That was the Christmas that was

And so Christmas is done for another year (unless you are looking forward to the Epiphany) and so indeed is another year!  Yes 2012 seems to have flown by and after surviving the Apocalypse that never was we stand at the threshold of 2013.  There will be another update looking back at 2012 and looking forward to the new year so tune in later in the week for that one.

So how was the Bagnall Christmas?  Well let me take you back a dozen or so days before the big day.  Peter Jackson’s eagerly awaited first film in the Hobbit trilogy was released.  For those of you not in the know the Hobbit is the prequel to the events that culminate in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  That ‘first’ trilogy was released each December of the first three years of the millennium. For each of the films myself and a group of friends went to see the first UK public performance of the film at the Odeon Leicester Square (London).  Therefore it seemed right and proper to do the same for these films and so the tradition has been re-ignited.  Therefore Thursday 13th December 2012, around noon saw 15 of us waiting in the chill air at the eastern side of Leicester Square before hurrying inside for the 12:10 showing ready to renew the tradition, this time with my wife in tow (someone I didn’t even know when the last in the films (The Return of the King) was released – hasn’t it been an exciting decade!).

The next day was Éowyn’s last day at school and the obligatory Christmas concert.  Éowyn had been practising the Christmas songs for weeks and had really been looking forward to it.  The weather had changed from cold and clear the day before to overcast and heavy rain (the weather pattern that has settled over this corner of the globe for the last two weeks) and so the parents (and grandparents for Nanny and Granddad came too) were a little on the soggy side by the time we headed indoors.  Nevertheless the concert warmed us all up.  The children were all in costume (Éowyn was dressed as the Virgin Mary with a little baby Jesus doll) and they sang their hearts out and afterwards there were mince pies.  To complete the concert morning there was the raffle draw.  Éowyn won the first of the teddy bear raffle and so was able to take her pick of the soft toys on offer.  So guess which one our first born picked?  Yes, that’s right the biggest one there, a life-size dog! (A smallish dog but a dog nonetheless).

The inclement weather stopped us doing anything of note that afternoon, it was just too wet!  The weather continued in the same vein over the weekend (which I was working so it wasn’t too intrusive!) but there was a break in the rain on the Monday and so we took full advantage.  Our Merlin Passes have been underused this year (mainly due to the fact that it has been one of the wettest years on record) but Chessington World of Adventures and Christmas opening seemed like the perfect opportunity to use them for the final time in 2012.  Yes, Chessington World of Adventures opened it’s zoo doors (and a couple of the rides) and welcomed Santa in the lead up to Christmas day.  As we had not managed to take the girls to visit Santa is seemed to be custom made for us to take the short trip around the M25.

We arrived in time for the first Santa show of the day and decided to head there straight away.  A little show was put on before the arrival of the man himself, who told the gathered children a little story about a little Christmas tree before handing out Christmas chocolates.  The girls enjoyed themselves and wanted to go and see the reindeer straight afterwards.  We then headed to the Bubble Works ride before wandering around the zoo.  For free it was a perfect day out but if I was being critical it was not as good as the Santa grotto at Peppa Pig World.  I wonder where we will see him next year?  Definitely going to see him in Lapland when the girls (and the boy) are a little older.

The Christmas schedule over the last few years has been a meal around our house for the family and then everyone around Lucinda’s parents for Christmas dinner.  However Lucinda’s mum was concerned that if her Dad had had his knee replacement that they were hoping would happen before Christmas that he would not be able to help her prepare the day (due to various norovirus outbreaks at the hospital his operation will now happen early 2013).  Thus to take that worry off her and because Lucinda’s brother Steve and his family were unable to make it on Christmas day we volunteered to host Christmas day at Chez Bagnall for Lucinda’s parents and Mike and his family.  Steve and his family were, however, able to make it on Christmas Eve and because our house is a little on the small side (and we were hosting Christmas day) Lucinda’s brother Mike volunteered to host Christmas Eve.  It was good to see the family together at Christmas and it was nice to see all the cousins together under one roof.

I was at work for the lead up to Christmas however I did manage to get Christmas Eve and Christmas day off!  Unfortunately Lucinda didn’t!    Oh, the joys of shift workers!  Indeed she was working from 0530 Christmas day and so would miss the girls opening their stocking presents.  Thanks to modern technology she didn’t have to completely miss it.  A video camera and a tripod and strategically placed children meant that she could relive joy on their faces as they opened present after present.  Lucinda’s dad popped round mid-morning to take the girls so that I could concentrate on preparing Christmas dinner and the house for our dinner guests.  I am pleased to report that the dinner went well and everyone went home sated.  I have to say that after everyone left and we had put the girls to bed myself and Lucinda turned in.  We were both knackered.

Boxing Day is traditionally a big day for football in the UK and this year was one of the biggest, indeed if it wasn’t for the tube strike putting pay to the Arsenal v West Ham United game it would have been a full house.  As the Premier League is my biggest client I was therefore back in work, no rest for the wicked!  The upside of the fact that it was a busy Boxing Day was the bonus that there were no football games on the next two days and so I took advantage of that hiatus to take a couple of days off work.  I wasn’t going to put my feet up though, there was the small matter of seeing my mom.

As I have been working every weekend and my mom only has weekends off, I haven’t seen much of my mom this year.  However 2012 is to be the last year my mom will be working as she has decided that she would hang up her work shoes and retire.  She may be retiring from work but with a third grandchild on the way we will no doubt keep her very busy.  And so we did on the Thursday.  It was  one of those flying visits driving up on the morning, spending the day with mom and my sisters and then getting the girls ready for bed and heading back down the M40 in the evening.

Éowyn and Amélie enjoyed seeing the Bagnall side of their family as they don’t see them that often.  Éowyn loves seeing her Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz but Amélie’s favourite is definitely her Auntie Mary.  Maybe it is some kind of middle child kindred spirit that they share but whenever we say do you want to go and see Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz, Amélie will say: ‘And Auntie Mary?‘ Hopefully they will see more of their Black Country family in 2013.

Football and televised football stops for no man (or woman) and thus neither does work for me and so with galleries beckoning I will bid you adieu and just take time to wish you all the best for the New Year and hope that 2013 brings you love, luck and happiness.

Love and Peace


The Badger Moot 2011

The great Badger Moot 2011 took place last week at the Puncknowle Manor Estate in the Bride Valley, West Dorset.  Even though I have termed it the Badger Moot there were no Badgers there this year, neither in name nor form, only descendants and family of Granddad Badger.  It was Amélie’s first time at the annual gathering (she had only just been born last year so we didn’t go) and only Éowyn’s second (again she was born at the same time as the 2008 gathering, went in 2009 and obviously could not go last year either).

As usual the week was relatively relaxed with trips to the coast and local attractions confirmed in the morning when we could be quietly confident of the weather and have a vague idea of who wants to go where.  This year the trips were more fragmented as the weather wasn’t as kind as in previous years and as we have young ones that are more active in the morning and need a kip in the afternoon then we were having to make a decision as to where to go before the others.  Irrespective of where you went during the day we would all head back to the manor house before dark to a relax and enjoy a big family meal (unless it is your turn to cook).  It was our turn on the Wednesday night and we opted to keep it simple with a beef and guinness stew and a chicken one-pot.

There are a number of favourite haunts that we usually pay a visit to and so it was this year with Bridport market, Lyme Regis and Hive Beach welcoming the Badger Clan as they do each year.  Bridport Saturday market was more interesting than normal for we arrived just as the whole of Bridport town centre was experiencing a power cut.  So most of the shops were refusing entry, some on the grounds of health and safety (it is dark in most shops, there are very few windows) and some because they couldn’t take your money (the tills and card readers were down).  The bonus was that the carpark ticket machines were also down and so it was free carparking in Bridport and the market was unaffected.

Saturday night was themed meal night.  The theme was all things American and food was suitably apt with hotdogs, burgers, fries etc.  The kitchen was decorated with American flags and we all dressed in suitably American attire.  It was the brainchild of Steve and Zoe and Adam and Lucy who co-hosted the evening.  It was good to see that everyone had made the effort and turned out in fancy dress.  Poor Finley was completely freaked out by Adam’s hillbilly outfit, which was extremely good it has to be said.  Lucy had even organised an American theme quiz which was to correctly identify the location of each of the US states and name the capital of that state.  Not as easy as it sounds, but I think that we all learned something (how little we collectively knew about the less well know states!).

As the weather was truly autumnal this year (usually we get unseasonably fine weather during the Badger moot) we looked for alternative destinations that didn’t rely on the weather (our trip to Lyme Regis although realtively dry was a very blustery affair and the photos of Éowyn on a windswept beach with her coat zipped up to her neck sum up the day).  This is where the Merlin Passes came good.  Weymouth is about a 30 minute drive away and has a Sea Life centre and as the Merlin Pass allows you free entry to Sea Life centres is was too good an opportunity to miss.  We were quite impressed with Weymouth’s Sea Life centre, although we did get wet running from one aquarium to the next.  Éowyn enjoyed seeing the sharks and the turtles but was far keener on staying in the adventure trail area and the rides that were there.

One of the few full family outings was due to have been on the Monday night: a ghost walk around Bridport.  Unfortunately due to the heavy rain (some parts of the neighbouring counties received over a fortnight’s worth of rain) it was cancelled however the guide suggested that he could fit us in on the following day (Tuesday) before his public tour and so we took him up on the offer.  Without wishing to be derogatory he did not have the gravitas, nor theatrics of our Dorchester guide from 2009, but he certainly spooked the children and it is always interesting to view a town with another point of view.  Finley, especially, gave his imagination too much power and sidled over to me partway through the tour and asked if he could hold my hand.  I, of course, said that he could but why and he replied because you are the biggest and the strongest.  Not sure that is true and I am not sure that it would help against any malevolent spirits but it allayed Finley’s fears a little.

The week went far too quickly and a great time was had by all.  Éowyn especially enjoyed palying with her cousins and with due respect to the cousins they really enjoy playing with her.  They give her so much time and involve her in everything including the American hat piñata that Lucy had made.  Amélie, obviously, was a bit too young to be involved with their games but nevertheless thaey would quite often sit on the floor and play with her too.  It is not just the girls either, Finley (in between fighting me) really enjoys playing with Éowyn and chasing Amélie around the ground floor it is really nice to see.  The older cousins also organised a Spa retreat for the adults, with manicures, pedicures, facials, nail varnishing and neck massages all charged at a pound a service (a bargain I am sure you would agree!).  I think most of the adults paid a visit and the youngsters split the proceeds between them.  I think that poor Seb had the most to complain about for they left his face mask on too long and almost exfoliated his beard when removing it;  Adam was probably the most sporting wearing bright nail varnish after his treatment for far too long.  It is very enterprising of the girls (and Finley) and Éowyn even helped on one day and was rewarded with a pound for her efforts.

As it quite often is, the day we were leaving Puncknowle was the finest of the week and since we have to vacate the manor house before 1000 myself and Lucinda decided that we would take advantage of the change in the weather to re-visit Lyme Regis and pop down to Hive beach for a cream tea before heading back home.  We were glad we did as it was so nice on both beaches that Éowyn even took her shoes and socks off, rolled her trousers up and went for a paddle in the sea (twice – once in Lyme and once on Hive beach!).  In fact, she didn’t want to leave and needed persuading that going home was a good idea.  Both Éowyn and Amélie (and for part of the way, Lucinda) slept on the journey home.  Back home and straight back to work for me – got to pay for it somehow!

Enjoy some of the photos below of our week away and there are plenty more on the Flickr site.

Peace and love


In the Night Garden

It is August.  Where has 2011 gone, not that 2011 is over but Selfridges and Harrods in London do have their Christmas displays on show, so whether you like it or not the countdown has begun.  The football seasons (yes, seasons, it is not just the English Premier League for us these days!) are beginning and therefore work is ramping up for me the slight breather that is the summer break is over and Lucinda returns to work in a little less than two months.  It never stops but at least life isn’t dull!

Éowyn is off school (along with millions of other children) which means that the onus is back on Lucinda to look after both of our daughters and trips to Legoland or other such Merlin Pass venues are not quite as attractive as they were.  Éowyn however is still going to Jo’s (our childminder) 3 times a month so there is a little break for her there.  I have altered my days off so that my week is effectively Wednesday to Sunday with my weekend on Mondays and Tuesdays, which if nothing else is regular!  However the days have lengthened as the workload increases towards the inevitable deadlines that usher in the advent of the seasons!  This has meant that most days I have not been able to make it back much before the kids bedtimes and on a couple of occasions after they have gone to sleep.  This is upsetting for Éowyn (and hence Lucinda and me) especially when the only way that Lucinda could stop her crying was to phone me up and ask me to speak to her.  It is extremely hard to speak to your 2 ½ year old daughter who is sobbing because you are not there to read her bed time stories.  It is rare that it happens now but this is the time of the year when it is most likely.

Éowyn however has been in the bad books of late.  I think it is a combination of Amélie receiving more attention, more pressure on Lucinda because I have been at work for longer hours and the fact that the turmoil the house was in from the kitchen refit has been replaced by more turmoil since we decided to carry the decorating on throughout the lower floor of the house.  That sounds rather grandiose, but it is merely the lounge and dining room and it is merely giving it all a lick of paint and replacing the old decrepit carpet with some hardwearing wooden flooring.  However the work invovlved to move all our furniture away from the walls to paint was severely underestimated, especially since the house isn’t big enough to simply move it all into another room.  This is going to be a problem when they come to fit the flooring, hence we are erecting a tent and a gazebo as temporary rooms in the only area that can accommodate the furniture – the garden.

So, there is some understanding, if not justification, for Éowyn’s behaviour but just because there is a reason it does not make it excusable.  So there is a lot of explaining to Éowyn how disappointed we are with her and taking toys off her rather than shouting or sitting on the thinking step.  She also appears to be better behaved when she has had an afternoon nap.  It is unfortunate though that she does not relish them and will do what she can to fight the sleep.  However she has surprised us a couple of times by saying that she is tired and can she go to bed for a nap.

Of course, all of this is Éowyn attempting to have some control over an aspect of her life and although as an adult you know this, it is still hard especially when Amélie is teething and will only stop crying when you are rocking her (her form of adult control!).  It does make the days long, especially for Lucinda who is dealing with them on her own.  Éowyn latest form of control is not to eat her meals.  Again you want your child to eat and you feel that you are a bad parent if they don’t.  So you appease them.  Obviously this is wrong because once you have appeased them once they know they have you.  So as a parent it is again time to regain power so now if Éowyn does not eat her meals then we do not make a fuss we simply offer her one more chance, then take it away.  We tell her that because she has not eaten her meal then she will not get anything to eat until the next meal and if that is the last meal of the day, then it will be breakfast before she eats again.  It is really hard to do this because it feels like you are starving your child (one missed meal, even two, isn’t going to cause that much harm) and all your parental instincts go against it but it doesn’t take long for it to bear fruit.  A couple of missed meals and she will eat anything you set in front of her.  We are still getting a couple of times a week when she refuses to eat her meals but no where as often as before and it doesn’t last very long.

Despite Éowyn’s behaviour she is still being taken nice places.  Lucinda had booked tickets for the ‘In the night garden‘ live show her in Richmond Old Deer park way back at the start of the year.  At the time, Éowyn was very much into ‘In the night garden‘ however it seems that it is a phase that she is currently growing out of and the show no longer maintains the same level of appeal as it once did.  Nevertheless the tickets were booked so Lucinda jumped on the train from Staines to Richmond with her friends Christina and her daughter Arabella and the four of them went on an adventure.  As feared she was not that interested in the show but it was good day out and as I stayed behind to look after Amélie it was some quality time for Lucinda and Éowyn alone.

As mentioned Amélie is teething again.  Currently there remains only to front two lower teeth but she seems to be in a lot of pain with them of late so hopefully the others will soon erupt.  She still is not taking her dummy, which is fantastic news, they can be consigned to the rubbish heap.  She has also started to crawl forwards a little.  Not as good as she can crawl forwards but we definitely have forward motion.  The biggest news for us, as parents, though is the fact that she has stopped walking at 0500 and the last couple of mornings not risen until 0630!  Bliss!  There is a big difference is those 90 minutes.  0530 is the middle of the night, 0630 is early morning.  Hopefully this is not a temporary thing and moreover a sign of the new status quo (the Latin phrase not the band, the new Status Quo is very much like the old Status Quo, status quo if you like. – I’ll stop there!).

Éowyn has also discovered the word ‘why’?  Trying to explain gravity to a 2 year old isn’t easy, especially since I lost Lucinda at Newton and I don’t think that Éowyn was listening much after Einstein’s general theory of relativity!

With Einstein and Status Quo both mentioned in the same write up I think I will take this opportunity to stop.  Hopefully I can squeeze another update in soon but with time very precious in August, I may not promise that the next write up will be as detailed as they have been of late.

Peace and Love