June’s Joys

I do love a little alliteration in a title.  In June we were so busy that I didn’t get the opportunity to write #littleloves and yet it was one of our best months for family fun.  The result is this post just of our highlights so they’re not forgotten and celebrated.

Portsmouth Historic Docks

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During half term week we were able to  make the trip to Portsmouth old docks which we had postponed from February half term when Mr S was poorly with a bug.  On reflection I’m glad we waited until June and the sunnier weather because whilst it can be visited in the cooler months with so much of it outside and the opportunity to take a boat out on the water, a summer day made for a perfect visit.  I’ve visited Portsmouth as a child when it was simply HMS Victory and the wreck of the Mary Rose was being hosed down, now it is very different with the docks being open with museums, ships, restaurants etc..  We started our visit with a tour of the Victory, the children took the headphones and listened very carefully to the commentary and shared the exciting parts with us, they loved the technology and being able to swipe their device for the next chapter.  Next we moved to a quick visit of the Mary Rose, it was brief because Little Miss had been on a school trip to it a few weeks earlier in preparation for a forthcoming performance (see below)  I was impressed by the museum as I’ve never really seen anything like it, the wreck is behind glass against a silhouette of its full size and design.  The size itself is stunning. Onto the remains of the ship, photos and scenes are played out to show what life was like in Tudor England, it is so cleverly done and gives a really authentic feel of life on the Mary Rose.  Following these two ships we visited some smaller ships on the site and got to experience a 21 gun salute from the Navy working ships in the dock.  They were all decorated with flags as it was the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, a day of formal celebrations, our visit was just a coincidence on this day but it made it a little more special. After a picnic lunch in the beautiful gardens we took the boat across the harbour to the submarine museum and explored a submarine, I never cease to be amazed by these vessels and have the upmost respect for those who serve on them, I would be very claustrophobic and scared on a submarine in the ocean.  Following the return to the base by boat, the children explored Action Stations where they had physical challenges for children, a climbing wall, target practice and a Ninja style assault course.  Everything we tried is included in the entry price which I thought was very reasonable and can be used throughout the next 12 months.  I would like to return but as it was such a long day I think I might do a return visit as an overnight stay.

2. Ahoy The Mary Rose

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In June it was the local arts festival.  We visited the exhibition were the children had some art work on display alongside established artists and then attended a festival of music and dance in which Little Miss was part of the community choir.  I really like the idea behind the choir, children from the local schools were joined by local adults in their performance.  I liked it because all the performers were really appreciative of each others’ talents and appeared to genuinely enjoy participating in the event.  A lovely night out in a delightful setting.

3. Paultons Park

Paultons Park (aka Peppa Pig World) is my favourite theme park in the UK.  I love it, it is so friendly, has beautiful gardens, fun rides and is designed exceptionally well for a family visit.    This visit was different for us as the children no longer wanted to visit Peppa Pig world with its cartoon environment and Peppa theme tune on loop but explore the parts of the park designed for older children.  I was a little nostalgic at not seeing Peppa and friends, it brings back happy memories of our early years but happy to explore new areas.  The children loved the Lost World which houses lots of dinosaur rides, they were fun and I loved the Flying Pterandon, its the yellow ride in the picture above.  However my favourite rides remain the water rides and specifically the log flume, we had one of my favourite ever photos taken on this ride, its  a bit grainy as Mr S was the photographer but the body language just shows the fun the children and I had on the ride.  The children had reached the required height for some of the scarier rides, Magna, Cobra, another sign that they’re growing up so quickly, they loved these rides and pretended not to be scared at all.  We’ve visited Paultons Park on many occasions over the years, we often have a weekend here in the summer, but it was the best time we’ve ever had together at the park, everyone was just so happy and relaxed and I genuinely feel it was probably our best ever family day out, it was perfect.

4. Cricket

June has seen the junior cricket season in full swing and our matches have mainly been away.  In a small rural town in a big county this means a lot of travel to neighbouring towns (boo) but new towns to explore after the game (and a cheeky lunch out, yeah!) Some towns are very picturesque with some very nice little shops and cafes too.  I’ve been busy scoring at the games which means I do get the best seat at the match but do have to be fully focussed on every ball.  The children love their cricket and its been nice to see them learning how to be part of a team and support each other.

June is a special month and this year was even more so, every weekend was busy with events but we got to enjoy time together, all these events were done as our little family. We try to live life fully so we can create memories to last our lifetime.

 

Badminton Horse Trials

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Whilst I have never ridden a horse, Little Miss loves everything equine so we decided that this year we would visit the Badminton Horse Trials.  By a great coincidence, England played a cricket ODI in Bristol yesterday, so Mr S travelled up early on Friday morning to watch the cricket with his dad and I drove up with the children after school and work.  My Father in Law lives close to Badminton , just a 10 mile journey which made this morning’s drive over quick and easy.  I was really impressed by the organisation for Badminton, I had envisaged queuing traffic both in and out but it was minimal thanks to a very efficient system and arriving and leaving slightly earlier than the main crowds.  We arrived just before 9 and left around 4pm.  When we arrived at 9, we parked and walked over to the traders, this area was huge and we didn’t visit all the stands. When we have a day out like today, we tend to have breakfast on site and like today, its often a pancake.  After breakfast we pottered around the stands,  whilst there were lots of specialist equine stalls there were many country crafts, artisan stalls and food specialists, I particularly liked the Country Living marquee. Grandad had given the children money and they were delighted to find the must have fidget toy on sale at Badminton, without a doubt the busiest stall today.  They were a good buy and when Little Man got fed up with the cross country  he was happy to sit on the grass and play with his new toy.

Before the main event of the cross country there was a fun event in the main arena, the Shetland pony derby.  This was a good starter, the children got to see the arena and some of the jumps and then cheered the ponies on in a race.  After the race we headed out on course to follow the cross country.  Next year we’ve decided that we would change this plan slightly, perhaps watch the first couple of riders in the arena and then get some lunch before heading out to the jumps.  The food stalls on the course were very busy and there was more variety and choice in the centre. Being out on the cross country course was a fantastic experience, you are so close to the action and see the pain etched on the rider’s faces, hear the thunder of the hooves etc.. Most people move around the course so you have front row action for each jump.  The jumps were designed and presented beautifully, lots of natural features complementing the materials of the jumps.  We saw a variety of jumps, water, steep hills, jumps very close to each other, high jumps, wide jumps etc..  I found it was helpful having the programme for all the details of riders, horses and jumps and I really enjoyed following the cross country, much more than I had expected to.  The skill needed for a successful round is immense.  Whilst it is difficult to follow the placings and timings, you can buy a radio for full commentary or there are loudspeakers and large screens around the course.

I had never been to the Badminton estate before and it is a beautiful stately home and perfect setting for the event, its trees and features simply merge into the course.    The crowds were huge but as most people walk around the 30 fences, it is easy to get close to the action.  The whole scene was quintessentially British, lots of tweed, hats and Labradors.  I was quite taken by our day and we are already planning our return next year.  Our horsie mad daughter has written such a lovely piece about Badminton, these words and her excitement at being there have helped make a special family day out.

June 2016

There are some months which are beyond crazy, I present June 2016 and the reasons I would love to snuggle up in bed for the weekend (needless to say it’s not possible). This month I have spent

1. The first three days of the month at Butlins on a fabulous family break

2. Two days at Longleat, one of my favourite places for a family day out and one night in a lovely hotel.

3. A school trip to Paultons Park, I am queen of days out this month!

4. Fourteen days without our main bathroom and counting … Gutting the bathroom led to the discovery of a dangerously rotten floor and joists which led to the project being paused for essential emergency building works completed yesterday.

5. Five parties this month, including one for Queenie.

6. Two primary school music concerts.

7. One sports day amazingly completed on a rare dry afternoon (but little sunshine)

8. One interview and subsequent promotion at work, I now have an impressive title and have negotiated to remain part time.

9. One referendum and one sleepless night to discover the result (not a good idea on a school night!)

Among all this we have been to school and work and done our normal ballet, brownies, beavers, football and cricket clubs too.  It’s been fun but exhausting and I’m looking forward to the summer holidays and being able to have a more relaxed schedule.

 

 

 

Go, Go, Go Joseph

This week we were treated to a trip to the theatre by my parents to see the touring production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. It was amazing; a joyful, energetic and kitsch interpretation of the musical.

In our family we have such fond memories of Joseph and it seemed the perfect choice for the first musical for the children to see live at the theatre. I went to a lovely little primary school where the highlight each year was our school play, it became the focus of the summer term and happy hours were spent rehearsing, painting scenery and making costumes. I feel so grateful to have gone to a school where the creative arts were valued and promoted. Joseph was one of the plays we did and I remember quite clearly being in the chorus with my white t-shirt printed with Joseph in vivid colours singing away happily to all the songs. When watching the play I could remember the scenes from our school production, especially the Deputy Head as a very frightening Potiphar! Our family loved the musical so much that we bought the cassette of the soundtrack and many, many childhood journeys were spent singing and listening to it in the car. It is some testament that nearly 35 years later, I am still pretty word perfect in all of the songs from the original musical. In what could be a sense of history repeating itself I downloaded the songs onto my iTunes this week and played it on the car journey home!

The atmosphere at the theatre was lovely, a real sense of excitement and it being half term there was a wonderful mix of children, parents and grandparents. The performance was sold out and the audience all appeared pretty excited and happy to be there and all knew the songs well; there was lots of enthusiastic participation, particularly at the end when among the standing ovations, reprises and dancing most of the audience were singing along too. It was one of those lovely moments you just want to freeze and take in how wonderful it is, this is live theatre at its best. The lead was played by Joe McElderry a winner from X Factor in 2009. I remember him vaguely from the time, Oor Joe, but I’ve always been a Strictly girl on Saturday nights. However I was so impressed by him, he was stunning as Joseph, his voice is incredible and his acting in the role was perfect too. He is what Joseph should be and is definitely my Joseph.    The other characters all were well cast and genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves in what must be a pretty energetic play. Despite it be a touring production, the scenery and props were fun and created a great show, Little Man liked the talking Sphinx and camel and there were some rather clever costume tricks too.

It was a really special afternoon at Joseph blending a little nostalgia from my childhood, the children’s first musical at a theatre and a brilliant show which had 3 generations of us standing and singing and clapping until our hands were sore. Needless to say I’m now looking for our next musical experience, there is nothing comparable to brilliant, live theatre.

A Sunday Lunch to Nourish the Body and Soul.

11a7ca6397ee22e83f1963a4e053799bNormally I wouldn’t write up a day out as simple as a morning at soft play and a lunch out but today seems different. In a weekend full of sadness and reflection the simple pleasures have seemed more important and the cosy warmth of a family day out has helped to smoothe some of the hurt and despair I’ve been feeling. Soft play was as good as it could be, its never going to be my favourite activity, a warehouse full of running, hot and sweaty children in a stuffy room but today we went to a different venue, family run and very well organised and planned, which proved to be a much better environment than the very large play area in the town next to us. We chose a soft play a little drive away so we could stop off on the way home for a Sunday lunch in a country pub, far preferable to a pizza in the fast food restaurant at the nearest soft play warehouse.

We were lucky enough to come across an absolute gem of a pub and arriving at 12 on the dot we managed to bag the last table, we didn’t know of its reputation but following our experience it is fully deserved. The country pub was a picture perfect pub, thatched roof, low ceilings, wooden beams on the walls and such a cosiness and welcome as you walked in, you could feel your worries dissipate as you entered. Even better than the environment was the food, we had a Sunday Roast, a nut roast for me but it was stunning, accompanied by homemade Yorkies, crispy roasties and an amazing side plate of vegetables, yellow roasted beetroot (sublime) swede mash, yellow and orange honey roasted carrots, red cabbage and a variety of sprouting broccoli. It was an amazing meal to feed and nourish our bodies and souls and we relaxed into happy chat and just the pure pleasure of being our little family of four. The children were so well behaved and mature, they are growing up into such special little people and make such treats a real delight. The warm atmosphere and feelings seemed to be shared by all in the pub as there was such a relaxed and peaceful ambiance. Today’s lunch was a great family time but also seemed to reflect a certain Britishness and culture, traditions we should nurture and value and always be thankful for.

The Gruffalo Country Park

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It’s been a while since I wrote about a family day out.  The weekly trips have still been happening but with birthdays, half term and awful weather they have been a little more low key than normal. After another week of rubbish weather and not being able to go to the fireworks on Friday because of the stormy conditions we decided that we needed to do something exciting this Sunday. Regardless of the weather, we needed something to refresh, invigorate and energise ourselves. We chose to go to a country park, not our nearest at over 25 miles away but one with some amazing activities to do in the woods. As Little Man has been making brilliant progress riding his bike independently we wanted to be able to take the bikes over and let the little ones ride safely on friendly cycle paths. There was the option today to hire bikes too and we did consider this but felt that we needed to be there to steady Little Man on his starts etc.. However given the success I would love to hire a bike and do a family ride next time. We had several stop offs on our route to have a go on some stunning play equipment all made out of natural resources, its amazing how it just blends in with the environment. After the ride it was time to return the bikes to the car, enjoy a cheeky cup of coffee and walk around. We went to watch the High Ropes section and again are hoping to have a go on our next visit, both children were adamant that they would be able to do the ropes and I definitely fancied a go too. There is also a miniature train so we had a go on this before our picnic lunch and more pottering around the forest. On our walk we found a very important character, the Gruffalo! Now for many years we have played a little game hunting for a Gruffalo on our forest walks, there have been occasional glimpses, little Gruffalo sounds etc.. so I was made up to finally find one. I love the Gruffalo and the park was the perfect setting to find him, I held his hand and gave him a little tickle behind the ears. I’m sure I heard him giggle and the children agreed with me too! Needless to say there were lots of family photos taken with my literary hero. It was such a good day, the weather was typically autumnal with only a few brief showers but we were appropriately dressed and able to do all we wanted to.  We returned home, happy, muddy and all refreshed after a day outside exploring and playing, a lovely family day.

Splash!

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Oh yes, I completed every slide!

Today I am aching all over from a strenuous work out yesterday. It wasn’t a run, a gym session or a fitness DVD but a morning at the local Splash centre where we ran up steps, pushed through slides and swam against currents. It was a great morning and reminded me of similar childhood visits to the Oasis pool in Swindon, hopefully today’s outing will help the children create their own happy memories too.

The trip was another example of the type of activities we’re able to do with the children now that they are that little bit older. They were both tall enough for all the rides and wanted to do them there was no fear just a need for speed, excitement and challenge. Mr S has a bad back so he wasn’t able to do all the slides but as the children and I ran up the steps he was at the bottom of the slides ready to fish us out! The Splash centre is an impressive site with a variety of slides, steep, windy, short and long, some you float down whilst others are tackled with a rubber ring. We wore a smart arm band to tell us when we could go down the slide and it also recorded all your stats for a certificate at the end. I was a bit reluctant to pay for the certificate but am proud in the knowledge that I did every slide enthusiastically! Strangely what struck me on the visit was that whilst the children on the slides were boys and girls in equal numbers there were very few women in the pool, far more were watching on the side. I was proud that in the words of a current campaign to encourage women into sport ‘this girl can’

Yesterday was another fab family day full of encouragement, fun and celebration. I’m sure we’ll be back again for more and are thinking of similar new challenges to do together.