Christmas Bits and Bobs

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but the run up is a long one. We had nursery and school fayres in mid-November, and the shops have been Christmassy since the start of October. I think we’re in danger of losing some of the magic. However, there’re certain things that we do that are simple, which the kids really enjoy and that don’t break the bank.

The advent calendars

The Nutcracker Advent Storybook Set2

We are starting to get a collection. My eldest daughter Sofia was bought a big felt one that you hang on the wall and has 24 little pockets to stuff treats into. It’s already a tradition, and it’s an exciting thing when it comes out of the loft. Then came the Victorian Townhouse 3D calendar, which I got from a friend who was a Phoenix Trading representative. Fantastically, they have three in the range now, so each year, for the past couple of years, I’ve got the Townhouse, Department Store and Bakery for the three girls. Amazingly we haven’t had arguments about who has which!

Then this year came the birthday present keepsake for Sofia from The Bristol Parent: The Nutcracker storybook set and advent calendar. It is truly beautiful. There are 24 little books, which retell the complete story. Even better, they have little cords attached so you can hang them on the tree. This will be coming out year after year, and I’m hoping that it’s something she can eventually pass on.

The Christmas books

We already had Santa is Coming to London, and as a Londoner I loved it. However, we now live in Surrey. So when out on my one and only (quite short, due to school run) Christmas shop, I was very excited to see the Santa is Coming to Surrey hardback for the bargain price of £4.99. Reading about local landmarks with a Christmas theme equals much excitement!!

He also visits Leeds...

He also visits Leeds…

Sofia was bought the wonderful Usborne book Christmas Decorations to Cut, Fold & Stick as a birthday present. She absolutely adores it. She has just turned six and was able to do it completely independently. I will be buying another one next year!

The arts and crafts

Paper chainsThe twins’ nursery fayre was a bit short on Christmas decs, so we got going on making paper chains with random coloured strips of old wrapping paper and drawing paper that we had in the art box. They loved doing it so much I bought this great festive paper chain kit from John Lewis (which is now reduced to clear). Lovely quality, thick paper; dotted lines to show where to cut and little sticky dots to hold the links together. It also includes a penguin design. Ahh Monty.


Paper plate angelsA cute activity that the girls really enjoyed doing. There are quite a few variations on the ‘paper plate’ angel. This is probably the simplest.

Take one white paper plate, cut out a V-shaped section, which is just under a quarter of the plate and attach at the bottom. Then decorate.


This a three-year-old’s work-in-progress. The glitter hasn’t been added yet and it has a weird facial expression, but apart from that…

Glitter pine conesThis has to be one of the easiest (and cheapest) craft activities ever. Forage for a few pinecones, daub with PVA glue and dunk in glitter. Then simply attach a sparkly pipe cleaner or ribbon and voila a Christmas tree decoration.

Remembrance baubleSofia goes to an after school club that’s run by one of our local churches. The other week we were asked to email over a picture of someone that our family would like to remember. A week later the children (with some help I’m guessing) had made them into a bauble. These are now adorning one of the trees that they’ve put up in the church. I thought that it was a really lovely idea.


Your child could also draw a nice picture to go in there.

A quick Google has thrown up a pack of four create your own baubles for £9.99, but eBay has quite a few options also.

More tree decs - we visited a Christmas fayre and there was a nice DIY craft stand. For £2.50, we got plain flat wooden decorations that the kids could customise with glitter and all manner of gems and sparkles. Sofia (seen here showcasing her effort along with an angel made from the Usborne book) certainly got her money’s worth. Now pride of place on the tree.


Personalised Christmas cards

My Mother-in-Law bought each of the girls Lets Colour In Kids Personalised Xmas Cards. They come as a pack of five, have each of their names on the front, and as the name suggests, they need colouring in. They are a bargain at £1.80 a pack.

The National Trust visit

I’m always talking about the National Trust. They do Christmas very well. Today we went to Polesden Lacey. The house was beautifully decked out as part of its A Christmas Advent’ event, which celebrates the countdown to Christmas in true Edwardian style.

Twenty-four festive scenes and traditional activities celebrate the advent. We loved looking around the house again but this time with the Christmas theme. Sofia loved doing the trail of all things Christmassy, they all got the chance to decorate one of the trees and also write and post a letter to Father Christmas. Then there was a little present each before a carriage ride around the grounds, pulled by horses that were dressed as reindeer. More details of the many Christmas events going on can be found hereIMG_3700




Woodland walks, ticks and recognising Lyme disease

We’ve had a very busy half-term holiday and have visited lots of places. One place was The Vyne, a National Trust venue near Basingstoke in Hampshire, which was stunning and had so much for the children to do.

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We met up with family and had a great time exploring the very extensive woodland (where we found our first geocache), the walled garden, house and chapel, and having a nice long walk around the ornamental lake. I’d thoroughly recommend visiting.

The day after our visit one of my daughters told me they had a spider on their arm. I took a look and saw a weird black spot on the inside of her elbow. I tried to rub it off but it didn’t budge. I kept picking, but then was concerned that maybe I was actually scratching off a mole. Then the thing came off. I put it on some white paper and discovered it had legs!! I immediately took a photo. I wasn’t sure what it was and whether it was something I needed to be concerned about,  so I consulted the Oracle that is Facebook, and my friends immediately responded. It was unanimous: it was a tick. Everyone said I should get it checked out, as without using a proper removal tool I may have left part of the tick in her skin and this would be bad. This site has some very useful information about proper removal and dos and don’ts.

Not the best pic, but you get the idea

Not the best pic, but you get the idea

The doctor took my call very seriously and we went the same day. He couldn’t ascertain whether I had removed the whole thing or not. He said I needed to be very vigilant and had to look out for a ‘target/bullseye rash’ which expands radially from the site of the tick bite, and which can occur from two to 30 days after the initial bite. This is a symptom of Lyme disease. Other early symptoms could include a fever and fatigue.


An example of the ‘target/bullseye rash’


A more comprehensive symptom checklist can be found at the Children’s Lyme Disease Network.

He didn’t want to give a course of antibiotics unecessarily as a precaution, but said that if she experienced any symptoms to go back immediately and then antibiotics would be administered. So right now we’re applying Savlon and keeping a very close eye.

Do as I say, not as I do

I’ve actually realised, I don’t always lead by example. The top 10 things I tell the children to do/not do, but which I’m actually guilty of myself :-(


1) Don’t get up from the table until you’ve finished

2) Don’t play with your toys at the dinner table – I check texts and emails on my phone (aka toy) at the table. What a TERRIBLE habit 

3) Finish one thing before you start another

4) Take that pen out of your mouth –  There isn’t a pen in the house that is in tact or doesn’t have drool coming out of it when you try to write. Euggh! It’s not the kids, it’s me 

5) Don’t bite your toothbrush – Similarly, I’m always chomping on my toothbrush and  have to buy a new one every few weeks

6) Put your shoes on whenever you go outside – In summer I’m forever wandering outside barefoot

7) Don’t interrupt each other

8) Sit properly in your chair

9) Don’t shush each other, it’s not nice 

10) Don’t have a snack so close to dinner 

Something for me to think about and which I will address. I hope I’m not alone. Anyone else guilty…?

The Lego Movie: A review

I loved Lego as a child, and now my children have inherited my collection I’m loving it all over again, so I jumped at the chance to see The Lego Movie on DVD when offered to send it to me for review.


The plot:

Emmet, a generic, instruction-following Lego figure, is mistakenly identified as the extraordinary ‘special’ one of a prophecy, who can save the world from the evil Lord Business. Lord Business is infiltrating every part of the Lego people’s lives from making the Lego instructions they follow, to selling the coffee they drink and making the TV programmes they watch. His ultimate plan is to glue every piece of Lego where he wants it so no one can ever move out of place again.

Will Emmet – with the help of his comrades – prove to be the unlikely hero?

What we thought:

A classic tale of good fighting evil and finding your inner ‘special’ qualities (even if they are well hidden), this Universal film is visually brilliant. My five-year-old and twins (who are nearly three) immediately got excited about the sight of all the Lego and found it funny from the start despite a lot of the humour being targeted at adults. It’s a great nostalgia trip for the older audience, but also relevant and instantly recognisable to a young audience.

There’s plenty of action and different Lego realms to entertain as well as a romantic sub-plot and plenty of laughs. Lego cameos from a host of well-known characters such as Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Superman, which are coupled with wonderfully-casted voice overs from the likes of Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Will Ferrell and Jonah Hill add to the movie’s charms.

My husband particularly liked the ‘Face Off’ scene with Good Cop/Bad Cop (you’ll have to watch it to understand) and got all misty-eyed over a spaceship the characters built: it was just the same as the ones he used to build.

I thought it was a bit slow to get started and about 10-15 minutes too long, but it made for very enjoyable viewing, had a happy ending and was well-received by my five-year-old who was entertained throughout. The twins were probably a little young for it, so did get a bit restless towards the end, but I would have expected that with any film. Be warned… “Everything is Awesome” will be your new ear worm.

Good, clean, family fun.


The lunchbox (debate) has landed – again

In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s back to school and back to the same old news stories. Packed lunches are back in the press.

I do a lot of home cooking with fresh ingredients, avoid salt and sugar where possible and provide plenty of fruit and veg when catering for my children. In fact, tonight they had a minestrone that included tomatoes, cabbage, celery, carrots, potatoes and cannellini beans. However, they are allowed treats, and we do have Fish Finger days when we’re so busy doing other stuff that there simply isn’t enough time before bed to incorporate the school run, an hour-and-a-half of cooking, homework, reading, play, bath and bedtime story. All to say, they have a very good diet probably 90% of the time.


We went on a picnic today with lots of other mums and children from the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club. In my childrens’ lunch boxes there were pitas stuffed with salami and then pieces of cheddar cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, humus, carrot batons, blueberries and…dum, dum, dum cocktail sausages. Salami is fatty and salty and ditto for cocktail sausages. They love them however (as do I) but eat just as much of the good stuff as these more ‘dubious’ items. It’s about common sense and balance.  Would I have have been reprimanded about these items in a school lunch box? I doubt it. However it would have been a massive tut tut if I’d included a packet of crisps or some chocolate buttons. There is an air of double standards and nowhere more so than school dinners.

I find it rather ludicrous that there are so many guidelines about school packed lunches; the dos and don’ts.

Sofia, my eldest, has a school lunch every day. We had a talk about the catering at her school before she started. They talked about all the hidden veg they included in their meals, and it was apparent they provided many healthy items. However, alongside the virtuous stuff, there are puddings such as arctic roll, chocolate brownie and choc ice. There’s also a decent smattering of burgers, pizza and chips on the menu. I haven’t ascertained whether the latter have ever been served together. This would obviously be sacrilege to an Italian (well half Italian) and definitely not the healthiest. I don’t demand that all sweet items or potato-based products are removed from the dinner menu as I know, on the whole, the school dinners are balanced, nutritious and varied. I also know that they are supplemented at home with very good meals most of the time. So why is it acceptable to be reprimanded about the odd packet of Pom-Bears? I’m pretty sure that very few children are being sent to school with nothing but a can of Coke and a few sweets in their lunch boxes. As the fussiest of eaters as a child and very thin, my mum was always delighted if I’d scoffed a Cadbury’s Flake alongside a triangle of sandwich.

My children have some choices regarding food and on quite a few occasions the opportunity to have something they consider a treat – I think it’s important and part of childhood. Do they sit all day mainlining Haribo and Fruit Shoots? No (well apart from when we had ‘movie day’ so that my husband and I could decorate the spare room in a day without childcare)! They LOVE fruit and will always go and help themselves to some from the fruit bowl if they’re feeling peckish (it’s their first port of call for a snack), but equally will pounce on a biscuit if it’s offered. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Common sense and balance…

The one with the noisy toddler and the pub argument

We’d been out and about meeting people and running errands and it was lunch time. Instead of driving back home with hungry children, I decided to treat us all to a pub lunch in a pub renowned for being family-friendly.

The novelty of the summer holidays is wearing off for the girls and they’re going through a highly competitive stage, which can mean arguing about ‘who spotted something first’ (in this case the bell behind the bar) or about who receives or finishes their drink first. However, aside from a couple of very minor things, which I quickly nipped in the bud, they were actually very good and that’s always a relief when I’m outnumbered 3:1.

Fruit Shoots, ice-cream and a glass of wine. Guaranteed lunchtime harmony. Not recommended by Gina Ford.

Fruit Shoots, ice-cream and a glass of wine. Guaranteed lunchtime harmony. Not recommended by Gina Ford.

All was going very well but then started some VERY loud screaming from a toddler on another table. The screaming went on, and on, and on. My three were asking me lots of questions about it.

I’m under no illusions; I know that my daughters’ behaviour isn’t impeccable at all times, but the continued screaming was making me feel uncomfortable and if it was me in that situation I’d have taken my child outside if they were making all that noise. In fact, there was a period of about three months, when the twins had just turned two, when we just didn’t take them to restaurants, pubs etc. My eldest was fine, but they wouldn’t stay put in a high chair and they couldn’t be entertained with colouring or drawing. They just wanted to run around. We knew it would be hugely stressful for us (and not relaxing or a treat in any way) and annoying to fellow diners, so we just didn’t do it. It was a stage. We accepted it and then tried dining out when we felt that it would be nice for all of us. When we did, it was a lot better and much more fun.

After what seemed a long time, someone complained (not me by the way). The mother was discreetly spoken to by the staff, who – from what I can gather – asked if she could take her child outside until she calmed down. The mother totally erupted and said she wouldn’t take her child outside, she said her daughter wanted to be held the entire time and that she didn’t give in to that as she was strict with her child. I admired her stance (I too don’t like to give in to demands from the kids), but the 15-month-old girl really was making lunchtime a very unenjoyable experience for everyone else.

The mother then went on what could only be described as a bit of a rampage. She wrongly accused a group of women, who were trying to eat their lunch, of making the complaint (it was in fact one of two businessmen that were having a lunchtime meeting that had). She demanded to know if they were mothers and what they would have done. She didn’t let it lie and got really stuck in with them. At this point the manager stepped in and asked her to stop harassing customers.

It was all rather awkward. She didn’t give in to her toddler’s attention-seeking behaviour, but she did heavily impact the dining experience of everyone else in the pub for the worse.

What would you have done?

Priory Farm in Surrey – a great day out

Today we had a meet up with some of my daughter’s classmates. We tried somewhere new: Priory Farm in Nutfield, Surrey.


Having been to a soft play venue yesterday, which cost £37 for five of us, it was very nice to go somewhere with a modest entry price of £2.50 per person. This gave us entry to the Discovery Walk with nature trail sheet. An ample bag of food to feed the greedy fish we’d meet along the way cost just £1.

We went on the picture-based trail, which was suitable for our five-year-olds, but there’s also a fact-gathering trail for kids up to 12-years-old. It took us a little under two hours to complete. I had a double buggy with me for my two-year-olds (who also had a fantastic time) and had no problems pushing it around the walk. However, it was completely redundant as they ran around everywhere and never once got in it!

The children loved answering the questions about the nature and wildlife around them and there were plenty of obstacles; things to climb, jump on and off and explore. It was all quite simple but the children unanimously loved it and were completely engaged throughout.











The sunflower maze was a huge hit and actually quite a challenge.

The fish went into a frenzy (as did the kids) when we rang the bell and they knew food was coming.

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We visited the picturesque plum orchard.

The children beat the mums at tug of war (how did that happen?).

Before the mums versus children battle

Before the mums versus children battle

We saw a ‘scary’ dragon in a cave and a very big spider!

Then it was off for a picnic. We’d taken our own food (which made it an even more purse-friendly experience), but Wendy’s cabin sells a selection of food, drinks and ice cream.

After eating, the kids let off even more steam on the pirate play ship, which is situated right next to the picnic area.

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We didn’t visit the farm shop or the nursery, bakery and other businesses based on the estate,  but we’d spent a good three hours there learning and playing and it was time to go. More to explore next time…

Cheap ways to keep toddlers and school-age children entertained

I find that everyone is in a far better mood if we have a focus for each day, even if it’s just painting or making collages. During the school holidays this is even more important, as is finding cheaper ways to entertain.



Arts and crafts 

We’ve had an arts and crafts box for ages. It’s invaluable as it alleviates boredom in almost an instant. I clear it out every couple of months; throw out anything tatty and then add a few new bits and bobs such as ribbons, foil, lolly sticks, corks, paper plates and some cheap purpose bought stuff. The kids love it.

I recently discovered that big Sainsbury’s stores stock loads of really affordable arts and crafts items and sets. Stickers, sticky shapes for collages, paintbrushes, foam paint brushes and fancy pipe cleaners are all perfect fodder. You can also pick up a pack of 500 sheets of A4 printer paper for a very modest £2.50.

The girls actually love to just draw, so the cheap paper is great as they’re free to scribble to their hearts’ content. They love sticking too. However, sometimes it’s nice to have a bit more structure and to vary things a bit.

1) Pasta pictures – Great for young toddlers and older children alike. All that’s required is PVA glue, a variety of pasta shapes, paper and imagination. We create landscapes and faces.

2) Foot prints and painting on lining paper/old wrapping paper 

Best reserved for outdoors as it can be rather messy. I rolled out a long piece of wrapping paper (white side up) and then filled several plates with poster paint. They all stood in the paint and made footprint trails all along it as well as doing more conventional painting on it. I think there was something about the scale of it as well as ‘the naughtiness’ of getting paint all over their feet, which made it such fun and so appealing.

3) The cardboard box – it’s not a myth: kids really do love cardboard boxes. They’re great for developing imagination. The twins immediately jumped inside the box that I gave them. One insisted it was a pirate ship, the other that it was a rocket. I attached a paper plate with a paper fastener to make a steering wheel; it then became a car. Not only did they love playing in it, they also spent ages decorating it.

Other indoor activities

4) Tent/den building - very similar to the above in terms of ease, enjoyment and imagination development. Obviously works indoors and outdoors. A few chairs, a large sheet/s and a few clothes pegs to hold in place is all that’s required. Their usual toys and usual meals suddenly became far more exciting when used/eaten within the den.


5)  Baking – we keep it simple with biscuits and fairy cakes.  I’ve found the easiest ever recipe for biscuits on Netmums. It consists of three ingredients and works every time. Biscuit baking is well suited to the younger ones (aged two) as they are able to cream, mix and knead, and can use cookie cutters independently. After they’ve cooled we use squeezy tubes of coloured icing to decorate them. This is easier than creamy icing for cakes as it’s a lot less messy and they have much more control.

I find baking fairy cakes is far better suited to my five-year-old. This is the foolproof recipe we use: fairy cakes.

Outdoor activities

We go to lots of outdoor venues (weather permitting), but the most cost-effective thing we have done on this front is join the National Trust. With membership, we just jump in the car and go without worrying about admission prices or parking tariffs. There are almost always craft activities to do indoors and there are usually family tours of the houses with dressing up etc, but aside from that it’s all about being outdoors, spotting things, doing nature trails, running, jumping, picnicking… Check out their 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ for more inspiration.

Specifically for the toddlers

Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of Sure Start centres. The one we attend has had some inspired sensory activities set up; things I wouldn’t have thought of!

Here are some of our favourites:

1) Cold baked beans in a massive tray – Squelching their fingers in the sticky mess. Toddlers love it and are fascinated by the sensation.


2) Cloud Dough (sometimes called moon dough) – Made of flour and baby oil. Has a great texture, which again the kids absolutely love. Additional bonus being that your hands will be silky smooth.

3) Flat perspex shapes submerged in jelly – very messy, very fun, (who isn’t amused by wobbly jelly?) and can be eaten!

4) Cornflour, water and food colouring – This makes a wonderful gloopy mixture in a tray. It feels like plastic when you run your fingers through it. Some farmyard animals were put inside and a minty flavour was added for extra interest. The girls were a little unsure about the texture to begin with but then loved it and played for ages.

5) Hay bales – Great for imaginative play, but also great for physical play. My girls loved ripping it apart and jumping on it as well as using it creatively with toy animals. The benefits of playing with hay have recently been documented.


6) Food colouring on paper towels – A really simple idea, but literally had them engrossed for a good 45 minutes. The centre had set up a number of beakers filled up with water and different colours of food colouring alongside pipettes. The children simply used the pipettes to suck up some of the coloured liquid and squirt it onto the towel. It blotted and made great patterns. They were fascinated.

What activities would you recommend? I’d love to hear some more suggestions.

When tastes clash – decorating a 5-year-old’s room

My good friend and fellow blogger Eleanor recently wrote a post about creating a new bedroom for a one-year-old. She was worried about foisting her own tastes, likes and interests on her young daughter when decorating the space.

I have had the opposite problem whilst decorating my five-year-old daughter’s room. Sofia had very definite ideas about what she wanted. For Sofia, like for Aerosmith, pink is the love she’s discovered. I hate pink (and frilliness; I’m more a minimalist kind of a person). We compromised on a vibrant purple, Sofia’s joint – well maybe second – favourite colour and something that didn’t make me heave. We put down a  wooden floor and have white plantation shutters on order, so it’s fairly neutral.

Then it’s all been about clever detailing, so that we’re both happy with the look and the room has a long enough shelf-life, but can easily be adapted along the line.


We got a white wooden mid sleeper cabin bed, which has a play tent and pull out desk with DSCN6576book shelf. It’s very versatile and the idea is that it’ll grow with her. At the moment she doesn’t use the desk, but uses the play tent. I’m sure the opposite will be true in a few years, and at that point we can dispense of the tent and add another mattress underneath for sleepovers (by the way Sofia has been badgering me about sleepovers since she was four. I’m sure I was about 12 before I slept over at a friends’). Similarly at the moment Sofia has a bed set with butterflies on, which could be changed later on for a more grown up look. It’s a great bed, the only downside is, it’s a bugger to make as the duvet doesn’t fit well within the frame; probably why the promotional shots don’t have a bed spread on.

We also got a white bookcase from Vertbaudet, which looks good in the room and has very handy, deep pull out drawers on wheels at the bottom, which are perfect for storing bits and bobs, as are the little compartments.

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Sofia loves butterflies (and fairies), so I also got a butterfly rug to put by the ladder. It gives the room a cosier feel as a wooden floor can look a bit cold.

Continuing the butterfly theme, we got giant wall stickers from JoJo Maman Bebe. These were really good value and are actually really easy to remove (we made several mistakes when applying them!), yet stay well-attached to the wall once you have got it right. I know that we’d be able to remove them all without a problem when she grows out of them. We liked them so much in fact we ordered a second set to decorate another wall.

One of the many designs from Candy Queen Designs

One of the many designs from Candy Queen Designs

I was looking for a new light dimmer switch as the existing one is grotty and boring. I Googled fairy/butterfly light switch images and came across the fabulous Candy Queen Designs website. As the site says, light switches rarely evoke a strong reaction when it comes to style and design and often get overlooked but it’s the small details that make a difference in a room. Too right, and these are really are original and quirky, and a fantastic finishing touch. The actual switch itself  is clear resin with real candy and biscuits embedded inside!! I thought they were brilliant and immediately ordered one of the fairy designs. Sofia was absolutely thrilled with it, it arrived quickly after ordering and I received excellent customer service. After Tweeting my feedback they kindly offered to send me another one for PR purposes. I gladly accepted knowing that we’d be decorating the twins’ room next. I found a butterfly one, which I somehow missed first time around. Sofia loved this one too and had great difficulty deciding between them. She eventually went with the butterfly one as it completely matched the colours in her room and the butterfly stickers.

Sofia's fairy door

Sofia’s fairy door

Our other little finishing touch is a Fairy Doorz. These are cute, handmade,  little wooden ‘fairy’ doors, which attach to the skirting boards and can be personalised. I bought one for Sofia’s room and then decided that they’d make great gifts as well, so ordered another one.

We’ve now started on the twins’ room and again it’ll be about the details. We’ve gone for wall stickers again (see below), and of course have our fairy light switch… Their room is definitely going to be more about what I want though :-/

Flowers of Spring Wall Stickers by Djeco

Flowers of Spring Wall Stickers by Djeco in the twins’ room

Dad and I – how things have changed

To celebrate Father’s Day, I was  asked by TalkMum - the website for parents and parents-to-be -, which I blog for, to share a fatherhood memory. I thought I’d add it here too: 


From when I was born until I was 12, my dad was a manager of a very successful West End restaurant. He worked long, unsociable hours; he was that very traditional ‘provider.’ He worked hard so that my brother and I could have what we needed, and more besides. It meant I rarely saw him. He got home in the early hours and was still in bed – to just say goodbye to – when I left for school. Our Sunday’s (his day off) were sacred. We’d always do something as a family – going out for nice meals and going to St James’ Park in London for a wander and to feed the birds are things that particularly stick in my mind.

It’s safe to say that despite his unquestioned love for us, my dad had very little hands on experience of bringing us up or looking after us – he’d be the first to admit that my mum did practically all of it on her own. This is why it’s so amazing to see what a major part he plays in his grandaughters’ lives. There’s no doubt that my mum would have been a doting and fantastic granny to my children, but sadly that was never to be. She always made my dad promise that if anything ever happened to her, he’d do everything he could for my brother and I. He’s stayed true to his word and has done a fantastic job. Just one example is that, despite still working part-time, he helps me out with the morning school run every day. My mum would have been proud.

He has taken on his role as nonno (Italian for grandad) with gusto. He does so much for us all; the girls love him to bits and my husband is a massive fan!