Half term in Norfolk

It is mid-February, it is half-term, Lucinda has no childminding wards and I have the final few days of holiday accrued from last year to take so what better excuse was there for team Bagnall to spend the week together.  The girls’ half term break was actually a day longer than the usual week due to an inset day tagged to the Friday meaning that they actually broke up on the Thursday. Read more

Welcome to 2016

I began this first post of the New Year while the house was still in its clinquant finery, unfortunately for you dear readers life has got in the way and I now post it a couple of weeks into January.  However as usual this post is where I sit like the personification of Janus with one eye on the future and one on the year just gone.

I do not think that I can go any further without mentioning the defining family event of the year.  It is always difficult when someone we love passes away; when that person is a much loved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, friend then even more so.  John passed away on Monday 19th October from pleomorphic cell sarcoma, a form of bone cancer.  He had been diagnosed in April after months of investigations into the pain in his shoulder and a loss of control of his arm, and was told it was terminal in September.  So, although not unexpected the relative swiftness of his passing was a shock to us all; a shock that we are all still coming to terms with and no doubt will do for many years to come.

It goes without saying that Granddad’s death has left an enormous hole in our lives and it has also made us think of our own mortality.  It was a testament to the man to see so many people at his funeral; he had touched so many people’s lives and all wanted to pay respect to him.  He was an extremely practical man and although it is right and fitting that we are grieving he would not want us moping around.

This was the first time that the children had to deal with grief.  Indeed it was the first time that Lucinda had to really face bereavement, especially of someone so close.  Thus, it was me that told the girls (Ezra is too young) about their Granddad.  I explained that Granddad had died and asked them if they understood and whether they wanted to ask any questions and I answered them as truthfully as I could.  I assured them that it was fine to cry and to be upset and we sat in a huddle and hugged each other while crying.  I let them see me cry to illustrate that I, too, was upset that Granddad had died and thus there was no shame in crying.

The questions that the girls asked, illustrates the difference between them.  The scientific questions from Éowyn, (‘How do you catch cancer?’, ‘What happens to your body?’ etc.) to the practical from Amélie (‘Who is going to cook me pancakes? ‘Who is going to fix my toys when I break them?’). I answered them as honestly as I could, without going into any dark details, then came the question ‘Is Granddad in heaven?’ ‘Can we go and visit him?

Now, I may not believe in Heaven, but then again neither do I believe in Father Christmas. Like Father Christmas I am not going to crush the girls’ belief with my adult logic (flawed or otherwise), it is more important for them to believe in the magic. In the same way that the belief in the magic of Christmas is embodied in the personification of Father Christmas then Heaven is a belief in the enduring love of those we have lost.

Please feel free to click here to read my tribute to Granddad, and here if you want to read my ramblings on life and death.  I have also set up a tribute page to John that you can reach by clicking here, you will see that we have raised over £500 for the Sam Beare hospice that looked after John so well.

It is difficult to follow the memory of Granddad’s passing but 2015 has many good memories too and it has been very important year in the life of our second born.  September saw Amélie start full time education.  This is an important step in everybody’s life and so it was for Amélie.  Indeed she has now completed a full term at school and is still enjoying herself.  She gets on well with her teacher, Miss Snow, and as seemingly made some friends.  This was something, that Amélie had put great importance on when she first went to school, and became upset when the other children didn’t seem interested in becoming her friend.  We spoke to miss Snow about this and she said that it was no slight on Amélie moreover it was the fact that Amélie was emotionally more mature that the average reception pupil and so although Amélie was putting great store on building a special relationship, none of the other children were ready for such a commitment.  Notwithstanding the lack of a best friend Amélie is progressing very well and hopefully she can continue this through 2016.

Éowyn continued her journey through the education system moving from Year 1 to Year 2.  She has settled in well to changing school at such a delicate age and has made a number of very good friends, however she has still not forgot her best friend Aaliyah from her previous school.  She has enjoy her extra-curricula activities especially drama.  Indeed Sense Theatre the third party company that taught the after school drama club filmed their summer performance and then arranged a premiere showing where the actors were treated as V.I.P.s.  It was a difficult watch (imagine a school play 2 hours long) but Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed it and we purchased a DVD recording for prosperity, if ever you are suffering from insomnia.

Meanwhile our third born has become a cheeky young man.  He has two older sisters and therefore he has to stick up for himself and that he does rather well; he will not be taken for a fool.  His speech is coming along very well and he will have to look forward to joining his sisters in going to school (or pre-school in his case) in the coming year.  One of Ezra’s biggest steps this last year was his first taste of foreign travel.  Indeed a big step for all of our children.  The Bagnall family holiday (one of two – the other was no less exotic: The Lake District) in 2015 was to visit Sarigerme in Turkey.  This was Ezra’s first flight (which he loved) and the first time that the Baguettes had visited another continent, for although Turkey straddles both Europe and Asia and we were most certainly in Asia.  We feel fortunate that we decided to go to Turkey last year, as although we all loved Turkey and felt safe in the region, with the current sociopolitical situation in Turkey I am not sure that I would want to be taking my family there this summer.

The Baguettes are not the only members of the Bagnall family that have had seen big changes.  2015 saw Lucinda give up her career at the airport, retrain and become a full time Ofsted registered child minder.  It can not be understated how much of a big decision this was and how well Lucinda has adjusted to the change.  You may recall that Lucinda used to work for Air Canada, as ground staff at Heathrow Airport.  However, as is the want in our modern world Air Canada found it too expensive to employ staff at Heathrow but with flights still terminating and originating from such a busy hub they turned to a handling agency to provide this service.  Lucinda took redundancy and took a job with the handling agency.  She worked for ASIG for a year but realised that the job she has done for the previous sixteen years no longer existed and the job was interfering with being there for her children.  Hence the retraining and the child minding.  Child minding is not the easiest of jobs as you are working with children constantly without any adult interaction, but she has got good feedback from the parents of the children thatch looks after which is some comfort that she is doing things right.

This is the last time I will mention it but last year (my twentieth at IMG) was a very good year for winning things.  There has been the Emmy, NBC won the Emmy for Outstanding Technical Team Studio at the 36th Sports Emmy award and were gracious not only to recognise the fact that my department assist them in their technological endeavours but to include me and a number of other IMG staff members on the official list of winners.  I was very touched by this kind gesture and NBC had no obligation to include us in their win nevertheless it means that I am an Emmy winner and entitled to say so in perpetuity (although I promise not to mention it on this website again!); a signed Rugby World Cup ball (thanks England for being the first host team to be eliminated at the group stage heavily deflating any value that it has) but the first, and arguably the best, was the trip to Vienna.

For those of you that can’t quite remember the details: IMG provided facilities to the BBC to produce the 60th Eurovision Song Contest for transmission on BBC 1.  The 2015 contest was hosted in Vienna due to the previous year’s win by the Bearded Lady: Conchita Wurst.  Apparently this hasn’t happened before but it is in the spirit of the competition the Austrian Ambassador hosted a send-off party for the UK entry at the Austrian Embassy.  Invitations were strictly ‘invite only’ and along with the BBC personnel, four of us from IMG were invited to attend.  As we entered the Embassy we were given a raffle ticket.  Never say no to a free raffle ticket:  the top prize being two return flights to Vienna on Austrian Airways and two nights in Das Triest Hotel (and a 1 metre inflatable Austrian Airways jet).  This is what I won.

We decided that we would like to visit Vienna as the winter drew in and the Christmas markets begun, unfortunately weekends in December were filled booked and so we headed to Central Europe mid November.  It came at a good time, a month after Granddad’s passing and allowed us to relax as a couple without trying to make the weekend something more because it has cost us money.  Nevertheless we did managed to take a lot in int he 48 hours or so that we were there including the early Christmas markets.  We thoroughly enjoyed Vienna and would recommend a visit there, and indeed would love to go back.

2015 also saw the Bagnall family grow by two more members.  Chez Bagnall welcomed its first pets in the shape of two guinea pigs:  Toffee and Frazzle.  As this only happened at the end of December we will see how 2016 progresses how the novelty of pet ownership continues with the Baguettes.  Early indicators are favourable but let us revisit this in June.

2015 also saw an additional to the structure of the house itself in the shape of a fireplace and a multi-fuel stove.  The house is big and old and lacks the insulation of modern homes and therefore can sometimes feel quite cold.  Rather than turn the central heating on to heat the entire house when during the day we are all spending time in the lounge the stove should come into its own.  That is the theory anyway and if we are being completely honest the look and feel of a real fire is much more that just the heat it gives off, plus you get to burnt things!

So what will 2016 bring our family.  Hopefully it will be a little more boring.  The last few years have been manic with huge emotional earthquakes.  I think the family could do with just a year that just plods along nothing too stressful or life changing.  That is off course if we survive yet another end of the world prophecy (if you want to read my thoughts on the 2012 prophecy read this).  Apparently we survived the authors own 2015 prophecy and so it is now being pushed to 2016.  I think I am safe to say that you will still be able to read this post in 2017 (if you choose to do so).

So as we leap into 2016 with precious few longterm plans (we have a couple of holidays booked) we hold our heads up high and face the future as a family and I leave you with this thought:

May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire.
D. Simone

Peace and Love



Ezra’s first trip to Foreign Lands

It is that time of year: Half term coinciding with the end of the football season (and the Eurovision Song Contest) and thus the perfect opportunity for a Bagnall family holiday.  Obviously the decision of where we were going was made some months ago.  We wanted somewhere warm, that ruled out the UK!  We wanted all-inclusive and as we were only going away for a week we wanted somewhere relatively close – but affordable.  Not too much to ask you would think.  You would be mistaken!

Yes, that would be true for a family of four not vacating at half term.  Firstly, the profiteering (and it is profiteering from families) that is allowed to happen is outrageous,  the week before and the week after half term can be a third of the price (not a third off the price, a third OF the price) and it priced us out of many of the European countries.  Secondly, holiday lets are geared around families of four or less.  Two parents, two children is the norm and woe betide the families that fall outside of this socially acceptable quota, thou shalt be financially penalised and forced to buy two rooms for your outsized brood.

Hence we effectively had a choice of one resort, the First Choice Holiday Village in Sarigerme, Turkey.  More than we wanted to pay it was nevertheless by far the cheapest available, partly because it also had a number of rooms that slept 5, a double bed and three singles, perfect!  No need to book two rooms! Turkey had never been on our radar as a destination, it is a country with a great history (which the Baguettes are too young to appreciate) however it has made the news in 2015 for negative reasons as a gateway to its neighbour to the East, Syria.  However, Turkey is a big country (the 37th apparently – larger than either France or Ukraine) and Syria is a long way from Sarigerme.

The resort looked good in the glossy brochures but nevertheless it was with an air of trepidation that we begun or journey at 04:00 on a Monday morning.  Although 04:00 is a ridiculous time to start a holiday I was still alert enough to avert a potential diplomatic incident.  At last year’s Staines Upon Thames day, the local estate agents were giving away free ‘bags in a pouch’.  Designed to sit at the bottom of a bag they can expand out to a shopping bag when one is caught short.  I placed mine on my camera bag strap as it is useful as a makeshift weatherproofing during inclement weather, and hadn’t given it much thought during the past year.  Only as I was packing my camera bag in the car did I realise that a purple bag with the word ISIS emblazoned on it was perhaps not the wisest of moves.  ISIS have changed their name to Oasis for the same reason.

The journey to the airport was uneventful and the first experience of valet parking means we will probably pay the premium for this service in the future.  This was Ezra’s first trip to foreign climes (I don’t think I am allowed to count last year’s trip to Wales!) and his first journey on a plane.  Did we need to be concerned about our boy?  Or for that matter our girls, who, although have been on flights before, had not travelled this way for three years.  No, we did not.  The iPads kept them distracted on take off and Ezra was fast asleep on the decent and landing.

There we were: in Turkey, in Asia.  Yes, the Baguettes received their first stamp in their passport (and second on exit) and stepped foot, for the first time, on another continent.  As you are probably aware Turkey straddles Europe and Asia however the majority of the country is in Asia and we were a considerable distance from the Bosphorus.  Ezra may have taken his first flight over 6 month older than his sisters (as you may recall Amélie was a week younger than Éowyn when she took her first flight) he holds the distinction for being the youngest to leave his birth continent and receive a stamp in his passport!  Interestingly although Sarigerme is on another continent the flight to Tenerife Sur was 72 miles longer than the flight to Dalaman.

We checked in and were pleasantly surprised by our room.  Not much of a view but there was a balcony.  The large room could be divided in two by sliding doors.  The bathroom/ corridor side housed a super king bed (unfortunately with a king duvet) the wardrobes and television.  The balcony side of the sliding doors housed two single beds, a second television and a blackboard.  The girls chose a bed each but where was Ezra going to sleep?  There was supposed to be another bed.  Under Éowyn’s bed there was a full length drawer that pulled out to reveal a third single bed.  However, there had also left a travel cot and although Ezra sleeps in a toddler bed at home we thought that perhaps the cot was the better option and so all three had their beds.

The resort was excellent: seven pools, three of them aimed at small children; a children’s playground with slides, swings and climbing frames.  The resort backed onto the beach where all kinds of watersport activities were available.  Indeed there were a number of resorts that backed onto the beach and it was only later that I found out that the name of the beach is Sarigerme and hence why the resorts and thus called.  The nearby town is called Osmaniye Village and has a few shops and a couple of bars, however we never walked that far, only leaving the resort once during our stay, but more of that later.

Days at the resort followed a similar pattern: up for breakfast, back to the room to collect all we need for a day at the pool; relax by the pool, interspersed with lunch and trips to the free ice-cream booth and pancake lady; before getting ready for dinner and the evening’s festivities.  When I say, ‘relax by the pool‘ that is not strictly true.  As a parent it is impossible to relax by a pool when you have three small children playing near large bodies of water.  It needed both of us to be alert as they would often split up and disappear in three different directions.  To our great shame none of our children are strong swimmers.  Therefore, although they were adorned with inflatable armbands and assorted toys, and did not play in the pools in which they could not stand up the parental guilt and fear of accidental drowning was never too far from our minds.

We quickly learned that if we wanted a sunlounger by the poolside then we would need to leave our towels and claim our land before the designated 0800 curfew set by the resort.  Although we never succumbed to the tactics of others in the resort and leaving our towels at 0300, the advantage of early rising children was not lost upon the Bagnall parents and a detour on the way to early breakfasts helped us acquire the necessary positions.

The resort, as these places often do, had other facilities to add to its repertoire including a Turkish hamam.  While looking through the treatments on offer the owner talked us into a family experience of steam rooms, exfoliation, bubble massage, chocolate face mask and massage for the adults and steam room, bubble massage and chocolate face mask for the children.

The first stage was to relax in the sauna.  Only myself and Éowyn took advantage of this section, then it was on to the exfoliation.  Myself and Lucinda lay on a large marble slab (the göbek taşı – the navel stone) under a traditional style dome, while the Baguettes watched from the sidelines.  Now when I say exfoliation, it was closer to sandpapering I don’t think there was much dead skin left on my body by the time he had finished.  Then it was time for the bubble massage.  The Baguettes were allowed to come and lie next to us as we were covered in bubbles.  I would have thought that the kids would have liked this but I think they were so out of their comfort zone, that only Éowyn allowed them to cover her in bubbles, while Amélie let them cover her legs and Ezra just lay still on the göbek taşı holding my hand, with a handful of bubbles on his legs.

After the bubbles were rinsed off it was time for the chocolate face mask.  Now considering all three of them usually have a Nutella facemask at breakfast each morning only Éowyn indulged in the face mask, along with her parents.  Then it was time for the massage.  Lucinda and I had our massages separately, and when I say massage, it could only not be described as torture because we were paying for it and we could have walked out at any time.  I was pummelled, stretched, kneaded and at one point, mounted by a large Turkish man who kept asking, ‘Good?‘  It was far from good at the time, and indeed for a couple of days later but once the bruising (joking) had subsided I could definitely feel the benefits.

With such facilities and only at the resort for 6 days (since the first day is taken up by travelling) we felt no great need to leave the resort.  However, a colleague mentioned that when he went to the same region of Turkey that he visited the Rock Tombs of Dalyan followed by a turtle sanctuary.  That sounded like a nice easy day out and since Ezra is currently fascinated by tortoises it seemed like a perfect day out.

So at 0800 we boarded the coach for our little sojourn to Dalyan (‘Fishing Weir’ in Turkish).  The journey down the Dalyan river was excellent, we saw the Lycian rock tombs (which date to 400 b.c.), dancing dragonflies and Caspian turtles basking in the sun.  the Dalyan river was reminiscent of the reed-filled rivers in the ‘African Queen’ and indeed there is a rumour that the ‘African Queen’ was indeed filmed in Dalyan.  Unfortunately, it is but a myth the African Queen is famous for being shot on location in Uganda and the Congo (and down the road at Shepperton Studios).

After the river trip it was back on the coach and off to Iztuzu beach and the turtle sanctuary.  The Turtle Sanctuary certainly do a good job and save many endangered Loggerhead Turtles, however one feels that they are missed a trick.  It wasn’t particularly well laid out (basically a large gazebo with some rather large buckets, each containing a sizeable Loggerhead turtle) and considering they rely on donations there could have been more to encourage one to part with one’s lira.

Nevertheless, Ezra enjoyed seeing his tortoises (as he insisted they were called) and the couple of hours on Iztuzu beach were fantastic.  A beautiful sandy beach with a nice shallow, warm sea it was definitely worth the trip outside the resort.

One of the other services that the resort offered was a photography service and since it was our first foreign family holiday and a family of five and because we rarely get a portrait of all of us we decided to book a session.  This was a perfect excuse for me to try another of the resort’s facilities and have my first cut-throat razor shave from a Turkish barber.  When I say ‘shave’ it was another complete beauty treatment.  After the cut-throat razor shave, there was the face mask, and the head and shoulder massage, the nasal hair trim and finally burning of one’s tragus (and the tragus on the tragus) – ear hair for those of you that don’t know (or if you speak Greek why the hell I am burning my goat!).

Freshly shaved it was time to get dressed and head for the photoshoot.  The photography session lasted 15 minutes but in that time there were 77 reasonable photos and at least 23 really good ones, so we decided to use some of the holiday money that we had to purchase an album as a memento.  Unfortunately, although the girls really enjoyed dressing up and pretending to be models, Ezra was not playing ball and refused to cooperate.  Nevertheless there are still a number of nice candid shots of the boy!

The remainder of the holiday was relaxing by the pool.  Éowyn bored of the pools and spent the last day listening to music and playing with her electronic games.  Amélie on the other hand made friends with a pair of sisters Alex and Amber.  On the last day Amélie got herself upset because she wasn’t going to see her friends again so before we left we went to say goodbye.  Amélie asked them where they lived so that we could visit.  Somerset was the reply, number 3 with the orange gate.  So Amélie has said that we have to visit them and has put this address into her memory: number 3, Somerset and look for the Orange gate.  Not sure that the satnav will be able to resolve this address.

After a long journey back we landed at a cold and windy Gatwick airport.  The 12°C temperatures were a far cry from the 32°C we left Dalaman airport.  Didn’t the UK read the calendar: it’s June!  Again the valet parking proved its worth after a trip around the M25 we were home and back in our own beds.  The first Bagnall family trip outside of Europe was over and normality was calling.

The girls returned to school the next day and were obviously asked about their holidays.  Amélie informed her teachers that there were lots of Blue Monsters that chase your family.  I think I must have been relaxing by the pool when that happened, and please do not let that put you off Turkey!

Apologies for the epic (indeed, this maybe the longest post) and your reward is a selection of photos, if the 24 below has whet your appetite then there are over 450 holiday snaps on our Flickr pages (click here).

Peace and love