Half term at Nanny Fran’s

As promised, the second update in a week – how I am spoiling you.  So what is it that warrants a second write up.  Nothing dramatic merely half-term coinciding with a non Premier League weekend meaning that I could wrangle five days off work and spend some time with my family.

Éowyn’s half term started a day early with an inset day, unfortunately we were still experiencing one of the countless Atlantic lows that have brought so much rain to this fair isle over winter.  Thus the Bagnall family needed to find an indoor activity.  Fortunately (well let’s think about this, not fortunately just good marketing by the film distributors) there are two child friendly movies released during half-term that appealed to Éowyn: The Lego Movie and Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy.  Daddy wanted to see the Lego Movie however since Amélie is also a big fan of the Tinkerbell movies we decided that this was an opportune time to take Amélie to see her first film at the cinema.  You may recall that Éowyn’s first trip to the cinema was to see the Muppet Movie at roughly the same age.  This time it was Lucinda’s turn to be the first to take one of our children to the cinema.  So Friday morning saw the Bagnall girls go en masse to the cinema in Staines to watch Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy, while the Bagnall boys stayed at home and talked about football (not really – Ezra slept).

Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed her cinema trip and avidly sat through the whole film.  Amélie was also very good considering it was her first time and only asked to leave when there was a scary part of the film.  However, Amélie doesn’t like loud noises and a cinema can be a particular noisy environment, Lucinda, being the experienced mother that she is, was prepared and took Amélie’s ear-muffs.  It was not long before Amélie complained that the cinema was too loud and so on went the ear-muffs and they did not come off for the entire film.  It may have looked a little strange but at least it muffled the sound enough for Amélie to enjoy the film and that’s all that matters!

Friday night saw 80mph winds and fallen trees (and a third fence panel) but Saturday saw a distinct change in the weather.  With greatest threat of flood warnings peaking on the Friday and our street seemingly avoiding the worst of it (large puddles appearing out of the drains but no streams or torrents of flood waters threatening our threshold – see photo below) we felt safe to leave the confines of Staines Upon Thames.  In mid-January the Badger Clan had decided that a trip to the Natural History Museum in London was called for and this first Saturday in the half-term break seemed to be the best date for all concerned.  Unfortunately with threat of inclement weather most of the clan had pulled out.  Undaunted the Bagnall sub-clan and Lucinda’s brother Michael, his girlfriend Cristina and eldest of the latest generation, Lauren caught the train from Staines Upon Thames to the Big Smoke.

I was not prepared for the popularity of the Natural History Museum (not sure why being a Saturday and half-term) but we joined the queue and were quickly inside.  The Natural History Museum is an impressive building without the exhibits but it was all a little too much for Amélie who was a little freaked out, especially since we said that we were going to see the dinosaurs.  Nevertheless the strong arms of Daddy carrying her into the main hall was enough to allay her fears and raise her excitement levels at the wonders within.

Unfortunately we were only in the museum for 20 minutes or so (enough time to see the Diplodocus and the whale hall) before there was an evacuation and we were all ushered outside.  It was a big disappointment as we hadn’t seen the dinosaurs or managed to fully take in the big wonders that are the whales.  (Éowyn has a half-term project entitled ‘Under the Sea’ so we were going to use the trip to highlight some of the wonders of the sea and indeed the vast size of creatures such as the Blue Whale).

With thousands of displaced people milling about in the street waiting to go back into the museum we decided that we would wander a little way down the street and visit the Science Museum instead.  Although fascinating for me, I think the girls are a little too young to appreciate the wonders inside.  A skeleton of a dinosaur fills all ages with awe-inspired wonder but there needs to be a little more of an understanding to appreciate the beauty of Stevenson’s Rocket or rotative engines built by James Watt.  Also, to best take advantage of the Science Museum it is worth visiting their website and planning your visit, booking timeslots to see the various exhibitions.  I think that is perhaps a visit left for when they are little older.  I can’t wait.

So after the culture side of our trip to London, we headed into Piccadilly on, what Éowyn described as the best part of the day, the top deck of a double decker bus for a late lunch.  A quick walk around Covent Garden (including a visit to the Disney story – although nothing grabbed Éowyn’s fancy as reward for the 5 superstar certificates) before heading over Hungerford Bridge (well strictly the Eastern Golden Jubilee Footbridge) to Waterloo railway station and home.  The girls were both very well behaved and considering the amount of walking that they did, did not complain for the entire day.  This was probably because it was such an exciting day out and there was plenty to keep them occupied.

Both were so worn out that they slept past 0800 the next morning.  This is in complete contrariety to the norm.  School days usually involves dragging them (metaphorically) out of bed at 0730 to give them time to breakfast and get dressed before leaving with enough time to walk to school (rather than a sprint from a parking space half a mile away).  Holidays and weekends usually involves them waking up at 0600 and waking Mommy and Daddy up when we could actually catch up on our beauty sleep (not that we need it :-))  So an opportunity to have a lie in while our children slept was a welcome, if somewhat unique occurrence.

A relaxing Sunday was followed by another adventure on Monday.  Calling on the services of Lauren once again, we headed to Epsom and the delights of Hobbledown Farm.  Hobbledown is a rebranded (or built out of the ashes of – depending on the rumours) Horton Park Farm based on a mystical and magical fantasy tale by A. J. Kecojevic (to be honest I had not heard of it until I started writing this update).  In 50 acres of farmland it combines a farm/ petting zoo with an outdoor adventure playground and an extremely large indoor play barn.  It is themed around the Hobblers, fey-like gnomic people who are based on traditional English nature spirits and their arch-enemies the Skibblers, ugly, hook-nosed goblin-like entities that have arrived in Hobbledwon intent on causing mischief.

Although it was half-term the inclement weather had put pay to baying throngs and there were no queues (although they were still operating a 90 minute time limit in the indoor play-barn).  The girls enjoyed the animals and the adventure playground (there was an aerial adventure course aimed at older children that Lauren completed, which culminated in a zip-wire back to the start –  our girls are a little too young (or short) for but it will not be that long before Éowyn (10 more centimetres) will be harnessed up and clambering over our heads) and an afternoon in the indoor play-barn allowed Ezra time to stretch his legs and play in the soft-play area.

The adventures continued on Tuesday.  It has been months since we paid a visit to West Bromwich and Nanny Fran’s and so it was time to rectify that.  Unfortunately I was returning to work on Wednesday so we decided that Lucinda and the kids would have a extended visit and return on Thursday while I would return home on the evening.  Therefore we had to take both cars up the M40. Éowyn saw this as an opportunity to spend some time alone with her daddy and asked if she could travel in Daddy’s car.  So Éowyn and I set off five or ten minutes before Lucinda, Amélie and Ezra.

Fifteen minutes into the journey, I’d just made it onto the M40, my mobile rang, it was Lucinda.  For some reason my handsfree didn’t work, fortunately there was service station and so concerned I turned off the motorway so that I could call her back.  An ‘Engine Malfunction’ error message had flashed up on Lucinda’s dashboard and so worried headed off the motorway and headed to her parents.  Unfortunately cars are controlled by computers and so it is impossible to lift the bonnet (hood – for Americans) and see if there is anything obvious.  So there was nothing to do except call out our breakdown service and let them hook a computer up to interrogate the car and determine the problem.  In the meantime Éowyn and I continued to Nanny Fran’s.

Not long after we arrived at Nanny Fran’s Lucinda called to say that the breakdown mechanic had been and the car behaved itself.  No warning light.  Nothing!  The mechanic said that it is one of those things and it should be fine, just a hiccup and effectively turning it off and turning it back on had cured it.  Computers!  Thus Lucinda packed Amélie and Ezra in the car and headed up, so in the meantime Éowyn had Nanny Fran (and then Auntie Liz) all to herself.  Éowyn enjoyed the attention but poor Auntie Liz as soon as she walked in through the door from work Éowyn assaulted her begging for her nails to be painted!  Evening came and I headed back south via a friend’s in Tipton while Lucinda and the kids stayed with Nanny Fran.

I think fun was had by all (as I was at work).  There was a visit to Sandwell Park Farm and something that Éowyn has been craving to do for a while a combination of two ideas in her head.  As many of you know my father died when I was 14, therefore Lucinda never met my dad and my children have never met their Granddad Vic.  My dad is buried in West Bromwich and, to my shame, I do not visit his grave as often as I should, and only took Éowyn as a baby to ‘introduce’ her to her granddad.  Éowyn has reached that age when she is starting to ask questions and one of those questions has been about my dad, so I have been honest and open with her, as we are about all her questions.

Secondly, Éowyn has recently acquired a fascination with graveyards.  Not sure why but every time we pass a church she will ask if it has a graveyard and whether we could go and visit.  I have actually taken her around a couple (I quite like graveyards) but is right for a 5 year old to have such a fascination?  Éowyn added these two ideas together and asked if she could visit Granddad Vic’s grave.  I said I would take her the next time we went to West Bromwich but unfortunately haven’t, as yet, had enough time to take her, so I suggested that she asked Nanny Fran.  So Thursday morning Nanny Fran and Éowyn headed up the road to buy some flowers to take to Granddad Vic.  This made Éowyn’s trip and I think that she now has some sense of reality of Granddad Vic.

Thursday afternoon Lucinda and the kids returned home and relaxed a little over the remainder of the holiday.  Éowyn visited her new best friend on Friday then spent the weekend at home.  As I mentioned above Éowyn had a half-term project entitled ‘Under the Sea’ so Éowyn asked if she could make an underwater scene.  So Daddy used his computer skills and printed off some pictures of sea creatures and Mommy helped Éowyn paint a cardboard box and decorate it with the images.  You can see the results below.

Anyhow I have kept you long enough so will leave you to enjoy the photos.

Peace and Love