Saturday, 26 December 2015

Playful Christmas

The end of the school term and the start of holidays present a small dilemma for those of us with kids whose work life is defined self-employment or research - to spend time with the children or buy extra childcare. Our situation has been in a continuous flux in recent months and even if the future looks safer than in ages, we did not think about the matters. Thus, even if there were things to do, it made more sense to go exploring Disney shop in the city centre and swimming. After all, I will vanish to Sweden again for periods in the near future.

My personal finances are still in a pitiful state, but at least I will be paid in January. Thus, I was a Scrooge again and Number One Son could marvel Father Christmas in the shopping centre from a distance. The reality was I did not much fancy to go inside a plastic bubble with fake snow flaking on me either. Just wandering around the toy shops in leisure was enough fun to my mind.

Luckily, Archaeologist Husband has a better financial position, so he together with lovely relatives and a certain godless father kept Number One Son in marvellous toys. He got different Lego, a globe, a book about Minecraft with the marvellous Stampy and a book about Angry Birds and dinosaurs. The latter two are the real winning formulas to get Number One Son reading!

However, during our fusion Christmas, my Christmas Eve was not perfect. The visit from Number One Son's friends was a happy and joyful one, but my gingerbreads were rubbish and the dinner with meatloaf, inspired by Finnish foods, worked against him. He ended up feeling sick, but luckily the British Christmas Day meal cooked by Archaeologist Husband remedied any food issues.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Honey, I lost the cat

This week's blog could be called 'The Confessions of a Bad Wife 5', since I managed to approach the matter of noticing that our family cat had wanted to reclaim her freedom after her spay operation and had done a runner with the same thoughtful care I approach Archaeologist Husband's birthday. I waited to 'late' 9.30am on a Sunday morning, before sending a text to poor cat lover who was on a well-deserved round tour of Yorkshire, attending a book launch on Friday in Hayton and seeing friends in Saltaire near Bradford on Satuday. He was about to attend the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference in his alma mater at Bradford, just waiting for his bestman and friend to appear. Instead of just swigging the beer, he had a wife making him panicky about the cat with stitches.

The cat had made her plead for freedom either by running from behind me out when I opened the door on Saturday evening to Number One Son returning from his panto trip or escaping from an open utility room window while the tumble dryer was on. I tried to keep the door closed, but it tends to pop open on its own. Either or, I had dismissed the miaows early on Sunday morning by the cat being behind the door on the landing. To my horror, later, I could not find the cat in the house. Nor there was any cat to nibble the cat food outside the following night when I thought to make sure the cat will be fed. The owners of Frank, a cat that often comes to our garden had not seen her nor any of the neighbours I and Number One Son rang doorbell of on Monday evening. The food went untouched for a second night and my desperation level grew. The cat had clear stitches that could have caught by any bramble and she might have been bleeding somewhere in horrible cold and rainy weather.

I have never intentionally had pets, so Archaeologist Husband's talk about microchipping and pet insurances did not stay long in my consciousness. However, now I learned all too much about the local RSCPA and the third party they use for reuniting lost pets with their owners and was looking for microchipping details. As indicated by the pet insurance papers, I visited duly the vet - something I have never done - to inform her about the missing cat and getting the chip number (naturally, I found the papers a day later). I created a poster Archaeologist Husband took around the block after returning earlier on Wednesday from the TAG than anticipated (it turned out he had new work coming in...). Naturally, the cat reappeared exactly after he had cancelled the appointment for taking out the stitches.

Yes, she came back. At 3.15 am or so on Friday morning I heard faint miaowing outside. She was back and so hungry that we wonder if she had been locked somewhere for days. The following morning a couple of cars had returned to the garages nearby, so a returning worker on a work trip may have opened a door that had been closed on Sunday. The stitches were healing just fine and her hair was as shiny as before. Now Number One Son was not sad any more. He had been seeing bad dreams about big roads and been sobbing in his dreams. Suddenly, all is fine for Christmas again - and I was not to blame for eternity.

The best 'Snoopy as a vulture' pose (photos: AH)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Our singing elf

Pulling faces after the show

Sometimes a mother's heart just fills with happiness and pride. I had one such day this week, when I attended a morning show of Year 2 Christmas production in Number One Son's school. I had missed the evening show the previous night, since I had to be in London for work (and to collect my new passport from the embassy). However, there were not so many parents in the morning show, so it was lovely for all that Number One Son had one parent in two different shows. Some other families had clearly the same arrangement.

Number One Son was not a major character in 'Ralph the Reindeer', but his continuous development was clear for everybody to see. He was miming making toys with the other elfs and the child playing Father Christmas and he was singing all the time - something he would not do a year ago. It was not a talking part - he was not one sitting in the front of the stage narrating the story - but his performance had made Archaeologist Husband to praise the show and that morning it made me smile after complaining grumpily in Facebook the choice of the early show. It was so lovely that it made my day. Seeing Number One Son's mother in the country also seemed to make the teaching assistants happy.

Our Beaver ready for Aladdin!

Because of the evening show, Number One Son missed the Beavers' Christmas party. Luckily, the scout group also had a trip to the local panto organised, so on this Saturday he could join his friends one last time this year. He had actually seen the show - of course, his school organised the trip to the same Aladdin - but he had loved the flying carpet. This time, there was also ice cream on the offer. His elf hat got a second outing in a week. Plus he got excitingly a lift from my friend, since Archaeologist Husband took the car and has taken his turn in travelling. First he headed to Martin Millett's book launch in Hayton and early in the coming week he will join his fellow Bradfordians in the Theoretical Archaeology Conference. Yes, in Bradford. Where he will be joined by his bestman. Now, how red will his eyes be on Wednesday when he comes back...?

Sunday, 6 December 2015

"There is no place like home"

... when the cat is staring at you in the morning in the demanding way. Yes, I am back home after four weeks in Sweden and Italy. The life falls surprisingly quickly into its normal routine. I was again the one who was making the breakfast to Number One Son, quarrelling about the homework in mid-morning and trying to figure out how I manage to be on Wednesday in two places at the same time: in a meeting in London and in a Christmas play at the school. I think I have to change my ticket! Even if it would be better to see the first night show, I probably will be supporting the kids on Thursday morning.

Naturally, we had to help to provide the play costume. The green and red clothing items had been sorted out by Archaeologist Husband, but the elf hat was required. Thus, a trip to the Poundshop was inevitable. As expected, the retailer did not disappoint the parents. However, momentarily the protesting Number One Son slowed the process, since the elf hat on offer felt small, but our son refused to have a 'Santa hat'. I also seem to have guaranteed that Archaeologist Husband will start a blog series 'the confessions of a suffering husband', since I bought his Christmas presents with £2... Nevertheless, I will take him to the Italian Sapori restaurant in our village and that will cost me dear!

When I came home the Christmas tree was up, the inherited furniture items had arrived and the herb garden had been cleared for winter. In rushing for work, I had almost forgotten it is the Christmas season, even if I did bring two packets for Number One Son from Sweden (and one touristy item from Italy). Part of the Christmas menu has been bought to the freezer and basically the main item will be writing the Christmas cards. However, the sudden influx of work for Archaeologist Husband and his soon-to-come disappearance to Yorkshire for 'work', i.e. seeing friends in a book launch and this year's TAG (Theoretical Archaeology Group), so we have to be quick!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Goodies and baddies

The poppies in England signify the Remembrance Day on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, remembering the Armistice during the First World War. Considering the past, it is a worthy cause - even if from the reasons of conscious I cannot approve its connotations in modern conflicts. Nevertheless, remembering the war dead is something that is traditional in Finland, too, so I feel it is important to convey the respect for the losses and sacrifices of former generations. In Finland it is not poppies but candles on the graves in the dark autumn and winter nights that signify this.

However, the honourable efforts of Number One Son's school to teach the children the meaning of historicity and learn from their own history may sometimes have unforeseen consequences. One has to remember that these children are only five or six, so they cannot grasp the complexities of war or adult situations. No, Number One Son's drawings are now filled with blue and red stick-men, who are fighting each other. The blue colour stands for the goodies and the red for the baddies. This suddenly conforms with his newly found division of things boyish or girly, suitable or something to be rejected. The war game situations are not necessarily helped by Archaeologist Husband who has been happily drawing tanks in suitable colours fighting on the sides of different sides.

At least it was not me who taught Number One Son this...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

In view and out of view

I really do not understand my laptop. After working perfectly, showing video in Skype, it suddenly decided that enough is enough and it was time to cut the Mummy off. Not that I am a pretty sight after days driving or being outside in fieldwork, but it would be nice to have two-way communication with video link. The image quality from UK is also quite pixellated, but a glimpse of Number One Son lightens any day - even if slightly hazy.

What I should have done today is Christmas shopping, but I totally forgot after some editing jobs not related to me being in Italy. I was just enjoying the bright, crisp sunshine and thinking of lunch. That was a little bit of a disaster. I learnt not to order a tourist portion of chicken and potatoes. The chicken had been edible perhaps a couple of days a go before it was grilled to gristle by a hot table or similar. First time ever I sent a plate back to kitchen as inedible.

I have promised a toy from Italy. I wonder if a thing made out of alabaster counts as a toy...? I may be doomed if I test, so I have to try to keep concentrated tomorrow, if the promised rain comes and we will be waiting for Tuesday.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Wifi playing up!

Of course, just when you hear that both Archaeologist Husband and Number One Son are feeling poorly during the first week of me being away, the wifi at the Department decides it does not like me nor my devices. The Skype calls for vain without an Internet connection, the registration web site does not come up on my laptop and the computer at which I sit does not recognize my USB camera, so I have sound out from my colleague's loudspeaker but I cannot send my picture to my son. Thus, son finds Minecraft much more interesting than a distant voice of a travelling mom. Another colleague touches my laptop - and hey presto - at least the registration panel becomes visible in the Internet browser.

One week gone, three weeks to go away home. The next two weeks I should have wifi in the hotel, but it will be in Italy, so it will depend on the room, the breath of the walls and the spot I or my devices will be placed on. Internet is marvellous in connecting people, but it only connects when the network is running smoothly and your device can get connected...

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Confessions of a bad wife - is it part 4?

"We are in Stockholm - can you spot Mom?"

I am packing my bags again and heading away for four weeks. It is time to go to fieldwork and before that handle all the rest of negotiations and planning around it in Sweden. I will also again manage to miss Archaeologist Husband's birthday - but at least this period of time was not set by me. Nevertheless, I will be back for letting him to head to the TAG 2016 at Bradford to meet his fellow Bradfordians.

After a long stretch at home doing the school run every morning, I seem to be soon partly in Britain and partly in Sweden again. This will again take a lot of organisation in order to keep people happy, but luckily, there are always parts of research that can be done at home or at the Cambridge University Library. In the end, with a salary, we can have proper holiday in Finland to see family and we will be kept in cat food.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

From the SEN(CO) review to trick and treating

All ready for trick and treating

This week was one of the highlights of the small school children and Beavers: this was the week of the Halloween. As a Finnish adult, I see Halloween as an artificial American import, but the children, they see it as an opportunity to put scary skeleton, monster, Scream, vampire or pirate costumes on and go trick and treating in the dark, seeing some fireworks along the way. One just does have heart to spoil there fun. We went trick and treating with a group of parents from our previous NCT coffee group in the village and about 15 children ran excitedly from a lit pumpkin to another decorated door. Number One Son has now a huge amount of sweets and lollipops, since like he tends to, he got very excited and was about the first at every door, almost forcing his way in. However, we realised that we were asking repeatedly the children to 'form a an orderly queue' and avoid houses without pumpkins even if we could see people watching rugby final or some light entertainment programme in their living room. Could you make an American import any more British than that!?

Parents and monsters congregating

The week had some very serious content, since we had the first SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) review meeting at Number One Son's school. We spend almost two hours revising the text so that, while recognising the improvements in speech, he is still immature for his age and, even if delightful, has many disruptive mannerisms that have to be managed by the teaching assistants. It also came to light in the Beavers that one of the assistants there have to keep an eye constantly on him, since it is easier for him to relate to adults and younger children than those of his exact peer group. He is one year or more behind emotionally and behaviourally and luckily the school recognises that we cannot support his school attendance without official status and council support. We have been lucky that the last speech therapist and the school SENCO have such a long experience in their fields and we are truly supported. This also means that Number One Son's short attention span does not get other children in the class distracted.

We want your sweets!

It was a quick move from the meeting to home to collect Number One Son's fancy dress party costume for the Monster Disco, organised by Beavers. He went as a ghost knight, all his face painted white. We had to change in the cloakroom at the school, since he went to the disco directly from the after-school club. The disco continued pass his normal bath time, but there was no way I was going to succeed in finding him in the disco room earlier and drag home. He really enjoys his Beavers! Now I only have to sow about 10 badges on to the right spots on his Beaver jumper. They may not be 10, but they feel like it!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Half-term with sharks and ghouls

The autumn October half-term started in sunny weather and we first just enjoyed the leisurely existence in the park. Number One Son now masters the flying fox, so there was a lot of fun to be had. Although both I and Archaeologist Husband were busy juggling different duties. Archaeologist Husband was suddenly needed to cover for a lecture series after a course responsible had a concussion whereas I struggled with a job application in Swedish. I did make it in time but I am feeling for the panel when they have to read all 9 or so supporting documents.

The canalboats in Birmingham as photographed by Number One Son

When the deadline was passed, I took Number One Son to Birmingham to the National Sea Life centre. We had not been before, since I wanted to be sure that he will fully enjoy something, which can only be described as a pretty expensive experience. Now it was definitely the time and he wholeheartedly enjoyed seeing the fish, looking for the sharks and playing in the soft play area.

The Octonauts theme was spot on in the centre, but it was the penguins and the fish that were in the centre stage all the time. As is customary, some of the displays that you encounter in these aquariums is less impressive. They tend to have a mangrove shallow water tank, even if the fish are quite small and colourless. Well, it is one essential world watery ecological environment covered, but most people just walk by. However, everybody are cheering for the penguins.

The main feature is the ocean water tunnel where a huge ocean turtle is floating in the water together with different kinds of sharks and colourful fish. A huge lazy shark was first resting on top of our plasticky tunnel and then moved by our second round lying on the sandy floor. The little boys were totally mesmerised and running around spotting sharks and the turtle and shouting to each other when noticing a new stingray floating by.

This time around we travelled with a coach and found out that actually it is a wise choice for Birmingham. You are not exactly in the new New Street station and shopping centre - we did not have time to visit - but it is a stone-through away from Bullring. Coach takes about the same time as the train and is much cheaper, so it is a viable alternative. There is even a bus stop at the coach station on the route from our village. Naturally, we could not be without a visit to McDonalds and a walk through the ever changing centre of Birmingham. I just wonder how much of a Paradise the Paradise shopping centre will be. In any case, both I and Number One Son enjoyed popping into the commercial art gallery in the concert hall building and viewing work from Ronnie Wood, Bob Dylan and the art forgerer who now sells his fake Monets and Dalis in his own name while waiting our timed visit to the Sea Life centre to start.

The Leicester visit was to the Guildhall children's event. This had a ghosts and ghouls theme due to approaching Halloween, but since it was the October half-term, it was not as popular success as the knight one in the summer. Number One Son is not very much of a crafts person, so he was missing having small boys to run around the premises with. He quite enjoyed looking for the magical object cards in different rooms of the museum and he got his face painted, though. A quick visit to the teddy bear shop, Disney shop and poundshop rounded up a visit that made Number One Son nodding in the bus on the way back. Success!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Towards the half-term

The last school week before the half-term started in happy mood. It was a birthday party of one of the Friends and a lot of excited running around. Nevertheless, 6-year-olds start to be a bit too large to bouncy castles and the result was first ever nosebleed, since Number One Son was tiny. This did leave a long pause: the bleed stopped relatively quickly - and it was me who was covered in blood and having an early Halloween feeling. Number One Son was back running around.

I and Archaeologist Husband duly went for the parents' evening and heard a lot about the curriculum and how Number One Son is doing at school. He seems to have a continuous stream of very good teachers - and it seems that Number One Son is besotted with the latest one. This helps with any potential behaviour problem, since we can always remind him about what the Teacher would think of this.

I missed the highlight of Number Son's week. It was the time for all the new Beavers to get their neckers and all regional and such badges SOMEBODY has to sow on. Luckily, the coming week is the half-term and then they will have a monster disco for Halloween, so I do have some time. Archaeologist Husband was present, as was Friend's mother and Facebook and other nooks of Internet have been filled with videos and photos. It was the first time Number One Son had his scout trousers on as well!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Revisiting Nearly New volunteering

This Saturday morning I was back at the Beaumont Leys School spending the time before lunch with other volunteers setting up this Autumn's NCT Nearly New Sale in Leicester. This sale is amazing show of organisation ran by marvellous women who have steely professionalism, even if this is not their job. The forms have been filled, the room layouts planned, the seller lists in plays and furniture moved in the halls by the morning of the sale - like every year. The the sellers arrive and everything starts to roll.

I with the others was emptying boxes with seller numbers and putting soft toys, baby walkers, jigsaw puzzles and musical instruments into their place. For an archaeologist, this provides an opportunity to reflect on categorisation and classification. Is a book with buttons for different noises an educational toy or baby book? Is a battery-powered fairy wand an item of fancy clothing or a toy? And where does one put an oven guard? With bed guards? With equipment?

Although Number One Son is even no toddler any more but a small school boy, I could still pick up a few bargains in volunteers' pre-sale; I was uncertain if I managed to get anything. However, I picked up beaver trousers for my beaver, black school shoes for £1.50, a new umbrella and sea-themed bed linen among the bits and bobs. All was only £12 even if there were winter boots included. Of course, I forgot that I had picked up boots in the sales already in the spring... The lure of real or imagined bargains!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

First time in a Beaver jumper!

All ready to go!

This week Number One Son was able to put his new Beavers jumper on for the first time. He really seems to wait for the Beaver meetings and this time was reluctant to leave when it was time to the next group to come in. He was moaning afterwards that there was no more fun and that it should have continued longer. I think this will be a long-term fixture of his week!

In front of the scout hut

The evening was the loveliest of autumn evenings with warm sunny weather. The Beavers had been playing outside the scout hut and it was definitely the right day for that. Actually good that the policeman who was supposed to visit apparently did not turn up. Nevertheless, now we have a 'safety' badge to sow on. I now roughly where and Archaeologist Husband expects me to do the honours, even if I am not known for any kind of craft skills. Now, where have I put my needle and thread...?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Tooth fairy came

Try to take a photo of a tiny thing held by an excited child!

This week Number One Son has again passed one threshold. No, it was not the trip to the Scouts shop to buy the Beavers sweater (obligatory), but his first milk tooth became loose and dropped of by the end of the week. The trip to the Scouts shop was not to forget, since in a hurry, I just switched the Navigator on. I had a hazy idea that the shop was somewhere between Scudamore Road and Hinckley Road, but I did not know which road to take. The Navigator wanted me to take M1, no matter where I was. It turned out I had been about two junctions away before losing my confidence on the ring road...

The traditions passed my little people at school are strong. We had never talked about Tooth fairy at home, but as soon as the tooth became wobbly, Number One Son started to talk about the coin he will get. He may not remember what else happens in school afterwards, but moneywise, he is on the money.

I hate wobbly teeth. I did as a child, and I am not much help in discussing the matter. Luckily, the tooth dropped off over a painful breakfast. Nothing could be eaten before. In the evening I left the practical execution of the Toothfairiness to Archaeologist Husband who seemed to take the rains. I had thought that a pound was the standard, but he had other thoughts.

His coin of choice was 50 pence. This turned out to be an enlightened choice. Number One Son has not really paid attention to the nominal values of the coins before, but now there is at least one coin the shape of which is chiselled to his mind. he now promptly recognises his favourite coin he got from the Tooth fairy. He would have wanted to take the tiny tooth to the school to show His Teacher, but we did not want that. He would have only lost it. Now it became hard currency. If only there was this fairy...

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Meeting the teacher

This week's big family event for us parents was the Year 2 parents' information event in Number One Son's school. Luckily, Number One Son was in the after school club that afternoon, so we could listen to the presentation and discuss with His Teacher in peace. It all took place in his classroom so we could actually see that as well. I had had a short peep in when I had checked the timing of the meeting earlier during the week. The event was not on the class web site and we had misplaced the small slip that had come in Number One's book bag.

It is a bit scary that they start to test children so early. This year it will be the renewal of the phonics test, failed so spectacularly in Year 1 (zero marks leaves no grey area in the matter) and SATS in the spring. I am sure he will manage to do things in maths, but literacy may be a problem. However, one has to take it as it comes.

I and Archaeologist Husband waited until everybody else had gone. Since Archaeologist Husband took the main responsibility during Year 1 with me really coming back only in the last term, I had not realised that His Teacher had not seen Archaeologist Husband and was introduced to her for the first time. This shows that I have pulled my socks a bit now in the autumn. Well, all will be different in November.

It turned out that both parties wanted to know how Number One Son is doing at the beginning of the year. His answers when asked what he did at school are short ("Don't remember"), so we did cherish this moment to ask and hear. We were shown his cursive handwriting book. Oh boy, has he made progress! Clearly, he is making learning a neater way of writng letters, although sounding and reading takes its time. Happily, he likes His Teacher very much and does want to please her. We actually manage to use 'Your Teacher will be very disappointed' as a way to get him to do things properly. A very ensuring exchange at school.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Back to the Finnish School

It is not only the normal school and Beavers starting, now it is time to head to the Finnish Saturday School as well. However, I am not totally sure if it is more to the mother than to Number One Son. After all, he cannot really Finnish, since I had to start speak English full-time when his speech difficulty and its nature became apparent. I do like to chat and gossip with my fellow Finns, drink coffee and have lovely bakes some of the school members make. However, Number One Son was engaged in playing and chatting to one English dad present, so I had difficulties in dragging him away.

He does not grow up without a second language, since I read his bedtime story in Finnish when it is my turn. He has also nice Finnish picture books, including Richard Scarry style Mauri Kunnas books and of course the Moomin. We have some Donald Duck, the mainstay in Finnish childhoods, at home.

Even if he will not get the benefits the research is drumming up in bilingual upbringing, he will hear a foreign language regularly and grow up appreciating he cannot always understand what others speak without finding it odd. He has lately made developmental leaps that mean that he enjoys different play and crafting sessions more. I also wonder if one can start slowly teaching and learning some basic vocabulary in Finnish. Like different bank holidays and animal names. Thus, he would get more out of the Saturday School.

,p>At least my discussions at the school will be more and more interesting. One of the adult learners has finished with her undergraduate at Leicester in archaeology and now participating in the Charnwood Roots project and other digs on weekends. We can chat about local archaeology over Finnish coffee. A true plus!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

New starts: Year 2 and Beavers

It has been an exiting week for Number One Son with his first day with a new teacher in Year 2, starting in the Beavers in the village and attending his first political event. The last actually was a village fête where it was noticable that the Green stall had persons with children meeting the public. The age profile could not have been more different from the parish council as a whole as a glance to the parish council stand could prove.

We were first a little bit doubtful about the Beavers, since Number One Son could not fit to the Thursday group that would have included a leader with SEN experience. However, it turned out that there are a number of children who know Number One Son from the after school club. There were also several children from now-former NCT coffee group in the village. He will require some nudging into team work, but he seemed to have fun. And he was ready to go straight away back the following day (as his sense of time is not as fine as that of his peers).

A magician made the favorite toy for the kids

The Beavers would have performed in the fête as well. There were some children without the full uniform we assumed was the requirement, but by the time they started, Number One Son had been in the grounds already for three hours and had green face paint, so it would not have been very appropriate. He was also right in the middle of playing with his friends, so it would have been pointless to drag him anywhere. He will have time to do it next year.

The Ratby brass band in the fête

The current spending review however is bringing some worries to my mind. The Leicestershire County Council has already made noises that they may cut services to vulnerable adults and children. With Number One Son's speech improving, but clearly behind in communication and general maturity from his class mates and some new signs of potential reading trouble looming, will his problems be serious enough to merit proper support in the future? Will government see behind their policies and realise what it actually means if they cut local government spending? The suggestion to give all 8-year-olds a library card - potentially to a library that does not exist any more, is (wo)manned by non-professionals doing free what is a statutory service or have a library that is not buying in any books actually - shows that they do not understand the consequences of their own policies. One starts to wonder why we actually pay the government, if it does not want to serve the people with services.

The medieval corner in the fête

Sunday, 30 August 2015

In a secret garden

How do you keep a little boy happy? Take him to see his cousins and Bam Bam and Nana.

Bam Bam and Nana live in a flat in a converted larger country house. There are the gardens to roam and this time plenty of other children to run with. We went picking blackberries and saw the gardener mowing the cricket pitch (of course a country house had its own cricket pitch). Number Two Cousin came to a visit and we went to a playground (above) in the nearby village that has a shop. Naturally, we had to replace everything I had forgotten to pack with us. It is not nice to go for a week without a toothbrush. That was basically the last we saw of dry weather (with occasional rain drop) in West Sussex.

Bye bye Bam Bam

What followed was spells of heavy rain that continued all the way down M3 when we were on our way to Devon. The rainy weather seemed to hover above London, West Sussex and Kent and be county-defined. After witnessing the slow lane transforming into a river on M3 off M25, the rain stopped when we entered Wiltshire. We managed to see Stonehenge in sunshine, although a bit Japanese fashion by taking a photograph.

Number One Cousin lives in a community in the uphills of Devon towards Exmoor where they grow vegetables and have a camping. You can step into their gardens through the old country house gate and walk through the overgrown drive way to the lawn of the house. This was a heaven for Number One Son. Not only he could play with his cousin he had not seen for awhile, but he could also observe the chicken, take part into building a den and run through the woods on the Two Moors walking trail. There was a dog to pat and a cat named Tiger.

It was also highly educational. We visited a parish church and saw Dartmoor in the horizon. There was the school Number One Cousin will go one day - if not otherwise, then for the brownies. We smelled the pig poo and avoided cow pats next to the electric wire. There was an autumn feel in the air. Even if it was sunny during the day, there were plenty of muddy puddles for the children to get themselves muddy in. Zed was seen in shorts and people in Exeter did have summer dresses, but when the evening came, it was chilly.

Like the other people and the campers, we also came and went. Now it is the Bank Holiday weekend and the summer holidays are over. Year 2 starts in two days.

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.