Whit Friday

Today is Whit Friday. If that means nothing to you it's hardly surprising, because it's not exactly near the top of the league for big religious festivals these days. It's not even on the same level as Epiphany, let alone Easter.

Everywhere that is, except Saddleworth. Here Whit Friday is the biggest day of the year, with every village holding a Whit Walk and service in the morning, and then a brass band contest in the afternoon and evening. Why the tradition of celebrating Whit Friday has survived here and nowhere else is not exactly clear, but survived it has. And having moved into the area earlier this year, today was our first Whit Friday in Saddleworth.

With Mrs J off work, we took G up to the middle of our nearest village, Dobcross, in time for the service in the square at 10 o'clock. The picture at the top shows the Dobcross Silver Band marching in. The whole village seemed to be there, and after a few hymns and readings we all walked off behind the band down to Uppermill where bands and walkers from all over the area met for another service. Everyone gets a break now before the serious business of the contests begins later, accompanied by lots of drinking.

The Dobcross Youth Band were there this morning too, with some very junior members who didn't look all that much older than G. If we stay in this area, hopefully we'll be back in years to come to watch G all dressed up and wielding a trombone or something similar. She certainly seemed to enjoy her first experience of it.

In Search Of Ted And Sylvia

I decided to go on a little adventure with G today. It was so warm and sunny I thought a bit of outdoor swimming might be in order, so I packed up our kit and an OS map, and drove off in the direction of Lumb Falls near Hebden Bridge, which is about half an hour away.

I'd heard it was a popular picnic spot but wasn't entirely sure how to get there. After a bit of driving around on a deserted lane I parked up near what looked like a promising footpath, put G into her back carrier, and clambered off in what the map told me was the right way. Happily it wasn't long before I first heard and then saw the falls. As you can see, we had the place to ourselves.

If you've heard of Lumb Falls it's because of a poem written about it by Ted Hughes, who was from Mytholmroyd, which is the next village along. The poem's not actually about the beauty spot, but about a photo of six men taken there who were later killed in the First World War. These days, there's a plaque to mark it, and you can read more about it, including the poem itself, here.

G is already well-used to swimming pools, but this was the first time I'd taken her for a dip outdoors. I got us changed into our kit and scrambled down the rocks to the side of the stream, just overlooking the waterfall and the main pool, which looked far too far away to reach while carrying a baby.

So I decided the best thing would be to just go for a little paddle. G put her feet in and immediately looked unhappy. Even though it was a sunny day, it is still May, and the water was definitely on the chilly side. After the initial shock of the cold had worn off, G was a bit happier.

Perched on the rock, G started to try out some of her crawling moves. Soon she was contemplating a dive into the water.

In truth, the water was too cold for G, and she wouldn't have enjoyed a proper swim very much. So I took her back to the bank and got us both dried off, before clambering back up the hill to the car with her on my back. She'd managed to lose her red sunhat on the way down, but some friendly person had picked it up and left it on a fence post, so I was able to reunite G with it before the next bit of our journey.

A mile or two from Hebden Bridge is Heptonstall, a lovely little village where it doesn't look like much has changed recently. Greedily, it's got one churchyard but two churches, the original one fell out of use in the 19th century and is now a ruin.

And here's the other one, which was built to replace it.

The main reason anyone goes to Heptonstall isn't to marvel at the twin churches. It's to visit a distant corner of the churchyard to see the grave of Sylvia Plath, author, poet and estranged wife of Ted Hughes, who committed suicide in 1963. I left G in her pram in the shade as I walked around the deserted yard. It took a while to locate it, and I was actually about to leave when I eventually spotted it.

The scuffing around the Hughes part of her name is a result of fans, who blame Hughes and his affair with Assia Wevill for her death, scratching it out. I don't think many people come by to see the grave these days, and there are many others in the yard which seem better kept, but one floral tribute had apparently been left fairly recently. There's also a collection of pens. If you want to read more about Sylvia Plath, her Wikipedia entry is a decent enough place to start.

At this point it was well past G's naptime, so I pushed her back to the car and she was soon asleep on the drive home. Learning about all those dead poets had clearly taken it out of her.


I went away for the weekend, and came back to find that G had started crawling. Well, when I say crawling, she's able to shuffle forward on all fours for a bit before flopping down onto her tummy again. It's close enough though. No doubt she'll be scuttling about with alarming speed before much longer.

Mrs J made some suitable changes to the house while I was away. G's playpen is now in the middle of the living room with all her toys in, so I imagine she'll be spending a lot of time in there to prevent her crawling all over the house causing chaos.

Crawling might also help G lose some of the comedy pot belly she's developed over the last few months. She was a big baby to begin with and has had a healthy appetite ever since, always finishing her bottles and rarely turning down food. It's not exactly time for a baby diet, but some exercise will probably do her good.

Behind Bars

G still can't quite crawl, but she's getting more and more mobile as the days go by. So it's time for drastic action. Although this looks like a little baby prison, it's actually a playpen for her where I can leave her to rattle around with her toys without worrying she might start rampaging around the living room causing chaos.

Something along those lines happened the other day. I was in the kitchen sorting out the tea, and foolishly left my back turned for all of five minutes. When I heard a thud and turned round, I saw G had dragged a plant off an admittedly low shelf, and was busy putting soil in her mouth. The plants are on a higher shelf now.

G doesn't seem to mind the bars so far. In fact she's been using them to practice lifting herself up to a standing position. Apparently some babies never get round to crawling, and actually start walking first. Considering how strong her legs are getting, it wouldn't surprise me if G ended up doing just that.

Ice Cream

A new coffee and ice cream shop opened in Uppermill today, so I decided to take G along for, well, some coffee and ice cream. She's still a bit on the young side for caffeine, but I decided to give her a couple of small spoons of my dish of raspberry ripple. It was her first taste of ice cream, and the photo shows her immediate reaction. She didn't seem hugely impressed, but she did lick her lips afterwards so she can't have minded it too much. I'm sure before long she'll be nagging me for pocket money for a 99.


I've seen rather a lot of G's tongue today. For no apparent reason she's spent a large part of the day with it lolling out of the side of her mouth, as you can see from the picture. She's not licking or moving it at all, it's just sitting there. She's never done it before, and suddenly she's doing it all the time.

Not that it seems to be bothering her. She's also had this grin on her face for most of the day, which has frankly had the effect of making her look like a good-natured but slightly dopey dog. At least she's not made any barking sounds, or at least she hasn't yet. Strange baby.

Her Auntie's Wedding

We were in London over the weekend for the wedding of Mrs J's sister, G's auntie. Mrs J was a bridesmaid, so I had to get G ready for the occasion.

Normally I put G in something practical, like jeans or dungarees. No matter clothes like that make her look like a boy, they're much easier to get on and off, especially if you're a dad like me who has had basically no practice in my life up to this point dealing with tights.

But for Saturday Mrs J had got a pretty outfit for G to wear. So I had to fiddle about getting sparkly shoes, fancy tights and frilly knickers onto my baby daughter. As I was doing that I pondered how old she'd have to be before that sort of thing became inappropriate. 3? 5? 25? Just another of those dilemmas dads have to deal with.

As the picture shows, G particularly liked her new shoes. Sadly for her, I'd managed to put the dress on the wrong way round, which I didn't realise until Mrs J pointed it out after the ceremony. That meant another fiddly process taking all her clothes off just to put them back on again. No matter how much I complained about this, I was told that dungarees just wouldn't have been appropriate.

G behaved beautifully during the day, and slept well for her babysitters at night too. Just as well really, because we've got three more weddings coming up. As well as being the most politically aware baby in the country, G has a busy social calendar too.

Election Day

I took G to vote in her first election today. She was probably better informed than most of the people voting, because she'd met all the candidates when I interviewed them for one of my other websites, Saddleworth News. I considered propping her up in the polling booth, giving her the pencil, and just letting her choose. But by the time I'd pushed her round to the polling station at the local school, she'd fallen asleep, so I had to pick for her. I hope I accurately reflected her views.

G at least has the consolation of getting a prominent mention in this article about how local news websites like mine have been covering the election. Even though she's still 17 and a half years away from being allowed to vote for herself, G has already played a role in our democratic process.


Everyone knows it can be difficult to get babies to go to sleep. Sometimes taking them out in the pram works, sometimes going for a bleary-eyed drive in the car does the trick, on other occasions just a dummy and a lullaby will do.

G is no different from other babies, in that she often needs one of these when it's time for a snooze. But that wasn't the case this afternoon. For lunch earlier I cut up a crumpet and gave it to her bit by bit. After she finished it, I did the same with another crumpet. She finished that one too.

And now, about an hour later, look at the result. She's actually fallen flat out asleep on the living room floor. G had been making her latest attempt to teach herself how to crawl, but it seems the size of her lunch has caught up with her. She'd better make the most of it though, falling asleep following a big meal probably won't be socially acceptable again until she's at least 65.

Nearly Crawling

G has turned seven months old, and is now getting worryingly close to crawling. I say 'worryingly' because I fully expect my life as I've got used to it to change again once she starts moving around on her own. I won't be able to just leave her with a toy on the living room floor while I read an improving volume of history (or play Xbox). Instead I'm going to have to watch her all the time, and move all sorts of things out of her reach.

The picture above shows where G has got to in her attempts to crawl. She's worked out how to put her hands in front of her, but she hasn't quite managed to get onto all fours yet. I'm sure it won't be long though.

About a month ago she spent a lot of her time lying on her back trying to roll over onto her tummy, but once she managed that she seemed to lose interest very quickly. Rolling over is yesterday's skill, and it's now all about trying to crawl. G is clearly very fickle. Typical girl.