Half-term can be a wonderful thing. An opportunity to get a breather from normality and have a bit of time with the children (saying “children” is still taking a bit of time to get used to).

Last week, I was off school and with my wife still on maternity leave it gave the perfect opportunity to catch up with some old friends who we’d not seen in a while.

And what a privilege it was too.

Lucia and Liam – Saturday

We were so excited to see these guys having not seen them since my birthday last June and with so much having happened since then.

They came round to ours for the chaotic dinnertime slot with Sophie and Harry, bringing with them the cutest lion for our baby boy and a Frozen stickers and colouring set for our Disney-mad girl. So lucky.

Dinner was a success though, despite our children doing their standard “lose the plot before bedtime” routine (surely we’re not the only parents who that happens to). Indeed, Lucia was hugely popular with Sophie and managed to secure herself chief reading rights before Sophie went to bed. Now there’s an honour.

Lovely to see these two

Last time Liam was at our house he fitted our bathroom for us…we made sure it still looked good for him on his return.

Becca and Eddie (and Sofia!) – Wednesday

When Harry arrived on 1 November last year, our great friend Becca wasn’t due for another eight weeks. Imagine our amazement then when we were informed a Bonfire Baby had arrived at their house. Two months early but fighting fit, little Sofia has been brilliant for them and we marketed this meet-up as a Harry-Sofia play date.

The whole family bundled down to Leicestershire – Harry slept most of the way fortunately – and took over Becca’s downstairs. Her poor cats were banished upstairs due to Sophie’s irrational nerves around them although by the end of the visit, they were fleeing from her so much had her confidence improved.

We had a lovely time catching up with her and it was so nice to have something extra in common with the whole baby chat. They’re doing so well and loving every minute of it. And here I was thinking she would miss teaching…not one bit!

Fortunately, although Eddie was working, we did manage to grab a quick hello with him before braving the traffic to return home. It took a while to get home, what with motorway queues and a rural detour but it was well worth it.

Dave and Hannah – Thursday

These newlyweds rocked up at ours last Thursday with big grins on their faces and stories of how much fun their first four months of marriage have been. So encouraging.

We loved spending time with them catching up on news and finding out things to pray for. Dave is pursuing new jobs – best of luck to him – and they are well settled into their new lives together. I was determined not to ask the standard question, How’s married life?, and I reckon they appreciated it!

Hannah was treated to a tour of the local area – Dave used to live round the corner from where we now live – so he delighted in teaching us little-known postcode facts about the barbers shop and explaining just how short his commute to the Sainsbury’s Local was. Walk it in under a minute if he got the lights. Apparently.

(I think Hannah was just delighted to be pushing round Harry to be honest. And I was delighted she got him to go to sleep.)

They also ran the gauntlet of dinnertime at our house and it passed off without incident. We were then treated to video footage of their wedding, including the recording of my best man speech. I’m not as funny as I think I am…!

Mike and Natalie – Friday

Speaking of wedding roles, it was a treat to see Mike and Natalie last Friday as well. Mike, an usher at our wedding, is halfway through his curacy and seems to be thriving, albeit in the Burnley FC hotbed of Padiham.

Fortunately, he came in neither a dog collar or a claret and blue football strip. I’m pretty confident he’s got both, just not on his day off.

Our rivalry in the noble art of table tennis is almost ten years old so I was more than happy to dust off my 30th birthday present and set it up. And, it was probably the best either of us had played for ten years. Faced with his phenomenal defence and skilful taking of available chances I was very much on the back foot as he raced into a 4-2 lead. In the end, I pulled it back to 4-4 and with the decider going to deuce we called it a draw.

(He’ll probably tell you that when we played on for fun, he won the next two points, but I don’t see that as relevant).

Sophie enjoyed forcing both Mike and Natalie to play with her, even descending into tears when either myself or my wife dared to try and give them a bit of space and play with her ourselves. Charming.

They stayed till just before teatime before heading off to their world of four service Sundays, assemblies, study and community integration. Sounds like they’re doing an excellent job.

All in all, a phenomenal flashback February. Surely that’s enough heading back in time for one year. After all, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. However, with a ten-year anniversary of our university graduation planned for the middle of next month, Memories March looks a distinct possibility…