Tag Archives: London

Christmas Impossible

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I hate airports. Stuff Hugh Grant with his ‘my favourite place in the world is an airport’ thing. The Arrivals part is brilliant – marred only slightly if you are the owner of the child dragging his brother along the floor by the foot – but sooner or later you’re making that inevitable return visit to Departures. Heartbreak, raw for everyone to see, in the middle of all the horrid jolly souls going on holiday for New Year.

All the McDonald’s Festive Pies in the world can’t make up for it, I can tell you that.

This is why I am to be found eating bananas and custard for dinner at 8pm, watching Tom Cruise do tiny ridiculous things in Mission Impossible, and compiling the BIGGEST PHOTO POST EVER of our last week. Indulge me loves; it’s nice to put it all in one place.

So! My sister got married this Christmas. I am one of four, and half of us live overseas. Which meant my mum and step-dad, two younger brothers and their other halves all came here for Christmas week. Since some of our party had never been to the UK before, we crammed e v e r y t h i n g in. It was wonderful.

Wedding first. Absolutely lovely. How classy do they look, eh?

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The boys were already rabid about having so many extra adults to play with.

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Then some play time. On Sunday afternoon we ran quickly over to Silchester, the ruins of an ancient Roman town nearby. I bet the Romans had sunsets like these too.

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Of course, you can’t do England without London.

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We tripped around Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey and some other pretty fancy stuff. You know London. Full of it. Embarrassing, really.

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The next day, minus siblings, we went to see Nelson’s flagship at Portsmouth, the Victory. It was fantastic.

H got a bit into it.

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Please zoom in on that photo by the way: his face is hysterical. Full-on Power Ranger.

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Listening to the tour really brought home to me how splendid and patriotic and yet how irredeemably crap it must have been to serve in the Navy in the 1700s. Body parts. Everywhere. All the blimming time.

Then we did Oxford. City of my heart. Seller of excellent noodles.

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After all that, there was Christmas. I made my first giant Christmas dinner and it was intensely stressful and, like a miracle, came out beautifully even so.

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Even better, my littlest brother proposed to his girlfriend on Christmas Eve, and we all cried, especially when she said yes.

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After Christmas everyone started to go home. Time for some leftover turkey, and one last walk.

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I am wearing (fake)fur-lined leggings in this photo below, by the way. Thanks, Primark. I felt like Lyra Silvertongue ALL DAY.

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Phew, still alive? That brings us up to today, with me sat in pyjamas, eating banana custard and watching hobbity Tom Cruise do implausible things, in a doleful sort of way.

It was a great Christmas. Once-in-a-lifetime, really. I’m glad I get to remember it here.

How a bear does birthdays

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Ok, ok, just one more about T’s birthday, and then we’re done. PHOTO AVALANCHE AHOY, CAP’N. So help me, I cannot narrow them down more than this.

(There’s something about having a birthday midweek and then a birthday tea at the weekend that seems to make it last f o r e v e r. Lucky T. He sees any old open flame these days and yells ‘happee birthdee day!’)

We are in the middle of redoing our little garden at the minute – more about that later – so we wanted to celebrate in ways that would be fun, but also relatively inexpensive. I found this balloon wall on You Are My Fave, and it looked perfect: five bags of heavy-duty coloured balloons from Hobbycraft cost £5, and boom, done. Or should I say, boom, much late night fiddling with tape, bicycle pumps and string, done. I’ll do a quick tutorial for this later in the week, because we tried a couple of different ways that didn’t work before we found one that did.

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You should’ve seen his face when he saw it. His mouth fell into a perfect O.

The thing about being a second child is that basically everything you play with belongs to your older brother. One of the nicest parts of the morning was seeing him overwhelmed by opening new, exciting things just for him.

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We’d given H the day off from nursery, and planned to go into London and visit the Natural History Museum. First though, lunch. On your birthday you want to eat your favourite food, and the problem with this two-year-old is that there aren’t many grape-and-strawberry-yoghurt restaurants. But he does love…curry, of all things. So we found a fabulous curry house just off Covent Garden and had a grand old time. They had a children’s menu, and we introduced T to mango lassi, which as a combination of milkshake and yoghurt (two of his favourite things) blew his tiny mind wide open.

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We will pass over the Tube trains we took on the hottest day of the year. Nothing like marinating in a sardine-tin sauna, air shimmering with the sweat of strangers, hanging on to two overheated and angry boys for dear life.

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H, I bless the day you got yourself a photo face. HAHA.

It all got better once we got to the Emirites cable car. It was like stepping into another world: cool breeze, open sky, and the blue Thames glittering ahead. And I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the cable car, but you MUST. If you have a day travel card you get a discounted ticket, and it is so, so worth doing. The views are incredible, and it’s just thrilling.

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At the other side we found a few splash pads next to the O2, and what looked like a worldwide Salvation Army convention enjoying the sun and spray. The boys were desperate to pull off their shoes and get wet, so we shrugged, and saved the museum for another day. They spent an hour running in and out of the water, soaking their clothes and cooling down before we headed home. Honestly, it was wonderful.

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Then on Sunday we had some family over for a little birthday tea (I am firm in my belief that it’s pointless to plan themed birthday extravaganzas before they can remember it). Most of the food was low-prep and easily done: veg and dips, fruit and chocolate fondue, scones and jam, chips and cookies. I found these brilliant watermelon napkins and cups at the supermarket, along with cocktail stick forks, which I found far too exciting for someone who claims to be an adult.

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The cake – oh, my giddy aunt – was an unmitigated disaster. I wanted to make the cinnamon roll cake we love, but in round tiers rather than a single tray. But the layers were too dense after baking, and became even more so after leaving them in the fridge overnight. The cream cheese frosting I’ve made before with no problems went through a terrifying cottage cheese stage, where the butter refused to mix properly into the rest. Then it wouldn’t set firm. Then there wasn’t enough to cover the cake. I’ve had many a cake horror before (you know this, loves) but never one in which, twenty minutes before guests arrived, I sat in a corner deep-breathing and saying ‘he has no birthday cake. HE HAS NO BIRTHDAY CAKE’.

Anyway, it slapped together with minutes to spare. Good enough for candles. And T was thrilled. He was getting the hang of this blowing-out-candles thing by this time, and kept trying to get it done before we’d finished singing ‘Happy Birthday’.

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That’s the main thing, isn’t it? Happy boy, covered in chocolate, running round the garden with a new helicopter. The balloons are still on the wall. We’re getting through the cake by heating it up into cinnamon roll pudding. The new toys and books are well worn already. It ain’t a bad life.

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A science-y kind of birthday

Just a quick one about Henry’s birthday, before August is properly over and all my posts turn into meditations on apple crumble.

I didn’t organise a party this year, because we thought we’d be moving house in the middle of it. Then we weren’t moving this month after all (and do not even talk to me about that) but by then it was too late to coordinate everyone’s schedules. So instead of one medium-sized family celebration he had… three small celebrations, one after the other. I think he came out of it rather well.

When I asked Hen what he wanted for his birthday, he said he wanted a chocolate cake, and to see his friends. So we held a Favourite Dessert party the night before, with all his best little people, to tick them both off. For the birthday cake, I made The Cake Hunter‘s Ultimate Chocolate Cake that morning. It is an INSANELY good, easy recipe, and I will never need another chocolate cake in my life. The cake actually tastes of chocolate – this is rare, I find – and even though I’m not much of an icing fan, there’s something fudgy and incredible about the frosting. I doubled the frosting quantities, as I wanted to frost all the way around the outside (my cakes tend to need hiding), and threw on gold and silver stars at the end. It turned out pretty well.

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We put up the bunting from Teddy’s party (I will be doing this until one of them is old enough to mind) and bought napkins, pots and dessert flags from the supermarket, which has seriously impressed me this summer with its party gear. In the middle of all this flour-tossing and sugar-inhaling we had a disaster: Teddy tripped over and smashed both his lips against a colander he’d taken for personal use. Oh, it bled like the River Styx, dear readers. I was about two soaked flannels away from taking him to A&E, rambling on the phone to NHS Direct with one hand, wiping nameless gunk out of his mouth with the other. In the end it dried up all of a sudden, and he seemed totally fine. So we all changed our clothes, cleaned everything up, and ate some desserts.

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The day after was Henry’s actual birthday. First, a few presents from friends and admirers to open over breakfast.

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Then we did as birthday celebrators do, and went to London. If our great capital consisted solely of a Tube network, and all you did was ride round and round till you were dizzy, he’d still think it was the best day of his life.

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As it was, we also had Shake Shack for lunch, along with a very serious conversation about whether Shake Shack or Five Guys do the better burger. Tim and I come down on opposite sides of this divide, like poor Littlefoot and his grandparents from The Land Before Time, and I’m not sure we will ever bridge the gap. We put a lit candle in his burger, because if you can’t have a burger cake when you’re three, when can you, eh?

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PS, I love Covent Garden. There was a chap dressed up in full costume and paint as the Mad Hatter, drinking tea from vintage crockery, all SUP GUYS THIS IS TOTALLY NORMAL FOR A TUESDAY.

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We’ve been to the Natural History Museum (‘dinosaur you-see-um’) a few times now, so we thought we’d try the Science Museum this time. He loved it. A word to the wise for parents of toddlers: you need to hit The Garden in the basement (the bit for under-sixes), the cars and planes on the ground floor, and then the Launchpad on the fifth floor (with all the hands-on experiments), and that’s all. Everything else is beyond them, and will only make your feet tired. We discovered this so you don’t have to.

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Know who else was hanging out in the Launchpad that Tuesday? STEPHEN HAWKING. ACTUAL STEPHEN HAWKING. It’s seriously impolite to stare at famous people, I know, but HELLO. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Tim run so fast.

Happy belated birthday, Henny-Pen. Sorry I often call you ‘Hen’ in public and in front of people who don’t know your name. It makes you sound like a chicken. I know, I know. You can carry it off.

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Flying the flag for date night

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Real spouse talk: we find date nights hard these days.

Didn’t everyone say we would, and didn’t we think, all naively, that we’d find a way to work around it? I am in awe of couples who manage to get out once a week or even once a month. Whether you pay someone to come round (sometimes more expensive than we can afford, and difficult to do on weeknights) or just ask a friend (do they have kids already? What might the boys do to their house?), it’s bristling with awkwardness.

More real spouse talk: our relationship deteriorates, in measurable and significant ways, when we don’t have time alone.

And we do not want a relationship of pleasantries and routine. No, we signed up for hand-holding and intimate conversations and intimate everything else. I am here to make a stand and say that friendship, even best-friendship, is not good enough. Even with small children. Even with work and tiredness. I am here for heart-hurting love, and not a single thing less will do.

So it’s a good job, all things considered, that Timothy is the type to book tickets to BBC recordings on a whim, and take us off to London for the evening. All of us, because my brother- and sister-in-law were lovely enough to entertain the boys for the evening while we skipped off into the capital. They live just south of the river Thames, work in animation and theatrical makeup, and are the coolest and nicest people I know.

We were late, of course, so the first half of the date was characterised by sprinting: to the Tube station, onto the Tube, through a sandwich (awkward Tube eating is awkward), and then onto the theatre, where the lady told us they were already full. Great. So we took a long walk down through Bloomsbury to Covent Garden, and got a frozen custard from Shake Shack. Mine came with toffee sauce, chocolate pieces and a kind of malt powder that was like crushed Malteasers plus Horlicks plus crack. I ate it with blueberry lemonade at my elbow, and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be the same.

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Pre-Raphelites woz 'ere. *shriek*

Pre-Raphaelites woz ‘ere. *shriek*

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Then – oh, my heart – we hired Boris bikes, and freewheeled over the river, Big Ben and the London Eye gleaming on the water, back to pick up the boys. I haven’t been on a bike since university, and went the whole way chanting ‘we’re not going to die we’re not going to die’. Three miles on a bike through London, while the sun sets? My date-o-meter just spontaneously combusted. We came back to chocolate fondue and some Peppa Pig talk, and it was all so perfect it hurt.

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On my flag of personal absolutes is painted ‘DATE NIGHT’. I believe in date night, however we wrangle it. If it’s on a Boris bike, so much the better.

Share with me your collected wisdom, o internet browsers: how do you make date night work? 

Embarrassing crushes: city edition

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‘The thing is’, said Paul, over bread and olives at Carluccio’s, ‘in Manchester, everyone’s friendly and happy all the time. People talk to you on public transport. Look, there, see them singing happy birthday to that table? If this were Manchester, the whole restaurant would be singing. It’s very off-putting’.

He’s a barrister in London – also one of my favourite people – where such things aren’t done, at least not in rush hour, and his case in Manchester has made this obvious. You’re not supposed to chat in London, particularly on the Tube. It’s alright, though, because the streets can speak for themselves. I don’t want to get weird and say that they sing, or anything – but I’ve been popping in and out of London for ten years, and I still have the most ridiculous, dizzy enchantment with it. It’s a bit embarrassing. London was my first city crush, and it hasn’t faded at all. It’s like still being obsessed with Peter Andre, circa Mysterious Girl.

Lucky that two of my nicest friends live there (as well as several family members), so some Saturdays we get to drive to the nearest Underground station, while I play it cool and laugh uproariously hoping London will notice, and send over notes saying ‘London, do you like me, pls tick y/n’.

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If you were wondering what the best thing about having boys is, well, I’d say that dressing them up as Mischievous Scraps from the Twenties is a pretty strong contender.

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The Victorians, eh. They were just bonkers, weren’t they? Did you know that when the Natural History Museum was first established, Sir George Shaw (Keeper of Zoology) threatened to stamp on any shell that didn’t appear in the 12th Edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae? Then some famous naturalist contributed his conch collection, and as it was carried across the courtyard the wind blew off all the labels. The collection never recovered, says Wikipedia. No kidding.

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Disney films come in especially handy at the Natural History Museum. You should have seen us identifying stuff in the fish section. We were ALL OVER IT.

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Lunch, Tube, museum, wandering. I do not need anything more than that for a blimming perfect day. My No. 1 city crush still has my heart. Does yours?

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Once, there was a boy

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One day I was in the Tate Modern (always a good beginning). I’ve forgotten why, but there didn’t have to be a reason: we were still in that carefree part with no children, but also quite a way into the part where I wanted them. We wandered into the gift shop downstairs, and found racks upon racks of brightly coloured picture books. They were in gorgeous, hold-your-breath colours, the sort you have to run your fingers over to properly appreciate. Intoxicating, especially then. I found an author I’d never seen before , who’d made a beautiful book full of skies and stars. And a boy, who loved them both. It started, ‘Once, there was a boy’. And the book was by Oliver Jeffers.

‘How to Catch A Star’ was one of the first picture books I bought, the beginning of a hopeful little library waiting for a boy I could read to. Then I got one. I sat him down in front of Oliver Jeffers far sooner than he could really appreciate. We’ve got the whole series now, all with hold-your-breath illustrations. Henry adores them. And I still get a touch of that old anticipation and longing, that shiver of skies and stars, every time I sit down and begin, ‘Ready? Once, there was a boy’.

So you can imagine how delighted we were to discover a new theatre production of ‘Up and Down’ by Ga Ga Theatre. They’re a new theatre company aiming to make theatre outings friendly and welcoming for children. So all their venues are pushchair-accessible, and the productions are forty-five minutes long without an interval. Ours was in a little independent cinema, about a minute from Notting Hill Gate Tube station. We arrived with Henry’s cousin and auntie to an enthusiastic welcome and a giant posterboard of the boy and his penguin, which we managed to knock over seven times in ten minutes. The theatre was one of those with huge, plush red seats and a gilded ceiling, crammed today with mothers and excitable kids. You don’t realise how much you worry about your pushchair getting stuck in a doorway or your toddler trying to sit on someone’s head until, suddenly, you don’t have to.

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He didn’t, in any case, because the show was completely delightful. Funny, inventive, and faithful to the whimsical spirit of the books. Two actors played the boy and the penguin, telling the story with the help of giant, cartoony props and Jeffers’ own illustrations moving on a screen behind. It took Henry about half the performance to realise that the people jumping on stage were pretending to be the characters, but he was enthralled from beginning to end. I had to tell him that ‘peggwin’ had gone home for his dinner just to get him out of there. I was afraid he’d park up next to the checkers board and never leave.

There’s something quite lovely about seeing a favourite book opened up so beautifully in front of you. Given half the chance I would have stepped inside it myself, tucked us in with a blanket and said ‘Alright. Ready? Once, there was a boy’. Then up and up we’d spin to skies, and stars, and everything in between.

‘Up and Down’, Ga Ga Theatre, various London venues till 3rd November.

Ga Ga Theatre kindly provided us with free tickets for today. But the opinions (and enthusiasm) are mine. Henry’s too. Even with the prospect of chicken nuggets before him, he wouldn’t stop talking long enough to eat them.

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What to do in London when you’re two

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We do London on our birthdays. On Monday we got to induct Henricus Rex into the tradition. Did I mention the Big Smoke is covered with trains?

We didn’t start with trains, of course. We started with a vest with a bow tie and braces sewed on to it, like any sensible birthday celebrators. He was catching on to the present thing by this time. The tiny jungle menagerie went down a storm. So did the chocolate chip pancakes.

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Then we dressed him up all fancy and headed for the Underground. You should know, if you’re new to the Tube, that there’s an unspoken rule of no talking to strangers and no eye contact. Unless you’re the most excited two-year-old in three counties, in which case it’s ok for you to yell ‘WHOOOOA. TRAIN NOISE, DADDY. GRAMAA. IS GARK. WHOOOOOOA’ in the ear of the chap next to you. I’m sure.

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Once we’d finished annoying random Londoners, we got to enjoy the city proper. It’s a glorious thing, especially with sunshine bouncing merrily off the Thames. We sat on a Sphinx that survived a bomb in the First World War, and was still lounging in place with a few shrapnel holes in the side, all ‘Bombed by the Luftwaffe, suckas. No big deal’. That’s the kind of history I’m in love with, and in London, it’s everywhere.

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Then we made a pilgrimage to the Shake Shack they’ve just opened in Covent Garden, and oh, it filled every one of our burger-and-crinkle-fries dreams. It was the sort of lunch that brings tears to the eyes. A solemn occasion. Teds thought so too.

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FYI, the Natural History Museum would like you to know that it’s made for little boys carrying toy tigers around, and adults who would like the Jurassic Park theme tune in their heads all afternoon. Richard Attenborough, get over here in that snazzy white suit and subdue this T-Rex.

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I am enjoying him so, so much at the minute (Henry, I mean, not Richard Attenborough). Those cheeks. That chatter. The way he pronounces ‘tigers’ as ‘kiders’ and ‘dinosaurs’ as ‘dinnyslaws’. He can have a birthday any old time he likes, as long as we’re all agreed that he never gets any bigger, and there are always crinkle fries. Alright? Alright then.

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The good, the bad and the bread market

Here is the absolute truth of it. Mothering little people is the most profoundly wearying, profoundly wonderful thing I’ve ever done. It is feeling like I could burst when my boy yells ‘HEY MAMA’ from another room, and feeling like I’ve been vomited on from a large height with the power of scream. Both, always both. Piles of good things and less-good things that succeed each other quicker than I can blink. And blogs tend to accentuate the positive – oh look, another sunshine day of restaurant meals and beaming children – which is lovely and important. But it’s just as important to say that sometimes, there’s scream.

In solidarity with your up-and-down days, here’s one of mine.

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It’s Friday, and we’ve planned to meet one of our favourite ever people in London on her day off. It’s complicated slightly by the fact that I’ve woken up with a magnificent pregnancy cold – it’s just like any other cold, except you can’t take anything that will make you feel better – and there are sub-zero temperatures and freezing winds outside. But I’ve planned our journey carefully. I know what I’m doing. It’ll be fine.

Then, a solitary minute after I leap out of the bath to iron my shirt, I look over and Henry has evacuated what looks like half a sewer into the water. I am astonished by the magnitude of it. Where was it hiding?! No time to be astonished, though: I haul him out with one hand, hose him off with the shower, wrap him up in a towel, bleach his bath toys, let the water drain out and then wipe up the rest with toilet paper. There’s a lot. I am feeling delicate. To conclude the proceedings, I throw up my breakfast into the sink.

Finally we’re outside, wrapped in coats and blankets and, with any luck, not too smelly. We’ve got to walk at least as far as a cash machine and then buy something, because the buses only take exact change. By the time we reach it, my face is numb, but I make a snap decision to walk all the way to the train station anyway. This decision is borne entirely of guilt about the number of chips I’ve eaten recently. It’s ok, though. I know what I’m doing. It’ll be fine.

By the time we reach the train station – two miles away, and much further than I thought – Henry is so cold, even underneath all his blankets, that he can’t stop crying. I feel like the stupidest person on earth for keeping him out all this time. We buy a ticket, work our way down to the right platform (the lift is broken) and squeeze on to a busy train. The pushchair gets stuck and won’t collapse, and I can’t fiddle with it while struggling with a screeching boy. In the end I leave it and go sit down. But poor Henry is now tantruming – full-on, top-of-lungs, arching-back tantruming, and it takes at least fifteen minutes and an episode of Alphablocks to talk him down. By this point just about everyone is staring over their newspapers and grinding their teeth. When I take out my phone, I realise I’ve forgotten to charge it, and it’s about to turn off. Which will be a great deal of help in London all day, won’t it?

I haven’t even started on the Tube yet. This is not ok. And so then I am sat with my frozen toddler and achy sinuses and stupid huge belly on a crammed London train, crying my little eyes out. And people deliberately don’t stare, but don’t-stare worse, if you know what I mean. In between hiccups I think: if they compiled an Oscar reel of my life this would definitely make the cut for my finest hour. Well-played, Jeffcoat. Well-played.

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Well. It really was ok. I used the last of my battery to text Timothy, sat at his desk a few miles away, and bless that wonderful boy, he dropped everything and came to meet us off the train. He bought me chocolate, then carried the pushchair across two Tube lines to where we were supposed to be. And then we found Emily, and had the loveliest day. Henry was so good. We ate chip sandwiches as big as our heads, and wandered around Borough Market to gape at cheese wheels and artisan bread. I bought a Hockney print at the Tate Modern for our bathroom. It was all just marvellous.

And here are some photographs. Our piles of good things that made for a joyous day. In the end. Despite the first bit that wasn’t. A lot of our days seem to work out like that.

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PS: I never think I’m much interested in modern art, and then I always hugely enjoy the Tate Modern. Even if it’s not your thing, the gift shop has the largest and most beautiful collection of children’s picture books I know of, so it’s worth going for that and the view across the Millennium Bridge alone.

Big city

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Mr Jeffcoat works in London a lot these days. He sends me photos as he heads to his office in the morning, looking down the sunny Thames towards St Paul’s Cathedral, and I promise I’m only a tiny bit jealous. In my head we have an alternative life in a tiny London flat: I spend my afternoons wandering around the art galleries, and I don’t ever have to look at a Tube map, and probably, I don’t know, I can pull off heeled ankle boots as well. Until that actually happens, we just visit occasionally and I moon over the loveliness of it.

Today we did that thing we’ve been saying we should do for months, and took a bus and a train to the Big Smoke for an afternoon off together. It was very nearly almost a date, and the weather cottoned on and made the sun shine gloriously. Henry was asleep for at least some of it, and beside himself with excitement for the rest of it. Three forms of public transport and the best pasta he’d ever rubbed his face in? Doesn’t get better than that for Henricus Rex.

We met up at Paddington, ate a huge pile of pizza and olives, then parked ourselves at the Victoria and Albert Museum for the rest of the afternoon. And oh, it was wonderful. We walked through huge, vaulted galleries and cold, darkened spaces with our mouths open. The stuff in the Medieval and Renaissance wing, all carved wood and illuminated manuscripts and stained-glass windows, was so beautiful it made me want to cry a bit. Medieval religious art is so heartfelt, all of it. Hundreds of years ago there was an anonymous, not-very-important someone who created it for their deepest devotions, and it makes me feel lucky to have seen it.

FYI, toddlers on the Underground are about ten thousand times more difficult than babies on the Underground – for a start, he wanted to get off and on every time the doors opened and hugged at least one stranger’s leg – but we got by with a lightweight umbrella pushchair that lifted easily up and down stairs. Of course, this was the day my body decided to be More Pregnant Than Anyone Only Halfway Through Has Any Right To Be, so I might well be in traction and bandages tomorrow. Totally worth it. Did I tell you we went to the flagship Paperchase store and I saw at least twenty notecards that made me glad to be alive? Totally worth it.

These boys are just the best company I could ask for.

(PS: the below photo was taken in the split-second before Henry’s foot connected with parts of Timothy that would prefer not to be kicked. There’s a first time for everything, even crying man-tears in the lift in Paperchase.)

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On the First Date of Christmas…

Welcome, friends, to the twelve dates of Christmas. Is this not an exceedingly nifty festive idea? (Thank you to Rockstar Diaries, from whence I thieved it.) And especially needed this year, as well: Henry commandeers so much of our attention – and rightly so, because he is delightful – that I find myself entering December and missing my other half. I need to do better at finding balance. And making time for twelve little outings (or innings; it doesn’t matter which) seems like an excellent way to start.

So, here goes: piano introduction, please.

On the first date of Christmas…

…we took ourselves off to London for the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It turned out to be light on wonder and heavy on curried sausage and terrifying fibreglass Santas. But we still had tons of fun.

He sets his beard in rollers every night.

A bit of cheek tickling from adopted Auntie Em goes down a storm.

Sweeties!

A wooden tie! What I always wanted.

Merry Christmas, Hippy Wizard.

Corridor of Gloriousness, Green Park.

Where we did NOT eat lunch. But wanted to.

What, more escalators?

Photos are Instagrammed. Cheers, big ears.

I love London. I love the grandeur of it. The architecture, and the crowds, and the history-0h-the-history, and the Tube, and the fact that you can’t walk two streets without stumbling across another free museum or art gallery. We do London on our birthdays, so it’s full of celebratory memories. It’s lucky I’ve never lived there, because I’d never want to leave. Thankfully Henry seemed to like it just as much, even making so free as to vomit copiously and explode through his nappy in Pizza Hut.

I’m excited for eleven more of these, especially in the company of this guy.

Happy December to you!

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