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The bloke’s parents with their heart-shaped homemade cake. The chalkboard next to them colourfully reads: “Welcome to Lodge 106. Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary! Have an excellent holiday. 😊”

A couple of weekends ago, we went to a Center Parcs with the bloke’s family to celebrate his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Each family stayed in separate lodges, and we joined together for lunches, activities, tea and evening meals.

Going to a big resort-type thing in a forest in the school holidays seems to be a rite of passage for English children. Everyone else in the family (actually being English) had this innate understanding of how things were going to work and what was going to happen. I, on the other hand, was completely in the dark. I didn’t know that the “swimming pool” was going to be a massive indoor waterslide park with separate areas for children of all ages, for instance. Or that bringing our bicycles was not just so we could get some exercise, but so we could pop out to the shop for some milk for five minutes rather than have to walk for half an hour. The place was gigantic and – it being the start of the summer holidays – completely full.

The wildlife, being accustomed to the presence of humans, was very nearly tame. If you left the sliding door to the patio open, the ducks would waddle confidently inside in search of whatever food you had foolishly left out. The squirrels would take nuts from your hands. The muntjac deer would walk up to the patio door and stare in, and not run away until the toddler came outside and tried to pet it.

We had a truly typical British summer holiday experience in that it rained nearly the entire time, so we spent a good amount of time in the water park. Humuhumu was, at first, slightly afraid of the water slides. Subsequent to our first trip to the water park, we bought her some goggles and that flipped the switch. We couldn’t get her off the water slides after that. She went round them so many times that when we went to the changing room to get back into our clothes, she could barely stand, she was so exhausted. I only got the chance to try the water slides once for about ten minutes (during which Keiki apparently screamed for me the entire time), so I went for the biggest one (twice): the Cyclone, which you went down on a rubber raft in a group. I got to go with my niece and her mum, aka the bloke’s sister. I shrieked like a banshee the whole way down. It was fantastic.

Despite the filthy weather, we managed to sneak in some outdoor activities. We played boules. We climbed around the adventure playgrounds. I took Keiki to the pond, where the nearly tame baby moorhens nibbled at his wellies, to his boundless delight. We also found a peacock, with whom Keiki had a half-hour conversation. I turned my back on him briefly and when I looked at him, he had moved close enough to the peacock to stroke its tail feathers. The peacock held itself very still, almost as if it didn’t want to frighten him, when really it should have been the other way round.

The wedding anniversary celebration came off very well indeed. There was a huge, heart-shaped and delicious sponge cake, baked by the bloke’s sister, and a “cheese cake”, which was a mountain of stacked cheeses. The bottom layer, an enormous squishy brie, had to be served separately because it would have collapsed under the weight of the wheel of harder cheese above it. This was not a problem because we devoured it over the course of two days. Most importantly, the bloke’s parents had a wonderful time being surrounded by, but not in the pockets of, their children and grandchildren.

Further photos below the cut, including a series titled “Keiki Points at Things”.

+++ )

In case you’re wondering why there aren’t so many photos of Humuhumu, this is because (1) she wanted to go to the water park pretty much every waking moment, (2) you couldn’t take photos in the water park and (3) Keiki did not want to go to the water park more than once a day, so someone had to stay with him.
[continued from here: DW/LJ] After a rather bleary start to the morning, the adults having stayed up a little too late companionably drinking wine together in front of the fire, the out-laws returned from their room over the road at the Shoulder of Mutton to pick up Nephew, who had slept over very nicely with Humuhumu. Sufficient coffee was poured into the grown-ups to get them motivated to drive to Richmond to see the castle. (North Yorkshire is not the place to be if you have an aversion to ruined castles.)

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Walking down the very steep hills of Richmond. I had Keiki on my shoulders and he was crowing delightedly over his excellent vantage point.

+16 )

We strolled back down into town after a trip to the gift shop. (Nephew: Knight outfit. Humuhumu: large purple feather quill pen. Keiki: Squishy purple dragon, which he now sleeps with.) We were all a bit peckish but the out-laws needed to head back to Leeds, so a quick stop at a Greggs for some pastries and a sit-down in the middle of the town square by the clock sufficed to revive everyone for the drive home.

As mentioned previously, I had carried Keiki around on my shoulders as much as possible all morning. It was the first time I’d tried it. The bloke talked me into it since I’ve been finding it increasingly difficult to carry him in my arms. It worked a treat and I was able to do it much more easily. After lunch, though, I definitely needed a lie-down. Fortunately, so did everyone else, and we cuddled up together for a luxurious two-hour nap.
[continued from here: DW/LJ] Once we were done perusing the church, we hopped into the car for a short drive to Barnard Castle, which is not just a castle but also the name of the town. On the way in, we glimpsed an amazing stone ruin perched on a hillside so we stopped to have a look.

It turned out to be Egglestone Abbey, founded in the 1190s.

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This is the bit we could see from the road to Barnard Castle. From the floor plan on the sign, I believe it’s the church. Those windows must have been spectacular with the late morning light streaming through them, given that they are even in ruin.

+12 )

Having worked up an appetite with all that jumping, we resumed our journey into Barnard Castle for a quick lunch. The caf we chose was off the main high street. I picked it when we were searching for a parking spot. It had a hand-drawn sign advertising hot chocolate out the front. Also, a full English with double servings of everything for £5. What’s not to like?

It wasn’t a large place, but it fell completely silent when we walked in and the occupants subjected us to a long hard stare that let us know you are not from round these parts; what are you doing off the high street, interlopers? The server, clearly anxious to compensate for the stony greeting of the other patrons, bustled around us smiling, and brought Humuhumu a hot chocolate with a pile of whipped cream on top that doubled the height of the mug. Breakfast was good too.

The children and I went back to the car and caught some Gen 2 Pokémon whilst the bloke ran in to Morrisons to pick up supplies. We returned to The Old Grammar School to meet with the out-laws. We strolled around the church again and had quick drive out to Ravensworth Castle, a lovely ruin which we discovered was inaccessible due to being firmly surrounded by barbed wire. Eventually we twigged that the automatic gunfire we were hearing was not from the start of the zombie apocalypse, but from the MoD firing range on the other side of the valley. Deciding not to argue with the logic of preventing inattentive ramblers from wandering into live fire, we retreated back to Kirby Hill and went down the pub.

Up next: Richmond Castle.
[continued from here: DW/LJ] Since the church was about a thirty second walk away from The Old Grammar School, we stopped by on Saturday morning before heading out and were pleased to find it unlocked.

My perusal of the visitor’s books (which stretched back to 1975, the lengthiest set of log books I’d encountered on our LT holidays) on the previous evening had told us that there were more Thompson mice to be found in the church. We went on a mouse hunt, but could only locate six of the eight that were allegedly hiding there.

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Humuhumu found the first mouse near the altar.

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And the second, behind the pews.

+7 )

Bonus photo: Our local, the Shoulder of Mutton Inn, was just over the road from the church. You know that feeling you get when you walk into a pub that’s been done up just a bit too much? Where you want to shout, like Bernard Black, “Why does everything have to be fancy? I just want sausage, mash and a bit of cake, not twigs fried in honey or a donkey in a coffin!”

This place was exactly the opposite of that. We stopped in on our first evening and every night subsequently. Worried about whether or not they took cards, we scraped together £7.40 in cash.

“That might not get us a round,” he said.
“This is Yorkshire,” I replied. “If they try to charge us a tenner for two pints of booze and two halves of lemonade, I’m leaving, because we’re clearly in the wrong place.”

As it happened, £6.40 got us a pint of very lively cider (crisp, citrusy, refreshing), a pint of tasty ale, the aforementioned lemonades and a packet of peanuts. And lo, we were grateful not to be in London.

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Humuhumu and Keiki enjoy lemonade, while the bloke & I enjoy our pints of ale & cider respectively.

Up next: Egglestone Abbey.
Since this was our fifth stay in a Landmark Trust property for the bloke’s birthday, I think I feel safe in calling it a tradition.

On Friday last, we gingerly loaded up our newly repaired car and crossed everything in the hopes that it would make it through the 200-odd mile drive from our house to North Yorkshire to stay in The Old Grammar School.

Kirby Hill is a beautiful grey old stone village, set around a green. The Old Grammar School [TOGS] was such from its establishment in 1556 to its closure in 1957. An average of 30 local boys aged 10 to 18 were taught there, though many departed aged 14 to go to work. The ground floor schoolroom was converted into the village hall, while the first and second floors were converted into the flat that one can now book through the Landmark Trust [LT] for holidays. LT properties are carefully furnished and kitted out with libraries that are specific to the property and to the history of the place. For instance, I read Goodbye, Mr Chips, which is a heartwarming fictional biography of a schoolmaster, while we were in TOGS. LT properties also deliberately don’t provide televisions or WiFi. In fact, my phone signal was so bad that I couldn’t even get the 3G to work.

We arrive late in the afternoon and were pleased to find that the previous occupants had left us sufficient firewood for that evening.

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Our first thought on entry was “tea”. Thoughtfully, the housekeeper had left a complete tea service ready for us and a small jug of milk in the fridge.

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The bloke pouring some milk for Keiki, who’s standing on a dining chair. The window seat, which features in subsequent photos, is to their right.

+12 )

Up next: visiting the Kirby Hill church (St Peter and St Felix).

Quick note about the photos: I have come to rely on Aviary in Flickr to do colour correction on my photos. It’s quick and convenient and its algorithm seems to be pretty good. Except at the moment, it’s not working. To those who care about white balance, my apologies.
My friend Holly ([personal profile] hollymath) is writing a book about being an immigrant. Like me, Holly has lived in the UK for many years as an immigrant and has written poignant posts on the subject, as can be seen the foreignness tag on her DW. She has a gift for voicing thoughts for which I often struggle to find the words.

The Kickstarter for her book, Duel for Citizenship, has just 12 hours left. It can be found here. Most levels of support include a copy of the book as an incentive. If you can support her project, which I see as a vital response to the clamour of toxic and xenophobic anti-immigrant/refugee rhetoric currently dominating the public narrative, I would appreciate it too.
Poll #17390 Important bacon question
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 52


I prefer

View Answers

thin-cut/streaky/American-style bacon
21 (41.2%)

thick-cut/back/British/Canadian-style bacon
21 (41.2%)

not to eat bacon
9 (17.6%)

If you eat bacon, do you prefer it

View Answers

crispy
26 (57.8%)

chewy
19 (42.2%)

If you eat bacon, do you prefer it

View Answers

smoked
29 (69.0%)

unsmoked
13 (31.0%)

For those who eat bacon: Here is a food that is *not* improved by the addition of bacon:



Today's Unscientific Poll was prompted by the realisation that after all these years in Britain, I still (not-so-)secretly prefer thin, crispy, streaky bacon to the thick-cut back bacon that gets served with a full English.
nanila: (me: art)
( Mar. 28th, 2016 10:10 pm)
Seeing as our youngest contracted both conjunctivitis and chicken pox the week before Easter, we were largely confined to home and/or outdoor places where we were certain we wouldn't come into close contact with others. I'm quite proud that we have survived the last four days (both today and Friday were bank holidays in the UK) without all going slightly mad.

This ma trowel
[My trowel, let me show you it. -- Keiki]

We spent Friday touring rural Herefordshire, which manages to be even more rural than our corner of Worcestershire. On our travels, we spotted a neat sign saying "Goose Eggs" outside a farm house, so we pulled off the road. Humuhumu and the bloke went to investigate and came back with four goose eggs, six duck eggs and a dozen chicken eggs.

The bloke blew the middles out of the goose and duck eggs (omelettes for days). We hardboiled half of the chicken eggs and dyed those with food colouring and edible glitter.

Words, pictures )

We spent Saturday, Sunday and today:

- going on walks
- gardening
- napping
- going on Easter egg hunts
- Lego
- feigning gratitude for Telstar's "presents" (it's definitely spring)
- trying to get Keiki to walk (chocolate was a great motivator)

Floppenbaby
[Floppenbaby.]
It’s becoming a tradition for us to stay in Landmark Trust properties for the bloke’s birthday. Our first one is still my favourite, St Winifred’s Well, but is sadly now not an option for us for a few years because it only sleeps two plus a baby small enough for a cot or a moses basket.

We stayed in our third LT property last weekend. It’s also one of the newest LT properties, not in terms of its age but of their acquisition of it (2012). It was restored by its anonymous donor, who lives in another property he restored in the woods nearby. The log book lore says that he couldn’t bear to see the place extended or altered after he’d tried to be so faithful to the original dimensions, so he gave it to the LT. Sadly, I didn’t get to delve into the cottage’s history since I was so ill, and neither did the bloke, since he was fully occupied with toddler and meal management.

But I still managed to take some pictures. We even had a brief outing on Saturday morning to the nearby picturesque riverfront town of Bewdley. We had coffee at a lovely shop, where Humuhumu behaved impeccably, right down to drinking her babyccino out of a pretty ceramic cup without spilling a drop. They gave us a slice of carrot cake so generously proportioned that all three of us walked out feeling stuffed. We managed a quick stroll along the riverfront promenade before I needed to be returned to the car and then put back in bed with Keiki.


This is mostly what I saw in the cottage during our visit when I was in a state to notice my surroundings: the play of light through the tiny-paned windows across the bedroom.

The cottage interior )

Trip to Bewdley )
Ready to jump down.

Since this place is so close to us and can sleep four, I predict we’ll return there so we should get another chance to learn more about its construction and former occupants.
nanila: wrong side of the mirror (me: wrong side of the mirror)
( Oct. 20th, 2014 12:14 pm)
After returning from Germany reasonably early on Friday, it wasn’t too difficult to muster the energy to journey to Oxfordshire for a visit to the Ai Weiwei sculpture exhibition at (Unesco World Heritage Site) Blenheim Palace.

Blenheim isn’t a National Trust or English Heritage property, so we don’t have memberships that cover it. It’s also an eye-watering £22.50 per adult for a day admission. However, once you’ve paid it, you can convert this to an annual membership and come back any time you like for the subsequent year. Since Humuhumu had a lot of energy to run off by the time we got there (it’s over an hour’s drive from home) and we didn’t get to spend any time indoors, we’re determined to go again in a couple of weeks to at least attempt to see the sculptures that are housed inside the Palace.

It was a blowy, blustery day and Humuhumu loved dashing around the majestic grounds, helping us to hunt down the sculptures. The symmetrical shiny blue-purple stones were the hands-down favourites.


[Image of Humuhumu running through one of Ai Weiwei's sculptures at Blenheim Palace.]

More words and pictures )

Hours of fresh air and exercise tired everyone out, so I’m afraid poor Bloke had to drive home with only the dulcet tones of Radio 4 playing “Under Milk Wood” by Dylan Thomas* to drown out the snorkeling of his passengers.

* NB: I do not recommend listening to this whilst dozing unless you enjoy having very strange dreams.

The next day everyone had a lie-in, even Humuhumu, who slept until almost 8 AM. (Note to Daughter: More Sundays like this please.) Once we were up, we went to the garden centre to get wallflowers and pansies to plant in our front pots, as the geraniums were beginning to flag in the cooler weather. We are once again keeping up appearances in our village, to the relief of the neighbours, I'm sure.

In the afternoon, we headed to the Avoncroft Museum nearby for Trebuchet and Cannon Reenactment Day. We texted some other parents on the off-chance that they were at loose ends for Sunday activities, and to our immense surprise, everyone turned up. Humuhumu was delighted at the company. The four-year-old girl pretty much adopted Humuhumu, and cried when her Daddy tried to take her away before she could give her a goodbye cuddle and kiss.

The other children didn’t much care for the noisy cannon demonstrations, but Humuhumu’s response to every firing was a passionate demand for “MORE BANG!” and “Nani do it!” Oh dear.

Also filed under Oh Dear: Humuhumu has got quite a strong Brummie accent at the moment. Here is an attempt to record her pronunciation of a few words/phrases. I need to get some video of this for posterity before she loses it, which she very probably will when she’s older. She doesn’t hear any Brummie at home or from our friends and relations.

Bye Bye = “Buh Boy”
Like a diamond in the sky = “Loik a doymund in da skoy”
Bus = “Booss”
Daddy = “Dah-doy”


[Humuhumu and Dada at the trebuchet & cannon-firing display at the Avoncroft Museum. She’s in the middle of a request for “MORE BANG” here.]
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