Ofsted inspection, Easter and a trip to Peppa Pig World

Regular readers will no doubt have been on tenterhooks since the last write-up wondering about the results of Lucinda’s Ofsted inspection, and as I have attempted to sit down and commence this write-up on a number of occasions in the past month without success, there is a lot to catch up with so without further ado, I will get you up to speed with not only the inspection, but the Easter holidays as well.

With somewhat unfortunately timing the Ofsted inspection had been booked for the first day of the Easter holidays.  To avoid Lucinda’s inspection as to whether she would be a fit childminder actually being sabotaged by children (and our own children!) I decided to take the children out of the house for the four hours (yes four hours!) of the inspection.  A quick trip to annoy the people at work (although a lot of the people who would like to have met them were not in for one reason or another – therefore another trip is planned, over the summer) and then onto the perennial safe house that is Nanny and Granddad’s.

It was almost exactly four hours before we received the phonecall from Mommy to say that the inspection was over and we could head back to Staines Upon Thames.  Lucinda said that it was tough.  The inspector looked over the entire house and garden and wasn’t just concerned that the house was safe.  Lucinda needed to have paperwork in place for all eventualities to be signed by the parents of the child that would be in her care.  She needed to demonstrate that not only that the toys in the toy boxes were safe and child friendly but what aspects of learning that each toy could be used for, and demonstrate to the inspector.  In fairness to the inspector, she knew that it was Lucinda’s first time, and could see that Lucinda knew what she was talking about even if she was a little flustered and didn’t elucidate clearly enough.  The inspector wasn’t there to ‘catch her out’, and was somewhat forgiving if Lucinda didn’t get the full meaning of the question first time.

There were some recommendations but overall she passed and is now a registered childminder.  She will not be rated until the next inspection which will be within six months of registration.  Her registration came through not a day too early for he first paying job started that very week.  For the privacy of the child that she is looking after and Lucinda’s professionalism this will not be discussed on this website.

Since the first day of the Easter holiday’s was taken up with Mommy’s inspection and to allow mommy to relieve some of the stress that had built up over the inspection we decided to take the baguettes to Peppa Pig World the next day as a treat.  Both girls have been there before but this was Ezra’s first time.  He is quite a fan of Peppa Pig (or Georgie Pig, as he prefers to call it).  We arrived a little later than we wanted, heavy traffic on the M3 and a detour to pick up an Ebay purchase (a scooter for Amélie) added to the journey time.

Peppa Pig World is part of Paulton’s Park and although we have been a number of times we have not really explored the vast bulk of Paulton’s Park, just the Peppa Pig corner.  However, the girls asked to go on the tea cup ride as we entered so the big reveal of Peppa Pig World was held back from Ezra.  Ezra could not believe his eyes (and ears) as we entered Peppa Pig World.  His eyes were wide open and he just kept exclaiming ‘Wow!‘  It is very impressive as an adult so it must be a magical sight to a two year old.

We arrived just before the meet and greet of Peppa and George.  So we queued for a quick ride on Grandpa Pig miniature locomotive before joining the queue to meet Peppa and George.  Without wishing to spoil anything for anyone but it isn’t the real Peppa and George but people dressed up in Peppa and George costumes.  However, this means that Peppa and George are close to 2 metres tall, and when you are only 95cm that is quite scary.  It would be like me meeting a 12 foot high bipedal pig!  And so it was too much for our little son who nestled himself into Lucinda’s shoulder trying to avoid eye contact with the porcine giants.  The girls loved it though and ran to hug them.

We had decided before we went that since Amélie was going to have a scooter, and we were awaiting a scooter for Éowyn (also from Ebay) that Ezra would have a present from the on-site shop.  We had hoped that we work ask for a replica of George’s favourite toy: Mr Dinosaur, but we were going to let him choose.  We were hoping to do this towards the end of the day but since he was so traumatised by Peppa and George we decided that we would distract him with the Peppa Pig Shop.

Still clinging on to mommy we entered the shop.  As soon as he saw the toys he struggled to get down and ran straight for the Mr Dinosaur display.  He picked one up and said ‘Mine!’  A decision had been made.  He clung onto the toy for dear life even while he looked at all the other toys in the shop.  He pointed to a lot that he liked but never put Mr Dinosaur down.  Indeed it had to be scanned with him still holding onto it.  In fact, he didn’t let go of it all day.  every ride he went on (and we went on most of them) he held onto Mr Dinosaur.  You don’t mind buying them a toy when they love it that much.

The girls were very happy around Peppa Pig world because both of them are now of a height which means they can go on the rides by themselves.  They felt all grown up.  Indeed Éowyn is not that far off being able to go on the more adult rides on her own, however she is more of a wimp than Amélie who has definitely got more of the adventurous spirit when it comes to roller coasters.

The remainder of that week saw me at work.  Football does not stop for Bank Holidays!  On the rare occasion that it does (there was no football on Good Friday) there is always another job that springs forward.  This time it was the Eurovision Song Concert.  Well not the Eurovision Song Concert (that is next month, and yes we are providing the facilities for the BBC for this prestigious event), moreover the 60th Anniversary Concert, that brought together past winners in a one-off special event.  It is definitely a change from sport!

The weekend remained sport-filled but Easter Monday saw me at home for a change.  Cousin Maddie had asked if we would like to go to Hounslow Urban farm for a day out.  The girls love being with their cousins so we said that we would take them.  We looked up reviews of Hounslow Urban farm and it said rough and ready but an excellent day out.  Maddie’s older sister Lauren asked if she could come too and so with all seven seats of the S-Max filled we headed around the airport.

The reviews were spot on, but the rough and readiness is part of its charm.  We arrived just in time for a meet and greet of the animals.  We sat on straw bales as the staff brought round a variety of animals.  The usual rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, lambs.  Then more unusual animals such as ferrets, tortoises, stick insects.  Followed by snakes, water dragons and lizards.  I enjoyed it as much as the kids.

From there it was on to the pig racing, where you got to feed the pigs afterwards.  A spot of lunch and a bounce on the bouncy castle before the highlight of the day: the owl display.

As with everything at Hounslow Urban farm it was somewhat rough and ready and extremely hands on.  We were introduced a Barn Owl and a European Eagle Owl. They asked the children to stand in the middle of the farmyard and asked them to duck when the owl flew towards them.  Obviously everyone ducked.  Then with their backs to the owl they asked them to do it again and none of the children ducked.  This was to demonstrate the fact that the owl is a silent killer and its feathers have evolved in such a way as to eliminate any sound.  The children didn’t duck because they could not hear the owl swooping in behind them.

They then asked the kids to lie on the floor on their backs.  They then got the owl to fly low over them so they got a mouse-eye view of an owl gliding across the ground.  A fantastic experience for the girls but the best was yet to come.  Despite the fact that the European Eagle Owl is one of the largest species of owl with a wingspan of around 6 feet (1.8m), they were so confident in the bird’s docility that they let the girls hold it.  Amélie was first in line and quite confidently wore the glove, only the weight of the bird was causing her discomfit.  Seeing her little sister hold the owl, Éowyn too donned the glove.  After seeing her two little cousins bravely hold the devourer of rodents Maddie held the bird but Lauren (who had been caught by the wingtips of the owl during the display) decided that she wasn’t getting any closer to that particular strigine beast.

I really enjoyed the day at Hounslow Urban farm.  I like the fact that it is rough and ready and I think the kids like that too.  I like the fact that you can touch and handle the animals (under strict supervision of course).  But what I liked most about it was the fact that behind the fun and the dirt and closeness was the theme of education.  Education about the animals and the respect that we should have for the animals.  I would thoroughly recommend a day out there, but don’t wear your best clothes and take some handy hand-sanitizer.

Enjoy the photos below and the hundred or so new ones on the Flickr pages.

Peace and Love




School’s out for Summer

A second write up in a week.  When I get the opportunity I am a fast worker!  The reason for this second write up is due the fact that last weekend I had managed to secure an extra long weekend off work and as this will be the last chance for an extended break from work until at least September (the joys of working for a sports-orientated television company!) so we squeezed in a number of trips.  Unfortunately the weather had not improved and so raincoats and wellies were still the order of the day.

The week started with an unpleasant trip to the doctors.  Éowyn needed her last set of pre-school inoculations.  As we did not know how she was going to react and the fact that she is a Daddy’s girl we decided that I would take her.  We prepared her for the experience as best as we could and promised her a present if she was a brave girl.  Last Tuesday I took her into the nurse’s office and Éowyn walked in all bubbly and chatty, talking to the nurse.  Even though we had prepared her the best that we could I still think that she did not know what was going to happen.  She sat on my lap and the nurse gave her the first injection.  It was think she realised it was going to hurt.  Quickly before the shock could kick in, I turned her around and the nurse gave her the second.  Unfortunately, she tensed up and tried to move her arm which meant that it hurt more and bruised quite badly.  However, all was now over although that didn’t stop her becoming apoplectic for a couple of minutes.  Even stickers from the nurse didn’t help but she did talk to the nurse afterwards and even thanked her and amazingly all was forgotten by the time we got home and as soon as she saw her Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Magical Playset then nothing mattered.  So she was a brave little soldier and deserved her present.

As I was off from Thursday to Tuesday we took full advantage and Thursday morning saw us heading down the M3 towards Peppa Pig World.  As regular readers will know this isn’t the first time we have been to Peppa Pig World but as Peppa Pig is now Amélie’s favourite television programme as much as Éowyn’s, and now Amélie is more self aware it was fun to see her reaction to the park, especially to the characters dressed as Peppa and George.  We managed to miss most of the wet weather although, as is the norm for this summer, the rain did begin just after lunch and so by 1400 we decided to head back home with two tired little girls.

Friday was the last day of Éowyn’s schoool year and as tradition dictates this was the time of end of year school concert.  Armed with video camera as well as the more usual stills camera we were actually more impressed with the children on Friday than at the Christmas concert at the end of Winter term.  Éowyn sung loudly and enthusiastically ans seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself.  However we were disturbed to see just how many of Éowyn’s friends will be leaving for their first year at school proper.  Éowyn has another year and not only will she be one of the oldest in her year she will also tower above the others in the class, we will have to be very conscious of this advantage of physicality and she will need to learn to deal with this herself with our (and the teacher’s) help.

Since the concert ended at 1030 the rest of the day was ours, so we decided to take the girls to London.  As mentioned many times before we have Merlin passes, and one of the many attractions that one can use them on is the London Eye.  Unfortunately, by the time we arrived in London, the weather has turned cloudy and it was nearly lunchtime.  Rather than queueing up (the queue was quite large) we decided to grab some lunch.  The Merlin pass also gives you a discount of 20% on food at all the attractions and in the Rainforest Café.  So rather than taking the girls to the usual haunts we walked across Hungerford Bridge (from Waterloo train station), skirted along the side of Trafalgar Square through Leicester Square to Shaftesbury Avenue and the Rainforest Café.  The Rainforest Café lives up to its name with a jungle theme throughout the seating area and animatronic animals hiding in the bushes. Unfortunately the girls got a little freaked by the thunderstorm sound effects.  The irony of seeking shelter from the rain in the Rainforest Café was not lost upon us either.

Leaving the Rainforest Café we retraced our steps to the South Bank (of the River Thames) and the London Eye.  However the queue was now even longer and both girls were tired.  The weather was turning even worse and with the low cloud it would not be a good view from the Eye so we decided that we would simply return to Waterloo and catch the train back to Staines (Upon Thames – as it should now be called).  So it was a little unsuccessful as a trip, effectively we headed into London to have lunch and returned slightly soggy.  Still it was an adventure!

We spent most of the rest of the weekend in and around home.  I caught up with my friend Sanjiv who was over from India for 4 days (yes 4 days!) and his children.  It was good to see him but far too short a time although the India meal that we had was delicious.  Lucinda was working early on the Sunday so the girls and I stayed at home.  However it did give me some Daddy and daughter time with both of the girls.  the spectre of a busy August/September is looming so weekends like this are precious.  Éowyn is growing into a little girl (definitely leaving the toddler days behind her) and Amélie is aping her sister in so many ways (not all of them good).

An example of the above would be from Monday.  We decided to head to our local Toby Carvery for our evening meal.  En route we passed my friend’s (and one of my Best men) house and so phoned to ask if he wanted to join us, which he duly did.  We enjoyed our repast and were saying our goodbyes in the carpark (as the girls splashed in the puddles – the new summer sport!) Andy turned to return to his car.  I was buckling Éowyn into her car seat and said ‘Say goodbye to Andy.‘  Éowyn turned to a departing Andy and shouted out ‘Bye, bye Mr Poo-Poo Pants!‘ Have no idea where that came from and it is a phrase that she has not used before but it was such a shock that I didn’t hide my smirk.  Sensing this it encouraged her to say it again and turn to Amélie, ‘Say Poo-Poo Pants.‘  Which Amélie duly repeated.  Obviously it is something that we do not want to encourage but it is difficult to tell her off when you are trying to surpress a laugh!

All of us have managed to avoid the current crop of summer colds but poor Amélie has been suffering.  She had obviously eaten some milk protein and from her reaction over the last couple of days it is obvious that she still has her Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance, so no challenging for a little while methinks!

The 2012 Summer Olympics are nearly upon us and apparently the weather is going to improve dramatically (at least for the South East of England) in the next week and we may even see 30°C.  The Olympic lanes are coming into operation and I am not looking forward to the traffic chaos this will cause, fortunately the amount of traffic will drop as the schools are on holiday.

Before the Olympics begin though British sport has another hero to be proud of.  Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour De France and amazingly fellow Londoner Chris Froome finished second and to complete the perfect end to the competition Mark Cavendish claimed his fourth final stage victory.  This took Mark Cavendish to the grand total of 23 stage wins past Lance Armstrong’s total of 22 into fifth place in the hall of fame a truly remarkable Tour for the British team.

It is amazing to think that 7 years ago it was confirmed that London was to host the Olympic games and now it is less than 7 days away it will be Christmas before you know it!  well actually if you are worried about your Christmas shopping you can already make a start as the Harrods’ Christmas shop is now open.

Peace and Love





Christmas is over (or is it?)

So Christmas is over (unless you are a part of the Eastern Christian orthodoxy that celebrate Christmas on the Epiphany – which is probably more accurate for that is when the little baby Jesus received his presents), turkey has been eaten, festive drinks have been quaffed and the presents have all been opened.  I trust that you have all had a good time and that Santa has brought you all that you wished for.  Well if he hasn’t it was because you have been naughty so you only have yourself to blame!  Unfortunately it wasn’t quite a ‘White Christmas’, on the contrary, it was the third warmest UK Christmas on record with the mercury reading over 14°C.  A veritable heatwave but you can’t have everything.

It has been a busy couple of weeks in the Bagnall household since the last update so forgive the length of this installment.  It has also been fun for Éowyn for the first time has understood the basic ideas of Christmas (i.e. that Santa rides around the world on a sleigh giving good children presents) and so the magic of Christmas has been re-ignited for Lucinda and myself.  Now correct me if I am wrong but I was under the impression that most children believe that Santa has a list of children under two headings: naughty and nice, and that in a Big-Brother style surveillance operation that he is spying on them and that only the children on the latter list will receive presents.  Therefore one would hope that in the build up to Christmas those said children would be doing their utmost to stay on the latter list or indeed hope that Santa has a short term memory problem and move from the former to the latter in time for the big day.  Éowyn has to be different.  For months she has been very well behaved, unfortunately in the last couple of weeks her behaviour has made a turn for the worst (although not to the extent of the bad days of the terrible twos when she would spent large percentages of the time on the thinking step).

The last day of Éowyn’s school term was the obligatory Carol Concert (our first as parents – although there were very little ‘carols’ per se, more Christmas songs).  I took the day off work and we were joined at the school by Nanny and Granddad.  Éowyn was dressed as a sheep (the head came off half way during the concert) and delighted us by singing her heart out to every song.  We were obviously very proud parents and filmed it for prosperity.  When she returns in January we will be taking full advantage of the free nursery hours given by the UK government (currently 15 hours per week) and upping her days from 2 to 3.  She also left school with a traditional gift – a heavy cold.  Indeed in the spirit of giving she has passed it on to all of us, including her little sister – more of which later.

Christmas week started with Amélie at Jo’s and Lucinda, myself and Éowyn heading on a mystery tour.  We had not told Éowyn that we had pre-booked for her to see Father Christmas at Peppa Pig World (Paulton’s Park).  As she was a she a little heavy with cold she slept for the entire journey down the M3 and only woke as we entered Paulton’s Park.  The Paulton’s Park Christmas world is excellent with a trip through a sleeping child’s imagination through to the North Pole to visit Santa.  The path is lined with animatronic creatures (from yetis to white tigers to sleeping polar bears to dwarfs and reindeer and a whole host of woodland creatures along the way).  Considering that Peppa Pig World was fully open and the cost was the same as just going to Paulton’s Park it was excellent value.  However it was bitingly cold when we first got there and as the warm air gradually crept in, it brought rain.  Conscious of her cold we placated her with a few of the rides before curtailing the trip short and heading back home to the warmth of the moor.

With all of my Christmas present shopping complete the week leading up to Christmas was not as hectic as it usually is, a novelty for me.  It was as well as it was quite a busy week at work (with a full Premier League schedule in the mid-week before Christmas) as well as squeezing in a funeral of a friend of mine, Mike Royle, who lost his battle with cancer the week before Christmas and a couple of days before his 50th birthday.  My thoughts are with his family.

It has become (or is becoming) a tradition that on Christmas Eve we host Lucinda’s parents and brother Mike and family and it was so this Christmas.  With Lucinda at work all day I was charged with the honour of preparing the house and food while looking after the girls.  Fortunately, Éowyn was coming out of the worst of the cold which was good, however she had passed it on to Amélie and myself.  Not having the chance to feel sorry for myself I dosed myself up and just got on with it.  We were fortunate that it wasn’t ‘man flu’ otherwise we would have been in trouble.  So the first of the great feasts of the yuletide began and the six months of dieting were forgotten.  A good evening was had by all and Éowyn was so worn out that she went to bed after everyone left and was soon asleep.  Amélie however was coughing heavily and didn’t finally fall asleep until 2300.

Christmas morning started with the girls giving Lucinda and me the best Christmas present ever: a lie-in (until 0830)!  Very well received and thank you girls.  So at 0830 Éowyn popped her head around our bedroom doro and said, ‘Mommy, Daddy, Santa has been and he has left me lots of presents.  Am I allowed to open them?‘  That will probably be the last time she asks however we were not cruel but said that we would take the sack of presents downstairs to open them in the lounge.  She was very pleased with her Cicciobello doll but her Woody (from Toy Story) was the number one favourite toy on Christmas day and would later come to Nanny and Granddad’s for Christmas lunch.

Éowyn was very good with her presents, clothes were given short shrift but the toys were looked at and filed for future playtime.  After she had opened all of her presents we allowed her to help Amélie open her presents.  As all siblings throughout history Éowyn found Amélie’s presents far more interesting that her own but that did not last long when we threatened to give Amélie Woody if Éowyn didn’t let Amélie have her presents back.

As I mentioned above, Christmas lunch was around Lucinda’s parents (a short walk to the end of the road) where a feast for 18 had been prepared.  It also gave Éowyn the opportunity to play with her cousins who re as good as gold with a sometimes stroppy but always bossy three year old.  After lunch was mass present opening with five cousins (Amélie was feeling poorly and spent the best part of the day cuddling either Mommy or Daddy).  It was manic and I spend most of the time trying to keep an eye on what present she was opening so that we could thank the correct person later.  Needless to say both we spoilt so a big thank you to everyone who bought them presents.

We left shortly after the present opening to take the girls back home.  Éowyn was ready for bed after such an exciting day but Amélie was beginning to worry us.  Her face looked sallow and she was feeling very sorry for herself and just wanted to be cuddled, which is not like her.  She had not taken that much food over the previous days and her cough was sounding as bad as ever.  We decided that if she was not better in the morning we would take her to the walk-in clinic at the local hospital.  The next day (Boxing day in the UK) is traditionally Sales day and Lucinda had decided that she wanted to go to two of the bigger sales available in Staines, Next and Debenhams.  So with this in mind we retired early.

Lucinda was not prepared for the sales the next morning, and will need to sharpen her elbows if she is going to go next year.  The sale at Next started at 0600 so she arrived in Staines at 0545 (I told you she was getting up early) to be greeted with a queue that stretched half way down the high street.  It took her over 2 hours before she even got into the shop but made good of the time she was there and came back with many of the things that she had gone there for.  She then made it a double whammy and wandered into Debenhams to find the last of the sale items she had wanted (indeed it was the last one left in the store).  So it was after 1100 when she finally arrived home laden with shopping bags. 

Meanwhile I was becoming more concerned with Amélie and struggling with the cold myself.  Amélie however was very lethargic and not her self at all.  She was taking very little liquids and refusing most solids and I was worried that she was becoming dehydrated.  When Lucinda walked in, she could see my concern and with the eyes of someone that has been away for a couple of hours agreed that we should take her to the walk-in clinic.  I stayed at home with Éowyn and Lucinda took Amélie off.  The waiting room at the clinic was almost as bad as the sales.  Every seat was occupied and it was mainly babies so they couldn’t jump the queue by playing the baby card.  When the doctor examined her he was concerned too.  He said that she was borderline dehydrated and realising that Lucinda was very concerned attempted to get Amélie admitted to the local hospital (St. Peter’s where she was born).  However when he ‘phoned the registrar at St. Peter’s and described the symptoms they said that she was not bad enough to be admitted (I am assuming that they must have limited staff over the Christmas break and possibly many admissions, so unless it was life threatening they would not admit any more).  The doctor was very good though and wrote a fast track letter for us with the proviso that unless there was an improvement – not even a worsening but a definite improvement – in the next 24 hours we were to go directly to St. Peter’s armed with his letter.  Well Amélie must have understood, for as she arrived home she began to eat and drink her milk (neocate).  She was not going to be admitted to hospital.

A quick day in the office on the 27th was followed by a visit from Nanny Fran and Aunties Liz and Mary.  More presents were exchanged, although Auntie Liz forgot her’s and so Éowyn’s and Amélie’s (and Lucinda’s and my) Christmas will be extended another couple of weeks.  Do we mind – I don’t think so!

So, the year draws to an end and we are trying to work out where all the extra toys are going to fit in our modest house.  Amélie, thankfully seems to be on the mend;  Éowyn is beside herself with all the new things to play with, and Lucinda and myself are just knackered.  We are proud that we were are getting better at this Christmas thing and were far more organised this year than last (which in turn was far more organised than the year before that, and so on and so forth) but are still a long way from making an excel spreadsheet and ticking all the boxes (does anyone ever manage that?).

Work and family beckon but before I leave you, I trust that you all had good Christmasses and may the Bagnall family be the first to wish you all the best for 2012.

Peace and Love