Sunday, 15 December 2013

Santa Run 2013

It was a wet and dismal day in Barnstaple, but I am sure the sight of at least one hundred Santas marching down the High Street cheered up the shoppers. This year Carl (on the left) ran the race with Ken (on the right). Carl did the 3km run and Ken did the 5km. They ran most of it, but all the Santas had to walk down the High Street for health and safety reasons! By the time they finished they were both as red as their suits. The drink in the pub afterwards was a welcome one. All money raised goes towards North Devon Hospice.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Christmas In A Day - The Premier

This is us in London last night, at BAFTA, for the film premier of Kevin Macdonald's 'Christmas In A Day'. The full film (48mins) is now on YouTube and I recommend everyone go and watch it. It's fab!

We caught the train up from Tiverton, which was delayed by 15 minutes, then had to walk the entire length of Paddington Station to get to the taxi rank. The taxi hit majorly bad London traffic, even the taxi driver said it wasn't usually that bad. He was very good and weaving in and out and taking us down side roads however, and we managed to arrive only 30 minutes later than we had planned for. Nevertheless, by the time we got through the doors and up the stairs everyone was heading towards the cinema and we didn't even have time for a drink.

Carl and the girls grabbed some popcorn and we followed the crowds to get a seat to watch the film. Kevin Macdonald gave a speech, then the film started.

 Afterwards it was back out to the reception and then we did all get drinks. It was lovely, there were waiters wandering round offering nibbles and plenty of liquid refreshment. There were official looking people with cameras who I can only assume were the press. There was a roped off area with a TV camera and lights. We chatted to a few people; one lady who worked on the production of the film, the lady whose children are undoubtably one of the stars of the film - when the dad comes home from Afganistan - and the Irish couple who are going to bed to sleep on Christmas Eve (he took our photo and poured wine over himself in the process). We didn't get to speak to Kevin Macdonald, which was a shame, cos Caitlin would have liked to, but he was a busy man.
We stayed until just gone 9 o'clock, then had to make our way back to catch the train. It was 2 o'clock before we got back home to bed. But Wow! what an experience!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Christmas In A Day - Trees Ad.

This is the advert that Ellie is in. Keep your eyes open; if you blink you might miss her! She's the one in the Santa hat, and can be heard saying, 'It's not going on!'

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Christmas In A Day

I hope this works! This is the advert for Christmas In A Day. Its a film sponsored by Sainsburys and released to YouTube on 29th November. Everyone should see it!!!! The film and the advert.

We submitted footage and are a very small part of the film (not this advert). Ellie can be seen putting the angel on the top of the tree and there is a tiny clip of us pulling crackers. Ellie is also on the shorter Sainsburys adverts which will be aired in the build up to Christmas. Keep your eyes open.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Bonfire Night

Bonfire night was at our house this year, and actually held on 5th November. I've just been a bit busy to post. Mum and Dad came in, and Beth, Andrew and Francis, and Adrienne invited Brodie too, so full house. The rain held off long enough for us to get a good display going. As is right and proper - the girls watched while the boys did the lighting of the fireworks. Caitlin chose to stay in the warm conservatory with Willow, who loves fireworks and was desperate to get out and chase them. I love fireworks too.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Northern Ireland

 I've been in Derry this week visiting one of our partner schools in our Comenius project. It was the usual round of going into classrooms, planning activities and of course, cultural experiences. This is me with Connor, one of the Irish teachers, at The Giant's Causeway. It was a very windy day, and cold too. I was surprised at how small the stones were. They are quite tall in places, and shortly after this photo was taken a National Trust guy came and told us we ought to get down to lower ground in case we got blown into the sea; but the width of each individual hexagonal stone is about the size of a human foot, I thought they'd be bigger.
Other activities included a tour of the Bushmills Whiskey factory, a tour of the city walls in Derry, and a tour of the gable-end wall murals in the Bogside. This latter was conducted by a very anti-English ex-IRA convict. I took what he had to say about British Army occupancy with a pinch of salt. I don't want to get political here, but I, at least, can concede that there are two sides to every story.

The picture above is our company on the last day, about to cross Derry's Bridge, and before we went to see the Turner Prize exhibition. I liked that. The statue of the naked man was interesting, but my favourite was the paintings by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Ellie's Birthdays

Like the Queen, this year Ellie had two birthdays. One last weekend on her actual birthday and one this weekend. She decided she didn't want friends round on her actual birthday as she had just got back from a week in Germany with the school and would be too tired. So yesterday we had four noisy giggly teenagers in the house from about 3 o'clock. Fortunately at around 7.30 they all went to the cinema so we were able to watch half of Strictly in peace.

Can you spot the difference in the birthday cakes? No? I'll give you a clue... on one weekend we had no proper candles and I had to resort to using a tea-light candle. My children are so neglected and deprived.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Carl and the Needle

 On Monday I came home from work to discover that Carl was in A&E. Caitlin had gone with him. (Usually its the other way around.) He'd been walking up and down when he stood on a sewing needle on the carpet. (Guess who'd been sewing a button back onto Ellie's school blazer the day before? Yes, it was him.) Karma!

Well after a while he came home, still with the needle in his foot. It had gone in between his big toe and the next one, and snapped off. He'd had x-rays, blood tests, and an ECG. No one could decide what to do so he was told to go back the next day.
On Tuesday I took him up to Capener Ward for 8 o'clock in the morning. He was nil-by-mouth since midnight. The doctor came and did his rounds and said they would operate to remove the needle and he'd need a general anaesthetic. I went to work. When I returned he still hadn't been operated on and by 5:30 they told him he could go home. Several emergencies had come in and he would have to come back the next day. He was hungry.

The above photo was taken on Wednesday, after he'd finally had the operation. He is now hobbling around the house in slippers, the left one having been cut open so it fits over the bandages. The stitches come out in just over a week. That'll teach him to put things away when he's finished with them!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Adrienne and Dan's Flat

Our holiday journey ended last Thursday with a brief stop in Southampton to visit Adrienne in her new flat. It's a nice little space, but slightly annoying with the sloping ceilings - still, I don't have to live there. We took her and Dan out for lunch, tried for the Hobbit pub but it was closed, and ended up in Pizza Express in a shopping centre. Then me and Adrienne went to Sainsburys before we did the long drive home. A drive that might have been slightly shorter had we realised where junction 8 was on the motorway before we'd gone three junctions past it.

Saturday, 31 August 2013


 We arrived in Amsterdam at 8 o'clock on Monday morning, having got up at some ridiculous hour of the morning. By the time we'd figured out how to get from the airport into the city and then to the hotel it was actually quite late though. We were in the NH Schiller hotel in Rembrant Square, which was lovely, much better than anywhere else we saw in the three days we were there.

After breakfast we headed for the Anne Frank house, but the sign half way along the queue said '45 mins from this point' so we decided to come back another day. Instead we found the Van Gogh musuem. A lady told us the queue for that was only 45 mins. She lied. We waited 1 hour and 20 mins; by the time we got in our feet were killing us. The paintings were interesting, but Caitlin thought the Dali museum in Spain last year was better - it was more interactive.

We had a late lunch (Subway) in Dam square, did a bit more sight-seeing, went back to the hotel for a bit then it was dinner time. We found a pizza place which was nothing special. Then we went for a walk around the Red Light District. It wasn't yet dark, but there were plenty of ladies standing in thier windows in thier underwear. Caitlin was faintly amused by the whole thing, Ellie didn't know where to look, and Carl said, 'That wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.'

 On Tuesday we arrived at the Anne Frank house before it opened and got straight in. It is a very well presented museum - and strange how everyone is so quiet walking around. Everyone talks in whispers.

After that we found a bike rental shop where a very abrupt woman served us. We spent two hours cycling around the city streets. Ellie nearly ran someone over, crashed into some tables and chairs whilst pushing her bike, and nearly gave me concussion trying to get her bike out of the place we chained it up when we stopped for a drink. Cycling around Vondel Park was nice. My legs ached by the time we got back though.

We had to check out of hotel no.1 after that and make our way to hotel no.2, the Dutch Design Artemis Hotel, miles out of town and practically at the end of the tram line. It was nice, but too far out really. We went back into the city for dinner that evening, in an Irish pub. We sat outside under the heaters.
Wednesday was a boat day. We had a free canal tour from the hotel so we did that in the morning. It was the 100 Highlights Tour. I don't think there were really 100 things we saw, but it was interesting. For lunch we went back to Rembrant Square and had a picnic on the grass for the second day.
In the afternoon we walked around and did a bit of window shopping before heading off to Central Station where we caught the ferry to the other side of the harbour to catch the Pancake Boat. We had a one hour cruise up and down the harbour and an all-you-can-eat pancake buffet. Each of us only managed two pancakes. We were second to board the boat and got a spot right at the front, so we had good views. I persuaded Ellie to come out onto the top deck with me on the way back, that was good too, but the others were being boring and didn't want to. After that it was the long journey back to the hotel for packing.

Bank Holiday Weekend

 Our holiday away this year started with the Bank Holiday weekend in the London area, although we didn't actually go anywhere near the city. We drove up to Wokingham on the Friday to stay with Louise and Ian in thier new house. Thanks to the Bank Holiday traffic we arrived later than anticipated and this is us having a very late, but very nice barbeque in thier back garden.

On Saturday it was off to Thorpe Park in the rain. We arrived just as the park was opening despite getting lost because the SatNav refused to plan a route to the park. The weather kept some of the crowds away and Carl and the girls didn't have to wait very long for most of the rides all morning. Saw broke down while they were in the queue, although the staff kept announcing that it was shutting for routine maintenance (they weren't fooling anyone), that was the longest wait. Shortly after that we took an early lunch and were glad we had because we'd just sat down with our food when the heavens opened and most of the rest of the crowds at the park piled in after us. When it looked like it was about to stop we nipped out quick and headed for Swarm where there was only a 20min wait instead of the 50mins it had been all morning. The girls rode twice. The only ride I went on was Loggers Leap, and as we were getting on that it began pelting it down with rain again, so not only did I get wet from the ride (they made me sit in the front) I got wet from the rain too. All the other wet rides I might have gone on had massive queues after that so at about 3 o'clock we decided we'd had enough and headed off for our hotel.

 Sunday was Harry Potter day, although we had to wait until 4 o'clock to go in. We went in with Beth, Andrew and Francis. Before that we did some shopping in Luton. The studio tour was great.  They say it takes about three hours and they're right. There is so much to see. The girls got passports which they collected stamps in and spent ages looking for snitches in different areas of the studios. Ellie took over 250 photos.
 My favourite bit was Diagon Alley. I also like the outdoor bit where we all sat and enjoyed a butterbeer, just like the ones in America. There is an area half way round where you can have your photo taken in front of a green screen. Ellie had hers taken on a broom and me and Caitlin had ours in the flying car. At the end of the tour we spent an hour in the shop! It had exactly the same stuff in as in Universal Studios. Ellie bought a wand, Caitlin bought a bag, and I bought a notebook for me and t-shirt for Adrienne. Then it was back to the hotel for dinner and an early night before our very early Monday morning.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Caitlin and her GCSEs

Caitlin's been counting down to this day since she finished her last exam. Finally it was here and she took forever to leave the house this morning to collect her GCSE results. After a long wait we started to get unhelpful text messages telling us how well her friends had done. Eventually she arrived home to tell us she had 6 Bs, 3 Cs (including the one for Science from last year) and 1 D in RE (which she wasn't bothered about in the slightest). Hooray! Well done Caitlin.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Ice creams on Instow beach

Hockings - obviously. We came down after tea yesterday, and the clouds were threatening to rain but the weather held off, it was just a bit windy and cold. Although never too cold for Hockings.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

BBQ on Exmoor

 It's the weekend! Hooray! And Adrienne is home from uni for two weeks. So we went out to Robber's Bridge on Exmoor today armed with a disposable barbie and a cool-bag full of food. We had burgers by the river, lounged around in the sun, went for a walk, and lounged around a bit more.
Willow had a lovely time chasing a stick around, she even took it on the walk and all the way back again. When we all got in the car to leave, she was quite happy staying on the grass with her stick. Caitlin had to pick her up just to get her to come with us. She's crashed out on the sofa now and refuses to move.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Ellie in Concert

Yesterday evening Ellie performed in Des's traditional end of year guitar concert. All this year she has been taught by Jess, seen here on the left. Ellie did very well and performed two pieces she has been learning for fun and two pieces she will be doing as part of her Grade 2 exam next year. It was nice to see her actually perform because normally she hides in her room to practise and refuses to let anyone watch her.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Caitlin's 16th Birthday

Caitlin had her 16th Birthday Party yesterday. Her actual birthday was a couple of weeks ago, right in the middle of her GCSEs, so she waited until the exams were over to have her party. Like Adrienne before her, she decided she wanted a Murder Mystery Dinner Party. I went shopping yesterday morning and then she told me that only six people were coming and not eight!

So here they are, dressed like 1950s film stars and personalities. Caitlin looked gorgeous in her dress. I served up a three course meal and me, Carl and Ellie had pizza in the playroom whilst watching episodes of 'Heroes' (Ellie is working her way through the box set). Judging from the raucous laughter coming from the front room, everyone had a good time, although I gather they found it somewhat confusing to start with. Caitlin was the only one to guess the murderer correctly. I blame too much 'Criminal Minds'.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Doggy with a Silly Hat

I've been meaning to put this photo up for a while but haven't quite got round to it. Last Tuesday Willow went to the vets to be spayed. She wasn't very happy when she came home and whimpered for while. But she's much better now - running around all over the place inspite of the lampshade. I expect she's looking forward to Friday when it comes off and she can finally go through the catflap again. I know we are!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Words from Guadeloupe

This is just a quick note from the Carribean. I am having a lovely time. We went to school today and had red carpet welcome from the children. We have taken a tour of the island and spent some time on various different beaches. I've tried some different rum drinks - well it would have been impolite not to - some were nice, some were not. It has rained everyday! But the sun comes out in between. There are lots of mosquitos and one foot is now twice the size of the other due to bites. Tomorrow I am going on a boat to one of the other islands - wish me luck!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Prom Queen No.2

 It barely seems like 5 minutes ago I was reporting on Adrienne's prom and now here I am, four years later, telling you about Caitlin's. She has been excited for weeks now and been counting down the days for at least the last two months. Brodie came round after school and did her hair. Adrienne came back from uni and did her nails (although that was not her sole reason for coming back). It's been proper girlie in my house this evening. And you have to agree, she looks beautiful.

I drove her round to Alannah's and they went off together in Alannah's aunty's Audi. Adrienne and I raced them down to the Barnstaple Hotel and joined the mega-millions of other parents taking photos. It was madness, but I loved every minute. I'm sure she'll have a good time too.

Thursday, 25 April 2013


Sadly, Ellie's rabbit Fluffy died today. She was a lovely little rabbit, although sometimes difficult to get out of her hutch. We buried her in the garden, not far from the guinea pigs. We will miss her.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Weekend in Cornwall

 I was going to call this post a wet weekend in Cornwall, but Sunday didn't turn out to be that bad. On Saturday it poured with rain all day. We left home at about 10 o'clock-ish and stupidly left it up to the sat-nav to guide us to Liskeard. Well, we got as far as Launceston okay and where it took us after that is anyone's guess. It was a horrible windy little road and by the time we reached the hotel I was green. We didn't stop there, but decided to carry on to the Monkey Sanctuary (also down windy horrible single lane tracks in the middle of nowhere). We wandered around in the rain, and looked and looked, and barely saw any monkeys at all - they were all far to sensible than to come out in all that rain. Back to the hotel we went.
 After a rest, a cup of tea and a warm up we headed off into nearby Looe. We wandered around, still raining, and then had a meal in a restaurant. Back at the hotel we watched one and a half films then went to bed.
 It was still raining on Sunday morning when we left, but by the time we reached Land's End it was just very windy. As you can see, the dog came on our weekend away. It was her first holiday. She was very good although Land's End is not a very dog friendly place. None of the bars or cafe's would let her in. We saw all the sights, and Carl took Caitlin and Ellie on an Air Sea Rescue simulator thing.
Then it was off round the coast to St Micheal's Mount. Merazion, the village opposite the island, is very dog-friendly. We went for lunch in the pub in front of the causeway and not only did they let Willow in they brought her over her own bowl of water and a plate full of doggy treats. We let her off the lead on the beach and she ran around and had lots of fun then we all walked over the causeway to the island where we had to clip her back on again. She wasn't allowed on the path through the gardens up to the castle, so we just walked around the bottom part of the island for a bit then headed back to the beach again. By the time we left we even had some blue skies.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

My New Bedroom

Finally, after living in this house for nearly 18 years, I have a properly decorated bedroom. When we first moved in I gave the woodchip walls a quick lick of paint, put in a cheap carpet and hung the curtains from my old living room. It's been like that ever since.

This half-term, with Caitlin ski-ing and Adrienne in uni, it was an ideal time to use the free rooms to clear out mine and do it properly. This is what it looks like now, with none of my clutter anywhere and none of Carl's clothes on top of the units where they normally live because he can't be bothered to put them away properly. It won't last. I'm planning on moving most of my clutter back in later today.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Red Nose Sponsored Walk

This is Ellie setting off on a sponsored walk last Sunday in aid of Comic Relief. Her and her friends, and some willing adults, walked from Braunton down the Tarka Trail to the Braunton Inn, and then back again - three-legged!!! At one point there were actually five of them joined so I guess that makes it a six-legged walk. Apparently that was difficult so they gave up on that one.

Sunday, 20 January 2013


Everyone went to bed on Thursday night hoping for snow. When we woke up on Friday morning the whole of  England seemed to be covered in it - apart from us! No nice snow day off school, no white stuff at all. It did snow all around us though, so today we escaped the Barnstaple Bubble and headed for Exmoor. No sooner had we gone 2 miles up the road than we found it. We kept going though and went out to Pinkery on the Devon/Somerset border.
 We took the dog for a little walk and played in the snow too. Caitlin and Annie are having a snow ball fight, while Carl helps Ellie make a snowman.
 This is the finished article. The only thing we could find to make eyes, nose and buttons was sheep poo!
 The dog had fun too. She ran round like a mad thing, digging at lumps of ice, sticking her nose into snow drifts sniffing for mice, and begging us to throw snow balls for her. We stopped when the ice she was crunching was making her gums bleed.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

It stopped raining!!

 Today we saw blue skies for the first time in ages! It was so nice that when we got to Instow beach to walk the dog there were almost more people there than in the height of summer.

Ellie was disappointed there were no ice cream vans around. Even the hut at the end of the slipway was missing - not just shut, actually not there any more. She had to walk all the way down just to make sure, she wasn't going to take our word for it. She'll do anything for food.

After our walk we went to wish my mum a Happy Birthday. It's not until tomorrow, though. Shebought her own cake and lit the candles herself but we stopped short of making her sing to herself. Happy Birthday Mum!

P.S. The air in my house this evening has been very unsavory. Please don't feed my dog so many sausages next time!