So a couple of weeks after we announced to the world that we are expecting our third child, our second child celebrated her second birthday. Yes can you believe that Amélie is 2 years old. This time in 2010 we were on the way to St. Peter’s hospital and thankfully the road conditions were not the same as they were this year as there were road closures and heavy traffic around the area and I can’t imagine trying to battle your way through heavy traffic with a wife in the latter stages of labour!
As a modern father I have (so far) managed to be off work on all of my children’s birthdays and Amélie’s second one was no exception, in fact I managed to organise myself the entire weekend off. Amélie’s birthday was last Friday and on Fridays Éowyn goes to pre-school and this Friday was no exception. However before we took Éowyn to pre-school she helped Amélie to open her birthday presents. Amélie obvious wasn’t entirely sure why she had presents but didn’t care too much as her big sister opened a Peppa Pig treehouse and nothing else then mattered. We did manage to wrestle it from her grasp so that we could take Éowyn to school before heading out for the day’s adventure.
With the impending third baguette due in March we have come to realise that Lucinda’s Nissan Micra is not going to cope with three car seats. In fact, most cars have difficulty fitting three car seats in, hence the proliferation of MPVs on the market. Unfortunately most MPVs simply replace the boot (trunk for my American readers) with two seats. This obviously is handy and does allow extra car seat space, unfortunately it usually means that there is no boot (or trunk) space, which when you have pushchairs and the general accoutrements that goes with children is a real disadvantage. Not all MPVs are made equal though and the balance is to find one large enough to accommodate the three car seats and the progeniture paraphernalia without feeling that you are driving a van (especially when you have been used to driving a Micra) and, possibly more importantly, without breaking the bank.
The model that seems to tick the majority of the boxes is the Ford S-Max (not only does it have seven seats and boot space but it is wide enough to get three car seats across the middle row meaning that as a family of five we could keep the back two seats down turning it into a very large estate car). So it was with this in mind that we took a trip to Car Giant in Shepherd’s Bush to look at their current crop. Unfortunately none of the ones that they had in seemed to be right and when you are spending that kind of money it needs to be right. There was one that had caught our eye when we looked at their internet site but unfortunately in real life this particular individual did not inspire love and affection from either of us so we decided that we would walk away and keep looking there are plenty more S-Maxes in the sea.
Returning back home, we picked Éowyn up from pre-school and then Amélie completed her birthday day at home playing with her new toys with her big sister. It is probably the first time that Amélie has things that Éowyn really wanted and I think that Amélie realised this and suddenly became very possessive of her presents. Time for a lesson in sharing, for both of our children.
A relaxed Friday afternoon melted into an equally relaxed Saturday morning. However there was a big family outing planned for the evening. Hollycombe Working Steam museum, near Liphook in Hampshire is, as the name suggests, a working steam museum with an Edwardian steam-driven fairground alongside the obligatory steam train and traction engines. It is open all summer long and although it closes for the winter in September and October it opens for evening admission which, with the autumnal dark nights, adds a magical element to the fairground. It is somewhere that Lucinda’s family try and visit each year but unfortunately we have not been able to make it for the last three years for one reason or another, in fact the last time we visited Éowyn was a baby.
We arrived at Hollycombe about an hour or so before it opened and Lucinda’s dad fired up the camping stove and cooked us all sausage and bacon sandwiches. We provided desert with Amélie’s birthday cake (a cake that she was unable to eat because it contained milk – so she had her own chocolate brownies that Lucinda made especially for her) before buying our tickets and heading into the museum. As we entered the museum we noticed that the steam train was running. This was the first time it had been running on an evening that the family had visited and therefore it was too good an opportunity to miss, so we paid our £2 and climbed onboard. This really whetted the girls’ appetites for the fair and so after disembarking we headed to the full size carousel. Again both girls thoroughly enjoyed it and Amélie didn’t want to get off. Fortunately there were plenty of children’s rides for them, a junior roundabout, juvenile dobbies, austin cars and the children’s chair-o-planes and they enjoyed all four. We were unsure how they would react to the chair-o-planes but we need not of feared, they loved it! In fact it was a bit of a struggle to get them off each ride and more than once they were the only children on the ride and made the operator send them round twice. I would thoroughly recommend a night trip to Hollycombe for kids, young and old and imagine what it must have been like for your great-grandparents visiting one of these at the turn of the 20th Century.
We ended the weekend in style at the Village Centre in Englefield Green at a joint 4th birthday party for Éowyn and the other children from our N.C.T. group. It was just coincidence that is was 2 days after Amélie’s birthday, it was planned to be somewhere in the middle of the span of the N.C.T.’s group’s birthdays. The Village Centre was a great venue for the party and was just the right size for the group that we had invited, it felt cozy without feeling too crowded and had plenty of room for games. Sharing a children’s party certainly takes the pressure (and the expense) off one family. We all had responsibilities for different aspects of the catering and we all organised one mass participant game each. As a consequence of sharing these responsibilities it meant that the stress was reduced (or at least shared across six sets of parents) and thus as a parent you could actually enjoy your child’s party. There were tears (it wouldn’t be a children’s party without them) but on the whole the children were very well behaved and we keep them entertained long enough to prevent any serious altercations. It was good to meet up with our N.C.T. group even though it was difficult to sit down and chat for any length of time,as a parent that is something that is now second nature.
Now work beckons and my mini break is over, the wide world of sport stops for no man, but before I leave you just an update on Éowyn’s quasi corporeal companions (imaginary friends to you and I). Dizzy, it seems, it a naughty boy but no bad deed goes unpunished. The other day Éowyn calmly informed us that Dizzy was in hospital. He had tiptoed out of the house and got squished by a car. Do not fear he is alright but it seems that his place in Éowyn’s affections has been relegated slightly and now there is a new brother called Connor. Connor it seems looks like an old man in a paper hat. When I suggested that Connor was an old man I was rebuked, ‘No Daddy, he just looks like an old man.‘ So now you know. He also will only wake up if you speak to him in Russian. Éowyn’s quasi corporeal companions are not limited to people, Russian or otherwise, she currently has a cat called Stephanie and a dog called Giggly. Either she has a fantastic imagination or she can see things that are hidden to us cynical adults.
Peace and Love