Return to the Lake District

Avid, regular readers may recall that the Bagnalls headed north to Flookburgh at the start of the school holidays last year for a week in Lake District.  We thoroughly enjoyed that week in the North and decided that there was so much of the area that we didn’t have a chance to explore that we thought that we would head back this year.  Although the leisure park in Flookburgh was a great site and had plenty for the kids to do, it was a little too out of the way (indeed, it was not actually in the Lake District National Park) and any trip involved getting the car.  So, for our return, we headed further in to the Lake District National Park and one of the venues of our last trip: Bowness on Windermere.  Bowness on Windermere is quite a large town (for the Lake District at least) on the East coast of Windermere (the largest natural lake in England) and home to the Beatrix Potter attraction, which is one of the reasons that we visited the town last year.  While we were there we saw a holiday park a couple of minutes walk north of the town and decided that would be a great place to base ourselves for this year’s holiday.

Fallbarrow Holiday Park (and Marina) hugs the shore of Windermere and its proximity to Bowness on Windermere made up for the lack of entertainment facilities that one usually expects with such parks.  While we were browsing the site (website that is) looking to book a caravan or lodge we noticed that they also had two cottages for holiday let.  Much more substantial than a caravan and not that much more expensive, they also slept nine.  It seemed a shame not to let the cottage and it also seemed a shame to let the extra beds go to waste so we asked Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary if they would like to join us.  Amazingly they said yes.

We hired the cottage Monday to Monday so on the Sunday we drove to Nanny Fran’s to break the journey up a little and be 120 miles closer to the goal.  We left after the morning rush hour and headed north on the M6, with Nanny Fran a few minutes behind us.  Any of you that are familiar with the M6 will know how often there is heavy traffic and although that was true for us the traffic kept moving and we arrived at Fallbarrow Holiday Park at 13:31 (one whole minute after we were allowed to check in).  Nanny Fran wasn’t so lucky.  A caravan had overturned blocking all three lanes, while we were the right side of the accident, Nanny Fran was not.  Stuck in traffic she crawled half a mile in two hours and so did not arrive at the Cottage until late afternoon, thoroughly exhausted.  So while Nanny Fran sat down, had a cup of tea and then unpacked Lucinda, the Baguettes and I explored the Holiday Park taking in the beautiful views of Windermere that the park had to offer.

We had all had enough of driving (especially Nanny Fran) and so, to keep ourselves fresh for the next day, we decided to take it easy and just have a nose around Bowness on Windermere, have a pub meal then try one of the many flavours of ice-cream in the local ice-cream parlour and sit on the lakeside watching the sun go down.  Not a bad start to the holiday.

We woke to a gloriously sunny day the next morning, indeed it was a hotter day in the Lake District than any of our days during our May holiday to Italy – most unusual.  Being National Trust members certainly reaps benefit on a holiday to the Lake District, as there are so many place to visit.  Tuesday we decided to visit one of the newer attractions.  Not newer in the age of the building, nor in how long the National Trust have owned the building, but newer in the sense that it has only been open to the public since 2011 and it has only been since 2014 the use of the building has been ‘visitor attraction’.  Wray Castle is a Victorian neo-gothic building built in the 1840’s for a retired surgeon James Dawson who used his wife’s fortune, that she inherited from a Gin making empire, to build his dream home.  Acquired by the National Trust in 1929 it had been stripped of his internal beauty and so it’s value was seen more as a rental property and so it was rented from then until the early 21st century.  Because it has been stripped of all internal decor it is very child friendly and you are allowed to touch everything.  There is a dressing up room; a room with large soft building block and, tying in with the fact that Beatrix Potter stayed at Wray Castle when she was 16, a Peter Rabbit themed area.  Outside there is a large adventure playground and a path that leads down to Windermere.  As you can see from the photos here, it is a very beautiful building and well worth the visit if you are in the area.

If Tuesday saw a beautifully glorious morning, Wednesday could not have been much different.  Heavy rain and thunder and lightning greeting us on our 9th Wedding anniversary.  Somehow it seemed fitting as our Wedding Day saw one of the heaviest downfalls of rain on record, something one would not expect for mid-July.  Not that you can tell from our Wedding pictures and so it was this 20th July.  So we stayed inside while the thunder echoed around the mountains but the rain was the least of our worries.  Ezra woke covered with spots:  Chicken Pox to be exact.  The girls had both been fortunate with very mild cases, Ezra was not that fortunate.  He was plastered.  A trip to the pharmacy was called for, but it would have to wait for the rain to stop.

The thunderstorm was just what was needed to clear the air after the extremely hot day the day before and by 1100 the sun was out and so we headed out for another adventure.  Coniston Water is the third largest lake in England and the scene of many attempts to break the Water Speed record, including Donald Campbell’s ill-fated attempt in Bluebird K7, which saw him average 320 miles per hour before he lost control and Bluebird somersaulted killing him instantly.

Our trip on Coniston Water was a little more sedate as we took a leisurely cruise down the lake as far as Peel Island and its secret harbour that was used by Arthur Ransome to set his children’s novel, Swallows and Amazons.  It was very relaxing just watching the beauty of the Lake District roll past from stillness of the water and as we passed the secret harbour there was a modern-day Walkers family de-embarking from their Swallow.

Returning to the cottage on Wednesday evening Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz offered to babysit so that we could celebrate our Wedding Anniversary with a romantic meal.  We took them up on this offer and heading to the Angel Inn that from its vantage point looked down over Bowness on Windermere and the lake itself.  It was nice to sit and enjoy a meal for ourselves rather than encouraging the children to eat theirs while ours goes cold.

Auntie Mary was unable to join us until Thursday so Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz met her at Windermere train stations while we headed to another National Trust venue: Fell Foot at the southern tip of Windermere.  Fell Foot is a lakeshore park with an adventure park, meadows and boats to hire.  Unfortunately the Baguettes are a little too young at the moment to fully appreciate hiring a rowing boat or kayak, so after exploring the park and having a spot of lunch we headed back to Bowness on Windermere and sought out a cream tea – we were on holiday after all.

We travelled a little further on Friday, back to somewhere we had visited last year: South Lakes Safari Zoo.  I do have a dichotomic relationship with zoos.  Animals should be in the wild and locking them in cages and enclosures is wrong.  However humans are slaughtering animals and destroying their habitats and if a zoo can a) save animals from extinction and b) educate then they can’t be wrong.  It is with the goal to educate that I like to take the Baguettes and the South Lakes Safari Zoo allows you to get up close and personal with many of the animals, including feeding giraffes, lemurs and well as a host of waterfowl.

Nanny Fran was heading back to West Bromwich on Sunday and so we didn’t want to travel too far on Saturday and so decided to head to another National Trust venue.  Hill Top was the home of Beatrix Potter.  It also lies on the opposite shore of Windermere to Bowness on Windermere so we walked down to the car ferry and paid our 50p to cross the lake.

Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey is a 17th century farmhouse that was bought by Beatrix Potter in 1906.  She left it to the National Trust when she died and it is open to the public as Beatrix Potter herself would have known it.  Indeed many of her illustrations that can be found in her books depict the house and the National Trust hand out copies of the books as you walk around the house so that you can see where the action was set.  The gardens were smaller than we thought they would be so it didn’t take look to walk around the house and gardens before the Baguettes got a little bored.  2016 sees the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth so it was fitting that we visited Hill Top this year.

We said good-bye to Nanny Fran on Sunday morning and hello to the first rain since Wednesday.  We decided to head to the South West corner of the Lake District and Ravenglass to catch the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway.  Ravenglass is the only coastal town in the Lake District and the reputed birthplace of St Patrick.  It is also the terminus of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway a 15 inch minimum gauge heritage railway that runs 7 miles to Dalegarth near Boot in the Eskdale valley.  Ezra enjoys his choo-choos and so do Mommy and Daddy, even the rain didn’t dampen the day for the Baguettes.  The only concession that we made was to ride in a covered carriage to Dalegarth.

We disembarked at the terminus at Dalegarth, watched the engineers turn the engine around via the turntable before walking the short distance into Boot.  After a fantastic Sunday lunch at the Boot Inn we headed back to Dalegarth and with a break in the clouds braved an open carriage for the return journey to Ravenglass.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week in the Lake District and despite Wednesday’s thunderstorm and Sunday’s dismal rain were very lucky with the weather.  We all like the Lake District and there is plenty more to explore for the Bagnalls however we think we need to visit a few more areas of our land before returning.  So we have decided that it will be a few years before we head back to Cumbria.  The Baguettes will be a little bigger and be able to enjoy some of the more adventurous sports that the Lake District has to offer.

I intended to bring this update to you as we left the Lake District but as with all the great plans at the moment work is extremely busy and thus family time is valuable so this website, among other things, has to be put on the back burner, hence why it comes to you over a fortnight after the holiday ended.  So please enjoy the photos and I hope to get another update to you before the end of August.  There is a slight change to the website but it might not be immediately noticeable.  If you click on one of the photos below it will now open all the photos below into a full frame gallery, hope that you enjoy it.

Peace and Love


Easter Holidays

This update comes to you a week later than I was planning.  I had planned to update you all about the latest shenanigans of chez Bagnall at the end of the Easter break but somehow I haven’t managed to find time until now to bring you up to speed with our latest news.

After a heavy month at work, including working the Easter weekend I decided to use a couple of days earned in lieu and tagged them around rostered days off to spend a few days with the family in the second week of the Easter holiday break from school.  Work is going to remain busy for the next couple of months so it was a good opportunity to spend some quality time with the family.

The Easter break from school was the usual fortnight.  My break from work was the second week of that vacation so Lucinda had to entertain our children along with childminding wards for the first week of the Easter break.  This included taking them all to Saville Garden to take part in their Easter Egg hunt.  There were not real Easter Eggs to find but clues laid out throughout the gardens and a reward of golden chocolate coins for a completed task sheet .  The cardboard eggs that they needed to collect via questions on said task sheet were not the traditional chocolate eggs that the children usually try to find at this time of year but Dragon Eggs for this was an Easter Dragon trail.  It’s what Easter is all about!

It was also a good opportunity for our N.C.T. group to meet up.  The usual place for meet ups recently is Saville Garden.  It is convenient for all and the kids can pick up sticks and run around in the mud while the mums can amble and catch up.  It is amazing how much the kids still get on with each, I suppose they have known each other for over seven years, even if they don’t see each other as regularly as they should.  It is also amazing how much fun you can have with a stick, something that humans of one species or another have been doing for millions of years.

I missed out on those two events due to work commitments so we needed to make up for it in the second week.  Therefore the first day of my mini-break saw the Bagnalls and Nanny heading south to visit Granddad’s brother and his wife, Uncle David and Auntie Sally in Middleton on Sea.  A short trip East along the shore from Bognor Regis our only previous visit was when we spent a long weekend at Butlins four years previous, a year before Ezra was even born.

We arrived around lunchtime and Auntie Sally has prepared a lovely lunch which stood us in good stead for an afternoon on the beach, which is only a short walk from their house. Lucinda, Uncle David and I played in the sand with the Baguettes while Nanny and Auntie Sally sheltered from the wind in their Beach hut while getting the cake and tea ready for refreshments.  We were lucky with the weather for despite the portentous dark clouds we only had one short sharp shower that wasn’t worth rushing for the hut.

It was a really fun afternoon doing simple things that kept the Baguettes occupied more than the screens that they are becoming increasingly addicted to.  The bracing sea air really cleared the lungs and we all felt better after an afternoon of splashing in rock pools and building sand castles.  Indeed the time when by so quickly that we were surprised how late it had become and after tea and cakes returned to the house for the journey back home.  We will not leave it as long for our next visit!

The following day, Lucinda had two of her clients but we did not let it stop us from enjoying the day.  Éowyn had a playdate at her best friend’s so we headed out with just four children to Ham House taking advantage of our National Trust passes.  The National Trust have begun an initiative to encourage kids to rediscover the simple things of life and the things that kids of previous generations took for granted with their 50 things to do before you are 11¾.  Ham House was helping with this initiative with a large pile of branches from which the kids were encouraged to make a den.  That only entertained our wards for a short while, perhaps they were a little too young.  However, they were more than entertained by one of the other activities, making a kite.  It may have only been made with A4 paper, lollipop sticks and ribbon but the older children really enjoyed making it and then enjoyed running around the gardens attempting to make it fly.  It wasn’t quite Mary Poppins but the look on their faces as we encouraging them to run so that the kites caught in the draft behind them.  We only briefly toured Ham House playing and picnicking in the gardens, enjoying the relatively good weather (apart from one shower).  I think that we will have to go back with Éowyn.

The following two days we had an extra ward so it was not so easy to travel far, but it didn’t stop us leaving the house.  Indeed with a park at the end of the road we headed there to keep the children entertained and our of the house taking advantage of the break between the showers.

The week also saw Éowyn and Amélie having 0900 swimming lessons to try to boost their confidence in the water.  Something that we desperately want them to have and so not only have they completed this week worth of lesson Amélie has been signed up for weekly swimming lessons on a Saturday morning (Éowyn is on a waiting list).  This is really going to give Amélie a busy end to her week.  For not only has she signed up for dancing lessons after school on a Friday, she then will be going to Rainbows later that evening only to have to wake up early on a Saturday morning to go swimming.  She is going to be one fit little girl, who hopefully will want a lay in on a Sunday morning.

Ezra, too, has been taking strides forward in his development.  For at long last he seems to have cracked toilet training.  All other attempts have failed as he just didn’t seem to get the idea of going to the bathroom before he needed to.  However with some persistence from both Lucinda and I and the incentive of a Paw Patrol toy he is now in big boy pants.  For some reason however he insists on being completely naked from the waist down when he goes to the toilet (including his socks) but hopefully this is only a passing phase.  It will be a little embarrassing at the urinals when he his 21!

The other great stage that my children have reached is the fact that they have now watched all three of the original Star Wars movies with Star Wars Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi completing the hat trick.  I now have the dilemma of whether to introduce them to the prequels.

Usually I would leave that there but I feel I have to share this little anecdote with you as I am worried about my son.  While watching Return Of The Jedi, Éowyn cuddled up to me on the sofa saying that she was frightened of Darth Vader as he was scary.  A fair comment I am sure you would agree.  Not Ezra.  He turned to Éowyn and said: ‘Darth Vader not scary, Darth Vader’s the good guy.‘ Now either Ezra is very astute and is looking deeply into the arc of the Star Wars universe or my son is edging towards the Dark Side.  I am fearing the latter.  Two further incidences are adding weight to that notion.

The next morning Ezra is rummaging in the musical instrument box (nothing fancy, just toy musical instruments) and picks out the old favourite:  the recorder.  He starts blowing into it and despite not really playing the instrument the overtones of the Imperial March were coming from him as he strode menacingly across the room.  Then a couple of days later, we are looking through some Star Wars playing cards and Ezra said that he like it when Darth Vader killed the bad guy.  I immediately thought that my son knew what he was talking about and thought of the scene on the second Death Star when Darth Vader despatched the Emperor.  No.  Ezra pointed to the duel in A New Hope between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi.  I am truly concerned!

Before I leave you, I feel that I have to mention that Friday was the funeral of my friend and colleague Terry Wood.  I think he would have approved of his send off.  A group of us met up at Piebury Corner for pie and mash before heading to Enfield Crematorium.  The service was both moving and funny as I am sure he would have wanted (although the Birdy Song was nowhere to be heard) and it was good to meet his family, if only it could have been in better circumstances.  It was a testament to the man that so many people made the journey on a Friday afternoon and I know a number of people that were devastated that they could not make it.  The word legend is overused but Terry truly deserved that epitaph.  Terry Wood you will be missed.

Peace and Love



Half-term round up

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!