Sleeve monogram M, No 3

One quirk of going to a Cathedral School – well, very particularly, going to St Paul’s Cathedral School – is that when the choristers have to be on hand to celebrate the Queen’ s Platinum Jubilee, the school’s half term becomes seriously out of kilter with everyone else’s.  It won’t happen again in even the grandchildren’s living memory, so we just embraced it and got on with enjoying it, especially as a few weeks ago Daughter No 1 asked “what about having them this half term?”. Having good warning, we went into preparation overdrive, doing a bigger than usual shop and  freezing what I thought were large numbers of sausages, homemade shepherd’s pie, a big pot of bolognaise sauce and a couple of tubs of good quality ice cream from the delicatessen round the corner. The cupboard was filled with fresh supplies of tomato ketchup, jars of pesto sauce, baked beans, pasta, peanut butter and cocoa. We remembered to order blue top milk from our doorstep milkman as well as our usual red top and that led us on to more greek yoghurt and a bigger lump of cheese. Fruit and vegetables we’d get on a daily basis. Out of  the garage came the Playmobil pirate ship and multiple Sylvanian Family boxes, out of which appeared a narrow boat, a gipsy caravan and a village store along with  assorted little animals; there’s a surrey with the fringe on top too, somewhere even deeper in the garage but not finding it straightaway, I gave up on that.

Black T shirt with embroidered and appliquéd
M (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

As it was, the smallest person (from now on I shall refer to her as the 5 year old as she no longer looks particularly small) didn’t pay too much attention to the Sylvanians, being heavily into Polly Pocket (my own children’s 30 year old Polly Pocket sets lie secreted within some unlabelled box in the garage and there they remained). When she wasn’t bothered with Polly Pocket, she cast sideways glances at her brother’s enjoyment of the pirate ship and we had some dicey moments.  (From now on I shall call her brother the 8 year old.) Serendipitously, yesterday, in the local Red Cross Charity shop a small Playmobil pirate ship confronted me, silently beckoning me to buy it. I bought it and now on her next visit the 5 year old can play with her own pirate ship, complete with full complement of pirates, parrot and treasure chests. (I shall be perfectly happy if the gold coins have been lost. They can be imaginative about those.)

As it happened, last week David had 3 art appreciation classes. The children enjoy art galleries so we took them along to the first two of these (the third uses the same pictures as the second, although it’s fascinating how different the sessions turn out to be.) Both children are good walkers (learnt while staying with other grandparents in the Lake District), so a bit over a mile downhill in sunny, pleasant Cheltenham, after a good lunch of sausage sandwiches, was no hardship. Happily they both seemed to enjoy looking at the projected paintings and adding comments. The 8 year old understood pretty quickly that nobody else was putting their hand up when they wanted to speak while the 5 year old seemed happy to keep hers up most of the time even if she rarely got asked what she wanted to say – more waving than drowning. Coffee (well apple juice) and cakes in Waterstone’s cafe followed and for grandparents the unwritten holiday rule of permitting cake eating was joyous. Home and by 5pm the five year old was soundly asleep; the rest of us ate. At 7 pm attempts at waking her having failed again, we set off to bed. Half way up stairs I had to put her down and from there on we could only  manage a sort of sleep crawl up to the bed – which once achieved,  saw her turn over, curl up and continue with sleep. And there she stayed until 5 am the next morning, a full 12 hours. As I had been expecting to have to crawl into bed with her at 1pm when I thought she might be missing her mummy and daddy, 5 am seemed fine, so we went down to the sitting room and our day began watching episodes of Peter Rabbit.

Black T shirt with embroidered and appliquéd
M (hand embroidered by Mary Addison)

On the next day – which was my birthday – the 5 year old and I had a slight contretemps about her not wearing a lycra and tulle ballet dress into town which I thought she’d find hot and sweaty. This was ratcheted up by my trying to clean her teeth with the WRONG toothpaste. Small meltdown ensued. I retreated to the kitchen, and waved off David and her brother telling them they might – or might not – see us  later.  A short while later a vision of loveliness and calm self control sedately descended the stairs in a more suitable dress. “I’m sorry granny to get cross on your birthday. I’ve cleaned my teeth. I just can’t do up my zip. Will you do it for me, please?”. In response, I made my own apologies and complimented her on her obliging reasonable and very grown up behaviour. This time she fell asleep on my knee early into the art appreciation session and slept deeply until the end. Just as people were gathering up their belongings to head home, she woke up and sat bolt upright –  in good time for our coffee and cake ritual! Glad to be home once more the children made a den in the only available corner in our tiny sitting room, watched a bit of Queen’s Club tennis, had a proper meal, threw a ball around and then bath, story and bedtime. (The correct toothpaste was rescued from behind a bedside cupboard.) Once more we had a good night.And so the week went on in an amicable and relaxed and utterly uncomplicated way.  One of the tiny Polly Pocket figures (all of 1cm tall) got lost for ever down a gap in the wooden decking outside which threatened to be traumatic but the 5 year old surprised us by taking it calmly and even philosophically.

We are already planning what we might do next time they come.


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  1. Peacocks & Sunflowrs
    Posted June 23, 2022 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    Sounds like a wonderful half term for all concerned! Well done on the extra pirate ship find. I love the Sylvanian narrowboat – it does pretty well as a roomy dutch barge for playmobil people.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted June 24, 2022 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      So lovely to hear from you Anna and curious that you chose to comment about this post!
      I can see what you mean about the Playmobil people working well on the Sylvanian narrowboat and realise I must try not to be such a purist. (Though we do have a lot of Sylvanians – including their copycat cousins Forest Families which rather wonderfully include cheetahs AND tigers, not to mention elephants and rhinos, although sadly I can now only fine one each of the last two families.)

  2. Posted June 23, 2022 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    A wonderful half term indeed. Several crises averted, and a happy time for all.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted June 24, 2022 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

      Yes, it all went surprisingly smoothly in the main – and anyway, what does growing up consist of but working your way through life’s obstacles?

      • Posted July 10, 2022 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, although I must say that my sense is of having had no obstacles to speak of until I was about twenty three, at which point the law of averages caught up with me!

        • Mary Addison
          Posted July 16, 2022 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          It’s heartening to hear you say life was comparatively obstacle free until you were a young women. We must all embrace times when things flow smoothly and enjoy them, being ready for, though not expecting, those times that demand more from us.

  3. ceci
    Posted June 26, 2022 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    You and your husband have great energy – I think a week of young children would do me in at this point in my life! Of course, the occasional meltdown aside the children sound very civilized. Your garage is a treasure house, too.

    Thank you for sharing your holiday with us.


    • Mary Addison
      Posted July 4, 2022 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Well that’s kind of you to say but looking back on things, we had to admit to ourselves that our first week alone with the children was not as exhausting as we expected. I am not a person of phenomenal energy so the secret obviously lies elsewhere and I think it’s being organised – having outings planned (even if it’s just for a delicious ice cream in a nice park), visit to an art gallery, etc, having food worked out beforehand and not having anything for yourself that you absolutely have to do. There was much sitting about with a newspaper to read while they just got on with playing. Sun shine and warmth helped too.

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