Making time

We rearranged Joel’s bedroom yesterday – he’s been sleeping under his cabin bed since September last year, but has since decided that a bed at a lower height, or even a normal bed would also work for him. We’ve moved out the rocking chair, which now needs a new home ( either in this house or, preferably, another one) and the room is much better for him. He even has a little den to hide in, still, as there is space under the bed…

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As he moved his desk, he noted that he has a lot of bookmarks – 10, to be precise, at least four of them from a time over a year ago when I was drawing, making bookmarks, and the children joined in and pretty much took over.

“I liked doing that, mummy, when can we do that again?”

So.

I feel bad, that for some reason the children feel they need to wait for me before they do creative stuff. I don’t know if that’s because it was using my craft supplies or if they want to be inspired by my presence, but either way, it seems I need to be there.

I guess I’ll have to instigate something soon…

Gentlemen, please… (Waddesden Manor at Christmas)

When we knew we would be in Aylesbury for New Year, the suggestion was made & eagerly accepted that we should book to see Waddesden Manor’s Christmas decorations. We had tried a couple of years ago, but timed tickets for the house sell out in advance, and it would have meant a 3+ hour wait in cold, windy gardens, so at the time it was felt to be too big a commitment.

So this year, we booked the house & restaurant and a stress- and wait-free time was had by all.

Lunch in the restaurant was most civilised with Joel having his first taste of shell on prawns, and several helpings of hot chocolate, some including a tot of Baileys. As I said: very civilised. Edited to add: Joel did not have Baileys. Only grown-ups drank Baileys.

We pitched up for the house tour two minutes before our appointed time and were somewhat concerned to find a group ahead of us being turned away because they were too early. However, it transpired that they were 12 minutes too early and we were allowed straight in.

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While the outside of the property is styled like a French Château the inside is more like a classic country house… only on steroids. A deceptively modest entryway leads to a generously proportioned corridor in which there are a couple of pictures as big as my living room, and some equally generous Christmas trees. The children had a passport to collect stickers in, where they had to identify which country the Christmas “legend” the room was themed around related to. Some of the attendants were more generous than others in giving the children the answers, which frankly weren’t tricky, but the last lady around the trail was especially strict and insisted that they go to see the relevant boards before claiming their stickers.

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The upstairs dining room was my favourite room with an astonishing chandelier made from broken crockery – very stylish. I’m hoping I might build to achieve this with my own dining room one day…

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There was a “snowy” corridor which for some reason reminded me of some aspects of Farmaggeddon… I’m not sure why.

I also especially liked the treatment of the stairs which could’ve been a complete non-area however decking it out for Chinese New Year made perfect sense and was done really really well.

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As we are National trust members, there was no entry fee to pay. I think I would have baulked at paying the full price for the portion of the house that is open this time of year – just the gentleman’s wing – the rooms themselves are indeed splendiferous and were very nicely decked out for the season.

The light-trail outside would also probably have been significantly better in either the dusk or the night-time …but we were there during the day, so they were a little underwhelming, as one might expect.

All in all, if you’re a member then it’s a good trip out but do make sure to book your tickets in advance. If you’re not members then it could prove to be a little bit pricey and not feel like awesome value for money. I plan to go back to the house in the summer to see what I’m sure are some blow-you-away awesome interiors…

Guest post by Lily

This is a guest post by Lily,

Hi you should know me from my mum’s previous posts. (that is if you have seen them.) But because this is my first post it might be a bit dull cos i have no idea of what to post.:-| My brother Joel has just had a birthday sleepover. Now you might think that it might be quite traumatic but it was actually quite good (ish). Apart from the part where you have a load of young boys mostly shouting most of the time. I have also got this top model book for my birthday so I have been doing that as well (see a picture from the book below).

But that is just as much as I may do right now but I should hopefully keep on doing this but for now bye!!!

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I love the smell of Brasso in the evening…

Many, many years ago I was able to claim to be a trumpet player. Sadly, I wasn’t super-keen, and when I hurt my shoulder and lived in unheated rented accommodation in cold, windy Leeds, I didn’t need to search deep in my soul for the desire to stop. Several times in the intervening period I’ve felt a bit of an urge to pick it up again, but it’s never been super strong.

One of the reasons why is because the instrument (a cornet) I have at the moment isn’t fab. It feels a bit blocked (although that could easily just be that my lungs are out of condition) and after about 15-20 minutes of playing the valves stop springing up when you release them which makes playing anything which has more than one note in it a bit tricky.

Another reason is that I now live in Brass Band country. I’m surrounded by people who haven’t just taken a 20 year break and who are really super good. This makes me very nervous about trying to find other people to play with. But, if I’m going to take this up again and keep at it (these words will sound very hollow in about a week when I haven’t touched it again, I know) that’s what I should do as once I reached a certain level, swing band and concert band were the things I liked best. And Christmas Carols by a Brass quartet are just awesome. I want to be able to play in this (seriously, go listen to that – it’s my answer to It’s A Wonderful Life, only shorter). But I’d probably need music because I’m old and my memory is pants.

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However, this evening I went for that first 20 minutes. I can still remember quite a few of the scales although anything above “top” E is a bit of a challenge and I really can’t get above the top G. More lip resilience is required.

So, what has prompted this new-found enthusiasm?

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I may get to play duets without leaving the house.

 

wet Wales strikes again…

Last night it rained oh so hard pretty much all night. And then carried on * a lot* once we had got up. Clearly today was not going to be a beach day. I suggested we have a punt at going to the Electric Mountain in Llanberis again. Last time we went, we were refused entry on the grounds that Joel was too young. On that occasion, the ticket issuing person said “it’s a power station” in a voice that implied that allowing a 3 year old in would be tantamount to child abuse. Whereas, 4-year olds would clearly be fine. So, this time we drove an hour to get there, through several big puddles. Only to find that the next available tour was at 16:30.

Not being up for a 5 hour wait, we went to the toilet (a lot of running water will do that to you) and quickly developed a plan B.

We retired to the Inigo Jones Slate Works on the A487 just north of Penygroes. At the very least it advertised (in its leaflet) a cafe, so we could do lunch and then decide whether we wanted to learn more about slate.

If I’m honest, I was underwhelmed by the cafe. It didn’t feel like fabulous value for money, and when I asked what the soup of the day was, a rapid discussion in Welsh ensued (during which I’m pretty sure I heard something along the lines of “oh sod it, we’ve got a tin of tomato out the back”) along with a check in the freezer (!) after which I was told it was leek and potato. Sure enough, my soup took the longest to arrive.

The decor detracted from the food for me, as well. Custard yellow and lime green walls and trim were set off nicely with a series of plastic information panels about Welsh singers.We were opposite a panel about the Manic Street Preachers which led Steve to spend half the mealtime on the internet fact-checking what it said. And Joel was quite perturbed by the knickers shown on Tom Jones’ panel. It turns out, it was the “Welsh Rock Cafe”, which made the panels make an awful lot more sense.

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The workshops themselves were surprisingly good. There was a 10 minute video, in which we leant that Abergavenny slate is harder than Penrhyn slate (mined vs quarried in this case, although I don’t know whether that’s a general rule), followed by a walkman-based audio tour. At times we found the audio tour quite stressful…

Steve: Joel, have you got to the bit where you’re supposed to be at building 2 yet?
Joel: I don’t know, where’s that bit?
Steve: The bit with the harp music.
Joel: What’s a harp?
Steve: The plinky plonky music.
Joel: uhhh. Plinky what?
Steve: The music. Have you heard any music yet?
Joel: No
Steve: Listen to a bit more, then.
Joel: presses play Oh, there’s music on this bit.
Steve: walks over to building 2

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Having said that, if you aren’t trying to co-ordinate several generations of one family around the site, the audio tour made it a lot more interesting: without it, the tour would have felt a lot less like VFM. As it was, we saw the workshops, why the machines have the names they do, and we got to do some slate carving – that was Lily’s favourite bit – and some calligraphy. There was an awful lot of slate bits lying around, to the extent where you wonder how they can operate in that environment, but I guess, each to their own. There was also a quiz for the children to fill in on their way round which helped to keep them engaged, and they won a prize for fully correct answers at the end.

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All in all, the Workshops at 15GBP for a family ticket wasn’t outrageous and it filled a couple of hours. I wouldn’t be going out of my way to visit the cafe, though. Especially since they mentioned Duffy, but not a thing about Mike Peters and the Alarm.

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A grand day out

Last Sunday we took @antikaggs to Quarry Bank Mill which is right beside Manchester Airport (although you have to drive right round the airport to get to it). Having had to do some computer adjustments at Dad’s which delayed us a bit, we kicked off with lunch which was all lovely except for Joel’s coke sliding off the table with no- one touching it, and the usual problem with the cherry tomatoes…

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As Gill and Grandad have already seen inside the mill, they enjoyed the grounds while we toured the mill.

The mill is pretty cool with interactive things to suit a range of ages. I liked the hand weaving next to the privy and the old wheel base which is prone to flooding, but then I’m like that. Crafty, and excited by disaster…

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This picture would be much better as a video clip – they’re all running like hamsters in a wheel…

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…and here they are looking up the chimney installed for those new fangled steam engine things.

Afterwards we explored the gardens. The children were furnished with “Explorer Packs” – camouflaged bum-bags which contained a magnifying glass, binoculars, a set of spotter cards a scrap of fabric, a blindfold and a scent box. There were several different activities on the cards: find the place in the photo; identify the plants; find a flower that smells like the box (it smelt like talcum powder to me, but maybe that’s testament to how realistic talcum powder is); find a leaf that feels like the fabric. One of the places in the photos had been re-worked; there was a distinctive tree in the background but the large urn was missing in proper life. But other than that, top marks to the National Trust. Lily wants one of these packs now for her birthday. We tried doing some voice control with the blindfolds, but I accidentally made Joel walk into a bench and he kept veering to the left, so it wasn’t very successful.

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I love the changing colour of the rhododendron carpet on this one!

After we left the garden @antikaggs inspected the hydro works that are in progress, we visited the playground and @antikaggs took the children back in to see the robotic animals (temporary) exhibition at the start of the mill tour.

So all in all, there’s something for everyone, and we could have spent longer there. We didn’t test the cafe/restaurant but the ice cream was yummy (thanks, Dad!) and the weather was on our side. Karen mentioned the plane noise before we went but (and this might be a result of living on the Heathrow flight path) I didn’t notice it at all.

A grand day out, with posh cheese!

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Fantastic Day 2

Friday started too early with an 0730 wake-up. Boo!

Once we’d waved Nana & Grandad off, we hit the beach. Joel & Lily got into their beach suits and hit the surf…

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I promise they’re out there.

I went to join them, and as the tide was hurtling in by then, I had to rescue my shoes twice…

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I knitted on the second of the latest pair of socks for Steve, which is at the stage where no matter how much I knit on it, it never seems to grow.

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Lily asked me to help her make something, so we made a boat.

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I’ve managed to get sunburnt in very odd patches, and now it’s clouded over so there’s no chance to fix it today – boo!

Due to two ice cream incidents, I’m running very low on cash…

And then we finished of with an after dinner walk over to Porth Ceiriad beach…20130601-075048.jpg

Fantastic Day 1

Having let him down on this score a couple of weeks ago, we had promised Joel that Thursday was Greenwood Forest day.

We got there about half an hour after schedule ~ half an hour after it opened ~ and hit the roller coaster.

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Then, as the archery queue was only small, we did that, then stilts, then the Big Green Sledging Thing.

I’m sure there was more than just playing at the adventure playground, but I can’t remember what, and then we had some lunch…

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Then we went via the crocodile maze (where Joel led me astray *twice*) to the jungle boats and the big pillow…

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…which was next to the moon carts, although we didn’t do them until later…

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The kids did the donkey ride…

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With several rounds of the classic “knock on helmet” game to fill the time while waiting…

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…and then repeat all of the above ad nauseam…

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Until we get kicked out at 5:30pm and drive to the caravan and collapse!

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