The Guinea Pigs went on holiday too!

I truly feel like I am spoiling you at the moment.  Two large write ups covering our holiday in Europe (and no, not the decades of EU membership) and now a third in just over a fortnight.  You should feel blessed.

So what brings the keyboard out again so soon?  Bookends of stories surrounding the holiday that I thought best sat outside the holiday write up itself.  With work being manic before I went on holiday (and indeed has been doubly so on my return, hence the delay in this triptych of essays) there was not time to squeeze in an update before we left, so let me make amends.

So last we spoke of more mundane activities the football season had just drawn to end and I was hoping that work would calm down.  There was a lot to do before going on holiday and I knew that would mean some long hours but was hoping for some quality sleep.  All three children are relatively good at sleeping.  Ezra may wake early, and then go into his sisters’ room and tries to wake one of them up (usually Amélie, because she sleeps on the bottom bunk) but the nights are usually undisturbed.  That first night after the final day of the season (or not the final day of the season as it turned out, due to a bomb scare at Old Trafford) I only managed half the amount of sleep that I usually get.

We put the children to bed as usual but around 2100 we heard Ezra crying.  He doesn’t usually cry so I went up to see what the problem was but couldn’t rouse him.  Thinking it was just a bad dream, tucked him back in and came back downstairs.  As we went to bed Ezra was crying again, Lucinda went into him and he woke complaining of a tummy ache.  We tried to calm him and gave him some Calpol but it wasn’t comforting him.  Then he looked me in the eye and said, ‘Daddy, you take me to the doctors please.‘  There was such a level of earnest pleading in his voice that I could not refuse him.  It broke your heart to hear him pleading.  All sorts of horrible things went through our minds and so I wrapped him up and took him to the walk-in clinic (there is no local A&E any more it has been replaced by a walk-in clinic).  When I got there it was closed.  It is only open 0800-2200 and by this time his was experiencing bouts where he was screaming in pain.  So I got him back into the car and hot-tailed it down the motorway to our nearest A&E.

St. Peter’s hospital in Chertsey is where all three of the Baguettes were born and the nearest A&E department.  In addition to the standard A&E department St Peter’s has a separate paediatric A&E department.  I was surprised how busy both A&E departments were when we arrived but in fairness we saw a triage nurse very quickly but it was a couple of hours before we saw the doctor.  Ezra was much calmer in the hospital, he had occasional bouts of pain but was probably a little tired not to mention over-awed by the occasion.  We were directed to a cubicle to wait for the doctor so I popped Ezra on the bed and as the doctor came in to ask me what the symptoms were, Ezra had fallen into a deep sleep.  This allowed the doctor to give him a full examination and thankfully it was nothing that was part of the many scenarios that had been running through my mind.  He simply had constipation which had caused his bowel to go into spasm.  So painful yes, but some paediatric laxatives would cure the issue.  It was nice to know that it was nothing major but I could have done without 3 hours of sleep at the start of such a busy week!

Midweek it was a ‘Stay and Play’ opportunity with Amélie’s class.  Since Lucinda had her wards on a Wednesday I took the opportunity to spend the first 30 minutes of the school day with Amélie and her class.  It was a good opportunity to see what they get up to at school and have a detailed look into the things that they are doing and have been doing recently.  There were the usual toys for them to play with (including Lego and Stickle Bricks – I haven’t seen Stickle Bricks for ages and remember playing with them at school when I was about the same age) as well as a table to learn maths, a shop and a table set up as an Indian restaurant, where they had a taste test the previous week.  The 30 minutes seemed to go quite quickly and I said goodbye to Amélie before reluctantly rejoining the adult world.

The first weekend after the end of the football season and the last before our holiday was quite busy.  It was Lucinda’s birthday mid-week and so we decided to have a little get together for some of her closest and oldest friends (oldest as in, known the longest rather than physical age!).  We had planned on this being a barbecue but as per the summer of 2016 so far it was threatening rain and relatively cold, so the barbecue was left in the shed and we made do with a buffet.  It was also the day of the F.A. cup final and so after an afternoon on genial chat we gravitated into three separate groups.  The kids were all off playing upstairs, rehearsing shows that they put on for us later that day; the boys were huddled around the television watching the football and drinking beer while the ladies sat in the garden drinking wine and catching up with gossip.  A good time was had by all and we decided that we do not host enough get togethers and have promised (to ourselves) to try to rectify this in the future.

The next day saw mommy left at home while Daddy and the Baguettes heading north up the M40 to West Bromwich and Nanny Fran.  We were obviously going on holiday, the next weekend and so needed someone to look after the guinea pigs.  Unfortunately, no one in the area could come round and look after them in situ, so we asked Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz if they would look after them, and they thankfully said yes.

The plan was that all five of us would head up to nanny Fran’s in the S-Max and it would all be nice and easy.  However, the S-Max decided that it would display an engine malfunction light and was booked into the garage for the following day, therefore it was down to the trusted Civic to make the journey.  Now a Honda Civic is a mid-sized car but the guinea pig cage is anything but and it was only just possible to squeeze the cage, their food, sawdust and hay, the guinea pigs themselves and the Baguettes in.  There was no room left for Lucinda.

It really was a flying visit with a drop off and a couple of hours rest and refuelling (us, not the car) before heading back home.  We had a week before our holiday began but Toffee and Frazzle were on theirs.

We returned from holiday on the Monday and thus were unable to go and collect the guinea pigs off theirs until the weekend.  The week saw the girls return to school, what would have been my dad’s 70th birthday and my return to work and over 4,000 emails.  I had deliberately not looked at any of my emails while on holiday (and I had informed everyone that I was doing that) hence why my inbox had bloomed.  It was a wise decision despite the pruning that is still required because it meant that I wasn’t tempted to keep checking my phone every five minutes and getting frustrated that I wasn’t there.  I wasn’t completely out of touch though and I had told everyone that I would be taking phone calls and text messages – which I did on every day (bar one) that I was in Italy.  That sounds bad but a quick phone call is so much easier to deal with than the saga that an email chain can become.

The weekend quickly came and Saturday saw the five of us in the S-Max heading to Nanny Fran.  We stopped at our friends in High Wycombe on the way for lunch and a catch up.  It may seem weird to say but I actually think that the guinea pigs missed the hustle and bustle of the family and the Baguettes had missed their pets.  It was some much more comfortable heading back down the motorway with the guinea pig cage in the S-Max than it had been on the way up to Nanny Fran’s in the Civic.

Life’s now settling into its usual routine for the Baguettes for the last few weeks of the academic year and as this update is a little belated there will be another in a couple of weeks to get you up to speed with more recent events.

Before I leave a quick shout out to my Auntie Margaret who is waiting for heart surgery to repair her aortic valve.  Get well soon and when you are up to it we’ll come down for a visit.


Peace and Love


Half term and a trip to Nanny Fran’s

A little belated, and nothing to do with the fact that this year is a little longer than the usual.  Normal service has resumed with a more traditional update, in contrast with the olympiad bissextus bonus of the previous post and Ezra’s pre-school inauguration prior to that.

So let me take you back a few weeks.  The first weekend of February saw the Bagnall family in the Bride valley at Berwick Manor celebrating Uncle Bill’s 70th birthday.  That was the weekend before half-term, hence we only spent the weekend in Puncknowle returning to Staines-upon-Thames on the Sunday evening for the girls still had four days of the first half of the first term of 2016 left.  But, I hear you cry, there are 5 days in a school week.  Yes, that is indeed correct except when an inset day is tagged to the start of a half term break.

We had decided, before the knowledge of the inset day, that we would take a journey north and visit Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz for that weekend.  The baguettes were excited, as they always are when visiting Nanny Fran, and when we asked them what they would like to do in West Bromwich there was a unanimous reply:  Funky Monkeys.  Funky Monkeys is UK wide company that provide indoor soft play areas for kids under 8, and as all kids (and some adults) our three love a soft play area.  Therefore, we decided that we would take advantage of the inset day and the extended half-term and visit Funky Monkeys on the Friday hoping that the schools in Sandwell had not decided likewise.

We arrived at Nanny Fran’s around lunchtime and after sating our appetite headed into the town centre.  Funky Monkeys is aimed at under eights but in addition there is also a height restriction of 4′ 5″ (135cm).  Now Éowyn may have only just turned 7 but she is barely an inch under the maximum height restriction, so this may be last time that she can legitimately go.  However, flat shoes and a slouch may help for at least another visit.

While the Baguettes were distracted in Funky Monkeys we left them under the watchful gaze of Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz and disappeared to book a big surprise for them, something that you dear readers will have to wait until December to find out yourselves.

The Bagnall five were not the only visitors to Nanny Fran’s.  There were two others in the car on the journey North, Nanny Fran’s grand-guinea pigs.  We didn’t really have anyone to look after Toffee and Frazzle while we were in West Bromwich, so we brought them with us.  It was nice for Nanny Fran to see them as it had been a couple of months and she could see how big that they had grown (and they are still growing!).

We only stayed at Nanny Fran’s for the weekend as I had a busy work week ahead of me and so did Lucinda.  Obviously, with Lucinda’s child-minding job requiring privacy for her clients, it is not discussed on this website, however I will mention that half-term saw Lucinda settle two new clients which when coupled with our children and the fact that I was at work made it a very busy week for her.  So when Amélie and then Éowyn were separately invited for playdates at friends’ houses, there wasn’t much of a decision to be made and the invitation was welcomed with open arms by Lucinda.

As regular readers will recall the return to school after the half-term break marked the start of Ezra’s education journey.  The UK government currently pay for all pre-school children to receive 15 hours of childcare per week.  They are entitled to this from the term after their third birthday.  With Ezra’s third birthday looming large on the horizon (next weekend to be exact) he will be entitled to this for the Summer term when the schools return after the Easter break.  Since Ezra has never been to school, to a childminder (for over a year) or indeed spent any amount of regular time away from Lucinda we have decided to use this half-term to ease him into the education system.

He has settled into Our Lady of the Rosary’s pre-school extremely quickly.  He is excited to go (and walks the entire way – which is a big step in itself) and doesn’t bat an eyelid when you leave him, he just finds the toys he wants to play with and starts playing.  The teachers have said that he has settled extremely well and just gets on with it.  Whenever you ask him about his day, he doesn’t really mention any of the other children or the teachers only that they have lovely toys.  At least he is happy and seemingly enjoying it.  He is only going for two mornings a week during this ‘easing-in’ period and so as a consequence it shouldn’t be too much for him, he shouldn’t get too tired but only time will tell if it will help and he will be ready for the ramp up to 15 hours after the Easter break.

Éowyn has started with an attitude to homework that we will need to change before it becomes a habit.  Her class had been learning about giraffes. Nothing too unusual about that, they often pick a subject and learn about it in-depth.  However, despite Lucinda and I both asking what she learned at school this week, giraffes were never mentioned.  As the week zoomed by without any warning at all it is nearly bedtime on Thursday when Éowyn informs us that she has to make a giraffe to take to school.  Thanks for the warning!

The combined creative juices of mum and dad sprung into action and we had a play.  A cardboard head and neck of giraffe using some packing materials from a recent delivery, some yellow paint and a sheet of brown wrapping paper.  The kitchen table, covered with newspaper, became the work bench and Éowyn’s bedtime was delayed.

An hour or two later and cardboard giraffe neck nearly 5 feet high was ready for school the next morning.  You can see the results of our handiwork can be seen in the photos below.  As you can appreciate it wasn’t the easiest of homework to carry to school on a blustery morning.

Thursday the following week was World Book Day and parents up and down the land were faced with the problem of acquiring a fancy dress costume.  Fortunately we have a large trunk of dressing up costumes and Amélie quite happily chose the Tinkerbell dress (and wings) for her character.

Éowyn was a little bit more creative.  She wanted to go dress as Summer Hammond from the Secret Kingdom series of books, and Starlight Adventure in particular.  The Secret Kingdom series introduces three girls: Summer, Jasmine and Ellie as a group of friends who find a magic box that teleports them to a fantasy land where they have magical adventures.  It is aimed at girls from around Éowyn’s age and a good way of encouraging girls to read for fun.

Éowyn looked through her wardrobe and put together an approximation of Summer’s outfit from the book’s cover.  I was proud of her being so original and not defaulting to wearing one of the many Disney princess dresses that we have or conforming to the social norms of the older kids and coming as one of the Harry Potter characters.

Again, however she left this homework to the last minute, not in the costume itself but a prop that she wanted to take.  If you look at Summer on the book’s cover (she is the one in the middle with the blonde hair – see the photo with Éowyn carrying the book if you don’t have it on your book shelf), she is carrying a golden lamp.  Fifteen minutes before we were due to leave for school she bemoaned the fact that we didn’t have a golden lamp for her to take.  Not sure where she expecting us to conjure one up from?  A five foot high giraffe is one thing and golden lamp is quite another.  As we said to her, if she had given us more notice we could have been creative and helped her make one but in this instance she would just have to go without.  As you can see it is a habit we are going to have to break.

With an early Easter looming that also means that there is an early Mother’s Day.  In the U.K. Mother’s Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, therefore with Easter Sunday falling on 27th March in 2016 it means that Mother’s Day is today.  Lucinda and I would thus like to say Happy Mother’s day to our maters and to mothers everywhere.  With three children of our own it means that I am going to have a busy day off helping the Baguettes look after their mum!

I will leave you know with a few more photos than usual to make up for the lack of photos in the previous update.  As always there are more on the flickr pages.

Peace and Love


It has turned a bit cold

You may have had to wait for over a fortnight for the first update of 2016, and that was more of a reflection of 2015, a little more than a week later you get, this, the first proper update of the year.

The update begins on the last day of 2015.  At Granddad’s funeral we meet up with Lucinda’s cousin Joanne. It was the first time that I had met Joanne and, it goes without saying that she had not met Éowyn, Amélie or Ezra and so we decided to make amends and made a promise to meet up.  There is something about funerals that makes you appreciate life and one quite often makes promises to meet up, or take life less seriously or focus on the things that make you happy.  I think we all start off with good intents before life, once more, gets in the way and we fall back to our old ways and habitual behaviours.  However, sometimes, something sticks and we follow through.  So it was with a visit to cousin Joanne.  She had initially invited us to her house to go for a walk and take advantage of the communal swimming pool in her complex sometime between Christmas and New Year.  She called just before Christmas to confirm a date and we decided upon New Year’s Eve; the invite was open to the whole family.  Therefore, on New Year’s Eve the Bagnalls and Nanny headed to just outside of Godalming to do just that.  Uncle Michael was away in Spain, so did not join us but Uncle Steven, Auntie Zoe and Megan and Finley met us there.

We took advantage of the 55 acres and the dry weather and went for a walk around the woodland surrounding her complex.  There was plenty of chopped wood that caught my wood-burning eye but unfortunately due to the extremely muddy ground Ezra’s pushchair could not be used a wood-carrier and it had, unfortunately, to be left on the ground to rot.  After the muddy stroll it was time to relax in the swimming pool (and by the swimming pool for those who didn’t take a dip) before heading back to Joanne’s flat for a spot of dinner.  A very sedate but enjoyable way to spend New Year Eve’s day.

There were no mad New Year’s Eve parties for the Bagnalls which meant that when the Baguettes woke early on New Year’s Day although slightly annoying they were not greeted by hungover grunts. As we were awake, we greeted the new year with a full English breakfast before heading to Bedfont Lakes with Nanny for a New Year stroll.

Indeed, taking advantage of Daddy having work-free weekends, weekend strolls have become the norm for 2016.  Our usual haunt, however is Virginia Water, with our annual car park pass allowing us free entry into the Royal car parks.  One of these Sunday strolls saw our N.C.T. group meet up for the first time in over a year.  One of the reasons that we decided to do N.C.T. classes when Lucinda was pregnant with Éowyn was to meet people in the same situation, expecting their first child at a similar time, so that we had a support group.  We were very lucky and amazingly six of the eight couples are still in regular contact and we now only live 4 doors away from one of the group.

Unfortunately, as with most things, life tends to get in the way and we do not meet up as a big group as often as we once did, especially now that the children have school friends of their own (although Éowyn, Billy and Blake are at the same school and indeed Éowyn and Blake are in the same class).  What was interesting was that the kids, even though they have made their own friends, still see the others from the group as their ‘true‘ friends, perhaps somewhere between a relative and a friend.  It will be interesting to see if this continues as they grow older.

Although true when I first sat down to write this update and not quite so now, we have had (at least in this corner of the world) a week’s worth of winter.  The overnight temperatures dropped below freezing and we even woke on a Sunday morning to snow.  Not enough to call a blanket, not even a sheet; I think the correct term is a dusting.  Nevertheless this is the first time since we moved to our current home that it has snowed, and the first time that Ezra had seen snow.

The Baguettes woke up excited and asked Anna-like, ‘Can we build a snowman?‘  Unfortunately the dusting wasn’t even enough to make a snowball in our garden, so once again we climbing into the trusted S-Max and headed to Virginia Water.  Again there wasn’t a huge amount of snow but the snow still lingered in the shaded areas and they ran around excitedly.  Snowball fights and sliding on the slippery surface helped them to ignore the sub-freezing temperatures and we spent over an hour taking advantage of this excitement.

The other side of the cold weather was that it gave me an excuse (as if I need to have an excuse) to light the wood stove.  I have developed my technique for lighting a fire and when it is at optimum burn the heat it gives off is amazing.  It easily warms our lounge and the rest of the house also feels the benefit of a roaring fire.  It is interesting to think that lighting a fire is easy and we do it without thinking but when you are doing it everyday you notice the science of fire-lighting.  The fuel (down to different types of wood and how dry it is) all affect the quality of the fire.  I have even had the unfortunate effect known as a downdraft.  This was caused by atmospheric/ wind direction over our flue.  This meant that the fire struggled to light and the smoke decided that the easiest route wasn’t via the flue but into the room and we were quickly coughing with the smokey atmosphere.  A quick google and  warming the stove with some flaming paper soon warmed the flue itself and begun to draw the smoke back up and into the atmosphere.

Toffee and Frazzle (the guinea pigs) are settling into Bagnall Manor and becoming more comfortable with the attention that they are getting.  They still run and hide if they think you re going to open the cage but are quite happy to squeak to you if you just sit and talk to them.  Once you have taken them out of their cage they are quite relaxed and will sit happily on your lap.  The girls (and Lucinda) are becoming much more confident holding them, although it is still Daddy that has to take them out of the cage.  The girls and Ezra are still very much engaged with their first pets and not only want to hold them most days but help with cleaning of the cage.  Indeed they fight over who is going to clean what and how much.  They enjoy the engagement with the guinea pigs’ home and they know that when we clean the guinea pigs out then before we put them back into their newly cleaned home we get to handle them.  Hopefully this level of engagement will carry on.

I will leave you now with the first set of photos from 2016, mainly from our various walks in Virginia Water, perhaps we need to go elsewhere before the next write up.

Peace and Love