Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bedford (non) Castle

We went to Bedford Museum this afternoon, because we hadn’t been there before, it was raining, the kids needed some kind of entertainment and they haven’t got to old that they baulk when faced with something cultural.  And it was very good too, the exhibits I saw as I raced past them chasing Toby looked very interesting and Harriet only set off one alarm by invading an off limits area. 

Then we left and saw what appeared to be the remains of a castle!  Well, we had to investigate, so with some difficulty we got two children and a buggy up a slope that had been presumably designed about 950 years ago to be so steep as to put people off running up it.

Though, I assume the steps and hand rail are a more recent addition.

Anyway, we made it to the top and saw the castle.  Or rather where it was before it was torn down several hundred years ago.  Toby then ran around in a circle.


Then we found that although Bedford Castle has no castle, it has some mean conker trees.  We went  conkering, and found many good conkers.  Then down the other side we found a bizarre tile thing – a bit like the Bayeux Tapestry but smaller and considerably younger.


But it turned out to be very good for kicking around our newly acquired conkers, so its all good.


Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Concrete Elephants and Alligators of Abington

Abington in Northampton is a nice place to live.  No area is perfect of course and there is a modern-ish estate among all the Victorian terraces which is frankly a bit of a state.  You would not want to walk around there at night, unless you were armed with an alligator.

Maybe its because off this that there are concrete alligators scattered about – and if you look very hard, an elephant.  The local youths have of course taken the opportunity to spray paint them a bit and there used to be three elephants by the look of it, though only one remains now.  Overall, you can see what the planners were aiming for, though I’ve never seen any children playing on them – except for mine.

Stuck for something to do an hour before bathtime a couple of weeks ago I suggested a safari.  What’s a safari, they asked (I like to introduce new words where I can!!).  They could hardly believe their eyes when they saw the almost derelict 1980s concrete based reptiles.  And when I say they could not believe their eyes, I mean they were impressed!

We have been around all of them now about three times over the last fortnight – I am sure it won’t last, apart from anything else they might realise what a dodgy estate it is.  We had to abort one alligator today as my eagle eyes spotted the two dodgy geezers hanging around right next to it with a beer each (at 10.30am…) and a mean looking fighting dog with no lead.  Nice.






Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Conkers as playthings

Wow, it seems only a week ago that it was summer (albeit a very wet summer!  Does summer end in early July now?), and suddenly its properly autumn.  The kids (okay, kid) being back at school, the nights drawing in, the coats coming out of the cupboards and apparently the conkers are here now too.

The kids always like a new toy, and the conkers in question are no exception.  I thought I would try to document some of the things the conkers got up to this evening...

They flew a plane - "those two are the pilots!"

Got carried around in a bucket

Briefly filled a boot (I hope they are all out, that could hurt tomorrow if there's one left!)

 Toby went conker shopping

The "fish" (sea-monster?  It glows in the dark you know) ate one

Harriet planted some "seeds"

And Hector carried some around on the train set.

Until the high speed crash at the bridge...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Harriet’s first day at school.

Its official, she is growing up.  Harriet started school today and so far is enjoying it enormously.  As is usual, it was Toby that caused all the trouble, by first insisting on running into a wall and then having a series of crises wanting to stay at school when Harriet was dropped off.  He also took great interest in Harriet school shoes when we were trying to take the obligatory photos on her first morning (below).  He does like a new pair of too-big shoes to walk around in. 

Anyway, the “main event” of Harriet actually going to school and coming out again went very well.  We are very proud, and obviously feeling rather old as well. 

We have had to be careful what we said recently – phrases like “Poor child, school was awful and I was glad to leave!” would probably not do anything for her optimism!

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Monday, 6 September 2010

Malmesbury Almshouse

We were in Malmesbury visiting friends this weekend and passed lots of old buildings – including one especially old one with a nice plaque on the front.  As we walked away from it one of the people I was with commented that it was a shaame it was so high up or we would be able to read it.  Well, to a man with a zoom lens on his camera that sounds like a challenge…


This is my best attempt at getting the text of this odd plaque:

Memorand that Whereas King Athenfran did give into the Free School within this Burrough of Malmesbury, Ten pounds and to the poor people my Almshouse at St John's Ten pounds to be paid Yearly by y Alderm and Burgeffes of y same Borough for Ever

That now Michael Wickes Esq late of This sd Burr and now Citizen of London hath augmented & added to y afore sd gift Vis to y sd Free School Ten pounds and to y Sd Almshoufe.  Ten pounds only be paid Yearly at St John's aforsd within this sd Burr & by his Trustees for Ever and hath alfo given to y Minister of this Towne For y time being 20s only by y Year For Life to preach a sermon here yearly on y 10th day of July and to his sd Trustees 20s by the Year beginning on y 25th of March

Anno Dom 1694

My days studying History are a good 10 years of fixing computers ago and to be honest the only relevant thing that can help me here is that “f” can mean “s”, so the word “alfo” is easy to translate.  Oh, and that spelling used to be a bit more optional than it is now, though given the state off Facebook status updates I’ve seen recently it still is.  Anyway, that explains “Burrough”.  It also seems logical that “sd” is “said” (is this 17th century text speak?) and “y” is “the” (it is – maybe plaque carvers charged by the letter) so my best translation is:

Remembering that King Aethelstan gave ten pounds to this school and Almshouse, Michael Wickes (who used to live here and has since moved to London) has added to it another ten pounds a year every year and also another 20 shillings for someone to preach a sermon here each year.  In 1694.

It all seems a lot of fuss over what appears to amount to just over twenty quid and a free sermon. 

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Everyone else is taking pictures of St Crispin's Asylum, Northampton, so why shouldn't I?

Harriet and I hit the road today to try to track down the Moosterious lion, part of the Pride of Northampton, a bizarre but enjoyable scheme to put colourful fibreglass lion statues all over Northampton.  They are all in well advertised locations, apart from the one that looks like a cow, Moosterious.  He keeps moving around and was in St Crispins.  Harriet is as obsessed with a cow/lion as any 4 year old (okay, probably more than average) but we were disappointed to find he had moved on.

Or "mooooooved" on as Heather put it.

Anyway, since we were by the old derelict St Crispin's Asylum and I had a camera and a zoom lens, I took the chance to take some photos.  I am well aware that this subject is well covered on the Internet already but you can never have too many pictures of crumbling clock towers.


The impressive clock tower


The frozen clock faces, complete with pigeons


A door, oddly halfway up a wall


The empty windows


You can never have too many empty windows either.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Mr Tobes is (a terrible) two

Toby has finally turned two this weekend, and we knew about it!  He has been teething again for a week or two anyway, plus starting to get some rather amusing tantrums.  Then on about Wednesday he got a cold, which appeared to develop into full-blown manflu within about an hour.  He had a bit of a temperature and a runny nose, so reacted to this by stopping eating and sleeping and becoming very angry with the world. 

Our floors have never seen so much beating of fists.  At one point (protesting about something, though he quickly seems to forget specifically what once he is “in the zone”) he went halfway up the stairs, sobbing, and starting to softly bang his head on the steps.  Scary. 

Anyway, he had his birthday presents (I hope he doesn’t think he is being rewarded in some way for this behaviour) and loved them, especially the dinosaurs, of which there were many.  Harriet thought they were great too, being a 4 and a half year old tomboy they were just up her street.  Cue lots of tussling over who was going to play with the baby T-Rex. 


Then we had a teddy bear’s picnic at the park which everyone enjoyed.  Except Toby, who was beside himself in a tantrum haze of anger.  And strapped into his Phil N Teds most of the time to avoid people getting hurt.  The baby dinosaurs ate his share of the snacks.


Then more pressies, including a PlayMobil Whale (with researcher boat!), which has quickly become his Favourite Toy Ever (see below, he looks like he is about to kiss it).  Trouble is, when he gets angry and is carrying the whale he is a bit more dangerous than normal, being effectively armed with a club.


I did my usual job of trying to fake a happy family event by taking pictures from the right angle.  See below the front and back shots of two toddlers lying next to one another.  The front one shows that the birthday boy’s emotions are not what they should be!

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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Clearly faked policeman seen in Raoul Moat BBC News Story

As the tragic and disturbing news story of Raoul Moat going crazy and being on the run in the North of England came to and something even more disturbing happened.  As a sign of the kind of cutbacks we can expect to see over the next few years, the BBC did not send someone so far north to actually film the police operation, but instead clearly faked the photos they used.

In this example taken from the BBC News site on the 10th July 2010 they have used a random guy told to "look like an angry policeman" and given a "gun", though in this case it seems to be a water pistol.  They put a WW2 helmet on him (sprayed black, 'cos police stuff is often black) and with "police" written on it in A-team letters just in case anyone was in some doubt what they were going for. 


Monday, 28 June 2010

Holiday in Highcliffe

Just come back from a very good and very hot holiday in Dorset at the Hobourne holiday park in Highcliffe:,+Dorset,+United+Kingdom&ll=50.740359,-1.687871&spn=0.003727,0.011319&t=h&z=17&iwloc=A

Unlike most holidays in our family we actually got good weather all week!  And no-one got ill.  If it wasn't for Toby the terrible nearly two year old attaining his usual quota of whinging I would have been worried something was up.  This is him having a strop at the aircraft museum near Bournemouth we went to because he would not keep his hat on in the sun.


They had a very good playground outside which Harrie thought was great.


And they both enjoyed the dancing in the evening with Sammy the Seahorse!  We enjoyed the attached bar.

DSCF0092  DSCF0103

Harrie enjoyed blowing bubbles (everyone likes bubbles)


And I got to swim in the sea for the first time in literally years!


And we took turns in the evening having walks in the evening when the kids were in bed and admiring the moon and sea and stuff.


Funnily enough after a week of playing and walking and not sleeping terribly well with the heat we had a quiet journey home.  This is the last picture of Toby before we set off home - he looks lively but was asleep for three and a half hours ten minutes after this was taken!


Saturday, 26 June 2010

Playing in the park while England lose at Football

In a very sensible use of time and resources we decided to decamp to the local park and listen to the band on a nice hot, sunny and quite deserted summer Sunday afternoon – deserted because everyone else wanted to watch England getting done over 4-1 by the Germans on TV.  I think we had the best idea!

We took bubbles (because everyone likes bubbles)


Harriet and Toby played football with a balloon, unaware that there were other, less interesting and certainly less successful, football games going on elsewhere…


And we admired (and climbed on) the fibreglass lions outside the Museum – part of the Pride of Northampton season apparently (whatever that is).


And then we did some running down hills too. 


Mum and Dad are on a post holiday diet, so instead of a bottle of bucks fizz or some Tuborg, we made too with a flask of tea, very nice it was too.  And the band on the Abington Park bandstand were marvellous.

Someone still kept coming over from the pub and updating us on the score though!  I guess there’s no escape.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Nest

I have a hedge.  A big hedge.  About 4 metres tall and it appears to just about double its size every year.  So, just as in any other Spring, I took my shears and a ladder last week to launch my annual assault.  Harriet and Toby were happy to help of course.

half term, hedge, bandstand 002

Then when two thirds of the hedge had been hacked down I found a problem.  A nest.  I assumed this was an old abandoned thing and it was very high up, but I managed to stand on the top of my ladder and hold my camera over it…


Damn.  I stopped at this point and was concerned I had disturbed the nest too much – then after some careful monitoring we got photographic evidence the nest was still occupied.


After thinking we might have thrushes, we identified them as blackbirds – blue eggs with brown speckles is right and the “mummy” is indeed brown rather than black.

Then after a couple of days we saw then Dad, getting food…


And then we saw the spadgers!  Am I the only person who calls baby birds “spadgers"?  There seems to be three that I can see, so there might be a couple more to hatch yet.  They appear to be hungry.  And not much is going on in the feather department.


Good thing I have a good zoom lens!   So anyway, this is our newly resident couple of day old Blackbird, enjoying the sunlight provided by my hacking their hedge protection down. 

He looks how I feel…


Monday, 5 April 2010

New word definition: Eastering

Harriet, being 4, sometimes has difficulty with words.  We then have to learn her the right ones.  Sorry, TEACH her the right ones.  Anyway, sometimes her new words catch on, and the current one is "Eastering" - as in "Easter" reinvented as a verb.  To Easter is to look around the house/garden/park for eggs.  Or indeed anything.  But at Easter and with a basket. Example sentences include:

"Come on Toby, we're going eastering"
"What are we eastering for today
"Look at all these eggs we just eastered for"

Still not sure whether it needs to start with a capital letter - since it is based on the name of the major festival of the Christian calendar but it is (a) a verb and (b) not really a word.  Harriet seems unconcerned by this, probably because she can't read and so is unaware of such grammar rules.

Heather encouraged this word creation behaviour by knitting several knitted egg holders with eyes and hats, in something she referred to for some time as "Project X" (I realised after a while that she might well be secretly saying "Project Eggs".) and we hunted (sorry, eastered) for them on at least 4 occasions over the Bank Holiday weekend.


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Pictures stuck to the fridge

Some things about parenting do change a bit - I don't think parents in the 50s needed to worry about the dangers of children being duped on a social networking site (unless some pen pal got out of hand which I am sure was more of a problem than you would think).  A recurring theme of children though is their endearing though apparently poor quality artwork which is hailed as a masterpiece by the parents and publically displayed on the white goods.

Our budding 4 year old artist Harriet appears to be moving out of her inevitable toddler impressionist phase and is now producing pictures that resemble reality in some small way.  We are, needless to say, astounded by her abilities.  I am even more impressed as she is producing her best work in the very nice version of Paint that comes with Windows 7.

This does leave us with an issue though since we have no colour printer - pinning to the fridge is not an option (unless I tape a monitor to it, which I have considered).  So its going to have to be the website.

By Harriet (aged 4)