Commonplace of the Angels
Anecdotes relating to Nemea, Annabelle and Leila
6 April 2001
I’ve been meaning to get this file started for a while now. The grandchildren
grow so fast and I would like to capture these delightful anecdotes while they
are still fresh in memory. I’ve probably lost a couple already - the children
are all two years old now – but better late than never. The first two of from
the last two weeks.
Sue taught the twins to shake hands and say "How do you do". They got the handshake right, with great vigour, but their young mouths can’t quite get around the phrase. It comes out as "How to do to do".
Sue took Caroline and Nemea to a Harvester for lunch. From the salad cart, Nemea had her favourite bowlful of croutons. This time, though, she took selected croutons from her plate and laid them out on the table, naming them; "mummy", "daddy", "nanny", "grandad", and even "Bertie" and "fish". As a joke, Sue snatched the "grandad" crouton and made a great show of swallowing it. But instead of delight, Nemea registered horror. She looked aghast from nanny to mummy and back again. Reading the situation and deftly avoiding a scene, Sue lifted a crouton from her own plate and used a magician’s sleight of hand to make it look as if she had spat "grandad" out onto her hand. There were relieved smiles all round.
Thea, one of Nemea’s little friends, is at the questioning stage. "Why?"
"What you doing?" "What for?" and so on. While at Caroline’s, assembling a
picnic table for the garden:
"What you doing?"
"Making a table."
Pointing to my screwdriver, "What’s that?"
"That’s a screwdriver."
"Mummy got one."
"Oh. Does mummy make tables?"
"No. Mummy already got table."
Second half of 2001 into early 2002, assorted phrases.
The twins, especially Leila, register fear, anxiety and general dislike of
people things or events by saying "Don’t like that X", where "X" is some term
that you can just about relate to whatever they have recently experience, e.g
"Don’t like that bang" for expressing fear of loud fireworks. It has become a
Pants off, almost, but not quite ready to go on the potty; "It’s hiding!"
On passing any field with horses; "Horseeeeey!" And if the horse is moving around; "Horsey walking!"
June 2001, from an email to a friend:
The twins, a tad younger and a little bit slower in development as twins often are, are still at the "imperative" stage: "Huppee!" (pick me up), "Airplane!" (look, there is an aeroplane overhead), "Uhh Uhhh!" (give me that interesting thing just out of reach that I am now pointing at), "Huppee!" (put me down again). They plot and scheme together, filling their mother with dread whenever she notices that it has gone strangely quiet for a few minutes. Their latest trick was to take a bottle of olive oil, a packet of pasta and a packet of rice, empty all of them on the kitchen floor, mix well, then scoop up handfuls and stuff it in their mouths. "Sweets, mummy," they said with a winning smile when their mother asked what they were doing.
The latest favourite grandad game, supplanting the search-the-waistcoat-pockets, is to have grandad find coins in the girls noses, ears, sleeves, bottoms, etc., etc.. At Christmas time, the coins being foil-wrapped chocolate made it a particular favourite.
Anabelle stirs Katey’s tea with the TV remote control.
All three were playing, boisterously, in Katey’s flat. After a while, I
noticed Leila was missing. I found her in her bedroom, face to the wall, looking
very glum. Someone had told her off and it had hurt her. "I’m not naughty," she
said in a very small voice.
I picked her up and said that she was only sometimes naughty, and was always sorry afterwards, so it didn’t matter.
After a very tiring day looking after the three, Sue brought them back to Caroline’s flat and laid them down for a sleep. She sat down on the sofa for five minutes. Some time later she snapped awake to find three little faces inches from her own, fascinated. "You were snoring, Nanny" said Nemea.
Nemea is starting to grasp the concept of ownership – and more abstract
notions. Quizzing Sue:
"Who bought mummy’s house?"
"Lady bought mummy’s house"
"So lady own mummy’s house?"
"Who owns nanny grandad’s house?"
"Grandad bought nanny grandad’s house"
"Who owns the sky"
"The sky is everybody’s"
"And out there?" (the general public space beyond the gate)
"Everybody owns that as well."
11 March 2002
Nemea, who probably has a future as a PA, likes to open the mail for us.
While staying with us for a long weekend, my rifle magazine arrived. She opened
it and diligently leafed through it.
"Where’s the children’s page?" she complained.
Over the same weekend, Anabelle was seen parading majestically with the
tasselled throw from our sofa over her shoulders.
"I’m a king," she explained.
Nemea has reached the classic stage of making loud and embarrassing comments
about people she sees. While waiting at the local bus stop with her mother, she
noticed a very large lady and said loudly;
"Look mummy! Isn’t that lady fat.
"Yes dear," said Caroline in a small voice.
"No look, mummy. You haven’t looked. That lady is really really fat."
Nemea is just back from a weekend in Paris. While there, she went to make friends with some other children about her own age. She ran up to them and started speaking in English. Daddy explained that they spoke French. Nemea promptly sang Frere Jacque, full volume, in their faces.
Nemea is trying to blow bubbles. She is holding the loop close to her lips and consequently not having much success. "Further back," I say. She takes several steps backwards away from me!
The twins stayed with us for the weekend while Katey went to visit friends. The change in the girls when they are with us and when their mother is present is remarkable. Packing up to leave on the Sunday, the girls were performing particularly well for their mother. "If you don’t stop that right now, I’m going home without you!" said mummy, angrily. "Bye bye" they chorused, completely unruffled.
Nemea takes Sue’s face in her hands and says earnestly, "You’re really,
really beautiful, nanny."
"And what about mummy?"
"Mummy’s really beautiful as well."
"Noooo," smiling. "Grandad can’t be beautiful. He hasn’t got any hair."
Holiday at Sandford Park. The week was just full of wonderful times. Just one
of many high points for me was taking the little ones swimming, treading water
backwards while they doggy paddled towards me, faces at first apprehensive, then
gleeful. Nemea, presently the least accomplished swimmer, had blue lips and
still she didn’t want to come out.
Annabelle running off and coming face to face with a man in a monkey suit. She spins around on her heel and hurtles back with terror on her face to hide herself in grandad’s arms.
All three disappear outside the caravan. We find them with neighbouring children having a pretend picnic.
Nemea has certainly mastered her bicycle. She now hurtles along the garden path, smartly turning off just before crashing into the shed, bumping down the four inch drop onto the lawn, then building up a tremendous speed across the lawn, sufficient to bounce over the small kerb back onto the driveway.
3 September 2002
Walking with Nanny in Bournemouth, Annabelle holding Nanny’s hand, Leila walking ahead. Annabelle commands her sister, "hold Nanny’s hand! She’ll fall over!"
Nemea goes to her father’s family in French Guianna for six weeks. When she goes, everyone speaks to her in French, which she understands perfectly, but answers in English. By the time she comes back, we all speak to her in English, which she understands just as well, but she answers us in French. "…and do you like your nice bedroom that mummy decorated for you?" "Oui. C’est tres jollie." And so on.
Nemea is fascinated by her heart beating. "Is it alive?" she asks. When this is confirmed; "Well where’s its legs then?"
Twins poorly, so Sue checks that still want to stay with Nanny and Grandad.
"Would you like to come to Nanny's house or would you like to stay with mummy until you get better?"
"I want to go to Nanny's house. Nanny is like a nurse and will make me better."
4 November 2002
Sue to Leila: "You're a nutcase."
Leila to Sue: "No I'm not. I'm a suitcase."
At mum and dad’s with the twins, Sue refers to mum as "mum". Annabelle is
baffled. "That can’t be your mummy. You’re really old!"
Also at mum and dad’s the twins are fascinate and horrified by grandpa’s false teeth.
Katey takes the twins to see Santa Claus for the first time. They are most impressed. But what strikes Annabelle most about Santa when reporting back to Nanny is that "he hasn’t got any lips."
Leila likes to milk her lisp: "Nanny. I can’t thay ‘thauthages’. I can only thay ‘thauthages’."
16 December 2002
Caroline: "My legs are killing me."
Caroline: "Don’t know. They just are."
Nemea: "I don’t want you to die Mummy."
The twins were staying with us for the weekend before Christmas. In the shower one morning, I bent down to do my feet when I noticed Annabelle peering around the shower curtain, shining a torch at my bottom. It will probably be some years before she appreciates the dry humour of my "Good morning, doctor."
The twins said they like Eastenders because somebody always cries in every episode. Well observed. We sat down to watch it together and, sure enough, somebody cried every ten minutes or so. We had a big mock cry together every time.
Annabelle: "Who’s your daddy"
Nanny: "Grandpa’s my daddy"
Annabelle: "Oh good! That means grandad is my daddy."
The twins have started to scale new heights. Katey bought a large bar of
chocolate and put it on the top-most shelf in her kitchen cupboards. After a
little while out of the room, she came in and noticed a chair missing. She found
it in the kitchen, next to a worktop, just under the cupboard, the door of which
was ajar and which no longer contained a chocolate bar. The twins were sitting
innocently on the sofa in the living room, faces liberally coated with melted
"Have you been eating my chocolate?"
In angelic chorus: "no mummy."
6 February 2003
Text message from Caroline: "Meme just seen a magician on tv. She said wow look he can do magic just like grandad can!"
29 March 2003
A glorious Spring day in the New Forest with the girls. One sees a world of
wonder though their eyes: bracket fungus growing around the base of a tree
becomes the roofs of a fairy village, while a nearby moss-covered stump is the
castle of the fairy prince.
But they can be demons as well as angels. They are all at the age where they find it hilarious to say "rude" words. Thus on the way to the forest, we had a steady chorus from the back seat of "Frere Willy-bum, Frere Willi-bum, dormez willy-bum, …"
5 April 2003
Nemea and grandad decide to take Bertie for a walk. Nemea, as usual, helps
grandad choose his clothes. When it comes to the hat, she says "wear the
"Which one is the butcher’s hat? Show me."
She takes down the straw hat that resembles a boater, as worn by cartoon butchers.
6 April 2003
With all three lining up for places in church-controlled junior schools, we are all introducing Christian concepts, angels being "something like fairies" and such like. They have managed to work out for themselves that churches – the ones nearest to them being well endowed with towers, turrets and buttresses – are "God’s castles."
11 April 2003
Nemea rides her bicycle without stabilisers for the first time.
9 May 2003
The twins are here for the weekend. This being a Friday, I explained that I
had to go out to shoot my rifle. They clearly needed to test this idea further
to get it straight in their heads.
Annabelle: "Where’s grandad gone?"
Nanny: "He’s gone to shoot his rifle."
Annabelle: "Does grandad kill people?"
Nanny: "’Course not. He shoots bits of paper."
Annabelle (perhaps slightly dismayed): "Paper?!?"
9 May 2003
Katey reports the twin’s further unique ideas about their paternity.
Leila: "Where’s daddy"
Katey (thinks "Oh shit"): "Pardon?"
Leila: "Where’s my daddy"
Katey (thinks "Uh Oh"): "Who?"
Leila: "My daddy. You know; grandad."
Katey (thinks "Phew")
One wonders how this will come over in conversations with teachers and friend’s parents in the future:
"My daddy doesn’t live with my mummy."
"He lives with my nanny."
21 May 2003
Text message from Caroline: "nemea is watching a program about picnics when
she says ‘my grandads really clever cause he nos Y grass squeks!"
This refers to a session with Nemea last weekend, trying to teach her how to hold a blade of grass taut and blow across it to make a more or less tuneful sqeaking. She couldn’t quite get the hang of it this time around.
20 May 2003
Sue reports that Nemea was recently most upset that she had never seen a fairy, even though she had been very, very good. Nanny, she knows because nanny told her so, saw fairies when she was a little girl.
I notice that as the children mature and their verbal skills improve, they
come out with fewer and fewer pearls, though what they do is just as delightful.
One of the jobs undertaken while settling into new home was to de-spider the Wendy house. (A particularly uncomfortable task on a hot Summer’s day.) Cleaned, patched, painted and carpeted, we now find that it has much less appeal to the children than when it was full of cobwebs and they could dare each other to enter the spiders’ domain.
At a family house-warming barbeque, grandad once more reinforces his reputation as the one who can do interesting things by blowing across the top of a bottle to make a tone. I have to teach all three how to do it, holding the bottles for them to get them to blow across rather than into the tops.
A delightful session with the twins in grandads garage, learning how to hammer a nail, and then drill a hole and put a screw in. Interestingly, they knew how to turn the hammer around and use the claw to remove the nail; must have seen mummy do it.
All three wanted to gallop around the new home on the hobby horses, but we only have two of them. Squabbles broke out as to who could have one. To keep the peace, grandad quickly improvised a third hobby horse from a broomstick, a piece of insulating foam and some gaffer tape. Squabbles then broke out as to who should ride the new, very approximately shaped hobby horse!
Taking all three for a walk around the local pond and small woods was a delight. We showed them a storm drain that runs under the road. About three feet high, they could walk into the entrance. The far end is under water where the Bourne forms a small pond. Grandad tells them that this is the Water Dragon’s cave and if they see ripples on the water at the far end, that is a sure sign that the dragon is coming home and they should run away. The Bourne splashes into this pool as it comes out of its culvert under the road, so it wasn’t long before we could see the Water Dragon’s splashes and all three came squealing out of the tunnel. Continuing through the woods behind the pond, I warn them all that bears might live there. If they notice one, they must carry on as if they haven’t seen them, bears being so stupid that if you don’t see them, they think they can’t see you. The watchword for the day was "don’t stare at a bear." They took this to heart and continued with many a sidelong glance into the bushes, as well as looking back to check on nanny and warning her not to stare at bears.
21 August 2003
All three have new skipping ropes and are learning how to skip. Nemea has a
major sulk because Annabelle learns how to do it before she does.
A few days later…
Nemea has worked out how to do the running-style of skipping and, by sheer weight of personality, has got the twins to stop doing their proper skipping in favour of her version!
Grandad staved off a fractious moment during one of his long hikes with the girls by cutting each of them a bullrush. They duly brought them home and planted them in the garden. Some days later, Leila was here on her own and rediscovered the bullrushes. After a little time spent using her bullrush as a drum stick, it fell in two and she discovered the joy of picking the seed head apart. She liberally covered the driveway in seeds then, when gusts of wind came along and lifted them all into the air, she would run up and down, arms outstretched, yelling "BULLRUSHEEEEEESSSSSS!!!"
Heavy rain turns the Bourne into a minor torrent and the pond floods over onto the surrounding grass. A major wellington-booted expedition takes place, with much splashing through puddles. I notice on emptying wellies on the way home, that boisterous Annabelle has a couple of inches of water in each boot and is soaked up to the hips. Dainty Nemea has faint spots of moisture over her toes, probably condensation. Leila is somewhere between the two.
Nemea is most concerned about her mother’s single status and frequently
suggests she gets married. This may or may not have something to do with bridal
costumes and bridesmaid’s outfits. Most recently, she asked mummy to list all
the men she loved so she could them pick one to marry.
"Well, there’s grandad…" started Caroline.
"Nooooo! You can’t marry him," Nemea protested. "He’s too old."
Nemea reports that her teacher, Miss Lane, wasn’t at school because "she is
away on a cock."
"A cock?" Nanny queries, "Do you mean a course?"
"Yes, she’s away on a cock course."
"She’ll have rings on her fingers and bells on her toes."
Show and tell day at Nemea’s school. Classroom swot brings a picture of his
turtle. He says that he particularly likes turtles "because they have the same
name as Jesus."
"I didn’t realise that," prompts Miss Lane.
"Yes," says Swotty, completely dead-pan, "His full name is Jesus Christ Turtle."
Three days later:
Further investigation by Miss Lane has traced the origin of this odd belief to the talks given by an old vicar with a not particularly animated voice who comes to the school and delivers monotone talks to the children:
"Jesus Christ taught us …"
(cf Dodgson’s Achiles and the Tortoise!)
2 December 2003
Annabelle, on her way home with Nanny after an afternoon visit, whispers in
all confidence to Nanny:
"Grandad’s my boyfriend."
"Does grandad know?"
"No. Do you think he’ll be cross?"
"No. He’ll be very happy."
And he was.
Nanny took the twins to the cinema to see the new Peter Pan film. Annabelle happily spent the whole film sitting bent double with her seat folded up and her legs dangling over the top.
Out on a long hike with grandad, a passing lady engaged the twins in
"… and how old are you?"
(In unison) "We’re four"
"Four! Really? And when will you be five?"
"On our birthday!"
15 February 2004
A magic moment for grandad on his birthday: Working on the roof of the garage, hearing three little voices coming up from below, singing "’Oranges and Lemons’ said the bells of St Clements."
16 March 2004
Nanny overhears the discussion in the car while returning Nemea and Annabelle
to their mothers:
A: "That star’s following us."
N: "No it isn’t."
A: "Yes it is."
N: "No it isn’t."
(Repeats a while)
N: "No it isn’t. It only looks as if it’s following us because it’s a long way away."
A: "No. It’s following us."
N: "No it isn’t."
A: "Yes it is."
(Repeats a while more)
N: "No it isn’t. Grandad said."
(This follows about two months after grandad explained the phenomenon to Nemea. He promised to show her how it worked on our next outing; observing the hedgerow, distant trees, the skyline, and clouds. So far this hasn’t happened, so Nemea not only remembered the lesson, but took it on trust. What power… what responsibility…)
17 March 2004
Nemea talking about the Mary Poppins film, says that Bert (the chimney sweep) "made his face black so that Mary Poppins would like him."
Nanny and Granddad take the three girls to see Holiday on Ice. On seeing one of the lead male dancers lift his partner up over his head and hold her there on one hand, Nemea whispers to Nanny, "you can’t see the string, can you, Nanny?" (Having the truth explained to her and getting over her initial astonishment, she inevitably now wants to be an ice skater.)
8 May 2004
Leila, on seeing a neighbour’s new driveway with pieces of white marble pressed into the black asphalt; "Look! Pretend chewing gum!"
Sue tells the twins that we saw children catching crabs at the quay side
during our recent holiday in Devon. She explains that the children put chicken
on hooks on the end of strings and lowered them down into the water until a crab
"But Nanny!" says Annabelle, "The chickens won’t be able to breath!"
Nemea has cultivated the art of bursting into tears at the slightest
provocation – not being first in every race, in advance of a reprimand for doing
something wrong, and so on. Caroline spoke sharply to her about it.
Nemea, snivelling, "I can’t help it mummy. God didn’t make me the same as other children."
22 August 2004
Leila and Annabelle try increasingly entertaining tactics to grab the
attention of the grown-ups, who are engrossed in the televised doings of Paula
Radcliffe in the marathon in Athens. A simple noisy game just gets a "play
outside"" response. So they dress up as witches with blankets and glare at us
from the doorway, one holding an apple the other a banana to her nose.
"I’m the Banana Witch and she’s the Apple Witch," explains Leila.
29 September 2004
Phone call from Nemea first thing this morning. She has two loose teeth and is looking forward to receiving two pounds from the tooth fairy. Now there’s a milestone! There’s inflation!!
6 October 2004
We brought Spanish fans back with us from holiday for the girls. Inevitably,
they suffered some wear and tear. Sue stitched up Nemeas’ recently, and returned
it via Caroline. Caroline handed it over, saying that ‘Nanny had fixed it."
"Oh no, you must be mistaken, Mummy," said Nemea, "Grandad must have fixed it."
Katey takes the twins to a firework display, which includes an open air
concert by two popular young ladies. Afterwards, they report back to Nanny:
"… and we saw the Cheeky Girls, Nanny!"
"Yes, Nanny. The real ones. Not the ones on television!"
On a trip to a department store, Katey struggles to keep the twins under
"Stop touching things. It’s naughty."
And when it continues:
"You know the fairies are watching you. They’ll tell Father Christmas if you are naughty."
At that point, the store’s Santa comes out of a side door and crosses in front of the astonished twins on his way to the Grotto.
Annabelle rushes up to him and hugs him.
An exchange between Nemea and Caroline.
"How was your music lesson today?"
"Teacher was really cross with us today because we didn’t get it right."
"Ah, well, when teachers get cross, they’re really cross with themselves because they haven’t explained things so you understand them."
"So when you were cross with me last Sunday, were you really cross with yourself?"
"No, that’s different."
"How is it different? Were you really cross with me?"
The girl will grow up to be an excellent lawyer.
Nemea is hooked on "I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!"
In conversation with Nanny, she said that she would eat the wriggly white worm if she were on the show because not doing so would let her team down.
Nemea says there are three men in her life; first is God, then Jesus and then
Daddy. (Grandad is important, he hopes, but is not counted as a ‘man’ in this
Mummy asks, "What? God and Jesus are more important than Daddy?"
"Of course!" says Nemea with a patronising tone at the obviousness of this fact.
That’s church schools for you.
December 2004, after Christmas
Nemea is offered a choice of biscuits, one from the usual biscuit tin, or one
from Nanny’s special tin. Nemea opts for one from the usual tin.
"You made the wrong choice, there, Nemea," says Nanny as she takes a shortbread petticoat from her special tin.
Nemea’s eyes open wide in astonishment at the six inch biscuit in Nanny’s hand.
Nemea comes hurtling out of school, clutching something in her shirt pocket.
"I’ve got a pet snail, Nanny!" she whispers conspiratorially, "and Mrs Brown doesn’t know."
She found a snail in the morning, took a shine to it, and tucked it in her pocket with a leaf where she kept it all day.
On emptying out her pocket, she noticed a corner of the leaf missing: "The snail must have eaten it!"
Nanny makes a nest for the snail in the car ash tray and the snail is ferried home in style.
Annabelle finally masters the bicycle, the last of the three to do so. This is followed by several extended bike rides along pavements and cycle tracks across the local heaths. Grandad jogs along after them, thinking he will soon have to get a bicycle himself.
Friday, 11 February 2005
Annabelle looses her first milk tooth, for which the fairy leaves a two pound
It takes a little fast talking to convince Nemea that this is no reflection on her or the quality of her tooth, for which she only received one pound.
25 February 2005
Nemea to Nanny, when she turns up for a baby-sitting stint: "Don’t kiss me,
Nan. Your kisses are wet and not dry like Grandad’s."
Sue most upset.
3 March 2005
Twins get their first ‘big’ bikes for their birthday. Identical except for colour, big, cross-country tyres, suspension, modern brakes. Now all three are similarly equipped, grandad is being kept very fit.
3 April 2005
‘You’re joking, aren’t you?" somebody challenges Leila, who seems to be
telling one of her wild tales.
‘No I’m not. Look!’
She plonks herself upright in her chair, arms folded, face very straight and serious, and holds the pose for a few seconds to make her point.
After moving to their new home, Katey notices a small box under Leila’s bed.
"It’s Sally Snail," Leila explains.
Later, Katey hears cooing, soothing noises from Leila in the bathroom. Sally Snail is being given a bath with soapy water in the hand basin!
8 May 2005
Nanny has a new fly screen at the kitchen door. On having its purpose
explained to her, Leila is most concerned.
"But Nanny, your pet spider!" (There is a large house spider that we leave in the corner of the dining room as ‘Nanny’s pet’ to show that spiders are not to be feared.) "It will die if the flies can’t get in!"
Nanny reassures her that enough flies will come in the other door.
9 May 2005
Caroline, who has recently passed her test and got herself a car, takes Nemea to school and makes a complete bodge of parking. Later, Caroline asks Nemea whether Mummy is a good driver. "You’re OK on the straight bits," she says, like a good teacher, "but you really must practice the slow bits."
21 May 2005
A grand day out.
Raining off and on all day, so no walks or bike rides. Three little girls staying at Nanny and Grandad’s are getting cabin fever. So is Grandad.
"Who wants to come to the post office with me?" OK. It’s scraping the barrel as far as outings go, but it’s better than yet another video or picture drawing session.
"Meee," in chorus.
Posting a letter each for Grandad at the post office is a matter of moments, but then comes the obligatory 10-minute sweety selection time in the shop. They choose ‘Toxic Waste,’ terribly bitter sweets. They grimace, then plot as to how they will trick various friends – and Nanny – into accepting one.
Shopping done, somebody comes up with the idea of going through the car wash.
Off to Tesco’s. Car wash closed, but I buy a packet of more palatable sweets, chocolate eclairs, which I eke out during the rest of the day.
Around the houses to find a car wash, eventually turning up at Sainsbury’s in Ferndown. On the way, I notice the swans in the river at Longham with their cygnets and make a mental note to stop on the way back.
The way back from Ferndown takes us close to the log cabin company at Longham so I call in for a quick look to see if I can see a cheap summer house for Katey’s new garden – or at least an idea as to how to design one myself. This give the three a chance to explore as many summer houses and wendy houses as they can in ten minutes.
From there, around the corner and stop to take in the swans. But first we see two horses tethered in meadows nearby and go to fuss them. They appreciate a few handfuls of fresh grass from beyond the reach of their chains. (The girls, now in awe of horses and other large animals, are amazed at Grandad getting so close to the horses.) A man comes along with carrots in a carrier bag which he leaves within their reach.
Off round to the swans, standing very quietly and still by the river bank so as not to alarm daddy swan who hovers between bread-crumb accepting mode and defending family mode.
Back to the car, Nemea extracting a promise that we can say bye bye to the horses before we go.
There are two ‘horsey’ girls tending them. They ask if I know how long the horses had been there. It turns out that the horses belong to the girls and had been stolen two months ago while the girls were on holiday. They can’t undo the chains. I try but need pliers. They are from Throop so I suggest that it would be quicker for me to go home and get pliers than for them to walk to Throop and back. They are delighted.
Briskly rounding the girls up back into the car, overriding the usual who-sits-in-front squabble by firmly pointing out that we must hurry to help the horses. Home; grab tool box (girls wait in car); return; undo shackles and make last big fuss of horses. Mention that the twins live near where the horses and their owners live; perhaps they’ll watch out for each other.
Back home to tell nanny and later mummy all about it.
1-3 June 2005
First camping holiday with twins and Nemea; a test run to see if we all like
it and have all the right equipment. We need a better tent for the children and
their parents, but the general idea of camping is a great success. Incidents are
too numerous to mention. A couple of samples:
On taking all three to a public loo in Lyme Regis, they emerge from the cubicle and spontaneously go into a Doctor Who role play: "Oh look!" touching the brick wall opposite the door with expressions of wonderment. "We’ve come out somewhere different!" Nemea adds the observation that "It’s a bit like Doctor Who only backwards. It’s big on the outside but small on the inside."
On getting home, the little ones entertain themselves with collecting and ‘racing’ tiny snails from the garden while the grown ups unpack.
The day after, the twins come by with their mother to pick up forgotten items and happen to notice Nanny boiling the thoroughly soiled socks from the holiday. Nanny replies to the inevitable questions by explaining that it is sock soup, for supper, and that she has already put in the peas and carrots. Would they like to stay and have some? They pause for thought, then "Yes please, Nanny!"
Ever helpful Leila is busily sweeping away with a dustpan and brush.
"You’re cleaning the house, are you, Leila?"
"Somebody’s got to." she sighs in reply.
Annabelle, going through a particularly naughty phase, tells her mummy; "I
don’t want to live with you anymore. I want to live with Nanny."
"Nanny won’t let you misbehave like you are now."
"I still want to live with Nanny," she declares truculently.
At the end of a camping holiday in the Yorkshire Dales which took in a visit
to the White Scar caves.
Grandad: "Have we had a good holiday? Done lots of fun things?"
Leila: "Well… You said we were going to see some caves and we only went to see one cave."
And while riding shotgun in the camper with Grandad on the way home, noticing the black and white chevron signs indicating a sharp deviation to the left:
"Does that mean the road goes backwards?"
High points of the holiday:
Freaked out by dark tunnels and passageways at the Forbidden Corner, but still enjoying the day enormously.
Visiting a ‘real castle,’ Castle Bolton. Running the maze in the gardens after exploring the ruins.
Coming across a flock of sheep being herded along the main road, then coming across a herd of cows on another road later in the same day.
Passing through Kettlewell by chance while all the scarecrows for the annual scarecrow festival were on display.
The children making friends and running in a pack around the campsite.
Fishing while sitting on a bench in Hawes high street with two fishing nets, carefully transferring the imaginary caught fish from the nets to a toy bucket held by Grandad. The fish are occasionally inspected and Grandad takes one or two out and ‘eats’ them raw.
Catching real fish – fresh water shrimps, tiddlers – in the Wharf later in the day.
Leila is asked to fetch Nanny’s box of Turkish Delight. Clearly puzzled, she
asks why Nanny wants a box of meat?
"You said it’s ‘turkey’."
Leila, much taken by the new Doctor Who series, welcomes a new episode by announcing: "Oh good! The Garlics are on the telly."
Leila observes "Max [the dog] isn’t melting any more."
"His hair isn’t falling out all the time."
5 November 2005
Annabelle and Leila have learned at school the origin of the 5th
With the novelty of the displays starting to wear thin, Annabelle declares, "King James died a long time ago. I think it’s about time we stopped all these fireworks."
13 November 2005
The three girls put on a puppet show for Nanny and Grandad, using a stage made of two chairs and a sheet and a selection of glove puppets.
21 November 2005
Leila finds a bite on her foot, probably a flea from her dog.
She shows it to Nanny and asks, "is this a frostbite?"
"No dear, it’s probably a flea bite."
"Are you sure, Nanny? It’s been very cold. It could be a frost bite."
And again from Leila
"I hate Scotland."
"There’s a boy called ‘Scot’ in our class at school and I don’t like him."
4 December 2005
Nemea tells how she plans to do a world tour when she gets older. With a little prompting, she lists a remarkable number of countries. This being the world through a seven-year-old’s eyes, they include ‘North America,’ ‘South America,’ and ‘America,’ not to mention ‘The North Pole’ and, just next door to Thailand, ‘Legoland.’
6 December 2005
Ups and downs with Annabelle. Annabelle was sick and off school yesterday, but was determined to get well enough by evening so that she could go to her football class. This is a new activity she has taken on with Nemea and it is doing her a world of good. Being a bit on the large side, and with a prominent facial birthmark, she needs every bit of confidence she can get, and the football is pressing all the right buttons. She did manage to make it last night, but reported that it was 'only ordinary training' rather than the ball control games the coach sometimes give them and at which she seems to excel. Today, however, Katey noticed a rash that wouldn't disappear when she pressed a glass against it. Fearing meningitis, she rushed Annabelle to the local doctor and then on to hospital. The hospital thought it was merely a side effect of her recent illness, but Katey is to remain alert for other signs. Annabelle, unaware of the anxiety of the grown-ups around her, was delighted to be the centre of doctors' and nurses' attention at the hospital. "I had to sit on a bed," she told us afterwards.
Caroline forgets to set aside some change for the Tooth Fairy to leave for Nemea’s latest tooth. Rushing around in the morning, all she can find is a fiver. Nemea gleefully reports that her tooth had brought such riches to Nanny and Grandad. Carline squirms.
At their own request, the twins have been taking home-made packed lunches to school for some weeks. Katey noticed that Annabelle was putting on weight again despite making sure her lunch was reasonably balanced. Then one day, she finds sandwiches left uneaten in their lunch boxes. She enquires at the school and is told that Annabelle and Leila had themselves come to the office to say that Mummy had sent them to school with no lunch and that they should have school lunches. The school put them back on the list. The ruse, all worked out by Annabelle, was that they would eat the sweets, chocolates, crisps and such like from the home-made and the school-provided packed lunches, and ditch the sandwiches. The game was up when they forgot to hide the evidence this one time. Katey reports that the office staff were in stitches and she herself only just managed to keep a straight face when she reprimanded the twins.
16 March 2006
The return of the lisp. Leila has lost the first of her lower front milk
teeth. Annabelle gleefully encourages her to say various ‘S’ words:
and so on until both dissolve into uncontrollable giggles.
30 March 2006
Almost incapable of coherent speech for excitement, Leila tells us how Annabelle tried to trick her mother – and, presumably, the tooth fairy – out of a little extra pocket money by saying that she had lost another tooth while at school and presenting an old tooth as evidence.
There is nothing quite as heart-warmingly funny, I think, as a child bouncing along on a space-hopper.
Nanny has a part time job at Sainsbury’s these days. The children ask if she is at work by saying "Is Nanny playing on the till today?"
... And the ramblings of a little devil
More anecdotes about Charlie
Charlie comes to live with us while his mother gets her marbles back – or not.
During this time, Charlie masters the art of bipedal locomotion. ( His mother will regret missing that. Must get it on video.)
Dining out anecdote on the topic:
So I picked young Charlie up and looked deep into his fourteen month old eyes and said, "listen boy, when you can walk and talk and shoot a gun, get back to me. Until then, you're women's business." I put him down, pointing in the direction of his grandmother. He promptly got up on his two feet and walked - like a Saturday night Glaswegian, true, but undeniably walked - back to me. He wrapped his arms around my legs and looked up at me with his best 'doesn't this just make you melt' face on. "OK, kid," I said, "but ya still can't talk or shoot a gun." I'm going out to get a locker for my guns. You never know with this boy...
22 June 2009
Charlie is three today and is starting to come out with some gems of his own; time to start noting them, too.
Yesterday, for example, being taken out to Bournemouth's 'picnic in the park,' nanny managed to fit the sometimes tricky car seat in the camper with rather more practiced ease than previously.
"Clever nanny," said nanny to the watching Charlie.
"Yay!" said Charlie, "you get sticker now, nanny," referring to the reward stickers given out at nursery.
Time passes ...
The angels, some years later
(And not just because I'm feeling maudlin, having had news from the doctor yesterday that I might be mortal after all!)
27 April 2011
Annabelle has been our guest for a second night running.
She has been pensively quiet.
(That's quite a different quality of quiet from nearly-teenage, moodily quiet.)
We assumed it was the pains of burgeoning womanhood, made sure paracetemol was available and gave her space.
But this morning, the steam from my shower revealed 'I [heart shape] Luke' on the bathroom mirror. (Luke being one of cousin Nemea's friends.)
And on the desk beside me, my PC's screen saver clicks through photos taken what seems like only yesterday,
of me and her on all fours doing a back-yard safari, checking under stones for interesting creepy-crawlies.
Boy! Am I glad I got fully involved in those fleeting years!
More fool those dads and granddads who are 'too busy' to swing a child onto their shoulders; the kids'll be too darned big and not even interested before you can blink.
25 July 2011
Katey reports that Charlie was in his usual reluctant-to-go-school mood
She placated him by allowing him to make his own breakfast - having first checked that there was only so much milk available for him to spill over the worktop.
After much banging and crashing and opening and closing of the fridge, Charlie proudly presented his mother with a breakfast he had made for her: fresh mushrooms with a bowl of milk to dip them in.
The boy is on track to be the first celebrity chef in the family!
4 August 2011
Ever since Caroline entered the mental health profession, the jargon use of the word 'special' - usually accompanied by a hand gesture suggesting that the word is in inverted commas - has entered the family's vocabulary; a coded way of saying 'in need of special treatment,' or simply 'a bit mad.'
This morning, Nanny delivered an armful of rainy-day activity materials to the twins and Charlie. She stayed for a cup of tea and, as is her wont, soon started embarassing the girls by singing and dancing her customary selection from the day's popular songs.
Leila, following the usual script, puts hand to forehead and whispers 'Nanny!'
'What's the matter, Leila,' says Nanny, in the loud and cheery voice of a Wodehouse aunt, 'Aren't you pleased that you have such a "special" Nanny?"
'I am,' chips in Charlie, 'you're very special!' and gives Nanny a hug.
13 August 2011
Granddad often struggles to understand Charlie - more, but not entirely, due to age-related hearing loss of the former than the terrible diction of the latter.
But the problem is not all one way.
Pottering in the shed together last weekend, granddad misses something Charlies says and asks, "Beg 'Pardon?"
"You musn't say 'Big Bottom,'" admonishes Charlie.
And later on a quick trip to the craft superstore, we pass the aisle with musical instruments and have to stop for a quick drum and strum.
"A guitar!" shouts Charlie, attacking the strings like a rock star.
"Yes," says granddad, hoping he will soon find something quieter to attract his attention, "that's a special sort of guitar called a 'Ukulele.'"
"I'm not a lady!" says Charlie.
09 February 2013
Moral philosophy 101 with grandson Charlie.
[He's talking about a big family holiday last year]
"Why didn't you come with us, granddad?"
"I had to work."
"You could come on holiday and do the work later."
[The slip into present tense shows we're really talking about general principles here rather than a specific holiday.]
"Sometimes you have to do work straight away. You can't leave it until later."
"You could say you've got an emergency and come on holiday."
"I could, but that would be telling a lie."
"They would believe you if you said it was an emergency."
"They would, but it would still be a lie."
"You could say sorry when you get back."
If this boy doesn't grow up to be a corporate lawyer, I'll eat one of my hats.
[Yes, I did explain that saying sorry when you do something wrong is good, but it is even better not to do something wrong at all.]