Thursday, 30 August 2012

Summer Holiday Themes 9; Dens

On the two occasions over the years I've been house hunting with my husband he has shown almost no interest in any aspect of the actual house but headed straight for the garden to check the shed installation possibilities. In fact when we moved into our current home, his shed came too, moved in 48 hours in pieces on the back of a Ford estate. It is a pretty fine shed. It would have been a shame to leave it behind. I can see that.

I do worry sometimes about the possibilities of shed escalation in our family. We have a second shed already for the housing of tools etc. But the husband's father had at one stage 3 sheds and a garage and the boys already make wistful murmurings about 'a shed of one's own'. I suspect the shanty town at the bottom of the garden is only going to expand. They already have a castle but that's not the same thing at all apparently...Bill's new found fever for playing pool can't happen in a castle- and neither can his expressed wish to learn the drums. sigh. I shall just have to retreat to my bath and shut the door.

The point of all this is we all love a den and we never stop loving a den. Dens. Are. Ace. Whatever their dimensions; I think Balmoral may function as a den for the Queen. Hmm that's a castle. See boys- it can work?

On our Cornish holiday we went to the thoroughly marvelous Eden project. But the most marvelous thing about it from my children's point of view was not the contents of the amazing biodomes but a side attraction being housed in the stage tent area where you were invited to construct your own den. Huge racks of substantial bamboo poles of different sizes, rectangular frames, massive tarpaulins, ties and carpets were laid on. A simple idea but on a lavish and luxurious scale so you could really build something properly impressive.  All around dads (mainly) and their kids were engaged in a mild competition to out-design their neighbour's construction whilst mums (mainly) admired from the sidelines with a cup of tea.

Back home the rain continues to fall and so more interior construction is called for( with thanks to Mrs. Peggs Handyline)

Dens are pretty well represented throughout many children's books of course; whether on the epic-whole-island-to-yourself scale of 'Swallows and Amazons' or a tiny cocoon retreat to recover from a Very Hungry Caterpillar's stomach ache. 
I'm not sure you can top Stig's cave though as Den My Children Would Most Like To Visit from Clive King's ever lovely 'Stig of the Dump:

'Barney got up and went into the dark part of the cave.
He'd never seen anything like the collection of bits and pieces, odds and ends, bric-a-brac and old brock that this Stig creature had lying about his den. There were stones and bones, fossils and bottles, skins and tins, stacks of sticks, and hanks of string. There were motor-car tyres and hats from old scarecrows, nuts and bolts and bobbles from brass bedsteads. There was a coal scuttle full of dead electric light bulbs and a basin with rusty screws and nails in  it. There was a pile of bracken and newspapers that looked as if it were used for a bed. The place looked as if it had never been given a tidy-up.
"I wish I lived here," said Barney'

This is actually a pretty good description of our house 5 weeks into the holidays. That's lucky then.

What's your favourite literary den?

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Summer Holiday Themes 8: Holiday report

Back from two lovely Cornish weeks where we DID fish for crabs!
This is 'Bingo', my first proud catch with a bit of bacon on a line.

and we DID eat Knickerbocker Glories...
(although to be honest these were nicer)

and I even (almost) taught Eddie to do the crawl!
And Bill read ALL The Wimpy Kid books and then felt refreshed enough to embark on the task that is Harry Potter 5 and Eddie read The Lorax and his Superhero sticker books over and over again and I finally finished reading them the Hobbit and started on The Wind in the Willows and I even read a few grown up books too.
Plus we got to see an escapologist fail to escape and need dramatic rescue from the end of the JCB he was dangling off. That's proper entertainment.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Summer Holiday Themes 7: Holiday!

When you've got so deep into the holidays that this starts to happen-
it's time to go away for a change of scenery...

We're off to Cornwall for a couple of weeks of mooching about rock pools and eating clotted cream and pasties (not necessarily together- but it's entirely possible.)

Eddie's got one book that he's connecting with very strongly in regard to this holiday; Mark Haddon and Peter Sutton's lovely 'Ocean Star Express' which opens:

'This summer, Joe and Mum and Dad are spending two weeks by the seaside at the Ocean Star Hotel. For five whole days the sky is bright blue and the air is warm as toast. Dad teaches Joe to do the crawl.
Joe rides the helter-skelter on the pier with Mum. They fish for crabs, play crazy golf and order knickerbocker glories in the Mermaid Tearooms.'

A perfect wish list for his holiday; his nightly chorus is now 'and will WE fish for crabs? and will WE play crazy golf? and will WE eat knickerbocker glories? ...although I may be a bit scared to go down the helter-skelter Mum. May I use the stairs?' Personally I think teaching him the crawl may be a little ambitious.

But as long as he's not also expecting the book's perfectly formed miniature railway in the loft of our holiday cottage it all sounds good to me.

See you on our return.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Summer Holiday Themes 6: Wrestling

This may also be familiar to some...

I remember bringing a three year old Bill and friend back home from nursery for a play date. 'Bill' says friend, 'When we get to your house shall we play 'punching each other in the stomachs' again?' 'Yeah let's.' says Bill.

Happy Days.

I knew having two children would involve a lot of refereeing. I wasn't prepared for quite how literal that refereeing would be at times. 'Bill, please don't eye gouge.' 'Eddie you can sit on his shoulder, but not his neck' 'NO WILLY GRABBING.'. It's like having a pair of carpet dwelling writhing otters in your front room when you're trying to watch the news unmolested. They'll wrestle for rights over everything from the last crisp to who gets to sleep with Scary Olympic Mascot Wenlock .

Bill wins of course; the genetically unfair older sibling height/weight advantage- 'MUM!- TELL BILL NOT TO' echoes round the house about every 10 minutes. Eddie does have one secret weapon he can use- the power of a proffered kiss will send his brother screaming and cowering to the furthest corner of the house. Ha.

So last night, for some reason I chose to blatantly encourage these habits by taking them to the finals of the Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling; a cracking night of fun for all the family (featuring rather a lot of men's bottoms in leotards on all fours for female interest). They didn't even make it to the end of the evening before trying out new moves in their seats, meaning by the end of the evening Eddie was sitting on my lap recovering from his first fight injury with the help of a biscuit the size of his head. 'Bill!' 'sorry'. tsk.

We felt the true Olympic spirit nevertheless, arbitarily picking our champions and joining the fans around us shouting 'Kaz-akh-stan! Kaz-akh-stan!' and later 'Rush-ee-a! Rush-ee-a!' and then standing proudly for first the Iranian, then Russian and Cuban national anthems. Here's some of Bill's photography from the night:
The 120kg guys squaring up to each other

Iranian fans go wild

They made an effort.; the only Romans in sight (and no Greeks either)
If Eddie is in need of some literary inspiration in how he might best his brother than I fail to see how he could do better than Astrid Lindgren's 'Pippi Longstocking'. 

'"I don't think you have particularly good manners with ladies," said Pippi. Then she lifted him high into the air with her strong arms. She carried him to a nearby birch tree, and hung him across a branch. Then she took the next boy and hung him on another branch, and then she took the next one and sat him on the high gatepost outside the house, and then she took the next one and threw him right over the fence...'

Actually we saw a Swede win a bronze medal last night. Maybe he too was a younger sibling who liked to read Lindgren?

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Summer Holiday Themes 5: Tooth

A year ago Bill lost his first top front tooth and quickly grew another (as you do at 7- harder at 41) to fill in the gap.

Since then he has also been merrily growing in the second top front tooth but with no loss of the baby tooth; giving him a kind of two tier mouth. We've been calling him Shark Boy for months now.

Yesterday however, seismic action occurred thanks to a corn on the cob which shifted the baby tooth to a critical point. It is now formally deemed to be 'hanging on a threadle'; a phrase coined in our house from Dorothy Edwards' 'My Naughty Little Sister' excellent wobbly tooth story. My naughty little sister refuses to part with her wobbly tooth despite its threadle status until the dentist requests to keep it for his special tooth collection when she efficiently whips it out. She wants it 'to wobble with'.

Bill, to do him credit, is trying to efficiently whip it out too but to no avail as yet- for more mercenary reasons to do with tooth fairies I suspect. (He is a firm Believer- a pragmatist my boy). Eddie keeps offering to give it a good pull too but as yet has had all offers declined. It can't be long now anyway though, look:

or don't- not if you have a weak stomach for loose teeth anyway. But bear in mind his poor mother has to look at him wobbling at it CONSTANTLY.

Honestly I think its giving him as much pleasure as a really good session on the Wii.

Channelling 'Nurse Matilda'

and just what is a 'threadle' anyway?

Friday, 3 August 2012

Summer Holiday Themes 4: Sticks

I'm sure there will be many who can identify with this one.

This is a fairly average haul from an hours trip to the woods of sticks that must be brought home.
I sometimes wonder how there can be any woods left given the amount of tree that gets forcibly transported.
The larger branch in the picture had to be carried on Bill's shoulders like a 17th century milk pail. I hope that all the parked cars in the street on the way home have their paintwork still intact.

and then what happens to them? This particular selection were/are being used to create a collaborative musical piece called 'Bang the smaller sticks on the larger sticks whilst singing Christmas Carols at top volume in August'. It's pretty moving stuff.

Often they're Wands of Death- 'Avada Kedavra!'  Bill has certainly embraced his Slytherin side.

As I type they've turned into fencing sabres- inspired obviously by our Olympic trip. I must get them to work on their shrieks of victory. They're just not loud or piercing enough.

Now Bill has tried sharpening one with a pencil sharpener and created something that really could be an instrument of death: "Bill- that's really dangerous!", "Cool- I've made a Proper Weapon!"

But sooner or later they all end up down the back of the sofa. I always go there first when searching for kindling for the wood burner come winter. Or when I can't work out why something seems to be sticking into my back when I collapse into it of an evening. No great mystery to be stuck by a stick.

Sticks. As good as a cardboard box.

Stick book? Can't beat my favourite Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book; 'Stick Man'. It sure puts you through the emotional wringer. The most perfect story arc.
But for the most complete stick book round up you can't beat this fab post from Playing By the Book. Although I still have my doubts about the need for a book of what to do with a stick ideas. I never thought I'd say this but that may be a book too far.

Hmmm maybe we DO need that book after all.