Wednesday 24 November 2010


In 2004 I spent a fairly miserable year working in London and living in Sussex. I commuted for almost four hours a day and was permanently exhausted and frequently tearful. When the chance came to get back to Edinburgh I jumped at it.

It was three and a half years before London would tempt me again.

In 2004 my niece was four and my nephew had just been born and, in between the commuting and the tears, I managed to see a lot of them.

Then I moved.

Suddenly I was someone who lived a long way away and who they saw a few times a year. I saw more of them in the last couple of years but only a little more, the occasional weekend at Mum's with nine of us for Sunday lunch, Christmas, birthdays. Now, at eleven and seven, my niece is more stylish than I ever was as a child and my nephew is happy as long as he has a rugby ball in his hands.

We're going to Midhurst for Christmas this year and I can't wait, I can't wait for that moment when excited children show up and we unwrap presents and all sit around the table, I can't wait for my nephew to tell me excitedly what Father Christmas brought while he tries not to fall asleep before lunch because he was awake at 4am.

But, the point of all this...

In all the talking and deciding to move we debated pros and cons. Constantly. Fresh air in Edinburgh, good food in London, walking everywhere in Edinburgh, so much to do in London, friends in Edinburgh, friends in London. And the newest smallest member of our family in Edinburgh. We wanted this tiny girl to know us, we didn't want to be the Uncle and Aunt who live far away and who she would greet shyly, each time trying to remember who we were and trying to reconcile our appearance with tales of Uncle Chris and Aunty Gemma.

So we came back. There were a few shy greetings in the first week as she sized us up, tried to work out where we fitted in to her life but now, now she smiles, now she knows us and it makes us very happy. It was her first birthday last week. She practiced with her new walker and played with the other children and, when the time came, we sang Happy Birthday followed by Joyeux Anniversaire as is the custom in this half French family, and we cut the cake.

A proper birthday cake for a first birthday. A lemony sponge cut into a giant 1, lemon buttercream and lots of jelly tots.

I think she liked it.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure she loved it. I love that last picture so much.

Anonymous said...

I smiled so much reading this post :) Martine x

Anonymous said...

such a wonderful post, gemma.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Happy Birthday little one!

Gemma, the one advantage we have found in being the aunt & uncle who live a long way away, is that when they tell their parents that they are testing their wings, we can say "We're here, it's OK, we'll give them a roof and bail them out of gaol". Nieces and nephews are good things to have.

Gemma said...