Sunday, 28 August 2016

Six thankful things

Once again another month is screeching into the distance before I have had a chance to gather my thoughts for anything more than family updates.  So this is just a quick one: six things I'm thankful for this month. 

1. More writing contacts made, through volunteering to write about FIGMENT Derby - an art festival with the emphasis on participation.  I wrote a post about it for Love Derby, and another one for the Silk Mill Museum (not up yet but hopefully will be soon).  It was pretty interesting writing about the same event twice, for different audiences.

Adding to the beanstalk at FIGMENT


2. Runner beans from the garden.  This is the closest I have come yet to my ambition to have a glut; we are not quite overwhelmed but certainly have a steady supply!



3. Theo growing up.  He is now basically out of nappies (not 100% potty trained but I'll spare you the details) and has graduated to a big bed.  Or at least he will do as soon as the mattress arrives next week; for now he is in the cot with one side taken off.

And he can ride a motorbike...

 4. The life of our neighbour Mr Stokes, who died last week aged 94.  He was a keen gardener till the last.  This squash was from his garden; eating it seemed a fitting way to remember him with thanks.



5. Blackberries starting to appear.  We went picking yesterday and got a reasonable haul.  I froze 500g and made the rest into a delicious crumble.



6. And finally, it's almost the end of the school holidays!  Actually, it's been a good five weeks.  The weather has been great, with only a few days of rain, and we've done some fun things, with more planned for the final week.  I always find myself looking forward to getting back into routine, though.

We enjoyed ourselves!

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Stretching out

As I mentioned in my last post, we visited Stowe Gardens for the second time this month.  We remembered that we'd taken a particular photo of Toby on our last visit, so we recreated it this time.  Scrolling through our photo archives, I discovered that the original was taken almost a year ago, in September 2015.  Are you ready for this?

Last year

This year
Who stretched Toby?  I knew he was growing, of course - after all, I've been the one who had to keep buying him new school uniform - but it really brings it home to see the evidence like this.

His first year at school has stretched him out in so many other ways, too.  He has made his first close friends and gained in lots of confidence.  It's been wonderful to see him stepping into new situations, asking new questions, and acquiring new skills.  He still gets scared when he has to try something for the first time, but he's gained the courage to admit it and do it anyway - and then he's so proud of himself!

We're proud of him too, so I hope you'll forgive me a little moment of rhapsodizing over my biggest-and-getting-even-bigger boy.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and sew some labels in yet more school uniform.  Can't I stretch that, too?

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Staycationing

I was always of the opinion that a staycation was when you actually stayed at home, but made it more fun by doing day trips to the kind of places you'd go on holiday.  Recently the term seems to be used to mean staying in the UK rather than going abroad - which surely is just a regular vacation?

Our recent summer holiday was a cross between the two, so we can count it as a semi-staycation at least.  My parents kindly hosted us for several days, which almost counts as staying at home, but with an exciting new array of day trips to do.  And the added bonus of two extra adults to wrangle small boys!
Yes, they are lovely really.

The first day out was to The Lookout, a science centre set amongst miles of trees.  We had been to the vast playground before - on a much colder day - but this time we went inside as well.  Unusually, we have no photographs; probably because we were having too much fun.  There are activities ranging from water play to logic puzzles to spinning wheels to shadow boxes.  Some were challenging for adults too; I spent ages trying to arrange six curved pieces into three interlocking circles, and finally had to admit defeat.  Meanwhile, Theo was diving into the ball pit several dozen times, and Toby had appointed himself foreman on the play building site, overseeing some construction using hundreds of giant foam Lego blocks.

My parents were busy on the second day, so we took ourselves off to the famous riverside town of Henley-on-Thames.  Graham and I were somewhat frustrated that the boys wanted to spend all the time on the playground.  They complained bitterly when we dragged them around the town, and got comprehensively soaked when we let them near a fountain for two minutes.  Looking back, nothing that bad really; at the time it induced a strong feeling of, "Why are we even bothering?"

Henley's very pretty, though
 So we went to the beach at West Wittering.  Which is absolutely guaranteed to keep two boys happy for as many hours as they can shovel sand.  Mom and I enjoyed a nice stroll along the shore while the men of the family dug tunnels, and we ate sandy sandwiches and splashed in the waves and felt like we really were on holiday.



But the big event was the trip to London.  We set off bright and early on the train, and emerged from the Underground into glorious sunshine at Tower Hill.  Our first destination was Tower Bridge, which gives you a grand view along the Thames - and straight down into it as well!  The upper walkways have sections of glass floor, which give you a view 40 metres down to the buses and boats directly underneath your quivering toes.  Walking on it is a very weird sensation, as if you are trying to balance on a narrow beam that isn't really there.  At first everyone tiptoes gingerly across, like it might give way at any minute; by the end my boys, at least, were jumping up and down on the glass ("Don't do that!!!") 

On Tower Bridge with Dad

Venturing onto the glass floor

View up the Thames

Graham photographing Mom photographing Toby
 They were ready for lunch by the time we reached the engine room, and uninterested in historic steam engines, no matter how fascinating the workings might be.  So we adjourned to the river bank for a picnic.



Fortified with cheese sandwiches and flapjack, we pressed on to our second stop, which was the Monument to the Great Fire of London.  This tower was set up so that, if toppled over, its tip would reach to the exact baker's shop in Pudding Lane where the fire started.  Which seems simultaneously satisfyingly neat and extremely pointless.  The point, for us, was the 311 steps to get to the top - and we can proudly report that both boys climbed and descended every single one!  The view is well worth seeing, even though there are now much higher and more modern vantage points to compete with.

It's a long way up

And a long way down!

Yes, we really climbed up inside that!


Finally, Toby's visit to London would have been sadly incomplete if he hadn't got to see Big Ben.  We stepped out of Westminster Tube station into a crush of tourists waving cameras, but once we'd shoved our way through with the pushchair, we found a clearer spot from which to admire the gilded clock tower.  That was definitely the highlight for Toby; Graham's attention was distracted by an insanely expensive hypercar nosing its way through the traffic.


Ooh, shiny!

Meanwhile my parents were reminiscing about meeting nearby, years before I was born, and Theo was as nearly asleep as he could be while still trying to see everything around him.  It was time to get back on the train.

Stowe House and gardens

We fitted in one last stop on our drive back to Derby, at the beautiful Stowe Gardens, about which I have blogged before.  Then we headed home, and back to a proper staycation (or as you might call it, the rest of the summer holidays).



Because really, when wearing three hats counts as entertainment, why do you need to go anywhere?