Half term in Norfolk

It is mid-February, it is half-term, Lucinda has no childminding wards and I have the final few days of holiday accrued from last year to take so what better excuse was there for team Bagnall to spend the week together.  The girls’ half term break was actually a day longer than the usual week due to an inset day tagged to the Friday meaning that they actually broke up on the Thursday. Read more

(Football) Season’s greetings

You wait seven weeks and then there are two updates in a week.  Yes the football seasons are well underway and work has already started to slip into a pattern.  It is nice to know that the hard work put in over the summer have borne fruit quite quickly and workflows and procedures seem to be working.  There is one more hurdle to jump, one more client to incorporate into the system and then hopefully I can ease off the weekends and start to see the family more.  Don’t hold your breath!

This update however takes us back to before I lost my weekends to the behemoth that is IMG.  Lucinda’s friend Lisca decided to celebrate her birthday inviting a select group of friends for a spa weekend.  So Lucinda took advantage and headed off to the country while I stayed at home with the kids.  I was looking forward to spending time with the kids but it appeared that my body decided to rebel and use the opportunity to lower its guard and let the infection that it was fighting have the upper hand for the weekend.  So, probably before Lucinda had even checked in, I was running a temperature of nigh on 40˚C while every muscle ached.

The kids were playing nicely together so I lay on the settee to try and regain some strength.  Éowyn saw that I was ill and asked if she could put on a DVD and curl up on the settee with me.  So, she chose a film (Brave) put it in the player, handed me the remote controls and curled up on the settee with me.  Amélie, wondering where Éowyn was came into the lounge and curled up on the settee too.  Then the Bagnall sandwich was complete with Ezra squeezing himself in the group hug.  There we stayed watching Brave (the first time for me!) the four of us curled up on the settee.  It was delightful.

The following day we had arranged to go to the cinema with the cousins.  Ezra was duly packed off to Nanny and Granddad’s and Éowyn, Amélie and I went to watch Muppets Most Wanted.  The girls are a big fan of The Muppets (indeed Éowyn’s first trip to the cinema was to see The Muppets) and know all the songs from the first film, so it was an easy choice.  Neither of the girls were as captivated as they were with the first film (and in fairness neither was I, and I’m a big Muppets fan) however Éowyn has begun to do a very good Russian accent, in the style of Constantine (the world’s most evil frog).

A fortnight later was our 7th Wedding Anniversary and how did we celebrate this momentous occasion? Lucinda was working, then we had friends round for a barbeque before I, and two friends, went to the cinema to watch the simulcast of the last night of the Monty Python Live (Mostly) stage show.  It is a good job that I have an understanding Wife, and perhaps, in part it is why we got married.  The show was the first time in 30 years that all the (living) Pythons were together on stage and they kept us all happy by performing all the favourites, with a bit of new material thrown in for good measure.

The favour was returned a couple of weeks later with Daddy spending a Friday night in while Lucinda and Lisca once again went out on the town for a kid-free night.  We had told the girls that Lisca was going to stay the night and would be in the spare room and so not to go in there in the morning.  This is the room that Éowyn and Raine spent the night when Raine came for a sleep over.  Something must have clicked in Amélie’s head and equated Lisca’s stay with a sleep over.  Now as Éowyn had the chance to sleep in the spare room with her friend, the cogs started turning in her head and Amélie decided that this was her opportunity.  As I put the girls to bed, Éowyn duly climbing into the top bunk while Amélie disappeared; I found her snuggling into the spare bed.  I asked her what she was doing.  ‘I’m going to have a sleepover with Lisca,’ was her reply.  I don’t think that Lisca would have been very pleased to have come home after a few fizzy drinks to have found Amélie starfishing in her bed.

July also saw the harvest of the first of our crops (16 potatoes from the first plant!).  Indeed for the past month we have kept ourselves in potatoes and beans.  I have always thought about the idea of having a veg patch and so this year was firstly an experiment to seeing if we were any good at growing food and whether we could dedicate the time and effort into looking after the plot.  Secondly, it was to introduce the girls to where food comes from and by encouraging them to be involved in the growing process to get them to eat more veg.  Any produce was therefore a bonus.  Nevertheless we have been fortunate and have had a bountiful harvest of potatoes and beans.  It is surprising how much better vegetables grown by your own fair hand, taste; indeed our potatoes are full of flavour.  The girls get quite excited when I go to the veg patch to dig up some potatoes and insist on coming with me armed with a bag.  I think the girls enjoy it because of the unknown.  When you stick your fork in and lift the plant up, you never know how many potatoes you are going to get or how big they are.  It is like a poor man’s Christmas day.

It is the gift that keeps on giving; we still have beans and potatoes to harvest and now the tomatoes are beginning to ripen.  We thought that our three raspberry bushes were not going to fruit this year, however it looks like we might get a late harvest, which I am quite excited about.  Unfortunately we have had a bit of a disaster with the sole remaining pumpkin plant.  The leaves developed a white growth and within a couple of days all the leaves had died before we had a chance to try and cure the infection.  The vine itself still seems to be alive and the pumpkin is ripening so we may be lucky, we will have to wait and see.

The pumpkin probably suffered due to the heavy rain that we have recently had.  Indeed Bank Holiday Monday saw a month of rain only a couple days after the lowest August temperature recorded in the UK (a shade above -2°C in Northern Ireland) and the news that a glacier has begun to form in Scotland (despite this article from 7 months previous stating that they will not return in our lifetime).  So we many feel that we are hurtling in Autumn, and the return to school but it wasn’t like that at the beginning of the month.

Indeed we were more worried about sun cream than wellies when we spend the day at Bushy Park.  We headed there with our N.C.T. gang and enjoyed a traditional day at the park, playing football, frisbee and soft ball all based around a picnic.  The day was made more exciting by an invasion of the Bushy Park resident deer.  First it was the Red Deer that actually kept a discreet distance but not so their smaller relatives.  We sat amazed on the picnic blanket as a couple of fallow deer wandered over and unafraid stuck their noses into our bags to see if there was anything of interest.  I had to stand up and usher them away, only for them to head to an unoccupied picnic blanket and helped themselves to the food that had left behind.  (See our Flickr pages for photos).  So if any of you decide to take a trip to London’s second largest Royal park watch out for cervine thieves, it was definitely a first for the Bagnalls.

Another first for the Bagnall was Amélie’s first visit to the haridressers.  Amélie’s  hair has never grown as quickly  Éowyn’s but has recently become a little wild, so we thought it was time for her to go for a haircut.  Lucinda took both girls to our local hairdressers in Stanwell Moor.  Éowyn has been before and only needed a trim of her blond locks.  Amélie, however, needed a bit more work and we were a little worried how she would react.  She nearly fell asleep when she had her hair washed and was as good as gold while they cut her hair until she saw it on the floor.  Then she started to cry and asked them to put it back on.  The hairdresser was very good with her and said that they collect all the hair and put it in a magic box.  Then we you are older and you would like it back you can take it home.  This seemed to placate her and then said that she wanted to get rid of her curls as she didn’t want her curls any more.  So the hairdresser straightened her hair.  Fortunately, the curls have fought back but not before Lucinda took some photos of her without curls.  She looks very different I am sure that you agree, and probably not as cute.

Before I leave you to enjoy the photos let me regale one small amusing anecdote.  Éowyn may suffer, like her father, from an inability to carry a tune she nevertheless, like her father, enjoys to sing.  However her choice of songs seems to be far too influenced by Disney films and her mother’s CD collection.  One of the songs that she likes is 22 by Taylor Swift.  However, she hasn’t quite nailed the lyrics.  For those of you not familiar with the song, it opens with the line  ‘It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hipsters.’  In fairness to our oldest child, she is only five that therefore doesn’t know what a hipster is never mind what they dress like, so Éowyn fills in the unknown word with a more familiar one singing ‘It feels like a perfect night to dress up like hamsters’.  A somewhat different fancy dress shop but would probably work better visually.

A big welcome to the latest member of the greater Badger clan: Letty Louise Woodman the first child for Lucinda’s cousin Kate and her partner Nolan was born on the 17th August 2104.  Interestingly another girl, the 11th of her generation (compared to only 2 boys), there must be something in the water.  She looks a real cutey from the photos and we can’t wait to meet her!

Peace and Love





Half term at Nanny Fran’s

As promised, the second update in a week – how I am spoiling you.  So what is it that warrants a second write up.  Nothing dramatic merely half-term coinciding with a non Premier League weekend meaning that I could wrangle five days off work and spend some time with my family.

Éowyn’s half term started a day early with an inset day, unfortunately we were still experiencing one of the countless Atlantic lows that have brought so much rain to this fair isle over winter.  Thus the Bagnall family needed to find an indoor activity.  Fortunately (well let’s think about this, not fortunately just good marketing by the film distributors) there are two child friendly movies released during half-term that appealed to Éowyn: The Lego Movie and Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy.  Daddy wanted to see the Lego Movie however since Amélie is also a big fan of the Tinkerbell movies we decided that this was an opportune time to take Amélie to see her first film at the cinema.  You may recall that Éowyn’s first trip to the cinema was to see the Muppet Movie at roughly the same age.  This time it was Lucinda’s turn to be the first to take one of our children to the cinema.  So Friday morning saw the Bagnall girls go en masse to the cinema in Staines to watch Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy, while the Bagnall boys stayed at home and talked about football (not really – Ezra slept).

Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed her cinema trip and avidly sat through the whole film.  Amélie was also very good considering it was her first time and only asked to leave when there was a scary part of the film.  However, Amélie doesn’t like loud noises and a cinema can be a particular noisy environment, Lucinda, being the experienced mother that she is, was prepared and took Amélie’s ear-muffs.  It was not long before Amélie complained that the cinema was too loud and so on went the ear-muffs and they did not come off for the entire film.  It may have looked a little strange but at least it muffled the sound enough for Amélie to enjoy the film and that’s all that matters!

Friday night saw 80mph winds and fallen trees (and a third fence panel) but Saturday saw a distinct change in the weather.  With greatest threat of flood warnings peaking on the Friday and our street seemingly avoiding the worst of it (large puddles appearing out of the drains but no streams or torrents of flood waters threatening our threshold – see photo below) we felt safe to leave the confines of Staines Upon Thames.  In mid-January the Badger Clan had decided that a trip to the Natural History Museum in London was called for and this first Saturday in the half-term break seemed to be the best date for all concerned.  Unfortunately with threat of inclement weather most of the clan had pulled out.  Undaunted the Bagnall sub-clan and Lucinda’s brother Michael, his girlfriend Cristina and eldest of the latest generation, Lauren caught the train from Staines Upon Thames to the Big Smoke.

I was not prepared for the popularity of the Natural History Museum (not sure why being a Saturday and half-term) but we joined the queue and were quickly inside.  The Natural History Museum is an impressive building without the exhibits but it was all a little too much for Amélie who was a little freaked out, especially since we said that we were going to see the dinosaurs.  Nevertheless the strong arms of Daddy carrying her into the main hall was enough to allay her fears and raise her excitement levels at the wonders within.

Unfortunately we were only in the museum for 20 minutes or so (enough time to see the Diplodocus and the whale hall) before there was an evacuation and we were all ushered outside.  It was a big disappointment as we hadn’t seen the dinosaurs or managed to fully take in the big wonders that are the whales.  (Éowyn has a half-term project entitled ‘Under the Sea’ so we were going to use the trip to highlight some of the wonders of the sea and indeed the vast size of creatures such as the Blue Whale).

With thousands of displaced people milling about in the street waiting to go back into the museum we decided that we would wander a little way down the street and visit the Science Museum instead.  Although fascinating for me, I think the girls are a little too young to appreciate the wonders inside.  A skeleton of a dinosaur fills all ages with awe-inspired wonder but there needs to be a little more of an understanding to appreciate the beauty of Stevenson’s Rocket or rotative engines built by James Watt.  Also, to best take advantage of the Science Museum it is worth visiting their website and planning your visit, booking timeslots to see the various exhibitions.  I think that is perhaps a visit left for when they are little older.  I can’t wait.

So after the culture side of our trip to London, we headed into Piccadilly on, what Éowyn described as the best part of the day, the top deck of a double decker bus for a late lunch.  A quick walk around Covent Garden (including a visit to the Disney story – although nothing grabbed Éowyn’s fancy as reward for the 5 superstar certificates) before heading over Hungerford Bridge (well strictly the Eastern Golden Jubilee Footbridge) to Waterloo railway station and home.  The girls were both very well behaved and considering the amount of walking that they did, did not complain for the entire day.  This was probably because it was such an exciting day out and there was plenty to keep them occupied.

Both were so worn out that they slept past 0800 the next morning.  This is in complete contrariety to the norm.  School days usually involves dragging them (metaphorically) out of bed at 0730 to give them time to breakfast and get dressed before leaving with enough time to walk to school (rather than a sprint from a parking space half a mile away).  Holidays and weekends usually involves them waking up at 0600 and waking Mommy and Daddy up when we could actually catch up on our beauty sleep (not that we need it :-))  So an opportunity to have a lie in while our children slept was a welcome, if somewhat unique occurrence.

A relaxing Sunday was followed by another adventure on Monday.  Calling on the services of Lauren once again, we headed to Epsom and the delights of Hobbledown Farm.  Hobbledown is a rebranded (or built out of the ashes of – depending on the rumours) Horton Park Farm based on a mystical and magical fantasy tale by A. J. Kecojevic (to be honest I had not heard of it until I started writing this update).  In 50 acres of farmland it combines a farm/ petting zoo with an outdoor adventure playground and an extremely large indoor play barn.  It is themed around the Hobblers, fey-like gnomic people who are based on traditional English nature spirits and their arch-enemies the Skibblers, ugly, hook-nosed goblin-like entities that have arrived in Hobbledwon intent on causing mischief.

Although it was half-term the inclement weather had put pay to baying throngs and there were no queues (although they were still operating a 90 minute time limit in the indoor play-barn).  The girls enjoyed the animals and the adventure playground (there was an aerial adventure course aimed at older children that Lauren completed, which culminated in a zip-wire back to the start –  our girls are a little too young (or short) for but it will not be that long before Éowyn (10 more centimetres) will be harnessed up and clambering over our heads) and an afternoon in the indoor play-barn allowed Ezra time to stretch his legs and play in the soft-play area.

The adventures continued on Tuesday.  It has been months since we paid a visit to West Bromwich and Nanny Fran’s and so it was time to rectify that.  Unfortunately I was returning to work on Wednesday so we decided that Lucinda and the kids would have a extended visit and return on Thursday while I would return home on the evening.  Therefore we had to take both cars up the M40. Éowyn saw this as an opportunity to spend some time alone with her daddy and asked if she could travel in Daddy’s car.  So Éowyn and I set off five or ten minutes before Lucinda, Amélie and Ezra.

Fifteen minutes into the journey, I’d just made it onto the M40, my mobile rang, it was Lucinda.  For some reason my handsfree didn’t work, fortunately there was service station and so concerned I turned off the motorway so that I could call her back.  An ‘Engine Malfunction’ error message had flashed up on Lucinda’s dashboard and so worried headed off the motorway and headed to her parents.  Unfortunately cars are controlled by computers and so it is impossible to lift the bonnet (hood – for Americans) and see if there is anything obvious.  So there was nothing to do except call out our breakdown service and let them hook a computer up to interrogate the car and determine the problem.  In the meantime Éowyn and I continued to Nanny Fran’s.

Not long after we arrived at Nanny Fran’s Lucinda called to say that the breakdown mechanic had been and the car behaved itself.  No warning light.  Nothing!  The mechanic said that it is one of those things and it should be fine, just a hiccup and effectively turning it off and turning it back on had cured it.  Computers!  Thus Lucinda packed Amélie and Ezra in the car and headed up, so in the meantime Éowyn had Nanny Fran (and then Auntie Liz) all to herself.  Éowyn enjoyed the attention but poor Auntie Liz as soon as she walked in through the door from work Éowyn assaulted her begging for her nails to be painted!  Evening came and I headed back south via a friend’s in Tipton while Lucinda and the kids stayed with Nanny Fran.

I think fun was had by all (as I was at work).  There was a visit to Sandwell Park Farm and something that Éowyn has been craving to do for a while a combination of two ideas in her head.  As many of you know my father died when I was 14, therefore Lucinda never met my dad and my children have never met their Granddad Vic.  My dad is buried in West Bromwich and, to my shame, I do not visit his grave as often as I should, and only took Éowyn as a baby to ‘introduce’ her to her granddad.  Éowyn has reached that age when she is starting to ask questions and one of those questions has been about my dad, so I have been honest and open with her, as we are about all her questions.

Secondly, Éowyn has recently acquired a fascination with graveyards.  Not sure why but every time we pass a church she will ask if it has a graveyard and whether we could go and visit.  I have actually taken her around a couple (I quite like graveyards) but is right for a 5 year old to have such a fascination?  Éowyn added these two ideas together and asked if she could visit Granddad Vic’s grave.  I said I would take her the next time we went to West Bromwich but unfortunately haven’t, as yet, had enough time to take her, so I suggested that she asked Nanny Fran.  So Thursday morning Nanny Fran and Éowyn headed up the road to buy some flowers to take to Granddad Vic.  This made Éowyn’s trip and I think that she now has some sense of reality of Granddad Vic.

Thursday afternoon Lucinda and the kids returned home and relaxed a little over the remainder of the holiday.  Éowyn visited her new best friend on Friday then spent the weekend at home.  As I mentioned above Éowyn had a half-term project entitled ‘Under the Sea’ so Éowyn asked if she could make an underwater scene.  So Daddy used his computer skills and printed off some pictures of sea creatures and Mommy helped Éowyn paint a cardboard box and decorate it with the images.  You can see the results below.

Anyhow I have kept you long enough so will leave you to enjoy the photos.

Peace and Love