The nights are drawing in

As the title alludes half the year has been and gone, the Summer (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) Solstice has passed and we are hurtling towards winter with ever shortening amounts of daylight.  That is the natural order of things and it is only of import to the Bagnall family because it means that the amount of electricity we can generate from our Photovoltaic cells has passed its maximum for the year.  Nevertheless we were fortunate with the elements around this solstice with fine weather and clear skies, thus plenty of electricity generated.

However, we are in a quandary with the weather now that we have a veg patch.  Yes, our experiment in growing our own produce is giving us some joy even if we probably will not have the most bountiful of harvests. That was never the main driving force for this year.  This year was to see if we enjoyed it and whether we could fit in enough time to look after our crops as well as introducing the girls to growing your own food, so they appreciate from where their food originates.

It is safe to say that we have definitely enjoyed the growing side, so much so that we have installed 3 water butts (enough for 520 litres of rain water) around the garden and have plans to expand the veg patch after harvest.  We have learned much from this year’s experiment (especially how potatoes can take over a veg patch) and are currently growing raspberries, pumpkins, potatoes, runner beans, tomatoes and sunflowers.  In fact we find it quite saddening when you go to check on your crops and there has been damage.  So far we have had attacks by slugs on a variety of crops (although there are at least two frogs in the garden so imagine the amount of damage without predators), a case of blackfly (need more ladybirds), both strawberry plants and one pumpkin plant were dug up (I’m blaming squirrels) and half my potato crop were sat on (I’m blaming the resident fox family). It is a good job that we are not relying on these crops to survive nevertheless it would be good to have a least a few meals worth.  It is with this in mind that in addition to expanding the extent of our veg patch, next year we also plan on trying to encourage natural predators as well as expanding our range of crops and that is even before we have harvested this year’s crop.

So our quandary is that we need the sun to generate electricity (and to grow our crops) but we also rejoice whenever there is a heavy downpour as it means that we do not need to water that evening and that our water butts are replenished.  It is amazing how quickly those butts are filled from each rain shower and just shows how much water is hitting our drainage systems; no wonder there were so many floods over the winter.  So can we have the best of both worlds with extremely sunny days but extremely wet nights?

The main topic of discussion on the streets and bars, for once, is the not the weather but more the sporting competitions that are going on in the world.  Wimbledon and the World Cup are dominating the television schedules in the UK and my work life.  Wimbledon has not really caught the girls attention but they have been intrigued by the World Cup.  Their interest was first piqued by the prevalence of St George’s Crosses bedecked many of the houses in the area.  Then, I introduced them to the perennial disappointment of being an England football fan.

Although the World Cup is one of major summer jobs (it is a hard job when you have to watch the World Cup) at work I still enjoy watching it when I get back home, especially when I have a fantasy footie team and some small bets on the outcome.  Éowyn has taken to sitting next to me on the sofa and feigning interest, mainly so that she can stay up a little later.  ‘Who are we?‘ she will ask.  Then you have to explain that we are neither of them and she can chose which one she wants to win.  Invariably she choses the referee for some reason, probably because he is the only one wearing whichever colour that FIFA have deigned will be the referee outfit for that match.  It was much easier in my youth:  Referees wore black.  That was it.  Football boots were black.  It is the natural order of things.  Nevertheless it is nice that she is taking an interest in the World Cup although at 5 she is a little young we will have to wait until 2018 and Russia to see if that interest is still there.

Football isn’t the main sport for the girls though, trampolining is the sport of choice.  Amélie has been trampolining for most of the year and has passed the her first two trampoline gymnastic awards.  Now Éowyn has begun going after school.  She has a little bit to catch up with her younger sister but I am sure she will be spurred on not to be in her sister’s shadow.

Their little brother will not be following them on the trampoline though, mainly because he is still not walking.  Éowyn was walking early, Amélie not so.  Ezra has until the 4th July to progress to bipedal motion earlier than his sister.  That is highly unlikely.  Especially since tomorrow is that date!  He was crawling quite early and has been cruising for a long time but he has not taken that next step (no pun intended).  He has decided that he can get from A to B quickly by crawling and if he needs to carry anything then he can get there on his knees.  He has the strength in his legs but he just doesn’t seem interested.  I think that once he decides to go for it he will be walking in no time.  He just needs to take the plunge and go for it.  As always we will let you know about his first steps.

There was another first for the Bagnall family this week: Éowyn had a friend over for a sleepover.  Éowyn and Amélie have had friends over the day, indeed every Friday is movie night which we alternate the hosting with our friends Emma and Martin, but their friends have always gone home at the end of the day.  As the girls get older they will inevitably want to spend the night at a friends so when we were asked if Éowyn’s erstwhile best friend Raine could spend the night to help her Mum out with baby sitting we thought it would be a good opportunity to take our first tentative step into the world of sleepovers.

At Playbox Éowyn and Raine were inseparable, unfortunately however before they moved into full time education Raine’s family moved from Staines, nevertheless we have made sure that the have remained in touch.  Therefore we know Raine very well, and more importantly she knows us, so she was comfortable stopping with us.  Éowyn was so excited, getting more so as the day came closer.  We made the spare bed up in the spare room so that they could sleep together without disturbing Amélie.  It was good choice as the girls were still up when Lucinda and I went to bed.  This was partly due to the excitement of seeing each other and partly due to the amount of sweets they had consumed for their ‘midnight’ feast.

Raine was extremely well behaved and indeed the actual sleepover was very easy as the girls kept themselves entertained and were very inclusive towards Amélie, which was nice.  It was more the aftermath.  Raine’s mum collected Raine just before lunch and left us with one extremely grumpy Éowyn.  The grumpy mood wasn’t due to the fact that Raine had left, moreover it was due the lack of sleep (Éowyn isn’t used to staying up so late) couple with a sugar come-down.

Éowyn was a little better after a good night’s sleep, just in time for the third annual Staines-Upon-Thames day.  Celebrating the town’s addition of the river suffix to its name the memorial gardens were packed with stalls, a music stage, a funfair while classic cars lined the High Street.  Nanny and Granddad parked at our house and we all walked into the town centre.  We turned up as it kicked off to take the first boat trip down the Thames (before the crowds turned up – something we learned from last year!).  The girls enjoyed the 40 minute journey, but it was just enough any longer and I think they would have got bored.

After disembarking we headed around the stalls, and the rides.  The girls encouraged Daddy to win a mermaid doll each on one of the stalls (which I did).  We sat and listened to some of the bands (well we sat Amélie danced – photos below) while we ate an ice cream and then they chose a couple of fairground rides to go on.  It wasnt long before the toll of the weekend was beginning to have an affect on the girls and so after a spot of lunch we left Nanny and Granddad to enjoy the fair in peace and headed home.

We were out of the country on the first Staines-Upon-Thames day but we did go last year (even though technically we were not living in Staines Upon Thames at the time) and in our opinion this year totally eclipsed the 2013 event.  There was plenty to do (and to spend your money on!) but it would have been nicer to have had more local produce to buy and more local businesses and societies peddling their wares.  Nevertheless the event is still in its infancy and perhaps after the success of this year maybe it will encourage more businesses next year.  The high turn out was probably helped by the fine weather (despite the forecast of showers) but we will not take that away from the organisation and obvious enthusiasm of the people behind the scenes.

I will leave you now but warn you that from now I am going to get very busy at work so there may be a few gaps between updates so I will not promise the quantity or quality of the updates as I will be relying more on Lucinda for stories and photos.  The joys of working in the Sports Television industry.  Meanwhile here is an impressive crop of photos, including plenty from Staines Upon Thames day 2014.

Peace and love





The great summer continues

The relentless pace of 2012 continues unabated and as if to prove it we have already completed the second week of July.  What has happened to the first half of the year?  More importantly what has happened the summer of 2012, there certainly will not be any Bryan Adams’ songs about this summer.  We have just experienced the wettest 2nd quarter on record (and July already has had its quota of rain – in less than an hour in some places of the UK) aided by a June that was the wettest and second dullest on record and it was also one second longer than we were expecting.  This leap second was added onto the end of June without any pomp and ceremony and they would have got away with it too if it wasn’t for the pesky servers running a number of famous websites that got all upset about it and fell over.

Nevertheless we Brits had something to cheer about this July and that was for the first time in 74 years there was Brit in the final of the men’s single final at Wimbledon. Andy Murray defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to become the last man since Bunny Austin in 1938 to grace the men’s single final at SW19.  Unfortunately Andy Murray has had the misfortune to have been born at the same time at one of the greatest tennis players of all time in Roger Federer who took this year’s Wimbledon crown (for a record equalling 7th time) and at the same time broke the record for the most number of weeks at the top of the ATP rankings (287), so although Murray took the first set, Federer proved his class taking the next three.  In this diamond jubilee year we Brits did have reason to celebrate at Wimbledon which has somewhat been overshadowed by Andy Murray’s achievement and that was for the first time in 76 years we had a winner in the men’s doubles.  Jonathan Marry (and his doubles partner Frederick Neilsen) were wildcard entries but upset many big names along the way to become Wimbledon champions.  One aside of all this was the fact that the last man to lose to a Brit in the semi-final of Wimbledon’s men’s singles competition was German Henner Henkel who subsequently died at the Battle of Stalingrad.  My favourite Wimbledon related fact.

So what has been happening in the World of the Bagnalls?  To be frank it has been relatively sedate with the School holidays rapidly approaching and life continuing in its usual form.  However Éowyn is once again feeling that end of term blues that she seems to suffer.  Not sure why she suffers such but as the term approaches its end she seems to tire more easily and gets, let’s be nice here, grumpy.  The teachers at her pre-school may not be so generous, if asked they may say downright naughty.  She will not suffer fools gladly and will refuse to do things that she does not want to do, which includes listening to her teachers.  She also comes home feeling very tired and often falls asleep on the sofa when she gets home.

The term time for her gymnastics class is also drawing to a close. Éowyn has a love/hate relationship with the gymnastics class.  She really enjoys the class and will happily talk about it and quite happily walk to the gym and get changed into her shorts and t-shirt but as the students line up to enter the hall she begin to freak out and crying that she does want to go to gym.  This is one of the times that you have to be strong as a parent and basically lead her into the hall and hand over to the teacher before quickly closing the door. Apparently the crying doesn’t last long and she quite happily joins in the class and is very happy afterwards it is just the 3o seconds or so before she goes in.

Not sure if this tiredness is adding to the general mood of both our daughters but the last couple of weeks has seen an increase in feistiness between them.  They seem to be winding each other (and thus us) up a treat.  I think it is probably a combination of Éowyn’s tiredness and Amélie’s growing awareness and generally finding her own personality and no longer playing second fiddle to her older sibling.  Éowyn is having to come to terms with the fact that Amélie will not just do the things that Éowyn wants her to do and that Amélie is not one of her dolls and has her own wants and desires and Éowyn is not going to tell her what to do.

Amélie is rapidly catching up with her elder sister.  She confidently counts up to 10 (and on occasion 15!), knows her colours (sometimes) and recites her alphabet (in the form of the alphabet song).  Her vocabulary is increasing by the day and repeats words without hesitation including more colourful language that her sister tells her to say.  Some things will probably never change.  Amélie is much more polite than her big sister and will always say ‘thank-you‘ and ‘please‘.  She also drinks like a fish and will easily drink over half a dozen cups a day. She will down her cup and then walk over to your with her cup in one hand demanding ‘drink!‘ somewhat reminiscent of Father Jack from the sitcom Father Ted.  As long as she doesn’t repeat some of his more colourful phrases!

Amélie is also becoming a bit of a climber and you have to keep an eye on her because she still doesn’t have the balance to get herself out of the trouble she keeps finding herself in.  She will also wander off and come back dressed in Éowyn’s, Lucinda’s or my shoes and a hat before waving at you and saying ‘Good-bye‘. All the time she smiles at you with that cheeky smile of her’s and somehow gets away with it.  She is also still a little swiper.  Things will go missing and you know that Amélie has taken it somewhere, but she will not tell you where it is.  Again, she looks at you with those eyes and gives you that smile and you have lost!

Éowyn has always sucked her thumb.  When she was a baby this was an advantage for she never had a dummy and so we never suffered  from lost dummy syndrome in the middle of the night.  We learned about this when Amélie took to a dummy, probably because of the pain she was suffering from her Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance.  Amélie however spontaneously gave up her dummy at about the age of nine months and hasn’t looked back.  Éowyn however has never stopped sucking her thumb.  We have attempted reward charts and encouragement and even telling her off but to no avail.  Therefore we have resorted to chemical means.  We have started coating her thumb in a foul tasting chemical that is usually used to stop people biting their nails.  It is beginning to work but we are allowing her suck her thumb at night and we have forgotten on a couple of occasions to coat her thumb and she absent-mindedly will revert to sucking her thumb.  It is a habit and it is hard to break so we have to get into the habit of stopping it.  The battle has begun, let us see how long it takes to win.

Éowyn has one other habit that at some point will need to be broken but we are more relaxed about this one.  She is afraid to sleep at night without a light on.  She has a night light and it is on every night, however as all lights are won’t to do, occasionally the bulbs blow.  This happened the other night and a terrified Éowyn awoke screaming ‘I can’t see, I can’t see!‘  To be awoke in the middle of the night for any reason is disturbing enough; when it is your little child crying it is very disturbing and when it is because she has gone blind it is terrifying.  However as the reason side of the brain kicks in you realise what has happened and five minutes later normality has returned and all is well with the world.

I will leave you there as I have waffled enough and there are 27 photos for you to enjoy (although many of them are of a 2012 Summer walk, i.e. with raincoats and welly boots!).

Peace and Love