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Felix: the boy loves his trains. And grass and stones and stories and running and jumping, and the giggles of his baby sister.

Antonia: she loves the grass and stones and dirt and sticks and leaves and space to crawl and rocks to climb and oh she loves her brother.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

I took these pictures in the museum gardens in York this afternoon. It’s our last day here. We’ve done everything I hoped to. We even made it to the second birthday party of the son of a dear friend yesterday, and it was fabulous. We went back to the train museum today, and later, when the weather cleared, chilled out in the museum gardens. When we arrived I was so utterly tired that when Felix asked me to play with him I sent him off to make friends with random children, left Antonia in the stroller for a minute, and stretched out on the lawn. This could not last long – Antonia insisted on crawling around and I had to watch them both, but I noticed after half an hour or so, I didn’t feel so weary. I did play with Felix, and after a brief battle, the train and the cars went to the supermarket together, and swimming in the sea, and had a sleepover, and it was all rather sweet. There’s no playground in this park but it’s conducive to play anyway – with ruins to jump from and lawns to run about. It was a lovely afternoon.

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And I couldn’t resist posting this one too, although it’s crooked. My little barefoot pudding in the grass – I could just eat her up. Her clothes get filthy at the moment but I have to let her play.

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York, London, Children, History, Dreams

travel12 Twelve years ago, nearly to the day, I arrived in London with a huge backpack and a brick of a laptop, brimming with excitement, anticipation, freedom, and a few nerves too. I stayed in a grotty hostel in Earl’s court. I went to British library and marvelled at the medieval manuscripts and hand written poems. I visited Southwark cathedral, because a writer I know told me she loves it. I went to Greenwich with a girl from the Maldives who I met in the hostel. I went to the British Museum and looked at the loot from Sutton Hoo. I wandered around peering at maps and looking anxiously for tube stations. Soon, I would travel around a bit before starting a masters in York. What adventures.

travel9 Last week I arrived in London with Felix and Antonia as my companions. Michael was working in the US for two weeks and I didn’t fancy staying at home alone for that time. I had been wanting to come back to the UK for years, and thought I’d better do it now before my maternity leave is over. We stayed in a clean and shiny hostel near Hyde Park, opposite the natural history museum. Once again I was excited and a little apprehensive. It felt so different. London was exciting the first time but also lonely and somewhat aimless – with all that time on your hands, how do you best spend it? Now I had two small beings to look after and there was no time for loneliness or aimlessness. I felt myself ferrying them around in a little bubble of care. We went to playgrounds and the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, and I loved it. We took a boat ride with my brother to Greenwich. It was nice to go to parks with a purpose – the promised playground at the end of the walk a mecca for all. I felt I belonged.

london11 travel2 travel3 And early this week I arrived in York. Walking around the town centre on my first day, my heart kept clenching in recognition. These were the streets I walked and rode my bike, the streets in which I dreamed and longed and loved. I kept saying to Felix ‘this is amazing, I feel so strange’. ‘Why Mummy’, he asked, and I only said I lived here once, long ago, with Daddy. Arriving in York twelve years ago was a dream come true – after years of poorly paid care-work, I finally had time to read and think and study again, and forge wonderful friendships, and breathe the fairytale air of the north. That sounds romanticised, and it was, but well, that’s me. In York I did my masters and began my PhD, in York I fell in love. Felix and Antonia would not exist had Michael and I not met here.

minster2 So it felt strange and lovely to be back, in this city which is at once pretty and mysterious, cosy and ancient, cradling and awe inspiring. And it felt odd, to begin with, to have the little ones at my side, to not be able to slip into uninterrupted reveries or read for hours in coffee shops. And I missed Michael. But I soon got used to showing the little ones around, and how lovely it was to see Felix entranced by the stained glass window interactive displays in the minster. ‘They cook glass like dinner’, he told me, ‘did they cook the glass in our house too?’ There is a model train shop near our apartment which I must have walked past hundreds of times but never noticed until now – we have to stop every time to watch the train go through the tunnel.

minster4 minster7 I have visited old friends and old places, I have walked old paths. It feels good to be here. I’m staying in an excellent little apartment just outside the city walls, that just happens to be at a midpoint between the two houses I used to live in. It’s just behind a huge painted sign that is visible from the city walls that says ‘bile beans are good for you’ – impossible not to notice.

minster12 It feels right to be tucked away just here, in a place I rode past and walked past and spotted from the walls – here, now, with two small beings. Here, in a place awash with history, I feel I can almost touch my former lives, my former selves. I can wave, but feel no need to go back. I can wave, also, at the self who may visit here in ten years, in twenty, but I am here now, this moment, and it is good.

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York

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Made it to York. Nostalgia plus. Such pivotal years of my life were spent here. It rained this afternoon, so I bought a fancy sticker book about London for Felix and a bath book about rainy days for Antonia in Waterstones, then took them both to the cinema cafe for hot chocolate and hot chips. Travelling solo with two children is not always the most relaxing of endeavours. But on the way to Sainsburys, Felix in the stroller, Antonia in the carrier, a woman noticed I had my hands full and stopped to admire Antonia’s curls. And Felix, too. ‘They are lovely’, she said. And they are. And now they are sleeping, and I have, thanks to Sainsburys, raspberries, creme brulee, tea, chocolate and wine, and all is right in the world.

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Felix: asleep with his mouse and his London bus.

Antonia: swinging with my brother. Antonia is discerning with new people but she loved Jon immediately.

I spent this week in London with the kids while Michael was in America. We stayed in a hostel near Hyde Park and visited my brother and his girlfriend, went to six different playgrounds, five museums, and went on the underground, a London bus, taxis, an a boat on the Thames. And walked and walked and walked.

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Felix: at the beach on our last day in Germany.

Antonia: learned to clap this week! What an achievement this is! She is so so pleased with herself. She’s wearing the most gorgeous cardigan here that my Nanna made for her. I took this photo up at the lawns of the fortress where we spent the day with my aunt and uncle, visiting from Australia.

Linking with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week (a little late, this time) in 2015.

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Felix: posing at a mock castle with Michael’s SLR – Felix had such fun taking photos on our holiday (another post to follow soon, hopefully).

Antonia: loving the beach at Schonberg Strand, near Kiel, on our last day in Germany.

We had a fabulous time in Germany (or Deutchland, as Felix insists), and got home last Sunday. I have so many photos to share with you but our internet is broken! I am snatching ten minutes of internet time in a cafe while Antonia naps in her stroller.

Linking belatedly with Jodi for a portrait of my children once a week in 2015.

Grandparent love

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We’ve been staying in a holiday apartment in Kassel, but spending a couple of hours every day with Michael’s folks. They’ve loved having us around for so long. We took these pictures in a restaurant known as the Waffle Queen, which serves the most remarkable array of waffles. They took me here the first spring I was in Kassel, ten years ago. Michael says he doesn’t remember it, but I have been itching to get back every trip since. I had a lebkuchen (christmas gingerbread) waffle with chocolate icecream and sour cherries. It did not disappoint.

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