Big House Landshipping

Personal Reflections on the Big House Landshipping Pembrokeshire Restoration Project


Sarah's musings on family life in pembrokeshire

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Cardiff calling

Posted by sarah on November 23, 2000 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Took Geraint to the clinic today he’s gained 12.5 ozs in 2 weeks. Not bad. I discussed my concerns with my GP, just looking at some milestones info - and notice that 3 month old babies are supposed to be able to lift up their head when lying on their backs!!!! yikes!!!!!

Alun and I have been out for lunch. Very nice to have him all to myself. Had a lovely drive around the Landshipping area. We saw it clearly from the public vantage point on the other side of the water at Picton Point and it looked amazing. We just need to breathe some life into the place.

Spent a couple of weekends in Cardiff and had a real blast. Went down to Penarth for breakfast after picking up Paula on the way through. We went off to Mothercare leaving the boys in town to go to the rugby. Elaina spent the day with her dad. 

In the evening Elaina went off with Tiga to see chart-topping boy band A1at the CIA. I took the bab over to Paula’s to see Judith and of course we discussed Geraint’s condition. Girls very supportive (as ever!) Later I took the boys out to dinner at Alice’s which was packed out as usual (but she still ushered us almost immediately to a table) and then refused to let us pay. I was too tired to argue. Geraint really enjoyed it all.

Following weekend we were in Cardiff again, so that Alun and Gethin could attend the Network Q rally. I motored down with Elaina and stopped off in Swansea to see my colleagues before heading for Cardiff. We went to the Elaina's prep Cathedral School to show off the baby and to pick up some of Elaina’s schoolwork. Headmaster Mr Gray asked us to come back again and even gave me an application form for Geraint. I left Elaina there to come home on the bus after spending the afternoon with her old pals and I did loads of work on the house. I continued the next day and ferried the boys off the train and to the rally. Elaina saw her dad. We’d had a night just Elaina, Geraint and I all cuddled up together and the next day Alun drove us all home. It’s nice going back to the house in Cardiff but I feel my life is in Pembrokeshire now.


Selling our home

Posted by sarah on October 17, 2000 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (2)

Geraint had his vaccinations last week. Alun stepped in and held him during the procedure. It broke my heart to see Geraint in pain.

We went very gently for a couple of days and he perked up fairly quickly. He passed his 8 week check with flying colours - in fact he was definitely showing off in front of the doctor and enjoying the attention.

Today he had a check up with the paediatrician who was most impressed with his physical development. His head circumference, length and body weight are all coming along swimmingly.

Alun and I are very proud of him! Alun never doubted his progress and keeps saying 'I told you so'. It’s lovely being able to do the job well!

I’ve been trying to get Geraint used to the idea of going to bed awake and falling asleep in bed - and then quite coincidentally I read an article in the Sunday paper about a nursery nurse who’s written a book to help mums get their babies into a sensible feeding/sleeping routine (Gina Ford).

Made a lot of sense. Basically said that allowing the baby to be in charge and to be demand fed on an indefinite basis doesn’t mean babies will automatically know what’s right for them - and can end up leaving both parties exhausted.

Then I happened to see the book on sale in Tesco’s and having read it I’m now trying out the programme.

Today is our first day at it and it helps by providing a sensible structure to the day and night. Amazingly,

Geraint seems happy enough going along with it. The crucial point is making sure he gets the fatty bit of milk which takes about 20 mins sucking to reach, and then giving him a long enough break between feeds to digest and feel hungry again.

It provides a timetable of naps, which means I’m not so panicky about when I’m going to have some time with an asleep baby!

Ultimately, it should provide us with more sleep at night, a habit I’m keen to cultivate if I’m going to manage to return to work.

I’m feeling so much better. I drove for the first time in ages, and took Geraint shopping and we both managed pretty well. My strength is beginning to return.

We bought some grub and I cooked Alun his favourite - a proper lamb nosh-up to come home to after a hard day’s work. We all had fun rounding up the cows to take them over for a date with a bull. It was a bit scary but we soon got the hang of it.

Alun’s fast asleep on the settee and I’m going to have to wake him up soon because it’s a perfect night for hunting (ie blowing a gale and no moon). But I don’t have the heart to disturb him. Half an hour more........

I’ve been out in the weather a little too. Nearly scared myself to death walking down towards Little Milford late at night under the windy moonlight stimulated all my senses.

I’m taking the walk in order to boost my exercise levels. I have a little route over here and another one in Landshipping.

What I'd like to be able to do is jog, but when I try it everything hurts and I end up with a minor asthma attack! But I am determined I'll do it eventually.

We have a potential buyer for the our house, one of Shirley’s neighbours, has said he wants it - and he’s put his house on the market, so finger’s crossed.

Alun is particularly keen to get things moving. I’m hoping it will happen soon, but hopefully once the worst of the winter weather is over.

I’d love to spend one more Christmas here at the Hawthorns before moving, but if the chance comes we must take it.

Either way, we’ll all have a lovely time no doubt. When we are over there it feels very exciting. The last time we were there the tide came right up near the gates and it had a real overseas holiday feel.

I went a little further with my walk and noticed that all the homes and gardens are really pretty and well-maintained, being in the National Park, so it has quite a special atmosphere to it.



Posted by sarah on October 12, 2000 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (1)

Geraint is coming on really well. He feels firm and he’s quite feisty. When he gets hold of something he simply won’t let go. He’s now developing much better head control. He’s developed a wonderful cooing vocabulary and he will lie on his own as long as he’s happy and make lovely noises. I was very worried about the state of his bowels because we went for 3 days and no poos. I’m beginning to think it was down to my diet I’m eating lots more fruit and veg now. So maybe this health kick will help both of us.

We’ve been busy getting the house in order and putting it on the market and had two prospective buyers so far. There's so much stuff to sort out to make the place marketable. 

We keep driving over the other side of the river to wander around our prospective new home and talking about what we would do with it. Meanwhile we are continuing our lovely life here. We are getting up to 5 eggs a day now from our little flock. Last night we had superb steak - from one of Lort’s beasts. I really enjoyed cooking it grilled with a little balsamic vinegar. Delicious.  

Recovery Time

Posted by sarah on October 1, 2000 at 3:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I’ve started my post-baby diet and exercise regime.

As of three days! I’m sticking to three sensible meals a day (no more nibbling on cakes) and I’m getting in a power walk each day and an exercise programme every other day.

It’s scary doing exercises after surgery - lots of aches and pains, but I feel NOT doing them would be more damaging.

Hope I don’t give myself a hernia in the process! Yesterday we went over to the house at Landshipping and watched the sun go down from the quayside.

Very nice it was too. The bird-life was enchanting - we saw (and heard) the curlews swooping in, the gulls and geese too, and then a lone heron flew down for his tea.

Elaina and I went for a power walk up the lane parallel to the river and it was really lovely. Not a man-made sound to be heard, just bird song as the sun went down on the moored boats and the tide rushed in.

The sky was reflected perfectly and the whole scene looked worthy of an oil painting. We adjourned to the pub for some breast feeding and a pint. Met a loud family from Cardiff who, it transpired, travel down every weekend to enjoy the area.

They were a lovely bunch, and no doubt we’ll be bumping into them again. Then we drove home via Narberth, just to have a look. Elaina seems quite happy about our plans.

We even talked about little jobs she could get in the area. Last night little Geraint slept on top the quilt between us.

He’s so lovely. I was semi-awake – can’t help keeping one eye on him - and by 3am he was awake and kicking until about 6. Alun then got up to make use of the dry conditions to cut the lawn.

After I cooked breakfast we were busy for most of the morning. Elaina and I prepared lunch and then we all spent the afternoon in front of a huge log fire, talking about future plans. Big House here we come.

Geraint arrives a little early

Posted by sarah on September 8, 2000 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

 I went into labour on August 15th - more than a month early. I had spent almost the entire pregnancy having contractions, being sick and experiencing pain, so initially dismissed these as Braxton Hicks and Alun went off fishing. I had been having contractions for several hours but they became intolerable and regular by about 11pm. At 3am Alun was finally home and I had to get to hospital - quick. We dropped Elaina off to Alun's mum and dad and went in. I was examined and found to be in established labour. (I knew that!) The doctor came to see if I wanted to try a breech delivery (ha ha) and I suggested, firmly, that we go for a section please. 

I was prepped for theatre and then a spinal block was inserted which made me numb - and knocked off most of my respiratory muscles. I had to trust these people around me to keep me alive and I had to talk to myself to keep a grip and not panic. Alun was brought into the theatre and there followed an agonising period during which the baby was delivered. I wasn't in any pain, but I was so scared. As soon as this little bundle was put into my arms and was alive I felt utter euphoria and looked at Alun who was in tears and the only thing I could think was that I would do it all again for him.

Our little baby boy looked quite cute and elfin-like. I was aware that the paediatrician had kept him for a while and I picked up a bit of a dodgy vibe from the medical team who seemed a little over-enthusiastic about telling me everything was OK. Then Alun went off with the baby and they spent an hour stitching me up. I asked Alun to phone my parents to tell them the baby was born and he phoned my dad first.

Finally I went to the ward and was back with Alun and the baby. I allowed myself to feel the enormity of what I’d done and to tell myself that I HAD done it. All that worry could finally be lifted, couldn't it? But I was still not completely sure.

Then Alun passed the baby to me and in an instant my fears were realised when I looked into baby Geraint’s eyes and one thought flashed into my mind. Down's Syndrome. But I then told myself not to be so daft.

The doctor returned. I could feel that vibe again. He fiddled about with Geraint and then said "There’s something I’m not happy about. I’m wondering if this baby has Down's".

"I am too doctor", I replied. Alun physically jumped. At that moment I felt my whole world come crashing down on me. I couldn't be instinctive and just enjoy the emotion of having this new baby. My intellectual side had to kick in and I had to think. Hard. I'd had literally minutes enjoying the moment and now I had to deal with this. I looked at Alun and just said ‘Sorry.’

There were no tears, they would come later. Instead I had to endure dealing with the medical team trying to deal with the situation. Nurses were saying that the baby's eyes were the same shape as mine and the doctor was probably wrong and that we should wait for the results of the blood test. I just said to Alun that he could not hold onto the hope that it wasn’t true. The nurses wanted us to move to a side ward and were watching us, waiting for the emotional eruption, which never came. Alun spoke for both of us when he said "he's here, he's ours and he's stuck with us and that’s all the is about it."

We spent the next few days dealing with the realities of having a new baby and my surgery. I was determined to be upright and out of bed within 12 hours of the op. Alun had to go and phone everyone and let them know the baby had arrived. People came to visit - including Angela. My first visitor was Elaina. She was so happy to see the baby. It made me realise that things could have been a lot worse. Shit, the baby could have died or have received a brain injury at birth. But my joy was tinged with sadness - I would have to tell her and soon. And would there be disappointment or even embarrassment - or shame - for her? So many mixed emotions.

Geraint had low blood sugar and on his first day was subjected to blood tests and I had to feed him some formula milk. Then he developed jaundice (more blood tests) and we gave him photo-therapy in an incubator. He began feeding and my milk came in on day 4, which was very painful. I was warned he may never take to breast feeding, but that made me more determined for us to succeed. 

People kept arriving with huge bouquets of flowers. I felt so protective of my baby. I would look at him and think - what now? I tried to remember all the medical complications I'd learned about Down's Syndrome at a special seminar I’d attended as a physio while pregnant.. Knowing that Alun was going to back me up - and Geraint, come hell or high water, allowed me to believe we could handle this situation. And I told myself that how other people felt about the situation was NOT my problem and that I shouldn't try to take that on board.

Finally I'd had enough of hospital by Sunday and we came home. I walked around the garden sobbing. I felt joy and elation mixed with deep sadness. I felt fearful for what the future held for Geraint. But when I stopped and really thought about it, I realised that we can't predict for any of us what the future will become - so why worry? I had also developed an alarming lump in my breast (which turned out to be completely fine) but that actually helped me. 'I can cope with Down's Syndrome' I said, half in prayer 'but please God, I won't cope with breast cancer as well.'

Mr Waah

Posted by sarah on September 4, 2000 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

An unusual moment when baby Waah is asleep and I am at the computer! Little Geraint is now six weeks old and that delicious mix of absolute gorgeousness and total pain-in-the-arse-dom that babies are. He's EXTREMELY cute and loveable and lovely-looking and his little ways are endearing and utterly exhausting. He has the knack of keeping me awake 24-7 and demanding to be fed every ten minutes for hours at a time. I am totally anxious about him, looking for signs of problems (as I did with Elaina).

We’ve been having a lovely time. Just staying in bed, cuddling, feeding and caring for our little one.  Having found each other rather late we intend to make up for it. And we’ve also put the house on the market and buy a property on the river as a place for us to raise our family and keep little Geraint safe.

Angela Gray and hubbyMike came for the weekend. I told them both about Geraint's condition and they were really supportive. Angela couldn’t put him down!

Elaina is doing very well at her new school and seems to be settling well. Gethin continues to stay and dotes on his little brother.

Mum has been down a couple of times and even Grandma Lucas made the journey from Cardiff to see the baby and she's nearly 90. My only sadness is that my father hasn't yet come and I need to see him face to face. It's too far for me to travel. 

Alun is now over at Landshipping looking at the old place we are considering. Elaina will be home soon and I’m spending a little me time, having had a really rough night with the little one last night.

First Days in Pembrokeshire

Posted by sarah on September 1, 2000 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

On Saturday, July 15 2000 Alun, Elaina and I said goodbye to a gathering of friends and family from Cardiff, Windsor and Birmigham, at Elaina's Cathedral School, Llandaff and set off for our new life in Pembrokeshire.

It had been a glorious few weeks weather-wise, but really miserable for me to be stuck in a hot little house in Cardiff waiting for Elaina to finish her school year. I was determined to sit it out, although Alun was waiting for us 102 miles west, and we made sure she went to all her parties and events - including her last evensong which had proved a lovely opportunity to have a small gathering.

Elaina's classmates turned up amid tears of farewell. We all gathered outside the cathedral for photos, and the headmaster Lindsay Gray repeated his promise that Elaina could come back to the school if she wanted to. 'Just turn up, Sarah'.


We drove off into the sunset and I could feel the stress of the last few weeks falling away as the landscape gradually evolved into rolling west Welsh countryside and deep green views.

When we arrived at the house I was in for a lovely surprise – a car pulled up into the drive and Alun’s mum and dad handed me a beautiful bouquet as a welcome. Elaina looked out of the window and screeched with delight - there were two little black Dexter cows in the field.


Elaina and I spent most of our first week lazing around. It was too hot to do anything else. So much for the rain I’d been promised!

We did manage to visit her new school and had a conducted tour. A week after we’d officially left, Elaina was back in Cardiff to attend a pop concert.

She went wearing a fabulously expensive outfit courtesy of me and she looked really trendy. With me heavily pregnant and too ill to travel, Alun did the trip for me to make sure she got there and back in one piece. We both attended Gethin's end of year school concert.


Then Gethin joined us for the first two weeks of his holiday and we were soon operating as a family unit once more.

And then the hoards (or should I say Fords) arrived! I spent a couple of days getting on top of the laundry and making sure everything was ready for the onslaught. We had six children and Tony staying with us and Stu and Tracy staying at Alun’s folk’s house.


Rachel also joined us at the beginning and end of the weekend and by the time other pals had come along too there were 17 people sitting down for a fine Sunday lunch of the best salmon - all 18lbs of it. Alun built a huge fire in the paddock to cook the beastie and I made some large bowls of accompaniments.


On the first day of the Ford kids’ reunion I cooked a huge Mexican-style nosh-up with about 20 dishes. Then Jimmy arrived and the boys went off fishing, only to return at 1am to a house full of wide-awake, midnight-feasting children.


The next day we had a glorious day on the beach playing cricket and going in the sea and we all sat on the damp sand having a picnic. Stu and Tracey who live in southern France couldn’t believe the quality of the beach - or the absence of masses!

We came home sun-burnt and elated. On our return I made a selection of dishes again, so it was a real catering experience for me.

By the end of the weekend I had big fat swollen feet and I felt pretty rough. Heavily pregnant, hot sunshine and the wrong side of 35...but it was worth it to have everyone here. It was so wonderful having the right venue for a reunion with my bro’s and my family all having a laugh with our collection of kids.

We all operated as a unit. Gethin and Elaina were real stars, taking the kids out to have fun with our many animals, and helping with the chores.


Stu and Alun hit it off big-time and Stu commented he’d have a hard time entertaining us when we visit in France because we were such excellent hosts.

The house withstood the numbers with ease and Elaina worked her pants off keeping on top of clearing the kitchen and loading and unloading the dishwasher. Gethin impressed his guests with his physical prowess and excellence in handling an assortment of vehicles!


We had an extra day with Stu and family. Alun took them fishing and came back with a goose, which he'd caught on a fishing line. Stu was pretty gob-smacked. And I nearly had the baby himself when they pulled this huge bird out of the back of the car. Tom had caught a little bass, which Alun cooked for him for his tea.

We went over to Blackpool Mill and stopped for a pint of Pembroke dock real ale (served by the jug) at Cresswell Quay before coming home for yet another nosh-up I rustled up for the gang.


An hour after waving them off, Elaina’s old pal from Cardiff arrived with her grandad. We had a lovely salmon lunch before the kids disappeared off to play with the animals. We had a couple of quiet days - one day on the beach, and another at the Cardigan Show, but the girls seemed happy watching Nickelodeon on the telly.

For such a slight child she seemed rather anxious about her food intake. I told here that a very famous chef - Franco Taruschio, said a pudding was really important for the digestion. She was convinced!


Finally we had a couple of days as just the four of us. One day I took the kids to the beach and we had a picnic. Both went in the sea. Gethin was so concerned about me in my pregnant state and insisted on hauling me around (no mean feat!) We were so lucky with the weather – It’s been fantastic since we arrived and we’ve all had the perfect summer holiday. We were all upset when Gethin had to go home.

Elaina was promoted to honorary adult and spent some time with Alun caring for the animals. Her dad came for the day and we all had lunch together. My mum came over too. Alun went back to work in the yard despite being fairly weak himself and wobbly with back pain. Sympathy pains, I feel!


On the baby front, I continued to get fatter and fatter - and more and more alarmed when the doctors confirmed the baby was breech and would be impossible to deliver in that position.