The monkeys witness their first live birth at Miller’s Ark!


I have one of those muddled life patterns whereby the hubster is often working weekends and when that happens its sometimes difficult to know what to do with the monkeys. Whilst we have a couple of hours here or there together where everyone is happy and common or garden playing at home is good enough to keep everyone on an even keel, I find that those moments of equilibrium can be fleeting, particularly with two of them when they often have conflicting needs. I feel frustrated by the fact that I generally can’t call on any of my mummy friends at the weekend because everyone knows that weekend time is generally sacred ‘family’ time – and that’s as it should be, the daddies all need a look in too and we often get that at other times in the week so its only fair. Still, when my friend Vicky texted to say her other half was working this Saturday and would we be free to get together with the kids (her girls are the same age bar the odd month or two as my boys) I was very happy to take her up on the suggestion. She also had the genius to come up with an idea for a relatively local outing somewhere we’d never been before – Miller’s Ark – a child-friendly farm situated on the Earl of Malmesbury’s Estate at Hook in Hampshire. It specialises in bringing various farm animals to children both farm-based and out on the road.

It was an absolutely beautiful sunny afternoon and the day was one of the farm’s special ‘Lambing open days’ – the girls have been popping them out recently by all accounts and we were actually able to witness a live birth – albeit a goat not a sheep! And in actual fact we didn’t actually see it happen because of the huge crowd blocking our view but we certainly heard it let me tell you and I for one empathised with that poor mumma!

The problem with taking my two to a farm of course is that they are  somewhat reticent about getting up close and personal with animals of any description let alone something which towers over them, hence the reason for the lack of close up child/animal pics – JJ stuffed himself in between me and the pushchair just walking past the big turkey (which was roaming free) as if he had found himself running across no-man’s land under heavy fire! I guess this is one of the drawbacks of being from a pet-free world! I managed to get quite a few lovely pictures of my friend’s girls with the animals but I won’t post them here as I don’t want to intrude on anyone else’s privacy.

The highlight for the boys was the land train ride and the ice lolly in the tea room afterwards!


The only thing that marred the experience was that my poor friend managed to lose her keys while we were there – one of my worst scenarios as a mum!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Word of the week – Flump: grappling with happiness

depressed polar bear

This week has been a bit of a weird one for me, after being very upbeat for the last few weeks, following all the tenets of the Happiness Project, and generally feeling very resilient a few negative things happened in quick succession and I’ve found it very difficult to clear my mind of the debris left behind. Sleep took a turn for the worse and I feel the blog has suffered somewhat as every time I have sat down to write its like the ink has dried up in my brain. This culminated, last night, in me sitting down to a bit of web surfing and finding myself unable to read the words of any given paragraph in order (or even in the right words!) I could feel a headache coming on and it was a very weird and disconcerting experience. I realised that I was very tired, having woken at an ungodly hour the night before, fretting over a piece of nonsense in my life that I don’t seem to have been able to let go of. And then I threw in the towel and went to bed at 8.30pm.

The fact that there has been a lot of talk of the MAD Blog Award nominations this last week has also re-ignited this self-comparison demon that I’m trying to banish. I think I may have suffered with this one my entire life and its time to hop onto my little magic carpet and sail above the trees to view the woods in their entirety for once.

I enjoy writing; its nice to know that I have any kind of audience. I’m very lucky to have two healthy, funny little bunnies in my life and next week is April, one of my favourite months!! I also have a hair consultation, treatment, cut and blowdry lined up (for the first time in about 6 or 7 months!) plus lots of little projects to tackle, so there’s no time for flumping! Onwards and upwards!!

(Oh and by the way I think I just created a new verb –  ‘to flump’ – well, it just seems right somehow, eh? Some sort of bizarre crossbreed of slump and funk… No offence Pootle…)


The Reading Residence

That was unexpected…

happyland girl in pushchair

Back in 2005 I was young (30-something!) free and single. I had previously been married (for 7 months!) and divorced but never had I felt any kind of biological ticking (fortunately!). I was on the lookout for my next victim love but, when you get to such a ripe old age you become quite picky. At the age of 22 you may have been quite happy to date a smoker/workaholic/football fanatic/[add personal bugbear here] but you learn from your mistakes and a subtle “vetting” process inserts itself into your dealings with the opposite sex (maybe I should have just gone all out and created a tickbox survey and spreadsheet…) So when I met the hubster I was resistant to his charms for some time.

To this day he will happily tell all and sundry that I refused to date him for months because, in my words, he was too short, too young (four years my junior) and had a daughter from a previous relationship. Let me explain my thought process – firstly Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman/Katie Holmes Syndrome – I just didn’t want to end up standing in a hole next to a man in platforms on my wedding day, alright? Secondly, what could be worse than spending the rest of your life with someone who’s going to constantly remind you how old you are? Thirdly, a child from a previous relationship? In my mind this spoke of acrimonious and ongoing dealings with your partner’s ex and a never-ending competition of popularity for your partner’s focus and attention (which you can never really win) selfish as that may sound.

To cut a long story short I gave in to the pressure – he turned out to be someone I felt completely at ease with – we made each other laugh and, after some unpleasant dating experiences previously, I knew that I had found someone who was serious about liking me for me and who wanted to make a commitment for the future.

Then I met his daughter just as she was turning two. And I fell in love with this adorable little girl. And that was completely unexpected. I was there to witness her potty training, developing language and flourishing little personality. One time she actually turned to me (at the Tescos checkout as I recall) and told me that I was her best friend. I was there for bathtimes and pajamas, Christmas celebrations and birthdays.

And then I felt a strange sensation from deep within, tick tock, tick tock. It was more than just the biological clock though, it was all bound up with the frustrations of knowing that, despite our bond, at the end of the day I was no-one to this little girl who would fiercely defend her mother to the ends of the earth (and yes, the acrimonious relationship with the ex did hold full sway in our lives for many years and is only now subsiding as she has recently given birth to a second child with another partner ten years down the line). When my step-daughter turned 5 I gave birth to JJ (exactly two years after our first attempts to conceive), followed, two years and 10 months later by EJ.

Unfortunately our relationship with my step-daughter has fallen away quite considerably as she has got older and I’m sorry to say that I don’t feel that same bond that I once did. But I am so thankful that I was able to have children of my own – I always knew that I wanted to be a mother one day but it took an awful long time for that urge to kick in and it still surprises me how fierce it was and how unexpected a sensation.

This post was inspired by this week’s Prompt conceived by Sara over at Mum Turned Mom. I have also recently discovered another new linky called Share with Me over at Let’s Talk Mommy so I’m giving that a go too!


Childhood pets

Seal-point Siamese kitten

This week’s Theme Game is on the topic of ‘animals’ and those who know me well know that I’m not much into the non-humans but that wasn’t always the case…

When I was about 11 my parents decided to get a family pet. It turns out that there was only ever going to be one type of animal for our family given our feline surname and off we went to the breeder of pedigree cats in Catford (I know, you couldn’t make it up, right?!) to pick up our adorable little Siamese Seal point kitten, Ginny (named after my Mum’s grandma who I never met).

It seems absurdly quickly that the folks were whipping the poor girl off to the stud (I think they had it in mind to make some money themselves from the breeding process) and, hey presto, one very pregnant pusscat was suddenly waddling around the house, looking for places to nest and prepare for the birth of her own kittens.

One morning before school, we found her giving birth under the kitchen table, making some unearthly noises. We relocated her somewhere more appropriate and she went on to give birth to four little kittens that day, one of which didn’t survive. The other three very soon made their personalities known. The two girls were named Flora (the Explorer) and Fauna, and the boy was (Timid) Timmy. They were the cutest little darlings, and gave us many hours of entertainment with their antics which included scaling the living room curtains (spider-cat, spider-cat…) and equally scaling my poor Nana’s dressing gown (with her in it!). Timmy also bonded with my dad (outnumbered by girls 6-3 if you include my grandfather), and loved to jump up on his shoulders while he ate his breakfast like some sort of fur stole which would occasionally spring to life by trying to nick a spoonful of Shredded Wheat before it reached his mouth. He also loved it when I would share a packet of Hula Hoops with him after school.

Of course my parents never got around to selling any of them on – my sister and I begged them not to!

From the beginning I knew that my favourite of the kittens was Flora – she was so intrepid, such a character and she had the most amazing 90 degree kink to the end of her tail. Sadly, her little life was cut short at the age of about 16 months when she ventured out onto the main road and got hit by a car. This was a true life lesson in grief for me. When my Nana broke the news to us as we returned from school, I’ll never forget the anguish. I locked myself in the bathroom for what seemed like hours and wept.

Fauna was the one who was the least interesting, personality-wise – the most like a bog-standard mog. She was abnormally chubby for a slinky Siamese (workmen used to shout “when are the kitten’s due?”) and she tended to annoy her own family by coming along and sitting on their heads (the most comfortable spot apparently!) or eating their food. Ironically she went on to outlive them all, making it to the ripe old age of about 17 or 18 if I remember rightly.

I’ve never had a pet since and the very thought of it sends shivers down my spine – The mess! The expense! The responsibility! Sometimes I feel guilty that my children are growing up without being given the opportunity to bond with a little furry being, but the hubster hates cats and I am certainly no big fan of dogs. I was always scared of dogs – and to this day I’m still nervous of big dogs or those breeds with a bad reputation. JJ is also very nervous around dogs. On the other hand I’m really quite happy to be pet free and there is always time later in the kids’ childhood for them to express an interest of their own. For now I get my fix from visiting my sister’s household where her two Tonkinese, Suky and Beany, bring the love!


The Reading Residence

Who needs theme parks?

On Saturday morning the hubster expressed a desire to have a lie in. He promised me that if I took the kids out for an hour then he would take us all out for lunch. Since I was already up, we were all breakfasted and dressed and the sun seemed to be making some guest appearances I decided to take him up on the offer. My initial thought was, what can we do that’s ‘different’, interesting and fun? Then JJ intervened by suggesting I retrieve his bicycle from the back garden so that he could cycle down to our local playground and I gave in to the pressure!

As it is we are very lucky to live a five minute walk away from a recreation ground which includes a huge playing field (linked to a local rugby club) and a cricket club, a large L-shaped pond with plenty of ducks and anglers, and a pretty amazing playground which was completely re-landscaped and refurbished in June 2010. The playground has plenty of swings, a separate sandpit area, musical objects (drums, etc.), a variety of spinners and no less than three big basket swings as well as all the usual slides, roundabouts and a big rope climbing pyramid. It’s a lovely place to take a picnic on a sunny summer’s day, but a cold March morning meant that we almost had the place to ourselves.

Eventually we were driven away by the onset of a freezing hale shower (!) but it won’t be long before we’re back for more!

Linking up to Country Kids at Coombe Mill, MummyDaddyandMe’s Ordinary Moments and Magic Moments at The Oliver’s Madhouse.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall