Welcome to 2015

It is traditional for my first post of the year to look Janus-like at the year that has just been and one the one yet to come.  Who am I to stand in the way of tradition?

2013 was an extremely hectic year with much of what life can throw at you and so we were hoping for a more sedate 2014.  With 3 children life is never going to be sedate, neither however, was it hectic.  In 2013 life through many things at us including: births, deaths, marriages, holidays, big birthdays, and house moves and although my company relocated (and came under new management) there were no new jobs in the Bagnall household.  It seemed that life was not finished with the Bagnall household and does not conform to the convention of numerical years and almost before the Christmas decorations had found their way back into the loft and certainly before Lucinda had returned to work from maternity leave the news broke that she would have to find a new job.

2014 saw the opening of the new Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport and Air Canada, the company where Lucinda had worked for the past 16 years, was one of the Airlines that was due to make it their new home.  Air Canada though, took this opportunity to look at their accounts and decided to outsource ground control to the handling agency ASIG.  Lucinda therefore had two choices: transfer to ASIG or redundancy.  Since Lucinda had such long service it made sense to take redundancy and then apply to ASIG, hopefully be offered a similar position and try to negotiate favourable terms as an individual.

Thus the stress of returning to work after maternity leave was coupled with the uncertainty of redundancy and job applications.  Nevertheless, Lucinda took it in her stride, took the favourable redundancy package, applied for a position at ASIG and managed to retain her job share hours which ties in, as nicely as it can, with my hours.

My hours have just been ridiculous this year with the conclusion of the move from Chiswick to Uxbridge (doesn’t sound too exotic, does it?) and especially moving Premier League Productions and at the same time taking on another major client in the guise of European Qualifiers.  It is nice to know that we are busy (better than being the opposite) but it would be nice to spend some time with the family.  However 2015 is bring a new structure and hopefully this will free me from the coal face and move me to the management side of my role and thus free me from the shackles of weekend fixtures.

These upheavals in work life have obviously been coupled with the usual stresses of being the parents of three young children and the small matter of moving into a new home.  We had only owned our new home for two months before 2014 was upon us and with Christmas 2013 around the corner all we had time to do was unpack.  Therefore this year was the first chance we had to do anything major with the house.

The house felt homely when we moved in and rooms were allocated almost on our first viewing and a year on they haven’t changed.  Our furniture, however felt dwarfed in the bigger living space and although we didn’t want to clutter the space with furniture for the sake of it we have acquired a few new pieces including the extending table that was used to full effect for Christmas dinner.

We haven’t made too many changes to the house so far, indeed we have only really made three major changes:

  • The installation of photovoltaic panels
  • Painting of the exterior
  • New French doors

The installation of the photovoltaic panels was never a definite plan but something I have always been interested in, especially when I realised how much bigger the fuel bills were for a larger, older house.  When we investigated the various methods to acquire them and how much it would cost to buy an array and we decided that there was no better time than the present. We are earning about £800 a year from them, if this year is at all typical, and our dual fuel bill had dropped by £60/month.  At that rate they will have paid for themselves in less than 6 years (not including any energy price increases) and they are guaranteed for 20 years.  Could be a good little earner;  I’ll keep you informed.

The first thing that we noticed about the house when we came for our initial viewing was the colour.  The house is pebbledashed (something I am not too keen on) and was of the original mortar colour.  Not very exciting, it was a good job that the rest of the house was so good.  We decided as we stood in the driveway in those first minutes that if we  purchase the house that we would like to paint it.

After moving in, it seemed that painting the house was an unnecessary extravagance and we should just live with the colour.  Then the wettest winter in many a year hit (and parts of Staines Upon Thames became Staines up-in-Thames) and the one thing that we noticed (apart from the fact that we were not flooded apparently, we discover we sit on a 1,000 year flood plain) was that there were an awful amount of pebbles on the driveway.  The mortar was absorbing the rain and crumbling.  This then pushed us back to the idea of painting the house.  It would serve two purposes, the first brighten the exterior of the house but secondly and more importantly it would bond the mortar and pebbles and add an extra layer of protection against the elements.

It was about this time that Lucinda was made redundant as Air Canada outsourced ground operations at Heathrow Airport to the handling agency ASIG.  With a nice little bonus in the bank it seemed to be the right thing to do to invest some of it into looking after the house.  So the house is now a Country Cream colour and certainly looks a lot brighter as you drive down the road.

The third improvement has been the replacement of the old sliding patio doors to some modern French doors.  Again it was one of the features of the house that we disliked when we first looked round.  We initially wanted bi-fold doors but apparently our opening wasn’t big enough so we comprised on French doors.  They give us the bigger opening that we wanted, bringing the outdoors in, as the architects are fond of saying, (although not what we particularly want at the moment) but also additional security compared to the sliding style patio doors and additional insulation from the modern double glazing.

Not a bad haul for the first year in our new home.  There are still plenty of things to be done, the most pressing in the heating system.  Last year we had a power flush to try to make the system more efficient and allow the radiators to actually output the heat that they are rated for.  The fact that last Winter was so mild (damp and windy but mild) it had sort of fallen to the back of our minds.  However this winter has already had cold days, and even colder nights and with a lack of heating downstairs, this has become a level one priority.

From a non-expert point of view it seems that there is so much gunk in the system that the hot water can not circulate around the lower half of the system.  Therefore we have hot water and a relatively warm upstairs but no heat downstairs.  This is coupled with single skin walls and a lack of underfloor insulation meaning that it can be unbearably cold downstairs.  Therefore, we have employed oil-filled radiators and fan heaters to attempt to make sitting downstairs bearable, which is denting the savings we would be accruing from the photovoltaic cells installation.

We have a heating engineer coming round in the week to see what he can do.  It might involve new radiators and pipework.  Hopefully not a new boiler but if it is needed, then it is needed.  To help retain the heat in the house we will also be looking at underfloor insulation in the coming year but that is going to be a big job and probably involve new carpets (or floor covering of some sort).  That however, can wait until the spring and be in place for next winter.

This past year has also seen our first attempt at cultivation.  Not in a self-sufficiency kind of way but just to see if we enjoy it and to help teach the children where our food comes from.  We were relatively successful with runner beans (there are still some in the freezer), potatoes, tomatoes and raspberries.  Not so successful with strawberries (squirrels dug the plants up before they had a chance to grow) and pumpkins (only one survived until Halloween).  The main thing was that we enjoyed doing it and managed to eat our produce so let’s see if we can do better next year.

The first event of last year that I would like to mention was the fact that in moving home we were further from Éowyn’s school but only a short walk to another.  Therefore, we made the decision to move sc

hools.  This was confirmed by the local education authority at michaelmas half term.  There have been tears and she is not enjoying it as much as she was at her old school, but we are confident that it will not take her much longer to settle it, especially with everyone returning after the Christmas break.

Amélie, on the other hand, is positively enjoying her new pre-school and looks forward to going to her ‘new school’.  The fact that both schools are a short walk from home and they can ride their scooters their, we think is a huge positive too.  There are also around 4 or 5 other families in the street with children of the same age so we feel more part of a community than we ever did at the previous school.  If only Éowyn’s best friend and favourite teacher were at this school then there would not be a problem, but life is not like that.

2014 has been another interesting year in the Bagnall household and I am sure that 2015 will just as interesting. Plans that we have will come to fruition and I am sure that this will be coupled with unforeseen obstacles that life will throw at us that will need to be overcome.  No doubt some things will go smoothly and others will be more bumpy; some things will fall into place without too much planning while others will fail despite being planned to the nth degree, and on that note I would like to leave you with this thought from Neil Gaiman:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Peace and Love


PS.  2013 saw disappointment surrounding Comet ISON which strayed too close to the sun, denying us a promised ‘Comet of the Century’ experience.  January brings us, not a ‘Comet of a Century’ but with luck and the benefit of a dark sky you maybe lucky enough to see Comet Lovejoy that should become visible to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere from the 9th January reaching perihelion on Friday 30th January 2015.  Keep those eyes peeled.

PPS.  Geeky web stats for 2014 can be found here.

Happy New Year from the Baguettes
Happy New Year from the Baguettes

I don’t want to go to school

Once again I feel that I have to apologise for the paucity of updates and the hiatus between write ups.  The trio of updates at the beginning of the month were supposed to have been backed up with some quick fire write ups.  It is blatantly clear that did not happen.  Life, work and the death of my NAS conspired to prevent that from happening.  To somehow make up for this I am promising a couple of updates before the annual Bagnall Christmas message, that will appear on the Winter Solstice (already pre-written and scheduled).

So let me take you back before the last three write ups to the end of October.  The Badger Moot ended on Friday 31st October and we arrived back mid afternoon.  The more astute of you will recognise that corresponds to the beginning of the triduum of Allhallowtide, the eve of All Hallow’s day or more colloquially Halloween.  In recent years the British have followed the path of our American cousins popularising the festival.  Trick or treating and ‘guising’ (dressing up in Halloween themed costumes) has gained commonplace acceptance, indeed we were prepared with a big Halloween-themed bowl of sweets for the trick-or-treaters, of which there were at least half a dozen.  Another of the common Halloween traditions is the carving of a jack-o’-lantern.

At the beginning of the year Éowyn was given some pumpkin seeds from Auntie Sally, and as part of our vegetable growing we grew them.  Unfortunately, we suffered from a Pumpkin blight that killed off most of our crop, however one hardy individual survived and became the first jack-o’-lantern I have ever carved.  Éowyn designed the face, and indeed drew blood weeping from its ‘eyes’ but Daddy got to play with the big sharp knife.  I was quite pleased with it and as you can see from the photo below, it looked quite good lit with a tealight guarding our boundary.

The following weekend was the end of the half term holiday and thus marked the changeover between schools for our girls.  By a quirk of fate neither had to go to school on the Monday.  Amélie because it isn’t one of her days and Éowyn because her new school had an inset day.  Therefore, with Lucinda and I also not in work we decided to treat the girls to a day at Legoland.  With Ezra spending a day at Nanny and Granddad’s it gave us more freedom to enjoy the rides without having to worry about our little boy.

The weather was typical November drear, but relatively dry.  Nevertheless we didn’t fancy getting a soaking on the Log Flume or the Viking’s River Splash.  Without Ezra, Lucinda and I thought that we may be able to go on some of the bigger rides.  Amélie was in the same frame of mind but Éowyn wasn’t interested and so while Lucinda and Amélie braved the Dragon ride, Éowyn and I waited in the drizzle armed with a camera to try and take a photo or their experience.  Amélie loved the ride, she is so much more adventurous than her big sister, indeed Éowyn clung to me with fear on the Dragon’s Apprentice ride, which if you have ever been to Legoland you would realise is not exactly the scariest of rides.

Both girls thoroughly enjoyed their day at Legoland, Éowyn especially liked the fact that she was now old enough to join the driving school and drive an electric car around a more challenging course that the L-Drivers course that the younger children (Amélie included) have to negotiate.

The following weekend (I was at work – how unusual!) the family were invited to a firework party at Éowyn’s first best friend: Raine’s house.  Lucinda drove to High Wycombe with the kids armed with fireworks.  Unfortunately the weather had other plans and the rain threatened to put a literal as well as proverbial dampener on the evening.  A little bit of rain never stops the British from enjoying themselves though and eventually the fireworks were lit.  Lucinda could not enjoy them though because Ezra was clinging to her for dear life and Amélie who doesn’t like loud noises was nuzzled against her hiding from the explosions.  Only Éowyn stood and watched them and Lucinda was trying to keep an eye on her to make sure that she stayed out of harm’s way.

So after an exciting couple of weeks, of holidays, Legoland, Halloween and fireworks and starting a new school, life settled down into its new rhythm.  A drive to school across Staines and the A30 was replaced with a walk through the local park (as fate would have it enduring Autumnal rain-showers for the first few weeks) to their new seats of learning.  The first week went relatively well.  Amélie thoroughly enjoyed her new school while Éowyn remained indifferent, which was as good as we expected the first week.  Then things changed.

Éowyn started crying that she didn’t like her new school and wanted to go back to her old school.  This obviously upset Lucinda and I think Éowyn sensed this and played on it a little more.  It was time to be the bad cop and although sympathetic I had to encourage her to embrace her new school and try and make new friends.  She would always have her old friends, indeed we have been pro-active in setting up playdates with some of her old school friends, but it would be fun to make new ones.  As Éowyn was going through this transitional period the Ofsted report of her new school was announced and disappointingly it was grade 3 (requires improvement).  It started to look as if we had made a big mistake.

Then a couple of things happened to help settled Éowyn.  First, she moved up a level with her reading.  At her previous school she would have homework once a week and although as parents you were encouraged to read with your child they were not given a new reading book until the teacher or teaching assistant had read the book with them.  Her new school doesn’t give homework to younger children (which I am undecided whether it is a good thing or not) but they do read the comments that we make in her reading diary and give her a new book each day.  This is really helping her reading, which can only be a good thing.  The second thing that helped to settle her, was that she began to make friends and indeed was invited to her first birthday party.

It is now a month since they started at their new schools and Amélie is still enjoying her new school, in fact she says that she prefers it to her old school, which is great news.  Éowyn on the other hand would still prefer to be at her old school.  She is making friends and when we drop her off at school she seems very popular with a lot of the girls and they look for her.  However, her new teacher is not her old teacher and obviously teaching methods vary and I think that is part of the problem.  Not saying that either is right or the other is wrong, but Éowyn is having to deal with a different school ethos, different teaching styles as well as making all new friends.

It is horrible to think that your child is upset and not enjoying school but it has only been a month and these things take time.  She is obviously a charismatic character as she seems to make friends easily and other children seem to want to be around her.  She is clever, she has already earned a place in the gold book (a reward given out to the top pupils) but she is strong willed and that is probably holding her back from enjoying herself at her new school.  We will hopefully have a catch up with her new teacher in the week and see how she feels that Éowyn is getting on and if there is anything that between us we can do to help our eldest with the transition.  As always I will keep you across how it develops.

Well I think I have kept you long enough and I have to keep somethings for the next write up, so I will take my leave
Peace and Love


PS:  Another little funny from Amélie mishearing lyrics.  One of the bigger hits of the year has been ‘all about that bass’ by Meghan Trainor.  The lyrics are a little repetitive: ‘Because you know I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, no treble.’  Amélie, not really understanding what is meant by treble changed the lyrics to ‘Because you know I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, no cello.’  Not sure that she knows what a cello is either but maybe she has seen this smooth jazz version and added two and two together.