Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Social weekend

Barbondale
Saturday morning saw us down at the school with Craven Wanderers again.  Tom lost himself during the first half of the match, but after a talking to by Matt he did really well in the second half.  Why oh why can't he try hard without the talking to?  Oh hum!!!!!

We had lunch at Inglesport and then headed over to Barbondale to do the magic chocolate tree walk down to the pub for a drink and back again.  However, there were 4 lively young bulls in one of the fields we had to cross and we decided against it.  Luckily we were able to get to the chocolate tree though, where Tom found some smarties.

Dressed for blackberrying
We decided to hang out at the beck at Barbon instead, throwing stones, damming, splashing in the water etc etc.  We got back around 3 and then prepared for what was probably the last BBQ of the year with the Bickerstaffs.  We didn't take any photos as we were all having fun, but the boys got on well, as did the adults, and we managed to sit outside until about 7.30pm.

Sunday we headed to Austwick in the morning to do some blackberrying.  At first we were worried that we had missed the boat as all the bushes had spent berries on them, but then we found some healthy bushes and we were away, we managed 3lbs in the end and did the longer walk to Elaine's in Feizor for lunch and were very happily surprised to come across a herd of Galloway Belties - including some rather cute looking calves.  We then dropped Matt off and headed to Clapham Park, where we met up with Alice and Charlie.  The boys played football all afternoon whilst Alice and I nattered.

Galloway beltie
A good social weekend.



Charlie Bucket

What a charlie!
On Tuesday all the children had to dress up as a character from a Roald Dahl book to celebrate his 100th birthday.  Luckily Tom chose Charlie Bucket and I knew Janine had a spare vintage jumper so with that, gel in the hair so it would go sideways and a Mummy made golden ticket he went to school.  I was quite pleased with the result.  Oh, how I hate fancy dress!

Red Squirrels and a Bike Ride


Posing for the camera
So we were back to the old routine this weekend, which meant Saturday morning football.  Now, we were all a bit worried about what would happen to the team this year as there were only about 4 in Tom's age group and the younger ones wouldn't be able to play with them this year.  Not a problem, Finn had decided that he wanted to join, and as he joined, Fred of course joined and then Matthew decided to give it a go too.  On top of that the coach had managed to find a couple of Kirkby Lonsdale families with children who wanted to give it a go.  Now there are about 15 players in his age group.  Some of the new children are brilliant too, Lucas doesn't look so amazing anymore as others are as good.  Tom didn't get swamped by the new people either and looked good enough, trying at least to tackle and get the ball.  It was nice to have the other parents to talk too as well.

We weren't sure what to do in the afternoon, Matt had a light bulb moment and suggested we go looking for red squirrels at Snaizeholme, near to Hawes.  Wow!  I was expecting to maybe glimpse one after looking very hard for a very long time.  Not so.  We saw loads of them, and not only that - they were as tame as anything and came up to sniff around us.  We couldn't believe our eyes, as a result red squirrels are now Tom's favourite animal!  They were very beautiful creatures darting in and out around the trees in the forest.  It was a very pleasant hour we spent watching them.
Close up

Sunday was another nice day.  We decided to go on a bike ride from Halton to Glasson Dock and back.  It wasn't a good start - we forgot that Tom's bike's seat was at its lowest height from the pump track and Matt's seat was loose and we didn't have an allen key!  Not to worry though, we were on a bike route, we found better prepared people on the route and were soon sorted - note to selves, make sure we have allen keys with us in the future!  We have done the ride before, my memory was that it was quite a long trek, but obviously both Tom and I have got a bit fitter since as it didn't seem that long at all (and that was with my brake pads rubbing on my front wheel, slowing me down!).  It was a 16 mile ride all together, a perfect tonic for Matt who was suffering from a hangover after a big night out with the cricket crowd.  We had lunch at a good greasy spoon in Glasson Dock, which was full of cyclists.  It took us no time at all to cycle back to the car.  My legs were hurting and felt as if they were made from rubber, but it was good to be out on the bikes again, it has been a while.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Return to School

Tom through the years
Wednesday Tom went back to school - boo hoo!  He was happy though.  We took the customary photo to prove he has grown in the last year.  As soon as he arrived he went to see his friends and dumped us!  Oh well.  All the children in his class have grown so much over the holidays - no denying they are getting older!

London


Dining in style
So on Friday we went on our last mini holiday of the summer - this time a trip to London to see Michael, Sarah and little Millie.

We were lucky enough to get cheap tickets for the way down so ended up in First Class - very posh!  Nice wide seats, free alcohol AND we got served our tea.  They didn't have a children's menu - so Tom had a full adult's portion!  Chick pea curry for me, chicken and chorizo stew for Matt and pasta with salmon for Tom.  Tom's of course was the biggest!

On arrival in Euston, we got the 68 bus straight to Michael's street in Herne Hill.  It took an hour, but it always takes an hour to get anywhere in London.  The journey may have been slow, but there was plenty to look at - other buses, shops, tube stations etc etc.  Tom kept up a running commentary.

We got to Michael's around 9.30pm, so Tom went straight to bed whilst we stayed up and had wine and chatted.

Able seamen
Saturday we had an easy relaxing day.  After a late breakfast (bread from the local German Artisan Bakery) and a play in the garden with the paddling pool out, we headed out for a look around the local area - Herne Hill is a gentrified, yummy mummy sort of place (just next door to Dulwich).  We ended up in Dulwich Park where we hired a pedalo and collected blackberries from the banks for a while, then a play in the park where we met up with Millie (she was having an afternoon nap) until it started to rain.

Tom straddling the meridian
We then headed back to Michael's house for a play before tea.  As it was our 12th wedding anniversary, Michael and Sarah offered to babysit for us, so we headed to a rather lovely local Japanese restaurant for very posh nosh.  What a bonus - we didn't expect that, but we leaped at the chance and found ourselves in a very busy restaurant where we had a couple of Japanese starters, some Chinese mains and chocolate fondant pudding with umeshu plum compote.  All very very very delicious - a great night out.

Sunday we had a day out.  We met up with Sarah's sister in Greenwich, bought some delicacies from the local market and ate them in the park (Tom chose sushi and inhaled it at an astonishing rate!).  We then went up to the observatory to enjoy the view, whilst Millie played in the park.  After a lot of investigation, Matt found the line between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres and Tom had his photo taken straddling the two.

We then headed into the Maritime Museum for a quick look around.  Wow!  It was great.  Our first stop was a huge big map of the world.  I think we spent a good hour just running around it - we did country location with Tom and then he spent quite a bit of time 'swimming' in the oceans.  We also found a children's play area with lots and lots of activities which Tom and Millie enjoyed.

Nice spot to park your super-yacht
We then got a Thames Clipper along the Thames to the South Bank.  They are very very nifty boats - speeding along much faster than I thought.  Just as we went under Tower Bridge, it opened up to let through a tall boat - how cool is that? We also breezed past a Russian Billionaire's super-yacht, which had been moored next to HMS Belfast.

At the South Bank we headed to The Tate for tea and a bun, and in Tom and Millie's case - dinner.  Then a train and a quick walk back to Michael's house - a good, fun filled day out - Tom certainly got his fill of transport.

Sand pit in a museum!
Monday morning Matt went to see a customer in Gerrards Cross whilst Tom and I went to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.  We had a fab time, he was the oldest child there (I guess London schools went back today).  He got to play with the toys on show whilst I reminisced about my old toys.  We found a Draughts set, I explained the rules to Tom and we were away.  He understood pretty much straight away and was hooked.  We were playing it for over an hour.


We then looked around the rest of the museum, there was a sandpit, a model railway, hobby horses etc etc.  Matt caught up with us at lunchtime and had happily discovered a Japanese restaurant directly opposite the museum, so we headed to there.  We had another scrumptious lunch and then headed to West India Quay to the Museum of London Docklands, which neither of us had heard of and was huge and very interesting (if you don't have a 7 year old with a limited attention span with you).  Certainly one to revisit at some time.

Diver Tom
We then headed back to Michael's.  As both Michael and Sarah had been working, I offered to make tea and made some sweet potato and lentil patties as per a favourite recipe of theirs - it was very tasty - another to add to our repertoire.

Tuesday - we decided to have breakfast in a bakery in Dulwich Village with all the yummy mummies and then we packed up and got the 68 back to Euston Station.  After a lovely fast food lunch at Leon (a new London based health fast food chain) we got the train back home.

A good break with good friends.


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Leeds

Fun with food!
Thursday, Matt wanted to spend his Miller and Carter voucher he got for his birthday, so we headed to Leeds on the train for the day.

We got the late train out so first stop was Miller and Carter, where we enjoyed a two course meal each. Calamari and BBQ chicken wings for starters, steak for mains for both Matt and me, and fish and chips for Tom, and then Tom had a chocolate brownie for dessert.  It was all very delicious - a good birthday present.

We then did a little bit of shopping - mainly window shopping, I found an indoor market with a big wool shop and 2 ribbon shops, so will keep that in mind for next time if I need any purchases.  (Also found the original M and S penny bazaar in it too).  

video
We also visited the Corn Exchange for the first time - a beautiful building which seemed to be hosting an NFL promo (American Football) complete with cheerleaders with huge cleavages - Matt was very happy!  Tom had a go at throwing a football through a hole and succeeded twice - much to his delight - see video here: 

After a quick stop at the Lego store and Primark, the boys went to a pub which has a terrace that overlooks the train station - a perfect compromise: Tom is able to watch trains, and Matt gets to drink.  I did a little more shopping (including getting our tea from Wasabi, as is tradition with a trip to Leeds) and then we got the train home.

Not an exciting day, but a nice, relaxed family day.


A pub with a view.

Leia and Rosa come to stay


Leia, Gromit, Wallace, Rosa & Tom
On Tuesday Karen drove up with Leia and Rosa.  We spent the morning getting in some groceries and tidying up in time for them arriving for lunch.  The idea was to take them to the outdoor pool, but it was very overcast.  However, Leia and Rosa are tough cookies and were very excited about the idea of swimming outside and wanted to go, so we packed up lots of towels and headed over.  We were surprised to find the pool quite busy.  The kids jumped straight in and had a great time.  So much so that before we knew it the whistle blew and it was time to get out.  We spent the rest of the afternoon in the park, before heading home for a Japanese curry dinner which they all ate up.

Matt went out to the first meeting of the new Whisky club which has been formed by the Old Post Office, so Karen and I stayed in for a natter.  The kids, tired out from swimming and playing went to bed without too much fuss and were asleep quickly.

Wednesday dawned grey and rainy so I decided to take them up to Wensleydale Creamery as they haven't been there to date.  I know that they had updated their visitor experience, but I wasn't expecting by how much - there was a whole new building with loads more interactive displays for the children to play with.  I think we ended up there for over an hour which was great.  Then, of course the tasting room before heading home.

Big Cow!
Even though it was raining, the children wanted to go swimming again, so we had a quick lunch and then headed out to the swimming pool.  Unfortunately, the life guard didn't turn up!  We were just about to give up when a mum turned up who just happens to be a swimming teacher and life guard, so she offered to be the life guard for the session and saved the day.

As Karen was starting work the next day, they left straight after the swimming.  It had been a good visit.

Cool in Yorkshire

Pendragon Castle
So I think I slipped into a coma last night!  I don't remember turning the light off, and Matt says I was deep asleep in seconds.  Guess I needed it!

It dawned nice and sunny this morning - not hot though, which was nice.  We decided to have a day out in the countryside.  After a bit of deliberating, we headed out on the Garsdale to Kirkby Stephen road to the remains of Pendragon Castle.

Now this was a turn up for the books.  It is on private land, but you are allowed to enter and explore, AND there are no fences and no signs telling you to keep off.  This meant that we went clambering mad.  Unfortunately lots of farm animals have been there, making some of the clambering a bit smelly and slimy but it was good.

Kings of the castle
We then went for a walk up a hill searching for waterfalls on the map.  We didn't find them!  We did get wet in the boggy hillside though, so decided to call it a day and head back down.  It was now time for lunch so we decided to try out the local pub, the Moorcock Inn.  We were very very pleasantly surprised.  The service was very good and although the menu wasn't huge or particularly interesting, we discovered when we got our food it was all made from scratch, including Tom's chicken bites - we were impressed and will be back.

Next stop was Hawes, as we received a request from Michael for some Wensleydale cheese when we visit later in the week.  We did a quick once around Elijah Allen's as well and seemed to end up spending quite a bit on interesting deli type purchases.  Hawes was absolutely rammed, we thought maybe there was an event on, but think it was just full of day trippers from the city - mostly on motorbikes.  The creamery was really busy too, so we had a drink first, hoping the queue would go down, it didn't!  We stood in line and believe it or not a Japanese family queued behind us (they work at the Nissan factory in Washington).  Matt did his usual party trick and got the required reaction - well you wouldn't expect to meet a fluent Japanese speaker in Hawes would you?
Local resident

We headed back home via Dent, Deepdale and Kingsdale to enjoy the hills in the sun.  We then did some gardening - i.e. chopping some bushes back and pulling weeds out of the soil) before having a small tea.  A quiet, relaxing and enjoyable day.



Sunday, 28 August 2016

Hot Hot Hot in Holland


So on Wednesday morning, I ran around getting our packing done - trying to pack as little as possible but make sure we have everything for a day in the city and 2 days camping.  Being British I wanted to take raincoats, but Chananja told me not too so I left them behind.

Our plane
Once I thought I had it all sorted, we headed into the village to meet up with Susan, Harrison, Alfie and the two girls for a play in the park.  Tom, Alfie and Harrison were straight to it - having boys own adventures, collecting blackberries.  It was lovely to see.

At 12, we said goodbye and headed to Bernies to meet Matt for lunch.  Baked beans for me, fish fingers, chips and beans for Tom and soup for Matt.  Tom and I then packed up the car and headed for the airport.  We passed lots of traffic jams going the opposite way to us, but were unaffected and made good time.  We breezed through check-in and actually had time to do a little bit of shopping and watch planes etc.  The airport was pretty busy - finding two seats together was difficult but we got there in the end.

Our flight boarded early, then we sat on the tarmac for ages, but we arrived in Schipol on time so can't complain.  It was hot, Hot, HOT!  I felt like we had been on a long-haul flight to Asia - the heat and humidity hit us big time as we walked off the plane.  It was over 30 degrees.  It's nuts when you think about it - we are only 300 miles from each other!  We had to negotiate a huge, HUGE passport queue before we collected our bag and headed into the concourse looking for Chananja and Raimo.  Didn't see them at first, think they had found a seat, getting bored of looking for us.

We then headed to the bus stops to get a bus back to their place.  Problem - there was no bus - the last one had already left!  Chananja ended up having to call her neighbour to come and collect us - oops!  Never mind, everyone was good humoured about it.

Think we got to Chananja's around 9.15pm, Raimo and Tom then started playing nerf guns - in fact they were playing immediately, the language barrier was none existent!  Ramio and Tom went to bed at 10pm, whilst we stayed up chatting until past 1 in the morning.

Dam Square
It was a very hot, sweaty night - I didn't sleep that well, sweating, sweating, sweating.  Tom did better - we were sharing a double bed - he was out for the count when I joined him and didn't move all night.  I wish I could do that!

On the Canalbike
Typical Amsterdam Scene
We got up late in the morning - think it was past 8.30am, then organised ourselves for the next 3 days - we are going camping, had breakfast (bread, cheese, celeriac salad and crab salad).  Tom tried Raimo's breakfast of choice: bread and butter with chocolate sprinkles and failed - it was too sweet for him.  He reverted to just bread and butter.  Oh and it was hot, Hot, HOT again - over 30 degrees.  It was going to be a hot sweaty day.

Driver not looking where she is going!
We packed the car and headed to Osdorp (Chananja's old stamping ground) where she parked the car, near to a sushi restaurant where we were going to have an early tea.  We then got a tram (Tom was very excited) to Dam Square - to see the palace etc.  The plan for the day was to go canal biking.  I thought that meant biking along the canals, but it meant getting a pedalo and cycling it around the canals.  Great fun, and lovely to see the city from a different point of view.  First of all we had to find from where to get the pedalo.  We walked down some main streets to Leidseplein where we eventually found the right place. We then pedalled around the canals. We took it in turns: Chananja and Raimo, then me and Tom (Tom having to almost sit on the floor to be able to reach the pedals) and then me and Chananja. I had no idea about navigation and left it to Chananja, my steering was pretty shocking too, but the experience was fab, and with the sun shining the city was looking very handsome.

I Amsterdam
Clogs!
Nik & Tom 'a' Amsterdam
It was hot, Hot, HOT though so sweaty work. After an hour we had got ourselves to the Rijksmuseum and dropped off the boat and picked up an ice-cream each. How do you know when it is hot? Tom has an ice-cream and he did. We walked through the Rijksmuseum and found ourselves in a park with an 'I Amsterdam' and a huge paddling pool. We headed straight to the paddling pool and all got in. It felt so so so so good to have cool water lapping around our legs. Once refreshed and recovered, we headed to Vondelpark which we walked through to Surinameplein where we got the tram back to Osdorp and the sushi restaurant. By now Tom was beside himself with tiredness and heat. We had been constantly drinking all day, but he hadn't ate much (my mistake I think). We sat down and ordered our sushi - but Raimo's arrived first and Tom could not comprehend that Raimo could have some and he couldn't - we had full on tears! We were all a little stunned, Raimo generously handed some of his over for Tom to eat - but there was no placating him - he had gone past the point of no return. Once some sushi had gone in, Tom settled down and enjoyed himself - he managed to eat more than me - ordering one more round than me. It was good stuff too - I think Matt would enjoy this place.

Cooling down
Once we had all finished, we walked back to the car, bought yet more drinks and then headed across Holland to the campsite where Chananja's parents have a caravan. It was a 2.5 hour hot drive. We arrived at 8.15, said a quick hello to Chananja's parents and put the tent straight up as the daylight was ebbing away. Raimo and Tom went to bed whilst Chananja and I stargazed - just like being back in Australia again (don't think either of us would have predicted that this would happen 16 years down the line). A good, yet very hot and sweaty day.







Group shot
Not a great night's sleep - we were packed in like sardines in Chananja's tent. I was between Tom and Raimo and suffered from fingers up
Nice lake
Pleased with his bike
my nose, foot in my face, wriggles, elbows in my cheeks etc etc, as well as a lot of sweating. We got up quite late - around 8.30, did teeth etc and then headed to Piet and Dineke's for breakfast: fresh bread from the campsite bakery with cheese and ham - yummy. Tom went for bread and jam after not enjoying Raimo's breakfast of choice yesterday. We then went to collect some bikes - one for me and a small one for Tom. Tom was very excited. Bikes in Holland are very different to bikes in England. They are made for leisurely bike rides on the flat, not mountain biking up and down hills. Tom's, therefore, was very heavy. However, it had a luggage rack on the back and a stand. That was all that was needed. He was delighted. He HAD to have luggage each time we went out, he had to pedal everywhere on the campsite - even if it was just round the corner and he was in charge of the stand etc. They couldn't have chosen a better activity for him.

In the morning, we cycled through some heather moorland to a lake where the boys did some pond dipping and Tom tried to swim. (He failed though, it was too shallow for swimming). The lake was surrounded by sand. There were only a few other families there. It was a lovely, idyllic place. Dineke and Raimo spent the whole time pond dipping - Tom dipped in and out but really got into it by the end. They both had a good bucket full of bugs.
A good haul

Pond dipping
We cycled back to the campsite for lunch: bacon and eggs on bread - very nice too. We then got in the cars and headed out to Dwingelderveld National Park, which is the largest wet heathland of Western-Europe.  The heather was out as well - so it was shining purple in the sunshine.  We went to a viewpoint and then the visitor centre where we got more pond dipping equipment - need to brush up on my pond insects as the Dutch names on the identification sheets were nothing like English ones.

After a look around a butterfly garden, we then headed back to the campsite where Tom, Raimo and I jumped into the very cold pool for a swim.  It was lovely - instant relief from the hot, sweaty days we have been experiencing - but it was very cold!  We spent a while playing piggie in the middle.  I managed to escape to dry off but was made to return to the pool for another session.
BBQ

Chef
After that we got dried and dressed and headed to Dineke's and Piet's for a BBQ dinner.  I knew this was coming my way.  AND I knew it would be big.  They believe in over catering, nothing would be worse than running out of food.  They knew that I have lost a lot of weight, and were on a mission to fatten me up again.  There was no point trying to fight it - so I was a good guest and ate everything I was given.  It was all good food - just lots of it - and all meat and carbohydrates, not much in the way of vegetables, although there was a fruit salad.  My stomach was screaming by the end of it!

Very happy cyclists
By the end of dinner, both boys were playing up so we decided to call it a day and put them to bed early.  We cycled back to our tent and they went to bed.  It took almost 2 hours for them to go to sleep - every excuse in the book was made to avoid falling asleep.  They worked in shifts as well: it was almost as if they planned it.  In the end Chananja had a word with Tom and they went quiet and went to sleep.  Phew - should have done that much earlier!  




Me and two boys

I spent another night being attacked by Tom in his sleep - oh joy! He was so deeply asleep, I couldn't wake him up or reason with him! We were up earlier and made our 8.30 breakfast appointment - more buns with cheese and ham. Then we headed out on a 17km bike ride in the Heather moorland. It was beautiful - we had forest, sand, flat land, nice farm houses, horses, sheep, everything - and all in the sunshine. It was lovely. Tom was delighted to be on his bike again - he had Soffie Bear as his luggage - so I was on duty to check he was ok. He also got the hang of being on the other side of the road very well and was looking in the right direction almost immediately. For him it wasn't the destination, it was the journey!
Riding a horsey

Great swimming games
We got back and had lunch - more buns with cheese, ham and egg and then after some quiet time, trying to get some diary work out of Tom (not very successfully) we went for a swim. I decided to bow out this time. Raimo and Tom were pretty happy playing a water polo type game for a while.

Eating ice cream - it must be hot!

After more ice-creams we called it a day at the pool and returned to Dienke and Piet's. The boys then played football solidly for the rest of the afternoon - they were very very hot, but didn't care. In fact they spent every spare minute playing football. Chananja was nervous because Raimo's knees are liable to 'go' at any moment, causing him pain, but luckily they didn't and they were having fun. Neither of them get to go on holiday with other children, so they were relishing the opportunity for games the whole time.

Great friends
We had another BBQ for tea - some left over food from last night and some. I did good and ate up again. We then headed back to Amsterdam - it was another hot, sweaty ride. Both boys fell asleep which was a blessing - they were so so tired, they needed it. We got back around 8.30pm. We did a quick FaceTime chat with Matt and I chucked Tom in a shower (he's come out with a rash which I think is a heat rash) and put him straight to bed. Chananja and I tried to stay up a little longer - but we were both exhausted as well and gave up and crashed.

Football camp
Tired!

I had a slightly better night, although it was still hot, Hot, HOT! Got up at 8am, packed quickly and were on our way to the airport at 9. Checked in - had an argument with KLM - they wanted 35 Euros from me to put my case in the hold. It was free from Manchester? No-body could explain why. There was no mention of being charged for hold luggage on my paperwork. I might as well have flown Easyjet - I thought you could escape that with a scheduled service! But that was that - it was 35 Euros or take the case on as hand luggage. Hand luggage it was then! I gave Chananja all my liquids (they were worth much less than 35 Euros). We then had lunch - pancakes for the boys (with the shape of an airplane made from icing sugar and sprinkles for them to play with) a cheese and mushroom pancake for me (well we are in the land of pancakes) and some sandwiches for Chananja. Then it was time to say goodbye and head to security and passport control. More queues - my small bag got searched this time because there were loose coins in it (I had had to take them out of a plastic bag so I could put my small liquids in it!) A quick look around the shops and then to the gate. We boarded on time but were delayed because...people had too much hand luggage with them - there wasn't enough room for it all - so some had to go in the hold!!!!!! I mean really, I hope they got fined for missing their time slot!!

Airplane pancake
Other than that we had a good trip back, it was nice and cool in Manchester - 21 degrees, felt lovely and refreshing. Drove back along the motorway and to Ingleton. Matt wasn't here as he was playing cricket - well supposed to be - it got cancelled due to a dangerous pitch. He pitched up about half an hour after we arrived home.

Wow - what a holiday. It was only 3 days, but we packed so much in. Thank you to Chananja and her family for being such great hosts and arranging so many great things to do. Much appreciated. Until next time...

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Boys' day out

Tom with "Isle of Mull"
As I was to be on my own for 5 days from Wednesday, we decided that I would take Tom out for a day on Tuesday. He mentioned that he would like to do a museum (very grown-up!), and in the end we decided on the National Football Museum in Manchester, which of course involves a couple of train rides (another good reason).

We drove from Ingleton to Lancaster, and got the First Trans-Pennine Express train, but not before we had seen a beautiful freshly painted Class 37 (Tom's favourite diesel engine) going the other way towards Barrow.

Our train was surprisingly empty, and Tom managed to charm a young Chinese lady, who was on her way to Liverpool for sightseeing, and an older English lady, who was clearly impressed by Tom's chatty affable nature.

Nice lunch
Naturally, we had to watch trains at Piccadilly Station for a good half hour once we arrived, which involved plenty of Virgin Pendolinos and one enormous container train, which he enjoyed very much. He counted 40 containers, which was probably about right. We then wondered down into central Manchester, wondering where to have lunch. As luck would have it, we came across a tapas restaurant with lunch specials, so a lunch of lovely Spanish food was the order of the day.

After a quick trip to Fatface to replace the hat that Tom left on a train last time we were out together, we headed to the Football Museum. Entry is free, but for a £5 donation,  you can have your photo taken with the actual Premier League trophy (which was so heavy he couldn't lift it) and a go on the penalty shootout tournament upstairs.

To be honest, a lot of the exhibits in the museum went over Tom's head rather - I think he would've been happier watching highlights clips from years gone by, but there was just about enough interest there for him. We were probably there only for an hour and a half or so, but I enjoyed it, and I think he will too in a couple of years.

The trophy
I had promised him a tram ride back to Piccadilly, but the lines were being dug up, so we opted for one of the free city centre buses instead. Big mistake. It was a very hot day, there was no air conditioning, the traffic was terrible, and we got the bus going the wrong way round a circular route. In the end, I couldn't bear it any longer, so we jumped off at Oxford Road station and got the train one stop back to Piccadilly, where we only had about 10 minutes watching trains before ours arrived.

The journey back was equally uneventful, and we got a table again, meaning that he was able to play with the multitude of vehicles he brought in his rucksack.
We had a slight sulk when I told him we were going home for tea with mummy rather than a pub tea at The Bridge Inn in Tatham, but all in all it was a pleasant day out.



Sunday, 21 August 2016

Back on the road home


Arriving at Ullapool
On Saturday morning we were up at 5.15 so we could be at the ferry terminal in Stornoway for last check in at 6.15.  We boarded the ferry and set sail dead on time at 7am.  This time we were on a very nice 2 year old ferry, M.V Loch Seaforth.  First stop was the restaurant for breakfast as we were all starving and then we relaxed into the 2.5 hour journey to Ullapool.

We were very lucky as the weather, once again was amazing.  The crossing was more like a scenic cruise - you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in Scandinavia, as we cruised down a long sea lock amongst islands and mountains towards Ullapool.  We had expected Ullapool to be another Uig - i.e. just a ferry port, nothing more.  We were wrong, first of all it was the most scenic port I have ever been to (at the head of a loch, surrounded by purple mountains) and secondly, it was a pretty and thriving town - lots of amenities and good looking eating establishments.  Shame we had a lot of miles to eat up today as it would have been good to hang around and investigate.  I have a feeling we will be back one day to investigate more.
View from the observation lounge

Canyoning
We drove, drove, drove through the Highlands, there aren't many roads in the Highlands meaning that you can't really take a direct route back home.  We drove east to Inverness and then south to Pitlochry.  We decided to stop off at House of Bruar again and were glad we did as we had a fantastic lunch - fish pie and roast lamb, which we divided between the 3 of us.  We discovered a waterfalls walk behind the venue which we investigated, it was a good 2.5 mile walk in the forest following a waterfall up a valley (a very mini version of the Ingleton falls walk).  It was very pleasant and just what we needed to stretch our legs.  When we got to the bottom we came across a group of people taking part in canyoning.  They were jumping into pools off cliffs etc and was actually quite a good spectator sport.  Now if I was in my 20s I would be up for it big time, but now I would be worried about hurting myself in some way (very boring middle aged comment I know!)


Nik and Tom at the Falls Of Bruar
We headed on down to Livingston where we had booked a Travelodge room for the night.  The weather turned on us - it poured on us, it was a grey, drizzly horrible journey, we were happy to get there.  We checked in, had a rest and then headed out to Tony Macaroni for dinner (ground floor of the hotel) which had the biggest menu I have ever seen and churned out ok food.  So glad we didn't have to go any further.  We all collapsed into bed around 9pm.

Sunday we got up and headed to a local Wetherspoons for breakfast which was astonishingly cheap and good value for money.  The hotel, it turned out, was part of a retail development including a designer outlet centre and a number of other retail parks.  We decided to do a quick once around, Matt and I both bought some clothes (always the way: when you least expect it, shopping is easier than when you are under pressure!), I spent a quick half hour in Hobbycraft (I could spend 2 hours in that shop, although still wouldn't buy too much, especially cake stuff as it is so overpriced there).  We then headed further south.  We stopped off at Gretna services for lunch (a doughnut each) and then home.

We got back around 3pm, unpacked, and then decided to head to the Old Post Office for post holiday platters.  A perfect end to a lovely holiday.