Saturday, 12 April 2014

My Skydiving Experience

Some of you may remember my birthday gift last year, which in the history of unwelcome and unsuitable gifts had to win first prize. It was a very upsetting time and was actually a worse (although far more expensive) gift than the 4 door handles the Builder once bought me or the hand made chandelier, seen hanging in this post, here, that he collected on my birthday and handed to me
 but which I had actually chosen and ordered some months
 before as a Mother's Day gift!
But when all said and done I really do not like to waste money or any waste come to that; I am the person raiding the "just past their sell by date and reduced to 10p" shelf at the supermarket and then spend days wondering what to do with an overripe banana and some trout! So we decided to book the skydive for a couple of weekends ago. Actually this was the second attempt as we spent a couple of hours at the airfield the week before but the wind was too fierce for the plane to take off. The day dawned and it as very calm and the sky was blue, off we set, all except number 2 son who couldn't get out of bed early enough!

We checked in at the drop site and had to listen to the instructors safety talk. It didn't settle my nerves to see the sign on the door saying "Skydiving can result in serious injury or death" - because that's exactly what was going through my mind!
There were a few of these around too!
Harnessed up and ready for take off

The Leap!

Soft landing helps to have padding on your bum!

Oh come on, you didn't really think I did it did you?!

Another collage of pictures, I'll give myself another pat on the back!

I'm not completely mad....well maybe just bit!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Mother's Day, Gran and other family matters

Thank you for all your lovely comments on the previous post; and all those comments on previous posts in fact - I really should say how grateful I am that so many people bother to say hello, you always make me smile!

I did mention in the previous post that the kitchen was a sticky mess on Mother's day - Little Miss had decided to bake me a cake, all on her own. She followed the recipe for a delicious chocolate brownie traybake, however after forgetting the baking powder it was a little more like a big biscuit - a very chocolatey one so it was all good. She had wanted to ice "Mum" on the top but was unable to find out how to make butter icing -
her two brothers were as much help as any teenage boy can be, that is to say no help at all!
So she guessed and got a bowl of icing sugar and added milk, then poured the very watery liquid into an icing bag, and watched it all run out the other end.
She also added most of a bottle of red food colouring so we had a very sticky kitchen, my slippers still stick to the floor in a couple of spots!
Anyway it was definitely the thought that counts, no one has made a cake just for me in a very long time. (And I have eaten most of it anyway!)

Sticky, flat, chocolate brownie
This seems to have brought on some competitive cake baking between the two youngest children (the oldest is too lazy/sleepy/teenagerish to join in). The result is far too many sticky chocolate cakes in the house and my waistband busting! 
On Mother's Day itself the Builder and I went for a very long walk across
 the marshes and down a few country lanes (the kids were still only half awake and really
didn't want to dress/speak/walk/move).
 We went for over 2 hours and chatted as we went, I love mornings like that.
 I forgot to take my camera or phone so didn't get to snap anything, the scenery is so pretty especially at this time of year and we saw quite a big grass snake slither across the path about a foot in front of us. We also ended up at the Deli/coffee shop in the village (one of my favourite places) for coffee and cake, I had an elderflower cocktail (non alcoholic) as
I'm trying hard to cut right down on my coffee and tea intake.
I also had a couple of lovely cards, number 2 son did a Moonpig type card on his own, Little Miss had made a lovely one at school and number 1 son, well he thought someone else would have bought a card for him to write in so there wasn't one!
she knows me so well!
I also had some lovely gifts, some cosy slippers and a couple of books which had been on my Amazon wishlist. So it was a good day all round, then as the weather was so good we barbecued for tea, no cooking for me!!

You may remember my Gran, 93 years young (94 on Easter Monday) I've mentioned her before here and here and a few other times as well. As I touched on in my post from last October she was becoming a little more frail and living on her own was a worry for everyone, especially as all her family are over a 5 hour drive away. During the winter she managed to fall down the stairs twice, no bones broken but a night in the hospital for cuts and bruises and it became apparent that she may not be looking after herself as well as she used to. I guess this assumption isn't rocket science given her age but very sad none the less. A hurried decision was made a few weeks ago by my Dad and his sister to move gran to a care home nearer to family. Gran in her usual upbeat frame of mind was happy with the decision and is now in a place in Suffolk, our neighbouring county. It'll take me around an hour and a half to get there, but only 40 mins from number 2 sons school if I'm out that way for a school event (ie cricket match). A lot less than the 6 hour drive to her home in Exeter, which means I can see her more often. I visited her last week and she was her usual smiley self, although a little confused about where she was. It's her birthday next week so I'm trying to create a collage of photos of her with us over the years, and being the complete opposite of crafty it will involve mainly some sellotape and a shop bought frame!

Something like this (feeling very pleased with myself as I've just figured out how to do this online!)

As the Easter holidays are here at last I had hoped for a little "spare time" that rare thing which is always hard to find. I had planned to go to work 2 days each week, but as usual my plans were scuppered at the last minute. Today was my day at work but the Builder in his wisdom decided yesterday to take the boys & himself (aka my babysitters) to a cricket match in Surrey!
On top of that my Dad sent a brief message yesterday afternoon to say
 "coming for a visit tomorrow, staying one night" Who was coming with him is usually a surprise, and when they arrive is pot luck too! I don't see him that often but now Gran is nearby it may be more frequent in the future. Day off work for me then & a re-arranging of my schedule for the week.
He arrived after 10am (he has been known to arrive at 7am or earlier) with Step-Mum in tow.
 I have a strange relationship with them, we do get on quite well but, without going into details
(I don't really want to put my dysfunctional family out there on the web!), I didn't see him for over 18 years during my childhood and kept in touch with him by the occasional Christmas card and by always keeping in touch with my Gran (his Mum) - sometimes you can't easily bridge a gap like that.

Anyway they're here today and tomorrow they will leave after breakfast to visit Gran then go home straight from there, we'll enjoy their company while we can.

Well I'll go and spend a little more time with them and also with the giant chocolate cake
 baked by Little Miss this afternoon,
 I'll be back soon with tales involving an aeroplane and a parachute.
See you all soon, have a good week.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

New York, New York

Firstly can I say Happy Mother's Day to all those who celebrate today and also apologise for the previous post, it was badly written, haphazard, too long and generally a bit rubbish!
I think I had so wanted to write about our Sri Lanka tour but as time went on I put myself under a bit of pressure and rushed it when I should have thought it through first. Sorry, it won't happen again (of course it will, you know that don't you?)
Anyway as you may recall Number 1 son didn't join us on the tour as he had a Politics A level trip to New York and Washington with his college, which clashed with our dates.
So he flew out of Heathrow the day before us, for a 5 day visit; this then meant he'd be home alone for 5 days before we returned.
We were able to keep in touch by email mainly as when wi-fi was available it was free, texting was going to cost us both! He was pretty good about letting us know where he was, although most messages were short and sweet; lots of "it's freezing here what's your weather like??"
So if you were sitting in your shorts and applying and re-applying sun block due to the extreme heat what would you reply? Number 1 son suffers a lot in the cold, he actually goes a nasty shade of blue and his fingers start to seize up, he loves hot weather.
Was it cruel to send this in reply?

He said Central Park was under 3 feet of snow and they'd been on a walking tour of Wall Street in an enormous blizzard; I asked him to send me photos and in return I got this

You immediately recognised New York didn't you?
When I asked for another he sent one of him and a mate on the subway/underground - a lovely view of, oh yes the inside of a train! Teenage boys?? What can you do with them?!

A short and sweet post to make up for the last one, I'll be back shortly to tell you what the little darlings got me for Mother's Day, I must dash now as the icing (made with milk???), which is all over the kitchen floor is starting to set!!
Have a good week!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Sri Lanka Tour - part 2

I really wanted to put some of this down before I forgot all about the trip,
but it's starting to become a bit hazy already, we've been home just about a month!

After we visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic (I keep saying Temple of the Tooth Fairy - I don't mean to cause offence!) we spent one last night at the hotel in Kandy (two nights in total); we'd stayed at The Cinnamon Citadel which was really lovely, from the rooms to the food to the very smiley and helpful staff. The driver met us at 9am the following morning and we asked to visit the Pinnawala elephant orphanage on the way back down to the coast, we'd heard lots about it and had also been told that the school tour would be stopping there.

Now I love animals of all kinds (well, I don't love spiders) but I'm not keen on "captive" creatures, it just doesn't seem right. I have been in a pool with a dolphin, but it was reluctantly after seeing them in the wild - a large pool with hundreds of people queuing to watch them perform just doesn't do it for me. However it is an orphanage and they care not only for orphaned baby elephants but those injured or born deformed and therefore unable to survive in the wild.
 Now I'm not an expert so please understand that my feelings about places like this are very personal, the orphanage is a very well known & popular place.

Considering how far elephants can roam I was surprised that the site is only 25 acres, that seemed small to me. The elephants are never released back into the wild from here, only sold on to zoos etc. We paid for Little Miss to bottle feed a baby elephant although it drank at a rate of knots and the experience was over quickly!

I was a little uncomfortable about the chains, although I guess they're necessary
Little Miss in the red T Shirt, feeding the baby

We were able to follow them all down to the river where they have their bath

A horrible photo of me, I had no clue my hair was so bright! As The Builder pointed out at the time "you look like someone trying to cover up very grey hair, badly!"
Well he may have a point..... it's now "mid-brown".
From here we travelled down to the coast where we were booked for 6 nights in Wadduwa. The boys were changing hotels twice more to be nearer to each match but we had made the decision to have a base and travel by taxi each day to the various pitches. I'm still not sure whether that was the right decision or not, it was lovely to properly unpack and relax in one place but the travelling to and from each match was a bind. Much further than it had looked on the map and, as you may expect the roads were not good. The roads were under repair in most places too, with temporary traffic lights and workmen in hard hats and flip flops!! A little puzzling as when you're tarmacing a road it's slightly more likely that something will drop on your foot than your head!!
We also had to survive the manic driving, many bicycles, mopeds, tuk-tuks as well as taxis and buses. More than once I thought of Curry Queen and her tales of driving through India.
Did someone say wacky races??
We had to drive into the capital of Colombo for two of the games and it was hot, sweaty and dusty (the city, not me!). As I previously mentioned The Builder had decided to negotiate his own taxi,
we gave the driver the name and address of the cricket ground, he didn't seem to think this would be a problem, we drove for an hour and a half and he delivered us to "The Cricket Club Café". Errm, No!
Apparently tourists aren't usually looking for actual real life cricket pitches!
After several stops to ask for directions and a couple of other dead ends we made it to the
Colts Cricket Club in the heart of Colombo.
 A city with a cricket pitch on every street corner it seems, in fact a country with a cricket pitch on every corner, some members of the family were in heaven.
I won't bore you with match details, partly because I don't remember any!
Suffice to say out of the 5 matches they played the boys managed to win 2 - a great achievement considering the strength of the opposition and the heat.
We had a beautiful hotel again and, as we were holidaying as a family of 3 we were able to take advantage of a cut price suite which was available.
We could enjoy a little luxury in the very few hours we were actually at the hotel.
Forrest Gump anyone??

never add bubble bath to a jacuzzi!
For the next two matches we travelled on the coast road south from Wadduwa, again journeys of around 2 hours. Our first match was at Seenigama Oval against a school called The Foundation of Goodness. We later found out that the team was mainly made up of children orphaned in the Tsunami. The ground had great facilities and was set up with financial support from the Surrey Oval. Throughout our trip we saw many memorials to the victims of the Tsunami and also evidence of support from all around the world.

We played another match against the Foundation of Goodness second team the following day in Hikkaduwa, this ground was named the MCC and was supported by the MCC at Lord's. Again we were seriously lost with our taxi driver and he stopped many times to ask directions, took us to the wrong pitch twice and then crashed into the back of a bus! He made many U-turns in the road and had to dodge the various pedestrians and vehicles coming from all directions; this he did well but failed to notice the stationary bus opposite.
As we were travelling at a snails pace no one was even jolted but sadly his car was wedged under the bus and had the be pulled out. We were obviously the best entertainment anyone had had in months, a strange white/red headed lady laughing hysterically in the back of a crashed car.
A huge crowd gathered with lots of shouting and gesticulating, and a few faces staring into the car - a little unnerving.

 I laughed so much as I realised I'd continued to worry about the strangeness of a no-disaster holiday.
It was an odd feeling of relief now the disaster had happened.
I won't bore you with all the details of the trip, this post seems incredibly long already. I will post a few more photos though, especially some from our visit to the Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Project. Again this was not on the scale we would expect at home but it had been completely rebuilt in the years following the Tsunami, for obvious reasons as it's situated on the beach and we did find it extremely interesting.
day old turtles

holding a 3 day old turtle

And just because they made me smile; you're never too far from a Tesco are you?!

I probably should amuse you also with the evening meal we enjoyed at "Fawlty Towers". We were only on a b&b basis at the hotel and on one evening we decided to try the neighbouring hotel, we'd done a lunchtime recce and they had chicken nuggets on the menu! Little Miss had done well on the diet of curry (it was all lovely as my waistline will testify) but she was in need of something resembling a McDonalds. We were greeted at the door by a flustered manager/waiter/receptionist/bellboy who asked if we'd prefer to sit inside or outside, outside we decided as it was a warm evening. He escorted us out to the patio, into the pitch dark, and pulled out the chairs for us to sit down, well I believe he did, I couldn't see for the dark! We were a little bemused as we couldn't even see the table in front of us, we had glimmer of light coming from a nearby table as the gentleman sitting there was wearing a miners lamp on his head!! I kid you not, he actually was - I tried to get a photo of him but it was too dark.
We sat for 20 minutes but no one came to take our order (they probably couldn't see us), several waiters dashed to and fro but never actually served anyone. We stood up to go and find a table inside at which point the manager/waiter/receptionist/bellboy ran after us begging us to stay - I expected Manuel to pop up at any time!
We eventually found a new table next to a Russian couple who looked like they'd lost the will to live - they flagged down a waiter several times to ask where there food was but with no luck. We ordered the chicken nuggets, however they didn't have any! At this point the Russian couple were presented with 2 bowls of soup by the manager/receptionist/waiter/bellboy - all we heard was the shout of "Niet, Soup!"
We settled for curry and looked up to see a very strange character wander in a la Julie Walters in Dinnerladies, and sit down nearby.
 Everytime a member of staff walked by we heard her call "a cup of tea, dear?"
Whilst we waited and waited, alongside us the Russian couple started to sigh, we also saw the waiter/manager/bellboy/receptionist set a feast of food at an empty table and also place a delicious platter of food inside a bain marie at the other end of the room - no one ever appeared to eat either!
No other member of staff ever served anyone - I haven't giggled so much in ages!

And now can I apologise for the length of this post (did you notice there's not much mention of cricket?), normal service will resume soon!

Friday, 14 March 2014

I'll be with you soon!

Just popping in to say I will be back soon, I really want to write some more about our Sri Lanka cricket tour but time doesn't seem to permit me to actually put my brain into gear right now.
I thought once we'd got Christmas, 2 birthdays and 2 trips out of the way I'd have a little time to gather myself together before the start of this years cricket season, but it seems not! I don't believe there actually is a cricket season anymore anyway, the boys (all 3 of them) play all year round, indoors in winter and outdoors in summer - and when there isn't a match they're training.
In the "olden days" the football season used to overlap the cricket season at each end of the year, Easter and the end of August. We always used to book a holiday for the first 2 weeks of September - it was either that or get a divorce! We even got married on the first free Saturday after the end of the cricket season - The Builder would agree to miss a game or two of football but not cricket. Unfortunately it wasn't a cricket-free Sunday
so the honeymoon couldn't start til Monday - but I digress!
Anyway, I'm the sort of person who, when I'm asked to do something, has a brain that screams "no you can't possibly fit that in" and a head that nods and says "yes that's no problem at all"
Which is why, on one evening this week I am picking Little Miss and a friend up from netball, taking the friend home, driving from there to give a talk on our school in Gambia to a group of Cubs and Beavers, then driving straight to gymnastics to drop Little Miss off, then back the Cubs and Beavers to talk to a second group, then back to gymnastics to pick up Little Miss, hopefully stopping to do a bit of a food shop in my spare time before we find our way home!
Where is The Builder you may ask?
Well he has to drive Number 1 son to a cricket session about 20 miles away, in the opposite direction. So that will leave Number 2 son to come home alone and feed himself, we've promised someone will be home before his bedtime - parental failure I know!
So I'll gather myself very soon and tell you all about Sri Lanka, I can tell you one thing though - it is full of blooming cricket pitches!
I'll leave you with a photo of my Big Boy and me, taken at his birthday meal last Friday,
 just a few friends (family friends not "his" friends - that's way too embarrassing, apparently!)
and family to celebrate with him. He ideally wanted to go out for beers with his mates but as he had a day at Nottingham University on Saturday it ruled out Friday and as he had a cricket training day on Sunday it ruled out Saturday night. Well I say a training day, after turfing him out of bed at 8am on Sunday and driving him 15 miles to the venue we discovered that the course is actually next Sunday!! Doh! (parental failure again!)

Keeping up the family tradition of comedy specs! (see previous post)
I can't believe he's got to this after being mistaken for a Cabbage Patch Doll in his earlier years!


Thursday, 6 March 2014

18 years ago today (actually yesterday as I ran out of time to post!)

18 years ago yesterday I became a Mum, we became parents for the first time. We'd left it a little later than most although it felt the right time for us (if we'd known then that 3 of the little critters would come along we would have maybe started earlier).
I was 30 and the builder was 35, we'd been married around 5 years but had lived together for nearer 13, we never rush anything as you can tell from our house renovations, 22 years and counting! Up until then I hadn't been sure about having children at all but we decided to try just one small one. We were very well prepared, the nursery was beautifully decorated in Laura Ashley lemon & clown border (placed just at that easy-to-rip-off height), I'd shopped for both maternity clothes and baby clothes, I'd read all the books & bought all manner of accessories
 (most of which were no help whatsoever!) - so not really prepared in any useful way!

My pregnancy had been text book, I'd glowed, had gorgeous wavy, glossy hair although at the end I positively bloomed - tipping the scales at just over 13 stone when I'd started at 9 stone!
I'd filled the freezer with food (which we later realised when we needed to live on it was all cake, I'd been thinking about entertaining guests!), I'd touched up the decorating and had cleaned & hoovered the house to within an inch of it's life.
The baby was due on February 29th, it was a leap year, but by March 2nd I was a bit fed up, I like things on time and organised (well I did then)
I had chronic back pain and was unable to sleep in the last couple of days,
the text book pregnancy was distinctly pear shaped from here on in,
as was I (maybe apple shaped, with legs?!)
 On around the 2nd, or maybe the 3rd I felt my waters had started to leak so went into hospital, only to be told my waters were intact and maybe I had a weak bladder - I was mortified!
Two more days of pain in hospital where The Builder kept me company most days with his packed lunch, I tried many pain killers and the Tens machine but nothing helped much and still no baby. I said hello and goodbye to many new mums in the next door bed during that time.
Eventually on March 5th they realised that my waters were leaking quite a lot and my bladder was perfectly fine (THANK YOU!) so they decided to try to progress my labour, the pain got worse but nothing else happened. At this point I asked for an epidural, I'm not very brave!
By afternoon the doctor visited, sat on the edge of the bed and gently said "we need to look at alternative ways to deliver this baby" - in my drugged and exhausted state I was completely confused - how many ways are there to deliver a baby??  Anyway he had to explain that the only other way was by c-section - thank goodness for that I was a little concerned
where this baby was going to come out of. It was in fact an emergency as the baby was in distress but I wasn't told any of this until I was expecting Number 2.
Our baby boy arrived at 5.30pm, in our usual unemotional selves (or was it exhaustion) the Builder  and I looked at each other and said "at least he's not too ugly" There were raised eyebrows from midwives I remember!
Just call me Deidre Barlow!
He was a very healthy 9lb 4oz and he screamed, and screamed -
he carried on screaming for 9 weeks and I remember every second of it!
My maternal instincts took quite a few weeks to kick in, I don't think I was depressed just completely shell shocked. I struggled with everything from feeding (breast and bottle) to sleep and all routines in general. He was very stroppy and it only started to come together when he went into a big cot, in his own room, with the door shut and started on "illegal" solids at just 9 weeks (didn't dare tell the health visitor!) At that point he seemed to give a sigh of relief, smile and look like he'd been trying to tell us what he wanted for weeks!
Since then we've never looked back really, he was a stroppy toddler and I did introduce him to the toddler group with the words " This is Number 1, he may bite you"

Butter wouldn't melt....
 He is very insular and self contained, but quietly determined and confident. He likes his own company and loves a good book, I know he'll love to write in the future too (when he's feeling less lazy) - he is so like me it's annoying!
He's sporty and capable something which is generally assumed he inherits from his Dad's side, however there are a substantial amount of sports achievements on my side of the family too, just none from me.
He is thoughtful and kind, for Christmas he bought me three cd's of bands and singers he thought I'd like having heard them at Reading festival,
 he often recommends books to me which he thinks I'll enjoy.
We are so very proud of him.

as his birthday dawned we were unsure what gift to buy, ideally I wanted to get him -
driving lessons
a car
a laptop
a holiday
the world on a stick
some sugar bonbons

however we have a limited budget and got him a watch! We also made him a family collage of photos to take to Uni with him, so he doesn't forget us!

He has had a trip to New York and a custom made cricket bat in the weeks between Christmas and now and the bank account is empty. He was happy with all he got though, he's nearly always happy.

The coming year will be a whole new start for him as he goes to University in October and lives away from home for the first time - apart from his "lads holiday" in June - God help us!
Having his ..ahem...first beer!
He really is a super son!