Well, the pumpkin pie went down a treat. That is, with everyone except Aaliyah. Dinner was my take on a bacon and egg McMuffin. The children had a Lancashire muffin. It is basically a soft bap, bread roll, with bacon and a fried egg cooked in a metal mold to make a perfect circle. Everyone ate with haste, that is everyone bar Aaliyah. Kicking up such a stink, several threats of eating up or the ‘Thinking Chair’, she chose instead to scream and scream and scream. She really has been so good of late – the very naughty girl she was just A few months ago, seemed to be a thing of the past. But tonight the ‘Old Aaliyah’ raised her rather belligerent head. She was partially marched, then taken under arm up the stairs to their bedroom. The ultimate in punishment is to be sent to bed and usually, at this point they will willingly walk themselves up the stairs. But tonight it was a lift and a walk for me with her held firmly but gently up the two flights of stairs and directly to her bed – the screams and screams continued. ‘I hate you Dadda,, I hate you’. I know she doesn’t, but it saddens me to hear such an angry little lady filled with such scorn. Thor remarked, once I returned to the kitchen ‘Aaliyah can be so naughty Dadda’, ‘yes she can’ I replied. ‘Pumpkin pie anyone’? Everyone (bar Aaliyah) enjoyed. The little ones and the girls are all asleep now. No dramas, probably due to the fact that they are all trying to be the best behaved that they can be, given Aaliyah’s behaviour. The living room is cold, we have just lit the fire. The log basket has been emptied and Aaliyah’s favourite PJ masks character has been found at the bottom of it. No doubt Caleb had hidden her there. John has taken the basket to the bottom of the garden to fill with chopped logs. Owlette the cartoon character has been placed in Aaliyah’s place at the kitchen table. I’m hoping it will raise a smile in the morning and we will once again friends… the ups and the downs of family life. Another day await us in the morning. Nite nite all.
An obvious choice for today’s title! There is at present a large chair with a laundry basket on top, stood outside the front door. Why you might just ask? Well, they are draped with a white sheet and a scary pumpkin head adorns the top. In fact it is the largest pumpkin head I have ever seen! It arrived a few days ago, a gift from Sindy in fact. She in turn was given it by a family she is friendly with. It seems that the family grow super sized pumpkins and give them quite freely to friends and fellow villagers, where they live. How very kind of them. There were two other, slightly smaller pumpkins sent off to preschool this morning accompanied by a little bat named Caleb. We actually have a family of bats that live very close to the house. Every dusk they are to be seen flapping ferociously around the house for maybe thirty minutes before heading out for their nightly feed. I very much hope Caleb does not join them this evening. The smell of pumpkin pie is wafting through the kitchen and into the rather cold living room. A fire is made up in the grate for later this evening. It won’t be the first fire we have lit this season. That was on Sunday evening when we first felt the chill of the weather changing. It was a great excuse for toasting large wedges of chunky bread over the open fire, lavished with melted butter and Dadda’s home made black cherry jam. A real treat. There is a little heat coming from an electric radiator one of our neighbours, James has leant us. He and his family were without heating these last five days. Though their predicament was due to a boiler malfunction and not like us, simply running out of heating oil. One thousand litres has just been ordered, arriving on Friday. They put us down as a priority as I did mention the five children were already feeling the cold. The few Halloween decorations are up, thank you Auntie Sara for those. A few years ago she visited and said ‘my kids are a bit old for Halloween now’ and ‘you’ve got it all to look forward to’! I now know what she meant. Pumpkin pie and trick or treat. That’s family life for you. We’re not doing anything tonight, rather saving it for Saturday evening with some of the neighbours and their children. Better order large volumes of sweets in, though I’m inclined to say bah humbug, but humbugs are sweets as well I guess. At least we’ll have a heated house Friday onwards.
Sorry to anyone who might have made comments on my photos as I just deleted the pics realising all of the meta info was still attached, giving locations etc. I will try to resolve this tomorrow and start loading some more very cute pictures of the children in their baby and toddler years.
On an unrelated matter, we are out of heating oil and it’s going to be a very cold night! All showered yesterday, so no immediate problem. I’ll keep you updated on this slight situation. Fingers crossed a delivery can be arranged as soon as possible.
Almost bedtime, sorry – it is bedtime, as Sindy is just now marching them up to get ready for bed. It’s getting cold, so long sleeves tonight and a warning from me to stay under their duvets where it is snugly and warm and no staying up late and running amuck. Thor has just returned to the living room for a second ‘Kiss and Hug’. Just Remus, Gracie and myself now. Remus let’s out an enormous sigh, as if to say, finally some peace and quiet! He usually does his sigh when one of the children is being naughty – I have to smile, he seems rather human at times. Woof woof (night night).
With Sindy our nanny off for her midday break, the little ones fed and watered. I now hear the patter of little footsteps in the bedrooms upstairs. I’ll give it fifteen minutes to investigate. It might just be worth waiting until they either tire and settle or there’s been an event! One can only wait to find out the magnitude.
I gave in to the dogs whining for their dinner. I simply wasn’t in the frame of mind to listen to the constant whines of Remus and Grace for another hour plus. They are now settled in front of daytime TV. I put it on for them as if they are in a quiet room, they bark at the slightest sound.
The voices upstairs have escalated and Caleb is crying ‘Aaliyah’, so I had better go up and investigate… Well, they were all crashed onto Thor’s bed with Aaliyah’s light globe illuminating little stars all around them. Caleb seemed rather discombobulated, ‘Where’s my book Dadda, my book’? He had left his library book from preschool on the kitchen table downstairs. I told him he could have it later when he came back down. ‘Everybody to bed’ I said in an assertive manner. Aaliyah started to run back to her room only to be stopped by Thor. ‘Don’t forget your light globe’ he says, she totters back and grabs it, then turns to go back to bed. Thor shouts ‘you didn’t say thank you’, she returns and says ‘Thank You Thor’. Thor is happy and I come back downstairs. All is quiet upstairs once again for now, that is.
The girls started back to school yesterday and today it’s the little ones turn to rejoin their preschool term. It will be a quiet morning though at present I am having a coffee in the kitchen and waiting on Sindy to arrive. Thor has been chatting to himself upstairs for some half an hour and now I am hearing Amritsar and Tara’s voices along side his. There’s no major screaming going on, so I guess Aaliyah and Caleb are still sleeping. Remus has started his whining. He starts it fairly quietly, but over the next twenty minutes it will slowly up its volume and by the time there is the pitter patter of footsteps on the stairs, he would have reached his crescendo of whines, interspersed with yelps. Added to this will be the scratching sound of Gracie’s paws, clawing frantically at the closed living room door. Sindy has just arrived and ascended the stairs. The chatter up there has become more audible as they all fight to tell Sindy about this and that. Now, they’re all good talkers, even Caleb has joined the ranks. He was the quieter of the bunch until recently. He has been the slower developer out of the five. Even being a twin with Aaliyah, she crawled six months before him, though he managed to drag himself using just his arms for quite some time, before finally getting up to speed with a real crawl, raising his bum and using his knees. There’s nothing wrong with being a late developer. Because once you have caught up, you might just even surpass the rest! Well at least that’s what we’re hoping. He walked six months after Aaliyah as well. But when he did get up and do three steps in a row – the sense of achievement on that little boys face. It was magical. So talking is Caleb’s final hurdle to being a regular little boy. Not so long before all three of the little ones start at the girls junior school. Next September is not that far off. Hopefully Caleb’s speech will be up to scratch before then. A lot of his words are legible now. Also, he is making sentences that are appropriate to the situation. Just six months ago, quite the opposite. I found myself straining to understand and mostly just nodded in agreement and smiled. He has had a couple of meetings now with a speech therapist. She is helping, but just having four siblings to debate with helps a lot also. Big sister Tara always tried to finish sentences for him (given their special friendship) which didn’t actually help as it made him a bit lazy with his own assertions. This doesn’t happen so much now, which is great as his communication skills are progressing steadily.
Breakfast now at an end, just one small altercation with Aaliyah as she screamed at me having a naughty cigarette on the terrace, ‘My shoes Dadda, my shoes’, waving her big girl, buckle up shoes at the back door. Sindy intervened and buckled them up for her. I came back into the living room and the shoes had been removed and with no screams she asked ‘My shoes Dadda, my shoes’. We put them back on, along with Caleb’s and Thor’s. All is now well and they are being snugly adorned with hats and gloves as it’s cold outside and time to fill up the Shogun in preparation for the school run. Five sets of ‘Kiss and hugs’ later and the house falls silent, just Remus and Gracie staring up at me. Now free until 11.30am so I feel one of ‘Dadda’s Jams’ mornings coming on.
Are pictures a good idea? Well I have just uploaded a couple. Obviously being new to blogging, I am still treading with care. On Facebook I only used to post photos on high days and holidays. I seldom actually wrote anything but the mean basics. But blogging isn’t just an account of the occasional day out or Birthday, is it? From being a fairly private individual, I realise that this blog has thrown caution to the wind, not to mention exposure to ‘the third person’ and their potential reactions to what I have to say. Well, as a writer, one needs an audience and being a moderate, reasonable man (I like to think), I have decided that pictures have to be part of this experience. I know that Worldpress have made creating your website relatively easy, with various templates and the customise options etc. So I have vowed that I will get there in the end. I will try to insert a gallery next time and see where that leads me. I wont be publishing recent pics, but I don’t see any harm in the occasional use of images as we are very real people and have very real lives that we are embracing. Hoping that all made sense. More to follow later.
Did I mention the bit that Aaliyah and Caleb were born in Nepal, just post the devastating earthquake of 2015 in which nearly 9000 people lost their lives! A terrible tragedy that the world should not forget. We certainly will not!
Well, three children down and just the final two to go. As things were going in Thailand with the IVF clinic having closed its doors, we thought that our embryos stored in their cryo facility must have perished. Ausa was still in hiding and the email address we had for the clinic just bounced back all of our attempts to contact them. Our despair turned to delight however, when we finally heard from Nancy, the clinic receptionist and administrator. We heard that Ausa was fine, as was the cryo facility. The staff had managed to flee the premises with most of the client paperwork and essential equipment, including the cryo tank containing the frozen embryos. Our quandary was, what to do with our frozen embryos. How things played out as with Ausa, our surrogate and the birth of baby Thor, I mentioned in the last portion of this chapter, but with regards the remaining embryos – to cut a long story short, we heard that an Israeli agency (we knew of) was beginning a new venture based in Nepal and it was possible to preserve our embryos by flying them to Kathmandu. Seemingly, no paperwork was necessary for the import of human gametes into Nepal, well who’d have thought it! For a fee we were able to put the next chapter into motion, though with this option, we had to sign a brand new surrogacy agreement with the Israeli Fertility Clinic! One that would put the wheels in motion for another attempted surrogacy in Kathmandu. I didn’t mention earlier that we had a few failures when it came to ‘getting pregnant’. In all, three non starter pregnancies and two miscarriages. We obviously thought a first attempt at a new pregnancy was unlikely to take, so even before the birth of Thor, this new attempt at pregnancy seemed to us highly unlikely. We just imagined there would be a second attempt six months down the line. However, we were soon to be very surprised. With the embryos now in storage at the newly built hospital in Kathmandu, we surprisingly learnt that two of the embryos had been thawed and an attempt at pregnancy had occurred. There was a test for the pregnancy hormone and it had proved positive. We later found out that we were once again blessed with another twin pregnancy. On this occasion our children would be born at the top of the world, under the shadow of Mount Everest. We would soon enough become a family of two dads, two spotty dogs, two sets of beautiful twins and a little bolt of thunder who went by the name of Thor. That is the short version of the story of ‘How did we become to be’. Whatever the logistics, nature, within her blossom and beauty (with a little human intervention) has truely flourished…
It was some time before fortune blessed us with our next child, baby Thor. In fact he was conceived on or around the girls first birthday, but the girls would have to wait another nine months (and some) to receive the gift of a little brother. India was closed to us as an option regarding this pregnancy as the Indian government had earlier implemented rule changes that banned single people (essentially gay couples) from using surrogacy services. The new rules stipulated that only heterosexual couples married for a minimum of two years would be permitted to use the services of surrogacy in India. A moral crusade you might ask? Hooey – the moment the girls and I returned from our stay in India, the country re-criminalised being gay. How very twenty first century. I suppose their government, had to stop gay couples coming to India to use the services of surrogacy if they were about to reassert a Dickensian law banning homosexuality completely. I believe that the law has only just been repealed, once again decriminalising the re-criminalising of being gay in India. My heart does go out to the repressed peoples of all nations, not just to the people of India. Now I am starting to sound slightly political! I really don’t want that to be the case in this blog. Though I guess politics ultimately affects everything we do or don’t in life.
Politics were at play in India and indeed at play when Ausa, our surrogate in Thailand was pregnant with Thor. He was born in late December 2014. Thailand, just like India, had made international surrogacy illegal. Not an easy time for us. Remember the baby Gammy scandal? Many women working as surrogates, fearing retribution from the Thai Military Junta that had taken over the government in a coup simply went into hiding. Our IVF Clinic was closed by the authorities and our paediatrician at one point had gone into hiding. Yes, a very uneasy time for us. As a family we persevered and got through the ordeal. We were now a family of two dads, two dogs, two girls and a little bolt of thunder named Thor.
Part five of this chapter will just have to follow later as it is time to prepare dinner for five hungry mouths.
We chose to have our first surrogacy in India. We had to wait over a year for the ivf clinic to find two separate women who could prove that they were single. India is a world away from the one we know. There was no women’s liberation in the 1960’s. Very sadly women are second to men on the social scale, whatever cast they’re fortunate or unfortunate to be born into. There are very few single women in a country of over a billion people. Younger women are just in waiting for their marriage, the vast majority of women are married and a very, very small number of women, who might be widowed or divorced can prove it with the relevant paperwork that the U.K. government will accept. For the genetic father to have any rights as the father of a baby born through surrogacy, the surrogate needs to be unmarried. If she is married, her husband is regarded as the babies father in U.K. law. Anyhow, with our Sperm already on ice, embryos were produced and two separate pregnancies were attempted. One surrogate had the embryos created from Johns sperm and the other surrogate, embryos that were biologically mine. All of the embryos shared the same egg donors genetics. One pregnancy was a success and sadly the other pregnancy was not. An ironic twist added to the story was that the successful pregnancy was going to be a twin pregnancy. Of course, one of us was saddened that there was a significant failure, but as potential, committed parents, the genetics were not everything. We were both going to become Dads. And we learnt at this early stage, things seldom go as planned! Remember it was john and I who planned the family and to be the children’s sole parents. The egg donor wasn’t planning on being a mother to our children and as for the surrogate? She wasn’t doing this for us to be nice, remember we chose compensated surrogacy in India (not legal here in the U.K.) and she was very well paid to carry our babies to term. There was no genetic connection. Our children only have two parents and we both happen to be men! Thirty five weeks later, we were suddenly a family of two dads, two dogs and now, two little baby girls. The family was growing.
Okay it’s time for bed now so there will have to be a ‘part four’ of this chapter tomorrow. Upstairs the girls have all been shouting and running around, now two hours since going up to bed, they have finally just settled. I went up an hour ago and changed Aaliyah’s stinky nappy and finally things are quiet. Then the boys were fast asleep. As will I be very soon, Goodnight.
Thor and Aaliyah were both on the ‘Thinking Chair’ in quick succession, four times yesterday for fighting and threatening to bite each other. They were asked to be quiet for two minutes and then they could get off. It was on Aaliyah’s fifth sitting, Thor said to Aaliyah ‘oh Aaliyah, we’ve done this five times now (and he sighs loudly) can you just keep quiet for two minutes’.
Caleb was on ‘Thinking Chair’ later that day and left alone for five minutes. John walks back out to the dining hall and Caleb is nowhere to be seen. John investigates further to find him hiding behind the big oak dining table amongst the boxes of wine. John asked him what he was doing there and Caleb replies ‘I’m in my house daddy, I want to stay here please’? He was marched back to the ‘Thinking Chair’.
Sorry for the two day delay in the continuation of this story, but as I had earlier explained, I have had a few days off from family life and I have only just resurfaced! John has done a sterling job coping without myself or Sindy on Thursday and Friday. I do appreciate him and what he does regards family life. His main time with the children is obviously the weekend, so with Sindy off off on Thursday and Friday and me in London, he has been run ragged. But has come through it and all is well.
So back to our story. There were a few small instances that lead to the realisation that we could father our own children. The first one for me was, if Remus could manage it, well why couldn’t we. We’re fairly intelligent people and if you plan for something carefully, most things are possible aren’t they? However the main epiphany was a late night program on the TV. John has gone to bed early (as he does) with Remus and Gracie and a program came on called ‘Made in India’. It told the story of a perfectly normal boy/girl couple and their journey through IVF, resulting in a third party surrogate carrying their genetic child to term. The surrogate was well paid, the Clinic was well paid and the result was one happy family! Now, at that time we had all heard of celebrity surrogacies like Elton John and David Furness having a baby. So I thought, what is so different from John and I experiencing the possibility of using an egg donor (much like sperm donation) and a surrogate to carry the child. I was full of apprehension and felt too scared to share my thoughts with John for several days after, but the following week I did.
And that was the beginning of how we came to be. But five children later, from that moment to this, an awful lot has passed. Perhaps enough adventures and indeed misadventures, I thought the story worthy of my efforts to document it as a memoir. Watch this space, but in part three of this chapter, I will sum up in brief how all five of our children came to be. The remainder of this chapter will be continued this afternoon! I hope you’re looking forward to the read.
Well, John and I actually met some twenty five years ago. We were attracted to one another and had a snog after much eye contact, in a very well known and notorious gay bar in West London, the Coleherne in Earls Court. Thinking back to those days now, they seem a world away from where we are today! The bar did boast a multitude of gay celebrities that frequented it over the years, not necessarily at the same time of course. To name a few that I am aware of, not necessarily in chronological order, Kenny Everett, Mark Almond, John Paul Gaultier, Michael Barrymore, I even saw Evan Davis from newsnight in there one afternoon. There were many more, even the long term suffering boyfriend of Freddy Mercury spent his latter days at the bar! Finally, I can’t forget the notorious serial killer, Colin Ireland frequented the bar, not so long before John and I met there. Those certainly were interesting days. Moving on, after that first stolen kiss, that was it for a couple of years. We later met up in 1995 and decided to become an item. Three years later we moved into our first home together in Hammersmith. Now that was almost twenty years ago to the day. A few years passed, as they do. We were both working very hard, having started our two separate businesses. The hankering for the patter of tiny paws was brought up! We would have gone for it, but it was just before Christmas and my sister in law Louisa brought us one of those Disney soft toys and gave it to us. The present came with this advice ‘you guys are so busy, dogs are a responsibility, almost as much as children, are you sure you can manage a needy puppy as well as cope with the day to day stress of running your own businesses’? Of course she was right. So the soft toy took on the name already chosen for our spotty puppy, Remus. Now don’t laugh, but we didn’t just put the soft toy in the cupboard, come on, we had named him after all. The Disney toy called Remus came to bed with us each and every night. Well this was a practical reality that we could live with. But the thought of a real dog, to start our family remained and in 2008 we travelled out to Fittleworth in West Sussex, to a breeder of Dalmatians named Mrs Bennet and we chose our puppy. He was one of two boy puppies from a litter of twelve. Well there we have it, After officially being a couple for thirteen years at that point, we had finally become a family. There is a significant story here about Remus’s early years, though I’ll leave that for another time. But will conclude that just like the soft toy Dalmatian, Remus ultimately managed to gain access to the bed and the bigger he got, the more we were pushed to the sides. Now Gracie, our second Dalmatian came along three years later. She was not acquired through a breeder, rather gifted to us as ‘pick of the litter’ after Remus had joined a dog studding website and started bringing in a small wage for himself. We called the puppy Gracie as that was the name of the mother. By calling her the mother’s name there would be no emotional attachments, well we had to call her something while we looked to find a new home for her. And look and look I did. But to no avail. John always said that I didn’t look hard enough as I secretly wanted to keep her. Well in my favour, I did try to rehouse her but it wasn’t to be. So she became part of our slowly expanding family. That’s all for now, part two tomorrow folks.
That is the question! Well, I am sure all bloggers have asked this of themselves. What to write and what not to write. I will intersperse that as I go.
School half term is upon us and yesterday, the children had a play date at a friend from schools house. They were all invited and Sindy went along with them, leaving me to my own devices at home. I chose to stay in and correct one of this years Jammin’ disappointments. All of my endeavours thus far this year have set very well. But one of my recent ‘Jammy combos’ is still resembling a chunky fruit syrup after two boils and two lots of jam jar sterilising. More about that another day.
Back to what this diary is all about! I have set this up to document my ‘Big Family Life’, but it is also an insight into my interaction with it all, my life, my history, my likes and indeed, my (only very few) dislikes. I have decided to only use our first names. The handful of friends we do have who visit us in ‘The Shires’, I will introduce as and when, also on a first name basis. I am avoiding school friends names and that of their parents unless later on they tell me they are happy for me to name them in my writings.
I have a couple of nights off now as I am sat on a London bound train. I said my goodbyes to the children this morning, so lots of ‘hugs and a kiss’. I will not blog about these two nights off every fortnight as they are not so relevant to my family life, just a bit of R’n’R really. But when I am away I might just find the time to reflect and consider the past and indeed, hopes for the future. As I earlier mentioned, it’s about ‘the little things, but also about the bigger picture.
Writing my memoirs meant a lot to me. I completed the novel when we were holidaying in Provence in August. I’m not really sure where to go with them, find a publisher, self publish, both options are on the table. But for now, I am continuing the document right here, right now! I’m smiling as I first wrote the memoir using fictitious names. I was Dillon and his partner was Gabe. The children’s names were kind of spun from our daughter Tara’s name, having our first son and my fascination with the moon. The name Tara means Star. So hence the names were all a little celestial. Star, Sky, Sonny (sun), Chandra and Terran, all had a certain ring to them, but I ended up thinking that I was in some way fictionalising or dramatising the account. So I decided we all deserved our actual names. More on the memoir later. My train is about to arrive at its destination.
Now I guess, not every small baby is assigned a ‘Baby Name’, well maybe not officially, but I’m sure that most little bundles of joy get called a myriad of cute sounding words and no doubt a certain one will stick as the parents get accustomed to the sound of it.
Our children’s baby names started with Tara. It was on our car trip, driving up from Candolim in Goa, back to the raging metropolis of Mumbai and its suburbs. I have to add that Bharti’s (our nannies) mother wouldn’t fly, so a long road trip was the only option. It is a very mountainous journey at times through the western Ghats of India as well as deep ravines and hair pin bends there was woodland and paddy fields aplenty. I remember, it was a thirteen hour journey. Bharti was our nanny back then in India. Her mother had come down from Mumbai to help out and her husband had joined us a few days before the journey. I had paid for the SUV (4 x 4) and he was our nominated driver! I of course do not drive. We passed all kinds of flora and fauna along the way, including elephants, monkeys and green parrots. I always smile when a troop of monkeys cross the road and take absolutely ages to get to the other side. The little ones stopping halfway to play. Naughty monkeys. We also gazed on a dead dog, it’s entrails looking as if they had exploded from its blooded, petrified body. There were a mass of very large, black ravens fighting over the spoils. Anyhow, we stopped a couple of times in the thirteen hours and the lunch stop was what I am going to talk about now. Bharti’s husband and I were in the front seats and Bharti and her mother were in the back holding one baby each. We stopped at a pretty basic shack besides the road for some food (curry served from a plastic chill box) and to use the hole in the ground that was the W.C. We were in a fairly dense area of woodland. I jumped out and opened the rear door for Bharti’s mother, holding a smiley Tara. I grabbed her, missing her hold and started making coo’ing sounds to generate a giggle as I walked with her to the open door of the shack. Oooh oooh I was sounding whilst holding her close to my face and to my surprise, she replied aaah oooh, to which I reactively said boo boo. Putting two sounds together, constitutes a word as far as I’m concerned. And that was how Booboo was named! Now we have twins, don’t forget. So if Tara got the oooh in booboo, Amritsar had to have the aaah in aaah oooh. Amritsar became Baabaa. Thor on the other hand, being quite the screamiest of baby’s, his name was obvious to imagine. He would wail about banging down loudly with clenched fists. Start thinking Barney Rubble’s son in the Flintstones? Bambam was a clear winner as a baby name for Thor. When it came to the youngest of the brood, I wasn’t planning on ‘Baby Names’ but I did think we should keep it in the same style of the others names. Bimbop, boopsnoop! Lol. Only kidding – Beebee and Bobo were named. Caleb’s name being shorter as he was our littlest one. A very calm and chilled out little baby, when he was first born, he was the wrinkliest of all our children. It kind of looked as if he was frowning with all the lines on his forehead. But he flattened out and no Botox was required…
So there you go. Booboo, Baabaa, Bambam, Beebee and Bobo, our not so famous five.
The final night away was a whirlwind of thanking our hosts over a Pinot Noir and a chilled Chardonnay. And my food offering was a Roast Pork and bacon joint, pigs in blankets, lard roast potatoes, glazed carrots, butter sautéed Savoy cabbage, fine green beans and a jus (gravy) made with pork stock and the juices from the meat!
We were woken this morning by Amritsar tapping Sidmouth pebbles together at 6.15am and our bedroom invasion happened at 6.45am. Another breakfast at the farmhouse of eggy bread and crepes, then a mass cleanup before we said our goodbyes at 10.30am.
The journey back was smooth. ‘Are we there yet’ only resonated a handful of times, there were no toilet stops and the children slept for seventy percent of the trip. A far cry from our outward journey. The dogs went crazy on our return and we are now finally home and settled.
No doubt more to add tomorrow…
Last nights paella was spectacular. Served with large prawns and scallops, a very well engineered, gastric delight! We used to summer in Spain when Johns mum and sister owned an apartment there many years back. It was near Marbella on the Costa del Sol. We ate paella a lot and I can, with hand on heart say that our host far exceeded anything that we have previously savoured.
Today’s adventure was exhausting. Our hosts and their two dogs were followed by us in the car. Our destination Sidmouth, was a twenty five minute drive. We parked, crossed the road and walked down to the pebble and sand beach, to the west of the town centre. The beach is flanked at the rear by enormous, red sandstone cliffs. Jurassic in age, this coastline is well known by fossil hunter and happy, beach going tourist alike. The dogs loved it, the children loved it, we all loved it. Though I have to say that we forgot to bring towels. A big mistake, but with the sun shining and the temperature in the early twenties, they all dried off in the end. You’ve got it! – the further along the beach we walked, the more confident the children were to embracing the waters edge. The waves weren’t particularly big to begin with, but they were on the tidal side of high. The beach was slowly getting smaller and smaller and the children were starting to run into the water more frequently. They were all soaked through within fifteen minutes of arrival and ringing wet, de-shoed and topless by the time we reached twenty. At thirty minutes we had to give up on that beach and were walking along the cliff side coastal path to the second beach. This one was closer to the town. The sun was hot and there was not a cloud in the sky. We had a further two hours of sand castle making, climbing the granite boulders (to the rear of the beach) and just having a good time in general. We’re back at the holiday house now, de-sanded and showered. I am thinking back to the last Time we were ‘on the beach’, it was this summer in Antibes in the south of France. The children were all in their swimming costumes and armbands. A little more glamorous than Sidmouth perhaps, Antibes warm, Mediterranean waters were Azur Blue and very inviting. We all loved the pool at the villa, they were in for a couple of hours each day and I am so glad everyone now has the confidence to just get in and start splashing around. Though being fully clothed today, maybe they had a little bit too much confidence. Note to ones self ‘Always bring towels’.
Certainly our hosts, Alistair and Lorna have made us feel welcome. So a very big warm thank you from us all. This afternoon we swam and splashed away in the outside pool for well in excess of an hour. Remember that this is the latter part of October in the U.K.! And once showered and back in our civies, we were invited up to ‘the big house’ and the not so famous five enjoyed olives and little bear corn puffs, followed by spaghetti bolognese and rounded off with homemade chocolate brownie. Well appreciated and we are now dressing the children for bed. Our hosts are coming to the ‘Thatched Barn’ in fifteen minutes to serve us a well prepared paella made from chicken stock prepared with chicken legs and roasted garlic and vegetables. Thank you, thank you. More on tonight, tomorrow. I can’t get over,how good the weather has been.
We arrived to a warm welcome last night and the gracious hospitality of Alistair and Lorna. The two dogs greeted us also at the main farmhouse door. Aaliyah smiled and gave the biggest hugs. The two cats fled and hid. That was the last we saw of them. John went with Alistaire to purchase the six biggest portions of fish and chips I have ever seen. Dinner was a big hit, washed down with copious amounts of black current squash and white wine. You can work out who drank what! The ‘Thatched Barn’ where we were sleeping was warm and cosy. And surprisingly all five settled quickly, though it was almost three hours past their normal bed time. We were invited to the farmhouse for a breakfast of well seasoned ‘eggy bread’ and wafer thin crepes cooked on the range. The oil lightly dusting the multitude of fry’s made the open kitchen a little smokey but this cleared and everyone ate vast amounts.
We ventured out to the local seaside town of Seaton. The weather was sunny and warm with only a mild breeze. Our morning was to visit the Seaton Tramway. Everyone loves trains and we knew that the Seaton to Colyton tram ride would be a big success. It was and they all got to choose a toy in the gift shop. We progressed on to the actual seafront. It is not such a commercial one, just a rank of houses, a few business and a shingle beach. Ice creams were purchased from a small hut on the road beside the beach. It was decided to eat them in the car, something Aaliyah was not happy with. Needless to say we had our first major meltdown of the day, followed by Caleb becoming angry and throwing his ice cream on the floor of the car.’I want to be good, I want to be good’ Aaliyah screamed, but there was no sign of her anger calming until we were nearly back at the holiday home. Thor, Aaliyah and Tara finished ice creams calmly and asked for tissue to clean off. Lunch was a simple matter of toasted bagels. There is excitement and shouting again as we prepare for the 4.30pm slot at the pool. Tara and Aaliyah are screaming about their swimming costumes and broken goggles respectively. Wish us luck – off to the pool.
A very long afternoon and evening. I hope you’re sitting down. Make yourself comfortable.
Not even four o’clock and ‘are we there yet’ has raised its beleaguered head. Caleb has been shouting and Thor has been saying ‘be quiet Caleb, stop shouting’, now he is shouting, ‘Caleb stop shouting’. Now I am shouting ‘Thor and Caleb stop shouting’. The others are quiet, it’s a long journey ahead. Now approaching the world heritage site, Stonehenge. This part of the A303 is notoriously slow. You have to smile at the innocence of this. Thor has just said ‘I see a small deer asleep besides the road. His leg was near the car. He was asleep’. A very observant little boy. You do realise this paragraph is going to be condensed down from our entire trip, don’t you? Thought I should say that in case you’re thinking that an awful lot is going on. A Bi-Plane has just been hovering and looping above us, very cool. Just found a lay-by and stopped for Thor, Aaliyah and Tara to have a pee in the shrubs. Just spotted Stonehenge, we’re all very excited. ‘Tara pinched me’ just came from the back seat. ‘Stonehenge, Stonehenge is coming, look, look’ Amritsar is now screaming. Aaliyah is more interested in the cows on her side however and Thor is screaming about cow poo. Sonny and Cher have just come on the music system. We play a lot of 1960’s music for the children. It just seems so much more appropriate in its innocence and optimism. Now Caleb is saying ‘I am a spaceman’ and Thor is shouting ‘Caleb hit me, Caleb hit me’. They can’t actually reach each other with Aaliyah sat happily in the middle! All is now quiet. Now Aaliyah has stuck her sticker she was given at the library visit with preschool today on her belly button and is shouting ‘look Dadda, look’. Amritsar is giggling maniacally in the back seat and tickling Tara. Alliyah and Caleb have started doing the same. Thor looks on uninterested, staring out of the window. Just spotted a mother on her knees in a lay-by cleaning off her car seat with wipes ‘There but for the grace of god go I’. ‘Own kind of music’ Cass Elliot just came on. Respect! Some of the rolling landscape either side of the road is a real treat for the eyes. Thor has just remarked about the long shadows and how it will soon be dark. Clever boy. Another several ‘are we nearly there yet’ in quick succession from Amritsar and now Thor and Aaliyah have joined in. John is bored of the music and wants ‘music to watch girls by’ and I said if there are two rubbish songs in a row, we can change music. He asked well who’s going to be the arbiter? I thought and as Thor was nodding his head I said ‘Thor can arbitrate’ and added ‘Do you like this song Thor’, he replied ‘Yes Dadda’. Hehehe. Two paraglider’s are floating past us in a nearby field, good spotting Amritsar. The last song was rubbish! We eagerly awaited the next song… ‘up, up and away in my beautiful balloon’ is playing and Thor was asked wether he liked it… a resounding yes. But then again we all secretly like it don’t we! ‘Sheep, sheep, sheep’ is all I’m hearing now. I guess we just passed some sheep. Caleb has been clutching the nappy change bag for the entire trip and keeps opening the zipper. He seemingly can’t close it so keeps screaming ‘Dadda, Dadda Help’? I’m getting a neck ache at this point with turning around so much. Out of sympathy, Thor and I are now allowing John his fix of Andy Williams as ‘Music to watch girls go by’ is now playing. The sun is preparing to set in front of us. A magnificent display of mottled cloud and the suns exhausted rays besets us, as does Gene Pitney. I’m now screaming ‘Are we there yet’? Thor has just pulled a handful of Aaliyah’s hair from her scalp. She is screaming and kicking about something completely unrelated. We can now see a Lama in a field of sheep – does this get any more surreal. Tara is shouting ‘Hello Lama, Hello Lama’. The car is at a standstill besides the Lama. They are all shouting ‘Hello Lama’. We see a statue of Buddha in the sheep and Lama field! I have just found half a bag of wipes pulled from the packet at Caleb’s feet. He is no longer the nappy bag monitor. Naughty Caleb. This half term traffic sucks. Usually things speed up once we have passed Stonehenge – but it’s been a constant crawl for the last two hours now. Thor and I have the thumbs down for the song playing, will we be swapping musical genres again? Thanks Bobby Rydell. Though Tara is now singing or whining in tune to the song! How very theatrical of her. The Mavericks are a compromise for john and I but the children have decided they all want ‘Shake, Baby, Shake’ by Lush. We are teaching them the art of compromise – they can have their song next. Just passed a restaurant called ‘The Hawk House’ hmmmm, interesting! Caleb, bless him is trying to join in with Tara and Aaliyah singing the lyrics. He’s finding it hard so he’s resorted to grunts and a sort of squealing sound… The traffic has improved vastly as we are now hitting 70mph. Are we legal, we’re going with the flow however! I don’t drive but I sympathise with those at the wheel. As slow as a tortoise for so long and now running with the hare… I spoke too soon. Back walking with the tortoise. But the children get to see a ‘Blue Tractor’ on the opposite side of the road. Sun pretty much set now and the moon is shining on my left hand side. It should be full in a few days, I hope it’s not cloudy on Monday!!! We’re talking about Lorna’s cats now, the ginger or the black. They all want the cats. Oh dear, Thor now says he smells something strange! ‘Is it coffee’ Aaliyah asks. ‘What is it, what is it’ she is now screaming. Thor looks at her calmly. ‘You don’t need to worry Aaliyah’. Thor then adds ,The moon is following us Aaliyah’. It’s dark now and I have resorted to google maps for directions. Tara is shouting ‘Hey Google’ as she is on the car speaker. To no avail, google does not reply. You have to smile and sorry if you don’t understand some of my dialogue today as i’m not sure I do either…