It has turned a bit cold

You may have had to wait for over a fortnight for the first update of 2016, and that was more of a reflection of 2015, a little more than a week later you get, this, the first proper update of the year.

The update begins on the last day of 2015.  At Granddad’s funeral we meet up with Lucinda’s cousin Joanne. It was the first time that I had met Joanne and, it goes without saying that she had not met Éowyn, Amélie or Ezra and so we decided to make amends and made a promise to meet up.  There is something about funerals that makes you appreciate life and one quite often makes promises to meet up, or take life less seriously or focus on the things that make you happy.  I think we all start off with good intents before life, once more, gets in the way and we fall back to our old ways and habitual behaviours.  However, sometimes, something sticks and we follow through.  So it was with a visit to cousin Joanne.  She had initially invited us to her house to go for a walk and take advantage of the communal swimming pool in her complex sometime between Christmas and New Year.  She called just before Christmas to confirm a date and we decided upon New Year’s Eve; the invite was open to the whole family.  Therefore, on New Year’s Eve the Bagnalls and Nanny headed to just outside of Godalming to do just that.  Uncle Michael was away in Spain, so did not join us but Uncle Steven, Auntie Zoe and Megan and Finley met us there.

We took advantage of the 55 acres and the dry weather and went for a walk around the woodland surrounding her complex.  There was plenty of chopped wood that caught my wood-burning eye but unfortunately due to the extremely muddy ground Ezra’s pushchair could not be used a wood-carrier and it had, unfortunately, to be left on the ground to rot.  After the muddy stroll it was time to relax in the swimming pool (and by the swimming pool for those who didn’t take a dip) before heading back to Joanne’s flat for a spot of dinner.  A very sedate but enjoyable way to spend New Year Eve’s day.

There were no mad New Year’s Eve parties for the Bagnalls which meant that when the Baguettes woke early on New Year’s Day although slightly annoying they were not greeted by hungover grunts. As we were awake, we greeted the new year with a full English breakfast before heading to Bedfont Lakes with Nanny for a New Year stroll.

Indeed, taking advantage of Daddy having work-free weekends, weekend strolls have become the norm for 2016.  Our usual haunt, however is Virginia Water, with our annual car park pass allowing us free entry into the Royal car parks.  One of these Sunday strolls saw our N.C.T. group meet up for the first time in over a year.  One of the reasons that we decided to do N.C.T. classes when Lucinda was pregnant with Éowyn was to meet people in the same situation, expecting their first child at a similar time, so that we had a support group.  We were very lucky and amazingly six of the eight couples are still in regular contact and we now only live 4 doors away from one of the group.

Unfortunately, as with most things, life tends to get in the way and we do not meet up as a big group as often as we once did, especially now that the children have school friends of their own (although Éowyn, Billy and Blake are at the same school and indeed Éowyn and Blake are in the same class).  What was interesting was that the kids, even though they have made their own friends, still see the others from the group as their ‘true‘ friends, perhaps somewhere between a relative and a friend.  It will be interesting to see if this continues as they grow older.

Although true when I first sat down to write this update and not quite so now, we have had (at least in this corner of the world) a week’s worth of winter.  The overnight temperatures dropped below freezing and we even woke on a Sunday morning to snow.  Not enough to call a blanket, not even a sheet; I think the correct term is a dusting.  Nevertheless this is the first time since we moved to our current home that it has snowed, and the first time that Ezra had seen snow.

The Baguettes woke up excited and asked Anna-like, ‘Can we build a snowman?‘  Unfortunately the dusting wasn’t even enough to make a snowball in our garden, so once again we climbing into the trusted S-Max and headed to Virginia Water.  Again there wasn’t a huge amount of snow but the snow still lingered in the shaded areas and they ran around excitedly.  Snowball fights and sliding on the slippery surface helped them to ignore the sub-freezing temperatures and we spent over an hour taking advantage of this excitement.

The other side of the cold weather was that it gave me an excuse (as if I need to have an excuse) to light the wood stove.  I have developed my technique for lighting a fire and when it is at optimum burn the heat it gives off is amazing.  It easily warms our lounge and the rest of the house also feels the benefit of a roaring fire.  It is interesting to think that lighting a fire is easy and we do it without thinking but when you are doing it everyday you notice the science of fire-lighting.  The fuel (down to different types of wood and how dry it is) all affect the quality of the fire.  I have even had the unfortunate effect known as a downdraft.  This was caused by atmospheric/ wind direction over our flue.  This meant that the fire struggled to light and the smoke decided that the easiest route wasn’t via the flue but into the room and we were quickly coughing with the smokey atmosphere.  A quick google and  warming the stove with some flaming paper soon warmed the flue itself and begun to draw the smoke back up and into the atmosphere.

Toffee and Frazzle (the guinea pigs) are settling into Bagnall Manor and becoming more comfortable with the attention that they are getting.  They still run and hide if they think you re going to open the cage but are quite happy to squeak to you if you just sit and talk to them.  Once you have taken them out of their cage they are quite relaxed and will sit happily on your lap.  The girls (and Lucinda) are becoming much more confident holding them, although it is still Daddy that has to take them out of the cage.  The girls and Ezra are still very much engaged with their first pets and not only want to hold them most days but help with cleaning of the cage.  Indeed they fight over who is going to clean what and how much.  They enjoy the engagement with the guinea pigs’ home and they know that when we clean the guinea pigs out then before we put them back into their newly cleaned home we get to handle them.  Hopefully this level of engagement will carry on.

I will leave you now with the first set of photos from 2016, mainly from our various walks in Virginia Water, perhaps we need to go elsewhere before the next write up.

Peace and Love



That was the Christmas that was

Trust that you all had a fantastic Christmas and Santa brought you all the presents that you deserve.  He was very generous with the Bagnall household this year and despite rumours to the contrary the Baguettes must have been on the ‘nice’ list.  As tradition dictates this will be the last update of 2015; the next update will be early in the new year when I will reflect on the year but here I will update you on the events of the Bagnall household over the yuletide.

Both girls broke up from school the Friday before Christmas, which means that they will be off school for just over a fortnight.  Fortunately my new shift pattern meant that although I was working the weekend before Christmas (the tail-end of a seven-day stint) I was off for the three days leading up to Christmas and could spend some time with them (and Ezra) at the start of their holiday.

Monday saw our fireplace, or more accurately our multi-fuel stove, finally installed and although it is the warmest December on record, in the South-East of the UK at least, wood needed to be burnt.  It has taken me a few goes to begin to perfect the technique to obtain a really hot fire, and I still think that there is a lot to learn.  My early mistake was that I was a little too eager to get the logs on the fire, as soon as the kindling was aflame I was piling the wood in.  Thus the stove was never reaching the optimum temperature before being asked to work.  There is still a lot to learn though, something that I am looking forward to.

Tuesday was the first day off as a family and I took this opportunity to take Éowyn to the local cinema to see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, while Lucinda stayed at home with Amélie and Ezra.  I was seven when Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was released so I thought it was high time to introduce my eldest to the Star Wars universe.  Éowyn hasn’t seen any of the other films (something that will be rectified over the next few weeks) unlike her friend Blake who, along with his father, accompanied us to the first showing of the day.

Unfortunately, we could not get 4 tickets in a row, so we had 3 in one row and 1 just in front, therefore Martin sat with the children, while I saw on my lonesome.  Even in my excitement of watching a Star Wars film at the cinema, I was conscious of my little girl in the row behind and kept turning round and making sure she was fine.  About half way through the film she tapped me on the shoulder because she wanted to go the toilet, so we headed out of the auditorium.  I took the opportunity to ask her what she thought of the film.  She said that she was enjoying it but was a little scared in places.  This as such didn’t worry me too much as I think that is the beauty of film, that it takes you on an emotional journey, however the next sentence broke my heart.  She said that she had noticed that when Blake was scared he had his daddy’s hand to hold but when she was scared she had nobody’s hand to hold.

Therefore when we returned to the auditorium I told her to sit on my knee to watch the remainder of the film.  As we sat there watching the conclusion of the film my hand was holding her side and chest and I could feel her heart beating at ten to the dozen with the excitement of the final scenes.  Father and daughter bonding over a film.

This isn’t really a forum for my report on the film but suffice to say that I enjoyed it but was disappointed.  That sounds oxymoronic but Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope – as it was retrospectively christened) took Hollywood in a new direction and kicked off the summer blockbuster (in tracks laid by Jaws a couple of years before).  It was a nod to 1930’s serials such as Flash Gordon, it took inspiration from Akira Kurosawa (especially The Hidden Fortress), mixed in 1950’s Westerns and a dash of World War II movies and captured a generation of children’s imaginations.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on the other hand is trying to be Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, it is not trying to be anything new; it has no story of its own.  That is slightly unfair as it is part of the continuing Star Wars story however, for me, it is a scene by scene remake and brings nothing new to either the Star Wars universe or Hollywood in general.  It was Disney playing safe trying not to damage the franchise with its first film especially since it has paid $4 billion for the rights.  It will do well at the Box Office; it is an enjoyable romp and to be honest I think it is a good film and I will see it again, and I am looking forward to the ‘Director’s Cut’, but is it a great film?  Will it be anyone’s favourite film?  Does it do anything that no other film does?  Unfortunately not.  That is why despite my childhood enthusiasm for the film and for all it stands for it is a disappointment.

We left the cinema with Éowyn asking lots of questions (some I could answer, some I couldn’t – the films haven’t been written yet!) and a promise that we will sit down and watch the remaining canon.  We had a list of things to pick up while in Staines town centre, so after grabbing something quick to eat we battled the Christmas shoppers and headed home.

In November we had offered to cook Christmas dinner for both of our families.  That is Lucinda’s Mom, brothers and their families and my Mom and my sisters.  With Granddad’s passing in October it only seemed right and fitting that we spent Christmas together as a family.  It wasn’t right, however to burden Nanny with the entertainment (even if we, as the next generation cooked the actual meal) so the logical place was our house.  Our lounge/dining room is big enough, with a rearrangement of the furniture to comfortably seat 17, even if the kitchen isn’t quite equipped to cook for that many.  However as we stood on Tuesday afternoon, 72 hours before that meal the house was not in any fit state to welcome Christmas visitors.

The lounge had been emptied to allow the workmen to work on the fireplace and so all the furniture was piled to one side of the dining room.  There was also a layer of dust coating many of the surfaces in the house.  So after returning from the cinema we set about rearranging the furniture and getting ready for the family.

Christmas Eve saw the arrival of Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz, Auntie Mary and Toffee and Frazzle.  The house was ready for Christmas and the fire was on.  Toffee and Frazzle were introduced to their new home (although the girls did not know that we were going to keep them at this point) and we settled down for the evening.  We were all sitting around chatting and watching Christmas telly that we completely forgot to go out into the garden to look for Santa’s International Space Sleigh.

Christmas morning we were expecting to be woken at oh, my gosh it’s early, O’clock.  However that was not to be.  Éowyn and Amélie didn’t wake until 0730 while Ezra was still asleep at 0800! How lucky were we?  Indeed we were downstairs when Ezra woke up and I asked him whether Santa had been and left anything in his room.  His little face dropped and he shook his head.  ‘Are you sure?‘  I inquired (I did have some insider information), ‘Shall we have a look?‘  His face lit up when he saw he big sack of presents and we took it downstairs to join the girls in the big opening.

Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary must have also been good girls as Santa had left them a little stocking of presents too.  They certainly were good girls helping us prepare the table and more importantly preparing the mountains of veg for Christmas dinner.

Amazingly, Christmas dinner for 17 went fairly smoothly.  We were planning to sit down and eat at 1500 and we started serving at 1503!  There was a mountain of food left over (that kept us going for days afterwards) and we needed a little bit of a tactical break before tackling the desserts.  Auntie Zoe provided the desserts (with help from Uncle Steven) but as Christmas Day is also her birthday we had a surprise for her.  Instead of bringing in the Christmas Pud alight, we turned the lights out to bring in a birthday cake replete with 4 lit candles.  Apparently, it was only about the third birthday cake she has ever had.

I was back at work on Boxing Day (it is one of the busiest football days!) and Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary headed up to West Bromwich, leaving Lucinda and the Baguettes in the house with ridiculous amounts of cardboard and piles of toys.

There was a gap in the fixtures on the following day so it was time to introduce the Baguettes to one of the big responsibilities of pet ownership – cleaning out the cage.  Not sure how long this enthusiasm will last but they all helped cleaning the cage and their house while I disposed of the waste products.  It was a good excuse for another cuddle with the guinea pigs before putting them back into their clean cage for them to mess up and throw their food all over the floor.  I have been teaching the Baguettes that when you approach the guinea pig cage to talk to them softly and walk slowly to the cage so that they know you are coming at it is not a big surprise.  That way they will be less scared (guinea pigs are always scared) and hopefully they will not run and hide as you get there.  We have a long way to go until his guinea pig etiquette is fully established and a long way to go until the guinea pigs are fully trusting, especially of the smaller members of the household, but while the enthusiasm is still there, then we will encourage their interest and hopefully Toffee and Frazzle will begin to trust us more and not be quite as nervous around the kids.

I have a couple of days off around the New Year before football kicks off again on the second of January.  So by the time the girls go back to school I will not have spent too much time with the baguettes, which is a shame but will have had Christmas and New Year off and Lucinda has had the entire time off which would have been an impossibility if she was still at the airport!

I will leave you now but not before I wish you all a very Happy New Year and see you all in 2016!

Peace and Love


PS For those of you that enjoy geeky stats click here for a summary of for 2015.

Ofsted inspection, Easter and a trip to Peppa Pig World

Regular readers will no doubt have been on tenterhooks since the last write-up wondering about the results of Lucinda’s Ofsted inspection, and as I have attempted to sit down and commence this write-up on a number of occasions in the past month without success, there is a lot to catch up with so without further ado, I will get you up to speed with not only the inspection, but the Easter holidays as well.

With somewhat unfortunately timing the Ofsted inspection had been booked for the first day of the Easter holidays.  To avoid Lucinda’s inspection as to whether she would be a fit childminder actually being sabotaged by children (and our own children!) I decided to take the children out of the house for the four hours (yes four hours!) of the inspection.  A quick trip to annoy the people at work (although a lot of the people who would like to have met them were not in for one reason or another – therefore another trip is planned, over the summer) and then onto the perennial safe house that is Nanny and Granddad’s.

It was almost exactly four hours before we received the phonecall from Mommy to say that the inspection was over and we could head back to Staines Upon Thames.  Lucinda said that it was tough.  The inspector looked over the entire house and garden and wasn’t just concerned that the house was safe.  Lucinda needed to have paperwork in place for all eventualities to be signed by the parents of the child that would be in her care.  She needed to demonstrate that not only that the toys in the toy boxes were safe and child friendly but what aspects of learning that each toy could be used for, and demonstrate to the inspector.  In fairness to the inspector, she knew that it was Lucinda’s first time, and could see that Lucinda knew what she was talking about even if she was a little flustered and didn’t elucidate clearly enough.  The inspector wasn’t there to ‘catch her out’, and was somewhat forgiving if Lucinda didn’t get the full meaning of the question first time.

There were some recommendations but overall she passed and is now a registered childminder.  She will not be rated until the next inspection which will be within six months of registration.  Her registration came through not a day too early for he first paying job started that very week.  For the privacy of the child that she is looking after and Lucinda’s professionalism this will not be discussed on this website.

Since the first day of the Easter holiday’s was taken up with Mommy’s inspection and to allow mommy to relieve some of the stress that had built up over the inspection we decided to take the baguettes to Peppa Pig World the next day as a treat.  Both girls have been there before but this was Ezra’s first time.  He is quite a fan of Peppa Pig (or Georgie Pig, as he prefers to call it).  We arrived a little later than we wanted, heavy traffic on the M3 and a detour to pick up an Ebay purchase (a scooter for Amélie) added to the journey time.

Peppa Pig World is part of Paulton’s Park and although we have been a number of times we have not really explored the vast bulk of Paulton’s Park, just the Peppa Pig corner.  However, the girls asked to go on the tea cup ride as we entered so the big reveal of Peppa Pig World was held back from Ezra.  Ezra could not believe his eyes (and ears) as we entered Peppa Pig World.  His eyes were wide open and he just kept exclaiming ‘Wow!‘  It is very impressive as an adult so it must be a magical sight to a two year old.

We arrived just before the meet and greet of Peppa and George.  So we queued for a quick ride on Grandpa Pig miniature locomotive before joining the queue to meet Peppa and George.  Without wishing to spoil anything for anyone but it isn’t the real Peppa and George but people dressed up in Peppa and George costumes.  However, this means that Peppa and George are close to 2 metres tall, and when you are only 95cm that is quite scary.  It would be like me meeting a 12 foot high bipedal pig!  And so it was too much for our little son who nestled himself into Lucinda’s shoulder trying to avoid eye contact with the porcine giants.  The girls loved it though and ran to hug them.

We had decided before we went that since Amélie was going to have a scooter, and we were awaiting a scooter for Éowyn (also from Ebay) that Ezra would have a present from the on-site shop.  We had hoped that we work ask for a replica of George’s favourite toy: Mr Dinosaur, but we were going to let him choose.  We were hoping to do this towards the end of the day but since he was so traumatised by Peppa and George we decided that we would distract him with the Peppa Pig Shop.

Still clinging on to mommy we entered the shop.  As soon as he saw the toys he struggled to get down and ran straight for the Mr Dinosaur display.  He picked one up and said ‘Mine!’  A decision had been made.  He clung onto the toy for dear life even while he looked at all the other toys in the shop.  He pointed to a lot that he liked but never put Mr Dinosaur down.  Indeed it had to be scanned with him still holding onto it.  In fact, he didn’t let go of it all day.  every ride he went on (and we went on most of them) he held onto Mr Dinosaur.  You don’t mind buying them a toy when they love it that much.

The girls were very happy around Peppa Pig world because both of them are now of a height which means they can go on the rides by themselves.  They felt all grown up.  Indeed Éowyn is not that far off being able to go on the more adult rides on her own, however she is more of a wimp than Amélie who has definitely got more of the adventurous spirit when it comes to roller coasters.

The remainder of that week saw me at work.  Football does not stop for Bank Holidays!  On the rare occasion that it does (there was no football on Good Friday) there is always another job that springs forward.  This time it was the Eurovision Song Concert.  Well not the Eurovision Song Concert (that is next month, and yes we are providing the facilities for the BBC for this prestigious event), moreover the 60th Anniversary Concert, that brought together past winners in a one-off special event.  It is definitely a change from sport!

The weekend remained sport-filled but Easter Monday saw me at home for a change.  Cousin Maddie had asked if we would like to go to Hounslow Urban farm for a day out.  The girls love being with their cousins so we said that we would take them.  We looked up reviews of Hounslow Urban farm and it said rough and ready but an excellent day out.  Maddie’s older sister Lauren asked if she could come too and so with all seven seats of the S-Max filled we headed around the airport.

The reviews were spot on, but the rough and readiness is part of its charm.  We arrived just in time for a meet and greet of the animals.  We sat on straw bales as the staff brought round a variety of animals.  The usual rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, lambs.  Then more unusual animals such as ferrets, tortoises, stick insects.  Followed by snakes, water dragons and lizards.  I enjoyed it as much as the kids.

From there it was on to the pig racing, where you got to feed the pigs afterwards.  A spot of lunch and a bounce on the bouncy castle before the highlight of the day: the owl display.

As with everything at Hounslow Urban farm it was somewhat rough and ready and extremely hands on.  We were introduced a Barn Owl and a European Eagle Owl. They asked the children to stand in the middle of the farmyard and asked them to duck when the owl flew towards them.  Obviously everyone ducked.  Then with their backs to the owl they asked them to do it again and none of the children ducked.  This was to demonstrate the fact that the owl is a silent killer and its feathers have evolved in such a way as to eliminate any sound.  The children didn’t duck because they could not hear the owl swooping in behind them.

They then asked the kids to lie on the floor on their backs.  They then got the owl to fly low over them so they got a mouse-eye view of an owl gliding across the ground.  A fantastic experience for the girls but the best was yet to come.  Despite the fact that the European Eagle Owl is one of the largest species of owl with a wingspan of around 6 feet (1.8m), they were so confident in the bird’s docility that they let the girls hold it.  Amélie was first in line and quite confidently wore the glove, only the weight of the bird was causing her discomfit.  Seeing her little sister hold the owl, Éowyn too donned the glove.  After seeing her two little cousins bravely hold the devourer of rodents Maddie held the bird but Lauren (who had been caught by the wingtips of the owl during the display) decided that she wasn’t getting any closer to that particular strigine beast.

I really enjoyed the day at Hounslow Urban farm.  I like the fact that it is rough and ready and I think the kids like that too.  I like the fact that you can touch and handle the animals (under strict supervision of course).  But what I liked most about it was the fact that behind the fun and the dirt and closeness was the theme of education.  Education about the animals and the respect that we should have for the animals.  I would thoroughly recommend a day out there, but don’t wear your best clothes and take some handy hand-sanitizer.

Enjoy the photos below and the hundred or so new ones on the Flickr pages.

Peace and Love