Maturing with Age

Vintage Port

The run up to Christmas is always a busy time of year for many people, but in our house especially so, with three out of the four of us having birthdays from mid November onwards.  Of particular significance this year is my middle daughter who recently turned 18.

Happy birthday Lizzie!

We had a fabulous celebration – family and friends met in the local pub so Lizzie could buy them her first (legal!) drink then went back to ours for a bite to eat and to continue the celebrations.  Her big sister baked an amazing chocolate birthday cake in the shape of a guitar, in recognition of one of Lizzie’s many talents. (In fact, my eldest daughter has her own talents, apart from cake making, which can be seen at her Dead to Me boutique!)

Hand made chocolate birthday cake

Tasted as delicious as it looked!

The occasion also meant sharing a bit of a treat we have been waiting almost 18 years to indulge in.

When Elizabeth Maura was baptised, she was given a gift of three bottles of vintage ruby port by a couple of her Dad’s friends, ones that we hoped would stand the test of time and mature with age.

So, under the stairs for the past (almost) 18 years have been laid two bottles of Croft and one bottle of Feuerheerd, both a 1985 vintage, the year Lizzie was born.  For the  occasion, we bought a special wine decanting funnel, with a sieve and some muslin, with the added intention of documenting the momentous event in pictures.

Vintage Port

Vintage port gathering dust for 18 years

But like so many things in life, it didn’t quite go to plan!

A call earlier in the day from my youngest’s school following a crack to the head while rushing out of the last lesson, meant that I spent the early part of the evening escorting my blood covered son first to our GP surgery and then to the local Accident and Emergency department at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.  To be honest, I wouldn’t normally opt for A&E, which is why I went to see the GP nurse first, but all she was able to do was wind a bandage round his head and suggest I take him to the hospital, to be on the safe side!  And while I was expecting a long wait and the possibility of missing the evening’s celebrations, I was pleasantly impressed by the service we received, and the fact he is a youngster meant we were triaged in the children’s A&E straight away.  The treatment he received was first class and thorough too, having lots of tests for any signs of brain damage before having his head wound glued.  The NHS at it’s best in my opinion. The only downside for him was not being able to play sport for a week while the glue dried, not to mention being banned from washing his hair!

So while I was away on ambulance duty, my husband set about decanting the port – we chose one of the two Croft bottles, and by all accounts it went pretty well, apart from the cork disintegrating and the bottle having its fair share of sludge! It was eventually left in a decanter to settle.  Sadly, no photographs to record the event.

Croft 1985 Vintage Port, opened after 18 years

(Spot the mid-November Mo!)

Finally arriving late to the pub to join the others, we headed home, ordered far too much pizza, before embarking on the port tasting ritual.  And actually, it was rather good!

Quite delicious and perfectly accompanied by a variety of cheese and biscuits, the port was soft, smooth, rich and fruity, in a subtle and mature way.

I’d like to think those attributes apply similarly to Lizzie, either now or in the future and we will see how that pans out in three years time when we sample the next bottle as Lizzie turns 21.

A father and daughter moment

A hug from Dad

But for now the celebrations are over and it’s time for Lizzie to knuckle down to some serious study and, with our support, help her achieve the much needed A level grades to obtain her University place of choice.  And therein lies another tale…..

Child cruelty in the name of religion

To Train Up a Child

One of my favourite bloggers @adadcalledspen has recently blogged about a book called ‘To Train Up a Child‘.  It sounds harmless enough, another handy parenting manual full of useful bits of advice any new parent might seek when facing the daunting prospect of caring for a baby for the first time.  I remember reading ‘Toddler Taming’ when I was in that position many moons ago.

To Train Up a Child

Michael Pearl with his god fearing advice!

A parenting manual this might claim to be, but ‘To Train Up a Child’ is not all it seems.  Written by American husband and wife team Michael and Debi Pearl, what is startling about their parental guidance is the way they endorse the use of physical violence towards children, as part of a training regime.  And this is all carried out in the name of religion, a brand known as Christian Fundamentalism, and through their No Greater Joy missionaries.  Now I’m now expert in the various religions, but I am struggling to believe that any religion advocates the use of violence towards innocent children.

I read the free sample pages of the book from iTunes, I wanted to get some insight into the book.  Even in those limited pages I was shocked and saddened.  Comparing the ‘training’ of children to the training of animals, dogs, mules and horses.  Do the Pearl’s really put children and animals in the same category?  But the bit that really got me was the matter-of-fact way they advocate pulling a nursing baby’s hair while it is feeding, because the baby has bitten at the mother’s breast.  There is a technique to these things, and why should an innocent baby suffer because the mother isn’t able to get it right?  I didn’t get it right, it’s not easy, and I gave up after a short while and moved on to formula.

Spencer is calling for the book, in all its forms, to be withdrawn from sale.  But are we on dangerous territory when we call for books to be withdrawn?  Are we on dodgy ground when we are effectively calling for the censoring of freedom of speech?  Actually, in this case, I would say no! This book is dangerous.  It has already been cited in the deaths of four children in the United States, and what the Pearls are advocating is illegal.  It is assault, child cruelty, child abuse, call it what you like, it is against the law!  I cannot imagine why any civilised country would believe that beating up innocent children is OK, so why should a book extolling the virtues of such practices be allowed to remain on sale?

But don’t take mine or Spencer’s word for it.  You can read the full transcript of the book here.  And you can visit Spencer’s blog @adadcalledspen for more background and information about the campaign, which is gaining more and more momentum.  His blogs give ideas about what we can do to help with the campaign, including signing this petition to have the book withdrawn from sale in all its forms.

Thanks to Spencer for bringing this scandal to our attention. And thanks to him also for finding this little gem of a clip!

They grow up so fast


Blue DayA few days ago I thought my 12 year old son had a cold, but it turns out that his voice is breaking!  I don’t know why the possibility of this happening hadn’t occurred to me, for a long time he has delighted in the fact that he was getting  as tall as me, until recently when he overtook me.  Not that there is anything super human in that, I’m only 5 ft 2 inches tall! But it meant a great deal to him and now I am the shortest person in the family.

Another tell tale sign that passed me by is his feet – he’s getting through shoes and socks like nobody’s business, even making an allowance for his unclipped toenails! And now I have the smallest feet in the family.

And another clear sign is that for a very long time he has not wanted me to wash his hair in the bath, and last time I did, he was most definitely doing all he could to hide his ‘bits’, only allowed in the bathroom when he was properly submerged under the water, with strategically placed bubbles.

On the day of him returning to school after the summer holidays, my little boy is growing up and turning onto a man.  As I write I’m welling up at the thought that my youngest child is moving rapidly away from needing me to do things for him (making the distinction between need and want I hasten to add!).  I well up with these thoughts quite often, and always when I watch old video footage of my children, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star together, or faces covered in chocolate during a feeding frenzy, or screams of delight running and chasing around the garden and jumping in an out of the paddling pool.

Simple things.  They get to you.  Where does the time go?

But I do have those cherished memories, and they mean the world to me.  He will soon be 13 – a teenager God help us!  I do wonder what life has in store for him……..

But for the moment there remains one last thing that reminds me he loves me as much as I love him, and that is the hugs he throws at me when he sees me.  He’s still my little boy after all –  just for now, but not in front of his mates!