Saturday, September 29, 2007

Family Complete

Story contd.

I was so relieved the ceiling hadn’t fallen on me and my little son;my Guardian angel was on duty that day. After I had settled him in his cot I crept downstairs to phone William and tell him what had happened. He came home straight away and I persuaded him that I was fine and didn’t need to see the doctor but we had to do something about the ceiling. In those days work-men actually came when they said they would and although the builder couldn’t promise to reproduce the elaborate moulding exactly - he made a good job of it and the house stayed sound from then on.

Just one more surprise. I went down to the cellar one day to fill the brass coal bucket and was amazed to find the cellar floor hidden by a small lake. I hastily retreated and phoned poor William. By the time he got home the water had disappeared. Although no-one had told us, there was a well in the cellar which would over flow after extremely heavy rains. Nothing to worry about.

It was the custom then to have the first baby in hospital and the second- if all was well – at home. There were two midwives, one who was shaped like a hedgehog; she was dry with a twinkle so we christened her Mrs Tiggy Winkle and prayed she would be on duty for the birth. The other one was skinny with glasses and an expression as if she had just eaten bitter aloes. She was very dismissive when she saw the new single bed we had bought. It had a rounded bottom which seemed to incense her and she said it was far too low and must be put up on blocks.

We had set the bed up in the playroom on the ground floor where it looked out onto the back garden. William had a brainwave – as he thought – got eight breeze blocks from the garage and elevated the bed. I really lost my cool when I saw them – dirty, cumbersome and with the odd wood louse crawling over them. They quickly disappeared and were replaced by neat wooden blocks.

By now William was working for the MOD (Ministry of Defence) and had a reasonable amount of leave so he took time off to look after me during the birth and help with # 1 son and the new baby. To my delight it was Mrs Tiggy who was on duty when I started. It was lunch time and she said she had nobody else due so would stay with me. We all tucked into a stew I had made, and she said she knew when I was having a contraction as my face went ‘all pink.’

After she examined me she warned that I would probably have quite a small baby. It was a long afternoon and I remember lurching through the hall to answer the phone and having a strong urge to delay the whole thing for a month or two. Fat chance! We had a fire glowing in the play-room and the bed facing the window and Mrs Tiggy was concerned about the draught when the door was opened so we moved the bed and blocks against the back wall – much more satisfactory.

When it was bed-time for my son and William took him up for his bath Mrs Tiggy said,

‘Let’s try and have the baby before your husband gets down again.’

And we actually managed it with my special breathing coming up trumps and soon there was that delightful bawl from a new born baby. A beautiful boy and a glorious 8 pounds – a whole pound heavier then his brother. The one certain thing about midwifery is that nothing is certain. William was thrilled, I was thrilled and the nurse said I had done brilliantly. But – she was terribly sorry – she had tried to hold it together but the old wound had torn and I would have to have stitches. She knew what was coming.

Old Dr Rigg’s house backed onto mine so he was there in a trice and I had a repeat performance of the suturing with no local anaesthetic. Why the hell didn’t I protest but one feels so weak and helpless and it was again a bitter irony that I managed the birth like a trooper and then had to try to gag my screams with the inadequate gas and air mask. Poor William heard and later told my sister he couldn’t put me through that again and I made a decision that this was going to be my family – complete. I had always visualised a little girl (who later appeared as my first grand-daughter) but I would never change my two sons, not for all the tea in China.

When no-one was looking I sneaked to the phone – just outside the door - and phoned Mum. She hit the roof and ordered me back to bed out of ‘ that draughty hall’. Then my sister Mattie and husband turned up with a bottle of champagne which I wouldn’t touch as I intended to start feeding my sturdy little son. Eventually the guests left, William went up to bed and I was left alone in the firelight with him and felt a great thrill of happiness – all pain forgotten. We decided to have a go at this feeding business and – like his brother he clamped on with relish.

Normally with breast fed babies they have a sticky stool- meconium - for the first 24 hours but this little boy was so determined he had a normal stool by morning. It was an icy February morning and the daffodils were out in the garden. I wondered what the brothers would think of each other. I heard William bringing #1son downstairs. I’d soon find out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Coffee at Joy’s


Joy’s house is an Aladdin’s cave full of treasures and memorabilia from their times in Rangoon and other foreign places but what caught my eye – she’d been having a clear out which means looking at her treasures, giving them a dust and deciding to hang on to them – what caught my eye were the following: - her husband’s christening gown – 78 years old, her daughters 30 year old wedding dress and a 50th wedding anniversary present.

The photo of the lane reminds me of the moment MTL and I first walked up it and knew before we saw the house we were going to live here.

We had a laugh when Joy said her husband asked what we talked about; what did we think of the Conservatives?

See photos below
The lane
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The christening gown

The wedding dress


50th wedding anniversary present
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Girl Talk


Inside every older person is a younger person -- wondering what the hell happened.
Cora Harvey Armstrong

Inside me lives a skinny woman crying to get out. But I can usually shut
the bitch up with cookies.

The hardest years in life are those between ten and seventy.
Helen Hayes (at 73)

I refuse to think of them as chin hairs. I think of them as stray
Janette Barber

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first one being --
hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.
Erma Bombeck

Old age ain't no place for sissies.
Bette Davis

Thirty-five is when you finally get your head together and your body
starts falling apart.
Caryn Leschen

If you can't be a good example -- then you'll just have to be a horrible

I'm not going to vacuum 'til Sears makes one you can ride on.
Roseanne Barr

Behind every successful man is a surprised woman.
Maryon Pearson

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Here comes Autumn
Oh wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
You, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing.

‘Ode to the West Wind’
Percy Bysshe Shelley

I’m going to try Nea’s (see side bar) idea and leave the leaves to do their own thing, but wandering round the garden I’m pleased that in spite of doing zilch in the way of gardening this year, there is still colour around.
Thank goodness for Michaelmas daisies. They have been here forever and appear every year.

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Jasmine which scents the house and the balcony

Streptocarpus - the colour is wrong - the red is really fuschia - don't know why it has come out like this

Salvia which blooms for months and months and has a funny pungent smell

See the copper coloured grass? When it grows really long I plait it. I never had a daughter you see:)
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Friday, September 21, 2007

The Giddy heaven fell

“Unless the giddy heaven fall,
And earth some new conclusion tear;
And, us to join, the world should all,
Be cramped into a planisphere.

Andrew Marvell 1621-1678
Story contd

By the time we got home I was certain that was the house for us. William agreed but was more cautious.

“It’s a hell of a responsibility to take on. We’d have to get it properly surveyed.”

I agreed. My sister Maddie was now working in London for an architect and said she knew just the man. We met up with him at the house and after, what we hoped was a thorough going over, he said the house was sound and if we were in love with we should go ahead. He also said that he and his wife had just bought a farm –house they fell in love with, in spite of a doubtful survey. He mentioned that the two steps down from the kitchen to the scullery could be a nuisance but it never bothered me.
Later when the children would stow toys in the washing machine causing it to flood I was thankful for the brick floor, where the water would just drain through out to the garden.

We sold our house making a small profit and had our offer on the Victorian house accepted. One of my girl friends offered to have baby whilst we moved in, which we gratefully accepted. Miraculously he didn’t fret at all and we were very proud of him. Mind you I think he was spoilt rotten whilst he was there.

We were under close scrutiny by the neighbours when we moved in, and as I was wearing tartan trousers from my modelling days, they were convinced we were Scottish. We had a lot of space to fill but Dodie, my mother- in- law, helped out with a carpet or two and sister- in- law Fleur had her late mother’s furniture stored in the garage some of which found its way to us. There was so much wall space and I started a life long collection of pictures and drawings – mostly repros but some originals.

Heating was a bit of a problem and to supplement the open fires and ideal boiler, we had paraffin stoves, gas and electricity fires. All had to be carefully guarded with a toddler in the house and I was thankful for the old wooden play-pen where I could safely leave my son. We designated one room as the playroom and he quickly learned to push the play pen up against the door so I couldn’t get in again and would have to go round to the window outside and persuade him to back off.

As usual, when pregnant, I was getting larger by the day and one day I left him playing in the hall whilst I went to use the downstairs loo. Suddenly I heard a noise, went to open the door and realised my little monkey had pushed the iron bolt across. As I said before the old lady had been very security conscious and had put bolts on both sides of the door. I could see my son’s navy blue eye staring at me through the key-hole.

“Darling just push the bolt back for Mummy please. Good boy darling.”

But darling thought this was an exciting new game and just said.

“Mummy! Mummy!”

This went on for quite some time and I became increasingly panicked. Thank God we were on the ground floor and there was a window with a complicated screw bolt. I had to stand on the loo (it was encased in a mahogany base and could withstand my weight) then lurch sideways to open the window. Somehow I managed to lever myself out, walk round the back of the house and let myself in to the kitchen and found little sunshine with his eye still glued to the key hole. Lessons were learned.

We were settling in happily. William seemed to enjoy his job and relished having a pleasant drive rather than a commute. I missed my friends and my wonderful help but found that with a small child and one on the way people were very friendly. One problem I had was of my own making. After we lost our beloved corgi- Havoc – I thought it would be nice to buy another for William so that he could have the dog – Sharon, to train whilst I had the baby. Unfortunately Sharon was untrainable and was the bane of my life. Any clothes hanging around were ruined but worst of all she would get out of the house at every opportunity and run into the road causing chaos.

At the end of the road lived a lady dress-maker who bred valuable dogs and when Sharon got out and attacked her miniature pincer ( I think it was) she said regretfully that unless we got rid of Sharon she would have to sue us. I was desperate and finally she said she knew lots of doggy people and knew just the chap who would be able to train Sharon. I was so relieved having been at my wits end. Sharon went off to what we were assured would be a good home and we got a feed –back that she was behaving and all was well.

Another week later we heard there were problems and would we have her back. Neither the dress- maker nor we were prepared to risk it so she stayed put and I thanked God I didn’t have to cope with her. Again lessons were learned.

All in all it was a fairly eventful pregnancy. One day I was carrying my son slowly up the stairs for our post lunch nap, reached his cot and heard a thunderous noise. The top of the stairs was shrouded in white powdery clouds. The hall ceiling had collapsed.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where are you?


Just lately - with many blog friends gone to earth - I have been casting my bread upon the waters(you get a lot of soggy crusts that way) And I have a plea. The first thing I want to know is where are you? Tavistock or Timbuctoo? So very many have no 'location' - not even on the profile. Why is that? And am I the only one who cares?
And then there's sex. Or should I better say gender. It really isn't clear always and I have found I have been mildly flirtatious with a laydee.

Just a thought!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


“Sir – At 81, I live in small sheltered bungalow, suffering from severe arthritis in all my joints, degeneration of the spine, diabetes, high blood pressure and occasional bouts of atrial fibrillation. Just over a year ago, I underwent surgery for cancer. Do I let it all get me down? No.

I do not have enough hours in the day. I paint, collect stamps, read, do the Telegraph crosswords, and use my computer, and go on holiday to Europe three or four times a year. It saddens me that I can no longer walk as much as I did, but I hobble to the village when necessary.

I go to aquatherapy classes twice a week to keep my joints mobile and I wake every morning thanking God I am alive, especially when the sun shines and I see snowdrops and daffodils already in bloom. I would like to go on another 20 years as long as my brain remains in good working order.

At the cancer clinic recently, the nurse said I looked younger than she did. My reply was that I am a great believer in positive thinking. There is still so much I want to do and time goes so quickly that I doubt I shall succeed, but in the meantime I shall keep trying and try not to think about dying.
Kay Alexander
South Brent, Devon”

I keep this in my wallet to remind me to put a sock in it when I'm feeling blue.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Hedge Cutters Cometh


For weeks now the garden has looked like a scene from the Day of the Tryfidds. General Burgeoning and his troops invading our space and impeding our views. Chief Hedgecutter and his young muscular son Tree Lopper came to our rescue and after a day's heavy toil we can breath again.
If garden's have genders mine is a woman.

We can drive in without being scratched

Still quite a high hedge.

All neat and tidy.
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He is actually walking on the bays.
Don't do this at home.

Now we can see the church again

We can reach the side gate.

We can see over towards Wellington
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Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday Mutterings


This is a link to a laugh

I really hope this works. Randall (see side bar) sent it to me as it reminded him of one of our girl's day out. and then he sweetly sent me the where withal to put the link - the video itself - on my Monday's post, but Dash board - in their wisdom will not accept it.

If it doesn't work there will be an interval whilst I jump off the balcony.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Back to 1956


This is the photo I couldn't find when I did a post on my first pregnancy. That's me - the size of a small elephant - second from the right. On my right is my mother and on my left is Gran. It was the last time I saw her as she died after my son was born.
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Friday, September 14, 2007

The house - see post below. By the time this was taken I had replaced the laurel hedge with roses and lavender which caused much local head shaking
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The Garden of England

Story contd.

William’s new job meant a move from Surrey to Kent. All I knew about it was it was meant to be ‘the garden of England’ and there were lots of oast houses for the brewing of hops. Traditionally East Enders would move lock stock and barrel to Kent for the hop- picking season.

The house I had seen advertised in the Daily Telegraph was situated betwixt Tunbridge Wells (spelt with a u) and Tonbridge (spelt with an o). It had schools, shops, woods and a pretty green with church so William thought the area would be ideal. I couldn’t believe how different it seemed from Surrey and this worked in our favour because incredibly this house was in our price bracket.

Eileen – one of my girl friends was happy to have # 1 son whilst we went to inspect the house. First impressions were good – Tunbridge Wells (Royal TW as it liked to be known) was a spa town with lots of history, the famous Pantiles and a large hilly common. About two miles south was Southborough and we drove up a quiet cul de sac where the house was. It was Victorian, painted a pale grey with turquoise trimmings. By the side, on a cobbled path was a stable with an apple loft above. It was flanked by large holly trees and there was an unattractive, high laurel hedge in front. It was what they called a town house with the briefest bit of garden in front and a large walled garden at the rear.

I was delighted to see on the far side of the house was a path leading to a lockable door – ideal for taking the pram to the rear entrance. Daily walks were the norm in those days for mother and child. We walked down the path and let ourselves into the garden. It was very neglected but there was a large old pear tree which gave dappled sunlight and old apple trees. The garden was divided by an enormous yew hedge and there were rose beds and flower beds all tangled and full of weeds. Behind the hedge was an old vegetable garden. It was all a bit daunting.

The last person to live there had been an old lady and her housekeeper. A speculator had bought it, redecorated and put it on the market. I couldn’t wait to see inside. We returned to the front entrance and went through heavy double doors to a glass paned door. The entrance hall had a central staircase; the drawing room was on the left and the dining room on the right. They were both large with fireplaces and the dining room had a hatch to the kitchen. Behind the drawing room was another room which looked out onto the back garden and there was also a fireplace here. At the end of the hall was another entrance with an inner and outer door and all doors had heavy bolts top and bottom. Clearly the old lady had been very security conscious

There was a loo with the requisite bolts inside and outside, a larder and then the door to the kitchen where an ideal boiler was situated. Another door led down two steps in
to the garden room which had another little room off it. The remaining door in the hall went down to the cellar which the people next door with a similar house, had converted into a basement flat. Ours was given over to what seemed a lifetime’s store of coal and coke. There were also fire places in the bedrooms.

Half way up the stairs was a large bathroom and separate loo. The bathroom had a pretty old fireplace and would have been the* tweenie’s bed-room* On the first floor were five bed and dressing rooms- as they put it, and outside the rooms were mahogany let- down side tables for the maid to put the breakfast tray before opening the door. I always meant to count the doors in that house and never quite made it.

We were exhausted by the time we got back in the car.

‘What did you think?’ I asked William.

‘It’s a very good house.’ He said positively. I sighed regretfully.

‘It’s just too big.’

‘I suppose so.’ William knew his limitations and he was never a DIY man.

By the time we reached home I had mentally moved in. That house was crying out for a family. My family. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

‘On the other hand William…’

*tweeeny – house maid who lived between stairs.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Two new toys!

Just lately I have been hampered by the fact that the letters on my keyboard have disappeared and also my work station is a bit cramped so when we were in Taunton the other day I bought a new slim-line monitor and the next day bought a new key-board locally.
So exciting but I was nervous about commissioning them so delayed till yesterday. I was so pleased when they appeared to work - all except the sound. Then late last night - after much beavering I got it. It is so beautiful I had to show you, although I should have tidied first - I'm going to do that after breakfast. The top pic is the view from this room in the morning when the early sun glints on the water and I can see the sea. Another blow for the old trouts!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Walkers
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Walking for Alzheimers


I was delighted to read in our local rag that two women – Judy Bryant and Gill Darbyshire pictured above, are walking the Coleridge Way to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society. As some of you know they are two subjects close to my heart my much loved brother died of Alzheimers and by sheer coincidence I have been walking the Coleridge Way for nearly two years. Like me they are doing it in separate, but longer stretches, and expect to finish this week. I think it is an excellent idea - I wish I had thought of it myself and they deserve support. Judy’s mother is an
Alzheimer sufferer. Anything which brings public awareness to this dread disease deserves help.
If you wish to support the friends effort you can do so by ringing 01984 656591 or 01984 656420 – both Stogumber, Somerset numbers.
Good luck Judy and Gill and have a safe journey.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

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Atonement- the film

This is a wonderful film. One is transported to the hot summer of 1935. when I remember the girls wearing flimsy dresses of georgette and pure silk – before nylon reared its ugly head- the bright red lipstick and nail varnish and Marcel waves. I remember the chaps in flannels, open- necked shirts with brilliantined hair – blissfully unaware of the hell in store for them.

The film opens in the nursery of a mansion and the eye is entranced by the minutia as the camera travel upstairs and down stairs whilst we discover a world that no longer exists, where the children had more intimacy with the kitchen staff than their parents and where cigarettes, were ever present whether they were humble Woodbines f or the plebs or Balkan Sobranies for the toffs.

The story is absorbing, with many twists and turns. I don’t intend to give anything away but a couple near us started to exit at what seemed to be the end and then returned to their seat - it isn’t over until the credits appear. I had read about the wonderful tracking shot showing the total devastation at Dunkirk but particularly remember the reflection of bombers on a dyke, the poppy fields and the bizarre sight of a Ferris wheel going round and round. So many unforgettable images both lyrical and horrifying.

The acting is exemplary with Keira Knightley conveying the froideur and passion of her character with her beautiful face and angular body and James McAvoy perfect as the hero. There is a scene in a café where the lovers seem so stilted it’s almost ludicrous – not helped by all the parodies there have been of that era. But in fact we were that stilted then - especially when taking tea in a formal café.

The film, which is very emotional and moving, is enhanced by the music and there is one moment when the background music blends in with Debussy – very redolent of the times. If I could see it again tomorrow I would. You lucky people who have it to come. What no criticism? There is quite a lot of a clacking typewriter and the young sister tends to stomp. What is all this stomping? I noticed it with Helen Mirren playing the Queen and here there is even a band of nurses stomping down the corridor. Otherwise it’s perfect Take Kleenex.

PS Vanessa Redgrave has a small but telling part IMO the best thing she has ever done.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Joy’s Birthday Treat


Joy was in need of a treat; the previous day she had taken her disabled husband for a drive when the car started to stutter. We older folk only use our mobile phones for emergencies and often find we haven’t remembered to take them with us. They managed to limp into Wheddon Cross where the garage took charge of the car (new clutch needed) and drove them home.

Margaret was in charge of our outing –she who boldly goes down the narrow lanes where many of us fear to venture. She wanted us to see the heather which is excellent this year, so we drove up Porlock hill, over Exmoor towards Lynmouth and dropped down into the Brendon Valley. We remembered, in the early years of our friendship, having a picnic sitting on the rocks in the middle of the river.

We drove out of the valley onto the wild moor land where we could see for miles all around. As your eyes follow the horizon round in a circle it appears flat, but between where we were, Brendon Twogates and the horizon, are lovely dips and folds and combes. We saw the source of the river Exe and identified Combe Martin to the west, with a barely visible hill behind, which is named Great Hangman.

It was a perfect day and we drove on through Exford where we often lunch, to Simonsbath where Margaret had booked a table at the Exmoor Forest Inn. The smoked chicken salad I chose was given a delicious flavour with fig flavoured balsamic. I loved the nutty bread and when we had finished the waitress said she would leave the bread in case we wanted it later. No one did so I wrapped it in a paper napkin in case we were stranded and had to bivouac on Exmoor.

We all tried the Stiles ice cream- recommended by Granny P (see side bar) and found it yummy –especially the rum and raisin and Marsala flavoured. Then Joy had to disappear whilst we worked out the finances. These days we are inclined to round it up to make the calculation easier which means leaving a bigger tip – so everyone is happy.

On the way back we were stopped by the wild ponies and some Exmoor horns which I have been trying to photograph for years. They have delightful teddy bear mouths and in spite of there being lots of them in a pen, I was not very successful. Back in Porlock we went to the Visitor Centre to see the sculpture of the stranger mentioned in Kubla Khan with a mosaic representing Coleridge’s drugged mind, we think. The sculpture is done by an ex ranger and it was in the garden. which was locked.

Apparently there had been some vandalism but as we were clearly not exactly loutish we were given a key. In fact there were two locks so we went back and were given the second key and at last saw the sculpture. By now we were feeling ready for home and took a short cut through a small housing complex. We noted the smallness of the houses and thought it may be an old people’s complex just as we came upon an elderly couple. They had got out of their car- possibly having their first outing since the weather had improved.

They were having difficulties –the husband was slight and frail and had a tremor and the wife was very large and obviously had mobility problems as there were handles everywhere and she had a collapsible type of Zimmer frame which appeared to be of no help at all. She was wedged in the gateway to their yard. We asked if we could help but the husband insisted they could manage so thinking the last thing he wanted was an audience I continued to the car. After a few moments I realised the others weren’t following and found Jackie- the eldest holding three handbags. Joy had somehow got inside the yard and was trying to urge the lady forward and Margaret was on her knees trying to move her leg.

I gave Jackie my hand bag and joined the fray; it was all hands to the pump .She said she couldn’t move her leg and she was going. I wedged my knee under her rear and thought at least now we’ll cushion her fall but wondered how we’d get out from under. Suddenly Joy, who is more used to disability started to give her firm instructions the woman reacted by making more effort. There was nothing to get hold of in spite of her girth – it was like trying to grab dough when too much water had been added. We managed to make it into the yard - only feet away from her open door. My knee was beginning to give way so she ordered her husband to bring a stool.
‘Run Henry run!’

I don’t think poor Henry had been able to run in donkey’s years but we managed to hang onto her until he appeared with the stool which replaced my knee. Once we had her safely on the stool Henry was dispatched to make her a cup of tea and with their assurances that they would be fine now we left them to it. A lesson to us all.
As usual we had had a great day together – refreshed and fortified for the autumn.

Scroll down for photos.
By Chetford Bridge

Folk who know how to have a good time - looking towards Nutscale Reservoir

Exmoor Forest Inn

Looking west
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The Sculpture and Mosaic illustrating Coleridge's Kubla Kahn

Sculpture at Porlock visitor Cantre

Exmoor Horns with teddy bear mouths

Wild jay walkers
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Friday, September 07, 2007

The End of a Career


This is the final appearance of son # 1 as a male model. He was a very active little boy and his default position was hanging outside his pram, cot, high chair suspended by his restrainers. He was walking at 10 months - like his mother. A word of comfort to mothers whose children are late walkers - I never showed the slightest athletic prowess, whereas Maddie, my sister sat on her bum for sixteen months and was ace at long-jump and outshone me in all sporting avctivities.

The apple of Mum and Dad's eye but soon he has to share the spot-light with another. Life's hard at that age.

Note the bulky terry towelling nappy. I used to boil them every day in a cast iron bucket. Then there were water-proof pants on top. it's a wonder they didn't end up bow-legged. Wouold I have the strength to resist today's disposables? I'd like to think so but maybe i'm kidding myself.
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