On Spring and Serendipity

There’s blossoming aplenty in Twinsville at the moment. For all the ladies of the house. And hopefully some of the menfolk too…

???????????????????????????????Charlotte can crawl. In the ‘sort of’ sense. And only backwards. If you put something in front of her, just out of reach, she’ll flop on her tummy, panting, legs and arms akimbo, like a beached seal pup, and grunting like one, before giving up, and making the lateral decision to crawl backwards in a circle to reach her goal. She can also kiss. Or at least launch herself at you open-mouthed and slime your cheek.


Romilly meanwhile likes to sit, perfectly still, observing her sister, life and everything. I’d love to know what goes on in her brain. She may not be moving, but she’s beginning to communicate. I was undressing her in the nursery the other evening and she looked at me, smiling, and said ‘bar?’ I am assuming this was her working out that it was bath time, and not suggesting a quick sortie to the Black Horse.  She can also ‘high five’. Unless you point the video camera at her to gather evidence for doubting Grandparents. She loves covering her own face with a muslin or her feeding apron (especially when it’s covered with gloop) and playing peekaboo. She can stick her tongue out on command. She is at least attempting to get wooden shapes in the right hole. And she’s becoming a great mimicker; I was throwing a ball up in the air yesterday and although she can’t quite do that yet, she kept putting her ball above her head.???????????????????????????????

Therein lies the rub, and it’ll be interesting to see to what extent it slows development. They’re both great at imitation but, by definition, the person they see, and therefore copy, most is their twin. Both in the moment – if one starts slapping their feeding tray, the other will – but also in general.

I’ve also seen twin jealousy beginning to rear its head. Charlotte has become super snuggly – especially when under the weather. It’s very endearing (there seems to be nothing quite like a Mummy Cuddle) except when I’m holding her sister, and she tries to drape herself over me too. They’re quite big now (all of 2’5”!) and it’s tricky to hug both. But she will try to push Romilly out of the way.

That’s when they’re not cuddling each other. We’ve had some gaspingly cute moments. Before they were interested in examining each other (especially pulling each other’s ears); now they’ll sit contentedly holding hands, or with an arm round each other, or in this classic which is going to be brought out at their weddings to show they first shared a French kiss with their sister!???????????????????????????????This, incidentally, was part of the photo shoot for their CBeebies birthday card which needs to be sent into the BBC FOUR WEEKS before the big day. Major league stress. Only half the submissions make it! I am knee deep in cut out rainbows and windmills and glitter.

They both love telly, hence the card (although I’m sure I will be infinitely more excited about the card’s appearance than them!) Mostly Baby Jake, In The Night Garden, and the lower end of the advertising industry’s output. Anything involving Bingo, high interest rate loans and cheap car insurance being particular favourites. And the theme tune to This Morning. LORD knows how they’ve come across that as we never have the telly on during the day. Honest.

So that’s them; Mummy’s got some milestones approaching too. And that’s not just my driving test…

We’re house hunting again. I have this mild obsession with finding a ‘forever house’ that the girls can grow up in. Poor Joe has had ten different houses and that peripatetic existence doesn’t help with stability and security. I want somewhere that we can mark heights on the wall. Where there’s a funny story behind the wobbly banister. Where there are little crosses for buried goldfish in the garden. Where there is a point to planting bulbs. A house that over the years drinks in stories and memories and laughter and plasters on knees and Daddy’s DIY and baking disasters and becomes a home.

And house hunting leads inevitably to school searches. I am becoming physically dependent on the Good Schools Guide online and particularly their app which lets you see the catchment hotspots – colour coded dots showing the exact addresses of last year’s pupils. There is a house we are probably offering on this week in Neston (‘historic Cheshire market town’ boast the brown road signs; not quite, says the large Aldi in the centre). It’s in between two primaries rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, but going on feel, I’m happy with both, in the sense that they wear gingham dresses, go camping on Anglesey and orienteering in Delamere Forest. Good, wholesome, rounded fun. What’s exciting is that one of them is walking distance and big enough to have two classes per year group, which means the girls could be at the same school, with all the comfort and security that brings, but in different classes, so they’re not competing with each other, and can make their own friends (opinion is very divided on what to do with twins and education; any comments warmly welcomed, but that just seems instinctively the best of both worlds). Obviously Cheshire I’m sure in their wisdom will send them to different schools an hour’s drive away. But they haven’t reckoned on me. Forget Tiger Moms; I sharpened my sabre teeth nightly when fighting Joe’s corner in the educational bullring that was Lewisham.

I am going to be a nightmare parent, again. It feels like a lifetime ago but the girls are bringing back all its guilt-edged memories. There are things I will try to do very differently. A combination of not having any friends with kids at the time, working all the hours God sent and more, and being literally half the age of some of the other Mums at his school, meant play dates were few and far between. And also living in deepest, darkest Lewisham, where it simply wasn’t possible to pack him off to the park for the afternoon. With the benefit of his 18 years’ experience, and the wisdom that comes with studying Philosophy and Theology, Joe is very ready to offer advice on where I have gone wrong…But I do agree with him on the friends front. I look at Jon who is still close to people he went to school with, and I want that for the girls.

So house, schools…the other big ticket item we’ve been discussing is What Helen Does Next. Which obviously both impacts, and is impacted by, where we live. The ‘easy’ decision would be to go back into what I was doing before, and either try to find a client-side marketing job in the North West, work in one of Manchester’s ad agencies, or consult, which would inevitably mean travelling up and down to London. That’s a hell of a commute. And more than that, it’s time away from the girls. I have flashbacks to a four year old Joe literally clinging onto my ankle and begging me not to go. I am incredibly lucky now in having the opportunity, with this enforced break, and Jon earning enough with lower living costs in the North West, to pause and reflect. I’ve always wanted to write. The little nagging voice – that I’ve short sold a half decent brain peddling beer and biscuits to people who already had a bit too much of both – is becoming a bit of a howl now. Call it a mid life crisis; at least I’m not buying a Harley. And the ancient Greek ‘krisis’ simply means a decisive moment. A moment I will never have again. Before I knew it, I would be getting my Freedom Bus Pass and would have regretted both not writing, and not being there for the girls.

Maybe I’ll be rubbish at it. Maybe I’ll shy at the looming fence of the blank page. Maybe. But I owe it to myself, and the girls, to try.

That, in turn, leads us onto childcare. Jon has quite rightly pointed out that two million years of human history will not let me write in a house in which I can hear sobbing. Even with a study and a nanny, I will just end up always going through to them (that’s certainly what happens now, I understand why some nannies insist on sole care!) The Neston property has a very handsome original 1930s clapboard triple garage which we could convert into Mummy’s Writing Room/Mummy’s Secret Cadbury’s Caramel Stash and I could just emerge with wild hair at mealtimes. Or, and this is a big or, we could think about Nursery. Not full time. But maybe three days a week. Can you write a book in 18 hours a week? Hmm…

Decisions, decisions. But it is LOVELY to have so many options and a future that is so excitingly unknown. I must stop mentally redoing bathrooms though. The house is not ours yet. We’re offering low. Do NOT fall in love with it! Stop buying Living Etc! Don’t DARE look up rosewood writing desks on eBay…

But, as the snowdrops and daffodils emerge in our garden, it feels like they’re budding in our lives too. I may be on the brink of a milestone birthday – on which I am retreating to a North Wales hostelry and refusing to mention it – but this feels like the Springtime of my life again, all down to two little lambs in a very large play paddock.

Jon and I had a dark eighteen months, when a combination of messy divorce and lurking exes, job nightmares, teenaged traumas, surprise pregnancies, being apart and career uncertainty taught us a new word: zemblanity, the bewildering coincidence of a string of seemingly unmanageable events. But after every night, the sun inexorably rises. After every winter, the snowdrops force their delicate heads through the still frozen clods. And after zemblanity comes, gently smiling, serendipity.


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