nanila: nellie kim is awesome (purple nellie)
( May. 25th, 2017 06:21 pm)
Back story: The garden behind our house is a very peculiar shape. It is quite wide at the back of the house for about 10 metres, then narrows abruptly to a very skinny path alongside the canal towpath hedge. It goes along like this for about 5 metres and then ends in a round, fenced-in patch about 4 metres in diameter. The round patch has a concrete pavement in a pretty circular pattern.

We’ve been trying to work out what to do with this odd space since we moved in. It’s a fair way from the house and not visible from the back door. Jacuzzi? Too much maintenance, plus it’s too far to trek on a horrible winter night. Bike shed? Functional but boring, and also bike sheds are ugly. This is a pretty space, ringed by climbing roses and vines.

A few weeks ago we went to the garden centre and found a display of cute playhouses with trimmed roofs and windows, and an interior upper floor reached by a child-sized ladder. The 6’x6’ models were on sale. As we had to carry the children away from them, literally, we thought, perhaps this is the optimal use for that round patch.

Thus far, we have been proved entirely correct, and the expense has been justified. Since it’s been installed, both children come home from nursery, dash through the house and out the back door into the playhouse to draw, play on the tablet or just run up and down the steps and in and out the doors. (There’s an adorable toddler-sized door out the side in addition to the larger front door.) The only things that brings them back to the house in 15-20 minutes are the requests for drinks and fruity snacks, which are then carried back up to the playhouse.

tl;dr version We got the kids a playhouse for the garden. Photos below!

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[Keiki on a wooden chair outside the playhouse. “Oi* shut da door on moi sister!”]

+3 )

* The Black Country is strong with this one.
** There is a whole separate post brewing about how I simply do not understand Danger Mouse.
Humuhumu went to a birthday party this weekend. The lad who invited her had invited no other girls his age.

Two enormous bouncy castles were involved, as were a number of balls. I showed Humuhumu how to dribble and how to shoot at the hoops, and whilst we were practising, a bunch of the boys joined us. She could throw the ball higher than all apart from one boy who appeared to be about six years old (the rest were between four and five).

Then we invented a game with one of the softer balls. I stood on the outside of the bouncy castle, Humuhumu on the inside, and we threw the ball back and forth to one another over the wall. Very soon, three or four boys wanted to join in, and it all got a bit rough. Humuhumu was upset at being bowled over, so we stopped.

"That boy pushed me over when I was trying to get the ball," she wailed.
"The boys are all over-excited," I replied, cuddling her. "Don't wait for them to apologise; they won't think of it. Ignore them and focus on yourself, and grab the ball whenever you can. Okay?"

She nodded, sniffed, and got back into the bouncy castle. She took my advice completely to heart and had a grand time.

Later, we were all sat at a table after lunch. It was time for cake and the birthday boy was recovering from his third or fourth meltdown. Humuhumu lounged on my lap, placidly consuming her cake, whilst all around us the screaming rose up in waves. Other parents tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that my daughter was the most chilled-out child in the world.

"Yes," I replied, trying not to sound too smug and probably failing, "I know."

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[No Limits: Humuhumu jumping off a bridge over the canal onto the towpath.]
The weekend started off well, with skipping Parkrun because everyone wanted a lie-in followed by preparation for Humuhumu's first ever sleepover. Her friend Dimples* and brother Dribbly* came for an afternoon playdate, followed by pizza for dinner and strawberry jelly for pudding. Dribbly went home with their parents. Humuhumu and Dimples watched Frozen together whilst dressed as Rapunzel and Elsa respectively. I was astonished to discover that Humuhumu, who watched with an almost ferocious concentration and entirely ignored Dimples' running commentary, has almost the whole film memorised. Not just the songs but the dialogue as well. The viewing was followed by a colouring session in the Elsa colouring book. Humuhumu strenuously objected to my idea that we should disassemble the colouring book so they could work simultaneously and instead they patiently took turns for half an hour until we declared it to be bedtime and they curled up together in the spare room bed.

I read a number of stories, but Dimples was way too excited for sleep. She routinely stays awake longer than Humuhumu, who is firmly attached to an 11-hour snooze every night. We heard quiet talking and sneaking into Humuhumu's room to fetch cuddly toys. After putting my foot down for the last time at 9:30 PM, I waited in our bedroom until the whispering died off. They were sound asleep within ten minutes.

Both girls were up by 7:15 the next morning. Dimples was a font of chat as she ate her crumpet with Nutella, whilst Humuhumu looked pale and distant, though happy. Dimples' mum came to pick her up with many thanks, and then we got ready for gymnastics.

It was badge week at gymnastics and Humuhumu earned her first Fundamental Movements badge. We put the certificate on the wall next to the bed, and she's currently deciding where she'd like to sew on the badge. We don't have a special gym bag for her yet, but it would seem wise to acquire one at this juncture.

Gymnastics ends in the middle of lunchtime, so I put the children in the car with their snacks to tide them over until we got home. About a mile and a half down the road, I suddenly felt something go wrong with the car. It felt like I'd abruptly shifted from fourth into neutral, though of course I had done no such thing. There was, unusually, a car behind me, so I put on my hazards, downshifted to second (not that it made any difference) and coasted into a layby next to a gate featuring a large hand-painted "BULL IN FIELD" sign, where the car promptly died. And wouldn't restart.

Did I mention it was snowing? And distinctly below freezing outside?

I took deep breaths. I rang the bloke, because I couldn't find my RAC (roadside assistance) membership card. The bloke texted me the necessary information. Some people on horseback went by and kindly told me the name of the lane we were in, as even though I drive the route every other week, I didn't know that particular one as it has no sign. I rang the RAC and ascertained that it was going to take at least two hours for them to get to us.

I took some more deep breaths and rang the bloke again. We agreed that him getting in a taxi to swap places with us was a good idea, as Humuhumu was very upset about the broken car and being hungry and cold. (Keiki went to sleep, being blissfully untroubled by any emotional attachment to the car.)

Our knight in shining silver Peugeot turned up with his woolly jumper, book, and crisps. We gratefully clambered into the functioning car and went home, where we all had hot chocolate with marshmallows in. And a good thing too, because it took the RAC nearly three hours to get to the bloke.

The RAC mechanic diagnosed the car as terminal. Our usual garage seems more hopeful. Fingers crossed we don't have to say goodbye to Sophie (our much-loved Citroën) just yet.

* Names have been changed.

On a more soothing note, here are two photos.

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Keiki and Humuhumu wrapped up in a fuzzy grey blanket, pretending to sleep on the kitchen floor.

Longcat
Longcat Telstar is astonished at his own length.
I’m sharing these photos publicly because I imagine a vanishingly small number of people have ever watched a canal lock gate being replaced. Let alone watched said activity from a bedroom window.

Last week, a crew from the Canal and Rivers Trust (CART) arrived to begin work on “our” canal lock. Obviously it doesn’t belong to us, but we feel a certain sense of pride in it since our cottage is right next to it. The canal lock gate was last replaced in 1996. According to the CART engineer who visited us a couple of months ago to tell us about the impending work, the gates, which are almost entirely made of oak, including the large posts about which they rotate, have a maximum lifetime of twenty years. After that, not only will the gate have warped despite mostly remaining submerged, but often the posts give way. The post on ours had developed a large, destabilising crack and no longer rotated properly.

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In this photo, the CART crew are setting up a large winch to manoeuvre both the old and new lock gate, arm, and post into position. One of the horses in the field opposite our house is watching them with interest.

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The new lock gate is lifted out of the barge and lowered into the canal opposite the old gate.

+4 )

A temporary block was put in and the water allowed to drain from the lock. The water levels in the sections just above our lock were also lowered to help the workers install the new gate. I missed the next two days of activity due to being away for work and so when I returned, the new gate was in place and the fencing had been removed. At present, it looks like this:
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I presume at some point in future there will be a small amount of further work done to give the new gate the black paint that helps protect it, as well as the smart white paint that goes on the arm.

Since this is an activity that only happens every twenty years, I’m happy I was home to see it!
Pastoral Landscape #1
Three horses grazing peacefully outside the window of my home office on a foggy morning.

You know that feeling when you're trying to capture the glorious pastoral landscape which you are privileged to view every day, and then you download the photos and discover that one of the animals involved has done something disgraceful?

Yes. That. )
Toothbrushing
[Image of Keiki and Humuhumu sitting on the windowsill in the spare room, grinning around their toothbrushes. The framed photos next to them are from about a year ago.]

"Stay in the bathroom, please," I said. "Keep your trousers on, Keiki", I said. The respect they have for me is awesome.
Blue tit
Blue tit on a dead branch of our cherry tree, above the peanut feeder. The low winter sun and freshly trimmed hedgerow have been perfect for capturing birds visiting our feeders.
Ladybird in toddler hands
I took this macro shot in July, when we went for a walk in a protected meadow nearby. Humuhumu was so careful with this ladybird, cupping it gently in her hands on its tuft of grass seed and then placing it back on a leaf when she was finished looking at it.
Sorry to hit you with depressing posts about racism twice in a row, but I need to get this off my chest. I will do an Unscientific Poll later, I promise.

CN: Details of a threatening incident which occurred last Friday. )

I'm disabling comments on this entry because I can't deal with anyone else's feelings about this right now. I will, especially, have no patience with anyone telling me that everything's going to be fine in the next few months. It's absolutely not fine. None of this is fine. It's going to be awful. The agonisingly slow economic recovery we were experiencing before 23 June, which gave a glimmer of hope that austerity might be eased in the coming months, is completely gone. Austerity is at the root of much of the discontent that drove the referendum vote, and it is going to stay with us, and it will get worse. And so will the racism and the xenophobia.
Hands up! Bubble gun
Hands up or I'll bubble you!

We had the most glorious weather for the bank holiday weekend. The bloke's sister visited (along with husband and our two niecephews), so the house was all barbecues and beers and bubbles. Also, ice cream and shouting and chaos.

I'm happy, but possibly a little tired too.
.