Sunday, 31 July 2011


After the general sucess of our trips to the Manifold Valley and Shropshire, and the general fullness of our diaries, we decided some time ago to put a date for a camping weekend in our and James and Beth's diaries. The advance date was made even more complicated by the fact that at the time we would have one extremely, and one somewhat, pregnant people in the party.

But it worked a treat. Everyone was sufficiently mobile for camping and the weather not only obliged, but was downright encouraging. We decided that it wasn't a weekend for scaling the heights of fells and mountains, so met in the middle in Rutland.

It was a glorious weekend. The sun shone and the breeze was light (rubbish for sailing) and refreshing. We did a great deal of not much.

We sat in our campsite (a holiday park for the rugged Boden set - "few" facilities in a some fields by a country house - luxury for us!), and ate and chatted and bimbled.

We went down to Rutland Water and watched a keel boat make absoutley no head way while we did some more eating and chatting and gently sauntering along and Nathaniel did enthusiastic scooty-biking and pestilence chasing.

(Don't let the photos fool you - it was baking hot. The rest of us were over-heating in t-shirts, but N refused to take off his favourite jumper!)

We sat in sandstone country pubs and drank beer in their coiffured gardens.

We sat around the glowing embers of our barbeque all night, watched people send up chinese latterns, and admired the view of the milky way with so little night-glow.

Nathaniel poddled and enjoyed being outside. James taught him how to play boules, and we only had one near-miss involving heads and heavy boules.

As ever, just normal camping equipment provided hours of amusement:

It was a wonderfully relaxing weekend (with pretty much no photos!). But our brains are struggling to imagine what next year's incarnation will be like. Our party of 5 will have turned into 7 with two crawlers!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Southern Steam

Nathaniel & I went down to his Gran's house for the weekend recently and left Tassy in York. This served multiple purposes, including Nataniel having and exciting adventure and Tassy having some time without any ankle-biting! It turns out some activities are fun in all counties...

However, the most exciting part of the weekend was when the suggestion came that we could go to the Cambridgeshire Steam Rally on the Sunday, which was conveniently being held in practically the next village. Now, steam rallies are not things that normally stir great excitement in me, but then I though, "hmmm, steam powered vehicles, with large wheels, that are basically giant tractors... I think I know someone who may like this..." So I suggested it to the small man and he expressed his enthusiasm for seeing steam tractors. It was brilliant! he was excited even as we were driving across the field to park - and this was just a field and he was excited...! And then, just as we got through the gate, another of Nataniel's favourite activities reared it's head - there was a line of vintage lawnmowers!

In fact he was so excited, that before I could restrain him, he was under the fence and examining the first of them, so was not too impressed when I retrieved him and we discussed how they weren't all for playing with as they are in Homebase (which he knows as "the lawnmower shop"). From that point on he was just fascinated by item after item that came into view: lines of vintage cars ("that Grandpa Beard's car!") rows of old diesel tractors ("that modern tractor") and what he referred to as "spinning things" which were effectively old steam, or petrol engines all lined up performing various tasks such as pumping water.

But then we rounded a corner and saw what we'd come to see...

Steam Tractors!

And as if rows of steam tractors wasn't enough, he then spotted...

We obviously had to have a ride. As with most things, he thought this was brilliant. Afterwards we went to look at the engine more closely, which he was amusingly cautious about. He didn't want to blow the whistle when offered (so I obviously had to do it for him..!)

We then saw many other things including a model railway (which he would have watched ALL DAY had I let him) and a roundabout in the fairground. He's never been on a merry-go-round before as we try to avoid it, not least because they're never cheap and we live in York, where there is invariably some sort of fairground rides present in the town centre and if we let him on one once we'll end up £10 lighter every time we try to go into town! However, this was a little different, so after he'd examined it closely for a while I asked if he'd like to have a go. He took a while to choose which item he wanted to ride on - he was toying with the various cars but then the train (obviously!) caught his eye.

He wanted to go on the Big Wheel afterwards...
After a loooong discussion about how he wasn't big enough (there was actually a height limit - it wasn't just a parental excuse!) we moved on, and quickly found something more exciting to ride on...

He was allowed to turn the wheels and everything! People are so friendly at this sort of thing and are surprisingly happy for small children to clamber all over what is probably one of their prize possessions! He was a very happy man.

(arbitrary steam tractor to end with)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Flower art

Nathaniel gets lots of oportunities to be creative with music and outside games and stories, but I'm always aware that I'm not great with the visual art thing. And interestingly, he is far less bothered about drawing and painting and colouring than most of the children that I know. But I maintain that that is probably my fault, so I have been trying to inject some more arty activities into our days.

Leaf rubbing didn't go well. I carefully prepared sheets of paper covering interestingly textured and shaped leaves while he was napping, and then encouraged him to rub them with crayons to reveal the interesting shapes. He enjoyed unsticking my bits of paper, gathering the bluetack that I had used to stick down the leaves, and using it to pick up different items in the house - discovering that heavy things will stretch and break the blu-tack. Never let it be said that my son is not a scientist!

But our leaf-art today was much more sucessful. After a good nap (always a promising way to start any activity!), Nathaniel and I scoured the garden for interesting leaves and flowers. We spent some time playing inside the hedge in Nathaniel's new den, and collected quite a range of flora. When we were chilly (it was surprisingly cold for July today), we went inside and made flower-art on the kitchen door.

I think that they are rather pretty!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


We've just got back from the annual sailing club trip to Ullswater and it has been blissful! This is due, in no small part, to the fact that Nathaniel's overriding attitude to the weekend has been this:

He simply loves camping! He likes it that we are all together, he likes running around outside, he likes playing with rocks and mud and water, he likes boats and bits of rope and he likes his friends from the sailing club. He doesn't need toys at all (the emergency duplo went totally untouched), and is much happier playing with all the gadgets and gizmos that our new family-friendly camping regime entails:

He greatly enjoyed exploring the three different types of camper van, and setting fire to things en masse.

Nathaniel adopts the British-standard BBQ look!

In fact, he is probably happiest when poddling around the campsite with open access to all our (and everyone else's!) equipment:

Morning under the YRISC gazebo. The many bottles of home brew aren't all ours!

We were very lucky - the weather forecast hadn't looked at all promising, and after last year, no-one really fancied a wet Ullswater. But in fact, the only rain was on the Friday night. Admittedly it was serious rain, the sort where the insides of your waterproofs are somehow soggy, but we emerged unscathed. Not so fortunate were Hugh and Caroline who found that they had camped on rather a deep dip which filled up, flooding their tent through the cunningly positioned holes in the ground sheet at the centre of the tent (good work Vango! Did you design this tent for British use?).

Hugh attempts to cut a drain for lake Brazier, but is disappointed to find that the water has gathered at the lowest point!

After that evening, we had no rain at all, just beautiful sun obscured just enough by clouds to keep us cool, and enough wind to keep everyone on their toes!

The sailing wasn't bad either! Ian remembered that Lasers are much more fun when you have enough room to get them planing, and he even managed to practise his capsize routine! Nimmy decided that toppers were more her cup of tea, and after a blast across the lake, happily poddled around the marina.

Daffodil, Hugh's project for the last four years, was taken on her maiden voyage, and everyone was impressed with not only how beautiful she was (the inlaid sycamore was coveted by all), but how well she sailed.

I decided that I was too fat and unsteady for anything more exciting than the rescue boat, and it was a bit breezy for Nathaniel, so we stayed ashore. But this didn't mean that we stayed dry!

Nathaniel was terribly pleased to discover that he had got big enough and responsible enough to play in the water. And that's where he spent most of his time.

Sourcing and throwing rocks of different sizes became a full time occupation, and Nathaniel was delighted to find that this activity could be continued at many venues, even when dragged off to walk up Aira Force!

Other firsts for him included fording his first stream;

The intrepid explorers, successful after fording the raging torrents

learning how to climb up rocks;

and finding out that he really doesn't like fizzy drinks!

The sailing club suddenly has a real gang of kids, and although most of the adults act like children most of the time, Nathaniel really appreciated his new friends. He and M (age 6) and E (age 3) played together wonderfully, and Nathaniel became quite smitten with M and demanded to join him in most activities and be taught how to do important things (such as walk up slides and climb up ropes).

It really was the most amazingly relaxing and entertaining weekend. When I asked if he had enjoyed himself, Nathaniel said "Yes, I like camping lots", and the thing he enjoyed most was "people from the sailing club". With the three families with kids now making this a longer and longer weekend, I can see it being a week-long adventure next year!

Thursday, 7 July 2011


Still here......

Sorry about the lack of posts - life has got on top of us a bit. But I have to say, you've all been very restrained! Last time we left it this long, we had demanding emails and comments sugggesting that we got more organised. Saying that, I haven't checked my home email for about a month, so you may well have left emails....

Anyway, we'll try and get up to date. We've got loads of photos, but there may not be much text. So keep checking backwards and I'll try to fill in the gaps from the elderflowers forward.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sunny weather

What do you do on a Sunday when there is barely enough wind for sailing and it is forecast to be a scorcher?

First you go picking again!

This time there were raspberries which delighted everyone, especially Nathaniel and I, as they are our favourites.

But then we found something amazing:

I like strawberries. They are very pleasant. But I would hardly class myself as obsessed. Unlike some people, I don't regard summer as imperfect without them, and I'm never desperately waiting for them.

But I don't recall ever having picked big, fat, late strawberries after a week of warm weather and beating sun. I have never tasted anything like that! Or, if as a child I did (Millets definitely provided me with several stomach's-worth), I never appreciated how different they were to the watery supermarket variety, or even the local sort in the greengrocer. Nothing will ever compare to these juicy strawberries, warm from the sun, so full of taste that you can't beleive they don't explode.

I was quite overcome!

So we picked rather a lot!

Then it was off to the sailing club. Nathaniel would have been rather disapointed otherwise.

Here's the start of the race:

You may notice that the orange GP14 has a rather little crew. Maybe the youngest in the club's history.

And he did a rather good job and was very pleased when the boat "wobbled". After a lap or so he started to get a bit bored and noticed me on the jetty and demanded that I join them. I did so, opening all sorts of discussions about whether the rules alow you to take on crew during a race. They are clear about getting rid of your crew, but no-one was sure how to put a crew of 2.5 on the race sheet. Only in our club would the discussion ignore the landing of the boat and concentrate on how the rules stand on crew members in utero.

After lunch, I took the GP out on my own - the first sail I have had this season. It was blissful! Just enough wind to carry me along, plenty of warm sun. Then Nimmy turned up and decided to see if she could remember which rope to pull and which end went first.

We had a lovely time after the initial run aground! The wind picked up a bit as storm clouds gathered over Selby (they are always over Selby, never us!), and we had a lovely beat back to the club. Just as well really, as the encounter with the mud left us without a vital bit of equipment!

The day finished with the traditional charring of meat. Except that it wasn't charred, it was the butcher's finest lamb chops cooked to perfection.

You can't beat days like this!