On the day my country changed forever


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BrexitMartha wakes up, gives me a big hug and says “I love you, Mummy.” Rosa asks for pink nail varnish on her toes as she’s just seen me touching up my own for a work night out later on. They don’t understand why Matt and I are feeling unsettled this morning, talking politics and reeling at the news I discovered when I checked my phone at 5.20am and saw “Britain votes for Brexit” appear on the screen.

It was pretty hard to go back to sleep after that. What are the ramifications of this momentous decision – for our jobs, our life, our country? How can our thoughts and beliefs be so out of touch with over half of the population? I am shocked, angry, disappointed. I don’t blame any of the Leave voters – many are people that feel disenfranchised by politics, threatened by immigration, ignored by the elites as they struggle with the policies of austerity and an increasingly London-centric worldview. I agree with them in many ways; the political and economic world we live in is not one I’m happy with either, but as one of my friends posted on social media earlier I feel that this result is the wrong answer to the wrong question. It hasn’t really been about Europe at all, just two fingers up to those in power who have ignored the concerns of so many people for so long.

In some ways, I’m in awe of the democracy of the vote; it has given people a voice in a way that our First Past the Post electoral system never has. The people have spoken and made their decision. But with 48% voting in opposition to Brexit (74% in my city and 75% of under-24s) how can we prevent our country being divided so starkly? How can we move on to a new system of government which preserves many of the good aspects of EU influence: the motivation to protect our environment, improve workers’ rights and work to tackle the big 21st century problems of climate change, inequality, food and fuel security, global terrorism and mass migration?

And that last issue is one that seems to have become synonymous with this referendum and many people’s reason for voting as they did. I don’t think anyone believes that there shouldn’t be some controls on immigration in this country, but I would also like to belong to a country with a welcoming outlook on the world: a compassionate approach to refugees fleeing war and terrorism, an open invite to those who wish to study (on valuable paid-for courses) in our world-renowed centres of education and a collaborative perspective on those who come to work here, pay taxes and call this place home. I have many colleagues who are EU nationals; some have been here for 20 years or more, have married and had children here but now feel unwelcome and scared about their futures. I’m scared too, because I’m not sure what the future holds. I want it to be a positive step forward to a fairer country, one that remains open to trade with and influence the world in a spirit of hope and justice, but I’m fearful that it might become an insular, selfish island instead, one that blindly protects our own interests without caring how that impacts on the world at large. But for now, like everyone else, I must wait and hope and do what I can to contribute to the country and world I’d like to live in. The time for grieving is over, the time for action begins.

Siblings: Spring 2016


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Siblings-Apr2016-1I may have mentioned that work is a little busy recently, and more this year since I no longer have a job share colleague. This obviously has its downsides, but one of the upsides is that I get to personalise my desk a little more and I have pinned up this photo above to keep me smiling when I need a bit of motivation!

It’s my two little siblings in Cornwall during the Easter holidays and one of my current favourites. We’ve had lots of comments recently about Rosa being a good big sister: taking Martha to meet Emily the dolly at music group, holding her hand over the zebra crossing near nursery, helping her put on her coat and shoes and just generally looking out for her in lots of different situations. Just as well as her big sister skills will be put to the test even more in a couple of months’ time!

It’s not always like that of course (one of Martha’s current well-used phrases is “That’s not very nice, Rosa!”), but generally they get on very well and play some lovely games together. The best ones are imaginative play – going shopping or swimming with dollies, riding bikes in the garden to ‘school’, dressing up as firefighters, doctors or princesses. Surprisingly, rough and tumble play goes down well too; I recently went to intervene in a game involving the sofa cushions in which I could hear Rosa saying to Martha, “Look at my mighty strength!”, only to find them wrestling and giggling uncontrollably with the fun of it all. And nobody seemed to be hurt or bothered. Far more likely to cause conflict is when one of them is concentrating on some specific game of their own devising using Mr Men playing cards or Thomas books or Lego figures and the other one wants to play too, but messes up the ‘system’. Another good example from Martha (and two of her best sentences): “No Rosa, this is my campervan. You play with your campervan.” This occasionally leads to hitting, or shouting, or hair-pulling…

But, each morning, whoever is up earliest is delighted once her sibling is up too and there are plenty of cuddles and kisses and talk of “my sister!” from Martha or sometimes “my favourite sister in the world!” from Rosa and quite a lot of wanting to copy what the other one is doing or saying or dressing in (which works both ways). And, I have just realised while writing this that, as the blog has been fairly neglected recently, I have not yet revealed here that the “baby in mummy’s tummy” is also a “baby sister!” as Martha puts it, followed by a quick check of “Boy?” (No) “Girl!” Another little daughter to join in with the dollies, firefighting and living room wrestling…

Two more photos of my big two sisters having fun together in Cornwall:


Magical Mummy days


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GirlsandDollsI’m on the final countdown to my third maternity leave at work now and entering the busy summer season, so things are inevitably quite busy. There are days when I’m later than I’d like picking the girls up from nursery and some evenings when I don’t quite make it back for bedtime at all. And sometimes that bothers me; I curse the fact that I always find myself in demanding jobs that don’t pay amazingly, but take away precious family time or I feel guilty that I’m not there joining in the family bedtime stories and song.

But then I tell myself that actually the proportion of days when we’re not both there for breakfast and bedtime are really few and far between. We both work in the city we live in, close enough to cycle to the office and share the nursery pick-ups. We hardly ever have to be away with work (I’ve done so just once since Rosa was born). And, best of all, neither of us work full time, so a missed half hour on a work day is easily made up by a full day together a day or two later. These things are not just luck, we have made choices (and some sacrifices) to make it that way and they are among the best decisions we’ve ever made. Working part-time has its pressures, but working full-time – or both working full-time – would be even more stressful I think. And the house would be even less clean and tidy than it normally is!

So Mondays and Tuesdays are my little oases in the working week; the times when I tackle the housework, buy birthday presents or children’s shoes, visit friends, go to medical appointments and generally catch up on the admin of life. They are also the times when the girls and I get up slowly, potter and play, read lots of books and just sit chilling and chatting. I do like being productive, but I’m also easily distracted so it’s a doddle to draw me into the building of a marble run or a game of Dinosaur Race. Or a group photo of Rosa, Martha, me and a big row of dolls…

MummyMondayThis photo is special to me too, because not only was it a fun play photo session (also involving the picture at the top of the post!), but it ended up being one of the last days that Rosa could claim the toddler bed as hers! A couple of days later we dug the spare single bed out of storage and tried to squeeze it into the same room, but as this meant the bedroom no longer had any room to play around the orphanage-style bed layout, we’ve now swapped the toddler bed for the cot in Martha’s room and Rosa has the single bed – and play space. For some reason, all the furniture moving made me feel a bit emotional; just another sign that our children are growing and changing, and freeing up the cot for their baby sister I suppose!

Discussions on death


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CloudsA BBC news item is marking 20 years since the Dunblane massacre and Rosa’s ears tune into the last sentence of the headline. “It said the teacher was shot dead, Mummy. Like R’s dead.”

R was Rosa’s teacher, or nursery keyworker, of the last 18 months or so, tragically killed recently in a car crash. “R lives in a cloud now,” she adds. I don’t remember introducing the sky concept, but go with it anyway. “Or perhaps in a star?”

“No Mummy, because clouds are warmer than stars. And God lives in a cloud.”

“Well stars are definitely warmer than clouds, but perhaps they’d be too warm because they’re a bit like balls of fire you can see from a long way away.”

Content with the fact that she is right and both R and God are living in a cloud, the conversation ends, but I’m intrigued by these little glimpses into her concept of death and how she faces it. When I checked my emails on a work lunchbreak and clicked on the attached letter that broke the news, I felt so shocked and distressed myself, I dreaded how R would take it. She’s often very sensitive to others’ emotions and although we had talked about death a few times since an elderly friend at church passed away last year, I was pretty sure that she thought you only died if you were 100, or thereabouts. So, after some research on how to approach the topic – honestly, but not graphically; answering all questions in the most age-appropriate way possible, without using euphemistic language like ‘lost’ or ‘fell asleep’ – we sat down that evening to answer the question “Why did Daddy say ‘Oh dear’ when you were on the phone at lunchtime, Mummy?”

The response that came back was very matter-of-fact. The questions that came were “What colour was the car?” and “What happened to it?”, then later “How did you find out?” and “When will I get a new teacher?” It was strangely hurtful to see her take the loss of someone she saw so regularly so easily while I was grieving more than I thought I would for someone I didn’t know that much, but I suppose it made things easier to cope with in many ways. Perhaps, having lost a teacher recently to a new job, it seemed the same to her or perhaps death was just a fact at the moment, not scary or sad, or filled with regret. As a parent, I grieved for the aching gap her family must be experiencing, for the future she’d never live and the children she’d never encourage to blossom, as she had mine. I could hear her voice in my head from the recent parent session we’d had with her and was so sad she wouldn’t see Rosa’s ‘graduation’ from nursery to big school as she’d done so much to encourage and support her development.

She’ll be remembered though. Not just through the “special book for R” which I confused Rosa with as she struggled to understand how her nursery manager would manage to get it to the cloud (“sorry no, it’s for R’s mummy and daddy”) and the memorial piece of furniture that is planned too, but also in our hearts. There are many kind and caring people working in nurseries, but only a few who stand out. They are the ones who are always smiling, whatever the day’s challenges. They see each child’s unique skills and encourage those, while also being humble enough to play a monster in a 3-year old’s game or dress up in a funny outfit while singing silly songs. R was one of those special ones. In a cloud or not, she should be very proud of what she achieved in her short career.

The photo above is one of Rosa’s own, taken on holiday in Norfolk last year.

Two years


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Martha-2ndbirthdayTwo years. Or 731 days, as it’s a leap year this year. It’s gone so fast, particularly the last six months, as at the start of them you weren’t walking or talking much, but now you are astounding your grandparents with full sentences like “My slippers are on the table” or “I like playing cupcakes too!”

This morning, you woke early and sat in bed while your sleepy parents rested their eyes, reciting the animal rhyme from What the Ladybird Heard – “The cow said ‘Moo!’ and the hen said ‘Cluck!’…” – as you turned the pages looking for the tiny red ladybird, just like you did at the live theatre show which we went to see for your birthday as a special treat last weekend. Today was more of a home day, spending time investigating all the exciting presents you’d received, playing games (including the favourite cupcake one!), reading stories, helping make scrambled eggs (another one of your favourite things) and eating cake! Rosa and I also decided that the reason it was so rainy this morning was that the weather knew that another one of your favourite things to do in the world was jump in puddles, so we did a bit of that as well on an afternoon walk!

We had a parents’ catchup with nursery last week: they described you as headstrong, independent and affectionate – all true reflections of the little girl we see at home. Your stubborn tantrums don’t usually last long though, as you’re easily distracted and quick to laugh, dissolving into infectious giggles at almost anything, often followed shortly afterwards by amusing hiccups. “It’s funny!” is one of my favourite phrases of yours at the moment.

You’re different to your big sister in so many ways, but love to look up to her and copy her or grab her round the waist for a sisterly hug. In the next few months you’ll be a big sister yourself too and we can’t wait to see you hug and kiss the new baby in the same way that you love and care for its growing bump!


Siblings: February 2016


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OODnight baby, OODnight now!
OODnight baby-tummy, see you very soon!

Whenever people have asked me what the girls think about getting a sibling, I have generally said that Rosa is excited, but Martha doesn’t really understand yet. This month though, that all changed. At bedtime, Martha has become the number one cheerleader for singing our special bedtime song to baby (and yes, that is quite a realistic representation of her speech, which has come on in leaps and bounds and now includes several whole sentences). After the song, Martha lifts my top to give baby-tummy a kiss, followed by a hug with her cheek placed against my skin and then orders everyone else to follow suit. “Rosa’s turn! Baby kiss!” “Daddy’s turn!”

Her developments in speech are starting to put her on a more even footing with her big sister now. There is no more biting and a bit less pushing as she uses words to get her own back for months of being bossed around. I had to smile as she sat in her highchair and shouted out “Rosa, sit properly!”, a ripost to every time she’s been told to put this here or that there or stop snatching/start sharing etc!

Mostly though, I love the times when the house is filled with the peaceful pottering of imaginary play – various dollies (and often children) in states of undress as they go to nursery or swimming lessons, on holiday or to the shops, enjoying picnics and stories and lots of being put in and out of the dolly pushchair. And the times when both girls are in fits of giggles playing chase or wriggly worms or something that is absolutely hilariously amusing for no obvious reason at all. The type of games you can only play with a sibling, so I’m so glad my two have each other to share them with.

Siblings-Feb2016-2 Siblings-Feb2016-3

This month’s photos: sunset pebble-collecting on Brighton beach, pyjama secrets and indulging Mummy’s whim for a cold February picnic!

2015 in review: December


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December was a month of reindeers, sparkly lights, and carol services but, most of all, family. We travelled to Cardiff, Cirencester and Cornwall to catch up with our nearest and dearest…and wave bon voyage to some. It was a fun Christmas with special news and two girls who were excited by stockings from Santa and baby Jesus in the manger scene at church. Two little angels who sometimes sounded a little less angelic when giving us rousing renditions of the Christmas songs from nursery!

2015 in review: October


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Oct2015October brought coughs, a chimney sweep and visits from and to grandparents (thanks Grandad W for this family rainbow photo). We barn-danced at Harvest, carved pumpkins at Halloween, began looking at primary schools for next year and started passing on the photography bug to the next generation…


Rosa strikes a pose…


…and after a month of using anything with a hole as a play camera and shouting “Cheese!”, Martha stumbles across this item and makes us all laugh!