Indulge me: shameless sentimentality

Yes I know it’s January and it’s the season of self control and austerity but today I just can’t keep it in.

I am usually very suspicious of over effusive FB posts about the ‘lovely hubbie’ and perfect family life and think if someone has to advertise the health of their relationship then something’s amiss, but today I am breaking my own rules and shouting it out and thowing glitter for Lydia –  my lovely daughter who is thirty today.

Thirty. I can remember being thirty: two small and energetic children, an exhausted husband, a mortgage, a house needing more work than we could afford – a full night’s sleep being a distant memory. It seems impossible she’s got there too.

This time thirty years ago I was lying in Pembury hospital in a state of soreness and disbelief. She had taken a long time to come – I’ll spare you the details. Overnight and between contractions I was aware of the rising snow level on the window sills outside , a detail you’d include had you made a film of it all, and you wouldn’t want to really, childbirth is a miracle but a bit grisly- as I say it was long and gruelling but she was worth the wait.


After a shaky tearful start, more my inexperience than her character, she blossomed into a sunny little soul who liked nothing more than mauling cats and babies and planning  her own (large) family. Sheets of A4 covered in pictures of buggies and babies and travel cots and every item of baby paraphernalia you can imagine. And now she has them, and then some.

Lydia is as committed to her family now as she ever promised to be in her illustrations. She can be disorganised and somewhat haphazard but in her care of her little ones and desire to build a stable base for them with her husband she is unstinting. She has a heart full of grace and love and of course she wants a clean house and a good sleep, but she is aware just how quickly these times pass and wants to enjoy these short days with her little family more. The days are long but the years are short. It bears repeating.

A small example. She’s been worrying about William who has a bottle at bedtime, when will he give it up? How will we manage it? The bottle fairy? etc etc As it happens he found a sippy cup he likes better. She didn’t push it and he came to it on his own. Wisdom.

Years ago my mum did a calligraphy project and copied out the Desiderata. I was a small child and a new reader but parts of it stuck with me. At the moment the phrase which resonates is  “No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should”. I wish I’d had a little more patience and grace with my own children and had allowed more to unfold. I am still learning. We think we shape our kids but it’s a two way street. So let’s hear it for daughters, wherever they are.  We love you. You bring warmth and fun and grace and grit. Mwah! Big hugs.

Anyhow tonight I am cooking her birthday tea and here’s my shopping list.

Look away now Lydia. See you later. IMG_4609




Well, we made it. And I think we made it well. The first term and a half of granny day care is done. But I’ve not yet dusted.
It should of course be grandparent day care because Mr T shares the duties 75% of the time but the other day I turned my back and found this:

It had been a particularly gruelling morning which ended with a bin full of poopy nappies and an intricate web of snail trails on the front of my black jumper.

Looking after these boys is very different from having my own kids. Two boys for a start and the older wholly rambunctious. I had a gentle sociable little girl and an equally gentle imaginative boy 18 months later. She wanted to meet as many people as possible and play with their baby equipment, and he lived in his head and played long complicated conflict games with toys strewn across his floor.
William mostly wants to get things out and talk about them. And have me play with them. So we end up doing this.

And this.

Every good dinosaur deserves a bonnet. We play much the same games every week and, whereas I went out all the time with my own kids- I realise now for my own mental health and well being- we stay in a lot. Here in deepest Kent there’s no pavement so prams are hard to handle and, truth be told unless the parents leave the equipment ready for me, I find the technology very tricky. So much equipment with many clips, handles and moving parts. So many safety features and so many choices: a perfect metaphor for child rearing in the 21st century. I find it easier to stay home.

We lay Lydia in a pram body unrestrained in the back of our Ford Escort. No one batted an eyelid. It was an old battered Silver Cross pram, but it did both of them and on occasion they travelled and slept in it together. Shocking!
But then my parents’ generation put their babies out in all weathers in a pram at the bottom of the garden, and if they cried, it was good for their lungs.
Previous to that they were wrapped in brown paper if they were chesty and slept in drawers,so far as I can make out. I am not making a judgement on it: we do the best we can with what we have at the time and frankly it was a time of fewer choices and that for me is a relief. (This is a woman who once did all her Christmas food shopping at the local co op. ) I would be paralysed by all the advice and choices available today.

We brought our kids up in a pretty strict Christian home. We prayed and worshipped with them regularly. They were part of a close and supportive wider church family. There’s plenty I’d do differently with what I know now. I’d try not to smack them. The thought of smacking my grandchildren is abhorrent. I’d also lighten up a bit. Lydia once asked me outright, “Is Father Christmas real?” And in the spirit of Christian honesty I told her the truth. I should have been like my hairdresser Mel who is a woman of some wisdom. Her six year old asked her the same question adding the tooth fairy in for good measure. Mel looked her daughter in the eye and and replied slowly and deliberately, “I could tell you, but then all the magic would disappear.”

I’m keeping that one up my sleeve for these two who make me smile and laugh out loud every time I see them.



Preparing for Camino

It’s been a long time since I posted. Lots of reasons but the long dark cold winter meant that my mood felt dark and cold and that too lasted longer than I wanted. And I didn’t want to inflict that on anyone else.

There have been bright moments of course. Here’s one:Image


And there’s another.

Two small people full of colour, ideas and energy: rascals both and I love them for it. They add those qualities to my middle aged life. I’ve written before about my need for shape structure and this winter has felt a bit flabby. Rather dull and lacklustre. Held together by dinners with family and friends – yum always, a few films – Cloud Atlas stands out in my memory, a half hearted attempt at the 5:2 diet  but frankly it’s been too darn cold to miss meals. There’s been a long wait for spring, but it’s coming, they tell us temperatures will reach double figures this weekend and not a moment too soon.

Anyhow, anyhow my point is that there has been nothing in the pipeline, on the horizon, nothing to aim for. I have completed a few small projects. I nursed some geranium cuttings through a blastingy cold wInter – have I mentioned how cold it’s been? I knitted my grandson a hat, but Lydia told me it made him look like a window cleaner because I’d left the bobble off. And I have been completely outgrannied in the knitting department by the other very competent Nana who can do cables and patchwork and line blackout curtains and suchlike.

Other fun? I have been to an arty lady and experimented in her workshop with paint and ink and tearing up bits of paper (not all in one session). What art I did at school was nothing like this. As I remember it I mostly washed out jam jars and tried to retrieve my paintings from the dirty brown shapes that descended on them. Much prefer this way, but I do have a fixation with brown. My work heads almost unerringly that way.

Fitness has gone by the by, what with the small dog dying and only having a doddery, deaf hound to take out. He’s not silly. He puts his nose outside and gauges the level of activity required for the day. Anything below 5 degrees or in a easterly wind means a very short out and back walk. So what I needed was a challenge, a focus.  And here it is.

My friend Helen and I often walk together. It started when our kids were small and we both had dogs which needed exercise. We met several times a week and stomped round the streets of Rochester or the Kings’ School playing fields, the so called Alps. We talked a lot and once one dog, Billy who lives on, got bored walking round and round the rugby pitches being ignored by the two yattering women, and decided to take himself home. We found him twenty minutes later on my door step when we came back for second breakfast.

Walking progressed and we walked and talked our way through the kids’ adolescence, their exams and experiments, broken hearts and marriages, (theirs, not ours) and and into young adulthood. We found a book of Kentish walks and we’ve done 10 out of 15 or so of them. We walked the Jurassic Coast and round the Isle of Wight and other such coastal delights, and this year we wondered about Northumbria and maybe incorporating a retreat.

And then came a quantum leap: Helen said, “You know Verity, we could do this when we’re 60, 70, 80 even – (here’s hoping) – why don’t we look at something we won’t be able to manage then?” It wasn’t that  – it was much more punchy and clever, but that was the gist of it.

And we did. Somehow, we came up with the idea of walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. To be continued. Ha!