The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Unbelievably we are in June, not that you can tell from the weather.  However the British people are not easily dishearted and thus the unseasonably cold weather and persistent rain did not put a dampener on the Diamond Jubilee celebrations however  Lucinda and I feel like we need to apologise to the Queen about the weather.  Now I am not saying that we are rain gods (although it does feel like that sometimes) but on our return from holiday it looked like summer had arrived so we decided to buy a gas powered barbecue.  A purchase that has been long overdue unfortunately since it has taken residence at chez Bagnall it has done nothing but rain.  So, to the people of the UK we would like to apologise for the fact that the jetstream has moved south bringing the autumnal, nay wintry weather with it.

It may seem like a long time ago but the week started off with temperatures in the mid 20’s which was a good way to acclimatise after our holiday in Tenerife.  Nestled between returning from holiday and returning to work I managed to tick off one from my to-do list: a day’s falconry.  I have always fancied the idea of falconry (perhaps it was something to do with watching Kes when I was younger) but have never managed to organise a date.  Then a couple of weeks prior to my holiday a ridiculously cheap offer via groupon appeared in my e-mail inbox.  It was too good an offer to miss, so myself and Andy booked ourselves up for our trip up the A1(m).

The Birds of Prey centre at Old Warden Park near Biggleswade was the venue of our experience.  We started the day with an introduction to a couple of chicks yet to fledge, a tawny owl and a Turkmenistan eagle owl, the latter of which decided that it would try and undo my shoe laces.  So while the falconer, Graham, begun the introduction to all things raptorial I had a ball of feathers sitting on my foot picking at my shoe laces with a beak evolved to rip rabbits apart.  Frustratingly (for the owl) I had double tied my shoe laces and he couldn’t undo them so begun nibbling my leg (I was wearing shorts).  Not sure what to do and not wishing to annoy him I just ignored him and hoped that he didn’t try to eat my leg.

I wasn’t the only one of the group to have a closer than expected encounter.  After being introduced to a number of adult owl species we were taken to the visit the eagles.  Obviously these are the superstars of the raptor world and we were allowed to handle and 4 year old bald eagle.  Still classed as immature (they do not get the iconic white head until the age of seven) he was nevertheless fully grown.  Andy volunteered to hold him first and gingerly held him at arm’s length.  ‘Don’t stroke him,‘ Graham explained, ‘For he will bite your finger, but you can hold him closer to your face for he will not peck your face.‘  So Andy brought the eagle closer to his face and without warning the eagle plucked at his beard.  ‘That one is nesting.‘  Epilated by an eagle.

After the introduction we were allowed to fly a number of species.  A barn owl, an Turkmenistan eagle owl and a Harris Hawk all of which were brilliant but they paled into insignificance when we flew the final bird: the bald eagle we were introduced to earlier.  The sight of a bald eagle flying across a field to you is a magnificent and awe-inspiring vision and you thank the deity of your choice that you are not a rabbit and something that will stay with me for the rest of my days.  It is a day I would wholeheartedly recommend and feel free to view the very many photos I took that day on our flickr site.

That was the first Monday back from our holiday and it was Éowyn’s first day back at school.  Unfortunately it was not such a good day for our first born, the teachers called Lucinda’s dad (who was picking her up for us) into the class to say that she had been particularly naughty striking three different children during the course of the day.  So we needed to have a serious talk to her.  We are not sure why she did it and even if we did there there obviously would be no justification for it.  We can only assume that she was struggling to acclimatise to being back to school after being on holiday but we explained to her that it was wrong and then attempted to get her to relate to how the other children felt and how she wouldn’t like it if it happened to her.  It must have sunk it because for the remaining days of the term she was apparently a delight at school.  However, there were only two more school days left for her before the half term holiday begun.  She is back to school this week so we will see how well she behaves next week.

Obviously the big news of the last week or so has been the Diamond Jubilee of our current monarch Queen Elizabeth II.  I can vaguely recall the Silver Jubilee and obviously it has only been a decade since the Golden Jubilee but this is only the second ever diamond jubilee of a UK monarch (the other being that of Queen Victoria) so a very special event.  The British weather decided that it wasn’t special enough to bestow a typical June day moreover one more befitting February, the month she actually ascended to the throne.  Although extremely fitting for an anniversary of the coronation for the weather was also unseasonably cold and wet on that date too!

Two public holidays were granted to the UK public turning the first weekend of June into a four day weekend.  However with Lucinda being a shift worker she was actually working on those days and with the wintry weather myself and the girls contented ourselves to watching the flotilla on the television.  Apparently there were 10,000 street parties over the weekend however Stanwell Moor did not join in with a street party but held a tea party at the village hall.  Unfortunately it did not have the atmosphere one would hope for such an event.  However there was a competition to guess where the Queen has lost her crown and one had to pick a postcode for where it could be.  We duly entered and thought nothing more about it.  We stayed about 40 minutes or so then headed back home when we received a phone call, we had won the top prize a big cuddly dog.  We headed back and collected the prize so it wasn’t such a bad party after all!  And something that worth more than a lottery win according to Éowyn for when I expressed disappointment that we had not won the lottery she said ‘But at least we won the doggy!‘  Wise words!

Éowyn and Amélie are becoming closer with Amélie idolising her older sister, following her about and copying her actions.  I think that Éowyn quiet likes this most of the time however as with all of us, it can get annoying.  Amélie was following Éowyn around the other day constantly shouting ‘ÉowynÉowynÉowynÉowyn!’  Suddenly Éowyn snapped and hid in her room shouting ‘Amélie you are winding me potty!‘  It has rapidly become our favourite phrase and obviously a mixture of ‘winding me up‘ and ‘driving me potty!

I will leave you there and trust that you all enjoyed the Jubilee celebrations for it is likely that we will not see another.

Peace and Love



Is it really March?

After the once in four years update without photos (I think there may have been one very early on) we are back on track.  A new month has begun and the weather has truly turned vernal, despite the fact that spring is still over a week away.  Not that I have been able to enjoy much of it since I have been in work 11 out of the past 12 days.  That is not strictly true as for two of those days (one night) I was away in Switzerland with work.  First work trip away for 6 months and Éowyn wasn’t too pleased.  In fact, she was a little off with me when I returned and made me work to get back in her good books.

Éowyn has been in our good books of late, as her behaviour continues to improve.  I am not saying for one moment that she is a little angel but there has definitely been an improvement.  However she still knows her own mind and can be extremely stubborn, if there is something that she doesn’t want to do it is extremely hard to convince her otherwise.  This is something that anyone who has to look after for any length of time will attest to.  The staff at playbox are no exception.  This week saw the equivalent of a parents’ evening, except that is was a Thursday morning.  Unfortunately I was a work so Lucinda had to go solo and without anyone to look after Éowyn and Amélie they had to go too!  The school report was nothing that we hadn’t expected, Éowyn can be stubborn and wilful but she has a good imagination, and is very clever (more of than later).  In fact her and one of her friends had built an impromptu stage and put a singing performance for the other children.  Everyone was really impressed with them because there had been no encouragement to do it, they just did it off their own backs and both enjoyed doing it and the other children enjoyed watching them.  So we have a little starlet in our home.

She also uses that imagination for other things.  One that made me laugh the other day happened just as I was putting her to bed.  Instead of me reading stories to her, she said that she would sing songs to me.  Fine I thought.  So she got a book off the shelf, turned to the index and asked me what song I would like.  I asked her what songs were in the book and she began to list the usual nursery rhymes.  ‘Sing me Humpty Dumpty, please.‘  I ask.  ‘The new version or the old version?‘ she replies.  That caught me by surprise.  ‘The new version.’ I answer.

Humpty Dumpty, sat on a wall.  He didn’t fall off.  A man sat down beside him and they had a chat.‘  Maybe she needs to work on her rhyming but I love the thinking behind this.  Humpty Dumpty obviously only fell off the wall once, and that is all anyone remembers!  He must of sat on that wall many times before and nothing happened, but the one time you fall off someone makes a rhyme about it and you are immortalised as the idiot that fell off the wall.

The staff at Playbox though have realised that Éowyn’s stubborn streak makes reprimanding her very difficult at times.  So their new approach has been to encourage her good behaviour rather than chastise her bad behaviour.  So when she does something good (like tidying the toys away) she gets a sticker and a little certificate.  We now have a collection of them adorning our fridge.  It certainly seems to be working at the moment.  We will see how it pans out.

The encouragement method is something that we do with Éowyn quite often and at the moment she has two big projects.  Both involve posters adorning our walls.  One is a list of fruit and vegetables and the other is the numbers 1 to 100.  Éowyn used to be so good at eating and would demolish anything that was put in front of her, but lately she has been slipping into bad habits and only eating a small range of foods. Obviously it is a control thing, at three years old there is very little that you have control over in your life but eating is definitely one of them.  So instead of making it a big thing we have turned it into a game.  The poster has a number of fruit and vegetables and everytime Éowyn tries one she gets to put a tick sticker next to it.  If she likes it, she can put a star sticker next to it.  If she manages to try all of the fruit and vegetables on the poster by Easter then she gets to choose her own Easter egg.

The other poster (with the numbers 1 to 100) was brought to try and challenge her.  The idea being that we will get her to be able to count up to 100.  So we got the poster out, said that if she can learn her numbers then she will get a Susie Sheep toy to go with her other Peppa Pig characters.  ‘OK, Daddy,‘ she says, ‘let’s have a go.‘  Lo and behold she counts up to 100 without any assistance.  Too clever!  However, she still hasn’t quite earned her Susie Sheep yet because she can’t identify specific numbers.  For instance if you ask her to point to number 85, without fail she points to 58 and likewise with other numbers.  I think it is quite common that kids read numbers right to left, rather than left to right (maybe our Western numerical system is wrong) when they begin to read, so we will work on that and then she can have her Susie Sheep.

 The big news of the last couple of weeks revolve around Amélie, not only has she finally given up crawling and taken to walking full time (about time the lazy monkey!) but we have moved her out of our bedroom.  The original plan, was to wait until she slept through the night and then move her into Éowyn’s room as we thought it unfair to disturb Éowyn’s sleep.  Unfortunately, she has never been a good sleeper and after 18 months of sleepless night we noticed a pattern.  Whenever Amélie woke up disturbed she would look for Lucinda and start crying to be picked up and cuddled.  However, if Lucinda wasn’t there then she would settle herself back to sleep.  Therefore the decision was made to move her into the box room, which is my office/library.  After a day of dismantling cots/computer desks and de-rigging my technical set up Amélie now has her own room (ish).  Has it worked?  So far so good.  Even the 0600 cry for milk is no longer too early because there hasn’t been a 0100 and 0300 wake up call prior to that.  Why didn’t we do this 12 months ago?  It doesn’t matter for it is done now! 

Again, I must end this update on a sad note.  My Uncle Roy (my Dad’s youngest brother) passed away last Wednesday succumbing to the cancer he has been fighting for the last few months.  He is the third of the five brothers to pass away (after my Dad and Uncle Pete).  Our thoughts are with my Auntie, my cousins and their children.

Peace and Love


The snow, it’s bin and gone and ‘ay come again!

We are midway through February (frightening isn’t it?) and since the last update the fortnight seems to have been filled with many events but without a lot happening too.  I can see a lot of quizzical looks at that apparent oxymoronic statement.

I took the last of the last year’s holiday entitlement on the first Friday of February to give myself a long weekend.  Thus I decided to go and pick Éowyn up from playbox.  I am waiting outside with the other mothers when the door opened and I was beckoned inside.  Éowyn had been misbehaving all day, culminating it her hitting another child with a wooden piano across the head.  I felt like a child who had been summoned into the Headmaster’s office and sat there mortified at what she had done.  Éowyn can be wilful and determined but this was a step into uncharted territory and something that we obviously need to nip in the bud.

Children’s behaviour is very rarely an isolated change in their personality but more a response to an external situation however trivial that it seems to those around them (probably true of adults too!).  The trick is identifying it and neutralising it, but not allowing the crimes to go unpunished either.  (That is what we are attempting anyhow, we’ll let you know in 20 years if it works.)  So what are the stimuli that are causing Éowyn to behave the way she is.  It is her little sister.  Not directly but the attention that Amélie receives and encouragement she is getting for doing things that Éowyn can easily do is probably the first and foremost reason.  This is not to say that Éowyn does not get any attention but she has to share that attention.  So therefore when she wants the attention and she is not getting the attention she requires immediately then she is naughty: for then she gets the attention.   It might be Mommy or Daddy telling her off but it is attention and more importantly Amélie is not getting any while we are pre-occupied with her.  Knowing the psychology is easy, putting it into practise when you have two screaming kids running around; you need to get the dinner ready; you are not feeling well and the telephone is ringing is a different matter.  So stricter and fairer and more conscious of how we are treating them both is the regime going forward.

The weekend gave a good excuse to have some Daddy and Éowyn time: it snowed.  It was the first dump of snow that the South East of England had seen this winter and although it wasn’t a fall of snow that I recall from my childhood it was certainly enough snow to build a snowman.  Unfortunately Lucinda was at work and since it was cold (not as cold as it has been across Europe, where record lows were being recorded) and I wanted it to be a special time for Éowyn we had to wait until Amélie had a mid morning nap.  This meant that a number of the neighbours had already build their snowmen by the time that we got out and, also the day had warmed and then cooled so that the snow wasn’t as light and fluffy as it had been first thing.  Nevertheless, relatively happy with our snowmen (look at the photos below) and Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed making them (the heads we solely her creations).  It was amusing that the following day the temperature had warmed such that all the lying snow melted and all that was left was a scattering of snow zombies as the snowmen’s features slowly melted during the day then refroze at night.  It then turned bitterly cold for nearly a week and no further melting took place.  We then received a second (smaller) fall of snow that re-coated everything before the temperature has returned to more usual February temperatures and only the carcasses of the snow zombies remain (although I do not give them very more days of survival in these conditions).

Amélie is still resisting the complete transition to bipedal locomotion.  Her attempts are more frequent and she can totter around for quite a while before gravity wins the argument but she still prefers the racing crawl method or shuffles about on her knees.  She is such a lazy tyke.  She gets away with it because she has a big sister that will do things for her and she has such a cheeky grin when she wants to get her own way.  We will have to see what we can do to encourage the full move, but at least it is a step in the right direction (see what I did there?).

Thursday 10th February was Uncle Albert’s funeral.  I had been asked to say a few words (the first time I had been asked to speak at a funeral) and in a strange way I was looking forward to it.  However fate had other ideas.  Éowyn had been under the weather for a couple of days and didn’t really think too much of it as kids are always feeling grotty as their immune systems encounter attacks for the first time and busy themselves creating defences.  However on the Tuesday Lucinda began to feel ill and then on the Wednesday I was knocked for six.  So much so that I went home early from work on Wednesday (I never go home ill) and on the Thursday could only drag myself out of bed to lie on the sofa (and Lucinda the same).  Fortunately I had the wherewithal on the Wednesday night to call Mom to tell her that we wouldn’t be attending (the funeral was at 1000 and that would mean leaving at 0700 and with all the will in the world even if I fell 100 times better there was no way it was going to happen) the fact that we were worse the next day justified that decision.  It was sad that we never managed to say goodbye to Uncle Albert (although I am sure he understood) and hello to a lot of relatives that we don’t see very often.  Uncle Albert’s death has left my Nan as the sole living representative of her generation on either side of our family.

Éowyn has taken a big step forward in growing up.  She decided last Saturday night that she didn’t want to wear a nappy to bed any more.  She has been nappy free in the day for many months but has always wanted the confidence of a nappy on at night.  Not any more.  She said that she didn’t want it so we didn’t put it on her.  We put her potty near her bed so she didn’t have to go too far in the night and prepared ourselves for wet pyjamas and changing the bedclothes.  We need not have fretted she has made the transition effortlessly so far.  She was obviously ready and waited until she knew herself that she was ready and that was it.

To reward this, and to give me an excuse to go and see it too, I took Éowyn to the cinema for the first time.  It is half-term so there are a number of films out aimed at kids (and big kids) and there are special early showtimes too.  When I was a little older than Éowyn is now, one of my favourite shows was The Muppet Show.  I own a number of DVDs of The Muppets and Éowyn has seen some of them so when I heard that the new Muppet movie was out for half term the choice of which film to go and see was made easy.  I think Éowyn was over-awed by the whole cinema experience although overall she seemed to thoroughly enjoy it (probably not as much as her dad did!).  She didn’t think much of popcorn and was frustrated by all the adverts and trails for other films (aren’t we all).  The little Toy Story short before the film was a bonus and she sat as good as gold for the entire length of the film.  I would quite happily take her to see another film again, and knowing my love of the cinema and of ‘children’s movies’ it would be no great hardship.

Anyhow, I will leave you with that (go and see the movie if only for a barbershop quartet rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ – you have been warned).

Peace and Love