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Of childhood holidays…

I wrote this about 2 years ago, when we were not long out of Ginger’s prolonged hospital adventures. I must have intended to put it here, saved it and forgot about it. (You are entitled to laugh a lot at the reference to ‘months and months’, this being the case!) Reading it back, I quite like it, so you can have a look as well. There is more to tell, which will come in a later post. Given my current incapability in terms of posting, you might have to wait a bit for that!

I’ve been meaning to write about this for months and months. Events have prompted me to get off my backside and do it now.

When I was a kid, we spent our holidays every year on a farm in the middle of Dartmoor. I was always vaguely jealous of my friends, who would go off to a new place every year, usually on a plane to somewhere warm and foreign, while we kept going back to the same place. I remember when I was about 6, asking my dad why we couldn’t somewhere different, but in reality I was always very happy to go back. My parents had been going to Dartmoor for years and years. Before they were married, my dad went on a pony trekking holiday with Uncle B (not really an uncle – Dad’s best man), who apparently cheated by secretly going away before their holiday and learning to ride, so unlike Dad, he wasn’t a complete novice when they got there.

Pony trekking used to be really big business on the moor. Over the summer the place used to be absolutely swarming with strings of people on ponies. So Dad and Uncle B stayed on a farm run by Mrs C, and joined loads of other people trundling around the moor on horseback. Dad obviously loved the place, as he went back again with mum after they were married and it became the destination for our family holidays ever since. Mum and dad have been married 50 years, so that’s a lot of holidays. I never met Mrs C; she died the year I was born, and after that we stayed at a different farm, with R. R was a girl who had worked at the stables at Mrs C’s farm, had got married and was farming with her husband, and took guests at the farmhouse.

I was discussing all this with big sister a while ago; how you can feel a little bit homesick for a place which was never actually home, that you never spent more than a week or a fortnight there at once, but which is nonetheless a big part of you. Like all places, R’s farmhouse has its own distinctive smell, and I just have to catch a whiff of something like it occasionally and it stops me in my tracks. I learned to swim in the River Dart just down the road from the farm. (This bridge is a few minutes’ walk away – close enough to get down there for a swim before breakfast, should you be so inclined.) I learned there that although I don’t like dogs, farm dogs are okay as they work for their keep and generally do as they are told. I learned there that although my dad can bang on for hours about how much he dislikes cats, given the right circumstances he can be observed sneaking bacon rind to the cat at breakfast. I learned that water tastes different in different places.

I have also realised that all those holidays have taught me just how much I love a routine. Although I may have moaned about always going back to the same place, I would have been devastated if we hadn’t gone. I loved the fact that you always knew what you’d be eating in the evening by what day it was. Saturday, when we arrived, would be salad with loads of cold meat. Sunday would be a roast dinner of such magnitude you could barely move afterwards, and at the other end of the week, Friday was – joy! – fish fingers and chips. I’ve learned that having that sort of routine is how I relax best. Going off somewhere completely new might all be very exciting, but I also find it very stressful. With life being as it is at the moment, people keep asking me if we’re planning a holiday – ‘get away, somewhere completely different, have a break’ – I look at them as though they were mad. I have enough stress in my life; why would I make it worse by going somewhere new?! I need to know where I’m going, and how it’s all going to work when I get there. I am, in fact, just like my dad.

When I was a kid I used to get asked by my friends (about to jet off to some warm place with beach, pool, and kids activities laid on) what you actually DO with a week on Dartmoor. Most people seem to think it’s just a wilderness with the Hound of the Baskervilles hurtling about, and the occasional escaped convict. The answer to that question includes:
Swimming in the Dart
Eating cream teas (usually here)
Agricultural shows
Falling fully clothed into the Dart (Big Sister’s speciality, this)
Peering into gaps between damp rocks in search of phosphorescent algae
Climbing tors
Eating ploughmans lunches. (ask the ploughman first, bada-boom-tish)
Being dragged off to remote trees to look at unusual lichen (I’ll admit that’s less of a hit when you’re about 13)
A bit of light pony trekking if you fancy it
Just sitting on a rock by the river thinking or reading a book

R stopped running the farmhouse as a B&B years ago, yet somehow my family just kept turning up. I was last there in 2003, with mr b, just for a few days, and we had a lovely time. I was in the final stages of my MSc, and we spent the evenings at the pub up the road, with a pint, the final draft of my dissertation, and a red pen. Every few years now I get a bit twitchy and want to go back. All my nephews and neices have been down there, and I’ve been thinking that next summer might be the time to take Groover and Ginger for the first time.

Dear X Department,

Thank you for your letter regarding my daughter’s blood sample.

Please find enclosed two pictures:
fig.1 – arse
fig.2 – elbow
I suggest you spend a little time examining these, as in due course I will require you to demonstrate that you can in fact tell one from the other.

Kind regards

Christmas dinner

Yes, I know, it’s only September, and I apologise.

However. We are having everyone (outlaws and other assorted people) to ours for Christmas day. Being me, I want to get organised and, more importantly, start thinking about the things that I can do and buy well in advance so I don’t feel like it all hits me in one lump. (Both expenditure-wise and work-wise).

I’m planning to do roast beef rather than turkey, mainly because I don’t like turkey much, but also because I have never cooked turkey before and don’t want to do it for the first time when I’m cooking for 6 on Christmas Day. Which leaves us with the question of accompaniments. Other than (obviously) roast potatoes and yorkshire pudding, what would you put with beef? If it was just an ordinary Sunday lunch I’d probably just do a couple of different veg. So, what else do we have which makes it more than an ordinary lunch…. all suggestions welcome.

Also, on the subject of getting things done in advance, this weekend it’s our local food festival and I’m thinking maybe I could get the meat for the meal there. That would mean three months plus in the freezer – I can’t remember if that’s too long! (Usually I buy meat for specific meals and use it quickly, it doesn’t usually languish in the freezer for long and I can’t remember how long it would last…)

I’m sorry, I know I’m being awful, thinking about this now, but I am well aware that the last few weeks before christmas will be full of school and church activities. I need to think and make lists at this point so I feel a bit more on top of it.

Also, I should mention that although this post might come across as a bit stressed or panicky about it, I am really looking forward to having everyone here this year. Since having the conservatory built, we have room for everyone without it being ridiculous, and it will be lots of fun!


Saw my mum a while ago, and gave her the little book I showed you a few posts ago. She really likes it, but it obviously made her think back to the incident concerned. (Which was that when I was about 5 I took her button box to the sandpit, where I was making sand christmas puddings. I needed the buttons to function as the dried fruit.) So her reaction was pretty much as follows:
“Gosh, thank you, that is beautiful. How did you make it? …. Oooh, I was cross with you.”

This rendered me helpless with laughter for some time.

Groover’s tiny tale

Groover sat down at the computer yesterday and announced he was going to write a story. And here it is. For the benefit of those of you not used to the spelling of english words by children taught in welsh, I will provide a translation afterwards!

wons ypon y taeem dde wos y cween and y weech and ceen preens focs rabbeet cheetty

“once upon a time there was a queen and a witch and queen prince fox rabbit cheetah”

It gets a bit stream of consciousness towards the end, but I liked it!

A tiny groover tale

(Warning: contains cuteness.)

This evening, after his bath, I told Groover it was time to get ready for bed.
Him: No! Let’s play doctors.
Me: Um, okay.
Him: (fetching piece of paper and pencil) So how is Ginger?
Me: She’s fine. She was very poorly a long time ago and had to be in hospital a lot, but now she is feeling much better and is very happy.
Him: (writes “Hapee” on paper). And how was she feeling today at the doctor’s?
Me: She was feeling good. She wasn’t at the doctor because she was poorly, they just wanted to see her. She enjoyed playing with the toys and the ladies who saw her were very pleased with her.
Him: (writes “Play” on paper). And how is she getting on with playing?
Me: Very well. She loves playing.
Him: (writes “veRy God” on paper). That’s good. Thank you for bringing her to see me.
Me: That’s quite all right. And now, Dr Naked, please put your pyjamas on!

why tiny tales?

(This post is going to involve me trying to remember how to put photos on. It might be a bit of a train wreck – in fact it has already disappeared twice and this is the third time I’ve typed this. This time I am going to save a draft before buggering about with html, really I am.)

Anyway. Last weekend I had a rare day to myself and went to an artist’s workshop at my favourite local craft centre. It was a really good day, led by the lovely Becky Adams (about whom more in a later post I think), who taught us all how to make lotus fold books. (Which is a heck of a lot easier than you might imagine on seeing one.) The theme of the day (if there was a theme, in the end everyone goes in their own direction at these things, which is what is so fun) was memory and story. People made some really beautiful things. Some very profound narrative, others just having fun with colour and texture etc. I made a present for my mum, who is 80 today, telling a little story from my childhood. And here it is:

*presses ‘save draft’ before proceeding*

This is the cover of my book: ‘Buttons: a tiny tale’. Having come up with this I have found I just love the words ‘tiny tale’ hence the renaming here.

These (try to) show you what the book looks like when it’s opened. This one has only three pages but still looks pretty good. Becky showed us one she’d made with 8 pages which sort of blossomed when she opened it up – really beautiful.

Page 1 – text: “When I was little”

Page 2 – text: “I played with mum’s button box in the sand pit (making Christmas puddings)(of course.)”

Page 3 – text: “There are still buttons to be found among the flowers”

*takes deep breath, presses ‘publish’*
(only one edit, not bad)

flea market

I was at the flea market in town today, looking at the fleas, when I decided to browse through the stall of old postcards – always handy for art projects etc. Found just one of the village where Big Sister lives, which I snapped up as I’ve promised Groover we’ll make a scrap book type thing when we visit later in the summer. Not a wildly interesting shot – slightly bizarrely of the street rather than the beach (?!) -but you can recognise where it is and see how it’s changed.

Later, over lunch, I flipped it over to have a look at the stamp, and the date. Sent in 1905. The sender’s address?

My sister’s house.

tiny tales

So look, here’s me again, but with a new name and things.

Sorry I’ve disappeared so badly. I’ve been on facebook and finding that the little status updates are just about my level at the moment. But the wiblog has been feeling neglected (it told me) so I am thinking maybe I’ll roll up here every now and again and wibble a few lines at you all. But probably not particularly long or detailed wibblings.

Let’s see how it goes.


Today I took Ginger to see the cleft surgeon for follow-up after her surgery. All very pleased, the lip is healing well.

Then we talked about scheduling the surgery for her palate. The surgeon said ‘the primary reason for this surgery is for her speech’. I said ‘well, and hopefully her feeding too.’ At which point the surgeon said ‘well, feeding and swallowing difficulties are usually caused by other factors, it’s unusual for surgery to the palate to make much difference if a child has problems with their swallow.’

Which left me somewhat surprised and considerably cheesed off. Looking back, I am not sure that anyone has ever explicitly said to us ‘Ginger’s feeding problems are caused by her cleft palate. When that has been corrected, we can hopefully start to give her some food orally and see how she copes with that.’ However, it has always been my understanding that Ginger’s unsafe swallow and her cleft palate are connected – I’m sure that’s how it was presented when we were first told she couldn’t safely feed orally and we would have to learn to feed with the NG tube, back when she was just a couple of weeks old. Certainly, since then, whenever I have mentioned to medical people that after Ginger’s surgery on her palate, we would start attempting oral feeding they have made agreeing ‘yes absolutely’ type noises.

So today it feels as if we have been told she may never feed orally (despite, now I think of it, the feeding clinic consultant saying he felt her outlook for feeding orally was good), and that she’ll always be enterally fed.

If food was only about nutrition, this wouldn’t be a problem. But it’s not. It’s one of life’s greatest pleasures. Eating together is how we build relationships and community. Going out for a meal on a date; a pub lunch on a friday with work; communion; family meals.

Not very impressed this evening.

(In case I don’t pop in again beforehand – just to let you know she’s going in again two weeks today for surgery to place her feeding tube directly into her stomach through the abdominal wall. Which at least means No More NG Tube. Which is A Very Good Thing Indeed. As long as the cough she is currently brewing doesn’t come to anything.)