Tag Archives: Why Timothy Rocks

Nine

Apparently we don’t take photos of just the two of us? This is the most recent I could find…

A few days into my Grand Experiment with Temporary Diabetes – which sucks, by the way, I mean no one should flirt with diabetes even a little bit because it’s scary and tedious and it really sucks – I kept on getting my breakfasts wrong. I already knew that pancakes, waffles, toast or remotely edible cereal were all out, but unsweetened porridge started to make my little sugar reader cry too. And guys, I love breakfast. It’s my favourite meal. And so I wanted to cry a little bit as well.

‘Look’, said Tim, coming in to pick up my empty porridge bowl – THE LAST PORRIDGE BOWL OF SCOTLAND, it turned out – ‘just start eating protein for breakfast instead of carbs. You’ll be full, but your blood sugar will be fine’.

‘Protein is hard!’ I snapped. ‘Who’s going to make eggs and bacon every morning?’

He rolled his eyes, and replied like it was obvious. ‘I will’.

And he has, every morning since. Frying pan, sizzling butter, plate delivered hot onto my bedside table while I’m still rolling my giant carcass off the mattress and unsticking my eyelids. I never doubted that he was that kind of man, but he is totally that kind of man.

It’s our ninth wedding anniversary today.

When we got married we were young, young enough that these days I would tsk and say ‘whoa, that’s very young’. I know that marrying in your early twenties has its risks, and it’s true that we’ve had to do a lot of our Practising Being A Healthy Relationship-Haver on each other. We have felt and stumbled our way into better patterns, bit by sometimes-painful bit. Our wedding day was all gauzy satin and red roses – a long way from the weeks when I see him only in exercise lycra with helmet dents in his forehead, or else pyjamas (hey, you own jeans! I exclaim on Saturday mornings); where we get into bed and I’m so huge that all we do is groan in unison and switch our bedside lamps off; where a Tesco Indian Meal for Two is cause for an entirely sincere midweek high-five. There’s not much glitter in our day-to-day, but it feels special to me. It feels like home.

Life with children is sublime and ridiculous; mortgages and car bills are stressful; work takes up nearly all of our time (whether that’s wrangling a small boy onto the toilet when it’s already far too late, or ploughing through tech demos at the office). We have done one university degree, four jobs, two houses, three pregnancies and two-and-three-quarter children, and that’s a lot of scenery for nine years. But he has been the fixed point in all my whirling constellations, all this time. Still the person I can’t wait to walk through the door in the evenings. Maker of our morning eggs. Recipient of my ten thousand daily text messages.

Honestly, I would not be anywhere else.

Dads, etc

Son the First was in our bed the other morning. He has a little routine twice a week: wet the bed, strip off, tiptoe into our room and wriggle in between us where it’s warm. We wake up with bony limbs in our back and I marvel, every time, at how much space he takes up. My baby-no-longer-baby, with legs stretching halfway down the bed.

This particular morning I woke up to Tim and H talking quietly. ‘Do you know’, Tim said, when he saw that I was awake, ‘we’ve now had this boy for longer than we’ve been without him?’

Which is something, isn’t it? Those three years without children have already been eclipsed by the almost-four years we’ve been parents. In future years they’ll seem like a funny little oasis at the very beginning of our lives together. Before we’d ever got poo underneath our fingernails, or knew anything about Peppa Pig, or had the smallest inkling of how much parenthood would hollow us out to make room for so many more feelings.

Tim is a wonderful father. I was going to go at it more lyrically than that, but there’s the truth. He is patient and soothing in the times where I’m scratchy and abrupt. He rolls out of bed at six in the morning to rescue bellowing boys and reads stories in funny voices at night. He’s the one cajoling one more spoonful of dinner into H’s mouth, making endless and exciting train tracks, letting them climb ladders and use screwdrivers and generally feel ten feet tall.

They adore him, openly and completely. He gives them something I can’t. He is the steadying presence bookending their day, the calmer voice dampening their fieriest tantrums. Also the parent most likely to be carrying sweets. They like that about him. They like him a lot.

And do you know what, I do too. He’s never felt more like the other half of me than he does now, as we raise these boys together. One parenting style balancing out the other, and providing where the other falls short. Fatherhood looks really good on him. None of us would get very far without him here.

I shouldn’t need an excuse to say it, but it’s nice to have one. So happy Fathers’ Day, favourite. May you always have a pocketful of sweets for the boys who love you.

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Seven

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This guy. It’s our seventh anniversary today, and he’s about to get back from a week away. When he’s gone I feel the lack of him everywhere, from our bed to our dinner table to the text messages I keep having to send because he’s not there to tell things to.

We will pick him up from the airport, me and the boys, and go back to our house. I’ll put a chicken in the oven. The sun will slant through the windows onto the kitchen floor. We’ll set the table with napkins even though no one actually uses them. The boys will dance circles around him, and we’ll eat, and maybe go for a walk in the woods, and come back chilly for hot chocolate and an ‘animal crogramme’ on the telly. He will fall asleep five minutes in, like he always does. This is the space we made, and honestly, some days it blinds me to look at it.

Here’s to more of everything. I want it all.

asked to imagine heaven
I see us [here]
the way we have been
the way we sometimes are

Wendy Cope

I told the story of how we met for our fifth anniversary, here. Prepare for some tiny baby faces and enormous skater jeans.

Cake for breakfast

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And so we discover that time, that fickle mistress, halts for no man, and no matter how sunny your good looks are, EVEN YOU WILL BE TWENTY-NINE IN THE END.

Or, in other words, Tim had his birthday this week, which means I’m not the only one in this house officially on the short slide to thirty. HARDEE HAR HAR.

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We had a lovely day. We decided to keep Henry in nursery in the morning, because it would make it more likely that family naps could happen (and they did). But before that there were presents, bunting and cake for breakfast. I don’t know why we haven’t just done cake for breakfast every birthday morning before this, by the way. It makes everything better. Maybe it’s a special milestone in adulthood, being able to decide that cake is a meal without any regrets? If it is, we are there.

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I found this root beer float cake on Joy the Baker’s glorious site some time ago, and bookmarked it immediately for Tim’s birthday. He is the sort of chap who drinks his own weight in the stuff every time we head across the Atlantic. Last year my sister got him a boxful of different brands in murky brown bottles, and he sat us all down and conducted serious taste comparison tests. With a spreadsheet. Love him.

Anyway, it’s a fabulous cake – the root beer comes through quite beautifully, and not too strongly – and I am a convert to bundt tins, because no more ugly first slices. My version was a little rough and ready, mainly due to the fact that a) I made it at 11pm, and b) I can never be convinced that it’s worth the effort of sieving cocoa powder and icing sugar, until my frosting comes out in pimples, and then I remember that it is. To make it a proper root beer float cake I stacked Cornish vanilla ice cream into the hole in the middle, which I think is the best labour saving device invented since I gave up the sandwich and started just eating peanut butter and jam off the same spoon.

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We took the boys swimming in the afternoon, then around dinner time left them with Tim’s lovely mama to go on a birthday date. We tested out some digital radios for our kitchen in John Lewis, then went for obscenely good steak (mine came with beef dripping sauce. Hnnnnggghhhh) and watched Interstellar at the cinema, groaning from our overstuffed stomachs.

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Interstellar is astonishing. It almost tries to cram in too much, and has some usual Nolan problems (some clunky dialogue, a twist a minute). But the visuals, the themes, the scope of the thing, Matthew McConaughey’s beauteous craggy face…oh my. We were overwhelmed.

We have a happy day whenever this guy has a birthday. Like steak and root beer and the great McConaughey himself, he only gets better with age.

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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? 

Superpowers, for dads

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The boys in my house wore matching ties today, all three of them. Halfway through the morning rush Henry got upset that his tie wouldn’t lie flat like Timothy’s. From the bathroom I watched Tim take him on his lap and convince him how fine his tie was, how smart, and most importantly, how incredibly flat: it falls down just like a waterfall, Henry. It’s perfect.

Later Henry was practising lunges while I put on my make up, and stopped to admire his tie. He was beaming all over his face, glowing with it. ‘This tie is so smart, Mummy. It like a waterfall’.

I have noticed that this is what happens between Daddy and these boys. He gives them a better way to see things, and they believe him. I’ve watched him convince Teddy that playing a made-up game is more fun than being hungry and cross. He can make our old playground exciting, over and over again, while I faint with boredom on the bench. He’s made Henry terribly severe about road safety without saying anything at all, just by showing him how it’s done. Woe betide you if you cross without pressing the button for the green man. That’s not how Daddy does it.  

If it’s sappy metaphors you’re after, try this: if I order their universe around them, then it’s Timothy who lights up their sky. Timothy, too, who straps on their wings and pushes them off the cliff. He tells them they can fly, and then they do.

It is something special to watch the person you married love the babies you made. One day I’ll look at my grown-up boys, and realise he’s helped them see a better way to be a man. And they will believe him, I hope, because damn. He knows what he’s talking about.

I never want to not feel this. Happy Father’s Day, my love.

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Six

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I remember that time you told me
you said
‘love is touching souls’.
surely you’ve touched mine
’cause
part of you pours out of me
in these lines
from time to time

Joni Mitchell

Looking at this blog, you’d think Timothy was a supporting player. I don’t talk about him directly, much. He wouldn’t like it. But today is our anniversary, and as I look around our brilliant, beautiful, messy life to find him at the immovable centre of it all, I wonder how on earth I was lucky enough to land just exactly where I should be. Love is touching souls, and surely, oh, surely he’s touched mine. It comes out in everything I do.

Happy anniversary, Mr Jeffcoat.

I told the story of how we ended up together last year, here. I am even more covered in banana now than I was when I wrote it.

A little post-birthday fanfare

I’ve kind of lost the plot since our big group stomach bug last week (you know what they say: the family that shares gastroenteritis together, stays together). But I didn’t want the week to go by without giving a nod to this guy’s birthday.

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Which, incidentally, was completely rearranged by said gastroenteritis, but you’d never know it from him. He’s not the whinging type, even when a Five Guys burger is at stake. (We are not the same.)

Let me tell you a story about Timothy. Just a little one. A few Sundays ago we attempted an afternoon nap, except Edward, who attempted a different cross face every ten minutes. Tim had had the boys a lot the day before – and he always, always does the early shift when Hen bounces out of bed at 6am demanding porridge – so I took Teds to settle him. After two hours, I’d rocked a lot, huffed a lot and slept not at all, and wasn’t best pleased about it.

‘It’s not FAIR’, I hurled at him once he’d woken up. Yes, really.

‘What’s not fair?’

‘Babies. I spend all day and night looking after them, and the one time in the week when I could have a proper nap, Edward won’t sleep. Why won’t he sleep?!’

Perhaps, you idiot, because he wasn’t tired? In my defence, interrupted sleep is the very boil throbbing on the nose of my existence, and, like any throbbing boil, it makes me more unreasonable the longer it’s there. As you see.

Tim took both boys away, and I huffed in bed by myself for the next hour, pointedly ignoring the chaos downstairs. Eventually I heard a knock on the door.

‘Hey’, he said, gently, a rack of homemade scones steaming in one hand, ‘are you coming downstairs?’

I did. We ate them for tea with butter and jam, watched Babe for the twenty-seventh time, and laughed a lot.

If I could choose just one thing for you to know about him, it would be this: that given half a chance he would bundle up your temper tantrum, take it downstairs, puzzle over how to make it better, and then get out the flour and start making you scones.

Also: they are amazingly good scones.

Happy twenty-eighth, favourite!

Tim's bday

I would like the Hay Festival to marry me. Is that awkward?

Yesterday was the king of days. It was the super supreme of Saturdays. If the days of the week were Harry Potter actors, yesterday would’ve been the guy who played Neville Longbottom. In that three-piece suit. Yes?

Yesterday my love and I went to the Hay Festival, and I decided it’s my favourite place to be. If you weren’t reading along this time last year, Hay-on-Wye is a tiny village on the Welsh border that, at some sensible point, decided to give itself up to bookshops and antiques. During the Hay Festival, authors, politicians, journalists, comedians and other good sorts come together in a tent to give talks and be charming. We saw Hilary Mantel last year, and fell in love. This year we’d arranged for Henry to spend the day with his grandparents, and had tickets to see Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google) and Caitlin Moran (feminist journalist and author). And we weren’t going to waste a MINUTE.

The drive to Hay-on-Wye is lovely enough, especially in beaming sunshine. The sky was endless and the country lanes bright green and yellow. We ate Pringles in undignified fistfuls, listened to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter, and had actual conversations that didn’t have to be broken off every two minutes to stop Henry licking his shoe. Before and after our talks – which were excellent – we sat in deckchairs in the pavilion, reading newspapers and sunning ourselves, and ate lovely food with friends. Sadly, during our newspaper session, a chap from Visit Wales came over to ask whether he could use a photo of us in their promotional material. We said yes, because he was nice, but I know full well what my Newspaper Concentration Face looks like (a dog’s bottom with a grudge against society) and it wouldn’t encourage anyone at all to come to Wales. Oh well, his look-out.

In between, we managed to get into Hay itself and have a poke around. First stop was a desperate hunt for emergency flip-flops: the shoes with proper soles I’d bought – to be kind to my pelvis – were eating my feet, and you can’t appreciate antiques properly on your knees. Luckily we found some, and enjoyed a couple of hours wandering into rickety little bookshops and fiddling with old sea-chests. We found a map shop and coveted 400-year-old paintings of Berkshire (ONE DAY). We sat listening to live bands on the top of the castle mound eating popcorn, and Tim found a piece of monster corn in the bag that was almost too big for his mouth. Truly, honestly, it couldn’t have been better.

I love it because it’s just for us. Because we love it together, totally separate from work and babies and the life life life that marches on around us. Because the time we get to feed our brains and open our eyes is unbelievably precious in an ocean of nappies and normality. Because, in short, we both know how to appreciate a really massive piece of popcorn under a sunny sky.

Same time next year, yes? Maybe next time, when I have the option of bending over, we’ll camp.

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Socks and skylights: a story about love

For I am in love with you
and this is what it is like or what it is like in words.

Carol Ann Duffy

There was a moment, years ago. Before babies and broken nights, when just living in each other’s space, revolving in the same ordinary orbit, neither of us driving home in a cold car at the end of the evening, was wonderful luxury. I picked up his socks from the side of the bed and was amazed that we’d made it here, that we’d ever got close enough to think about each other’s socks. He closed the drawers I left open (frequently). In our clean, lovely flat. Our huge, white bed, and tiny kitchen. And all of it we’d chosen together, these bits of a life shared.

Anyway, this moment. 4am. I woke up and there was rain hammering on the skylight, wind beating against the wall in the dark to be let in. It’s a cold and lonely thing to hear in the early hours, in a new, half-empty house. I turned over and Timothy turned with me, asleep, his heavy arm settling over me. I was safe. And he would offer up all the warmth and solidity I wanted in the middle of the night, everything he had, for as long as I wanted it, because he couldn’t help being himself. And somehow, unimaginably, I did the same for him. We fit.

That was the moment I knew I’d landed in exactly the right place. I wish I could describe it better than that. But that’s only how it is in words.

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There are twelve of these heart clips hidden around the house today. In a minute I’m going to have to ring him up for a clue…

Happy Valentine’s Day! We go on a bit about the hearts and flowers, but on a day that celebrates love, please know that you are fiercely loved by lots of people, whoever you are. And our lives are more lovely because of it.

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