Friday, 20 September 2013

Big Events.

So far, in my attempt to record some of the events I wish the boys would be able to remember when they're older, I've been thinking about personal/ family occasions. But last year there were some big some national events that I'm glad they had the opportunity to be part of.
All patriotic for the Jubilee "parade on wheels."
2012 was fab in the UK! Although the weather was mostly shocking we had plenty to keep us cheerful.
It was the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and our village pulled out the stops to celebrate. There was a "Parade on Wheels" round the village which was lead by our own Royal Family and followed by loads of kids and adults on anything with wheels and decorated in red, white and blue.
The Royals lead the parade...
...right around the village.

Prince Danny on his like-a-bike!

The parade was followed by a traditional fete on the rec and then a somewhat drunken (for the adults at least!) band night. Which inspired the boys into some music making of their own:

Straw diving.

Dan takes it easy on the fun run!

Whilst the next morning the fun continued with lots of the village kids coming to enjoy mucking around in the remains of the straw-bale seating, and taking part in a fun run round the rec.
I have very vague memories of the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, when the children had a tea party on long tables right down the middle of Marlborough High Street and we were all presented with a mug on the town hall steps. Since I was almost exactly the same age as Zac was at this one, I hope he will recall something of the weekend!

The torch goes by.
And last summer of course we also had the Olympics. I took the boys to see the torch relay go by. It was one of the few really hot days and we had quite a long wait, but they definitely enjoyed the atmosphere and appreciated the sense of occasion. I kept telling them it might be the only time in their lifetimes they would see it, but I guess that's hard to comprehend when you're 5!
Enjoying the entertainment.
We also let them stay up late and share a take-away curry while we watched the opening ceremony. I actually felt a bit queasy with anticipation before hand. I'm ashamed to say I was of the opinion that the whole world was going to be watching a bit of a British cock-up after the amazingly organised Beijing ceremony but I thought it was brilliant and the boys were totally amazed when they watched those massive chimneys rising up out of the arena.
Danny being a torch bearer!
I seriously regret that we didn't actually get to London to see any of it. It just seemed like such a trek when the boys were still pretty little, but once we realised what a great event it was turning into I think we should have made the effort to be part of it. We did all watch many of the key events on tele and Zac got quite obsessed with the medal table and where our next gold might come from.
It seemed very un-British to be all patriotic and pleased with ourselves, but it was nice to have that feel-good factor for a change and I hope that's what the boys will take away from the summer of 2012.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Holidays past.

As I recently posted, we are having a lovely, peaceful time at home this summer. However, I am an equally big fan of going on holiday! I did lots of traveling before I had the boys and I very much hope that they will be well traveled too- going somewhere different is a fantastic learning experience and also makes you appreciate home through fresh eyes. We have been lucky enough to be able to take the boys on some great holidays already- some far a field and some closer to home. I know they will probably not remember the early ones, and although this makes me a bit sad I'm a firm believer that the experiences they had are part of who they are, so it was definitely worth it. It would take a novel to write about our holidays in detail so I've decided to make a postcard for each of the big ones with a just few of my memories that might hopefully trigger some memories for the boys.

Our first proper holiday as a family of four was to Guernsey at Easter in 2009. It holds a lot of special memories for me and was a significant turning point in all our lives! Danny had mostly been a pretty grisly baby, he cried A LOT, but this holiday, aged 7 months, he suddenly turned into a little ray of sunshine (and has been a cheerful chap ever since!) I think it was the food! I'd been trying to ween him off me and onto babyfood with very little success but being surrounded by a hotel breakfast buffet he was able to show us that whilst he didn't like pureed food, bits of sausage, croissant, toast, egg, fruit, weetabix etc were just the job. We had a lovely, chilled out week pottering along the cliffs to lots of beautiful and mostly-deserted beaches, making sandcastles, paddling in streams, doing a spot of fishing, having picnics etc. The beach below our hotel had a little stream that ran down a stone runnel and Zac spent ages putting pebbles in at the top and watching them bobble their way back to the beach. It really was a stress-free week and all the sweeter because Danny was suddenly happy!
We have had two wonderful holidays in Tobago because an old friend of Martin's lives there. The first time we visited we stayed in a great hotel right on the beach. I was dreading the long-haul flight, and it nearly didn't happen because it was the week that British airspace was completely shut down when a volcano erupted in Iceland, filling the air with ash. Luckily the day we were due to fly they decided it was safe to do so, and the boys were amazingly tolerant of being trapped in a seat for 11 hours so my fears were unfounded. Tobago is a very laid back island with stunning beaches, clear blue water, and a lovely climate. The boys had a ball playing in the hotel pools, mucking about on the beaches and exploring the island. A highlight of the trip was watching a turtle come up the beach by the hotel in the dark and lay her round, white eggs into a hole in the sand. For our second visit we stayed in a house owned by a friend of our friends out there. It was much cheaper than the hotel and, although it meant we were shopping and catering for ourselves, it was actually even more laid back. We could eat when we wanted, the boys could run riot without disturbing anyone and we borrowed a car so we really got to know the island. Martin taught Zac to snorkel in the pool and he was then happy to be towed out to sea to see all the tropical fish. You know how you often get to the end of a holiday slightly looking forward to being back in your own bed and in familiar surroundings? Well this holiday we really had to force ourselves onto the plane home. Ahh, if only it were a little closer and a little cheaper to get there!!


My parents have been renting the same holiday house in France on and off since I was about 17 so it is very familiar and like a home from home. We've been twice since the boys were born, and with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins there too it is a perfect place for a family gathering. It is massive but not at all glamorous so we don't have to worry about the kids trashing anything, plus it has an enormous garden and a pool so you can all find plenty of things to do or somewhere peaceful to hide without having to go anywhere. There's a driveway right around the house and we took like-a-bikes and scooters so that the boys could go round and round, and granny always brings a selection of diggers so Zac can set up a building site somewhere. There are also farm buildings out the back with plenty of big machines to watch through the gate. We do occasionally get up the energy to go to a market or a swimming lake or visit a chateau, and the adults usually manage to fit in a bit of wine tasting. And of course there are plenty of long and delicious french style meals al fresco. All in all it's pretty blissful!


In the summer before Zac started school we took the boys camping in North Wales. I confess, I thought this was a bit of a crazy idea and when we turned up after a very long drive in light rain I wasn't feeling an awful lot more enthusiastic. However, it was one of the best holidays we've had. The weather was brilliant all week and there were a million different things to do right on the doorstep. We climbed mountains, went rock-pooling on the beach, invaded several castles and explored deep underground down a mine, rode on a steam train, paddled in a canoe and generally had a lovely time. The tent was actually pretty comfortable and the boys had so much fresh air that they slept brilliantly at night. The only slight downside was the midges- but the smoke from the bbq kept them just about bearable in the evenings! I didn't do much camping as a child but Martin is a bit of a pro, and although we always look a bit odd with our massive 70's frame tent in amongst all the new pop-up models we manage to live and eat quite well under canvass. We've also camped in Devon and Dorset and had an equally successful time. This last postcard is from our most recent hol- a long weekend in Dorset at the beginning of July- the beginning of the heatwave. Again, we had a very chilled (yet scorching) time wandering to the beach and back or along the cliffs. One evening we saw a fox cub which was very exciting for the boys, all the menfolk braved the sea, and Danny also spent quite a lot of time making pebble art.

 Oh dear! I was quite content to have a peaceful summer at home, but all this reminiscing...

Friday, 9 August 2013

The summer hols so far!

On Wednesday 24th July, at about 2.15pm I suddenly had a moment of panic. One hour before the boys were going to break up for the summer holidays and we hadn't made a single firm plan of anything to do over the next 5 and a bit weeks. No holiday, no big days out, not even a bucketlist of crafty things to try.
It was my fault, some slightly noble-minded theory that they would make their own entertainment and that we would have a peaceful time just going with the flow. But right at the last moment I was having a crisis of confidence. What if they spent the whole summer telling me they were bored and bickering with each other? Should I have enrolled them in some self-improving courses or organised a series of trips to interesting and educational places? Was it too late to book a last minute cheap deal holiday somewhere with reliable weather?
Well luckily, the next day the holiday got off to just the start I was hoping for and I was back on track with my go-with-the-flow attitude! Danny had come home from school with a gift for being a good eco-council rep. It was a little notebook and pen and his first thought was that he wanted to make a list of all the parks we must visit over the holiday- perfect. So on the Thursday morning we started to tick them off with a trip to the "Tiddleywink" park- so called by the boys because you go through a little hamlet called Tiddleywink to get there!

As you can see, it has lots of great equipment to encourage them to get active and burn off a bit of energy; and having not visited since last summer they charged around for ages enjoying all the things anew now they were bigger and able to tackle them more independently.
The next piece of luck was that Danny insisted we go and buy some scrap books. Zac's teacher had sent a list of possible things-to-do last summer and Zac had spent quite a lot of time and care over making a scrapbook, which he still enjoys looking at now. Although no such list had come home this holidays, Danny felt it was an expected part of the summer holiday and I definitely wasn't going to argue- anything that makes him enthusiastic about writing has got to be good! We stopped off at the newsagent on the way home to purchase said scrapbooks and Danny entertained everyone by talking into a fan that was keeping the shop cool- he'd discovered it chops your voice and makes it sound like you're a dalek!
In the afternoon, they decided it was time for a fishing trip so we walked down to the weir. It's about a mile away and takes a long time to get there at little-person speed, but we were rewarded by catching lots of minnows so it was a very popular excursion.

It was a very peaceful and very enjoyable day and I was looking forward to many more similar!
Well, since then we've visited several more parks:

And had lots of lovely walks:

But we've also done some more full-on trips. Zac is slightly obsessed with Concorde so we went to see the one at the Fleet Air Arm museum, which was a fabulous day out although when we actually saw the aircraft he was initially terrified having seen pictures of it crashing :(.

The highlight this week was the Aldbourne Fun Day. They do it every year as part of National Play Day and it's brilliant. Most things are free to try and there is loads going on. The boys love to get stuck in trying new skills:

And to cap it all, yesterday we saw our first Combine harvesting!
So, so far so good. The holidays seem to be rushing past- I think it's because I'm very aware that come the 2nd September I'm going back to school- eeek! I'm going to try to focus on the next couple of weeks and not look too far beyond!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Army Party!

Zac and Dan ready to go.
As I mentioned in my last post, this weekend we had an "army party" for Danny and one of his school friends who are both turning 5. I have to say, it was a whole lot less painful than I had anticipated and the kids seemed to have loads of fun, so although the theme rankled with me a little bit I'm now very happy that we didn't try to be politically correct! We were lucky in that it was warm and dry but not quite as scorching as it has been over the past few weeks, so we could be outside for most of the time.

Here are a few pics to show the activities that we did:
Assault course

Throwing parachute men onto a target

Nerf gun shooting range

Water pistol battle

Water bomb throwing
We also had a cool-down break with ice pops and then a calm pass-the-parcel session in the hall so things didn't go too nuts. The water pistols and water bombs were genius because they kept the kids occupied (and cool) for ages with very little effort needed from the grown-ups- apart from George's daddy who gamely volunteered to be the water bomb target!

 I'd made a "tank" cake for Danny. It was someone's clever design I'd found by looking at google images, with caterpillar tracks made out of mini chocolate fingers and jaffa cakes, and lots of camouflage-coloured icing. It did look like it had been in the wars a bit- my icing skills are not that hot, but Danny seemed to approve and since I've discovered Mary Berry's sponge recipe the cake itself actually tasted a lot nicer than my previous efforts (Sorry Mary, not sure you'd approve of your Victoria Sponge being turned into a tank!)
Fuffing out the 5

So, despite my reservations about big parties for kids, I actually really enjoyed this one. They were all active and happy, it didn't cost the earth because we organised it ourselves and borrowed stuff wherever possible, and apart from filling millions of water bombs and tying fiddly parachutes it really didn't take an awful lot of preparation either.

That said, seeing my boys in camouflage made me hope beyond hope they don't think the army would be a good career. I don't think I could bear to send them off as the real thing!

A cheerful bucketful of ammo!