Dot writes: I think someone in the corner house must have a birthday on the 18th September, because they always seem to have a noisy party on this night. I remember they had one two years ago; it sticks in my mind particularly because I’d had a baby that morning and had been awake since 3am, and I was struck by the irony of avoiding the noise of a hospital ward only to be sleepless in my own home thanks to Oasis and raucous laughter. We couldn’t quite bring ourselves to mention the baby – it seemed like an outlandish excuse, somehow – and yelled feeble pleadings through the window (the bathroom window, from which we can look into their garden if we stand in the bath). Eventually we called the guards and comparative quiet descended. This year there is laughter but happily no Oasis. And there is no newborn baby to tend in the night, because today Frank turned two.
We didn’t have a party as such, but we did invite my friend Aura and her children Jake and Maya round to play and share the cake, which was a squidgy chocolate log from Delia’s cookbook and quite a success. Frank missed the first attack on the cake by having a long afternoon nap, but he had a vigorous go at it later. There was a toy bin lorry from Grandma, which was very popular, and we gave him a scooter as he keeps trying to steal them from other children. Hugh was a bit loud. But a good time was had by all.
It has been a hectic week and it was a relief to spend a day without rushing off anywhere. My parents have been over for the week helping us work on the new house, so they and Andrew and the boys have been commuting to the north side most days. I’ve been on a training course each morning learning to be a tutor and then joining the others at the new house in the afternoons, with small slices of time round the edges for panicking about all the admin I have to do for the new term. Frank had a delicate operation scheduled for Wednesday 21st, but it was moved at a week’s notice to Wednesday 14th. Mum and Dad took Hugh to the Sealife Centre while Andrew and I accompanied Frank to Crumlin. It all went well and Frank seems to have sprung back to his normal bouncy self in double-quick time, but that was one of many reasons why we didn’t try to plan a proper party for this weekend.
There’s a lot I could write about. We seem to be planning much more extensive work on the house than we had originally contemplated and are now thinking of maybe getting a short term let nearby for next month rather than moving straight in when our time is up here on the 1st October. The visit to Crumlin was remarkably trouble-free – they are absolutely excellent about providing play-areas and amusements, and waiting for a couple of hours with a tiny child who had been allowed no milk and no breakfast was much less painful than it might have been – but it was still quite difficult holding little Frank while he was given a general anaesthetic and then leaving him in the theatre and going off to wait; and when he was brought back to us and laid, still sleeping, in the hospital bed, he looked so tiny and so tender, and we were so eager for him to wake and show us that he was alright. The tutor-training wasn’t in the same league of emotional intensity but it was quite absorbing. But in celebration of Frank’s birthday I will offer a short list of things that he currently likes. Some favourite things of Frank, aged two:
* his Bob the Builder helmet
* his Scoop the Digger toy, a present from Grandma to console him after the hospital visit
* talking: top phrases include “What’s that noise?”, “It’s mine! It’s not yours!”, “That’s not funny” and “Where’s my chocolate?” The other day I was eating an apple pie. “Cake? cake?” said Frank. “No”, said I, “you had one earlier; this one is mine.” “I share it?” said Frank. There are social skills one acquires early when one has a big brother
* climbing into our bed in the middle of the night – we have taken the side off his cot; it seemed like a good idea at the time – and attempting to sleep with his head on his father and his feet braced against his mother
* running off very fast
* stories. For a while his constantly-requested favourite, so much repeated we took to hiding it, was Stick Man by Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson. At the moment there is nothing he loves to that level of obsession but he likes and requests books that seem quite substantial for a child his age, for example Cops and Robbers by the Ahlbergs and Judith Kerr’s Mog books
* charming the socks off everybody.