Half-term round up

The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the trees stand proud in their nudity. The Badger Moot usually fills the pages of this website with the adventures of the greater Badger clan in Dorset around this time of the year. Not this year. When Granddad’s diagnosis was deemed terminal in early September we decided that this year’s Badger Moot would be cancelled. Whatever the scenario a family gathering three hours away from home during the October half-time did not seem apt nor right.

This was the first time since the inaugural Badger Moot in 2004, which was about the same time that I met Lucinda, that there has been no Badger Moot. I, obviously, did not attend that year and Lucinda and I have not attended twice since, in 2008 and 2010 (I will leave you to guess the reason for that) but there has always been a Badger Moot.

I had already booked the time off work for the Badger Moot, so despite the lack of a trip to Dorset (or Devon – as it would have been this year) it was still half-term, there was Granddad’s funeral to arrange and it was the week after Éowyn’s birthday, I did not cancel it.

We were blessed with unseasonably warm weather (as we quite often are on the Badger Moot), so what did we do? You have already read about the beginning of the half-term break in Éowyn’s Seventh Birthday write up: a trip to Legoland and an outing to Build-A-Bear Workshop. An important detail that I omitted in that write up was Éowyn’s delight in the queue for the first ride. Namely, when she stood against the height chart for the ride it indicated that she was a shade above 130cm, the minimum height required to go on the ride solo: a great present for her seventh birthday. Rides now take on a whole new element because she is classed as an adult when it comes to rollercoasters. It will also mean that all five of us can now go on the rides at Legoland.

This spurred us to measure the kids, as we try to do at least once a year. Indeed, on the wall in the playroom are pencil marks marking the progress of their growth. This year the results were thus: Éowyn: 131.5cm (4ft 4in); Amélie: 117cm (3ft 10in); Ezra: 97.5cm (3ft 2in). For those of you that are interested this translates on the Child Development Charts as the fact that all three of our children are sitting pretty on their respective 96th centile. We are going to have tall children; hardly surprising since Lucinda is 175cm (5ft 9in) and I am 190cm (6ft 3in)!

Half-term was the last week of October so there were plenty of Halloween activities advertised. The U.K. is increasingly absorbing the North American affection for Halloween and Trick or Treating – more of that later. We were not immune to the lure of Halloween.

Lucinda and I have National Trust passes, which allow us to take the baguettes into the attractions for free, so we decided to use them and look for a local National Trust property that were doing something Halloweeny (is that a word?) aimed at children. Claremont Landscape Gardens appears to fit the bill. A short drive away (very close to the hospice where Granddad died it turned out – very emotional driving passed that place) and they had Halloween crafts for the children. Wet underfoot but dry and relatively mild we decided a walk around Claremont was just what was needed.

The National Trust passes allowed free parking and free entry but we paid an extra surcharge for the girls (Ezra is a little too young) to complete a puzzle and win a prize. A sheet of paper with eight questions was given to the girls. The answers to these questions were hidden around the gardens on laminated spiders. A letter from each of these answers was highlighted and these, rearranged formed a ninth answer which when handed in, could be exchanged for a prize.

Some of the spiders had been very well hidden and I think we walked around Claremont twice before finding them all. Daddy, had guessed the answer with a number of the questions missing so the girls were always going to get their prizes but we were determined to find these spiders! We did learn one important thing: Tarantulas taste like peanut butter. So if you are ever found hungry in the Amazon jungle, don’t turn your nose up at a tarantula, with or without toast! Chocolate covered tarantula, even better.

In addition to the spider hunt, the Thatched Cottage hosted Halloween mask making. For a small fee the kids could use a kit (and decorate with a host of stickers) a suitable Halloween mask. Éowyn made a cat and Amélie a pumpkin, you can see the fruits of their labours in the photos below.

They all enjoyed their Halloween walk around Claremont. Although, perhaps because of the discussions around Granddad they became fascinated by the story of Charlotte of Wales, wife of Prince Leopold and Granddaughter of King George III and second in line to the throne, who lived at Claremont and tragically died in childbirth at the tender age of 21. It triggered many questions about death from the girls.

A trip to Claremont Landscape Gardens wasn’t the only Halloween activity. Last year, Éowyn was given a ‘grow your own’ pumpkin kit and indeed managed to grown one pumpkin to maturity. Not only did that Pumpkin feed us, it also yielded dozens of seeds before being carved into a Jack-O-Lantern. Out of those seeds we managed to grow 10 plants. My naivety in Pumpkin growing meant that we only managed to fruit 8 pumpkins and only 4 of them to maturity. Nevertheless this meant that the children had one each to carve. I hollowed all the pumpkins, kept the flesh for later and the seeds for next season, then, I handed them over the baguettes to design their Jack-O-Lanterns.

You can see the finished designs in the photos below. Éowyn’s design had to be toned down as it was a little complicated and I am not, yet, an expert pumpkin-carver, nevertheless she was very pleased with the final product. Amélie’s was simple but effective and Ezra needed a little help but all of them looked impressive with a tealight candle inside greeting the friendly neighbourhood trick or treaters.

Saturday was Halloween itself and I was at work. Our neighbours were having a little Halloween party for the kids and then afterwards they went Trick or Treating (or tickle treating as Ezra called it). Halloween falling on a Saturday certainly made ‘Trick or Treating’ popular and there were quite a few groups of ‘Trick or Treaters’ wandering the neighbourhood. Indeed, some of the neighbours were overwhelmed when, for a short time, the groups coalesced into a supergroup of two dozen – that’s a lot of sweets to find. It was at this point that Ezra got a little spooked. There were a lot of older kids, that he didn’t know, in quite scary costumes which freaked him out. Fortunately, I had returned home and so he stayed in with Daddy and his haul of confectionary.

The next day Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz (and the guinea pigs) came down. This is becoming a regular occurrence recently. This time it was to look after the baguettes while Lucinda and I celebrated the life of Granddad, along with the rest of the family and his friends, at his funeral and wake.  We thought that the girls and Ezra, especially were a little too young to come to Granddad’s funeral, so we didn ‘t even give them the option.  It is always feels strange to say that it was a ‘good funeral’ but Granddad’s memorial was a very moving and fitting tribute to a well-loved man.

Granddad’s death is obviously still raw for the family, but how are our little ones coping? Éowyn is seemingly handling it very well. She is very matter-of-fact about it and although upset that her Granddad has died is at peace with what it means. Ezra, obviously is too young to understand and that leaves Amélie. Amélie is a sensitive soul and has taken Granddad’s passing very hard. She has been sobbing on more than one occasion. We all think about how we will miss those that have passed and for Amélie and Granddad that tends to revolve around food. She has said she will miss Granddad for his fudge, biscuits, pancakes and ice-cream. Also, she has said that she will miss him because he fixes her toys when she breaks them.

Lucinda found her sobbing the other day and let her talk while giving her a cuddle. I came in and we all hugged while Amélie reasoned her loss. It was all very upsetting not only because Amélie was crying but because we will miss him too, for our own reasons. However, our mood was slightly lightened when Amélie came out with something that can only spring from the logic of a child. Between sobs she said, ‘I wish Granddad was a tortoise.’ Slightly sideswiped by this we asked her what she meant. ‘Tortoises can live for over a hundred years, so if Granddad was a tortoise he would still be alive.’ You cannot deny the logic.

Granddad’s funeral happened to fall on the same day as another big event in Éowyn’s life: her first day at Brownies. Éowyn had been on the waiting list for Rainbows since she was five, but unfortunately our local Rainbows pack was so oversubscribed that she never managed to get a place. To join Brownies you have to have celebrated your 7th birthday. The first Brownie meeting that she could attend was a week or so later than her birthday due to the half-term break. We didn’t want her to miss this first meeting so in stepped Auntie Liz who walked her to and collected from the meeting.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the best of meetings for our eldest to attend for her first taste of Brownies. The activity for the evening was cake making. Now, if it was a real cake and involved flour, eggs, butter, etc. then I think that Éowyn would have enjoyed it. No, this cake was a fabric cake that required sewing. Éowyn isn’t a girlie girl who would enjoy sewing and so it was. She said that she didn’t enjoy it and didn’t want to go back. However, we have asked her to go a few more times before she gives it up before she has even started. Fortunately, this week, it was games night. Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed this and is now looking forward to going again. We will see how this plays out and you, my dear readers, will read it here first.

Before I leave you, I will leave you with a funny from Ezra. Ezra’s vocabulary is increasing daily but his favourite word is one we are trying to discourage him from using and you will soon see why.  Ezra’s current favourite word is ‘Boobies’. We are trying not to react when he uses it but sometimes it is quite hard. I was serving dinner the other day and trying to engage the baguettes in the choices I was asking them to put their hands up for the various choices. ‘Hands up, who likes carrots?’ They put their hands up and I would dish the carrots out. ‘Hands up, who likes peas?’ They put their hands up and I dished the peas out.

Then Ezra joined in: ‘Hands up, who likes boobies?’ Judging by the raised hands, just you and me, son. Just you and me!

Peace and Love


PS: As you can see from the geeky stats section in the sidebar, I have now clocked up over a quarter of a million words on this website.  Thank you for reading!


I don’t want to go to school

Once again I feel that I have to apologise for the paucity of updates and the hiatus between write ups.  The trio of updates at the beginning of the month were supposed to have been backed up with some quick fire write ups.  It is blatantly clear that did not happen.  Life, work and the death of my NAS conspired to prevent that from happening.  To somehow make up for this I am promising a couple of updates before the annual Bagnall Christmas message, that will appear on the Winter Solstice (already pre-written and scheduled).

So let me take you back before the last three write ups to the end of October.  The Badger Moot ended on Friday 31st October and we arrived back mid afternoon.  The more astute of you will recognise that corresponds to the beginning of the triduum of Allhallowtide, the eve of All Hallow’s day or more colloquially Halloween.  In recent years the British have followed the path of our American cousins popularising the festival.  Trick or treating and ‘guising’ (dressing up in Halloween themed costumes) has gained commonplace acceptance, indeed we were prepared with a big Halloween-themed bowl of sweets for the trick-or-treaters, of which there were at least half a dozen.  Another of the common Halloween traditions is the carving of a jack-o’-lantern.

At the beginning of the year Éowyn was given some pumpkin seeds from Auntie Sally, and as part of our vegetable growing we grew them.  Unfortunately, we suffered from a Pumpkin blight that killed off most of our crop, however one hardy individual survived and became the first jack-o’-lantern I have ever carved.  Éowyn designed the face, and indeed drew blood weeping from its ‘eyes’ but Daddy got to play with the big sharp knife.  I was quite pleased with it and as you can see from the photo below, it looked quite good lit with a tealight guarding our boundary.

The following weekend was the end of the half term holiday and thus marked the changeover between schools for our girls.  By a quirk of fate neither had to go to school on the Monday.  Amélie because it isn’t one of her days and Éowyn because her new school had an inset day.  Therefore, with Lucinda and I also not in work we decided to treat the girls to a day at Legoland.  With Ezra spending a day at Nanny and Granddad’s it gave us more freedom to enjoy the rides without having to worry about our little boy.

The weather was typical November drear, but relatively dry.  Nevertheless we didn’t fancy getting a soaking on the Log Flume or the Viking’s River Splash.  Without Ezra, Lucinda and I thought that we may be able to go on some of the bigger rides.  Amélie was in the same frame of mind but Éowyn wasn’t interested and so while Lucinda and Amélie braved the Dragon ride, Éowyn and I waited in the drizzle armed with a camera to try and take a photo or their experience.  Amélie loved the ride, she is so much more adventurous than her big sister, indeed Éowyn clung to me with fear on the Dragon’s Apprentice ride, which if you have ever been to Legoland you would realise is not exactly the scariest of rides.

Both girls thoroughly enjoyed their day at Legoland, Éowyn especially liked the fact that she was now old enough to join the driving school and drive an electric car around a more challenging course that the L-Drivers course that the younger children (Amélie included) have to negotiate.

The following weekend (I was at work – how unusual!) the family were invited to a firework party at Éowyn’s first best friend: Raine’s house.  Lucinda drove to High Wycombe with the kids armed with fireworks.  Unfortunately the weather had other plans and the rain threatened to put a literal as well as proverbial dampener on the evening.  A little bit of rain never stops the British from enjoying themselves though and eventually the fireworks were lit.  Lucinda could not enjoy them though because Ezra was clinging to her for dear life and Amélie who doesn’t like loud noises was nuzzled against her hiding from the explosions.  Only Éowyn stood and watched them and Lucinda was trying to keep an eye on her to make sure that she stayed out of harm’s way.

So after an exciting couple of weeks, of holidays, Legoland, Halloween and fireworks and starting a new school, life settled down into its new rhythm.  A drive to school across Staines and the A30 was replaced with a walk through the local park (as fate would have it enduring Autumnal rain-showers for the first few weeks) to their new seats of learning.  The first week went relatively well.  Amélie thoroughly enjoyed her new school while Éowyn remained indifferent, which was as good as we expected the first week.  Then things changed.

Éowyn started crying that she didn’t like her new school and wanted to go back to her old school.  This obviously upset Lucinda and I think Éowyn sensed this and played on it a little more.  It was time to be the bad cop and although sympathetic I had to encourage her to embrace her new school and try and make new friends.  She would always have her old friends, indeed we have been pro-active in setting up playdates with some of her old school friends, but it would be fun to make new ones.  As Éowyn was going through this transitional period the Ofsted report of her new school was announced and disappointingly it was grade 3 (requires improvement).  It started to look as if we had made a big mistake.

Then a couple of things happened to help settled Éowyn.  First, she moved up a level with her reading.  At her previous school she would have homework once a week and although as parents you were encouraged to read with your child they were not given a new reading book until the teacher or teaching assistant had read the book with them.  Her new school doesn’t give homework to younger children (which I am undecided whether it is a good thing or not) but they do read the comments that we make in her reading diary and give her a new book each day.  This is really helping her reading, which can only be a good thing.  The second thing that helped to settle her, was that she began to make friends and indeed was invited to her first birthday party.

It is now a month since they started at their new schools and Amélie is still enjoying her new school, in fact she says that she prefers it to her old school, which is great news.  Éowyn on the other hand would still prefer to be at her old school.  She is making friends and when we drop her off at school she seems very popular with a lot of the girls and they look for her.  However, her new teacher is not her old teacher and obviously teaching methods vary and I think that is part of the problem.  Not saying that either is right or the other is wrong, but Éowyn is having to deal with a different school ethos, different teaching styles as well as making all new friends.

It is horrible to think that your child is upset and not enjoying school but it has only been a month and these things take time.  She is obviously a charismatic character as she seems to make friends easily and other children seem to want to be around her.  She is clever, she has already earned a place in the gold book (a reward given out to the top pupils) but she is strong willed and that is probably holding her back from enjoying herself at her new school.  We will hopefully have a catch up with her new teacher in the week and see how she feels that Éowyn is getting on and if there is anything that between us we can do to help our eldest with the transition.  As always I will keep you across how it develops.

Well I think I have kept you long enough and I have to keep somethings for the next write up, so I will take my leave
Peace and Love


PS:  Another little funny from Amélie mishearing lyrics.  One of the bigger hits of the year has been ‘all about that bass’ by Meghan Trainor.  The lyrics are a little repetitive: ‘Because you know I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, no treble.’  Amélie, not really understanding what is meant by treble changed the lyrics to ‘Because you know I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass, no cello.’  Not sure that she knows what a cello is either but maybe she has seen this smooth jazz version and added two and two together.