Big Girl's Bed

G has finally moved into a proper bed. A previous attempt at taking the sides off her cot was thwarted by her continual insistence on getting up when she should have been taking an afternoon nap, but this week's change went very smoothly.

On the morning after the first night, we wondered whether G would work out that she was now able to get out of bed whenever she wanted. At about 8:30am we heard a bit of fidgeting, then a bump, then footsteps, and the door to our bedroom swung open, pushed by an excited G who was chattering about her "big girl's bed." I suppose there's the risk she'll do it at 3am one of these days. But she seems to enjoy her sleep too much for that.

The only problem we've ever had with her sleeping is on trips away. If she wakes up and can see us sleeping in the same room, she has a habit of thinking it's time to get up, even if it's still the middle of the night.

Before Christmas, Mrs J produced a new clock for G's room (it's the circular thing on the right), which shows a sun during the day and a moon and stars at night time. The idea is that, if junior wakes up in the night and can see the moon and stars, he or she will realise it's not time to get up just yet, and will turn over and drift back off to sleep.

I don't mind admitting I was rather sceptical about whether this would work. But, on our weekend in Shropshire a couple of weeks back, Mrs J set it up in the bedroom we were all sharing. In the middle of the first night, I heard the familiar sound of fidgeting and gurgling, and could tell that G was getting herself stood up in her travel cot. Preparing to get up myself, imagine my surprise when I heard G say "clock... stars... clock sleepy" then lie down again. None of us had to get up before breakfast time, which is just how we all like it.

If it continues to work at home too, having G in a proper bed will be as much of a doddle as sleeping in a cot has been up until now. Next up: potty training. But maybe not quite yet.

Christmas Day

This year was G's third Christmas, but the first in which she has shown more interest in the actual presents than the wrapping paper and packaging. It wasn't quite a morning of full-on excitement for her though. She let us have a lie-in until almost 9 o'clock, and seemed a bit confused when she came downstairs to find a pile of colourful boxes underneath the tree.

No doubt it'll be a bit different next year. But for the time being, G struggles with the concept of the future tense. The general build-up to Christmas had little effect on her, to the extent that, when Mrs J took her outside on Christmas Eve to sprinkle some glitter on the doorstep to attract the reindeer, she threw a mini-tantrum because there weren't any actual reindeer there. The fact we'd all just had venison casserole for tea didn't register either, which was probably just as well. Might have to drop that dish off the meal rota in future years.

G soon got the hang of opening presents, as the picture shows, although she instinctively wanted to actually get each present out of the box and play with it straight away, rather than move on to unwrapping the next one. If we'd let her do this we'd still be sat under the tree now, so we had to briefly hide some of her new toys so she could concentrate on the important task of opening the others.

She did find time to deliver her own Christmas message, of sorts. Not quite The Queen, but she's getting there:

A Very Slow Walk

We were away for the weekend, at a pre-Christmas get-together with friends in Shropshire. Being the only little one among two dozen people meant that G was often the centre of attention, which unsurprisingly kept her happy.

One less happy event was our attempt to get her to the nearest pub for lunch on Saturday. At last year's event, I had used a back carrier to get G there through the snow. But she's too big for that contraption now, so we were left with little choice but to take her pram.

I gave up routinely using G's pram months ago after she made it clear that, as a big girl now, she'd rather walk. This is fine for toddling about our local village where distances are short and we've rarely got to be anywhere in a hurry anyway. But walking a couple of miles is a different matter.

Saturday's trek to the pub started off well enough with G in the pram, but after a while she started fidgeting and whining and asking "Walk?" until we finally got her out and let her toddle. The picture shows G taking a close interest in one of the many puddles we encountered at this point.

But no matter how much fun it was watching G splash about, the facts were that it was very cold, and the pub was still some distance off. G refused point blank to go back in her pram, so I picked her up and started carrying her down the road. This led to a tantrum, accompanied by wriggling, sobbing and more cries of "Walk?" as I hurried along as quickly as I could. The tears stopped as soon as we reached the pub, and G realised there were lots of people besides mummy and daddy to dote on her.

It wouldn't have been so bad, but we went through exactly the same process on the return journey too. I'm looking forward to when she can walk a bit faster.

Yoga For Toddlers

I've written before about G's favourite TV programme, In The Night Garden. It's actually one of two that she particularly enjoys. The other is Waybuloo, and it makes up the first part of the CBeebies Bedtime Hour each night, an hour of increasingly valuable calm-down time which helps get G ready for tea, bathtime and bed.

The picture shows G in action during an episode of Waybuloo. The show features four computer characters who zip about a colourful fantasy world, and spend much of their time doing a form of yoga which is easy for little ones at home to copy. A few months ago, when Waybuloo started being shown as part of the Bedtime Hour, I had no idea she was taking any of it in until I looked up one day and spotted her sitting down and touching one of her feet, just as the characters on the screen were doing.

Now, the toddler yoga is as much a part of the nightly ritual as the Upsy Daisy dance and the bedtime story. The move that G is doing in the photo is called the Windmill. Whether this will help her become as bendy-legged as a gymnast when she's a bit older is hard to tell. Having been a born a decidedly sturdy 9lbs 15ozs, subtlety of movement has never been one of G's strong points. If she grows up into a dainty little girl, I may well have Waybuloo to thank. Or blame, whichever you prefer.

Shopping Bag

Keen to get out of the house today despite the cold weather, I ended up taking G over the Pennines to Slaithwaite, to pick up a few bits and bobs from the Green Valley Grocer. I gave G the basket as I scoured the shelves for something for tonight's tea. When I put everything into the shopping bag, G insisted on carrying it and took it down the street, as shown in the picture.
Predictably, this didn't last very long. The bag was a bit on the heavy side for her, and we were making very slow progress on what was a freezing cold afternoon. So I ended up carrying both G and the bag back to the car. Soon she'll be too heavy for that. But, unfortunately for me, not quite yet.

Blow The House Down

Here's G on the swings at the playground in Uppermill last week. It was the day of the public sector strike, so it was unusually busy, although many of the children were being looked after by a selection of harassed-looking grandparents.

Now that G is at nursery two days a week, we don't go to the playground as often as we used to. Neither of us seem to mind too much, the slides and roundabout would get boring if we went every day, after all. But I'm increasingly becoming aware of things that G is picking up at nursery, which she then surprises me with at home.

The other day G woke up early. Not really that early as it happened, but it was a weekend and me and Mrs J didn't fancy getting up, so G came and sat between us in bed. I could hear her chatting away to herself, before she clearly said: "Big bad wolf... huff... huff... huff... house down!"

I looked at Mrs J: "You haven't taught her that have you?" She hadn't. G had obviously been hearing all about the Three Little Pigs at nursery.

I suppose I could be upset that I'm no longer responsible for everything G learns. But I'm really not. When you've read The Gruffalo as often I have, I'm grateful for anything that's even slightly different. And with G's mind expanding all the time, I'm glad for other things to help stimulate her, whether that's nursery or even CBeebies, the electronic babysitter in the corner. Keeping a curious toddler entertained is a team effort.

Day Out In Saltaire

We went to visit some friends for a day out yesterday. The three of us drove over to Saltaire, the workers' village established by venerable mill owner Sir Titus Salt. Clearly proud of his creation, he named it after himself, but I suppose as a mega-rich Victorian entrepreneur that was his prerogative.

His mill is now a complex of various things, and the picture shows G at our lunch table before we went for a walk around the village, a walk which included a ride on a little old tramway up the valley.

We were with our friends Penny and Sam, who had been at a wedding in Saltaire the night before. Penny is the person responsible for introducing me to Mrs J more than 11 years ago. This means that G basically owes her entire existence to Penny, so it was just as well G was generally very well behaved during our day out, although she did repeatedly insist that Mrs J had to carry her everywhere when she got tired of walking.

This might have something to do with the fact that G sees a lot more of me, and so whenever Mrs J is around, I am immediately a bit old hat. Yesterday, after a lot of "Mummy carry! Mummy carry!" Mrs J eventually gave up, protesting about sore arms. When I then picked G up she immediately burst into unconvincing tearful whines, wanting her mummy. This forced us into a quick pitstop for afternoon tea, a few mouthfuls of scones enough to cheer G up again. It's clear that the way to earn G's favour is still through her belly.

Mean Girls

G was on the receiving end of some hilarious playground-style bitching at a parent-and-toddler group this morning. I overheard one youngster saying, as she pointed very deliberately in G's direction: "I don't like that girl." What G had done to irritate her remains a mystery. Anyway, she rose above it and carried on playing, perhaps plotting her revenge for another time.

Playing Trains

Christmas came a bit early to the Jones household over the weekend. G's grandad was up to visit, and he brought a train set for G to play with. We saved opening it until she got up on Sunday because, given that she'd recently shown how much she enjoys trains, we knew she'd be far too excited to want to go to sleep if we'd let her have it the night before.

So, with a cold and foggy day outside, and the lights on inside, Sunday morning felt rather like Christmas with G playing trains on the living room rug. She quickly developed a habit of commentating on herself: "Train... train... toot toot... train" followed by the inevitable "Crash!" then the equally inevitable "Daddy help!" until I put the carriages back on the tracks. If she keeps playing with it as much as she has been so far, I'm sure it won't be long until she's announcing details of the buffet car menu.

Sore Eyes

Having got through more than two years with nothing worse than the odd cold, G's ox-like constitution has finally given in to something slightly more serious. I got a call from her nursery yesterday to say she'd woken up from her nap with gunky eyes, which is apparently the technical term for conjunctivitis. And so here she is on the sofa today, seemingly happy enough even though she's stuck with me and away from all her new friends at nursery.

We went out to see the doctor this afternoon and he prescribed some eye drops. I had conjunctivitis as a little boy, and I can certainly remember not being very co-operative when my mum tried to prise open my sticky eyes to put some drops in. In fact, I may have screamed loud enough for the neighbours to hear. So it was with some trepidation that I got the little bottle out of the packet, perched G on my knee and tried to get it somewhere near her eyes.

It didn't go very well. I can now confirm that trying to keep a wriggly toddler subdued with one hand while squeezing liquid out of a bottle with the other is hard. When you have to try to open said toddler's resolutely-shut eyes at the same time, you could really be doing with an extra hand, which I didn't have. So after a bit of Clockwork Orange-style prising open, and a couple of drops in the general direction of the lower eyelid, I gave up and let G calm down in front of the always-soothing CBeebies. Apparently I have to do this every three hours. Might wait until Mrs J gets home before trying it again.


I made some beef stew and dumplings for tea last night, and these before and after shots show what G thought of it. The second was accompanied by the inevitable question: "More?" Just as well I made plenty, really.

Sleepless In Stamford

We took G to Stamford in Lincolnshire for the weekend, to visit some friends. On Saturday afternoon we went along to Burghley House, where G enjoyed meeting a very sociable deer, as the picture shows.

Saturday night wasn't nearly as successful, as we suffered through G's worst night for sleeping since she was a little baby. After waking up after midnight and spotting us in the room with her, she didn't seem inclined to go back to sleep. This isn't unusual when we're away with G, and after a while we got her up and let her play with Mrs J's phone for a bit, in the hope she'd want to go back to sleep soon enough.

But she didn't. Attempts to put her back in her travel cot were met with whining, crying and, after an hour or two, wholesale screaming. At one stage I took G downstairs whereupon she howled for her mummy, huge fat tears plopping down her cheeks, and got herself so worked up she started struggling to breathe. I went on a mercy dash to the car to pick up an In The Night Garden DVD, and after a couple of soothing episodes she finally went down to sleep at about 6am.

This was bad enough, but Mrs J and her friends were due to run a 10k in Sherwood Forest later that morning. After three hours sleep Mrs J not only managed to get to the start, but completed the course in her best time ever, while I joined a tired but surprisingly not-too-grouchy G in cheering her on from the sidelines. I drove home afterwards though. G slept all the way.

Train Set

G can be a bit timid around older children. In the playground, she usually backs away when a bigger toddler wants to go ahead of her on the slide, or swings, or whatever. G often needs a bit of encouragement from me to get her elbows out and stand her ground.

This isn't the case when G is with younger ones, however. Whenever I take her to a parent-and-toddler group these days, she's invariably one of the oldest children there. At yesterday's group in Dobcross, she spent much of her time playing in one of the two big plastic cars. After a couple of occasions when she looked like she was about to barge a little girl out of the way to get back behind the wheel, I decided she needed distracting with something else.

And look what I found. A box of wooden tracks and trains were over in the corner of the room. I put together a rudimentary track, stuck a few of the carriages together, and G was kept amused for the rest of the morning.

"Chuffa-chuffa-chuffa-chuffa-toot-toot!" she said repeatedly. I didn't have the heart to explain that the trains were all diesel.

Turning It Up To Eleven

Here's G enjoying herself on the climbing frame in Uppermill this morning. Whenever clambering up onto it, or up the nearby slide, she's got into the habit of counting her steps as she goes, just like she does at home.

As a result, G's counting is coming along very well, although she sometimes goes 1-2-3-4-5-8, completely missing out 6 and 7. And because there are eleven steps on the way upstairs in our house, she usually finishes by saying 9-10-11 rather than stopping at the more traditional 10.

She often emphasises the last number with quite a flourish: "ELEVEN!" (or rather more accurately, "LEH-VEH!"). That's also the moment when, if we're at home and she sees there are still two to go, she looks confused and tries starting again at some random earlier number for the last couple of steps. But then, as we all know, you can't go any higher than 11.

Cut Finger

I was putting away the shopping in the kitchen earlier when I notice G walking over with her hands in front her. There was red all over her fingers, and she'd got a bit on her jumper too. I was about to castigate her for drawing on herself, when I realised that the felt pens were still well out of reach on the shelf. No, G had managed to cut herself and was bleeding.

I would probably have sprung into some kind of urgent action had G been at all bothered about this. Instead, she held out her arms and said "hands" in a confused sort of way, as I dug out the antiseptic wipes and a plaster from the medical box. Actually getting the plaster on caused a lot more upset than the injury to her finger, and she picked at it for a few minutes before settling down in front of some CBeebies, my daytime treat to her for being such a brave little soldier.

It turned out that she'd managed to break a small glass which had been hidden inside something else in the living room. As I picked up the broken bits, I found a couple dramatically stained with blood, rather in the manner of a crime scene off TV. Any guilt on my part was tempered by the fact it was hardly a major emergency, though. Given that Mrs J has managed to break each of her four limbs during her life, I'll save that for when G does something similar.

In The Night Garden

We need to talk about television. When G was a bit younger I used to try to keep her away from the box in the corner of the room as much as possible. Partly this was because she didn't seem that interested in it, other than when she was a small baby and could be diverted by the flickering lights and sounds for a few minutes at a time. But it was mostly because I knew she'd end up watching plenty of telly when was older, so did my best to delay her interest in it for as long as I could.

A few months ago though, a bit of TV in the early evenings became necessary. I'm usually cooking tea between 6ish and 7ish, and G would habitually lean on the kitchen stairgate during this time, watching me potter around by the stove. After a few months of doing that every day, she started to get bored, and I found myself having to constantly bob in and out of the living room trying to find things to keep her occupied. By far the best way of doing this turned out to be, yes, the TV. Or to be precise, the CBeebies Bedtime Hour.

I'm now guaranteed an hour of quiet every evening while I get the food ready. The main reason is G's new found love of the programme which takes up half of the Bedtime Hour each evening, In The Night Garden. Made by the people who brought you Teletubbies (and the frankly frightening Rosie and Jim, spongey faces and all), it's a baffling array of colours and characters of varying sizes, accompanied by bits of music and the tones of Shakesperean favourite Derek Jacobi, slumming it a bit in his role as narrator.

It would take more than a simple blogpost to begin to explain all that goes on in an episode of In The Night Garden. Indeed, there have been entire PhDs awarded for much less. It may be utterly confusing to grown ups, but G loves it, and that's the important thing.

One of G's favourite characters is Upsy Daisy. Here she is demonstrating the dance that Upsy Daisy does in every episode.

I'm sure she'll go off it one day soon. But as long as it keeps her amused for the time being, I'm happy to let her keep watching. Two-year-olds can't all watch Question Time, you know.

Cheese Sandwich

G has always had a healthy appetite. But if there's something she likes more than anything else, it's bread-related products. Breadsticks and crumpets were an early favourite when she was still just a few months old, and sandwiches and (whisper it) cake rarely last long in her presence these days.

Unfortunately, as her talking improves, G has developed the ability to ask for what she wants at mealtimes. And what she wants is a cheese sandwich. Always.

After I spent the afternoon making roast pork for tea on Sunday, she took a look at the plate in front of her and picked around the food doubtfully. The conversation went something like this:

G: "Cheese sandwich?"

Me: "No, eat the food you've got."

G: "Cheese sandwich?"

Me: "No darling, look at all that yummy food daddy's made for you. Mmm, yummy."

G: "Cheese sandwich?"

And so on. Eventually, after she realised she really wasn't going to get a cheese sandwich, G started eating. She did eat most of her roast pork in the end, which just proves how devious even two-year-olds can be. Me and Mrs J had finished ours by this point, and went to hide in the kitchen to eat pudding, so G wouldn't want that instead. Which perhaps proves how devious parents can be.

As the picture shows, I gave G a cheese sandwich for lunch today though. As G herself has learned to say: "Mmm... nice!"

Lost Sheep

G has started going to nursery. It's two days a week so far, so I can do some work lecturing at various universities across the north. If I can get some more work in the new year we might extend it a bit, but it's Tuesdays and Fridays only for now.

After a full two years at home with me, the transition has been difficult at first for G. During the first settling-in session, we left her in one of the nursery rooms for an hour while me and Mrs J sorted out some paperwork next door. We were vaguely aware of a kind of distant sobbing throughout, and when we went to get G we realised it had been her all the time.

The next day, I left her for two hours. Although I didn't have to sit and listen to her crying, I had a pretty good idea that's what had been going on when I turned up to collect her. She immediately burst into tears, shouted "Daddy!" and grabbed my leg. It was all so dramatic, I thought the only thing for it was to treat her to some ice cream:

Her first full day didn't go much better. The crying and leg-grabbing began as soon as we arrived, and continued until I left, which kind of put me off all the work I had scheduled in for myself during the rest of the morning. Not that I felt or feel guilty about leaving G at nursery, I think she needs to start spending more time away from me and with other children, but the trauma of it all was a bit off-putting.

When I picked G up that afternoon, the nursery staff suggested she join a group of younger toddlers, instead of the older ones that she had been with. Things improved straight away. Although I got more weeping at the next morning drop-off, she was a lot calmer when I went and got her that afternoon.

The nursery staff, of course, didn't miss a trick. "She's been playing beautifully all day... She ate all her lunch... We'll send you some photos!" they said, clearly concerned that I didn't look entirely thrilled every time I turned up with a sobbing two-year-old.

It's obviously in their interest to give me the impression that my daughter actually loves nursery and is full of smiles as soon as I've gone, and I know this is probably true. But it's still mildly amusing to see them battle to reassure me. I can only imagine that some parents decide to switch nurseries or give up on the whole idea if their child doesn't settle in straight away.

Sadly for G, she's stuck with it. Not least because the nursery we're using is one of the few around which offers flexible enough hours so both me and Mrs J can do drop-offs or pick-ups if we need to, depending on our work commitments. Besides, G is already looking a bit less like a lost sheep with every nursery visit, and the morning crying is now down to token levels. Soon she'll be crying because she has to leave, I'm sure.

Green Lipstick

This is what happens when you turn your back for five minutes. G had one of her colouring books out on the living room coffee table, and I gave her some felt pens to use instead of the usual crayons while I went into the kitchen to do something.

When I returned, I found that G had taken her first steps in make-up. I was quite impressed at how accurate she was, there wasn't a trace of green anywhere else on her. Not sure it's really her colour though.

Cheeky Face

We had some family up at the weekend to extend G's birthday celebrations a bit. On Saturday we went to Shibden Hall near Halifax to enjoy a picnic in the unseasonal sunshine.

In the playground, G had a go on the roundabout, and Mrs J caught her doing this face. She looks suspiciously guilty, but I can't think what for. There's a limit to the amount of trouble you can get into on a roundabout, after all. Even for G.

Birthday Girl

It was G's second birthday today. Here she is opening her presents in the living room this morning, still in her pyjamas. She got quite a few, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Last night in the same room there was a rather different scene. After she'd struggled to go off to sleep, a very rare event indeed, we finally got her out of bed and put her on the sofa with us to quietly watch a bit of TV. No sooner had the face of Richard Madeley appeared during an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, then I heard a gulp, and then a splat. G had just thrown up in epic style all over my lap. Whether this had anything to do with Richard Madeley or not I don't know, but I choose to believe that it did.

To put this in a bit of perspective, G is never ill. She has an iron constitution. Beyond a bit of colic at about six weeks, and the odd cold, she hasn't been sick at all. No chickenpox, no mumps, no whooping cough. Some babies always seem to be ill, but G isn't one of them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, she didn't seem to have much idea of what had just happened, and was very upset. But she finally got off to sleep and showed no ill effects this morning, although the stack of presents and, possibly just as importantly, shiny paper to rip up, may have had something to do with that.

Just like last year, we took her to Chester Zoo for the day. Unlike last year, when it was decidedly chilly, today was roasting hot. G flagged a bit through a combination of the heat and tiredness from her broken night's sleep. But I did manage to snap a picture of a rare moment when G was actually walking under her own power, and not either being carried or asking to be carried.

She could even see over a few of the low fences this year to get a better look at the animals. Favourites included the chimpanzees and the elephants, although despite my best efforts I failed to generate much interest from her in my favourite animal in the zoo, the okapi. But then I suppose a creature that's part-giraffe, part-horse and part-zebra seems perfectly normal when you're only two.

Holiday Snaps

While I was taking some fairly mediocre pictures with my camera phone, Mrs J spent part of our recent holiday using her rather more fancy photo-taking machine to capture some quality images of G. Here are some of the best of them.

It's quite a transition from the angelic shot above to the one immediately below, in which G looks as though she's ready to cut anyone who goes near her. Must be the hoodie that does it.


As part of our holiday to Knoydart, we had to take regular boat journeys. Well, when I say we had to, that's not strictly true, but given that the only other way to get to where we were going was a 15-mile hike over rough country, we opted for the boat.

After a couple of days sat mostly indoors watching the remains of Hurricane Katia lash down outside, we finally got out and braved the ferry last Tuesday. Even though the water was still a bit choppy, G seemed to enjoy standing up and looking out of the cabin window. She did go a bit quiet when we started to pitch up and down a bit more violently as we approached port, but thankfully her breakfast stayed in her tummy.

All rather more fun was our journey on Thursday, on which we took a total of four boat rides, from Knoydart to Mallaig to Skye and back again. This picture was taken on the last of those, as we sped (relatively speaking) back to Knoydart over a very calm Loch Nevis, and Mrs J held G up for the benefit of a photo. She seemed to enjoy it. My little girl has clearly developed her sea legs early in life.


We're back from holiday. We spent ten days away in Scotland, a week of it in a cottage with some friends on the Knoydart Peninsula, a largely uninhabited corner of Britain which also happened to be in the path of Hurricane Katia as it blew its way through last weekend. It wasn't really a hurricane by the time it reached us, but as you can see, the wind was certainly strong enough to make walking problematic for G.

More pictures and stories and all that to follow.

Climbing Frame

I often take G down to the playground in Uppermill of a morning, because the fresh air and activity helps tire her out for her afternoon nap. When not enduring roundabout-based mishaps, she always enjoys having a good go around the various bits of equipment. At first the swings were her favourite, then she graduated onto the slides, and now she's big enough to gingerly work her way along some of the more precarious parts of the big climbing frame, as shown in the picture.

The effort and concentration required for a less-than-two-year-old to keep her balance on something probably built with much older kids in mind is evident from G's face. I suppose I should have been doing something responsible, like keeping my hands ready to catch her in case she lost her balance, rather than taking the photo. That stance looked pretty rock solid though.

Leeds Festival

A year ago we took G to her first festival, Green Man in south Wales. It was a fun weekend, and the festival itself was very family-friendly. There were lots of little Tarquins and Cressidas toddling about, while their parents sipped chai lattes. Sadly enough, we kind of fitted right in.

Back in the pre-baby days we used to go to Reading or Leeds most years, but I never thought we'd try to take G there, at least not until she's about 15 and we need to go to make sure she doesn't do anything too stupid involving gas canisters. But on Tuesday Mrs J said she'd acquired a couple of last-minute weekend tickets for Leeds through work. Having checked the typically miserable forecast, and debated whether or not to bother with the whole palaver, we decided we would, although the decision was made a lot easier by the fact we live close enough to the site to go in and out each day.

And so it was that on Friday afternoon, with Mrs J at work, I got all our stuff together and headed over to Leeds. Soon, me and G found ourselves at the main stage for Frank Turner:

The constant drizzle on Friday presented various problems. Not for G, but for me. I thought better of trying to use the pram and left it in the car, so I resorted to carrying her around everywhere so I didn't lose her in the developing quagmire. This meant that, after seeing a couple more bands, we left for the day, before my arms fell off.

But the next day, we returned, this time with Mrs J, and also with G's ear-defenders. This picture was taken during Frankie and the Heartstrings in the NME tent. My only comment about the band was that they sounded a bit like dungarees-period Dexy's Midnight Runners, which I realised made me sound all of my 29 years. Given that a large proportion of the crowd appeared to be celebrating their GCSE results, this was elderly indeed.

Having struggled around with the pram on Saturday, we opted to transport G in her back carrier on Sunday. This proved quite effective, although I had to stand at an angle to the stages so G could peer over my shoulder. Here we are during Yuck:

But I couldn't carry her all day. She is getting a bit big for her carrier, after all. When she inevitably wanted a snack, while watching the even-more-elderly-than-me Madness on the main stage, this is the scene that resulted:

Watching Madness generated a certain nostalgia in me, because House of Fun was number one the day I was born. I looked up what the number one record was on the day G was born, and discovered it was by someone called Taio Cruz, a man described by Wikipedia as a "singer-songwriter, record producer, occasional rapper, and entrepreneur." Yes, he sounds like a total bell end. I'll be frankly alarmed if I'm watching a festival set of his when G is 29, but you never know I suppose.

After Madness we decided to head home. G had spent most of three days entertaining festival goers by doing a lot of smiling and high-fiving, and she even learned how to do the rock hand signal. Not being a family festival, she was one of very few young children there, which made her something of a celebrity. This reached its logical conclusion on the Sunday afternoon when two over-excited girls bizarrely asked to have their photo taken with her. Should have charged them, really.

The whole thing left G rather exhausted. This was about five minutes into our journey back on Sunday evening:
Maybe we'll do it all again next year.

Rushcart Weekend

G has got a bit of previous when it comes to dancing with our local morris men. So it was no surprise when, as we watched various groups of morris dancers take part in the Saddleworth Rushcart festival on Saturday, G couldn't resist joining in.

Perhaps this is something I should encourage by buying her a proper outfit. Not because I particularly want her to become a morris dancer, you understand. But rather because getting her some shoes with bells on would have the added bonus of helping me keep track of her now she's big enough to run off as soon as my back's turned. Might take the fun out of hide-and-seek though.

Hair Salon

I've been taking G for haircuts for a while, and the trip to one of the alarmingly many (for a village) salons in Uppermill for a quick tidy-up is now a fairly regular event. And a quick tidy-up is all it is, because Mrs J wants to grow G's hair out a bit. This is probably less essential now people have stopped mistaking her for a boy, but it should still look pretty when it's longer, which I suppose is just as important.

In the meantime, the process of the actual hair cutting is usually helped along by giving G a book. Not because I'm being all pushy and starting her young on the Russian classics, but actually because it's as good a way as any of getting her to tilt her head forward, allowing the hairdresser to trim around the back.

The salon has a stack of books for little ones for just this sort of task. So many in fact that they let G keep the one she's reading in the photo, because she seemed so fascinated by it. An eight-page story about Upsy Daisy from the baffling but strangely-captivating-to-toddlers In The Night Garden isn't exactly the complete works of Gogol. But she's got to start somewhere.


G likes most things in the big playground in Uppermill, but the roundabout is probably her current favourite. Whenever I take her, which is pretty often, she's usually toddling towards the roundabout as soon as we go through the entry gate, pointing expectantly.

As you can see, she enjoys it very much. The problem comes when she has to get off. After a previous occasion when she was very dizzy, attempted to toddle and fell over straight away, I've been careful to try to hold her still for a while before letting her walk, so the dizziness wears off.

But the other day, after I'd been spinning her particularly fast and for a particularly long time, even a pause didn't do the job. She started off confidently, then swayed a bit, then ended up flat on her face. This led to lots of tears and a very obvious graze on her nose. I'll make sure she sits down for longer next time.

Rabbit Ears

We took G on a day trip on Saturday, to Ironbridge and the nearby Hoo Farm animal centre. Despite the undoubtedly fascinating relevance of the bridge to Britain's industrial history, G was much more interested in the animals.

Walking around the farm, G took the opportunity to run through her now extensive repertoire of animal noises. These ranged from sheep to cows to dogs to cats, even if the animals she was actually looking at bore only a vague resemblance to the ones she was impersonating.

G's rabbit impression consists of putting her hands on her head as ears, rather than making any particular noise. As a result, it's not exactly clear which animal she's doing until you've seen her do it a few times. Putting her behind a giant cut-out rabbit also helps though. It's the power of suggestion.

Sporty Tot

G's journey to becoming an Olympic athlete has begun. The council is laying on various activities for bored youngsters over the summer holidays, and one such is Sporty Tots, a series of free sessions for the under 5s held in the local schools. The first was in our village this morning so I took G along to see how she got on.

I wasn't exactly sure what sort of sporty things they'd get the little ones doing, although I was hopeful somebody would be on hand to teach G to throw, an important life skill which sadly passes many girls by.

When we turned up, it was clear G was by far the youngest of the children who would be taking part. Not that it seemed to bother her. During all the different games she ran around with a big smile on her face. Even though she only had a sketchy grip on what she was actually supposed to be doing, nobody seemed to mind, least of all G.

The picture shows her playing with the hula hoops. Long after the game that actually involved the hula hoops had ended, she kept on toddling back over to where they were to pick them up again. As far as the Olympics goes, I think they do use hoops, albeit in the rhythmic gymnastics. Besides the fact I'm not entirely convinced that's actually a sport, I'm not sure the ever-unsubtle G quite has the poise for it anyway. Will have to go back next week, if only to work on that throwing.

Soft Play Area

It was raining this morning. So I finally caved in and took G to the local soft play area, something I'd been saving for, well, a rainy day.

I'd actually taken her once before, when she was still a baby, just to check the place out. I'd seen soft play areas from the outside, usually in unappealing settings such as windswept industrial estates. Ours is in an old mill complex, which makes it slightly less bleak. But only slightly.

On our previous visit G was only really able to crawl around the babies' bit, and I thought I'd bring her back for another go when she was old enough for the trampolines, bouncy castle and the rest. Needing something to use up her morning energy, I decided that today would be the day.

Inside, soft play areas are a weird combination of the happiest place on Earth and the seventh circle of Hell. The excited laughter of youngsters bouncing around is only disturbed by bitter crying whenever one falls off something, and is carried away in tears by a harassed-looking parent.

G loved it. Really, really loved it. It being the holidays, there were a few rather bored looking older kids around, but G managed to avoid being trampled on while struggling to keep her balance on the various bouncy things, which was an even bigger bonus. In the end, possibly a bit put off by all the noise, she toddled back to the tots' area and kept herself quietly entertained there, as shown in the picture. She's still young enough to be a baby when it suits her.


I'd always wondered what those stubby little see-saw things you see in children's play areas were actually for. Compared to the traditional attractions of slide, swings, roundabout and climbing frame, they seemed like the unloved orphans of the playground, rarely used yet bizarrely always in poor repair.

Well, now I know. They are perfect for toddlers. Here's G having a go on one in the Swan Meadow play area in Delph, much to her obvious delight. Mrs J used to ride a motorbike herself, so she took this picture as proof that G was showing an interest in doing the same one day.

I'm not so sure. G gets just as excited whenever she sees a train, and I don't think she's likely to grow up to be a train driver. But if she does end up riding off on her 18th birthday at the handlebars of some terrifying motorised deathtrap, then I suppose I'll be able to trace it back to this photo. Might stick to the roundabout next time.

Spot The Toddler

Ok, so it isn't all that difficult to pick G out of this picture. But of all the ones I took of her yesterday on our trip to the Brownhill Nature Garden, she was always at least ten yards in front of me, toddling off to explore something else.

I must have walked past the garden dozens if not hundreds of times without ever going in. It's between Dobcross and Uppermill, squished in between the river, canal, railway line and road. But I'm glad to have finally discovered it. It's certainly safe enough to let G run around on her own, something which I'm increasingly reluctant to do elsewhere, given that she always looks like she's about to toddle out in front of a passing truck or something.

The only shame was that we must have been in the garden for the best part of an hour, and were the only people there. A sadly hidden gem in our little corner of the world.