Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Easter time and beyond

A slightly late Happy Easter to all, we've had some pretty good weather for it in our neck of the woods, I hope you have too.

The school holidays seem to have flown by in a flurry of activities and sadly work too, and Number 1 son went back to college today and should start the final countdown to his A levels, Little Miss is back to school tomorrow and Number 2 son doesn't go back until next Monday - just to add to my state of confusion!

Everyone has enjoyed the break though, all except The Builder who I've just realised has been to work every day for two weeks straight, not all day every day but for a part of it at least - I think he needs a rest!

Easter was a little different for us this year as, for a good many years we've been invited to join the Easter Egg hunt at a friends house in the village, I've mentioned it before, it's enormous and slightly "different". Most of the family are as mad as a box of frogs and you never know what to expect, one year at least two chocolate eggs were put in a rowing boat and pushed out into the river - only to be reached by a good swimmer!! And Easter isn't always warm as you know! However this year when I was forced to enquire (forced by 3 very persistent voices) I was told there would be no hunt this year - shock, horror and massive disappointment to the three hunters who had hoped to return home with the usual mountain of chocolate and slip into a sugar induced coma for the rest of the day. Added to that not one member of the extended family gave the kids any Easter eggs this year, I'm not quite sure what happened but only my Mum gave then some mini eggs, obviously the Easter bunny had left a little something outside their doors but there was a definite air of despondence all around.

On Easter Sunday, after a very yummy roast the Builder and I went for a long walk, it was a lovely evening but I only had my little camera and the pictures don't do the scenery justice. (and can't you tell I'm getting a bit carried away with this photo collage thing?!)
We saw a swan nesting and watched the sun go down over the marshes.
On Easter Monday the Builder went on a scavenger hunt of his own and came back from Tesco with bags full of half price chocolate eggs, we needed to devise our own hunt for the first time ever!
The kids were dispatched to the cricket pitch for the annual spring clean and spruce up
while we hid the eggs. We tried to be inventive in view of what they'd had in previous years, sadly we have no boating lake or river running through our back garden!
We did our best and at one point decided to put a couple of eggs in the old pigeon's nest high up in the holly tree, it transpired that the nest is back in use and was already full of pigeon eggs! The Builder almost fell off his ladder as mummy pigeon flapped away in a hurry!

Collage overdose......I can't stop myself now!

 It was a fun afternoon, I think they enjoyed it anyway; and maybe it's better to do our
own hunt instead of relying on the madhouse down the road
(they once hid miniature bottle of whiskey with the eggs, and the average age of the hunters was around 11!!)
And just to end on a very Spring like view which I'm enjoying at the moment,
£2 for 3 big bunches on the market.

I've really loved reading everyone else's Easter posts, I've not had much chance to comment
on every one but I'm still there, lurking about!
Have a good week.

Friday, 18 April 2014

The Overseas Cricketer, 2014 edition

For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will possibly remember my issues with overseas cricketers coming to stay for the summer season. I did mention it here, many moons ago when I first started this blog, I know I've mentioned it since then too. Probably around March/April time every year in fact!.

Just to recap, the boys (and by boys I'm including the Builder) belong to a local club who, for a few years now, have made room for an overseas player to join the club for the summer. Did you know that you can buy a young, athletic, foreigner on the internet? Depending on how prestigious (wealthy) your club is and how skilled the overseas player is you can offer them money to play/coach, cost of their flights, a house or place to stay and a vehicle. In the past our club has been able to offer, flights partially paid for, a room to live in above the local pub (or our penthouse suite garage) and a bike or for the elite player an old banger with it's own set of jump leads!

I mentioned before how our garage was built and fitted out as a batchelor pad (should I say cricketer pad?) at great haste and with a great many helping hands one year, and all work on the completion of our house extension halted. Which I was told at the time was to make a great party room for the boys, however one week later a young Australian moved in for 4 months! - And the house still remains unfinished several years later!

I have stamped my feet, had tantrums and shouted in true only-child style and for a year the garage remained empty, well not exactly empty it's now full of old bikes, boxes of books and junk in general - up to the ceiling! - the house still remains unfinished but that's a whole other story!

I was told a couple of weeks ago that the overseas player for this year was due to arrive, he was picked up from Heathrow yesterday I believe. No one has made any attempt to clear the penthouse garage and I'm told he's been offered a room with a family nearby (club members) for the first month. Hang on, did they say for the first month only? Are you thinking what I'm thinking? I guess I'm about to be sweet talked for 4 weeks aren't I?

Apparently this young man from New Zealand is only slightly older than Number 1 son, and is here more to travel and experience England rather than being a top flight cricketer, we're off to meet him later today, I promise to stand firm and not offer him a place to stay - wish me luck.

On the plus side and at risk of showing my age I understand his surname is Cassidy, do you think he's related to David Cassidy?? In that instance I could change my mind!
I was obviously just a baby when he topped the charts!
he does still look like this doesn't he?

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
..it 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!