London! 

We spent three weeks in London with my dad and step-mum in February. My dad has advanced cancer and can’t travel so the primary purpose of our trip over was to see him and give a morale boost as he flamed out of chemo in January.

I didn’t realize how stressed and worried I was about him until I came home and physically felt lighter. When we got there he was recovering very slowly but us all just being there and hanging out fast tracked things. He went from laying on the sofa like a bald Bond villain to pottering in the kitchen and managed a few days out.

We didn’t do as much in London as I thought we might but we did a lot. It was a really good trip and much needed. (And it only took two weeks for Z & N to relax enough to let my dad cook for them!)

So, these photos are out of order and I’m doing this on my phone so I think we can all live with that.


We had a few solo days out in London mainly to the London aquarium with my little Octonauts. We got to feed rays and watch sharks. It was pretty good but no cafe.

 We live in a typical suburban neighborhood which means you need a car to get anywhere. Sure you could walk 20 mins to get to the strip mall but do you really want to.

My dad lives a short block away from a high street with cafes and shops. It was fun being able to walk to lunch or run errands. Some people like to vacation near the beach we like to be steps away from really good jam donuts.


  
We took advantage of all the south London highlights. We checked out local parks trying to find a really fast slide (found one), fed the ducks and did trolley drifting around IKEA.

  
  

Told you we went back to the Rays. Fantastic to watch.



And the sharks.


And the ducks.


We ate cake in lots of cafes. We like a nice cafe.


My dad indulged the girls and got them electric quad bikes. They did not go very fast.


One night we hauled our collective asses to the Chiswick house light festival. Which was magical and exhausting for all of us.


  

They wouldn’t stand still for a photo. This one eating sandwiches was the best I could get. It was really late for them – we got there after 5pm and walked for over an hour. It was magical though.


  
  

My dad betting away one morning. Well enough to sit at the table and getting his mobility back.


Another cafe! This was at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. We did a day trip to see one of my cousins and this museum is fab. It was practically empty on Saturday morning. The girls practiced their map reading to get us around and a fantastic shop and cafe in the basement.


Burying my dad with cushions.

My dad wakes early and is at his best at 6am like us. So the mornings were loud and fun.

Flash forward to teenage Nomi here. Totally get it we all missed our car and living in a bungalow (having to climb stairs to pee got old quick).


Lots of family came to visit us. Aunts and cousins spread over many days. It was all good. Nomi and Zoey got lots of LOUD rowdy aunt time which is what we all need!


Testimont to my dad accepting help he went around Kew Gardens in a wheel chair.


Girls decorating a fancy birthday cake for one of my cousins.


Took the great aunts to meet the ducks.

  
  
And then three weeks were gone and we were off on our next adventure leaving behind fridge magnets and stickers everywhere.

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Dear Jen: This is the email that I never got to write to you.

Dear Jen,

This is the email that I never got to write to you. Last week it was your birthday, and that means it has been two years since you died. You weren’t a beating around the bush type of person; you called a spade a spade, and a wanker a wanker. So you haven’t passed on, you have died.

I didn’t get to see you in your last year. You got cancer in London, and I got pregnant with twins in New Jersey. Both events consumed us wholly, and left us pretty much immobile. But we kept emailing, and I think you may have liked being able to compartmentalize some of the friends in your life. I know I do. The arms reach of an email to someone you don’t see regularly but still care about.

Jen, the last time I saw you was October 2010. I was over in London still buzzing from quitting my job that summer (and happy to recount the straw that broke me), and in the final year of my degree. You were in the midst of battling your viva, and resubmitting your PhD thesis. We were both full of plans. You and Mark were doing up a house to flip. You had your usual grand travel plans which you always followed through on. We tubed it down to Richmond to meet our friend Gee (and her baby) for lunch.

We obviously ate at Wagamama because I made everyone I met in London eat at Wagamama, and I ordered the same meal every time: chicken katsu curry. You ate something veggie. You always ate something veggie because you’d sworn off meat as a teen when you wanted to save the world. (I fucking loved you for that answer when anyone ever asked you why you didn’t eat meat it was so you.)

It was a good lunch. Gee’s baby cried a lot, and Gee was tired but happy. Now, I totally get what Gee was going through, and she was an Amazonian for coming out to meet us for lunch.

We got the tube back together, and as usual I rode further on down the line to your stop and dog legged back. I always did that when I came over for a visit. I always missed my stop because I wanted to spend more time with you.

The next time I was over was in May 2011 to sit my exams, and you were too sick to leave your house. So it was just Gee and I (plus her baby) who met for lunch in Chinatown. You didn’t know what was wrong with you. Gee and I talked about it over lunch. Something gastric. Waiting on further tests and a diagnosis. I offered to come to you but you weren’t up to it. I wonder why I didn’t push harder but was busy with finals, and you had a laid back way of making everything not a big deal. You always wanted to put your friends at ease.

I can’t bring myself to read the emails from later that year. They were the beginning of your end. I remember waking up and checking my phone (as is my habit), and lying in bed sobbing. I probably texted Gee or she texted me to make sure I’d seen the email. You’d also told Richard (our old boss and one of the best people out there) in the same email. There were a lot of emails and texts, and crying. The girls were born in the October of that year, and you kept emailing. You bought me a diaper genie because you couldn’t get me a real one. Jen, I’d have given you my three wishes in a heartbeat if I could.

We came over as a family in February 2012 for my brother’s wedding. I was so fucking tired with four-month-old twins. It’s a blur, but we wanted to see you and we made plans to but you weren’t up to making it, and even right up to the wire you had a laid back way of not making a big deal of it. We had lunch with Richard and Jane, and Gee and her family, and we talked about you and our love for you.

In the spring we were in a mall (Short Hills Mall for New Jersey millionaires and tired parents who want a nice space to push a stroller around), and I checked my phone and read the email from Richard. He broke the news, and I cried. But because of Zoey and Nomi I had to rein myself in and get back to functioning.

It’s taken me two years to sit down and write this because I have small children who need everything from me, and there’s not much left at the end of the day. But I’m writing now and that’s what’s important.

We met in the summer of 1999 at Sea Container House when I joined you, Gee and Richard (our glorious leader) in the heady world of container leasing. You’d graduated from Manchester a year or two ahead of me so we may have waited for a bus together on Oxford Road or jostled for drinks at Jabez. Had we met and chatted back then I think we’d have hit it off. You with your dreadlocks and dungarees, and me with my pink hair and ripped jeans. Nice middle class girls. We both remembered the girl who walked bare foot around campus, and it was always good to talk about student days in Manchester.

But we met in an office that had originally been built as a hotel so was rather grand in an old fashioned way, we were dressed in office casual with nose stud and extra earrings removed. You, me and Gee livin’ la vida loca for container leasing. We were likened to The Witches of Eastwick as there weren’t that many of us under fifty let alone under thirty in the company. We may not have been as polished as the Orient Express gals on the other side of the floor: more Top Shop than Karen Millen but we had fun. We had laugh after laugh, drank cup of tea after cup of tea (decaf for you from your own stash), and had a fabulous view of the river from our desks. We all called our mums at 5pm, and went home at 5:30pm. We got to go to container balls at posh hotels, and danced the night away to bands covering The B-52s. We screamed “LOVE SHACK” and threw our arms in the air. The food at those balls was always awful, but the bands and the dancing were the best.

Like all good things the spell of 20ft and 40ft boxes broke, and we all went our separate ways but always staying in touch and meeting up when I was over. I miss your emails, Jen. I miss your humour and your humanity. I miss planning to see you in London and getting to talk optimistically about the future. I miss that I am no longer part of a container triumvirate (there were three reefer tanks in the fleet we informally named after ourselves).

You were one of the coolest, bravest and funniest people I have ever known. You said fuck it and went traveling, and then said fuck it again and went back to containers when you went back to university to get your MA.

I will re-read your emails because I want to relive your adventures, and hear your voice in my head again. Your soul is in my heart, Jen. I’ll take you everywhere with me.

Much love,

Lx

Fake-cation report

(Okay, that’s a little strong. Our vacation to the UK wasn’t a complete fake-cation because whilst you don’t get much rest traveling with twinfants I wasn’t left alone with them for 11 hour stretches. So I had two weeks of “half” the workload (wooo hoo!) and Alex had plenty of time with the Cylonettes.)

Coming into Edinburgh

We had an amazing time in the UK, and despite the Sisyphian effort that it took to keep the Cylonettes on an even keel as they were surrounded by strangers (we stood up a lot) I am so glad that we went over and shared them with family and friends when they are at this stage. Next time I’m over they will be toddling, and ordering lattes so their baby days will be well and truly behind them.

In the two weeks we were in the UK we fitted in a lot. It was like the 12 labors of Hercules but with more cake and no 4G coverage. The girls were introduced to their full compliment of grandparents, and many great aunts, great uncles and second cousins, and a health sprinkling of friends. They held up remarkably well, and Zoey even found the time to figure out how to flip over onto her belly (little did we know that that would bring us to a new circle of hell).

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