Friday 21st September 2012
I have two favourite sayings when I am with my family. The first is when the house gets in a mess I always say…”It’s like the Billybanks in here!’ and secondly, when I come home at night only to find that my dear ones have tried to annoy me by putting on every single light in the house, I am heard to lament ‘Welcome to Blackpool everyone, enjoy the illuminations!’ Blackpool speaks for itself, but for those not in the know, the Billybanks was a block of scruffy council flats in Penarth. Penarth is a small town next to Cardiff, the city of Alfie’s birth. These rundown dwellings had the most spectacular view over Cardiff Bay, but after many years of legal wrangling are about to be knocked down to be replaced by some high priced apartments, more suited to the spectacular outlook over our great capital city’s waterfront. It was the perfect focal point for today’s adventure
The adventure today really started the previous evening, when Alfie decided to have a sleepover at our place. The lady of the house was more than happy about this, even though she was running her club for ladies of a larger size at the time. This pleasant weekly gathering takes place at our house on a Thursday evening; it’s a great fight back against Slimming World and Weightwatchers and while it will never become global, the ladies who attend enjoy themselves. The only thing is I have had to ask them not to undress when they weigh, as our Yorkshire Terriers are easily scared!
Alfie was delighted to find his little cousin Millie was also around. We are so looking forward to them growing up as cousins and best friends. Their birthdays are just three days apart and this is the nearest we will ever get to twins! They bathed together and had great fun before Millie had to return to Barry and Alfie took to his cot in the kids’ paradise, which is our nursery.
When I got up Alfie was already up, dressed fed and looking forward to the day ahead. When I walked in bleary eyed and unshaven, I thought he was going to burst with excitement! I still can’t believe this lovely little fellow is ours.
I have a sore arm joint at the moment and the lady of the house asked me how many years I had been suffering with my tennis elbow, I said, “Fifteen love’ then I took her off to work.
When I came back, I played with Alfie for about half an hour on the floor. As I watched him quietly playing I just had to thank God for this incredible little human being who has been entrusted to our family. He is a wonderful and unique child. He is not crawling yet but does a mean 360-degree turn on his little bum.
While he had his morning nap I got on with the household duties, washed the breakfast dishes, made the beds, tidied the lounge and thought about what to have for tea. I had five minutes with Jeremy Kyle and wondered why the guests were so scruffily dressed; they really must make a fortune from the tooth fairy. Really strange!
Alfie was awake just after ten and we got ready to start today’s adventure. Before deciding to go to explore Penarth, I had thought about going to the Alphabet Theme Park but last time there was a huge Q so I decided against it.
We set off and made for The Billybanks but when we got there Alfie and I were sad to see they had already been demolished and the place was like a building site… pretty much like it had always looked actually.
So we made our way into Penarth. When I was young the signposts always called it ‘The Garden by the Sea’. Sadly these days I feel it’s lost much of its former glory. I drove round for ages trying to find a parking space – it really is so annoying not being able to park with ease – before finding one outside a shop called Dear Doris. I smiled as I remembered my mum’s sister who always thought of me as her ‘special one’. Alfie and I set off and decided to walk through Alexandra Park down towards the beach. It was idyllic, I was thinking that possibly Penarth has not lost all its former beauty; maybe I have just stopped noticing. Alfie and I stopped and enjoyed each other’s company. It was calm and peaceful.
As we sat on one of the benches we watched a several squirrels preparing for the long winter months ahead. We saw magpies, starlings and some sparrows enjoying the warm autumn sunshine, busily feeding themselves. There was still plenty of colours in the flower borders and the sound of the nearby fountain made us feel even more tranquil. We sat and enjoyed it for a while, before moving on. As we neared the beach there was a long gentle flight of steps that seemed to go on forever. I just let the pushchair ride the shallow steps and Alfie got a fit of the giggles, it was so lovely hearing him chuckling away.
He loved the beach when we got to the promenade. The tide was right up to the sea wall so we couldn’t go on the beach; we had to make for the pier. There were a few old people enjoying the pleasant morning and several luckless fishermen with empty baskets spread out along the deck. Alfie smiled at each one in turn and each one smiled back at the little man. He sure makes the world a happier place. He asked to get out of the stroller here and enjoyed walking up and down the pier. I think Alfie is going to miss out the crawling phase and just start walking; he’ll be doing it without my help real soon. Every passer by stopped and spoke, mums with toddlers, old people with sticks and council workers. He loved looking over into the sea, which was calm down below us.
It was then that a bad thought hit me. It was fun walking down from the town but the hill back up was a long and difficult one. I knew there was a bench halfway up the hill, so I planned a phased return to town and Coffee 1! We set off and I am pleased to say that I made it back up the hill, passed the Kymin, without needing to take advantage of the bench and made it to town, a little breathless, a little pale but certainly ready for my coffee and toast. Alfie was singing all the way up…. a little off key but obviously enjoying the hill. I am sure he was ready for his lunch too.
The staff in Coffee 1 were great and brought my coffee and my toast to my table while I found a high chair and sat my little friend in before opening the goodies I had prepared for his lunchtime meal. As usual he charmed everybody, including some pretty young things on the next table, who were impressed that Alfie was quietly tucking into cheese sandwiches with the crusts removed, helped by this fat, old, grey haired bloke who looked old enough to be his grandfather, while their kids were causing mayhem with bottles and other snacks being tossed about with reckless abandon. Alfie played happily with this wooden spoon with a face and a number 13 on that they had given to me to enable them to find the guy who had ordered toast. He used the table as a drum before spending an age playing with a Coffee1 take away cup which fascinated him. We had a lovely time enjoying being together before having our picture taken and making our way out.
We next made our way up to the home where Alfie’s great Nan – and she really is just that…a great Nan – lives. We enjoyed a lovely visit and the old girl was looking intently at him for ages. I’m sure she loves him and she only frowned when I reminded her that his name was Alfie. She never did like that name, thanks to Alfie Brown the little tinker who lived next door to her eighty years ago in Knowle Street in Grangetown. I began to be aware of a strange but increasingly familiar Friday smell and not being entirely sure which of these beautiful people that I loved so much was responsible, decided it was time to take Alfie home. After kissing her goodbye we headed back, our adventure nearly over. Alfie’s eyes were heavy as we drove back to Dinas Powys. I had to speak to him several times to keep him awake long enough to get him back to his cot. A quick nappy change… sorry I doubted you Beat… and he was sleeping soundly safe in his cot, arms outstretched, with a big smile on his face.
I am sure he was dreaming of squirrels and birds and fisherman and ships and maybe of the time when he is all grown up and he comes home to find his house is in a mess and remembers his old buddy and says to his kids… ‘Get this place cleaned up…it’s like The Billybanks here!’
Alfie I loved today… thanks for being my friend!