The first thing I did after putting the kettle on this morning was to peep through the blinds to see whether even a few flakes of the snow causing near havoc in many other parts of the country had managed to find their way over towards to Bristol Channel. Nope - nada, rien, a big fat zilch.
With no reluctance whatsoever, I climbed back into bed with a steaming mug of tea and biscuits for me and a beaker of milk and a biscuit for her: I get the M&S Pistachio and Almond Cookies and she gets the Tesco Malted Milks. Is that a bit too Mr Wormwood from Matilda? No, actually, it's fair enough - Marks' Cookies are too good for children.
An hour, 2 episodes of Peppa Pig and a fight to wash her hair in the shower later, I switched on the Christmas tree lights and then had another peek - LOOK, it's snowing! Finally! Horray!! We pulled the blinds wide open and My Girl stood on the window sill to *Gasp* and *Wow* at the sight of snow on the hills of Somerset, snow on the roofs of all the houses, snow on the roads and snow on the terrace.
"I want to go out in the snow, Mummy!"
So, of course we did, up to the Woods of Worlebury Hill:
Sometimes I think we must have the best back garden in the whole world ;0)
Yes, you did read right. You see, finally, the rain stopped: I would dance about it but that might be interpreted as a prompt for more. Instead, I pick My Girl up from Funny Bunnies, armed with fruit, drink and a woolly hat. The lack of cloud cover has welcomed the frostiness in and there is more than a nip in the air but at least it’s dry.
She jumps up from her chair and runs into my arms as I appear at the pre-school door: “Where we going today, Mummy?”
“We’re going to the beach. For a picnic.”
“Hooray!” Smiling excitedly, she tells her pre-school teacher. “We go to the beach.”
“Have you got your bucket and space?” her teacher asks. Er, no, I forgot about that and, anyway, I’m not sure I want to be sitting around, inactive, for too long after the food has gone. Not today.
“Have we got sandwiches, Mummy?”
We haven’t got sandwiches so we stop off at Astill’s in West Street to buy a warm sausage bap. I ask whether the sausages are local and the woman serving informs me that the pigs belong to the owner of the bakery, in Lympsham. You don’t get much more local than that.
The sea front is a building site and the part reconstruction of the old Grand Pier seems so out of place in our beautiful bay but at least you can still see all of Brean Down through it. The promenade is looking good and feels safe now the sea defences separate the pedestrians from the busy road.
We go onto the sand and almost straight away sit on the new wall to enjoy our plump sausages while they’re still warm. Lovely. I stare at the Channel, at Brean and Knightstone Island: we really should venture down here more often. I get out my camera.
“Mummy, are you taking photos of the picnic?” Yes, of the picnic, of My Beautiful Girl, of the vista, of footprints.
My ulterior motive for picnicking on the beach in full winter is to get some shots of any footprints left on the beach by other people. It’s for a new website I’m working on, which is dedicated to open spaces in the UK and tried and tested picnic spots such as this. Because so few Westonians are brave/fool enough to stroll on the beach on such a freezing cold day, my options are limited so I stamp in the sand and make some prints of my own.
“Can I do that, Mummy?” My Girl runs along the wall and slides on a slimy moss-and-seaweed mixture and I’m impressed that she has landed on her bottom, legs in the air, while managing to cling onto her bap. She cries but is fine, a little damp and shocked but not hurt enough to neglect her food. She sits on my lap, transferring watery sand from her coat to mine: she’s taken her gloves off to eat and her hands are scarlet. A woman with a dog goes past and I snap evidence of this with my camera, pointing it at the floor.
“Come on, Lestie, let’s finish the berries later.” I cover her exposed fingers with her mittens, pack my bag and we chase each other along the sand, where we can’t slip but we can warm up a little. A workman opens the barrier for us at the Knightstone entrance and, once My Girl has overcome her mistrust of the noisy digger, we speed down the ramp to Marine Lake. Her gloves are off again.
“Mummy, look, I throw seaweed into the sea. You do it too.” I wince as I take off my own gloves to grab the wet seaweed. She thinks this is brilliant so we throw some more into the water, counting as we go. I think she’s trying to reaching the seagulls bobbing on the Lake.
“Mummy, I’m cold.” We dry her hands and pop the gloves back on. I emit a grunting sound as I mount my heavy daughter, clad in at least four layers of clothes, onto my shoulders. We say goodbye to the beach, the footprints, the seaweed and the building work and head up to Nanny and Grandad’s for a well-deserved hot chocolate.
Each week the articulate and funny Josie at Sleep is for the Weak posts five writing prompts in her Writing Workshop and invites us all to add more than a pinch of our own creativity. This is my first contribution to the WW and I've taken the prompt "Put yourself into the mindset of someone else," for which I've tried to get into My Girl's head. Thanks Josie, here it is:
A couple of weeks ago, an old friend Facebooked me that she had spare tickets to visit Father Christmas in his Harrods’ Grotto so I thought I’d knock several robins out of their Norwegian Spruce with one glittering bauble and take My Girl to London.
She’d been a few times as a baby, when having her with me was no more complicated than hauling around an extra piece of cooing luggage that needs a full breast and a bum wipe every now and then. In toddlerhood, I visited without her because I have a degree of common sense and because I’m lucky enough to have parents who are happy to have their grand-daughter to stay over with them for periods of longer than a couple of hours. So I’ve enjoyed the occasional Big City re-fresh at a gig, show or wedding. Ah, re-fresh.
Now she’s well into her fourth year, My Girl knows what’s going on and is ready to test life outside of our own little triangle of Woods-Quarry-Beach.
Let’s go and strike those robins:
On the day of departure, she pulled on her best-ever-charity-shop-buy fluffy purple Disco Diva mini-rucksack at 7:30 am and watched Milkshake, all ready for the mid-day train to London, keeping it there, on her back, until we arrived at my Nan’s at gone 4pm. On the train she was very well behaved but aren’t three year olds extremely loud in confined spaces? Drawing is loud. Reading Julia Donaldson books is loud. Playing roll the squash bottle is loud.
The Flat in Pimlico is home-from-home: after a visit from my cousins, together with an almost edible one week old baby boy, My Girl went to bed at the normal 7pm, I watched Corrie with a cup of tea and me Nan, curling up with a Kathy Reichs’ book in the double bed next to my snoring daughter by 10pm. A lack of signal on my mobile and no computer access meant a real holiday for me. In the morning, I had my prescribed couple of cuppas and she watched her usual Milkshake. A steady morning and then it was time to hit the West End, meet a couple of friends and show My Girl the sights of London.
Sometimes it’s so easy to forget that our children are brand new people and that there are so many first-time experiences for them, isn’t it?
This is how one little girl seemed to see things:
Tubes – Look at all these people! That tunnel is so dark! Feel that fast wind on my face when the train comes. Woo-hoo. If I hold this pole in the middle of the train, how far back can I lean without falling over? Isn’t it noisy in here? Can we go on another one please?
Escalators – Weeee. This is brilliant. We’re really high up. I think these moving stairs are the best thing ever. I want to go backwards. I can balance and I don’t even need to hold Mummy’s hand. Let go Mummy, I can do it by my own. That’s really interesting; look how dirty my cream coat gets when I rub it along the metal side.
Buskers – What’s that lady doing in the middle of the tunnel? She’s making music by blowing that big metal thing. I want to watch some more of this. Can we stand here for ages Mummy? I can’t even close my mouth, I’m so astonished. Isn’t she wonderful? Yes, I’ll put the coin in the box. Bye bye lady.
Father Christmas’ Grotto (Day 1) – Ooh, that pretty lady who is all dressed up has put PINK fairy dust on my hands, I like that. Knock, knock. That’s Father Christmas, he’s very big and his beard is huge. I’m not sure I want to get too close to him though. Oh, he knows my name and he’s given me a big chocolate coin and a book and a badge. Can I put the badge on? He’s nice. Can I give you another hug, Father Christmas? Can we take another photo of us standing together Father Christmas? I want a scooter please. Bye bye. Oh, hello Mrs Christmas, can I hug you too? What a friendly place.
Oxford Street’s Crowds – Tsch, I’ve seen people before: I’m not fazed at all.
Christmas Lights – There are loads of them in the sky, on buildings, in the shop windows and they are all different colours but I’m not too impressed really.
Carnaby Street – Look, Mummy, Look. A big PINK reindeer flying high above us. And massive hearts with writing on them. There’s another PINK reindeer and another one. I want to sit down now. I like it here; it’s happy.
Leicester Square – I want a Burger King.
Trafalgar Square – Can I please stand in the rain and watch all the people singing underneath that really big Christmas tree? I’ll put my hood up. And I can jump on the steps. I’m not even tired and it’s been dark for ages.
Science Museum (Day 2) – What’s that, Mummy? Oh. An astronaut? He goes to the moon in his rocket? He has to go in his rocket when it’s night-time though Mummy, doesn’t he? Ooh, here’s a big tunnel. I shout my name and Mummy’s name in it and I can hear it again, it’s called a echo. Look, I made a flower out of magnets, they’re all stuck together. And I built a really tall tower with numbers on it and then I knocked it down. Hooray, I made my own puppet show. Can we stay in here a bit longer. Please ….?
In short, it was a chilled-out yet exciting affair. Tucking her into her own bed last night, I asked here what she’d done in London, wondering which aspect of her mind-expanding journey had embedded itself the most. I was sure it would be the tubes or the escalators or the echo.
“I watched Peppa Pig at Great-Nanny Josie’s,” she said. “I saw the one about Teddy’s Day Out.”
Do you ever lay in bed at night and have all these ideas to share and you want to get up again but you know that to do so would be detrimental to tomorrow and your mood of it?
Last night I was mulling over all this stuff I wanted to tell you, which seemed witty and lol-able to me then, when I was snug and wrapped up in my sun-yellow duvet. Now, in the cold light of this December day, I'm struggling to remember any of it. My Mum would say, 'It couldn't have been very important then.'
Mostly, in that time between awake and asleep, the events of the previous 16 hours whizz around in my head and so, yesterday, that would have been Peppa Pig and Footprints. Oh yeah, and assuaging my guilt with the help of Mummy Pig, curiously. And knitting. Let's take them in that order then:
Peppa Pig is My Girl's program-du-jour and I'm lucky because it's one of the better ones, in my opinion: sweet with the odd bit of snorting and colourful without being Tweenie-sickly. The trouble is that the episodes are so short. No, the trouble is that the episodes are so short AND I've recorded them on BT Vision, which means I have to actively scan through the Recordings on my box. God, that sounds so lazy! But when you have a 3 year old directing you, 'Mummy, I want Grandad Dog's Garage,' 'No, Mummy, that's not Rebecca Rabbit's House,' you may as well not bother trying to get anything else done.
And what I'm trying to get done (with success) is ...Ta-da .... a new website called Only Footprints, dedicated to all those open spaces we can enjoy in this beautiful country, whether they be parks, beaches, moors, woodlands, walks, public gardens .... the list is endless. The site is now live and the twitter account is gaining followers, so it must go from strength to strength. Only Footprints is looking for contributors, people to write reviews of their favourite outdoor spots, send in photos, write poems, whatever is your thing really. Please take a look and email us with your thoughts and ideas. Plug Done. But I'll be back, don't you worry.
So, I'm feeling the Guilt because, while I'm pfaffing about on the computer, Celeste is behind me, playing by herself: building brick towers, throwing parties for Noddy and Fairy, making art, watching Peppa. She interacts with other kids at least 3 hours per day, 5 days per week though, then we go to the park, woods, beach, town or quarry most days and we eat and play together - yesterday I role-played a bridge, which is better than role-playing a road, I suppose, or a plank. And although she has every thing she needs and more, I DO sometimes feel I should be giving her more of my time. Is this just me? Do you suffer from this? Am I being hard on myself? Am I being hard on her?
Here's where Mummy Pig comes in. One of My Girl's favourite episodes of Peppa Pig is called Work and Play, in which Mummy Pig works from home on the computer while George sits on her lap, mini-grunting, and Peppa goes to playgroup with all her friends. Mummy is not playing, she's working: educational, thanks Mummy Pig.
And Knitting! Aha. A small group of us have just set up a Tea, Toast and Knitting Group and yesterday was our first get together. A small collective of six ladies turned up with our balls and needles at Loves Cafe in Weston, two of us having never knitted before, me being one of them. After sitting, post-tea and -chat, in the swing area of Grove Park with my Number 6's and a charity shop mass of cream wool, clickety-clacking away, I can safely say that I think I may already be hooked. I even managed to knit 3 rows in bed last night, trying to get my mind off Peppa Pig, Footprints and guilt ....