Thursday, 16 July 2015

dulwich


I do apologise for the not so great quality of the pictures I post on here. I vaguely knew I wanted to start a blog about all this, and imagined all the arty, lifestyley shots I would take, but the reality has been a little different.

For a start I often forget my camera so have to rely on my iphone. The amount of stuff you have to cart around with you when you have a small person is jokes. Half an hour down the road I think CAMERA! CRAP! But it's too late by then.

Then when I do remember the camera I never have my hands free. Or the wrong lens is attached. Or I am messing around with the aperture and whatnot then his nibs starts whinging. Or I am half lugging buggerlugs, or change bag, or looking at a map, or holding an umbrella. Or generally just trying to manage being out and about on my own with a small person, which is doable, but is hard work. So I hope to improve in the future, but it's a work in progress for now.

A while back I drove up to Dulwich village. Very easy with a sat nav. Parking is easy too. Dulwich Park. Loads of spaces. Free. On my agenda was the park, the village, the art gallery, and if I only did one of these things I would be happy. Often with a small person, I find you have to scale back your expectations. Pre Fred I was so used to dashing round at a million miles an hour getting this and that done and forgoing a lunch here and there to fit it all in. You can't do that with a baby. You have to work around them. You have to think about timings and naps and food and forward plan it all. Well I do. And that's fine too. It just means that maybe you won't see or do as much as before, but maybe you will see a different side to things, or visit places you wouldn't have done without children. And I love that.

We walked around Dulwich Park and admired the ducks in the pond before stopping at the Pavilion cafe in the park. This cafe is great for babies and toddlers. Loads of buggy-maneuvering room, child-friendly meals, and even a small play area with some toys and books.

I've been to the village before but I didn't really remember it, other than it was quite pretty and villagey. In fact, it still it, but there isn't much there really. A few gift shops and trendy cafes and estate agents. I think I've been spoilt by living in the greatest place in London ever (Crouch End but you knew that right?).

But Dulwich does have an art gallery. Small but perfectly formed. Freddie fell asleep just as I got there, which was good news. He's the type of baby that you have to keep moving with all the time. Does anyone else have this trouble? In supermarkets, it's like some kind of trolley dash. No stopping allowed.

I could have spent this time taking better pictures, but instead I decided to join my son in having a doze. Sorry Dulwich!


Monday, 13 July 2015

petworth

Petworth is the antiques heart of Sussex (can you tell I like antique rummaging yet?) It's also a beautiful small town that has the added bonus of the National Trust's Petworth Park on its doorstep; a park that seems even grander than Richmond Park.

We visited when the little guy was about 10 months old. I know this as it was mid autumn and a glorious vest and shorts day. Days like this are even better than hot summer days I think, as they are unexpected. I remember sitting lazily in the sunlit gardens at Petworth Park, Freddie content, and thinking 'this is what happy feels like'. 

To earn my rest I trogged round the shops with Freddie in a sling. I managed about an hour before he became too heavy (I've always wondered how people manage toddlers in slings? Please tell me the trick. I've always wanted to be that mum who carries their kid not pushed them, without success). I would suggest (now that Freddie is a very active 18 month old) that a trip to Petworth shops is only really doable with a immobile baby.

Petworth is an upmarket place. I realised this as soon as I saw the first price tag of £500. Hmm don't think I'll be bringing much back. But it's enjoyable all the same and the stuff for sale is good for inspiration. Plus most of the shopkeepers loved Freddie and he seemed pretty happy to be nosing around too!

I unfortunately didn't take many pictures (too intimidated!) but here is a list of the key shops.
Antiquated
Anthony Short
Chequers Antiques
David Swanson 
Garden House Antiques
John Bird Antiques
Lantiques
Petworth Antique Centre
Phoenix Antiques
Tudor Rose Antiques
Woodcock Antiques

You can walk round in an hour no problem. There are also some fab places to eat, though we chose to have a picnic in the park. 

Back to the park...(and this place is GREAT for older children) as we all know National Trust is a beacon to parents across the land. Even without all the extra kid friendly stuff they put on, just having some safe outdoor green space to run around is worth paying the membership for. Freddie was too young to enjoy the NT for himself at this point so it was a selfish visit for moi.

The park consists of formal gardens and a 700 acre deer park. It was the deer park that captured my heart, probably partly to do with the weather being so blooming glorious for October. Sublime rolling hills as far as the eye could see with a backdrop of Petworth House - a massive 17th century mansion. For the green fingered out there, the gardens were fashioned by Capability Brown. And for the artists, Turner then immortalized these gardens into his famous paintings. If you have time to go inside the mansion, you would also be rewarded with an epic collection of art from Turner, Blake, Reynolds and van Dyck.

Coming here made me realise how much there is going on culturally outside of London. Yes, you may to look for it and drive here there and everywhere, but it's oh so rewarding when you find somewhere special like Petworth. 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

south bank


When Freddie was three months old I ventured back into the Smoke. I was DESPERATE to go back to London. I was so homesick for it.

We moved out of London just before Freddie was born thinking that it would be a better idea for him to have more space, clean air, schools better yadda yadda yadda. But, in hindsight we should have stayed. At least until we had to start thinking about schools, and even then there is much about how schools in London are improving so much that some are now the best in the country. 

Having my first baby made me feel like I had been run over by a train. It wasn't just the physical - 2l of blood loss, near death experience, anaemia, general what-the-fuckness about giving birth, it was the mental side that punched me harder than Muhammed Ali on steroids.

Sudden loss of freedom and of independence. Huge, huge responsibility for a human being! With no instructions! It's like being made CEO of a Big Deal Company when you have no experience and are still in primary school. I felt completely out of my depth and it was very very frightening.

I couldn't switch off. There was a small person, effectively like a wild animal in my eyes, who I had no idea how to read or look after. I just waited for bated breathe for the next howl, wondering what to do. Many people told me "oh you will know what to do, it will come naturally". It didn't for me. I loved this small person but I was also frightened of him.

In hindsight it is easy to say I shouldn't have worried so much. I should have relaxed more. Everything is just a phase. But instead I turned into a google monster. Googling everything to do with babies and THINGS.THAT.COULD.WRONG. How much should babies cry?Why is he crying so much? Is it normal he cries so much?  What if he had silent reflux? Should I use a dummy? Will his speech be delayed if I use a dummy? How do I use a sling? Which sling should I use? What do I do if my baby hates a sling? I want to be a natural parenting mother but it appears my baby does not like me anyway I try to parent him.

I mourned for my old life. I mourned for routine and sleep and knowing what I was doing. I didn't feel like me anymore. I didn't know who I was. I felt so jealous of my husband whose life had stayed relatively the same. He hadn't given birth and he didn't have to breastfeed and he went back to work as normal.

I felt like I had to learn to do easy things again, like a child would. Going for a walk, entering a shop, driving the car. All these tasks seemed too huge and momentous to do anymore with a baby attached to me. Going for a run was just out of the question. Even having a bath was very difficult to do.

So when I blearily opened my eyes out of the first three months of chaos and felt confident enough to go up to London with Freddie it was a VERY BIG DEAL. It was a huge milestone for me. I felt quite invincible. Look at me managing to travel up to our capital city with a 12 week old! I had mixed feelings about being in London. It felt great on the one hand. Everything was so familiar and exciting. But on the the other hand it felt completely different. I was not the same person that left London four months ago. I had Freddie to think about and it was a bit daunting thinking about where I could feed and change him. It was London through a new pair of glasses.

Handily my train comes into London Bridge, which means it's walkable to the Southbank. The Southbank is great for children. There are lots of family friendly restaurants (Nandos was our choice) and the Tate and Southbank Centre are fab for small people, as is "just" wandering up and down the parade.

I really didn't do much at all on my first visit in, but you forget how tiring it all is (I was also amazed at how busy London felt). I hope to do more things in London as Freddie gets older, and if we have another baby I hope that I would have more confidence to make the most of all the wonderful free things going on, and not worry as much about breastfeeding in public or a crying baby. People love babies. London felt different as a mother, but it also felt much friendlier. People talk to you!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

box hill













Who needs soft play?

Box Hill isn't all bikes and lycra you know. It has an amazing natural play trail that follows two mile's worth of wooded path. At the beginning there's a natural play area with carved out trees to run through and wooden boulders to climb. Further on, there are dens made out of branches to explore and build up further, and a wooden bridge to clamber across. Finish up with a play and a picnic in the meadow that overlooks the view of the surrounding countryside.

Even without all the magic wooded play stuff created by the National Trust, woods are ace for kids (and even babies) to play in and explore. Freddie was as absorbed in stacked stones as he ever is in lego, and as happy collecting and sorting sticks as he would be in plastic stacking cups.

And Box Hill also has loads of meadow space to have a picnic and let kids run wild a bit. There's a handy car park at the top of zig zag road (love that name) with a cafe, shop and toilets.

Freddie and I have visited Box Hill a lot since we moved out to the Surrey Hills. I like the buzz around it. I don't know if it was so popular before the 2012 Olympics but it's always busy now, and there are always lots of MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) about as well as the usual National Trust suspects (read many families and larger percentage of grey-haired folk) so it's a lively mix of people. I like going as it reminds me a bit of being in London. That sounds silly but it's the vibe about the place. It's full of promise, and feels like a place where things happen, even though it's deep in the countryside. If I'm feeling a bit lonely I like coming here as you always end up having a chat with a friendly dog walker or mother. Nothing being than a walk in the woods, admiring the view and settling down for a cup of tea and a bit of cake to raise the soul.