Sunday, 27 June 2010

A mighty fine weekend

We have had the most excellent weekend. It was so excellent that we didn't have time to consider taking photos!

On Friday we set off to the edge of the moors in the baking heat for a bit of camping. We didn't fancy spending long in the car, so we headed to the campsite that we discovered last year. A bit larger than we usually like, but with the advantage of a good playground, a quiet overflow field and close proximity to both home and good walks.

After a first afternoon of making the camp and playing in the playground, the next morning we headed into Helmsley for a bit of a paramble. We walked out along a stream valley complete with saw mill in meadow and big lumps of log sitting by the path. It reminded me of Canada, but then pretty much any scenery that includes steep inclines, trees and water reminds me of Canada! We did the standard loosing of the path which we have come to accept as inevitable when walking through North Yorkshire's many plantations, and managed to get back on track, emmerging triumphantly along a path that was clearly marked private. I don't get how you are supposed to navigate in these plantations. The "roads" move around a lot and the footpaths are rarely marked and often untrodden. In theory you could pick your way through the trees using your compass and map, but as there is rarely a point to start from where you are certain that the map matches real life, you've got no absolute to navigate from.

We appreciated several different types of tree and fern and Nathaniel made sure that anyone in earshot (there wasn't anyone) was clear that they were "bi(g) tree"s.

We emmerged into fields just in time for the wind to get up and the sun to go in, which was rather good timing, and then admired several fields of sheep.

The last bit back down to Helmsley was through another plantation, but this one was much less complicated, had a less used road (so felt more like a proper walk), and was prettier. Nevertheless, having had a break where he got to run around, Nathaniel wasn't entirely convinced about having to stay in the carrier and we had to do some serious singing. Baa baa black sheep was a favourite, as was The Animals Came in Two by Two, but by far the most requested was anything that was a round. Lots and lots of "Londons Burning" and "To the greenwood tree". We tried Kookabura and the Calypso, but they were either rejected by Nathaniel or proved too complicated to sing when you also have to concentrate on where your feet are going!

Back in Helmsley, we were all set to buy a sandwich from the smart delicatessen, when Ian spied people eating fish and chips out of posh Rick Stein-style boxes. There wasn't much discussion. We were all quite clear that "fisss ship" was the way forward. Even Nathaniel was able to wait patiently for our food to appear, as long as we reguarly reassured him that they were "coo(k) fiss ship". It was a delicious lunch! Almost Rick Stein takeaway quality!

After a big nap, we spent the afternoon in the campsite eating:

and playing with water:

Who says that you need to take lots of toys away with you!

This morning, after a leisurely striking of camp we poddled back into York just in time to start feeling peckish. After Nathaniel had had a well timed nap we headed to the Ebor with some friends for a rather good sunday pub-lunch in the garden. Then it was back to their house to cram six adults and two todllers into a small living room to enjoy the sight of 11 men kick a ball totally ineffectually around a pitch. (Nim, you probably haven't noticed us getting kicked(!) out of the World Cup after loosing horribly to Germany.)

After a very jolly afternoon we headed home for some supper and Nathaniel collapsed into bed!

It's been an extremely fine weekend!

Thursday, 24 June 2010


Nathaniel and I have been having a disagreement about naps. I think that they are an important part of the day whereas Nathaniel insists that they are not necessary. I don't really count it as a victory that on days when I have gone with Nathaniel's idea, my point of view is always proved right at about 4pm when I am left with a very tired and grumpy boy!

So today I did the responsible thing, and bribed him! Actually, the important and valid point I made was that little boys who haven't had their lunch time nap are invariably too tired to do anything exciting the in the afternoon, and hence no nap means no fun. If there was any chance that we were going to enjoy the afternoon and do a fun activity, for example seeing trains, then a nap was going to be necessary. And fortunately, Nathaniel was brought around to my way of thinking.

So he had a nap and I devised a good train seeing activity. As residents of the city that hosts the free-entrance National Railway Museum, it should have been a no-brainer. But we visited the NRM a few weeks ago when Grandpa Beard visited, and although we had fun, it wasn't the ecstatic, giant smiles sort of fun. In fact Nathaniel wasn't very sure about a lot of the trains, couldn't work out what the other half were, and was most impressed by the ride-on London bus, which he climbed in and drove and greatly enjoyed despite his mean mother not telling him that if you put money in it it moved!

So instead, I decided on a much simpler, activity: a visit to the station. Fortunately York station is a wonderful period building. A visit to Didcot Parkway probably wouldn't have the same appeal to the accompanying adult. So we cycled down to the station and Nathaniel waved to all the buses that we passed and then got very excited and bouncy (not so great when you are cycling), when he realised that at the end of the car park we were riding across, there was a big, loud, steam-breathing train!

We had a wonderful afternoon looking at the trains. We found a good vantage point where we could sit in the dappled sun and look this way to see a train:

...and this way to see.....

...another train.

We saw purple trains ("pur(p) tray") and blue trains ("blue tray") and big trains ("bi(g) trains") and little trains ("li tray"). They all made loud noises, and after the first one, we didn't have to cover our ears. Some of them bellowed stream out of their roofs when they started to move, and the best ones loaded trolleys laden with tea and coffee ("tee tro") when they stopped.

There were policemen to watch and old ladies to charm and dogs to misidentify ("baa, shee(p)" (it was a brown, short haired, curly dog!)). There were whistles to hear, and tracks to follow and arrival boards to check.

All in all, it was the best bribe ever! 2 hours passed in no time and I hardly had to do a thing.

Except provide "more tray, more tray, MORE TRAY!"

The Stray

I got a bit obsessed with Hob Moor when we were looking for houses to buy. After 10 years of living somewhere where you could cycle into town in ten minutes and also be talking to sheep in riverside meadows out of sight of houses within the same time, I was rather used to feeling as if we lived as close to village life as is possible in a city.

So when I realised that there was a bit of Holgate sandwiched between West Bank Park and Hob Moor, I was smitten. We could still see real animals of a sensible size (cows graze on the moor) as well as get into civilisation.

And it was worth waiting for this house for. It takes us approximately 3 minutes from our door to the stray (assuming that Nathaniel isn't walking. If he is, then you have to stop at the gate for opening and shutting for many hours). And once you get to the stray, you are greeted with this view:

I love the fact that you are in a giant space of wild flowers and trees and can still see the Minster. If you walk to the other side of the stray and look back, this path leads straight to the Minster. I assume that it has been a right of way for hundreds of years, though that may just be sentimentality. Nevertheless, in true Ransome style, we have originally named it the Minster Way.

You can't get an idea of how big the stray feels in these pictures. Although it's got houses and a railway bordering it, and a tarmac cycle path through it, you do somehow feel as if you have left the city and are out in the wild. It's very calming.

We've taken to taking a morning or evening stroll across it. We go for a cow hunt ("cow hun(t)"), which eventually Nathaniel reverts to calling a bear hunt, and and persue the cows across the stray and into the hummocky bit.

Nathaniel walks for quite a bit of the walk, stirred into action by the opportunity to chase dogs, and is starting to be brave enough to leave the path.

It's strange the things that he is uncertain about! ("no(t) sure, no(t) sure") I am just waiting for him to discover the multitude of thistles that have grown rather tall. That'll scare him off the long grass forever! But in the meantime there is lots of buttercup picking to be done, and then several frustrating minutes while he tries to thread the buttercup into his dungarees buttonholes, gives up and asks me to, and then pulls them all out with relish!

Eventually he gives up with the idea of walking and insists on being carried. But it's hardly boring. Who says there's nothing to investigate when sitting on Daddy's shoulders?!

Sunday, 20 June 2010


Today, there was a 5k race in York so we went along to cheer Mikey. He was more sure about it than this picture suggests:

"What have I done"

But he refused to go and join in the public humiliation of the group warm up:

Then they were off:

And we went to the playground.

"hol(d) ti(ght)!"

After a remarkably short time, people were crossing the finish line, so we went over to clap and cheer and take really flattering pictures of Mikey sprinting to the line:

But it was worth the face, because although he was a bit puffed:

he was a very happy bunny:

Mikey totally destroyed his personal best and got a crazily fast time! I'm not going say what it was because I'd probably get the seconds wrong, but it was fast!! Worthy of a sumptuous lunch in Victor J's. Which obviously where we went next!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Slave Labour

We have recently decided to cement our middle-class surburban lifestyle by having a veg box delivered. It has been great because instead of planning our weeks meals by me wracking my brains for enough vegetarian based meals to counteract the meat and fish fest, we are basing our plans around what veg we have been sent. This means that we are eating much more veg than before, but also eating more interesting things because a diet of risottos and catch-all curries gets boring very quickly.

We have become slaves to Nigel Slater, mainly because we own two fast-food cook books of his, but also bcause he likes really simple and really tasty things. This is a great combination when you are trying to throw together things before a child starts demanding that you help build a jigsaw. Our absolute favourite at the minute is broad beans and bacon, a marvellous combination if you rather like broad beans and bacon, which we all do.

So we were very pleased to find broad beans in our box this week, and Nathaniel was overjoyed to be roped in to food preparation rather than having to watch. Shelling broad beans seems to involve exactly the right level of motor skills and allows plenty of time to develop a good repetitive chant of "bro(ad) deens, bro(ad) deens!"

Friday, 18 June 2010


Nathaniel will currently play happily on his own for some time, as long as you have provided water. The water can be in the sink, in a cup, in a jug, in a puddle, falling from the sky.......

One of his favourites is from the hose pipe ("ho-pie"). He fills up watering cans, listens to the sounds that the water makes when it hits the manhole cover, and waters stones so that they change colour.

The sink is almost an obsession - its hard for anyone to do some washing up without a little man tugging at their trousers and insisting to be lifted "up up".

Thursday, 10 June 2010


Nathaniel has always been a fan of eating satsumas ("hat su-su"). But now he has taken it to a new level. Eating the satsuma is now preceded by peeling the satsuma!

He will let you pierce the skin for him, but then it's 4 minutes of silence while he carefully takes off every bit!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Goodbye Leeds

I now officially no longer work for a large higher education institution in Leeds. I was going to say "leading", but hey, I don't work for them any more so I don't need to pretend!!

It's been an interesting 6 years. I have been pretty happy and enjoyed some rather entertaining opportunities, but my overriding memory is the shear frustration of working in the place! Here are some of my favourite scenes:

There are some pretty buildings:

Some look like US colleges (sorry, US colleges look like some of the buildings!):

There's also some less desirable architecture (hooray for concrete!):

Ah, the EC Stoner Building, home to europe's longest corridor.

The general gist is that every view is a mishmash of design and styles. I quite like it in a way:

One of the nice things about Leeds is that you can almost always see out:

Inside isn't too bad either:

Here is one of my favourite places where I have spent a crazy amount of time:

Here's my favourite nook, where no-one else goes: the canadian literature aisle. Home to a vast collection of early fiction and old exploration journals. How else would I have become such an expert on such important things such as the Palliser Expedition and the founding of the British Columbia towns of Hope and Princeton by the Allison family?! Thank you Canadian High Commission.

And what would I have done if it weren't for this place and the joys of bacon and brie or salmon with chilli sauce ciabattas?

Eventually I'll miss Leeds (a bit)!

Friday, 4 June 2010


Nathaniel has been sorting this week. Mainly buttons. It goes something like this...

Request that parent retrieves buttons from out of reach place. Then begin sorting.

Then pour them from one container to another.

Continue in this vein for a time until you're really pleased with yourself.

Then scatter liberally until sure that you won't be allowed to play with them again for a while.