Friday, October 30, 2015

Half Term/Stuff Kids Do

When kids try to make out you're stupid........

Z (7 year old I look after): Helen, do you know David Presley?
Me: No. Am I supposed to?
Z: I can't believe you don't know who David Presley is.
Me: Well, I know an Elvis Presley, but not David Presley.
Z: Oh yeah, that's who I meant. I always call people David by mistake.

When kids try to make out you don't know where you're going.......

Me: We just need to walk down this road and then we'll be on Caledonian Road for the bus home.
Z: Um, I don't know. This doesn't look like the way we came this morning.
Me: That's because it's a different road, love.
Z: I know, doesn't look the same.
Me: How could it? It's a different road.
Z: Yeah, but still. I think I'll just check this map over there.
(We cross the road to look at a housing estate map.)
Me: That's just for a housing estate Z, but you can see this is the road we're on now and we just need to go this way.
(Turns his head in the other direction, rubbing his chin. I can see him deliberating that I've taken us completely wrong.)
Z: It doesn't say Caledonian Road on here.
Me: That's because it's the map of a housing estate and doesn't go as far as Caledonian Road. Trust me, it's this way.
(I start to walk off. He lingers behind a bit, still umming an' arring. I'm getting slightly annoyed at this point.)
Z: I'm still not sure. It all looks different.
Me: (Volume increase.) That's because it's a different street. You didn't come along this street this morning, you took another one. We are going the right way, now could you just keep moving and stop doubting me, please.

When Parents giving them instructions can annoyingly backfire..........

Me: So here we are at Caledonian Road. (I think I was a little shocked and relieved at that point. He had me doubting myself.) Now we just need to find the bus stop.
Z: Oh yeah, I remember this road, we came this way with daddy this morning.
(Strong urge to pull a face and sing neh, neh, neh, neh, neh. I resisted - out loud.)
Me: Great, now I'm pretty sure the bus stop will be this way.
Z: Daddy says it's bus stop C, so we have to find that one.
Me: Well I don't know, we'll just have to check the bus stop when we get to it, and if the 17 goes from there, then it's fine.
Z: No, daddy said it had to be C.
Me: Well, I don't know where all the bus stops are, and this one here says B and has the number 17 and it goes the right way, so it's fine.
Z: But daddy said we should go to C.
Me: (Again, slight volume increase.) Okay then. Fine. We'll walk down to the next bus stop. Look, you can see it down there. Come on.
Z: (He comes trailing behind me.) No. It's okay, we can go to this one.
Me: No. No. If it has to be C, come on, let's go and find C. (I march off.)
Z: No, really, we can just go to this one, it really doesn't matter.
Me: I know. That's what I said all along. (Ahhhhhhhh.)


Friday, October 16, 2015

Renovations 2.0

So, you thought it was over. You thought the renovations were done, but that was just the Bathroom, Hall and Living Room. Now comes the Bedroom.

 A little pondering with Rants. 
Mouldy windows. (Before.)

Mouldy windows. (After.) Ta-da. 

We waited a couple of months, as we needed that time for the trauma of the last renovations to heal and be put behind us. This time we set apart three whole days to do the one room. Sounds good, right? One day to box up and move everything out. We also got rid of four pieces of furniture on gumtree, to make room for new exciting stuff. One day to paint everything. And one day for the Ikea delivery and hopefully the subsequent assembly of the furniture. Eh-Er (Hopefully that came across as the sound made in Family Fortunes when they got an answer wrong and that big cross came on the screen. That's what I was going for.)

Bye Malm, you did us a solid and now you're going to another home. 

The first two days actually went to plan, with minimal hatred of the world or each other. Mainly just tiredness and sore arms from all the carting around and painting. Just when you think, this is going well...........Then came Sunday. Ikea were set to deliver between 8.30am and 12.30am. Not a bad slot really and we'd still have ages to put stuff together. But then Ikea failed to deliver, in fact, they actually lost our order in the warehouse somewhere. Yay! And when did they tell us this? Early, so we could do something about it? No. A was on hold for 25 minutes with them after the delivery time. They never called us. Even more of a slap in the face.

 When the bedroom comes to live in the living room. 

So guess where we went? To Ikea, to get the freakin' stuff ourselves. Of course they didn't have exactly everything we wanted, so we had to compromise a few things and make changes. They also have the least helpful staff, who know nothing and can't tell you anything. But at least they are cheap. So we got all the stuff and a very nice man with a van to pick us up and take us home. But this was now 5.30pm, half the day gone.

That evening we only got the corner wardrobe assembled, as it was a lot of work. And we couldn't get the door to sit straight or close properly. Honestly Ikea, in all these years you can't make it so a door just fits straight. What's that about?

Bloody corner wardrobe. 

But then Monday arrived and further disaster hit. In our haste in Ikea, we had actually picked up the smaller wardrobes. Ooops. And we started assembling them before we cottoned on. Disaster. I assembled the drawers but then I had to go to work. And poor A had to go back to Ikea to replace the wardrobes, and return some of the hinges and runners we'd bought the day before, because nowhere does it say the drawer packs come with runners. Some things are separate, others aren't. Make up your mind Ikea.

When I got home from work, one wardrobe was already assembled and I helped with the second one. We managed to get the drawers and wire baskets in, leaving Tuesday for the doors - great more doors - and the final shelving unit.

It's finally coming together.

Okay, so now you're thinking, well that's not too bad, you're only two days behind right? Er, wrong. What about all the boxes filling the living room? What about unpacking all the clothes? What about the fact that my partner's parents are coming to stay with us for two nights starting tomorrow? Oh fuck. Pretty lucky we're both self-employed and relatively part time, otherwise this saga could have gone on far longer.

So when I came home from a full day of teaching on Wednesday, I still had twenty or so boxes and a whole myriad of other crap to sort out, move around and hopefully discard some of. Needless to say, the boxes were hidden or placed out of the way wherever we could find space for them, and it's Friday and they still need unpacking. Urgh.

Top tips:

  • Finish one thing and take it to fruition before starting another project. (I still haven't unpacked all the boxes from the Living room renovation. Eek.)
  • If using Ikea, add at least another two days to your schedule, expect to be fucked around, and make a contingency plan. 
  • Pick up the right things when you go to Ikea, and always check the boxes, not just for the code numbers, which seem to be different from online to in store, but the actual dimensions. 
  • Don't have people staying that week, though in a way that could stop you dawdling. Deadlines can be useful, but not always in DIY projects. 
  • Thinning out and streamlining your furniture can have a knock on effect on your clothes and shit. Meaning: you're going to have to cull like crazy. 
  • You are always going to forget something, so just prepare yourself for the inevitable. For us it was the door handles. Doh!
Ha ha. Can you believe we still have the kitchen to do and a mega book shelving project in the living room. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

Happy renovations to anyone else out there improving their homes or simply testing their sanity. How's that working out for you?


P.S Consider your recycling possibilities, as you will be left with a whole mess of cardboard and packaging to discard of. Our recycling collectors are ridiculous. They won't take anything that's not in the recycling bin - and we only have one for the entire building - even if it's clearly cardboard beside the bin that needs recycling. So we unfortunately had to half fill the recycling bin minutes after it had been emptied, with a whole week until it would be emptied again. If you have a car, then great, you can pop to your local recycling hub, but A ended up taking a cab with a load of cardboard.

Our wrong sized wardrobes found a new home and we were compensated with a full refund from Ikea - for the lost order - and additional cash and voucher compensation, which we will be using to buy door handles. Ha ha.

Rants out. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Okay, so this isn't a rant exactly, it's more of a general shout out to an awesome museum, only 40 minutes outside of London, where you can take a lovely day trip and get inside the mind and life of one of the world's greatest writers: Roald Dahl.

Being extremely lucky in the partner-for-life department, this was part of my birthday present, but yesterday was the first time we'd been able to get out there and explore. You take the train from London Marylebone to Great Missenden and then it is well signposted from there and only about a five minute walk - the village is very small, but also beautiful and completely charming.

From the website you can download a village trail to wander and see the sights that have inspired many of his books - this is a very short trail and is basically a walk along the main streets. Very easy going. There is also an hour long walk through the surrounding fields and woodlands, which requires a bit more thought and fitness, but we're not talking much. Wheel chairs and buggies would find it tricky in the wooded areas, due to the kissing gates and narrow muddy paths, but it is fine for a gentle stroll. These trails are also available in a hard copy at the museum.

Entry prices are cheap, with kids' prices and concession prices also offered. There is a tremendous shop, a quirky cafe and plenty of events to keep adults and kids happy. There are two main galleries giving insight into Dahl's early life and lots of information and tid bits that you probably didn't already know, but I won't give them away, you need to see it for yourself. And a story centre and craft room, to get your creative on.

For entry prices and what's on in the coming months, check out the website:

You are graced with seeing Dahl's writing hut, which they removed from his garden and put back together piece by piece, beautifully preserving the interior as it was the last time Dahl wrote there. It feels like it is waiting for him to sit back down and cook up another gem. We wish! I was pleasantly surprised to hear of his work ethic: two hours in the morning, then lunch and a nap, then two hours in the afternoon. He believed two hours was the maximum time you could work without losing productivity. Thanks Mr Dahl. I agree!

One of my favourite bits was the height chart where you could compare your height to that of his characters and his rather giant self (almost 6ft 6"). I'm at Miss Honey height, which suits me fine.

There are loads of hands on activities, especially in the story centre, which will keep the kids - and adults - busy for hours. There is also an emphasis on nurturing writing talent in youngsters. Dahl himself and other authors have left advice and pointers on how they work themselves, to give kids the confidence to go away and try something new and to not be afraid. Children are given a story ideas book at the entrance and encouraged to jot things down, doodle and experiment with words and rhymes as they go along. There are regular story times in Miss Honey's Classroom.

Magnetic verse making. 

We were also extremely lucky to go on an archive day. Once a month, they open the archive up to small groups of people, who can see and touch some of his original letters, book drafts, some of his clothes and some memorabilia from films and TV. I cannot stress how much you have to go on archive day - check the website for details and book in advance. Oh my word. I saw the box with the original manuscript of Matilda in it. Ahhhhhhhh! Sadly, the focus of the archive this time was not on Matilda, so I didn't get to see it or handle it, but to even see the box with it in, to know that his hand pencilled that and it is in this box next to me. Wow!

Boxes of Matilda. Matilda holds a special place in my heart as being the first non-school book that I ever read by myself, aged 5. 

So yes, back to the archives. Well worth the extra £1 you pay to go to it. Really, £1. Craziness! I would pay much, much more. We managed to see and read some of his old letters to his mother. We read some of his old school reports, and saw his old school shirt. Wow, Dahl was huge even aged 17. So very tall. We got to see the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, well the second draft, which was actually called: Charlie the Chocolate Boy. We saw The Enormous Crocodile manuscript, all pencil written, and finally The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year, and was the main focus of the archive talk. We were lucky enough to be the only two on the archive tour, which made it even more special and I got to hold Dahl's old sandal, which became an inspiration for the BFG and his footwear. Wow.

We even got to choose some chocolate from Dahl's own chocolate box. 

Okay, more amazing things about the museum include: A wrist band so you can come and go as you please over the opening hours on that day. Cafe Twit offering fizzy lifting drinks, hot and cold snacks and some monstrously delicious cakes. And of course, the shop full of so many fun things. I behaved myself though, just buying a couple of birthday gifts for other people, but it would be easy to go wild there. Of course all his children and adult books and collections are on sale, as well as stationary, mugs, magnets, t-shirts and more.

 Mmmm, Ginger slice and Gluten free cheesecake at Cafe Twit. 

If you have the time, take the short walk to the church where Roald Dahl is buried. The memorial tree and bench, and gravestone, are such a celebration of his life and such a wonderful way for him to be remembered. The church and graveyard sit in quiet contemplation looked after by the BFG and all Dahl's characters.

We also did the woodland trail and enjoyed wandering around the village where he lived and brought up his family. He took his inspiration for characters and situations and landscapes from all around him and the events of his life, and it was lovely to walk where he would have and think about all those characters. What a man.

The village boasts some lovely home shops and high end gift shops, as well as a couple of pubs, French, Indian and Thai Restaurants, and a lovely local coffee house and cafe. You can also see the library, which is seen as Matilda's library and it is a truly great day out. So what are you waiting for?