Easter by the sea …

Saturday 8 April 2023

Easter Saturday dawns and we hop into the car for our first family holiday since Gran Canaria in 2019. Llyn Peninsula here we come…

It may only be for a long weekend and it may be to a part of the world we are all very familiar with, as my family has had a caravan in this lovely corner of North Wales for close to 5 decades. Nonetheless, there is just no beating a family trip.

With my offspring now marching confidently into adulthood, this getaway is much about nostalgia and and the delight of rediscovering old routines. We breakfast, on the road, at our favourite faithful diner. Upon arrival we dig out the flipflops and sliders and head straight for the beach; beautiful Blackrock Sands and 2 miles of sandy coast.

The weather is glorious and there is much laughter and fun. Moreover, strolling along the beach and paddling in the sea with ice-creams feels a millions miles away from the urban sprawl of Greater Manchester we left only hours earlier.

We don’t escape the Mancunians entirely however as, to revive our legs after the walk, Small boy and I find ourselves watching a Manchester City (City, I know and to make matters worse they are spectacular) match at the rowdy caravan club with several bottles of much needed Peroni. Meanwhile, the girls have re-united with some old ‘caravan friends‘ and are catching up with drinks in a quieter part of the complex.

A trip to the fish and chip shop sorts out tea and after a little more beer and a hilarious rummage through the old caravan board games, it is time to turn in… and full of sea air and a little bit of alcohol we sleep like logs.

Next day, with our caravan friends we set out on a walk over the beach and across the hilltops to Porthmadog, the nearest town for lunch. It is a fabulously sunny day once more and the scenery is stunning. It is also quite a trek and legs are weary and faces wear the blush of exercise, as well as the first spring sun, as we toil back, feeling pretty proud of ourselves.

We round off our Easter weekender with a drive to Llandudno, which is actually a new destination for us all, before heading home on the M56 once more.

What a terrific few days away. I realise I’ve missed family holidays. There really is nothing quite like them for building bonds and memories. I’ll have to accept that, for my young adults, 3 days away with their mum is probably the limit now so …. here’s to the next mini-vacation…


Wednesday 29 March 2023

At 7am this morning, I wave Small boy off on a two-day course at Cambridge University. He is actually staying overnight in the college I went to, (back in the ancient history of the 1980s) so permission to feel a little bit emotional …

Or is it more that I feel quite a lot of envy. University memories – gosh such happy times! It was part of a time in my life when every year just seemed to get better and better. The work was tough; intense, challenging and delivered at pace that was not for the fainthearted. In tandem though, the living, the lovely friends, the support and the vibrancy was also incredible. Would I love to go back and do it all again? In a breath! But the years have rolled on, and it it no longer my time to dream of higher education, freedom and the first thrill of true independence. No, now it is the turn of my youngest child.

Take pictures!” I call out, as he hops into the car that is taking him ‘down south‘.

And he does; photos of colleges, chapels and a video of his room, which really makes me smile because I know he is sending the pictures, not because he is in awe of the ancient splendour (my son is an irreverent left-wing rebel ) but rather that he knows it will make me happy. And right there, in that very moment, any envy disappears and I just feel emotional again, Though this time, not with nostalgia for my undergraduate past nor for the re-tread of family footsteps, but because it simply warms my heart to be reminded just how kind my lovely boy is.

He also send a triumphant 12:30 am text announcing that his team have ‘won‘ the quiz that the organisers have put on as an evening social event.

By contrast, my evening is some rushed and uninspiring food after a full and frantic day topped off by a parental consultation event that stretches the working hours to 8pm.

By the end of the next working day, he is home and I can see the change. Is my son, as I once was, now picturing himself amidst the dreaming spires, following in the footsteps of Newton and Turing ? In all honesty, I don’t think he is. The trip has, nonetheless, fired up his enthusiasm for Higher Education. His passion for Chemistry lives on, (“but definitely not Chemical Engineering mum!”) and his previous lethargy has been replaced by a decently researched list of the best establishments for his courses of choice. He is planning Open Days and trips to City Universities across the land.

He does also find time to tell me that everyone thought that my old College was the best one by far …

Those little pink lines …

Saturday 25 February 2022

As it turns out, being ‘gruff and throaty’ was not, in fact, a credible nod to my ‘rock n’ roll’ lifestyle. Towards the end of the week, I test positive for covid-19…

Urghh! My throat and chest are pretty grim for most of the week and a raspy Joe Cocker teaching voice eventually packs up completely around noon on Friday, which is why someone hands me a (long forgotten) box of tests. I endure the cursed tonsil ticklers and a bit of nostril prodding and, within a minute, am staring at two distinctive pink lines. Bugger …

Sore larynx aside, I feel do okay which is a relief, I mean not sparkling but not too bad. I also know that isolation is no longer a legal requirement. Nonetheless, I have done the test and decide I’d feel pretty rubbish to be out and about in public knowing that I posed an infection threat. So I decide to cancel all weekend plans and … just lie low.

To my surprise, I really enjoy a rare day of idling and nothingness. No running, no shopping, no cleaning the bathroom, no tram rides into town. No, no no. I don’t even bother to get dressed! I do a bit of cooking but for most of the day I set absolutely no goals. Small boy brings me cups of tea, a cushion for my feet and the remote control and I re-watch Derry Girls, catch-up with Jane Eyre, and, well there’s no less cliched way to say it, sit still and let my crowded head get back into gear.

Apparently, there is also scientific proof, in a plethora of studies, that ‘doing nothing‘ is good for us. In many reports, such as Eating well’s, ‘The Legit Mental Health Benefits of Doing Nothing, According to Science‘ the definition of ‘doing nothing‘ is far more exacting than mine. There is no, smartphone, computer or TV Screen, even book reading it out! And what most studies find is that people tend to enjoy time to just sit and allow their thoughts to wander much more than they initially thought. This and other research also hints to additional gains such as, less stress, increased energy, enhanced creativity and improved abilities to resolve problems.

I think that my foggy brain is not fully in these lofty realms today. But, what I find I do enjoy, on my lazy Saturday, is just the time and space to reset and recharge. It is a day for being kind to myself and allowing a few hours to rest, relax and … breathe. And that feels luxurious.

So, I look forward to my voice returning and certainly wouldn’t wish corona virus on anyone, but I would recommend a day, or even a half hour, of putting your feet up, forgetting the to-do list and just allowing yourself to do nothing at all for a while…

You can’t do nothing all the time – it’d get pretty boring, pretty quickly. But carving out small windows where you can just sit down … and let yourself be is good for you, good for your brain … No more feeling guilty for a weekend spent doing nothing – it’s vital.

A Christmas catch-up…

Saturday 14 January 2023

Happy new year!”

January! And this ‘month of resolutions‘ seems the perfect time for me to get back into good blogging practices, as I realise that I have not posted for 3 weeks. Life has been one busy whirl of late, but its no excuse and when I look back over our family diary I certainly would not want this time to be forgotten.

So, before I turn my mind hopes and plans for 2023, I need to look back at Christmas 2022, which all began with an exciting first date (brief update on that situation in my final sentence) and then just seemed to get better and better. Let’s look back…

My full squad were reunited a week before Christmas which my fellow ‘empty nesters‘ will know always feels fabulous. Proudly sporting our team hoodies, the house came alive with buzz and chatter, as we faced the festive preparations. And, because one joy of this holiday is that the whole world seems to be on vacation with you, my offspring also filled their days with meet-ups and catch-ups with lots of friends too.The mood was busy but felt incredibly happy.

Drum roll please for our dinner-for-7 on the Big Day! Out came the spreadsheet and out came the cocktail book as we decided to give our event a glamourous edge with espresso martinis and a pitcher of grapefruit, vodka and maraschino liqueur. Well; I am very glad that we trialled and tasted these delicious offerings in advance (and they were good) because on the 25th itself we quickly realised that we had not ‘read the room’ at all. One guest was driving, my mum was recovering from a gruelling Autumn of medical treatment and … well you get the picture. None of our guests touched a drop! They did however love the meal, (even if no-one had told the turkey about our spreadsheet timings!), polished off several bottles of prosecco and had huge amounts of laughter and fun with a series of board games, old and new.

We managed a family trip to the cinema on Boxing Day, which we haven’t done for years and my mum’s annual family gathering a few days later was huge! Mum has been battling cancer this Autumn and possibly as a result … everyone turned out and it was quite a party! From my amazing mother at 84 to my new great-nephew at 6 weeks old, we were shoulder to shoulder with relatives and friends and it was a pretty special evening.

But even more spectacular was to come. On New Year’s Eve, my beautiful, talented niece got married. What a magical day! The setting was stunning and the mood utterly joyful. After my post about black-tie dresses, (We all get Wider) someone was even kind enough to loan me a choice of gorgeous gowns, so I felt a million dollars for the evening. Uplifting, effervescent and, as every wedding should be full of alcohol and, of course, love!

So now to 2023 and I did promise to update on progress from my lovely first date. Now this blogger never ‘kisses and tells‘ about romance but I am going to reveal that one date quickly lead to 2,3 4 and … I am no longer counting. It has absolutely wrapped up a very busy three weeks in wonderfully warm glow and … long may it continue!

It’s beginning to sound a lot like ….

Saturday 3 December 2022

December is here; my favourite month of the year. Sparking lights, everywhere busy and buzzing and friends in the mood to socialise. And in 2022, the yuletide month gets off to a cracking start with a night out at Manchester’s Band on the Wall….

Yes, one of my oldest friends and I cast aside our usual ‘festive cream tea’ in favour of a live music gig.

Its fun even before we get there. We stop off for a quick pizza before the concert and, in discussing drinks opt for a Peroni instead of wine to ‘pace ourselves‘. However, when asked whether that’s a ‘large or small beer‘ we go large without much thought and … a stonking beast of a beverage arrives for each of us; at 620 ml, a veritable wine bottle-sized flagon of ale! My friend is unconcerned and with a surprisingly impressive knowledge of metric and Imperial measures, confidently announces that that it is really only akin to ‘drinking a pint‘ and so we ‘clink and drink’ and hit the metro into town in a very merry mood.

Our destination is Manchester’s Band on the Wall, a live music venue with a proud history of music and engagement with the politics and protests that have characterised the market district of our great industrial city over the past 2 centuries,

Band on the Wall has been a place where people have met, exchanged stories and ideas, debated politics, espoused philosophy and drank and danced until the early hours…”

For us, this evening, it is the Noise Night featuring cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and pianist Harry Baker, and hands stamped with ink, we join the expectant crowds inside the building. Whereupon we order another couple of pints in trademark plastic glasses and find ourselves a spot close to the front of the stage. And what a performance it turns out to be.

Sheku Kanneh-Mason is the famous name in the duo, a cellist who has performed in The Royal Albert Hall, the Carnegie Hall and other international venues with the world’s leading orchestras, but tonight, in this special and more intimate location, he plays within a metre of where we are standing. Incredible! From Mahler to ‘Cry me a River‘ and a brilliant Bach improvisation to folk songs, both Kanneh-Mason and Baker hold the audience in the palms of their hands. They are an assured partnership; easy and relaxed, unique and utterly distinctive. It is electrifying. We love it!

At the end of the set, we swig another beer and then retire to nearby Mackie Mayor, a trendy eatery and bar area housed in the beautifully renovated meat market, for some mulled wine… it is nearly Christmas after all!

Does this mark a farewell to a festive cream team for us? Absolutely not; we shall squeeze that in too! But many, many years after we first started seeing bands and live music in the smaller, less commercial corners of our amazing city we both agree that this has been a terrific Christmas catch-up and that even out of the yule-tide season, with our offspring all independent and grown-up (most of the time), it is high time that we started looking out for interesting gigs and music once more…

It never rains but it ….

Sunday 27 November 2022

… pours!

Yes, Wednesday begins with water actually pouring from my kitchen ceiling as I potter down to make my 6am cuppa! I sprint, like Usain Bolt himself, back up the stairs to turn off whatever tap is causing the deluge to find that… the tap is broken and there is no stopping the endless torrent of scalding water from swirling across my bathroom floor.

Arghhh … help?

Last time this sort of thing happened, I had a man in my life who just seemed to know what to do and … ooh I remember now…turned the water off! Something about a ‘stopcock?’ I vaguely recall. The only question is…where the devil do I find one of those?

On the off-chance that the male of the species are just programmed to know how to deal with DIY disasters, magnetically drawn to mechanical solutions by virtue of genetic birthright, I wake up Small Boy. It’s an early hour for a teenager and apart from running around like a headless chicken brandishing saucepans and throwing towels into the deepening pools of water, he isn’t much use.

I briefly contemplate the horrific indignity of calling up an ex-bloke to ask for guidance, but, sternly reminding myself to have a ‘crumb of self-respect’, pull myself together and instead start scouring every door and cupboard for inspiration. Near the front door, after 2 minutes which feel like 2 hours, I find a dial that I turn and turn until…

Da Dah…!”

the water stops.

Gosh, I feel triumphant. Look at me averting disaster like a pro! Searching for a stopcock anyone?W ell allow me to show you how! Who’d have thought?

Who indeed? For only 4 days earlier, I’d met my old lab partner from college for a catch-up and trip to a local art exhibition. On this occasion I’d managed to book us tickets for January instead of November! Not my finest hour but, the gallery managed to rebook us and my dear friend loved the chaos, for it allowed her to fondly recall my ‘hopelessness‘ in the world of Physics practicals. “I think I just did all the work, while you sat there being pretty and being chatted up by ****” she recalled with a merry laugh.

I have no memory at all of ever being pretty, plus ‘Hopeless’ is that a little harsh? Admittedly, there was the unfortunate incident with the radio-active source (I was banned for a fortnight after that particular mishap) and, looking back, we did have to throw out the charred remains of my first every attempt to wire up a simple circuit to light bulb. So possibly, she has a point but … I am pretty sure I got there in the end. I fact… I aced Physics A Level.

Could I be on track to ‘ace plumbing’ too? I decide, on balance, stop at the stopcock and hand over to the professionals. With a fair degree of relief, I call the plumber and head to work…

When fortunes are not written in the stars …

17 September 2022

Horoscopes; I don’t know many who really believe them but I know lots of people, myself included, who read them! If you’re like me, they make a quick, fun, scroll item with a morning cuppa on the rare occasions when you have the time to wonder what the day might bring.

And so it is that this morning I am greeted by this exciting news…

“You could feel like a millionaire today, Pisces. Money matters seem to surpass your expectations. You might want to spend time fixing up your home or perhaps shopping for yourself..

Well, even general cost of living challenges aside, after the recent run of luck I’ve had, this is so far from the truth that I nearly splutter my tea across the table! So come with me astrologers, as I recount the ‘money matters’ of this particular Piscean…

First my car; poor old Windsor! Transporting me to the rehearsal for a local music festival, my trusty Toyota find himself reversed painfully into a post. Main light smashed, bumper crunched and several hundred pounds needed to restore his rear end to its former glory.

Hot on the heels of his trip to the body work garage, Windsor is soon in the woes again. The engine management light glows yellow. A very nice RAC person comes around to the house and diagnoses a possible fault with the GDPR … or is that the EGR valve. I google the likely cost, gulp in panic and when the light thereafter goes off, hold my breath, cross everything and have been tentatively driving about, hoping for the best, ever since.

Thirdly we turn to Small boy. He starts college in an uncharacteristic wave of enthusiasm. After one week, he is shopping files and highlighters, leaving me to ponder what has happened to my laid back boy. In week two… he is actually seen using them, colour coding extensive notes on complex chemical compounds, and planning time for revision. Seriously, where has my son gone?

“I’m starting as I mean to go on” a serious Small boy explains, “and I’m going to need a new laptop!

Well this is very true. The battered old grey beasts I bought for both of my younger children in Lockdown have long since given up the ghost. But the thought of funding this purchase from a bank balance already hit by car repairs, fills me with despair so I text his dad.

But before ex-hub can even respond, comes the fourth financial challenge of the season and it is Small boy again. This time a rather nervous and apologetic voicemail from the home landline informs me that the great goon has left his iphone 11 on the bus!


I am still embroiled in this one. Mum the detective is on the trail of the bus driver to whom, someone at college reports, the phone was handed, a couple of stops after Small boy got off. Mum the realist has contacted the phone company to put bars on the device and my insurance company to find out how much they (and I) will doubtless be forking out to replace the phone. If they accept our claim at all that is as, not once, but twice in the last 6 months they have already paid out for screen repairs to … the very same iphone 11!

Hence, am I feeling ‘like a millionaire today‘ with matters financial ‘exceeding my expectations’? Errr, that would be a ‘no’!

On the other hand, tonight is a Lotto rollover so perhaps I should squander my one remaining fiver on a ticket? More probably I should stop reading those horoscopes and buy myself a cheap bottle of plonk to ease the financial pain. But hang on a tick … did they not mention something about ‘shopping for yourself’! Maybe there’s some truth hidden in the mystic words after all…

It started with a tick!

Saturday 18 June 2022

One week after I post my bucket list… one item is ticked off!

So, have I been skinny dipping? Not yet – but grateful thanks to the person who has offered to join me on that outing! Whisky festival then? Again no, even though this item attracted even more interest from friends and family!

What actually happened was that in the middle of last week, following a month of communication with an educational publisher, submitting, then editing (and re-editing) my ‘assignment’, I signed my first ever freelance agreement as a content writer and invoice no.1 has left my email outbox! Yippedy dee!

If am being honest, when I pictured submitting an ‘article’ to an educational publication, I envisaged a well-researched piece of writing on some topical issue of the day, such as ‘The impact of wealth inequality on the British educational system.’ And that is not what this is at all. My brief is designing learning and assessment resources. And whilst I’d never previously thought of this line of work, I do love it and … they appear to be paying me. So happy, happy days!

All of which leaves me pondering, what to do with my first writing pay cheque? Should I treat the teens? Both my uni girls have worked really hard and passed their recent examinations. Meanwhile at home, Smallboy has made it through 24 GCSE assessments (thankfully only 3 more to go!). So they certainly all deserve a little something. On the other hand … my bucket list was supposed to be about me so should I direct it towards further adventures? Money to pay for the Elevazione oboe part, or start a savings pot for Oktoberfest 2023?

Perhaps, I caution my racing thoughts, I should actually wait for the money to land! Last Friday,I got a fee for an oboe playing gig and they, rather bizarrely, paid me £75 … in Waitrose vouchers, which was an unexpected first and a timely reminder, as the old sages would say, not to count my chickens…

So, in the meantime, it is back to the bucket list and wondering ‘What’s next?’ Well all that writing and editing can take a toll on a busy single mum. I think the sofa, popcorn, a good bottle of wine and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s sounds like the perfect next step ….

There’s a hot tub in my garden…

Saturday 23 April 20222

Golly gosh; can my two girls shop!

As the Easter holidays draw to a close, I hardly recognise my own home! Cheered on, at times propelled on, by my daughterly duo of retail fanatics, not only does my conservatory proudly boast a new furniture but our aged plastic garden chairs have also been binned in favour of ‘zero-gravity‘ recliners.

Have I taken leave of my senses? Well I just might have done exactly that, because the shopping frenzy all began….with a hot tub!!

Gosh the hot tub! Now that is a long story which at some point demands a post of its own but for now can go down as a fanciful notion floated after some bargain deals bounced into the inbox. And now here it is, at least until my energy price fix runs out in Summer 2023, our very own outdoor spa!

It is certainly an extravagance on its own, yet, scarcely has the froth subsided on our first dip in the bubbles, when purchase number 2 is in the boot of the car. I innocently agree to potter into town with my Eldest, to pop into Boots for a new moisturiser when my girl steers me into a store promising ‘unbeatable bargains‘ on garden furniture. Before I know it, I find myself trundling to the till with four new ‘zero-gravity‘ recliners in my trolley!

Mum, you have been looking for new outdoor furniture for years!”,

my Eldest smiles reassuringly, as I appear a little flustered. This is true, but I had anticipated at least another half decade of looking and wondering and weighing-up before I actually made any daring dash to the cash-till. In addition, I am not at all sure what ‘zero gravity‘ chairs even are! But, as we try them all out upon our return home, they are very comfortable. And apparently, my offspring tell me, together with the hot tub really ‘freshen up the garden experience!

I know what you’re thinking, by now I had surely learned my lesson! But no, as Prom-dress daughter arrives home to swell the youthful and carefree ranks of the household, I am persuaded to head out to Ikea to replace a few broken glasses and try out the new plant balls’. Five minutes! We are there for only five minutes, before we are are snuggling on a new sofa and admiring the display of accompanying rug and table!

You’ve been looking for ages, Mum”

“Don’t you just love it – so comfy!”

“The poor conservatory has been completely bare for 18 months now!”

They do actually allow me to stop and consider this one, over (delicious) plant balls, mash and gravy. Possibly, I am distracted by the delights of my redcurrant jelly but equally the fact that they are correct and that my lovely, sunny, garden room has been an empty shell, for a very long time, does also register and I decide to go for it, rug, coffee table and all!

At the warehouse, things are slightly complicated. We discover that, despite endless permutations of collapsed seats and car-boot boxes plus much hilarity as the three of us career around the carpark with the weighty beast, the sofa is never going to be squashed into my car. In now rueful resignation, I wave my credit card at the cashier and fork out for home delivery!

So the time honoured clash of their youthful exuberance and that dash of ‘carpe diem’ with my single-mum (crippling) caution. There is a clear victor on this occasion. I’ll admit however that, for once, I am glad to have been defeated. Left to my own devices I would doubtless have a few more £100s in the bank, awaiting the proverbial ‘rainy day’, but the conservatory would still be an empty room and the tired old plastic chairs not up to the task of tempting anyone to sit in the garden this holiday. Whereas, we now live in the conservatory and the new garden equipment has also been fun. It has made the Easter holidays seem pretty idyllic and contributed to me falling a little bit in love with my own home again.

Nonetheless, the bank manager and I do heave an audible sigh of relief as my two shopaholic students set off back to uni-land …

The poorly pet …

Sunday 5 September 2021

It’s the start of the August Bank Holiday weekend, when an early tap at my bedroom door heralds the arrival of a worried Small Boy,

Mum, something is wrong with Boris…

Boris is Small Boy’s 18 month old leopard gecko. And this morning, he has a cloudy eye, which is, Google informs us, both a common problem for shedding reptiles and one that requires immediate attention. Even if it didn’t, I can tell that Small Boy is already agitated and so I leap out of bed to put a plan into action. Unfortunately for us …it is a Sunday!

Our vet does open on this non-standard working day … but only for one hour. We hit the phones promptly at 10, and over the next 60 minutes, call and leave message after message but, alas, fail to get through. At 11:01 am, we get the ‘surgery closed’ message but are provided with an ‘out of hours’ number. We call this but are told that it is ‘not available’ and are sent instead to the city wide emergency pet number. Third time lucky? Happily it is, and we find ourselves speaking to a helpful receptionist who recommends a video call which we book for that afternoon.

I stop to take stock of the day. It is now 11:30 am and, so far, all I have done is try to make phone calls and now am essentially going nowhere until I’ve zoomed with a gecko-vet at 2!  The rest of the house begin to emerge into the day,

What time are we heading into town mum?“,  smiles my eldest as she heads sleepily for the shower

Ooh … now that we are all back together, shall we go out for my ‘exam results’ meal?” calls Prom-dress daughter from her room

I’m also wondering where I fit a few work tasks in, what to do about some rapidly escalating Monday lunch plans and when on earth we are going to find some new school shoes for Small Boy’s size 12 feet in time for the start of the new term on Thursday.

I feel frazzled with demands, restrictions and (everyone else’s) priorities. I reach for my trusty run shoes because I need to clear my head.

Back in half an hour!

I shout over my shoulder as I head for the door, knowing that a trio of open mouths will be watching my departure.

My run; my salvation. The steady steps, the fresh air, the space…the quiet are all just the tonic for a brain that needs to re-plan. At the centre of it all; Small Boy and Boris. Now I am not an animal person but I understand why my son is. He may be messy, he may be clumsy, he may be hopeless with money but putting all of these minor defects into the shade is his big heart. He is one of the nicest people I know and his care and kindness envelop his family, his friends… and his little gecko.

And in that moment, amidst all of the other clutter in our weekend, getting Boris the attention my son wants him to have becomes my main mission. I sit on a bench about a mile from home and send a text to pull out of the Monday lunch plans. Then, in my mind, Sunday moves to Monday, any shopping moves online  and … problem solved. I feel relief ! Our weekend has finally got its priorities in order.

Back home, I announce that we shall be spending Monday ‘in town’ and ‘celebrating exam results’ and feel myself easing back in charge. Though it proves to be far from simple!

Small Boy and I attend our video call, whereupon the vet advises that Boris is seen immediately and dispatches us to the emergency vet hospital, warning of a 3 or 4 hour wait.

“Mum, it says they charge £172.75 for a consultation!”  gulps a shocked Small Boy, as we speed along the road

Don’t you worry, ” I trill, hoping my rather shaky falsetto sounds more convincing than I feel. “At times like this, we just forget the cost and stick it on the credit card!”

But we never gets as far as a payment…

We sit, like a couple of stake-out cops, in the crowded car park with snack, kindles, and Boris scrabbling about in his tupperware travel-home (with holes in the lid). After 90 minutes, a nurse appears … with a lead! She does a visible double take as we offer our small box and scurries off with Boris, looking very pensive. Five minutes later she is back, apologetically explaining that there is no ‘exotic pet’ specialist available and we head home, unseen and still unsure; me rather forlorn and my son pretty angry.

Next morning we try our vet again, but it is Bank Holiday Monday and no-one picks up; so we email instead, attaching photos. On Tuesday, with nothing in the email inbox, we phone once more and do finally get through and fix an appointment. We now just have to career through Manchester’s roadworks and diversions to reach our elusive goal… our little lizard, at long, long last, is examined by an expert and my son looks as if the weight of the world has been lifted from his shoulders … phew!

And now Boris has eye drops twice daily and we hope he improves soon, otherwise we are back again and things will be serious for the little guy. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it and … hey at least he has Small Boy and I am not sure a gecko could ask for a better owner!

So one little pet certainly took up a lot of time and a fair bit of money! But it was definitely worth every second and dime because, remembering that the people (and animals) in our lives more important that much of the other stuff we complicate our days with is a pretty fantastic thing. Sometimes, the very weeks that don’t quite go to plan are the ones that help you to see what really matters ….