Usually, the gap between part one and part two of holiday write-ups is not that big as I recall the events of the previous week or so, but as is rapidly becoming the norm this year, the gap between these write ups has widened remarkably. Therefore, if you have completely forgotten what we did in part one (I know I have!), or indeed where we were as that write-up ended, please click here and read part one (as I had to before writing the following). Read more
Now that you are fully up to date with the annual Badger Moot, it is probably a good time to update you with a mid-term or, to be strictly accurate mid-half-term (if I am allowed to double hyphenate) write-up. Unusually, this half-term began life back in October, Halloween to be exact. It is more usual for half-term to bridge the end of October and the beginning of November. Thus trick and treating (the UK seems to be embracing this North American of events) took place on the first day back at school. Monday, however was also the first day back at Brownies (for Éowyn) and Daddy was working late covering the Premier League match so the Baguettes could not go door to door until 1900 and thus being so late to the party they only received the dregs of sweet bowls. There is always next year!
The first of November marked the third anniversary of moving to Bagnall manor and it introduced itself with the beginning of a slightly cold spell – definitely colder than it has been but not necessarily cold – which carried through to the following weekend. We decided that since we had been in Bagnall manor for three years, and that Amélie then Éowyn has celebrated birthdays that it was probably time to measure the Baguettes and mark it on the wall, something we have been doing since we moved here, which will hopefully (and in some ways already is) an interesting record as they grow. As expected the Baguettes are all approaching the 98th gentile for their respective ages. Éowyn tops 137.5cm (4 feet 6 inches in old money) and thus no longer needs a booster seat, four years before it becomes dictated by age. She is the height of an average 10-year-old and thus when we buy her clothes we have to bear this mind. Amélie is 123.5cm, just over four feet tall (by half an inch) and again she is in age 7-8 clothes. While Ezra is no shrimp standing at 107cm in his stocking feet (3 feet 6 inches). As mentioned before our kids were never going to be small with me topping 190cm and Lucinda 175cm, I think the girls could be taller than her and Ezra taller than me – we will wait and see.
The following weekend was Bonfire Night. We had been treated to a number of displays around the area that we were able to watch from the comfort of our home but it is not the same as standing in a freezing cold field with hundreds of other people trying to ignore the smells of frying onions or deeper fried donuts. The local rugby club had a display on the Sunday night (the day after the 5th for some reason – not sure why they didn’t arrange the display for the Saturday which was the 5th perhaps they were not allowed to or the organisers were double booked – doesn’t really matter just curious) and so we decided that we would take the Baguettes. Uncle Michael, Auntie Cristina and the Baguettes’ cousins Lauren and Maddie also decided to come to watch the fireworks.
The weather had certainly turned a little chilly so we dressed up warmly and, because we had walked into Staines earlier in the day, we allowed Ezra to let the pushchair take the strain – probably his last ever ride in a pushchair. There was a small fair with rides, hook a duck and food stalls; all extortionately priced. Nevertheless, we still indulged, well all except Ezra who was snuggled under his blanket in his pushchair and had fallen asleep. Having quickly become bored (and broke) by the entertainment on offer we found a prime spot from where to watch the fireworks. Ezra doesn’t like loud noises and we were concerned that he wouldn’t like the fireworks, so we had put ear muffs on him and being asleep we thought we would be safe. Not a chance. As soon as the fireworks began he woke and got upset, so Daddy took him away from the main viewing area to watch them from a safe(r) distance – maybe next year.
The following weekend was Remembrance Day and since Éowyn is a Brownie she was invited (along with the rest of her Brownie pack – Rainbows were not invited so Amélie didn’t take part) to take part in the Staines-Upon-Thames Remembrance Day Parade. Éowyn wasn’t the only member of the family involved in the parade: cousin Finley was there too, for he has recently joined the Army Cadets. It was fantastic to see such a turn out for the parade and seeing your daughter part of that parade gave Lucinda and I a real sense of pride to have been a part of it.
The girls have had a relatively successful month at school. Éowyn started the success by attaining Gold. As I may have mentioned before, the girls’ school employs a traffic light system for behaviour. Each child begins the week on Green and good behaviour can push you up through Bronze, Silver and Gold. Equally unacceptable behaviour can pull you down through Blue, Yellow and Red. Gold is thus attained rarely and only for exceptional behaviour and it merits a visit to the headmaster to write your name in the ‘Gold Book’ and to be called forward in assembly to receive your Gold Leaf. Éowyn moved up through Bronze and Silver before reaching Gold and the final stage, Silver to Gold, was attained for selflessly helping someone in class who was having difficulty with his work. So not only were we proud that she had attained Gold but doubly proud in the reason for the award.
Back down to Green for the start of the week, Éowyn finished Monday on Bronze and Tuesday on Gold. A brace of Golds was a definite possibility, surely unheard of, an opportunity to set a precedent. Lucinda was confident (more confident than I) that the school wouldn’t allow her to get two Golds in a row and so she said to Éowyn that if she got Gold by the end of the week she would buy her the Monster High Mansion (a doll house taller than Éowyn!). Lucinda had three days of concern but her confidence was well placed and Éowyn never made that final step from Silver to Gold. Nevertheless, an excellent achievement by our first born.
Not to be outdone by her older sister the following week Amélie also achieved Gold. Amélie thrives when she receives attention and sitting in her sister’s shadow for the previous fortnight was forgotten when she was the star of the week. She wasn’t only just the star of the week because of her Gold Leaf but literally the star of the school. Not for her work but for her starring role in the school prospectus. A new school prospectus has been produced to attract new parents to the school for children starting school in the next academic year (something that we have done for Ezra). In the prospectus there are lots of photos of the children at work and at play, many we, obviously, recognise. However, they are all relatively small photos not like the photo that greets you on the penultimate page. A full page photo of Amélie running in the playground.
Unfortunately, Amélie is a sensitive soul and despite the above successes Lucinda found her sitting alone, a little upset. Lucinda asked her what was wrong and through tears she said, ‘Wishes don’t work.’ Lucinda pressed her and she explained that she kept wishing that she had fairy wings. Lucinda replied that she had a Tinkerbell outfit with wings and other dressing-up wings. That wasn’t good enough, Amélie wanted to be a real fairy, with real wings so that she could fly. Lucinda was as comforting as possible while explaining it was not possible. The joys of parenting.
Amélie wasn’t our only child that has been upset over something that may seem trivial to non-parents. Ezra came into our bedroom one morning complaining that his duvet has stopped working. He is still in his child bed (supposedly large enough for a 7-year old) but is rapidly outgrowing it. Equally he had a mini-duvet for the bed, which only seemed right and fitting except fitting was exactly what it wasn’t doing. His 3 foot 6-inch frame coupled with his fidgetiness in a bed that is gradually feeling too small resulted in various parts of his body becoming exposed due to lack of duvet. Not the best time of the year to wake up with parts of your body uncovered we decided we would get him a full-sized duvet and dispose of the duvet that no longer works.
Ezra has also proved his worth in the garden. It is that time of the year when wounded leaves fall to the ground, resulting in piles of brown, yellow, red and gold blown across the lawn and patio. To help with this clearing operation I bought some ‘helping hands’ – a pair of green leaf collectors that facilitate collecting large piles of fallen foliage. Ezra saw me racking the leaves into a pile and using the helping hands to pick the leaves up. ‘Hulk Hands,’ he said. I agreed. ‘Can I have a go?‘ he asked. So I gave them to him and he didn’t stop. He collected all the leaves and we filled the wheelie bin up for collection. This wasn’t a one off either. A couple of weeks later when the garden was once again covered by the trees’ discarded autumn gowns Ezra volunteered to ‘Hulk Smash’ the leaves. Now, that is what I call a ‘Dad win’. In the words of Mary Poppins: ‘In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game.‘
Peace and Love
If you are reading this, I trust that you have read Part One, if not please click here first. If you have, welcome to the second half of the Badger Moot 2016. The first instalment retold the Bagnall’s experience of the Badger Moot until our evening meal on the Tuesday evening. This is the remaining story of our time down in deepest darkest Dorset.
We decided that our Wednesday trip would see the Bagnalls head to one of our favourite haunts along the South Coast: Lyme Regis. We have been to Lyme Regis many times and although it is a relatively small town it never ceases to delight us. Halfway between Dorchester and Exeter, Lyme Regis, overlooking Lyme Bay sits on the Dorset-Devon border and is part of the world famous Jurassic Coast, famous the world over for its fossils. For the first time this week we took Nanny with us and so the six of us headed down the A35. It is always surprising how busy Lyme Regis is but we found somewhere to park and walked into the town. It was lunchtime so we headed to one of our favourite little café’s and had a quick homemade sandwich (finger fingers and mayonnaise for me – just to make you all feel jealous). Then we took a stroll around the town.
Famous for fossils means that Lyme Regis has a plethora of fossil shops. With the Baguettes new found interest in the palaeontological it was welcome attraction, especially considering it had a life-size replica Tyrannosaurus Rex skull in the window. Time spent in the fossil shop gave Nanny and Mommy time to have a look around a couple of other shops.
I had to nearly physically drag them out of the shop (it was a good job they had already spent their pocket money for this trip otherwise I think we would have been in there for hours while they tried to work out what prehistoric paraphernalia they wanted to purchase) when Nanny and Mommy arrived. It was the lure of an ice-cream – what do you mean it is the end of October, we are on holiday by the seaside and we are English, therefore we can definitely have an ice cream, regardless of the weather – that finally convinced them to leave.
We said goodbye to Lyme Regis, but not for the last time this year – more on that later – and headed back to Berwick Manor. The Wednesday evening meal was also a celebration of all the ‘big’ birthdays that the greater Badger clan have celebrated during 2016. I won’t embarrass anyone by naming and shaming, suffice to say that the total of these ”big’ birthdays was 415 and that was the number in candles – not 415 candles I hasten to add, that would be a serious fire risk, just a ‘4’ a ‘1’ and a ‘5’ candle respectively – that adorned the joint birthday cake that was the evening’s desert (along with jelly and ice cream and selection of other sweets).
Party hats were worn and party poppers fired and after the meal it was time for PieFace. If you are unaware of the game a mechanical arm will plant a cream (squirty cream) ‘pie’ in your face after a ‘random’ number of turns of the handle. You roll a die to see how many turns of the handle you have to perform. The larger the number on the dice, the more turns of the handle and thus the more chance that you will be ‘pied’. That is the theory anyway. The Baguettes were in bed and so missed out on the fun, but everyone else, except (strangely) the youngest members of the greater Badger clan (Baguettes notwithstanding, being asleep is a good excuse) took part delighting in the misfortune of others.
As you may recall we paid Auntie Margaret and Uncle Ray a visit on Tuesday. We mentioned that we drove through Abbotsbury and along the coast road and Auntie Margaret mentioned that the Enchanted Illuminations at the Subtropical Gardens were well worth a visit. Without a plan for Thursday we decided that could be somewhere to take the Baguettes. Therefore on the return journey from Auntie Margaret’s we stopped in to the Subtropical Gardens to inquire. It is always difficult to tell from leaflets but it looked promising and with a discount for online bookings and with the temptation of the passport ticket which gives you entrance to the other tourist attractions of Abbotsbury (The Swannery and the Children’s Farm) we headed home to book up via the internet.
Thursday was thus planned: Swannery then the Children’s farm, back home for tea before taking Uncle Michael, Auntie Cristina and cousins Lauren and Maddie to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens for the Halloween Enchanted Illuminations.
The only managed colony of nesting mute swans in the world has its origins in the Benedictine monastery of Abbotsbury. The monks farmed the swans for the tables of the local barons until the dissolution of the monasteries by King Henry VIII when the land (and the swannery) were bought by Sir Guy Strangways and it remains under the stewardship of his descendants today.
Abbotsbury Swannery is the probably the idea of a nightmare for Lucinda. Over 650 swans, or, as Lucinda refers to them, mean peaking beasts that can break your arm (and according to the warden who had spent 36 years at the Swannery it has happened at the Swannery – once! Once in 36 years! Nevertheless it did happen). So, it was very brave of her to visit the swannery bay at the Western edge of the Fleet, the lagoon that was formed when Chesil beach formed (and geeky stat: It is the largest lagoon in Europe).
We arrived just before feeding time so we headed towards the feeding area, only being mildly distracted by the pedal go-karts along the way. The Baguettes were very brave and entered the feeding area with Daddy to feed the swans. Mute swans are big birds – indeed one of the largest flying birds in the world and must look even bigger to the Baguettes, Ezra especially. However, they were all very brave and took turns throwing the feed into the Fleet for the birds. Seeing the bravery in her offspring gave Lucinda the impetus to come into the feeding area and join us feeding the waterfowl.
Both Éowyn and Amélie had lots of questions for the warden, including tricky ones like: ‘Why are they called ‘mute’ swans?‘ (No real answer as they do make sounds – they are just not renown for a call like Trumpeter or Whooper Swans). ‘How do you tell the difference between male and female swans?‘ (The males tend to be a bit bigger but a large female and a small male would be about the same size; but the key is the ‘knob’ – the ‘pea’ – on top of the bill is bigger in males than females).
After a quick tour of the maze, another go on the pedal go-karts and a quick tour of the play area we stayed at the Swannery for lunch. Conscious that we were running out of day, we walked up the lane towards the Children’s Farm. Again, the Children’s Farm sits within the grounds of the original Benedictine Monastery that was dissolved in 1539. Indeed, the Tithe Barn that sits in the centre of the Children’s farm was built by the monks in 1390. The farm has all the usual suspects and was decorated with a Halloween theme for the half-term. We could have spent many hours around the farm. but with the excitement at the Swannery and with half an eye on the evening’s plans we didn’t spend that long at the farm. It was long enough, however, for Éowyn and Amélie to have a pony ride each and for Ezra to be completely freaked out by some of the Halloween decorations, especially the full sized skeleton. I think it was the false eyes that had been placed in the skull that freaked him out the most.
So we returned to the car and headed back to Berwick Manor to grab something quick to eat. Reading the literature regarding the Halloween Enchanted Illuminations leaflet from the Subtropical Gardens it seemed to encourage dressing up in appropriate Halloween costumes. Ezra didn’t need too much encouragement to dig out his dragon costume for the second time that week. Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought any Halloween costumes for the girls and it really wasn’t the weather to wear Hawaiian costumes. That was when Maddie and Ella came to the rescue. Using eyeliner they made Amélie into a cat (at her request) and Éowyn into a spider queen replete with cobwebs and spiders across her face. You can see the results in the photos below and now, at least, they had made a bit of an effort to go to the evening with a form of costume.
When we got to the Gardens we realised that we were severely underdressed. Most people had gone to some serious effort to come to the Garden in full regalia, we will not make the same mistake next year! Thankfully the make up was a little nod to a costume, although Éowyn was rocking the festival chick look with wellies, leggings, skirt and hoodie rather than a Halloween costume. With our pre-booked tickets we bypassed the queues and passed through into the fun. There were plenty of things to do throughout the gardens. The first stop was the ‘bug tent’ where you get up close to stick insects, tarantulas, lizards and snakes. The tent was quite packed with eager children wanting to hold the creepy crawlies, Éowyn and Ezra were the exception, they were not interested in holding any of the animals (although Ezra did like the lizards), Amélie however was first in the queue to hold a stick insect. This then gave Auntie Cristina the courage to hold the stick insect too.
Next to the bug tent was the disco tent. This held more interest for Éowyn and her older cousins Lauren and Maddie. While the girls (Amélie joined them too) danced to the tunes, the adults (and Ezra) queued up for the ghost train that was the next attraction in the gardens. The queue was enormous and it probably took thirty minutes to reach the front despite the fact that the ride itself only lasted 30 seconds.
There was no way we were going to let Ezra go on the ghost train, especially since he is freaked out by masks and he had been completely freaked out by the skeleton (with eyeballs) earlier in the day. However, both girls were trying to be brave and saying that they would go on the ride. It was decided that Amélie would go on with Mommy while Éowyn would go on with Daddy. Lucinda and Amélie bravely took the first carriage and Éowyn and I sat in the one behind (only one carriage went into the ghost train at a time).
However, as Amélie and Mommy’s carriage edged closer to the entrance to the ghost train, Amélie lost her nerve and left the carriage to stand with Uncle Michael and her place was taken by Maddie. This unnerved Éowyn but some reassuring words from Daddy and she was fine and then Mommy and Maddie’s carriage disappeared through the doors to the ghost train. Unfortunately my hard work in reassuring Éowyn was destroyed by the sound of screaming from Mommy and Maddie as the doors to the ghost train closed. There was no time now for Éowyn to get out of the carriage and the carriage lurched forward she became really scared so i told her to close her eyes and hold Daddy and she would be fine.
The usual dummies dressed as vampires and zombies were there with false cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, while at the same time you were being disoriented by the twists and turns in the rail track and the flashing lights (fortunately we do not suffer from photosensitive epilepsy). Bravely Éowyn opened her eyes only for the real scares to happen and there were two people in there who jumped out on you as the carriage wheeled around the track. The choice of costume of one of the ‘actors’ was perhaps a little insensitive considering the contemporary media reports but I suppose they had already ordered their ‘Killer Clown’ costume before the furore of the proliferation of such reports this year.
Understandably Éowyn was a little shocked as she got off the train, but when she realised that it freaked Mommy and Maddie out and that Lauren had hidden in the carriage as she went round with Auntie Cristina then she felt a little better about herself and it was soon forgotten as we continued to explore the gardens. After the excitement it was quite nice to amble around the gardens illuminated by a spectrum of coloured lamps. There were various characters dressed up standing in specific areas to add to the atmosphere: witches giving out sweets (shades of Hansel and Gretel?), Zombies and Skeletal Queens to name a few. As we walked out onto a grassy knoll (no J.F.K. here) there were a couple of ‘fire acrobats’. Their show was very impressive with fire juggling, fire eating, fire breathing and general pyrotechnic pranks.
We continued around the park enjoying the walk and the illuminated vegetation until the final stretch before the exit. The final 100 yards or so of the path was a gauntlet of Halloween style japes with people jumping out, people rattling bushes and dropping Halloween related items from the trees (on ropes so there was no actual danger of being hurt – apart from coronary related issues). I carried Ezra through the Halloween run and for the most part he nestled his head in my shoulder, hugging me tight with his eyes closed. However, he still seemed to enjoy it and wasn’t traumatized as we exited the Gardens.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Halloween evening and will definitely be going back next year, this time with a costume to feel a fully paid up member of the evening and I think we have convinced other members of the greater Badger clan that it was worth the money and a good night out.
That was our last evening for the Badger Moot 2016 and Friday morning we headed home. However, we decided to head in the wrong direction for a quick visit to Lyme Regis to say another good-bye to our favourite place and have a spot of lunch before heading back to Staines Upon Thames.
Normally I would end the Badger Moot write up there, but I thought you may appreciate the following. The journey back was a slog. It took over 4 hours (nearly twice the time it took to get there) to get back. Indeed, it took 2.5 hours to get to the bottom of the M3. Now usually we would be nearly home and Ezra must have an innate timing in his being because it was at this point he asked whether we were nearly home. I looked at the Satnav and it was displaying an ETA of an additional 2 hours, so I told Ezra that it would be another 2 hours. ‘You’re kidding me! Right?‘ was his reply. It was a good job that I was in stationary traffic. I have no clue whether he understood either what he said or how long two hours are but it did make us laugh.
I think I have bored you enough so your reward is another crop of photos from the holiday. There are plenty more on the Flickr pages so please feel free to pop by there if the 33 below has whetted your appetite.
Peace and Love