Thursday, 30 December 2010


My children have been driving me bonkers today.  It's partly as they've not had enough exercise recently: they just think up more and more mischievious things to do; things which they've been told off about a zillion times.  I can't believe I'm about to have a third - what madness!

At least after tomorrow I shall be able to begin to get my body back and be physically normal again - running, lifting things, twisting to see while driving, getting in and out of the bath, doing my boots up.... you get the picture... yes a bit of time is needed to get over the caesarean but I shan't feel I'm squashing the baby and won't be restricted by this lump in front of me but just by a flabby stomach (which I shall work on making unflabby).

Husband is also getting annoyed with the children, particularly as Daughter is still, now, at 8.35pm, not settled in bed.  I thought maybe I was stressed about tomorrow but perhaps it's more that they're being a pain!  Lots of long walks and bike rides and fresh air are definitely needed.  I had hoped for at least half an hour of the four of us sitting together on the sofa watching something on TV and cuddling up, as it's the last time there will be only 4 of us... but the children started fighting and Husband was on the phone to his sister.  In the end I had a cuddle with Son and read Horrid Henry to him (revolting child - Horrid Henry that is - and as one of my friends said, Perfect Peter is no better) while Daughter watched Charlie and Lola.  I am now hoping for a few minutes' peace with Husband before I take my first antiacid drug at 10pm.  I'm also hoping to feel some more movements from the baby as I always worry when I've yelled at the children: I can feel my stress levels shooting up.

It struck me at tea time that I can't remember the night before Daughter was born: I remember 3 nights before Son was born all too clearly (the first I was in hospital prior to being induced for the first time the next morning; the second I was in hospital in a lot of pain after a second lot of induction drugs, until I got pethadine - Husband had to sleep in a chair; and the third was after an evening of agony and when I ultimately, at about midnight, had my waters broken, an epidural put in, got put on a syntocynin drip and chatted about triathlon with the midwife whilst Husband slept on a mattress on the floor).

I so hope this baby will be OK: I'm so worried that I get so angry with the other two sometimes that it will have adversely affected the baby; that there's something the scans haven't picked up (especially as when I weighed myself today I had lost a pound in weight, which means I haven't put on any weight for a month or more - and Pregnant Friend C. said again the other day that I was looking smaller); that for some reason he'll be stillborn.  Please God, no.  We'll meet him tomorrow and find out.  Meanwhile what I have done is the washing, the washing up, the hoovering, and taken down the christmas decorations.  Will the house be as tidy when I come home from hospital?!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


Husband's brother and wife-to-be have been staying with us since 23rd December.  She's one of those people who always sees the good side of everybody and is incredibly tolerant and forgiving, with a big, warm, open heart.  So perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised when she suggested organising a Baby Shower for me (she's also a big kid who loves parties and presents and such like!).

As an aside, it was touching that the other day when we were in the car coming back from Lanercost, Son said to her (J) 'I hope Uncle P doesn't ever get a different girlfriend', and Daughter chipped in her agreement.  They both love Aunty J to bits: certainly we all feel that she's part of the family and hope it stays that way: all the signs are that it will.

The Baby Shower was relatively small but it was nice as it meant that we all fitted into the sitting room and were able to talk.  The tree lights were on, and some classical music, and Uncle P and Aunty J had gone to M&S and got sandwiches and dips and crudities and crisps - and cakes (which latter Duaghter had her eye on from the moment she saw them!).  I got stacks of presents, both for the baby and for me, including some pairs of socks: something I have nothing of so far for him.  It was like having Christmas Day or my birthday all over again.  I couldn't resist using a Soap and Glory Breakfast Body Scrub ( in the shower this morning: it's not a brand I've come across before but is lovely.  I felt very spoilt.

I did say at one point that I was beginning to panic a bit and to think 'I don't want a third child': probably not the best thing to say in a room of women where 3 of them have had fertility problems, though I did point out that I thought it was just last minute nerves.  What I'm particularly nervous about is lest there's something wrong with him which hasn't been picked up on scans, via the amniocentesis, etc.: I just have this niggling fear.  I think it's just that having got pregnant unexpectedly and so late in life, and feeling so lucky to have the two we have already, I almost feel that I just don't deserve a third healthy baby.  Logic tells me there has been nothing to indicate that he won't be healthy though, so I pray he will be: I hope also as happy and as bright as the other two.

Breastfeeding got mentioned yesterday, which sent my stress levels suddenly rocketing.  I think if I hear any more advice about 'how to' and 'what helps' and 'just perservere' I shall scream (or wring somebody's neck).  If you're dripping milk from 8 months pregnant then it's almost bound to be easy: I got so fed-up with being told by one midwife last time that the baby was latching on fine and then by another that she wasn't.  I'm perfectly aware of all the top tips, and I hope I'll be able to make a success of it this time.  I have just found a website which had some comments from a few years ago from women who had been in a similar situation, which was funny and reassuring: one woman had given up after initially trying with her first 2 children, but wanted to try again with no.3 and was again having problems.  The comments and help which followed, from women who had had similar issues, were funny and brought tears to my eyes as well: and I felt so much empathy for the woman who had said that she didn't want just to be told to perservere.  If I breastfeed for 3 or 4 months I shall feel I have succeeded: and from what they were all saying it does sound as if you need to stuff a good load of boob into the baby's mouth. 

I have to say that part of me in any case finds breastfeeding a bit of an invasion of privacy/slightly embarrassing.  That's my problem, not caused by anyone else, and I know I have no reason to think that way, but that's how I feel: possibly because it didn't work previously.

What was positive however was that J. mentioned that her sister had had problems breastfeeding and stopped, so I've sent her a message via Facebook.  I think I'd far rather speak to women who have had problems breastfeeding - whether or not they have given up (perhaps especially if they have given up) - than ones who have been milk-rich nutrient providers for their babies for up to a year or more.  Perhaps it's selfish of me but I'm going to want my life back: to be able to go to choir, to singing lessons, to get a job or various jobs/pieces of work - I don't want to be a milk producing machine.

Well, he'll be here soon.  Two more sleeps.... we still have a load of christmas thank you letters to write but I thought that I might possibly be able to include some photos of the baby with them if we leave them until next week.  P. & J. go back up to Aberdeen tomorrow, so I think that will be the opportunity to take the tree down.  It always makes me a bit sad, putting all the decorations and lights away: the world suddenly seems so much more drab, especially in years where there is no snow (and ours has nearly all gone now: the world is rather rainy and grey at the moment).

Husband feels that 2011 may be a difficult year, particularly if he has a more senior job as well as our having a newborn.  I think it may be a joyful year: a new, more senior job would be far more fulfilling for him and less annoying and frustrating than his current job, where he does stacks of overtime for little reward; and I'm still hoping that I get new work, perhaps in a different field.  I'm optimistic that the newborn may prove to be - as so many third children seem to - an easy-going little chap who fits in with everybody else, because he has to.  Having said that I don't want him to be a walkover or a doormat: and I'm not sure I could have much more pleasant-natured a Son than the one I already have.

We'll see!

Sunday, 26 December 2010


Christmas Day night:
Alex is asleep in his new (proper) sleeping bag next to me.  Less than a week to go before the birth of my third child.

This was originally written on paper as there was something about Alex being so peacefully and beautifully asleep besides me, and the fact that I could relax back in bed so the baby could wriggle, which made me want to write on paper rather than on the computer: but now I have transferred it.

I reread the notes from Alex's birth recently: a copy had been sent from Bristol to Carlisle for the Doctor's information.  I doubt I shall ever exactly forget his birth - the excrutiating pain; the way it dragged on so long; the stupid midwife who told me I could only have paracetamol; not wanting my mother there, only David; the fear when the baby's heartrate dropped.... and the ultimate rush of the emergency caesarean, and then, finally, the baby in my arms.

Alex will always be my firstborn and will always be the one whose birth was the most traumatic and scarey.  David absolutely dotes on Isabella and is (mostly) tied round her little finger: she's fiesty, gorgeous, charming, bright, self-willed... but we agree that Alex has a lovely, kind, sharing, caring nature and is also bright: it's easy for his sister's extrovert nature to mean that she gets taken notice of before or in preference to Alex.  I wonder what no.3 will be like: definitely his own person, of that I am 100% sure.

It's interesting reading back through diaries to when Alex was only 2 years old and Bella 6 months.   Their basic characters haven't changed - in fact my comments about them are pretty repetitive - but I think having nights of mostly unbroken sleep and their being able to do so much independently makes life a lot easier.  It's going to be very strange going back to having a newborn and then a toddler again: part of me doesn't really want to, though it's too late now!

Time for me to go to sleep.  That's Christmas Day over for another year: and next year we will have an almost-one-year-old with us.  Once we had one child we hoped for, and got, a second quite quickly: a third is an unexpected bonus.

They say children change your life.  In the almost 10 years since I turned 40 mine has changed beyond what I ever imagined.

Boxing Day:
Well, the big day is over, the children are still excitable but tired and emotional as well, and we're now beginning to clear up the countless presents left strewn around our currently untidy sitting room (normally the children are not allowed to take toys etc. in there and it's our peaceful room for reading/playing the piano/listening to music: our oasis of calm.  At Christmas it is the focus of attention, with the presents under the tree, the fire burning, and the joy of the children as they open one engrossing present after the next).

We all seem to have gone down with headaches, which is perhaps not surprising.  Daughter is making a lot of noise about not being able to go to sleep: and yet I know she's incredibly tired.  They have been eating rubbish the last few days (despite our attempts to get vegetables into them: somehow chocolate has more appeal - funny that....) and not had enough fresh air and exercise.  I tried to get them to walk all the way around Talkin Tarn yesterday but they were getting cold: Son had worn a pair of woollen gloves which he then swept snow off seats with (i.e. getting his gloves wet and cold) and Daughter I think just had not worn enough clothes.  I was lovely and warm in my ski gloves, a new hat from Husband, new boots from Husband, and Husband's Rab jacket (waterproof outer and fleece lined): the only part of me which was even remotely cold was my thighs due to having a slightly thin skirt on, but that wasn't a problem so long as I kept moving.  I do so look forward to being normal size again and wearing my fleecy lined trousers or even salopettes... I am assuming of course that I do get back to my normal size.

I look even more like Mr. Greedy than I did a few weeks ago, I think.  I feel a bit like a rather large ship which is about to be launched - though I doubt I'd float.  The baby seems to have turned round sideways again as well so I am definitely not the 'torpedo' shape which always looks so much more ready for birth than the Mr. Greedy shape.

We went to a party this afternoon at the house of some new friends - parents from Daughter's class at school.  He works at the Infirmary (and will be my anaethetist on Friday so long as he hasn't gone down with flu) and other people there included his family and people who live near them who also work at the infirmary: including a fellow blogger, whose blog I really must mention as it has the most beautiful photos and photo collages in it.  I hope she won't mind if I recommend it here: definitely worth a look if only for the photos, and not half so wordy as mine.

Daughter is whingeing about not being able to get to sleep so I'd better go to hit her around the head (I mean, of course, to give her a cuddle).  Son has gone to bed, as normal, like an angel.  I was writing a paper diary in bed yesterday (one day I may work out how to cut and paste it into this blog) and looking back over the years I've kept it, the same comments about the children's characters and their bedtime behaviour are repeated time and time again! 

Daughter (tearfully & dramatically) 'ohhh, I just can't get to sleep.... I really want to get to sleep.... I'll never get any sleep... could somebody help me'... etc. etc.
Good night!

Friday, 24 December 2010


The snow has been minimal up here but it's been really cold and the frost still looks lovely: tonight is another clear, cold night so the world will remain white tomorrow.

It's been quite a busy week: not only having the children home from school but then I went out to dinner on Tuesday night (with Husband and our Very Best Friends up here); Wednesday night (with 'the girls') and we had a party last night.  I slept badly last night and woke up feeling shattered today: and have also felt nauseous for most of today as well.  No going to midnight mass for me I'm afraid, despite my intentions to (I mean to every year, even years when I'm not pregnant): I'm off to bed shortly.

Our party yesterday went really well and I think everybody enjoyed it.  There were about 10 or 12 children aged between 0 and 12 running around madly (well, the 12-year-old didn't) and adults ranging from people in their 30s to people past retirement age: so a real mix, which was great.  Pregnant Friend C. came along, and I was really pleased to see her because she's been ill recently and I've been worried about her: she's still got a bit of a cough but seemed better.  She's lost about 7lb but I'm sure the baby has been ensuring that it's been getting all it needs.  She thinks she may be having a girl but she's not sure: I think she is as well but that's only because I'd really like her to!  She's due about a month or slightly less after me, so it's been nice to have someone to share pregnancy stories with as well.

I'm a little worried that The Little Guy isn't moving enough: he's moving but not very much: but on the other hand he's been pretty active until the last day or so.

We had the second year of a Family Tradition (or what Husband wants to be a Family Tradition) and went to Keswick today: we were going to stop in Ambleside as well but didn't really need to and it was getting late by then anyway.  To go to Keswick we went over Caldbeck Fell, which is beautiful at any time of the year but at the moment looked particularly strikingly white: it made me think of Norway, although admittedly would have been even more like it if it had 6' of snow either side of the road!  But there was something about the openness and looking over towards the snow-clad hills.

In Keswick we went in Booths - where a lady who was a complete stranger came up to me in the cafe and said how lovely she thought I looked with my green jumper and pale pink scarf.  I'd been feeling pretty washed-out so that perked me up a bit.  We then went up to Old Friars sweetshop ('Old Scabbers' as Daughter calls it) and then in Java chocolate (they have a chocolate fountain in the window and do chocolate-coated kebabs.  The children's faces were covered, especially as someone told Son to lick his plate, which he did....).

In Keswick there was a clock counting down to the New Year: 7 days and 9 hours, roughly, while we were there.  So about 7 days until the birth of no.3!  I do hope he's going to be OK.

We then went on to Windermere, via Ambleside.  I felt so nauseous in the back of Husband's car, which has very hard suspension, that I was in tears at one point.  We just stopped at Booths and then drove back via Kendal and Tebay, joining the M6 at Tebay.  Daughter fell asleep in the back of the car after her VERY late night last night and I shut my eyes and relaxed: by the time I got home I felt a bit reinvigorated.  I had very nearly not gone out with them for the day and whilst I'm glad on the whole I did, I was a bit of a wet blanket.

'They' (Husband, his Brother and Brother's-wife-to-be) are now playing rocky music quite loudly downstairs and I'm going to be a real party pooper and go down and ask them to turn it down in a moment.  The thumpy bass is a bit too thumpy.

I've just finished reading The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, which I can highly recommend.  A friend gave it to Husband for his 'half way to 70' birthday earlier this year, and I borrowed it from him.  It's not full of facts and figures but of a real flavour of what life may have been like then.  It's fascinating but I wouldn't have wanted to have lived then!

8.45 and time for both the children and me to go to bed: I must remember Stockings!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010


Thinking of skiing yesterday got me musing further.  I wrote in one of my early blogs about how I felt I was finally 'getting my life back': feeling fitter, feeling that the children needed me less - etc.  Then of course I found out I was pregnant.....

I remember being pregnant with Son, then the one which miscarried, then with Daughter: all in quick succession with a 6-month gap between the first two of those pregnancies and a 6-week gap between the miscarriage and becoming pregnant with Daughter.  I remember feeling that I had been almost permanently pregnant for years: yesterday I thought that whilst this current pregnancy seems to have passed quickly, I shall be back at the stage of feeling tired and with limited time (I think) for exercise and for myself.

But reading A Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England made me think again.  Thank goodness for contraception, and for good health which means that a woman no longer needs to be primarily a child-bearing machine year in and year out.  Just imagine if I had been as fertile then as I appear to be now, and had started having children at, say, age 18 (assuming I had not died in childbirth of course): then I really would have felt permanently pregnant and then there really was 'no life' beyond children - not until you passed your child-bearing years, at least.  No wonder sexism was so rife: women didn't get a chance, on the whole, to have 'careers' and their own interests outside the home.  That's not to say there weren't exceptions, but they were few and far between.

Talking of outside interests, I've just had my Grade 7 Singing results - I got 128, which is a Merit - and only 2 marks off a distinction.  So not bad, and my University 'singing ghost' is finally at rest: especially considering the complimentary comments that the examiner made about my voice.

Thank goodness for living in the 21st Century!

Monday, 20 December 2010


It was so cold yesterday morning, and I was a bit tired, and I couldn't face taking the children swimming: getting undressed and dressed in a cold changing room.  That's at least two or three times I've told them I'll take them swimming and then reneged on my promise.  Son in particular was about to get really upset, until Husband said we'd go shopping to spend the money my Grandmother sent us and to get Son a Puffle: which seems to be the latest just-in-time-for-Christmas-separate-you-from-your-money craze from Disney.  In fact I was somewhat appalled when Son also admitted that one of the reasons he no longer wishes to go to Drama on a Thursday after school is because he wants to be able to go online to 'Penguin Club' and meet up with his friends.  Hmmm.... 

That, and the fact that he spent his share of the money from my Grandmother on a Space Lander or something (a Warhammer 40k model vehicle), is reminiscent of Husband's interest in Warhammer as a boy and to World of Warcraft... though to be fair we were probably both slightly addicted to World of Warcraft at one point.  Like Father, like Son....

And like Mother, like Daughter.  I don't know at what age my stage-struckedness started, but Daughter's appears to have just commenced.  We had Guest Passes for the Pantomime (Sleeping Beauty) at the Sands, Carlisle, yesterday evening and at several points throughout the show she turned to grin at me, and was jigging away to some of the songs.  On the way home in the car she told me she wanted to be on the stage - before falling asleep.  I would have no objections to her going on the stage so long as she gets a good education first and so long as she is pragmatic enough to realise that she may need to do more mundane work whilst 'resting', or to supplement her income.  Personally I think she's more likely to be a singer than an actress, but who knows.

We woke up to temperatures of -8 or so this morning, and headed out to Penrith Pirates.  I'm not really that fond of it but we were going for lunch at my former workplace, so it made sense to go there.  As luck would have it we bumped into Stone Eden holiday club, which meant that Daughter got to see a couple of her friends, one of whom is also a friend of Son's.

We then headed to my former office in time for a bring and share lunch.  It was really nice to see everyone, including L. who had a baby on New Year's Day last year, and who brought her nearly-one-year-old daughter with her.  I hadn't seen her since just before she went on maternity leave, and motherhood is obviously agreeing with her: it was also good to be reminded what I'll be going through in about a year's time!  One- and two- year olds are dead cute, even if they are hard work in that you need to keep an eye on them all the time: and I love seeing their development from non-walking non-talking beings to little people who start to develop a real mind of their own as soon as they can go where they want rather than where you choose to plonk them.

We then drove back via Lazonby and Kirkoswald to Brampton.  It was far snowier further south than at this northernmost end of the Pennines, and looked lovely: thick enough snow to be a dense, bright white in colour: trees glistening as if they had been painted with white glitter paint: and a sun shining from a coldly pale blue sky.  I fancied being out on my bike cycling through it, though I know in reality that my fingers and toes would have been unbearably cold and that in fact the 20 or 30 miles it is by that route from Penrith to Brampton would have become a grind rather than enjoyable.  Even to be out walking would be good though: it's so icy I'm being cautious and not risking going out at the moment lest I fall over: and also because I don't really have any clothes that fit me well enough to keep me really warm!

The children are in the bath and need to get out, and the soup's cooking and needs to be eaten: so I shall stop now.  I wish I had been able to take a photo as I drove back today but I'm sure there are plenty of similar scenes that anyone reading this can conjure up!

Sunday, 19 December 2010


It would appear that we are currently in a 'temperate' (ha ha) belt with no snow: there have been problems in Scotland and then south of us in the Midlands and the South, but the only problem here is cold temperatures and hence ice.  At one point my in-laws were telling us that the forecast for our area for Wednesday night was -21, but having looked at the forecast this morning it's now saying -2: quite a difference, fortunately.  'Light snow' is forecast for Thursday: last time the forecast stated 'light snow' we got about 15cm.

Carlisle appeared to have had a sprinkling of snow which we missed in Brampton, but a dusting was all it was.  The pavements were a bit icy though and I was careful walking around.  It would be a pity to have got to almost 38 weeks of pregnancy and then for something to go wrong because I fell over.

The baby feels really low.  He has done all along really: I've been far more conscious of my bladder with this pregnancy than I remember being with either of the others, but at the moment with the cold air as well I constantly feel as if I want to go to the loo.  He's also squirming around quite vigorously still, in a pushing/shoving sort of way: besides the fact that I look like Mr. Greedy in profile, my stomach is then sometimes quite lop-sided when the baby sticks his bottom out on one side or the other.  It's all very odd but I'm sure I'll rapidly forget what being pregnant felt like once he's here.  Less than two weeks to go, which is a little daunting: it's so long since I last had a newborn baby to deal with, and of course I didn't actually expect to have to do so ever again.

Talking of looking after small creatures, one of the ferrets is living in the utility room at the moment.  In some ways I hate it.  There is ferret poo over the floor - mostly on newspaper (and it turns my stomach clearing it up, partly as I feel nauseous at the moment anyway) - and dregs of food, but also it limits my access to the heating control, the washing machine and the hoover (which is badly needed as the dining room carpet can only cope with my children for a day or two before needing a major clean-up).  However Harry has now been to the vet's about 3 times about his manky tail and Husband says that the tendons are showing.  He's on his second lot of antibiotics and has also had some fungicidal cream.  Husband persuaded me to take him to the vet on Wednesday, but I found it quite upsetting as one of the potential scenarious was that he would have had to have been put down.  When I started talking to the vet about Harry, I got a bit tearful, and then felt really stupid for having done so.

Harry's fur is now looking better and he's beginning - somewhat belatedly - to put on a winter coat, and he also seems more sprightly: but his tail is still not good (and we're not quite sure whether it's even functioning properly any more, or whether he can feel anything with it).  Husband was saying we'd need to take him back to the vet, but I've put my foot down this time: I particularly don't want to take a ferret to be put to sleep who is looking healthier than he was, so any vets visits are going to be made by Husband, not by me (especially as now the children are on holiday I'd have to take them with me).  On the other hand I can also understand Husband's point that Harry is only a ferret and that spending hundreds of pounds on him, particularly when we don't have hundreds of pounds at the moment, is an unnecessary expense: especially as we think he may well have been older when we got him about a year ago than anybody realised.

Maddie, our baby and very small ferret, on the other hand, goes from strength to strength.  We brought her in yesterday to keep Harry company for a while (apparently ferrets can get depressed if they spend too much time on their own) and she was in a very playful mood and making the funny little noise that ferrets make when they're happy.  I'd never seen her so lively and happy before: she seems less afraid of us now, and as Husband said, we also think that she might not have been very healthy when we got her but that now she is.  She seems to have a stunted back so she's short (in length) even for a jill, but she's not at all nippy, has a cute little pointy face, and is like a little ball of fur.  The only thing she was attacking yesterday was my pair of furry slippers!

Daughter is particularly fond of Maddie and looks on her as her ferret: Son considers Harry to be his, so there are doubtless going to be tears if Harry does get put down.  Husband has said we'll get a baby ferret for Son at that point.

I also found out just the other day that Son has started a 'Ferret Club' at school.  I think it entails him and his friends playing at being ferrets most play times!

Daughter and I are off to the pantomime of Sleeping Beauty this evening.  I feel more inclined to stay at home and read a book or watch a bit of television with Husband (the entire family sat down and watched Edward Scissorhands last night, followed by Monty Python and the Holy Grail - except Daughter fell asleep and I went up to bed feeling sleepy.  Apparently Son loved the latter: we had wondered if it might be a bit old for him.  It was really nice all snuggling up together while the temperature outside dropped).

We're about to have roast chicken for dinner prior to going out: that lovely roast chicken smell is wafting up the stairs, accompanied by a roast rosemary scent as there was a spray of rosemary on the chicken.  Yum!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


I came back from the children's school nativity plays today to find the house warm and hot water available:   it was lovely, and such a relief not to have to go through the process of a new boiler and a long-winded (no doubt) insurance claim.

Holker Hall yesterday, which I visited with ex-work Friend L., was resplendent with christmas decorations, and although at this time of year the visitor sees around fewer rooms than at other times, the effort and splendour of the decorations was worth it.  We both liked the dining room the best: there was a table about the size of our dining room, set for 12 with an enormous table piece in the centre, and a side table of Tudor 'comfits'.  Imagine being a servant for Henry VIII or whomever and having to go to that effort!  There was also a tree which we reckoned was about 12' high in the entrance hall, and the other decorations I particularly liked were the ones going up the stairs with white fairy lights in.

The shop, food hall and cafe were also good - albeit the first two were far too tempting - and I would definitely like to go back again, and take the children: one of the Mums from school was saying that there's a good garden show or something on in the summer, where you can sit on straw bales eating strawberries while the children run around.  Knowing Cumbrian weather, I hope this happens in May or June, which are usually warm and sunny, rather than July or August when invariably it rains.

The baby was doing the most mammoth movements last night and again this morning.  Yesterday I felt as if I was oozing out at the sides a bit: today he seems a bit lower, and a couple of people have commented that he seems to be as well.  After the children's plays and the warm house I had a midwife's appointment: it was Liz, who I think is possibly my favourite, though they're all lovely.  Liz seems really dynamic and has taken extra effort a  few times on my part; trying to get a Doctor to phone me up to talk to me in more detail about concerns I had (eg. high risk of Downs and whether it was worth having a nuchal scan; low amniotic fluid) and also trying to find out whether I could get the nuchal scan free because of my age!  She's great and I'm pleased that she'll be working at the hospital the day after the baby is born.  She said he was still head down but - as I rather suspected - he has got his bottom stuck out one side and his legs the other, so he's lying almost transverse at the moment rather than curled up ready to pop out (I don't feel as if he's about to pop out either, whereas I remember feeling like a torpedo with Daughter).  Liz also guessed that he'd be 7lb 6oz: we'll see!

At least I think I possibly look less like Mr. Greedy now, which was what (whom?) Husband likened me to a couple of weeks ago.

I talk about the day after the baby's born: this is assuming of course that he doesn't decide to come along early.  As I'm now at 37 weeks, it wouldn't matter in terms of his health if he came along early (he would no longer count as premature) but I'm hoping he doesn't do so while we're in Aberdeen this weekend.  I guess I'd probably better take my notes with me just in case.

An hour or so ago I was sent some photos of Daughter singing at the concert on Saturday: I felt all emotionally maternal and proud again.  She and Son were both great in their school plays, but at the moment I think she comes across better singing rather than speaking: though she was having a lot of trouble with the star costume today, and also she was reading her lines rather than speaking them from memory.  Son knew his but was fighting with a friend for the microphone: and in fact I think that by his age they should be encouraged to speak clearly without a microphone anyway.

I've just received an email from the choir master to the entire choir saying that he thinks we're the third best choir in the district now after Wordsworth Singers and Abbey Singers.  That is some accolade: and what is even more flattering for me is that he says that I'm missed, and is keen for me to come back as soon as possible.  We're doing the Durufle Requiem next term which I don't know but everyone says is lovely: in fact I think I shall go and see whether any of is it posted on YouTube.

Last singing lesson of term and before the birth tomorrow: I won't have another until mid-February at the earliest.  Husband is going to have my slot and learn the flute.  I am going to miss my lessons!  I shall go into Carlisle tomorrow morning and get some flowers from M&S for my teacher, plus finish my Christmas card and parcel posting, and so forth.

I'm looking forward to Christmas: I'm enjoying Advent.  Can the children really get any more exhaustingly excited?!

Sunday, 12 December 2010


My children never cease to surprise me and make me feel proud, even when they do things which I know them well enough to know they'll be fine at.

Husband's dinner last night was lovely: Smoked Venison Wellington served with Potato and Celeriac Rosti, various vegetables and gravy and then a chocolate brownie cheesecake thing out of the Hummingbird Cafe cookery book for dessert.

There was a gap between the two courses while I went to my choir's concert.  It was strange not singing: I kept wanting to sing along and in particular seeing the girl I normally do duets with doing a duet with one of the altos made me wish I had been standing up there in front instead!

However Daughter came with me, dressed up for the occasion in her party dress.  She was just beginning to get a bit too restless for my liking when there was an 'audience participation' carol: Away in a Manger, which she was very excited about.  The choirmaster asked all the children in the audience - all two of them - to go up to the front, and off Daughter went without a moment's hesitation, looking terribly small but confident in her purple dress.  "Like mother, like daughter" he said, and stood her on a pew and turned her round to face the audience.  Whilst the choir ladies sang the first verse very softly, my Daughter had centre stage.  Without any control tears flowed down my cheeks: she looked so small but sang beautifully and in tune, her face hidden behind the programme from which she was reading the words, and got a round of applause at the end.

I shouldn't have been surprised: after all I taught her Ding Dong Merrily on High when she was only 2 years' old (I had run out of ideas for nursery rhymes), and I know she loves music of all sorts, and singing, and is a confident, extrovert little individual.  But somehow this was her choosing to go out into the world and perform, albeit in a small way, and it was one of her ways of showing her independence and her character: she did it in an unselfconscious way, purely because she wanted to, as one would expect from a 5-year-old.

Two more verses followed, with everyone singing, and then a small voice said to the choirmaster "can I go back now?": and Special Friend M., who had also come to the concert, then took Daughter home.

I got so many complimentary comments immediately after the concert and again today, and felt so proud of her.  But she now wants a cuddle as 'shadows keep her awake' so I need to turn off my study light and go downstairs - or to bed to read as it's almost 9p.m. which is about the optimum time for me nowadays!

Saturday, 11 December 2010


My singing exam seemed to go well: the examiner said he liked my voice, enjoyed listening to it and that I sang with plenty of expression.  Then during the aural - my weakest bit - he asked whether I sang in a choir, to which I replied 'Solway Singers and Lanercost Festival Chorus and I sometimes get some solos' to which he said 'good'.  I also told him that I was thinking of trying to get more solo work, which again he supported.  During the aural - which I don't think was too bad, although I know it wasn't anything like perfect either - I did at least think correctly that the piece which you have to comment on certain aspects of, was Debussy: it was a lovely piece and in fact I'd like to find out what it was.  I think Debussy is possibly one of my favourite composers after Mozart, and I keep thinking I'd like to sing some French chanson at some point.

I drove home on a high, to find the house gloriously empty: Husband had taken Son to Drama and left Daughter down the road at a friend's.

They all got back and I suggested going out for a chinese takeaway: Daughter came with me and we were incredibly lazy, because it was still so cold, and went by car.  As we returned to our house there was a big white van parked opposite: a heating engineer, hooray!  I was so absorbed in looking at the van and hoping that he was coming to repair our boiler that I reversed into Husband's car........ fortunately I only broke a corner of his number plate and made a tiny scrap in the paintwork of my (new) bumper.

The plumber told us the boiler had completely packed up due to the condensate freezing inside it, and that in any case it was undersized for our house, and suggested we may be able to make it an insurance claim.  Not being totally convinced, and worried that the insurance wouldn't cover it anyway, we set an insurance claim in motion but have also contacted the boiler manufacturers, Vaillant, who are sending out one of their engineers on Tuesday.  I also checked the size and it is undersized: typical of the people who owned the house before us who seemed to do everything on the cheap.  It appears to be the right size for a 1 or 2 bed house or flat with one bathroom.  Having said that, as Husband said, it still heats the water up and the house gets warm when the heating's on.

We currently are 'cooking the baths', i.e. heating up pans of water on the gas hob and have a medley of electric heaters warming the house.  The temperature has indeed risen to a balmy +8 degrees, so it's not as bad as it might be, though apparently we're due more minus temperatures and possibly snow next week.  It's quite strange seeing green again after everything looking so pristine and white.

The Cumberland News did what they said and printed a story about me yesterday, which nearly everyone I know seems to have seen.  I've seen the News and Star website version, which I have to say I think is a very poor piece of journalism.  It's factually inaccurate (refers to issues with the amniotic fluid meaning the baby is small and leading to an early caesarean: all complete rubbish as the issues were over last time I had my hospital appointment, as anyone who has been keeping up with this blog will know, and the caesarean is because I haven't given birth 'naturally' previously: also the baby will be 39 weeks and a few days, i.e. full-term).  Otherwise it basically re-hashes the Carlisle Living article, which was far better: and re-uses some of those photos.  I've emailed the journalist who has written me up for Woman just so she's forewarned, but I don't feel too worried: after all who ever gets the first picture of the baby and the interview with me after the birth will be 'in the lead' - and it sure as anything won't be Cumberland News or anyone else from CN Group.

I'm a little regretful though that Radio Cumbria phoned me and wanted to speak to me, and I'm going to have to say 'no' I think: it's a pity as I've really enjoyed being on Radio Cumbria and they've been following me all along.  I'm going to offer them the first story locally after Woman has published though and I'm out of the exclusivity period.

Husband is busy cooking an upmarket dinner and I'm printing off letters inviting singers to join the Lanercost Festival Chorus as I write, and I need to go to lay the table: so I shall finish here.  Next week promises to be exciting with a visit to Holker Hall with ex-work-friend L and the children's nativity plays - oh, and also a new or repaired boiler and hence hot water and heating.  I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, 9 December 2010


Last night the boiler stopped working.  We have no heating and no hot water.  I also had an extremely interrupted night's sleep: Son came in at 1.30, Husband at 4.00 and Daughter at nearly 5:00.  As a result I was tired and grumpy and didn't want to get out of bed this morning.

The forecast is for warmer (dare I even say 'warm'?) weather over the next couple of days and as the problem with the boiler purely seems to be that possibly the condensation outlet pipe may have frozen, we're hoping that positive temperatures may help.  Meanwhile I've poured two kettles of boiling water on the outside of it and put the 'purple sausage' (one of those bag things which contain oats and lavender, and which you heat up in the microwave) on the inside of the pipe, in the hope that the problem is cured that way.  Certainly between us Husband and I have spoken to 3 or 4 people with condensing boilers who have taken a similar approach and it has resolved the matter: it would be handy not to have to call out a repair man, though having said that our timer has been broken since last winter and it might be useful to have that repaired as well....

It was -4 taking the children to school but I sense that the temperature is rising: or perhaps it's just that I still have lots of clothes on because of the lack of heating.

Both children have lost their chocolate advent calendars as of today.  I can't remember exactly why now: Husband confiscated them for some reason.  I had already eaten Son's no. 9 chocolate for going in my study and getting things out of my 'white box' (namely scissors, glue, sellotape and a biro) yet again, despite having been told a zillion times not to without asking first.  I don't want to stem his creativity but nor do I want papers disturbed.  He made a card for one of his teachers this morning which needed none of the above items.  I'm not quite sure what he drew, and it also got folded in a rather weird way as I didn't have any envelopes the right size, but I'm sure it will be appreciated.

I'm off to make mince pies in a moment and take the portable electric heater downstairs to see if it will warm the boiler up enough to get it going again.  Two of the ferrets - and their poo (lovely) are still in the utility room so I hope they won't burn themselves.  Harry is not looking at all healthy but Maddie came out to see me, tried to climb in the laundry basket and wee'd on the kitchen floor.  She's such a sweet little ferret you have to forgive her but I did prevent her burying herself in dirty laundry as I didn't want to risk ferret wee and poo in there, even if it is all going to get piled in the washing machine before long.

So: mince pies here I come - then off for my singing exam.  I'm somewhat nervous, although I also think I'm as ready as I'll ever be.  I just wish it wasn't all from memory!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


I was going to put a photo of the snow in this post, but the one I took really wasn't that exciting: and whereas last year I was out and about in the snow a lot, this year so far I've only really been out in it in the car. It's a pity: I'd love to go for a walk but I just don't feel it would be particularly wise on my own as it's so icy.

Driving to school in the morning there is often a lovely pinkish glow to the snow from the morning sun.  Hedgerows really do glitter in the way that Christmas cards sometimes depict snow-covered trees, and I just want to stop the car and get out with my camera.  In the afternoon the colour changes to a golden, warmer hue.  It all looks so beautiful but is beginning to annoy many people who would just like a little respite from it (ideally for it to come back in time for Christmas).

The temperatures have been anything between about -7 and -14 during the mornings and evenings.  We've even had ice indoors: Son's windows had ice on this morning; the utility room the other morning; and each morning I not only have to de-ice the outside of the car but also wait for the thin layer of ice on the inside to disappear, before I can see safely enough to drive.  The weather forecast predicted temperatures of +4 or 5 degrees tomorrow initially: I didn't believe it for a moment and I see that they have now changed their prediction to just below freezing to 0 tomorrow and then +2 - +4 degrees on Friday: along with fog and generally rather horrid, dull sounding-weather.  I gave up on the weather forecast some months ago as it was so often wrong: I think it's better to look around you and just go by nature's signs as much as one can with limited knowledge, and by gut instinct. 

It probably doesn't help that here we don't quite get Northumberland's weather, we don't quite get the Solway Plain's weather, and we don't necessarily get the northern Pennines' weather: it can be any one of them.  The forecast for Carlisle can be wrong for Brampton: the forecast for south west Scotland is often more accurate for northern Cumbria than the forecast for north west England.  I have never really felt part of north west England anyway: this neck of the woods feels more akin to Scotland and Northumberland, and the accent and history bear that out.

The snow has given me an excuse, being now 8 months pregnant, to be quite house-bound and very lazy.  I did get a spurt of energy today and do stacks of housework: less 'nesting' than just hating dirt and mess I think.  I also took the opportunity to have a lovely long soak in the bath while I read a very interesting book about medieval history and watched my stomach making weird lop-sided shapes.  I even weighed myself: I'm not sure whether it's good, bad or irrelevant that I have now stuck on 12 stone for several weeks.  Either the baby isn't growing enough again (I'm not surprised, the amount of activity going on: he must be burning up calories at quite a rate) or he's using up my fat stores somehow.  Considering that I ate more than enough for 2, if not for 3, in the first two trimesters, I'm hoping it's the latter.  I have a feeling that he's not going to be as heavy as either of the others though: I keep thinking that he's somehow restricted in there, like a pot plant without enough root space: he can't grow as there's nowhere to expand into.  He is quite low down, as if my diaphragm, with all my singing and general breathing 'stuff' from exercise, won't let him go up any higher (my mother has told countless times the story of how my sister was up under one side of her ribs and she had to sit down sideways as it was so painful: I certainly don't have that problem).

Speaking of singing and breathing, tomorrow is my singing exam and I've just done some practice.  I only got about one word wrong in each of the songs which is more difficult to remember, so fingers crossed for tomorrow: I'm hoping that a last-minute run-through with my teacher will be like last-minute swotting for exams, which in my experience often pays off (I shall never forget the day of one of my Latin 'A' level papers.  I read the full-length words for an abbreviation, remembered them, and found the words and their meaning were one of the first questions on the exam paper: it was hugely confidence-boosting).  I also did some sight-singing, which as usual was mixed but on the whole not bad: enough to make me feel that I could do OK.

I was meant to be going in to school to sing and give a bit of a music lesson to years 0, 1 and 2 but it just hasn't happened: the school was closed on the day we'd arranged and then it hasn't been possible to reschedule.  However I gave them my lesson plan and a CD of Mozart arias in case they wanted to use it themselves, and it was satisfying this morning when one of the teachers said it looked really good and please could I go in to see just her class at least?  I think realistically it's going to be next term sometime now before it can be arranged though.  I still haven't seen the Education Outreach Worker jobs at Carlisle Leisure advertised, and being able to say I've gone into school and sung and talked to them about music I would have thought would be a plus point in my favour.  Hopefully the jobs won't get funding until next Financial Year and then won't start until I'm ready to start work again!

Domesticity combined with supporting the school last night when I made chocolate fairy cakes for the christmas fair, which was postponed from last week to this week.  Just as well as last week's cakes were a disaster: it was a really runny recipe so I added more flour, and the taste was bland to say the least.  This time Daughter - my key helper - and I used the basic '6, 6, 6 and 3 eggs' recipe and it turned out fine.  I later put white peppermint-flavoured (Daughter's idea as we'd run out of vanilla) frosting on top with edible glitter sprinkled on that: they looked lovely and, as I'd hoped, like snow-covered ground.  There wasn't enough glitter for two of the cakes so I saved them: I ate one and then later allowed Son to have the last one as Daughter bit him on his back, twice, when they were fighting over a piece of red glittery wrapping paper.  They did at least make up: she was sent to her bedroom where she spent some time and effort making him a 'sorry' card and he - magnaminously I thought as she'd hurt him quite badly, and torn the skin - then made her a 'forgiveness' card in return, and all was love and cuddles again.  And there will soon be a third one to add to the equation...... sigh!

How they will react is a matter of some speculation to Husband and me.  Our instinct is that Son will be interested and caring whereas with Daughter it will depend whether she still gets enough attention.  I was watching them with interest with the smallest ferret this afternoon: Daughter, when left to get on with it on her own, stayed still and quiet and started reading to the ferret, but as soon as Son came back and tried to get the ferret to play with his toy cat, everything started getting a bit bickery and noisy (the ferret went and hid behind the fridge-freezer: I can't say I blame her).  So whilst individually they may be great with the Little Guy, together they are potentially going to be vying for his attention!  I think they may surprise us though.  They are both such loving children that I think they will love having a far younger brother, and maybe sometimes it will help the dynamics rather than being a problem.

It's getting towards my bedtime (10pm at the latest) and I need to sort out how to copy or scan a map to the scale I want it at, and I'd like to read some more of my medieval history book.  I can sense that my eyes are beginning to want to close already though: so often I only read about a page of a book before I feel myself falling asleep over it.   Wish me luck for my exam tomorrow!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Radio Cumbria interviewed me again the other day: it aired yesterday morning and I caught it as I was de-icing the car to take the children to school.

My contract with Woman magazine says nothing about not talking to local radio: nor indeed to radio at all, nor to local newspapers.  However the Cumberland News picked the story up and were straight on the phone to me, saying they're going to publish something on Friday anyway whether or not I talk to them: they wanted to after I'd spoken to Carlisle Living and, on the advice of the journalist who's written me up for Woman, I said 'no': she's worried that once it's in the newspapers, even a small local newspaper like the Cumberland News, that the story will be got hold of by the national papers or a press agency and that I won't see any money at all from the story.

It's actually made me wonder about a few things, helped by having a very good friend who's a broadcaster and who has done journalism as well (I can't now remember how I've referred to her earlier in my blog!).  For a start, the journalist who's writing up my story for Woman is doubtless getting a huge amount more from this story than I am.  I don't particularly have a problem with that as she's had to do the writing, she had the contacts (which I didn't) and it's her livelihood: she has also sounded really friendly all the times I've spoken to her and I don't believe in mucking people around anyway: a deal is a deal.  But I do wonder whether some of her concern is that she won't make her money from the story if Woman say I'm in breach of contract (I'm certain I'm not: sure enough that I'd go to Court over it if necessary.  I think there'd be a story there as well: unemployed mother of 3 done out of a relatively small amount of money (in their terms) by big glossy trying to intimidate her....).

The other thing is that if the Cumberland News does publish a story on Friday, it may at least give some indication whether there is a story in which the nationals are going to be interested (Broadcaster Friend is convinced there is - so long as it's told the right way).  I don't know how much detail the Cumberland News will have to go on as I'm not sure how much digging they'll be prepared to do, and how much information Radio Cumbria or Carlisle Living will give provide them with.  And of course they won't get a photo of the baby when he's born anyway, which is really the key moment in the story.  But if there is some national interest then potentially I'm wondering whether I can then deal with that myself, directly, and negotiate myself.  In some ways I don't want the hassle, I just want the journalist to act, effectively, as an agent for me!

So it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few weeks.  It's made me think about how celebrities must feel.  I really enjoyed being on Radio Cumbria, it was fun; and doing the article for Carlisle Living was fun: but I'm now seeing the downside of press attention, albeit that this is on a very, very minor scale.  I've always thought I wanted to be famous as I like being the centre of attention: but the flip side of that is sometimes you're the centre of attention when you don't want to be.  Having said that even if I do get some press attention you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be over in a relatively short space of time and the newspapers will be wrapped around fish and chips a few days later!

What I would really like from this is some money to help keep us going as a family, and better still for some work, i.e. regular income, to come from it in some way: I'd also really like to talk to one of the broadsheets or a sensible TV or Radio programme about the issues about being an older mother and the medical research side of it.  For example, I was thinking about fertility and Downs.  Women nowadays don't really know how fertile they are because they use contraception (on the whole), although the ease with which one gets pregnant when trying is presumably an indicator.  So, if you get pregnant easily in your 40s and even your early 50s, does that mean that you're still producing lots of eggs?  And if so, presumably the number of eggs which is healthy is going to be higher - and give you a higher chance of a healthy baby - than a woman who isn't producing so many eggs.  Also, I know your eggs age, but if you're ageing more slowly than normal then are your eggs maybe ageing more slowly too (I think the answer to that is probably 'no' from what I've read, but I'm not sure it's necessarily something which has been specifically looked at)?

I'm optimistic that this will all lead to something work-wise for me: the interviews, voice overs and pieces I've done for Radio Cumbria I think must be good experience and a useful starting point.

What I want more than anything of course though is a healthy baby: Husband and I always said we were lucky that we'd got the two we'd got.  I know I've written here before that to have a third healthy child would make us lucky beyond our expectations.  If the deal was to get no money from the story but have a healthy baby, there is of course no decision to be made.

Meanwhile the snow is still here, although fortunately school hasn't been closed again.  I have a mailing to do for the Lanercost Festival Chorus including some press releases in order to try to recruit new singers: I also need to find some gold paper which I can put in my printer, to do 'save the date' cards for my 50th birthday party next year (August Bank Holiday weekend and also my 7th wedding anniversary: and hoping to have the baby christened the next day).  And there are still a couple of presents to buy but I really need to wait until I have a bit more money in my account (I think I'm down to about £20)!

Grade 7 singing exam on Thursday: I hope I remember all my words and that the aural and sight-singing go OK!

The snow makes everything feel really christmassy, and I love driving through Brampton in the dark seeing the snow and the christmas lights on the buildings.  I sometimes miss city life in terms of career opportunities but I don't think I really ever want to live anywhere else.  And it won't be long now before I'll be able to go out running on the trails again!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Last week's dusting of snow was only a prelude to what started over the weekend and has continued and grown heavier: we had about 4-5" during the day today and Son was, fortunately, fetched from school by Pregnant Friend C. and her husband, who have a 4 wheel-drive.  Husband phoned not long ago to say that the roads round Carlisle - which he was insisting a couple of hours ago were fine - are now chaotic and that the snow has become heavier in the city.  I don't think I'll be going to my singing lesson this evening!

On Monday I went into Carlisle to drop off my car and pick up a hire car (which has traction control and is useless in the snow, even though in other ways it is lovely: for example heated front seats) but also had a hospital appointment.  They did another scan, just to check the amniotic fluid (c.12 cc) and the flow from the placenta to the baby: which was fine but would have been far easier for the stenographer to have measured if he stopped wriggling!

However the most exciting thing was coming away with a date for an elective caesarean, and not just any old date!  I had anticipated them wanting to get me in and out between Christmas and the New Year, so had asked for 28th December.  It turned out that they aren't working that day, but the Thursday - which was fully booked.  They are also working on New Year's Eve, though because I'd mentioned 28th the consultant said they could do 29th at a pinch.  I didn't actually want 29th so the baby is going to be born on New Year's Eve!  What a way to start the New Year, and what a birth date to have!

It also means - though this is probably as relevant and credible as horoscopes are - that he will be a Friday baby, i.e. 'loving and giving' (Husband and Son are Sunday: 'bony and blithe and good and gay') and Daughter and I are Thursday ('have far to go').

The sad thing is that brother-in-law and his wife-to-be, who are with us for Christmas, are leaving on Thursday 30th so they'll just miss seeing the new baby, unless of course they change their New Year's Eve party to February, when she moves in with him (as an aside, I am SO glad he has finally made that commitment).

I was due to go into school to sing again tomorrow but I'm not sure whether the school will be open: and then Friday is the Christmas Fair, for which we are about to make mince pies and chocolate cup cakes.  Meanwhile Son and Daughter wanted to do some painting but as I can't find their paint brushes they are having to make do with felt pen instead.  However Daughter and I did make her Star outfit for the nativity play today, which involved finger paint glitter, gold glitter, some tinsel which has gold stars in it, and some star stickers.......... now I've just got to work out how she will actually wear it!

Husband is currently struggling home through the snow, I hope with something good to eat.  I'd better go to see what the children are up to.....