Entries in family (28)


easy days


These have been a lazy couple of days. With Joel still not at school but not terribly ill, we've been able to make the most of the sudden warmth to swim outdoors.  Drifting along on my back as he jumped and practised his tumble turns I discovered the perfect combination of supervision and pleasure. Ears underwater and the sounds of splashing satisfyingly muffled, I could tip my head one way to watch the acrobatics or another to see the distant trees bending in the wind. The gentle movement of my body in the water, combined with the scent of thyme and honeysuckle, a faint tinge of chlorine and warm skin, induced a satisfying sensory langour.

Eventually, time to dry and rest in the sunshine before moving slowly home.



forest getaway

There is another little house we visit regularly, a tiny forest-enclosed cottage belonging to John's family. With no TV or mobile reception it offers a welcome step away from normal life. And that's where we were this weekend. Breakfast is early for the boys, before they take a walk to look for flints. I prefer to eat alone, a little later, after I've wandered through the garden to see what's happened overnight. A new set of blooms or piece of pottery unearthed by an industrious rabbit, perhaps.

Later, some football will be played, bikes ridden and more walks taken through the forest. The piano will get a workout and tea with cake will be eaten.  For the grown-ups, the day ends with a quiet supper, some reading and a nightcap. 

It does us good to take time away together and makes returning home, to our own beds and our own lives, seem so much more enticing!


in praise of boys


I love being mother to a boy. In fact (deep breath) I don't feel a trace of envy for those of my friends who have a girl or two (or three). But what is it about society and boys? The consensus seems to be that boys are trouble and parents of boys are to be pitied. Disruptive, noisy, aggressive and doomed to fall behind at school. Too often that is the view of boys that I find in the press or, sadly, at the school gates. And it just doesn't fit with my experience. For instance, I could have chosen photos where Joel is drawing, reading or playing with his soft toys. Many of the boys I know love to do all these things; activities that are usually presumed to be the preserve of girls. 

But why should we denigrate, for example, the sheer force of nature that is a boy outside? Climbing, running, hunting for bugs, enjoying the world with all his senses. I love that the little boys I know have boundless energy and enthusiasm. Their default position seems to be 'hurray!' I love the physicality of the pillow fights and wrestles and chases and matches - and hugs hugs hugs. I love how slights and arguments are quickly forgotten. I love that no thought is given to mud on trousers or scuffs on shoes. I love the way my son wants kisses and affection and promises to do so even when he's old (by which he means 17).

Of course these are traits aren't solely attributable to boys (or even to all boys). And I acknowledge that some boys can be - ahem - difficult. But I do want to say that there is so much to celebrate about boys - and being the parent of boys - and I would love to see more focus on the wonderful. Roxanna is doing a sterling job on her all-things-boy website Frog & Snail Society, and I recently enjoyed Jules' post on the magical confidence of her baseball-playing son. This is my own small trumpet blast in praise of boys and I plan to give my own a special squeeze of appreciation after school tonight.



monday morning


As a stay-at-home mother, Monday mornings seem unusually quiet. It's about empty beds and full wash-baskets, but also the chance to take time for a quietly indulgent breakfast involving jam (will my extravagance never end?) and a catch up with the weekend papers.

School drop-off today saw all the children being herded into the hall as there was apparently 'a slight smell of gas in the science labs'. Oh. So moving everyone into a building 20 feet away from the science labs offers ideal protection from an impending explosion. 

To take my mind off potential disasters I'm going to play this on repeat while my second pot of coffee brews (once again pushing out the boat of excess). Not the best quality video but who needs boring old clarity when you have fabtastic prints, Cass grooving, Michelle Phillips' beautiful face and a man with tight, stripy trousers? Whether you're at home or at work, happy monday to you.







For the last couple of years I've tried to persuade the other half to try a bit of camping. But he has memories of army cadets and bivvy bags and a pathological dislike of holidaying near anyone. I, meanwhile, doggedly pursue a vision of us with our lovely bell tent, sipping wine fireside with friends while the children sleep, weary from a day of fun. Perhaps he suspects that, if I finally get the tent of my dreams, my desire to actually use it might evaporate. Perhaps, to be honest, he suspects that I wouldn't be very good at camping.

The closest we've got as a family was a long weekend at a Feather Down Farm in Dorset. The 'tent' (really a canvas sided chalet) was cosy and the wind-battered canvas made those spooky sounds I remember from my childhood. The little bed in a cupboard was a child's dream and the suppers eaten by candlelight, with the radio playing softly, were lovely. Fossils were unearthed on the nearby Jurassic coast with a real fossil hunter's hammer. 

Interleaved with these triumphs were: a dash to A&E as our son developed a full body rash and one eye sealed shut; and again as both my eyes swelled and sealed. It seems we reacted to what they were spraying in the field outside our tent. We looked like boxers and I could only see by tilting my head backwards. And yet. Sitting outside our neighbours' tent that evening with our pooled food and booze was one of the best nights we'd had for a while. 

Who knows? The promised warmth of summer and a new telescope may yet make nights under canvas more enticing. Do you have any camping  tips or special locations to share?



Some days (perversely it's usually when the sun isn't at its hottest) we have a yearning for the coast. The British beachfront is a curious one; spectacularly beautiful and frequently unpopulated beaches interspersed with shabbyish towns with beach, pier, fried food smells and too many people. The wild and empty ones are favourites with the grown-ups but for a small boy, the tacky town wins hands down. Something to do with the ice-cream, the playgrounds and the shiny lights.

But even a town beach can offer space, wildness and small, unexpected pleasures such as 'angel wing' shells and a seaweed tree. And who doesn't need fish and chips and an ice-cream from time to time?





Bathtime for our six year old usually involves goggles, shipwrecks, sharks and rather more water overboard than I care for. But sometimes a bath is more tranquil, especially when taken late afternoon after a busy day. I love these rare moments of stillness; time to sit quietly alongside him and let my gaze linger on the simple beauty of his face, usually so animated and expressive. And just be together.



little house

We live in quite a little house, an Edwardian lodge that stands at the entrance to a manor house. It's quirky inside with diamond-leaded windows so hard to clean that the only window cleaner we could persuade to begin slipped away halfway through his first visit, never to be seen again.

We have no hallways; you can walk (or run) in circles throughout the downstairs. And many children do. No upstairs sweep of hallway means you can hop between bedrooms and bathroom. The saving grace is a double height breakfast room that lets in light year round and is where we eat, draw, make. It’s really the outside space that makes this house so special. In front we look onto fields that slope towards an ancient church and at the back, our garden opens onto a lake that is stocked with trout. It’s divided from us by a small stream that we dip rods in and watch the ducks and water birds that make their homes in the greenery. And do a lot of mud poking to see if we can unearth the ferocious crayfish with their rust-coloured claws and furious temper. 

Surrounded by woodland, we’re familiar with foxes, badgers and the deer that delicately pick their way between the thorns of a wild rose to pluck the newly emerged buds. Then there are the birds. Blue tits are our favourites for their perpetually rotating heads and perky, bossy ways but we also enjoy the cry of the buzzards, the dart of the tiny wren that lives at the base of the lavender and the woodpeckers that echo through the woods. All this wildlife thwarts our desire for a lush, flower-filled garden but I’m not sure now that I’d want it any other way. The profusion of wild flowers is more beautiful to me than most cultivated blooms and their fragility in the vase reminds me to appreciate these short seasons while I can.

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