I have been over in Jersey meeting my new grandson, Arthur.
Margaret had already been across, but this was my first encounter. Arthur is now seven weeks old.
We flew from Gatwick via easyJet and Lucy was waiting for us at the airport with Arthur.
I've seen lots of pictures, so felt that I knew him quite well already. It was quite emotional seeing him for the first time, but being of strong stock, I managed to keep a stiff upper lip.
His photographs are an excellent likeness. Next to Julia, he seems very small. I remember how small Sam seemed in comparison to Tom when he came home from hospital.
He's a good baby, despite suffering a little with colic (certainly better than his dad) and has lots of very expressive facial expressions. There’s grumpy old man, where he looks just like his dad (and perhaps a little like his grandad Rayner), there’s also the very-interested face and the mildly-amused face.
When he wakes up he opens one eye first to have a check around and then the other one.
He loves a good sneeze and seems to mimic what you’re doing - so he will smile if you smile and if you put your tongue out he will do the same.
He likes to be carried belly down on your arm and can keep his head lifted for a long time. He’s very strong for such a new baby. He seemed happy to go to sleep on my arm with his legs draped over each side, while an arm was hooked underneath like a little monkey on a branch.
Arthur has sandy-coloured hair and will probably be blond, like his dad, while he’s little, getting darker with age. He sleeps quite well through the night and enjoys his food - a mixture of breastmilk and formula milk.
We arrived on Wednesday evening and were to head home on Saturday evening. On Thursday, Lucy drove us across to La Grève de Lecq, a nice little seaside village on the north coast. There’s a small, but sandy beach in a sheltered cove, but we were really there for breakfast at Colleen’s. Jersey has some good little cafes and snack shacks - The Hungry Man and Mad Mary’s spring to mind - but this is more like Bill’s (the UK chain of cool breakfast eateries).
I had an English breakfast, Margaret had burger, bacon, sausage and chips, Lucy had a bacon-and-egg bap on a Portuguese roll (which is a huge thing). Arthur had formula milk with some Gaviscon to help his colic. He was very well behaved and only needed some small walks around the restaurant to keep him amused. On the way back, we took a detour to buy some Jersey Royals from a particular place that grows them in the traditional way with seaweed. They were £3 a pound, but tasted beatutiful.
Sam and Lucy’s house is looking more like home. They have acquired a lot more furniture since I was there decorating earlier in the year. They have a couple of large settees, a big sideboard, a very large, gothic-looking dresser (which grew on me each time I saw it), some tables and chest of drawers. John, Lucy’s dad, has made them a very nice kitchen table from rescued wood. They have a patio table and chairs on order, also a parasol, so will be well set up once the warm weather arrives.
The VegTrug we bought them for Christmas has a couple of rows of radish, beetroot and lettuce coming through.
During the afternoon, we watched a TV show called Tipping Point, a quiz where players win coins to put in a Penny Falls machine to see if them can win tokens. Arthur had fallen asleep on my arm and after an hour I’d put him down in his chair. Amazingly, he remained asleep and stayed asleep while we had dinner (Jersey Royals and sausages). Having had such a long sleep, he wasn’t in any hurry to go to bed and still looked wide awake when I went to bed at 10.30pm. That’s the joy of being a grandparent, you can duck out when the going looks like getting tough.
We had a slow start on Friday and it was not until late morning that we headed out to Ransome’s, the garden centre in the north of the island past Trinity. We been there a couple of times before and it’s quite a good place. Lucy bought a dahlia tuber and also a pot for a fig tree they have been given. The plan is to have the tree on the patio at the back of their house, which is south facing and so very sunny.
Margaret was wheeling Arthur around, while Lucy and I browsed. Arthur likes to keep moving, so Margaret was covering a lot of ground and she spotted some plants that Marina (Inna’s mum) had given me last year. She didn’t know what they were called, but they had them in the garden centre as spectacular succulents with green/red leaves growing like huge rosettes. They are obviously a ‘thing’ this year because there were lots of them - priced at £20 per pot.
They are called Aeoniums or Tree Houseleek and they are native to the Canary Islands, with some also being found in Madeira, Morocco and the mountains of Ethiopia (I’ve been researching on the web now I know their name). The trick is to given them little water, keep them frost free and make sure the purple ones are in full sun. The green ones (we have one of those as well) are happy with some shade.
That’s pretty much the advice we had from Inna’s mum. If we could grow them into plants as spectacular as those in Ransome’s, we’d sell them no trouble at the Thorney Church Flower Festival plant stall. I’m thinking of new plants to grow next year for that.
I also spotted a plant called ajuga, which I have in the garden but didn’t know what it was called. It’s a low-growing, fast-spreading ground cover plant with pretty red foliage and small blue flowers. That another one to propagate for the plant stall.
It was time for lunch when we’d finished looking around and, by good fortune, Ransome’s has a restaurant which seems to do more trade than the garden centre. We’d had no breakfast so it was a late brunch. I had chicken and bacon sandwich with chips, which was quite nice, and then made the mistake of ordering a cake. I went for a Victoria sandwich and when it arrived it was massive - a huge slab of cake in five layers with jam and cream between each layer. It looked like a challenge (and it was) but I munched my way through and then could hardly move afterwards!
Arthur had been good and had a little snooze so we could eat tea in peace. Sam came home fairly early and we had pasta for tea. It was a struggle to eat anything to be honest - even after seven hours that cake was lying heavy.
Sam didn’t feel well in the night. He had severe stomach pain and thought at one stage that he might have appendicitis. That was also my diagnosis (for what it was worth). On Saturday morning, Margaret and I acquired Arthur and enjoyed his company all morning while Sam and Lucy had a lie in. It was gone noon when they eventually surfaced. Saturday had turned into a really nice day and so I decided to do a little gardening. The previous owner had planted eight apple and pear trees in the garden and also had low-voltage lighting all around the borders.
While Sam pottered about with his special lawn weeding tool (which is very impressive), I set to and removed the roots of three shrubs and also the low-voltage lights and wiring down both sides. There are still some cables we’re not sure about, but Sam has an electrician coming on Tuesday who should be able to make certain that everything is disconnected and safe. There’s a big hole in the decking where the hot tub has been removed and Sam has also arranged for a handyman to fix that.
I’ve said I’ll go back in June and spend a few days helping to get the garden straight. Hopefully, they will have patio furniture, a chiminea and barbecue in place by then.
We had a late flight back from Jersey and got home about 12.30am. Arthur is a lovely little boy. It was a pleasure to meet him and I look forward to seeing him grow up.