a week of life’s little pleasures – october half term

Last week during half term we did the rounds to visit some family. It was a busy week for Little Man, staying in three different houses over six nights was exciting to say the least. He got to spend some time with his older cousins which was really lovely as they get on so well, despite not seeing each other all that often.

He also got to indulge his favourite hobby of collecting sticks as we spent a chilly Sunday morning at Stockport Rugby Club watching his 9 year old cousin at rugby practice.

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He was proud of his impressive haul, although we did have to try and convince him to leave most of them behind when we left.

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That afternoon we visited Alderley Edge, an area of fabulous National Trust woodland with impressive views over the Cheshire countryside. Joe had a great time clambering over rocks with his cousins, and we all had some childish fun playing hide and seek in the trees.

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The Autumn colours in the wood were beautiful.

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Joe and his cousins found a makeshift shelter that had been constructed under some branches.

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I also got this lovely snap of Little Man with Daddy.

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After leaving Cheshire we went to stay in Freckleton, near Preston. Joe made full use of the local amenities.

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He also loved getting to know Hector, my dad’s soft-as-anything labrador. Joe was a little unsure of him at first but once he overcame his initial fear they became fast friends.

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We loved taking a little walk down the road to a small farm where Joe loved looking at the numerous chickens, ducks and noisy geese. We even met this lovely fella.

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As we drove out of Freckleton on our way to Grimsby for our third stop of the week, I couldn’t resist capturing this stunning sky, complete with rainbow in the clouds.

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Joe was able to see his other cousin during our stay with my father-in-law in Grimsby, and they are just too cute together. There is only 21 months between them. Here they are engrossed in the Lego Star Wars game when we met for a meal out. I love the way Little Man has his hand resting on his older cousin’s arm while he watches him play.

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When we finally got back home after an epic week of too many motorways and an hour stuck in the car park at Wetherby services on the A1, I could have been ready for another week off. It was lovely to see lots of family in one trip though, and Joe thoroughly enjoyed himself. We couldn’t ask for more than that.

 

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#TwitterBuddies are the new pen pals

Like (probably) a lot of teenage girls in the 90s, I had pen pals. Maybe you were too cool, and were too busy practising applying garish make-up to a Girls World head or were meeting your more local friends in town to raid the lip balm tester pots in Body Shop, but I loved to write letters. With a proper stationery set of whimsically printed writing paper and matching envelopes, a favourite pen or preferably several in different colours, and a Sunday afternoon with little else to do, it was a favourite pastime for 14 year old me.

The only thing better than writing a letter was receiving a letter. In the post. Not via email. With a stamp and everything. The excitement of seeing an envelope addressed to you on the doormat, and ripping it open to find the heady sight of 5 sheets of A4 folded in three and stuffed tightly inside. The wonderful few minutes of running upstairs, flopping onto your bed and just enjoying every word, written so neatly at first but increasingly carefree towards the end; everything that your friend from faraway just had to tell you. A boy at school, a family holiday, a new Sweater Shop jumper – the subject didn’t matter. The words were written for you.

My pen pals were varied and individual, each letter bringing news of a different place, a different life. An old friend from infant school who remained in Coventry when I moved to Blackburn aged 7 but had kept in touch. Two sisters I met on holiday a couple of years earlier who if memory serves may have been from Nottingham. The French exchange student called Helene who had stayed with us for a week and practised her English by writing to me. I treasured their letters, and many more, in a box for years.

But times change, people move on. Apart from my friend from Coventry who is now a friend only on Facebook and I communicate with very rarely, I have lost touch with all of them. Letter writing fell out of favour as I started college in 1997 and had new and exciting sixth form friends to hang around with. The same when I went away to university in ’99. I found writing letters the most efficient way to catch up with my best friend from college, but that was about it.

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Philips Savvy – 1999′s finest

That year I got my first mobile phone.

It was a Philips Savvy, with a green lit screen and three lines of text, pay as you go on the old BT Cellnet network. I got it for free when I signed up to my student bank account. It didn’t really do anything other than make phone calls and send texts but back then, we didn’t really expect anything else. It was like opening the door to a whole new world. Suddenly I could contact people wherever we both were. I didn’t have to find a landline, wait until I saw them in person or write a tedious letter. I could send them a little message to see how they were, and that was all it took.

15 years later, that’s all it ever takes. My pen pals of the mid-nineties have become my #TwitterBuddies of today, albeit a new and varied array of people. We don’t spend hours on the phone to each other, and with busy grown-up lives full of jobs and children and everything else in between, we certainly don’t write letters. Yes, I have friends who live locally who I can catch up with in person, but a huge proportion of my friends and acquaintances are online only, most of whom I have never met or even spoken to but have nevertheless become close to.

It’s not always easy to strike up a friendly relationship in 140 characters but when it does happen, it’s as exciting to see a notification ping on your phone as it was to have that letter drop on your doormat all those years ago. Somebody enquiring how you are, sharing some news, offering their help – considerably fewer words but just as meaningful as 5 pages of teenage blabber. Social media has enabled me to come into contact with some amazing people – and the short, snappy communications make it possible.

Maybe there is less soul in a Tweet than a letter, you can’t treasure a Facebook post in a box, words on a screen might not be as personal as handwriting on paper, but it doesn’t diminish the reality of the connections we make. Friendships, not envelopes, are the most valuable thing.

Say hello on Twitter @GreatNorthMum

Address to write a letter on request.

snap happy

Like any proud parent with a smartphone, I take approximately 700,000 pictures a week of my small person, many of which I share with friends, family and followers so that they can also see how photogenic and adorable he is. I also occasionally feel moved to take a quick snap of a sunset, some flowers, or a rainbow (as I managed to capture quite nicely yesterday), simply because they look pretty, and thanks to the modern wonders of photo-sharing filters and fancy effects, even the most amateur photographer can create a professional-looking pic without too much effort.

I’ve found taking photos such as these increasingly enjoyable because it’s so easy to do it all on a phone in the palm of your hand, and I’m getting all carried away with visions of being the next Capture by Lucy, Dear Beautiful, or Mummy Daddy Me – three photography blogs I really admire. I wouldn’t claim to have such an ability as these talented ladies, but the important thing is capturing the moments that matter, the images you want to remember forever, whether they are beautifully composed or not.

Like yesterday afternoon, when Little Man, tired from waking up early at Grandma and Grandad’s, fell asleep in the back of the car on the way home from town. I’ve written a post about life’s little pleasures such as this before, a year ago now in fact, something which only serves to show how quickly time seems to pass and why we try so hard to preserve it in pixels.

As he slumbered on the sofa, I had to take a photo:

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After a while we had to wake him, for fear of him not wanting to sleep at bedtime. He had an enormous yawn, with the imprint of the stripy cushion etched on his face, and I managed to capture it:

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I know I’m still going to love looking at these photos when my Little Man has a family of his own one day. Precious moments. Life’s little pleasures.

Up until now I haven’t fully embraced photography on my blog, but while I’m having a bit of a revamp, I think it’s time to start sharing the photos that make me smile, to complement the words I write, or to need no words at all. There are a few linkys I’ve come across which I’d like to take part in, and I’m going to share my posts with #LifesLittlePleasures, because that’s what they are.

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