A little ginger frilly top with single embroidered butterfly

Frilly T shirt top with butterfly embroidery (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

One of the things I shall miss when I’m no longer in London on a regular weekly basis is the way small children change, and even grow, in front of your eyes. While mum was away at COP 26 for two weeks, the smallest person finally adopted her own bed as the place to stay in for the whole night, wistfully, telling her aunt that this single achievement was the really difficult thing about being a big girl now. Sleeping from 6.30pm to 5.30am (after which she couldn’t resist a visit to the parental bed) also meant she became much calmer and sweeter tempered which was especially helpful when on 2 days of the week the school journey starts earlier so her brother can do group violin practice and choir before the school day proper begins. The early start has its rewards, however, as she then gets to go to a café with daddy where she enjoys hot chocolate, a pastry and a one to one chat (and sometimes a free cookie if the owner is there). She has a taster violin session next week and their father expects her brother to be enthusiastic and encouraging about this so that, in due course, she may join an early morning music session herself  and he can then have hot chocolate and pastry with his father instead. How these small ambitions propel us through life – especially if food related and even more so if it means half an hour bonus time on your own with someone you love and adore.

Detail: Frilly T shirt top with butterfly embroidery (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

I try to help out with the violin practice as much as I can but it’s not easy fitting it in of an evening when there’s swimming, cricket and chess club – and that’s not to mention homework (and I shall be extremely happy if fronted adverbials are never mentioned again. In the same way that Mr Jourdan in The Bourgeois Gentilhomme discovered he’d been speaking prose all his life without knowing it, I have been using fronted adverbials – in perfect ignorance and until now, utter bliss.). Returning to the violin, however, my grandson has surprised me with his perseverance with what can be an unsympathetic musical instrument and I admired his ability to get a half decent noise out of what I now know to be a not very nice sounding instrument provided by the school. Then a couple of weeks ago he came home with a new violin, a gorgeous thing of gleaming golden wood, with a sound of honeyed creaminess and subtlety of tone that really hit a sweet spot in the hearer. The transformation in playing was a revelation. Lucky him for such a lovely instrument to be available – or is it the norm for a child to grind on with something that speaks the sound of chalk on a blackboard and then for resilience to be rewarded with a real instrument?

Frilly T shirt top with butterfly embroidery (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

When you’re 7 (very nearly 8), hair, teeth and limbs grown visibly by the week. The smart hair cut just before the autumn term started has become a thatcher’s nightmare, which even when smoothed over with Tangle Tease reverts back to something more like a hamster’s bedding than the crowning glory of a chorister. We sort of love it anyway, though the email about nits in the school may make us consider a taking the scissors to it. For his sister we’ve opted for the pony tail solution but already what was once a good stock of hair elastics has diminished to the point where mornings find one or other adult trawling the kitchen floor, peering behind the cards on the mantlepiece and turning out pockets for just anything that will do. (Like pencils, biros, teaspoons and the second of a pair of socks, it is a law of life that you lose them as quickly as you buy replacements,)  Happily, the 7 year old’s teeth are coming on very nicely and though the new ones are pretty big he seems to be blessed with a jaw arch wide enough to take them. Seemingly short baby legs have turned into ones fine for his age, though his lack of a waist does mean almost all school trousers we buy and attempt to adjust end up fitting him properly for a matter of days and then revert to the default position of falling halfway down his bottom – fortunately it doesn’t bother him. Belts don’t work and though we have thought of braces, we can just see him shrugging those off too. Suddenly we’ve rediscovered growing pains – and though I can no longer remember whether these are real or parental fiction, the very fact of naming them seems to have kept their severity at bay. Surprisingly, the tie has not been a problem but this may be because he has a badge for being School Counsellor which acts as an anchor to what can be an impossibly wayward piece of masculine attire. Things could be worse – like getting tights on somebody wriggly and giggly in the morning. All this, I shall miss, but I think I shall cope as I lie in my bed with my newspaper and breakfast tray.

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T shirt with embroidered nosegay

Just a little nosegay of flowers for this T shirt. The smallest person has quite a few navy blue leggings, so this T shirt should work well with them when she wants a bit of colour to enliven the classic navy her mother (and granny) love so much.

For the last sixteen years the packing up of family possessions and moving them around England to new homes has occupied large – and less enjoyable – chunks of my life. I sometimes dream of packing cases and then wake up with a jolt in the small hours of the night and find further sleep elusive as I magnify even the smallest complexities of the logistics of family members’ possessions. Daughter No 2 left Iraq just before lockdown and then headed for Cambodia, having changed both job and country. Her possessions were packaged up and sent here where they occupied a goodly amount of our once organised but now randomly cluttered garage. My five month stay in London brought more packing up as I rationalised Daughter No 3’s possessions into clear plastic boxes to be stored – well I wasn’t sure where! Aagh.  (Daughter No 3 has gone to live with Daughter No 2 in Cambodia and is now in the process of taking on a small hand made textile business bought for her by Daughter No 2). Worrying about where this latest consignment of possessions could go, I sent off a rather snappy email to Daughter No 2 and then spent the following months regretting my tone.

T shirt with hand embroidered nosegay of flowers (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

A recent work trip to the Lebanon and Turkey meant Daughter No 2 was nearer England than Cambodia and in the spirit of answering her mother with action rather than words she diverted to London where, in between doing her job at a distance, she  spent the last week dealing with the technicalities of the great headache that had caused her mother lack of sleep.  By 9am on Friday morning, we had storage boxes lined up in the hallway of Daughter No 1’s Islington house awaiting her brother (my son) whom she had persuaded to take time off work in order to drive a hired van with both us and boxes to Cheltenham where a great re-ordering of storage was to take place. The Son (he has no number as he is my only son) was pleasantly surprised to see how organised we were, so we set off in a particularly affable mood more redolent of going on holiday than setting out a task none of us had any desire to do. And so – miraculously – the day continued.

Detail: T shirt with hand embroidered nosegay of flowers (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

Fortunately Friday morning was not a busy time at the storage unit where Daughter No 2 had rented a decently sized though not enormous space. Knowing it was already full, we’d previously decided that a large sofa had to go. Of course, the sofa was stashed away at the very back but in no time at all a ragged line of our possessions trailed in a series of small piles,  pyramids and teetering heaps along almost the full length of the corridor. The sofa was taken down to the forecourt and, just as Daughter No 2 had arranged, there was the man scheduled to pick it up and take it away. Perfect. (I should have known that someone who organises the removal of lethal landmines for a living would sail through the task of removing an innocent item of household furniture devoid of incendiary possibilities).  Daughter No 3’s boxes from London slotted in beautifully – towers of 5 at a time – and gobbled up surprisingly little space. Daughter No 1’s boxes of baby clothes were removed for me to sort through for a friend who had just taken on guardianship of a six month old.

T shirt with hand embroidered nosegay of flowers (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

On next to the garage by our house in Cheltenham. Here Daughter No 2 was to repack her cardboard boxes from Iraq. Soon, the garage forecourt looked like a Bedouin encampment as rugs, quilts and sundry exotic textiles lay strewn around while Daughter No 2 turned things over, choosing what she would package up and send off to Cambodia. For a time I had that foreboding you feel when you start to stuff a sleeping bag back into its seemingly too small case, but by this time the world travelling daughter and her team were  efficiency incarnate.  She rifled through the largest boxes at speed while I packed up bags of fabric and clothes that were to go off to Cambodia. Meanwhile Muscle loaded the van while my husband folded down and cut up the empty cardboard boxes ready for regular council collecting services this Thursday.  By the time the sun had set Daughter No 3 and son were packed up and off back to the store for their last delivery. I collapsed on the sofa delighted to be home a good 5 hours before my usual Friday homecoming and even more delighted that I need no longer have dreams involving packing boxes – nor feel the need to blog about them.

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