Bongo, bongo stylee

After an early hat-trick of updates at the beginning of November this site has been a little quiet.  Three weeks into our new home I thought it was perhaps times to rectify this and give you a little insight to the life of the Bagnalls in the new Bagnall manor.

November was always going to be a busy month.  A wave of productions were due to relocate from Chiswick to our company’s new base at Stockley Park and a number of these involved Live Operations (and hence me and my team) including the Football League Show.  Therefore if there was one month I didn’t want to move home it was November.  Unfortunately fate conspired against me and so a busy month at work coincided with the move.  With no opportunity to take leave, the relocation of the family was done on days off and hence we are still mainly in boxes.

Although I, personally, have not had much time to settle into the new abode it does feel like home.  Again that is despite the fact that we still have dozens of unpacked boxes and the heating isn’t working.  Yes, the biggest problem that we have faced is the fact that the temperature has dropped close to freezing point over night and the heating has serious issues.  We have had heating engineers around who both have confirmed that the system is full of gunk and thus the hot water is not filling the radiators.  The good news is that the boiler works as does the pump, however that hot water is not reaching the radiators and thus downstairs, especially, is barely warmer than outside.  Unfortunately due the design of the hot water system it is not the easiest of systems to service and that design is part of the issue, there are lots of turns and u-bends where gunk can gather.  Fortunately phase one has begun and now the radiators take the chill out of the room (I wouldn’t say it is tropical but at least it is a step in the right direction) and hopefully the chemicals in the system carry on dissolving the gunk and allow the hot water to do its job.

Apart from the heating, we are as much in love with the house now as when we first looked round it. There are only a couple of minor annoyances that we hadn’t noticed when we looked round: a)  the kitchen light switch is located behind the door, so as you walk into the room, you have to then close the door before you can switch the light on.  Why do people do that?  It is so annoying, surely when you are designing a room you automatically place the light switch on the opposite wall to the door hinge so that you can open the door with one hand while simultaneously turning the light on with the other and b) the hot water tap in the downstairs shower room (hark at us – downstairs shower room!) opens clockwise and closes counterclockwise which is the opposite direction to every other tap in the house including the cold water tape on the same sink.  These are minor annoyances and the kitchen light switch will be changed when we manage to scrap enough spare cash together to redesign the kitchen.

The girls have settled in well too.  They do not notice the cold (something that we have to watch for as they wander downstairs with no dressing gown or slippers on).  They do not seem even to miss the old house, which is nice.  They have settled in quite quickly and both are happy to use the extra space that the house offers to run around and play hide and seek.  Their playroom is coming together and now we have just got to encourage them that their toys live in there (or in their bedroom) and are to be put away each night in the new boxes we have bought them.  Let’s see how that goes.

So while I have been busy at work, the girls have been busy at school.  Éowyn, especially has been excelling at school, she has begun to read and write and is brilliant at breaking words into their letter and then blending the sounds together.  It is great to sit with her and see how excited she is when she reads a sentence.  It is quite exciting for her parents too!  She also has a line in the Christmas play, but more of that in the December write up.  Needless to say there is plenty of practising  She knows it off by heart and now we are working on projection.  Éowyn wants to take it one stage further though and has started making up some actions to help emphasise the words, building her part up!  We have a little diva.  There is no truth in the rumours that her rider includes 23 orange smarties and a bunch of daffodils.

Although it has been a busy month at work, there was one ‘dark weekend’ and my friend and colleague cleverly chose that weekend to get married.  John and Sara have lots of friends that have small children so their wedding was organised with children in mind and as a consequence my invite also included an invite for Éowyn, Amélie and Ezra.

John and Sara were married at St John’s the Evangelist in Blackheath and therefore the shortest (it turned out not to be the quickest route) was to drive through the centre of London.  It was a great opportunity to point out the Natural History Museum, Buckingham Place, The Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London.  There were colouring books and pencils to keep the children entertained during the ceremony and afterwards there was cake and bubbles.  Then it was on to the reception at Devonport Hotel at Greenwich.  This is where the beauty of the S-Max comes into its own.  One of my colleagues, Matt, was going to have difficulty getting from one venue to the other, so with our seven-seater beast we could offer him a lift.

Now, Éowyn and Amélie have started to make up their own language and phrases.  Bongo, bongo Stylee is one of them (it means something that is very good), others are more nonsensical.  One day going to school they were talking to each other in one of these made up languages so I started to join in and they thought it was one of the funniest things that they had ever heard.  So now they will ask me to talk in my made-up language.

So on the way to reception the girls requested that I spoke my made up language.  So I strung together a line of vowels and consonants into an amusing set of words and they started laughing.  Matt thought that he would join in and copied what I had done.  Amélie, however turned to him and said, ‘Matt, you’re not even funny!‘  Put into your place by a three year old, how we laughed!

Ezra, too can be amusing and seems to be a ladies man.  He is forever trying to catch the eye of the ladies and with his blue eyes and cheeky smile he tends to melt their hearts.  Sometimes he is not content with just a smile though.  In a restaurant a week or so ago, he had caught the eye of a couple of ladies and they were cooing over him.  However they turned away from him and begun talking to each other, Ezra was not happy.  He started calling out to them, getting more and more agitated.  When they turned to see what he was doing, he immediately stopped shouting and just looked at them and gave them a big blue-eyed smile!  He is going to break hearts if he continues like that!  His latest smile is even cuter as he screws his eyes up as he grins.  I will try and get a photo.

Unfortunately we have all been fighting a winter cold.  Éowyn was the first to succumb, although we were not convinced at first.  The Bagnalls are the kind of family that do not stop for a mere cold, so when Éowyn had a bit of a cough we gave her some cough syrup, wrapped her up warm and sent her to school.  We were surprised when Lucinda received a call on a Tuesday afternoon to say that Éowyn had vomited and would we collect her.  Lucinda asked her why she had vomited and Éowyn told a different story, namely that she had accompanied one of her friends to the toilet and (I quote Éowyn directly) ‘She did a smelly poo and it make me sick.‘  Therefore thinking that there was nothing in it, we sent her to school the next day.  School must have thought that we were bad parents and immediately called Lucinda to collect her again, saying that when a pupil had vomited they needed to be off school for 24 hours.

Thursday morning came and we sent her to school.  Her cough had got a little worse but nothing too much to worry about.  However at lunch Éowyn had a coughing fit while eating and once again vomited.  So the bad parents were called back and they requested that Éowyn stay at home the next day.  Thus Éowyn will not receive a 100% attendance certificate for the next half term.

So as we settle into our new home we haven’t had many visitors (we are still in boxes and it is a little cold) but the first of my friends to visit has one of the longest journeys.  Sanjiv, was over in England for a couple of weeks from his home in New Delhi (India for those of you with an F in geography) and we managed to meet up (for the first time in ages) and he came round to look at our new home and also to meet the family.  Éowyn was a baby the last time he met them, now we have Amélie and Ezra – how scary is that?  It was good to see him and it illustrates how we let life get in the way of living, years seem to pass so quickly and before you know it, friends’ children are going to university.  Surely I am not that old?  Although I have just ‘celebrated’ 18 years at IMG.  I can now employ people that were not born when I started at IMG in November 1995!

With those thoughts I will leave you and see you in December!

Peace and Love


PS Apologies for the lack of decent photos, have been a little busy, I will try harder for the next update.

Badger Moot 2013 – The Tenth Anniversary

A trilogy of November updates end with today’s update: the 10th Annual Badger Moot.  In 2004 Nick and Bonita Badger (Lucinda’s cousins from Australia) were preparing to leave the UK to return to their homeland and decided that it would be nice for the entire UK family to spend a long weekend together in deepest darkest Dorset.  Nestled in the Bride valley village of Puncknowle, Berwick Manor fitted the bill as a reasonably priced house that could accommodate the family.  The Badger clan enjoyed it so much that it has since become an annual event (changing from a long weekend to the full week) and Berwick Manor has served the family well over that last decade.

Unfortunately this year Berwick Manor had already been booked (which was slightly disappointing it has to be said) and so an alternative was needed to keep the tradition alive.  The Old Rectory at Symondsbury ably filled the bill.  Eight miles further down the A35, Symondsbury at the foot of Colmer’s Hill lies a mile or so to the west of Bridport.  This eleven bedroom home is reputed to be one of the largest rectories in England and to be honest I could quite believe it for the three floors, eleven bedrooms and nine bathrooms that we hired is not the entire house for the owner lives in a separate wing.

Initially built in 1730 (although expanded in 1814) the Old Rectory is a grade II* country house and as such retains much of its original décor, with a large dining room, a library that contains a 6 foot pool table and upright piano, a breakfast room, fully equipped kitchen and a drawing room replete with a grand piano.  It many ways it was far grander than Berwick Manor and the extra bedrooms and en-suites certainly helped make everyone feel more comfortable.  However it lacked some of the charm or perhaps more accurately the familial atmosphere of Berwick Manor.  Now whether this is due to familiarity, we know Berwick Manor inside out, or the lack of focal point.  In Berwick Manor this is most definitely the kitchen and there is always someone in the kitchen whether preparing food, reading the paper or having a cup of tea, at the Old Rectory one could be completely unaware that there was anyone else in the house.

It is difficult to say which one was it better, they are different, however the Old Rectory feels more part of a community with a pub a thirty second walk away and Bridport a 30 minute stroll away.  Those points coupled with the extra bedroom tips the balance, in my opinion, to the Old Rectory but not in any detrimental way to Berwick Manor and have no strong opinion as to whether it should become the new venue for the Badger Moot.  We will have to see what the majority decision is.

As usual the Badger Moot began Friday afternoon, with a number clan members arriving for the official handover time of 1600.  This would usually include the Bagnall sub-clan; however that was before half-term and a child of school-attending age.  Although we could have written Éowyn a sick note and taken her out of school for the day, it seemed a shame to ruin her perfect attendance for the want of a couple of hours.  In addition, the school was marked down in its Ofsted report on attendance and somehow it didn’t feel right to take her out for such a trivial reason.  Indeed our decision bore fruit with Éowyn receiving a certificate for perfect attendance.

So with the car loaded we picked Éowyn up from school and drove the 130 or so miles to Symondsbury.  We arrived in unfamiliar territory in the dark, the landmark of Colmer’s Hill hidden in the Cimmerian blanket of night and drove right past the entrance to the Old Rectory.  In fairness, even in the day it is quite easy to drive past.  Fortunately there was enough of a mobile phone signal for the family to guide us in and so the moot began.

The first evening meal of the week was prepared by Uncle Bill and Auntie Sally, a variety of curries and Indian side dishes and they delayed dishing up until our arrival.  We had just enough time to unpack the car before tucking in.

The bedroom that we had been allocated was impressive.  It was at least 7 metres by 6 metres with an en-suite shower room.  It contained a four-poster bed and two single beds for the girls.  Ezra’s travel cot easily fitted at the foot of our bed and there was still room for 5 tables, a large wardrobe and two settees.  To say it was adequate would be a gross understatement.

I think most of the family were happy with their rooms too, and the elder cousins were happy because they got to share an attic room and a bathroom which was seconded as the obligatory Spa for the week.

A disturbed night (a template for the week) followed so the Bagnalls were the first awake on Saturday morning.  We were therefore washed, dressed and breakfasted bright and early ready for the traditional visit to Bridport’s Saturday market.  Very few bargains were to be had, although Éowyn and Amélie treated themselves to a small toy each and Lucinda bought herself a hat.

Saturday afternoon we decided to visit another of our traditional haunts, Hive Beach just east of Burton Bradstock.  Sea spray hit you as you stepped out of the car in the car park and as you headed to the shore you couldn’t fail to be impressed by the power of nature.  The sea was incredibly dramatic with waves heralding the advent of what was to become known as St Jude’s storm (a weather event that some countries would consider a squall which hit Sunday into Monday).  Wrapped up with coats and wellies the girls headed to the edge of the sea, playing chicken with the waves.  Confidence was high as they turned and fled each incoming breaker, but the sea is a cruel mistress and before you knew it we had three (Éowyn, Amélie and their cousin Lauren) wet children!  Time to go home.  Saturday night was hearty casseroles courtesy of the Swindell arm of the clan and the first fancy dress night of the holiday:  Wigs and Hats.

The highlight of the evening though was to be found in the garden.  Uncle John and Auntie Margaret (over from Australia) were the only named Badgers at the moot this year (although there were three ex-Badgers) but (potentially fleeing the badger cull in nearby Somerset) we were graced by the visit of a real badger in the grounds of the Old Rectory.  It is quite rare to see them for us townies and so we all took delight in gazing through the window at our nocturnal visitor.

The Ilchester Arms, the only pub in the village, has a reputation for a mean Sunday lunch.  At only a 30 second walk away it seemed rude not to head there for a family meal.  Since there was 27 of us we had pre-booked months in advance and took over the majority of the restaurant area of the pub.  Nevertheless the meals came out relatively together and it was without doubt the finest Sunday lunch I have had in many a month.  (This is nothing to do with the fact that I am usually at work and Sunday lunch is usually a packed lunch or a takeaway, rapidly eaten between phonecalls and problems).

After lunch was the traditional post-lunch slump so we were glad that before we had headed down the road to the pub we had actually ventured out of the village.  The weather was still in its threatening phase but dry nevertheless.  We therefore decided to take the girls down to West Bay.  Primarily for them to play in West Bay Play Area and for us to have a mooch around the West Bay car boot sale.  The car boot sale was very disappointing, just a handful of stores but the girls thoroughly enjoyed the play area.  Éowyn made a little friend named Tia and played nicely with her until we dragged her away to have a look at the sea.  Like Hive Beach the day before the low pressure heading our way was travelling across the Atlantic churning up the sea culminating in dramatic waves crashing against the shore.  This time there were no heroics and no damp children to take home.

Sunday night was the second of three fancy dress nights planned for the week, ‘A onesie/ pyjama party’.  As I don’t own either I decided to go for a onesie, quite a nice one, from Next.  I didn’t realise how popular onesies are.  There are a plethora of designs (most bought for the party were amusing) and indeed Lucinda had difficulty buying one for her as most were sold out in her size!  After wearing one for the evening I can see the attraction, especially if you live in a cold house, they are extremely warm.  A little too warm for me!

With the media hype surrounding St Jude’s storm we were half expecting total destruction when we woke on Monday morning.  Yes, there were individual tragedies around the country but the effects in Dorset consisting mainly of a lot of leaves and small branches in the road.  Therefore we decided that we would take advantage of a bonus day and again head for another of our usual haunts:  Lyme Regis.

Lucinda and I are big fans of Lyme Regis and with its sandy beach it is an excellent place for the girls to play and make sandcastles.  So after a tour of the town and a quick toasted teacake we headed to the beach.  As we wandered down the front, watching the waves break over the Cobb we randomly picked a spot on the sandy part of the beach for the girls to play. Then one of those quirk of fates occurred, sitting not 20 feet in front of us on the beach was Tia and her family, the little girl that Éowyn had played with at West Bay Play Area the day before.  Éowyn, Amélie and Tia played together on the beach very nicely, however Tia had sea interface error and as she was due to go to the cinema later that afternoon her mum had to run off and buy a new set of clothes.  She wasn’t the only one in the shop either, it seemed to be a very common occurrence, bonus time for the children’s clothing department!

Tuesday saw a departure from our usual haunts and instead we headed to Portland (Dorset not Oregon) to visit my mom’s cousin Margaret and her husband Ray.  My mom and Auntie Margaret were close when Auntie Margaret still lived in West Bromwich and growing up we saw a lot of Auntie Margaret but it wasn’t until my Nan’s funeral the previous Thursday that I had seen them this century.  It seemed to be a shame to be so close to them and not pop over to introduce them to the latest members of the Bagnall family.

We had a fantastic day on Portland.  Éowyn and Amélie made themselves at home at Margaret and Ray’s and were on their best behaviour entertaining us all.  Before the rain swept in we paid a visit to Fancy’s Farm, which if you ever find yourself on Portland you should visit.  It is a community farm and is free to enter (although donations are welcome) and kids (and big kids alike) will enjoy feeding the animals.  Éowyn was a little nervous of the animals and was shamed into feeding some of them by her little sister.  Amélie showed no fear at all, even when feeding Harvey the shire horse that dwarfs me and whose head alone was bigger than she was.  Amélie also held a guinea pig which Éowyn reluctantly held afterwards, just to show that she wasn’t scared.  We returned just before dark, in time for the evening meal and the third, and main fancy dress night of the week.  The theme this year was 70’s and 80’s.

As you can see from the photos, once again everyone took the theme to heart.  Again it was the brainchild of Adam and Lucy and Zoe and Steve.  The evening meal was suitably fitting to the era with Cordon Bleu Chicken, Spam Fritters, Potato Croquets and Spaghetti Hoops for main course and Viennetta, Arctic Roll and Black Forest Gateau for desert all to a 70’s and 80’s soundtrack.  For some reason I felt very comfortable in my flowery shirt and bell-bottom jeans.  Once again the family owe a big thank you to the organisers, it was great fun.

Wednesday saw the Bagnalls chilling out at the house.  This was in part to the fact that neither Lucinda or I had had a full night’s sleep all week and in part due to the excitement of the girls by having their cousins on tap all week and journeys across the Dorset landscape.  Also it was our turn to cook the evening meal.

The house was hired from Friday 25th October to Friday 1st November but Friday 1st November was the day that we completed on our new home (see the following update) and so we had decided that we were going to leave on Thursday night after the evening meal.  Therefore we didn’t want waste the day.  Earlier in the week a number of the family had headed to Cerne Abbas to solve a treasure trail.  Everyone said how much they enjoyed it and so we thought that it would be a fitting end to the week.  Plus I have always wanted to see the Cerne Abbas giant so what better excuse?

The treasure trails are great fun, you have to eliminate suspects in a fictional murder but following the trail and solving clues.  The trail took us all over Cerne Abbas culminating at the Giant viewpoint.  It was great fun and we got to see far more of Cerne Abbas then one would normally of a day trip to a town.  There are a large number of these treasure trails as you can see from the website and I would heartily recommend them.

So ten Badger Moots have come and gone and new members have been added to the clan (myself and our three children included) let us hope that this is a traditional that continues for at least another ten years.

Peace and Love


PS: Sorry for the longest write up in this site’s history, to recompense you for the lack of photos in recent updates here are 33!

A new home for the Bagnalls!

And so the house move saga comes to an end and a new chapter in the lives of the Bagnalls begins.  Yes, Friday 1st November (two weeks after we exchanged contracts) we completed and took possession of our new home, while still retaining possession of our old home.

House moves are very rarely straightforward but this has seen its fair share of twists and turns.

We first saw the house on Monday 13th May 2013 (another 13 to add to the various 13s following us about this year – no triskaidekaphobia here) and fell in love with it.  It was the first and only house that we saw that we liked for both the house itself and its location.  Although far from perfect (is there such a thing?) it ticked a considerable number of boxes, including the majority of our major boxes but was over budget.  We chatted about it and decided to go above our budget and put a cheeky offer in.  Not surprisingly the offer was rejected but we were in no position to increase or indeed make any kind of counter-offer for we did not have a buyer for our property, so we sat and waited.

A couple of weeks later, the sellers had not had an offer on the property (and neither had we) and they said that they would be prepared to accept a lower offer than our cheeky offer, if we could start the purchase ball rolling.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have an offer on our house so that opportunity passed us by.

Then we had a day of mixed emotions.  An offer was made on our house that we accepted but on the same weekend an offer was made on the house that we were buying that blew us out of the water, we simply could not match it.  At that moment it looked like we were going to be homeless with our buyers looking for a quick sale (which suited us too) and no house suitable for us to buy.

Then the twists of twists.  Two days after accepting the offer on our house BAA submitted a new proposal to the Airports Commission (the Davies Commission) for the expansion of Heathrow Airport.  Stanwell Moor is nestled between Staines Moor, the western section of the M25, the King George VI Reservoir and Heathrow Airport and as such has been encroached before by the construction of the reservoir, the construction of the M25 and, more recently, the construction of Heathrow’s Terminal 5.  The South West expansion proposal however was the first time that it has been threatened directly.  The South West expansion proposal for the third runway at Heathrow airport will see the complete destruction of Stanwell Moor, the village that the Cathralls have called home for the last 50-odd years.  Obviously this is only a proposal, one of nearly 50 that affect the South East of England, and there is no reason to believe it will be the one that the Airports Commission give their backing to (indeed that backing will not come for any of the proposals until at least 2015) nevertheless it is a sword of Damocles hanging over the village.

In complete fairness to our buyers they investigated the situation thoroughly including calling council members and the Heathrow commission hotline.  However, they decided that it was a risk they were not willing to take (and I can understand that, as they were moving into the area and as such have no emotional ties to Stanwell Moor) and thus pulled out of the purchase.

This now left us with no house to buy and a house that no one was likely to buy.

There was still time for one more twist.  The chain for the alternate buyers was looking decidedly dodgy and the sellers were becoming nervous and they asked if we could up our offer and they would then go with us.  We still had no buyer for our house and we could not match the other offer but we spoke to a financial adviser to seek the possibility of releasing equity in our current house by turning it into a buy-to-let (or strictly ‘let-to-buy’) and scraped all our investments together and put in a final offer.  The sellers spent a couple of days mulling the options over and decided to go with us.  The rest, they say, is history!  We have the house that we wanted but have become reluctant landlords in order to realise that dream.  Assuming we can rent the property out without too many void periods or anything going tragically wrong then we should be fine, at least in the short term.  Depending on the Airports Commission decision this may either be a short experiment or a potential pension investment.  If we can’t rent it out or the void periods start adding up it could be a money pit that bankrupts us.  Life for the Bagnalls is never boring!

So it is goodbye Stanwell Moor, hello Staines-Upon-Thames (yes, this is its official name!).

Peace and Love