Day 5, Luncheon with Friends

Good friends Bridget and Des called in for lunch with their children Malky and River. They were visiting from their holiday home in Looe, south Cornwall. We enjoyed their company at Golithia Falls on Bodmin moor on Tuesday.

Their golden Labrador Luna stayed at home with Bridget’s parents Malcolm and Jenifer! I like Bridget’s father Malcolm a lot! He is a Methodist Minister and used to be the Chaplin to the UK’s Houses of Parliament!

A very wise man and fun to boot! Not being particularly religious, I’m a bit more of a tree hugging pagan I guess. This does not mean that I do not regard and respect other people’s religion or beliefs.

So, I know I did ‘Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner’ yesterday, but I would like to add today’s lunch as picture of the day! Salmon, Shrimp, langostine, new potatoes, zucchini and samfire was enjoyed by us grownups and the children enjoyed spaghetti with 3 hour simmered bolognese with a snowstorm of parmesan.

After lunch an hour was enjoyed in the surf with the bodyboards. I remained at the holiday house and enjoyed an hours respite. Daddy then went off to do a lengthy zoom call with a client and we all said our goodbyes at 4pm.

Tomorrow being our last full day, I imagine one final frolic on the beach whatever the weather!

Pretty grey out there today, but an enjoyable day none the less. This picture taken in a fleeting moment of blue sky.

Aaliyah presently screaming as they debate where each of them are sleeping tonight…

Spaghetti Puttanesca for Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner. A break from fish! Lol

Hope you are having a good time wherever you are and my thanks as ever for taking the time to read my blog, diaryofagaydad.net

Oh Amritsar and Thor have adopted a rather large snail called ‘Biggy’ that they found in the garden this afternoon. Don’t worry, I made them all wash their hands before they ate this evening!

Even a little snail garden was created! Hehe…

Day 4, Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

A very fish based menu this week! Being on the seashore this week has been very inspiring!

Sea Bass with roasted Jersey a royals and sugar snap peas

Crab cakes with lobster tail, spinach and fries

Simple skewered shrimp

Sautéed potatoes with plaice, muscles and samfire

Day 3, Friends Visiting For The Day

I sit here, early evening! The children running wild. That is 3 of them at least. Amritsar sleeping on the sofa in daddy’s arms, Aaliyah snoozing on the other sofa.

Friends Thea and a John left a little time ago with their four children after a day of mayhem and frolics, here in North Cornwall on the beach. Lunch was had, a walk on the windswept beach with almost cyclonic winds and drizzle to boot. Further grazing of the large left over buffet lunch and finally this period of exhaustion and the hope the children settle soon!

Now all wandering around like the drones from the matrix movie, just awaiting their pre programmed commands for finally settling!

All just heading to their rooms – kiss and hug later! Let’s look at an image or two of the day!

Thank you for reading!

Day 2, Golithia Falls

Just back from a day out to Golithia Falls near Bolventor. The home of the ancient travellers resting stop in Daphne du Maurier‘s famous novel of the same name, Jamaica Inn. Of course a hideous tourist trap serving miserable food and offering a dismal service to the unsuspecting fools that happen to stumble upon the windswept moors of Bodmin!

On our way back to the car, Thor hung back a little. He found a packet of something. A few rustling’s later caught up with something he was clutching tightly! Look dadda he whispers, look, a mouse, I found a mouse! I look down to find Thor coveting a tampon (new). The 4 women passing us noticed our conversation! Much laughing was had to be sure.

All now in their bedrooms shouting from the rafters! I’m sure, give it an hour or two, some peace and quiet for daddy and dadda.

Day 1, Wind and Rain

Our first morning and the Atlantic coast looks true to form! The grey, windswept coastline is looking beautiful, though a little inhospitable!

We arrived yesterday afternoon and all of the children erupted into mayhem and screams to the highest order. I personally blame the large volume of gummy bears that were had to stave the final hour of hunger in the car! The packed lunches were clearly not enough. Though to be honest, there has not been a holiday as yet without vast amounts of screaming and disorder! The worst, I remember was going to Wexford in Ireland on the ferry. We had a cabin and I think all 5 were still in nappies at that point. Oh dear, trying to calm them all at auntie Sara’s house, took us well into the early hours. Thor’s screaming ended up with four of them huddled into one room and Thor alone in a travel cot in a room on his own. It took 3 days for them all to settle down. 2 days of bliss and then the inevitable journey home. I swore then ‘Never Again’. But here we are. They are much older now, though they can still be just as screamy! Only, they vocalise their angst between their crazy episodes.

Their dinner and supposed bedtime, followed by daddy and dadda’s dinner, they finally passed out last night at around 10pm and daddy and dadda enjoyed cheese and crackers and a movie on Netflix.

So back to this morning! The wind is howling, the rain bucketing down, all the children are shouting to go down to the beach. Oh dear… happy holidays.

I am going to try to find the video I took on that ill-feted journey over the Irish Sea, 3 babies and 2 toddlers

There will be updates!

And We’re Off!

To the rhythmic tones of the Primitives Spin-O-Rama, we take the slip road onto the M4 motorway…

And we are off on our long awaited Summer Holiday to Northern Cornwall. Hip hip hooray everybody chants!

Just entered the Holiday House postcode into google maps and she has told us 3 hours and 33 minutes, allowing for traffic.

Musically streaming from my iPhone is our summer hits station on Spotify. Now enjoying James ‘You’re Beautiful’! The word ‘Fucking’ has just been sung. Sounding rather beautiful however! I do love this song. Don’t worry, the children know nothing of such words, I think we’re alright!

The vista today, the view from the beach house!

And now, the Chambers Brothers, The time has come today… ‘HEY’!!!

More later…

Preparing for the Family Holiday

We are at present organising our ‘Big Summer Holiday’ to Northern Cornwall. Saturday is the big day. I am reminded of our first ever big family holiday. You know, the first one when the children are children, past the final baby and toddler stages!

At the time I really enjoyed chronicling every moment of our trip along the A303 road, mid country, from the East to the South West of the country!

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…

Arrived!

The…

The loudest? Definitely Tara. The screamiest, still Thor. The most methodical, Amritsar for sure. The bossiest, Tara. The lover of animals, Aaliyah. The artist, Amritsar, followed by Thor and now Aaliyah!

On the subject of follower, Caleb for sure! The best eater – Thor! The best at sums, Amritsar, but OMG, Thor’s going to do ever so well, such NRG!

The most independent is Tara. But who says ‘I love you’ most frequently, Thor. The tightest hugs are from Tara. The most thank you’s erhem, I’d like to say then all, though I conceded, Tara, Amritsar and Thor for sure!

The messiest at mealtimes, Caleb of course. The tidiest at mealtimes, Amritsar, so precise.

The whiniest of all has to be Remus! Though Aaliyah gives him a run for the money!

The happiest of us all would have to be represented by all, Daddy and Dadda, Amritsar, Tara and Thor, not forgetting Aaliyah, Caleb, Remus and Gracie, again for sure!

Let’s now account for this moment in time…

Thor is running around our garden with his siblings, way past their bedtime, running with one of the neighbours children. Thor just opened the water pistol and held it besides his ‘winky’! Daddy just caught him in time before filling the water pistol with pee pee! Drama averted!

Welcome to my family…

And I was going to simply entitle this diary entry ‘Portrait’…

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Some fine dining options this week, though I am not sure that daddy always appreciates the trouble one goes to! But isn’t that the same in every house?

Wholewheat spaghetti with clams

Salmon en-croute with petit pois a la Francaise and butter braised Jersey Royal potatoes

Lamb Filet with dauphinois and garlic green beans

Pulled braised pork, beans, potatoes and crispy cracklings

Sea Bass and Prawns, purée peas and potatoes

scallop, black pudding, peas and dauphinois

A take on a cottage pie. Beef, 3 hours braised in a tomato and onion sauce, sliced potatoes and a mountain of grated cheddar.

MiMi Has Been Found

Just where had MiMi been hiding? Maybe 3 weeks now, Thor’s beloved bear MiMi has been missing. And not for the first time. You see, Thor likes to protect his beloved bear and on occasion will find a little snug in which to place him! The last time MiMi was found after a couple of weeks absence, in the piano stool. The time before that in daddy’s small draw of the bedside cabinet. I remember on that occasion MiMi had been missing for well over a month.

Yesterday daddy offered a one pound reward to whom ever found MiMi and this morning that offered reward really paid off! It was a very proud Amritsar who claimed the prize, having found MiMi beneath the acer bushes on the terrace in the garden!

You can see the raw emotion in today’s photos! Thor is once again whole, complete. MiMi is home 💕

Tadpoles at the bottom of the garden

Actually a better title might be the ‘Mosquito Larvae’ incident. It was Monday afternoon. I was upstairs for one reason or another. Tara comes in shouting ‘tadpoles Dadda, tadpoles’. ‘Where’ I asked, ‘the pool Dadda, the pool’. We went down to investigate.

So I am stood there looking, squinting at the partially filled pool. No tadpoles were to be seen! We have one of those 2 metre by 3 metre vinyl pools that we set up last month with the intention of filling it. But quite honestly, the weather here has been pretty rubbish thus far this summer. Daddy had filled the pool with the hosepipe a few weeks back, but for some reason he stopped at maybe 20cms, about 8 inches.

I put my glasses on and squinted some more. Suddenly I could see them wiggling about! A hundred, no a thousand, strike that, 100,000 mosquito larvae wriggling about everywhere. On my god! What were we to do! I explained to Tara that they were indeed mosquito larvae and not tadpoles! The look of shock was apparent on her face! We all remember the holiday in Provence two summers ago, where we stayed for 4 weeks and the children first enjoyed the luxury of a proper swimming pool.

This was where Aaliyah first learnt to swim, closely followed by Amritsar and Tara. Anyhow, the area was completely infested with mosquitoes! Stagnant water from an adjacent property no doubt, but the children learnt all about mosquitos on that holiday at any rate.

Back to the present and here we were looking at a potential infestation. I pulled the plug, which was several inches above the base of the vinyl bottom of the pool! The paddle pool, no doubt made in China and sadly coming with the usual one or two design flaws, had a problem! It was far too heavy to simply tip over. I had to get daddy and Tara to assist…

Much huffing and puffing and maybe 10 minutes later we finally managed to lift and empty. The stagnant, mosquito infested water was thankfully washed away as it slowly seeped into our slightly sloping garden lawn.

The possible mosquito infestation had mercifully been averted!

How to Achieve Work-Life Balance When You Work at Home

Today’s guest contributer is Lacie Martin. So a big thank you to her for sharing her wisdom through this well researched article. See more of her great ideas and parenting tips at:

http://raisethemwell.org/

Working from home promises a great deal of freedom and flexibility, but it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be. Boundaries are often non-existent or easily crossed, which can then result in extended work hours or subpar work quality on the one hand, and unhealthy routines and a less-than-ideal lifestyle for the family on the other. Thankfully, there’s more than one way to avoid such scenarios and, instead, strike a successful balance at home.

 

Improve How You Work

 

When working full-time from home, it can often be hard to recognize where work ends and home begins—and vice versa. For this reason, it’s an absolute necessity to recognize opportunities where you can improve your setup. 

 

● There are steps you have to take to consistently stay efficient and productive.
● Delegation can be a wonderful way not just to get more work done, but perhaps even to improve the quality of your work. It can, indeed, be worth hiring top freelancers for tasks that you can outsource, so you can focus on the work that you do best.
● It can also be a very good idea to set up a home office when you work from home full-time and long-term to minimize distractions and keep you productive and inspired.

 

Install Helpful Tools

 

In this day and age, you know what they say — there’s an app for that! Indeed, there’s no dearth of tools like software that can help you streamline your work.

 

● With all the distractions of home, the internet, social media, and more, productivity apps can be a real godsend in helping you stay on track.
● Depending on the work that you do, it’s wise to have a solid toolset of work-from-home apps that help you collaborate, automate, communicate, and so much more.
● There are also amazing home and family apps that you can use to keep your home life drama- and fuss-free, running the gamut from scheduling to meal and chore planning.

 

Implement Healthy Routines

 

True, a healthy balance between work and home life when you do both at home full-time can be challenging. For this reason, it’s important to maintain healthy routines.

 

● Your morning routine essentially sets the tone for your entire day, so it’s important for the entire family to maintain a fruitful one to make the most out of every day.
● Make it a point to spend time outdoors with your kids, not only to keep spirits and energy high but also to boost the immune system.
● Keep your kids engaged the healthy way, so you can work distraction-free without relying too much on screentime.

 

Ultimately, it’s not how well you juggle but the measures you take to keep everyone and everything in their places that allows you to successfully balance a full-time work-from-home career and family life. Indeed, it’s more than possible, so take stock of what you can improve, install, and implement to achieve that elusive work-life balance.

 

Photo via Pexels.com

Eighteen Moons (A Loving Family doesn’t come easily)!

I just looked out of the midnight window! My bedtime is inevitable. What I saw was wondrous! A full moon, beaming, no, pulsating with all of its radiance, beauty and might! And I dared to remember!

My story, Eighteen Moons was a reflection of this beautiful, celestial wonderment! I find myself in this precise moment, completely in awe of it, transfixed with this moment.

So here is the first chapter of my family story, ‘Eighteen Moons’. The chapter is entitled ‘The patter of Tiny Paws’.

‘He’s adorable!’

‘He is. Perfect.’

We looked at one another and grinned as a small bundle of white fur crawled steadily towards us. We had both fallen instantly and totally in love.

We were in the large garden of a house in West Sussex and the two of us were peering over the top of an old-fashioned pigsty on stilts. Inside were twelve perfect white puppies, just a couple of weeks old.

We’d asked the breeder, Mrs Bennett, how many boys there were. ‘Just the two,’ she’d said, pulling out one pup after another and turning them upside down. When she’d found the two males, she placed them at the opposite end of the pigsty. One began crawling straight back to his sisters while the other, steady and determined, headed towards us.

We’d found our boy.

We’d agreed on a name before we met him. Remus. And it suited him.

‘Come on Remus,’ I whispered, as he reached my outstretched hand and was rewarded with a gentle scratch behind his tiny ear.

‘By the time you collect him he’ll have his spots,’ Mrs B said.

Yes, our ‘first-born’ was a Dalmatian. Known for being a lively and intelligent breed. Also, as we were soon to discover, hyperactive and ferociously needy.

Tearing ourselves away we arranged to pick Remus up in six weeks’ time and set off on the two-hour drive home. I was beside myself with excitement, already planning my trip to buy a bed, blankets, toys and treats for the new addition to our family. John, at the wheel, was quiet, focussing on the road. But I knew he was as happy as I was. We’d waited a long time to make this commitment but now the time felt right and we both felt good about it.

Both in our mid-thirties, we’d been a couple for eight years. Buying our London flat after three years had been part of our decision to settle down together, although I think we both knew from the moment we met that we’d stay together. Creating a ‘nest’ for the two of us was the next step as we made the inevitable transition from being young men partying about town to a couple who preferred quiet dinners a deux or curling up on the sofa and watching a film.

That had been five years earlier. And not long after we put the finishing touches to our flat, we had begun to hanker for the patter of tiny feet or, in our case, paws. We’d put it off because we were both out all day; I was working in clothing design, with a small workshop of my own while John was an accountant. We both worked long hours and we didn’t want to leave a dog cooped up at home.

But as time passed, we began to feel seriously broody. This was only made worse when a friend gave us a Disney Dalmatian toy one Christmas. She did say it was probably as close to a real dog as we should get. And we did listen to her, for a bit, but in the end our longing for a real canine to cuddle won over all practical considerations. The flat just didn’t feel right without a dog.

Fast forward and here we were, delighted with our boy and counting the days until we could bring him home.

Little did we know that those weeks up to his arrival were the last moments of peace and quiet we would share for quite some time. And that the flat, with its carefully chosen oak floors and antique tables, would soon be a battered shadow of its former self. From the moment we picked him up, Remus, a non-stop whirlwind of high-velocity energy, launched himself into our lives with such face-licking, tail-wagging exuberance that we were both left reeling. He never stopped racing around apart from when he was chewing the furniture, books, CDs, shoes – in fact anything that was chewable and quite a few things that weren’t.

He was constantly hungry and constantly demanding attention, co-opting both the sofa and the bed and insisting on endless cuddles, inserting himself between us whenever he felt he wasn’t getting his fair dues.

He cost us a fortune in damage, food and vet bills but despite all of it we adored him. He was lean, strong, glistening white with inky black spots and a handsome head – a showstopper of a dog who got compliments wherever he went. But most of all he was our boy; he had a way of looking up at us with such innocent cheerfulness that we could never stay angry with him for long.

We hired a dog walker to come and take him out for long walks while we were at work. But after a couple of months she told us she was spending so much on headache tablets because of the stress of managing him that she couldn’t walk him any longer. After that we paid a friend to dog sit him, but she didn’t even last a month. She couldn’t get anything done when he was around, he was all over her, constantly.

Our next dog walkers were a couple. We hoped two people might manage him better than one. But a couple of months on they told us, ‘We’ve just changed our catchment area and you’re no longer in it – sorry.’

The lengths people went to in order to avoid having Remus were quite funny. Except that it left us needing to find a way to manage him ourselves. He couldn’t go to work with John in the corporate accountancy firm where he worked, so we decided he’d have to come with me to my small studio in Southwark. Each morning we set off for the tube, where Remus entertained fellow passengers by tearing up any newspapers left on seats and spinning in dizzying circles on the platform – earning himself regular applause from laughing tourists.

Needless to say, I didn’t get a lot of work done, since I ended up taking him to the park about four times a day to try to tire him out. I met another dog-owner there one day who told me he’d given up on his Dalmatian and given it away. ‘Just too needy and energetic mate,’ he said, shaking his head at Remus, who was trying to badger a sedate old spaniel into playing with him.

‘Tell me about it,’ I thought. We knew by this time just how full-on Dalmatians were. Once used as carriage dogs, they are happy to run literally all day long. Sitting about just isn’t their thing. But we never once thought of giving Remus away. He was ours and we loved him, uncontrollable wretch or not.

Then, when Remus was three, we compounded our foolish choice of dog by taking on a second one.

I know.

But in our defence, we thought it might calm him down to have a companion.

At two years old we’d listed him on a dog studding website and when a local couple got in touch, we took him along for his first romantic encounter. Things started off a tad shakily, Remus clearly had no experience in the ways of amour and just wanted to play. But he got there eventually, without the use of the electric prod the couple suggested we insert in his nether regions to prompt ejaculation, which I politely declined. A few weeks later a pregnancy was declared and Remus earned his first wage. ‘We’ll put that towards some of the repairs,’ John muttered to him. ‘Not to mention your food bills’.

His third liaison, with a Dalmatian from Essex, produced a litter of pups. The owner suggested we take the pick of the litter as our fee and, thinking we’d sell her, we agreed and picked a bouncy female puppy. We took her home and called her Gracie.

Big mistake that. Once we’d named her, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to sell her. And once we realised that we were keeping her, it was inevitable that I start working from home. I couldn’t have managed both of them on the commute or in my workshop.

Truth to tell, business wasn’t going well. I’d already downsized from my overpriced premises and small staff team to just me in the workshop. I had trained in the garment industry, learning everything from the conception of a garment to pattern-cutting and I was still designing my own range, but the recession of the late 90s had bitten hard and by this stage I was only just about covering costs. At the same time John’s career was soaring, he’d started his own firm and it was successful from the off. So, I let my workshop go, downsized again to the dining table as my ‘office’ and, while attempting to do a bit of work, became a more or less full-time dog parent.

Clearly our dog-training skills had not improved one iota. Gracie was, if anything, worse than Remus. She chewed absolutely everything and nothing we tried made any difference. Her speciality was phones. She chomped her way through a Blackberry and an iPhone in her first week alone. Not only that, but she was impossible to house-train and our solid oak floors were regularly soaked in dog pee. We were horrified, but being two big softies, we couldn’t get rid of her, Gracie was ours, just as much as Remus was. They got on extremely well and when they did – finally – settle down at the end of each day it was together, curled comfortably side by side on the sofa. Leaving precious little room for us, of course. But we, with paternal indulgence, simply squeezed ourselves into the remaining few inches of space at either end.

Our two hounds did satisfy our longing to be parents, at least for a while but, perhaps inevitably, our thoughts strayed towards babies – the human kind – and we wondered whether children might ever be a possibility for us.

John came from a big, warm Irish family and while my family set-up was a little more complex than his, we both felt that having children was something we would love.

It was also a promise I had made to my father. When I told him, as a teenager, that ‘I might be gay,’ there had been a long pause before he said, ‘Son, what you are and what you are not, you will figure out in the goodness of time. So be gay, as long as you are happy and safe’.  There was another pause and then he had added, ‘I don’t mind what you are, as long as you give me a couple of grandchildren at some point or other’.

A few years later, not long after I met John, Dad was killed in a car crash, along with his third wife, who was also my mother’s sister (I said it was complex). They were coming back from a night out and their deaths came as a terrible shock. By that time my mother was living in Australia with my older half-brother, Paul. When Mum and Dad had got together it had been a second marriage for both. He’d had a son, Brandon and a daughter, Shae, and she had Paul and then together they’d had me. I didn’t know that the other three were only my half-siblings until some rather unkind, or perhaps thoughtless grandparents, pointed out that I wasn’t actually their grandchild.

I was heartbroken when Dad died and what he said to me about grandchildren stayed with me through the years. Perhaps because it was something that had clearly meant a lot to him. And perhaps because it was something I wanted too. I loved the idea of having a child. So did John – both of us felt that we would be good fathers. We’d certainly had a dummy run with the dogs, who required more patience and time than most of the children we knew.

As a gay couple we couldn’t become parents without intervention from outside. We thought about adoption, but we both felt that we would like a child that was biologically ours. So, although the idea of parenthood was dusted off from time to time, we never got any further with it. Until one night I saw a documentary about surrogacy in India.

John had an early start for work most mornings, so he would often go to bed before me, taking Remus and Gracie with him. One night, channel surfing for something to watch, I came across ‘Made in India’. It was about a Western couple who were able to have children with the help of an Indian surrogate and it said that India was a hub for international surrogacies. I was fascinated. This was an ordinary couple and if it had worked for them, why not us? For the first time I had discovered something that seemed to hold the real possibility of providing us with our own children. I went to bed, squeezing into the small space left on my side by the dogs, and lay wide awake with excitement.

Of course, we knew about the existence of surrogacy, given high profile cases like Elton John and David Furness, singer Ricky Martin and actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick, all of whom had children using surrogates. But until that documentary I had never thought that it might be a route open to us too.

I decided to do some more research before putting the idea to John. I needed to know what would be involved. I knew it would be costly, but by this time John’s business was doing well, he had new offices in the city and, despite the recession, plenty of clients.

One evening, a week or so after I saw the documentary and had my parenthood epiphany, I decided to broach the subject with John. I had looked into it enough by then to know that it was potentially viable for us. We talked for a while, drank some white wine and talked some more.  It was all positive, but at that stage very contemplative. He was keen, but more cautious than I was; he had a lot of questions. However, we both realised that, give or take a few reservations and concerns, we wanted the same thing – to become fathers. The logistics might take some time to plan and our concerns might not all be identical, but the idea had the green light from both of us.

It was probably the most significant conversation we’d ever had in our lives together.

Since it was important to both of us to have a child that was biologically ours, we agreed that we would like two children, one John’s one mine. We would hope to have them conceived at around the same time by two surrogates so that they would be born at the same time, perhaps even using the same egg donor. That way the children would be both genetically related and genetically ours.

We set out to discover everything we could about surrogate babies. There were a few countries where the surrogacy business was thriving: Ukraine, India, America and, of course, the UK. There were also different kinds of surrogacy. In the UK there was only what was known as altruistic surrogacy in which the surrogate was not allowed any financial gain, only expenses. The danger with this was that the surrogate mother was more likely to feel she had a claim over the child or children and in several cases the surrogate had refused to hand over the child. The law was on the surrogate’s side for the first six weeks, whether or not she was the egg donor. She was the one who had given birth and she could keep the child if she wished to. Even after that, the surrogate could stay involved if she wanted to. This idea might have been perfect for some couples, but we were both worried about possible problems at a later date.  We didn’t want a part time ‘mummy’ calling in every now and then to check on us and we didn’t want any confusion for the children. Our children would have two parents – us. Two daddies who had planned to have them and who would love and support them always. Of course, we would explain how they came into the world, but we would be the ones raising them.

Despite this we did look seriously at the altruistic surrogacy option. John felt that it might work for us, and at one point we had a cleaner who we were pretty sure would gladly have offered to be our surrogate. But before we could ask her, we discovered that she had been stealing from us and we had to fire her. After that the altruistic route seemed just too fraught with danger, which meant that we needed to choose the alternative – compensated surrogacy. More expensive but cleaner and simpler. You paid the surrogate a fee and the child would be legally yours. This was not legal in the UK, so we needed to look abroad.

John told me not to rush into anything, but that was like telling a full-speed express train not to rush, I was already so excited I could barely think about anything else. And I was aware that time was not on our side. We were in our forties and getting on, in new dad terms, so we needed to get going.

We decided that if we went to the Ukraine, we might have language problems, so I started looking into surrogacy in America and in India, where English is widely spoken. After a lot of research, we narrowed things down to the Fertility Clinic of California and the Rotunda Clinic in Mumbai.

I started by calling the Californian clinic. As I dialled, I was rigid with nerves – this was going to be the first time I would tell anyone that we were planning to have a baby. What had, until then, been an idea was about to become very real.

‘Good morning, Fertility Clinic of California, Tammy speaking, how may I help?’

My heart was pounding as I blurted, ‘Hello, I want, no we want a baby, we’re going to have a baby, I need information, we’re in the UK, can you help us?’

‘Please Sir, slow down, you are sounding rather discombobulated.’

Discombobulated! What on earth did that even mean?

I took a few deep breaths and started again. ‘Please, can you send us some information? We are a gay couple in the UK considering having a baby (or two) via IVF and surrogacy.’

At this point, I barely understood the meaning of phrases like IVF Cycle and Gestational Surrogacy, although I would later get to know them and their connotations inside out.

Tammy said she would send us the catalogue and the price list and moments later they pinged into my email inbox.

We knew that whatever route we took would be expensive. But the Californian clinic’s price list shocked us. It was endless; consultation fees, clinical fees, IVF fees, legal fees, donor fees, surrogate fees, hospital fees… the list went on and on. And every section had perhaps 20 additional sub-categories with even more fees listed. On top of which there were insurance premiums for just about everything.

Reading through it all we could see our nest egg evaporating – and then some. We were looking at $150,000 per pregnancy. It was scary.

India, then.

My next call was to the Rotunda Clinic, where I spoke to Doctor Somya. She sounded very friendly and she reassured me that the cost of the whole procedure would be in the region of $55,000 per pregnancy. A third of the cost in America. She said they were very supportive of same-sex couples and she made it all sound very straightforward. The first step was for us to go over to India to make our sperm deposits which would then be frozen. After that they would inform us when suitable surrogates were found. And in the meantime, we would be sent a choice of egg donors.

By the time I put the phone down I was euphoric – we had lift off!

(Eighteen Moons is available exclusively through Amazon as Ebook, paperback or audiobook. Just google or search Amazon for ‘Eighteen Moons’)

Daddy and Dadda’s Dinner

Do you like Chinese Food? Daddy and Dadda absolutely adore it! The thing is, the local town has a pretty ropey take away, that is probably best avoided! Okay, so if you want to eat a decent Chinese menu, the only choice is to make it from scratch! Minus the MSG of course!

Always best served with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc!

Beef and black bean sauce

Egg fried rice

Stir Fried vegetables with soy and pepper

Chinese Broccoli in oyster sauce

Just be sure you don’t leave the dogs alone in the room as you are bringing it in from the kitchen

Another Visit from Jeanie the Tooth Fairy

A very happy Amritsar last night as 20 minutes before bedtime there was a surprise event! Her right small incisor finally gave way. It has been loose for some time now.

Once again there was a picture drawn for the illusive Jeanie, Amritsar’s tooth fairy to the good and righteous children of the land. Thankfully not a list of questions for her on this occasion. Daddy was grateful for that as he stole into their room at 11pm last night, in order to leave a shiny one pound coin!

I am starting to worry that sooner or later, the three little ones will start loosing theirs too! Oh dear, I’m thinking that we are going to be in for quite a bumpy ride!

Will Caleb Actually Get In?

As a family, these last weeks have been fairly busy! We are well into the summer holidays at this point! The sun is finally showing itself after a very overcast June and July and we have visited friends in both South Cornwall and East Devon!

The children had a great time in the Sea at Looe in Cornwall and the pool in East Devon. They all love the water, that is all, except for Caleb, our little kitten!

Photo above taken when Caleb was just 18 months old! I really reckoned he would take to the water like a duck, quack, quack! But alas, hiss, hiss, we have a little kitten…

Our main family holiday is booked for the End of August in North Cornwall, looking forward to that. But for now, we are enjoying as much outside time as we can.

Everyone relaxing today, there is talk about a pasta lunch on the terrace. I made a large volume of puttanesca yesterday for freezing, but left enough back for for a good nosh today!

Tara is presently using the anti finger sucking lotion on Aaliyah’s fingers! She’s very good like that. Aaliyah’s affliction sadly still haunts us. And no, it’s not Tabasco sauce, rather one we purchased from the pharmacy!

Yesterday was a visit to friends in Maidenhead, gay dads to 2 great children, Matt and Jeff. And they have a swimming pool in their back garden! The little people had an absolute ball, donut and dingy before pizza heaven! Plus a homemade stout cake, don’t worry, the alcohol is boiled off before baking! Jeff is quite the accomplished baker! Our last visit had Thor talking for weeks about the heavenly ‘lemon drizzle cake’!

A little video below of their watery escapades!