Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail

It is probably not possible for me to start this update without mentioning the big story of the last few weeks.  A story that is not only of interest to our family, nor to our local community but has been headline national news.  The wettest January in 200 years (depending on the news stories that you read) has led to flooding across many areas of the country.  The Somerset levels have been under water since before Christmas but when the national news is anchored (no pun intended) by a reporter in waders less than half a mile from your house then it really brings it home to you (pun intended this time).

The Thames valley has seen a veritable deluge (of rain) throughout January that has led to a literal deluge through a number of local towns including our very own Staines Upon Thames.  The River Thames has been setting new record levels and has been flowing four times faster than usual flooding nearby towns of Datchet, Wraysbury, and Chertsey as well as Staines.  However our corner of Staines was not just under the threat of old Father Thames.  Our house has three other threats:  The River Ash is slightly closer than the Thames and also running at record levels, and a third river, closest of all, is a tributary of the Thames called Sweep’s Ditch; the final threat isn’t as obvious as a swollen river but is more ubiquitous, the ground and the drains can literally handle no more water.  Thus every rain shower brings a threat of more flooding.

According to the Environment agency maps it indicated that our house is on a 1,000 year flood plain.  In reality, that means that there is 0.1% chance of flooding, I like those odds but there is still a chance.  As the flood waters encroached and friends were being evacuated from their homes I took a walk around the area to investigate how close it was getting and to take some photos (see here for the results) of, hopefully this generational flood event.  The Blitz spirit is a phrase often evoked at times of crisis and although this is more often that not hyperbole, there was definitely a sense of community with strangers stopping for a chat to discuss the sense of foreboding.  Among the people who I chatted with were a couple that have lived in our street for thirty plus years.  They recall chatting to neighbours when they first moved in, that, at that point, lived in the street for forty-odd years and so there are memories that stretch back over seventy years.  In those decades the worst flood was in 1947.

The winter of 1947 saw significant snowfall which brought large drifts to large swathes of the country.  In mid-March mild air returned to the country causing this thawing the snow.  This snowmelt ran off the frozen ground straight into the rivers, including the river Thames.  Much of the Thames Valley was flooded, photos from the time show much of Staines under water.  However, our neighbours were told that even in this extreme flood event as water flowed in the street the houses themselves remained dry.  2014, although the worst flood in recent years, has not (as yet) come close to surpassing those floods of 67 years ago.

Oblivious to this drama the Bagnall children have their own dramas which to them are just as headline-grabbing.  Amélie has probably had more drama than the others.  As you may recall she had suffered from Night Terrors, thankfully they seem to becoming a thing of the past.  Amélie has only had one since the last update.  Her greater drama though has revolved around something as simple as washing her hair.  Lucinda tried to wash her hair a couple of weeks ago and Amélie had a complete breakdown.  Unfortunately I was at work and so with two other children to bathe and put to bed, Lucinda did not have the time (or mental strength) to press on with hair washing.  Conscious that this could become an even bigger problem if we left it too long, it was time for Daddy to be the bad guy.

Not wishing to make it into an even bigger issue, we simply told Amélie that she was going to have her hair washed at bath-time.  Amélie was happy with this until bath-time.  Her issue seemed to be that water would go into her eyes.  I demonstrated how water flows down, so that if her eyes are up (looking at the ceiling) then water could not go into her eyes.  This seemed to make sense and she appeared to be fine with it.  However, as the hair-washing was going to begin she completely freaked out, sobbing and thrashing about.  I tried to calm her down but she wasn’t going to relax, so I filled the hair-washing jug with water and raised it above her head.  She immediately sat down in the bath, looked up at the ceiling and closed her eyes.  I then washed her hair praising her constantly.

The change in her has been remarkable, from freaking out at the mere mention of hair-washing she now proclaims that she likes her hair being washed and keeps requesting her hair to be washed.  In order to re-enforce the innoxiousness (is that a word?) of hair-washing she has had her hair washed three times in the last week.  Hopefully that is the end of this drama.

No such drama with Ezra although he has taken a few more steps in his development over the last few weeks.  Ezra has never been particular fussy with his food and baby-birds (a verb that we use to describe when a baby eagerly opens their mouth for the next spoonful of food) most of his meals.  However at 7 months the texture of baby food changes from smooth to ‘textured’ or lumpy.  This did not sit too well with him and he begun refusing his textured food.  However, after his shortbread biscuit incident we started him with more finger food.  This, he is happy with.  Grated cheese, baby biscuits, rusks, peas and carrots are all demolished with relish (strictly speaking without relish – he isn’t old enough).  I suppose that he was expecting smooth food and was surprised by the lumps in it and it caused him to heave.  I can appreciate that.

Ezra’s second developmental step as been a little more dangerous.  He has been crawling for months and cruising around the furniture since before Christmas however he hasn’t taken those first tentative steps yet but nevertheless is bored with where his crawling can take him.  There is one frontier that is explorable though, not space but in that direction: upstairs.  Yes, were sitting in the lounge and suddenly realised that Ezra wasn’t with us.  We looked in the kitchen and the playroom and he wasn’t there.  Going up the stairs there was giggling coming from the girls’ bedroom.  Sitting in the middle of the floor was Ezra looking rather pleased with himself, playing with the girls’ toys.  A new stair gate is required (our old one is too wide for the stairway) to contain our little explorer.

Éowyn is still going from strength to strength with her reading and writing.  Indeed the final Monday before half term was our chance to speak with Éowyn’s teacher Miss Finbow at Parents afternoon/evening.  Miss Finbow is delighted with Éowyn, she is excelling at all subjects and is always eager to learn (she is my daughter!).  Miss Finbow also said that her general trivia is exceptional for one so young (again she is my daughter) and whenever she asks the class a tricky question she can always rely on Éowyn to put her hand up and give an intelligent answer.  Éowyn also organises her friends and is usually the instigator of some of the more interesting games that they play.  I was pleased that Miss Finbow put this down to strong leadership skills rather than saying she is bossy.

It is something as a father of daughters you realise how media portray women then chastise them for attempting to live up to those expectations.  The above illustrates how language changes for girls as opposed to boys so I applaud Miss Finbow for describing Éowyn’s bossiness as strong leadership, a positive rather than the negative connotations associated with bossiness and it is something that I am going to continue with my girls and hopefully help them to break (or at least understand) the inherent sexism of society.  I will get off my soapbox now.

Éowyn’s intelligence shows through with the way she deals with the unknown.  If she does not know something she will make an intelligent guess and is usually right.  Sometimes, however, she gets it slightly wrong with amusing results.  The girls have a number of dolls (yes, I know especially in light of the previous paragraph), many are Barbies or Disney princesses (yes, I know!) and most of the time they are nude or in the process of swapping dresses.  Usually this results in Mommy or Daddy dressing the dolls for them.  Éowyn came up to me with her Ariel doll and Ariel’s shell bikini top.  ‘Daddy, can you put Ariel’s booby-shades on?‘  Not knowing the word for Bra or Bikini top she made up her own word.  I like it and thing it should become common parlance especially for ladies with the larger bosom.

Éowyn has got the last laugh with her daddy on another matter though.  Miss Finbow gives out Superstar certificates to pupils when they do something impressive at school.  Last term Éowyn was given three of these, which was very good.  So I upped the ante and said to her that if she was given five this term I would buy her something from her favourite shop (the Disney store).  Unfortunately I have been outwitted by my eldest child for she received her fifth three days before the end of half term!  I will have to have a word with Miss Finbow next time.  So a trip to the Disney store is looming!  That will serve me right.

This update is a little delayed because we have been busy as a family for half term begun last Friday (a day early due to an inset day), and I managed to secure a weekend off and a couple of days either side but you will have to wait until the next update to find out what we got up to.  The good news is that you will not have to wait so long for the next one, and indeed you will get a sneak preview of some of our half-term trips in the photos below.

Peace and Love