Today we spent six and a half hours in the car on a journey to visit Sam and Holly and their children Malachi and Orlaigh, in Homerton, East London. The return took four of those hours.
Orlaigh Beth, the latest family member, was born on 15th. November. Holding this new life in my arms I was reminded of my own daughters, especially Becky with whom there is a resemblance. But she is Orlaigh, not just who she looks like, but a twenty first century child who will know things I could never dream of.
I also thought of Holly’s parents, Gay and Mick O’Neill, who I hope to see at Christmas. They are not yet able to see their grandchildren as often as they would like, because they live on the other side of the world. Gay, your turn will come next week.
When Jackie and I arrived, Malachi was at Pre-School. After his sister had been brought down and presented to her UK grandfather, Sam went off to collect him. In the meantime Orlaigh uncomplainingly was held by both Jackie and me. She screwed her face up a few times and searched for an absent nipple, but otherwise she slept on until a while later, when she made it clear she was hungry.
Malachi arrived, excited to see us, so much so that he called through the letter box before Sam came to open the door. After lunch we had to play hide and seek. He did what all little children do and gave the game away by giggling in his hiding place. Jackie did a grand job of not finding him in all the obvious places, before his laughter could no longer be ignored.
After this it was drawing. He enjoyed being artistic alongside me, and helping Holly with a picture. By the time he got his train set out it was time for us to leave.
On our very lengthy return journey, when I was not asleep, I contemplated my life with children. In my seventy first year, the only time there has not been a baby or young child in my life was the fourteen months before my brother Chris came along. I was the eldest of five, and my brother Joe was only three when Michael, my eldest, was born. Matthew, Becky, Sam, and Louisa followed soon enough; and Emily, the first of six granddaughters arrived nineteen years ago. Oliver, almost seventeen, felt some relief of pressure when Malachi joined him nearly four years ago. Orlaith keeps the tradition going. Thank you, Sam and Holly.
After a pretty difficult journey home we went on to Curry Garden in Ringwood where we had an excellent meal accompanied by Kingfisher beer and a long exchange of life stories with the manager who lives in Bethnal Green, not so far from where we had been today.