Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017 and the first post of the new year.  This is my traditional Janus-like post where I look back upon the year just gone and the one that lies before us.

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The pox, the summer and a trip to Nanny Fran’s

Our trip to the Lake District may have heralded the start of the summer vacation for the Baguettes but August is a long month and all three were not due to return to school until September.  So, with Ezra peaking in terms of his chicken pox going to places with lots of other children would have just been bad manners therefore he was quarantined at Bagnall Manor.  Nevertheless, just because Ezra had the pox it shouldn’t mean that Éowyn and Amélie should miss out.  Lucinda saw that the local leisure centre had a week’s worth of trampolining lessons.  That would be ideal for the girls.  They both enjoy trampolining and Amélie used to attend trampolining lessons weekly before she started school, so to break the monotony for the girls they were signed up for the classes.

The trampolining lesson lasted an hour and Lucinda thought that would be good exercise for them and hopefully would wear them out as well as a way of breaking up the day.  An hour’s worth of trampoline with children taking turns would have certainly been good exercise however an hour’s trampolining lesson when the only children to turn up were Éowyn and Amélie was fantastic exercise.  It was the equivalent of a private lesson for a fraction of the price.  The girls thoroughly enjoyed themselves and thus were happy to go back every day that week.

Another week down and all of Ezra’s chicken pox spots had scabbed over and therefore was no longer infectious, that should have been a time for celebration that at long last the Baguettes can hit the town.  Unfortunately, despite having chicken pox previously, albeit an extremely mild case, Amélie succumbed to the disease, and arguably more seriously than Ezra.  Poor Amélie, she did look forlorn as she settled into the sofa, with a towel wrapped around her naked frame because her clothes were rubbing the spots.  Another week or so of quarantine for the Baguettes.  Poor Baguettes, but poor Lucinda too!  I could escape as work was extremely busy gearing up for the Olympics; the start of the Premier League season and the countless other things that are happening, Lucinda had to stay indoors, (or in the garden) on what was turning out to be an OK summer.  Where Lucinda was hoping to take the Baguettes on day trips it was replacing with refereeing arguments and telling Amélie not to scratch.

It was during this period that we decided (well Lucinda decided) that we would decorate the girls bedroom.  We invited the girls to tell us what they would like and they both decided on an underwater theme with mermaids.  Lucinda wanted to separate the girls clothes (they had been up to this point sharing a wardrobe) to prevent arguments over which dress belonged to whom and who was wearing which top.  An order was put in for wardrobes and chest of drawers from our favourite Swedish furniture store and Lucinda bought paint for the walls, ceiling and woodwork.

While Amélie was still infectious (and Ezra came down with slapped cheek – yes it is a disease) the girls’ room was emptied and they camped out with Ezra.  I was preparing for the impending season and Lucinda was refereeing, being nursemaid and painting their bedroom.

It was in this mælstrom of emotions and infections (and an absent father) that Éowyn became upset. Lucinda asked her what the problem was and she said that she was missing her friends and wanted to go back to school.  Six weeks of holiday is a long time when you are only 7 and especially when you can’t see your friends because your siblings are unclean!

Ezra, too, was no immune to this emotion and for a boy who is usually adverse to kisses and cuddles became, for a week or two at least, more affectionate.  He is usually very good at going to bed, indeed he often asks to go to bed, but during this period he would lie down and you would tuck him in as usual.  Then five minutes later he would creep out of his bed and ask for another goodnight kiss or simply say that he ‘needs more cuddles’.  How can you possibly refuse?

The second weekend of the season saw an opportunity for me to have a couple of days off work.  This coincided with Nanny Fran offering to look after the Baguettes in West Bromwich.  This gave us the perfect opportunity to finish the girl’s bedroom. So while the Baguettes were being spoilt (in a nice way) by Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz with trips to Funky Monkey’s, the cinema, Birmingham town centre and Sandwell Valley farm, Lucinda and I were putting up curtain rails and mirrors, building wardrobes and chest of drawers in addition to putting the finishing touches to the decoration including the mermaid stickers.  Have a look at the photos below to see the final masterpiece, before the toys moved back in and the girls had even stepped foot inside.

It was hard work and not exactly the relaxing weekend we were hoping for (I am working the next five!) but we could not have done it without Nanny Fran collecting the Baguettes and bringing them back allowing us to concentrate on the task in hand.  The hard work was worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears (I lied about the tears) when the girls came home.  We made them close their eyes before they entered the room but when they opened them (it was like a poor man’s episode of D.I.Y. S.O.S.) and their little eyes lit up and they gave us big cuddles I’m not sure who was happier, them or us.

Once the excitement of a newly decorated room had worn off the girls and Ezra were fit to busting to tell us all about the stories of their adventures with Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz.  Éowyn and Amélie thoroughly enjoyed the shopping trip to Birmingham (getting used to shopping trips a little too young!) while Ezra was most happy about the trip to Funky Monkey’s and meeting a Stormtrooper at the Disney store.  Unfortunately, Éowyn is now too big to go to Funky Monkey’s (too tall, even though she is still in the age bracket) so Auntie Liz took her to the cinema to watch Swallows and Amazons (set in the Lake District and we had seen some of the locations on our holiday, including the secret harbour on Coniston water).  It didn’t quite go to plan as Éowyn got freaked out by some of the trailers before the film had even begun and although Auntie Liz managed to persuade her to wait until the film began by five minutes in she was so freaked out they had to leave.  This is from someone who was happy to sit through Star Wars: The Force Awakens, surely far more scary than Swallows and Amazons.  My only thought is the fact that Star Wars is obviously fantasy while Swallows and Amazons is set in a familiar world and so she was unable to separate the fact from fiction.

A couple of days after her return from West Bromwich Éowyn was crying about something completely different.  As mentioned earlier at the beginning of the holiday she was upset because she was missing her school friends and wanted to go back to school.  This time she got herself upset because she didn’t want to go back to school because she was enjoying being off too much.  You can’t please some people!

Enjoy the photos and stand by for more updates in the next few days as I try to make amends for a dearth of updates over the last few months.

Peace and Love


Return to the Lake District

Avid, regular readers may recall that the Bagnalls headed north to Flookburgh at the start of the school holidays last year for a week in Lake District.  We thoroughly enjoyed that week in the North and decided that there was so much of the area that we didn’t have a chance to explore that we thought that we would head back this year.  Although the leisure park in Flookburgh was a great site and had plenty for the kids to do, it was a little too out of the way (indeed, it was not actually in the Lake District National Park) and any trip involved getting the car.  So, for our return, we headed further in to the Lake District National Park and one of the venues of our last trip: Bowness on Windermere.  Bowness on Windermere is quite a large town (for the Lake District at least) on the East coast of Windermere (the largest natural lake in England) and home to the Beatrix Potter attraction, which is one of the reasons that we visited the town last year.  While we were there we saw a holiday park a couple of minutes walk north of the town and decided that would be a great place to base ourselves for this year’s holiday.

Fallbarrow Holiday Park (and Marina) hugs the shore of Windermere and its proximity to Bowness on Windermere made up for the lack of entertainment facilities that one usually expects with such parks.  While we were browsing the site (website that is) looking to book a caravan or lodge we noticed that they also had two cottages for holiday let.  Much more substantial than a caravan and not that much more expensive, they also slept nine.  It seemed a shame not to let the cottage and it also seemed a shame to let the extra beds go to waste so we asked Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz and Auntie Mary if they would like to join us.  Amazingly they said yes.

We hired the cottage Monday to Monday so on the Sunday we drove to Nanny Fran’s to break the journey up a little and be 120 miles closer to the goal.  We left after the morning rush hour and headed north on the M6, with Nanny Fran a few minutes behind us.  Any of you that are familiar with the M6 will know how often there is heavy traffic and although that was true for us the traffic kept moving and we arrived at Fallbarrow Holiday Park at 13:31 (one whole minute after we were allowed to check in).  Nanny Fran wasn’t so lucky.  A caravan had overturned blocking all three lanes, while we were the right side of the accident, Nanny Fran was not.  Stuck in traffic she crawled half a mile in two hours and so did not arrive at the Cottage until late afternoon, thoroughly exhausted.  So while Nanny Fran sat down, had a cup of tea and then unpacked Lucinda, the Baguettes and I explored the Holiday Park taking in the beautiful views of Windermere that the park had to offer.

We had all had enough of driving (especially Nanny Fran) and so, to keep ourselves fresh for the next day, we decided to take it easy and just have a nose around Bowness on Windermere, have a pub meal then try one of the many flavours of ice-cream in the local ice-cream parlour and sit on the lakeside watching the sun go down.  Not a bad start to the holiday.

We woke to a gloriously sunny day the next morning, indeed it was a hotter day in the Lake District than any of our days during our May holiday to Italy – most unusual.  Being National Trust members certainly reaps benefit on a holiday to the Lake District, as there are so many place to visit.  Tuesday we decided to visit one of the newer attractions.  Not newer in the age of the building, nor in how long the National Trust have owned the building, but newer in the sense that it has only been open to the public since 2011 and it has only been since 2014 the use of the building has been ‘visitor attraction’.  Wray Castle is a Victorian neo-gothic building built in the 1840’s for a retired surgeon James Dawson who used his wife’s fortune, that she inherited from a Gin making empire, to build his dream home.  Acquired by the National Trust in 1929 it had been stripped of his internal beauty and so it’s value was seen more as a rental property and so it was rented from then until the early 21st century.  Because it has been stripped of all internal decor it is very child friendly and you are allowed to touch everything.  There is a dressing up room; a room with large soft building block and, tying in with the fact that Beatrix Potter stayed at Wray Castle when she was 16, a Peter Rabbit themed area.  Outside there is a large adventure playground and a path that leads down to Windermere.  As you can see from the photos here, it is a very beautiful building and well worth the visit if you are in the area.

If Tuesday saw a beautifully glorious morning, Wednesday could not have been much different.  Heavy rain and thunder and lightning greeting us on our 9th Wedding anniversary.  Somehow it seemed fitting as our Wedding Day saw one of the heaviest downfalls of rain on record, something one would not expect for mid-July.  Not that you can tell from our Wedding pictures and so it was this 20th July.  So we stayed inside while the thunder echoed around the mountains but the rain was the least of our worries.  Ezra woke covered with spots:  Chicken Pox to be exact.  The girls had both been fortunate with very mild cases, Ezra was not that fortunate.  He was plastered.  A trip to the pharmacy was called for, but it would have to wait for the rain to stop.

The thunderstorm was just what was needed to clear the air after the extremely hot day the day before and by 1100 the sun was out and so we headed out for another adventure.  Coniston Water is the third largest lake in England and the scene of many attempts to break the Water Speed record, including Donald Campbell’s ill-fated attempt in Bluebird K7, which saw him average 320 miles per hour before he lost control and Bluebird somersaulted killing him instantly.

Our trip on Coniston Water was a little more sedate as we took a leisurely cruise down the lake as far as Peel Island and its secret harbour that was used by Arthur Ransome to set his children’s novel, Swallows and Amazons.  It was very relaxing just watching the beauty of the Lake District roll past from stillness of the water and as we passed the secret harbour there was a modern-day Walkers family de-embarking from their Swallow.

Returning to the cottage on Wednesday evening Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz offered to babysit so that we could celebrate our Wedding Anniversary with a romantic meal.  We took them up on this offer and heading to the Angel Inn that from its vantage point looked down over Bowness on Windermere and the lake itself.  It was nice to sit and enjoy a meal for ourselves rather than encouraging the children to eat theirs while ours goes cold.

Auntie Mary was unable to join us until Thursday so Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz met her at Windermere train stations while we headed to another National Trust venue: Fell Foot at the southern tip of Windermere.  Fell Foot is a lakeshore park with an adventure park, meadows and boats to hire.  Unfortunately the Baguettes are a little too young at the moment to fully appreciate hiring a rowing boat or kayak, so after exploring the park and having a spot of lunch we headed back to Bowness on Windermere and sought out a cream tea – we were on holiday after all.

We travelled a little further on Friday, back to somewhere we had visited last year: South Lakes Safari Zoo.  I do have a dichotomic relationship with zoos.  Animals should be in the wild and locking them in cages and enclosures is wrong.  However humans are slaughtering animals and destroying their habitats and if a zoo can a) save animals from extinction and b) educate then they can’t be wrong.  It is with the goal to educate that I like to take the Baguettes and the South Lakes Safari Zoo allows you to get up close and personal with many of the animals, including feeding giraffes, lemurs and well as a host of waterfowl.

Nanny Fran was heading back to West Bromwich on Sunday and so we didn’t want to travel too far on Saturday and so decided to head to another National Trust venue.  Hill Top was the home of Beatrix Potter.  It also lies on the opposite shore of Windermere to Bowness on Windermere so we walked down to the car ferry and paid our 50p to cross the lake.

Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey is a 17th century farmhouse that was bought by Beatrix Potter in 1906.  She left it to the National Trust when she died and it is open to the public as Beatrix Potter herself would have known it.  Indeed many of her illustrations that can be found in her books depict the house and the National Trust hand out copies of the books as you walk around the house so that you can see where the action was set.  The gardens were smaller than we thought they would be so it didn’t take look to walk around the house and gardens before the Baguettes got a little bored.  2016 sees the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth so it was fitting that we visited Hill Top this year.

We said good-bye to Nanny Fran on Sunday morning and hello to the first rain since Wednesday.  We decided to head to the South West corner of the Lake District and Ravenglass to catch the Ravenglass & Eskdale steam railway.  Ravenglass is the only coastal town in the Lake District and the reputed birthplace of St Patrick.  It is also the terminus of the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway a 15 inch minimum gauge heritage railway that runs 7 miles to Dalegarth near Boot in the Eskdale valley.  Ezra enjoys his choo-choos and so do Mommy and Daddy, even the rain didn’t dampen the day for the Baguettes.  The only concession that we made was to ride in a covered carriage to Dalegarth.

We disembarked at the terminus at Dalegarth, watched the engineers turn the engine around via the turntable before walking the short distance into Boot.  After a fantastic Sunday lunch at the Boot Inn we headed back to Dalegarth and with a break in the clouds braved an open carriage for the return journey to Ravenglass.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week in the Lake District and despite Wednesday’s thunderstorm and Sunday’s dismal rain were very lucky with the weather.  We all like the Lake District and there is plenty more to explore for the Bagnalls however we think we need to visit a few more areas of our land before returning.  So we have decided that it will be a few years before we head back to Cumbria.  The Baguettes will be a little bigger and be able to enjoy some of the more adventurous sports that the Lake District has to offer.

I intended to bring this update to you as we left the Lake District but as with all the great plans at the moment work is extremely busy and thus family time is valuable so this website, among other things, has to be put on the back burner, hence why it comes to you over a fortnight after the holiday ended.  So please enjoy the photos and I hope to get another update to you before the end of August.  There is a slight change to the website but it might not be immediately noticeable.  If you click on one of the photos below it will now open all the photos below into a full frame gallery, hope that you enjoy it.

Peace and Love