Saturday, 26 November 2011


I've had a great couple of days.

At Baby and Toddler group on Thursday - the happy clappy one (at which we arrived very late - we missed all the religious bits and arrived just in time to feed our bodies rather than our souls on grapes (Edward) and coffee and a chocolate biscuit (me - though he did try to grab the biscuit)) I chatted to some new people including Jenny, the wife of a newish GP in our surgery, who not only has 3 children - with a 'sneaking desire' for a 4th - but wants to sing in a choir.  She was interested in Solway Singers so I've asked our choir master, who is also potentially interested in her.  She seems really nice and moved here most recently from Chew Magna, near Bristol, so we had that in common.

Friday morning Isabella's class were doing assembly and David needed the car to get to Penrith, so I decided I'd walk home from Hayton with Edward.  He was fine: apart from when the cover blew off the buggy.  I got wet.  But what was lovely, and which would only happen in a rural area like Cumbria, was that I got offered loads of lifts including one by some complete strangers!  I turned them all down as nobody had a baby seat for their car, but I did wonder by the time I got towards Brampton and my skirt was soaked through and my legs were wet and cold whether perhaps lack of car seat could have been justified!

Yesterday evening I had arranged a group to sing carols and read christmas poems at Off the Wall, the cafe I know I have mentioned at least once before, just after the Brampton Christmas lights got switched on.  We got loads of positive feedback and are provisionally booked in for next year: plus everyone who sang really enjoyed it, and we raised £45 for Parkinsons UK.  I've never seen Off the Wall so full, which was great: and apparently they were doing quite a roaring trade in take-away hot chocolate as well.

Then today I manned the Hallsford farm stall at Brampton Farmers Market.  It meant standing up in cold blowy weather from 8.30 until 1.30 but I really enjoyed myself.  Hallsford is owned by Andrew and Helen Tomkins - Andrew sings in the Solway Singers with me - and they pride themselves on producing good quality, locally-reared meat.  I got to chat to loads of people I didn't know, knew a little bit, or knew quite well, and sold about £50-worth more of meat than Andrew had anticipated I would.  It was noticeable however that with the recession people are buying sausages etc. rather than the more expensive joints, although one of the local GPs didn't take too much persuading to purchase a rather nice leg of lamb (I was really pleased to sell that as it was £15 or so).  I also sold the lamb shank to a couple with whom I was discussing recipe ideas.  Andrew is going to pay me for my time in meat, which is great.

One of the people I saw was Elise, who is married to the family which owns the pub at Talkin.  She and her husband only moved up a year or so ago so he could get involved in the family business, and we met at swimming back in the summer as her daughter and mine were in the same class.  As I was going along each week with Edward she asked what having a third was like as she had found out, unexpectedly, that she was pregnant with no. 3.  A week or so later she had another surprise as no.3 was actually nos. 3 and 4!  I hadn't seen her for a few months and so today she looked really big as she's due to go in for an elective caesarean at 37 weeks on 22nd December - the due date would otherwise be around the time that Edward was due last year.  It was good to see her as I liked her, and she now has my mobile number so we can meet up once she's a bit more settled!  It will be great to see some tiny babies again and funny to think that a year ago I was in a similar position - Edward is SUCH a character now!  He and I were playing a game which had him giggling hysterically this afternoon - I can't even remember exactly what it was but he has this appealing way of getting very giggly about things which nobody else would find particularly funny: the other two love it when he thinks something they are doing is hilarious.  Maybe it was in part just the fact that I had, and took, the opportunity to play with him: which is a rather sad reflection as maybe I don't spend as much time playing with him as I should, but then I feel that about the other two as well and they were both in nursery and I was back at work full-time by the time they were each 6 months old.

The downside of this week is that only one person turned up to aerobics so I've decided not to teach until after Christmas (if they want me to start again then): it's a waste of my time which could be spent on my music 'stuff'.... or at least on helping get the children to bed.... so I'll be £15 per week down but on the other hand maybe the music things will start paying more.  There's also a vague possibility that I'm going to get an article in Cumbria Life ( (fingers tightly crossed: they prefer not to use non-regular contributors) and I'm also - finally - being published in Cumbria magazine ( next month, so will get some money from them.  We manage on David's salary and most months I get a little something extra one way or another: money's tight, but do I really want to move to Canada when I feel so much part of the local community here?

Sunday, 20 November 2011


It's all happening on the teeth front.

One of Alex's front milk teeth finally fell out at Film Club on Friday: he came home with it in one of those plastic money bags people use when they have lots of coins to take to the bank.  Rather appropriate, really.  The Tooth Fairy was a bit confused on Friday evening as he slept downstairs in the TV room with David: however she managed to take the tooth and replace it with a £1 coin on Saturday.

The amazing thing about it is that it is SO small!  Maybe 3 or 4 mm in width; perhaps 7mm long including the root.  The two new front teeth are already coming through behind and you can see that his jaw, or gum, has somehow expanded so that the bigger new teeth will fit.

Bella and Edward on the other hand have both had bigger teeth from the start - especially noticeable for the top two at the front.  Whilst Alex's teeth always came through one by one, Bella's came through in pairs and Edward has had 4 very close together.  Edward has also had the most problem with his: with the other two one day the teeth weren't there and the next they were, or at least had clearly cut the skin, and I don't remember any of the symptoms which so many people report in relation to their babies.  Edward on the other hand has chosen to be different - as he quite often does - and has had a bad week with disgusting nappies, not wanting to eat anything (particularly not anything too hard) and sleeping badly.  It's noticeable that now tooth number 3 (or numbers 3 and 4 - I'm not sure) have cut the skin that he's back to enjoying his food.

Developments are coming apace as he also started waving (or flapping) and clapping (with one fist curled up) this week.

Meanwhile Isabella and I went this evening to the Carlisle Christmas lights switch on, thinking it would be hugely tacky and (on my part) with some reservations.  We enjoyed it tremendously, and as David had decided it wouldn't be his cup of tea we took Nicola and Ella with us who were excellent company as they enjoyed it as much as we did: there was a lot of laughter and singing along to songs.  The lights are lovely and not in the slightest bit tacky: lots of lovely white lights in trees and then a few blue ones.

I just wish they'd had a little bit of the traditional christmas stuff, like carols and so forth.  I was contemplating that a solo singer performing 'Silent Night' or some other well-known carol would have been a lovely contrast to the other acts and perhaps have created its own special atmosphere... maybe I should suggest it for next year?

Saturday, 12 November 2011


We tried out a new toddler group, Edward and I, on Thursday morning.  It wasn't brand new, but just new to us and had the advantage of being in the morning as ones in the afternoon never seem quite to work out.

I was a bit apprehensive as it was at the Bethseda Evangelical church and evangelism is not my cup of tea.  My fears, I thought, were realised when it started with a 'happy clappy' singing session: but I told myself that the children love singing anyway (Edward certainly enjoyed it - early brain-washing perhaps) and if you're going to a group which has been organised by and in a church, then it's fair enough to have a bit of bible bashing.  And in fact it was very short and as I have had all the children christened and am not a stranger to church services myself, I didn't really mind.  Is it perhaps that I'm embarrassed to admit to being at all religious?

It took me right back to when Alex was a toddler and I was pregnant with and then on maternity leave with Isabella, and we used to go to the Methodist church in Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol, for a baby and toddler group.  It did seem a bit strange that a church hall was being used for a group which appeared to have no association with the church whatsoever.  That seems so long ago now: it was, of course, about 6 years ago.  So much seems to have happened in that time, the two big things being moving to Cumbria and having Edward.  We've already been here 4 years - we were only 4 years in Bristol.  It feels like home here whereas we spent a long time trying to get away from Bristol: David would certainly have left sooner if we'd had the opportunity.  Even working at NWDA now seems distant, particularly with everyone else leaving and the office gradually emptying, and yet it's only a year I was last there, heavily pregnant, for the Christmas lunch.

To return to the baby and toddler group.  It was one of the nicest of such groups I've been to, not that I'm that experienced.  Snacks were provided for the children and a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit for the Mums, and we had to do no clearing up whatsoever, which I thought was great - especially for the small sum of £1.50.  Both other groups I've been to have involved the Mums doing all the clearing up and tidying away, and at the one in Bristol you used to have to take it in turns to man the payment desk, do the coffees, or do the washing up.  This one has an army of grandmas and grandpas who organise and run it, even down to opening the gate for you to get in and out!  Singing a few religious songs and saying a prayer is indeed a small price to pay.

And tomorrow we're off to the Remembrance Day service at Hayton as I promised Edward the vicar and Alison his wife I'd help with Sunday school.

As a complete contrast - from the religious to the corporeal - today we went to Penrith to do our weekly shop at the new Sainsburys.  It was so much nicer than going to smelly old, non-tax paying Tescos, and better than Morrisons which always seems to me somehow a bit yellow, as if it was ageing.  Not surprisingly for a new store which hasn't yet built up to its full customer numbers, there appeared to be an excessive number of staff: a man to help us get the car park ticket; a woman to make sure we didn't go wandering off up the travelator instead of into the store (at least, I think that's what she was doing: later the children had a ride up the travelator and down again); and people raising money for a girls' football team packing bags.  There was a wide range of quality produce on sale (it will be interesting to see what we think of the fruit and vegetables in a few days' time) and I got very tempted by the children's and baby clothes, especially dungarees for Edward which would be such a good idea as his trousers fall down when he's crawling around but if he has bare knees they get a bit red and sore and also his legs get cold.  I did resist but I might go back when I have some money.  It's always difficult to resist nice things for the children, especially when you feel that they 'need' them.

We still went to Cranstons to get our meat however.  It's a while since I've been in the extended one (extended two years ago now) opposite my old office but it was good to see that it was very busy and - without meaning to sound too snobby - seemed to be full of middle class (and above?) people.  There was an air, I felt, of 'recession be damned'.  There were lots of samples to try as well so we all had a selection of mince pie, three types of sausage meat stuffing, Cumberland sausage and various pies.  Edward particularly seemed to like mince pie and the sausagemeat with apple. 

Isabella was her normal embarrassing self by chatting to the check out lady and telling her how much she liked all the samples.  She then spoilt it by telling her we'd just been to the new Sainsburys.... It's like being out with my mother, who has frequently over the years embarrassed my sister and myself by chatting to complete strangers - usually shop assistants - about things they are probably not the slightest bit interested in.  I remember one time being in a shop in Wedmore, pregnant with Alex, and my mother patting my stomach and saying something to the shop lady about my not being married (we were looking for wedding outfits) but that 'it seemed to be the way of things nowadays'.

I'm sure I'll be just as bad, if I'm not already - I'm quite capable of chatting away to people and telling them all sorts of things about myself and my children.  I shall get my own back on Isabella when she's older....

Monday, 7 November 2011


It was a bit of a manic weekend but had the advantage that the baby seems to be back to sleeping - and more importantly, waking - more or less normally.

My 'baby' daughter turned 6 on Thursday.  She's still as feisty and demanding and loud as when she was born; still as striking looking with her dark hair, dark eyes and pale skin (not surprisingly some people bought her Snow White dolls as she definitely has that sort of colouring - or Dora the Explorer, to bring things up to date).  She is also confident and extrovert and told almost everybody we saw over the weekend, whether or not she knew them, that it was her birthday.

The actual day itself started with presents at breakfast, wearing a new woolly jacket to school, and then Nanny and Grandad Bill turning up at school just as we were about to fetch Alex from Book Club.  I had prepared - with a lot of help from the Co-op - a surprise birthday tea of crisps, sausages on sticks, pineapple and cheese on sticks, sandwiches, chocolate cake with candles.... etc.

The following day she was granted a day off school and my parents and I took her and the Baby over to Newcastle to go to John Lewis for new shoes and lunch - the baby very much enjoyed the Max's Wicked Chicken - and then to the Great North Museum, which is where Alex got taken for his birthday.  It's a fabulous museum and actually I'd really like to spend the day there on my own, without any children in tow.

Friday evening there were fireworks in Brampton at the primary school - including a hot dog stand and a pig roast stand - yum!  Edward didn't think much of the fireworks as he was trying to get to sleep, so I came home with him to make Mulled Cider and Isabella stayed at the fireworks with Nanny and Grandad.  Alex had chosen to go to Film Club at school which was showing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which he can only have watched at home several hundred times.... Emma and co. came round to share the mulled cider and whilst Craig helped my Mum do one of Isabella's jigsaw puzzles, Emma and I chatted!

On Saturday we held a small party for the birthday girl here at home: 11 children in total.  Never again.  Never will I have a party for children any older than about 4 years at my house.  They get bigger and noisier and more boisterous - and no less messy.  They're all lovely individually but once they get together in a crowd they start stirring each other up and invariably there are a few tears.  Alex took the two boys who had been invited off to play at knights and dragons, but despite being the oldest he also got very silly, which the others thought was hilarious but which David and I just found annoying.  Sadly, I remember getting told off for exactly the same thing at my sister's birthday parties.... Alex did do a very funny impression of a chicken laying an egg with its bottom on fire as his forfeit for pass the parcel: I do think he's good at acting and should carry on with drama lessons once we have enough money (currently he's sticking to athletics and rugby, which have the advantages of burning up some energy).

On Saturday evening David and I escaped to the fireworks at Bitts Park in Carlisle, as I'd been given guest passes.  Well worth it not to be squashed up in a crowd of 3000 people, and the fireworks and bonfire - with an olympic theme - were suberb.

Sunday was slightly quieter as my parents left in the morning as we were going for a walk round Talkin Tarn with Mandy and Thomas, while Chris ran with David.  We all agreed we had never seen the Tarn look so stunning: not only was there the golden autumn foliage under a cold blue sky, but the mist of the evening before came back and hung over the Tarn, making the rowers and sailing boats on the water look ghostly and surreal.

It continued cold and I had to defrost the car before Isabella and I headed back to Carlisle that evening, to the Sands, for my birthday treat to her: a performance of the ballet of The Snow Queen.  She insisted on wearing a rather bare Cinderella dress, a tiara and her 'clip clop' shoes (dressing up shoes which leave her toes and ankles bare): I was wearing a cotton jumper, a thick, lined, woollen zip up jacket and long woolly socks, plus gloves, hat and coat in the car....  The Snow Queen was not great ballet but it was perfect as a birthday treat for a 6-year old girl, having a story, beautiful costumes and some funny moments as well.  Bella was particularly taken by the old flower lady who wiggled her bottom, as well as enjoying the crow and the reindeer.

She just managed to stay awake on the way home.  Going in to school today she was trying to remember all the things she had done for her birthday.  And I have not even mentioned the lovely dress her father bought her!