In Celebration of Tonight’s Full Moon…

Tonight we have yet another full moon. So, in celebration of this, I am publishing chapter 2 of my book ‘Eighteen Moons’ on my blog. The chapter is entitled’Preparing for Fatherhood’.

We stepped off the plane at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport into the sultry heat of an Indian night. 

After queuing through customs, we got into a taxi and gave the driver the name of our hotel. As we wove our way through the streets, we could see why Mumbai is called the city that never sleeps. It was the middle of the night, but there were people thronging the streets and stalls selling food on every street corner. The noise of the rickshaw horns, voices calling and music playing was loud even with the taxi windows up. And the scent was almost overpowering; the air was thick with the aromas of spices, people, animals and traffic fumes. This was India’s biggest city, home to over 20 million people – and holder of all our hopes.

We were in a whole new world. I looked at John. Could this be happening – would this extraordinary place give us the children we longed for? 

It was late October 2011 and it had been several months since my first conversation with Somya. Since then we had exchanged numerous emails, outlining all that would be involved and cementing our agreement. Finally, everything was in place and she told us to arrive at the clinic, where she would be waiting for us.

We’d got our tourist visas within a few days and booked our tickets the moment John could get a few days away from work. Remus and Gracie were safely settled in a boarding kennel and we were on our way.

The Rotunda Clinic was based in Bandra West, a middle-class suburb, so we’d chosen a hotel nearby. As we only had three days in India, we’d gone for five-star comfort and as we stepped out of our taxi outside the Taj Lands’ End Hotel, I was struck by the levels of security on show. There were at least eight guards on the door, every car was checked inside and underneath and all our things had to go through a security scanner. Not surprising, I guess, since this was only three years after the 2008 terror attacks which took place across the city over four days, killing 164 people and wounding 308. Hotels, cinemas, stations and other public buildings had been targeted. Now, clearly, our hotel – and as we later discovered, every other hotel and many public buildings – were not taking any chances.

Our room gave us a panoramic view across the southern Mumbai suburbs, beside the impressive Bandra-Worli sea link which stretched over the water towards the point known as Lands’ End and the famous Bandra Fort, a watchtower built by the Portuguese in 1640, when they occupied this part of India. Beyond it lay the Arabian Sea. All wonderfully romantic, but by then we were so tired that we simply fell into bed, exhausted.

The following day we took a rickshaw to the Rotunda Clinic. The route took us along the Bandstand Promenade which stretches for about a kilometre along the seafront. The Rickshaw driver spoke no English and our Hindi was non-existent, so I tracked the route on my phone and pointed to where we wanted to go. The only problem was, there were three different addresses on my Google map for the clinic. We picked one, hoping it would be right, and the driver dropped us off. But when we got inside, we were told – sorry, wrong place. Apparently, the main clinic was another 15 minutes’ walk away. It was a scorching 37 degrees and by this time we were hot and thirsty, but we walked slowly and, after going up and down the street a couple of times peering at the building numbers, we found it. No sign outside and no front door. We found a door at the back and a security guard pointed upwards.

‘Which floor?’ I asked. He nodded his head from side to side and smiled.  We gave up and took the stairs.

The clinic was on the third level and Somya was there to greet us. It was nice to put a face to the name, after all the months of emailing. She was like an Indian version of actress CarolineQuentin; generously proportioned and friendly. She chatted to us for a bit, asking about our trip, and then we left her office and went to pay the fee for this stage of the process, the ‘drop off and cryo’ which basically meant freezing our sperm. 

We sat in the waiting room until called to make our deposits.  John went in first and emerged within five minutes holding a plastic beaker which was taken from him by a very short and unsmiling Indian nurse. He winked at me and sat down, after which the nurse indicated that it was my turn and handed me another plastic beaker. 

Inside the small room I did a double take. All four walls were covered with posters and cut-outs of what can only be described as 1970’s Swedish porn.  It was all big boobs and pouting blondes. So much for their gay customers! Come to think of it I’m fairly sure what was on offer wouldn’t have appealed much to many of their hetero customers, especially the Indian ones who might be there to begin the process of IVF with their wives.

All I could do was close my eyes, breathe deeply and think of – anything other than what was on the walls. Five minutes later I emerged with my beaker, which I handed to the nurse. Job done.

Somya assured us that we would be informed as soon as two suitable surrogates were found and that was it – we were free to go.

We had two more days in India and we spent them absorbing the myriad of colours, the scents, intoxicating and otherwise, and the vast panoply of life in Mumbai. We walked along the Bandstand, joining the crowds of lovers and families strolling along, taking the air and admiring the view. It was one of the city’s most popular hangout spots and all of Indian life was there. Smallstalls sold peanuts in paper horns or coconut water, beggars held out their hands, joggers passed us, groups were going through yoga routines and women in saris of every hue floated past. 

We were very conscious of the dramatic contrast between rich and poor. Next to our luxurious hotel there was a shanty town, its tiny ramshackle shelters and narrow alleyways teeming with people, most of them children, dressed in rags.

It was the same everywhere we went; behind every glamorous building – and there were many of those – there was a desperately poor community struggling to survive. It made us feel uncomfortable, although later on during my time in India I became tougher and more immune to the constant pleas for money. Working it out as a Westerner is difficult, but there is no choice other than to toughen up.

Wherever we went the air was filled with a thousand scents; food cooking, bodies, animal dung, stagnant water, rotting vegetables; it was a sensory overload.

After three days we flew home knowing that, if all went well, we might soon be back. The dogs were hysterical with joy to see us and more hyper than ever. 

We picked up the threads of our lives, aware that it might be a long wait for our surrogates. We had requested two at once, so that they could have parallel pregnancies. And to complicate things even further, we had stipulated that the surrogates could not be married women. Our research had taught us that our surrogate mothers needed to be single so that our children would be born with British Citizenship by descent. British law dictated that if the surrogate mother was married, her husband would be classed as the child’s father. The genetic father to the child was only recognised by the UK authorities if the surrogate mother was single. But while there were quite a few married women coming forward to be surrogates, very few unmarried girls would want to have a stranger’s child before marriage. That left young widows – a small pool – and divorcees, an even smaller pool, since in India marriage is generally for life. ‘It will not be easy to find what you are looking for,’ Somya had said, shaking her head from side to side. We could only wait and hope.

We had hoped to be treated as a couple, but despite the clinic’s supposed positive attitude to same-sex partners, we were told that we had to be treated as two single people, quite separate from one another. I felt let-down when Somya explained this, it was clear that in her early conversations with me she’d been telling porkies when she talked about us being treated by the clinic as a couple.

We agreed to let it go – as long as the pregnancies worked out, all would be fine. We just had to keep the end-goal in mind.

As we waited for news, we began making plans. We had decided that, in preparation for starting a family, we needed a country base. Or at least John decided, and I got on board because I remembered how happy I’d been in the Somerset house, The Laurels, where I’d lived as a child. We wanted the best possible childhood memories for our children and the peace and safety of village life seemed preferable to the London rat race.

We still planned to live in London, because of John’s job, but the flat, although it had three bedrooms, was fairly small and it had no garden. We pictured the children going to the small school around the corner from the flat and then piling them, with the dogs, into the car to go to the country for weekends and holidays.

At the same time, we decided to get married – or to enter a Civil Partnership, which was the closest thing available (full gay marriage was two years’ down the line). We had been common-law partners for 17 years by then, but John especially felt that to do things properly we should make our union formal. So, on June 1 2012, quietly and with no fuss, we got hitched in the Brydon Room in Chelsea Town Hall. The Brydon room is a large, stylish room with huge windows hung with elegant drapes. There to witness the ceremony were my mother, who came over from Australia for it, plus John’s family; his mother Hazel, stepfather Michael, sisters Sara and Judy, their husbands Gerry and Phelim and niece and nephews Georgia, James and Theo. We also invited around 20 of our good friends. The registrar was a wonderful, rather theatrical gentleman, whom everyone instantly adored. 

A couple of weeks later we put down a deposit on our country home. Long River was a beautiful old house in Berkshire which had been converted into several separate homes. John had found it and he insisted I go to see it. We both loved it at first sight, with its dark panelled wood, impressive architecture and large garden. 
The home we chose was spread over three storeys, with a majestic flight of stairs and an enormous living room looking out over the terrace to the large garden. We pictured our children running around it at the weekends. This was where we would give them a secure and happy life and wonderful childhood memories. 

By this time, we had waited eight months for the clinic in India to find our surrogates, and there was still no news. We had to content ourselves with choosing an egg donor. We had agreed that we would like the same donor for both pregnancies. Donating eggs for a fee was a far easier process that carrying the child, so there were more candidates and the clinic sent us about 20 to choose from. For each we received a photograph, medical statistics and some information about the woman’s education. No names. Many were young women doing it to make extra money for their weddings.

We chose a woman we felt looked wise. She was in her midtwenties, she’d had no medical problems and she seemed ideal. 

Our children would be British citizens and British culturally, but they would be half Indian, so of course we planned to tell them about their Indian heritage too.

In late July, a few weeks after we had married and found Long River, Somya wrote to say that two surrogates, both in their midtwenties, had been found. Both would have the fertilised eggs introduced at the same time. Eight eggs would be fertilised, four with John’s sperm and four with mine and four would then be implanted into each surrogate. This was more than would be allowed under British law and I presume the clinic did this in order to guarantee a better success rate.

We were told that the ‘conception’ date would be August 7. On day 5 of embryo creation, they would be transferred to each of the surrogates. After that they would let us know if there were signs of pregnancy. We already knew (by this time we knew so much about the whole process that either of us could have won Mastermind) that pregnancy hormones would be detectable after about ten days and the heart beat at six weeks. So, we wouldn’t have long to wait. We held our breath.

There was no email on the day of creation or the day of embryo transfer. And no word for the following few days. I walked the dogs for hours, cooked up a storm, scrubbed the flat – anything to help the time pass.

I was alone at Long River when the phone rang. I snatched it up.

‘Greetings Mr Andrew.’

‘Hello Doctor Somya, is there any news?’

‘There is good news. John’s surrogate, Rehanna, has tested positive for the pregnancy hormone and her levels are good. We will monitor her over the next few weeks and keep you posted.’

‘That is wonderful news. Thank you, but what about my surrogate?’ At this point I could barely breathe.

‘Sadly, you were not so lucky on this occasion Mr Andrew, I am sorry. The pregnancy has not continued.’ And with that she hung up.

I was stunned. I sat on the sofa, staring at the phone.

John was going to be a father. And I was not.

It felt impossible to take in. 

I thought of my father’s words, ‘as long as you give me a couple of grandchildren’. Now it looked as though I couldn’t do that. I felt bereft. For a short while I just sat and wept. Then I pulled myself together and rang John with the news.

He was thrilled, but he realised I was gutted. ‘Let’s talk when I get home,’ he said.

That evening it was tough. I was happy for John and heartbroken for myself. He was euphoric but trying not to show it.

‘It will be our child, you know that, don’t you?’ he said.

I did know – we had agreed all along that we wouldn’t tell anyone which of us was the biological father of any children we might have. They would be ours, together, no matter what. That thought did comfort me. But it still hurt badly.

I called Somya back a few days later to ask if the egg donor would be willing to try again. She came back to me soon after to say that yes, another attempt would be possible. We would have to wait three months to harvest another lot of eggs and a new surrogate would need to be found, but they still had my semen frozen and it could be done. That knowledge cheered me. 

Eight weeks later she called again.

‘Mr John is expecting twins,’ she announced. A twin pregnancy would be 35 weeks, she said, so the babies would be born in late March.

Wow. Of course, we’d known that there was a possibility of twins, but the reality was a real wake-up call. Time to get ready for fatherhood.

We kept the good news to family and a few close friends. Both our mothers were delighted. Having got their heads around their sons being gay, they hadn’t expected grandchildren from us. When she heard the news that we were, in fact, going to make her a grandmother, John’s mother, forthright as ever, said to him, ‘Are you sure you and Andi are capable of bringing up kids?’ ‘Why wouldn’t we be?’ he told her. ‘We’re responsible adults, and our children are wanted, unlike so many in this world.’

We spent the next few months driving down at weekends to work on Long River. It needed decorating throughout and we wanted to do it ourselves, as a labour of love, taking our time and choosing colours as we went along.

As Rehanna’s pregnancy progressed, we were sent regular updates and scans, although we weren’t told whether we were having boys or girls. In India parents are banned from learning the sex of their babies so that parents can’t choose to end pregnancies if they discover they are expecting girls. There is still a huge boy-bias there, since sons will care for parents and daughters will simply cost money to marry off.

We didn’t mind at all what sex the babies were. We loved the idea of a couple of girls. Or boys. Or one of each. We spent hours discussing names. We needed to have two boys’ names and two girls’ names ready, just in case.

For boys we chose Caleb and Oscar. Names that we bothliked. For a girl we agreed on Tara. I have always loved the name and it has an Irish connection (think Gone with the Wind) and the same meaning in Hindi and Gaelic – star, so that was a dead cert. The other name we chose was Amritsar. It’s the name of the Sikh holy city, where the famous Golden Temple is, but I just loved it as a name. I told John about it and he agreed that it was beautiful.

‘What are we going to be called,’ I asked. ‘Only one of us can be Daddy.’

We mulled it over and eventually agreed that John, as biological father, would be Daddy and I would be Dadda. Later he would tell me that he was jealous, because babies say Dadda long before they say Daddy.

That Christmas we invited all our neighbours over for drinks. They were mostly middle-aged and elderly and one jovial old chap said, ‘When we heard a gay couple was buying, we thought, oh good, no children!’

John and I looked at one another.

‘Er, well, actually…’ we both began.

As we explained that we did in fact plan to have children, and that actually we had a couple on the way, his face fell.

In the midst of mounting joy and excitement, there was more heartbreak for me. The second attempt, in early December, did result in the detection of the pregnancy hormone. But a week later Somya rang to say that the embryo had no heartbeat. To add to my anguish, she asked us for £1000 to carry out an assisted abortion. We were stunned, why would it cost so much? But we were in no position to argue so we transferred the money and I grieved once again. Pregnancies had failed with two different surrogates. Was I the problem? Or was it simply bad luck? There was no way to know. I asked Somya if I could try once more.

‘You may not know this Mr Andrew, but the government here in India has banned commercial surrogacy for all single people, including those who are gay. Only heterosexual couples married for a minimum of two years will be allowed to use the services of a surrogate. We are unable to proceed with any further attempts.’

For me it seemed that the journey to having my own biological child was over. John assured me we would try again, but I couldn’t see how. I had to find a way to put my sense of loss behind me and concentrate on our future. The twins’ birth date was just a few weeks away and we began collecting nursery furniture; cots and prams, blankets and baby grows, double of everything, for the flat and for Long River.

The birth would be on March 25. ‘If you are here on that day you can meet your babies straight away,’ Somya told us. ‘Then you can take them home with you.’

We knew it wouldn’t be as simple as she made it sound. It might take weeks, possibly even months before we would be allowed to bring the babies to England. They would need British passports before they could get exit visas. Two months earlier the UK Government website advising on international surrogacy had stated that the passport processing time in India was six weeks. A month later that had been altered to eight weeks and that had since changed to three months before settling for four months or more!

We greeted these announcements with increasing dismay. The change in surrogacy laws appeared to be affecting even the British end of things. Unless they were just being bloody minded, which we thought was entirely possible. We were going to have to be prepared for quite a wait.

Our plan was to travel out together and to spend two weeks getting to know the babies. Then John would go home to work, visiting when he could, and I would remain in India with them until we could all travel home together.

‘Mr John is the father so he will need a medical visa,’ Somya advised. ‘You Mr Andrew, not being related to the twins, may apply for a normal tourist visa.’ I winced. She certainly had a way with words.

John duly applied for his medical visa, while I got a tourist visa again. Then John was told by the Indian visa processing centre in Middlesex that they were unable to process his visa as the new surrogacy rules did not allow for anyone not heterosexually married for two years to travel on a medical visa in connection with surrogacy. They explained that he would have to resolve this directly with the Indian High Commission in London. This he attempted to do, but at every turn he was stalled. Vague promises were made that the visa would eventually be granted and meanwhile they would not allow John, while the medical visa was pending, to revert to a simple tourist visa. He appeared to be, in effect, banned from going to India for the birth of his children.

With the deadline for the birth drawing close and no sign of the visa, we became increasingly frantic. In an attempt to break the deadlock, John went to the Indian High Commission in London, where he waited for quite some time in a small, empty room. When eventually someone spoke to him it was to say, ‘We have no update on your visa application – it is still pending’.

John, even-tempered and calm in the face of most provocations, was reduced to shouting, ‘But my bloody children will be born in seven days, in India and I need to be there.’

The response? ‘We will notify you of any outcome in due course.’

When he came home and told me what had happened, we were both torn between dismay and disbelief. We sat slumped and despairing, wondering what on earth to do.

Eventually John, ever practical, took his head out of his hands.

‘There’s nothing else for it,’ he told me. ‘You’re going to have to go alone.’

Feeling Settled Now

The holiday over and a couple of days relaxing at home! Summer Bank holiday Monday here, not much going on! All playing with their screens or watching ‘Mr Magoo’! Daddy mowing his lawn, the dogs chilling beside me.

Another 10kg of Damsons brought in from our tree! I might just make some Damson jam later, perhaps tomorrow morning! Just the thought of de-stoning 1000 Damsons, not appealing!

A mountain of washing sat in the kitchen and lunch to prepare! How does homemade pea soup and a toasted cheese sandwich sound?

Still spending way too much time on Instagram! But still happy with my blog! ‘Another day in the life of’ still brings a smile to me as I hope it does to you.

On the subject of Instagram, a few more pictures to share from our Cornish holiday, hope you like them.

As ever thanks for reading…

Day 6, The Final Day!

Well, we just met local friends, David, Jo, Tara and hubby! The wetsuits are whirring away in the washing machine. Daddy has left, now 30 minutes, to buy the obligatory ‘fish and chips’, something a holiday is not fulfilled without!

Not a lot to say really, only that I appreciate your being there! You, the best people ever, the lovely ones that follow my blog! You are pretty wonderful people xx

Some random images to follow, including the fish and chips!

Caleb seems to be a little aloof!!!

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,

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…



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.

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:

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.


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