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When you are: May 2009

27 May 2009

Wheel of fortune

MOTS and I have been along to Falkirk a couple of times, we think once before parenthood and once after. Either way, it's a certainty that we've been along twice, and only on it the once. Boy wonder certainly hasn't been on it so we set off this weekend to see how his sea legs are.

For the picky ones there are two main issues:

  1. His sea legs are already proven, at Blair Drummond last summer

  2. The Forth & Clyde and Union canals are canals, not sea Ah-ha! Not according to our intrepid sailor - "Boat on the sea" is what we got on arrival. And as we know, he's never wrong!

What goes up...
...may come down
We have good memories of canals, a trip along the Leeds & Liverpool was our last holiday before we had to start thinkling about travel cots. I can't believe THIS was almost three years ago! But it was. A lot of water has passed under the bridge through the locks since then, that's for sure.

We hadn't taken lunch, we had already decided to use the cafe on site - British Waterways aren't exactly a multinational corporate greed machine, so the profit they make does go back in to keeping the waterways open, help with new projects and restorations. So I don't mind helping by using the facilities. Which was good timing, considering the next boat trip with availability was about 45 minutes away, and it was just before noon.

We had a good lunch sat watching the wheel, the loading of the boat in front of us, the disembarkation of the boat we were going on. The wee sailor was amazed by the "boat in sky". I must admit, I still don't know quite how it works, but can recite the various stages and how many kettles it takes to turn it. And, as it happens, which operating system the PC that controls it runs on. Which explains the rest of the afternoon.

About 45 minutes a trip takes, from scheduled departure, a half rotation to the upper aqueduct, through the tunnel, spin around in the basin and back down to the lower basin. No worries, we can handle that. 12:20, we board, for a 12:30 departure.

12:30 - Cast off.
In the gondola.
Gates closed.
Water levels sorted out.
Water pumped out between the gates.
Seals broken.
And with the power of 8 kettles we start to rotate.

Alison, one of the skippers, was the guide for the trip. Very informative, professional, funny, and just spot on. At the top after spinning round and coming back into the gondola for the downward journey she pointed out some geography and history to kill the time it takes for the water levels and seals breaking before we can move.

"Right, does anyone have any questions, like 'why have we stopped?'?"

I hadn't even noticed we'd started moving, but there over my left shoulder was the closed gate holding back the Union canal, just a few feet about us.

And there we sat.

And there boy wonder started getting bored. Thankfully, to his credit, his little strop was just little (in the grand scheme of things).

"Does this happen often?" Asked Alison. And apparently it does now and again, usually the mouse stops working, they have to unplug it, plug it back in, reboot the PC. Windows 98 was never that good with losing mice, and given it'll be a PS2 mouse rather than a USB mouse if iot's running '98 - whoaaaa, hang on - '98? Wasn't this a Millenium project? Surely they could have used Windows 2000, Me or a real operating system!

The crux of the problem wasn't a mouse on strike, but a dodgy level indicator showing there was an imbalance in the water levels. For the geeks that means the efficiency of the rotation is compromised as it's meant to be perfectly balanced for minimum energy use, minimum structural fatigue, and blah blah blah. So after a short interlude, we ended up back at the top, half expecting a walk down the hill. But a quick pump later and we're going the opposite direction back down to the bottom basin.

13:50 - Disembark.

Stuck 35 metres in the air on a boat defying gravity with a tired 2 year old? NOT recommened!

15 May 2009

TT Races

Unfortunately, NOT the ones on the Isle of Man. More like the race to get to the lav whilst toilet training.

First full proper day at toilet training, and we have mixed reports so far. Some good and encouraging signs, and one strop over a hand wash resulting in no start given. More to follow...

04 May 2009

A hat trick of a holiday

We've just landed back from Derbyshire, having stayed for the third time at Holestone Moor Barns, a hat trick of a holiday. To steal a line from the visitor's book we're sure we'll eventually find something about staying there that we like - until then we'll have to settle for loving it.

We had a mixed week - a good blend of new and old favourites.

Despite a series of events which has knocked both Steve and Vicki off the Sunday Times Healthiest 100 list they are still unable to slow down. Just watch what you are doing, and don't get into any more mischief!

Thanks again to both for the warm hospitality, for ordering the good weather for us (we'll not pack the raincoats next year, just watch it chuck it down all week!), and for everything else this week. Both have gone well above the call of duty, and it's all appreciated beyond and form of worldly recognition.

Looking back at our first visit and the photos associated with it has shown how much we've grown as a family. We don't notice a lot of things day to day, but having a reference point to compare against gives us some clues. Steve & Vicki will notice a change each time (more noticeably this time was the amount of yelling from Daddy) but we'll see it when looking back. With gaps of 13 & 7 months between visits it's really interesting to see.

So what have we been up to this week as a family?

Friday - arrival day.
We had a great journey down, even if we did get caught in the aftermath of a car crash in North Yorkshire. Still, it didn't dampen the spirits, or hold us up too much. We made it all the way to South Yorkshire without a stop, the furthest we've made it in one go! And just like peak oil (production starting to reduce) we'll see journey times cut as we have to stop for toilet breaks once we're out of nappies. I enjoyed it while it lasted!

After another great welcome boy wonder amazed us by heading straight for the games room. Once inside, heading directly for the stairs to go up to the toy room, pointing up at the light switch asking for it to be switched on. After a gap of 7 months he remembers what's there, where it is, and how to use it. I was impressed.

Saturday - Trains & tents
Going early spring this year has meant that some of the tourist stuff is starting to wind up, isn't fully open on summer schedules yet. Which meant we had to do the Peak Rail at the weekend. A round trip from Rowsley South to Matlock Riverside saw the excitement we expected, and that was just from Daddy. I think the boy enjoyed it too, I was just too hyper to notice! Lunch at Rowsley South gave us enough time to see the next service leave, return, and leave again. After the "broken" train was "fixed". Or in adult language the driver filled up the boiler with water. And we have picked a family tent at a camping show - no place like this part of the world for getting into the great outdoors. As I said to Vicki this week we've already got stuff lined up for us to do until the lad's about 10.

Sunday - Pottering about the shops
The regular trip to Denby paid dividends with some bowls on offer to add to the collection. Followed by a run to Derby to get some more Crocs to replace the now tightly fitting ones we got last time. Blue again, son? No, Mummy, those ones. Hmm, OK, picking your own colour now, eh? That's us told!

Monday - Easy, townie
Easy Tigers for the boy to run around (quote of the day from a Mum there with her boy of the same age: "It's nice to see we're half normal then" when quizzing us about some observed [not so good] behaviour from ours). Followed by a wander around Chesterfield, where we came across a stall on the market selling the material we spent moths looking for and eventually got in Edinburgh - MOTS dare not ask what price it was on the market, we suspect less than we paid!

Tuesday - The Jam, 1980
A couple of dodgy links here. Firstly, The Jam had their first number 1 hit in March 1980 with "Going Underground". Which is what we did on Tuesday morning. A cable-car ride up a great big hill, with Daddy's nerves about the slow bit in the middle both helped and troubled by the advance warning from Steve, and we're at the Heights of Abraham. Now, I don't like cable cars after the one at Nevis Range broke down abruptly and just started swinging. But this was OK, and I don't want MOTS to find out that I was OK with it, I want to keep the illusion of being a big girls blouse going for a while. We took pity on Sarah, the guide for the cavern as she had no takers for the 11:15 tour. With us heading over, some other people followed, and in total there were 9 of us (she takes 60+ people down there - aye right, no danger would I go down there with 60 folk). And this is where The Jam comes in - with a 45 minute tour, we went underground. Were we mad? 170+ steps, 1/4 mile ascent (yes, ascent not descent) into the hill, in cramped conditions, dark, wet, with 2 year old. CERTIFIABLE. But he just took it in his stride. Even the geology lessons which we found interesting, he will have heard nothing more than "blah blah blah, blah blah", but was looking around at every stopping point. He was carried most of it, wasn't for going down until near the end, thankfully for Popeye's left arm it was before the longest flights of steps. But he did it, no stress, no fuss, no fear, with pleasure. So proud for that.

Another Jam link - there's some in the Bakewell Tart slices we got for lunch in Bakewell - one of our old favourites. In fact we got some pies to take home, a welcome tea on Friday night. And they do mail order! MAIL ORDER!!

Wednesday - Tram to Matlock
A free trip to Crich, 12 months free entry just for Gift Aid on the last entry in September. Bonzer! Now this is worthwhile knowing, but we haven't any plans for another trip before September so we're all out of freebies now. Lunch with Steve & Vicki, the best pub fish and chips I've ever had - in fact better than most chippies I've ever had. So we'll be back there again, that's for sure. And another run into Matlock, naked as the day, in the paddling area. And, as last time, not exactly prepared for it. As a result, kicking and screaming, he came out almost blue with the cold, wanting to go back in. So what did we do to calm him down? Wrapped in his robe, chomping on an ice cream. "C-c-c-c-cold, Daddy, c-c-c-c-cold". It worked.

Thursday - Buxton to Stockport
A long drive North on the A6, a short circuit around Buxton for lunch, and on as far as Stockport. Some lovely scenery, but not much after Buxton itself. Back a slightly different and much more scenic route, calling in at Bakewell for the obligatory provisions before home.

Friday - Homeward bound with a police escort
Another good journey home, a slow start so had to make some time up. Certainly not through the northern counties, however. We did see a red Astra fly past us at one point, only for us to pass him a few miles later. He was on the hard shoulder talking to the copper who had not long since overtaken us also. Maybe he was lost and asking for directions. Or maybe he was just a young boy racer pulled over for being a pillock. Whichever, he wouldn't be alone if he was taken in for it - within the space of a mile (at 70mph that's just under a minute) we passed THREE pulled over - two on one side one on the other. Pillocks day outing. And as we settle back down after that it kicked off again. 4 white bikes with red stripes. 4 white cars with red stripes. One blue helicopter with spinning rotars. And one white van with small black windows under heavy guard. Surely this wasn't the first print run for the 2010 Premier Cottages brochure being delivered?

As this gets published we're less than 52 weeks to round 4!

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