Category Archives: Family

Reading and Basildon Park

IMG_6294Sunday 13 May

Long drive late in the afternoon to Caversham on the banks of the River Thames to our Crowne Plaza hotel for the next 6 nights which, using points from previous IHG stays, was virtually free.

Monday 14 May

Meet up with John & Deirdre at Basildon Park – a National Trust property just outside Reading on a lovely day so we take advantage and sit on the grass with our lunch.

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Shell room

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Inside Basildon Park

We were able to get in free due to our membership of the Manx National Heritage.

Basildon Park is an interesting house with a shell room and substantial library as well as a kitchen left in the state it would have been when in it’s heyday.

One field nearby has just been dug up so that the equipment required for ground source heating can be installed which will definitely benefit the finances of the house in the long term.

One or two fields have been left uncut and the resultant display of buttercups was a wonderful sight.

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Library room

Cody is just learning to walk and this was a very tiring day for him – we definitely managed to tire him out.

Tuesday 15 May

Cody definitely overwhelmed with his toys for his birthday and might have suffered with Sensory overload as many of them had to be left for opening later.

Lunch out with Barbara followed by a brief stroll in the sun around a park in Woodley, it was up to well over 20C today, by the lake watching the baby geese.

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Geese family gathering

At one stage, they all were trying to get up a bank, all but one succeeded and the mother had to nudge the last one further along the bank for an easy access route – mother’s instinct!

Gary has hurt his back playing walking rugby and as he is a bit immobile, we stay with him to put Cody to bed as Flic is at college tonight, she is back at work tomorrow after a year’s maternity leave and holiday – how the time has flown.

Wednesday 16 May

Flic is back to work today and whilst Cody is off to the childminder we have a bit of free time in town but were not impressed by the service for breakfast at John Lewis.

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More presents

With Gary, we collect Cody from the childminder – he had been fine after the first few minutes, the other children had taken to him well and Flic was home a few minutes later to have some quality time with Cody, opening more presents.

Thursday 17 May

Ikea breakfast considerably better than John Lewis and at half the price and another day to ourselves although we did have to take Gary to the hospital as he was still suffering with his back and had another appointment.

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Grandma’s watch

Lunch at Bosco Lounge in Woodley with Gary before we pick up Cody again from the childminder.

Friday 18 May

Mel is arriving today for a few days (she should have been on a course but that is another story) so we are not going to get a look in as far as Cody is concerned.

We are, instead, off to a pre-arranged meet up with Phillip & Sylvia in Cheshire tomorrow, driving on what might be quiet roads as it is the day of the Royal Wedding in Windsor.

 

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Buttercup field at Basildon Park

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Tram driving

33I’ve driven a steam train a few years ago so jumped at the advert to drive one of the local electric trams, especially as it was only £25 for about half an hour’s driving and Sally and Mel could join me on the Victorian tram on the Manx Electric Railway in really poor early April weather.

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At the controls of Tram 19

There were two of us driving, the other person having driven one before and we took it in turns for a quarter of an hour before changing over and then returning to Laxey.

A reversal towards Douglas and then some instruction and a drive all the way through Laxey station on the route north towards Dhoon, about half way to Ramsey, our turning point.

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Comfy seating

The controls of the tram are relatively simple but being a Victorian tram (built in 1899) they are somewhat “Heath Robinson” although they are obviously very effective.

Turing one handle to one of the 7 positions increases the speed to a maximum of 25 mph but stopping the tram requires a complete fast shutdown of the handle to point 5.

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The view from the Cab in the poor weather

The weather wasn’t brilliant and on the way back (the tram has a driver’s cab at each end) the windscreen wiper was not working which added to the difficulty.

A couple of goats had strayed onto the track at one point but quickly departed on the sounding of the hooter.

A wonderful experience and well worth it if you see it advertised again.

It’s cold in Jersey

IMG_5858Thursday 25 January

Flybe served us well today, leaving on time on way to Birmingham for a change of plane for one that is to take us to Jersey via Guernsey except that Birmingham airport don’t seem to recognise that the plane goes on to Jersey from Guernsey as it doesn’t mention Jersey which might cause confusion to non seasoned travellers.

Our first stay at Sarah & Ali’s new house in deepest St Ouen’s; Sarah must have one of the longest commutes on the island, 9 miles!

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Welcoming open fire in Jersey Granite

The house is very cold as for some reason it has no wall insulation. The upstairs room for our bedroom is particularly cold with wood floors and no rugs yet but they do have a welcoming open fire.

Friday 26 January

Breakfast, after quite a cold night at Colleen’s at Greve de Lecq, a favourite of ours followed by some food shopping.

Saturday 27 January

Harry’s birthday party at Trinity Parish Hotel; just as well it is indoors as it rains all day.

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Party games

All the 5 and 6 year olds played well together with Sarah organising a couple of games as well.

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Dinner time

The food went down well of course, although the fruit and veg were not as popular as the biscuits.

We have tonight been invited to a Burns night at Laura & Jim’s with traditional Haggis, neeps and tattys for a main course and other traditional Scottish fare.

Crawl back “figuratively speaking” in very foggy conditions to Sarah & Ali’s

Sunday 28 January

Still foggy in the morning and whilst Sarah and Ali start on some jobs we venture out for some food and a quick walk before the rain sets in and we get our chance to play with Harry.

Monday 29 January

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A friendly crapaud trying a bit of breaking and entering.

Wander out locally, past some stables and out in the evening to see where to pick Harry up from tomorrow, see a settee and pick up a dishwasher, as you do.

Tuesday 30 January

A foul day, cold, windy and wet, collect Harry from child minder after school and drop him off at Sarah’s work. This is the only excercise we get today, the weather was so bad.

Wednesday 31 January

It must have been the worst January we have seen, but then, we have been away each January since we retired.

Our excursion outside today is only to the Cinema to see “Post” about the report in USA about the Vietnam war and the prelude to Watergate. A little too much padding but still enjoyable.

An evening meal on Thursday 1 February with Jim & Laura at The Lazin Lizard which was exceptionally crowded and noisy. Food good but a little nuveau quisine. Back across the country roads in the dark and fog, pretty spooky, and we only saw 6 other cars on the roads.

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Jersey market

It is pouring with rain on Saturday but Harry doesn’t mind as he is in the water at Haute Vallee for swimming lessons followed by a few more jobs in town and we are back to see that Ali and a couple of his friends are helping with the putting up of the new roll top garage door to replace the up and over metal one that has seen better days.

Sarah & Ali out tonight so we babysit.

Sunday 4 February

It is again bitterly cold today both inside and outside the house, so cold that we don’t go to watch Harry in his bike race, the wind chill factor makes it just too much.

He is the first boy in his race and is a bit chuffed. Ali and I had taken the cut up old garage door to the dump earlier in the day, for some reason it is only open until just before 1pm on a Sunday.

After the bike race, Harry off to a party and Sarah to lifesaving so everyone’s busy whilst we keep the fire going and the heating on.

Monday 5 February

Breakfast at Colleen’s again, the tide being up and the sea a bit rough, so no chance of beach walking today. More food shopping and some wrapping of presents for the birthday boy.

Was thinking of going to see the Harmony Men but as Sarah’s friend Tracy is with us all for dinner, give it a miss this time.

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Playing with birthday presents

Tuesday 6 February

Up early for the birthday boy but he is off to School and doesn’t open many presents before he goes. There is snow on the car we are using – very unusual in Jersey. We are off to town for a lunch with Laura & Jim at de Gruchy’s Brasserie – expensive thesedays.

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Birthday treat

As a treat for Harry, we get to Pizza Express at St Brelade’s before packing up for early flight tomorrow back home, via Guernsey and Birmingham.

Wednesday 7 February

Off home and bump into Iain Mason from the Harmony Men at Jersey Airport and find at Birmingham that Jayne Bizec from my Coutts Jersey days was on the plane. Unfortunately , not able to speak long with her.

No issues at all with Flybe, all flights were early but the walking and steps involved at Birmingham airport are excessive. Why do we have to go land side and then back through Security when we are just changing planes?

Christmas troubles

Saturday 23 December

Back in April, we spent so many hours trying to find somewhere to stay to be near our daughter, Flic, with her young son and eventually settled on a house in Maidenhead advertised through HomeAway, a company we have rented through before and at a cost of over £1500 were hoping for a good property.

 

Crappy house

Christmas Property

 

The two reviews on HomeAway were good albeit a year old and whilst we knew parking could be problematic, we were not prepared at all for what we found when we gained access to the property. The parking was the least of our troubles – in fact we had no issues with the on street parking.

Mismatched furniture, some of it dating from probably the 1950s, three different styles of settees in the living area, one of which has a door underneath the cushion which whilst providing some support, is loose and had to be pulled up to stop the cushions sagging.

This is a potential hazard for fingers, especially those of youngsters. Would question whether two of the settees have fire retardant certificates, I would doubt if a charity shop would accept them.

The property has not been renovated or maintained for many years, the decor is worn and dated, especially in the kitchen

There were many other issues:-

  1. Loose tiles in the dining area by the fireplace, again a potential for injury
  2. One other settee  ( a bed settee ) in the living room has been bolstered by a spare settee cushion
  3. Ill fitting kitchen units dating from probably the 1970s. The whole kitchen is in need of refurbishment. The kitchen units are de-laminating resulting in bits falling into food.
  4. Absolutely filthy cooking pans/dishes and a not particularly clean oven
  5. No washing up bowl and no matching crockery, very thin cutlery and inappropriate cooking utensils which are not suitable for using whilst cooking as they are too thin.
  6. Handwritten Instructions written on the inside of the kitchen cupboards as to where to put crockery and glasses that was overwriting other written instructions is not the sign of a homely environment.
  7. Mismatching drinking glasses, only one egg cup
  8. Cleaning liquids in a cupboard that does not have a child protection lock on it. If unsupervised, it could cause serious illness to children.
  9. Dangerous and loose floorboards on the ground floor especially outside the kitchen, to the extent that shoes need to be worn throughout to prevent trapped toes.
  10. Very steep and thin stairs to the first floor with a loose banister
  11. Dirty carpets on the stairs and landing
  12. No banister on the stairs from the 1st floor to the Attic.
  13. No working radiator in either the Attic bedroom or it’s en-suite bathroom (temperatures 3 degrees C some days!) which has no stand up shower ability, just a shower unit over the bath but no curtain or screen.
  14. Bath waste water leaks on the floor at a join in the pipe behind the sink.
  15. A stained sanitary pad left in a cupboard in the Attic bathroom
  16. Hair left in the bath plug in the Attic bathroom
  17. 3 lights in the Attic not working and no clothes hanging space.
  18. The main “pink” bathroom has two showers over the bath, one of which appears not to function well whilst the other is supposed to be the back up.
  19. The main “pink” bathroom has a translucent door allowing other guests to be able to see you in the bathroom.
  20. The 5 page house instructions provided to us after we had paid the final amount of rent indicated that the house has a car parking space outside the house. This is a joke as all the road is available for anyone to park in, there is no reserved car parking space.  In fact from arrival to 27 December, the same red car was parked Directly outside the house, it didn’t move.
  21. We were supposed to have a food waste recycling bin: nothing was provided and for general waste, just a bucket was provided
  22. The “high chair” provided is an old, wheeled office chair with straps which is totally unsuitable.
  23. We had specifically asked if a Christmas tree would be left for us, we were told “no” so Sarah brought one from Jersey, we brought the decorations from home and: you guessed it; a decorated Christmas tree had been left!
  24. It is only when you pay the final balance are you told that no visitors are allowed: not very Christian like for Christmas!

 

Anyway, some photos from inside the property wouldn’t go amiss here just so that you can get the feeling of it.

 

So, understandably we were not impressed and apart from all the family being with us, it spoilt Christmas.

We had sent an immediate message on arrival to say that we were not happy and were later that evening advised that the caretaker would call between 10 & 11 tomorrow morning, in fact it was virtually 11 am when he turned up.

He seemed to appreciate the poor quality of the kitchen cooking pans and the water leak from the bathroom, and got on the phone and went away saying he would be back having also taken with him the sanitary pad left by the previous occupiers.

When he did return, he brought new cooking pans, cleaned the cooker, tried to mend the bathroom leak but could do nothing about the non working radiator in the attic bedroom.

On Christmas Day, the bath still leaked but obviously nothing could be done about that so a message advising the continued leak was only sent late at night.

Somehow, the Christmas meal was cooked (thank you Sarah), served and consumed before the ritual of present giving got under way, toys played with, TV watched before we retired to (for us in the attic) a freezing cold bedroom.

Boxing Day and the rest of the week was spent away as much as we could from this house and we left the following Saturday somewhat pleased that we had left – Sarah, Ali, Harry and Mel having left the previous day to go to Jersey and we had spent Friday with Viv in Fleet.

We were eventually able to extract a payment from the owner for the “inconvenience” but this in no way compensated for such an appalling excuse for a rental property. My review on Trip Advisor was eventually published and, somewhat surprising, the review on Home Away was also eventually published but probably because I said to them that I doubted it would get published in view of the appalling nature of the comments.

However, it has now disappeared (as of mid Feb 2018).  Surprising that (not).

Fortunately, our visits on the way home to John & Dierdre (for New Year) and Sally’s cousin Alan partially made up for it.  Sarah’s crossing home on the ferry was very rough, she was glad of a cabin.

Nothing specific planned for 2018 which is unusual for us, but no doubt our diary will soon fill up.

Broadway Tower & Anniversaries

IMG_5121Friday 13 October

A day visit with Flic, Gary and Cody to this folly overlooking the Worcestershire town of Broadway.

First stop the cafe for lunch followed by a walk to the Privately owned tower which is somewhere I had been as a child at a Scout Camp at nearby Stanway all those years ago.

The cafe is not particularly large but there were enough tables to house a German family, some American tourists and some Japanese tourists but does have a large outside seating area.

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Red Buck

Today though is too windy, even though it is 20C, remarkable for mid October.

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Red deer

A short walk up the road to the tower past some deer with a seated Red Buck admiring his harem.

Sal stays with the pram whilst the rest of us go up, passing through rooms with Curtains and wallpaper designed by William Morris, another floor about the history of the folly and one about the nearby listening post used for military purposes.

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William Morris fabric & wallpaper

Broadway Tower was the brainchild of the great 18th Century landscape designer, Capability Brown. His vision was carried out for George William 6th Earl of Coventry with the help of renowned architect James Wyatt and completed in 1798. [this paragraph from the tower’s website https://broadwaytower.co.uk/history/ ]

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Broadway from Broadway Tower

Wonderful views out over the countryside from the top but it is so windy!

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Flic, Gary & Cody

We now head for Honeyborne where there is a little zoo, café and shop, perhaps something for Cody when he is older.

We say goodbye to Flic, Gary & Cody who head off home and we head for Gloucester Water Park and the de Vere hotel there for a special celebration.

Saturday 14 October

50th Wedding anniversary celebrations with Phillip & Sylvia – ours is not far behind (in numbers) but we do share the same day.

We have been invited to a meal at the de Vere hotel to celebrate with their family and close friends. Some of their friends we have met before and of course the family we know well although have not seen them for a few years.

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Old houses at Bilbury

The morning was spent driving around some of the Cotswold villages we had not been too before including Bibury, a place where many tourists go for the picturesque houses – so many tourists, how do the locals cope.

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Phillip & Sylvia

A lovely evening meal with a magician for entertainment and a “slide show” of some family photos spreading over many years, some of which included us.

We had found some photos of us all together and much to their daughter Andrea’s delight, we had managed to unearth one they hadn’t been able to find.

Sunday 15 October

Back on the late ferry from Liverpool, not as rough as was expected bearing in mind the following day we were hit by the ex Hurricane Ophelia.

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New Grandson

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Afternoon ferry under a beautiful blue sky albeit a tad breezy and an opportunity to watch another Episode of Rake with an overnight stay at HIE Bromsgrove.

6 May

20170717_100943Our house in the Forest would have needed cleaning but the last few days were not occupied so Rob was able to do this before he went on his Skittles tour.

Nevertheless, we visited anyway to ensure all was well and to say our farewells to the gardener who is leaving the area at the end of the month.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t speak to Ken the neighbour who fixed our door for us in an emergency so head off to Flic’s who is still heavily pregnant, before venturing to our friend, Viv’s house who has volunteered to have us as house guests for a week.

7 May

Not a significant family birthday but nevertheless, a meal out at the Black Boy followed by a gentle stroll around local ponds.

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Elvetham ponds

8 May

Viv off on a holiday with a friend and I am taking them to the station in Fleet for a train just after 5AM.  Not surprisingly, not a lot of other traffic.

9 to 13 May

Various trips helping Flic who is getting frustrated about still being pregnant.  She is now overdue and we have a ferry tomorrow.

Collect Viv from railway station after her French trip about midnight – she had a great time and we of course are so thankful for the stay.

14 May

We are coming back to the UK later in the week anyway so try and get ferry changed but at a cost of over £200 it is not financially viable so head up the motorway for a couple of days at home.

17 May

Ferry to Liverpool and overnight at HIE Shrewsbury but can’t wait to get to see the new arrival.

18 May

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New Grandson

Flic is staying in hospital due to complications with the birth – and of course we head straight there for our first cuddles.

A very contented little boy but Flic is understandably very tired so we head off early to the Holiday Inn at Reading for our stay.

19 May

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Mel’s cuddle time

 

Pick up Mel from Wokingham and spend about an hour with Flic, Gary and baby in the hospital before we leave for our trip to London to watch the Beach Boys at the Royal Albert Hall.

Another fantastic performance preceded by a meal which was very good value for money at the Elgar Restaurant.

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Beach Boys in concert at the Royal Albert Hall

The train to London from Winnersh Triangle was surprisingly busy as was the return train from Paddington to Reading.

Flic had kindly arranged for a taxi to pick us up and return us to the Hotel.

20 May

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Laura’s cuddles time

A bit of shopping and then off to hospital for more cuddles – Laura joins us as well and managed a pose in front of a suitably painted wall in Flic’s room in the hospital!

Many thanks to the staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

Another trek up the Motorway to Liverpool for a ferry journey back home.

29 May – 3 June

Flic had a C Section and as Gary has returned to work, we are off to Reading to help Flic as she can’t drive.

EasyJet flights this time to Gatwick with train to and from Earley and a week of helping her (as she can’t drive) and we stay this time at the Crowne Plaza using some points from previous stays.

We have to get back home on the Saturday morning as we have visitors arriving the following day for the Annual TT races in the IoM as we offer a Homestay facility.

It is so hard to say goodbye to such a contented little grandson al though we will be back after TT near the end of June.