Tag Archives: Love

Anniversaries are the best, when they’re ours

Today is a Timothy day. Four years ago, we got married. Which means that eight years ago I decided he was the best thing since sliced chocolate chip cookie, but it took us that long to make it official.

Our wedding day was grey and blustery in the way that early March usually is, but my tulips and the bridesmaids’ dresses and the big, blowsy rose in Timothy’s buttonhole were a deep, heartfelt red. ‘Smile when you walk down the aisle’, my mother said, and so as we went in with all those eyes on us I smiled and smiled and smiled. Like I wasn’t nervous at all (not true) and like I was so happy my fingers tingled (true), and then Timothy was there on the front row, smiling and smiling too, and suddenly everything was alright.

That’s the way it’s always been, pretty much.

What can I say? He is the cheese to my macaroni, and the little chickeny pieces to my Texas BBQ pizza. He makes the best pancakes and the worst late-night back rub jokes. And if this is the way it’s going to be, then you can count me in for the long haul.

Some wisdom from The Feeling, of all places

tell me what I’ve always known

life is love

and love’s at home

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.

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.

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 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.

Making Room

Today I found a few photos of Henry’s room before it stopped being a receptacle for all our assorted junk and started being a nappy-splattered nursery.

From this:

to this:

And here’s what the other wall looked like:

Much better these days:

(Did I mention I’m completely in love with that chest of drawers? Those little handles. My goodness.)

You know, I agonised over that room. I cried over it. It became a symbol of everything I didn’t have time to do as a pregnant stuck-in-the-office worker, and all my inadequacies that were sure to emerge as a mother. I couldn’t think of how to decorate it and didn’t have time to do much to it anyway. I wasn’t creative enough. I had to throw away one of my Complete Works of Shakespeare when I purged all of my books, and resented it – now I only have two – and felt it was obviously an indication of how little prepared I was to make room for a baby.

Well, we got there in the end. We reorganised our clutter, made trips to IKEA, took up the carpet, painted the walls, wrestled with the rocking chair. I never stopped agonising. Before every purchase and every decision I ruminated for hours, worrying about whether it would fit and if it would look nice. Everything seemed painfully imbued with significance, and only if everything was perfect would this grand adventuring experiment, this entering of motherhood, be exactly what I wanted it to be.

Here’s what I know now: it never really mattered. It’s a lovely room to sit in, and somewhere nice to change nappies, but he won’t even be sleeping in it till after Christmas. The rocking chair is still half-painted, the cupboard is bursting with swag, and the blind needs replacing. But it never needed to be perfect. It just needed to be his.

It’s been the same with mothering, generally. Some days are better than others. I’m not the superwoman I envisioned, and spend more time sitting around and wasting time than I ever did in the office. But as I type this, with Timothy asleep on the floor at my feet and Henry sat watching me with his little hand in the crook of my arm, I know I never needed to be a perfect mother. I just needed to be his. And that, I find, I can do just fine.

A Birthday

It was an ordinary day. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t.

I had big plans for Thursday. The house was a mess. My hospital bag needed a few items before it was finished. I was going to make a white chocolate torte in the afternoon, because some days are white chocolate torte days, and that felt like one of them. I just had another antenatal appointment at the Royal Berks to get through first.

We weren’t friends these days, the Royal Berks and me. I had a snarky blog post all written about how their obsession with collecting my bodily fluids was getting in the way of our relationship. ‘You have some of the early signs of pre-eclampsia’, they kept saying, after I’d spent another three hours being poked with needles and hooked up to baby monitors, ‘but we’re not concerned. Yet. Come in next week. And bring in another milk bottle of urine, because we love those.’ I sped to the hospital at an unearthly hour in the morning, cursed my way through several roadwork diversions, went the wrong way round the one-way system in the car park and had a squashy-faced old man glare at me like I’d emptied my special milk bottle over his head, then misjudged the distance in the parking space and ran into the wall, and was beginning to feel like one white chocolate torte wouldn’t be enough.

‘You’re back!’ said the blood-taking lady with the moustache I’d met earlier in the week. ‘Do they want another sample already?’

‘Apparently’, I smiled, pushing my special milk bottle under the chair with my foot, since I don’t like to show large quantities of my waste to strangers.

‘Well. Thirty-eight weeks, right? You’ll be ready to have it soon, whatever happens’, she said.

‘Oh, I hope so’, I groaned. Dramatic Irony Fairy looked up from the corner and coughed, hammily, but I was too busy gathering up my keg of wee to notice.

An hour later, a doctor was telling me that they’d finally collected enough of my fluids to conclude that I needed to have this baby today.

In a panic, I called Timothy. ‘Today. TODAY. Tim, my hospital bag isn’t finished. We don’t have the crib set up. And I didn’t do any of the housework!’

Not even unexpected babies faze the Unflappable King of Crises. He leapt on his bike (insert superhero music here), cycled seven miles in a torrential thunderstorm, paused to wring out his t-shirt in the train toilet, and landed dripping on the hospital carpet before you could say ‘awkward personal place examination’, which, coincidentally, was what was happening to me upstairs.

Once I’d written a list of things we needed, he’d gone home to get them, and I’d eaten a really big bag of prawn cocktail crisps, the shock had worn off a bit. Tim promised that if there wasn’t time for him to do the housework by the time we were sent home, we could gently swaddle the baby Jeffcoat in the mountain of clean laundry at the foot of our bed, thus solving the crib problem at the same time.

Prawn cocktail crisps have a well-known soporific effect.

By 6.30 that evening, my uterus was ready to rock.

Inducing a baby that isn’t ready to come out on its own is a tricky business. Sometimes the hormone drip doesn’t work at all. Sometimes it takes hours and hours. And sometimes it works far too well, and your contractions are so strong you need extra pain relief you hadn’t planned for. But I’d barely been on the drip for fifteen minutes when the contractions started, all by themselves. For the first hour or so I hung onto Timothy’s neck and breathed with the smell of his collar in my nose. Then they got worse, and I forgot about everything except the gas-and-air nozzle in my teeth and the grip of his hand and the need to breathe, and move, and breathe, and move until it was over. The midwives changed shift, and the second one was blonde and jolly and wonderful. She put her hand on my back and told me I was doing brilliantly.

It changed soon after that: the pain stayed hot and pulsing in my back, but I felt like there was a large stone in my nether regions that needed to be evacuated, pronto. I realised that this was the ‘urge to push’ everyone kept going on about, and the stone was TJ’s head, and that meant my body knew exactly what it was doing, and it was almost over. The last part was optimistic. I pushed for an hour and a half. And I think I sobbed, and I definitely said I didn’t want to do it anymore, and Tim has the bruises to prove how hard I squeezed his hand. A doctor came in and said that it was taking too long, and they had me on my back with my legs in stirrups and were about to use that big sucky thing that looks more like it was meant for plunging a toilet, and I knew I didn’t want any of that action, so pushed one last push with every muscle in my body.

And out he came. I can’t say I looked at him and felt an overwhelming rush of love and belonging, like they talk about in all the baby books. What I felt was relief, and bewilderment, and a strong sense of unreality. I knew he was mine, but it felt like he’d been lent to us for a morning, and we’d be checking him back in before we went home.

A few hours later, I’d been moved to the ward upstairs, Timothy had gone home to sleep and sort out that pile of swaddling laundry, and it was just me and the little person we’d just decided to call Henry. He blinked out of his crib at me, and I remembered that I could pick him up any old time I wanted. So I did. He looked at me, and I held his head in my hands and realised I’d already memorised every inch of his face. I told him that I was his mother. I told him what a wonderful boy he was going to be, and how much we loved him, and that we were so excited he was here. And I knew, with a heart-deep sting of truthfulness, that I meant every word.

Solo

Baby and I do better when Timothy is in the house. Even though, this week, I get to hoard all the pillows and read in bed till stupid o’ clock. And my jar of Nutella has lasted fully three times longer than usual.

Come back soon, Mr Jeffcoat; we miss you and your loveliness.

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