff responsible for Joseph over the next year as well as giving them the chance to meet us.
M had the day off and I didn't technically need to go but I am very pleased I did. We came out of the school after about 45 minutes, smiling and raving about how wonderful his new school and teachers were.
J really seems taken with the place which is SO reassuring. We sat and spoke with the teacher in charge while he interacted with the other members of staff, getting to know each other and so on.
The school is smashing, the staff are smashing, the place is just, well ........ smashing!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Magic of Lego

Joseph's God-Mother sent his birthday present down early from Edinburgh on Monday. We were going to keep it for his birthday but he came home from nursery a bit tired, a bit miserable so we gave it to him there and then.

It was a Lego set for a search and rescue helicopter.

Of course, he wanted to make it straight away so I dutifully sat down with the not insignificant set of instructions and made a start. Time ticked on and we were only half way through the project. I expected there to be a mini riot but he was simply too tired to complain. Straight to bed.

We resumed last night. While I was making it, looking at the instructions, I was thinking to myself, "this is not what Lego is supposed to be about! Lego isn't following instructions to make a specific thing! It should be about imagination, freedom of expression, make what you want, not what the manufacturers tell you to make!"

By the time I'd finished it however, I was hooked! It was a superb rescue helicopter, with a working winch, doors, a huge propeller (and one on the tail), two crew members and another unfortunate individual who needed "saving". He didn't look in too much need of rescuing though - he still wore the Lego smile!

We finished construction, we played together for a while before I could see his imagination taking over, flying over the mountainous terrain (his unmade bed), locking onto the enemy (a speaking Maisy Mouse) and then back to base to refuel (his bedroom table).

Unfortunately, the 'copter is on wheels and it decided to roll off the "base"and hit the floor 2 feet below! He only turned his back for a second apparently (I wasn't in the room) and I heard a crash closely followed by his footsteps running along the landing and, with a sob, informs me that it has crashed!
"Don't worry", I say, " we can just put it back together".
The damage was extensive but was remedied in under a minute.
That's the magic of Lego!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Я вымотан

This translates from Russian as "I'm exhausted".
No, really, it does (try the wonders of Babel Fish for yourself).

Missy is just getting over her cold and cough, Joseph is walking a fine line of either coming through it ok or falling into the cough's evil clutches, I feel rough-ish (still) and M is soldiering on through it all. I was awake for a good part of last night and I feel shattered. I think last night was M's 7th night of broken sleep in a row and still she keeps going.

Is this generally a woman thing? Or is it just my wife who is amazing?

Oh boy, me and sleep deprivation just don't go well together at all. If I'd known in my early 20's that I would one day be missing out on sleep without the fun partying bit, I would've spent that period of the 1990's asleep in bed, never mind the bars and nightclubs!

Anyway, what's done is done, I'm here; tired but ok. Where was I?

Oh yes. Missy is being particularly sweet at the moment. She's walking with much more confidence but still a little un-balanced. She walks towards you, shoulders hunched to rectify any over-balancing problem she might be encountering and when she gets to about 2 or 3 feet from you, she starts to fall forward, still walking and laughing, fully expecting you to be there when she collapses into you.

She did it this morning and as she fell onto me she said, "Dadda", laughing all the while.

It's a very special feeling being called Dad, Daddy, Dadda, whichever. Very special. It's not just how your children refer to you or how they know you. It also means, "this person looks after me, this person makes sure I'm tucked up safe at night".

It's a big responsibility.

Last thing at night, before I get into bed, I go into Joseph's room to check that he's covered up and lying the right way up (he often travels up and down the bed ending up upside down underneath his quilt which wakes him). I pull up his covers, lift him up onto his pillow, generally try to make him comfortable without waking him.

You have a moment or two to stand there, contemplating how wonderful your children are, how beautiful they are, realising how protective you are towards them. Lots of thoughts go through your mind while you stand their, watching them sleep peacefully.

The weird thing is that they will never know about that; Joseph will never know about me standing there. I'll tell him in years to come but he will probably disregard it as unimportant.

And to him, it is unimportant. "So what if my Dad stood there watching me? What a weirdo!"

It only means something to me, both now and in the future.

Life is hectic you see.

Up in the morning, all get ready, to nursery, school, get myself to work, home again, to nursery to collect children, home, food, bathtime, story time, brush teeth, bed, tidy away, cook ourselves something, tidy away pots and pans, sort out mountain of paperwork, get into bed, get up, start over again!

You don't always have time to sit down and speak at length - you do your best, but it isn't always possible.

Standing there, watching your child sleeping peacefully, you can afford to take a moment to contemplate their beauty, their vulnerability.

Poops sleeps like me; deeply. I tuck him in and he doesn't move.

I would love to be able to go into Missy's room and cover her gently with her blanket, smooth her hair out of her eyes, whisper good night to her.

Unfortunately, she sleeps like M; very lightly.

If I so much as twist the door-handle to Annabel's bedroom, I can hear her snuffling her displeasure, like a sleepy tigress, ever so slightly narked at being awoken without permission!

Hopefully that will change - watching your sleeping children is something special and I would hate to not get the chance to see Missy asleep the way I see her big brother.

Sweet dreams.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Forgive me!

I appreciate this "diversion" has nothing to do with my day to day blog but I would kick myself if I did not pay tribute to something which takes up at least a little of my valuable "thought time" at this time of year.

They say a picture paints a thousand words so with that in mind .......

I chose this picture as the people on the side of the pyramid give you some sense of overall scale.

All hail "The Man, all hail". He burns in 5 hours and 41 minutes.



It's official. Joseph IS the best boy in the whole world.

Ok, ok, so I am being a little biased but so what?

Biased or otherwise, he really is a very well behaved and admirable little guy.

We went to his best friends birthday party this afternoon (his actual birthday is tomorrow) and it was at a venue that Joseph knows well and loves.
We go, he plays, he eats, he gets sweaty and hot, running around yelling, climbing and jumping; we come home and we get him ready for bed.

As I'm putting him into bed, I ask if he had a good time at his friends party today? (not differentiating between actual "birthday" and "day of party".

He's tired out, eyes closing, but removes his thumb from his mouth to answer "Yes", and promptly puts thumb back in.

M says, "It's (his best friends) birthday tomorrow", meaning actual birthday.

"Again?" asks an incredulous Joseph, his expression telling us that he's only just left his friends party, how can he possibly be having another one tomorrow????


Well, I thought it was funny!