Come along for the ride!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Splish, splash, splosh

After weeks of build up, Annabel's swimming lessons started today and BOY, was she excited!!!

She did superbly considering she is still scared of getting water on her face. I informed the teacher of this and as we both looked across at Annabel, she lowered her face to the water to blow bubbles into it.

"Erm ... she appears to be doing ok", said the instructor, looking confused.

Heh heh .... thanks for that Missy!

I would say that my favourite bit of the lesson was when she stood up and looked over for approval but clearly couldn't see where Joseph and I were sat, thanks to her goggles having steamed up. She looked left to right and back again, then tipped one goggle off her face and peered over the top of it to look for us.

I know, I know, you had to be there ....

The simplicity of childhood friendship

Joseph and his close friends are currently sending each other drawings and notes confirming their friendships.

Below is the latest offering from one of his chums and remember, the children are encouraged to write words as they hear them, not as they are actually spelt.

Can you figure it out?

(click to enlarge)

So sweeeet!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Peep behind the curtains

Right, how can I annoy myself today I wonder?

Ooh, I know, I will record the Formula 1 motor race from Bahrain and then avoid the television all day, leave all radio's switched off lest I should hear reports about who won. Then, approximately 10 minutes before the children go to bed, allowing me to kick back on the sofa and enjoy the race in it's entirety, I think I will quickly turn the PC on to look something up, and allow my eyes to drift down to see the face of Jensen Button, smiling back at me from the BBC news webpage.


(I don't have any pictures of Jensen so here is Lewis Hamilton - well he's British at least!!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"We shall fight them on the beaches ..."

Yes I know, I know that our image around the world ain't the greatest!

I also know that the red cross of England is more likely to conjure up images of fat, skin'ead football fans fighting than it is a brave nation standing proud upon it's shores.

I learnt a few things about St. George today however, including;

he wasn't English at all.

He was a Roman soldier born in Turkey.

He never once visited England.

(Don't worry, I'm thinking the same thing!)

Apparently, our admiration for the man came when he voiced his disapproval to the Roman Empire at the treatment of Christians and his refusal to denounce his faith. He was either beheaded at Lydda (in Palestine), or returned there following his death.

He is also the patron saint for Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Palestine, Portugal and Russia as well as the cities of Genoa, Moscow and, interestingly, Beirut.

(And everyone thought M and I had nothing in common when we met - shame on them!!)

Happy St. George's Day!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

You'll catch your death up there with nowt' on Miss!

"Hello? Who's that? Hey, how you doin' Billy, good to hear from you. No, it's not too late at all, no, don't be silly. Uh-huh. Yes. Yep. Sure. No, that's fine. I said no, it isn't a problem, trust me, it's just one of those things. What's that? Yeah, 8 'o' clock is fine. Listen, don't mention it again ok, otherwise I might change my mind. *laughs*. Ok mate, see you on Saturday then. Take care, ooh, and say hi to Vicky for me. Yeah, bye".

Oh dear me, he's such a nice guy ......

Oh, hello faithful reader, didn't see you there. Sorry about that, I was just on the 'phone to my mate Billy.

Well, Billy to me of course, but you would have to address him by his full name which is William Alexander Sidney Herbert. He's the 18th Earl of Pembroke and 15th Earl of Montgomery and he lives in a delightful little cottage called Wilton House in Wilton, just outside Salisbury.

Anyway, he was ringing to apologise for not being at home when M and I popped in to see him earlier on today to congratulate him on getting engaged to his long term beau Victoria (lovely girl), and he wants to catch up with us next weekend.

Funny how things work out. It was just a stroke of luck really when, a couple of years ago, our other friends (Lord and Lady Parker) announced they were moving to Wilton, just round the corner in fact, from Bil ... sorry, William. Now we get to kill two birds with one stone, as it were, when visiting Salisbury and see two lots of friends in one go.

Not that we let the paths of the Pembrokes and the Parkers cross, no fear!

Title or no title, William's a bit of a ..... well .... how shall one put it? A bit of a ruffian really, and I sure as heck wouldn't want our close chums the Parkers to think we frequented the company of yobbo's!!

No Sir-ee Bob!

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that once again, we had a lovely time in Wilton. It really is a very pretty little part of our country and we very much enjoy spending time there. The Parkers are fine hosts and always make us feel very welcome.

If you're familiar with the posts regarding our previous trips to see them (see here), you will know that I often wake up feeling a tad sick on the Sunday - for some unknown reason - and feel unable to tackle anything that requires digesting. Well, wouldn't you know it, this very morning I woke up feeling 100% A-ok, no problems at all thank you very much and lo and behold, all I can put it down to is the fact that we were treated to a take away last night (ie, none of their dodgy cooking if you ask me) but I know M would be mortified if I ever mentioned anything!)

All I can say is, it's a good thing that Lord Parker can write 'cos he's a lousy chef!

Oh, didn't I mention it? He's a published writer and his book is due in a bookstore near you very soon. Do yourself a favour and pre-order a copy.

(Order it by clicking here)

And don't be fooled by the fact that the 'Lord' is missing from his Amazon page. He's a modest guy and doesn't crow about that sort of thing. Just get in touch when your book arrives and I'll have him sign something personal inside the front cover.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking & loving, you don't actually live longer; it just seems longer

In a fortnight of particularly funny comments and scenario's, today threw up a howler.

Thanks to the slightly miserable weather, Joseph, Annabel and myself spent most of the day playing board games and making puzzles and when we agreed on Annabel's choice of puzzle to tackle next, she turned to Joseph and kissed him on the cheek and announced that she loved him.

My surprise was nothing compared to Joseph's look of amazement at this because although Annabel often tells Joseph she loves him, she rarely kisses him (or anyone) on the cheek, certainly not without being prompted.

I laughed at his wide-eyed look and I asked him why he was surprised.

"Because Annabel never kisses me", he replied.

I then went on to explain how she never tells me she loves me when I say I love her and kiss her goodnight.

"When I kiss Annabel goodnight, I always say, "I love you lots Annabel" but all she ever does is nod, not even looking at me".

I continued, hoping Annabel would be listening to what I was saying.

"Not like when I kiss you goodnight Joseph and I tell you I love you. You always reply, 'me too'".

I squeezed his knee, reminding him that I appreciated the reciprocation.

I could see the look on his face change to a slightly quizzical one, staring hard at me, smile fading.

He finally spoke. "When I say 'me too', am I saying that I love me too, or am I saying that I love you?"

I could feel the colour slowly draining from my face as my brain second guessed what was coming.

"Well, I kinda hoped you were saying you loved me too?"

A slight shake of the head accompanied the words, "no, I thought I was saying that I love myself like you love me!"

Right, yes .... heh heh .... of course you were.

Oh boy, where d'you go from there?

All this time I've been thinking Joseph was replying with, 'yes, I love you too Dad', when actually he has just been letting me know that he too, loved himself.

Hilarious yet crushing at the same time.

p.s. This post is dedicated to the memory of the brilliant Sir Clement Raphael Freud who died yesterday, apparently still working at his desk, barely a week away from his 85th birthday. The title of this post is one of my favourite quotes of his.

Rest in peace, you seemingly-grouchy-but-nevertheless-incredibly-funny man.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Oh, it's a scythe!!!

We had lots of plans for our bank holiday Monday, but as is often the case when we try to plan something too meticulously, they all fell by the wayside. We were tired, the children were tired, no-one wanted to get dressed, we wanted to have a late breakfast and so on.

As it turned out, the day was a beautiful one and so we opted to stay close to home (rather than drive to Richmond for an easter egg hunt), and ended up walking to our local common. With Joseph on his new Ben 10 scooter and Annabel on her bicycle, all was well.

The highlight of my day came when a cocky young dude came strolling past us, giving it the Larry Large with his particularly ferocious looking Rhodesian Ridgeback on it's bright blue leather leash. As Missy has a slight fear of dogs, we stepped to one side to let the 'geezer' and his four legged friend pass.

They saunter past and it is clear that the mutt is most definitely a 'dog', as in , a "boy" dog.

Joseph: "I can see his pecker".

Me (smiling): "You can't see his pecker. They're his goolies".


Joseph: "I can't see my goolies!"

I love it! Yesterday his sister reduces me to tears and today he does?

Can't wait 'till tomorrow!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Royaume uni, deux points"

Ok, there's no easy way to explain this one; sometimes, when either of my children are sat on the loo, they ask me for "quiz questions". This boils down to me asking them questions on a variety of topics, to pass the time while they ....... well, anyway.

The usual topics include general knowledge, observation or numbers.

For example, I might ask Joseph the answer to 5 multiplied by 7 (he enjoys maths questions you see), or I might ask Annabel 3 plus 2. I might ask Joseph to name 10 types of fruit, asking Annabel the same, only a lesser amount.

Oh, just so you know, this usually takes places as I mooch up and down the landing, carrying ironing this way or dirty washing that way and I ask questions as I go, expecting the answer when I pass back along to his or her bedroom. I think I should also let you know that this game takes place as of their choosing; it's not a 'learning through play' thing that I've devised!

Well, tonight, as I was mooching and Annabel was playing further up the landing, I asked Joseph to name 10 countries.

The conversation (with the best interruption ever from Annabel) went something like this;

Joseph: "Umm ... Spain, Africa (I let him have that one), France, Lebanon (bless) .... erm ..."

Me: "Yes?"

Joseph: "Err ...."

Me: "Where do we live?"

Joseph: "Ooh, yeah, England ..... Scotland ..... Ireland ..."

Annabel: "Legoland!"

Joseph burst out laughing at what she'd said and as I fell to my knees to hug her, she could tell she'd cracked a good 'un.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ooh, I forgot ...

Something Joseph said made me chuckle which I just remembered.

We were in Dorset (see previous post) and our walk took us past a field of sheep and very young lambs. I feel it's only fair to inform our children as much as possible about the origins of the food that they eat so I casually said, "you see those lambs?" to both children.

Joseph turns to look, Annabel is already looking at the lambs as she thinks they are lovely.

"Yes", they reply.

"Well, you know when we eat roast lamb?" (heads turn slowly to face me, disbelievingly). "That's what lamb is. That's where it comes from".

Joseph's reply is instantaneous and with eyes very wide says, "Cor, they've not been alive long!"

No, they haven't.

I admit to not knowing exactly how long either until I read here.


Purple sprouting broccoli, in case you're wondering.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A number 169 please, with extra mint sauce

It's ok, control yourselves, I'm back, you can all relax now.

As is always the case when holidaying in the UK, the weather can make or break your brief time away from home and, once again, we got lucky. Apart from one afternoon of not-too-heavy drizzle, we were treated to non-stop glorious sunshine for our short break to Dorset.

I will summarise our trip in two easy to digest sections.

Things I loved included;

Fossil hunting, the lovely cottage in which we stayed, seeing Annabel's face when she saw the new born lambs, breathing actual proper fresh air, long walks, the views, seeing M's face when we stopped off at Poole on the way home (somewhere she has always wanted to visit) and watched the pottery being made.

Things I wasn't so chuffed with;

The lack of decent restaurants (Gordon Ramsey would have a field day for his Kitchen Nightmares programme - it's on the coast but NO decent seafood to eat - cattle farms everywhere but no decent meat to eat - come on Dorset, even I know the bloody formula for serving quality, locally produced food to punters).

Erm, that's my only gripe!

We only saw a tiny bit of Dorset but there's loads of it! Go and see it.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A tooth for a tooth

One reason for having bloodshot eyes is having a late night.

Another reason is being in a confined and smoky environment.

Yet another is imbibing too much alcohol.

Combine all three of these and you are guaranteed to have eyes that draw looks and comments from just about everyone you meet.

This week however, Joseph and Annabel have done none of the above (to the best of my knowledge) but have still managed to come away from school with red eyes when they should be white, Annabel particularly so.

As I mentioned last week, Joseph has been playing football with the upper school in the mornings before lessons start and on Monday, less than five minutes after leaving him in the playground, he appears holding a cold patch over one eye, leaning on a colleague for support.

He had been hit in the eye with a tennis ball but thankfully seemed ok.

Yesterday (on the last day of school), Annabel has a very bloodshot eye after a friend hit her in the eye with a pen lid (we don't know if it was an accident or deliberate - it varies depending on her mood).

Well, y'know, I haven't spent a Friday at A&E for a while so why not?

Annabel proved to the Doctor that all was well by confidently naming all the silhouettes on the board at the end of the corridor.

"Train, dog, cat, plane, bird, flamingo ...... "

She's fine.

Let's go!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"During the war .... "

Once upon a very long time ago when I was much much younger, I spent several months in the USA, driving from the West coast to the East coast, down to the Keys in the South, then heading north to Minnesota before making my way back to JFK to come home again.

That was back in late 1990 when I was a young and foolish 21 year old with a penchant for late nights and American beer (as opposed to now of course, as a foolish 40 year old with a penchant for early nights and English ale).

Anyways, I met some fantastic people along the way, mostly a huge group of students whom I met up with in Vero Beach, Florida who were studying agriculture and were working at a fruit packing factory to make ends meet. Having spent pretty much all of my 3 months worth of money in a little over 4 weeks, I needed - and managed - to blag a job (which paid surprisingly well) and from which it was possible to save enough for the remainder of my stay, thanks mostly to the tough 12 hour days we worked.

As is often the case in life, you either stay in touch for good or you slowly lose contact and unfortunately I lost contact with pretty much everyone I had met. They came from all over the world; South Africa, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Austria, Finland and so on but that is no excuse for losing touch with them. Life kinda moved on, promised letters never got written - from me or them - and one day, nothing.

Of course, when you can no longer get in touch or the address you have produces no results, it is suddenly more important to try to get in touch. Part of me wants to track some of those faces and personalities down but another part of me - a bigger part of me - thinks it better to leave it be.

Life has moved on.

I have, however, managed to stay in touch with one family (whom I met through one of the South African students), when we arrived in possibly the coldest place I have ever been to in my life.

Belgrade, Minnesota.

Oh boy, I can't describe how cold it was "up" there.

Temperature aside, I was introduced to a smashing couple - him, endearingly bonkers; her, patient and lovely - who ran a small bar in the town and lo and behold, over the years we have managed to fall in and out of touch with erratic, random correspondence here and there. We eventually got e-mail addresses to each other and recently they contacted me asking me for my home address as they wanted to post me something (so quaint).

They sent me a very thoughtful T-shirt (which is probably to replace the original one they gave me back in early 1991) but nothing will ever replace that T-shirt (I'll post a picture of the original one soon).

Thank you to my friends Mary and Butch. It has been a pleasure staying in touch with you all these years.