This evening, I have finished the task which occupies my waking thoughts in the preceding weeks. It is a simple task, a letter and some photos of the children, something so easy. I am so proud of my children and I could easily write reams on their personalities, characters, successes, little anecdotes etc.. and fill album with photographs, yet this letter is to their birth family and it is so difficult to strike the right balance. For security, we have to be careful not to identify ourselves, so no mention of the beach babes they are as this may give a clue to our seaside town, photos must be vetted carefully for clues, no uniforms, local landmarks etc.. I am also aware of the circumstances of the family and am careful not to boast of the treats and holidays the children enjoy. To me the most important purpose of the letter is to let the family know that the children are happy, healthy and most importantly loved unconditionally. In one of the most emotional meetings of my life, I met the children’s birth mother, we shared a hug and I promised her that I would always love, care and be there for the children, we were both in tears so it was quite difficult to get those words out. I see the annual letterbox contact as one of the ways I can show her I am keeping my promise, its so difficult to write but so important too.
As well as for the birth family, the annual contact is for my children too. In the years to come when the children are 18, I want to show them that I always kept my promise to their birth family to write an annual contact letter. I have never had a response from the birth family but I am ok with this, I can only imagine how joyful and distressing the letters must be. The joy of knowing the children are happy and healthy but the distress of not knowing where they are, the hurt of the adoption etc.. I don’t feel hate or anger towards the birth family, just sadness at their circumstances and respect for their decision to have the children adopted and given a fresh start in a happy, loving family.
I love the simple pleasures in life and today was one of those fun activities which brought us all joy. We decided on a walk around town, an unusual route for us as we normally explore the local countryside or beach. However this route meant we were able to visit two play parks and finish off at the station café for coffee and cake. The highlight of the walk was searching for conkers at one of the parks, we met friends here too so there was a nice social element too. Collecting conkers from Horse Chestnut trees is a highlight of Autumn, even before children I would pocket the odd conker on walks. I love the deep colour, the beautiful patterns on the fruit and the childhood memories of conkers games. Well perhaps it was more the memories of trying to make a hole in the conker to thread through string and various suggestions on how to make them stronger, baked in the oven, soaked in vinegar etc.. It seemed that despite all the preparation, games of conkers were over pretty quickly with one spot on hit smashing the conker. Today we didn’t use the conkers to play a game, simply using them for decoration and keeping some nice ones for painting in the coming weeks. Little Miss did distribute conkers around the house, having heard the old wives tale that they scare away spiders, I hope she won’t be disappointed when our little friends scuttle around the house.
Last Sunday, I spent much of my marshalling time looking down on a medieval castle. It is a stunning ruin and one which defines the local area, its on the main road out of our town and I am always bewitched by its beauty, I believe it looks completely different every time I see it, different angles, different coloured skies etc.. Despite having such an impact we rarely visit the castle, we are often close by and enjoy views of it on various walks but its rare that we go in to appreciate the beauty and history of the site. However, today we were thinking of a family trip and given the excellent weather and quieter tourist period decided it was a great opportunity to visit.
I was really pleased we visited as it was a fantastic trip, there were lots of new features. We followed a nature trail which led to a natural, recycled play area beautifully set off by a stream with stepping stones, the children loved this and I really appreciate a play area which complements its environment. In the castle, there were lots of activities for children, there was a castle quest where the children found 6 shields and answered questions on the information given, they received medals for this task and are so proud of them, they’ve both gone to bed wearing the medals and I’ve promised they can take them into school tomorrow to show their teachers. They were also given a booklet which allowed them to make rubbings of key pictures around the castle, another really enjoyable activity. Another interesting addition was market stalls showing arts and crafts of the time and aspects of everyday life. Little Man made a bee line for the soldier with his wooden gun and was fascinated how it worked, he also showed great enthusiasm for the cannon. To finish the morning we stopped at the castle café which must be one of the prettiest tea shops in the country, an old country cottage with a garden filled with British flowers and a menu reflecting local produce and specialities.
Each weekend we always make time for a family treat, whether it be a walk, trip to a local attraction or simply quality time together in the garden. Time together is so precious and creates those warm, fuzzy moments.
Its been an exciting time in British politics with the Scottish referendum this week. Whilst the no vote has meant we remain a United Kingdom, the constitutional consequences will change the politics and culture of our government. Whilst for some this will be of little interest, I am loving it all. I have no idea what the correct term is but I will happily call myself a bit of a political geek. I studied politics at University and have avidly followed it since without actively participating within a political party. Despite hating the politician at the time, I was floored (as was Kinnock) by Margaret Thatcher when as part of a 6th form London trip I got to watch PMQ from the balcony of the Houses of Commons, this remains one of the highlights of my life. I can still remember the poise and elegance of Margaret Thatcher, how she didn’t look like she was listening and then responded with razor quick wit and detailed answers, she was an incredible performer and whilst I could never agree with her politics, I will never forget her faultless performance. Another highlight was election night in 1997, the election of New Labour, I will always cherish the night spent with my political ally at home my Dad, the disbelief at the scale of the landslide, the hope and belief that flooded the country, my first experience of ‘winning’ an election. I still get emotional about that amazing night. By a happy coincidence, I was at a conference near Buckingham Palace on the day Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair and so nipped out at lunchtime to see Tony Blair drive into the palace to resign and for Gordon Brown to arrive to be appointed Prime Minister, another brilliant experience. its been interesting in this referendum for Gordon Brown to emerge as one of the heroes, to me he has always been a very skilled and passionate politician, but his discomfort at sound bites and media awkwardness appeared to make him a figure of ridicule in the press, he deserved a lot more recognition and respect.
Since leaving University I have missed the opportunities for political discussion and debate, I find it difficult to discuss politics with my husband whose views are very different to mine and conversations with friends and colleagues centre on other interests. Consequently I listen to political analysis and comment on Radio 4, read the quality press and am appreciating the new medium of social media. For me events like the Independence referendum are wonderful, a rare opportunity to immerse myself in politics, stay up all night to listen to results and then pore over analysis, can politics really be a guilty pleasure? One of the highlights of the Indy ref has been the introduction of the vote for 16 and 17 year olds, I was informed and opinionated at that age and to see such levels of engagement and participation among the Scottish youth has been inspiring. I hope to develop a strong set of values in our children which I hope will make them want to be active, thoughtful citizens.
Yesterday was our local marathon. Its a new marathon, the brainchild of some friends from the Running Club and is a brutal hilly trail race taking in some of the most amazing countryside and views you will ever see. It has been really well received by the running community and won a national running magazine’s award as the country’s best marathon. Even after my experience yesterday which was so inspiring and motivating, I’m not convinced I would ever do the race but marshalling was a brilliant alternative to experience it and one I would happily repeat.
My day began at mile 1 and was a nice and easy introduction to the race, I just shouted a few cheery good mornings, pointed to the correct direction and spotted friends running. As it was so early in the race, my duty was over in 10 minutes, so off to the next location between 21 and 22 miles. This was where the real work took place as I was running the water station at the top of a hilly trail. It was so remote that I had to be driven there in a 4×4 support vehicle and was in contact with a radio borrowed from the police, I loved my look, high viz vest and radio, I looked the part. By mile 21 the field had certainly spread and I think there was around 3.5 hours between the leaders and sweepers. The race attracts a mix of athletes, it was a privilege to see one of this Summer’s marathon stars as one of the two front runners whilst I loved encouraging and jogging along with some of the lone runners. I was also very vocal cheering all runners through my station, anything to raise a smile after a really tough hill. I was lucky to be stationed at one of the most beautiful parts of the race, many runners did take the time to look round and take in the natural beauty of the area.
Whilst the marshalling took longer than doing the race would have, it was wonderful to give something back to the running community. I have done many races before, listened to the cheerful encouragement, received smiles and I hope that my performance as a marshal helped the runners to enjoy their marathon. The marathon is a community event and shows that even in a small town like ours with inspiration, enthusiasm and hard work you can do something amazing.
Whilst many neighbourhoods may have a dog or cat home, we are rather different and have a monkey sanctuary in our community. It is an amazing facility, one man’s dream and vision to rescue and nurture primates subjected to cruelty and exploitation. By each enclosure there are introductions to the animals with their names, characteristics and history. Their stories can make for difficult reading as you read of animals in small crates found in labs for testing, used as a prop for tourist photos, locked away as a pet in appalling conditions, you do question people’s humanity until you realise the teams of people rescuing and looking after these animals, I do believe that the good guys outnumber the bad guys and there is evidence at the sanctuary that education and communication are changing attitudes and the living conditions of animals. Personally I am uncomfortable with the concept of a zoo with cages yet this is my compromise as I know that its purpose is not to entertain the public but simply as a rehabilitation centre which attracts visitors. In their literature, the centre makes no apology for the mix of animals, arguing that it reacts to need and not a paying pubic.
The Monkey centre is a great day out. I find it fascinating to observe the primates and the grounds are lovely to walk around. It caters really well for children and has a number of play parks, we enjoyed the ape park today, so much climbing and scrambling in nets. I hope that by our frequent visits the children will develop an awareness of animal cruelty and proactively oppose such practices.
The Summer of 2014 will long be remembered for the gorgeous, sunny weather and despite a lull in August that weather is continuing through September. I thought last weekend may have been our last rays of sunshine but the brilliant weather has continued all week and today has been blessed with blue skies and bright sunshine. Its regatta and marathon weekend so hopefully conditions will stay good for all those visiting for these sporting celebrations.
Today’s title refers to what I presume was some type of kite flying in the sky this afternoon. It reminded me of the furry snakes you get on a stick but on a much bigger scale. The photos don’t reflect the scale of the kite, it did look like two giant snake slithering in the sky. It was also beautifully coloured and against the perfect blue sky was stunning. I have done a quick search on Twitter and the web but have not found any reference to it, I am intrigued so will keep searching!
This weekend we have a visit from Grandad so all of us went to pick up the children at school, it was lovely to see the children’s excitement at spotting Grandad and running up to give him big cuddles and kisses. Needless to say two little children were clutching his hands on the walk home. With such a delightful afternoon, we spent it in the garden, playing on the swings and slide and lots of cricket practice. Little man adores cricket and is happy to play for hours, bowling, batting and fielding. He did hit some lovely shots tonight, although is very dramatic in his diving catches. Mr S decided to spice things up by pouring water on the slide thus speeding up the journey down to squeals and excited cries. Daddy is always fun Daddy in the garden and it invariably involves water, lots of it and very wet but happy children. Today was no different and a great way to end the first school week of the year.
This evening when a very tired Little Man had disappeared up to bed, Mr S, Little Miss and I finished the evening playing a game of Happy Families. It is a beautiful version of the game and Little Miss is now at the age when she is able to play it independently. The consequence of which is that we are all very competitive! Normally with Little Man it is a more supportive and encouraging atmosphere but the three of us were definitely in it to win it tonight. I’m delighted to report I was the winner, with Little Miss second and Mr S third. A fun, little triumph, Little Miss is a good loser and we have always tried to stress that’s its the taking part and enjoying an activity which is most important, a lesson which will help our children enjoy life and not be afraid to participate and have a go.
As soon as I uttered the words to my husband, as we enjoyed a cup of tea and a lie in in bed, I knew that our luck might be out. The delighted giggles and whispered words from the playroom had prompted me to comment on how lovely it was that the children were now old enough to play together nicely and enjoy little adventures. As we discovered they were certainly having an adventure and it was only when we heard them go into the kitchen to collect a dustpan and brush that we started to investigate. Mr S got to the playroom first and called me with a bit of panic in his voice, you’re not going to believe this. As I walked into the room all I could see was a snowy mess, hundreds of the small poly balls from the bean bag had been spilt everywhere. Whilst Mr S was a little stressed I did find the situation quite funny. I’ve cleaned up split bean bags before at work so wasn’t over whelmed about the tidying up. We haven’t quite discovered why the bean bag was opened, it was done carefully so no lasting damage to the beanbag, I think they just wanted some cargo for the carriages of the train set they were playing with at the time and then discovered it was fun to play with the small, light balls, a real sensory experience! The tidy up did delay my morning run, we all mucked in together but at least the play room is spotless and I think a lesson has been learnt that an open bean bag can cause an awful lot of mess.
The first weekend in September is the annual Folk Festival, one of my favourite weekends. My memories of the weekend over the years have been of hot, balmy weather, friends and family visiting and folk music filling the air. I listened to the open air concert in bed last night and just felt relaxed and happy, I’m not sure who was playing but the reception was very warm. All over the weekend, there are many bands playing in various locations and one of the highlights is the procession through town of the folk dancers ending at the beach. Little Miss and I went down to the festival this afternoon to visit the main area, stalls, bars, music tents etc.. The craft tent is always very impressive and gave me lots of inspiration. We finished the afternoon on the promenade to see the dancers. There was such a variety of dancers, music, styles and colours in the procession, I lost count of the different troops. Little Miss did enjoy most of the dancers although she found some of the mummies rather frightening preferring the more traditional Morris dancing and the straw animals which were mascots. The music is so simple with the accordions and fiddles and the whole weekend does make you reflect on and celebrate our cultural heritage.