The time when…

As we sat round our little table eating dinner together. In the hall. Next to the ironing board and a spare bit of coving. Remembering a time when we didn’t have to bail out our bath with a bucket because we still had a waste pipe, and a time when we didn’t share our bedroom with a desk chair, umbrella stand and a decorative but somewhat cumbersome obelisk.

It is a little mad undertaking building work, and our strange state of being at the moment is particularly enhanced by the addition of the Toddler who still requires regular nutritional input, restorative shut eye, and enough available space in which to swing a small broom at a Peppa Pig ball (our favourite activity of late). Fortunately she is taking ourtopsy turvy state of affairs infinitely in her stride, though we do find ourselves wondering to what extent she will remember this funny time in our lives…

As we post her out of the front window to avoid having to move the kitchen cupboard currently blocking the front door.

You see my earliest memory was at 18 months- Kate’s current age. I have somewhat unusual memories of my childhood, but like our daughter, I wasn’t born into the most conventional of families. Here are the top 10 most memorable incidents I was party to.

Notably, all involve my mother.

1) The time we visited a National Trust property in Kent, and as is normally the case, my Mum was enthusiastically reading the guide book aloud to my Dad and I (despite the fact we had our own copies). By the time we had completed our visit, we had picked up probably 20 or so Japanese tourists who thought we were the official tour, and our journey home was delayed considerably as we felt obliged to pose for souvenir photographs.

2) The time my Mum was forced to wear just her bathing suit on a trip to a French Aquarium after failing to remember her change of clothes following a dip in the swimming lake.

3) The time we were locked in a small shed at a confectionery factory in rural France and forced to watch how sugared almonds were manufactured in German, after my Mum’s attempt at the local dialect failed to both establish our nationality and the fact the owners were just about to go out for lunch. We finally managed to escape the shed to find the owners gone, and a small note wishing us a pleasant onward journey and hoping that we had enjoyed our visit.

4) The time when I was 5 and my Mum removed my brand new sandals whilst I was crabbing in Cornwall, just in case they were to fall off my feet and into the sea. On the removal of one shoe she stowed it in the front of her pac-a-mac, and was just reaching for my other foot, when the sandal left it’s stowage facility. And fell in the sea.

5) The time my Mum felt too embarrassed to explain to our dinner host that she disliked cheese immensely, so convinced me to wrap up her considerable wedge of blue stilton in a napkin and stow it in my rucksack for her. It was a hot and sticky summer evening, and we had been booked immediately onto a tour of a French Countess’ castle after dinner. I’m sure not one of the tour members did not question my personal hygiene.

6) The time my Mum was stuck in the ‘rapids’ of a local swimming pool, and too embarrassed to admit she could not swim against the artificial current created, was carried around in a figure of eight for 45 minutes. My friends and I were waiting for her at the pirate ship the entire time, and had no idea where she was!

7) The time we arrived at another one of Mum’s ‘introductions to culture’ on holiday, when she exclaimed how lucky we were not to have missed the shuttle bus (as a big bus bearing a picture of the attraction we had come to see arrived in the car park). She hurried us on to the bus, and began it’s descent down a very steep and winding road to the bottom of a very large hill. It was only once we had reached the bottom, that Dad had been given time to consult the map and had discovered we had in fact parked outside the attraction we had come to see, and had caught the shuttle bus back down to the town centre from where our journey had begun. It was a long walk back to the car. Which I seem to remember was largely carried out in silence.

8) The time we had to eat 34 horrible chocolate ice lollies because Mum didn’t properly understand the offer in the cheap Spanish supermarket, they wouldn’t all fit in our caravan ice box, and Dad’s constitution means nothing is allowed to be thrown away.

9) The time Mum walked with gusto to secure us a sunny table on the patio of a local pub, misjudged where the door actually stood, and instead walked into a large plate-glass window, subsequently falling into a large plant pot and squashing an unsuspecting Japonica. Much to the delight of all the lunch time patrons.

10) Another occasion when Mum fell in a huge muddy puddle prior to us dining with friends in a posh country pub. Suspecting the Maitre D wouldn’t allow her entry in her earthen state, she spent the entire time walking perpendicular to every wall so as to conceal her embarrassment. I suspect people thought Dad was her carer as the Maitre D spoke to us very clearly and concisely throughout the duration of our visit.

I feel no shame in writing this post as I suspect Kate may be writing a very similar one featuring me in 31 years time.

I hope so.

 

Duck

The toddler’s favourite word is ‘duck’. Much to my relief the pronunciation has improved terribly, and so I no longer fear the reprisal of others when leaving the house.  Kate does however use her word with great conviction, and often in a number of non-bird related scenarios, and there is no accounting for her immaculate comedy timing (all this has relevance later on, bare with me).

It’s exciting times at Ferguson Forts as a large proportion of our house is now missing courtesy of Steve (our builder) and his merry men. We have had breakers, diggers, grab loaders, skips, some wonderful wheelbarrows in jaunty green and yellow hues, and all manner of things that create noise and dust, but at the same time profound joy! We have always enjoyed a bit of a project when it comes to house related things, but this has been the grandest effort to date. I can’t wait to be living in the end result and making the most of what the new space will offer us in terms of daily living and also potential money making adventures (if I play my cards right).

With the fun however, has also been a lot of hard work and preparation for the great event, and so last Monday in much need of some R&R, our little family downed tools (yep, the Toddler is head of sweeping) and we set off to the beautiful gardens at Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire.

We started out tour in the water garden which is everything a stately home garden should be, beautifully landscaped, planted with only the most fragrant and exotic blooms, and as it’s name would suggest, is host to a large number of lily laden ornamental duck ponds. Breaking with tradition we had actually taken the buggy with us on this particular outing as the Toddler was seen to be flagging from the start and we hoped she would eventually give in and make use of it. Sadly, this was not the case, and so we spent the entire time pushing the cumbersome thing round, but at least it was (I thought) a useful storage facility for my handbag and worldly possessions. 

At one point I was rather pleased that I had managed to traverse Kate’s aluminium chariot across a number of stepping stones to a grassy island where Neil and Kate had already made their way. I signalled to them that I had arrived and bent down to receive an incoming toddler who was bounding over to me.

Now at this point I understand it when people say their lives flash before their eyes and everything goes into slow motion…as I swept Kate into my arms I heard Neil call out! I looked behind me only to watch as the buggy, its brake not having been applied, deftly make its way down a neatly mown hillock towards a watery edge.  I ran after it, but unable to catch it as it picked up speed, it entered the water with an almighty ‘splosh’, sunk on impact,  and only its rear wheels were visible above the surface.

‘Duck’ said the Toddler.

I believe the correct terminology for my mobile telephone is ‘bricked’ as it displays only a flashing red light, the lady at the Co-op was quite mistrustful of my slightly damp and curly edged five pound note (I did explain), but at least the stamps still work, albeit with the application of a little Pritt Stick.

The buggy was eventually laid out to dry in the Children’s playground after Neil managed to rescue it in a manly display of strength over adversity, and we made several new acquaintances off the back of our spectacle, as fellow parents gathered to both commiserate and congratulate us on our efforts.

So the lesson in today’s story is thus. When life surrounds you with deep water, apply the brakes, because you never know what could end up getting bricked.

And if you visit Cliveden of an afternoon, do take in a cream tea on the parterre, it’s lovely!

It’s a busy day down on the farm…

Who’s that hiding in the barn? Our favourite book of the moment.

It has taken me a while because a great deal of my leisure time recently has been consumed with dispensing advice on upholstery cleaning to the elderly. Lucky for you however (?) I have also managed to find a few spare moments to upload pictorial evidence of our attendance at Open Farm Sunday. For anyone not familiar with this particular and sacred day,  it is an opportunity to have a mooch around your local agricultural establishment without fear of being caught out by an electric fence or worse, a farmer with a penchant for spit-roasted rambler.

I have to say, we were very taken with our chosen destination ‘Shiplake Farm’ in Oxfordshire. There were of course the fundamentals – tractor rides, heifer introductions, the opportunity to feel small next to a combine harvester, and lashings of homemade victoria sponge! Our farm however not only offered all of the above, but also an opportunity for colouring in (the equivalent of crack cocaine to an ex Geography Student) – whist their primary crop also just happens to be opium. I know! That may account for some of the tractor driving, but I feel it added to the ambiance and general authenticity of experience.

Here are a few photos of our adventures, including one of a very exciting contraption used for weighing cows on their way to Tesco.

To collect Clubcard points.

Or so what Neil told me.

P.S. Note the Toddler is wearing her hat! Wonders never cease.

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake farm

John Deere Tractor - Open Farm Sunday 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Open Farm Sunday 2014 - Shiplake Farm

Cow weighing machine

Open Farm Sunday - Shiplake Farm 2014

Sunglasses

Previously it was all about the balls.

And now for some context to that statement.

Moving on. The new fad in my toddler’s life is sunglasses. She has been major fans of both mine, Neil’s (and well anyone’s really) for some time now, so when strolling amongst the aisles of summer attire, I finally caved in and purchased some for the young lady in my life.

Kate had a choice of four pairs, including two brandishing the much favoured ‘Peppa Pig’, but apparently unable to influence the decision in any way,  we ended up with the bright pink oversized polka dot pair. They have not left her nose since.

I kid you not, even bath time has not been taken without the accompaniment of specs.

So without further ado, introducing the Toddler and her ‘rays’…

Toddler Sunglasses
They went on in the shop. They have not come off since.
Eating dinner in my sunglasses
Eating dinner 
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Digging the shades
Digging the shades
Greys Court Garden - National Trust
Giving coach tours 
Kate and Benjamin
Cake scoffing incognito

 

What can I say.

She’s a special girl.

The Toddler loves…

We have found the Toddler’s Achilles heel.

Balls.

She loves them, would cross oceans for them – or her equivalent, a deep gravel car park, tripping twice, picking herself back up, all in pursuit of the prize – an errant football that none of us could even see at a hundred yards.

We now have reins. But what a joy it is to see such pleasure derived from something so simple. Kate was beaming.

There’s a message in there somewhere.

There is a risk this blog could get a little Toddler heavy. But she is my (not so simple) pleasure, and to me, that’s worth sharing.

 

Green and pleasant land

A family day out to West Green Gardens in Hartley Whitney for a bit of R&R and inspiration for our own garden project we hope pursue once our house extension is completed this summer.

Despite the rain we had a lovely mooch found, Kate worked on a refinement of her walking skills and indulged in some gravel appreciation (her current passion), while us ‘grown ups’ had the opportunity to genuinely catch up and spend time as the friends we are – a rare luxury given that everything has gotten so busy lately.

Kate walking at West Green Gardens - Hartley Witney

Clipped hornbeam under planted with box, areas of wild flower meadow, fountains flowing into cascades and rills, formal borders interspersed with splashes of colour in benches and obelisks.

Clipped hornbeam - West Green Gardens, Hartley Witney

Formal walled courtyard - West Green Gardens, Hartley Witney

Can’t wait to get out my trowel and get stuck in!

8 May

On this day my Mum arrived on this earth,  I was married, and victory was declared in Europe. 

Not bad all round.

Oh and here are some step by step instructions for obtaining rose water if you are making a cake requiring said ingredient, but your local retail outlet doesn’t have any in stock:

  1. Attend new toddler group
  2. Befriend a Mum newly arrived from Australia (preferably her shipping containers will have arrived that morning).
  3. Randomly drop into conversation your need for rose water.
  4.  Find out she lives opposite your Auntie Thelma.
  5. Force feed your toddler the remains of their apple and blackcurrant to free up a suitable container.
  6. Drop by new friend’s house and load up on prized ingredient purchased in Melbourne (be sure to compliment new friend on giant pouffe).
  7. Wheel toddler and rose water towards home.
  8. Temporarily forget where ingredient is stored. Feel slightly guilty as toddler resorts to licking buggy handle for relief.
  9. Buy carton of apple juice from newsagents in a bid to remedy situation.
  10. Arrive home and make cake.

5 May

 

This message greeted me on entry into bathoom this morning (‘Doidy’ is the closest the toddler has got to ‘Daddy’, but a step up from ‘Marmite’ which appeared to be his previous given moniker).

Kate left us this message previously.

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Other applications involving sticking letters to small children and the retired.

IMG_20140505_202448

IMG_20140505_202340

They are also particularly useful for stopping the drafts emitted from poorly fitted fenestration, whilst an ‘S’ and two ‘Cs’ intertwined make a very acceptable emergency coaster.

They are definitely a worthwhile investment to any home.

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