Sunday, 23 August 2015

Fairies, superheros and picnics

Similarly, to many children born to archaeologists, Number One Son starts to live the life of an archaeological scale bar. See, here above Number One Son and his dinosaurs do a section of Fosse Way south from Narborough where one could actually park without being in danger of being flattened by very large lorries, which could easily happen on Watling Street. Below he found the fact that there was a naked bum in an information board in the Roman baths of Wall totally hilarious. “Mummy, mummy, look, a naked bum!” However, what managed heritage sites are really good for are picnics, the main stay of summer holidays.

The second picnic of the week took place with countless other families with small children in the gardens of Belgrave Hall in the ‘fairies and superheroes’ activity day. I have never seen so many Tinkerbells in one place, not to mention Spidermen. This is an annual fixture in the Leicester Museums holiday programme and it is no wonder it is so popular. The gardens used to be a botanical garden, so there is a pond, plant houses, formal flower beds, even a fox hole to marvel. There are spacious grass areas where people can have their blankets for picnics and there is plenty of space for gazebos and tents.

There was a ‘fairies and superheroes’ orientation route – we did find all the fairies and superhero stops. A good way to do sounding exercises, even if I had to do the writing. Then one could do masks, batches, wands and mobiles in the crafts activity tent. Half of the tent also served as a running around area for smaller children. Number One Son is not normally so keen on crafts, but as in ‘Medieval Mayhem’, he wanted to have suitable attire and have his superhero mask.

The formal garden with its rectangular paths allowed children to run around in a relatively safe environment inside the walls of the garden. The garden was slightly outgrown, which added to the excited environment. They also had a small cafeteria so day’s ice cream and flake ration was easy to purchase. Most importantly, it was a sunny day with occasional overcast spells, so it was a perfect English summer day!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Famous Two Meets Nine Ladies

This weeks adventure between Number One Son's days in the local play scheme was directed to Derbyshire Dales in the Peak District. Archaeologist Husband spent his stag night with his friends cruising henges in the Dales, but I was still to see one in the Dales myself. It felt a relatively easy destination for a picnic and a little bit of a run across the fields while reaching the Nine Ladies stone circle.

One thing a person should remember to take with her or him is an OS map. GPS on your mobile suddenly disappears just when you are in the last crucial junction. The non-existence of a mobile signal was a main reason I did not even try to see the second monument I had driving directions to. No point spending your afternoon in the Dales staring at a Google Maps print-out instead of enjoying the landscape. The lorry traffic from the local quarry added to the excitement of the day. Luckily, it was the lorry driver who reversed, since he knew he was coming from the flatter direction from the top of the upland massif.

The stone circle was much busier junction than I expected. There were two large walking parties leaving when we arrived and different couples and family groups went and came when we were eating our lunch. One party had two dogs with them to the delight of Number One Son. He is not only too eager to introduce himself to complete strangers but he is playing with their pets, too. Luckily, this time the magic spell of playing was a delight for both of them. The owner had to return to try to drag his dog away. They had splendid time.

This part of the Dales is a marvellous small geography lecture. In the matter of fields the landscape changes from the pasture land to a fern forest to a light oak forest to a heather and bilberry moor. The landscape may have some resemblance to Lappland, but the distances are not the same. You can change your biotope without breaking your sweat with a comfortable distance from your parked car.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Summer holiday entertainment

The Abbey Park fairground this year

This summer holiday we are working a bit on the shoestring, taking turns in entertaining Mr Wriggly, aka Number One Son. After a week in Italy for a worktrip, I needed to pull my socks up, so I took the main responsibility - although the workload before our small trip to the south to see family is starting to weigh my down. Nevertheless, Number One Son has some days in the local play scheme as well, so we are not entertaining him totally alone.

Kids run towards Bradgate House

The week started with a trip to the Abbey Park to see the Pet Corner, feed the ducks and swans, play in the playground, visit the fairground and have an icecream. It was nice, almost a sunny day and I saw a friend from the NCT while there. Number One Son made random new friends and generally was having fun - until we had to leave the fairground. The whining, the whining.

Nearly there

On Tuesday we had a friend and her children for a picnic visit. We took the public footpath to the Bradgate Park and had a pleasant picnic next to the Bradgate House. The children got together like the house on fire. They ran through the fields and hid in the grain. We finished the day with a stop in the playground.

On the walk around Crags

On Thursday I took Number One Son with me to Creswell Crags. He really would have liked to join the groups visiting the caves and have a hard hat on, but I could see the future before me: Just dragging him off the stones, missing the art, telling him off talking to different people and keeping them away from hearing the guide and telling him that we will keep going around with the group even if he is bored. I decided against it. I will make another trip if and when needed and revisit all the digital resources instead. Nevertheless, we had marvellous time in the playground there and a great picnic.

An open smaller cave

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Invisible Mom

This week I was on a work trip in Italy and left the men of the family to fend themselves again. I had booked one day in a local play scheme, but in the end Archaeologist Husband ended up dismantling two wardrobes in his brother's family's former Leicester house before it is passed to the new owners. Number One Son had had fabulous time, but poor Husband did not do any work. However, moving any furniture with Number One Son is an activity doomed from the start.

My newer laptop has been temperamental with Skype and it has problems with video. Thus, I could see Number One Son but he could not see me. Only hear my voice. To add more to the injury, the latter part of the week was quite hectic and I had to skip a couple of 'telephone calls'. In addition, I remembered to bribe Archaeologist Husband, but did not bring any present to Number One Son. This blog posting could thus be named 'the confessions of a bad mom', but this confession had more to do with the EasyJet hand luggage policies and the extra superduper humid and hot air inside the terminal in Rome. It was the first evening of the holidays and the airport was packed and I was sweaty. I just managed to grab the bottle of local Italian speciality and did not particularly wanted to even think about chocolates that are the main offer. I will have to bring a T-shirt from any future trip or I am doomed.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Dinosaurs - followed by Medieval Mayhem

With the famous diplodocus model

This week I and Number One Son did our big, exciting trip to London. This was a on-the-shoestring test event, when I saw if the coach trips will be OK. I could carry out the whole trip with travel and food with less money than a train trip would have taken me. And I was not disappointed. On the way there, Number One Son was observing the windmills and trucks and munching his snacks and on the way back looking exhaustedly the landscape - while I took a two-hour nap. I had been working the previous day in the Cambridge University Library and driven back to Leicester in the evening.

The lure of diplodocus...

The success of the trip was aided by the fact that the chosen destination, the Natural History Museum, was on the same area as the Victoria Coach Station, only a few underground stops away. Victoria Station has a McDonalds and the minion toys currently on offer as a Happy Meal toy, this pit stop was not a miss. We scored a beefeater minion, to our joy. Victoria Station also has a Sainsbury, so topping up with picnic food and snacks and drinks was easy.

Pond in the wildlife area

The underground ride - surprisingly long for only a two stops in central London - delivered a train ride, something Number One Son loves. The South Kensington station is only a stone-throw away from the Natural History Museum and on the way there were French embassy with some added bobbies to see. The Museum also has outdoor spaces, so we could pop outside and Number One Son could run around scaring pigeons with other kids. There was also an ice cream van with prices to match with the location...

Spotting crawlies

A few people shared our idea and in times there was a huge queue to the dinosaur section. However, I just let Number One Son to choose the first stops. We wondered to the sea creature and reptile section with a whale shark mentioned in the Octonauts getting a mention. We also saw a 1970s film about human perception and saw huge blue whale model. We also spent time exploring the wildlife area where there were different ecotype displays outdoors and assistants to help to spot different bugs and crawlies in the water. Then it was time to dinosaurs.

Dinosaur eggs

I learnt during this trip how bad my son's vertigo is. The dinosaur exhibition starts with a bridge way in the ceiling and my son just could not take the height. But there were so many people we could just walk in the queue slowly out from the bridge with Number One Son declining to hear any explanation of the dinorsaur skeletons on show. Only when we got the ramp by the robot T. Rex he could relax. He was just fine downstairs looking at the dinosaur eggs and viewing a 'dinosaurs in the cinema and cartoons' short film. This part finished in the dinosaur shop where he could choose between the stegosaurus skeleton and dinosaur cookie cutters and natural museum drinks bottom combo. He went for the skeleton to add into his quite numerous dinosaur toy collection.

Observing cocoons

The real treat in the end was the butterfly house. Number One Son spotted butterfly eggs and could have stared at the cocoons and emerging butterflies forever. There were huge moths eating oranges and beautiful blue and green butterfly flying about. We even saw some furry catepillars on leaves.


As a coincidence, the most exciting family event in the Medieval Guildhall in Leicester was the following day. 'Medieval Mayhem' was exactly what it said in the tin. Let little boys to create their crowns, swords and shields and watch them run around fencing and screaming of joy. A couple of hours of this intersected by a face painting session and a quick trip to the Cathedral to see Richard III guaranteed that Number One Son needed a leisurely Friday. He was absolutely knackered, already in the evening. In all respects, it was the best family event I have been locally so far. The children were so happy.

My knight

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Bad pension planning

It is a test pit

Most of the archaeological activities are suitable only to the children over 8 years of age or so, the age limit set by the Young Archaeologist Club as well, if I remember correctly. Thus, it was delightful to have an archaeological project who deliberately tried to reach the local kids and invited the families with children to visit the Castle Hill Archaeology Project (CHAP) in Beaumont Leys in Leicester. The project had sent leaflets to the schools and these had found their way to Number One Son's book bag. Not that there were many kids around, but I could let Number One Son lose with a trowel, brush and a dustpan.

I really wanted to visit the site, since I had hoped in one point to take part into the community activities in Beaumont Leys, but I had then ended up in Sweden with very little time to spare to my hotmail e-mails. The only thing I remarked was that my old blog posting on Beaumont Leys (my professional blog, not this mummy one) kept getting continuous hits, making it the most popular I had ever written - just ahead the one that has 'Nazis' in its title, the sure-hit wonder, if there is anything (there is a reason for those Channel 5 and Yesterday Channel's continuous stream of Nazis with every single imaginable aspect of history and life documentaries). While I was whizzing between Leicester and Stockholm, the CHAP had started doing various things and now my child could get his hands dirty. The only thing is: how wise is this?

Down the Castle Hill

Considering my non-existing pension pot in three different countries (what is a pension anyway?), I would strongly wish my son becoming one of those nasty bankers - or at least a venture capitalist or a future Piers Morgan. I would definitely not take him anywhere near museums, ruins or - the horror, the horror - any digs. But am I a sensible parent? No. I keep dragging Number One Son to museums. We go to conferences with him. He is taken to different ruins. Now he was brushing the slates in a test pit. Do we want to have the same fate as the Orton family? To have a son to continue successfully family 'hobby'?

Whatever the answer, there I was, in the plantations by the Medieval hillfort. To add to the injury my son had decided to put his English knight top on in the morning. A Knight Templar for a Knights Templar site. We have no hope when he has access to exiting bones...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Last week of Year 1

The last week at school had a prologue in the school disco the previous Friday. For the first time ever I was volunteering for the parents’ group – to my slight surprise. I had filled in the form that was commenting how they had too many volunteers the last time thinking that there will be plenty of other people. Since I knew I had to accompany Number One Son to be his walking wallet (not really understanding money, yet), I felt it would be impolite not to volunteeer. However, the person selecting is a friend, so there I was, making a choice between the hall and the cloakroom duties. Which brings me to the English language understatements. As a non-mother-tongue speaker, I forgot that the latter is the euphemism for – toilet. There we were, three ladies getting slightly bored waiting for any mishaps in the toilet that never came. Anyway, now I have done some parental participation after mainly being abroad.

The last week at school is one of those times when you child comes back from school with a huge pile of drawings and all kinds of things they have done during the classes. You just do not feel like throwing it away, but there are quite a many piles now from the nursery and the reception class before Year 1. However, it is heart-warming to see the long-term, long-waited progress. The way the drawings are now more than a swirl with a crayon and look like an Angry Bird or dinosaur steps. How from the beginning of Year 1 the letters have gone from unrecognisable hieroglyphs to something that looks like decent handwriting.

I find the sensibilities of how remember the work the teachers do difficult. Since they are public officers, I do not wish to buy huge presents or lots of flowers. However, considering the amount of marking and preparing and reporting they must do on top of trying to keep Number One Sons in reigns, I feel it is appropriate to do something. So we opted for a card. A bought one with an additional drawing Number One Son did glued on to the inside and a line scribed by him. With all our signatures. Then it was only for Number One Son to join the card givers' queue...

So now it is summer. It is the time when one wonders if one should have had Number Two as well. With many children in the seaside, abroad and nurseries, it will be a stretch to entertain a child with a stretched budget - and make sure he has regular playtime with friends and other children. Luckily, the local play scheme is not too dear, so we just hope they have free slots we wanted a couple of times. And I have planned a trip to London – by coach to keep it cheap and land on the right side of the city with the dinosaurs. However, if one will strike lucky and find a job in August, all may change.