Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wednesday Witter #8 : the pink rabbit that was

When DDs 1 and 2 were small I regularly went through their stuff and gave to charity any toy that they had outgrown, didn't play with anymore or had never played with. That was the only way I could more or less keep on top of the mess.
These days I unfortunately don't do it often enough and I definitely can't keep on top of the mess. It would actually be more necessary than ever to declutter, the family having grown to 6 members and still living in a terraced, small victorian 3 beds cottage.

Anyway I used to do it and I was generally lucky in my choices, nothing got missed... until the fateful day when DD1 was about 5 and I gave away a very big, very pink soft toy rabbit that belonged to her and that she never played with anymore, only to discover that she actually LOVED it. It hit me during a parent-teacher evening at her school. She had written in her literacy exercise book that she was sad because she had lost her pink rabbit...

I felt wretched, drowned in guilt. I had caused her to be so sad that, at only 5, she had written about it!
I began a frantic search for the rabbit on ebay. I had given it via a collection bag so no hope to retrieve it from the charity shop. For weeks, months, I looked at hundred of posts for soft toys rabbits but not one looked close enough to the 'real' one for me. DH kept telling me that she would forget but she kept talking about it from time to time. Eventually I stopped looking and hoped she would indeed forget. By the way, I hadn't told her it was definitively gone, officially it was only 'lost'.

The time flew by as it does. DD1 still mentionned the pink rabbit occasionally and I would go onto ebay again. Suddenly my little girl was 9 and... still thinking about her rabbit (oh, the guilt for me!). I started looking again, not finding but thinking "I can barely remember what it exactely looked like. Will she?" Finally I found one that looked fairly like it and bought it. I put it on her bed and waited with bated breath.

She loved it. She did think it was the one from when she was small and she's really happy. At least she's happy although I'm still ridden with guilt. Of course I know - now - that I should have told her the truth from the beginning, as hard as it was, it would have been better, wouldn't it?
What do you think? Are you appaled or do you understand?!

PS: I shall have to delete this post one day, before she reads it!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Wednesday Witter #7: Another christening

Births and christenings.

They are always emotional times, and for me tinged with acute longing for holding in my arms my two missing babies.
Sometimes I expect the feeling, sometimes I don't. But it invariably finds its way to me and, when it catches me unaware, it hits me hard.

During our holidays we held Tadpole's christening in France. We met one morning with Deacon P. to choose the readings and hymns.
P. has known us for a while. He knew us when we lived in France and he's christened DD2 and DS. He generally gives us the book, goes through it with us, we exchange news about the children. His are grown up now but one of his sons was a Scout when I was a leader and he once came to stay with us in England.
Then he lets us get on with our choices in our own time.
Having been through 3 christenings we know pretty well which sort of readings and hymns we like. For one of the hymns we chose one of my favourite about the Holy Spirit. However we didn't have the verses of the hymns, just the titles. And I forgot that this lovely hymn always reminds me of my baby boys...

So there we were, the day of the Christening. Tadpole in her pretty white dress. We started going through the service (it was during the week, so outside of a Sunday service, just us), listening to the readings, singing.
And then we started singing 'the' hymn and that line : "A child's heart is enough to console a mother".

The thing is... The first time I was pregnant I was incredibly excited, by my bump first showing, by the first kick, the first scan, the first time I heard his heart. And every time I heard his heart was such a joy. Then there was the hospital and the silent heart monitor.
The night I was told that my baby had died, I had to think up a fantasy to be able to sleep. I imagined that his heart was beating so quietly that they couldn't see it on the scan. But when my baby would be born they would realise and save him... His heart would console me.

In my following pregnancies there was always the underlying fear that I wouldn't hear my baby's heart. I would feel relief at hearing the little drumming sound but not joy, not really. That was a difficult thing to grieve, the joy of expecting.

So... I hear this line and the tears come, silently. It's not anymore tears of grief, a fierce and loud spring. It is quiet but constant, a gentle stream that will always be in my heart, tears of sadness.

Happiness and sadness ARE so very close in life, always hand in hand.

Births and christenings.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Coincidence... or is it ?

Last time we made major reparations on our London Taxi was when one of the wings was badly damaged by rust. We managed to find a spare just when we were beginning to think we'd have to go for a fibreglass one. It was fitted on the car and we rejoiced to see the taxi hole free again.
I was then pregnant with DB and suffering from a bad bachache. Therefore I took the taxi to go and see a friend in our village when I would normally have walked. That was a couple of weeks after the new wing had been fitted on. I parked next to a small bollard, forgot all about it when I left and scraped the new wing...

This year we decided to treat our taxi to a complete renovation. All the bodywork was stripped off, treated, straightened, repainted and refitted on the car. It was a big and expensive job on which we had pondered for a while, finally deciding to do it rather than buy a new car.
Yesterday, less than a month since we've had the taxi back after the repairs, we all went for a meal at Pizza Express. Having just been on holidays we were not thinking of doing anything of the kind, but one of DH's work colleagues from abroad gave him some vouchers as a thank you gift.
You can see what's coming, can't you?
The small car park of the restaurant has got, all around, a very low fence. The said fence has got an almost twin a few inches away from one of its borders, running parallel to it and delimiting a footpath. When I reversed to park the car, loosing sight of the low fence, I took its twin for the
 car park one and went straight into the fence, denting the rear of the car... I was slightly under shock yesterday I think. DH was awfully nice about it too. But today I have felt awful and teary all morning.

Yes these things happen, but why just after spending so much money ?!!! These two incidents are also the only times I have damaged our taxi.
It just can't be coincidences. It has to be the evil work of some malign spirit!

When I was a child my grandmother used to talk about "bruches", some little house witches who take pleasure at tangling your hair while you sleep, making you loose objects, making a clean sheet drying on the line fall into the dust, that kind of things. In other words, some sort of pests.
Well, our taxi seem to have a knack to attract pests. Once we visited a goat farm in France and, when we left, all the flies of the farm seemed to have entered the taxi.
Recently, just before the big works actually, two mice had elected our taxi as their home.
So I think some "bruches" from the South West of France must have somehow found their way into our car and right now they're laughing their heads off while I weep.

Coincidence ? Ha !

Thursday, 16 August 2012

My Favourite place : the day I had to leave

When my parents moved from Paris to live in Normandy I was 8 and didn't want to leave our 6th floor appartment with its air that I deemed fresh enough for my needs, thank you very much.

But then I discovered the joy of living by the sea and one beach in particular. A little cove nestled between the harbour village of Barfleur and Gatteville-le-Phare.

Well, I already knew it as a holiday place but it quickly just became 'my' place. I loved the soft colours of dark blues, greens and greys, the often cloudy sky, the rocks, the lighthouse, the golden hour of sunset, the taste of salt, even the seaweeds and crabs!

Then 20 years later I fell in love and I had to make a choice. I chose to move away after 5 months of being some 800 miles apart with my love. Before I left I went to visit my favourite place and cried... I truly grieved for that place, and for living by the sea, in the following weeks.

I had placed one condition to my coming to live with O. : to leave Munich and move somewhere closer to the sea. O. found work in Basingstoke and we planned to live not far from the coast. We must have done 2 thousand miles in the first 3 weeks we spent in the UK looking for the right place. But the more we drove on UK's roads the more we thought it would be too much hard work for O. to commute on the busy motorway and would leave us too little time to nurture our still budding relationship.
We settled for Overton, a lovely Hampshire village, with a mind to go back to France in around 3 years.
I got pregnant and we lost our beautiful baby boy at 32 weeks of pregnancy.
That's when we really discovered Overton, when its people welcomed and comforted us like I honestly don't think we could have experienced in France. Our son was buried in the village's ground and of course it created a very strong bond between this place and our family...

That's how 11 years later we are still living there, my grief for the little beach I loved overcome by a greater sorrow. But things are changing again. What seemed impossible still a couple of years ago, leaving the village and our sons' grave (we lost another boy nearly 5 years ago) doesn't feel that unthinkable now. We've accepted that our family is missing two members but that they ARE still members of the family. They are not in the ground of our village but wherever our family is.

Life has had a way of putting out of my mind my favourite place. I have after all, in the last 11 years, being quite busy being pregnant and then nursing... or grieving.
Then last Easter, for my 40th birthday, DH offered me 4 days in a National Trust cottage in Cowes, on the seafront. It reminded me very much of just how deeply I love the sea and how I miss not living near the coast.

Now DH has much advanced in his career and could probably work several days a week from home. Our family has grown, grown enough (!), even outgrown our house. It would be nice to move within a couple of years if we can and we're thinking that maybe...

...the sea.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wednesday Witter #6 : Hello again - trying to reconnect

I'm back ! It's been Silent Two Weeks for me as we have been on holidays in France with no computer, no network, nothing... I had the odd moment when I could access my accounts and post a tweet but mainly I have been very much out of it all.

I didn't miss (too much!) being literally disconnected. Well, a bit during the first week as DD2 got tonsilitis and we were stuck inside. But even when I managed to go online I didn't really feel the thrill of instant communication and realised I was disconnected in more than one way. I had, it seemed, switched off my internal communication tools.

Coming back the wish to be connected to the wider world has been coming back gradually, everyday life asserting itself again. Although now it is the world that seems to have switched off with me. My blog hasn't had so many visits and I don't know what people are talking about on Twitter!

It's funny how modern communication goes far in distance but is so very much of the moment. How easily can we be forgotten if our voice doesn't make itself be heard for a while ?!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Our week in Paris

I have been planning and talking of our week in Paris for a while and now I can finally recount what we really did and what fantastic memories we will have of our stay.

We arrived on a cloudy Sunday afternoon to be greeted by my cousin, two years younger than me, who I kept calling by the name of my son for our whole stay...

Another greeting, not quite as nice, was the characteristic French disregard for rules : two women, one with a toddler in a buggy, smoking right outside the train's doors, under the No Smoking sign. Ah well...

We'd already spent a week in Normandy and left lots of our thing at DH's mum's house, only taking clothes for three or four days in a large backpack. But there being 6 of us it was still a lot to carry on the underground, as well as inflatable mattresses, sleeping bags, a toddler and a baby!

It was raining and DD1 felt homesick. I confess having felt quite emotional too at leaving our beautiful gite and not having anymore time to spend with my parents. DD2 was poorly for half of the week in Normandy and, spending time with her at my parents', I remembered my own holidays at my grandmother's, enjoying a different kind of family life and not necessarily 'doing' much at all. But then my grandmother lived in an enormous 7 bedrooms house and even more enormous garden, whether my parents live in a council house.... But I will come back to this in another post.

Day 1

The Monday turned out sunny and warm and we started by visiting the Place du Carrousel. It's a place with a really special feel. At the heart of the city, enclosed between the aisles of the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries.
There was a fair in the gardens. Everything was duly overpriced, including the toilets.
DS reproduced perfectly his big sister's behaviour when we last visited Paris six years ago (DD1 was then 3 1/2, the age he is now), asking for a ride on a merry-go-round, then not wanting to  go on when the ticket was bought, then throwing a tantrum. 
DD2 went flying to the ground, star like, mashing her elbow and earning a dust covered front as well as a baby wipe 'bandage'. Bandage which was then adopted by the rest of the children (7 of them with or friends') except for DB.
We then set off to go to Notre-Dame via the grand Place de la Concorde, motivating the girls with references to Disney's Hunchback (sigh). We went on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for a bus that was supposed to take us from the Quai d'Orsay to Notre-Dame. We had spotted it but it was the one going in the wrong direction, so we started to go up the street to find the opposite stop, only to find out that it was a one way street... What can I say ? We were tired, Paris buses are tricky to find AND we were relying on my cousin who, albeit living in Paris has zero sense of directions... Well, the children got really tired but we found the bus eventually, arrived at Notre-Dame where the queue to get in looked infeasibly long (the downside of visiting Paris in August) but there was a little playground next to it  so the children were happy.
I am always amazed at the essential need of children to play and their forgetting everything once they are presented with even a couple of measly see-saws.

Day 2

Our two girls saw A Monster in Paris not long ago and we were keen to see the Sacre Coeur both to make a place they saw in the film come alive, and because it's a place of my childhood.
We went up the stairs.
"Look Children, your great-grand-father used to get down the stairs sliding on the banisters!
- Why ?"
We did the touristy thing of buying illegal ice-creams (the wrapper clearly stated 'Not to be sold separatly') from a street vendor and then had a moment of contemplation going round the basilica. Interesting mix, isn't it ?!
DB decided she wanted a feed after 2/3 of the way in the church and as we were going at snail place, stuck in the mass of visitors, the quiet was somehow disturbed for an agonising few minutes...
We went down by cable car.
"It's boring..." (DD2). Indeed it might not be the most exciting of rides...

In the afternoon we were meeting our friends (who'd been travelling with us from England to Normandy and then Paris) at the Cite des Sciences, Parc de la Villette, for a double session at the Cite des Enfants. The museum has now two different areas for children, one for 2 to 7 years and one for 5 to 12 years, working on just under an hour sessions. You have to book them in advance as they are very popular. During the session the children can visit and play in different stations about water, sound, light, air, image, movement, etc. The big kids even had a go at being part of a rock band !

Day 3

We had decided to set off early and go up the Eiffel Tower but once again the long wait discouraged us. Instead we went on a cruise on the Seine which gave us mixed feelings...
The view of Paris buildings from the Seine is superb but the constant commentaries a bit tiring. We realised too late that there is a service of 'Bateaux bus' which would have suited us better. But as it was the outing didn't match our mood, in part because of DD2 who felt tired and blue which is very unusual for her. She tends to be almost always cheerful or at least full of energy. It turned out that she just needed to eat something (note to self : remember to carry snacks, small muffins on a cruise boat are very expensive!).
We then joined more of my cousins for a picnic in a small garden 'de quartier'. C. has married a German guy and her two girls aged 3 and 5 both speak mainly German. It was hilarious to hear our girls (who speak mainly English) and them try their French while playing together.
We had planned to go to the 'Pestacles' rock concert but were too late so we went to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont's Guignol theatre. The Guignol puppet shows are not without similarities to the British Punch and Judy although when the Punch and Judy Devil takes the Bogeyman to Hell, in the Guignol version he takes the Policeman, tricked by Guignol and his thieving drunkard friend Gnafron. *hanging head in shame of French mentality*

Day 4

That was a busy day, starting with the local market where my cousin lives (Paris' open markets are well worth experiencing!).
We then tried the sandwich shop using products from Paris area farms, Label Ferme. Gorgeous! We went to eat our picnic at Paris Plage, Hotel de Ville. Maybe not such a good idea on a windy day (the sand, very dry, gets everywhere)... But the ice creams, extraordinarily good value (funded by the Ville de Paris) were fantastic, going from a classic chocolate to Violette, Rose, green tea litchee and Orange flower water with sesame seeds!
Then back on the underground Metro to go to the Josephine Baker swimming pool with a glance at the majestic four open books buildings of the Francois Mitterand library.
DS absolutely adored swimming while seeing boats go by on the Seine.
I hadn't factored that we needed swimming caps (compulsory) but we could buy some at the pool (a little souvenir too!). DS chose the bright pink one for himself.

Day 5

We couldn't go without visiting the famous department store Le Bon Marche, made famous by Zola in his 'Au Bonheur des Dames'. The toy department prompted DD2 to declare "I am in paradise!", followed by "I am definitely in Barbies paradise!!!" That says it all.

The afternoon was spent visiting the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes.The whole park is lovely and the children enjoyed seeing the animals.
At the cries of "I need ice-cream!" we went to the Mosquee de Paris, exquisitely exotic and serving a delicious mint tea. Fortunately the glass was empty when DS, getting tired and restless, accidently smashed it on the floor...

Day 6

For our last day we chose to go to the popular Jardin d'Acclimatation. I remembered it from my childhood for the maze (where I never wanted to go!) and the deforming mirrors. There is actually lots to do : fun rides, a little lake with remote controlled boats, camel rides (yes!), zorbing, animals, several playgrounds, swings, a big 'paddling pool' which isn't really a pool but a big space with jets of water, as well as a more gentle area with 'brumisateurs' (sprays of mist). Our older girls did a dragon ride, the camels ride and zorbing while our son thoroughly enjoyed the paddling pool, motor boats and a big cruise ship/climbing frame.

At the end of the week we were shattered but happy! We did have a really nice time and it was lovely to come back every evening to my cousin's flat and enjoy some grown-up time with 'aperitif'! DS loved B.'s place too, making a mess on the balcony by digging in the plant pots and waiting in the corridors until the lights went out and it became "very daaaark".

Happy memories...