Category Archives: Family

My baby brother turns 21 tomorrow.

I grew up an only child, until at six and a half, I became the proudest big sister in the world. I was used to having my parents’ full attention and only having stuffed toys to play with. I was a very mature child as I spent all of my time, until starting school, in the company of adults. Likewise, I was very independent, happy to entertain myself by making up dance routines, reading and writing stories.

When my mum told me I was going to have a baby brother or sister, I was over the moon. I remember lying on my mum’s tummy, getting kicked by the baby and laughing. The summer of 1990 was one of the hottest on record. Every morning, I took my mum a glass of water as she struggled in the heat. She never let it stop her though, we went to town on the bus, I played in the paddling pool and she took me to swimming lessons, all without a car.

If the baby had been a girl, I was allowed to pick the name – I chose Louise. Gavin was always going to be the name for a boy.

On the date the baby was due, I ran home after getting off the school bus at lunchtime, bursting through the front door shouting “Is the baby here?!” My mum, who looked about ready to pop, was standing calmly at the hob cooking my lunch. It was three days later that my dad woke me up in what appeared to be the middle of the night (6am) and told me I was going to stay with the next-door neighbours while they went to the hospital. I was super excited.

Later in the day, I was taken to my Nana’s house and then my uncle dropped me off at a friend’s roller disco party. Did I want to roller skate? Did I heck! I wanted to see my new sibling and my mum and dad. I went back to my Nana’s, had dinner and my dad rang to say my mum had been put on a drip. I remember bursting into tears as I thought that meant she was going to die. I was only six, remember. I watched ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ with my Nana and, at nine twenty pm, my dad rang to tell me I had a baby brother. I sat on my Nana’s knee and cried with pride.

The next day, my dad and I bought a little blue teddy bear and I was introduced to my brother. He had a shock of black, spiky hair and he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Tactfully, I asked my mum if she “still had another one in there” as we left. I went to school on the Monday morning but was allowed to go home at lunchtime to bring my mum and the baby home from hospital.

From then on, I wanted to hold my brother. I think initially I was disappointed that all he did was eat, sleep and cry but I liked to help feed him, bathe him and so on. On a Saturday morning, I would prop him up against a cushion on the sofa and make him watch the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ cartoon and yell to my mum “Look Mam, he likes it” despite the fact all he could probably see at that time was the colours.

As my brother got older, he became far more rambunctious than I had ever been. He climbed everywhere. He was irrepressible and remains so to this day. He was obsessed with Fireman Sam, asking my dad every weekend to take him to the local fire station to see the engines. He loved tractors, buses and the Lion King.

Throughout Gavin’s life, his hearing hasn’t been the best and so he has provided us with a lot of laughs. “Optician by Calvin Klein” was one of his gems.

Gavin and I are so different in many ways, he’s gregarious and an all-rounder. At school, lessons came so easily to him – no matter what the subject. He’s so popular and I have never met someone who didn’t like him and rightly so. My brother has grown into a man to be proud of.

Gavin is a guy who loves being with people, he loves partying and is a total hedonist but he is also a thoughtful, caring soul. He still gives us hugs and spends time with the family.

I am so grateful for the relationship I have with him. We still go to concerts together and I enjoy the time I spend in his company.

When he was young, I was the protective Mother Hen but now it works both ways. I know so many siblings who, for many reasons, don’t get along and I am so happy that our relationship has always been good. We do have spats – who doesn’t? – but I know that I could not ask for a better brother.

I am so proud to say he’s my brother.

Vic x

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Mexican Night

So, I have kept you all waiting to hear how my Mexican Experiment went on Tuesday evening. Don’t fear, I haven’t been avoiding you – nor have I had food poisoning.

My Mexican night was a resounding success. So much so that I barely had time to take photos! My quesadillas were lovely and my brother told me I had made perfect potato wedges: “Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside”. What a compliment!

Unfortunately, though, my mum has it in her head that I am a better cook than she is and is now pestering me to cook more often! So, I am a victim of my own success.

Vic x

Going where I’ve never gone before…

Tomorrow, at the grand old age of twenty-seven years, seven months and four days old I shall attempt something I have never done before. I am cooking the family meal. Ok, of course, I’ve made salads, beans on toast, cheese toasties and even the odd jacket potato but tomorrow I am planning something major: Mexican night!

Usually, if I eat Mexican it’s at a restaurant or The Boy Wonder cooks for me. I know, I’m a lucky girl. Tomorrow, though, I’m taking it upon myself to cook for my mum, dad and younger brother. Now, many of you who read this blog will know that not only am I a picky eater but I am not a domestic goddess. I prefer to spend my time constructively – reading!

So, what’s on the menu?

Well, fajitas. And the worrying thing is, every time someone has attempted to make fajitas in our house for the last twelve months, it has appeared to be the catalyst for some argument in our house. So it is with double trepidation that I plan to cook them. Pray for no conflict! Sadly my brother refuses to eat peppers or onions so that will mean cooking them separately from the chicken. I feel argumentative already….!

Also, I intend to make my own potato wedges. Risky, I know seeing as I am not a domestic goddess in the least. Having been given instructions by TBW, what could possibly go wrong? 

I’m also going to make some cheesy nachos and attempt to make quesadillas.

This experiment is mainly because I fancy a Mexican tomorrow but I know my family will be waiting with bated breath. And possibly the takeaway on speed dial…

Vic x

My Dad, my hero

As it’s Father’s Day this weekend, I’d like to take this opportunity to gush about my dad, just a little.

My dad is an inspiration to me. He wasn’t born into a life of privilege and wealth, he was the youngest of four children and lived in a pretty poor area, on the bread line all of his childhood. From the stories my grandmother told, my dad was a character in his youth, always leading his brother and sisters into trouble. My dad’s dad was a signalman on the railways and was very strict, my dad was often made to stand out in the hallway during mealtimes because he’d flicked peas at one of his siblings. Another thing that annoyed his father was his habit of singing at the top of his voice despite his father having been on night-shift.

During his childhood, my dad got into a lot of scrapes – in the ‘Oor Wullie’ sense – and frequently went among the missing. He saw the world as his playground – whether it was quarries, disused air raid shelters or some other forbidden place.

He wasn’t interested in education; when asked at school aged thirteen what he planned to do, he said leave as early as possible and get a job. Between then and leaving at fifteen, he was left to his own devices as the teachers weren’t interested in someone who wasn’t going to sit exams. It wasn’t that he wasn’t intelligent, he just had no use for academia. He wanted to be out in the world, earning money.

After leaving school he got a job and since then he has gradually risen through the ranks. He is now in a position that he – and his teachers – would never have believed possible. My dad is the poster boy for starting at the bottom and working your way up. He doesn’t have an O-Level to his name but he has far surpassed any expectations of him. My dad is an example of what you can achieve with hard work and dedication.

From the moment I was old enough to walk, I became my dad’s little shadow, a tomboy in the making. I remember building snowmen in the garden, finding creepy crawlies, helping him grow veg in his green-house, playing football and him teaching me to ride my bike.

Once, aged 11, I’d arranged with my cousin to watch a live Bon Jovi concert from a vantage point near Gateshead stadium but 2 days before the gig, I had my ankle put in plaster. I sat moping about at home until my dad said “Come on then” and drove me to sit in the car and listen to the gig. I may not have seen them but it was such a kind thing of him to do.

When I was learning to drive, he sat beside me for hours on end, trawling the north-east and getting practice before my test. As he became more confident in my driving, he’d let me put some music on and even one day wrote a sign saying “Help!” and held it up at passing pedestrians.

I have so many great memories. Like the time he drove me and two friends to Manchester to see Bon Jovi. He said he’d just find a restaurant and do some work while we went to the gig. Five minutes after the concert started, I got a text through from my dad saying “Got in for a fiver!” We’d paid £40 each. He still chuckles about that even now.

He gets angry if he goes past his usual ‘feeding time’ and when I was a teenager he used to accuse me of playing “psychological mind games” because I would come in, drunk, and inevitably make a lot of noise. He’s been a taxi driver and a bank, he’s spent countless hours in A&E departments. He’s been to swimming galas and football matches and he only ever missed one parents evening in the whole time me and my brother were at school – and that was because he was working away.

My dad, and my mum, have given me everything I ever wanted. I could not have wished for better parents.

Neither one of them stayed at school beyond compulsory schooling but they have encouraged and supported me every step of the way. From helping me with my reading and testing me on my spellings, they’ve been there. “As long as you’ve tried your best” still remains one of their favourite sayings. When I decided to quit a lucrative banking job to do a degree, my dad wasn’t overly happy. He thought I should follow his example and work my way up but when I made my decision, he supported it. And there was no-one happier on graduation day than my dad.

My dad is one of the earliest examples of ‘the new man’, he will do anything in the house. And when raising me and my brother, he had as much input as my mum. Both of my parents have showered us with love and affection; every night before bed even now, they say “Goodnight, love you.”

I don’t mean to make us sound like ‘The Waltons’, we’re not. We argue, we have disagreements and we fall out with each other. But I know that if I had a real problem, my parents (and my little brother) would be there for me.

My dad has had such a massive impact on my life. I’ve got his sense of humour, his love of films and, although I’m loath to admit it, I look just like him. I could sit with him for hours, watching ‘Bang, Bang it’s Reeves and Mortimer’ chuckling away while my mum looks on nonplussed.

He’s still an adventurer, he likes to go to new places and he often remarks he can’t believe how far he’s come in life – from quarries and air-raid shelters to America and the Caribbean. My dad is proof that the nice guy doesn’t always finish last – sometimes he deservedly comes first.

Happy Father’s Day.

Vic x

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…..

But I think it is worth so much more.

Tonight, The Boy Wonder and I have been looking through photos from our childhoods. And what a pleasant evening it’s been. I’ve seen both myself and TBW as babies tonight, did I need anymore assistance in feeling broody?! No!

Last week, TBW’s granddad was showing me photos from several generations earlier which I thought it was mindblowing. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved looking at photographs. Perhaps it’s the innate desire inside me to know the stories behind the pictures. I now take pictures as inspiration, so if I see something unusual or unique I can capture it and hopefully a story will come from there.

Looking through those photo albums, arranged by his parents, made me think of all the things we forget with the passing of time. Lots of people don’t remember their childhoods very well. My earliest memory is from about age 2 which is quite unusual.

When I was younger, I used to have a photographic memory; you could literally take me somewhere new, in a part of the country I’d never been before, but if we made the same journey a year later I could tell you exactly how to get there again. That, sadly, has faded somewhat with age although not entirely.

After looking at the photos tonight, I think it’s important to make a note of where, when and with whom the photos are taken – these things are all too easily forgotten and what a real pity that is.

Photos are also a really useful tool if you live away from your family or want to jog someone’s memory.

Looking at those photos, from my christening (as a baby) up until my holiday to Oman earlier this year really perked me up. What wonderful times I’ve had.

I could wax lyrical for hours about how beautiful The Hot Springs in Nakhal, Oman are or I could just post a picture and I know you will understand immediately.

Vic x