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



Joint birthday party

Very rarely is there a need for an update between Amélie’s and Éowyn’s birthday, it does happen but there does have to be a good reason.  I think this qualifies.

Éowyn’s and Amélie’s birthday occur at a busy time for birthdays of children we know.  This is in no small part to the fact that we were on an N.C.T. course and as a consequence friends that we met there had children around the same time.  I suppose it is the nature of the beast and as regular readers of this website will recall we often arrange a joint birthday party for the N.C.T. kids.  This update is not about that party, that happened two weekends ago and you can read about it here.  No this update is very Bagnall-orientated.

When we asked Éowyn and Amélie what they would like for their birthdays, apart from the list that Nanny Fran was presented to purchase in America, the thing that they both wanted was a party.  Since we had never really hosted a party for them, we decided that we would grant their wish.

We asked Éowyn and Amélie for a list of friends and we added a few of our own and the list came to more than 40!  To arrange the food and drink for 40 three to six year olds and entertain them was something we did not relish.  Therefore the decision was made to opt for a professional.  A phonecall or two later and Jelly Kelly was booked for 12th October 2014.

We chose the 12th October because it is what is known at IMG as a ‘Dark Weekend’, a weekend without Premier League.  Until this season that meant that I got the weekend off, however with the advent of a new contract, in the shape of the UEFA European Qualifiers even that glimmer of normality in the Bagnall household has gone.  However, with the first kick offs not until 1700 it meant that Sunday morning was the window of opportunity.

Therefore the date was set, the time was set, the entertainer was booked all we needed now was the venue.  This proved more difficult than even securing time off work!  The majority of halls in the vicinity are fully booked on Sunday mornings, usually for after mass coffee mornings.  How very heathen of us to want a children’s party on a Sunday morning rather than going to church.  Nevertheless, after eliminating the closest halls we ended up 3.5 miles down the road at Charlton Village Hall which is managed by the Burge School of Dancing.  It seemed that fate had smiled on us.  The hall was perfect as a venue, a large space for the kids to run around in and a separate kitchen area for preparing all the food.

We had invited over forty kids but as with all these things not everybody replied and not all that replied in the affirmative turn up.  Nevertheless there were 25-30 kids and around a dozen adults.  Maddie, Megan and Finley also turned up to help, which was very good of them.  Lauren would have come too, but she was on a Duke of Edinburgh course – she was actually very upset that she couldn’t come, there is no doubt she made the right decision.

Jelly Kelly was an enormous hit with the kids (and with some of the adults too).  She was worth every penny and kept the kids entertained for the entire party, including during food.  For those of you that are unaware of Jelly Kelly, she is dressed somewhat like a clown but performs magic for the kids.  She starts the party with a few games that get the kids geed up and loosens any barriers that they may have either not knowing each other or general coyness.  You may be forgiven for thinking that this boisterousness would make them all unruly.  No fear.  It was unbelievable how attentive the kids were, you can see from the photos below that they all sat on the floor listening intently and respectively putting their hands up to ask or answer questions.

I will not ruin Jelly Kelly’s act for those of you reading this, it is safe to say, however that it is a classic mix of pantomime and magic.  There are lots of jokes for the kids and more for the the adults that sail way above the kids heads.  There is fun and a little danger (so much so that for public liability insurance purposes there has to be a fire extinguisher to hand and the kids have to sit behind a line a set distance from the finale – that has intrigued you now, has it?).  Regardless of all that the most important aspect of Jelly Kelly’s show was that above all frivolity the birthday girls were the star(s) of the show.

Éowyn revelled in the attention and soaked up the attention, Amélie not as much but perhaps she was a little overwhelmed by it all.  To top it all, the girls had asked for a ‘Frozen’ (the film, not the type) cake.  We had looked on line for a ‘Frozen’ cake big enough to satisfy that amount of children and the prices were more than the rest of the party, so Lucinda went ‘old-school’ and bought a plain cake (not enough time to bake one) and decorated it herself.  As you can see it did not look too shabby and the way that it was demolished by the kids (and adults) it could not have been that bad!

A number of the kids thanked us for inviting us to the party (very polite – well brought up) and said it was the best day ever.  Very nice but I think that they may have been exaggerating a little, but nice to know that they enjoyed themselves.

After cleaning up I had to head into work so I took the remaining party food (mainly sandwiches) for the gannets of MCR.  We had made ham, cheese and jam sandwiches and then there were the eponymous sausage rolls, party sausages and crisps.  Within an hour of getting into work most of the food had gone and the biggest draw was the jam sandwiches, something most of them had not had since they, themselves, were children.

We would like to say a few thank-yous.  Firstly we have to say thank you to everyone for coming and making our girls very happy;  we also have to thank you all for your incredible generosity we were overwhelmed with presents that you bought, we were very touched.  We have to thank Jelly Kelly for entertaining everyone and last but not least to Nanny Fran, Auntie Liz (who drove down from West Bromwich for the party) and Maddie for helping prepare the party and tidying up afterwards.

I leave you with two questions from Amélie:  What is the plural of daddy long legs? And where are the mummy long legs?

Love and Peace



Amélie’s Fourth Birthday

I think it catches me by surprise every year how rapidly September comes around and thus how quickly the year turns and also how quickly my children are growing up.  As you can probably guess from the title of this update, my little girl Amélie turned 4 last Sunday.  Due to the fact that the start of the academic year, in the UK, is the 1st September this makes her one of the oldest still at nursery.  This is despite the fact that she, like Éowyn before her, is probably more than ready for reception and full time education.  Nevertheless another year at Mini Tots looms for her.

Amélie’s birthday sits in the middle of a busy birthday period.  Not only is it just under three weeks before Éowyn’s birthday and the day before Auntie Liz’s birthday it also sits in the middle of our N.C.T. group’s crop of birthdays.  As many people in the same situation do, when we were expecting our first child Éowyn we joined an N.C.T. group and although that was six years ago we are still in touch with 5 of the other couples.  We may not meet up as often as we used to as a group (individually we often see each other) but in an attempt to keep the group spirit alive we arrange a joint birthday party for the kids, somewhere in the middle of their birthdays.  As a coincidence this year’s N.C.T. birthday party fell on Amélie’s birthday.

A stroke of luck in part due to a busy European week for our Premier League big boys and in part due to the Ryder Cup (go Europe!), the bulk of the Premier League games were on the Saturday and the Super Sunday game was my beloved West Bromwich Albion v Burnley.  Not a game with a large interest from foreign broadcasters even I will admit, therefore I decided that my (work) team could safely handle this one by themselves and I could start to claw back the days work owes me, by being off with Amélie on her birthday and attending the N.C.T. birthday party for the first time in years!

Not only was I off work but Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz decided to come down for a few days.  Again, a little bit of a coincidence with Auntie Mary buying Auntie Liz tickets to see Kylie Minogue at the 02 for (and on) her birthday.  Therefore Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz had double the excuse (not that they need one) to come for a visit.

The venue for last year’s celebration was deemed a success and so Alice Holt was once again chosen as the venue for the party.  Alice Holt, a few miles outside of Farnham, is a woodland managed by the Forestry Commission.  In addition to the woodland, it has a Go-Ape adventure playground and this year has been home to the Gruffalo Trail.  Indeed, Lucinda took the kids on the Gruffalo trail during the summer holiday, so it is somewhere we know quite well.

We parked close to the wooden chalet that would be the venue for the party and were surprised that we were the second family to arrive, especially since we had to wait for Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz to drive down from West Bromwich (an early start for them).  Thankfully with the trusted S-Max we could squeeze Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz in the car save them driving any further.  We unloaded the car (kids and party food) and had a look around the chalet.  It appears that we had been upgraded from the chalet we had hired last year (not that I know!) and this one was much bigger, with its own toilet facility and resident fox and badger (stuffed you’ll be glad to know, taxidermied, if that is indeed, the proper term).  Not the best taxidermy for the fox looked like it was quite surprised when it died, or at least when it was stuffed!  The badger on the other hand seemed to be smiling, perhaps he saw what happened to the fox!

It seemed to be a shame not to take advantage of the Indian summer we were experiencing (indeed the temperature peaked at 25C, not bad for the end of September) so we decided to tackle the Gruffalo trail en masse. It was a good walk to build up an appetite for the party food.  The kids were all well behaved but perhaps a little bored with looking for the Gruffalo characters in such a large group.  The most fun they had was when they found a branch across a dried up creek.  They it was a bridge over boiling lava and they all took it in turns to walk across it.  Who says that kids today have no imagination.  It is amazing the fun you can have with a fallen tree branch.

So after party food, some party game and even a birthday cake (baked by Claire) we headed back home to celebrate Amelie’s birthday.  Regular readers may recall that at the beginning of September Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz flew to New York for a mid-week trip.  Éowyn and Amélie were so excited about Nanny going to America because there are some toys that are available in America that are not available in the UK (a demonstration of the power of the internet that they even know that) and Éowyn had handily written a list so that Nanny Fran wouldn’t forget.

As usual Amélie was truly spoiled with the presents that she received (including the ones from America!) and as usual Daddy spent more time extracting them from the packaging than Amélie did unwrapping them.  Thank you all for your presents.  I think that Éowyn was as excited as Amélie about the presents that she received and we had to stop her hogging them before Amélie had got a chance to play with them.  Amélie (and Éowyn when her birthday comes around) is going to have her first proper bike for her birthday from Mum and Dad.  We know it is the wrong time of year but there should be some fine days over the winter, and so hopefully by Spring they will both be confident on two wheels.  You will have to keep popping by to see how that goes.

I will leave you there, as if I manage to find the time there should be a veritable plethora of updates over the next month or so.  Again you will have to keep popping by to see how that goes!

But before I leave you there is one thing left to say: ‘Happy Birthday Amélie, love from Mum and Dad’

Peace and Love


PS West Bromwich Albion made it three wins in 8 days with a 4-0 defeat of Burnley.  Maybe it will be a good season after all.