Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Hot and Cold

It was a birthday weekend of sun and fun with soaring temperatures and 'Wanda' as our home from home for the weekend. (Wanda, being a VW camper van.) I'm not sure they were built for a family of five plus pet. It was a bit of a squash and a squeeze...

but the children slept with Hearth-dog in a tent annexe (which felt like Wembley Stadium in comparison) so all worked out beautifully. 

A forgotten sleeping bag complicated arrangements for Sunday evening, and it seemed odd to receive a winter coat as a birthday present on the hottest day of the year so far (though it was the one I wanted, not complaining.) 

On Monday we spent the day at Shoreham beach, and Gilby, never one to run from a challenge, was first to dive into the waves.

His bold action occurred as Hearth-Father exclaimed, 'That's freezing! Only a lunatic would swim in there!' 

'Time for a beach selfie,' said Hearth-Mother, desperate to capture photographic evidence of the whole family having fun together.

'No, Mum, I'm too cold,' protested Gilby through blue lips, goosebumps visible from twenty paces.

'Won't take a second, and then you can warm up.'

'Ok, but I might be blurry..' shivered Gilby.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Happy Hour

It was a hot day.

Eddie was a long time in the kitchen and some worrying noises were emanating from behind the door. But he'd only asked if he could help himself to a drink. What could possibly be the issue?

At the point at which my interior monologue was suggesting that I ought to be on the verge of conducting an investigation, he emerged.

'Just making myself a little drink,' he grinned. 'Like I said.'

'MUM!' Gertie yelled. 'Eddie's cut up a lemon with the apple slice!'

You can't argue with his commitment. Though I have no idea where he has the idea that an afternoon refreshment needs to look like something that might be served by members of the Human League in Leicester Square. My similes are a little out of date. Something that would be presented during happy hour in the Atlantic Bar? Just googled that and it apparently closed in 2006. (I don't get out much, these days.) 

But what inspired him? No idea at all. Can't think where he gets it from. Nothing to see here. 
*Whistles innocently.

Thursday, 12 April 2018


After the hell of Peppa Pig World as a treat for the big kids when Eddie was born, it has taken six years for me to summon the willpower, not to mention secure the finances, to venture to another theme park. 

I hate them. I really do. I hate all the other people who cheerfully go. I hate the herding. I despise the queue 'disguising' (that jaw-dropping disappointment as you turn what you think is the final corner only to find another one hundred people waiting ahead of you). I cringe at the cynical purchase positioning of themed toys at every opportunity, designed to make you look like mean parents for denying. I could easily go on.

So, what we thought we would do is pick the UK's busiest theme park, Legoland, for a visit during the school holidays. Yes, we know how to play it.

So, I had mentally prepared myself for the queues. But at Legoland there was even a queue for the toilets all day long. (In one building two out of the ten cubicles were out of order.)

And a disappointment was that the funicular train ride wasn't operating. A leftover from the Windsor Safari Park days I had a nostalgic desire to travel the hill this way (Worthy of a £5 discount, surely, since everything is commodified? More on that, later, in the 'lessons'.)

We had done quite a bit of research, got there for opening, knew to head to the back of the park first and had a plan of action. Here is what we achieved, in order, with wait times in brackets:  The Dragon (30 minutes), Jolly Rocker (10 minutes), Coastguard (30 minutes), Driving Licence (40 minutes - but we tag teamed the queuing so that these two, which were next to each other, overlapped), Fire Academy (45 minutes), Ninjago (40 minutes), Scarab bouncers (15 minutes) GameZone (10 minutes), Pirate Falls (35 minutes), Viking River Splash (25 minutes), Jolly Rocker (again, 10 minutes), Atlantis (30 minutes), Mia's Riding Adventure (25 minutes), The Dragon (again, 15 minutes), Spinning Spider (15 minutes).

We were there when they opened the gates, and left as they closed them, so of the eight and a half hours in Windor, six and a quarter were spent in a queue.

I am embracing a growth mindset, so this is what I have learned:

Four Lessons of Legoland 

1. Take oodles of snacks and eat in the queue. There's no time for slacking. Or lunch. Through the gate at 10am, by midday we had completed just four rides. If you can keep that pace up all day long then it averages three pounds per ride per person, assuming some vouchers have been used to enter - and as long as you just don't stop. Longest queue in the Easter holidays on a cold and dreary day was 75 minutes.

2. Play the 'no more money' mission. After extortionate admission fees, there are fleecing opportunities at every turn. £6 for the parking. £12 for a photo lanyard upon achieving your 'driving licence' in Lego City. £10 for your photo on 'The Dragon', or any other of the big rides.£12.50 for a refillable drinks bottle on entry. It was a nightmarish consumer frenzy. There are fairground-type stalls where you can 'win' big cuddly things for hooking a duck at £5 a pop. We made it part of the day's proceedings not to spend a penny more than the entrance. (It's obscene that the Ninjago Ride disgorges into the Ninjago shop.)

3. Bring alcohol. It's the only way to survive the hell. Children make good mules as their small backpacks are innocent-looking. Consumption in a queue is frowned upon, however.

4. Bring a supply of plastic covering for the wet rides. (To avoid the £2 charge for a family dryer and £3.50 for a Legoland poncho.) Or, as Gertie put it, "Three pounds fifty for a yellow bin bag? You're having a laugh!"

So, don't tell anyone but I quite enjoyed myself on the Dragon and the Jolly Rocker, and my favourite, Mia's Riding Adventure. And, apart from a slightly stressful moment in the unavoidable Ninjago shop where I had to wrestle some polystyrene nunchaku from a determined six-year-old, the kids were patient and well-behaved throughout.

But my best moment of the day was on departure when Eddie said, "I really did think that there would be more Lego..."

Monday, 9 April 2018

Rubik Jubilation

There are many unsolved puzzles in our house: why Crunchy Nut cornflakes seem to disappear overnight (other cereals are not affected); how it is possible that I have over one hundred odd boys' socks (not even hyperbole); why the remote control is male-gendered (read 'Hearth-Father-controlled'); why there seems to be genuine confusion over the precise meaning of the word, 'now' (unless delivered at a hundred decibels through gritted teeth). But, one mystery has finally been solved.

Gilby has persevered and solved his Rubik's cube. 

It has taken five months. Tears, tantrums, slammed doors. It has tested the patience of both Hearth-parents. 

But, finally, there was jubilation in the Hearth-household last night. 

Algorithms have not yet been learned by heart, and we are a long way from a record-breaking time, but  'tis done, and for that I am grateful. 

Currently reading: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Stop Press! Family Eats Out In Restaurant Without Row

It has taken the best part of eleven years, but we have finally achieved what seemed an impossible dream: a pleasurable family restaurant meal!

Conditions were good. Children had been for a swim so they were tired, and enjoyed an early Easter egg hunt, so that they were content. We picked a local Italian restaurant where the barman was superb. He allowed Eddie to 'sample' different cordials until he was 'happy' with his drink, then brought him some colouring pencils and a menu to colour in.

The children's meals were actually of a decent size so that they were full by the time they had finished. So much so that Eddie was unable to eat his pudding, and even Gilby's (aka Mr Creosote) hollow legs were full up. 

And the wine was excellent which helped Hearth-mother and Hearth-father's convivial moods. There was no one out of their seat, no spilled drinks, dropped cutlery, farting, belching, pinching, kicking or otherwise typical behaviour. No hissed warnings through gritted teeth, or threats that someone might be eating in the car. 

Now, we had better practise again, (to make sure it wasn't a fluke! 😉)

Friday, 23 March 2018

Another Budding Literary Career

Following in the footsteps of Great-Hearth-Aunt, Eddie's literary exploits continue to exceed expectation. Next week his riddle poem is published in Young Writers - Little Riddlers South East Poets. Today, his classmates helped performed a song about a penguin that he had written. Given Eddie's already well-developed propensity for self-promotion, these latest achievements make him nearly unbearable. In fact, he was most put-out that the class were only going to sing one verse during the assembly when he had gone to the trouble of writing a whole two more. Didn't they know who he was?

It was a treat to watch this assembly as all three of them were actually recognised. Gilby as a maths champion and Gertie for last weekend's swimathon where the team of six swam 117 lengths in an hour. Proud mummy moments.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

How to Write a Good...Blarb

The writing theme continues in one of my favourite moments from Mothers' Day. In a clear step up from text messages, Eddie made a card for me. It was a card with a difference, though: It had its own, erm, 'blarb'.

In case your deciphering-a 6-year-old's-handwriting-spectacles are not to hand, it says:

Small boy cald Freddie rites mothers day card to his mum.

And there's not really much to argue with about that. Killer blurb-writing, I say.

In place of the usual flowers or chocolates, my gift was a brown moleskin notebook. They know me well, this family of mine. But another treat of the day was watching Eddie and Gertie perform in an Irish dancing version of Grease. Yes, you did read that right.

Mini-Danny definitely enjoyed having his Pink Ladies in tow.

And, finally, Hearth-Father got to celebrate too, with the keenly anticipated arrival of a hot-off-the-press memoir detailing his mother's childhood in India - courtesy of Great-Hearth-Aunt! Stories of his mother and her sisters dodging cobra-bites, collecting pods from the Tamarind tree, playing with pet goats and riding in a gharry provided welcome insight into his roots. Hearth-Father, it seems, is descended from three generations who served the Raj.

Currently reading: Front Verandah - Back Verandah by Anne Grieger. (When I can wrestle it from Hearth-Father.)