Tag Archives: Summer

I prefer my summers in the key of Military Operation: don’t judge

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I am now physically incapable of saying ‘THSUMMER!’ without that Olaf-style lisp and intonation, which is a neat coincidence because we’ve also spent a lot of our time melting since H broke up for the holidays. Oof, July! Bring on the heat! Before August crashes in with thirty-one straight days of grey drizzle, that old dog!

I have poor memories of last summer, and I think it’s because I didn’t appreciate how long six weeks would feel without a plan. It rained a lot and we drifted too much. I am convinced that you need to spend your summer-with-children doing exactly what helps you maintain the most robust level of sanity. If that’s pyjamas till eleven every day, do that. If it’s TV time while you work, do that. For me, I need to get out. Plan trips, pack picnics. Plan rests, too. I want routine, even when it’s a slow and lazy one. Judging by how many times a day H asks me what we’re doing next, so does he. So this summer I have made one.

I wrote a giant list of local activities we could do in the sun or rain. I made reading charts for H (and PLEASE POO IN THE TOILET charts for T, but that’s by-the-by). I bought in pound-shop craft supplies. I coloured in my lists, because I am a nerrrrrd. Then I set up a little routine where, four days a week, we’d go on adventures in the morning, H would read with me while T had his nap, then spend late afternoons playing with toys and watching TV. On Friday we stay local, visit the library, bake if I’m feeling like a masochist, and hang around in pyjamas for a bit longer. I have been finding cushions of time to read, exercise and do bits of work (though mostly doing work in the evenings so far). We’ll probably end up switching it around when we find what works better, but that seemed like a good place to start.

I made an Instagram hashtag too, but that’s between me and my personal embarrassment.

Anyway, I’ll be posting some of what we do here, mostly so I can remember it and adjust it for next time, but if any of you are Royal County-dwellers, there might be some ideas here too.

Did I mention we now have a local IKEA, and now both boys are old enough to go into their soft play area? Not planning on abusing this AT ALL, but where’s my Kindle, no, I’m not asking for any reason, it’s cool.

On Thursday we spent the morning at Basildon Park. They set up a ball run every summer, and you can bring your own tennis ball to do it – though if you need a new one, TEDDY, it’s a frankly outrageous £3. There are a couple of stations hidden in the woodland walks, too, which persuaded them round one of the trails. We avoid the house, for now. Don’t set grubby boys loose in Netherfield, is the first rule of visiting Netherfield.

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This was strung up in the entrance hall. The lady at the desk thought I was the weirdest person ever for taking a photo, which, COME ON. This biz has Instagram all over it.

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Yes, milord.

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Hey gardeners, tell me the secret of not killing plants! TY, TY.

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Yeah, see above.

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Picnic dudes.

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Ahhhh. That’s better, isn’t it?

Keep up with us on Instagram, if you feel like it! (@makealongstoryshort) Next time, cakes. Masochism: I went there.

Sea air

Hello, Friday! Another rainy – torrential – August day, and I am meeting it in shambolic fashion.

We’ve had a wonderful two days away with Tim’s mum this week, and we’re feeling the holiday come-down pretty hard. I’m sat on our saggy sofa, with rained-on fluffy hair the size of a hefty badger, wearing a pair of old glasses with the arm painstakingly taped back on (I left my normal pair in my mother-in-law’s car) and a case of spots with ambitions to pass their Grade 3 Acne exam. In short I am a living embodiment of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Eloise Midgen together, and I really don’t know why we haven’t made a cover feature in Glamour yet.

Something quite miraculous has happened in the past few days. A fog I didn’t even know was there has lifted off my head, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my children. I love them all the time, of course, but they’re hard work, especially 10+ solo hours a day. I think I’ve spent the past few weeks – or even months – in a state of low-level, continuous stress about what the next tantrum might be about or where the next mess will be made. And have forgotten to notice the dimples trying their hardest to make themselves noticed in Son 2’s chubby cheeks. And haven’t appreciated the intricacies of Son 1’s conversation, or the simple pleasure of finally being able to trust him to be safe, to watch out for his brother and himself.

I think the change of scene has helped, and so has having someone there to be a second pair of toddler-restraining hands, someone who loves these boys like I do, and me without judgement. Looking at beautiful things has opened up space in my head, and I’ve let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. There are dimples in this world! My kids are pretty cool and funny! It’s great!

Anyway, none of this is revolutionary – hey, lovely fool, did you know that too much unrelieved slogging away at home will make you insane by degrees? OF COURSE YOU DID – but apparently I have to learn the same parenting lesson over and over before it sticks. It was jolly nice to do it on the beach.

Some photos? I’m glad you asked; I’ve got loads.

Something about little boy t-shirts makes me squeal on the inside. Which is good, because we don’t get to buy any pretty dresses around here.

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Temple. There was an afternoon where I got back to our room at about 3.30pm, and the boys weren’t going to be back till SIX, and I had a hot chocolate and fell asleep and read an Agatha Christie. The whole thing made me want to cry with happiness.

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The next day we went to Arundel. Having first confused it with the kingdom in Frozen (that’s Arendelle – close!) we were delighted to find the Duke of Norfolk’s castle, a Roman Catholic cathedral and a 14th century church and museum, all on the same road. The rest of the town seemed to be pretty cottages, antique shops, cafes and a river. As town planning goes, I feel this is top-notch.

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After a couple of hours, we drove a little further down to the beach at Littlehampton. By this time the indifferent weather was brightening. It got lighter and warmer over the afternoon, while the boys paddled in water, dug in the sand, filled buckets with pebbles and generally did not need hands-on assistance. Toddler holy grail. By 6pm we were eating hot fish and chips under a clear blue sky, while I reflected that everything Swallows and Amazons had ever said about sea air was quite correct. Of course, naming one of your main characters ‘Titty’ wasn’t a decision that would stand the test of time, but how was he to know that, poor love?

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This is a terrible photo, but it’s the only evidence I was there, so I’ll take it.

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Back here now. But I know where I’m heading the next time I need an insanity prevention break.

The week that was…hot

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I am supposed to be doing – haha – SO many things right now, but it’s been a good while since I checked in here. Sometimes my days and nights fill up so much I have to put blogging on the back burner. I miss it when it’s not there.

Some catch-up, then? Here are some inconsequential snippets from our week.

We just got back from a dinner date, where we wandered around looking into restaurant windows for a while before going to Five Guys like we always do. Tim managed three full cups of drink from the special flavours machine before our food even arrived. We decided to pretend we were on a first date, and talked about which character we were most like in Harry Potter (Oliver Wood and Hermione, obvs), and what our favourite films and music were. I confessed my undying love for Inception and Tim decided that whatever type of music Kings of Convenience make, he likes it (Google says they do Indie Folk, so now you know). Also, when you sit up on the high chairs by the balcony, you do actually feel like the Queen of Five Guys.

‘BRING ME MY MANIFOLD FLAVOURS OF DRINK, MAGIC MACHINE.’

‘I WISH FOR AS MANY FRIES AS THE SANDS OF THE SEA.’

‘PLEASE PUT ALL THE FOODS OF EARTH INTO THIS BURGER BUN.’

And they did.

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We are about to head into camp season – Tim is gone for the full week (!) with the teenage boys, though I’m only doing a ten-mile overnight hike with the girls, over a day and a bit. I have started to break it down, and ten miles + carrying a bed roll + sleeping on the floor in the woods without a tent + what the cheff is a bed roll have started to make intimidating sums in my head. It’s alright, guys. I’ve totally got this [am terrified].

this is not a bed.

this is not a bed.

Tim has genuinely got this, because he’s the sort of chap who looks casually hot in a canoe.

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(From last year.) What the.

Henry had a nursery induction this week, where the following exchange occurred:

H’s new teacher: ‘So Henry, what’s your favourite thing to do at home?’
Hen: (top of voice, hands in air) ‘SCREEN TIIIIME!’
Me: (*ALL THE SHAME*) ‘we do, ah, do other things.’

Apart from this, he had a lovely time, and we are crossing our everything that we can move before September so he can go. Between you and me, my dears, I have so much anxiety about our unmoving house move that it makes me want to curl up into a little foetal ball every time I think about it. If you’d like to throw any of your good vibes in our direction and/or politely hustle our solicitors with eyebrows and bribes, consider this my blessing to go ahead.

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This week’s morning adbentures included hot walks/bike rides, train journeys to Goring for weir-watching and ice cream by the river, many playgrounds, the library and a cousins’ trip to West Green House Gardens. The weather has been in the thirties, which sounds fabulous until I remind you that the British do not really understand or see the need for air-conditioning. On the other hand, this has also meant a continual excuse for ice cream, and we try always to take this and run with it.

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Teddy has fallen in deep and profound love with our pop-up version of ‘Dear Zoo’. He’s not allowed to look at it by himself, because he gets too excited and rips off the flaps. I put it in different hiding places, he finds it and takes it off to secret corners to chuckle over; rinse, repeat.

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DIS MY FAVOURITE.

I got a small pile of books from the library that turned out to be all thrillers and Books of Tense and Obscure Emotion, so got out Sadie Jones’ The Unexpected Guests again on a whim. It’s as delightful as I remember. Everything about it is perfect and lovely, and I wish I’d written it so I could tell everyone it was mine.

Instead I wrote this post, and a thing about toddler tantrums and Sirius Black for TalkMum, which is here if you fancy it. It’s no Unexpected Guests, but it was fun.

Oh gosh, 1am. Over and out, you guys. Over and out.

Henries were here

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Summer! Allow me to let you into a secret: when faced with sunshine, my top half converts it all super-efficiently into freckles and third-degree burns, while my bottom half simultaneously takes on a whiteness so blinding all light rays are reflected back into space. This is my superpower, and when I become a time traveller I will use it to be considered fashionable in all eras of history.

I know it’s no adamantium claws and accelerated healing, but.

We’ve spent as much time as possible outside this month. On one day, when the boys and I had driven out to our almost-new-neighbourhood to drop off some forms, we drove a little bit further out to The Vyne, in Sherborne St John. This is one of my all-time favourite National Trust places. Large gardens, a huge front lawn stacked with deckchairs, a lake, an adventure playground, a tea room, and the house – which was visited by several Henry Tudors and Jane Austen, AND has the ring that inspired Mr Tolkien to write the world’s manliest fantasy epic. The little chapel has medieval Flemish tiles, and the back corridor is hiding the biggest, oldest map of England I’ve ever seen. You need a torch to read it, it’s so gloriously faded and mouse-nibbled. They actually provide one (a torch, I mean, not a mouse).

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That morning we had a picnic lunch, with the boys in twin high chairs and me passing them sandwiches and yoghurt and mopping up spills at frantic speeds. Afterwards we spread a blanket on the grass, ‘wilaxed’ in deckchairs (ha!), poked busily around underneath trees, and used every bribery tool in the book to get Henry to leave the chickens alone and come home.

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Any gardeners know what this flower is called? It smelled amazing.

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Toddler picnics make me fervently wish for an extra pair of arms, but somehow I always do feel very relaxed at The Vyne. Maybe it’s the one ring.

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