Saturday, 31 May 2008

ssssppppppppbbbbbbbbbbbbb

Jack has some new words. Some he has learnt from playschool; unfortunately they are from a silly, but oh so catchy song called 'Ning Nang Nong'. So of course his new words are ning, nang, and nong. People must think that his mother who can't speak english has taught him that.

The other word is "ssssppppppppbbbbbbbbbbbbb" and means dandelion. Coincidentally it is the noise Jack makes when he blows on a dandelion. He's still perfecting his technique. There's quite a bit of spit involved and sometimes the fluffy bits stick to his lips but it's very funny. The other day he picked all the dandelions in our immediate vicinity so we could blow on them.

St Albans (again)

Jack and I returned to St Albans today, but this time we took S with us. As we left the train station we gave directions to people (and they didn't get lost). We headed to the town centre and had a look at the markets. I thought this was a great idea knowing how much S loves
a) crowds
b) shopping
c) markets of any kind
d) all of the above
but he was very good and duly admired the fruit and veg (we believe the eggplants had been buffed judging by their beauteous sheen) and S even got a replacement band for his watch, which had been held together with a lacky band. It cost 50p and S was well chuffed till it broke 2 hours later.
We had a look at the food options but ended up eating pasties in the park. Amber (who was until today a co-resident of the manor) told us that the cathedral in St Albans was very impressive but although I had seen some nice looking churches hadn't thought they were 'impressive'. Then we walked down a couple of very quaint, little laneways and there it was. It is impressive. We didn't go inside (worried about thunderbolts etc) but admired its facade and heard some choral music that came drifting out into the park. From the cathedral we walked down to Verulamium Park, which is where a large roman city was situated quite a while ago. There are still some roman walls and bits and pieces and also a lovely park with a huge duck pond.Whenever I see a duck pond I always think of ill fated school excursions to the botanical gardens in Sydney where invariably some clueless child would fall into the duck pond and have to be fished out by a cranky teacher. I was always very careful not to fall in due to the large eels that also inhabited the pond.
So we strolled around the park, admiring the roman ruins, sidestepping the duck poo and enjoying the british sunshine (ie grey skies). S, to his delight, discovered a 9 hole golf course and we also discovered a water park for kids with lots of giant sprinklers on poles. There were lots of kids playing underneath them but Jack didn't get to because we didn't have any swimmers or a towel with us and really it wasn't that warm. We'll come back when it's warmer and we are armed with the proper accoutrements. Until then Big Space and the park will have to do.

emergency stop!

Every Saturday in the park they have soccer (sorry, football) lessons for little kids. I think they're called elitefeet and they're like soccertots in mosman. The guys that run the classes are very loud and quite funny. The first time we walked past one was teaching the kids Emergency Stop, which looks hilarious but I didn't have my camera. Today I was ready for them.

The kids will be playing soccer (sort of) then the teacher calls out, "EMERGENCY STOP!" and all the kids stop and put their heads on their soccer ball. I'm not sure if it teaches them any ball skills, but is certainly good toddler crowd control and gives the parents and onlookers a laugh. It's like a bomb scare drill with Mr Gee.
Simon and I now yell, "Emergency Stop!" at each other at random moments then fall about laughing. People must think we're bonkers. And the funny thing is that we don't even have to say, "Emergency Stop!" to Jack, he just does it anyway.

Friday, 30 May 2008

It's not easy being green

Tonight's dinner (cannelloni Verdi with potatoes) was true to its name. Very green and served with peas to add a touch of.you guessed it green. Well I think they were green once. I took a photo at the table as it was simply too attractive not to share. No one seemed to think that was odd. Maybe they thought I was taking a photo of Jack (who was busy renewing old acquaintances and making new ones).
We did have a reasonable meal the other night. Pork Korma was on the menu but we went with the veggie option which was Daal with potatoes and rice and naan. Not pretty, but not bad.
Last night was not great, though there were murmurs of approval (though I think the murmurs from the spanish contingent were sarcastic). I think we've all been institutionalised.
I can't decide what to have tomorrow- the chili bean burrito or the 'giant spring roll' (aka chiko roll). Mmmm-mmmm.

the playground

We don't actually go to the playground very often. I think the park is much nicer. The playground looks appealing. It has a special gate to stop runaways and lots of things to climb on and novelty garbage bins. But then you notice that while the security gate is very good, there's a huge gap in the hedge for escapees to disappear through. The climbing frames? Good for older kids but do we really want to encourage Jack's climbing?
And the novelty bins. Besides one looking like it's come up against the french rugby team I'm not sure about the wisdom of making a garbage bin so cute that kids want to touch it. And they do.At first the penguin freaked Jack out then he wanted to pat it. Ugh.Most of the time though he wants to go up an down the steps to the slide. Not use the slide itself. Just the steps.
We didn't stay long. The YM's were giving me funny looks for taking photographs of garbage bins.

A walk in the park

A change of routine today (oh dear, this Capricorn needs to lie down to recover). Okay. I read about yet another market in town. This one was held at a local church and was a growers market that specialised in cakes. There was a sign on the fence saying 'market' and 'open' but the churchyard was empty except for some gravestones and a lot of squirrels. This must be where all the village squirrels hangout and get some peace and quiet.

We took a turn around the yard (very nice it was too) and decided that the market must be in the church hall. It turned out to be in a small room at the back of the hall and was quite 'jam & Jerusalem except without dawn french setting fire to things. There were cakes (3 from memory) and some pies and pot plants and some potholders.
The ladies were awfully nice and they certainly weren't rushed off their feet. I decided to purchase a cake. There was a Windsor cake but I was unsure what that was, another cake that I have completely forgotten and a lemon and pistachio cake, which is the one I chose. The lady serving me squinted at the cake and said, "lemon and Pis...pis...pis..."
"Pistachio?"I said.
"Oh, well. Do you realise it has nuts in it?"
In spite of the nuts I purchased it and we escaped before they tried to sell us a doily.Later we went to the park where a nasty little dog ran around Jack in circles and barked at him in a most unfriendly manner.
His owner said, "Oh, he loves children. He's never done that before." This was as I was holding a wailing Jack in my arms. Small dogs freak him out.
I think it's funny that every time a dog has done something naughty (stealing a biscuit/stealing a ball/barking in a nasty manner) in the park the owners always say that. "Oh but my dog never does that." I'm sure and I'm sure their poo smells like ice cream too.
Anyway after a reassuring cuddle Jack recovered and we walked over to the playground. This took awhile as Jack likes to go in every direction but the right one. Must get that from me.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Return to Big Space

Jack and I had a lovely day today. After breakfast and walking S to work (we had to remove all large pieces of metal from our persons due to an enormous magnet near his building - lucky we don't have any metal plates in our heads/legs) we walked to big space but it was n't open yet. So we tramped off to the village part b which is this whole other part of the village we discovered the other day. It has a bakery, hardware shop, post office and a supermarket. That's 4 supermarkets (that I've found so far). I was going to say that the village is not that big but actually I've just looked it up and the population is 30,000. So I guess that's fair enough. It doesn't feel that big. Maybe that's just the population of Big Space during school holidays.We checked out the 'new' supermarket. Lots of OAP grabbing a bargain and they usually know. It had a different vibe from the high street supermarkets (no fair trade bananas but fosters was available) but it was alright. They had a nice range of freshly baked pastries, so Jack and I shared a cinnamon snail.
After 10 o'clock we went back to Big Space. The car park was once again crammed full of Range Rovers. The toddler area was pretty quiet though and the people that were there were very nice (even though they were quite yummy). Nice things were said about Jack's hair.





Jack did some more work on his kamikaze slide technique then headed for the big kids section where he gazed longingly at the little scootery whatsits then scaled this huge bumpy slope and ran amok on the top level of the play area. The other kids didn't seem to mind him being there except for some nasty little boys who were against sharing the play area with anyone. Jack met this lovely little black girl with lots of braids and this tight, ruffled, hot pink dress. She was very cute but no I didn't take any photos of her because I didn't want people to think I was a weirdo. Jack and I ran through some of the gladiator bits again (much hilarity ensued) then returned once more to the toddler section. The unfriendly YM's had arrived and we left soon after.
After a trip to the lovely library we went to the park for lunch. Once again the weather was tropical though by the time Jack woke up from his nap this afternoon it was raining once more.
Note about park photos above. I realise it looks like Jack is frowning but he is actually squinting and unsure what that bright stuff coming form the sky is.

How Jack's Day went....

Jack once again went to see his friends at little geniuses or whatever it's called. I think it has a couple of names just to keep you on your toes. I was pleased to see that Sam was working. She was the person who showed us around when we first checked out the nursery (what it's called here) and is very bubbly and nice. I got Jack settled in while S stowed the stroller and then I took the cowardly option and snuck out the door when Jack wasn't looking. I remember being horrified when Prue did that and am still not sure if it's the right way to go.
Just as we got off the train in London my mobile rang and I thought Uh oh but it was just Sam confirming that what Jack would be eating was okay by me. It's funny because the other kids there are quite small even though they are older than Jack but they get heaps to eat. Guess they haven't spent time in the lucerne paddock like Jack.
When we went back to pick up Jack I was expecting a repeat of the other day. Jack was playing very happily with a car but when he saw me his little arms went up (hugmehugmehugme) and his face crumpled. I picked him up and got some stellar cuddles and also noticed that he'd just done a huge stinky poo. Nice one. Maybe he was trying to tell me something.
He was quite happy, though tired, but when S turned up same thing. Arms out and a little cry. Sam told me that he'd been very good (I think he stuck by her all day) and gave us Jack's report. It said,
'Jack has enjoyed having lots of cuddles, listening to stories and playing in the ball pool. He has been missing his mummy and daddy a bit but has loved making new friends.'
All that hugging must have worn him out because after dinner and a small amount of flirting he went to bed and slept like, well, a baby. Here he is in his pjs. A-har me hearties.


Wednesday, 28 May 2008

More news from home

We saw this hound at the BM and thought of Lucky dog.
Apparently he's been trying it on with his new dogsitters.
He's spent the last few weeks doing it tough at Mudgeegong lying on the couch in front of the fire. I'm sure he hasn't had that much attention in a long time.

Alex and Belinda arrived to take over and look after our house so Lucky went back to Yarraman. Apparently he's not happy and has been trying it on big time refusing to come inside at night and getting covered in mud. I've got one word for you lucky...Hydrodog!
And one word for Alex and Belinda...sorry.

Sexy Ass (londonium part 2)

We alighted from the tube (please mind the gap) at Oxford Street to make our way to Soho for lunch. I think I would know the way from Piccadilly Station but apparently not from Oxford street. However I decisively pointed in a certain direction and we set off. A little while later things were not looking very familiar and S decided to check the map (which was a very small, vague map with only major streets marked on it). It was decided that we were heading the wrong way and we should make a change in direction before we arrived in Norfolk or Wales. Once more S was in charge of navigation and we were back on track. We found Soho where we ambled and strolled. By this stage S was getting tired and hungry (he also has a cold but was valiantly soldiering on) and suggested a groovy burger joint he'd spotted. I thought that I should give up on my plans for chinese food but just as we were crossing the road to burgertown S spotted the gates to chinatown. Hallelujah! We decided to go for a place that resembled BBQ king (having such fond memories of the friendly service there) so we looked for places with ducks and pork and assorted bits and pieces in the window. We checked out 2 places and settled on a third (because they also had dim sum aka yum cha). In the end we didn't have yum cha but we had a veritable feast that started with crispy shredded duck pancakes and a Tsing Tao beer. Bliss.
There was great people watching too. A table near us of 3 young chinese groovers all intently watching tv on their mobiles and not talking to each other, a man who ordered Ho fun noodles who managed to devour them so quickly they were still steaming as he paid the bill and walked out the door. And of course we were near the window where all the action is with the duck and pork being chopped up and served. It all looked fantastic.
S was amazed that after all the food we had I still wanted a chinese custard tart (aka darn tart) but I did so we went to a little bakery, avoiding anything with red bean paste or green tea and purchased tarts. Unfortunately we couldn't buy just one (?) so I trotted away with 4 tarts in my hot little hand.
We again consulted our rudimentary map and headed towards the BM. On the way we saw a wonderful bookshop called Foyles. I'd only just read about it and there it was, so we headed inside. The children's section was enormous and really well stocked. So many beautiful books and so cheap. After purchasing a couple of books for Jack (well it's not as if he has many books) we were back on the street heading to Bloomsbury. We actually found it quite easily, stopping to laugh at a couple fighting with the woman yelling, "Why do you have to walk so f***ing slowly?"
Ah london, so laid back.
The forecourt of the museum is huge and was filled with schoolkids and tour groups and many many people.

As you can see I'm carrying my Foyles bag with books and custard tarts. What a combo. And then you walk inside (trying to avoid the tour groups). We had decided (we had no choice really) that we would skip the tour and just stroll around gazing at the antiquities that had been whisked away from countries all over the world. I always feel conflicted when I visit the BM because it is incredible seeing so many valuable and historical objects in the one place but part of me feels that they should be returned to the countries they were pilfered from.
The last time I was here there was a huge stink about the Lewis chess pieces and how they should be returned to Scotland. I think a compromise was made because some did go home to Scotland but I think maybe 80% of them stayed in the BM. I am glad to have seen them though just for the expressions on their faces. Apparently they were found washed up on a beach in 1831.
Anyway after you walk through the foyer there is a new section in the museum which is a covered courtyard with a cafe and it's really stunning as you can see. To get to the cafe you walk across a glass walkway on the top level which made me a bit nervous (long way down).

So we started strolling through the cultures: Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman. It was in a section on Greece surrounded by nude sculptures that we overheard an American woman say, "I know I shouldn't say it but they've got some sexy ass." S and I thought that was very funny. Nice to get a bit of culture. We wandered from room to room looking at some things and strolling past others. The sheer volume of objects can be overwhelming an most people (us included) soon succumb to museum fatigue (similar to the fatigue you get looking at many madonnas and child in italy). They walk around with glazed eyes and serious expressions, wanting to take everything in but taking in very little.

Towards the end of our visit (on the way out) we stumbled upon the Enlightenment room. It's a long high room with big windows and lots of cabinets for all the pieces and books collected from all over the world. It's a really lovely room, quite peaceful and fascinating. Apparently all the books originally came from George III own library. Was he the mad one? Anyone?

Anyway here's a photo of S seeking some enlightenment.

Looking at the time we realised we better skedaddle back to the daycare centre to pick up Jack, where he had been for the whole day. We were hoping he was doing better than last week.

Londonium (again)

S and I went to London again today. We'd discussed various things we wanted to see and do and last night did some research to see what was going on. I've been reading a book by Nigel Slater called Eating for England, where he suggested a thoroughly English way to spend the afternoon is to have afternoon tea at a swank london hotel. Mmmm...scones at the Ritz, but apparently it is so popular there that afternoon tea is available throughout the day and even at night (which I think diminishes the specialness of the event) and it would cost nearly 50 quid each. I don't like cucumber that much.
Anyway we toyed with the idea of a matinee and I even found ones that we'd (I) would like to see but they started a bit too late in the day. So as I shut down the computer last night I had it sorted in my head. If we left early enough we'd go to the British Museum and do a tour (10.30, 1.00 or 3pm) then head to Soho for lunch and then onto the Churchill Museum and the war cabinet rooms which I'd heard were fascinating (if you like Churchill).
S however does not due to Churchill's rather callous way of squandering the lives of Australian soldiers for the sake of the empire. So that was out. We decided to get off the train at Blackfriars, cross the Thames, maybe have a look at the Tate modern or the good, old original Tate and stroll around. I think the weather has affected me, for while I didn't have the urge to don thongs or a sundress, I did say what a lovely day it was. S looked at me like I was mad. Well, it wasn't raining (not then anyway).
I think it (the weather) has affected my hair, that and the hard water here at the manor. I think I look like the mad cat lady from the Simpsons. You be the judge. And people ask why there aren't any photos of me on the blog It's like you look in the mirror and everything seems to be okay then you get somewhere and realise your hair has been styled by Kath Day-Knight and there's a yoghurt stain on your pants. (trinny and susannah where are you?)
So we got off the train and walked across the Millenium bridge to the Tate Modern which is actually very close to the Globe theatre and not far from the Oxo building. The Oxo building doesn't look like a giant stock cube, it's actually one of the more attractive buildings along this stretch of riverbank. According to Nigel Slater over 2 million oxo cubes are bought every DAY in Britain. Extraordinary don't you think? Do you think Britons love them so much they named a building after them or, the more likely explanation being that the CEO of Oxo owns the building. And all those around it.

I thought about seeing something at the Globe but they're doing King Lear and I can't say it's a favourite. When I was at university I got caught sneaking out of a STC production at interval by my old high school english teacher. oops. This is the Tate Modern. Kind of phallic isn't it? They were having a special exhibition of Duchamp (yes the urinal!) but tempting as it was we decided to keep strolling. Well it was just the weather for a promenade along the banks of the crystalline waters of the Thames.
Another annoying statistic. Every year they collect 800,000 discarded water bottles out of the Thames. ugh. No mention of what else they find.
We turned away from the river and walked to Waterloo Station. According to my schedule we had to find somewhere to eat in Soho ( I was secretly hoping and wishing and dreaming of yum cha) then get to the British Museum for a tour at 1pm. It was 12.28.

Not so soft play

On Tuesday Jack and I decided that a change in routine was called for. Alice, who works with S, had told him about a kids indoor play area here in the village (they call it soft play in the UK) called BIG SPACE. Alice even printed out a map which S gave to me and I promptly lost. We had planned on going on Sunday with Jamie, Alison and Caitlin but Jack was way too tired.
After spending some time cooped up due to the rain I thought it was time for a treat. We set out in what I hoped was the right direction (I used to think my sense of direction was good but I think I should now go in the opposite direction that my instincts tell me). I saw a friendly postie and asked him directions but it was his first day on the job. How did he know where to take the mail?
We found it quite easily after all. We just followed the Range Rovers and sound of a million screaming children. You see it's school holidays here. Oh dear.
It was good fun though. There was lots of padding on everything (wonder if it is possible to have a whole house like this?) and what I initially thought was an unusual colour scheme, lots of purple, carpets, chairs etc but then I saw all the little cartons of ribena and realised someone was very smart.
The toddlers had a special area with lots of balls and lots of padding, 2 ball pools, lots of mirrors (which got a real workout though the one at the top of the slide was very distracting), a slide and a funny thing that blew air and then you float balls on the air. Are you with me? Should 've taken a photo.
Hard to though when your child is climbing over the top of the other kids to get to the slide and then trying to run down the slide. Too slow? Jack will piggyback you on the slide to give you some gentle encouragement to GET OUT OF THE WAY.Very funny. I had to leap over parents to get to the slide to catch Jack before he hurled himself into the air. After awhile this got boring so Jack leapt the kiddy fence and headed to the big kids area. There was a race track with these little cars that I know he really wanted to go on but was just a tad small. I was worried that Dudley Dursley might run him down. So Jack resorted to running through the gladiator type maze which was fine till I knocked him flying with a swinging cushiony thing (I was trying to hold it so it would miss him). I think we'll be going back and next time we'll take S so that one of us can man the stairs while the other can watch the slide and apologise to the parents of squashed kids.

Catch up

On Sunday we met up with an old schoolmate of S, Jamie and his partner Alison and their little girl Caitlin. Things went well considering that S called Alison Alice for the first half hour. The funny thing is he might have gotten away with it (with his funny accent and all) if I hadn't roused on him. I just thought I should nip things in the bud so we didn't repeat the Polly/holly thing from my brother's wedding. I was also recovering from my fruitless stroll to the growers markets so I was a bit damp. We had planned on a lovely picnic in the park but as it was still raining we headed to our fav pub (the one that does the very tasty steak and ale pie). After Caitlin had a bite to eat and a nappy change which was supervised by Jack. She also liked his lounge chair and decided it was now hers. Jack seemed to take this well. At the pub she repaid his generosity by offering him a range of canapes such as strawberries (he handed them to S), grapes (again handed them to S) and cold peas (on the floor). They sat up in their high chairs like royalty and had a chat and did I take any photos? No. What was I thinking?
The pub was quiet (I thought there would be lots of punters there for the Sunday roast) but it was a bank holiday weekend (again) and I think most people had gone to places that were sunny, like Scotland. So, the pub was quiet except for some very vocal Leeds supporters who picked up on my telepathy and headed off to catch the next train to Leeds.
After a huge lunch (as Noel would say, enough food to choke a horse) we wandered down to the growers markets and perused and purchased. I think Jamie was happy because although he'd had a pie for lunch he persuaded Alison to get a pie for dinner (and a fruit pie as well). He's assimilated well (he knows the proper way to pronounce Berkshire) but he's still loves a pie.

Monday, 26 May 2008

'King Farouk'

Some lovely people that S works with have lent us a car seat for Jack. It will be handy when we hire a car (like this weekend due to another marquee being erected for yet another shindig) so we don't go through the palaver that we went through last time but most of the time he uses it as his personal armchair. I was going to say throne but he's not quite that comfortable. Here he is watching Maisy with S and playschool with me.