‘Family reuniting after year of FaceTime better than 5 Xmas Days put together’

There are certain times in life when I like to sit back, stay quiet and really drink in a moment.

That came on Sunday when, after over a year of chats over a doorstep or FaceTime, I was finally reunited with both my sons, their fabulous wives and my three grandchildren.

I never need to be reminded how much family means – I love the bones of all them and would take a bullet for each of them.

But when worrying times and restrictions have kept us apart, being together meant more than ever. So I stole a few minutes during my eldest grandson Charlie’s 18th birthday lunch at the weekend to pinch myself. Aren’t we all so lucky to be here?

I even appreciated the journey to the restaurant. The sights of the motorway used to bore me as I spent so long on them during Robert’s playing days.

But since I hadn’t been on one for almost two years, I loved staring out of the spray on the windows at other cars whizzing by, road signs and wind turbines.

I tried directing Jonathan but in the end he said he preferred to use the satnav as I don’t say left or right, just “this way and that way” while waving my arms around.

For months I’ve pined for a restaurant meal, dreaming of a menu full of food I hadn’t bought or prepared myself and being served a surprise.

The meal was delicious. I even pretended I had a dog when I asked our lovely waitress to put my pork crackling leftovers in a box to take home. I think she knew it was for me rather than an imaginary Rover because she nipped into the kitchen and filled a box to the very top for me.

She could see I had trouble walking so on the way out she helped me through the kitchen as a shortcut.

When I met the chef his face fell when I said: “Excuse me, I’d like to talk to you about your gravy.” But it was just to tell him it was so wonderful I hoped he’d have a bottle I could take home. When people go above and beyond to make you comfortable and happy, they deserve credit.

So I want to say thank you again to fantastic waitress Joanne Long. You were so lovely to me and all my family

But in the end, it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d been served Spam on stale bread. We were together and that’s all that mattered.

My best memories are not of the most beautiful places I’ve visited or the tastiest plates I’ve polished off. They are all based on people around me and how they make me feel.

Being with my family after so long gave me a warm, comforting mix of joy, wonder, extreme love and endless gratitude. It felt better than five Christmas Days put together.

Laughter helps to stop sadness
Throughout Charlie’s birthday celebrations, news that Robert’s French bulldog Coco was ill hung over us like a cloud. I could feel it after lunch when we went back to his house for champagne (although I had a cuppa).

Robert had come straight from the vet’s and I could see his eyes were down at his cheeks as he’d been crying. Charlie was so good at making sure he talked to everyone but he kept looking over at his dad because he knew he was sad.

People who have never had a dog mightn’t realise they become part of the family. They have so much love to give and ask for nothing. Coco has a problem with her spine and cannot come home from the vet’s until she is strong enough to walk.

Robert’s wife Sarah was doing a great job of trying to keep everyone happy but I could see poorly Coco was on all our minds.

In our family we can only feel sentimental for so long before we have to laugh again. It’s our way of coping.

So I sneaked off into my grandson’s room, put on a pair of dark glasses and a baseball cap then burst back into the living room and shouted, “Let’s get this party started!” Then I began rapping.

I don’t think that Charlie will forget
his 18th.

Give us a Twirl: I’m a chocoholic

I love my grandson. But I also love chocolate. So don’t think bad of me for eating Charlie’s Easter Egg.

It had been in my cupboard for far too long, beckoning, winking and whispering to me.

One minute I was telling my friends I didn’t want any cakes or treats because I was trying to be healthy, the next I was ripping off the paper on Charlie’s egg and eating the lot. Within minutes, one big egg and two Twirl bars disappeared.

And I enjoyed it. I felt no qualms about it. Even when I had to get down on the floor to wipe up the bits of chocolate I’d stepped in, I didn’t regret a single bite.

I’ve done my Duty, guys

Each day of the run-up to the Line of Duty finale felt so exciting. The BBC did a great job of building it up. I loved the idea of the nation all tuning in at the same time like the old days before smarty-pants TVs.

But I was disappointed. It was like watching an FA Cup Final, when you think about it all day, get settled in for the match… and the game is boring. If there is another series, I won’t be watching. I can’t cope with all the emotions.

Why Robert backs kit for kids

No wonder Robert backs the Mirror’s campaign to help fund kids’ grassroots football kits.

He remembers how much it meant to him as a child and how many sacrifices we made to help him have the boots and kit he always needed.

Robert now runs his own youth football team, just as my late husband Colin did when he was young.

I washed the team kit and helped prepare food and drinks for supporters but Colin did everything – from setting up the goal posts to being the coach, manager and ref whenever the ref didn’t turn up.

Some parents behaved worse than the kids.

I wasn’t there the time a mum from our own team, furious that her son was sent off, slapped Colin in the face.

If anyone hit my family these days, they’d get a walking stick where the sun don’t shine.

We weathered storm but the rain carries on

Colin and I used to call my mum Michael Fish because she could predict rain with astonishing accuracy.

It could be the most beautiful sunny day and she would say: “Rain’s on the way. I can feel it in my back.”

She was never wrong.

But I wonder if Mum’s bones would even be surprised to see such awful weather in May.

Just as we’re all starting to go out, rain is keeping us in. Isn’t that so British?

Still, I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.

And if we wake up in the morning to hail, rain or snow, it’s a good day because we’re alive.

How did we manage?

My mobile phone broke and I thought I would feel free. Instead, I feel lost without it.

My grandchildren asked how we managed back in the old days before they were invented.

I told them I used to pre-arrange for my mum to call me from the phone box in her village at 4.30pm and I’d wait for her call outside the phone box in my village.

You’d think I’d told them the funniest joke ever known to man.