Amélie’s Fifth Birthday

A few short weeks after she started full-time education our second child Amélie turned five.  This makes her one of the oldest in her class and her parents feel older than they think they are!  Since this was Amélie’s first birthday in full-time education I decided that it would be nice to take the day off so that I could be there to take her to school and then be there when she arrived back home.  This was doubly important because the weekend before Amélie’s birthday one of the MCR operators got married, this coupled with other commitments meant that we were a little short in staff levels on a busy weekend.  This is my department, therefore I could not justify taking leave either for Matt and Sharon’s wedding nor to celebrate Amélie’s birthday.

Amélie however did have special visitors at the weekend in the shape of Nanny Fran and Aunties Liz and Mary.  Since Nanny Fran and her aunties had come a long way and it was only the day before her birthday Amélie was allowed to open her presents.  She, therefore, had two birthdays or, more accurately, celebrated her birthday for 48 hours – I am sure that is allowed!  Nanny Fran waited until I arrived back from work however this did mean that she got caught in traffic and it took her 3.5 hours to return to West Bromwich, which made it an awfully long day.

So the big day arrived and to her credit Amélie didn’t wake too early.  The promise of being able to open her presents if she got ready for school early spurred her on and both she and Éowyn were ready by 0815!  If only it was like that everyday!  Some of her presents duly opened she headed off to school (with a smile on her face, for the first time in a week) wearing her ‘I am 5′ badge.

The girls’ school has a healthy eating policy and therefore there are no sweets or cakes to be given out in class for birthdays.  Although that is admiral if you can’t have a cake or some sweets on your birthday when can you?  There is no policy, however, to stop one giving sweets and cakes out to classmates outside the school gates.  Therefore, like some nefarious drug-dealer (and let’s face it sugar is a particularly bad drug) Amélie handed out bags of Haribos to her classmates as they left for home.

As I mentioned in the last write-up, Amélie has been getting herself upset in a morning saying that she hasn’t wanted to go to school.  Much of this is because Amélie hasn’t made many, if any, friends.  Most of the girls in her class have come to school via the same nursery therefore friendships have already been formed and Amélie has to break into this circle.  She will.  When she has been upset she has mentioned how much she has missed Georgia her friend from pre-school who attends another school and unfortunately Lucinda and Georgia’s mum had not managed to swap contact details while at pre-school.  With a some luck Lucinda bumped into Georgia’s mum last week at one of the playgroups that she takes Ezra and her childminding ward and so snatched the chance to invite Georgia over for a birthday tea.

Amélie was shocked to see her friend walk up the driveway.  Georgia was also pleasantly surprised as her mum had not told her what was happening or where she was going and this was Georgia’s first playdate so they were both very excited little girls.  Sometimes birthday surprises are better than birthday presents.

Georgia wasn’t the only birthday visitor that Amélie had on her birthday evening.  Nanny and Granddad came round with Uncle John and Auntie Margaret.  Auntie Margaret received an education in current girls’ toys, in the U.K. at least.  She learned all about Pinypons, Monster High Dolls and Fright-Mares.  She will take this knowledge back home to see if this is same in Australia and thus be the cool Nanny in her granddaughters’ circle of friends.

Before they sat down for a birthday tea there was still room for more visitors with Uncle Michael and her cousins Lauren and Maddie popping in with more presents and a quick game of Ludo.  What an exciting day!

The heavens seem to celebrate too for the day began with a lunar eclipse, that coincided with the moon at perigee (a so-called supermoon) and ended with N.A.S.A. announcing that liquid water has been found on another planet, our neighbour Mars.  A very auspicious day to celebrate your fifth birthday.

Happy Birthday Amélie


Mommy and Daddy

A week off at the end of January

Time to squeeze an update in before the end of January?  I think so, especially when I have the excuse that for the last 9 days I have been at home having taken the last of my 2014 leave entitlement.  An F.A. Cup weekend meant that their was no Premier League action and thus it was a perfect time, from a work point of view, to take a break.

So what has 2015 brought to the Bagnall household so far?  The biggest, most important, euphoria inducing event is the fact that our central heating works!  As regular readers may recall one of the problems with our house is that the heating has never truly worked and thus the house has always felt cold.  This was a complete shock to us coming from a  mid-terrace house, with cavity walls and a very efficient heating system.  We called in an expert last winter who said that our system was full of gunk and recommended a power flush.  This he did, cleared out a ton of gunk and although not perfect our house was at least, if not warm not cold.  We thought that was the best it was going to be and thought no more of it over the warm summer months.

The first cold snap of this winter proved that the power flush had not done the job, for although the upstairs of the house was warm, you could see you breath downstairs.  We booked another heating engineer to come round and in the meantime we purloined as many electric heaters as we could to keep the chill out, ignoring the effect on our energy bills!  Chris (the heating engineer was due to come round the week before Christmas but an emergency meant that he had to cancel and instead made us his priority for the first week of 2015.

Without boring you with the minutiae of our heating system, effectively our heating system suffered a coronary.  The fifteen years of gunk had collected in three separate sections of pipework preventing the hot water for reaching our downstairs ring of radiators.  Fortunately, no damage had been done to the boiler, or the pump and after some pipe replacement, cleaning of the system and a few minor adjustments to the design of the system, the house was warm.  The pipes were so full of gunk that there was no clear path through the pipe for the water to flow, no wonder the radiators were cold.  Thankfully, that can fade into the midst of memory and we can now walk around the house without fear of frostbite.

As I have mentioned, and the title alludes, I have had the best part of a week and a half away from work.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Lucinda, who was doing her usual hours and the girls who were both at school.  Therefore, we have not been away or done anything overly exciting.  Nevertheless it has been nice being the house husband and spending some time with the family, especially Ezra, who has enjoyed the bulk of my time.  It has also been nice to not only drop the girls off at school, which I do every morning, but to pick them up from school, which I rarely get a chance to do.

We also took the opportunity to have a catch up with Éowyn’s teacher.  As you know Éowyn (and Amélie) moved schools in November and thus we managed to miss parent’s evening (not that the teacher would have been able to tell us much at that point!).  Therefore we asked if we could have a quick catch up after school one evening and this week suited both us and her very well.  She told us that Éowyn has settled in very well and has made some good friends.  Although she is clever, she has a tendency to talk too much and in doing so loses concentration and makes silly mistakes, which is something they are trying to work on as she is also disrupting the children she is talking to.  So we have had a chat with Éowyn to try to curb that side of her personality, but it is something that we can’t do very easily as we are not there, the onus must be with the teaching staff who may have to split her little group up.  Something that happened at her previous school when Éowyn and her best friend were being too loud in class.

The week off, was also well-timed for Granddad.  Lucinda’s dad had ruptured a tendon in his shoulder at the end of last year and has been in terrible pain with it for months.  Fortunately, his operation was scheduled in the middle of my week off so I was able to take him to the hospital.  The operation was bigger than expected and although only a week has passed, John is still in a lot of pain.  However, he has a follow-up appointment on Saturday so should know whether the operation has been a success and whether the pain is to be expected.

The week off was also an opportunity to investigate whether it was possible, and whether I wanted, to have laser surgery to correct my vision.  I am slightly short-sighted but suffer from astigmatism in my left eye.  So took the opportunity to make an appointment and see what the experts say, and probably more importantly how much it would cost.  I never got as far as the second part for during my appointment they discovered that the cornea on the lower part of my left eye is too thin to safely perform laser surgery.  Therefore, it is back to the opticians for me!

As part of my time off I had one of those rare events: a weekend off.  Despite the cold January weather we decided to take full advantage and go on an adventure and visit somewhere new.  We decided on Bocketts Farm and headed down to Leatherhead.  Bocketts Farm is a working farm with play areas to entertain the children.  All three found things to entertain them.  There were trampolines, a soft play area little pedal tractors, all before we managed to see any animals.

Highlights of the day included watching the pig race, getting up close with the small animals in the petting zoo area.  The girls were happy to stroke the rabbit and guinea pigs but weren’t as keen on the thought of stroking the chicken.  However, the apprehension soon faded when the chicken was brought round and they happily stroked her too.  Even Ezra stroked all the animals.

Those highlights were put into the shade by the biggest highlight of the day, for the girls at least, a pony ride.  When they realised that there was the opportunity to ride a pony they both asked if they could queue up.  Well considering the meaning of Éowyn’s name, how could I refuse?  Both of them thoroughly enjoyed it, but thankfully neither have asked for a pony.  Hopefully, that is the way it will stay.  Take the opportunity when presented but not bankrupt daddy by wanting one of your own!

I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Bocketts Farms, especially when it gets a bit warmer as there are plenty of things to do to keep the kids entertained.  We will be going back.

So after some time with the family it is back to work and back to the usual regime.  The first photos of 2015 are on my Flickr pages and see you all in February.

Peace and Love


That was Christmas 2014

I trust that you all had a very Merry Christmas and Father Christmas left you all that you wanted.  As 2014 draws to a close this will be the last update of the year but expect the next on the first day of the new year which will reflect on the year as a whole.  Here I will just concern myself with events in the Bagnall household that have happening in the last few weeks.

Both girls broke up from School the Friday before Christmas, which will give them just over 2 weeks off school.  Fortunately the football fixtures (which are usually heavy over the Christmas period) have, due to Christmas falling on a Thursday, meant that the 40 Premier League games that were scheduled over that same period have been spread over only 7 days.  This has meant that although I have had to work Boxing Day, and will be working New Year’s Day (in addition to the other 5) I have managed to spend some time with the family.

Lucinda’s shifts have also been a little kind and apart from New Year;s Day and Sunday 28th December I have been off to look after the kids.  So we have only had to trouble Nanny and Granddad twice over the Christmas holidays.  Not ideal but both of us work in industries that require shift work and have worked in such industries all our working lives, we are kind of used to it.

Needless to say in the days leading up to Christmas the girls were getting more and more excited.  We tempered that excitement by involving them in getting the house prepared for Christmas, making room for potential new presents and getting the spare room sorted for the visit of Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary.

Yes, this year we decided that we would host Christmas.  With Nanny Fran living in West Bromwich and with my work meaning that I always work Boxing Day (the day after Christmas day for non-UK readers – a full round of football fixtures), we never spend Christmas day with my family.  As we now have the room to accommodate a dozen or so diners relatively comfortably we took advantage of our new home (and new extending dining table) to invite the family round for Christmas dinner.  With Nanny Fran and Aunties Liz and Mary living so far away it made sense that they stopped for a couple of days to take full advantage.  Therefore, Nanny Fran and the Aunties came Christmas Eve, returning home Boxing day.

Before, any of that could happen though, the house had to be tidied within an inch of its life to make room not only for three extra guests but also the presents that they would undoubtedly bring with them.  That was how the beginning of the week was spent, trying to calm the excitement with tidying.

The girls’ imaginations were probably running overtime though and this is probably what lead to Amélie creeping into our room at 0300 scared because there was a monster in her room.  Daddy is volunteered by Mommy to go monster hunting.  So I lead Amélie back into her room.  I asked her what it looks like and she replies that it looks like a disc with two faces.  So we enter the room and I ask her if she can still see it.  She says that it is by the window.  I walk over there and say quite confidently state that there is no monster.  ‘You are not looking properly,‘ she says.  So I wave my hands about explaining that if I can do this then there can not be a monster there.  Amélie starts to get agitated, ‘You are NOT looking properly!‘ she says.  Trying to calm her down I ask her where it is.  ‘Right behind you!’  Pregnant pause: ‘Grinning!

Now I may be a 6 foot 3 bloke in what I believe to be a monster-free home but I am not ashamed to say that the earnestness in which Amélie say those four words made my hackles raise and adrenalin start pumping through my veins.  So I looked around to see what could be causing the shadow that her imagination was turning into a grinning two-faced disc monster.  I couldn’t see anything but being as positive as I could be under the circumstances that it was either the moon peaking through the crack in the curtains or the night light (or a combination of the two) was the cause of the denizen of the night, I moved some of the untidied things about, including the main suspect, an errant sock.  Amélie confirmed that she could no longer see the monster but was scared that it would come back.  So I told her to take her teddy to be as we all know that the reason that children take teddies to bed is that monsters are scared of teddies.  Amélie accepted this and was soon snoring.  I crept back into our room, keeping an eye out for a two-faced disc monster on the way.

So with the house tidied and only a few threats to phone Santa Claus it was Christmas Eve before we knew it and the first of our visitors arrived. Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary arrived before another special visitor.  The UK were blessed with the coincidence that the International Space Station’s orbit brought it over during the week or so before Christmas.  Alerted to this fact via social media, we decided, along with many parents across the land, to tell the children that it was Santa’s sleigh heading towards the children of Thailand.  So at 17:23 we stood in our garden in the freezing cold looking for a bright light to streak across the sky.  We were blessed with clear skies and a good viewing angle and sure enough we watched it arc across the sky.  Amélie was even convinced that she could see Rudolph’s bright red nose, and Santa waving.

We thank the crew of the International Space Station for impersonating Santa Claus so well, and from now on it will be known as Santa’s International Space Sleigh.

So, after Santa’s appearance it was relatively easy to get the kids into bed ready for his appearance in chez Bagnall.

The girls must have been very good as Santa had left them a well packed stocking each, and Amélie had been left a purple pram for her baby.  Santa didn’t factor Amélie waking at 0230 for a wee, noticing the pram and wheeling it in to Mommy and Daddy’s room to show them.  We managed to convince her to go back to sleep before Santa had noticed that she was awake and that it would still be there in the morning.  Fortunately she did what she was told.

Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary must have been good girls too, as there was a little stocking left for each of them too.

Christmas morning was taken up by opening presents, and there was a lot of them.  Opening presents and bacon sandwiches.  Then it was time for the main event of Christmas, Christmas Dinner.  I was the nominated chef of the day cooking for the families Bagnall and Cathrall.  I had a little help in the form of the turkey was cooked by Nanny and Granddad, because I wouldn’t have had enough cooker space (it was tight as it was).  Nevertheless everything was cooked, nothing got burnt and everyone ate to their hearts (or stomach’s content).  In fact I could have probably served another half a dozen people easily.  Indeed we are still making our way through the leftovers.

When we suggested that we would cook Christmas dinner we had but one condition: everyone wore a Christmas jumper.  I am pleased to report that everyone did and it certainly added to the Christmasiness, unfortunately there was one element missing: snow.  It was cold but no snow.  Amélie was certainly disappointed and kept asking when it was going to snow.  It saved Daddy asking the same question. But despite the lack of snow as Christmases go it was pretty darn good, even without the mantelpiece, roaring log fire, egg-nog and pipe (don’t ask).  Not sure if we can do it all again next year, but ask me again in October.

There may not have been any snow in Staines Upon Thames on Christmas day but Nanny Fran was blessed with some on her return to West Bromwich, indeed it was a veritable blizzard during the Boxing day game between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City.  We are still waiting for our first fall here.  Indeed, it has not snowed since we moved in.  A blessing considering the lack of heating on the ground floor (update in future episodes).

All it leaves me to say, is that I trust that you all had a great Christmas and indeed a great 2014 and thank you for reading.  I would also like to thank you all for your generosity all three baguettes were very blessed with the gifts they received, now we just have to find space for them all and I look forward to seeing you all in 2015.

Peace and love