Goodbye Mum

    always hope banksy

    always hope banksy


    Originally posted on A Residence blog – comments have not been carried over

    After I posted that my mum was going into a hospice I recieved so many words of support, here and in my offline life, all of them perfect in their own way, despite people’s pleas that they didn’t know what to say. Thank you.

    My amazing mum died in the hospice on Thursday 27th January 2011.  She was peaceful and we were with her.  The hospice was amazing, mum’s care was fantastic, but they also care for relatives too.  It doesn’t make it less sad, but it makes it calmer.

    I could write a million blog posts on the experiences of the last few weeks, one will never do it justice.

    My mum was amazing and inspirational. She was so thoughtful, so interested in everyone she met. She was so positive despite cancer. She taught me a million and one things which I’ve been scribbling down furiously.

    My friend sent me this Banksy as a card, its the image my parents also sent me for my birthday card last year (cool parents huh?)  It reminded me my mum used to read to me from a book about a French boy with a magic red ballon. It’s a book based on a film from her child hood.  I read it to her last week.  At the end the little boy floats off in a bunch of ballons.

    I wish I could give the four year old this image of Gran drifting away in a bunch of ballons, but I read up and everything points to honesty.  We read Goodbye Mousie and Always and Forever.  Miss L is stunning us all with her understanding and sensitivity.  I’m not sure about taking her to the funeral (a humanist ceremony) but I know she needs something.  I would love to hear about any experiences with this age group.

    One of the things my mum taught me was the importance of rites of passage, that I could create my own ceremonies and rituals if I wanted.  I didn’t want to go to my PGCE degree ceremony after feeling like part of a herd of cattle at my first degree ceremony.  Instead we walked on Devil’s Dyke and she made me a daisy chain headdress and told me how proud she was.  Little things like that keep popping into my head, reminding me what an absolutely amazing woman she was.

    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart,
    and you shall see that in truth you are weeping

    for that which has been your delight.Kahil Gibran

    Bewilderwood – probably the best family adventure

    This weekend we found Bewilderwood, just outside Norwich.  We had the best family day out we have ever had.


    Bewilderwood adventure park is 50 acres of forest filled with zip wires, treehouses, climbing frames, dens, a maze, storytelling, boat trips and general magic. The Observer voted it one of the 50 best places to visit in the world. The best bit is nearly everything can be done as a family. All four of us were able to climb safely through the trees together, even my son who was 20 months.

    None of those silly theme park situations where one child is 5cm too small for a ride so throws a huge tantrum. Wholesome outdoor family fun. And it is designed to have a very light environmental impact. What more do you need? My son is as fearless and nimble as a mountain goat.  This was his paradise. In fact we have become accustomed to parents using him as an example to chivvy their offspring:

    ‘Look that little boy isn’t scared!’ remarked a dad as he tried to cajoule his daughter across a rope bridge.

    ‘No’, I wanted to say, ‘He has no fear, but that in itself is utterly terrifying’.

My son of course wanted nothing to do with the mini toddler play areas.  But to be fair the design of the rope bridges makes it safe and achieveable even for someone as tiny as him.  He was so determined he even began to hit the older kids who tried to overtake him.

I can’t tell you how magic it felt to be all experiencing the rope bridges, walkways and treehouses together as a family.  And it was only a little bit scary for adults.  At the highest point of our ascent I glanced down and was reminded of a collumn I read recently, by Tim Dowling, about his phobia about his kids being loose in high places which I can relate to.  I also remembered my OH going very pale coming down from a very high tower in Prague.

‘Have you looked down’ I ventured gently to my OH.


‘And you’re okay with it?’


Huge relief, couldn’t have carried two kids and a husband, whereas guiding one kid each was lovely.  We also forgot the pushchair which was very liberating.  Just the four of us and a rucksack running here there and everywhere without having to continually repark the old Maclaren.   My son got so much more out of the day for being free.

I was totally bewitched by the storytelling element.  Bewilderwood was created by local author Tom Blofeld and as you enter the forest there are lovely touches like tiny socks hanging in the trees and minature houses belonging to the creatures who inhabit the wood, the Twiggles.  The Borrowers was my favourite book as a child so this little world captured my imagination instantly.   The storytelling continues with book extracts on plaques near each section of the park  which we we enjoyed sharing with my daughter.

She loved pretending to be Dora and Diego crossing rope bridges.  She enjoyed hunting down coloured wooden butterflies hidden around the park in order to win a prize at the end of the day.  The interactive storytelling sessions had her hooked too and she was up on stage in seconds helping to tell a story.

Bewilderwood even has an area of woodland designed for den building.  Lots of competitive dad behaviour being exhibited in this area.  As soon as one family bid farewell to their creation, a swarm of dads descended in order to collect enough sticks to make their den truly monumental.  Ours was no exception.  Well, considering we have two little children with small attention spans and limited log carrying capacity, it was an achievement.

We caught the boat back to the car park, the only thing we had to queue for.  But worth it as my son learnt a new word and entertained us shouting ‘boat’ every time one came in sight and my daughter made up stories about the crocodile in the lake.  And my OH and I had time to reflect on a really meaningful day out.  Something shifted for us at Bewilderwood.  Time slowed down and we caught this magical glimpse of where our kids are now and where family life is heading next.  Let the story continue…

Top tips – Buy the books before hand to really fire children’s imaginations on your visit.  Food is good and wholesome fare but picnic spots are also lovely.  Save the boat trip for the journey back to the carpark when everyone’s tired. Play as a family!  Bewilderwood