A couple of years ago, I took up knitting for the first time and have been knitting ever since. I haven't yet progressed beyond scarves for Little Planet and myself.
I find knitting a wonderfully meditative activity, to do when I can no longer read or write, for example when Little Planet is playing but still needs me around to chat with her.
But now I have the urge to do something more. Little Planet is reaching an age when she doesn't need me to play with her all the time and yet she still needs me in her presence. Sewing and knitting are perfect activities for moments such as these so I have made a list of craft activities I want to complete over the next 12 months:
- Finish the scarf I'm knitting for myself
- Knit a hot pink cushion for Little Planet's new bed
- Sew a quilt for her bed
- Sew some linen placemats and napkins for our kitchen table
- Make a wooden bead necklace for myself
I've never sewn before so I'm really looking forward to this.
Many who met my father for the first time must have thought that here was a friendly, gentle and unassuming man. And yes, he was these things, but he was also much, much more. My father was a passionate, curious and intense man who saw life as a rich map to explore.
As soon as he completed his degree in India he was off to explore the world. He travelled to China, alone and against his parents’ wishes, leaving them and his twelve other brothers and sisters behind. Soon after, he decided he would board a boat to Germany, where he lived, studied and worked as an accountant for several years. Wanderlust kept him restless and he decided he wanted to see what Britain had to offer him. The rest, of course, is history - a history that soon became entwined with that of my mother and myself.
My father was a passionate man who wooed my mother with love letters that criss-crossed their way from London to Calcutta and back again. After they married in India, they returned together to London and the first meal he cooked for his new wife was trout curry with cauliflowers and potato.
My father loved cooking and was always experimenting. We would look aghast as he added apples or fruit yoghurt to a curry. But it tasted amazing! When I decided to become a vegetarian, he took it entirely in his stride and prepared as my first ever vegetarian meal a dish of curried lentils and spinach.
He was an exemplary father, far ahead of his time. When my mother started working as a hospital doctor when I was 8 months old, he took over all the parenting duties despite also having a fulltime job. He took me to the childminder’s house, he bathed me, fed me, changed and washed my nappies, read me stories and put me to bed, prepared a meal for him and my mother when she returned from work, then got up in the night whenever I woke up, and tended to me when I was ill.
A loving, caring father and yet a strict disciplinarian too - he certainly was no pushover. My mother spoiled me with presents and with her I was able to get away with a lot. My father, though, was the one who punished me and taught me right from wrong.
He believed education was the key to freedom and drove me on and on and on. Oh the arguments we had! He always said, “Studies first, career second, husband third!” When I didn’t choose the A-level subjects he wanted me to choose, he didn’t speak to me for 6 weeks. Yet when I collected my DPhil certificate from Oxford, he cried tears of joy.
My sentimental father, who kept all of Mum’s love letters and all my school books, school reports and my letters to him. He even printed out and kept all the emails I wrote to him.
For he treasured relationships. He was a sociable man who loved spending time with people - laughing with them, listening to their stories. When he visited me in South Dakota in America, he not only managed to find the only Bengali in South Dakota but managed to befriend him and his wife and get us all invited back to their home for dinner!
He loved his work as a Chartered Surveyor and valued work so much that he started his own business and then also became an Independent Financial Advisor. The work drove him, certainly, but work was also a way he could spend time with other people. After retirement he continued to work by volunteering for the Citizens Advice Bureau and Age UK where he visited elderly people just to chat with them and give them company.
With them he shared a joke, laughed about the comedy programmes he always enjoyed watching and debated politics. My father always had a twinkle in his eye and it looks like his quirky sense of humour has been passed down the generations to his 3 year old granddaughter.
Dad, you are the best role model a person can have. You have taught me never to give up and to always retain passion for and curiosity about life. I love you. May God bless you forever. I am sure you are making them all laugh up there in heaven.
Now that 3 year old Little Planet has started preschool (5 mornings a week), I have a new daily weekday routine that I thought I'd record here. She still goes to her childminder but now only two afternoons a week so that I have two full days for writing.
7am - Wake up Little Planet, get her ready and give her breakfast whilst we read together.
7.30am - I go out for a run (30 minutes); return, shower, eat breakfast; Mr Planet goes to work.
9am - Drop Little Planet off at preschool (2min walk away).
9.15am - Return home, sit at desk with coffee, write, stare out of window, write some more.
12pm - Pick Little Planet up and walk her to the childminder where she will have lunch, play, then have dinner.
12.30pm - Return home, have lunch, write, drift, write, do a few chores, look at time and in a panic write some more.
5.30pm - Collect Little Planet.
6pm - Return home, play with Little Planet, tidy up together.
7pm - Stories, milk and bedtime for Little Planet.
7.30pm - Make dinner and read, write some more, watch TV, surf Internet, knit, potter until Mr Planet comes home (anytime after 8.30pm) then eat dinner.
10.30pm - Bedtime (I like my sleep).
As Monday except no running.
Morning routine as Monday (including running).
12pm - Pick up Little Planet from preschool, bring her home, have lunch together then play.
2pm - Take Little Planet to her gym class.
3pm - Back home and playing including painting and/or phonics and/or numbers and/or computer and/or baking plus I try and fit in some chores.
5pm - Little Planet's dinner then a bit of TV then playtime.
7pm - Little Planet's bedtime routine then my evening as Monday.
Same day as Wednesday but no morning run, and instead of gym class Little Planet has a sports class in the afternoon.
Same day as Wednesday (including my morning run) then the afternoon is completely free for Little Planet and me. Her Dida (my Mum) will usually pop round for the afternoon to play with Little Planet, or we'll go to the library and/or the park.
Have been stuck in a lifestyle rut for a long while now so have decided to take baby steps to invigorate body and mind:
I have been powerwalking for some time now but need to up my game and start running so I'm starting the Couch to 5K programme using the NHS podcast. It's largely due to time constraints: to get a proper workout from walking I need to powerwalk for an hour and that, frankly, eats into my early morning. Running, on the other hand, would cut my workout time to half an hour.
My brain has gone rusty over the last few years - since I finished my PhD, in fact, way back in 2002. Since then I've exercised the brain matter largely on topics relating to work and parenting. So I am reading a daily quality newspaper every day again. There's no point me reading the news online because I get distracted. During lunch or after I've put Little Planet to bed I crack open the paper and try and educate myself on worldly issues.
I've slipped into a chick-lit reading rut too. After a busy day, it's easy to unwind with some pink-covered slush. I never used to be like this. I used to read William Gibson and Margaret Atwood in hardback. So I've consigned the pink fluff to the charity shops and am reading Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. More of that ilk in the to-read pile.
I also want to get more adventurous in my cooking. I tend to cook the same ten or so meals but I need to expand my repertoire of recipes. We have loads of cookbooks and Mr Planet is always perusing them and experimenting. I need to take a leaf out of his book.
My writing is going well - slowly, but surely. The book is longer and the plot much more intricate than I originally anticipated so it's taking me longer than I'd hoped. Also, my eating less regime is also going very well. I thought I'd fallen off the wagon for a couple of months but in fact had only put on 3lbs so the rules must be working for me at a subconscious level now, which is terrific.
Just checking in to say I'm still here and we're all fine but have just been busy enjoying life. All my writing energy is focused on finishing the book and the rest of the time is spent enjoying family life: cooking, eating out (eg Wahaca in Covent Garden), galleries, museums, parks, the garden, family, friends. The usual really.
I'm also helping Little Planet learn to read her letters and simple words. She's only just turned 3 but she was expressing interest in reading so I thought Why not? I was reading by the time I was 4 so as she is showing interest I should help her. I'm using a system called Progressive Phonics which has free downloadable resources; I'm also using a phonics app called Pocket Phonics on the iPad which she really loves. We're really lucky because her childminders are supporting us in this and are reinforcing the phonics when she's with them during the week. The key thing is keeping it fun for her and not making it something she has to do. That's why the app is particularly good as she sees it as a game.
Anyway, hope you are all enjoying the summer. More soon.
When this photo was taken, Little Planet was barely 30 minutes old, born after an emergency c-section but looking very well despite it all. Yesterday, we took her to her preschool induction, barely 3 years old. She'll start officially there this September. Next September, 2012, she'll start primary school, barely 4 years old. She's been in our lives just three years and I simply cannot imagine my life without her now.
Absolutely, the deepest, most intense love I've ever experienced.
Please excuse this most indulgent and sentimental post...
Little Planet news #1: She's now doing poos and wees in the toilet and potty. Daytime nappies and pullups are now history. Not 100% sure whether success will be maintained on long days out. We have pretty little knickers hanging on the line.
Little Planet news #2: We're weaning her off her buggy, getting her to walk more, building up her stamina so we can ditch the buggy altogether. I'll miss her buggy because it is a divine red Bugaboo Bee that we've had since her birth. It will be a while till we ditch it completely, I think, as we tend to go out for long days on the weekend and walk for miles. But the point is, we're working on it.
Little Planet news #3: I'm taking her to Church every Sunday now. Just me and her. Mr Planet is an athiest. I'm very proud of her - she's a fidget and I need to take stickers and plastic dinosaurs with me, but she manages to keep fairly still and quiet for forty-five minutes. I think it's the perfect way to get her used to being patient and keeping quiet, excellent preparation for school. More importantly, she enjoys it and likes saying hello to the Father at Communion.
Little Planet news #4: She's a week and a half away from turning three!
Little Planet news #5: This September, she starts preschool. Next September, she starts primary school, gulp. Like me, she's a Summer baby, so will start primary school just turned four. To be honest, she's ready for proper school now.
Mrs Planethalder news #1: I'm one month away from completing draft two of the novel. Thereafter, I want to do a third draft but that should only take a month (fingers crossed) and then I will send it off to agents whilst at the same time start writing a new novel.
Mrs Planethalder news #2: I'm taking another year off, coinciding with Little Planet starting preschool and an idea for a new novel that I'm itching to write. I want to take Little Planet to activities such as football and/or ballet, I want to bake cakes with her, I want to do dropoffs and pickups and chat about her day. And I want to write. Simple.
Mr Planethalder news #1: Mr Planet starts a new job soon - still in law, still in the City, but at a new firm that he is very, very excited about.
Planethalder family news #2: And much cooking and eating, of course - everything from seared tuna steaks with rocket & orange salad plus wasabi mayo; through paneer, tomato & pea curry and chicken curry with fenugreek leaves; to sausages with fennel seeds & Marsala gravy with buttery mash. Tonight, either pizzas from Princi or linguine with artichokes, chives, lemon zest and Dijon mustard.
Planethalder family news #3: This Bank Holiday weekend? Oh lots and lots. Stay tuned.
Bah, the potty, who needs it! Certainly not Little Planet as she's now toilet-trained. And she's not even using a trainer seat. With the help of a step, she sits on a normal toilet seat. All applause to her childminders. If she was home with me, she'd be in nappies until she started school. I have the patience of a gnat. We still need to work on her poos, though.