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.

Badger Moot 2014 – Part One

A little delayed due to a couple of important updates but let me take you back to the October half-term and the greater Badger clan tradition of descending on deepest, darkest, Dorset (for the 11th time).  As regular readers will know every year the descendants of Grandpa Badger (Lucinda’s Granddad) gather in Dorset for a week’s holiday.  It is a great opportunity to catch up with members of the family that we do not see for the majority of the year.

As I mentioned above this is the 11th annual moot and the 10th at Berwick Manor in the Bride Valley, West Dorset just north of Burton Bradstock.  This year’s moot was sorely lacking in Badgers (although there were two ex-Badgers) however there was a new addition to the clan: Letty Woodman, Kate and Nolan’s baby daughter, (our children’s second cousin) the first time myself and Lucinda had met her.

As usual we can pick the keys up for the manor on the Friday afternoon, however with it not only being the last day of term for Éowyn and Amélie it was also their respective last days at their current schools, so we decided that it would be unfair to take them out of school denying them the opportunity to say goodbye to their friends.  We also had to ensure that both girls had collected all their belongings since they would not be returning.  Therefore, we did not set off down the M3 until well after 16:00 and perilously close to rush hour.  We were fortunate, however, that although the traffic was heavy it kept moving and we arrived in good time at around 19:00.  This gave us just enough time to unload the car and put Ezra’s cot up before Uncle Bill and Auntie Sally’s traditional Friday night curry.

The girls and Ezra are usually very good sleepers.  Amélie will usually be the first to rise (perhaps a throw back to her early years when she would scream through the night – she was 17 months old before her first ‘full night’s’ sleep) but that is usually not until 0630 at the earliest.  Now whether it was the excitement of being in a house with all their cousins, all five of us in the same room, or just being in a different place but none of us got a decent night’s sleep (indeed we didn’t get a decent night’s sleep all week – so much for a relaxing holiday).  Indeed Ezra woke up about 0300 and sat chatting in his cot (which was at my side of the bed) for about 3 hours before falling back to sleep.  In fairness, he didn’t cry just sat there chatting, and although, after checking on him, we lay there ignoring him it did mean that we were only ever half asleep.  Ezra probably fell asleep just before 0600 and then Amélie woke up at 0630 – so much for a bit of a lay in!

Saturday morning, was the traditional mooch around Bridport Market.  There wasn’t much to buy (as usual) but we enjoy the wander and bumping into other members of the Badger clan.   I had also give the girls (and Ezra – not that he knew) £10 each for them to spend on their holidays.  Bridport is home to a Toymaster shop and when we said that the girls could go it, their little eyes lit up with wonder and delight.  ‘This is the best place,‘  Éowyn gushed.  They ran from one aisle to another trying to decide what to spend their money on.  Neither Éowyn nor Amélie have the full appreciation of what ten pounds can buy you these years and were constantly disappointed when they pointed to the biggest boxes and Daddy had to say that they didn’t have enough money. Nevertheless, after what felt like an age, both finally made a decision and wangled an extra £2.50 out of Dad.  Normally, I wouldn’t be such a soft touch but Amélie had spotted a Barbie and Horse set that was half price (must take after her Nanny Fran spotting a bargain like that) and it seemed unfair that Amélie was allowed a little extra money and Éowyn wasn’t.  For the record Éowyn, unsurprisingly spend her money on another mermaid (and a mini my little pony).  Éowyn does seem to have an mermaid obsession and has countless mermaid related toys so when I saw her contemplating what to buy and one of them was a mermaid then there was only going to be one outcome.

Toys were left at Berwick Manor though as we headed to Hive Beach in the afternoon.  Hive Beach in Burton Bradstock is the closest coastline to Berwick Manor and we always head there at least once a moot!  We took Lauren and played the age old game of playing chicken with the tide.  The usual and inevitable outcome transpired and at some point the tide won and there was a trio of soggy children climbing back into the car for the trip back.

Saturday may have seen us visit familiar haunts, Sunday on the other hand saw us explore a new corner of Dorset.  In November 1943 notice was given to the villagers of Tyneham that they would be required to leave their homes before Christmas as the area was being commandeered by the Ministry of Defence for forces’ training.  The last of the inhabitants left on the 17th December believing that they would return after the war.  This never happened, and today the village is still part of the Ministry of Defence Lulworth Ranges and is one of the country’s ‘lost’ villages.

Tyneham is open to the public most weekends and all main public holidays and is free.  The intervening 71 years have taken their toll on the village and many of the cottages are but shells.  However the church and the school are in good order with St Mary’s church housing an exhibition on the history of the area and the school a wildlife project.

It was definitely an interesting place to visit and the girls Éowyn especially, we initially intrigued by the ruined houses.  However, it is only a village and although Lucinda and I found it fascinating it did not capture the girls imagination.  A tour of the village probably took about an hour and I would have liked to have stayed longer to take more photos but tummies were rumbling and so we headed down the road to Lulworth Cove.

I would recommend visiting Tyneham, if you are in the area as it is a fascinating part of our war effort.  Indeed it brings it home to you that men from the village were off fighting in foreign lands to protect their homes, only to find that when they returned home that they did not have a home, or a village, or a community – the very things that they were fighting for.  This is not only true of Tyneham where the village was taken over but many of our cities (and cities across Europe) that were destroyed by bombing raids.

As I mentioned above, many of the houses in the village are but shells but the church and the school have been faithfully restored (even if, in the case of the school it is a little contrived with the school work) and it was interesting trying to explain to 21st Century children the need for a ‘K1’ telephone kiosk and telegrams.

The unseasonable warm weather encouraged us to head to the coast to Lulworth Cove rather than head straight back to base.  Lucinda and I would have liked to have explored the area a little more and walked the coast path to Durdle Door however three little ones had been patient around Tyneham and so after grabbing a spot of lunch we headed to the beach in Lulworth Cove.

There isn’t much of a beach at Lulworth Cove but the girls (and Ezra) found a bit of sand to build their first sandcastles of the holiday.  For the second time this holiday they also ventured a little too far into the sea and the sea won.  Prepared with spare clothes, we poured the sea-water out of their wellies and dried their feet, changed their socks and re-shod them in their shoes and headed back to the car.  Walking up the road toward the carpark we had to pass through the visitors centre and their ice-cream parlours, the lure of which was too great.  So, we sat on the wall eating our ice-creams before heading back to the car and home.  The only downside was that somewhere between the beach and the car we managed to lose one of Amélie’s wellies.  Not the worst thing that could happen but we did need to replace them, which we did the next morning.

When I was a child we would regularly visit my mom’s cousin, my Auntie Margaret (actually my first cousin once removed) but I hadn’t seen her and my Uncle Ray until we met at my Nan’s funeral last year.  So, during last year’s moot we initiated another yearly tradition of visiting Portland and spending a day on the isle.  After a Sunday night that was very much like previous two (Ezra waking up in the middle of the night chatting followed by Amélie waking up early) we set out from Puncknowle along one my favourite roads in England (the B3157 – the Jurassic Coast Road) towards Weymouth and Portland.

Auntie Margaret had made cupcakes for the kids and had left them undecorated for the girls to have some fun when they arrived.  After decorating the cakes and colouring one of their pictures in their colouring books that Auntie Margaret had bought them we headed across the road to the junior playground over the road.  The girls and Ezra had fun but it was aimed at kids a little younger that Éowyn, and even Amélie was probably a little too old for some of the rides so we headed a little further down the road the ‘big’ playground.

This was much more suited to Éowyn, but maybe a little on the big side for Amélie however one that enjoyed it the most was Ezra!  In the centre of the playground was a slide that towered above me, the top was easily 2.5 metres (around 8 feet) high.  Éowyn and Amélie were both a little nervous but nevertheless climbed the ladder to slide down.  Their 18 month old brother had no fear.  We tried dissuading him from going up, but he wasn’t having that, so as he made the climb Auntie Margaret followed closely behind and myself and Lucinda positioned ourselves along the slide.  No need to worry, he loved it and as soon as reached the bottom he ran round to climb to do it all again.  Auntie Margaret followed him down the slide and then back up the stairs behind him again.  That was exercise that she wasn’t expecting.  Ezra showed no signs of stopping so we decided it was an opportune moment to walk back to Auntie Margaret’s house and lunch.

The girls were on best behaviour and endeared themselves to Margaret and Ray by asking if they could call them Grandma and Grandpa rather than Auntie Margaret and Uncle Ray.  As you can imagine both were delighted to have been asked and were very happy to agree to.  We left mid-afternoon to return along the Jurassic Coast road to Berwick Manor for the family meal and this year’s fancy dress party.  But you will have to wait until the next instalment for part two of the holiday and The Hollywood Party for the details and more importantly: the photos.

Peace and Love


PS Before you look at the photos below I must warn you that there is one that might break your heart.  It is not all joy and happiness on holiday as Amélie aptly demonstrates below. Do not fear the long face didn’t last too long!