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!

Monday, 3 March 2014

The No-Disaster Holiday!

Well we made it, as you've obviously gathered from the previous post. It was a slightly stressful trip in some ways, but not the usual disaster related ones! I (and The Builder although he didn't admit it at the time) had a bit of a wobble at the thought of the family being split and Number 1 son flying to New York and the rest of us flying in the opposite direction to Sri Lanka. I worried that we'd been unfair on him and "made" him go on the college trip, I worried that should a major catastrophe happen (slightly more likely for us than your average family) we'd be apart and may not find each other again. I also worried about him in the freezing cold for 5 days, in very budget hotels (one was described as "grim but adequate"!) and us in the sunshine for 10 days - again so unfair. I worried on so many levels and that was on top of my usual panic attacks involving expired passports, lost luggage, unexpected bottles of liquid in a child's flight bag, aside from the shark attacks, mid air cardiac arrest (of a fellow passenger not us),
 unscheduled stops in Moscow - all of which have happened to us before!
After getting seriously lost on the way to our Heathrow car park and having to be guided in by their reception lady we were allowed through to the departure lounge.
We did use a SatNav but apparently theirs is a post code that just "doesn't work" - would have been handy to know that at the start but hey hoe we made it  thus far!
All the boys were checked in with their teachers and coach, they'd travelled to Heathrow separately, we tried hard not to interfere and ensure Number 2 son was on a school cricket tour not a family holiday. They had an enormous amount of baggage although it was all within the usual limit!

Just some of the kit!
After a long flight on one of the most uncomfortable airlines I've travelled on and on which Little Miss unexpectedly developed travel sickness we eventually made it to Colombo airport on the coast of Sri Lanka. It was lunchtime local time but we'd been away from home for around 17-18 hours by then, we were all exhausted. We said goodbye to the boys and went to meet our pre-booked taxi for the 3 1/2 hour drive inland to Kandy. We had pre-booked a taxi just for the transfers from airport to hotel and hotel to hotel - we had been advised to book a driver for the whole stay but The Builder, in his wisdom, decided hailing a passing taxi on any given day and explaining where we wanted to go and negotiating a very cheap price would be no problem at all - what do you think?
Little Miss continued with her travel sickness on the long drive which put paid to the only pair of trousers I'd thought to bring, but the distance we travelled (purely for the sake of cricket) was worth it when we reached our first hotel - the view was divine!
Overlooking the Mahaweli River
 Despite being so tired we managed a quick dip before dinner,
swimming at sunset in a gorgeous setting. I could start to relax....

The night time view from our room, over the pool and river beyond
One of the first things I noticed from the moment we stepped off the plane and especially at this hotel was the smell. Smell is very important to me, I think I have a heightened sense of smell which can be a problem at times (living in a house with 3 men, you get the picture?)
The smell was clean, fresh and scented, everywhere we went. I believe they had scented oils burning around the hotel, and fresh flowers everywhere. It was a clean linen, green tea & jasmine kind of smell; and I also noticed no one smoked - that was a bonus for me.
Unfortunately we had to be up early and away to the first match of the tour, we had asked our airport driver to take us so that all worked well, he was waiting as we came out of the delicious buffet breakfast. We were still tired and a little jet lagged, and the sun was promising a scorcher of a day. It was exhausting for us to sit in the extreme heat and watch the match, I can't begin to imagine what it was like for the boys to don pads, helmets, gloves etc and run around for a 40 over match. Play was expected to last from 10am to around 4pm, and it did.
We saw a lot of this

Can you see the giant Buddha (the first of many we saw) overlooking the ground?
Zoomed in

The team is the school 1st XI so it's made up of the best players in the senior school, some were sixth formers of 18+, huge men compared to our 14 year old!
However Number 2 son was chosen to open the bowling and took the first wicket of the tour - quite an accolade and a moment to remember. He was awarded the "best bowler" trophy at the end of the match by the opposition.
Unfortunately they lost this match, I think the tiredness and heat got to them, but they performed better than I would have expected given the conditions and the fact that we'd left England in the middle of the football/rugby season for most of the boys.
We said our goodbyes and went back to our hotel to freshen up, the driver was then taking us to the Temple of the Tooth Relic for the evening ceremony.
The Temple is situated next door to the Palace in Kandy Kingdom (I love that name!) and was probably the most ornate building, both inside and out, that I'd ever seen. An immense amount of gold and ivory and some fantastic wall paintings everywhere - I was surprised but photography was allowed. The only restriction was that you mustn't pose in the photo yourself alongside the adornments and many Buddha's.
It was a truly spectacular place and my photos do not do it justice, there were crowds filing through and it made stopping to look and photograph everything difficult.

The casket which holds the tooth
The tooth is believed to be an ancient tooth of The Buddha
It is such a gorgeous place and quite rightly a UNESCO world heritage site.

After this we went to bed very tired (and ever so slightly sunburnt!)
after our first full day in Sri Lanka.
Then up early to travel back to the coast where we stayed in Wadduwa.

I'll do another post on the rest of our holiday/cricket tour soon - including our crash!
Right now I have an biggest boy 18th birthday to plan,
although as it's on Wednesday I've probably left it a bit late!!