Center Parcs: A Winter Wonderland

Well I haven’t started 2013 very well have I?  It is nearly the end of January and there has not been an update since just after Christmas.  I must pull my finger out if I am going to top the 30 update mark for this year, especially since it is going to be a very busy year.  So what have we been doing this year?

January is usually about getting back into routine after the build up to and holidays around Christmas and this January has been no different.  The new Christmas toys have found their places among the other toys that the girls own.  Éowyn has returned to pre-school after the Christmas break and my work has returned to ‘normal’ after the foreign leagues’ winter breaks and the busy Premier League period.

The countdowns to the arrival of baguette number 3 and the move of my work’s premises are rapidly drawing to their conclusions and there is still a huge amount of work to do for both.  With the former in mind and the fact that I still have some days left from last year’s annual leave to use up we decided to take our last break as a family of four.  But where to go?

January in the UK isn’t usually the most inspiring of times and so we decided to head to Center Parcs at Longleat Forest,  The reasoning being that if the weather was particularly poor that there would be plenty of indoor fun with the sub-tropical pools being the biggest draw.  And so Monday we headed West to the Wiltshire/ Somerset border and the delights of Center Parcs.

We need not have worried too much about the weather because for a change the weather was typically wintry with snow lying on the ground.  That may sound like an oxymoron and I am not sure if I am the only one but whenever the weathermen forecast snow I get as excited as I did when I was a child.  I know that it is only crystallised rain but snow has the ability to make everywhere look pretty, especially when it decorates the denuded deciduous trees and covers the unkempt lawns of suburbia.  However it is amazing how poor the UK reacts to any lying snow.  The papers are full of the big freeze, blankets of snow and how public transport has ground to a halt.  Other countries must look incredulously at our ineptness.  Temperatures of 0ºC isn’t really a big freeze (OK, technically it is freezing – but only just), an inch of snow isn’t really a blanket (more a sheet) and because we don’t really experience these conditions very often (although they do seem to be getting more regular) it really isn’t worth the large scale investment in equipment to ensure we can completely cope (although I thought we coped a lot better this year than we have in recent years).

Fortunately there were a couple of days of little or no snow and although the temperatures had not crept high enough to melt the lying snow the roads were clear and so our journey across country was not overly affected by the snow.  When we arrived at Longleat we were greeted with a winter wonderland.  Center Parcs is set in a pine forest and the snow on the branches and on the forest floor made us feel like we were on a skiing holiday in Canada or Scandanavia, the wooden chalets adding to the effect.  We could not have picked a more perfect week to spend at Center Parcs.

For those of you that have never stayed (or even heard of Centre Parcs), it is a holiday park set among woodland with various sporting activities that you can get involved in.  There are swimming pools, boating lakes, horse riding, fencing, archery, tennis courts, badminton courts, squash courts, snooker tables, zip-wires, adventure playgrounds, bowling lanes, in fact nearly any sport that you care to turn your hand to.  The accommodation are multi-bedroom self-catering chalets (or villas as they call them) set so that you are not overlooked by your neighbours and, apart from unloading and loading, no cars are allowing in the complex, they must all be left in the car-park.  The breaks are Monday to Friday or Friday to Monday and so cars are only allowed on Mondays and Fridays.  It works well.  Each of the houses come complete with a log burner which really adds to the atmosphere when there a snowstorm blowing outside.  We hired a two bedroom villa (the girls shared a bedroom for the first time) for a Monday to Friday break.

You are not allowed into the villas until 1500 and the cars have to be back in the car-park by 2300 but you are allowed to park up and head into the complex on foot and take advantage of the amenities prior to check-in and so we did.  There seemed to be a complete rush to attempt to get the cars in at 1500 and we were not prepared to fight the wave and so wandered around until a little later before heading to the car park and moving in.

There was more snow Monday night and so the forest looked even more magical when we woke Tuesday morning.  Lucinda had a mum-to-be massage booked for Tuesday morning so she tottered off to the other side of the complex while I looked after the girls.  Half way between our chalet and the Aqua Sana Spa was The Pancake House and so we decided that it would be a good place to meet up after Lucinda’s treatment.  So after getting the girls wrapped up against the cold we headed out to explore.  However the exploration was not to last too long and we never got the pancakes.  Partway to The Pancake House we passed though the Village and in the Village there was a wishing well and pond.  Éowyn asked for some coins to throw into the wishing well and so both girls fleeced Daddy for some money (I had better get used to that!).  They threw the money in, made a wish and then asked for more to make another wish.  That did not work with Daddy and so the girls begun to play in the snow and headed off in two different directions.

Wary of the pond I told Éowyn to keep away and not to venture too close and she appeared to be heeding me.  Suddenly Amélie began to scream.  She was standing in an inch of snow shouting ‘Daddy, I’m stuck!‘  I turned to comfort her and try and explain that she was not stuck when I heard a splash and a scream.  Éowyn had obviously not been listening and had fallen into the frozen pond.   With my heart in my mouth I ran over a dragged her out.  She was soaked and shivering so I loaded them both into the pushchair and rushed back to the villa.  Fortunately the villa was very warm and the inferno-like towel rail had warmed our towels to body temperature (and probably beyond) so I stripped her and wrapped her in a bath towel to warm her back up.  As you can imagine I was a maelstrom of emotions but what it did highlight was the fact that neither of our girls can swim and so with the opportunity that we had at Center Parcs it was something that I wanted to remedy.

Center Parcs, Longleat Forest has a sub-tropical swimming complex with a number of different pools, with various slides and a wild water rapids.  One of the pools is a heated outdoor pool which with subzero temperatures and falling snow was quite magical. Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed it and it was the pool that she made a bee-line for each day.  The water was about 1.4 metres (4 feet or so) deep and so was considerably out of her depth and bedecked with arm-bands she made significant progress over the week going from clinging on to me with all four limbs to confidently treading water and doggy-paddling refusing to allow me to touch her while she was  swimming!  It made the holiday for Lucinda and me and was worth the money that we spent on the holiday alone.  We now just have to keep going and ensure that the confidence does not wane, because she thoroughly enjoyed the freedom it gave her and even in the big pool with the wave machine on full power she bobbed confidently telling me how much fun it was.

Amélie, did not enjoy the pools as much, she was like some kind of monkey-limpet (what do you mean there is no such animal?) clinging on to you with all four limbs.  We could occasionally prise her off us and get her to float, which she would happily do until she realised what she was doing then would return to the vice-like tetrapodal embrace.  We will have to work on that one!

With more snow falling throughout the week many of the outdoor activities were cancelled (the boating lake for instance was frozen) so were concentrated on swimming, soft play, air-hockey (Éowyn was particularly good at this) and eating!  Longleat Forest has a land train to save you some of the longer journeys and so we took full advantage and completed a circuit of the complex onboard the miniature locomotive (as Grandpa Pig would say).

So all in all it was successful mini-break with Éowyn gaining confidence in water and both girls sleeping from 1930 to 0730 each night.  Now whether that was because they were completely worn out with the day’s activities, the country air or because they enjoyed the comfort sharing a room (a precursor to something that they will have to get used to very soon) or some combination of all three we can not tell but we are not complaining.  As you can guess we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Center Parcs and I am sure that the fact that there was very little mobile phone coverage and that we got undisturbed sleep were factors it was probably more because there was a thick sheet (not quite a blanket) of snow on the ground throughout our stay which made it feel that we had gone on holiday somewhere magical.

Obviously there have been a number of other minor incidents over the last few weeks but I don’t wish to detain you any longer than necessary and you are only here for the photos but our thoughts are with Lucinda’s dad who had knee-replacement surgery on Thursday.  He was discharged on Saturday and all has seemingly gone well but he now has the healing process to go through but hopefully he will be back on his feet (literally) soon.

So you may have had to wait a while for it, but I have kicked off 2013 with an essay and a half and a promise not to leave it as long next time, now here are the photos and there are plenty on our Flickr page, feel free to peruse.

Peace and Love



The first cut is the deepest

I have been regaling the world with tales of my enclave of the Bagnall family for nigh on four years.  Many of these updates are planned; some are written out of necessity and are difficult because there were no major stories to base them around but there have also been a number of them that have been thrust upon me.  This is one of those.

Most of these updates have photos to illustrate the stories behind them.  A few have no photos.  This is one of those.

So what has happened to necessitate an emergency update prior to Éowyn’s birthday?

Our story begins in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  Lucinda had gone to bed feeling a little discomfort in her abdomen which we had put down to pregnancy grumbles, but at 0100 she woke me up saying that the pain was a little stronger and it felt like she needed to go to the loo.  We put it down to a virus that is going round and although she had a disturbed night thought it was nothing more.  I went to work the next day but kept in touch with her through the day to find out how she was feeling.  She didn’t seem to be getting better and she couldn’t get an appointment at our local doctor’s surgery so I left work early so that she could go to the walk-in clinic at our local hospital (Ashford) – it no longer has an Accident and Emergency department like many hospitals around the country, it used to but now it just has this walk-in clinic.

She was at the clinic for around 90 minutes before she was seen and they worried her: her symptoms seemed to indicate appendicitis and that she needed to go to the ‘local’ Accident and Emergency department at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey (the hospital where both of our children were born).  This is where living in the same village as your parents and brother comes in handy.  With Éowyn and Amélie in safe hands we headed around the M25 (in rush hour) to St Peter’s.

We reported in to reception and were quickly seen by the triage nurse.  Bloods were then taken and a cannula inserted in her hand and we were led to a bay to await a visit from the on duty doctor.  Appendicitis in pregnancy is not uncommon, and in fact appendectomies are the most common need for surgery in pregnant women, however appendicitis in pregnancy can be notoriously difficult to diagnose as, due the growing foetus, the appendix will have been pushed up and back from its usual position.  In addition not all of the usual symptoms (especially a fever) will be present.

The doctor we saw was excellent, she had a great bedside manner and quickly concluded that Lucinda did indeed have appendicitis and that she needed to be seen by the surgical team as soon as possible.  As you are probably aware appendicitis is the clinical term for inflammation of the appendix which, if left untreated, leads to appendiceal rupture (a burst or perforated appendix) which can lead to peritonitis, septicaemia and even death.  Obviously being pregnant complicates this somewhat.  A conservative estimate for the mortality rate of a healthy adult with a perforated appendix receiving treatment is about 0.5%, for a pregnant woman it is 8 times higher with 1 in 25 of patients dying and the prognosis for the unborn baby is worse with 1.5% dying in women with appendicitis and over 1 in 3 dying should the appendix burst.  Thankfully we were unaware of those odds at the time.

It is with those odds in mind that medical teams will err on the side of caution and always opt for the appendectomy.  It is far better to remove a healthy appendix than run the risks of the above, especially since the risks of the procedure are far lower than hoping that it can be tamed with antibiotics (which is only in the case of a ‘grumbling’ appendix).  Hence the removal rate of healthy appendices in pregnant women is higher than that in the population at large.

We were taken from the Accident and Emergency area to the Surgical Assessment Unit to await for the surgeons.  Unfortunately we had just missed the surgeon’s rounds and they were not expecting him to come back for several hours.  After waiting for several hours Lucinda and I decided that it was probably best for me to head home at relieve Lucinda’s dad of childcare duties and allow him to get some sleep.  Lucinda had her phone and strict instructions to call me when the surgeon came.  At 0200 the surgeon assessed Lucinda and basically told her to get ready for theatre.  She called me and was obviously very scared especially as there seemed to be a debate between the surgical team and the obstetrician team over who was in charge and what pain relief and medication she was allowed.  As many of you know when you are pregnant the only pain relief you can be given is paracetamol, nothing stronger and any medication given needs to be proven not to cause any issues to the unborn baby.  Not necessarily what you want to hear when you are pregnant, in pain and scared.

Needless to say I didn’t sleep very well and I am sure that the girls knew that something was up and they had a disturbed night too.  I got out of bed early and phoned the Surgical Assessment Unit.  They told me that Lucinda was now under Midwifery care and so to call the Joan Booker ward.  It took three attempts to get through to the Joan Booker ward to be told that they had no record of Lucinda and were just about to hang up on me when I became a little more assertive and before I really did get angry with their dismissive attitude they suggested that perhaps she might be on the Labour Ward.  I called the Labour Ward (thank Tim Berners-Lee for the internet!) and got through to a very helpful Midwife.  She went to check on Lucinda while I was on the phone and said that both Lucinda and our unborn son were in good health even if Lucinda was a little groggy.

Plan A then went into action.  Amélie was dropped off at Nanny and Granddad’s after which I took Éowyn to pre-school before taking supplies to the hospital.  Lucinda was a little groggy and in some discomfort but in good health and not in the pain that she was in the night before.  Obviously the Labour Ward has a high demand for immediate bed space and so we were temporarily moved into a delivery room to allow more immediate needs to take Lucinda’s space on the ward before she was to be moved to the Joan Booker ward.  In a quirk of fate the delivery room that we were moved to was the same delivery room that Amélie was born.

Before we were moved to the Joan Booker Ward the surgeon came to see Lucinda.  He seemed very pleased with her progress and was quite happy to discharge her from his care into that of the midwifery team.  He did confirm however that her appendix was extremely inflamed and close to rupture and because of its inflamed nature and the fact that in pregnant women the appendix will have moved he was unable to perform keyhole surgery and hence why she now has a 2 inch (5cm) scar.  Again in a quirk of fate she received her first operation scar thirty years to the day that I received mine (although mine is slightly more impressive: a 10 inch sternotomy scar from open heart surgery).

Before moving down to the Joan Booker ward we requested to listen to the bubba’s heart beat.  We knew that the midwife team were happy that all was OK in there, but we wanted physical reassurance of our own.  We were both relieved when a really strong heartbeat resonated through the room.

Lucinda got stronger throughout Thursday but was starting to feel the two nights of lost sleep, so I left her in the late afternoon and headed for Nanny and Granddad’s for a home-cooked meal and to see my little girls.  Again both the girls seemed to pick up on the fact that something was amiss and it took quite a while to settle Amélie before I could actually sit down and relax and eventually try and get some sleep of my own.

Friday morning started as Thursday: drop Amélie off at Nanny and Granddad’s, Éowyn at pre-school and then to St Peter’s.  Lucinda looked much better but was still feeling sore.  As anyone that has been in hospital would know it is not possible to get a good night’s sleep, especially when you are being woken every four hours to have your blood pressure and temperature taken and so it was for Lucinda.  It wasn’t long before we were given the news that we wanted, Lucinda had been discharged from the surgical team and the midwife team were happy to do the same and so it would not be too long before she could go home.  She also let us listen the bubba’s heartbeat once again and it was loud and proud.  By all accounts if a pregnant woman is to have appendicitis the best time to have it is in the second trimester.  In the first the foetus may not survive and in the third it can bring on contractions (indeed, one of the drugs Lucinda was given was an anti-contraction drug so that the surgery did not bring on labour).  Therefore Lucinda chose well to suffer appendicitis in her 17th week.

Just after lunch the duty midwife came with Lucinda’s notes and medication – Paracetamol for pain relief and Enoxaparin, a anticoagulant to thin the blood to prevent thrombosis.  The paracetamol was in the usual tablet form but the Enoxaparin is in a pre-filled disposable syringe and Lucinda has to give herself an subcutaneous injection once a day for the next five days, a small price to pay.

I have to praise the staff at St Peter’s and especially the midwifery team, they looked after Lucinda extremely well and the head midwife especially took an active role in Lucinda’s care.

So you will forgive the lack of photos and our elusiveness over the last couple of days but I think that the above is fair excuse and I thank my lucky stars that I still have my wife and unborn son even if Lucinda is making me honour the wedding vow ‘In sickness and in health‘.

Peace and Love


Back home!

So our six hour discharge period may have lasted a little over 26 hours but just before 16:30 (BST) on Wednesday 29th September 2010 Amélie Iris Bagnall left hospital into an inclement autumnal afternoon replete with leaden sky and nondescript rain and began her journey home.  She endured her first M25 traffic jam and arrived in Stanwell Moor at around 17:00.

The day had been one of frustration and anticipation.  Anticipation of being discharged and frustration at the time it all took.  After a very straightforward birth and Amélie being Lucinda’s second child we were told that we were on a standard six hour discharge.  We were delighted and built our hopes up that we would be home that very evening.  However, due to the busy nature of St. Peters yesterday (one baby had to be delivered in triage because there were no beds on the labour ward) we were effectively neglected for that entire six hour period and were unable to find anyone that could let us home.  Lucinda, readied herself for a night in hospital but with the glimmer of hope that they would be discharged around lunchtime.

By lunchtime Amélie had had all her neonatal checks, and had been give a clean bill of health.  She was given her BCG and all looked good.  So we phoned Lucinda’s parents and said that it would be nice that when we are discharged that they pop round to our house so that Éowyn would welcome Amélie into her house rather than come into her house and find a strange noisy thing taking up her floorspace.  Lunchtime came and went.  The list of couples waiting for discharge was getting longer and longer.  Apparently, the ward was having an inspection and so the senior nurse and midwife who would sign the release papers and ready the paperwork for social services and our G.P. were otherwise engaged.  Frustratingly, instead of just telling this from the onset we were told ‘another 15 minutes‘, ‘another 30 mins‘, ‘soon‘.  If they had have been honest with us and said that it might be mid to late afternoon, we would have asked Nanny and Granddad to have brought Éowyn to the hospital to meet her little sister, instead it is now Amélie’s second night and she still hasn’t met her big sister.   That will be in tomorrow’s update!

So as I sit here and type this post, Amélie is nursing next door.  She has hardly slept today this is partly due to her being very nosy and curious but mainly because she is suffering from wind.  Fortunately we had anticipated this and bought some Infacol.  That was a lesson learnt from Éowyn, however it is amazing how much you forget (or repress) and now we have all that learning again.  The major difference between Amélie and Éowyn was that due to Éowyn’s condition she spend the first few days in St. Peters I.C.U.  Therefore we never got her dressed for the first time, or put her first nappy on or spent this amount of time with her, alone.  It has not harmed Éowyn in any way (although it might do if ever she reads this in the future!) but had maybe not prepared us for the lack of attention we received after the birth.  Lack of attention is probably a little strong but obviously when there is no concerns everyone is a little more relaxed.  Don’t misunderstand me, I would much rather this than going home with your wife on an ante-natal ward with no baby and your little one in an incubator struggling to breathe.

Tomorrow is a big day for Amélie, she will receive a visit from the midwife, but more importantly will meet her big sister and Nanny and Granddad (we are unsure how that is going to go down with Éowyn) .  It is possible that her cousins will pop by as I know that they are excited about the new family member.

Before the obligatory photos, just a word of thanks for all the text messages and facebook messages we have received.  Also a big Happy Birthday to my sister Elizabeth, sorry that Amélie’s card is late but she didn’t get a chance to go down the shops until yesterday!

Until tomorrow

Peace and Love