One beautiful year ago, my little girl was born. I still think of her as a baby, but look how she’s grown. Crawling, standing but not walking; saying mama and dad but not really talking. Laughing when she’s not crying; happy most of the time she’s awake. Good at sleeping. Very much a part of our family with her own expressions and her own voice. Today we celebrated with family and it was fun to have everyone here for a feast. I remember the relief I felt after when my other two turned one and I started to get a little more sleep and feel a little less exhausted and more of myself again. The peonies and poppies in our garden are blooming, just as they were this time a year ago when our little girl was born.
“The Railway Children” by E. Nesbitt is one of those books that out lasts my childhood and still captures my heart and imagination. Its a children’s book whose depth of feeling and emotion only adults can truly appreciate (Laura Ingalls Wilder books fall into this category too.) I’m sure the book is one of the reasons I do love the opportunity to take a steam train trip, (although I’d always say we’re doing it for the children.) We took a steam train from Cape Town to Simon’s Town last February and we took a short trip on a train from Aviemore two years ago. And last weekend we took a trip on the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway. It was a great day out. One of the best bits was playing hide and seek in the engine shed when we arrived at the station, scrambling up onto the foot plates of the great, greasy iron locomotives or squeezing in behind a wheel taller than a five year old boy. It was magical too, standing on the footbridge as the locomotive got up steam and slowly whooshed underneath us, swallowing us up in a cloud of steam and smoke.
Readers must think we have done nothing but enjoy lovely days away with friends in the last few weeks. After a few years where holidays have been few and far between, I don’t take these precious days for granted. As I’ve already said, I think I am also getting better at understanding and planning for family holidays and so enjoying them more. Last weekend we had three days in a converted barn just outside of Kendal, catching up with Cath (literally my oldest friend – I can remember playing with her before we went to school), her husband Phil and their beautiful one-year old, Sammy who we were meeting for the first time.
Ah, good friends: more precious than silver, worth more than gold. The weekend was full of simple pleasures like an adventure playground (essential for our kids); coffee (essential for me); a boat trip; walks; milkshakes; and throwing stones into a river.
This was the highlight of our recent holiday to Skye: a day when our planning, the weather and the scenery came together in perfect harmony. Our plan was a walk to the lighthouse at the Point of Sleat, about three miles. We expected this to take the morning. Thankfully, we packed enough sandwiches and snacks to last day. Just before we reached the lighthouse, the path came out onto the most perfect sandy cove you can imagine. The sun came out and we stayed all day. It was better, far better than even the best remembered days of my childhood holidays.The children played and played in the sand and the sea, requiring no entertainment from us. Ross found an old rope and spend a long time unravelling it. At the end of the day, Daniel and I walked back along the ridge. What joy to scramble hand in hand with my son, up the rocks and through the heather. I think this is the first time he experienced the pleasure of walking and climbing: I will look back on it as the day he discovered a love for Scottish mountains.Ah, April on the West coast of Scotland: so fair, so fair.
Hurrah – school is out and we are packing for a week’s holiday on the Isle of Skye. We are going to stay in a house where my family enjoyed an annual holiday from when I was nine until I turned fifteen. I have very happy memories of hot summer days spent there, swimming at the little beach, finding our own cave, painting watercolour pictures of the sea and the mountains and watching the sunset behind the Cuillins. Not much else happened on those holidays and by the time I was fifteen I think I needed more company and more activity. Memories of the perfections and imperfections of family holidays make me very determined to work hard this week at enjoying time together. I regularly wrote a holiday diary as a child and recently found one from when I was thirteen and staying in this same house. The entry above is typical and makes me smile and laugh a little at my thirteen year old self. I have bought notebooks for D and K and hope I can inspire them to create their own journals for this week.
Funny to think of all we were going through nine years ago today: the preparations, the service, the gathering of wonderful, wonderful people, the celebrations. Our wedding day was really special in so many ways but it also had some stresses running in the background. I am so full of gratitude for the last nine years and looking back I can see so much more of the promise and fulfilment that the day signified. If I had known how these years would unfold, I would have been even happier to be marrying the man who took my hand that day.
Birthdays in our family all come in pairs (at least – we have four in one week in August). So this weekend was Mr Mc’s birthday. We celebrated with a bit of this and a bit of that.
A bit of this – a walk on my favourite beach on Sunday afternoon. The camera batteries were flat, so this photo was actually from a visit four years ago. That little chap is D: how fast time is passing. The beach was the same but, oh, how we all have changed.
I decided the best birthday present I could give R this year was time off: so he spent Saturday skiing with his brother in a blizzard at Glenshee. There’s nothing like battling with the elements on the side of a Scottish mountain to make you feel really alive. Happy Birthday, my love!
As a family we seem to have rather more than usual to celebrate right now – mainly small things but worth celebrating.
And birthdays – my sister this week: a nice excuse for us all to enjoy cake and ice-cream sundaes. Happy Birthday, lovely lady.
Some how, in the new routine that our family life is falling into this January, I have had more moments of making things with my little K. I realise with a new sense of clarity, just how much she loves creating, drawing, sticking, cutting and making. Without a doubt its when I see her at her happiest: she laughs, smiles, chats and glows with pleasure. She applies herself to these activities with a remarkable level of concentration, patience and care.
This is in total contrast to D: for him art (drawing, colouring, sticking, painting) has never been something he would choose to do. I can count on the fingers of one hand the pieces of art he brought home from playgroup at the same stage. In the past, I have been tempted to blame this difference on gender (girls like colouring, boys don’t) but I think it goes further than that with these two children of mine: this is about recognising who they are individually, how they are function and what energises and excites them.
In the last couple of weeks, K and I have made stained glass windows with book film; used fabric paint to stamp designs onto white t-shirts; and painted pottery at Ferry Potty. I am so grateful for this point of connection with my daughter and I am relishing the prospect of some lovely times with K where we can make, create and draw together.
I was given some lovely Christmas presents this year and I want to take a moment to celebrate the hand made and home made that I received. Firstly, this special bag of treats, all made by the amazing Chrissie and Jamie. How good does this look?And hidden inside – jelly, tablet, elderberry juice, christmas tree oatcakes and glittery shortbread stars. So beautiful and so delicious.Next up, three presents from the skilled fingers of my clever sister: a hand knitted wash cloth so delicate its too pretty for washing dishes; a cross stitch initial for baby E; and a jar of apple jelly – see how it glows! Last by not least, this jar of chutney came from my brother-in-law – its very good. (He actually gave us two, but one has already been devoured.) Present giving: what a great opportunity to celebrate creativity. Thank you, all!