Grandparenting 2023

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Seth and Ethan are both growing – which means they are more able to play together. Here they are at St Fagan’s last summer

And here sharing the joy of puddles

and jigsaw puzzles (at which they are both pretty good)

Seth is now in the reception class at the local Welsh primary school.

He is apparently very good at Numbers but needs to work on Reading.

He also likes making bread.

We took them on the boat around Cardiff Bay for his birthday.

High point was watching the road go up so boats could go through the Barrage and into the marina.

We look after Ethan two days a week (his other grannie now has him for a day) but he starts Meithrin (a Welsh nursery) on 12 December. He already enjoys the parent and toddler group there.

He enjoys being helpful

feeding the birds

helping Steve with the Sudoku

and here are the lads together, planning their next exploit


Seth and Ethan

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When Seth first saw Ethan, a morning just before last Christmas, he put his hands on his hips and said ‘Well, I never!’

Ethan adores Seth, perhaps too much – whatever Seth is playing with Ethan wants to play too, and Seth does get very frustrated.

Seth is now in school – with the uniform and everything.


He goes to the Meithrin (Welsh nursery) a couple of streets away in the morning, then they walk in a crocodile to the meithrin at the local Welsh school for the afternoon session. The school is brilliant – they do really imaginative activities with the children and at first sight it looks as though they are ‘just’ playing but there is clearly a structured learning programme behind it.



Like most small boys, Seth is fascinated by trains, diggers, anything BIG that makes a Big Noise. He didn’t mind at all that the playground at the end of their lane was closed – he was quite happy watching the diggers rebuilding it.

He has been in heaven this summer as they are building a new bridge over the railway line at the bottom of our village. Dumper trucks, steamrollers … We took him on the train to Cardiff Bay for his birthday.

We thought we would have a nice afternoon in the Bay, but once we had lunch all he wanted to do was to get back on the train and go up to Cardiff Queen Street station to watch the trains coming in and out! So that’s what we did.

Meanwhile, Rachel is back at work and I look after Ethan three days a week. He relishes having uninterrupted access to the Duplo

here he is actually IN the Duplo box

but of course the toys are just there to try to distract him from what he really wants to do – using Mamgu’s desk as a climbing frame

exploring the sock drawer

and the kitchen cupboard

climbing the stairs

and – the real prize –

the washing machine!

Here’s the family earlier in the year

And here are the 2 lads deep in conversation over lunch.

what are they planning?

Rees John of Cefn Llwyd

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Some more of our family history has turned up in the papers of my late cousin David Morris. My mother’s reminiscences (downloadable at ) described how her family moved from Michaelston-le-Pit to Cefn Llwyd in Michaelston-y-Fedw in 1908, and I noted that I had found her father’s tenancy agreement for the farm in the Kemeys-Tynte estate papers. Well, Rhys John’s copy of the agreement has now surfaced in David’s papers, so here it is.

As a tenant by year, my grandfather had to promise in detail how he would manage the land. One thing that wasn’t specified but that my mother remembered was that he was not allowed to use barbed wire in his fences. After the war, the farm came into the hands of the Morgans of Tredegar Park. They retained the right to humt over my grandfather’s fields and they did not want their horses being injured if they jumped the fences.

The Story of the Fox Inn, Juniper

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(photo (c) Snidge, from

Here are two inventories of the contents of a little public house on the Oxfordshire-Northamptonshire border. The first, dated 1882, is a probate inventory, a very detailed valuation of the contents of the pub and dwelling, made after the death of Thomas Harris, who first established the pub. (This is a scan from a photocopy so not perfect.)

The pub was then taken on by a Mr. K. Wood, and this is a less detailed inventory of the contents which he sold in 1907 to E. Hewlett.

These documents are interesting in themselves as an insight into life in a small farming village. Most of the trade would have been beer for farm workers. However, the 1882 inventory includes, in the tap room, champagne glasses, a tea service and plates for meals. Mr. Harris was also running a shop, but the shop stock seems to have been run down, possibly during his last illness or after his death. There was no shop by 1907; instead, the pub now boasted a parlour as well as the tap room. The list of utensils included nip glasses and port glasses, presumably for the parlour customers, as well as ginger beer glasses – were these for children, or for ladies on a hot day?

But the other interesting thing about these documents is that the Fox Inn has a place in one of the best-loved accounts of village life in late Victorian and Edwardian England. Juniper Hill is the real-life original of Lark Rise, of the ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ series of autobiographical novels by Flora Thompson. In those novels, the Fox is renamed the Waggon and Horses, and has a whole chapter in the book. ‘There the adult male population gathered every evening, to sip its half-pints, drop by drop, to make them last, and to discuss local events, wrangle over politics or farming methods, or to sing a few songs “to oblige” ‘. Flora Thompson also mentions the shop, selling candles, treacle and cheese.

These documents were among the papers of my oldest cousin David, who died last winter. He was much older than me, really of the same generation as my mother. David’s mother was born in 1900, the oldest of the family. My mother was the youngest, born in 1915, and David was born in 1926. Times were hard then, and David and his mother spent a lot of their time at my grandparents’ farm, where there was at least enough food to eat.

After military service, David took a degree in Agriculture. He thought for a while of moving overseas, and his papers included a letter offering him a post as a tea planting assistant with the Darjeeling Company.

David Morris Tea

In spite of the tempting offer they made him – a bungalow with three servants and the possibility of promoton to the dizzy heights of Assistant Manager with six servants – he was eventually persuaded to stay in England. He became a Rural Science teacher. He married Jean, grand-daughter of the Mr. Hewlett who took over the Fox in 1907. It had been run by her family ever since, and she and David ran it together while he taught and they brought up their five children. Eventually, though, they had to retire. No-one was prepared to take the pub over as a going concern and it is now a private house.


Grandparenting 2021

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Seth has had a busy year in spite of lockdowns and restrictions. He likes being out in all weathers – snow

rain …

exploring the stream – in all weathers

watching the trains with his best friend Nell the spaniel

with Arwen on the slide

and doing a jigsaw with Grandad

We couldn’t have a birthday party but we went to the Museum at St Fagans and the custodian very sweetly let Seth sit on the prince’s throne at Llys Rhosyr. The young prince ponders the burdens of state …

Here are Rachel and Sean with Seth –

and here is little Ethan Wolfendale, who weighed in at 7lb 14 oz on 9 December

mind you, he did pull a dreadful face when he found he had to share a birthday with Boris Johnson’s latest

this is what is known in ouir family as an Aunty Olwen face, after a rather formidable great-aunt of mine.

But we consoled him by reminding him that he also shares a birthday with John Milton, Judi Dench, Jean-Claude Juncker and Rachel’s great hero Rear-Admiral Grace Hopper the computer pioneer.

So all’s well.


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Grandparenting in a time of Covid

Seth’s first full year has been a very strange one. From restaurant meals

and church play group

to lockdown – videochats

working from home

and a WhatsApp birthday.

But there was still fun – paddling pool in the garden

socially distanced visit in our garden

the wonderful world of books

and when we got back together as a household bubble, I introduced him to the joys of graveyards

what was he listening to?

plus the joys of leaves

and puddles.

And here he is in his Christmas jumper.

Betty John Cefn Llwyd

I had a lovely afternoon exploring my mother’s reminiscences with our village Mothers’ Union last week. They all remembered her as the elegant elderly lady who came to Evensong and were intrigued by the story of her childhood on a farm between Newport and Cardiff and her struggle to get an education. I have promised to go back again and talk about her time at university and the war years in Chepstow.

I rescued her reminiscences and put them on this site but on a page which talked about her last illness and death. Here they are again without that rather sad introduction.

Reminiscences of farming life in the 1920s

Education for the people

War Years in Chepstow

Larkfield Grammar School in World War II

An Honourable Estate

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Some more wedding photos – and another speech. Photos are all from the online album – lots more at .

Here we are in the porch


the amazing bus that Sean’s dad arranged to get us into Cardiff


Rachel and bridesmaids playing around in the park


of course there was a Pokémon in the park


going into the reception


the cake


the statutory Top Table Selfie


The two Best Men’s speech was great fun and very moving


(Limericks to follow when we get them scanned)

Rachel and Sean’s first dance


then it got a bit more freeform




and the Happy Couple are now at an Unknown Location with blue sky, blue sea, Quiet Pool and a nice man who comes round every hour with watermelon and ices. Gosh, it’s tough.

The Excellent Mystery

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According to the old Prayer Book, marriage is ‘an honourable estate, instituted of God … and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.’

Of course, no-one would now enter into marriage unadvisedly or lightly. You need to plan at least a year ahead to get a decent venue for the reception. Vicars tear their hair out when couples arrange the venue first and try to book the church as an afterthought. Being a determinedly contrary family, we did the whole thing for my daughter’s wedding base over apex by booking the organist first, having lengthy debates over hymns and readings and doing the reception in our National Museum. (It’s a brilliant venue. You get drinks in the Impressionists gallery – white wine only, please – then a meal in the great hall and plenty of room for dancing afterwards, all under the eye of statues and massive wall paintings.)


We live only a couple of hundred yards from St Michael and All Angels, so the plan was for Rachel to walk to the church. After the reception they planned a ridiculous amount of time for photographs in the park, then we could go into the museum by one entrance as the great public was being ushered out by the other.

All we needed was fine weather. I was compulsively checking long-range forecasts, it looked as though it might be OK … then, the weekend before the wedding, Steve had a bad ocular migraine. After five days he went to the doctor, who sent him for tests – and we discovered he had had a stroke. His vision was affected, but nothing else as far as we could see. He was able to get out of hospital for the rehearsal but it sent his blood pressure soaring. He fought his way out again for the actual ceremony, had a rest, our lovely neighbour Nick took him into Cardiff for the reception, he did his speech at the beginning and Nick took him back to hospital. Of course, his blood pressure had now subsided! and he was allowed home.

Apart from that it all went well … glorious weather, great fun getting ready, lovely service. (All the photos in this post are Nick’s as well – this is what you get when you are a Prof of Operations Management. Multi-tasking.)

Here’s Sean waiting for the bride to arrive


and here he is with the Best Men. (There are two. If you have two best friends, how do you choose?)



Steve had chosen for his reading Christina Rosetti’s poem ‘That First Day’

I wish I could remember that first day,

First hour, first moment of your meeting me,

If bright or dim the season, it might be

Summer or Winter for aught I can say;

So unrecorded did it slip away,

So blind was I to see and to foresee,

So dull to mark the budding of my tree

That would not blossom yet for many a May.

If only I could recollect it, such

A day of days! I let it come and go

As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;

It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;

If only now I could recall that touch,

First touch of hand in hand – Did one but know!


Alas, he couldn’t read it – couldn’t see to read it – so I had to.


Then Rhys, one of the best men, read the Wedding at Cana, in Welsh. (Always my favourite Bible reading. Even Jesus has to do what his mother tells him sometimes.)


Then we got to the important bit. They really said the vows with meaning



and the kiss



Here we are outside the church




Rachel with her maid of honour / godsister


Steve and me with the Canadian cousins


And here is Steve proposing the health of the bride and groom.



Steve’s speech:

By now, most of you know that I have been kidnapped by the National Health Service and held to ransom at Heath Hospital. I’m not actually here: this is a hologram produced by some CGI kit left over from Star Wars (a film the vicar and I bonded over). So we’ve moved the speech by the father of the bride to this point in the proceedings, because the beginning of the speech is a welcome and the end is a toast, and you’ve all got a glass in your hands.

Family – no longer two families – including godparents and friends, Croeso, Welcome, Bienvenue (Sean, what’s the Swedish for Welcome?). At this point, having greeted you from Wales, the rest of Britain, Canada, France, Sweden and America, I would greet family from New Zealand by performing a Haka. BUT … this would of course embarrass Rachel.

But isn’t that what the father of the bride is supposed to do?

So – no haka. And I won’t be dancing. I won’t be singing Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits. I won’t be telling embarrassing stories about Rachel: because whilst I know some, I don’t really know any about Sean (I’ll leave that to the Best Men’s speech). And this is supposed to be a toast to the Bride And Groom. (Gender equality.)

So no stories about giraffes, or anything I promised not to mention. I did ask Maddy how I could embarrass the bride and she said ‘Just turn up’.

Which only leaves a tiny bit of audience participation – that’s you lot. (Audience groan.) Don’t worry, nobody’s turning out the lights. Ladies and gentlemen: if you are married, or have ever been married, please raise your hand. (Pause.) Rachel and Sean will now memorise all of you, and if they ask, you will be able to tell them what marriage is like. (Thank you. Hands down.)

Thank you all for being here. Some have crossed oceans and continents, others are from places rather nearer; and we think of those who are unable to be here. I think we have to give the furthest distance prize to those from New Zealand because if they travelled any further they would have gone the other way.

Wedding guest lists are often dominated by the past. People Sean knew and Rachel knew before they knew each other; families they were born into; godparents and a god-sister they were blessed with; but a little secret. When doing guest lists, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. For some people, being invited is important, even though they know they won’t be able to get there. One of several criteria Rachel and Sean used when drawing up their list was that they wanted guests who would be part of their future, not just their past.

No pressure!

So, today, in the nowness of now, in the hereness of here, a wedding. The formal start to a marriage. And marriage is the classic paradox. Like other people’s marriages, but Sean and Rachel’s is unique to them. Two people trying to live as one. Two people trying to see both sides of things from the point of view of one.

Rachel’s mother Maddy has many accomplishments. I’m going to say something nice about her, which she hates, as a sort of revenge. The one accomplishment that Rachel admires most is Maddy’s ability to put up with me for the past 45 years of marriage.

The old Book of Common Prayer called marriage ‘an excellent mystery’, where ‘mystery’ meant the skills to be learned, the knowledge to be gained, like the ‘mystery’ of a medieval guild.

Finally, then, A Poem What I Wrote. (The toast is at the end – so be ready!) The theme of this speech is also the title of the poem, because I wrote it that way.

Marriage is a mystery to be learnt.

Walking side by side,
talking face to face,
hold each other tightly
but give each other space.

Read each other’s faces,
learn the language of the eyes,
listen to the silences;
then, thoughtful
becomes wise.

If you fail to remember,
or if you forget some part,
it was a flaw in your memory
not a fault in your heart.

Cherish each other, be happy, be joyful;
balance each other, be open, be hopeful.

At future wedding receptions
you will stand amongst the guests
as a couple who are married.
And when the host requests,
you will raise your glistening glasses
as the toast rings round the room:
‘Ladies and gentlemen. Rachel and Sean – The Bride And Groom!’

    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

The speeches by the groom and best men will need a separate blog post – as will the rest of the reception including some rather wild dancing. Well, if you have a Bollywood dress you have to try to live up to it.

What a day.

O God, who hast consecrated the state of Matrimony to such an excellent mystery, that in it is signified and represented the spiritual marriage and unity betwixt Christ and his Church: Look mercifully upon these thy servants … O Lord, bless them both, and grant them to inherit thy everlasting kingdom.