Sunday, 15 July 2018

Different Success Criteria

It has been a good weekend in the Hearth-house. Gertie and Gilby have successfully taken part in the final performances of the school play, Bugsy Malone to great critical acclaim. (From Hearth-mother and Hearth-father at least.)

Gertie has enjoyed her Year 6 prom and all the associated pomp and circumstance, including mini manicure, pedicure and 'waterfall plaits' whatever that may mean. We did have conversations like this, though:

Gertie: Mummy, what was your prom dress like when you were in Year 6?
Hearth-mother: Prom dress, darling? Oh no, we didn't have such things. Proms, or nice dresses. My parents were mostly dressing me in tartan and making me match my siblings...

Gilby has this morning received the 'player of the year' award for his football team and is marching around as though he as won the World Cup. The coach credited his hard work, captaincy skills and being a great 'reader of the game'.

And Eddie? 

Well, results for him to. He is still alive, narrowly escaping being throttled at several points through the weekend, and I ended up not phoning the police yesterday when I thought he was missing. Different levels of success...

Currently reading: Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

World Cup Fever

Sport rules right now.

The house sweepstake is going well. Good teams are evenly distributed so everyone still interested. Hearth-mother looking good with Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Columbia and Mexico!

Not that Gilby needs any more stimulus, frankly. Old Statto can tell you the points in each group, the results  of each match, the goal scorers in each game and plenty of other trivia besides. To enliven things even further (as Germany go out in the group stages for the first time ever) we are hosting a German guest in the house this week so massive bragging rights result.

Today was also Gilby's sports day and he was on the winning relay team; his and Gertie's house team won the cup; and his U9 cricket squad are unbeaten in six games.

England cricket has been quite joyful in recent weeks. There is nothing but sport done or talked of at the moment.

So I'm getting in on the action. Hearth-mother has been asked to fill in for a netball team who are a player short tonight. The last time I did this was just before Christmas and I ended up in hospital. Just hoping that I, too, can ride the crest of this current sporting wave and make it through at least a quarter!

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! 😉)