Category Archives: Marriage

Hearts, etc

Love is:

babysitting at 6am when you know full well you have to get to work pretty soon.

never, ever asking your wife to clean the bathroom, because you know she hates it.

playing the What I Got From the Library and Why game with good grace for four years.

giggling like a fool when she suggests replacing your broken tooth with a piece of sweetcorn.

Give me one of these Timothys any old day of the week.

We decided to postpone V-day this time: we never make a huge deal of it, but this 14th February was graced with extra-long client meetings and a youth basketball tournament, lucky him. I brought dinner, and we sat outside the chapel kitchen with lukewarm toad-in-the-hole and the hollering of teenage boys just outside. A magical night.

This morning there were huge, velvety roses on my windowsill and a fed-and-changed baby asleep downstairs. I’ll take one of these Timothys any old time.


After today’s developments I finally feel like it’s the right time to make this list:

Weird Stuff Timothy Has Eaten On Toast, Part 1:

1. Mince

2. Onions

3. Mustard

4. Lemon icing

5. Tomato pasta

6. Chicken noodles

Stuff Timothy Will Not Eat On Toast Under Any Circumstances, Part 1:

1. Margarine.

The heck?!

Stay tuned: Timothy continues a lifelong campaign to divide all foodstuffs into things that can and cannot be eaten on toast. The latter group is not a large one.

(I am weird about toast too. It needs to be hot, or I can’t eat it. But I write this blog, so I say he is weirder.)


There’s something about that little ditty

It is the day-after-the-day-after-Christmas, and I’ve just said goodbye to my sister and packed her off into the gym (she’s a personal trainer. I’m not a January health freak insisting her relatives work off their Christmas turkey).

I am trying not to cry and failing.

Look, I know I’m not sending her off to the Western Front. I just don’t get to see family much, and when I do I remember what I miss about them. My sister and me, we’ve got the same face. I don’t have the same face as anyone down here. Imagine all the Sweet Valley High-jinks we could get up to if one of us dyed our hair.

We drive off, Henry hiccupping in the back and me hiccupping in the front, and Timothy is changing gears one-handed so he can hold mine. ‘Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll’ comes on the stereo and we smile because suddenly we are eighteen again. Timothy is wearing big baggy jeans and driving his little Punto with teenage-boy aplomb. He is tapping out the tambourine part on the steering wheel, like always. I am thin as a rake with a head full of Renaissance plays and am terribly in love with him already. One day quite soon he will leave for South Africa for two years, so we are trying not to become too attached. But for now there is pizza ahead of us and a Punto at our disposal and ‘Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll’ on the radio, and if you can’t make a good evening with a combination like that – well.

It is eight years later. We are driving towards home with a baby hiccupping in the back, and so much has happened since then that I can barely recognise myself. I don’t know everything about him, but I know eight years’ worth. He lets go of my hand to tap out the tambourine part on the steering wheel. He doesn’t have my face, but I still think he’s pretty rad.

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Phew, we made it.

On the eleventh date of Christmas, we flew into town to finish our Christmas shopping, and escaped from the rain into Sweeney and Todd’s for lunch. They do excellently meaty pies, but no Johnny Depp.

Even if you’re not a pie person, their dessert menu is enough to make you weep tears of sugary gratitude. Unfortunately their pies were so good we didn’t have room, but next time. NEXT TIME.

And – drum roll please – on the twelfth date of Christmas, it was…Christmas.

It was our first ever Christmas morning at home, and Henry’s first Christmas as well. It felt momentous, and I was anxious that we should tick off all our Christmas traditions and invent new ones that would bind our family together in love and deliciousness forevermore. I’d given myself two new forehead wrinkles worrying about it before I was reminded that all Henry cared about was milk on tap and sackloads of tissue paper to roll around in. Which he did, beautifully.

(Aside: do your Christmas traditions sometimes get a little out of hand? I give you: the Thing That Started Just With Matching Pyjamas And Now Involves Iron-On Transfers And Photoshoots. Where will it go next year? The mind boggles.)

This year we squeezed a trip up North and a two-day family wedding in between the usual festivities of presents, church and cheese-eating. It’s been wonderful, but it has felt like we’ve spent a lot of Christmas in the car. Especially grateful cheers, then, for the twelve moments in December we slowed down, held hands, and reminded each other why things are just brilliant.

And a partridge in a pear tree. The end.

On the Tenth Date of Christmas…

…Timothy was brilliant, that’s what.

I got a phone call at 4.30pm, while Henry and I were collapsed in the grateful silence of a feed (it had been a colicky sort of afternoon), to say ‘I’m coming home. I’ve got Henry a babysitter. Let’s go and watch Sherlock Holmes’.

May I remind you that this was the first time Henry had been left with a babysitter so the two of us could leave the house together? And that he’d just cried all afternoon? Holy heart-attack, Batman. I was so flustered I forgot to pack the gripe water (an elementary mistake, my dear Watson).

You're doing what?!

We dropped him off with our lovely friend Meg, drove to town, parked the car, and ran full-tilt all the way to the cinema.

Tim: You know what this is, right?

Me: *pant. Pant. Pant.* What?

Tim: Speed-dating.

Me: …

Thankfully, we arrived during the adverts and they let us in.

It was great, actually: less novel than the first and with some redundant characters (Noomi Rapace gets little more to do than wear a cool hat), but considerably better plotted. Jared Harris is spine-shivery as Moriarty. He has a creeping kind of intellectual menace that makes you think he could kill you ten ways with a piece of chalk.

Anyway. We loved it. And then we called in for a – you guessed it – festive pie, which we loved even more. If we eat many more of them we’re going to end up with especially festive double chins for Christmas.

(Henry was very good, apparently, apart from the projectile vomit and the last ten minutes. We’ll make him people-friendly yet.)

(Thank you Meg!)

Six, Seven, Eight, Nine

We’re still dating.

For number SIX, Tim made an incredibly snazzy naan bread pizza (ever done this? It’s only the best homemade pizza ever. The way to my heart is still a Domino’s Texas Barbecue, but this is a close (and much cheaper) second). Then he went out and fetched two McDonald’s Festive Pies.

Whoever thought of putting custard inside deep-fried pastry is a beautiful, beautiful [probably obese] genius.

For number SEVEN, we sang in the annual Christmas Carol Concert together, while Tim’s mum looked after Henry. This may not seem like date-worthy material. It’s not like the altos and the tenors get to sit together and hold hands on the back row (though I did get to stare at him in a suit and tie all evening, which is an opportunity I never pass up). But Christmas doesn’t start, for me, until we’ve sung O Holy Night together at the tops of our voices. It just fills me up. And I come away feeling like I want to be a lovely person to everybody, especially Timothy, which is surely what this dating endeavour is for, anyway.

For number EIGHT, we had a roast for dinner – a special treat, since it’s not usually worth making one for only two people – and watched the Christmas devotional together. MoTab sing the heck out of The First Noel, don’t they? It was delicious.

For number NINE, we had a bizarre late-night baking session to the accompaniment of Casino Royale. This proved mainly that a) we shouldn’t bake late at night, because the resulting lemon bars were a car crash of disastrous confectionery; and b) Casino Royale, while an excellent showcase for Daniel Craig’s craggy face and craggier punches, is not ideal dating fare. She betrays him and dies at the end. It doesn’t make you go all fuzzy.

Serious business.

Taking over the zesting once I'd accidentally zested my finger.

Burrito baby, resigned to his fate.

Even disasters can be remedied with enough icing sugar.

But leftover lemon bars at 1am just might.

On the Fifth Date of Christmas…


Ok, not really. But haven’t you always want to bellow that line out in a public place? I dares you.

On the fifth date of Christmas we skipped out to the river in hard, glittery sunshine and had a winter picnic. Winter picnics involve cajun cheese-and-ham toasties, hot chocolate, thick coats, red noses and not sitting on the frozen ground.

Though we weren’t nearly as cold as the rowers on the river.

We were joined by someone disguised as an over-padded caterpillar…

…who was pretty unimpressed by the whole caboodle. We went ahead with it anyway.

And it was jolly nice.

On the Fourth Date of Christmas…

…we went to market with some lovely friends. Winchester Christmas Market, that is. Winchester is a skip and a jump from Timothy’s office, so it seemed silly not to.

According to the website, this is the Christmas capital of the UK. A bold claim, methinks. But it’s such a beautiful city centre that we decided we’d give it to them.

We found the market in the shadow of the Cathedral. It was incredibly atmospheric. Even when it poured with rain. Come on, Winchester: Christmas capital of the UK, and you couldn’t arrange the weather?

The intoxicatingly orange smell of this stall had to be experienced to be believed. I was terribly good and bought not a single thing, despite seeing a pottery seller whose bowls I will love for the rest of eternity.

Eventually, with curly hair and damp babies, we ended up going for pizza.

photos via Instagram. Jolly good show.

Nothing says celebration to me like a giant BBQ Americano, and that is the honest truth.

On the Third Date of Christmas…

…we embarked on the Great and Glorious Christmas Tree Hunt.

I take Christmas trees very seriously. They have to be real, trailing their pine-needly smell like a Christmas banner unfurled in the living room. The lights have to be white. And the decorations are deliberately a work-in-progress. When I was little, we would go out and buy our Christmas tree and then buy one special tree decoration for the year. As we unpacked the decorations, all our Christmasses past came out of the boxes, and I had the sense of building our collection as we built our family. I love that. So Tim and I bought a basic set of silver and gold baubles for our first Christmas tree, and I’ve been adding to our special decorations ever since. I had the idea today to write the year on each decoration, if I can be trusted to do it in a tasteful and non-ruiny way. Maybe with a silver paint pen? We’ll see. This isn’t my forte, you may recall.

Off we went to Yattendon Christmas Tree farm, and waded for a couple of hours through the greenery. It was like a Christmas tree orphanage. All the stumpy-looking bald ones kept crying out for my attention.

The small tree section had already been pillaged by the time we got there (by the 10th of December?! For pete’s sake!). Last year we managed to snag one that was quite tall and shapely. This year…it ain’t no supermodel, that’s for certain. We’re going to call it Mrs Claus.

Out came the decorations, and out came all our Christmasses past (all four of them). They smelled like pine needles.

And here are our Christmasses yet to come:

On the Second Date of Christmas…

…we had a Friday night Coen Brothers pyjama party with fancy hot chocolate, yum-yums and a growly Jeff Bridges.

(He is very growly in True Grit, isn’t he? It took me a good ten minutes to start deciphering what he was saying.)

Tim has come down with a special Christmas cold, so we had lemsips aplenty as well.

Better than Lemsip.

The first time we saw this film, we were in a tiny, red-velvet-upholstered cinema with radiators on the walls and an old organ down at the front, in a little village in the Forest of Dean. It was completely enchanting. This time, prepared in advance for the wistful final scene and ready to enjoy the crackling dialogue, it was even more so. We can file this next to 3.10 to Yuma in the Westerns That Make Us Happy box.

Today: date no. 3. We’re taking this seriously, y’know.

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