Mar 26, 2009

Hearts and Minds

My Little Cherub In order to quell angst, disagreement and general unpleasantness around the wilful refusal of a certain young person to brush her teeth, put on her sunscreen and eat her supper, we have instituted a rewards scheme for accomplishment of said activities.

Early signs is that it's a success... she loves drawing on her hearts, stars and smily faces herself and resistance has been limited though admittedly not entirely absent.

At the end of the week if she's accumulated enough stars, she'll get a prize. Nicole asked her what prize she wanted. She suggested a Barbie doll. Eyes raised to heaven, I suggested a Milky Bar, to which she readily agreed.

Mar 24, 2009

Survival of the Fattest

Optic And so we are back again now and have been for some time. Adjusting back to upside-down life with clocks that tell the wrong time, though that has now become the right time and when the inevitable magnetic dipole inversion comes we'll be the right way up.

Work punished Nicole a bit when she got back with unpleasant and insensitive shift routines which left her a bit buggered - even more than the rest of us - but she took it like a nurse.

We picked the dogs up and they don't seem to hate us.

Eloise is at Nursery three days a week now so the routine has changed a bit, but mostly it's back to the old fandango with swimming and dancing.

To my horror I have acquired love handles and a gut and just before our return weighed nearly twelve stone, a frightening mass. Regular exercise has hopefully reduced that now though I think I can still pinch an inch.

Other than that, the house didn't smell when we got back, it was still standing, no breakins or burnouts... the garden had run rampant though and the grass was about two feet tall. Three mowings later it was as we'd left it.

So now I'm back to College, Eloise is back to Nursery, Nicole's back to University. We'll have to find the dogs something to study.

Mar 16, 2009

Birthday Party

Birthday Back to Ipswich after the model village shennanigans.

And then it was Eloise's birthday.

We hired a hall and invited lots of people, most of whom turned up. James and Jane brought school gym equipment such as rubber eggs and bouncy hoppers and a big parachute. We had pass the parcel and cakes and balloons and children and music and dogs and lots of other stuff, it was great... I'm sure.

When Mindy and Lola came in, Charlie peed all over the floor - and the space hoppers - much to everybody's hilarity. I suppose I should point out that Mindy, Lola and Charlie are dogs.

I gorged on cup cakes and chocolates. Burp.

Model Citizen

They Grow Up So Fast A little further down the sparse list of things to do locally that were actually open was the model village at.. um.... Bourton-on-the-Water.

It didn't really live up to the hype. A bit shabby frankly. Under repair in places. But interesting in its way. "Made by craftsmen" said the advert. Well maybe, but I think it was a long time ago.

Maybe I do it a disservice. The churches were good. But the river wasn't good. In my opinion.

Still, as people singularly failed to stop repeating, there was a model village in the model village in the model village.

And there was.

Mar 11, 2009

Broadway Tower

Broadway Tower High on the fairly short list of local things to do that are actually open, as James and I discovered when we visited the local tourist information place, is Broadway Tower.

It's near Broadway, as you might have guessed, so we decided to ignore the warnings about stepth and mudiness and brave the elements by walking up the hill.

Of course James being James as soon as we saw any snow, of which there was still some hanging around, snowball fights ensued.

And further up the not-so-very-steep hill (although it was admittedly pretty muddy) a flock of sheep awaited, ready to be chased by Eloise and Mr Naughty.

At the top of the hill, in the biting wind, we ate a picnic, wandered around and then descended again.

It was a pretty easy little walk really. Somehow James ended up carrying my rucksack part of the way... don't know how that happened.... and us blokes mysteriously forged ahead leaving the ladies to amble up the slope at their own pace. Admittedly a pace slightly restricted by three-year-old legs and motivation.

James the Brave

Horseplay Unlike several of his younger counterparts James wasn't at all reluctant to indulge in a little open-air petting.

Mar 10, 2009

The Cotswolds

Broadway Lane We journeyed on from Southampton to the Cotswolds eventlessly other than a mild misjudgement around Oxford which was easily overcome, to arrive in Broadway some time after darkness had fallen.

Our cottage we discovered was quite charmingly Olde Worlde including for added authenticity no parking for the cars and dreadful TV reception. But that aside James and Jane were there awaiting us with baited breath - obviously - and soon we got down to some eating activities before James and Nicole made some vague attempts at getting a fire lit.

Oh, the hilarity as James and Jane's new-fangled flushing and plumbing system on the penthouse floor shook the entire house each time it was used.

The next day then necessitated the purchase of logs and a visit to the pub before the next contingent of the re-united masses made an entrance, them being Suzanne and Ian and Alison and Neave and Lucy and Adrian and Stella and Catherine and Ivan, some of which are offspring.

So just a quiet day with a buffet lunch and a walk to a surprisingly under-construction playground and horse patting and so on.

The picture is indicative, it is just up the road from our little Halfpenny Cottage. But Broadway itself was a picture-postcard little place with buildings of dressed stone and lots of ostentatiously post-medieaval architecture. You know, big hotels with turrets on. That kind of thing.

Mar 6, 2009

Back to Civilisation

Industry I had to go back to the pub to fetch my, erm James' coat, but we made it to the ferry with minutes to spare and were off again across the Solent into darkening skies.

A Collective Noun of Slimms

Laughing Gear Matthew, bless him, had organised a little matinee for us in a pub which had snowballed a bit until all of Nicole's Aunts and Uncles seemed to be crossing the Minch or Solent or whatever it is to visit. A congregation of Slimms not witnessed for time immemorial. Quite a frightening thought.

In the end only Paul didn't make it, being ill. So after walking Charlie we returned to the pub to find John and Ros, Mary and Nick, Ricky and Theresa as well as Matthew and Sam, Chris and Nicky and of course Anne and Mick along with other non-Slimm attendees and Slimm children all in attendance.

Much drink I'm sure was drunk and certainly much food was et. And a hum of conversation hummed away. Eloise and Maisie played nice as Anne brought along activity books to keep them honest. Someone ate a lot of ice cream though.

So thanks to Matthew for organising it, we had a nice time and it was nice to see everybody, beards, ears, and all.

Before long we had to make our exit as we needed to get on the Ferry and get us the hell back to the mainland for to meet up with James and Jane on the penultimate stop of our little journey.

Mar 4, 2009

Needles at Sunset

Needles at Sunset The Needles were closed so I parked as near as I could get and climbed up onto a platform next to some talking telescopes into which I didn't put any money.

The lighthouse bleated. The place was deserted.

And cold.

Compton Bay

Compton Bay I stopped at a car park and wondered why the last row was closed.

On closer inspection it wasn't actually there anymore, having fallen into the sea.

Ipswich, Epsom, Isle of Wight, In Brief

Above Blackgang Back to Ipswich for a few days, spent some time with Dad and Shirley, Eloise pampered, met up with Peter and Joseph, sword fight ended in tears. Joseph's that is. Slept in my Dad's house, nay mansion, for the first time in my life. Nice linen.

Went out with BT boys and was briefed on situation at old employment venue. Details irrelevant. Situation deteriorating. Dhaka nice. English curry. Yum.

Nicole went for ladies' night out in London at swanky (I think is the word) hotel. Reportedly had good time.

Left Ipswich after few days for Isle of Wight, stopping off at Epsom for a couple of days where I exhibit signs of flu-like symptoms. Swimming at local leisure centre a cold affair. Coffee reasonable. Snow still in evidence down here on London's fringes. Reportedly six inches. "Reportedly" now officially word of day.

Eloise enjoys next stop which is Purlin's Farm at Durley. Animals very popular. Visit Winchester. I opt out of visit to Nicole's cousin Ben who has new baby. Popular choice. Baby doesn't want my cold.

Next day off to Isle of Wight. Find ferry terminal without directions or map. Good work Nicole.

Find Matt's house without directions or map. Good work Nicole.

Decision taken to leave Eloise and Maisie to find their own relationship without interference from adults. Strategy successful.

Chip off as soon as feasible to the West to meet up with flickr contact at Freshwater Bay. Light poor. See Needles. Light poor.

Voilet's Birthday next day. Happy birthday Voilet. Visit pub in Ventnor to celebrate said event. Nice lunch all round. Then visit botanical gardens in some other place whose name I don't recall.

Drive along South of island. Very pretty. End up at Needles again. Brighter day today. Nice.

Mar 3, 2009

Swimming and Driving

Power Lines and Snow We went to Letchworth Leisure Centre where swimming was done. Eloise showed off her not-quite-drowning style of swimming in the deep end whilst the saner among us watched from the side lines.

I'm sure it was a lot of fun but it looked perishing cold to me.

On the way we drove along a ridge with long views over the snow-covered countryside. A python of pylons snaked over the road and onto the plains below and then into the distance.

Snow, Ballet

Telephone Boxes It was still snowing in the morning so the Uncles took the children out and played snowy games in the two inches or so that had laid on the ground. Personally I would have preferred to watch from indoors but instead went for a walk in the snow.

Later the cunning plan was for the ladies to go to see Swan Late in Cambridge. We were anticipating problems with the roads but once we'd made it off the ice rinks of the local residential roads the driving was pretty good. I wasn't invited to the ballet but though I'd toddle around Cambridge seeing what was what.

And toddle I did while they were in the warmth of the theatre. It was cold! And slippery! Kings College was closed just in case any poor student should trip and fall. Poor dears.

I was never one for remembering my way around Cambridge so I spent a long time wandering around in circles. In fact the one time I branched out I got lost and it was only by turning around and looking at roadsigns that I realised that I was headed on a course for Peterborough, or somewhere.

By all accounts Eloise enjoyed the bally, most impressed by the tight tights and so on. Though that might have been her Mum. There were a few choice quotes, but Nicole should really cover those.

Near-Sibling Rivalry

Maisie and Eloise The Naming Non-Ceremony heralded the end of the first stint in sunny Ipswich, I beg your pardon snowy Ipswich for the first tentative flurries began to fall heralding what the media advertised as a "Snow Event" which I think was an unwanted elevation of the expectation but may in fact have been a man-trap for British Rail and the transport system in general.

Next day we were headed Gamlingay-wards. There, along with Nicole's parents were her brother Chris along with lady-friend Nicky who you will no doubt remember from our adventures at Rainbow Beach. She is brewing Cousin Number Three in her little but rapidly expanding oven.

Soon after we arrived Cousins One and Two arrived, Maisie and Voilet respectively. Skype almost-conversations aplenty had set Maisie and Eloise up for a burgeoning cousinly relationship which soon blossomed into skirmishes of parrot-like desire and the inevitable conflict which resulted from a pathogenic inability to share on both sides.

Of course conflict was not to be permitted and adults were soon becoming ragged with mediation fatigue, eyeballs tired from continual upward rolling and children exhausted by the constant flip-flop from argument to play and back again.

And that night the snow began to fall.

Mar 2, 2009

Esmee Gets a Name

Esmee Esmee day was next. Faye had saved up a "Naming Ceremony" for her and she has asked us to be her guardians. Which is nice. Worrying, but nice. In a nice way. But a bit strange.

Still you must agree that we represent the absolute zenith of parenting skill and ability, mustn't you, and that's obviously the reason that Faye has seen fit to bestow this singular honour upon us.

The ceremony itself was held at Martlesham Village Hall, a sulubrious edifice next to the green awash with little feet, big feet, and buffet food. Nicole cooked up some interesting tarts. I ate lots of chocolate.

There were family dynamics. There were speeches. There was eating and drinking. There was playing. There was precious little ceremony.

Top line of the day: "We're here to welcome Esmee into the family. She's a beautiful child but far from perfect..." That's not verbatim by the way... but you could hear those jaws bounce off the floor.

We adjourned to Sam and Tom's place afterwards so Eloise could play with Amelia.

That's all I remember.

Sunrise at Ipswich Docks

Sunrise at Ipswich Docks Now the night of Sutton Common was the night of babysitting for Esmee I'm pretty sure because I went to Ipswich Docks the next morning whilst hangovers were slept off, maybe....

Me, I'd fallen asleep in front of the telly watching QI and been woken up by Esmee crying. She was easily fixed by a quick cuddle and re-emplacement within the cot and dummy re-insertion. Bob was my uncle.

Ipswich Docks are looking quite nice, if you look in the right direction. The glut of "luxury apartments" is in full swing down there with little blocks of flats aplenty, and there is quite a stylish building associated with the University. In the other direction there's a real-life tower block going up... still. They started it before we left and frankly it's taking a long time. James reckons they've run out of money and stopped work but it seemed pretty noisy to me.

The next few days involved seeing a lot more people, a trip to Rendlesham Forest where the walk was closed, would you believe, so no stomping there. A trip to town to buy some trousers. A lot of shops closing down. A timeless sense of not really having been away for very long and yet having been away for ever. And not really having missed it.

It was pretty cold but not to be honest all that cold. Not so much of a shock as expecting. More dank, really.

But the weather forecast promised snow and snow aplenty.

Old Stomping Grounds

English Pine Forest I must be confused with my days because we visited Sutton Common one crisp day, which was a bit of an odd thing to do without dogs.

It was much as I remembered it though with muddy puddles and the trees changing from pine to oak and back again as we wandered around it.

Eloise didn't much appreciate the cold that day as I recall, but other people's dogs were a welcome distraction.