I walked with you once upon a dream

GrandmaOn Tuesday we ended a strange week – a strange few weeks actually, months even – by saying goodbye to my Grandma, who died the previous week. An ever present in my life, she had reached the ripe old age of 95, and although her body had slowly been failing her for a while, especially her eyes, it was only in the last few weeks that her mind had followed suit. When she departed us last Thursday, a week ago today, I actually commented to one of my cousins that the woman I’d visited in the hospital the previous evening, for the last time as it would turn out, wasn’t really my Grandma, because she’d really died a few weeks before.

Born in the final months of the First World War, married in the midst of the Second, and widowed just as the Sixties were beginning to swing, life wasn’t always easy for Grandma, but she was never one to give up and always managed to carry on past whatever life had to throw at her. Indeed, in her last few days, lying in hospital, all of us who saw her were amazed at how her body seemingly refused to give in. I’d love to think I’ve inherited that fighting spirit, but I’m really not sure that I have. Even a pinch would be good though.

I think my earliest memory of Grandma is queuing up outside the (now demolished) Odeon Cinema in Union St in Glasgow, which I discovered years later is only a block or two from where she got married all those years before. We were going to see Sleeping Beauty, and I reckon I must only have been about 4 at the time (Wikipedia tells me that Sleeping Beauty was re-released in 1979, so that fits). I know it wasn’t my first trip to the cinema, that was to see Pinocchio with my Dad, and I slept through most of it – these days that’s his trick :) The final battle between the Prince and the wicked Queen, where she turns herself into a dragon, is what I remember, and when I saw the film years later I was transported back to my childhood. Back to roughly about the age Heather is now in fact, an age where I had no real concept of death.

Grandma's wedding day

Wedding Day, 1941

And, of course, neither does she, which made telling her about her Great Grandma one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Unsure how she’d react, and in the middle of her first week of full school days, we waited until the weekend to tell her and Megan the news. Megan unsurprisingly barely registered that we’d even spoken, but Heather cuddled into Gem, looking like she was on the verge of tears, then after a couple of minutes went off to play with Megan like nothing had happened.

She’s obviously been thinking things over though, because in the days since there have been all sorts of questions, like “where is Heaven?” and “what age was Great Grandma?”. Part of me would love to know what’s going on in her little head, how she’s dealing with it, but I think it’s for the best that we let it go. If she comes to me or Gem and starts asking questions, then of course we’ll talk to her about it, but she’s got enough on her plate right now without us bringing it up.

So now, all that’s left are the practical matters – sorting out her estate, clearing and selling the house she lived in for over 50 years. That’s mostly being looked after by my Dad and his sister, but I’m more than happy to help wherever needed. I’ve already volunteered my services to scan all the old family photographs, so that everyone can enjoy those memories.

Rest in peace Grandma, gone but never to be forgotten xxx

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Following the leader(s)

Facebook banner for the only boy in the houseThirteen short months ago I started this blog, as a way to record the life and times of our family as our two beautiful girls grew. Obviously I could have done this in other ways, but we’ve got lots of friends scattered all over the world, some of whom (shock! horror!) don’t use social networks, and I thought it would be a good way of keeping them up to speed with our lives.

Little did I know what I was letting myself in for!

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll have noticed product reviews and the odd sponsored post creeping in over the last few months. That’s something I never expected, or went out of my way to encourage, but it’s something I’m happy to have taken on board, and I hope some of those posts have proven useful to others.

According to an article in last week’s Independent, dad bloggers are on the rise and are apparently the “next big advertising demographic”, so I expect the offers will continue coming in. What I do need to do – and I think I’m getting better at it – is not saying yes to everything, and only working with brands and products that make sense for our family.

What all of that means, though, is that this blogging lark is becoming a bit more serious than I originally imagined, and consequently I’m having to treat it a bit more seriously. And I figure the best way to do that is to follow the example of the many bloggers I’ve come to know over the last year or so – they’re quite a friendly and sociable bunch!

Which is why this week I’ve given the blog its very own Facebook page. Which is where you come in – I’d really appreciate it if you would like the page. As well as making me feel popular, and who wouldn’t want to do that, it will also be a good way of knowing when new stuff appears on here. Which you can then read. And make me feel even more popular.

It’s not all about the ego, honest!

I’ve also set up an Instagram account, which you’re free to follow too, but I’m not sure what I’ll do with that if I’m completely honest. Share pictures I suppose. There’s one there already, celebrating #BeardDay!

I’ve learnt a lot in the last thirteen months, made some friends and had a lot of fun. Hopefully that’s the way it stays.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

There by the grace of God

I’m not normally one to talk politics, or to moralise, and I’ve never before used this blog to preach or event to rant. And I don’t think what I’m about to write falls into any of those categories, but there’s something that’s been bugging me today, about myself as much as anything else, and I think it’s worth recording for posterity, so bear with me.

Like everyone else, I was shocked by the terrible events that occurred in Boston yesterday. My timelines on both Twitter and Facebook were full of reaction to the news that  many people had been injured, some fatally, in bomb blasts near the finishing line of the Boston marathon – in fact, it was thanks to those timelines that I first became aware that something had happened. That reaction was a mix of shock, that something like this could have happened, and sympathy for those involved.

Which is as you’d expect.

But there was one tweet that stuck with me more than the others, and it wasn’t expressing shock or sympathy. It had been written by someone I don’t know, and retweeted by someone I might or might not – Twitter’s funny like that, connecting us to all manner of people we’d never otherwise come across.

Here it is:

Interesting, non? But still not enough for me to pick up my keyboard.

And then today, a major earthquake struck on the Iran/Pakistan border, the strongest in the area in 40 years. It was strong enough to be felt 860km away in Abu Dhabi, meaning there’s a good chance my father-in-law, currently working in Oman, would have felt something too.

At the time of writing, around 45 people are reported as having died, but the final death-toll may be many more. Not to mention the damage to homes and infrastructure that will affect the hundreds of thousands living there for days, weeks, months or even years to come.

And yet other than tweets from news agencies, I’ve seen no reaction in my timelines. None whatsoever. Interesting, non?

Maybe it’s because we can more easily relate to Boston than Baghdad. Maybe it’s the shock factor – victims of faraway bombings and natural disasters are beamed into our homes on a regular basis, and maybe we’ve become so de-sensitised to them that we barely notice any more. Whereas an incident somewhere more familiar creates a feeling of “it could have been me”. That’s certainly how I felt last night, as both a runner and a two time visitor to Boston.

And that’s what bothers me, I guess. That like everyone else, I’ve reacted far more to death and injury in Boston than to much bigger events in other parts of the world. It might be normal, but it doesn’t feel “right” – all are terrible events, but shouldn’t the response be proportionate to how many are involved rather than who or where?

After all, regardless of whether it’s bombs in Boston or Baghdad, or an earthquake in Iraq, all of those involved are people, real people with friends and families and houses and lives. And it could just as easily be us who’s involved.

There by the grace of God…

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

365 pictures: 31-40

Astonishingly, this is my fourth grouping of daily pictures, which means we’re now over 40 days into 2013 – that’s more than a tenth of the year gone already! How did that happen, exactly? Beats me, and yet somehow we’re already into the middle third of February. Time certainly flies when you’re having fun, and looking back at these images I think it’s fair to say we’ve had a lot of fun so far this month. In amongst the tears and the tantrums of course…

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31. Are you talkin’ to me?
Megan, although pretty handy with cutlery for her age, is still quite a messy eater. Hence the apron. I loved this picture, because of the attitude that seems to be pouring out of every fibre of her being. For the record, she looks a lot happier in the other pictures I took at the same time. Especially when she’s ripping a banana skin to shreds. As you do…

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22. Waiting
February 1st was MoT time for the car I drive to and from work in, which meant catching a bus between office and garage on the way home. Which was inevitably late. And it was chilly. I love the dazzle of the lights in this one – not a special effect, although it probably does mean I need to give the lens a clean.

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33. Tunnel
This is my favourite picture of the year so far. Both girls love this caterpillar tunnel, although it’s Megan who gets it out more than Heather these days – maybe now that she’s turned 4 it’s not cool any more?

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34. Super Bowl
Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday, and we decorated the place to celebrate with bunting (which the girls loved) and a US flag over the coffee table. William the hippo had to be included in things – he was a gift to Heather from an awesome friend in NYC, where the *real* William lives in the Metropolitan Museum (aka The Met). Megan’s got one of her own too, and the various Williams have literally been all over the world (3 continents and counting) featuring in countless pictures along the way. Everyone needs a travel mascot!

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35. Butter wouldn’t melt
The observant amongst you will notice that this set of pictures is dominated by Megan, this being the third of seven pictures she’s in. That’s not deliberate in any way, but is probably down to a couple of things:

  • Heather can be a bit camera shy these days, hiding from the camera unless she’s really in the mood
  • Megan is at an age where pretty much everything she does is photo-worthy in some way – especially with that smile
Hopefully balance will be restored over the rest of the year.

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36. Stickers
I’ll be honest, I forgot to take any pictures last Tuesday, so this was a creative attempt not to miss a day. I think it turned out not bad, personally, all things considered.

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37. Hello Kitty
Suzy, one of Gem’s friends from work popped over a couple of weekends ago, and brought the girls Hello Kitty goodie bags which included these masks. The stickers have long since been stuck to (and removed from) pretty much every available surface, but the masks live on.

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38. Doctor in the house
One of my favourite things over the past few months is how well the girls have become at playing together. Heather still leads the way of course, but Megan loves joining in with everything, including various role play games. This one, first thing one morning, involved taking turns at being doctors. This is Megan’s surgery in the corner – Heather’s was on the other side of the living room, in front of the TV. Consultation ended when the porridge I was making for both doctor and patient was ready

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39. Chillaxin’
Another favourite, this is Megan relaxing with some milk before bed. Gem will sometimes sit on an armchair with her leg hooked over the arm like this, so Megan is very much channeling Mummy here. What Mummy doesn’t do, however, is go on to kick her legs back and forth and come close to spilling what’s left of her milk. Guess who did that then…

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40. Lunch
On Saturday we had an impromptu trip to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and had lunch in their KG Cafe. I love the sheer mischief in Megan’s eyes here. Perhaps it was a sign of things to come, as she spent the next couple of hours trying to run off and refusing to hold hands or be carried! Both girls love Kelvingrove, though, especially the various natural history exhibits and the working bee hive. They’re not so interested in the galleries of paintings up the stairs though, which means I never get to wander round those either. Maybe one day…

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

What’s my age again?

I remember when I was growing up, being asked the same question every year at my birthday. It’s a question we’ve already asked Heather, and in fact it’s one I asked a friend at the weekend:

“How does it feel to be <age>?”

It is, of course, a mostly pointless question, and the answer is almost always going to be “Pretty much the same as <age – 1>”, because it’s not like a switch has been flicked and we’re suddenly a year older – we’re aging all the time, and getting older is a very gradual process, one we barely notice as it passes.

The only time something really changes when you turn a year older is when it allows you to do something else. 15, 16, 17, 18, and to a lesser extent 21 are all ages where the law allows you to do something you couldn’t before. At least not legally.

But once you get beyond that, very little changes, and it’s not long before you find yourself struggling to remember what age you actually are. As a kid, I found this hilarious, that people older than me couldn’t remember their age – not so funny now, when I have to work it out when asked.

Recently though, a number of things have made me very aware of my age:

  • Realising the car radio is now tuned to Radio 2 more than any other station
  • 25th anniversaries of things I took part in or remember watching. The last week has seen Comic Relief turn 25 in the same week as Super Bowl XLVII – the first one I saw live was XXII
  • Taking several days to recover from going to bed at 4am, where once I’d have done that two or three nights in a row without a thought
  • Talking to Heather about stuff I remember from when I was her age, then realising that my Dad was a few years younger then than I am now

This should be a longer list, but I can’t actually remember all the things I thought of when I started this post. See? Getting old!

do remember the worst offender of the lot though, one that traumatised me no end when I realised it.

In 1990, we visited relatives in the USA, the first time I’d ever been out of the UK. It was on that trip that I first came across a TV show called The Simpsons that had yet to air in the UK (it made its Sky One debut in September 1990). At that time, I was 14 going on 15, a reasonable age to be Bart’s older brother (he’s always been 10). Homer, meanwhile, has aged slightly over the show’s 24 seasons. According to Wikipedia, Homer has gone from 36 (early seasons) to 40 (eighteenth season onwards). So depending on the specific episode we’re referring to, I’m either the same age as him, or an age to be his younger brother.

Let me restate that: I’ve gone from being Bart’s older brother to Homer’s younger brother. Frightening.

Since I had this moment of realisation, I’ve struggled to stop thinking about it. Maybe this is the start of a mid-life crisis? In which case I need to go out and by myself a Porsche. An ex-boss of mine did just that, although he got rid of it  pretty sharpish after denting the wheel on a pot hole, and having to fork out over £2,000 to replace it. Oucha!

I’m trying to stay strong, though, and get through this without resorting to expensive auto purchases. The fact I don’t have that sort of spare cash lying about definitely helps! But I figure the longer I can delay any sort of mid-life anything, the longer I make the first half of my life. The second half will obviously have to match the first, and thus I’ll live a long and happy life.

That’s how it works, isn’t it?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!