A Grand Design to see the Queen

Flushed with success as Nonna and Poppy, John and I are happy to be asked to care for Keoni again for a day. Actually, it was all a bit of a mix up. My daughter and her husband are keen to move to Devon, but have lots of packing to do before they can. I have generously given them old sofas, chairs etc but as they have no where, as yet, to move to they are reluctant to take them with them.
I am reluctant to take them back. Everyone is agreed that selling this house is high priority and that it is crammed full of 28 years living. So they agree to hire a van, and take loads of stuff to the dump. Trouble is, I don’t realise that they will not be able to manage Keoni, so John and I have booked to go to the ‘Grand Designs’ show on the same day.
Still, toddlers love large spaces and new things. How hard can it be to take him too?
This particular journey across London, involves several trains. Right down Keoni’s street: he loves trains. We get to Waterloo without incident. John plans a short detour, purely for educational purposes. Today is the State Opening of Parliament. the Queen is in London. So we stop at Westminster station, with just ten minutes to spare before she is due.


He loves the horses, the bells, the beautiful coaches. Even though we cannot actually see inside to be sure the Queen is there, it is worth the effort. The British do pageantry with a particular panache.

By the end of the day, Keoni seems to recognise the headlines in the newspaper of the Queen’s carriage and happily ‘reads’ the paper on the train.
After our Royal Appointment, we head over to the Excel exhibition centre. This involves two more trains. By the time we arrive, he is asleep, which is great because it gives us time to get orientated and visit the stand we really want to see: oak frame houses. Part of the dream is to buy a wreck, knock it down and build our own house.
We are impressed by the range of companies and the standard of care and design they offer. For a short while we believe this will actually happen.
When Keoni wakes we dedicate our time to him, allowing him to tell us what to see. Favourite things are; houses you can walk into without queuing, garden seats where you can sprawl and a giant telephone.


Armed with our information about timber framed houses, we begin the journey home.
Another successful day.

A wet weekend and a game of hide and seek

Mamma and I had taken Keoni round Tescos almost as soon as I returned from Australia. They had run the stocks down. I did not know what we needed in the way I usually did when shopping. Taking a toddler round a supermarket is a skill I have to re-learn. Mostly, Keoni participates in the debate about choice. However, he seems to need treats like a strange bag of fruit purée which you suck through a screw top, or oatcakes quite regularly.
Tescos is not stupid. Their marketing boys knew their onions! Part of the store is devoted to extracting money from parents through pester power. You can avoid it, of course, but what is a Nonna supposed to do. It’s a well known fact: grandparents should spoil their grandchildren. Anyway, who is counting a £10 box of wooden train track and an additional box of engine.
Keoni has already discovered Thomas the Tank Engine, but he is not discriminating against cheap replica. He loves this new toy and for the next few days, we play at building the track, chuffing and tooting together, while Mamma grabs some well earned rest. Toddlers are highly demanding of attention. However many adults there are, you always need one more. That’s the law!
On Saturday, Mamma goes to work. Usually Pappi does the minding but I’m keen to try my hand. The trouble is it rains all day!
So what shall we do?
(Just before we get to that part, I need to explain the names slightly or you might get confused. You will have gathered the Mamma and Pappi are my daughter and son-in-law. But Poppy is their name for John as Grandad and I am the Nonna. So now we can all play Happy Families)
John reckons that trains are such a hit at present, we could take the train to Waterloo. Good plan!
We pack food, change of clothes, nappies and associated material into the buggy.
By the time we have walked to the station, he is asleep! On the platform, the excitement is lacking due to the heavy relaxed sound of breathing coming from the buggy. The train whooshes in, but Keoni maintains a dignified snore. All through the journey, this continues. The rain pours down the carriage windows and the delighted grandparents wonder why they decided to do this in the first place.
He does not even wake to the sounds of a busy London terminus. It is only when we are walking towards the embankment that he stirs. He seems puzzled as to his whereabouts; fair enough really. Suddenly, Poppy and I begin to realise the additional burden of trying to negotiate stairs with a buggy. We walk a long detour to avoid carrying the deluxe buggy too far. It’s heavy!
It’s past lunchtime and we need to find food. Restaurants are packed with families, all sheltering from the rain. Eventually we find space within the Festival Hall and encourage Keoni out to explore. But he is still sleepy, reluctant to be exposed in a foreign environment with Nonna and Poppy. If he has to be out, he prefers to cling to me, burying his face in my coat.
Still, the food does wonders for his mood. He livens up and begins to gain confidence. John and I are feeling a little tired by now, but that is beside the point.




Strop over! Let’s enjoy life!

I’ll not beat about the bush!  It was dreadful!

I hated being back home from 6 months travel.  Poor Mr was a final straw.  I simply stopped, sulked and shouted a bit!

I still miss Mr.  He was a fantastic cat.  The other two seem slightly relieved it is over.  Perhaps they knew he was suffering.

Topping that, the house is still full of two families belongings.  My wonderful daughter, her husband and son have done a great job at cleaning and caring but their things have entered the fabric of the building.  We are only just beginning to see how to extricate them from us!

They plan to move from London to Devon.  Although they have job prospects, nothing substantive has been finalised yet.  As a consequence they are finding it hard to leave.  Besides, I honestly wanted them to stay on for a little while so I could get to know my grandson again after our six months apart.

He is gorgeous!  I’m amazed by his sense of humour!  Before we traveled, we were lucky enough to see him nearly every day sometimes, and certainly every week.  So we both felt there was a lot to catch up on.

We decided it was time to go on an outing.  Three generations packed into the car: it’s a Mini so ‘packed’ is the right word. I had forgotten how much space a 20 month old takes with all his paraphernalia!

Polsedon Lacey is the headquarters for the National Trust in Southern England, some 4 miles from Dorking, Surrey.  It was bought by Mrs Greville, an Edwardian hostess, in 1906 and became a fabulous venue for weekend parties, including visits by royalty. Best for a toddler are the gardens.  At this time of year, there are fabulous displays of tulips.

Keoni is very keen on nature and ‘ohh-ed and ah-ed’ well at the displays.  The hen house is a new feature, which I had not seen before; Keoni loved it.

He was quite keen to explore the flower beds and look for minibeasts.  In fact, he must have walked for miles on the muddy grass, simply because he will not walk in a straight line!

Ok, so maybe it’s not so bad, being here!  We had a great day out!  Thanks Keoni.

Home at last – 20th April 2012

We arrived back in Heathrow at 6 in the morning. The eight hour flight to Singapore gave us a stopover of just 90 mins before continuing on our way for the 12 hour flight back home. It always feels like living in a manufactured environment, flying!

Food looks and tastes strange, people mess with your natural rhythm by turning down the lights for extraordinary lengths of time, but you hardly seem to sleep at all. A whir of films flicker in front of your eyes but you can only concentrate on a superficial level and end up watching rubbish, simply to pass the time.

After a while you find you must have been asleep, because suddenly you have woken with a stiff neck and the realization that there is still another 6 hours to sit still.

Then you land and experience the joy of rescuing your luggage from the carousel, and making your way to your final destination.


My younger daughter, her husband and son have been looking after our house for 6 months and greet us. Our grandchild is now 19 months old. We have kept up a relationship via Skype, regularly dropping in around his breakfast time. To my delight and amazement, he recognizes us instantly. With one second to dip behind mum’s legs in shyness, he quickly recovers his cool and bounds about. We have bought him toys, jigsaws, T-shirts. As we open our suitcases to retrieve these, he is emboldened but always asks if he can dig about in the case for the next thing of interest.

What a change in 6 months: he has several key words and a great sense of humor. He love playing with the IPad and is highly proficient at it, choosing quickly his favourite programs and taking photos of himself using its camera.

While we were in Sydney we saw this statue outside the cathedral. It amused us because it looks as if the child has an IPad!

It doesn’t seem like our house! Although most things are as we left them, it feels alien. I hesitate when I want to turn on the oven: how does it work? How mad is that?

The three cats make themselves known to us again. One, the largest and oldest, has just come back from the vet, costing £750 with a urinary infection. His story will become the focus of my next few blogs.

It’s cold, it’s raining. Having so many people to talk with tires me!! I’ve been used to the exclusive conversations with John. Not turn taking! My older daughter comes over too. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing them. But there seems so much to say on all sides. Somehow the essence of our conversation becomes distilled to such pithy sound bites they lose their quality and context. All these wonderful places I’ve seen jostle with newsy items about work, children, social gossip, other members of the family who have spoken with my daughters while we were away.

My white beaches are fading fast!
My azure sea is greying!
Within four days, I feel overwhelmed by the normalness of it all.

This can’t happen!

Thank goodness we have already planned to sail in the Greek islands in a month’s time. The thought of that might help.

Meanwhile, I devote a lot of time to reacquainting myself with my grandson and reorienting myself to this house. It seems huge after the little motel rooms and cabins. There also seems a lot of housework in the normal course of the day. With so many people in the house, the washing up, laundry and tidying increases ten fold. The advantage to traveling is that you move away from mess and into a nice new environment each few days.

As my blogging friend, Ronda says, “breathe and release”!