Monday, 15 August 2016

Grandparents' Rally

When we first bought our motor home, I joined the Caravan Club, largely because we can get decent insurance through them.  But they also run rallies on nearly every weekend throughout the year, and although we are not especially social people, we did book in to a couple, to see what they were like.  The first was back in February, in the wet and the mud, but this one was designed specially for grandparents with their grandchildren.

When we booked this, back in December last year, we didn't really realise how much Boy Too would have matured - well, one knew, but he was really only a baby last December, so we didn't invite him (next year, for sure), but we did invite the Boy.  I met him at the McDonald's outside Warren Street Station (I had arrived slightly earlier than them, so bought myself an OJ), and by the time we had got home, The Swan Whisperer (aka Granda) had more-or-less loaded the car and we were ready to set off.

Our first port of call was my parents', where the stuff that was in the car was transferred to the motor home, and after a sandwich lunch (and three games of "Snatch a bundle", my poor mother!) we set off to the venue at a place called Birdham, near Chichester.  The rally was held on a large meadow, with plenty of room for the children - there were about ten, ranging in age from about 12 to 18 months - to run about and play.  The Boy leapt out of the van even before we had parked up, and was seen learning to play croquet, although the hoops didn't come out again over the weekend.

As we weren't going to move, we set up our awning tent, with slightly more success than last time - for a start, we had tent pegs, although we needed strong elastic bands (I'll get some hair elastics) for the inner pegs.  It wouldn't do to sleep in, as there would be a massive draught under the van, and anyway, we still can't quite get it as it should be.  But it was good enough for a fine weekend, and we put our picnic table out there, and our chairs.  The Boy did demand to eat the final breakfast indoors - after all, he hasn't eaten at that table as often as we do! 

When we were set up, it was time to get supper, and we all demolished sausages, mash and beans, although none of us were quite sure of the leeks.... but they were okay.  Pudding was fresh mango, which was lovely.  Then the Boy disappeared again and was found playing football, until he discovered he'd lost his watch (a slap watch, and they do come out - I've lost one in my time).  Fortunately, someone found it for him, after which we confiscated it and he didn't have it back until the end of the weekend.  At nine o'clock it was all but dark, so I called him in, and helped him shower while Granda got his bed ready.  And after a story he snuggled down and we, too, went to bed, although for some reason I didn't sleep well.  Which meant that I heard the distant fireworks that signalled the end of Cowes Week!

On the Saturday, it was All Systems Go from the start.  The Boy did spend quite a lot of the early part of the morning rushing round playing football and bandits and goodness knows what else with his new-found friends, his joy only slightly marred by the fact that his (very cheap) water-pistol stopped working.  However, there were a couple of hours of craft activities arranged, including making Elmer the Elephant out of the tops of milk-cartons.  The Boy's actually won, although he himself didn't think it was the best:
They also made (delicious) mini-pizzas on muffin bases, topped with tomato puree and grated cheese, and then the toppings of your choice - peppers, frankfurter sausages, ham, pineapple, sweetcorn, etc. 

That was the foundation for lunch, which in our case also included bacon and avocado sandwiches (the Boy didn't want avocado, fair enough) and corn-on-the-cob.  Then technically there was nap time - and I certainly went to sleep - but then there was the Big Water Fight, and my menfolk signally failed to get into their swimming costumes and came back exhausted and rather cold

Then there were more games, including skittles, and a film for the children ("The Secret Life of Pets"), and a barbecue.... and it was 9:00 again before I could get a very dirty, very tired Boy indoors for a much-needed shower and bed!

These rallies always end with "Flag" at 11:00 on Sundays, when notices are given out, the organisers are thanked, prizes are distributed and the raffle is drawn, with the added excitement that all the children had been given two raffle tickets and were guaranteed two prizes - a big stuffed toy and a little one.  Then, of course, many of the main raffle prizes were toys, and the children ended up choosing them, too - my Boy chose a set of "Boom" bat and ball. 

And then back to my parents' for lunch, more Snatch-a-bundle, and even two games of chess with Great-Ba, the second of which, to everybody's amazement, ended in stalemate!  Ba is not one to allow a child to win, and was genuinely congratulatory.

We drove back to London along the sea, enjoying the ships in Shoreham Harbour, and only turning to the M23 when we had to - we didn't want to go into Brighton.  It was a slow old journey, but we got there in the end, and the Daughter produced omelettes all round as we were hungry.  And eventually home by 9:30 pm.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green

The Daughter had to go to her office today, so we arranged to pick up the Boys from there.  The big question was, what to do?  The South Kensington museums might have been a plan, but they are always jam-packed solid in the summer holidays.  But the Museum of Childhood is more off the beaten track, although we've all been there several times ("I went with my class when I was in Reception" said The Boy), and I found on their website that they had various activities for children during the morning.

We arrived at about 11:00, and our first port of call was the loos.  Boy Too has only recently learnt to do without nappies (he won't be three for another month, so really good going), and it is only really during the last week or so that it has been possible to take him out without several changes of clothing - even now, his mother sends him out with several changes and the collapsible potty, just in case!  But he is learning to go when he is taken, and we had no trouble at all with him today.  In fact, the only problem was that there were no towels in the ladies (The Boy had visited the gents with his grandfather), and he absolutely hates hand-driers and won't use them.  "Well," I said, "You'll just have to stay damp, then, or dry your hands on your trousers."

At 11:15, there was a talk advertised with "the opportunity to touch and feel the object".  Today it was teddy bears.  The talks were billed as suitable for 4 years old and up, and indeed Boy Too got bored so Granda took him off to do something else, while the Boy sat squarely on the rug and joined in to the fullest, discussing famous teddy-bears and remembering Winnie-the-Pooh's friends, and things like that.  The talk lasted 30 minutes, and then we were dismissed with a reminder that there would be story-time at noon.  The Boy wanted to go to that, so we looked round the museum for a quarter of an hour until it was time for the story, whereupon I took him back down to that space, and he sat, entranced, to listen to a story of how the tortoise got his shell....  The story was extremely well told, with no illustrations (except for an African drum) but lots of different voices, and getting the children to join in to remember which animals had tried to get the leopard away from his drum....

Once that was over, we went and had a look around the moving, electric and visual toys and then it was time for lunch.  We decided we'd rather go back to Liverpool Street Station to have that, as the food provided by the museum is really rather expensive for what it is.  So we got on a bus to Liverpool Street, with the Boy and me upstairs and Boy Too in his pushchair (which he has nearly outgrown) downstairs with Granda.  Boy Too dozed off during the journey, and slept through lunch at Pret a Manger, but woke up once we were in the train to Wood Street, and ate his sandwich and drank his juice very happily then!  He had also thoroughly enjoyed the museum, glued to some of the display cabinets.
Although much of the museum is geared to adults, there's plenty for children to do and enjoy there.  I commend it as a good morning's outing with Infant and early Junior ages.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

July Holiday: 30 July

We spent the night in the Cité Europe car park, as so often before, and in the morning I went over to Carrefour and did a last shop.  Maddeningly, they didn't have any dried flageolets, which I'd seen in every other supermarket I had shopped in during the week!  Grrr.  And I bought too much yoghurt and cheese, but we'll eat them.

Then it was time to go through the check in for the Shuttle - we were very unimpressed by the so-called heightened French security, they didn't even bother to look at our passports!  We squeezed on to the shuttle before the one we were booked on, which is always pleasing, and were back in the UK by about noon, UK time.  We stopped at Maidstone Services to have lunch, and were home by 14:30.  Now unpacked and tidied up (mostly) and catching up!

Friday, 29 July 2016

July holiday, 29 July

This morning it was time to visit the museum in whose grounds we had parked overnight.  It was just beside the longest canal tunnel in France, and it was about the way the boats were, and are, hauled through it by electric-powered boats on a chain.  There was quite a lot about the lives of the canal folk - very similar to that of their UK counterparts, although the barges are a lot wider, and the canal is still a way of life here.  Very interesting!
So we drove on up to Cambrai, stopping at a bakery for bread, and in a services to have lunch.  I got very sleepy after lunch, and by the time I came properly awake we were near St-Omer and looking at La Coupole, a planetarium-cum-history museum, which is where the V2 rockets were fired from. There wasn't time to go in to the museum, but we plan to do that another day.  The exhibits outside and in the visitor centre were superb.
Then it was across country to Calais, a quick nip into Auchan for milk, eggs and fruit juice for breakfast, and then dinner in the Buffalo Grill to use their WiFi (and enjoy a steak!).  We'll sleep in the Cité Europe car park, and then home at lunch time.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

July holiday, 28 July

I did NOT sleep well last night. Snuggled down around 10:30, and came awake at 01:00 needing to spend a penny, which is normal. Went straight back to sleep to be woken up a couple of hours later by very heavy rain, which meant I had to get up and close the skylights as the rain was coming in. And then I just didn't sleep well after that, so went back to sleep this morning after the SW had gone for his run.
After breakfast, we drove to the Armistice clearing and went to the museum there, which was rather super. They had a full-sized replica of the railway carriage in which it was signed, laid out as it had been, and then various exhibits about life in the trenches, including a huge collection of 3D photos that I couldn't look at for long as they made my eyes hurt. There were also displays of gifts made by soldiers and sent home, and explanations of some of the shifts they got up to - pipes and lighters, for instance, worked better than cigarettes and matches in the very wet trenches..... and other improvisations.
Then there was the 1940 room, showing how the museum had been destroyed or removed by the Nazis, with only the statue of Maréchal Foch allowed to remain.  And how it had been rebuilt in the 1950s.
Then we drove on, via the usual supermarket, a Super U this time, to a place called Ourscamp, where there was an abbey and where we had lunch, and then on through Noyon, where Jean Calvin was born, and so to this little village of Riqueval, where we are parked up in a canal museum courtyard (two spaces for motor homes, both now full, plus services), and will visit the museum in the morning.  The SW went for a walk and explored the area a bit.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

July holidays, 27 July

We didn't wake this morning until my phone alarm went off at 07:30, and by the time we were ready to leave Beauvais it was already after 10:00 am. Our first stop was (after a quick dash into an E Leclerc) Chantilly, where we parked with a wonderful view of the training gallops and the SW went for a walk while I got lunch.
After lunch, we drove to Senlis, which is a town you mostly go roaring past on your way to Paris, but is actually well worth a visit, with lovely cobbled mediaeval streets which we wandered round for a bit and then stopped while the SW had coffee and I had a Perrier.
Then it was on to Compiègne cross country, mostly through woodland with loads of walking, riding and cycle tracks criss-crossing it. And so on to this little village whose aire is said to charge €3 a night, but thus far nobody has come to collect it.
At first we were the only camping-car here, and there is masses of room, so we decided to see how the tent awning goes up. We need some tent pegs for it, and it was a steep learning curve, but we sort of managed it in the end and sat out to eat supper, which was mince and pasta, very good even if I do say so myself as shouldn't! 
Another van has arrived since, also British.  I think we will probably take the tent down before we go to bed, as it is not secured and the weather may deteriorate. It keeps threatening to, but thus far we've had lovely weather, not too hot but no rain.  We have not really needed either hats or macs.
And here is the farmer to collect our €3!  And we are taking down the tent, so soon time to settle down in the van for the night.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

July holiday, 26 July

A much less emotional day. The Swan Whisperer went for his run while I got breakfast, and then we used the services and headed on, first stop towards a supermarket which both Google and TomTom said was there, but wasn't.  However, we found one in the end, so all was well, and I even scored some lavender honey shower gel for MrsRev and me.
Then we decided to follow one of the circuits in our book, and headed to the village of Folleville, which was supposed to have a mediaeval site and church, but we found neither. Quite a pretty village, though, so we then had lunch and drove over to the preserved village of Gerberoy, which we liked, but I wouldn't care to live there.  So many of its inhabitants feel, judging by the number of For Sale signs around the place.

After that, on to Beauvais via a couple of other pretty villages, and we are parked up in a very nice aire with free services!