I confess that it has been two months since I last blogged. Life has been so crazy that we haven’t had time to stop – the weeks have just hurtled by. It is a shame as so much has been happening but I am hoping that I’ll be able to recall most things. I think that ultimately I do enjoy keeping a diary – I did as a child – and perhaps this blog is an extension of that. Shared memories have always been really important to my family; thus we are a family who love to tell stories and laugh over photographs of past adventures.
At present, we are well into the party season and almost every weekend has seen some celebration for the girls or their friends.
This is mainly an account of the time up to our holiday in Devon, where we celebrated Jocelyn’s second birthday.
The weekend before the nasty outbreak of E. coli at farms in Surrey, we went to one such farm (but not any of the ones involved in the outbreak) because we’d been promising the girls we’d go see some farm animals for weeks. So on the last Bank Holiday weekend in August, we set out for Bockett’s Farm.
It was a Saturday lunchtime but as we got within a mile of the farm, we encountered a nasty road traffic accident on the road. As we drove past the scene at low speed, I could see that there was only one paramedic on scene who had just arrived moments before. I asked Jase to pull over so that I could see if he needed any help.
An hour and a half later and after trying to save the injured man along with five paramedics and the air ambulance doctor and paramedic, we were finally done at scene and leaving the Police to start their investigation. It had been unexpected and stressful but I was glad that I was able to help in some way. Unfortunately, I was then in no fit state to go on to the Farm as I needed a change of clothes, so we headed back home.
The next morning, we tried the journey again, this time with no unexpected diversions. The road looked so different without the debris from the crash – almost as if it had never happened. I found that quite odd somehow.
However, once we’d arrived all thoughts of the previous day were forgotten and we had a wonderful time at the farm.
Here are Lauren and Jocey looking at the small animals in the hutch. Lauren was quite nervous, even of the small animals. Jocelyn, as usual, wasn’t scared of anything.
After looking at the rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep, goats and cows in the shed, we went outside to have a ride on the tractor around the farm.
It was all very well organised. There were plenty of hand washing facilities (and of course I made sure their hands were clean after they had touched the animals) and the place looked generally clean. It was all a lot of fun and the animals looked happy and content.
After a good lunch, we headed to the children’s playground area for the girls to run around and play. They especially liked the huge sandpit, complete with play house and sand toys!
Of course, Jocey loved the slide and had many goes before she could be persuaded to try something else.
Lauren spotted the bouncy pillow and the shoes immediately came off and she was on it bounce to her heart’s content!
Despite being quite a cold and overcast day they had a fantastic time and loved seeing the animals.
September brought a much needed holiday. Neither of us had actually had a proper summer holiday (our break in July was used to move house to Richmond). Work had been pretty busy for both of us and we were looking forward to going away.
I had found a lovely self catering cottage on the internet in North Devon which could accommodate all of us (as both sets of parents and Aunty Madge were coming too) and since I’d always wanted to go to the West Country, I thought it would be ideal.
It was in the most beautiful setting in North Devon; quiet, peaceful and so green. The cottage was located just outside a small town called Bideford, only accessible via a very narrow (and sometimes hair-raising) country lane.
It was everything we could have hoped for – not just picturesque but obviously a well loved family home. Our whole family loved it – the girls ran round the house for the first two hours exploring every nook and cranny of their “holiday house”.
Every evening, we had wonderful family meals in the farmhouse kitchen. I even got to grips with the challenge of cooking on an AGA (not my favourite beast – I love the instant control and intense heat that only a gas hob can provide). Catering for seven adults and two children was no small challenge, but actually one I enjoyed whilst on holiday.
On the first Sunday after our arrival in Devon, it was Jocelyn’s second birthday. She has yet to have a birthday celebration at home – last year, we were in Chicago for her first birthday!
Here is a picture of my baby girl just a few days old in September 2007.
This is her last year in Chicago on her first birthday.
I can barely believe how quickly she has grown into a little girl. Here she is on her second birthday in Devon. She is just about to blow out the candles on the carrot cake that I had baked for her that morning. I found the recipe in an old WI cookbook at the cottage dating back to the 1950’s. It was a fantastic recipe – I have used it a number of times since!
Jocelyn is turning into such a bright, vivacious girl – full of smiles and laughter!
She is so different from Lauren in personality but somehow they complement each other perfectly. We love our girls so much; they have brought so much joy into our lives. We are lucky and grateful that they also love each other very much.
Whilst in Devon, we visited some of the local attractions and sights. We had a day on another farm, called The Big Sheep, which was enormous fun. We had a day meeting the lovely farm animals, including feeding the lambs.
Lauren was a bit scared because the lambs were pretty boisterous but Jocey wasn’t fazed. She even went to stroke the lambs afterwards, and seemed to like that. Rigorous hand washing followed, of course. I was very impressed by the levels of hygiene in the place – there were signs everywhere reminding people to wash their hands and their children’s hands after any contact with the animals and it was generally very clean.
We loved watching the sheep dogs and also enjoyed the horse whispering demonstration. The girls also loved playing in the huge indoor soft play area.
They played happily in this area for at least an hour and a half before we could tear them away for some lunch.
Here’s Lauren, Jocey and Mummy coming down the big slide with Daddy looking on from the top.
Whilst in Devon, we visited a number of the local attractions. On a wet Monday morning, we drove into Cornwall to the Eden Project. Set in an old quarry, I found it to be surprisingly beautiful.
It was architecturally amazing – a perfect blend of sculpture with an industrial undertone and nature in all its glory. The planting was lush and felt natural; you would not have guessed that it’s only about 10 years old.
The girls did enjoy looking around the domes, especially the rainforest one (even though the heat was quite oppressive). Lauren especially liked the cocoa tree (when she found out that’s where chocolate came from!) and the banana tree with real bananas growing on it. I learned something too – I didn’t realise that pineapples grew on squat bushes; I had always assumed they grew on trees. Perhaps that was the fault of all those inaccurate Del Monte adverts when I was a child!
Both sets of parents enjoyed it too. We all agreed that it had been a lovely outing and well worth seeing. I thought that it was educational with a strong conservational message without being boring. I especially liked the cafe, where all the vegetable produce was grown on site by the Eden Project team.
Being real foodies, we decided that no trip to Devon and Cornwall would be complete without a trip to Padstow, home to chef Rick Stein. I planned to try some seafood there (being a port) even if it wasn’t going to be at his restaurant. Besides, I could always drool at the menu in the window.
It was a glorious day but I was shocked that on a Thursday after the schools had gone back from the summer break that the place was absolutely jam packed with tourists. Despite this, we did eventually find a restaurant called Pescadou which served us a wonderful seafood lunch at a reasonable price. My fish was cooked to perfection. I didn’t get to enjoy it for very long though, as Jocey was in a bad mood and had to be taken for a walk along the harbour before she calmed down.
A chocolate ice cream got her back to her normal cheery self very quickly after that!
Lauren, of course had one too.
In the afternoon, we drove back towards North Devon and stopped to take in the sights at Tintagel. Being a fan of the Arthurian Legends since childhood, I achieved a lifetime ambition to see Tintagel.
It is set in the most amazing place; you walk down a very steep path which takes you down a narrow valley and out towards an isolated headland, buffeted by the sea.
To clarify, the ruins that you see are mainly from a castle built in the Middle Ages. However, out on the headland, archaeologists uncovered ruins dating from a 5th or 6th century fort, the correct timeframe for the legends of Arthur. We loved it; the atmosphere and the sheer wild nature of it.
We had unexpectedly glorious weather for the entire week so much of it was spent on the beach. The girls loved this; they spent the whole time running around and building sandcastles. It was fantastic to see them so happy and so free – a far cry from London.
We found two beaches that we particularly loved; one at Instow, which was very sheltered and family friendly and one at Woolacombe, which was huge, very clean and had excellent facilities.
Here’s Lauren and Jocey on the beach at Instow building sandcastles.
Here’s a later masterpiece getting the “Jocey treatment”.
The girls are clearly having fun!
This is Mummy’s attempt at sand sculpture – a sea turtle. Pretty basic but drew many admirers from people passing by on the beach!
Our day at Woolacombe was also fun filled. The girls had a wonderful time doing a dance around their sandcastle – perhaps to bring out the sun?
What better way to celebrate the joys of the beach than for the whole family to enjoy a lunch of fish and chips in the sunshine? I had some fresh whelks as well…yummy!!
It was a fantastic day out, as you can see by everyone’s relaxed smiles.
We attempted some family photos but unfortunately the girls were too tired by then. This was the only one we managed to get successfully!
We loved Devon and we loved our holiday there. The week was over far too quickly (as always with holidays). We were truly sad to be heading back to the concrete jungle of London. The quieter pace was something I definitely continue to yearn for, and maybe we’ll find soon. I would definitely like to go back some day.
The rest of our holiday photos can be seen here.