my family and other animals

  • October 23, 2012 5:01 pm

Autumn is clinging, sodden and grey, to our little part of the world lately. But there is always the fiery blaze of the trees as they burn upwards through the fog. They say that snow may be on it’s way this weekend, I really need to get myself a maternity coat to go over this bump before the cold really kicks in.

Violet and I decided to make the most of the misty but mild weather today, whilst we still could, and we drove to the Birds of  Prey Centre. I’m not a fan of keeping animals in captivity. However, there is an emphasis here on conservation so we were keen to go along. Violet has recently developed a slight fear of owls. I have no idea why  this came about, but somehow it has entered her imagination that owls are scary, and that one comes and sits on her windowsill at night and wakes her up. I suppose this is possible, as there are owls in the big trees behind our house, but I think it is more likely to be a pigeon or a rook sitting on the roof of the extension in the early morning, though when you are not yet three it can be difficult to tell the difference. I wanted to introduce her to some friendly owls, to let her see the elegant and beautiful creatures they are. I’m pretty sure that she thought these guys were very cool and not at all scary.

We met a few other birds too…this eagle is called Emma. Apparently she is a bit lazy. No comment.




the road ahead

  • October 9, 2012 5:04 pm

When I first started my adventures in blogging in 2009, I was heavily pregnant with my Violet and hoping to find a channel to communicate with and learn from other Mums, as well as a means of sharing our experiences with family and friends. In the space between now and then, both my blogging world and my family have become growing and powerful forces in my life, and really important to the way in which I see myself.

It’s been a long few weeks since I posted anything here. Anthony asked me the other day if this was a conscious decision. It isn’t. It just hasn’t happened. Life happened instead, I guess, and took up a lot of head space. So, in spite of the fact that I have recently revelled in Susannah Conway’s Blogging from the Heart course, my heart just didn’t seem to be in it for a while there.

Of course, I love blogging, I love the readers who regularly get in touch, I love reading other people’s blog posts and I love the tapestry of life and experience that unfolds when you see another person’s world through their blog, Twitter feed, and Instagram. It’s fun, and absorbing, and intriguing, inspiring and life-affirming.

So, I suppose this is why, after a few months of feeling scared and hesitant to put myself out here, I’ve made a conscious decision to return with news that we are expecting our second baby in April (blurry scan pic below, I think he/she looks like Anthony).

The first trimester has been an epic struggle for me. I have been suffering from acute sickness that only seems to ebb away for one or two hours a day. Coupled with extreme fatigue, parenting an almost three year old has left me in a state of total disarray verging on the slovenly. Of course, the sickness is a a good sign, especially after our miscarriage in April this year, but that knowledge doesn’t seem to make it any more manageable! I am banking on getting that second trimester burst of energy thing very soon indeed, because there is a great deal to be done before we can slot an extra person into our lives.

So far, my experiences of expecting a baby in the sticks have been rather different to the hullabaloo of south east London. (Note to readers from the US –  in the UK pregnancy is not classed as an illness, so we generally don’t see a doctor at all during pregnancy unless there is something seriously amiss. The midwife provides all your care and delivers the baby.) I remember my very first midwife appointment when I was pregnant with Violet, I had to go to some ridiculous clinic miles away from home that I’d never been to before, and then at each subsequent appointment I saw a different midwife. I never saw the same midwife twice throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy. NHS midwifery care is just grossly underfunded. George Osborne, take note. The one saving grace was Amy, a student midwife who we agreed could use us as a ‘case study’ because we were having a home birth. Having her on side to support us was the one constant throughout the experience and, honestly, she appeared to know a lot more than one or two of the qualified midwives did.

Here in rural Buckinghamshire, it would appear they do things somewhat differently. The midwife gives you her mobile number, you can call her whenever you want. You see the same woman at each and every appointment and she will likely be the one to deliver the baby for you. Not only this but she actually visits you in your own home at a time convenient to you. WTF?

So far, the only real downside I’ve encountered to rural gestation has been the lack of access to many of the things I took for granted last time,  like anything that might involve communicating with other sentient beings, particularly yoga classes. Pregnancy yoga classes are like hen’s teeth out here, as most people think yoga is for people who are a bit ‘different’, and difference is frowned upon, so the choice of classes and times is not working in my favour. In fact, pretty much all the ante-natal classes I have looked at appear to take place between 5 and 8pm, and as my husband commutes home on the train from London, and isn’t usually home till about 8, I’m a bit stuck. In fact the one class I have found that would suit me down to the ground is so woefully under-subscribed that  it is currently not running due to lack of interest. Looks like a Tara Lee DVD for me after I’ve put the tot to bed then…

The one thing that I’ve experienced across both pregnancies so far has been the openness with which midwives have embraced  home birth. Before I had Violet, I was under the general misapprehension that home births were a little bit out there, but in fact I have been positively encouraged to have a homebirth both in London and here in Bucks.

When Violet’s birth didn’t go according to plan (does any birth? – After almost three days of labouring at home, she was eventually born at QEH Woolwich without the use of drugs), I did have several concerns about opting for a home birth this time around, and even wondered if I would be ‘allowed’ to give birth at home since I was diagnosed with Group B Strep after Violet was born, but I must say that I am coming around to the idea once again. We shall see, it’s still early days.

But in light of these experiences, I have decided to share my journey into second-time motherhood in this space. Ante-natal care is such a variable quantity, and seems to depend so much on where in the world you live. But this is my own experience to share, extol, and bemoan at my leisure. So I plan to write about my experiences, and hope you readers will let me have your views and experiences in return.

Amazingly there do still appear to be readers out there despite my having not posted for ages, because I have just checked the stats and the stats don’t lie. And as some of you are actually nice non baby obsessed types I promise to also update on my other baby, aka the allotment, now and again. Suffice to say early pregnancy has meant an almost total lack of commitment on my part to digging potatoes or weeding. Nonetheless we have potatoes, beans, rhubarb, and artichokes cropping like mad at the moment, and in other news, we also have a rather plush old/new summer house going up on the plot in the next couple of weeks, which may or may not make getting things done a little easier, as we plan to use it to store tools (I currently transport everything in the car whenever I go), have a little gas stove for making tea, and a few little shelves next to the windows for seedlings in spring, as well as serving as a shelter from the rain. So, we are getting there one step at a time.

bikes, trains and no automobiles

  • July 30, 2012 11:37 am

We got up early on Saturday to catch the train to London for the men’s road cycling race. It’s such a big adventure for me and Vi, I forget that Ant does this journey every day. The train journey, that is, not the 250k bike race. He’s good but not that good.

We were braced for chaos, overcrowding and rain. We couldn’t really have been more wrong. The sun shone brightly all day and there was an air of happy calm across central London. Obviously a great many of the roads around the area the course passed through were closed to traffic and I don’t think I have ever experienced Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner without the terror of crossing the road. It was lovely and tranquil and just full of happy bicycle people hoping to catch a glimpse of their Lycra-clad heroes.

The crowds were getting pretty deep alongside the road as we arrived just after 9am. We found a spot on Constitution Hill just beside Buckingham Palace, about 400m from the start of the race. I think there was just a general acknowledgement that Cavendish would take the first gold medal of the games. Wiggins and Cav were at the front of the pack as they slicked past in a blur. And we tripped off the the park for some lounging around with a picnic before returning later in the day to see the finish.

Well, the medals proved elusive, but I reckon anyone who rides up Box Hill nine times in 6 hours may possess superhuman powers, and anyway, the combination of hanging out with my family, a scrumptious picnic and the joy of being in central London on a summer’s day without any traffic was  pretty cool. The very last photo below was my view of the race finish (actually 500m from the finish). I couldn’t see anything except people hanging out of trees draped in Union flags. A million people watched this event along the route through London and Surrey. I’m pretty sure most of them were standing in from of me, but hey, we had ice-creams. Win.

a pair of violets

  • July 26, 2012 10:53 pm

My Dad took this photo yesterday of his Granddaughter and Mum, the two Violets, aged 2 and 89 respectively,  sitting on a bench in the blooming gardens at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. These two have a wonderfully close bond, it’s magical to see them together. I know you won’t mind me borrowing Dad, I couldn’t resist.

the prodigal sun

  • July 26, 2012 10:45 pm

The change in the air is palpable. The sun has emerged after months of rain. The grass is tall. The streams and ponds are full to the brim. The horse flies are biting at my allotment. Ouch. But life is good and sweet.

We spent a lovely few hours this past weekend walking in the countryside nearby. We live in perhaps a seemingly unremarkable part of England. There is no tourism to speak of, no National Park, not much industry, no big museums. But the longer we spend here, the more we feel that we have been let in on a great big secret. I love this place.

the painted veil

  • July 20, 2012 6:22 pm

Lately, I’ve been mulling over the idea that instant gratification isn’t always the best, or most ultimately satisfying, kind. I constantly bombard my husband with lists of jobs I want him to do around the house, things I think we need to buy, I long for a new pair of shoes or a dress not altogether dissimilar from several I already own, I need to eat some cake right now!

I have never been the most patient person. It is something I once accepted as part of my personality but I now realise that there are certain qualities that can only be achieved with time and careful effort. Of course, this applies to many things in life.

“Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck”. The Dalai Lama, ever ready with a wise one-liner. He’s always right of course.

I recently watched the film version of Somerset Maugham’s beautiful and tragic book ‘The Painted Veil’, in which Kitty Fane, the (anti?)heroine of the novel, travels, both literally and metaphorically, on a journey of self-discovery that leads her to be able to love selflessly. Yes, there are a few sexist flaws in there as well, and there’s a distinct Taming of the Shrew-esque whiff about it all, but hey, in the end the men both get their comeuppance in various ways and it’s Kitty who is in the driving seat (rather than being humped around in a sedan chair all over China).

What struck a chord with me when I watched the film, was this idea that wanting trivial things gives only a fleeting pleasure (which isn’t always bad, I know!) but working hard at something meaningful, a marriage, saving the world from cholera, being able to play the piano really well, can actually offer greater happiness over a lifetime. You get me? I’m working hard on this idea right now. I think it is starting to sink in.