Come along for the ride!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Legoland, Windsor

“Right, it’s Saturday and the weather is beautiful. What shall we do today that no-one else will think of?”

“I know, why don't we go to Legoland, Windsor? How busy can it be?”

No, not really. We did go to Legoland but we had been planning it for a while so we get up, get ready, make a picnic lunch and get on the road. We managed a very respectable 8.45am “on the road” and before we knew it, we were sat in fairly heavy traffic leaving the A4 at the Legoland turnoff.

Now luckily, my wife had the foresight to have a quick read on the website for advice on getting there and, whaddya know, it said, “in case of heavy traffic, follow the alternative route signs for Legoland.

Of course, you fully expect everyone else to be doing the same thing.

Not so.

We watched in amazement as every single car veered off to the right, following the Legoland signpost. Can this be happening? Are we really about to bypass all this traffic and find an honest shortcut to this hugely popular park?

Well, not to put too fine a point on it – yes.

Apparently the “shortcut” takes you 2 miles out of your way but personally, I would drive 20 extra miles at (the legal) 50mph, rather than sit in traffic for at least the same amount of time.

So, super quick journey to the park? 1 - 0 to us.

Park car, walk to the queue to get in (the first queue of many that day), tot up the entrance fee - £125 for a family of four.

No, seriously.

But, thanks to some vouchers which I (luckily) won nearly two years ago, we got in for nothing.

Avoiding unbelievably expensive entrance fee? 2 - 0 to us.

The park operates this system called Q-Bot whereby you pay an extra £10 per person and receive a small hand held PDA which allocates you a time for each ride that you want to visit. You then just turn up at each ride without having to queue.

Unfortunately we didn’t find out about this until half way through the day meaning we queued for an average of 1 hour for each ride we went on.

Stupidity at not purchasing a Q-Bot at the start of the day? Legoland scrapes a point back, 2 - 1.

On top of the entrance prices, the greasy food being sold in the park was, unsurprisingly, also incredibly expensive.

We however, took ample picnic type foods, thus avoiding this expense.

Not forking out (see what I did there) for greasy park food? 3 - 1 to us.

As the beautiful hot afternoon heat turned slowly into a beautifully warm evening, you could feel the place emptying out, with crowds trying to beat the inevitable jams.

Not us.

No, we thought this would be the ideal time to run round and get some of the smaller rides under our belt. Merry go rounds; one with swings on long chains, another with horses, a mini-ferris wheel and a very sedate train ride with the added bonus of getting squirted with water before taking the final train ride up the hill to the exit.

I make that 4 - 1.

Even with the 15 minutes of traffic getting out to the motorway (couldn’t find our shortcut in the dark) pulling a point back for the park, we still ended the day with a butt kicking score of 4 - 2.

Oh hang on, I forgot that we qualified for a free entrance day in September, all because we purchased full price tickets in August

Final word? Go to Legoland, but put some planning into it.

Well done M xx

Friday, August 29, 2008

“If they were me, and I was you …”

What do Marilyn Monroe, Stevie Wonder and Claire Grogan have in common?

Yes, well done, you got it first time; they have all sung happy birthday at some point in their lives.

I know that’s not saying much; I’m sure you’ve sung happy birthday on more than one occasion, as have I.

Come to think of it, I sang it this very evening, to my lovely wife known to you all only as M.

Yep, it’s that time of year when I make a special trip to the shops and stand lifelessly, staring at the shelves agonising over what I think she might like.

I think I managed to excel myself this time around (on the card front at least), so kudos me!

Oh yeah, "happy birthday wif’", from Joseph, Annabel and me too.

We love you very much

Monday, August 25, 2008

The flux capacitor

This, as we all know, is what makes time travel possible.

And, if you look at the time stamp of this post then quickly scroll down to the previous post, you will see that exactly 1 week and 1 day have elapsed between the two but you can jump between the two entries almost instantaneously!!

Amazing eh?

Of course not, it just means I have been mega-lazy and haven’t sat down to write anything for 8 days. To be fair to myself I have not been lazy in the slightest but have in fact been busy working, both in my day job and taking time off to decorate indoors. And as dull as decorating is, I must say I am rather pleased with my efforts. Our master bedroom is finished!

When I say finished, what I mean is I have finished the painting. Now all we have to do is wait for the carpenter to come and build the cupboards and the carpet fitters to do their thing and then it will be finished. Then I have to start all over again on the landing.

I have sworn to myself that the next time we move, I will be doing the entire house in one hit.

Famous last words!

Yesterday we went to the National Army Museum (a lot more fun than it sounds) on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea before eating at Stockpot; a favourite old restaurant of ours that M and I used to frequent before we started procreating. Oh hang on, I don't mean we used to eat there and then hurry home to ....... forget it!

Last night we entertained our chums from Wilton (Annabels’ Godparents) when my prawn and cod pie drew much ‘ooh-ing & aah-ing’, as did the fabulously creamy mashed potato (even if I do say so myself!).

Today we had a BBQ for some other friends (Josephs’ Godfather & one of M’s bridesmaids) with their two girls, and although the sun remained firmly hidden behind the clouds, I still did a pretty ok job at getting the food from grill to table without the same kind of hiccups my Dad and I experienced barely a week ago (read previous post).

Home made burgers with apple, you got it. Marinated chicken kebabs with green peppers and onion, you got it. Sausages with red peppers, spicy potato wedges, home made tzatziki …. well, you get the idea.

The good news is that this weekend was a bank holiday, hurrah!

The bad news is that it was the last one this year, h’rooh!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cremated sausage anyone?

Come on sunshine, you can do it, that’s it, keep going, just a little bit more …..

Light the BBQ Dad, let’s go!!!

My parents had invited us over for a barbecue today and, as luck would have it, the sun came out and stayed out for the pretty much the whole day. We arrived nice and early too so our time there had a very relaxed feel about it. (Hey, my mother-in-law even managed to enjoy herself so it must’ve been good!).

My parents seemed to have been incredibly organised about the whole affair, with the dining table covered in prepared foods and covered up awaiting our arrival.

Obviously, within 15 minutes of arrival, my Dad and myself slowly shuffled over to the BBQ together to firmly establish our places for the best part of the afternoon. Naturally we “ummed and aahed” about whether or not the coals were ready to go and our collective uncertainty led us to forge ahead, albeit a little too early.

Dad started bravely, plonking down sausage after sausage, chicken drumstick after chicken drumstick, lamb kebab after lamb kebab before looking slightly worried at the speed at which the heat was burning the outside of the meat. With some thin excuse for leaving his post (coupled with my eagerness to help), I found myself holding the spatula of power and the fork of plenty, turning the raw meat as fast as I could, taking into account the incredible heat being given off.

It’s quite good doing it this way however. This is because when we both sat down to eat and the womenfolk raised their eyebrows at the charred offerings, in my mind I could say Dad had started it, whereas my Dad could tell himself I hadn’t kept a close enough eye on it after he had left. Either way, it was very tasty and of course, I ate far more than I needed to.

My parents’ house is perfect for garden entertaining. This might have something to do with the fact that they have a garden similar to a national park; it really is beautiful. It’s huge, it’s green; it has areas of ‘tidy’ and pockets of ‘wild and natural’. It reminds me of the sort of garden you’d imagine when reading the Secret Garden or the Narnia Chronicles; parts of it seem almost forgotten about which is what I love.

The children have a fantastic rope swing hanging from the giant cherry tree at the bottom of the garden. Of course, my Dad being who he is allowed for both a boyish 5 year old and a girly 3 year old to be able to play safely on it and provided Joseph with a wooden slatted seat but cut the legs off of a plastic chair for Annabel and with a few deft drill holes and cleverly placed metal links, each child can now screw and unscrew their own seat for the swing.

I mean, I know there are bigger things going on in the world right now but personally, I’d sacrifice my left ear to have the DIY skills that my Pops has.

The whole day was lovely; the children enjoyed themselves (although they ended up beyond tired), M and her Mum enjoyed themselves, as did yours truly and I believe my parents did also. Of course, our parents always do enjoy themselves when they have their grandchildren running around in close vicinity.

I’d have to say however, that the highlight of my day was drinking a cup of coffee while talking with my Dad, sat on the bench at the end of the garden.

We were reminiscing about the garden fires we used to have when I was younger. I remember we would have them at the end of a tough afternoon of cutting, dragging and piling of branches, the daylight fading to dusk, eyes adjusting to the gloom without being aware it was even getting late. Our faces would be scratched, tatty jumpers pulled on to keep the advancing cold at bay, thick gloves on to help drag the thorny branches the length of the garden and then PHWOOOOM, Dad would throw a match and up it would all go.

We would keep feeding the fire, its’ appetite insatiable, flames growing ever taller, our concerned looks watching as the branches of the apple and pear tree behind it glowing and threatening to catch, the orange of the fire reflected in each others eyes and faces. I can remember feeling like we were working damn hard, wanting to stop for the night, before Dad disappeared into his (huge) shed, emerging with two cans of beer.

We snapped the ring pulls, clunked them together with a “cheers Dad” from me and a “thanks for your help” from my Dad, one free hand on our respective hips and drank, deeply. (It is always acceptable for men to have a hand on their hip when they have been doing manual labour and they are drinking beer. Extra points if you belch loudly afterthe first gulp).

I asked my Dad today to “let us know when he next has a fire”.

Hey! There’s nothing wrong with trying to relive your past. Just talking about it today helped me relive a little piece of it. And boy was it good.

Thanks Mum and Dad; we had a lovely day

Thursday, August 14, 2008

“There can be only one”

Can you remember that feeling of invincibility when you were younger? Maybe you don’t remember it, but you might have done things then that you wouldn’t dream of doing now.

I can clearly remember actually feeling like I was invincible.

Or immortal, as Christopher Lambert had me believe.

And, immortal or not, you would do scary things, sometimes get hurt, pick yourself up and brush yourself down, looking for the next thing to do, the next thing to get the adrenalin pumping. There is of course, no reason why you can’t continue doing crazy things until old age (if your body allows it) but the thing which undoubtedly changes your perspective on things or at least it should (at least in my book) is children.

As much as I have always wanted to take part in a sponsored parachute jump, should I really do it? Just in case?

I know you can’t live your life hiding behind the sofa, scared to try something new but you at least have to consider the implications.

Don’t you?

A friend once told us that a couple she knew would always travel on separate aeroplanes when going on business “just in case”. At least this way, if one of their planes went down, one of them would be there for the children.

And yes, I appreciate that business and adrenalin sports aren’t exactly the same thing but you get my drift.

There is of course, a world of difference between choosing to do something risqué and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My ride home from work takes me across Clapham Common and yesterday, the main road alongside the common was completely blocked by a multitude of emergency vehicles.

“Just great,” I said to myself. “What now?”

Following the directed traffic around– and a good distance from – the blockage, I glanced across at what might have caused the hold up. At first I only saw the huge oak tree lying on its’ side. It wasn’t until I stopped in the queue and looked back that I saw what was left of a very large white Mercedes van lying underneath the fallen tree, having been caught at a set of traffic lights. The tree had landed squarely on top of the cab and I spent the rest of my journey home hoping that whoever was in the van had got out in one piece.

He didn’t.

The flowers marking the spot this morning set alarm bells ringing and the news confirmed it.

When your time's up, there's nothing you can do about it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First impressions count

Well, Joseph has been enjoying his “camp” this week, so from a childs’ perspective it seems to be well worth it.

Let me just give you the view from where I’m standing though.

Day 1 – pick up goes smoothly (as I mentioned in post below). Dropping off however was not so smooth.

The sliding door of the minibus opens, the parents all squabble to see their children first (me included), I see Joseph who looks happy (phew) but the lady beside me can’t see both of her children. It turns out the headcount included a child who shouldn’t have been on that bus – the womans’ daughter was still back at camp.

Hmmm… ok.

Day 2 – waiting in the designated spot for collection, 8.30am comes and goes, 8.45am my ‘phone rings, “sorry, bus is running late”, 9am comes and goes, as does 9.15am before bus eventually arrives at 9.30am.

An hour late.

Okaaaay ……

Joseph comes home later that day and discusses his ‘healthy lunch’ (as described by the sales DVD and the brochure).

“Jam sandwiches and custard cream biscuits”, he cheerfully explains.

Me: “Jam sandwiches? Biscuits?

At £5 per day?”

Methinks not.

Off to a shaky start?

I think so.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The hardest part

No, not a much loved song by Blondie, I’m talking about my 5 year old son achieving another first in his young life.

This morning at 8.30am, he climbed aboard a minibus with a group of other children who were heading off to an activity camp for their first day.

As I mentioned on Friday, we popped over to the place so as to make this morning that bit easier and now I’m glad we did as Joseph spent much of the weekend saying to me, “so, you’re not allowed on the coach with me?” In other words, please get n the coach with me Dad!

We got to the meeting point early and he was smiley and happy, right up to the point when the minibus pulled up and my hand got squeezed just that little bit tighter.

We queued up, I handed the necessary paperwork to the girl ‘in charge’ (who looked very young – no disrespect to the very young btw) and motioned Joseph onto the bus. He took his oversize rucksack and trod carefully over legs, bags and feet and made his way to the spare seats at the very back, choosing the window seat next to where I was stood on the pavement.

He was smiling bravely (hey, I was still crying my eyes out at primary school aged 8) and I was giving him as many thumbs up and “have a great time” faces as I possibly could without the other parents thinking I was clinically insane.

All too soon the gears crunched, the engine revved and the bus started to pull away.

I purposely didn’t walk along next to him, just stood and waved. I wondered if he would turn in his seat but with the shadows and all I couldn’t tell.

He seemed fine.

It was me that got into the car with a lump in my throat and tears threatening to spill out.


Let’s give the boy a big hand!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Obrigado Señor Coelho, obrigado

Sorry, what did you say today was?

It’s Friday.

I see. And are you at work today?

No, I have taken the day off to spend with my smashing son and is there a better day to take off than Friday?

Nope, I didn’t think so either. What did we do today (well, yesterday?)

We had a leisurely breakfast together, we made a ‘snacky’ lunch and went to the cinema where we watched
Le renard et l’enfant, a beautiful (if rather strange) little film about a friendship between a young girl and a vixen (from the same director who made La marche de l'empereur).

We then headed up to check out the (non-residential) summer camp where Joseph is spending the next two weeks and I have to say it looks awesome. Thankfully, he thought so too, with quad bikes, archery and trampolining to name but a few of the activities he’ll be taking part in.

Back home for a late lunch, then off for his swimming lesson where they were learning fornt crawl, which is no mean feat for a group that can barely doggy paddle a width of the training pool!

Collect Annabel from nursery, home for snacks and TV, then bed.

Just what a day off should be; busy but fun.

Oh yeah, as I seem to have gotten into the habit of informing you of what book I have just completed, here is my most recent. I have been reading Paulo Coelhos’ The Alchemist once or twice a year since M first introduced me too it, not long after we met.

I think this must be nearing the 20th time I have read it. I have never bothered re-reading any other book as I have this one. If you’ve read it, you probably don’t need me to tell you about it. If you haven’t read it, go and see why I bother with it time and time again.

Check out the beautiful front cover of this edition!

Thursday, August 07, 2008


And so, after nearly 3 years, Annabel too has “graduated” from nursery. Ok, she still has 4 weeks to go before she leaves but the official ceremony was yesterday.

Three years?

(Unbelievable that it’s nearly two years to the day that Joseph had
his ceremony)

Naturally, she looked as pretty as a picture in her dress and she wasn’t as embarrassed as I thought she would be, standing at the front of the stage while the children put on the little performances and sang the songs they had been practicing for (what seems like) months.

To round things up, the key worker for each child reads out a little summary of what that child is like and what they contribute to the group. What was said about Annabel made me proud. In summary, it said;

"Annabel came to me (the key worker) before she had turned three years old, making her by far the youngest in the room. She is very independent and can often be found in the home corner preparing meals to share with her friends".

Bless her heart!

'Home corner' is one of her favourite things and she loves to busy herself with tea parties for herself and her dollies, although she is very vocal in telling them off at times. If I had a criticism of the nursery as far as Annabel goes, the room that she is a part of does seem a bit …….. what’s the word …… a bit bossier in general than when Joseph was in there. Maybe it’s down to the fact that she is much younger. Perhaps her peers are a tougher bunch. Maybe it’s just her.

(I can’t hide my glee at the fact that the
fees for her nursery will very soon be coming to an end once and for all, which is nice) Let’s hope her last month there is a happy one.

Things are about to get very different for her!!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

“For our tomorrow, they gave their today”

Whaddya mean you didn’t notice I’d been away?

When would I ever leave it this long without me firing some form of banal trivia your way, hmmMM??

Anyway, as you probably already know, I am usually more than happy to prattle on about nothing much in particular (no, that’s very kind of you but it’s true), so just for today, I thought I would try to summarise our trip with just a selection of photo’s.

I don’t know if you have ever been to Normandy, but if you see the size of the beaches there, you will never watch Saving Private Ryan in the same way again.

As always, click to enlarge.