The Value of photographs

I’m sat on the bus, on my journey home from London. John is expecting me for two thirty as he has the girls school pickup at three. Sindy has today off and John is at home doing today’s school runs. I just passed the pharmacy that I remember from almost six years ago, getting my photo taken for my Indian tourist visa, to allow me to travel to India for the girls births. I have been in the pharmacy since, for my own passport photos. As this was such a momentous occasion, the visa should be done by a professional I thought. Not that I haven’t taken a passport photo myself for five small babies, in foreign lands for our children’s passports. I remember that the Indian gentleman who runs the pharmacy is very friendly and always remembers me if I call in for some reason or another. Anyhow, my photo for the Indian visa, I remember was square. And the visa application took several days to process and there I was, back in March of 2013, my passport arrived back with my ‘Indian Visa’. Johns process for his visa was somewhat different from mine. I will leave that story for now and move on to a month or two after that event! I was settled in Powai, a suburb in the exotic city of Bombay. In the centre of the town there was a shopping centre with all necessary shops for getting by. A supermarket, mother and baby shop, mobile phone centre, you’ve got it, everything a local might need without having to travel further for the necessities in life. I was a dab hand at photoshop back then. The twins, Amritsar and Tara were only small babies. I got the dimensions for their photos from the UK home office website. It was a very hot day and the shop was small and very packed. The owner and his co-workers were apparent amongst the throng of things. The older gentleman saw that I was waiting and immediately came over to engage. The photography shop was near the hospital where the girls had been born, Hiranandani Hospital in Powai, Mumbai. We talked and he rejoiced that I was there with surrogate twins who were looking for their passport photos. Being the only photography shop in Powai, I guess he was used to the volume of business, brought to him from the surrogacy industry with births from the local hospital. He moved a young lad away from the screen of a rather antiquated computer and beckoned me over, hand outstretched for my memory stick. We sat down in front of the computer on miniature stools. We talked and he then uploaded the two best pictures and asked me how many copies I would like. I asked for six a piece. Now printing the pictures took no time at all, though getting the pictures to begin with was a whole different ball game! My attempts to get the girls to open their eyes at such an early stage proved impossible. The U.K. authorities had stated on the website that it was okay with closed eyes for baby passports, but I wanted to do it right. I didn’t want any thing with the applications to be incorrect, something that might slow down the application process. Bharti, our Indian nanny was with me at the time. We nudged the girls, in turn and spoke loudly, we even clapped noisily, perhaps too close to their faces, nothing worked. But perseverance has its rewards. I ended up with forty or so pictures of each, maybe two or three with an eye or two open partially with a baby squint. It would have to do. As long as my photo trim got their faces with the correct dimensions and I downed the brightness and upped the contrast to bleach out the rear white bed sheet, so it looked flat like a white background. We had lift off.

That’s today’s thoughts folks, maybe I’ll get to the other children’s passports stories another time. But as for the girls passports! We did finally receive them, some five long months after the joyous day of their births.

Stencilling and body paint

Here’s today’s story, partly brought on by last nights ‘Lord of the Flies’ event. All ended well upstairs. I went up and although they were behaving like a chapter in the book ‘Lord of the Flies’, it wasn’t to do with flies, in fact all of the commotion was brought on by a big black spider. It seems that when the not so famous five are in their rooms, if there is a moth, spider, fly etcetera, Thor is the man to deal with it! Before I actually got to the top floor, I clearly heard Tara shouting ‘Thor will squish it, let Thor, let Thor’. I arrived and Thor was in the motions of squishing the said spider. I told them it was nicer to put insects outside if they were in the room and that spiders are nice, but anyhow, the tribe settled down and they all went to bed.

Back to today’s story. Please, please preschool, more stencilling please. Children can’t really go wrong with a plate of paint and a piece of cut potato or sponge (not the cake variety). I was most impressed with the poppy stencilling brought home last week before Remembrance Sunday. It still sits on top of the provisions cupboard in the kitchen. Sindy, the nanny did a culling of all of the latest sheets of scribbles and toilet roll mutations. In fairness, she goes by me first, before plunging the paper and cardboard into the recycle bin. We both took a moment to consider the poppy pictures and jointly agreed that they were keepers. I thought back to doing the same when the girls were at preschool. It all ended up with recycling, all except the stencilling.

The other half of this story refers to paint. We no longer have any paint (for children) in the house. It was banned just over a year ago after another ‘Lord of the Flies’ incident. It was summertime. A warm day and the back door was open. John was relaxing on one of the patio sofas on the terrace and I was in the kitchen with all five children, supervising a painting session. All was fine, creative hands were all at work. In walks John and I say can you look over them for a moment! He agrees and I head off outside for some reason or other. I am gone around fifteen minutes. I return to the terrace to see John relaxed, feet up on the garden sofa and my gaze is drawn to the back door. Out runs Tara, completely naked, covered in blue, red and green paint! She is closely followed by Thor, also naked, with his back and bottom also smeared in paint. They are both shouting and laughing and screaming like ‘Crazies’. They are followed by the other three, still clothed but faces painted, smeared and splashed like a Jackson Pollock canvas. ‘Weren’t you looking over them’ I ask John. His reply was ‘I did for five minutes, then came out here to relax’. So they were unsupervised for a little under ten minutes and all hell broke loose. They were all still running amuck screaming out loudly. They will remember the day as a lot of fun, I will remember it however as the last day that paint was allowed in the house.

Three little flies

There was a fly in Thor’s cereal bowl this morning. He was distressed, but once removed with a teaspoon, he happily finished his Cheerios. Fly two however was the memory of Barney, a fully grown up fly who somehow hatched or rather pupated in the middle of last winter. He was rather sluggish and used to come into the kitchen from somewhere upstairs (where he was clearly living), pretty much every time we had a meal. He would fly down and sit beside me, watching what I did, or indeed in front of one of the children. Occasionally he would sit on my arm and continue to look on, observing what was going on. We got so used to him, we gave him the name ‘Barney’. He was with us for several weeks in all. He was fairly sedate and never once landed on our food. He did not seem at all pesky like the general flies we see in the garden every summer. The third fly story is happening as I write this on the top floor ‘The Lord of the Flies’ (remember the book) seems to be in enactment as I speak, so I had better dash and quell the rebellious five and spare our neighbours Tara’s shrieks, clearly trying to ignite fires and damnation from above.

First born

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It’s late and I’m about to go to bed. Though I am lying on the dogs bed in front of the television with Remus, our first born. He’s ten years old now and did I say earlier, that I love him very much. He’s never really found on ‘The Dogs Bed’ as he and Gracie ditched it a number of years ago as they much preferred to snuggle up on the sofas. It’s really a very large cushion. A bit tattered now as Gracie as an infant chewed it in a couple of places, to reveal the hollow fibre stuffing (it’s been patched up by myself a number of times), basically not unlike our not so famous five and their plight to break anything and everything they can. Both Gracie and Remus gnawed their way through a multitude of household items as puppies, including phones and oak flooring. So here I am on the dogs bed besides the TV. Remus is snuggling in tightly. You see he has such an acute personality, he feels emotions just like us humans and purveys heightened responses to scenarios, not unlike ourselves. He was told off by John tonight for his obsessional begging when it comes to food. Our dinnertimes are a misery of him and Gracie lying mainly at my feet whining for scraps. It’s role reversal really with ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop’ that we enact with the children. The dogs see me as the nice guy they spend the guts of their lives with. With John at work Monday to Friday, I’m their constant companion at home. John got a bit angry last night with our roast pork, Sunday dinner and raised his voice shouting that they should settle and go to their bed. Their ears kind of drooped and pointed backwards. They went and both sat on the cushion besides the TV. I should say that the cushion nowadays, usually accommodates four little bottoms, occasionally five. The same situation happened tonight. As there was gravy and pork left in the fridge from last night we repeated last nights menu of a full roast meal, only substituting roast potatoes with the meat juices and pork fat with deep fried torn potatoes (I’ve mentioned them before, the best potatoes you are ever likely to encounter). Well anyhow the dogs were told to settle and ‘On your bed’ was asserted yet again. Remus and Gracie took heed and there they lay, longingly eyeing up my plate for the twenty minutes the meal took to finish. The meal was served with the remains of the home made apple sauce and the crackling was deep fried. That’s the secret, if you want the best pork crackling ever – you must take the calorie plunge and deep fry it (unless you want a huge dental bill). Since i’ve only had a deep fat fryer for a number of weeks, I can at this point verify that it’s only been used once a week. Okay back to Remus. He has spent the entire evening on the dog bed, not opting for the sofa. I’m lying on the dog bed also and he has been snuggling all evening, at least three hours and you know that thing when a dog moves it’s nose up and down repeatedly to snuggle in… he has been doing that constantly. He is a bit upset with John being annoyed at him and his antics. He’s barely looked at John tonight. You do have to own a dog to understand just how their emotions are akin to us humans. Both Remus and Gracie are devoted dogs, but Remus especially acts in such a manner that is so alike that of an unhappy child or indeed on the other hand, one who has just been given a candy bar. As our ‘First Born’ he certainly acts up the most, but gives back love and affection in droves and occasionally drool. There is nothing wrong with being sensitive is there! Dogs and humans alike.

The Last Harvest

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Harvest festival is long past now. We donated some tins and provisions to both churches where the girls and the little ones schools each celebrated. I’ve told you of our bumper grape harvest and the dismal one from the orchard. All due to the very hot summer we enjoyed. Maintinance on our terrace now complete with the sculpture of the free standing wisteria, I noticed one last harvest to be had. I promised more pictures, so here we go.

Onwards and upwards

So what’s been going on? I love all my children equally. I love my life partner John and I love the dogs, Remus and Gracie. There are ups and downs with them all, but we move forward and progress a little more each and every day. I didn’t blog yesterday as I was a bit unhappy with Caleb. Out of all of the children, I find him the most challenging. Mind you, a few years ago, the same could have been said about Thor. And today Thor and I are the best of friends. Though Mi Mi is his bestest. Caleb on the other hand is a little less ‘out there’. He’s been playing catch-up at most levels, so far. He said that ‘I don’t want to see you’ yesterday, quite out of the blue. It upset me, and I responded tit for tat. I do take things very to heart. Maybe he does too. We’ve been getting on just fine of recent, so it blew me back when he said what he did. I don’t want to ‘sugar coat’ my life and my diary, so yesterday I just decided that no news was good news. This cloud did have a silver lining however, as he ascended the stairs to go to bed at the end of a line of five, he held up his arms and said ‘up and kiss’. So it was a slightly happier end to the day.

Dead Head

The Hydrangea on the terrace got the ‘Dead Heading’ of a lifetime today. No I’m not a gardener, but as John mows the lawn, the trade off is that ‘I maintain the terrace’. It’s quite a big lawn to mow and as John has found, a final end of year mow, once all of the leaves have fallen, is the seasonal roundup and the garden then goes to sleep. No raking up of the multitude of leaves – a definite winner. So yes, I maintained the terrace today, ‘Dead Heading’ the hydrangea and de leaving and pruning into shape, one of the two remaining wisterias.

‘Dead Head’… makes you think doesn’t it! Forgetting the garden now, we all go through the ups and downs in life don’t we? But what about when the downs remain, when they don’t bounce back! Month after month of sadness, festering into blind despair. Definition of sad reads what exactly. I just googled it and dictionary. Com read some thirty six definitions. I won’t list them, but a couple that I personally felt a few years ago are – sorrowful, downcast, downhearted and despondent. And all of that after such a feeling of glory and adulation after the birth of the girls in the spring of twenty thirteen. You see it was a very long eight months I spent in Mumbai. Some of you may remember, some of it, perhaps. I would go as far as to say that coming home with the girls was the end of a very long journey for me. But we did get home, didn’t we? At that time, it was difficult as I was slightly morose, maybe not comparable to shell shock, but I felt like a person who was devoid of themselves. Of course with two young babies, you just have to cope. We were still living in London at that point. We had a nanny lined up to help out, but she was not the person we had hoped for and within four weeks of our return, we asked her to leave. At that point, the wounds I still felt from my extended time in India were still there, but babies and nappies and feeding and winding just filled in my time twenty four seven. There wasn’t any time to reflect on what had happened. I considered counselling, but would that of helped and there really wasn’t the time in the day to just ‘take off’ and sit on someone’s sofa for an hour. This is quite an admission to myself, but I felt completely ‘Dead Headed’ with all that had happened, the bureaucratic nonsense from both the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, this and the corruption that I experienced, that is sadly part of Indian culture. Yes I returned a different man due to my experiences, feeling completely ‘Dead Headed’ at that time, but the love of our new family was binding, I got through the void that was there and replaced it with hope, yes hope of tomorrow and all that tomorrow will bring…