London bucket list

Talitha has a fixation on London, at the minute. She’ll often pack her Peppa Pig bag and tell us that she’s going to London – to visit the Queen, obviously. London is exciting. You take a big train to get there and her cousins live there.

I don’t think she remembers any of our visits other than a quick dash through for a christening, though, and I’m looking forward to introducing her to the city I grew up dreaming about. As a child, I experienced London through novels and poems. As an adult, I worked there. Yet, I still get giddy whenever we plan a trip there.

It’ll take many, many trips to tick it all off, and I may even have to book a room with Travelodge to do it all, but I’ve ambitiously (and dreamily) put together a London bucket list of famous sites. I’m not exactly going for hidden gems here. Let me know if there’s anything you think we should add.

The shops
Talitha’s great aunt gave her a gorgeous book some time ago called Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day (pictured above).

In it, Clara, who dreams of growing up to be a milliner takes a trip through London on a bus, as her mother points out the famous stores: Liberty, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols and Harrods. So, of course, we’ll be doing these.

Hamleys at Christmas is definitely on the cards too. Oh, and on that note, a walk through Oxford Street to see the Christmas lights is a must-do too.

The museums
In the book, Clara visits the Victoria and Albert Museum as will we. I’m also looking forward to ticking the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the British Museum, the Tate are all obvious. I’m also hoping to take them to the Sherlock Holmes Museum when they’re old enough to get it. I have a friend who used to be obsessed with Sherlock Holmes (probably still is!) and she always used to mention this place, so I’m Sherlock-curious.

Other attractions
So here I’m thinking that the London Eye, London Zoo, London Sea Life Aquarium and Buckingham Palace will all get a look in. I might reserve Madame Tussauds and the Tower of London and London Dungeon until they’re a bit older. Madame Tussaud’s gave me a mild fright as a teenager!

The parks

I’m mainly thinking of Regent’s Park here, possibly Kew Gardens but welcome more suggestions.

The events
Laurence has wanted to go see The Lion King for a long time so we’ll be hitting it for sure. I’m really hoping my girls will inherit their mama’s love for musical theatre so we’ll have lots of reasons to frequent the West End. Shakespeare’s Globe and the Proms will come later.

I’m dithering over whether I ever want to try the New Year’s fireworks. The older I get, the less I tolerate crowds. Certainly it won’t be for a few years to come since Talitha had mixed feelings about the quiet ones at Bristol Zoo for Bonfire Night last year.

So, those are mine. Any to add?

In association with Travelodge

Camping with a baby

A few weeks ago the four of us went camping in Penzance for a weekend. Ophelia had just turned four-months-old and I’d wondered for weeks what camping with a baby might be like. As it turned out, the camping was a breeze, the four-hour drive to Penzance with a baby who hates the car on the other hand…

While chatting with a friend who recently took a similarly-aged baby camping, her first child, I mused that I never could have done it with Talitha. That’s partly because she was a frequent waker, generally stressed out baby and I was still supplementing, and partly because I was so tightly wound.

The fact that I agreed to give camping a go while Ophelia is so young proves to me just how much more relaxed I am this time and how much better it’s all going. I am not a natural camper so I did take some convincing.

camping chair for a toddler

I benefited from tips that others gave me before we went so I thought I’d share a few here:

Throw out the routine
Not that Ophelia has an iron-clad routine anyway but we do tend to lull her to sleep sort of 7ish and she does tend to wake up around 8.30. We accepted, though, that neither of the girls were very interested in sleep at the usual time. I guess it was light, a different setting and they could hear us chatting so it was clear that we weren’t going to sleep. They both made up for lost sleep with naps on the move the next day.

Dress them in layers
I dressed Ophelia in the same number of layers I was wearing to bed. She wore vest, babygrow, fleecesuit, baby sleeping bag, hat and then went into the sleeping bag with me. The advantage of being close was that as soon as morning struck, I instinctively peeled layers off her while half asleep. It was really handy that everything zipped down the front. She didn’t rouse much and I could easily feed her back to sleep for a bit longer.

camping with a baby

Bring a spare
Friends warned me that things can unexpectedly get wet when you’re camping. I brought spares of most things but forgot to bring a spare hat. Consequently, that’s what got wet. As it turned out, our second night was warmer than the first so we didn’t need it but lesson learned for next time.

Sling that baby
We wear Ophelia all the time anyway, but I was especially glad that we do when I saw the campsite Laurence had chosen. There’s no way a buggy would have coped with it and it was useful to sling Ophelia for a bit in the evening until we were ready to settle her in for the night.

babywearing while camping.jpg

Upsides: Talitha was desperate for all of us to go camping together so it was lovely to give her that experience this summer. At four months, Ophelia is exclusively breastfed so no need to think about what to feed her and she’s not mobile so no stressing about her getting into mischief. She also loved just lying and looking up at the tent.

Downsides: Our sleep was shocking. I think Laurence and Talitha were out like lights but Ophelia woke so much – just momentarily to find a boob then drift back to sleep. So, actually, I think she slept fine but I was exhausted the next morning! I also tend to naturally arrange my body protectively around hers, which meant that I was stuck in one position all night. That’s manageable in bed but it’s not a great idea if you’re effectively sleeping on the ground. Ah well…

Have you been camping with a baby? Would you? Do you have any tips and ideas to share?

First trip to the Circus

Ho, ho! We actually went to the circus. It’s not just a play on a confusing blog name. Last Friday, Laurence took the day off work and decided to whisk us away to see Billy Smart’s Circus on the Downs in Bristol. A day home with me usually entails doing puzzles and watering the plants. I think he’s trying to show me up.

At the circus

Truth be told, I probably got more out of it than two-year-old Talitha did. I always love the circus anyway but I’ve also reached the stage in my life where I get really nostalgic about them too. They conjure up lots of happy childhood memories.

So while we absolutely loved it because it was BRILLIANT, Talitha, well, she was just tired. It was a napless day and she generally likes being in bed by 5.30 these days (let’s not talk about wake up time). She asked to go home a few times and recoiled from the mass of candy floss we’d bought like it was going to eat her (no bad thing – more for us and less sugar for her!).

Fire act at Billy Smarts Circus

Even so, she definitely lit up for various acts and got well into the clapping. When we left, she told us that she loved the music.

Her favourite act was a funny, clumsy fireman who spent most of the time swinging around and around on a suspended ladder trying to put a fire out. I think the fire was what caught her eye.

clapping at the circus

The thing is, we reflected as we left, that it’s probably not that impressive to her – even though it really was impressive. As adults, we’re all too aware of our own limits. So when we see a man carrying four other people stacked shoulder upon shoulder, a woman shoot an arrow with her feet while balancing on her hands or the swinging trapeze, we gasp with glee.

A small child doesn’t have the information gained from experience to know how difficult that is. It may be that, as far as she’s concerned, she’s limitless. If so, that’s probably something to hold on to.

When we were three – our weekend in Woolacombe

A couple of weekends ago, Laurence, Talitha and I spent a weekend in a caravan at Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks*. It only struck us once we’d arrived that it was our second time away as a family, just the three of us. As soon as I mentioned it, I realised, it’s probably our last too. I’m not sure if bittersweet is quite the way to describe how I feel about that. Unquestionably, our feelings about welcoming a new baby into the family are not mixed. This is a longed-for child. Still, I find myself savouring the last months of life with just Talitha. I always say, she gets the benefit of our somewhat undivided attention. Our next child gets parents who know a bit more about what they’re doing.

Swimming at Woolacombe Swimming at Woolacombe Holiday Parks

You’d think that in over two years, you’d have found the time to do most of things that are less complicated with just one small child. Yet, I’ve hardly ever taken her swimming. She enjoyed the indoor swimming pool first thing both mornings at the park so much that I’ve promised myself to keep this going at home. And I will. The toddler pool was perfect for her as she could walk around then go into the “big pool” with floats to “swim”. For me, it was good exercise too. I used to be a keen swimmer and she was happy to hold on to my shoulders while I did a bit. *Looks up “tips for taking a toddler and newborn swimming”*

Sitting in the caravan at Woolacombe In the caravan at Woolacombe Making a den in the caravan at Woolacombe Hiding in the caravan at Woolacombe

But we’re usually just the three of us. We don’t need a weekend break in Woolacombe to tell us that, surely? In a warm and cozy caravan, with lots of storage and all the bits and pieces we could want for comfort, we realised that getting away meant that we could just enjoy being. No cutting the grass or organising cupboards and because I’d cooked most of our meals in advance, no cooking even! We really could just be and not worry about something we should be doing. This seems obvious, I realise but I think we easily forget the stressful impact of background noise in our minds.

Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks wrist bands Playing crazy golf at Woolacombe Bay Woolacombe walk in a wompat

We fully embraced the holiday park thing. Talitha loved our wrist bands so much she didn’t want us to take them off for ages! Laurence finally got to introduce us to crazy golf onsite. Granted, Talitha didn’t really get it but she enjoyed reminding us which colour ball belonged to each of us. She seems to think golf should be played like snooker. This really is the perfect holiday for a family with small children. There’s a fantastic playground just behind our caravan and the beach an easy walk through the woods.

playing in the sand on Woolacombe bay rocks at woolacombe bay

My parents are looking at these pictures now and thinking how strange it is to be wearing so many clothes on the beach. Tobago holidays of my childhood, this is not! But after living in England for over eight years, I’ve come to recognise that the British coast has a charm all its own. It’s lucky that I have since I’ve married a surfer! Talitha has the privilege of growing up knowing beaches on both sides of the pond. I’m certain she’ll love them both.

babywearing on the beach at Woolacombe Bay

When it was time to leave, we regretted not having taken Monday off to enjoy another day in Woolacombe. Laurence noted that the tide or surf or waves or something (!) was supposed to be better on the Monday. Talitha probably wanted to build another sand castle. I hesitated to leave this last time away. As we did, I remembered that we have many firsts to come. Maybe we should go ahead and book our first holiday as a family of four to cure that bittersweet.

*We were given a three-night stay at Twitchen House in Woolacombe Bay Holiday Parks so that I could blog about it – a shame we could only stay for two!

Taking a toddler to the theatre

After a day of grizzling, punctuated by all-out tantrums (see last post for breaking news that Talitha is now a toddler) I dreaded heading to Bristol Old Vic theatre. Was this going to be some awful disaster?

The house was a mess and I’d run out of clean nappies. The latter nearly never happens to me, so frazzled was I. My unhappy toddler had spent a day red-cheeked and telling me that she felt wrong. I didn’t even bother to apologise about the domestic state when my mother-in-law came to pick us up.

But to the theatre we went. It was to be a girls’ day out: Grandmum, the toddler and mummy. We’d been invited by Bristol Old Vic to go see Hey Diddle Diddle. Excitement had been building for weeks.
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Back from a holiday at home

It’s been pretty quiet around here. We’ve just got back from a month away in Trinidad and Tobago. So much has happened in that time I can scarcely believe it’s only been four weeks.

It was just enough time to make me feel disoriented and a bit sad upon returning to Bristol. The distance from my parents hurts more now that we have Talitha to share. I always leave wondering whether I’ll ever live there again. Not knowing the answer puts a lump in my throat.

Our arrival has been eased by two things: the sunny weather here in England and the last days of the 2012 Paralympics. These games drew me in and captured my imagination in a way that the Olympics hadn’t.

Channel 4 has done a commendable job in covering it. The steam punk flair and drama of the Paralympics closing ceremony made the Olympics closing ceremony look a mess. All in all, the buzz around these games has been so inspiring, it hopefully redefines “disability” for Britain and beyond. Certainly, all of London 2012 seems to have got everyone fired up about sports. Even I’m tempted.

I’m sitting here watching the closing ceremony while Talitha dances to Coldplay with pen and paper in hand. This moment feels like it marks all the month’s changes.

We got through the worst illness she’s had yet. We think it was tonsillitis. It was hard. She stopped breastfeeding. She lived in my arms. She got better. She started breastfeeding again. Our bond is stronger.
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Baby’s first overseas holiday

So we’re finally back from our month-long holiday in Trinidad and Tobago. As evidenced by how quiet it’s been on Circus Queen, I got a little distracted.

Talitha is now an airplane flying badass. We flew from Gatwick to Tobago, Tobago to Trinidad, Trinidad to Tobago, Tobago to Trinidad again, Trinidad to Tobago again, then Tobago back to Gatwick. Phew! We actually survived all that. As everyone assured me we would.

To those who made it sound like the flight out there wouldn’t be so difficult, I’m glad I didn’t believe you. At the same time, I wouldn’t go as far as a friend who compared it to giving birth did. For the 17 flippin’ hours it took us to get from door to door, the baby slept for a grand total of 45 minutes – and not even all at once.

Luckily, she’s just not a cranky baby. Even so, flying with any six-month-old is not for the faint of heart. But we got through it. With lots of “Here’s this toy. Now this one. Check out this new toy from Grandmum and Puppa. Ok, the safety instructions are more interesting. Oh yes, that vomit bag’s good for chewing. Let’s play ‘This is the way the lady rides’. Ergobaby carrier time. Look at that little girl. Hi, can I trouble you to help me get my bag down? Do you mind watching her while I pop to the loo?” for nine hours.
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