Thursday, 26 May 2011


Just because it has been raining for 24hrs, doesn't mean that the garden doesn't need water.

And a hosepipe is one of the best ways of entertaining a little boy for at least 45 minutes!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The right book

Nathaniel has always been fond of reading and has devoured a good range of books, but recently has been less interested. I've been horribly aware that this is probably because he needs some new ones, but ones that are right. We've been to the library a lot, but unfortunately they don't seem to have a big range of things that overlap with our priorities.

Admittedly we've got a bit fussy.

Nathaniel's thoughts on books:
- ideally they should feature something with wheels or a windmill (his interest in the Cat in the Hat is fueled simply from the last two pages where the Cat's amazing car appears)
- if they are non-fiction, the pictures should ideally be photographs (he's not desperately impressed with Usborne's set of Fimo models. He'll read the books once, but then loses interest)
- fiction should have a good story (though for some reason he includes Mick Inkpen's Kipper books in this category. I just don't get that!)
- rhymes are good
- pictures with loads of detail are best.

My thoughts on books:
- no tv character tie-ins unless the story and pictures meet all the other priorities
- pictures should be life-like - I dislike crazy distorted heads
- colour shouldn't be garish. NO DISNEY!
- rhyming books should scan
- limited anthropomorphism. Especially in wheeled vehicles.
- Language should be interesting and dialogue realistic.

So you can see that we've cut down our options rather. We've had great sucesses with the Little Red Train - the stories are good, the pictures are great and the little red train never speaks!

But then we had a triumph! At the Steiner School spring fair there was a book stall (actually a whole classroom full of books!), so I parked N in a corner and we both rifled through books for an hour. We came away with some gems - a selection of late 70's classics with sensible (and in some cases, beautiful), pictures and great stories. Who says I'm not stuck in the past?!

This was the piece de resistance:

12 pages of car brilliance. Simple text, complicated pictures. The background (the garage and its setting), stays the same but people, cars, tractors move round and the story develops.

And he reads it several times a day. Perfect!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Busy busy wet and wndy wekend

This weekend we have been mostly been either at the sailng club or playing guitars...

Nathaniel has mainly been demanding to get out the "lectrical tars" and "plug in, make very loud noise" so we had to fit that in around all the sailing activities.

Saturday was the second day of the sailing course. Some of you may also have noticed that it was a little breezy. However, despite this we managed to get people out helming in the the morning, before the wind got too crazy. This year we seem to have four people who have taken to sailing rather well and so were managing to helm relatively competently despite the lively conditions.

When the afternoon arrived, the wind had got up though, so we opted for match racing with them taking it in turns to crew/watch from the comittee boat. They all enjoyed it immensly, even when in my enthusiam I snagged a tree during a tack, in a gust and very nearly increased my total number of GP14 capsizes to two! We managed to just rescue it though (I thought we were done for, having been sailing the RS200 recently which goes over a little more quickly!) but we retrieved it from near horizontal. Wetness was narrowly avoided. At least until we stepped back into the bathtub that was the boat when it came back up!

In the middle of all this, Tassy & Nathaniel had gone off to the Steiner Spring fair, where Tassy was singing with the Barberellas. Nathaniel ate much cake, did some good climbing on the climbing frame and bought many crafts. When the came to pick me up afterwards he was fast asleep in the car, clutching an exciting toy and covered in chocolate cake!

After we arrived home and he'd woken up, we then had to indulge N in the loud guitars he'd been asking for all day. He's never seen or heard them plugged in before so he wasn't sure at first how loud it was going to be...


But then once it started he got much more interested (though much of the interest was derived from the fan in the back of the bass amp...)

On Sunday, we were down for being OD at the sailing club. On arrival however, we found a fine selection of people who were fully intent on going nowhere near the river in a boat in a steady 20mph gusting 39mph. There were also some of us who were less sensible. The morning looked largely like this..

and this...

and this....

though (at least sometimes) like this...

This is my particular favourite, due to the shape of my boom.....(!)

Nathaniel ran the racing from the rescue boat (which was actually never required) and was particularly pleased when I capsized right next to it then got my mast stuck underneath it. When I say "ran the racing" I actually meant "wash the flags in the river and then eat them..."


Nathaniel also got to ride around in the rescue boat, which he enjoys greatly.

So when we'd finished doing this:

we headed back to the house (N promptly fell asleep minutes after setting off). Feeling slightly sleepy, but having planned to go to "wee folk" at 3pm (a folk session which is highly child/baby friendly, organised by some of our more crazy acquanitences in a very fine pub) we decided to revitalise ourselves and sit in the warm sun in the car on th driveway drinking tea whilst N slept.

We then swapped smelly wetsuits for guitars, violins and recorders and headed off for a warm pint, a portion of chips and some singing. Nathaniel enjoyed this also, but was absolutely exhausted by the end (as were we) so we all came home to supper and then bed, all refreshed ready to start the week....(!!)

Friday, 20 May 2011


Nathaniel has recently re-found the guitars and is having great fun playing them. Ian has kindly designated one of them, "Nathaniel's guitar", and N gets it out on a daily basis and strums it. I have to admit to tuning the remaining strings to a major triad, as fingering is not Nathaniel's strong point yet.

Today, Nathaniel re-discovered electric guitars and is very keen to plug them into the amp and big speakers. Unfortunately, he decided that this would be a good idea at 7pm - not a great time to introduce a 2 year old to amplification and volume knobs.

So for the time being, he is enjoying having the loudest guitar and playing along with Ian on his "quiet lectric 'tar".

Thursday, 19 May 2011


The other day, Nathaniel declared that he wasn't going to wear nappies, and that he needed some pants. Preferably red ones. He actually doesn't own any, so today we went on a expedition to the pant shop to buy some.

There's quite a staggering choice of pants, even in our little M&S, and I was quite pleased that Nathaniel decided early on that the pink ones with frills were not for him. He's rather fond of pink, and although I am happy for him to have what ever standard issue M&S pants he wants, there was something about the pink frills that I'd rather avoid.

Fortunately, he then spotted a pack with cars, fire engines and buses, and after that, looking at any others was completely unecessary.

Have we seen the back of our beloved Wonderoos and BumGenius? I shouldn't hold your breath....

Monday, 16 May 2011

As long as it has wheels......

Nathaniel has a wide range of interests, but many of them centre on things with wheels, the bigger wheels the better.

Today we were about three quarters through a rather fine game of Moomin dominos (a brilliant gift that Mikey brought back from Finland - home of all things Moomin. It's a pity that Nathaniel has no idea what a Moomin is!), when Nathaniel suddenly had a moment of clarity.

"It's just like a road!" he exclaimed. "Drive cars on the road"

And that was the end of dominos for the day.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


It is no secret that we are quietly indoctrinating Nathaniel into the joys of sailing, but it is a very nice surprise to find that he is absolutely obsessed with the sailing club. He has always enjoyed going there, and once almost had a total melt-down when we went on a walk along that stretch of river without the sailing club keys and had to walk past without going in.

He is well aware that Sunday is sailing club day, and can be persuaded into all sorts of terrible things (getting dressed sensibly, eating boring breakfast cereal, not playing driving in the car), if he is told that this will speed up our arrival.

This year he has been enjoying it especially, and enjoys getting out the two petrol lawn mowers and "mowing" the concrete if he can't persuade anyone to actually mow the grass. He'll show you exactly how they both work (someone explained the combustion engine to him), and how to add extra petrol and oil and where in the club to find these things.

He helps people rig their boats (he has a tendency turn up at people's knees, politely requesting "Want to get in boat please"), and will sit and hoist spinnakers and thread sheets through fairleads for quite some time. He's been impressed to find that he needs no assistance to climb into a RS200 or a topper, and will often be found quietly "rigging" them with any bits and pieces that have been left around.

At other times he just potters around looking for rabbits (we once scared one with the lawn mover), playing with empty trolleys, and helping people push their boats around the boat park.

He's made firm friends with the majority of the club, who treat him as a short but fully paid up member and have long discussions with him about boats, mowers, hosepipes and his other interests. He has ODed with Hugh and myself, and been in charge of raising the flags on the starting sequence. He is a great fan of bringing in the buoys at the end of the race, and will sit carefully at the front of the rescue boat on his own, holding on and enjoying the splashes. He enjoys watching people trying to start the safety boat engine (it's a bit temperamental), and will shout instructions and encouragement from the bank.

He is great friends with Steve P, with whom he is growing potatoes in the allotment. At lunch time, the two of them go off with the hosepipe and water everything thoroughly (though interestingly, rarely themselves).

Now that he has got his sea legs, he normally wants to go out in the boats, and often gets a joy ride with Daddy at lunch time, normally in no wind, but once in the RS200!

But on the day of the open day, he was so desperate for a sail (despite the force 3 wind), that he nagged me into asking Steve if he could go out with him: "Mummy, please ask Steve now". So I did, and Steve and Phil were overjoyed to take him out for a joyride. Ian sailed in the vicinity in a topper, but I stayed on the shore, and all I could hear were delighted squeaks and "Daddy, we going faster than you!", "I pull in jib now", "Uncleat!", "Daddy, your boat is tiny", "I in yellow stable boat" "We going very fast now", "Little bit wobbly now".

The little man was in his element!

That is a very happy little boy. He let Phil move around him to balance the now rather tippy boat, and pulled his sheet when asked and uncleated on the call of "Ready about!" He didn't seem phased at all that other boats were capsizing and that the wind was gusting pretty hard.

Sometimes its really hard to remember that he's only 2.

Thursday, 5 May 2011


I was in London at the start of the week (somehow changing jobs has not stopped me from having to attend all the same meetings at the IoP!), and found myself wishing that I could bring Nathaniel down to see all the bustling streets and exciting stations, many sorts of buses and awe-inspiring museums.

So I decided that, sickness or no sickness, we needed more adventures. Believe it or not, despite regular trips to the station and the National Railway Museum, Nathaniel has never been on a train! So he and I decided to have an adventure to Leeds.

In the last few months, he has become quite cautious of very loud noises, and shrunk back into the back of his buggy, almost shaking when the first train approached the platform:

But he was surprised at how quiet it was and started to look forward to the trains arriving. Actually being on a train was pretty exciting!

He enjoyed chatting to the ticket collector and examining the buttons that release the doors. And there was plenty to spot out of the windows - lots of stations to see as they whizzed by.

And then, another, albeit very different, station! With more trains!

Many "hours" were spent looking at the strangly small train wheels and discussing why the trains always left the platform in the same direction.

What I had forgotten about Leeds station is that there are only up escalators, so we were forced into the lift to go down. This did not go down well with Nathaniel who is not a big lift fan. After 5 minutes of patient reasoning, I had to carry him in, kicking and crying! It was rather sad. Fortunately he recovered very quickly once he realised that the doors were closed, and was all ready to feed our ticket into the barrier to get out of the station. The station staff were very sympathetic to his desire to crawl under the barrier to go back and do it again! And again!

Once in Leeds, we made use of a couple of shops that we don't have in York and then decided to give the museum a miss (we'd been to see the fossilised hippo before), and hit two extremes of Leeds. First the Victorian quarter with doormen in top hats outside Harvey Nichols (who won't let you try on their hats), incredibly elegant decoration and pretty fountains.

Then to the indoor market to hear market sellers shouting out their offers, pick up gold unitards off rails, and explore glittering sari material stalls. We bought some cherries from my favourite fruit seller and had great fun along the fishmonger aisle.

I always loved going to buy fish when I worked in Leeds - they have the most amazing range and the aisle is always full of asian ladies with bulging fabric shopping trolleys, picking over the sea food and bantering with the fishmongers. We went to my favourite fishmonger (who introduced us to pomfret), and he made whole mackerel swim around and talk to Nathaniel! N was very impressed and enjoyed picking out the fish and stroking their smooth sides. We ended up buying a great selection to freeze - after all, we're never likely to be able to get half of these (and never at such a good price) from York's paltry attempt at a fishmonger. While we were there, a couple of people from Opera North wandered past, and after what was clearly established banter with the lady fishmonger, proceeded to serenade her with Rossini! The quickly-gathered crowd and I were pretty impressed, but Nathaniel declared the singing to be "wobbly" and "too loud" and said that he prefered "One, two, buckle shoe".

As a special treat, we had lunch at the cornish pasty shop and I relented and allowed Nathaniel a special packaged kids meal which came in a box with crayons and other tat. In the end he was most excited by the inclusion of ketchup and the giant cup of milk with a straw!

Yes, we were tired when we got home (we even got the bus back from the station, much to Nathaniel's delight), but it was a mighty fine adventure!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Today Nathaniel made these:

For those to whom it is not obvious, you are looking at a red RS 200 sailed by Daddy in a red boyancy aid, and a rescue boat manned by Hugh.

There was almost tears because Nathaniel couldn't work out how to build the main sail and jib (even he admitted that the "spinker" was too hard to build!). In the end we agreed that Daddy had just capsized (we watched him do a lot of that at the weekend), and had taken down his sails.

Here he is demonstrating that the RS is a wobbly boat!