Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Winter weekends

Jack, Sierra and Tom
Saturday and we were back to routine.  Up early for football training (all other schools round here had already been back for a week).  It was a grey day and as we have had a busy half term we decided to take it easy.  We loaded up the car with stuff for the tip and then headed to Settle to dispose of it.  Next stop was Lay of the Land where we had a very lovely lunch (baked eggs with chorizo for me, fish and chips for the boy and a bacon sarnie for the big boy)  2 separate sets of customers asked me what mine was as it looked so good - it was too!

We then bought some winter flowers for our hanging baskets (only just realised that winter hanging baskets were a thing!)  I did a quick circuit of Booths whilst the boys went to the train station to watch a special diesel go through the station.  We then met up at Pat and Bob's to pick up our bounty from Unilever.  Next stop was Escape bike shop for a special nut and for Matt to get bike envy and lastly Country Harvest to buy some bread flour (they have stopped doing onion bread flour which is a disaster!!!!!)  Then back home, for tea and bed.

Muddy kids
Sunday: Tom had been asking us to do a long bike ride for ages.  We finally had a day when it was dry and we were free.  The Mannings were also up for it, so we headed out and drove to Bull Beck.  Steph and John hadn't been to Glasson Dock so we did that route.  We didn't realise at the time that it was the Lancaster half marathon and they were using the bike routes, so we had to share the same path for a bit and had to stop and start quite a bit to let the runners through.  Saw a couple of people we knew doing it - so shouted encouragement to them all.

We motored on through the city and out the other side (Lancaster is a very small city) into the salt marsh and along to Glasson Dock.  It didn't take all that long, the kids were on good form, especially Jack who is only 6 - he's a machine, once he starts going, he doesn't stop!

Eye on the ball as always
We arrived at the Cafe d'Lune just as the kids were getting hungry and ordered our lunches.  Then into Glasson Dock and out and back again through the city (the half marathon was over) and back to Bull Beck.  The bike ride was 20 miles overall and took us 4 hours including stops.  As I said young Jack blew us all away with his stamina.  Tom lead us all the way there and back.  John was suffering from gout so was behind and everyone else in-between.  It was a good day out.

Thursday - Sam came round to babysit, whilst Matt and I went out to watch Bohemian Rhapsody in Kendal.  Was good fun, not completely accurate, but the actors playing Freddie and Brian looked and sounded exactly like their name sakes.  I very much enjoyed it.
Ingleton Viaduct

Friday Tom had cricket at QES in the evening - they are doing one session a month so the kids keep their eye in.  It was really good, loads turned up (in the past it has just been Tom and Emma and maybe Luca), lots of enthusiasm and a good fun match at the end.

Saturday we were back to football training again.  There should have been a tournament in Grassington, but it was cancelled on Friday due to a waterlogged pitch.  As it was another grey day, we headed to Staveley to Hawkshead Brewery for lunch.  Tom had a very rich macaroni cheese which he couldn't finish, I had broccoli and Stilton soup which was overloaded with cream and Matt had loaded chips.  It was good, but we all suffered from dairy overload for the rest of the day and didn't really get that much more done.  We went to Windermere for a look around Lakeland, but we didn't find anything and left empty handed.
Bowland from Twistleton

Sunday was Remembrance Day - I got the iron out and ironed Tom's Cub's jumper and necker, whilst Tom cleaned and polished his shoes.  We got to the church at 10, when Tom was shown what to do - he was carrying the Cub's flag.  We sang a few hymns, listened to the preacher, ignored most of what we were supposed to chant etc.  The kids were all great.  We then all went outside, listened to the list of names of the fallen and then observed 2 minutes silence all in the pouring rain.  The kids got soaked, but once again, all the children were brilliant - even the Beavers who are very young at 6 and 7.  We went back to church, sang a bit more, listened to more sermons etc.  Tom received his flag back and walked back through the church and that was that.

Here's a video of Tom carrying the Cubs flag: https://youtu.be/Zfz91SaAz4Y

Autumn leaves in Ingleton
We then went to Inglesport with the Mannings (Sierra is also a cub) to warm up and have lunch.  We had decided to do the Waterfalls walk in the afternoon, we asked the Mannings if they wanted to come, but Sierra wanted to bake.  The kids were given a choice of waterfalls walk or baking - they went for baking, so Matt and I did the waterfalls walk alone.  It was a good day for it - the sun was low in the sky, meaning that Matt got some great photos.

We headed to the Mannings afterwards, to eat freshly baked cake and pick up Tom, then back home for lamb henry and bed.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Back Home

So Matt had another really bad night and was feeling quite bad this morning, such a shame, what to do as I don't think drugs can fix it?

We got up, packed up and then headed onto the high street for breakfast, we had seen an interesting independent bakers which looked good yesterday and thought we would investigate for breakfast today, mainly because they had some great looking sausage rolls in the window and my boys both love sausage rolls.

We arrived and chose our breakfasts: sweet chilli sausage roll for Matt, cheese pasty for Tom and beans on toast for me.  It looked good, but Matt reported that the sausage roll was too spicy for first thing in the morning, and the coffee wasn't very good either.  Oh dear.  In fact we then went to the railway station to say goodbye to the trains and Matt had to run to the toilet.  Oh hum, not a great start to the day.

We headed back to the car and set off back home.  First stop was Hutton le Hole, which Malcolm had recommended to us.  It was a gorgeous little village set in a hollow with a tiny stream running through it.  We did our usual house window shopping deciding which we would have and came across a little craft centre with a chocolate shop in it - so I headed in for R&D purposes.  Lots of interesting hollow chocolates in different forms (one of which I recognised - my motorbike) they sell much cheaper than me, but then I paint mine with edible paint and they don't.  Nice to see what others do and the price in a shop.
Ravens at Knaresborough Castle

We then headed back to the car and drove to Knaresborough.  It was only 45 miles away but it took us about 2 hours to get there, due to small windy roads (Tom felt a little queasy), sudden closed road with no diversion at Thirsk which led us to going round and round in circles trying to get to the road out: we could see it, but every road we went down was a dead end.  Got there eventually, but words were said!  Then we had very very slow traffic in to the town itself.  We arrived weary and frustrated. On the plus side, we found a car park down by the riverside: 90p for 4 hours parking which was a huge bonus.

We went for a walk, headed up the cliffs to the castle from which we saw a Scot Rail train cross the viaduct (not sure why a Scot Rail train) so all the delays had been worth it - we saw a train.  Knaresborough is famous for is viaduct and rightfully too - it is very handsome: it has crenelations and arrow slits.  On reading the history of it - this is actually the second one, as the first one fell down just before it was opened.  Caused all manor of havoc, polluting the river, causing river levels to rise and a right mess!  They obviously started again and made a very very resilient structure - it is all commanding.
The viaduct and the River Nidd

We walked around the grounds of the castle, saw some rather naughty ravens who had been tethered after a spate of nastiness: stealing cameras and phones, abusive language, chasing children etc.  We headed into the rather nice town centre for some lunch - lovely smashed avocado on sour dough for me, a tea cake for Matt's fragile tummy and a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel for his nibs.

We then walked down to the riverside and along the banks back to the car.  We came across Mother Shipton's Cave, but didn't go in this time.  We need to come back to do Knaresborough some justice.  We headed home after then.  I drove this time as Matt wasn't looking well.  It was slow.  Took just under 2 hours, most of which was getting through Harrogate.

So a lovely week away, feels like we've been away longer, just a shame Matt wasn't on form.

Lazy morning and steamy walk

Pickering-bound train
So this morning we decided to take it easy - it was forecast rain (it didn't) but also with illness and tiredness and the fact we are on holiday, we needed a quiet morning.  I was despatched to Lidl to get some pastries (pain au raisin, pain au chocolat, goats' cheese foccacia - can you guess whose is whose?!), we ate them and then settled down to a couple more instalments of Famous Five, those pesky kids caught criminals the police had been trying to hunt down for years - how do they do it?!

Then a game of Rummikub which Matt won by not being able to start for absolutely ages and then when he did, he got out instantly - hummmm!  We then went for a wander around the town and did some shopping before enjoying lunch in one of the tea rooms (sandwich for the boy, crumpet stack of smoked salmon and cream cheese for Matt and soup with a cheese scone for me).

Heading back to Whitby
We then headed off on a walk.  We were going to explore Pickering Castle but we aren't members of English Heritage and having already paid an entrance fee to them to see Whitby Abbey we decided to give it a miss, so we walked past and then found a footpath alongside the railway.  The walk took us mainly through woodland, which was very lovely once the sun came out - lots of autumnal leaves, shining in the sunshine.

Waiting for the train
Mainly though the walk was memorable for the number of pheasants we saw.  The place was literally crawling with them, never seen so many of them in one place before.  No wonder there is a gun shop in town!  We managed to time our walk very well and saw 3 steam trains at close quarters.  It almost felt like we were in an episode of Railway Children as there was very little around to remind you it was 2018 (except our clothing).  We had to cross the railway 3 times, each time on foot.

We arrived back in Pickering in time for tea and a bun (well it had been a 5.5mile walk).  Matt and I went for Yorkshire Brack, whilst Tom hoovered down a huge piece of chocolate cake!

Then back to the cottage, showers for each of us (it was muddy on the walk) and then some more Famous Five and mulled wine before heading for tea - this time in a pub and very nice it was too: a HUGE adult's fish and chips for Tom (where does he put it?), mushroom risotto for me and belly pork etc for Matt.  We were all happy bunnies and the waitress couldn't believe that Tom demolished his fish and chips.

Then back home and bed for Tom.  Matt is feeling much better today after a good night's sleep.  Better than me anyway - I kept whacking my head on the bedside cabinet - durrrrrr!

Whitby on the Steam Train

So today it dawned bright blue and sunny - yay!

We had planned to go on the North York Moors Railway to Whitby, what better day to go to the seaside than a sunny day!  The train actually left quite early (9.25) so we had to get up early - the boys were up early anyway!  We had breakfast at the station with quite a few others and then got settled in in our carriage (it was freezing cold - poo!)

The train took 1hr 45mins to get us to Whitby (it was slow and there was a lot of long stops at stations).  We kept ourselves amused with books, colouring in, watching the scenery go past.  I was expecting lots of bleak looking moors, but it was more rolling hills with plenty of trees, sheep etc.  We even saw some herdys.

Whitby Abbey
When we got off the train in Whitby, we were pleasantly surprised as it was warm, when I say warm, it is relative: warmer than it was on the train anyway.  The first sight we saw was the Abbey.  We felt as if we should go, so we found our way up the steps (199 of them) and paid to enter (Tom was free with his Blue Peter Badge).  It was an impressive sight, huge and domineering the headland on which it is built.  It is hard to imagine in 1200 when they built it, what the 'average' person would have thought when they saw it for the first time - completely unlike anything else they would have ever seen in their lifetime.  We did a quick Halloween quiz around the Abbey, came across a 'character actor' who was there as a time travelling grave robber and was very much a darhling actor - missing a Yorkshire accent, and enunciating his words very precisely! Was good fun though and I learnt a thing or two as did Tom.  We did a good walk around, as I said, the Abbey was handsome, but the rooves of Whitby were also, it is certainly a very good looking town.

Looking up the coast from the abbey
We finished off and then headed down the steps in search of lunch which we found in a narrow alley, nothing remarkable, but a nice cosy tea room.  Tom and Matt then headed back to the station to wait for steam trains, whilst I went in search of chocolate shops - these sorts of towns all have chocolate shops, and I was curious to see what was in fashion and pricing.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find the chocolate shops, instead finding the generic shopping street where everywhere was a chain store.  I did eventually manage to walk up a hill and find some independent shops, but as soon as I found them, it was time to head back to the station to get the train which was a shame.  We definitely need to come back to Whitby to do it some justice and get to know it a bit better.

I got to the station and was immediately part of a huge crowd.  There was a massive school group and a tour group waiting to get on as well as all the usual passengers.  I was thinking I wouldn't be able to find Matt and Tom at all, phoned them and immediately found them at the top of the queue.  Phew.  We waited for the 2 large groups to board and then headed to the train, there were a lot of people to fit on to it.  We walked right to the top of the platform and got on.  Compartment coach - yay!  First Class - nooooooo!  Tom immediately stopped, so Matt walked into him which led to some words, but the conductor sorted us out - the first compartments were first class, but the ones right at the top were second class - phew!  We got into one and got ourselves settled.

Cozy compartment

We didn't stay on the train for too long as we wanted to go for a wander around the engine sheds at Grosmont, just down the line.  This we did.  The line is certainly a hive of activity, there are loads of people working on the line, surprisingly a lot of them (mechanics / fitters etc) are young.  We are assuming they are paid.  Channel 5 were there filming for a documentary, so we need to find out when it is on and watch it to get a better idea of who are volunteers and who are paid and how it all works.

There was certainly plenty going on in the engine sheds, none of which we understood, plenty of dirt and grease.  There was an engine without a boiler on it, a new boiler on the ground - still silver, gently steaming away and a huge pair of wheels being cleaned.  We assumed they all belonged to each other and would become one again at some point.

After a good look around the sheds, we headed to an old school for tea and a bun, which was lovely and then back to Grosmont station to get the train back to Pickering.  The train we got had a lovely set of teak carriages on it, with beautifully restored carriages - all very lovely, we very much enjoyed our ride home.

We got home in the dark, went back to the cottage, dropped off our stuff and then went next door for curry.  Very good it was too.
Back at Pickering

Matt isn't feeling very well this week.  He's been complaining of tiredness for the last week, he's been saying he's been feeling washed out for the last couple of days and today on the train he had a dizzy spell and had to sit down.  Then he couldn't focus properly when taking photos of the Abbey.  Not himself at all.  I don't really know what to do other than show compassion and make sure he's not doing too much.  He thinks he has got a virus.  He's going to try to whisky therapy tonight...

Yorkshire Air Museum

Halifax Bomber with poppies (100 years of RAF this year)
A grey and cold day, we decided that as Tom is really in to planes at the moment, we should take him to the Yorkshire Air Museum which is only approx 20 miles away.  After enjoying our breakfast left by our hosts (croissants and chocolate muffin) we arrived pretty much dead on 10 to be greeted  by a very old man who seemed quite confused.  It took him an age to come to the car, then he over charged us entrance and forgot to give us our tickets.  By his own admission, he hadn't had his morning coffee yet - not sure manning the gate was the right place for him?!

There were some big planes parked outside so we went to look at those first - there was Victor, a big cold war bomber which had been converted to a refuelling tanker: explained to Tom what the refuelled does, not sure he believed us!   Also on display a Mirage - French nuclear bomber - there is a big link to France at this base - they had a lot of French pilots here during the war, a Nimrod - reconnaissance plane, Buccaneer: a fighter.

Pilot Tom
Then to a hanger where there were loads more planes including a huge Halifax.  I hadn't even heard of a Halifax, basically very similar to a Lancaster.  There were lots of poppies spilling out of the plane which was very effective.  Next stop was the 'paper planes' - replicas of the Wright Brothers' Plane and a couple of others which just looked ridiculous.

We then went to another hanger, where there were more planes, including a tiny plane which was developed to attack zeppelins, a 2nd world war glider with a perspex side so you had an idea of what they looked inside when packed (how anyone got the courage to go in one of those is beyond my ken!), some tanks, a bus and plenty of other vehicles.

We then found a kiddie section where kids could dress up in overalls and clamber around in cockpits. This was Tom's favourite bit and he happily jumped from one to another.  He seemed to enjoy being the front gunner, where he had to lie on his belly and look down for enemy planes.  Not sure he would enjoy that in real life at -40 degrees!

It was a freezing cold day and when we had finished there we went in search of lunch at the Naafi.  We found it - still a good old canteen where they slopped your lunch on to your plate.  Not sure how authentic it was though as the offering was lasagna (foreign and food of the enemy), chilli (foreign) or beef cobbler.  I went for beef cobbler and very nice it was too.  The boys went for weird foreign food!  No spam anywhere to be found???!!!!

Tom and Victor
Next stop was a display all about Bomber Command.  This air base, Elvington, was home to Bomber Command.  We saw some displays about it and then watched a documentary about it.  The documentary was brilliant - using interviews with veterans.  I had no idea but the attrition rate for Bomber Command was tremendous:  55,573 men died out of 110,000 who joined.  The government were obviously embarrassed at the numbers and tried to ignore them after the war.  They weren't even given a campaign medal or recognised in any way until 2012 when a memorial to them was put up in London - shocking stuff, considering the chances of surviving 10 raids with bomber command was only 1 in 10.  These boys knew they were going to their deaths and they got no recognition for it.  It affected all 3 of us, although I'm not sure how much of the documentary Tom understood.  Hopefully he learnt something.

We saw lots of other displays: French Officers Mess which was very lovely, billets for the regular men - looked very cold, very cramped and very basic, control tower which was full of machines we didn't understand - anyone know what a Mufax is?  There were lots of models of staff with fantastic hair cuts and moustaches though.  There was another building dedicated to airships, another one with Barnes Wallace and the bouncing bomb (wondering if Tom is old enough to watch the Dam Busters yet?) and another one regarding prisoners of war - did you realise that the Scottish Red Cross sent over parcels completely different to the English Red Cross.  Main difference was the Scottish one didn't have a semblance of a vegetable in theirs.

By the time we had looked round everything we were absolutely freezing, so we got back to the car, drove back to our holiday let and put on the mulled wine...and relax!  The wine went to our cheeks immediately but it was worth it.

We had showers to heat up more and then headed out into town for tea.  We went for Italian this time, it was a proper Italian too with loads of menu items other than pizza and pasta.  I went for veggie risotto with Gorgonzola (very tasty) whilst the boys went for pasta.  Tom ate pretty much a full adults portion of smoked salmon pasta whilst Matt went for carbonara which was really tasty too.  Then back home for a game of Rummikub, final of the Great British Bake Off and bed.

Transporter Bridge, Moors and Trains

So we had a relatively good night's sleep considering we were in a double bed and had had quite a lot of alcohol last night.  It is James' and Amy's half term too this week, so we didn't have to get up early (apart from Kae who had a full week ahead of her).  We let Kae get herself ready and out the door and then made ourselves some breakfast whilst Malcolm was on a business call.  We then went down to the local park for a good game of cricket (Amy plays cricket for her local team).  It was very wet and muddy but the cricket was good and the sun was out so we enjoyed it under blue skies.

We went back to the house, said our goodbyes and headed into Middlesbrough.  Our aim was to do a strategic strike on Primark: Tom has out grown all his trousers recently and his home trainers refuse to stay done up (Velcro has stopped working) so he is looking like a tramp at the moment with trousers either too short or too long (only other ones we have are from Owen who is 13!), a winter jacket that is too big and trainers that don't do up.  Poor kid.  So we found Primark and got him two pairs of jeans and a pair of trainers, in and out quickly.  Back to the car, out of the shopping centre, took a wrong turn, back into the shopping centre, then out again in search of the Transporter Bridge.

From the south bank
We got horribly held up in traffic trying to get to the Transporter Bridge, but it was just as well as it was closed from 12 till 1, we arrived at 12.55!  Dead on 1pm some men appeared and opened the bridge.  It was built in 1911 to ship workers across the Tees to the factories.  It has a span of 590 feet and it has a height of 160 ft, the longest transporter bridge in the world.  It only fits 9 cars, but 200 people and only takes 90 seconds to make the crossing (if you were to go by car it would take 45 minutes to drive across the nearest bridge).  It was very smooth, no jiggling, clonking etc.   It was a  beautiful bright blue colour.  We went across to the other side, didn't unload and headed back again.  A little silly some might say but we didn't see a car park and wanted to experience it.  Nice friendly people working on it.

Once we reversed off it we headed out of Middlesbrough to the moors towards Pickering where our holiday let is.  First job though was lunch - we were on the look out for signs on the road for garden centres / cafes etc and didn't have to wait too long before we found one.  It was in a small garden centre, very much the destination for old ladies, the menu was very much full of corned beef, pickled onions, piccalilli etc.  Mainly on the menu were potato cakes with toppings - which sounded fun, but they had sold out. Never mind - toastie for Tom, welsh rarebit for Matt and an open grilled sandwich for me.  Mainly though the place had a working model railway and lots of very reasonably priced Christmas decorations (we may have bought a couple...)

From the north bank
Refuelled we headed up across the moors in the bright sunshine to drive to Pickering.  It was a beautiful drive, very bleak landscape, more rolling hills than the Dales but very beautiful.  We got to Pickering and found our holiday let without too much problem.  A very lovely cottage, proper cottage with beams, which has been very tastefully decorated.  We settled in and headed out before it got too dark to get a feel for Pickering.  It's a very lovely country town: lots of cafes and tea rooms, olde worlde buildings etc etc as well as a Lidl which seems a bit out of place, but is very handy.  We did a quick circuit of the town and popped into the station - what would you know, a train was due in 5 mins so we hung around to see it.

It is a fine classic old station, which has been beautifully done up - loads of vintage items to enjoy, lots of photos, a good shop, a tea room a bridge and mainly a big steam engine bellowing steam and smoke heading into the station.  Tom in true Tom fashion managed to get invited on to the footplate for a photo opportunity.  Don't know how he does it - there were plenty of kids there, but he was the one who got asked.  (Mind you he also got told off by the Station Master for running on the platform!)  Anyhow, both boys were happy as Matt got some good photos.

Pickering station
We headed home via Lidl where we managed to buy lots of alcohol (cheap Whisky, cheap rhubarb and ginger gin, cheap mulled win) and not much else.  Then showers and a couple of episodes of The Famous Five - we found a DVD set in the cottage which has 26 episodes of the Famous Five TV series from the 1970s (I had vague recollections when I saw it, Matt didn't) Tom was glued to it, even though the acting was awful.  Wondering if it will help him get back into the books - he gave up with them in September as they didn't have enough pictures for him??!!!!!!  Anyway it has a very annoying and mediocre theme tune which we are all now humming!  We then had showers before heading out to the local chippie which was recommended in our holiday let.  It was good - service was a bit muddled, but the food was good - I had homemade herby fish cakes which were very good.

Then home, a game of rummikub and bed.


Redcar steel works
The clocks went back last night, so we had a chance for a lovely lie in with that extra hour we were gifted, but no, both of us decided we wouldn't sleep well and woke up way way too early.  We lost our chance.  Poo!  Today we were heading up to Middlesbrough to stay with Malcom and Kae and James & Amy before heading to Pickering and our holiday let for the week.

They loved Wensleydale when they came over here, so we decided to buy them some cheese, especially as they had got hold of some free tickets for the trains (worth £60).  The creamery doesn't open until 10am so there was no point making an early start, I guess it gave us the chance to actually tidy the house, put clothes away etc before heading out.

We got to the Creamery as it opened and were the first ones in to the tasting room, we did our usual circuit and then bought a cheese cool bag and filled it up for them.  We then headed north east across the dales towards Middlesbrough, lovely drive it was too as we got to enjoy clear blue skies and sunshine, the landscape was certainly looking its best.

Tom and Amy on the beach
Just as we were beginning to get peckish we saw a sign for a farm shop and cafe off the road called roots.  We headed off to find a very very good eatery: Tom had his usual tuna melt (farm made bread, good cheese), Matt some waffles with bacon and maple syrup and I had scrambled egg and smoked salmon - a massive portion: it was a desert bowl of scrambled egg - at least 3 eggs, if not 4.  Just as well Matt's meal was small as I was able to hand over half my egg to him, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to finish it.  Smoked salmon was good too.

We carried on our way to Nunthorpe - which is on the outskirts of Middlesbrough and found the Nicolsons' house.  They knew that it was my and Tom's first time to the area, so wasted no time in taking us out for a tour (plus now it gets dark soon).  They planted James (12) in our car and we followed them.  Now we have met James a couple of times, and were worried it might be too much of an ask for him to do the tour guide thing (especially as he has only lived there 3 years) but he was excellent.  Gave us a run down of the history and also a lot of information as to what cars everyone has in his neighbourhood - he is a real petrol head.

We stopped off at Redcar Steel Works - where we saw the old blast furnace and slag heaps.  The blast furnace was switched off about 2 years ago after 170 years of constant use.  As a result there is a huge industrial wasteland which although not classically pretty does have a beauty of its own.  Lots of chimneys, industrial buildings, pipes, rails etc etc.  Apparently when they first closed it they were going to mothball it, but now it is dead forever, but of course the amount of pollution in the area is significant, meaning they can't do anything with it, and will have to spend a huge amount of time and money clearing it up.  We had a good clamber around, I found some bricks, part of what I think was a toilet, and it I had longer, I'm sure I could have found lots more interesting things.  It is right on the coast, and it was breezy.  The sky was blue, but we could see rain all around, at some point we were going to get hit with it.

Soaked on the prom
We carried on up to the end of the peninsula to South Gare, where we found a community of green fishing huts sheltering in a hollow (apparently now protected as very few of their type exist) and a lighthouse, a cafe, a scuba shop etc etc.  We went for a walk, threw some stones, the kids darted off in the distance and we all got a beating from the wind.  We could see tankers out in the distance waiting to come in on the tide and a pilot go out to meet them.  There was a huge yellow sandy beach in front of the old blast furnace, which if in Spain would be completely built up with hotels etc, but because of its location was pretty empty.  Lovely big surfing waves too.

Next stop was Redcar itself.  We parked up and went for a walk.  This was when we got unlucky as the rain caught up with us.  However, we are all now tough northerners (even Kae who is Thai) and carried on.  The rain got worse and turned into hail!  We all had to stop and were all shouting as the hail hurt us on any bits of exposed bare skin.  Tom wanted to go back to the car - but it was over as quickly as it started so we decided to continue on.  The prom was quite interesting - lots of interesting sculptures, collages etc and at one point a vertical pier - something I didn't know even existed?!  Can't say it was particularly beautiful - just looked like a small block of council flats with a weird sculpture around it.
Tessside from Marske

As we were all cold and wet we decided to head to a coffee shop and actually found a half decent one.  I hadn't even heard of Redcar before and if I had been asked would have guessed it was in the Midlands, it is in fact a resort town, full of amusements, ice cream parlours etc etc and the usual coastal town deprivation.  I would say a bit like Morecambe but a bit more upmarket (but only a bit!).

By the time we had defrosted, the rain had passed by so we decided to head back to the cars, very pleasant it was too in the sunshine. Next stop was Marske - a view point from which you could see the industrial landscape of Teesside.  There were all the old steel works, but also all the current plants (over 50% of the UK's chemical industry is in Teesside at the moment).  The sun was setting on the horizon, so it made for a beautiful picture of an industrial skyline - very different to our usual view of the Dales.

We headed home, then Kae got to work on tea - she had promised us proper Thai food, we weren't disappointed: we had pork curry, Thai veggies and bbq pork with two types of rice.  It was all very good, although the curry was way too spicy for Tom.  There wasn't much left at the end of it.

The kids then disappeared to play games in the spare room, whilst we sat and nattered and drank copious amounts of wine and beer.  We staggered to bed.

Catch Up

Cottage near Bolton Abbey
As usual I have got behind with the blog, sorry!  Life sort of gets in the way, and I have been working hard on my Lily Pad Bakery Christmas collection this year, maxing in on the chocolates and of course things never go right first time...

Anyway, Saturday 13th October was a grey miserable day, so after football, we got in the car and headed over to Buffers Coffee Shop which I found by accident on the Internet one day and is down a country lane just past Bolton Abbey.  It's not somewhere you could find by accident.

It was an interesting place, a huge tea room with usual greasy spoon options and lots of interesting cakes.  It was also a shop - selling lots of model railway things - buildings, track, trains, wagons etc, also lots of farm vehicles.  However, the best thing was upstairs where there was a huge model railway.  It was of an age (ie from the 1970s / 1980s) and it certainly hasn't been dusted...EVER...but it was very very interesting and there were some dials so you could control the trains on certain parts of the track.  It was more for looking and admiring than anything else and it was all behind perspex (not miniature Wunderland) however, the longer you looked at it the more you saw.  Not sure it has been touched in years.  I wonder what the story behind it is?

Anyway, we had lunch which was extraordinarily cheap, did some shopping (Tom), another look at the railway and then headed home.
Hull Pot with its waterfall

Sunday we wanted to get out for a walk, as it has rained a lot recently we thought we would head to Horton and Hull Pot to see if there was a waterfall there.  Hull Pot is normally a dry river bed leading to a vertical drop off a cliff into a hole.  When it has been raining a lot it turns into a river and waterfall, but it doesn't happen very often.  We were lucky in that it was a waterfall.  Matt took his photos and then got talking to a lovely old lady from France who was travelling alone and spoke amazing English.  A true Anglophile, she comes to the UK a lot: loves the Bronte sisters, loves Scotland and is spending her retirement travelling - why not?!  I hope I'm like her when I get old.  We were chatting for ages.

Jack with Tom and Sierra hiding behind
We did debate climbing Pen-y-Gent, but decided not to as the Blezards were coming for the night and due around lunchtime, we weren't sure he had enough time.  Just as well because they turned up early - about 30 mins after we got home.  They were already on half term and on their way down to Center Parts in Warminster (£450 cheaper than the one in Penrith).  Both Rory and Lewis seemed to have grown up loads, none of the usual bickering, they all went to bed nicely and just generally got on really well with everyone.  As the sun came out, we took them for a walk around the village.  Lewis and Tom ended up barefoot in the river (ouch).  We then had a massive roast dinner - used our £10 pork joint from Keelham.

Friday 19th October
A good day - lots of things came together so we could have a great day out.  Both Matt and I were low on work so we decided to have a date day on Friday, then on Thursday evening Tom got invited out to the cinema after school on Friday meaning we could stay out longer.  On Friday morning at school drop off a mum commented on the fact that I was dressed differently to normal, I explained we were planning a date day in Leeds and she immediately offered to drive us to and from the train station meaning we could drink.  Yay!  We had such a good day out.  A little bit of shopping, then to Bundobust for lunch and craft beer, then a bit more shopping, followed by cocktails at The Alchemist, a bit more shopping and a last beer in another craft beer pub.

Surprisingly we weren't too affected by alcohol, just happy!  It was a lovely day out, Matt bought a new phone and I got some new clothes.  We brought back a Wasabi picnic for tea too and then got met at the train station by Janine and Charlie (6) who came running towards us shouting "did you enjoy your alcohol?!" at the top of his voice - so funny!

Taking a breather on the bridge
Saturday 20th October, Tom had a football match at home against Settle.  They won easily.  We celebrated with lunch at Inglesport.  We then arranged to go for a walk with the Mannings around Austwick.  We did the big loop and then added Smearsett Scar so ended up with a good 6 mile walk, not bad considering we didn't start until 2.30pm.  We then all headed to the Mannings for tea: veggie lasagna - was a really lovely night out - don't think we got back until after 10pm!

Sunday was a horrible, grey, rainy day so we decided to head to Manchester to do our usual stuff, but without a visit to the Komorowskis - we seem to be unable to see each other at the moment due to commitments.  We headed straight to The Glamorous for lunch (the usual weird and wonderful dim sum in a very very crowded restaurant), then Wing Yip for an Asian shop (no curry blocks needed this time as we still have loads left over from our trip to Japan) and Go Outdoors, so I could get a new pair of walking shoes (my current pair let the water in) and Tom got a new (huge) winter coat.

48151 at Blea Moor
We were then into the last week of school before half term.  On Friday Tom came home with a Head Teacher's Award.  We weren't sure what it was for, neither was he, but Mrs Colledge was in the playground so we asked her.  Her response: "For being a thoroughly lovely person and a valuable member of the school family"  It is a new award they have brought in this year - I think to acknowledge people who are helpful and do nice things rather than just academic achievement certificates.  I know that Tom helped cut up KS1's roast dinner for them this week and he took football club at lunchtime as the Year 6s were away on their residential.

Tom with air on the pump track
Saturday there was no football as loads of people were away due to half term.  We found out that there was a  Steam Train heading for Ribblehead, so went there to watch it - this time, walking to the aqueduct after Blea Moor.  It was freezing cold and it was late.  We were just debating how long to wait when it arrived.  Phew.  We had lunch at Inglesport and then a useful afternoon.  I went down to the iCentre to set up the tombola for the Autumn Lights Festival.  The evening was spent at the festival.  It was a good one, the dodgems were there.  It didn't rain.  It was freezing cold, but that didn't matter.  The tombola was manic - people are mad for a little flutter, they were queueing out the door!

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Running Man

On Tuesday Tom went to Sedbergh School in Casterton for their invitational cross country (basically a private school thing, where they invite some 'token' primary schools as well (I think because they have to as they have charity status and have to show some outreach into the local community - pretty much all they do!)

U11s boys race
We were a little confused why Tom was chosen as he has never been chosen to do cross country before, it is always the same people: Lucas, Finn and Lexi, but this time Tom was asked as well?  He was excited, we were confused, even more so when we got the letter detailing what kind of running spikes he should wear (as if - obviously a cut and paste from the private school letter!)  Luckily we have friends who do lots of fell running and one of them has the same size feet as Tom, so he got to borrow her shoes for the race which he was delighted about.

He got the coach from school and we met them all there.  There were loads of schools taking part.  All looking very smart in their PE uniform: special running vests, leggings etc.  You could tell the state schools - they were the ones in uniform didn't quite fit (it is a case of one size fits all!).

The area of the race was proper cross country - huge muddy puddles, bridges, chicken run (with chickens) and long, very long, much longer than any race Tom has ever been in before.  Apparently Tom had got very nervous and upset at school prior to getting the coach.  Luckily his friends looked after him and on arriving in Casterton, he lost his nervousness and got excited.

It was all done properly - so there was a proper walk around the course so the kids knew what they were letting themselves in for.  Then it was the under 9s race in which years 3 and 4 competed, our guys (and they were all boys) did pretty well - all finishing in the upper to middle ranks.

Then it was the under 11s girls race where our one girl, Lexi competed.  We were rushing around to cheer her on, but she disappeared?!  Turns out one of her trainers came off in the mud, she went back to get it and lost her other trainer!  She found one, but couldn't find the other and got quite upset (they were brand new)!  The race ended for her, she was devastated - she's a great runner too!

Tom's race was next and I was nervous for him.  I can remember being in a cross country race at St Crispin's and I came second to last in the whole school which was very humiliating, I have only just now attempted to run again - and only because of health reasons!

Anyway, a huge crowd of boys ran up a hill past us, I saw all the Ingleton School pupils, (they were easy to spot being bright red) except Tom.  I thought the worse, but Matt gave me the thumbs up - I had missed him!

We ran to another spot to cheer him on and he was doing really well, he had a look of focus and determination about him - something we don't see very often.  Wow!  Poor Finn was carrying a trainer - one of his had come off, he had fished it out and was running with it - luckily he saw Kate and threw it at her.  He then completed the rest of the race with one shoe on and one shoe off - what a trooper!

Near the finish
We spent the rest of the race running from viewing spot to viewing spot and each time I shouted until I was hoarse, not just at Tom but all other Ingleton pupils (oh forgot to mention, this was an under 11s race so Tom was one of the youngest!)  Each time I saw Tom he was still running and still looking determined.  He got through to the finishing straight and continued, red in the face running up the hill to the finish, he even overtook someone in the straight.  It was 2.5km long, which is a decent distance and is the longest he has ever run in his life!

We were so so so proud of him.  He was behind Lucas and Finn, but in front of Ellis and Zac who are in Year 6, so he really did do well.  He certainly didn't disgrace himself and everyone was very happy for him. Mrs Barry said how much she was impressed by him.

I asked him if he walked at all, he said no, and that even though he wanted to stop and walk he kept saying to himself no, keep running, keep running.  Considering he was up against children that probably do cross country as part of their weekly sports he did extremely well, we couldn't have been more prouder of him.

Being a private school, he then got to enjoy their facilities: he got a cup of homemade soup to warm up with and then hot dogs "with proper sausages mummy" once in the hall.  We then headed home via Booths where he got to choose his tea.

What a star!

Walk with new friends


Tom and George
Tom had football training in the morning, it's got to the stage now where we can just drop him off, so we did.  Matt went down to watch the match at the end and got talking to new parents - the team has attracted a couple of new families this year, thanks mainly to one of the players changing school and telling his new friends about Craven.  One of the families are a bit like us ie not local.  Matt got talking to the Mum, Fiona a couple of weeks ago - turns out they were born in the same hospital in the same year!  Anyway, they are really easy to talk to.  They said they were going for a walk in the afternoon, which was also our plan so they arranged to meet up to do one together at Stocks Reservoir.

We had lunch at Goat Gap and then parked up at Stocks.  We met up with them: two boys who are identical in everyday except one is 13 and one 9, and two very excited spaniels.  We did a small lap: just under 4 miles, exploring forests, moss and lots and lots of mushrooms of all sizes, shapes and colours.  It was a really lovely walk and the conversation didn't dry up at all.  Tom and George (the younger boy) acted as if they had known each other all their lives!

Giant mushroom
After the walk, we were invited for a drink back at their place.  We had a feeling it would be nice, we weren't disappointed: down a country lane in the middle of no-where, a proper cottage with loads of out buildings.  House envy set in, mind you they said they were searching a good 4 years before they found it.  They both work in pet food - met at Leeds University doing animal related courses.  It was a lovey day.

Millie - a mad spaniel

Sunday morning saw me and Tom heading over to Bentham to spend the morning with Charlie and Harry - Charlie and Tom have become quite good buddies recently.  Alice set up a couple of escape room type clues for them to play with as she loves going to escape rooms and was wondering if Tom would like to go with them next time.

The boys then played whilst Alice and I chatted.  Alice is a teacher at Settle College so I tried to quiz her about it and QES etc, she is so professional, she wouldn't be drawn.  Fair enough I guess, but I'm sure Charlie and Harry will end up at Settle College and that wouldn't be the case if she wasn't happy about it.

Matt was supposed to be taking the opportunity of us not being around to go out on his bike, but on getting ready, he found the battery was flat and he couldn't start it, so Tom and I headed home, we had lunch and then we went to Ribblehead for a walk - just to get out more than anything else.  We then decided to go out for tea, Tom suggested the Highwayman (Matt and I went by ourselves a couple of weeks ago, and he had felt left out) so we went.  Good food and service again - we will be regular customers here I think.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Forgetful Tom

So, we have been trying to make Tom a little more responsible for his actions.  It frustrates both of us that he seems to be completely and utterly forgetful when it comes to personal property.  The amount of school PE uniform he has lost in his time at school is ridiculous (it all has his name on it!).  I don't mind this as such as it is cheap and you have to buy it in multiples anyway, but when he looses his Clarks trainers it gets to me.  Also he NEVER tells me when he has lost anything.  Turns out last year he did at least half a term of sports (maybe more) in his school shoes as he lost his trainers and didn't tell anyone.  We only found out because we came to school to see the fun run - who was the only child doing it in his school shoes and school shorts?  Yep, that will be Tom. 

I replenished him with new equipment, came to see him in Sports Day the following week to find that he had already lost his PE shorts and T-shirt again!!!!!!  How?  What does he do to them?  Why is it always only him in his class who does this?  Luckily we are friends with the caretaker.  He found his trainers - in the Year 6 cloakroom (we have no idea how they got there as the Year 6 class is completely apart from the rest of the school).  They had been completely trashed.  They had his name in them, no-one had bothered to look!!!!!!  He has also lost many jumpers - until I wrote in big capitals in marker pen his name on waist.  Funny, since then they haven't gone walk about.  This year I have used huge letters with a marker pen with his trainers and school shoes in the hope they don't go missing.

This year we have tried to impress on him how important it is to look after his belongings.  Also that he needs to remember to bring things home.  What should he bring home:

+ His school reading book
+ His Big Maths - so we can see what they are doing in maths
+ Any letters

Yesterday - we discovered no reading book, still no big maths (we haven't one sheet yet - almost a month after starting school - he says the teacher doesn't tell them to bring it home so he doesn't.  On asking lots of children have been bringing their maths work home), and then when I suggested he did guitar practise instead of reading we discovered his guitar book was missing too.  When Matt went to pick him up from school yesterday he discovered 2 pairs of wellies outside in the garden area - guess who's?  Yes, Tom's!  When we asked him, he said that the teacher didn't say to take them inside!  Sometimes I think he has no common sense, how come all other children managed to take their's inside?!

We have also been asking him to do jobs at home.  He's had these jobs since we introduced pocket money, but he seems to have stopped doing them: emptying the cutlery drawer of the dishwasher, doing the recycling and putting his clothes away.  It's not much, but I have to ask him every day to do them, he basically waits for me to say something to do it, he just can't seem to think to do anything himself.  It's been driving us nuts, we are especially worried that with high school looming, he is going to have to fend for himself and think for himself.  If he carries on like this, he's going to spend most of his first year in detention for forgotten equipment, books and homework!

Oh hum.  We always get a blank expression from him when we ask him to sort himself out.  We are at a loss as to what to do.

Thinking about the next step in education

So this week we got an invitation from Settle College to have a look round during their Open Evening - apparently they invite Year 5s as well as Year 6s to give us an insight ready for decisions next year - you don't get long, think the forms need to be completed by the end of October.

I was surprised to get the invite, but thought it worth our while to go along as then at least we have been in a high school environment and have a feel what they are like and can start thinking of questions we need to ask.

It's not a secret that I didn't enjoy my time at high school so for me it is very important that Tom ends up somewhere he will enjoy and grow in confidence as well as getting a good education.  We are very lucky here in Ingleton as we are in the catchment area of 2 well regarded high schools - so although it is a difficult decision to make, at least it is a decision between two good schools rather than trying to dodge a bad school.

We got there for 6pm when it opened - wow it was busy.  We were welcomed by a smiling very young teacher and sent to reception to sign in.  We were then given quite a poor map and a list of activities for Tom to complete and sent on our way to find everything.

The fabric of the school is tired and old, it is 'of an age' and I don't think it has been improved since it was initially built.  I would guess if I had attended it in the 1980s I wouldn't get lost or feel it was any different going there now!  The only difference is that there is a computer classroom and the library is 50% computers 50% books and the teachers all looked sooooooo young.

It is only a small school, 600 pupils which includes 75 6th form students.

They obviously have to compete against QES for pupils, QES has had millions and millions spent on it in recent years, so it's not facilities that they sell, it is passion.  AND wow, do they have passion!

We went for a talk by the senior management (the assistant head teacher and deputy headteacher - not sure what the difference is?!)  Both speakers were young (late 20s, early 30s) and very very passionate, at one point I thought one of them was going to blub.  You were left in no doubt that if you sent your child there, they would we very well looked after.  Every teacher in the school knows the name of every pupil - not many high schools where that is the case.

The head girl and a Year 8 pupil also made speeches and both were very very impressive.  The thing that hit me was how confident every pupil we met was.  There were loads of ex-Ingleton pupils there, including quite a few year 7 pupils.  I asked parents the next day in the Ingleton playground if the kids were 'bribed' to be there at night and the answer was no, they are given the opportunity, no strings attached, they wanted to show their school off!

There were loads of things to do: Tom got to decorate a cupcake in the food tech room, he did some experiments in the science room, learnt how to hack the BBC website in the computer room, did puzzles in the Maths area etc etc.  Everywhere we went there were mega confident pupils - they all looked me in the eye and confidently answered questions.  I was amazed.  I wouldn't have been able to do that at the same age.  There was a drama production in full swing, music performances going on, it was impressive, we were even provided with drinks and cakes and biscuits free of charge - they were good too, but we knew that as the new head cook at Settle College is the old cook from Ingleton.

The only disappointment was the Languages department which of course with Matt's lineage is quite important.  They teach Spanish and French only.  The teacher kept telling everyone who came to her classroom that they could give up languages at Year 9, she didn't seem keen at all to sell GCSE or A Level languages.  We asked her about school exchanges, they don't exist any more.  We asked if pupils have the opportunity to visit the country of the language they are learning - the answer was no.  We asked about the Dutch school that visit Settle College (The Assistant Headteacher told us about this during his speech), she knew nothing about it and said that pupils from Settle don't return the visit.  We asked the killer question about Japanese and we were told that only native speakers have access to other languages.  I was unimpressed.  Languages aren't compulsory anymore and looking at GCSE results from last year, only 10 pupils took French and 2 pupils took Spanish from a year of 93 students.  I'm not surprised if that teacher was the best they could do.

We didn't get to see Geography or History classrooms which was a bit of a disappointment for me.  This was because we couldn't find them and we ran out of time.

Anyway we came away thinking that the place would suit Tom very well, he wouldn't get lost there and if he gets 10% of the confidence the children were showing I would be very happy.

QES only invited Year 6 parents to their open evening and it has already happened, so we have nothing to compare it too.  On speaking to Year 6 parents, it seems that QES has ALL the money and its facilities are second to non and therefore opportunities are amazing.  However, it has 2,000 pupils and Tom being who he is (i.e. not the top of his class, not the bottom of his class and not naughty) he is likely to get 'lost' in such a big school.

Oh, decisions, decisions, what to do...I think it will be very difficult when it comes to the crunch next year.  I will be quizzing parents with year 7 pupils this year in the hope it helps...

Questions to ask next time:
+ How many classes are there in the year
+ Are pupils taught in those classes for all subjects?
+ If they are taught in streams - is there the ability to move up and down according to attainment or is it set in stone for a year at a time?
+ Sports: cricket - is there a club / team?
+ Is there the possibility to arrange a private foreign exchange, can they help us with this and if it happens during term time will we get fined?

First few weeks back

Three kids on a stone
So, we got back from Japan and then boom - it was the school camp out.  Took me over a week to recover from that and now I'm mega behind with the blog.  Oh hum.

Hanging on 
Sheltering in the hospice
So we enjoyed our last couple of days of the school holidays.  On the last day we had a day out with the Mannings which was fun.  We went for a walk up by Grange Over Sands - got to the top of a hill and found something called the Hospice - a shelter from the wind and rain.  Then down to the prom and a late cafe lunch whilst watching trains shoot past.  It was a really fun day out - they are such good company that family - so glad they moved to Ingleton.

Then Tom started school - so we were back to the routine which took some getting used to.  Second week back we were into after school clubs as well and back to manic weekdays - not being able to think further than two days ahead as so much is going on.

Snug in a pod
Also the campout was on the second weekend so all that week was spent preparing for it and then on Friday - boom it was the campout.

Alice and Richard
Toasting marshmallows
What can I say about the camp out...not sure really.  It was A LOT of work.  The same number of people came this year that came last year so all our marketing and extra events we put on didn't bring anymore people along.  We found it very difficult to find people to help out with the BBQ and bouncy castles, if I could clone myself 10 times I would have done so I could do it all myself.  It struck me just how un-community minded some people are.  It surprises me and saddens me.  This event was put on for the benefit of their family and their school and all people worried about was themselves.  Parents were sneaking off the site, leaving their kids behind to go to the pub (we had craft beer and gin in the marquee) we got excuse after excuse of why they couldn't help out etc etc.  Don't get me wrong, plenty of people did help and were brilliant, but you always remember the negative conversations more don't you?!
Festival umbrellas

Me and Lucy 
We raised £1,300 which was disappointing, it should have been much more.  Liz ended up in tears that night, I ended up in tears on the Tuesday (delayed reaction) we put in far too much effort.  Not one person from the school bothered to turn up during the day so that added to our dismay.

Bentham Fire Crew taking a car apart in a RTA demo
Anyway, I'm not willing to do another one.  If Liz does another one, it will have a different format and the school won't be the main beneficiary.  Guess what: after closing her camp site down for the weekend and therefore loosing income, then working extremely hard all weekend for the school to raise £1,300 they are now fining her for taking Annabel out of school so she can have a holiday (obviously they can't go on holiday during the summer and Owen and Annabel have completely different half term weeks as Owen goes to QES).

It took a week to recover from the camp out and to settle into our new weekly routine.  Tom has been tired since going back to school so he has had plenty of early nights - as have we.

I have also been attacking the house - trying to get rid of stuff.  I started well, but then cakes got in the way and now we have piles of stuff everywhere.  Oh hum, one day this place will be tidy.

Climbing Cat Bells
Oh, almost forgot, last weekend we headed to the Lake District - and climbed Cat Bells which is on Derwent Water quite close to Keswick.  Was a very lovely walk, and we had fab weather, meaning the views were amazing.  We are all a little out of shape at the moment - for various reasons, but we are all trying to get fit again so we can enjoy more of these walks.  I was huffing and puffing too much, but if you don't exercise you don't get fitter.  Need to drop a half stone too, so it should all help.