2nd May 1985, and here we are in the University Hospital of Wales waiting for our new arrival. Russell entered the world at just after 6pm. “Just on opening time!” he grandfather said (in those days the pubs weren’t open all day as they are now). We arrived home on Bank Holiday Monday, and then the panic set in “What do we do now?” Here we are, all on our own with something that’s making a lot of mess and even more noise! Help!
We eventually settled into a routine, but as many of you can imagine, life with Russell was never going to be plain sailing; there were three words that sum up those first few weeks – eating, sleeping, crying – and that was all three of us!
It didn’t take long to reach a point where we couldn’t imagine what life had been like without him – we forgot all that because we never thought we would need it again. It only took a couple of weeks for the Welsh Village Bush Telegraph to kick in; other mums and babies turned up on the doorstep inviting us to visit for a cup of tea and a chat or to join the local toddler group. We made many more new friends in those first few weeks and still keep in touch with some of them. Having a network of other new mums was a lifesaver, I had given up my job to be a full time mum, but I desperately needed to have a meaningful conversation with someone other than Russell or the cat.
As Russell grew older, he graduated from toddler group to playgroup – this was for the real big kids; you had to be at least two and a half years old and potty trained to join, and you went on your own. By now, Russell had also become a big brother, so he still had to go along to the toddler group as well. Creigiau playgroup was so good, we had the annual summer outing, usually to Bristol Zoo or a Wildlife Park somewhere near Swansea, and we always entered a float in the Creigiau Carnival.
Creigiau Carnival was an annual event; it started with decorated floats driving around the village followed by a fete on the recreation ground. For a small village there always seemed to be so many floats, always well-decorated and hoping to win first prize. The playgroup float was judged the best one in 1990, our last year in Creigiau. The theme for that year was British History, and our float was based on the story of Robin Hood. Someone actually pruned their hedge to provide the trees for Sherwood Forest, and all the children dressed up as either Robin Hood or Maid Marian. I think someone’s dad was the evil Sherriff of Nottingham! We borrowed a large lorry from the brewery in Cardiff for our float (this carnival was serious stuff), and the roads in the village were closed to traffic for the procession of about 15 floats. As far as I know, the Creigiau Carnival is still going strong. http://www.creigiau-carnival.org.uk
In September 1989, Russell started at Ysgol Creigiau, the school was bilingual, so he wasn’t with two of his best friends, Arwyn and Simon, because they went to the Welsh speaking part of the school. However, all the English-speaking pupils had to learn Welsh from four years old. On St David’s Day all the pupils dressed in traditional costume and wore a (home-made) leek for the day. But after only one year in school, Russell had to say goodbye to all his friends because we were moving house.
By the time we moved back to Gt Missenden in the summer of 1990, Russell could speak a fair bit of Welsh and also had a broad Cardiff accent. In September 1990, Russell started another new school, this time it was at Little Kingshill (much easier to pronounce!). It was here that he met many of the friends he would have for the rest of his life, along with others he became friends with when we moved to Great Kingshill a few years later. And what brilliant friends they have all turned out to be.