Three Years Later

It’s three years to the day since my younger brother died – suddenly and without any warning.

I’m going to be sad today and don’t have any amazing insights into death and grief, other than time really is a great healer, and to repeat what I wrote after his funeral:

Trev’s death, his lack in our lives, is going to be there all my life.  What I hope is that the lack of such a great, loving and generous person will make all of us who miss him better people.  Someone great is gone from the world and it should be the life’s work of those who remain to honour his memory, to make certain that we are better than we were in order to compensate for his absence.

Sensitive soul

Ahh, little Millie, still such a sensitive little soul, even at eight and a half years old.

Last night she discovered the arm of one of her many many teddy bears was torn.

You or I might have shrugged and said, “Well, I’ve got many many other teddy bears,” but Millie was really most upset.  We promised to try to repair him, so she tucked him up in a little bed just outside her room, as though he was in hospital.

Note from TeddyLast night, the Lovely Melanie sewed up his arm, put a sticking plaster on it, and left this note outside her room.

And no, I don’t know why Millie has added “face north teddy lost arm” on the bottom.

The girls did ask me which way was north after breakfast, but I regularly get asked random general knowledge questions after breakfast.  I just assume they want to keep me on my toes!



The girls have never had bubbles in their bath before – not since Millie came out in an itchy rash after using bubble bath when she was very small.

Since that terrible day there’s been a general downer on frothy bath products of any description.  Millie gets a bit funny if you even mention bubble bath; which is a shame, because I remember baths with bubbles being ace!

Poor Amber has never had a bubble bath!

Well, yesterday I pushed for the addition of some Matey we’d been given to the girls’ bath – pointing out that it was hypoallergenic and promising that, at the slightest sign of any irritation or rash, I would scoop both girls out of the bath, hose them down with bleach and smother them with cream.

Matey bubble bathThere were actual tears from Millie, as though I was threatening to add acid, not bubbles, to her bath.

The Lovely Melanie shook her head darkly, convinced that no good would come of it.

“Trust me,” I said, using my slow and soothing Dad voice, “it’s hypoallergenic, which means it won’t make you itchy.  I wouldn’t be trying this if I thought you wouldn’t like it.”

The girls sniffed the bubble bath and agreed it smelt delicious; but when they saw the bath fill with pristine white bubbles they both totally lost their s**t!  I had to hold them back from climbing in before the bath was full and stop them scooping all the bubbles out before they even got in!

There were bubble dresses, bubble crowns, bubble gloves, bubble beards, bubble hairstyles, bubble earrings, bubble pants, bubble necklaces – bubble everything!

And nobody was the least bit itchy this morning.

“Has it come out…?”

I took Millie swimming again yesterday (my third trip to the pool this week – it’s my new healthier lifestyle!)

We had a great time, but at one point she sat down in the little pool and accidentally poked herself in the – ahem – front bottom with her foot.

There were tears, but she was OK.  I felt a bit helpless because it’s obviously not an injury you can rub better!

I told the Lovely Melanie about it when we got home and checked with Millie that she was OK.  Amber was hovering about and wanted to know what we were talking about.

So, the Lovely Melanie explained what had happened – that her sister had poked herself in the front bottom with her foot.

“Has it come out…?” asked Amber, somewhat unnecessarily.

We all looked at her.

“Well…yes; otherwise Millie would be hopping, wouldn’t she?”

“Oh, yes.”

Bringing ’em up right

Sunday night, on the train home to beautiful Bexley, a woman got on the train and made a little speech to the carriage about having no money and could anyone help out.

I saw Millie’s ears prick up straightaway, standing up to get a better look at this strange thing – a person addressing strangers on the train (even eight year olds know that striking up conversations on the train is a bit…unusual).

MILLIE: What is that lady saying?

ME: She’s asking if anyone has any money they can spare.


ME: Well, maybe she has no money for a ticket, or maybe she has no money to buy food.  Maybe she has nowhere to live.

I expected that would be it, but then she made me proud:

MILLIE: Do we have any money we can give her?

ME: Not a lot, but we can give her what we have.

MILLIE: OK, let’s do that.

And she took all my change, stood up and gave it to the lady, who smiled, said “Bless you,” and moved on down the train.

Millie didn’t mention it again but I looked at her in a new light: she didn’t hesitate, didn’t judge the woman or ignore her like everyone else on the train; she just wanted to help.


Working From Home

Working from home – it has good and bad points.

One of the good points is being treated like an adult, and trusted to do what you’re paid for.  No one’s watching you – theoretically, you could get away with doing almost nothing.

So there’s a tendency to overcompensate and work extra hard, to ensure everyone knows you’re there and working, even if they can’t see you doing it.

Of course, it also helps if you really like your job and want to do it well. 🙂

Home office
My home office

Another good point is being able to pop to the shops, pick the kids up from school, put some laundry on, even grab a nap after lunch if you’re flagging.

Try taking a nap in the office and see how far you get, even in the most enlightened companies!

I once had a job where, during a quiet patch and having literally nothing to do, I started to read the newspaper.  My boss shouted at me to do some work and, after I’d explained there was no work to do, gave me a duster and some polish and told me to clean my computer.  True story.

The downside of working from home is only beginning to kick in after two months: being on my own all day.

Now, on trips to the shops, I’m the chattiest, most gregarious person in the world, happy to stop and talk with every old lady who wishes me a good afternoon.  In the post office last week I even tried to strike up a conversation with the lady behind the counter: “Did you have to go on a course to remember all the different prices and delivery methods?” I asked.

“No,” she said, dismissing me (I didn’t think there was anything weird about my question until I told some friends – they thought it was hilarious).

The other real downside is the lack of exercise.  I get no joy from any sports, and regard exercise as a tedious necessity.  The day when machines can keep my body fit and toned without me having to get involved in the whole miserable process will be the happiest day of my life.

But my working day consists mostly entirely of typing at a computer.  Previously, there was at least a walk to the station, some stair climbing, and a walk to the office – about an hour a day of walking.

Now, after two months at home, my legs are beginning to atrophy – the 10 minute walk to the post office made my legs ache.  So, I resolved to go swimming in my lunch hour at least twice a week, starting today, and forked out for a pair of swimming goggles with prescription lenses – partly so I wouldn’t have to wear my glasses in the pool, but also because not then going swimming would be £25 wasted.  Psychology, eh? 😉

It went pretty well.  Half an hour of lengths, plus a bus to and from the pool, takes about an hour, and I felt noticeably more alert and focused this afternoon – not to mention feeling good about tackling my growing belly and shrinking leg muscles.

Life, the universe and everything

Today, I am officially the answer to life, the universe and everything – which is to say, I am 42. 🙂

Chocolate Rice Krispie cake

I was woken up at 6.35 by small children whispering and shuffling outside the bedroom door, before knocking and charging in laden with cards and a crown!

I nearly suggested that the very best birthday present would be half an hour longer in bed, but they were both so excited I didn’t have the heart.

Tsk, going soft. 😉

Thanks to everyone for all the presents and cards – and to my wife for the birthday cake, a massive chocolate rice krispie cake with chocolate on top (it’s what I asked for – a massive chocolate rice krispie cake…mmm…).

My birthday crownAnd what wisdom can I share with you from my 42 years of accumulated wisdom?

Well, you don’t have to get more right-wing or religious as you get older, and, um, you should be excellent to everyone.