Dear Kate, Tempus Fugit ...It really does

OMG!! The beginning of December and here we are on the round of festive greetings, shopping for all and sundry and probably spending far too much in the process.  But, what wonderful news ...  we are all expecting a royal baby next summer.  And I do mean "all" for we shall all share in every expanding inch in the development of the newest member of the Royal Family.  Most of us will sympathise with the Duchess of Cambridge for having the news of her pregnancy announced in the way it was.  No glorious fanfare to herald in the new year, but a rather hasty announcement, marked by the decampment of the world's press (for goodness knows how long) to a hospital somewhere in central London ...  I bet Starbucks are rubbing their hands in glee!

With this in mind, I simply couldn't miss an opportunity to cheer you all up, amid your Christmas preparation with a little blog designed to help the Duchess wile away the time she still has, until she has no time to herself!

Like I said, the announcement, and its manner was really unfortunate.  I bet the Catherine Walker dress was all lined up for a suitable photo shoot and then we would have gone into overdrive as to the most suitable maternity gear for our future Queen.  However, I am just glad they didn't take up the invitation of Mat and Alex on BBC's the One Show, and send a camera phone picture of them snuggled up with a pizza; and a slogan which said something like "Wills and Kate have managed to mate"!

How I well remember the moment when the line turned blue in my pregnancy test; and the look on Steve's face when he realised his dream of ever owning an expensive car had disappeared in the hazy mist of a Chinese takeaway and an early night!

I read in the newspapers this week that all the female editors of ladies magazines knew straight away that something was up when Kate changed her hairstyle - Does that woman ever have a bad hair day!

The tell tale signs for me, were slightly more boring.  No change of hairstyle, I just gave up the cigarettes and alcohol.  Now for an Irish Catholic family that must have been a dead giveaway.

So, fast-forward to the latter stages of pregnancy and the obligatory anti-natal classes.  Ours were held in the hospital about five minutes from where we lived.  Therefore arriving for the first (and possibly the most important) class should have been a piece of cake.  It would have been, but for one thing.  In those days, Steve worked about 30 miles away, and try as he might, he could never get away from work and home on time for anything.

Before I continue with the anti-natal class story, I have to digress - It is relevant, especially as the Christmas party season is fast approaching.  In the early 1990s, a certain 70's pop star had made a successful comeback, complete with all his glitter (need I say more), and I had booked tickets for an arena concert to kick start our Christmas festivities.  I was home from work, dressed and ready to go by 6.30pm but there was no sign of Steve.  The show was due to start at 7.30pm and allowing time to park the car, we needed to be on our way by no later than 6.45pm.

Steve arrived at 6.40pm blustering profuse apologies for being late, and explaining that some emergency application had to be made to the Court.  He threw a cup of tea down his neck, and without time to change we waltzed off into town.

Picture the scene, 3000 glitter wigs and more spandex than you could throw at Abba, and Steve ...  all togged up in his work suit! James reckons Steve was born with a briefcase in his hand, and looking back, I can just see why he gets that impression.  Plonked on a seat at the back of Cardiff's International Arena, and well out of his comfort zone, I decided that there was no option but to leave Mr.  Conventional and launch myself into the sea of glitter and merriment.  I returned two hours later to find Steve pretty much where I had left him, but with the addition of a glitter hat, and copious amounts of lipstick on his face after being attacked by some over-excited 30-something women, who apparently went wild for men in suits! As for me, I was happily contented that the (fallen) star in question had asked "D'you wanna be in my gang".  Phew.  Am I now glad I didn't say yes!

But back to the anti-natal classes.  1995 was a hot summer, and yes, you've guessed it Steve was late ...  again.  By this stage of pregnancy, I was contented wearing floral dresses that flattered my ever expanding girth, and looking forward to an evening of relaxing meditation.  Beware expectant mothers reading this blog - the reality is far from the dream (Branwen you have been warned!).  On this occasion, Steve managed to have his tea, but again didn't have time to change.  Minus the jacket, but with shirt and tie in situ, we legged it (excuse the pun!) off to the maternity department.  The first problem was getting into the building.  Everything was security locked.  From the outside, Steve managed to locate the room in which the class was being held.  He attracted the attention of some bronzed Adonis of an expectant father, who kindly obliged and opened the door.  The sight that awaited us in the room, was of various shapes and sizes but all with a common bump ...  and then we arrived.

Those of you who know Steve, will understand when I say getting on the floor was always going to be challenge, and to this day, I do not know what possessed him, but he decided to avoid the floor and sit on a pile of springy rubber mats.  Not a good idea when you have a full complement of legs, but when you don't there is only one result.  Steve sat down, the mats went up in the air, and he ended up in a heap on the floor, with me cringing at the thought of my moment of anti-natal glory forever scarred with this memory.  Still, I consoled myself with the fact that things couldn't get any worse.  The lesson eventually started and having completed a session of relaxation, it was time for a break.  The mother superior, or should I say the anti-natal nurse said we could all go and have some Squash for a small charge.  Squash!!!! My old man needed something far stronger than Squash after the effort it took to get him off the floor, but Squash it had to be.  Back-track to when we left the house.  Late as usual, and with the suit jacket left in the kitchen we didn't have a bean to bless ourselves with! A saviour came in the form a lycra-clad angel, who ended up having her baby on exactly the same day that James arrived.  Oh don't you just hate those people who look good in lycra with an enormous bump out front.  The class finished, we bundled ourselves into the car, and made a sharp exit from the hospital - only to see said lycra mum power walking up the road ...  Ahhhhh! After that, we made sure we were on time for the classes, Steve tried not to fall asleep in meditation, and we always had change for the Squash.

If Kate (by some small miracle) happens to be reading this blog, the next bit of advice is crucial.  Just make sure you are nowhere near electricity when your waters break.  Me? I had a lucky escape.  I had just waddled onto the loo when the whoosh occurred.  I was about five seconds away from a curly perm courtesy of an electric wheelchair.  Our family seem to have a thing about electric wheelchairs and water - not a good combination.

So, the Cambridge's will settle into a cosy life with Nannies and servants.  Entertaining the little one/ones will be a breeze, just as it was for me.  James loved books.  His favourite game was to look at the books I gave him, promptly throw them out of his pram and then look quizzically at me when they weren't retrieved.  However, I can't forget the occasion that my Mother's help had left for the day, and James was (at that time) sleeping contentedly in his play nest.  Not 30 minutes after Anne left, he woke up and decided to bring the house down.  Even my singing (I could do it reasonably well in those days) wouldn't pacify him.  There was nothing for it.  With child screaming wildly in the kitchen I made for the living room.  I did think about stopping off at the drinks cabinet, but motherly instinct took over.  I bounced from my chair onto the sofa, rolled from the sofa onto the floor, and managed to get from the living room back into the kitchen.  Within seconds the little **** had fallen asleep, leaving me propped up against a play nest for the next couple of hours until Steve came home.  I cannot help but laugh as I recall the look on Steve's face, when he saw us both on the floor surrounded by the devastation that was the afternoon play session.

The new arrival will progress to playing in the garden, and that is good fun.  We are blessed that James is so patient - perhaps not so much these days, but back in the days of doing what you are told, he was pretty good at alternative sport.  The best alternative game had to be mop football.  The rules are quite simple.  All you need is a little toddler, and football net in the garden, a mother wielding a floor mop and you have a recipe for an instantly satisfying afternoon.  The mop was designed to stop the ball going into the net, but when the cute little one soon twigged that if Mum's hands are full with the mop handle, she can't move her chair to stop the ball going into the back of the net, our future David Beckham was never going to miss a free kick.

Snow was always good fun too, and so it will be with Wills and Kate.  Back in the days when Steve was still able to get about quite well, we had our first fall of snow when James was about two.  Excitedly father and son got togged up in winter woollies and gingerly staggered to the snowiest part of the garden.  "Bigger Daddy" was the cry as oxygen was needed to make a ball of snow big enough to even resemble a snowman's body, rather than an obese snowball.  When the bonding session was over, I swear even the Borrowers would have been bigger than the snowman that adorned our patio for all of two hours before it collapsed in a very slushy pile, complete with branches for arms.  Ironically the branches had two little twiglets sprouting from each side.  "It looks just like Mummy" was the declaration as the wellies were deposited by the front door.  Was my child seriously suggesting that I looked like a huge ball of soggy cotton wool? Please, do not answer that one!

Then there will be the family photographs.  Of course there will be the pitfall of making the little one look in the right direction at the right time, but I am sure the Royal photographer will be able to cope.  Who knows, the photographer may even be one James Moriarty-Simmonds of JMS Photographs fame.  Whatever the occasion, the garden will always be the focal point for photographs.  The only difference between us and the royals, is the size of the garden and the number of gardeners you have to keep it looking good.  First day at school, last day at school.  First detention, Last detention and all other occasions in between are recorded in glorious colour in the photograph album.  Talking of which, how many people have photograph albums that come to an abrupt end at a crucial developmental stage in a child's life.  I think we have about fifteen years of photos which need to be put into albums in time for the cringe-worthy wedding power point that will run continuously in the background at the reception and embarrass the socks of our once bundle of fun.

Kate and William should not be put off by the financial cost.  It does plateau (not sure when - as we haven't reached that point yet), and of course there will be striking differences.  James had his first Reading Festival experience in a tent bought from a budget supermarket, whereas our newest young royal will doubtless enjoy Reading or Glastonbury (or Glasto - as I understand some sets like to call it) in a hand built tepee complete with ensuite for that delicate royal behind.

But, all in all, the most amazing thing is how "Time Flies".  It only seems like yesterday that we made our grand entrance into the anti-natal class, and now we are being hounded to check the UCAS website for progress on university applications and cash for petrol.  A little black book has also been opened for the subs.

Would I change anything ...  Not one dirty smelly nappy of it!! And as I close this blog and look forward to Christmas, I wish the Duke and Duchess the most wonderful time as parents, and may their reflections on parenthood be as wonderful as mine.

Happy Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, Glückliches Weihnachten, Gelukkige Kerstmis, Nollaig Shona, Natale Felice, Szczęśliwych świąt Bożego Narodzenia, Счастливое Рождество, Nadolig Hapus, and here's to a New Year full of fun blogging.