Are you sure it is only six weeks?

August is always a lean month on Baggie and Lucy dot com mainly due to the start of the football seasons, which keeps me busy at work and the fact that, along with millions of other parents, the kids are to be entertained.  Thus there is little time left for tinkering on computers and little time to keep you abreast of the trials and tribulations of the Bagnall family.

So with Éowyn heading back to school (Amélie has a few more days!), what has happened since the Bagnalls returned from Flookburgh and the Lake District?  Six weeks is a long time so forgive me if there are omissions.

In an attempt to break the holiday up and prevent the girls from getting too bored we signed them up for a couple of courses.  Neither of our girls are very strong swimmers, something that we want to rectify, so the first of the courses we signed them up for was swimming.  Not that Éowyn really needed any encouragement but her best friend (from her previous school) Aaliyah was also signed up for the week.  Thus the added incentive was that after every lesson she got to play with Aaliyah, a whole week of playing with her best friend!

It seems that the girls have inherited my swimming ability.  It appears that I am denser than fresh water.  In swimming pools (not the sea) my resting suspension is about 6 inches (15cm) below the surface of the water.  Therefore to prevent drowning I need to keep swimming, hence I have never been a strong swimmer and it appears than neither of my girls have a natural affinity to water.  Nevertheless it is an important skill to have and so once they are settled back at school we will be signing them up for more swimming lessons.

The second course, only Éowyn could attend for Amélie wasn’t old enough, and again attended with her best friend Aaliyah.  Cheerleading isn’t the first course that one would naturally think of as a one week session but we thought that Éowyn would enjoy it.  The idea of combining gymnastics with teamwork appealed to us as something that would also be good for Éowyn.

The culmination of the week’s work was a performance at the Rainbow Nursery summer fair in Lyne.  Fortunately, the weather held off and so the field didn’t turn into a swamp.  The girls’ performance was the first of many acts, which was nice as they didn’t get too nervous.  Éowyn and Aaliyah were the youngest of the troupe and so didn’t do many of the over-complicated moves.  Nevertheless Éowyn’s forward roll was executed to perfection and was steadfast as the base of the human pyramid.

Éowyn wasn’t over-enamoured with cheerleading, which surprised us somewhat, but it is possibly due to the fact that it was such a quick course: four days, all leading up to a performance.  Therefore there was no time to develop the skills that she was lacking.  If you could do a cartwheel, you did one in the performance.  If you couldn’t, you didn’t.  There was no time to teach them how to do a cartwheel, and I think that was endemic throughout the skills.  In fairness, it was a taster session and thus wasn’t designed to develop skills but to use the strengths they already have but unfortunately it may just have put her off.  We will see.

As alluded to above, August has not been the greatest of months weather-wise, in the UK at least.  Temperatures below average, sunshine (and thus my electrical output) below average, rainfall: the fifth wettest August on record. Despite the Bagnalls usual stoicism in the face of such inclemencies even we decided not to incur the wrath of Indra (insert rain deity of your choice) that frequently and risk too many far-flung days out.

Lucinda took Amélie and Ezra to Legoland (Éowyn was having a play date).  Fortunately, the rain deity of the day was looking upon the Bagnalls with kind eyes and it was one of the warmer days.  Unfortunately, this meant two things: a) Legoland was packed and 75 minutes was not an unusual queue time and b) the wasps were out in numbers.  Amélie currently has a real phobia around any kind of flying insect – to the point of hysterics if there is a fly in the house.  Obviously, we can’t let that continue and are trying to help her overcome this problem, although with wasps she probably has a point!

Unusually for me in August, I managed to secure 5 days off in row.  Unfortunately the weather was awful so we concentrated on jobs around the house and visiting friends in the local area.  Nevertheless we decided that we would have at least one big day out.  Initially, we thought that we would head to the seaside, however unsure that the weather would hold we decided to head to Frensham ponds.

Frensham Common and ponds cover about 1000 acres lying between Farnham and Hindhead.  The common is heathland with two large ponds known as Frensham Great and Little Ponds, and great for wildlife watchers.  But we headed there for its sandy beach and to bathe in the Great Pond.  Angling and Sailing are also available for member of those clubs but there is a special area for swimming.  Unfortunately, the weather was more Autumnal rather than Augustal (if there is such a word).  Indeed shorts were a very bad idea as I sat freezing on the sand.  Even paddling in the pond was out because there was a bloom of blue-green algae which meant that the pond was closed to the public.  However, we made the best of the weather eating our picnic and building sandcastles and reflected that we were glad that we hadn’t headed to the seaside!

The flipside of 5 days off was that I managed to sign myself up for 9 days in a row.  Therefore Lucinda decided to take the kids to visit Nanny Fran in West Bromwich.  Although it was a flying visit (they were only there for two days) they all enjoyed themselves as they usually do in West Bromwich.  I, however, was not having as much fun.  I got home on the Tuesday night and decided to have a Chinese takeaway for tea.  Now whether it was the Chinese takeaway (fingers point at the Prawns on Toast) or whether I picked up a bug I spent most of the night with my head down the toilet.  Now, I now I need to lose a few extra pounds but that wasn’t the way I intended to do it.  Unfortunately I had an important meeting the next day and so after a couple of hours of sleep I dragged myself into work, had the meeting then headed home.  In a deluge.  The rain was coming down so fast that the drains couldn’t cope and the car park at work and our street had inches of standing water. I got home crawled into bed and fell asleep until Lucinda returned home with the kids in blazing sunshine.  For a split second I thought I had been asleep for days such was the difference in weather conditions.

The summer has also been a time for changes in the house.  We have decorated our bedroom and en suite and Ezra’s bedroom.  We have moved a couple of radiators around which has enabled us to change the furniture around in the house making the lounge more cozy and exposing the wall where we are going to have a chimney and wood burner installed.  For if the summer is anything to go by we could be in for a cold and snowy winter and so the extra warmth from a wood burner would be most welcome.

The summer has also seen Ezra growing up.  His speech is coming along and he is saying a new word nearly everyday.  Although some of his phrases are rather strange.  One that he spontaneously came out with was ‘I don’t like mayonnaise‘.  Not sure why he said it, as we were not offering him any mayonnaise, so we laughed.  This only agitated him further and started to get irate shouting ‘I don’t like mayonnaise!‘  I think we have the message!

This week is an important week in the girls lives.  Éowyn will enter year two and the large campus of her school while Amélie will start full-time education.  Both will be worthy of their own entries so stay tuned.

In preparation for Amélie’s first day, her teacher miss Snow came for a home visit.  Amélie was very excited and showed her some of her favourite toys and more importantly her new school shoes.  Miss Snow said that she thinks she has seen all of her new pupils school shoes.  Must be something very important to all of the new starters.

With those teasers I will leave you there and keep an eye for those updates as well as the Flickr pages as there will be new photos uploaded in the next few days.

Peace and Love



The nights are drawing in

As the title alludes half the year has been and gone, the Summer (in the Northern Hemisphere at least) Solstice has passed and we are hurtling towards winter with ever shortening amounts of daylight.  That is the natural order of things and it is only of import to the Bagnall family because it means that the amount of electricity we can generate from our Photovoltaic cells has passed its maximum for the year.  Nevertheless we were fortunate with the elements around this solstice with fine weather and clear skies, thus plenty of electricity generated.

However, we are in a quandary with the weather now that we have a veg patch.  Yes, our experiment in growing our own produce is giving us some joy even if we probably will not have the most bountiful of harvests. That was never the main driving force for this year.  This year was to see if we enjoyed it and whether we could fit in enough time to look after our crops as well as introducing the girls to growing your own food, so they appreciate from where their food originates.

It is safe to say that we have definitely enjoyed the growing side, so much so that we have installed 3 water butts (enough for 520 litres of rain water) around the garden and have plans to expand the veg patch after harvest.  We have learned much from this year’s experiment (especially how potatoes can take over a veg patch) and are currently growing raspberries, pumpkins, potatoes, runner beans, tomatoes and sunflowers.  In fact we find it quite saddening when you go to check on your crops and there has been damage.  So far we have had attacks by slugs on a variety of crops (although there are at least two frogs in the garden so imagine the amount of damage without predators), a case of blackfly (need more ladybirds), both strawberry plants and one pumpkin plant were dug up (I’m blaming squirrels) and half my potato crop were sat on (I’m blaming the resident fox family). It is a good job that we are not relying on these crops to survive nevertheless it would be good to have a least a few meals worth.  It is with this in mind that in addition to expanding the extent of our veg patch, next year we also plan on trying to encourage natural predators as well as expanding our range of crops and that is even before we have harvested this year’s crop.

So our quandary is that we need the sun to generate electricity (and to grow our crops) but we also rejoice whenever there is a heavy downpour as it means that we do not need to water that evening and that our water butts are replenished.  It is amazing how quickly those butts are filled from each rain shower and just shows how much water is hitting our drainage systems; no wonder there were so many floods over the winter.  So can we have the best of both worlds with extremely sunny days but extremely wet nights?

The main topic of discussion on the streets and bars, for once, is the not the weather but more the sporting competitions that are going on in the world.  Wimbledon and the World Cup are dominating the television schedules in the UK and my work life.  Wimbledon has not really caught the girls attention but they have been intrigued by the World Cup.  Their interest was first piqued by the prevalence of St George’s Crosses bedecked many of the houses in the area.  Then, I introduced them to the perennial disappointment of being an England football fan.

Although the World Cup is one of major summer jobs (it is a hard job when you have to watch the World Cup) at work I still enjoy watching it when I get back home, especially when I have a fantasy footie team and some small bets on the outcome.  Éowyn has taken to sitting next to me on the sofa and feigning interest, mainly so that she can stay up a little later.  ‘Who are we?‘ she will ask.  Then you have to explain that we are neither of them and she can chose which one she wants to win.  Invariably she choses the referee for some reason, probably because he is the only one wearing whichever colour that FIFA have deigned will be the referee outfit for that match.  It was much easier in my youth:  Referees wore black.  That was it.  Football boots were black.  It is the natural order of things.  Nevertheless it is nice that she is taking an interest in the World Cup although at 5 she is a little young we will have to wait until 2018 and Russia to see if that interest is still there.

Football isn’t the main sport for the girls though, trampolining is the sport of choice.  Amélie has been trampolining for most of the year and has passed the her first two trampoline gymnastic awards.  Now Éowyn has begun going after school.  She has a little bit to catch up with her younger sister but I am sure she will be spurred on not to be in her sister’s shadow.

Their little brother will not be following them on the trampoline though, mainly because he is still not walking.  Éowyn was walking early, Amélie not so.  Ezra has until the 4th July to progress to bipedal motion earlier than his sister.  That is highly unlikely.  Especially since tomorrow is that date!  He was crawling quite early and has been cruising for a long time but he has not taken that next step (no pun intended).  He has decided that he can get from A to B quickly by crawling and if he needs to carry anything then he can get there on his knees.  He has the strength in his legs but he just doesn’t seem interested.  I think that once he decides to go for it he will be walking in no time.  He just needs to take the plunge and go for it.  As always we will let you know about his first steps.

There was another first for the Bagnall family this week: Éowyn had a friend over for a sleepover.  Éowyn and Amélie have had friends over the day, indeed every Friday is movie night which we alternate the hosting with our friends Emma and Martin, but their friends have always gone home at the end of the day.  As the girls get older they will inevitably want to spend the night at a friends so when we were asked if Éowyn’s erstwhile best friend Raine could spend the night to help her Mum out with baby sitting we thought it would be a good opportunity to take our first tentative step into the world of sleepovers.

At Playbox Éowyn and Raine were inseparable, unfortunately however before they moved into full time education Raine’s family moved from Staines, nevertheless we have made sure that the have remained in touch.  Therefore we know Raine very well, and more importantly she knows us, so she was comfortable stopping with us.  Éowyn was so excited, getting more so as the day came closer.  We made the spare bed up in the spare room so that they could sleep together without disturbing Amélie.  It was good choice as the girls were still up when Lucinda and I went to bed.  This was partly due to the excitement of seeing each other and partly due to the amount of sweets they had consumed for their ‘midnight’ feast.

Raine was extremely well behaved and indeed the actual sleepover was very easy as the girls kept themselves entertained and were very inclusive towards Amélie, which was nice.  It was more the aftermath.  Raine’s mum collected Raine just before lunch and left us with one extremely grumpy Éowyn.  The grumpy mood wasn’t due to the fact that Raine had left, moreover it was due the lack of sleep (Éowyn isn’t used to staying up so late) couple with a sugar come-down.

Éowyn was a little better after a good night’s sleep, just in time for the third annual Staines-Upon-Thames day.  Celebrating the town’s addition of the river suffix to its name the memorial gardens were packed with stalls, a music stage, a funfair while classic cars lined the High Street.  Nanny and Granddad parked at our house and we all walked into the town centre.  We turned up as it kicked off to take the first boat trip down the Thames (before the crowds turned up – something we learned from last year!).  The girls enjoyed the 40 minute journey, but it was just enough any longer and I think they would have got bored.

After disembarking we headed around the stalls, and the rides.  The girls encouraged Daddy to win a mermaid doll each on one of the stalls (which I did).  We sat and listened to some of the bands (well we sat Amélie danced – photos below) while we ate an ice cream and then they chose a couple of fairground rides to go on.  It wasnt long before the toll of the weekend was beginning to have an affect on the girls and so after a spot of lunch we left Nanny and Granddad to enjoy the fair in peace and headed home.

We were out of the country on the first Staines-Upon-Thames day but we did go last year (even though technically we were not living in Staines Upon Thames at the time) and in our opinion this year totally eclipsed the 2013 event.  There was plenty to do (and to spend your money on!) but it would have been nicer to have had more local produce to buy and more local businesses and societies peddling their wares.  Nevertheless the event is still in its infancy and perhaps after the success of this year maybe it will encourage more businesses next year.  The high turn out was probably helped by the fine weather (despite the forecast of showers) but we will not take that away from the organisation and obvious enthusiasm of the people behind the scenes.

I will leave you now but warn you that from now I am going to get very busy at work so there may be a few gaps between updates so I will not promise the quantity or quality of the updates as I will be relying more on Lucinda for stories and photos.  The joys of working in the Sports Television industry.  Meanwhile here is an impressive crop of photos, including plenty from Staines Upon Thames day 2014.

Peace and love





Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail

It is probably not possible for me to start this update without mentioning the big story of the last few weeks.  A story that is not only of interest to our family, nor to our local community but has been headline national news.  The wettest January in 200 years (depending on the news stories that you read) has led to flooding across many areas of the country.  The Somerset levels have been under water since before Christmas but when the national news is anchored (no pun intended) by a reporter in waders less than half a mile from your house then it really brings it home to you (pun intended this time).

The Thames valley has seen a veritable deluge (of rain) throughout January that has led to a literal deluge through a number of local towns including our very own Staines Upon Thames.  The River Thames has been setting new record levels and has been flowing four times faster than usual flooding nearby towns of Datchet, Wraysbury, and Chertsey as well as Staines.  However our corner of Staines was not just under the threat of old Father Thames.  Our house has three other threats:  The River Ash is slightly closer than the Thames and also running at record levels, and a third river, closest of all, is a tributary of the Thames called Sweep’s Ditch; the final threat isn’t as obvious as a swollen river but is more ubiquitous, the ground and the drains can literally handle no more water.  Thus every rain shower brings a threat of more flooding.

According to the Environment agency maps it indicated that our house is on a 1,000 year flood plain.  In reality, that means that there is 0.1% chance of flooding, I like those odds but there is still a chance.  As the flood waters encroached and friends were being evacuated from their homes I took a walk around the area to investigate how close it was getting and to take some photos (see here for the results) of, hopefully this generational flood event.  The Blitz spirit is a phrase often evoked at times of crisis and although this is more often that not hyperbole, there was definitely a sense of community with strangers stopping for a chat to discuss the sense of foreboding.  Among the people who I chatted with were a couple that have lived in our street for thirty plus years.  They recall chatting to neighbours when they first moved in, that, at that point, lived in the street for forty-odd years and so there are memories that stretch back over seventy years.  In those decades the worst flood was in 1947.

The winter of 1947 saw significant snowfall which brought large drifts to large swathes of the country.  In mid-March mild air returned to the country causing this thawing the snow.  This snowmelt ran off the frozen ground straight into the rivers, including the river Thames.  Much of the Thames Valley was flooded, photos from the time show much of Staines under water.  However, our neighbours were told that even in this extreme flood event as water flowed in the street the houses themselves remained dry.  2014, although the worst flood in recent years, has not (as yet) come close to surpassing those floods of 67 years ago.

Oblivious to this drama the Bagnall children have their own dramas which to them are just as headline-grabbing.  Amélie has probably had more drama than the others.  As you may recall she had suffered from Night Terrors, thankfully they seem to becoming a thing of the past.  Amélie has only had one since the last update.  Her greater drama though has revolved around something as simple as washing her hair.  Lucinda tried to wash her hair a couple of weeks ago and Amélie had a complete breakdown.  Unfortunately I was at work and so with two other children to bathe and put to bed, Lucinda did not have the time (or mental strength) to press on with hair washing.  Conscious that this could become an even bigger problem if we left it too long, it was time for Daddy to be the bad guy.

Not wishing to make it into an even bigger issue, we simply told Amélie that she was going to have her hair washed at bath-time.  Amélie was happy with this until bath-time.  Her issue seemed to be that water would go into her eyes.  I demonstrated how water flows down, so that if her eyes are up (looking at the ceiling) then water could not go into her eyes.  This seemed to make sense and she appeared to be fine with it.  However, as the hair-washing was going to begin she completely freaked out, sobbing and thrashing about.  I tried to calm her down but she wasn’t going to relax, so I filled the hair-washing jug with water and raised it above her head.  She immediately sat down in the bath, looked up at the ceiling and closed her eyes.  I then washed her hair praising her constantly.

The change in her has been remarkable, from freaking out at the mere mention of hair-washing she now proclaims that she likes her hair being washed and keeps requesting her hair to be washed.  In order to re-enforce the innoxiousness (is that a word?) of hair-washing she has had her hair washed three times in the last week.  Hopefully that is the end of this drama.

No such drama with Ezra although he has taken a few more steps in his development over the last few weeks.  Ezra has never been particular fussy with his food and baby-birds (a verb that we use to describe when a baby eagerly opens their mouth for the next spoonful of food) most of his meals.  However at 7 months the texture of baby food changes from smooth to ‘textured’ or lumpy.  This did not sit too well with him and he begun refusing his textured food.  However, after his shortbread biscuit incident we started him with more finger food.  This, he is happy with.  Grated cheese, baby biscuits, rusks, peas and carrots are all demolished with relish (strictly speaking without relish – he isn’t old enough).  I suppose that he was expecting smooth food and was surprised by the lumps in it and it caused him to heave.  I can appreciate that.

Ezra’s second developmental step as been a little more dangerous.  He has been crawling for months and cruising around the furniture since before Christmas however he hasn’t taken those first tentative steps yet but nevertheless is bored with where his crawling can take him.  There is one frontier that is explorable though, not space but in that direction: upstairs.  Yes, were sitting in the lounge and suddenly realised that Ezra wasn’t with us.  We looked in the kitchen and the playroom and he wasn’t there.  Going up the stairs there was giggling coming from the girls’ bedroom.  Sitting in the middle of the floor was Ezra looking rather pleased with himself, playing with the girls’ toys.  A new stair gate is required (our old one is too wide for the stairway) to contain our little explorer.

Éowyn is still going from strength to strength with her reading and writing.  Indeed the final Monday before half term was our chance to speak with Éowyn’s teacher Miss Finbow at Parents afternoon/evening.  Miss Finbow is delighted with Éowyn, she is excelling at all subjects and is always eager to learn (she is my daughter!).  Miss Finbow also said that her general trivia is exceptional for one so young (again she is my daughter) and whenever she asks the class a tricky question she can always rely on Éowyn to put her hand up and give an intelligent answer.  Éowyn also organises her friends and is usually the instigator of some of the more interesting games that they play.  I was pleased that Miss Finbow put this down to strong leadership skills rather than saying she is bossy.

It is something as a father of daughters you realise how media portray women then chastise them for attempting to live up to those expectations.  The above illustrates how language changes for girls as opposed to boys so I applaud Miss Finbow for describing Éowyn’s bossiness as strong leadership, a positive rather than the negative connotations associated with bossiness and it is something that I am going to continue with my girls and hopefully help them to break (or at least understand) the inherent sexism of society.  I will get off my soapbox now.

Éowyn’s intelligence shows through with the way she deals with the unknown.  If she does not know something she will make an intelligent guess and is usually right.  Sometimes, however, she gets it slightly wrong with amusing results.  The girls have a number of dolls (yes, I know especially in light of the previous paragraph), many are Barbies or Disney princesses (yes, I know!) and most of the time they are nude or in the process of swapping dresses.  Usually this results in Mommy or Daddy dressing the dolls for them.  Éowyn came up to me with her Ariel doll and Ariel’s shell bikini top.  ‘Daddy, can you put Ariel’s booby-shades on?‘  Not knowing the word for Bra or Bikini top she made up her own word.  I like it and thing it should become common parlance especially for ladies with the larger bosom.

Éowyn has got the last laugh with her daddy on another matter though.  Miss Finbow gives out Superstar certificates to pupils when they do something impressive at school.  Last term Éowyn was given three of these, which was very good.  So I upped the ante and said to her that if she was given five this term I would buy her something from her favourite shop (the Disney store).  Unfortunately I have been outwitted by my eldest child for she received her fifth three days before the end of half term!  I will have to have a word with Miss Finbow next time.  So a trip to the Disney store is looming!  That will serve me right.

This update is a little delayed because we have been busy as a family for half term begun last Friday (a day early due to an inset day), and I managed to secure a weekend off and a couple of days either side but you will have to wait until the next update to find out what we got up to.  The good news is that you will not have to wait so long for the next one, and indeed you will get a sneak preview of some of our half-term trips in the photos below.

Peace and Love