Reasons to be grateful: A young boy and an old train set

A few weekends ago I took my son on the train to visit my parents in the UK country side. During our time there we had an uncharacteristically hot day. We all have pale skin and are prone to burning, and on top of that I tend to get quite light headed when it’s too hot so I’m not a huge fan of the hot weather.

My parents have a nice garden that features a couple of terraced patios, and the highest one is sheltered by the shade of a graceful old apple tree. We decided not to go anywhere in the heat but instead potter around at home. My son is still a toddler and doesn’t need elaborate entertainment any way, he can spend twenty minutes examining a CD (my parents still have a lot of those).

After my son took his afternoon nap he was pottering about in the garden when my dad emerged from their cellar holding a mysterious plastic box. He put it on the table under the apple tree and invited my son to sit at the table with him. Once my son was settled in his chair my dad began pulling out pieces of track and old electric locomotive trains for my son to look at and hold.

My son really loves trains, and has a wooden train set at home that slots together like a jigsaw made by BRIO (this is one of the sets he has, they are compatible with other more elaborate sets, affilliate link so if you chose to buy this set using this link I would get a small commission), but the set my dad showed him was more elaborate, delicate and involved an electric track. It also had a number of detailed steam trains, which my son loved zooming up and down the table on a piece of track my dad put together for him.

It’s a very old train set, part of it belongs to a set that my father’s father gave him when he was a child, and part of it my dad bought for a set at some time or other (he used to be a set designer for TV programmes), so we didn’t think it would actually work. However, after a little detective work and some DW-40, my dad persuaded one of the units to race around the track. It was quite an exciting moment.

Generally I would have thought my son a little too excitable to play with something with such a delicate set up, but he controlled himself very well if it meant spending the afternoon playing with grampy’s train set in the shade. At times he sat and chatted with my mum about all the trains and what they were, even though he doesn’t really understand that much, which was enchanting to watch.

As I’ve said else where, we needed fertility treatment to have our son, and frankly there were times when I didn’t think we would get moments like these. I feel intensely lucky to have spent that warm afternoon in the garden watching my son play with his grandparents and an old train set under the apple tree.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Reasons to be Grateful: Unexpected quiet moments with my son

I made a bit of a mistake this morning, and managed to get the whole household up an hour earlier than we needed to. I looked over at the clock on the other side of the bed and mistook a 5 for a 6.

My son was still asleep when I carried him downstairs and settled him on the sofa, and I didn’t wake him as I thought we still had a few minutes to spare. In the kitchen where I made some tea and warmed him a little milk the clock on the cooker alerted me to the fact that I was an hour early, and my partner grumbled a little before heading back to bed.

By the time I had returned to the living room my son was beginning to stir and it was too late to get us all back under the duvet. He asked to watch one of his favorite programmes. It’s a program in which an animated gecko teaches toddlers about emergency service vehicles.

My son and are sitting quietly together on the sofa as I type this, and he occasionally points out details of the program to me that capture his imagination. He’s still too sleepy to be rushing around yet, and instead rests his bare feet against my arm and clutches his comforter. The soles of his feet are warm and soft.

It would probably have been good for us all to get the extra hour of sleep, but there is a little magic to these early mornings with him when he’s not quite ready to involve himself in mischief yet, and we can just enjoy a little time together. So I am oddly grateful today that I got us up an hour earlier than I needed to.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Reasons to be grateful: A sense of peace watching the bees

Like a lot of people I’ve been alarmed by the reports of the steep decline in biodiversity. When we moved into our current house there were some roses in pots, and a few wild flowers in the garden, but the majority of the space was taken up with lawn, and even the grass all looked like it was all the same variety. While we couldn’t fix the global biodiversity crisis, we could try to help in our little corner of London.

Over the last couple of years my partner and I have put quite a lot of work into increasing the diversity of plant and animal life in the garden, by planting new flowering plants, growing fruit and vegetables, and letting those wild flowers that were there before roam a little more freely.

We’ve managed to establish a couple of sage plants which put on an explosive display of purple flowers in late spring, and we also now have some chunky clusters of chives, that produce clumps of violet pompoms. Both of these plants are really attractive to the bees. Now we can sit and watch the local honey bees roam across these flowers collecting nectar, their little legs heavy with pollen.

As I write this we’ve had a stressful couple of weeks, with both my son and my lovely little cat being poorly, along with the day to day stresses that come with work and the rising cost of living. I’ve struggled with anxiety in the past, and it is these times where it is more important to do little things for our mental health. Most days I find a moment to go out into the garden to watch the busy activity of the bees. These are moments that I can really sink into and feel a little contentment in the present.

The flowers on both plants are dying back now, but there are others just geering up to take their place. My son loves to go outside and look for the ants and the ‘bumble bees’ too. It makes me grateful that we put the effort into trying to turn some patches of a tired looking lawn into an attractive place for the local insects.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Reasons to be Grateful: Croydon Trams

My son was born not long before the first lock down in 2020, and his early life has been dominated by the pandemic, a time in which the menu of things to do with a small person has been more limited than it may have been before COVID. However, we were lucky in that we had a garden, and we live near several parks and other things that turn out to be intriguing to a toddler. While the pandemic was really raging I liked to let him watch the YouTube vidoes of Geoff Marshall about the UK rail network, because he talks to camera a lot and I was worried that my son wasn’t getting to see people talk. Geoff probably taught my son some of his first words.

I think perhaps this may have influenced his choices in what he really likes to do now, which involves quite a lot of watching trains and trams. One of the things my son really likes to do is to go and watch the trams that run on some old railway lines not far from our house. Sometimes we take him on a trip on a tram when they are not particularly crowded, but he seems to enjoy watching them pass far more than he does riding them. Recently I have noticed that when my son and I are standing, watching the trams pass, some of the drivers will wave, or ring the bell for him. I really appreaciate this gesture, and I think he gets a kick out of it too.

Thank you Croydon Tram drivers.

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Reasons to be grateful: A quiet moment in misty London

It’s not often that I get time to myself these days. I started back at work after my maternity leave at the beginning of 2021 and things had changed quite a lot while I had been away. In response to the pandemic most of our work has gone online, so I rarely go into the office now. It will confess that the adjustment to online working hasn’t been smooth, and I still feel that a lot of my best work has happened in a face to face environment. My days are frequently filled with zoom calls, which I find awkward to navigate if there is a group, and in the absense of travel time to break up the day it seems like the number of meetings has multiplied. The end of the day often finds me exhausted.

I think home working has had a second consequence that is difficult to really quantify. My world feels smaller some how. I go out less often, and when I do go out, I do not travel as far.

So it was quite a treat a few weeks ago to actually get on a train and go into the office. When I arrived in central london the sky was heavy with mist and the top of some of the buildings were shrouded in fog. I really love this kind of weather. There is something about the suggested mystery of a building rising up into the cloud, it’s upper levels unseen, that provokes creative thoughts in me.

My train got in early enough for me to take a few minutes to stop and look around a bit, to take some photographs and have a moment of contemplation before I started my work day. Moments like these are precious now. To still be able to have them, and to appreciate them, is a reason to be grateful.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Reasons to be grateful: Cold mornings and sunrise over South London

Before I had my son I think it would be fair to say that I was not a morning person in any sense of the word. In fact I would like nothing better, after initially getting up at around nine, than to retreat back into bed with a pot of coffee and an armful of books or the newspaper. I can year the faint laughter of anyone who has ever looked after a small child as I type this. Those days are long gone.

My son is an early riser, which means that by default I have become one too. This is a struggle, and I do not think my physiology has caught up. Over the last few months, as the mornings have grown darker and winter has fully established herself, I have found a consolation. In some of our recent crisp cold winter mornings I have been treated to some wonderful sunrises. If I had not been forced up early to take my son to nursery, I would have missed out on seeing the sky turn golden over South London. For these mornings, I am grateful.

The image of a sunrise has been used in many cultures and across the ages to invoke ideas of new beginnings and fresh starts. On this Bank Holiday Monday, I hope that this new year will give you many reasons to be grateful, too.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Reasons to be grateful: an overgrown garden lawn

It’s now November in the UK, and Autumn has really settled in. I really love this time of year, as the leaves turn red and fall to the ground, and we begin to experience some of the more atmospheric weather that I find inspiring. The other morning we were treated to a dense mist as I walked my son to his nursery. He had not really seen mist before, and spent a good portion of the journey pointing into the air and squeaking. It was a nice reminder that for him, many of life’s more normal experiences are completely new.

I planned to write this post several months ago, but somehow couldn’t get it together to write it. I had the idea for it when I was really struggling with some work related anxiety, but hadn’t yet felt ill enough to take any time off work. Since that time I did take a few days off work, before rushing back in again to do something that felt important at the time. A week later my son came home with a fairly common childhood disease, and not long after that I was really ill with it for a couple of weeks. I think my immune system was left struggling after I rushed back to work too soon, a mistake that I will try not to make again.

It is too cold to stand out on the grass in my bare feet now. But this summer I was enormously grateful that when I was feeling stressed I could walk down the stairs and out to my garden, where we are lucky enough to keep a rather untidy lawn. I like to feel the cool grass under my feet when I am feeling anxious. For me there is something about putting my feet in direct contact with the earth that is grounding. Things to not feel quite so bad after a few minutes standing quietly and looking at the flowers.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Reasons to be grateful: our neighbour’s friendly relationship with my son

When we moved into our house a few years ago we didn’t really know the area very well at all. We had all sorts of plans to get out and get to know the place, and meet some new people. But nothing ever turns out quite as planned, does it?

We weren’t here that long before I gave birth to our son, and not long after that a series of national and international lock downs began. As a consequence, for quite some time our explorations were limited to our back garden, and the only new people we met were our immediate neighbours.

They are an elderly couple who have lived on our the road for a long time and they have taken great delight in building a relationship with our son. The husband in particular looks out for my toddler most days, and makes a point of smiling, waving, and saying a loud hello to him in an excited tone of voice.

When this began in the spring this year, I am not sure if Baby Magpie knew what to do with this kind of attention, but now it has become one of the highlights of his day. He will often look out of the window for our neighbour, and give a little wave to the space where he expects to see him, irrespective of whether he is there or not. When they are ‘talking’ face to face over the garden fence, Baby Magpie is a little more shy, but our neighbour stands and waits patiently for my son to give his little wave back.

I think as the last couple of years have been difficult because of the pandemic, and I feel grateful for simple moments of connection like these, that have become particularly precious.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be grateful: My heroically stubborn cat is teaching my son to be gentle

We have two black cats in the Magpie ‘s Nest that we adopted several years ago. They were already middle age by the time we adopted them, understandably nervous, and had fully embraced some eccentric habits. When we first bought them home to our flat we did not expect to be soon bringing a baby home as well, and thought that they may have a long time to get used to us in relative peace.

However, fate had other plans, and in that year the cats moved home three times. Once from their original home into a cat refuge, then to our flat in Central London, and then finally out of central London with us as we moved further afield to be able to afford a house. Not long after that final move we bought home a baby, and they have learned to live alongside him as he has grown into busy toddler.

Recently my son has developed a deep and enthusiastic love for our cats, which unfortunately is not returned in kind. As he has become more and more mobile, one of my cats, who was the more anxious of the two, has decided that his best strategy is to remove himself from the situation, and to hide if he feels necessary. This was the kind of reaction I expected.

Our other cat, however, has decided on a different approach. Over the last year as he has got used to us he has decided that he really liked to hang out with us, and will endure quite a lot of unwanted heavy handed patting from my son if it means a good chin scratch a few moments later. One of his favourite things is to lie on the window sill and watch people or birds through the window. My son takes advantage of these moments to practice stroking him, but excitement will soon over take him and there are more than few occasions on which a tail has been firmly grasped. My beautiful stubborn cat clings to his spot on the window anyway, refusing to be moved on, never batting him away and waiting for a parental intervention. In do so he allows myself and Mr Magpie to try to teach my son about what it means to be ‘gentle’.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you want to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

Reasons to be Grateful: People are nice to my son

I’m sorry to have been quiet for that last couple of months, I have started back at work and am experiencing the lockdown child care crunch that will be familiar to many parents.

This won’t be a long post, but I wanted to share this picture of my son. He likes to stand in on the window sill in our front room and bang on the window as people pass by. Obviously he is still too little to stand up there on his own so I am often sitting there with him, just behind the curtain. I don’t think passers by can see me, but they do see him and they frequently wave. This makes him very happy, and he bangs on the window a bit more and shouts.

Parenting a young child during lockdown hasn’t been easy. There aren’t many places I can take him at the moment and he seldom sees anyone other than me and my partner. Hopefully all this will change soon, and he can get on with making friends and meeting people outside. In the mean time I am really grateful to the people who wave at him. It makes his morning or his afternoon to get a wave.

Thank you for reading. I also make art and films. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.