After a strong start to the year in terms of the frequency of website updates, I have stalled in recent weeks and have fallen behind my attempts at updating at least once a fortnight. This may have disappointed some of you, but I make no apologies, life has to take precedence over letting you know about it. Unfortunately, it is not because I have been busy with the family, which would be a more acceptable excuse, but more that the football seasons are heading to their inevitable conclusion, coupled with the Eurovision Song Contest and umpteen other sports that require televisual production and so I have been spending a little more time at work than usual. 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
The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the trees stand proud in their nudity. The Badger Moot usually fills the pages of this website with the adventures of the greater Badger clan in Dorset around this time of the year. Not this year. When Granddad’s diagnosis was deemed terminal in early September we decided that this year’s Badger Moot would be cancelled. Whatever the scenario a family gathering three hours away from home during the October half-time did not seem apt nor right.
This was the first time since the inaugural Badger Moot in 2004, which was about the same time that I met Lucinda, that there has been no Badger Moot. I, obviously, did not attend that year and Lucinda and I have not attended twice since, in 2008 and 2010 (I will leave you to guess the reason for that) but there has always been a Badger Moot.
I had already booked the time off work for the Badger Moot, so despite the lack of a trip to Dorset (or Devon – as it would have been this year) it was still half-term, there was Granddad’s funeral to arrange and it was the week after Éowyn’s birthday, I did not cancel it.
We were blessed with unseasonably warm weather (as we quite often are on the Badger Moot), so what did we do? You have already read about the beginning of the half-term break in Éowyn’s Seventh Birthday write up: a trip to Legoland and an outing to Build-A-Bear Workshop. An important detail that I omitted in that write up was Éowyn’s delight in the queue for the first ride. Namely, when she stood against the height chart for the ride it indicated that she was a shade above 130cm, the minimum height required to go on the ride solo: a great present for her seventh birthday. Rides now take on a whole new element because she is classed as an adult when it comes to rollercoasters. It will also mean that all five of us can now go on the rides at Legoland.
This spurred us to measure the kids, as we try to do at least once a year. Indeed, on the wall in the playroom are pencil marks marking the progress of their growth. This year the results were thus: Éowyn: 131.5cm (4ft 4in); Amélie: 117cm (3ft 10in); Ezra: 97.5cm (3ft 2in). For those of you that are interested this translates on the Child Development Charts as the fact that all three of our children are sitting pretty on their respective 96th centile. We are going to have tall children; hardly surprising since Lucinda is 175cm (5ft 9in) and I am 190cm (6ft 3in)!
Half-term was the last week of October so there were plenty of Halloween activities advertised. The U.K. is increasingly absorbing the North American affection for Halloween and Trick or Treating – more of that later. We were not immune to the lure of Halloween.
Lucinda and I have National Trust passes, which allow us to take the baguettes into the attractions for free, so we decided to use them and look for a local National Trust property that were doing something Halloweeny (is that a word?) aimed at children. Claremont Landscape Gardens appears to fit the bill. A short drive away (very close to the hospice where Granddad died it turned out – very emotional driving passed that place) and they had Halloween crafts for the children. Wet underfoot but dry and relatively mild we decided a walk around Claremont was just what was needed.
The National Trust passes allowed free parking and free entry but we paid an extra surcharge for the girls (Ezra is a little too young) to complete a puzzle and win a prize. A sheet of paper with eight questions was given to the girls. The answers to these questions were hidden around the gardens on laminated spiders. A letter from each of these answers was highlighted and these, rearranged formed a ninth answer which when handed in, could be exchanged for a prize.
Some of the spiders had been very well hidden and I think we walked around Claremont twice before finding them all. Daddy, had guessed the answer with a number of the questions missing so the girls were always going to get their prizes but we were determined to find these spiders! We did learn one important thing: Tarantulas taste like peanut butter. So if you are ever found hungry in the Amazon jungle, don’t turn your nose up at a tarantula, with or without toast! Chocolate covered tarantula, even better.
In addition to the spider hunt, the Thatched Cottage hosted Halloween mask making. For a small fee the kids could use a kit (and decorate with a host of stickers) a suitable Halloween mask. Éowyn made a cat and Amélie a pumpkin, you can see the fruits of their labours in the photos below.
They all enjoyed their Halloween walk around Claremont. Although, perhaps because of the discussions around Granddad they became fascinated by the story of Charlotte of Wales, wife of Prince Leopold and Granddaughter of King George III and second in line to the throne, who lived at Claremont and tragically died in childbirth at the tender age of 21. It triggered many questions about death from the girls.
A trip to Claremont Landscape Gardens wasn’t the only Halloween activity. Last year, Éowyn was given a ‘grow your own’ pumpkin kit and indeed managed to grown one pumpkin to maturity. Not only did that Pumpkin feed us, it also yielded dozens of seeds before being carved into a Jack-O-Lantern. Out of those seeds we managed to grow 10 plants. My naivety in Pumpkin growing meant that we only managed to fruit 8 pumpkins and only 4 of them to maturity. Nevertheless this meant that the children had one each to carve. I hollowed all the pumpkins, kept the flesh for later and the seeds for next season, then, I handed them over the baguettes to design their Jack-O-Lanterns.
You can see the finished designs in the photos below. Éowyn’s design had to be toned down as it was a little complicated and I am not, yet, an expert pumpkin-carver, nevertheless she was very pleased with the final product. Amélie’s was simple but effective and Ezra needed a little help but all of them looked impressive with a tealight candle inside greeting the friendly neighbourhood trick or treaters.
Saturday was Halloween itself and I was at work. Our neighbours were having a little Halloween party for the kids and then afterwards they went Trick or Treating (or tickle treating as Ezra called it). Halloween falling on a Saturday certainly made ‘Trick or Treating’ popular and there were quite a few groups of ‘Trick or Treaters’ wandering the neighbourhood. Indeed, some of the neighbours were overwhelmed when, for a short time, the groups coalesced into a supergroup of two dozen – that’s a lot of sweets to find. It was at this point that Ezra got a little spooked. There were a lot of older kids, that he didn’t know, in quite scary costumes which freaked him out. Fortunately, I had returned home and so he stayed in with Daddy and his haul of confectionary.
The next day Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz (and the guinea pigs) came down. This is becoming a regular occurrence recently. This time it was to look after the baguettes while Lucinda and I celebrated the life of Granddad, along with the rest of the family and his friends, at his funeral and wake. We thought that the girls and Ezra, especially were a little too young to come to Granddad’s funeral, so we didn ‘t even give them the option. It is always feels strange to say that it was a ‘good funeral’ but Granddad’s memorial was a very moving and fitting tribute to a well-loved man.
Granddad’s death is obviously still raw for the family, but how are our little ones coping? Éowyn is seemingly handling it very well. She is very matter-of-fact about it and although upset that her Granddad has died is at peace with what it means. Ezra, obviously is too young to understand and that leaves Amélie. Amélie is a sensitive soul and has taken Granddad’s passing very hard. She has been sobbing on more than one occasion. We all think about how we will miss those that have passed and for Amélie and Granddad that tends to revolve around food. She has said she will miss Granddad for his fudge, biscuits, pancakes and ice-cream. Also, she has said that she will miss him because he fixes her toys when she breaks them.
Lucinda found her sobbing the other day and let her talk while giving her a cuddle. I came in and we all hugged while Amélie reasoned her loss. It was all very upsetting not only because Amélie was crying but because we will miss him too, for our own reasons. However, our mood was slightly lightened when Amélie came out with something that can only spring from the logic of a child. Between sobs she said, ‘I wish Granddad was a tortoise.’ Slightly sideswiped by this we asked her what she meant. ‘Tortoises can live for over a hundred years, so if Granddad was a tortoise he would still be alive.’ You cannot deny the logic.
Granddad’s funeral happened to fall on the same day as another big event in Éowyn’s life: her first day at Brownies. Éowyn had been on the waiting list for Rainbows since she was five, but unfortunately our local Rainbows pack was so oversubscribed that she never managed to get a place. To join Brownies you have to have celebrated your 7th birthday. The first Brownie meeting that she could attend was a week or so later than her birthday due to the half-term break. We didn’t want her to miss this first meeting so in stepped Auntie Liz who walked her to and collected from the meeting.
Unfortunately it wasn’t the best of meetings for our eldest to attend for her first taste of Brownies. The activity for the evening was cake making. Now, if it was a real cake and involved flour, eggs, butter, etc. then I think that Éowyn would have enjoyed it. No, this cake was a fabric cake that required sewing. Éowyn isn’t a girlie girl who would enjoy sewing and so it was. She said that she didn’t enjoy it and didn’t want to go back. However, we have asked her to go a few more times before she gives it up before she has even started. Fortunately, this week, it was games night. Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed this and is now looking forward to going again. We will see how this plays out and you, my dear readers, will read it here first.
Before I leave you, I will leave you with a funny from Ezra. Ezra’s vocabulary is increasing daily but his favourite word is one we are trying to discourage him from using and you will soon see why. Ezra’s current favourite word is ‘Boobies’. We are trying not to react when he uses it but sometimes it is quite hard. I was serving dinner the other day and trying to engage the baguettes in the choices I was asking them to put their hands up for the various choices. ‘Hands up, who likes carrots?’ They put their hands up and I would dish the carrots out. ‘Hands up, who likes peas?’ They put their hands up and I dished the peas out.
Then Ezra joined in: ‘Hands up, who likes boobies?’ Judging by the raised hands, just you and me, son. Just you and me!
Peace and Love
PS: As you can see from the geeky stats section in the sidebar, I have now clocked up over a quarter of a million words on this website. Thank you for reading!