I haven’t been online much over the last few months; my mother had been on end of life care for over a year and she passed away peacefully three weeks ago. It’s been a difficult time, both for her and for all the family.
This picture was taken after our car journey – they were deciding what to cook ☺️
I thought you'd like a little remembrance story, it's a true one.
Once your own children have grown up, moved out and built lives of their own, you are left to enjoy years of doing things for yourself again.
The Sisters’ Challenge Including Eating Sushi, A Train Journey To Ludlow, Climbing To A Great Height, Singing In A Choir With Helen Vereker Singers And Meeting New Authors!
My sister Jan (AKA the Queen of Oapschat) and I are spending some time together right now and we decided to liven things up a bit by setting each other a few challenges. Everyone is scared of something, so we thought we would set about confronting some of our biggest fears.
Me, Margaret and Sheila
Recently, I was giving someone the elevator speech for my new novel—the two minute summary every writer has ready in case they bump into an agent or Hollywood producer in the elevator—and she smiled and said ‘more sisters, I see.’
In the interests of making sure that she is developing 'normally', Little G has recently undergone her two year checkup with a health visitor.
Little G and I are sitting in the garden. It is Thursday, 'Grandma Day' under the new regime.
Big changes are happening in Little G's world. She has now gone from being only child to big sister as You must be mad gave birth to Little GS last week, and we are all watching carefully to see if our extensive baby pre-prep has paid off.
Do You Remember The Launch Of the Russian Made Sekonda Watch With the Beware Of Expensive Imitations Advertising Campaign In 1975?
I was always notorious for breaking watches. They very rarely lasted more than a week, my record being one whole morning.
I recently stayed with our daughter and her family in the UK. Eddie is now six and his younger sister is 2 ¾ years old. They made me laugh and brought me back to the simple things in life in an instant.
Mum and big sister
Dear Little Boy
I am writing to you a couple of days before you are due to be born. You are going to enter the world and our lives and it is as if everything is 'on hold' awaiting your birth.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Grandma in possession of a small child must be in want of practically nothing. Except advice. Lots and lots of advice.
It is 2 weeks until Little G's new baby brother enters the world. She is being prepared as best as those around her can do.
The Picture - Childhood Memories From 1960, Remembering My Uncle's Skills In Restoration, Woodwork And Art
Days before my fifteenth birthday, I sat with my Uncle Al on the sofa in our lounge in the thin winter sunlight, as he taught me the principles of parallel and angular perspective, drawing elegant diagrams on a sketch pad.
As Little G and I continue our adventures together, I am becoming aware of a slight problem.
For the last week Little G has been focused on Easter. Sadly, the religious significance of the death of Christ, the empty tomb and the Resurrection has proved to be a tad outside her mental remit.
The day before we take Ma home, we decide to poke around a cavernous bric a brac shop close to where we live.
Little G has a new buggy. It's is one of those easy-peasy drop down ones that you can get on and off buses and trains without having to haul it up and down steps or do life-changing damage to your shoulders. It folds down at a touch. It can be stowed on luggage racks.
Little G is not one of nature's sharers when it comes to her snacks, treats or toys. The number of times I've asked her for a bite of something, to be told : 'No, MY croissant.' Annoyingly though, she is brilliant at sharing stuff you'd rather she didn't.
Little G has started speaking in scribble. You must be mad and I are not sure whether this is a sign of great intelligence, or just a crafty method of ignoring us. I suspect it is her way of defying the numerous 'no's' and prohibitions that now arrive in her life on a daily basis.
Little G has got a book of traditional nursery songs and rhymes with an accompanying CD (or as she calls it: an ABCD). Listening to it the other day, and joining in on an inaccurate and ad hoc basis, as we do, I was struck by the violence and nastiness of some of the songs.
Dear Avalyn Grace
Tomorrow (Wednesday 24th) you will be 2 years old. I wrote to you when you were born (here), again when you were 6 months old (here),and again when you were nearly one year old (here), so I guess you are due another letter.
When I was a year older than Little G is now, I apparently taught myself to read.
Little G has a new hobby: drawing on walls. She started doing it while visiting New York and personally, I blame MOMA for giving her the idea.
Little G and You must be mad are just back from New York, where they have been visiting family for a week. I have asked her what she got up to, but all Little G will tell me is 'Dumbo', which was the movie she watched on the return plane journey.
There is a reason why it is called 'The Terrible Twos' - and it has absolutely nothing to do with clever alliteration. Child specialists and experts may drone on about 'infant separation' or the 'need for establishing the self'. The rest of us put it down to just plain cussedness!
The more Little G and I are together, the more I realise how fast time is fleeting by. In six weeks she will celebrate her second birthday. It is hard to believe.
Little G is rapidly approaching her 2nd birthday, and so we are sidling up to another of the many targets that we both try hard to avoid. Honesty compels me to admit that I cannot remember You must be mad's progression from wearing nappies to not wearing them. Clearly it must have happened at some point.
Even as you are reading this, 2015 is slinking shamefacedly off, and a New Year is wedging its feet firmly into the door. Looking back, I am astonished at how much Little G and I have accomplished together over the past year.
Last year Little G was far too young to comprehend the wonder that is Christmas - I remember much of the time was spent trying to stop her crawling into the tree or eating the needles off the carpet. This year, two months off her second birthday, she has grasped that it is a special time and special things are going to happen.
Absence makes ... something do something else, they say. Little G and I have been on a break from each other as You must be mad's husband has been spending some deserved quality time with her.
Looking after a two and five year old grandchild for the past eight days [without their parents around] has been fun, exhausting but above all it has brought me back to that wonderful place called ‘childhood’. So I’m sharing it with you …you’ll enjoy it and I’m sure you’ll laugh.
Christmas time. Mistletoe and wine. Shops are full of sparkle and shine. Suddenly it doesn't matter how frequently You must be mad has dinned it into us that naff is not good, Little G and I find ourselves at the same end of an opposite spectrum - she's too young to know better and I'm too old to care.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well, it certainly is here. Little G and I have found a small covered shopping arcade that has gone Hardcore Lights: there are shiny hanging icicles from the ceiling, a red star lazar display, and the biggest Christmas tree in the world (if you are only a few feet tall) with blue flashing lights.
I am teaching Little G good manners. As soon as we get on the bus and the inevitable: 'Snack ... snack .... snack' rigmarole starts up, I suggest the addition of 'please' might produce something nice. And 'thank you' might be an acceptable way of acknowledging its arrival.
Little G has recently learned a new word: amazing. Or as she pronounces it: AMAZING!!!! I am taking full credit for this as I say it frequently but You must be mad says she says it, and so does Little G's father, so apparently full credit might have to be shared. Reluctantly.
Over the eight months that I have been minding Little G, I have come to the conclusion that grandmothers hold up half the sky. Well, it feels that way after an eleven hour day having fun.
Now that Little G has gone from sedentary to ambulatory, shop windows have taken on a whole new significance. Gone are the days when we whisked past, barely pausing to look. Much amusement is now derived from standing outside and identifying numbers, which are shouted out with all the gusto of a Bingo caller, followed by spotting Ds (Daddy), Ms (Mummy) and Gs (Grandma). All good harmless fun.
Now that Little G is officially walking, and requesting to do it everywhere we go, our routine has taken on new vistas. Admitted they are only at ground level, but it is amazing how much stuff I seem to have missed over the years.
Little G is now a fully paid up member of the Anglican community, having acquitted herself brilliantly at her christening. All the pre-prep and risk analysis certainly paid off. The four small babies in long white robes and a variety of headgear howled dismally. The same-age toddler kicked off, refused to go to the lady vicar and was forcibly christened (not sure if this counts).
This Sunday, Little G is going to get christened at the big cathedral church she goes to every Sunday with You must be mad. Normally, christenings happen in the first 6 months of a child's life, but for some reason or another, it has taken until now to get it sorted.
Last week I decided it was time to change from the jolly yellow summer bag to the slightly more sombre dark red autumn one. This involved the usual contents swap, which, prior to You must be mad handing over Little G, meant extracting my purse, lipstick, mirror, mobile and sundry tissues and placing them in the new bag.
Until You must be mad entrusted Little G into my unreliable care, I had forgotten how funny small children could be. The baby is now 19 months old and is developing her own sense of humour. I think she could easily do stand up - though in her case it would currently have to be sit-down.
There comes a time in every baby's development when they begins to realise they are a separate person from the adults around them and parents/carers have an important role in helping and supporting the child as they establish their own identity. According to the baby experts, that is. Sigh. If only it was that easy...
I used to think my childminding skills were on a par with that famous fictional umbrella carrying childminder: 'Practically perfect in every way'. That was before I started minding Little G.
I would like to share with you the life of our wonderful cat Cookie. She has sadly passed away now, but has left David and I with many happy memories.
Pushing a baby round town is giving me a whole new insight into the way we (you, I don't do this) use bad language in the street. On several occasions I have had to TALK LOUDLY to Little G as some person has passed by us, swearing liberally while on their mobile.
Since I was a teenager, I have been very Spiritual. Our Father George, was descended from Romany Gypsies in Oxfordshire. Quite a few members of our family, including those of a younger generation, have what I term as The Gift. Being able to see and hear things, which are of another dimension.
And so we reach the vexed matter of children's fashion. The more time I spend going round kids clothes shops with Little G - and I spend a lot of time, as it tires her out, the more I observe how little has changed on the colour palate front.
I was born in the dark ages of 1938, yes, I really am that old although I will deny it if you tell anyone! The above picture is of me in the snow during the winter of 1947.
Little G is now 18 months old and has just got her first pair of shoes. They are size 3, purple with sparkly bits and velcro fastenings. You must be mad says they will stabilize her and encourage her to start walking. As I know nothing of these matters, I remain silent.
Despite her ongoing lack of verticality, Little G is advancing in other ways. You must be mad calls it Testing the Boundaries. I call it Karma. Suffice it to say, one can no longer rely on 100% compliance, and devious methods have to be adopted to stay one step ahead of her.
I was born in 1938, just a year before the outbreak of WW2. Whilst I was growing up, the war wasn't a new thing to me, it had always been there. Short rations and air raid shelters were the normal way of life to a little girl of that era.
Little G is back from her holidays, tanned, taller and still not walking. You must be mad is not happy about this, as she is about to graduate to the Toddlers' Room at nursery.
Little boys are so cute, especially when they are very young (like two of my grandsons – Joey, who is 3 and Harrison, who is 6 years old). And they are so ‘matter of fact’ as well at that sort of age.
It has been, as they say, a quiet week. You must be mad and Little G are currently away on a family summer holiday in Devon. First exposure to sea and beach for the baby.
There are many unexpected outcomes to minding a small baby. An increased appreciation of alcohol at the end of a 10 hour shift is one. Upper arm definition from pushing a purple top-of-the-range buggy and lifting a top-of-the-range baby is another.
Many of us dream of escaping to the countryside. Others, like a dear friend’s daughter who met her husband-to-be on a gap year in Australia, set off for a new life in a completely different country.
By A. Davey from Where I Live Now: Pacific Northwest [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Common
Many of the people that I teach to drive are migrants from Africa. They are inspiring, gracious people with good hearts. This is a story about Yonas from Ethiopia.
It is a paradox but 'constant change is here to stay' as far as small babies are concerned. When I first started minding Little G, she was a year old, toothless and verbally maladroit. Fast forward seven months and the changes in her are amazing.
It is becoming clearer every week that passes that in taking over the care of Little G from You must be mad, I am morphing slowly but inexorably into Wonder Woman. To give you just one example: I spend a lot of time wondering where all the dropped kerbs are.
We are in the midst of a heatwave. Day after day of shiny sun and blue skies. Sadly, Little G and I belong to that worrying category: the elderly and the very young (in reverse order) and the government has issued guidelines for our health & safety.
They always say you can learn so much from being in the company of small children. To which I would add that most of what you learn is that you know very little.
According to statistics, researching genealogy on a home computer is the third most popular activity after shopping and…erm… porn.
And what is it that people hope to learn? For some it is collecting countless names with no real purpose other than to add them to a database.
On the 2 days that You must be mad entrusts her into my rickety care, I am responsible for Little G's meals from breakfast to dinner. Sometimes I am left instructions as to what is available in the fridge. Sometimes I am left to my own devices.
When You must be mad was young, the nearest park involved a fifteen minute walk and crossing a very busy road with no traffic island.
Spring is in the air and it is time to hit the park. Not that Little G and I haven't been there before - it is our default location as there is a long hill leading to the lake that generally sends her to sleep on the way down, and gives me arm ache on the way up.
It doesn’t take much to capture the imagination of young children – especially when they think it is a special secret (known only to them of course).
There were male Military Police stationed at number 47 Rodney Street and we used to use their canteen if we wanted cigarettes etc. In 1944 I met a sergeant in the canteen when I went in one day.
And so Little G's teething marathon continues. I do not know what lap we are in, but I'm hoping we are about to complete it.
Geoff and I have just returned to the UK after 5 weeks in the USA. We've possibly had the best 5 weeks ever.......the reason being, we became Grandparents in January and were so excited to be meeting our new Grandson, Harry for the first time.
I’m a grandfather now (known as ‘Pop’ to the immediate family – in honour of my own dear departed grandfather Bates) and blessed with 4 grandchildren – 3 of whom who live in Herefordshire, plus another 4 ‘honorary grandchildren who are Judith’s great nieces and nephews (who, sadly, have no grandparents of their own on our side of the family).
It is becoming clearer by the week that it's impossible to navigate modern city streets with a baby in a buggy and the current meagre allocation of upper limbs.
I didn't grow up with TV. When I was Little G's age and older, we got our juvenile entertainment from the radio. Listen with Mother was followed by Children's Hour with Uncle Mac, Toytown, Jennings and Norman & Henry Bones, boy detectives.
We had two of our grandsons staying for a weekend visit (6 year old Harrison and 2 year old Joey). It was a beautiful sunny Saturday and so we decided to take them to a nearby ‘Petting Farm’ which had horses, ponies, goats, sheep, pigs, llamas and a variety of other animals, plus tractor rides and a large playground area.
As my eldest two reached towards the end of their teenage years, so the lure of the big city (Hereford) became evermore irresistible.
Before I took charge of Little G on a regular 2-day basis, my world was filled with noise and I hated it. There was DIY from next door, the radio playing pop music from over the way, the office computer whirring, the mobile beeping.
Since You must be mad entrusted Little G into my rickety old hands, I have learned many things. The first thing I have learned is that I know nothing.
Little G has now been in nursery for six weeks. Enough time to generate her first report, or EYFS Progress Check. (No, I don't know what it means. Don't ask). As a renegade student all my life who frequently got reports that began 'Carol has made an inauspicious start to the term' my amazement knows no bounds.
There is nothing like taking charge of a small baby to remind you that you are not immortal. From the moment Little G was placed in my inadequate care by You must be mad, I have had a cold, accompanied by a cough, occasionally joined by a sore throat and a hoarse voice.
When I was Little G's age (1951 if you MUST know) babies were left in playpens or Silver Cross prams, preferably outside in all weathers, until they went to school. Fast forward 64 years and it's a totally different world.
Life is very different for children in today's modern world. During my childhood 'Shanks's Pony' (ie, walking) was the de rigueur form of travelling locally (like walking a mile or so to school each day), complimented with cycling when I got a little older, and the bus – and occasional train ride – for longer journeys.
I was watching a TV programme the other night about the Channel Islands ('An Island Parish – specifically about Sark). This little island hangs on to an earlier, more sedate way of life reminiscent of previous generations by, in particular, banning motor vehicles (apart from tractors) and street lights (lamp posts).
It is impossible to leave the house in the company of a one year old without carrying enough supplies to equip and run a small Antarctic Expedition.
I was (delightfully) tasked with looking after Harrison (our first grandson) for the day, which was a change from Judith (my wife and their loving – and dearly loved – step grandmother) looking after him and his brother Joey (our second grandson) for an overnight stay, before returning them home to their parents the next morning.
Dear Avalyn Grace
It seems like only last week that we were visiting you in the hospital, and seeing our first grandchild newly born, wrapped in a hospital blanket, with a plastic label round her tiny ankle.
Christmas, what does it mean to you? To some it is a religious festival and celebration of the birth of the Christ child. To some it is the time to go mad, splash the cash and max out the credit card. Then bear the consequences after the great event.
Do any of us ever ask our parents enough about their pasts? I remember glazing over whenever my father spoke about his time in Italy and North Africa during WW2 – not that he banged on about it, but it was like ancient history to me growing up.
I inherited from my father a love of Christmas, an interest in history, folklore and literature and a fascination with World War 1. This has led me to write a novel set during the conflict: While I Was Waiting.
A little stewed apple goes a long way
Dear Avalyn Grace
I wrote to you 6 months ago, when you were born (here it is). So much has changed since that day, so I thought I'd write to you again. The biggest change has been in you. Here you are, sitting up (a bit topply still but you're getting there) and beginning to enjoy some solid food - even if much of it gets spread all over your face.
The publication of a piece announcing the engagement of a certain Miss Wild Rose to a Mr. Bull (cross my heart) started it all. My interest in names that is. It struck me that some parents have a lot to answer for when it comes to choosing their offspring's first names.
My interest in things past, and a bent for detective work, led to my involvement in genealogy. I began researching the local history of Herefordshire in the 1980s and worked on a variety of projects with other writers as well as a local government department. I was a family history researcher for over ten years and helped scores of people worldwide to link up with their Herefordshire ancestors.
She told me that he had written back to say he was indeed very much alive and would like to make contact with me. Suddenly I was transported back to that rainy afternoon so many years ago and the small black and white photo looking back at me, all mixed up with the stories I had been told over the years and the father I met so briefly 45 years ago.
To my great surprise and pleasure when I was 19 or 20, it was announced that my father had been in contact and was coming to visit Edinburgh as both my sister and I had given birth to our first child. I was really excited and for the first time in my life, made a pink spotty dress for the occasion. I cringe now to think of that dress.
It always seemed to happen on a rainy Sunday afternoon when the family were gathered together for one reason or another, and the old photos would be brought out of their dusty tattered brown boxes.
Some time ago I decided to research my fathers' family tree. I have an aunty and two uncles who are still alive, all in their 80's.
It was just over one year ago that God called home a very dear and very special person. This event threw my life into turmoil and left me wondering what I was going to do without my precious Ellie.At the time I couldn't see a way forward, but with fantastic support from family, friends and Oapschat here I am today.
Dear Avalyn Grace
They tell you so many things about being a grandma. They say: ''it's brilliant because you can enjoy them and you get to sleep at nights.'' They say: ''You get to give them back at the end of the day.'' They say, ''you have all the fun and none of the responsibility.'' It is now a week since you were born, my little granddaughter. Your name, Avalyn comes from the Hebrew for Eve, the giver of life. It is a reminder of your Jewish inheritance through the female side of your family. Grace means 'the free and unmerited favour of God', a reminder of your Christian heritage through your father's side of the family.
Near, far, wherever they are, family members are so important. We have family as far afield as Australia, and many near to home. Holidays, parties, birthdays, anniversaries. All the wonderful get-togethers to celebrate, with the usual buffet, wine or cuppa. I've had some wonderful times with my family.
I apologise to anyone who has their own way to deal with this trauma. This is my way and it is not intended to be mandatory. You must attach what weight you think fit to suit your own needs.