Half-term round up

The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the trees stand proud in their nudity. The Badger Moot usually fills the pages of this website with the adventures of the greater Badger clan in Dorset around this time of the year. Not this year. When Granddad’s diagnosis was deemed terminal in early September we decided that this year’s Badger Moot would be cancelled. Whatever the scenario a family gathering three hours away from home during the October half-time did not seem apt nor right.

This was the first time since the inaugural Badger Moot in 2004, which was about the same time that I met Lucinda, that there has been no Badger Moot. I, obviously, did not attend that year and Lucinda and I have not attended twice since, in 2008 and 2010 (I will leave you to guess the reason for that) but there has always been a Badger Moot.

I had already booked the time off work for the Badger Moot, so despite the lack of a trip to Dorset (or Devon – as it would have been this year) it was still half-term, there was Granddad’s funeral to arrange and it was the week after Éowyn’s birthday, I did not cancel it.

We were blessed with unseasonably warm weather (as we quite often are on the Badger Moot), so what did we do? You have already read about the beginning of the half-term break in Éowyn’s Seventh Birthday write up: a trip to Legoland and an outing to Build-A-Bear Workshop. An important detail that I omitted in that write up was Éowyn’s delight in the queue for the first ride. Namely, when she stood against the height chart for the ride it indicated that she was a shade above 130cm, the minimum height required to go on the ride solo: a great present for her seventh birthday. Rides now take on a whole new element because she is classed as an adult when it comes to rollercoasters. It will also mean that all five of us can now go on the rides at Legoland.

This spurred us to measure the kids, as we try to do at least once a year. Indeed, on the wall in the playroom are pencil marks marking the progress of their growth. This year the results were thus: Éowyn: 131.5cm (4ft 4in); Amélie: 117cm (3ft 10in); Ezra: 97.5cm (3ft 2in). For those of you that are interested this translates on the Child Development Charts as the fact that all three of our children are sitting pretty on their respective 96th centile. We are going to have tall children; hardly surprising since Lucinda is 175cm (5ft 9in) and I am 190cm (6ft 3in)!

Half-term was the last week of October so there were plenty of Halloween activities advertised. The U.K. is increasingly absorbing the North American affection for Halloween and Trick or Treating – more of that later. We were not immune to the lure of Halloween.

Lucinda and I have National Trust passes, which allow us to take the baguettes into the attractions for free, so we decided to use them and look for a local National Trust property that were doing something Halloweeny (is that a word?) aimed at children. Claremont Landscape Gardens appears to fit the bill. A short drive away (very close to the hospice where Granddad died it turned out – very emotional driving passed that place) and they had Halloween crafts for the children. Wet underfoot but dry and relatively mild we decided a walk around Claremont was just what was needed.

The National Trust passes allowed free parking and free entry but we paid an extra surcharge for the girls (Ezra is a little too young) to complete a puzzle and win a prize. A sheet of paper with eight questions was given to the girls. The answers to these questions were hidden around the gardens on laminated spiders. A letter from each of these answers was highlighted and these, rearranged formed a ninth answer which when handed in, could be exchanged for a prize.

Some of the spiders had been very well hidden and I think we walked around Claremont twice before finding them all. Daddy, had guessed the answer with a number of the questions missing so the girls were always going to get their prizes but we were determined to find these spiders! We did learn one important thing: Tarantulas taste like peanut butter. So if you are ever found hungry in the Amazon jungle, don’t turn your nose up at a tarantula, with or without toast! Chocolate covered tarantula, even better.

In addition to the spider hunt, the Thatched Cottage hosted Halloween mask making. For a small fee the kids could use a kit (and decorate with a host of stickers) a suitable Halloween mask. Éowyn made a cat and Amélie a pumpkin, you can see the fruits of their labours in the photos below.

They all enjoyed their Halloween walk around Claremont. Although, perhaps because of the discussions around Granddad they became fascinated by the story of Charlotte of Wales, wife of Prince Leopold and Granddaughter of King George III and second in line to the throne, who lived at Claremont and tragically died in childbirth at the tender age of 21. It triggered many questions about death from the girls.

A trip to Claremont Landscape Gardens wasn’t the only Halloween activity. Last year, Éowyn was given a ‘grow your own’ pumpkin kit and indeed managed to grown one pumpkin to maturity. Not only did that Pumpkin feed us, it also yielded dozens of seeds before being carved into a Jack-O-Lantern. Out of those seeds we managed to grow 10 plants. My naivety in Pumpkin growing meant that we only managed to fruit 8 pumpkins and only 4 of them to maturity. Nevertheless this meant that the children had one each to carve. I hollowed all the pumpkins, kept the flesh for later and the seeds for next season, then, I handed them over the baguettes to design their Jack-O-Lanterns.

You can see the finished designs in the photos below. Éowyn’s design had to be toned down as it was a little complicated and I am not, yet, an expert pumpkin-carver, nevertheless she was very pleased with the final product. Amélie’s was simple but effective and Ezra needed a little help but all of them looked impressive with a tealight candle inside greeting the friendly neighbourhood trick or treaters.

Saturday was Halloween itself and I was at work. Our neighbours were having a little Halloween party for the kids and then afterwards they went Trick or Treating (or tickle treating as Ezra called it). Halloween falling on a Saturday certainly made ‘Trick or Treating’ popular and there were quite a few groups of ‘Trick or Treaters’ wandering the neighbourhood. Indeed, some of the neighbours were overwhelmed when, for a short time, the groups coalesced into a supergroup of two dozen – that’s a lot of sweets to find. It was at this point that Ezra got a little spooked. There were a lot of older kids, that he didn’t know, in quite scary costumes which freaked him out. Fortunately, I had returned home and so he stayed in with Daddy and his haul of confectionary.

The next day Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz (and the guinea pigs) came down. This is becoming a regular occurrence recently. This time it was to look after the baguettes while Lucinda and I celebrated the life of Granddad, along with the rest of the family and his friends, at his funeral and wake.  We thought that the girls and Ezra, especially were a little too young to come to Granddad’s funeral, so we didn ‘t even give them the option.  It is always feels strange to say that it was a ‘good funeral’ but Granddad’s memorial was a very moving and fitting tribute to a well-loved man.

Granddad’s death is obviously still raw for the family, but how are our little ones coping? Éowyn is seemingly handling it very well. She is very matter-of-fact about it and although upset that her Granddad has died is at peace with what it means. Ezra, obviously is too young to understand and that leaves Amélie. Amélie is a sensitive soul and has taken Granddad’s passing very hard. She has been sobbing on more than one occasion. We all think about how we will miss those that have passed and for Amélie and Granddad that tends to revolve around food. She has said she will miss Granddad for his fudge, biscuits, pancakes and ice-cream. Also, she has said that she will miss him because he fixes her toys when she breaks them.

Lucinda found her sobbing the other day and let her talk while giving her a cuddle. I came in and we all hugged while Amélie reasoned her loss. It was all very upsetting not only because Amélie was crying but because we will miss him too, for our own reasons. However, our mood was slightly lightened when Amélie came out with something that can only spring from the logic of a child. Between sobs she said, ‘I wish Granddad was a tortoise.’ Slightly sideswiped by this we asked her what she meant. ‘Tortoises can live for over a hundred years, so if Granddad was a tortoise he would still be alive.’ You cannot deny the logic.

Granddad’s funeral happened to fall on the same day as another big event in Éowyn’s life: her first day at Brownies. Éowyn had been on the waiting list for Rainbows since she was five, but unfortunately our local Rainbows pack was so oversubscribed that she never managed to get a place. To join Brownies you have to have celebrated your 7th birthday. The first Brownie meeting that she could attend was a week or so later than her birthday due to the half-term break. We didn’t want her to miss this first meeting so in stepped Auntie Liz who walked her to and collected from the meeting.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the best of meetings for our eldest to attend for her first taste of Brownies. The activity for the evening was cake making. Now, if it was a real cake and involved flour, eggs, butter, etc. then I think that Éowyn would have enjoyed it. No, this cake was a fabric cake that required sewing. Éowyn isn’t a girlie girl who would enjoy sewing and so it was. She said that she didn’t enjoy it and didn’t want to go back. However, we have asked her to go a few more times before she gives it up before she has even started. Fortunately, this week, it was games night. Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed this and is now looking forward to going again. We will see how this plays out and you, my dear readers, will read it here first.

Before I leave you, I will leave you with a funny from Ezra. Ezra’s vocabulary is increasing daily but his favourite word is one we are trying to discourage him from using and you will soon see why.  Ezra’s current favourite word is ‘Boobies’. We are trying not to react when he uses it but sometimes it is quite hard. I was serving dinner the other day and trying to engage the baguettes in the choices I was asking them to put their hands up for the various choices. ‘Hands up, who likes carrots?’ They put their hands up and I would dish the carrots out. ‘Hands up, who likes peas?’ They put their hands up and I dished the peas out.

Then Ezra joined in: ‘Hands up, who likes boobies?’ Judging by the raised hands, just you and me, son. Just you and me!

Peace and Love


PS: As you can see from the geeky stats section in the sidebar, I have now clocked up over a quarter of a million words on this website.  Thank you for reading!


Mother’s Day and Daddy’s birthday

It has been a busy week and hence a second update in just over a week.  It began on 17th March which is not only St. Patrick’s Day (the Patron Saint of Ireland) but my eldest sister’s birthday.  It was also the day before Mothering Sunday and a couple of days before my birthday so what better excuse for a visit from Nanny Fran.  Nanny Fran made the journey on her own as Auntie Liz was heading off to a JLS concert in the evening, but she was joined at our house by the birthday girl herself, Auntie Mary.

Éowyn gets so excited when Nanny Fran comes down that she will quite often wear herself out and so it was on Saturday.  She was so worn out that she spent much of the afternoon asleep.  This meant that Amélie managed to get a greater share of Nanny Fran cuddles.  It saved arguments.

Nanny Fran and Auntie Mary saw a huge leap in development of Amélie since their last visit and it does seem over the last few weeks that she has grown from being a baby to a toddler very quickly.  She now walks everywhere, to the point of not wanting to be picked up.  She is interacting with many more things and her vocabulary is going through that rapid increase phase where there is a new word nearly everyday.  She will quite happily sing ‘Old MacDonald’ to herself and jabber away to her toys.  On Saturday we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Auntie Mary and Amélie joined in!  She doesn’t suffer fools gladly though and Éowyn is quite often on the receiving end of her wrath if big sister is doing something that she doesn’t want her to do.  She is also a little thief.  She will ‘move’ (shall we say?) anything that isn’t out of reach and hide it somewhere.  Lucinda’s camera was found in one of the saucepans in the cupboard; the remote control was found in her toy kitchen and my watch is still A.W.O.L. hopefully it will turn up soon.  She has now earnt the name Swiper, (‘Swiper, no swiping!‘) from Éowyn after a character from Dora, the explorer.

The following day was Mothering Sunday (Mother’s Day) so we let Lucinda have a well deserved lie in before we made her breakfast in bed.  If you can’t treat your mother on Mother’s Day when can you treat your mother?  Now saying that, Lucinda’s mum had invited us all round for Sunday lunch (Lucinda and her brothers and all our families), which puts a bit of a nonsense on the previous sentence, especially when she prepared all the food and she wasn’t feeling very well.  Nevertheless 14 of us sat down for Sunday lunch.  It is always nice when the whole family gets together and I know Lucinda’s Mum and Dad really enjoy being surrounded by their decendants, and who wouldn’t be.

The busy week didn’t stop there.  My birthday was on the Tuesday and so we decided that we would go away for a couple of days to get away from it.  Lucinda booked us a room at the new Shoreline Hotel at Butlins in Bognor Regis (West Sussex – for those of you with poor knowledge of UK’s geography – still not helping?  About halfway between Brighton and Portsmouth.  Still not helping?  Find Staines (just west of London) and go south until you hit the sea and stop.  It is somewhere around there, if that still hasn’t helped maybe you watch a little too much CNN).

I went to Butlins with a little trepidation, it has to be said.  Never really been tempted to spend any time at a Butlins (or alternative) and I had never been to Bognor Regis (although it was good enough for King George V) but we packed the car and headed south.  I am not ashamed to say that I was pleasantly surprised by both Butlins and Bognor Regis.  The Shoreline Hotel is excellent, it has really been thought through for kids.  The room was divided into two areas, the main area that you would expect with a little seating area and a double bed with TV and DVD player (although I can proudly say that we didn’t even put the TV’s on in our stay) for Mum and Dad.  Then separated by the bathroom (that included a child’s section in the seat so little ones can use the big toilet safely, without fear of falling through) there was a kid’s bedroom with bunk bed and their own TV and DVD player.  Éowyn loved the bunk bed and immediately climbed the ladder staking her claim to the top bunk.  We were a little wary of letting her sleep up there but she was perfectly safe going up and down the ladder and so we let her sleep there.  Amélie is still a little small for a bed (even with a side on) so we hired a cot for her.

When we arrived we found that you could book a ‘Character Breakfast’ where one of the ‘Characters’ (i.e. men in big suits) would come and sit with you and have breakfast with your child.  We thought that it would be nice for Éowyn and attempted to book it but unfortunately (or fortunately as it turns out) they were all fully booked for our stay.  Nevermind we headed to breakfast the next morning and yes Billy and Bonnie Bear were there and having breakfast with a number of the children, but in between course they came and paid a visit to every child in the breakfast room.  Now you may be forgiven that this would be something that Éowyn would like, but a teddy bear bigger than daddy ambling over to you when you are eating your Coco-Pops is not what our three year old thought was a pleasant experience.  Amélie, thought it was brilliant but Éowyn cowered by her Daddy until the furry freaks had moved on to another table.  We were glad that we hadn’t shelled out for the ‘Character Breakfast’.  However, because we didn’t know that the characters would visit every child we hadn’t taken our cameras down to breakfast (why would you?) but we rectified that the next morning, when it was the turn of Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam to paid us a visit, with pretty much the same results.  Although we did have photographic evidence this time!

I think we chose quite a good time to pay a visit to Butlins for it was out of school holidays, still early in the season and, for once (for one of our holidays!), the weather was fine.  This meant that we could easily get on the all the facilities in the children’s play areas and the swimming pool was relatively empty.  The swimming pool was the big hit of the holiday.  Éowyn has never been very confident in water and it is one of the things that we have promised ourselves this year to get her to enjoy the water and if possible to begin swimming lessons.  Part of Éowyn’s issue with swimming is that it gets your hair wet.  So before we entered the swimming pool this time we put her hair up with a hairband, something that she usually will not allow you to do.  Whether it was this lack of fear surrounding her hair getting wet or the fact that the pool gradually deepened from nothing to 4 feet (1.2 metres) or so (it was the toddlers’ pool) or even the confidence of holding her daddy’s hand she wading right in until the water was up to her chest.  I then supported her and slowly dragged her into the deep (relatively) water.  I got her treading water and then dogging paddling, with the support from dad and the armbands.  Initially I worried that I had done it all a bit too quickly but the next day she wanted to go swimming and grabbed my hand and said ‘Come on, Daddy, let’s go into the deep water.‘  The challenge will be to continue this, before the newly gained confidence ebbs away.

There wasn’t a lot of time to exploring the finer areas of West Sussex, although we did have a quick nose around Bognor Regis.  One place that we did find was just along the coast, east of Butlins, a small café called The Lobster Pot.  In the neighbouring town of Felpham (not to be confused with Feltham)  The Lobster Pot serves the most delicious café food, if perhaps a little pricey.  However, if you are in the vicinity I would wholeheartedly recommend the walk along the coast.  I think we went there every day and the staff were extremely friendly especially to a nosiy little three-year old.

Lucinda’s Uncle David and Auntie Sally (Lucinda’s father’s brother and his wife) live in Middleton-on-sea which is just a couple of miles from Bognor and as I had never visited their house we decided to pop in on the way home.  Éowyn and Amélie charmed them, as of course they would.  Éowyn, especially took a shine to Uncle David and had him playing in the garden with her and then started calling him Granddad.  In fairness to her, Uncle David is a lot like Lucinda’s dad, they are brothers after all and I think there was definitely some of the ‘Kin knows Kin’ subconsciousness type thing going on.  So it would be perfectly natural for her to equate them as the same, I think that it shows the love and trust that she has for Lucinda’s dad that she was so familar with a man she has hardly ever met, for she is usually so shy around people.

So back home Wednesday evening, only to prepare for my Uncle Roy’s funeral on Thursday and a round trip to West Bromwich.  We took Éowyn and Amélie for it was only a small funeral and I had not seen many of my relatives in such a long time, it is shame that it takes something like the death of a family member to bring us all together.  Something that I must try and rectify this year (if only I could get this cloning thing to work).  It was nice to introduce Éowyn and Amélie and in some case Lucinda to my wider family, especially since there doesn’t seem to be many of us left.  We were slightly delayed leaving as swiper had been up to her usual tricks and hidden mommy’s purse.  Fearing that we had left it in Bognor Regis we phoned Butlins, The Lobster Pot, Uncle David and Auntie Sally and the local Bognor Regis Police station.  Lucinda then cancelled her bank cards before she noticed where the little thief had hidden it.  We will have to watch that one.

So the clocks have sprung forward, we have warm spring-like temperatures and the lawn has finally been mown (or should that be mowed?); summer is on its way and I have detained you long enough, go and enjoy the sunshine.

Peace and Love