We arrived to a warm welcome last night and the gracious hospitality of Alistair and Lorna. The two dogs greeted us also at the main farmhouse door. Aaliyah smiled and gave the biggest hugs. The two cats fled and hid. That was the last we saw of them. John went with Alistaire to purchase the six biggest portions of fish and chips I have ever seen. Dinner was a big hit, washed down with copious amounts of black current squash and white wine. You can work out who drank what! The ‘Thatched Barn’ where we were sleeping was warm and cosy. And surprisingly all five settled quickly, though it was almost three hours past their normal bed time. We were invited to the farmhouse for a breakfast of well seasoned ‘eggy bread’ and wafer thin crepes cooked on the range. The oil lightly dusting the multitude of fry’s made the open kitchen a little smokey but this cleared and everyone ate vast amounts.
We ventured out to the local seaside town of Seaton. The weather was sunny and warm with only a mild breeze. Our morning was to visit the Seaton Tramway. Everyone loves trains and we knew that the Seaton to Colyton tram ride would be a big success. It was and they all got to choose a toy in the gift shop. We progressed on to the actual seafront. It is not such a commercial one, just a rank of houses, a few business and a shingle beach. Ice creams were purchased from a small hut on the road beside the beach. It was decided to eat them in the car, something Aaliyah was not happy with. Needless to say we had our first major meltdown of the day, followed by Caleb becoming angry and throwing his ice cream on the floor of the car.’I want to be good, I want to be good’ Aaliyah screamed, but there was no sign of her anger calming until we were nearly back at the holiday home. Thor, Aaliyah and Tara finished ice creams calmly and asked for tissue to clean off. Lunch was a simple matter of toasted bagels. There is excitement and shouting again as we prepare for the 4.30pm slot at the pool. Tara and Aaliyah are screaming about their swimming costumes and broken goggles respectively. Wish us luck – off to the pool.
A very long afternoon and evening. I hope you’re sitting down. Make yourself comfortable.
Not even four o’clock and ‘are we there yet’ has raised its beleaguered head. Caleb has been shouting and Thor has been saying ‘be quiet Caleb, stop shouting’, now he is shouting, ‘Caleb stop shouting’. Now I am shouting ‘Thor and Caleb stop shouting’. The others are quiet, it’s a long journey ahead. Now approaching the world heritage site, Stonehenge. This part of the A303 is notoriously slow. You have to smile at the innocence of this. Thor has just said ‘I see a small deer asleep besides the road. His leg was near the car. He was asleep’. A very observant little boy. You do realise this paragraph is going to be condensed down from our entire trip, don’t you? Thought I should say that in case you’re thinking that an awful lot is going on. A Bi-Plane has just been hovering and looping above us, very cool. Just found a lay-by and stopped for Thor, Aaliyah and Tara to have a pee in the shrubs. Just spotted Stonehenge, we’re all very excited. ‘Tara pinched me’ just came from the back seat. ‘Stonehenge, Stonehenge is coming, look, look’ Amritsar is now screaming. Aaliyah is more interested in the cows on her side however and Thor is screaming about cow poo. Sonny and Cher have just come on the music system. We play a lot of 1960’s music for the children. It just seems so much more appropriate in its innocence and optimism. Now Caleb is saying ‘I am a spaceman’ and Thor is shouting ‘Caleb hit me, Caleb hit me’. They can’t actually reach each other with Aaliyah sat happily in the middle! All is now quiet. Now Aaliyah has stuck her sticker she was given at the library visit with preschool today on her belly button and is shouting ‘look Dadda, look’. Amritsar is giggling maniacally in the back seat and tickling Tara. Alliyah and Caleb have started doing the same. Thor looks on uninterested, staring out of the window. Just spotted a mother on her knees in a lay-by cleaning off her car seat with wipes ‘There but for the grace of god go I’. ‘Own kind of music’ Cass Elliot just came on. Respect! Some of the rolling landscape either side of the road is a real treat for the eyes. Thor has just remarked about the long shadows and how it will soon be dark. Clever boy. Another several ‘are we nearly there yet’ in quick succession from Amritsar and now Thor and Aaliyah have joined in. John is bored of the music and wants ‘music to watch girls by’ and I said if there are two rubbish songs in a row, we can change music. He asked well who’s going to be the arbiter? I thought and as Thor was nodding his head I said ‘Thor can arbitrate’ and added ‘Do you like this song Thor’, he replied ‘Yes Dadda’. Hehehe. Two paraglider’s are floating past us in a nearby field, good spotting Amritsar. The last song was rubbish! We eagerly awaited the next song… ‘up, up and away in my beautiful balloon’ is playing and Thor was asked wether he liked it… a resounding yes. But then again we all secretly like it don’t we! ‘Sheep, sheep, sheep’ is all I’m hearing now. I guess we just passed some sheep. Caleb has been clutching the nappy change bag for the entire trip and keeps opening the zipper. He seemingly can’t close it so keeps screaming ‘Dadda, Dadda Help’? I’m getting a neck ache at this point with turning around so much. Out of sympathy, Thor and I are now allowing John his fix of Andy Williams as ‘Music to watch girls go by’ is now playing. The sun is preparing to set in front of us. A magnificent display of mottled cloud and the suns exhausted rays besets us, as does Gene Pitney. I’m now screaming ‘Are we there yet’? Thor has just pulled a handful of Aaliyah’s hair from her scalp. She is screaming and kicking about something completely unrelated. We can now see a Lama in a field of sheep – does this get any more surreal. Tara is shouting ‘Hello Lama, Hello Lama’. The car is at a standstill besides the Lama. They are all shouting ‘Hello Lama’. We see a statue of Buddha in the sheep and Lama field! I have just found half a bag of wipes pulled from the packet at Caleb’s feet. He is no longer the nappy bag monitor. Naughty Caleb. This half term traffic sucks. Usually things speed up once we have passed Stonehenge – but it’s been a constant crawl for the last two hours now. Thor and I have the thumbs down for the song playing, will we be swapping musical genres again? Thanks Bobby Rydell. Though Tara is now singing or whining in tune to the song! How very theatrical of her. The Mavericks are a compromise for john and I but the children have decided they all want ‘Shake, Baby, Shake’ by Lush. We are teaching them the art of compromise – they can have their song next. Just passed a restaurant called ‘The Hawk House’ hmmmm, interesting! Caleb, bless him is trying to join in with Tara and Aaliyah singing the lyrics. He’s finding it hard so he’s resorted to grunts and a sort of squealing sound… The traffic has improved vastly as we are now hitting 70mph. Are we legal, we’re going with the flow however! I don’t drive but I sympathise with those at the wheel. As slow as a tortoise for so long and now running with the hare… I spoke too soon. Back walking with the tortoise. But the children get to see a ‘Blue Tractor’ on the opposite side of the road. Sun pretty much set now and the moon is shining on my left hand side. It should be full in a few days, I hope it’s not cloudy on Monday!!! We’re talking about Lorna’s cats now, the ginger or the black. They all want the cats. Oh dear, Thor now says he smells something strange! ‘Is it coffee’ Aaliyah asks. ‘What is it, what is it’ she is now screaming. Thor looks at her calmly. ‘You don’t need to worry Aaliyah’. Thor then adds ,The moon is following us Aaliyah’. It’s dark now and I have resorted to google maps for directions. Tara is shouting ‘Hey Google’ as she is on the car speaker. To no avail, google does not reply. You have to smile and sorry if you don’t understand some of my dialogue today as i’m not sure I do either…
Two o’clock this afternoon and the little ones were in transit to the doctors for their flu vaccination and John had just finished the arduous job of mowing the lawn. With sweat on brow he made his way to the terrace. The grass was gilded green and shining with brilliance once more. Reminiscing on ‘leaf fall’ the ton of crispy, now brown, dull leaves have all but gone. Just a handful remain, hanging on to the oaks branches for whatever little time remains for them. The sun was shining and hot. In the shade of the bay window the thermometer read nineteen degrees, but in direct sunlight, it felt like summers embrace once again. Off with my tee shirt and a little sunbathing was had. The middle of October, who would have thought it.
It is now three o’clock and the little ones and I are in the car whilst John is waiting at the school exit. Should be back in ten minutes with the girls. Thor is sleeping like a log and Aaliyah is snoring merrily in the middle. Caleb is awake and thus far being very good. He has just told me that he wants to wee, which is very good as at present we have both Thor and Aaliyah on potty training and we think Caleb is maybe six months off. Aaliyah has just woken up and started groaning and shouting. Five minutes later and the foul mood has just dissipated with the arrival of John and the girls. We’re on the road.
Sindy on lunch, John at home mowing the lawn, the little ones back from preschool, sitting up watching Tee and mo. No nap today, like we could imagine they would, as this afternoon were off to wilds of Devon. A small excursion for them first as they are off to have their flu vaccinations, then back home before we pick up the girls from school. Oooh aaah oooo is all I can hear in the background, that and the little chuckles from the children. The dogs have finally settled down, since the general hyperactivity surrounding lunchtimes.
Jo has picked up the keys so the dogs bestest will be calling in tonight for their evening run and thrice daily until our return on Monday. The dogs are getting excited as their dinnertime is around the corner.
Thor is still coveting his crown. In fact they’re all still in tact. Aaliyah is holding hers crawling along the floor like an army commando on a training exercise. She has just scaled the sofa and thrust her crown on top of my head. Little hands are gently squeezing around my neck. She can be very loving. Oooh, fingers now over my nose and Thor is explaining to me that Aaliyah is on my back and now he wants to have a wee wee. So he’s now sat in the hallway on the potty. The dogs are whining and Thor is now insisting that Aaliyah has bitten him on his jumper (she hadn’t). Aaliyah spins around on the carpet like a whirling Dervish. She is now hugging Remus, still whining and Gracie looks on, unperplexed by it all. Welcome to the world of three year olds. Just a small moment of many, interwoven seamlessly into and surrounding our lives.
Update once we’re on the road.
What might I be talking about tonight? Chips and choices. Am I referring to a secret gambling problem?
Nah – dinner menu of course. We’re really excited about our Devon weekend break to see Alistaire and Lorna. The children’s bags are now packed all except for their swimming togs and armbands. Pretty sure they were stashed away in a bag now residing in the eves. We hid them away after our summer holiday in Le Rouret in the Cote d’Azur. Sindy will have to do a ‘recky’ in the morning. However the provisions bag is packed, including all those things I said they would have to wait until they were at least seven years old to enjoy. At this point, I have to laugh. We don’t do sweets, but crisps and chocolate were unavoidable. They get given sweets in their party bags occasionally (from the multitude of birthday parties) and that is ample. It’s like they have all grown up, once weened off of their diet of milk, on to juice and squash. I am happy now though as if they want a second drink at mealtimes, they are always given ice cold water. A thing they now actually even request. Right, we are all ready for the road trip tomorrow as soon as the girls have finished school. They are all sleeping well so far tonight. I think Sindy must have had words to persuade them not to stay up for two hours on a bedroom rampage.
Okay back to the dinner choices. Clearly I had a few things to clear out of the fridge pre weekend away. Chips were offered to all. Yes, oven chips – I am not an abuser of that deep fat fryer. High days and Holidays me thinks. I’m looking forward to a second usage though. But we had a few things in the fridge to clear out. One portion of lasagne, one portion of Kiddies Cassoulet, one portion of roast pork and Savoy cabbage sautéd in butter and Pea curry (mutter) with chapatti were on offer on our ‘Chips and Choices’ night. Amritsar has helped make chapatti with me before, so she chose the very mild pea curry, Tara the lasagne, then Caleb the pork of all things and Thor and Aaliyah the mutter with chapatti. All was well for thirty seconds until Caleb starts screaming ‘ no, no, no – I eat pea curry’! I said you asked for pork, Sindy said, you asked for pork, but he still screamed. ‘Second choice then Caleb’ I decided, knowing full well that the mutter and chapatti was off the menu for me tonight. I shared out the sausage from the Cassoulet. All were happy. John is back from Dublin but staying in London as he is at a function. I am not cooking for him, so I knew with the children’s dinner choices , I would be enjoying the leftovers. So I have just microwaved a plate of pork, cabbage, the remaining pea curry and oven chips. I’ve never eaten microwaved oven chips before, but in their favour I have to conclude, not actually that bad…
Well a different day today as every Thursday, the little ones attend another preschool and the hours are 9am – 3pm. Their usual weekday hours are 8.30 – 11.30am. They take in a packed lunch today, so I am pretty much redundant after breakfast until the mid afternoon. I sometimes get to escape the house, but today I have been waiting for our Plummer Nick to arrive to assess the cisterns of two of our four toilets. Exciting day for me then. It is almost 2pm and he’s just left with his assessment and will come back to do the work at a later date.
The dogs are very full on, so it’s not really a day off for me. They follow me around from room to room, as they do. But I’m so used to it after ten years of the practice. They used to get fed once daily at 4pm but they seem to live on a twenty three and a half hour cycle. Remus starts to whine an hour of so before his dinner and as a result, I constantly give in a little earlier. Over the past few years 4pm became 3.30pm, then that became 3pm and so on… I now feed them at 1.30pm and that’s soon to become 1pm.
Back to Thor’s day, sorry, Thursday, the not so famous five haven’t broken their crowns made at yesterday’s breakfast quite yet. Though Caleb’s is looking a bit bent and squashed. Thor insisted on wearing his on the school run. The rest happily left there’s on the radiator beside the kitchen table. He and his sister are still at school. But Caleb came home just before midday as he seemingly bumped the back of his head. Now sending a little one home if he was physically sick (vomiting), I get it, but for a bumped head, what’s that all about? He came in with Sindy full of smiles, she left and he finished his packed lunch at the table and I continued to sterilise some jam jars that I had just made. All jam makers know that the latest project needs to be immersed in boiling water for at least fifteen minutes to insure it will stay perfect for the upcoming year (or two) in the cupboard. I’m still not won over by ‘Nigella’s’ just turning them upside down for a few minutes. I finished and then lead Caleb upstairs for his nap. In the absence of Aaliyah and Thor to start playing with, he went down immediately and a kiss and hug later I descended the top flight of stairs. How was The rest of this Thor’s (Thurs)day? I’ll let you know later.
Stood on the terrace, I see some commotion going on in the trees of a neighbours garden. There is a local colony of Ravens. Maybe there are thirty of so in number. The mass of them seem to badgering two or three of their number. They are mid flight and the victims have just flown out of sight! There is a lot of squawking and their numbers seem to be flying from tree to tree in an uneasy manner. I heard that ravens live in highly organised communities and their intelligence is on a par with dogs! Looking at them, they are certainly acting as silly as our two dogs at very least. The three ravens being badgered have re-emerged and are now sitting on the bare branches of our oak tree. Still together, I guess they must be family members. We stick together, through thick and thin, don’t we, families?
It does bring back memories of my time spent on the roof top of the world, Nepal. I spent much of my time there back in mid to late 2015, just post the big earthquake had dominated much of the world news at the time. We lived in an apartment in an area known as Lazimpat, a fairly central suburb of Kathmandu. We had a balcony and lived on the fourth floor. The view was quite special. The city is in the foothills of the great Himalayan mountains. Well, our view on clear days stretched over the city with the craggy mountains, sometimes dancing with the thin, low clouds as a backdrop. Every evening at dusk, without fail, the skies would fill with thousands upon thousands of ravens. Over a forty five minute period, the sky would darken and this black mass of feathered foul would fly in one particular direction. There was clearly a roosting area that they would nightly invade. I guessed one of the now defunct palace gardens, perhaps further afield. Aaliyah and Caleb were just very small babies then! Friends (and nannies) Bharti and Rekha had joined me, flying up from Bombay! They were interesting times…