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



Indian Summer

Thought I would try to sneak in a quick update between Amélie’s fifth birthday and Éowyn’s seventh. There is not a great excuse as in past years, but considering the Indian Summer that we are enjoying then it seems only right and fitting that I celebrate it on the website.

The girls have been at school for over a month now and are settling in nicely.  For Éowyn it is a matter of getting used to being one of the youngest children on campus (even though she is one of the oldest in her year) and for Amélie it is simply being in full-time education.

As you may recall Amélie was getting upset each morning, complaining (mainly to Lucinda) that she didn’t want to go to school.  We spoke to her teacher about this and she said that Amélie was never upset at school.  She walks through the door each morning with a smile on her face and takes an active part in all the day’s activities.  Therefore, our suspicions that Amélie was getting upset not about going to school but about what she was going to miss out with Lucinda seemed to be true.  The fact that Amélie only got upset with Lucinda and not with me, strengthened this suspicion since she wasn’t going to miss out on anything with me, as I was going to work.  She was hoping that the waterworks would work with mommy.  They certainly had an effect on Lucinda, I had to be the bad guy.

That phase is now past.  Amélie doesn’t get upset in a morning, well not that often, there are the occasional wobbles but on the whole she quite happily gets ready and heads off to school with a smile on her face.

As I mentioned in an earlier update, the school have employed not only a traffic light system for disruptive behaviour but a similar system for good behaviour.  There is also a reward system for the class as a whole.  Individually, they can can receive a bronze, silver or gold reward for positive behaviour and as a group the class can earn tokens and when they have reached a pre-agreed amount (1000) they will get a class reward.  Both girls have earned their respective classes token and both girls have been put on bronze multiple times.

In addition I came home from work last Friday to be greeted as I walked through the front door to be told by Éowyn that she had earned the accolade of ‘Star of the Day’.  This was obviously excellent news and Lucinda and I were extremely pleased and told her so.  However, not wanting to be outdone by her big sister Amélie came home on the same day with the news that she was the ‘Star of the Week’, well what could one say?  So as I am praising my two daughters Ezra comes up to tell me that he has earned a butterfly sticker for good behaviour at playgroup.  What a way to end a week!

As the title alludes and the opening paragraph states, we have experienced somewhat of an Indian summer.  This coupled with the fact that I now, for the first time in many years, have two out of every three weekends off we have been able to take advantage of the unseasonal warm temperatures.  We decided that we would also take advantage of our National Trust membership and visit nearby Runnymede.

As anyone with a soupçon of English history will recognise the name Runnymede.  On the 15th June 1215 (800 years ago) King John was forced to cede to certain political reforms by rebel barons incensed by the taxes that King John had levied on them to fund unsuccessful wars against France to regain the ancestral lands that he had lost to King Phillip II.  This agreement was known as the ‘Great Charter’ (Magna Carta in the language of law: Latin).

The Magna Carta carries little weight in modern law but one of its remaining legacies is right to a fair trial by jury.  Therefore, when Surrey County Council and the National Trust commissioned Hew Locke to install a permanent artwork on the ancient meadow to commemorate the 800th anniversary of that historic document the result was ‘The Jurors‘. A dozen bronze chairs each decorated with panels representing significant struggles for freedom and equal rights face each other as if waiting for occupants to sit and debate some topic of importance.  The public are encouraged to sit in the chairs and engage with thoughts that they invoke.

Admittedly it was probably a little too highbrow for the baguettes (teach ’em young) however they did enjoy sitting in the chairs and for some reason Ezra somehow gravitated toward the chair with the panel representing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (see the photo below).  Was it just random? He wasn’t too interested in the panels on the other chairs.  Or did he just know?  I haven’t quite made up my mind on that one!  Perhaps we’ll just go to Legoland next time!

This isn’t the only historic subject that Éowyn has been learning about of late.  At school she had to take in the ubiquitous building block of any school project the empty cereal box.  Each member of the class brought in said box and had to make and decorate a Tudor house.  Éowyn really enjoyed this display of art and duly earned a trip to Bronze for her efforts.  We thought that this was just one of those things that the children do and then they bring it home and you have keep it in a prominent place until they have forgotten about it and dispose of it at some ripe opportunity.  Not so, for Éowyn’s Tudor house.

Not really the Tudor era (although undoubtedly there would still be Tudor house around), Éowyn’s class is also learning about the Great Fire of London of 1666 (another of those historical dates that the majority of people born in these isles would know).  To demonstrate the devastation that the fire wrought and why it spread so quickly the year 2 classes placed their ‘houses’ in streets in the school playground and the teachers set a fire in one house and watched it spread around the cardboard London.  What a great demonstration and something that they will all remember.  When I found out what they were doing I was disappointed that I had to go to work and couldn’t stay and watch the fireworks.  I quite enjoy a good fire!

Building Tudor houses hasn’t been Éowyn only display of artistic tendencies of late.  She also decided to write a song for ‘Show and Tell’.  A photograph of the first draft can be seen on our Flickr pages replete with musical notation for the percussion solo (a homemade shaker – a plastic bottle filled with toy beads), ignore the atrocious spelling.  The transcript (with correct spelling) is in the postscript to this update.  Not a Lennon and McCartney but not a bad first attempt I am sure you will agree.

Éowyn’s spelling is getting better as she has a weekly spelling test in addition to her daily reading and weekly athletics homework. She has been recently moved up a level in reading and thus the books are a little more difficult.  Nevertheless she reads them quite well and blends the words that she doesn’t know.  However occasionally there are slips of the tongue which are quite amusing to the 9-year-old inside of me.  The mis-reading of the word busy as busty and the phrase solid bed as soiled bed, made me smile and made Éowyn guffaw when I explained the joke.  Bad father, I know!

Amélie has also begun reading and it is now nice that we have to sit down with them both and help them to read.  It is something that we both enjoy doing at the end of the day as it gives you a little bit of quiet time with just one of the children without feeling bad that you are not attending to the others at the same time.  Lucinda and I take it in turns so that the other can focus on the other two allowing that special time for some one on one learning.

Before I leave you today it has to be noted that the earliest recorded Bewick’s swan has been sighted on our shores.  This Siberian visitor overwinters in the UK to escape the bitter cold of its homeland.  An early sighting normally heralds a cold winter.  Indeed there is a Russian saying: The Swan brings snow on his bill and this is because they tend to be just ahead of the cold weather.  This is not that far off the truth in the fact that although we are still enjoying sunny days it has turned much colder lately and heavy snow has fallen across Poland and Germany and France, Belgium and the Netherlands have had snow fall.  So put aware the summer clothes, turn the heating on and get the winter coats out of the wardrobe, as the Starks would say: Winter is Coming.

Peace and Love


PS.  Éowyn’s song in full:

When I woke up I saw a butterfly and a bee flying sweetly, aren’t they precious?

They made me smile, smile, smile.

Come on and celebrate and sing to nature ???

Celebrate and smile, smile, smile ?

Sing, sing, sing ?

Come on and we can celebrate,

Celebrate and sing to nature

And everyone will see that nature is beautiful.