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Christmas bus

         Christmas 2020 was put on hold until we were released from enough covid controls to be able to celebrate together. If our Christmas had been last year in December, then Grandson would have only been a few months old, but this year, when we celebrated it in May, he was a lot more aware of his surroundings and although he didn’t actually know it was Christmas, he did get to enjoy dinner with us at the table, and of course, was able to investigate his presents for himself.

         We usually do our Christmas on Boxing Day. When we were younger, many, many moons ago, before my girls were even just “twinkles in Daddy’s eyes”, we used to have two Christmases each year, one at Mum-in-law’s house on Christmas Day, and another with my Mum and Dad on whichever day my Dad’s shifts allowed. This worked really well, until Eldest Daughter’s first Christmas. I remember it well, not because of it being Eldest’s first, she would have only been about four months, so her second Christmas would have been more memorable for that reason, but because it was the first year for many that my Dad’s shifts had allowed him to be home on Christmas Day.

         Being the first time for ages that my family had been able to celebrate on the 25th, it was to be a special occasion, but Christmas Day with Hubby’s family had become the normal thing to do and so this left us with the dilemma of choosing which celebration to go to, and which set of parents to offend.

         In the end, we chose to start with Eldest’s first Christmas as the first Christmas we stayed at home in our new family unit. We bought a round “Bernard Matthew’s” roast which was pretty much the limit of my culinary skills then, and I was to cook Christmas Dinner for us to eat at home.

         Hubby went out on the 24th and celebrated a little too hard so was very hung over on the 25th, and after cooking “the roast” I abandoned the rest of the culinary delights and just sliced it to make turkey sandwiches for Christmas Dinner. All in all, I think that year ranks right at the top of the worst Christmas we’ve had.

         When my girls were of school age, Hubby’s shifts often meant that he had to work on Christmas Day so our Christmas would move around the season to wherever it fitted best. When they started dating seriously, and the inevitable clash of Christmas Day at which family arose, both Hubby and myself remembered how family politics had spoiled our Christmas on that one particular year and we moved our Christmas to Boxing Day from then on to avoid a clash and the Girls always went to Boyfriend’s for Christmas Day.

        Boxing Day buffet became a tradition in our house, and so, as I always leave things to the last possible moment, the tradition of me spending Christmas Day wrapping presents also began.

         Christmas 2020 with the girls had been arranged for early January but when covid caused celebrations to be limited to just one day, our Christmas was delayed… And so was my wrapping of the presents.

         During the first few months of 2021, I returned one or two of the presents I’d bought and exchanged a couple more to work around the delay. I also watched from a distance as Grandson, like many children before him, expressed an interest in packaging rather than presents.

         Much like the rest of Britain, we shopped online and receives many boxes of varying shapes and sizes. One box in particular grabbed my attention and saved itself from the recycle bin. In true “Blue Peter” style, I covered it in a roll of “sticky backed plastic”, and turned it into a bus.

         I unpackaged any of Grandson’s presents which didn’t require adult supervision and put them into the box for him to discover for himself, and I bought a toddler’s steering wheel which made appropriate driving noises when buttons were pressed. The day before our Christmas. I added the batteries to the steering wheel, and the red bus became the packaging.

         With complete covid restrictions not due to be lifted until June, Christmas was arranged to take place in Younger Daughter’s garden. Different pieces of garden furniture and different pieces of Christmas Dinner arrived from different directions and ten of us sat down to a Christmas roast dinner in the garden in the middle of May… Complete with crackers, Christmas hats and traditionally bad jokes.

         After surviving 2020 with all covid had to throw at us, it was wonderful to all be together again. I think even my cooking of christmas dinner might have been accepted with a smile.

         Grandson enjoyed his bus, and of course, Hubby and myself, we enjoyed real live cuddles with Grandson.

         Eldest Daughter and Son-in-law liked the bus too. A bag of ball-pit balls provided the finishing touch, and I have it on very good authority that if you listen carefully you can catch the sound of Grandson pressing buttons on his musical steering wheel while being pushed around the room in his bus by Son-in-law… Accompanied by the appropriate beeping and brrrumming noises as required of course.

         More from before: a variety of “visitors and visitees“, and a little peek further into the world that I’ve “Created“.

Long distance

          When we moved to Weymouth to find Semi-retirement by the seaside, we had no idea covid was on the horizon. The plan was to have visitors to our seaside pretty much all summer, and to spend the winter visiting in return. Well, the mice and men put paid to our best laid plans with a virus and so any visiting for the last few months has been virtual.

          It seems an age ago now that I was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century when Little Sister gave me her old smartphone and showed me how to use it. My world would be a whole lot smaller, and sadder, without the technology I now carry around in my pocket or the tablet Hubby gave me for Christmas.

          Grandson arrived into this strange world we live in today, where most people hide their mouths behind a mask, and it’s quite natural to have a conversation with a face on a screen.

          Grandson has turned five months already. We did see him at the beginning, and had cuddles, albeit from behind a mask. Eldest Daughter keeps us updated with photos, voice recordings of Grandson yabbering away in his own special language, and video calls. We’re holding out for the time when freedom is restored and we can visit again, but until then I can take comfort from the fact that he knows no different, he hasn’t had the joy of a house full of visitors, and the fun of other children at playgroups, but he isn’t missing them as such, because hasn’t had them taken away…..

          Youngest Daughter has been using the “at home” time to decorate her bathroom. When I last visited with her and Son-in-law we spent time doing the usual ” Mum and Daughter” activities and we put up tiles in her kitchen.

          Instead of actually helping in person this time I’ve watched her progress through regular photo updates and exchanged ideas and sent a couple of helpful thoughts her way with a bit of virtual troubleshooting. Her house was a newbuild when they moved in. Of course you have to wait for a certain amount of time before you can personalise a newbuild but when you can personalise it you have pretty much a blank canvas to play with. The bathroom had the very basic quota of white tiles around the bath and shower walls, and behind the sink taps. Youngest has taken off the sink tiles and matched the bath tiles to carry on the splash proofing around the sink and into the window, then added her own personal touch with the coloured grout. Nicely done!

          Middle Daughter has been busy during lockdown too. When the girls were little, they each had their own toyboxes. Youngest had a large dark wood one, and Eldest and Middle had a pair of what used to be linen boxes made to sit at the end of a bed.

          The big deep brown wooden box moved on to be another child’s toybox years ago, but the other two toyboxes moved on with the girls to their respective houses. Eldest’s toybox has reverted back to a linen box at the end of her bed and Middle’s has moved into a coffee table/footstool near the sofa downstairs.

          Middle Daughter bought some firm foam and some nice thick material, and on one of our previous visits I got to play with her staple gun while we covered the lid and made it into a seat. The seat looked good, but the attempt to nail on some cladding to the outside didn’t go too well so the box was given a quick coat of paint to spruce it up while it waited for more inspiration.

          Middle’s chosen style is a sort of upcycled mis-match and she’s never happier than when she has a project on the go so I wasn’t at all surprised to see pictures of the box changing once more. Nicely cut pieces of wood have changed the flat sides into panels, and a bit of wood filler underneath a new coat of paint has given the box a new lease of life. A few tips were asked for during the fixing on of the new hinges, and of course, were more than happily given. And the result… Very satisfying, and very comfortable to sit on and to look at. I don’t think it will be long before Eldest’s toybox is given a revamp as well.

          Troubleshooting with my “growed-up” Girls over the phone gave me one of those strange roll-reversal feelings again… I told you before how the carer in me became the cared for in “Adult snacking“. But this time I’ve very much identified with my Dad.

          I used to help my Dad with fixing things, I loved getting messy, or watching him take broken things apart and put them back together in working order … much more fun than learning to cook …and washing up afterwards. When I grew up and had my own house to play with. Dad used to come round and help me to fix broken things there too. Then, as I got older and my confidence in what I could do grew, I would do the taking apart and fixing things myself. My Dad was my safety net (I work better with a safety net) I would very often plan my latest play with my biggest toy, and discuss my latest decorating project or fixing plan with Dad before I started. As we moved further away from home, out into the big bad world as “growed-ups” with children of our own, technology advanced, I would often be sent a photo of a hand drawn plan of Dad’s advice, and in return would send a photo of the end project when I’d finished.

          I have snippets of memories from many a time working on a project with my Dad on the other end of the phone. One time in particular I remember something was wrong with the hot water tank in the attic, I remember describing the details with a torch in one hand and the phone held to my ear in the other.

          I also remember delving into a broken washing machine on many occasions with my Dad troubleshooting at each stage, starting by checking the fuse on the plug and eventually diagnosing the fault. I have my limitations though, I know how a lot of things work, and often my confidence is my bigest limitation, but I know how much damage electric, gas, and water can do if you get it wrong, so on these things I call in the professionals.

          Since moving to my seaside, I do miss my trusted tradesmen, the ones who have gotten used to me over the years and were quite happy to just drop in and do the little bits of jobs I was stuck on. So far, we’ve had our radiators changed by a plumber who left dirty water marks on the carpet, walls built in the back garden by a builder who couldn’t measure a gate, a shed door and window built by a carpenter who’s work I quite frankly wouldn’t allow in the house and a bathroom fitter who seems to have evaporated. However, I now know a very good double-glazing firm, and I’ve found a handyman who is almost as much of a perfectionist as I am …

GRAN

          I’m a Gran…

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          Eldest Daughter and Son-in-law have made a little Grandson.   He’s adorable, of course I’m biased, but he really is.  Both mother and baby are doing fine, the new mum and dad are finding out the real meaning of the word tired at the moment, but everything will all fall into place with a little practice.

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          We went for first cuddles today. It was amazing.   My girls are wonderful, all three of them, I wanted to be a mum from as far back as I can remember, but being a Gran, that’s a whole new level of contentment.