The other day a local mum came over to me (we were both at a teddy bears' picnic, but that's a whole other story) and asked for my e-mail address, so she could send me a "cute photo" she'd taken of G. And here it is!

This was on Sunday, during a free concert by our local brass band in the centre of the village. During a break, someone came on the microphone to ask if there were any "young volunteers" to pick up the collection buckets to take around the crowd. I looked down to find that G was already one step ahead, had grabbed two, and was toddling about, a look of determination on her face.

Everyone laughed. And, as the picture shows, I had to put down my pint to go and make sure the buckets got to some slightly older kids, more capable of carting them around without almost toppling over. G got her moment as the centre of attention though, which I'm sure is all she really wanted, little show off.

Swimming In The Sunshine

Often it's difficult to spot how fast your child is growing up. There's the occasional notable breakthrough, such as learning a new animal noise or reaching a previously-safe shelf with lots of valuables on it, but generally the progression is gradual. When you spend every day with a little one, you barely notice the differences.

So one of the best ways of checking is to compare new and old photos. Yesterday I took G for a day trip to Hathersage in the Peak District to visit the lido, and realised it was almost exactly a year to the day since I last did so. I blogged about it then, and I think it's fair to say she looks rather more grown-up in the picture above.

In fact, that swimming costume is now too small for her really, something I can confirm having struggled to squeeze her into it while dripping with sweat from the roasting hot sunshine. Actually it may not have been all that hot, but having been forced to spend Saturday in the house watching it drizzle all day, the contrast was quite something.

The pool itself was much cooler, but very pleasant. In fact, with the hills of the High Peak providing a lovely backdrop, it rather looked like a Yorkshire version of the Icelandic blue lagoon. Only with a little less steam and a few more kids around the side slurping on 99s.

As a tired-out G snoozed on the drive back over the Snake Pass to Saddleworth, I thought about how good it would be to have a lido that little bit closer to where we live. But then I realised I'd end up going all the time, even when it was raining. And it wouldn't be nearly as special then.

All Kinds Of Trouble

The ways in which G can get into mischief increased significantly during a wet Saturday. It was the sort of day when it rained and rained, meaning we couldn't really leave the house.

Instead of allowing boredom to set in, G set about conquering one or two home-based challenges I imagine she's had her eye on for a while. One of these was climbing onto one of the dining chairs all by herself. The first inkling I had that she had learned this new skill was when I turned round to find her standing up on said chair, leaning forwards over the back of it, and grinning at me all proud of herself.

The danger of this was emphasised by her next trick. Having left the laptop closed on the desk in the corner of the living room, not only did G manage to scramble onto the chair, but she then worked out how to open the laptop and start bashing the keys. Thankfully she hadn't done anything really serious, like send an obscene e-mail to the taxman, or, even worse, her granny. But at her current rate of progress, I don't want to take too many chances.

Hopefully we'll get a warm summer. Playing out is much safer all round.

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day, and frankly I was a bit unsure what to make of it. My instinct has always been to dismiss the whole thing as a load of nonsense dreamed up by greedy executives at greetings card firms. But even though, as a journalist, I've always taken a certain professional pride in being cynical, as my Facebook feed filled up with various friends and acquaintances changing their pictures to ones of their own dads, I had to wonder whether I shouldn't just go along with it all.

On this weekend last year I was in the middle of an epic stag weekend which I'd organised, so the whole question of what to do on Father's Day didn't really materialise. This time, G was old enough to scribble all over a card for me (doing her actual name will have to wait a while yet), and Mrs J gave it to me as we had dippy eggs for breakfast.

And that was enough Father's Day for me. I even bucked convention by cooking my own roast in the afternoon, sticking it to the man in my own maple-glazed way. But seeing as I spend every day with G, the notion of using Father's Day to spend some quality daddy-daughter time with her seemed a bit pointless. Surely, I thought to myself, we should use it an excuse to avoid each other for a day?

I more or less ended up doing that as I negotiated a pass out for the evening. Since having G, and moving next to the largest town in the country without a cinema, my movie going has declined dramatically. But I was very keen to see the Ayrton Senna documentary, and so headed into Manchester to check it out at the Cornerhouse.

One day I'll sit G down on a Sunday afternoon and try to explain to her that her dad has spent an alarmingly large number of Sunday afternoons sat in front of the telly watching Grands Prix. For just now though, I'm happy to leave her playing with her new water table instead. Much more exciting.


G has been to Saddleworth's Whit Friday walks and band contests before. But last year she was just a baby, and far too little to appreciate much of the music and pageantry (for what it's all about, you can read an article I wrote for The Guardian, yes that one, here).

This time was a bit different. At the age of almost 21 months, G was able to take in a lot more of what was going on around her, which particularly involved taking a close interest in the various doting older ladies she encountered during the day.

Also keeping G occupied, as shown in the photo taken during the morning Whit Friday service in our local village square, was a toy trumpet. Mrs J was late back from work on Thursday night because, she said, she simply had to stop by a well-known toy retailer and buy one. With brass bands coming and going all day, she correctly predicted that G would inevitably want to join in.

Given that some of the young children in the Dobcross Youth Band didn't look all that much older than G, it was easy to imagine that it might be her marching with them a few years from now. Much to my surprise, and even though G hasn't yet worked out that you only have to blow into the trumpet rather than put one end entirely in your mouth, the prospect of this filled me with pride.

I won't try to push her into it though. Well, maybe just a teeny bit.

Weekend Away, Then Holiday

After almost two years with G, Mrs J and I finally got our first couple of days away from her. We'd had the odd night out here and there, but the weekend before last was the first time we'd properly left G with someone else for any significant period of time, as we went down south for a friend's wedding.

Obviously we missed her but, you know, after more than 20 months of all G all the time, not really all that much. At least not until we were on our way home again, and we started wondering how she'd managed without us. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer was that she hadn't caused our babysitter any trouble at all, although I couldn't help but notice the extra toys which had magically appeared in the house in the meantime. It seems G can be bought, although I imagine the price of doing so may rise over the next few years.

On the Monday morning it was all a bit different. We were heading off to Northumberland for a few more days of holiday, taking G with us this time. But as we rushed around getting everything ready, we had to contend with a confused-looking toddler, who kept grabbing on to Mrs J, as if to try to prevent her going anywhere.

Once we'd got her into the car though, G soon calmed down and drifted off to sleep, as demonstrated by the picture at the top of this post. She also went on to enjoy some of the cultural contrasts of the north east during our break, ranging from the impressive Barter Books in Alnwick, where she ate a scone while appearing to take an important call from someone or other:

To the rather more simple charms of fish and chips, on the beach at Cullercoats:

She had good helpings of both the scone and the fish and chips, but I think G preferred the latter. Quite right too.

A Vision Of The Future

When you have a young child, sometimes you look at them and get a glimpse of what they'll look like when they're much older. Quite by chance, I caught one of these moments on camera the other day when we were in a shop, and I've reproduced the photo here.

Even though G is only 20 months old, I think she looks alarmingly grown up in this picture. In fact, I can imagine seeing a similar face for many years to come, staring back at me and making unreasonable demands, such as asking to borrow the car.

At least when I tell her she can't do something now, she usually forgets about it within a few seconds, so her tantrums never last very long. But I know that when I inform the 17-year-old G that she has to take the bus, I'll be unleashing several days of moping. Having a toddler rather than a teenager does have its advantages.