Monday, 30 August 2010

Drowning, just ever so slightly!

Uuuuurgh, I'm just floundering again a little bit. I need to learn how to manage my time. Actually, I probably don't, I probably just need to stop going to bed after midnight and exhausting myself by reading late into the night. I need a good night's sleep is all.

I'm a bag of nerves at the moment, and it's very silly, because all I need to do is to sit down and do the things that I've given myself to do. I've just added Twitter, to my list of things to master, and also Yes, I've begun hubbing, and although I'm thinking that it is going to be a very good and positive and encouraging thing, I'm very nervous about it right now. Hubbing seems to be to do with the writing of useful and informative articles about absolutely anything that is original. No pressure then! I'm feeling pressured.

But everyone feels nervous when they start a new thing, don't they? I'm only nervous because I'm learning the ropes by myself, having never heard anything about hubbing from anyone I know. I'm bound to make mistakes, but making mistakes online can be mortifying can't it, because potentially everyone in the world can see what foolish thing you've gone and done?! I'm finding myself to be absolutely terrified of making a typo! How ridiculous. I think I should probably go to bed very shortly, and tomorrow I should book myself a massage and chill out, stupid woman, stressing about nothing, stressing about something that really isn't stressful, and now she's writing in long sentences, using lots of commas, and she's taking about herself in the third person as well, and really, really rambling and talking absolute nonsense and twaddle, and now she's beginning to wonder if she's ever going to finish this sentence or if she's going to let it go on and on and on and on and on and on ...

'Hem, 'scuse me, sorry.

I think I'll need an iPhone soon, to keep up with my tweets, blogs and hubs. Woooah! Weird. All of a sudden I'm speaking a new language, and it's all very unfamiliar. :oS

I've absolutely no reason to feel nervous about the hub thing. I was very pleased to be on there yesterday, when my first hub got lots of views, and some welcoming comments. It seems like a nice place to write. I'm looking forward to having a really good idea to write a hub about, to making it look like an article, putting some pictures in it and quotes and things, and then sitting back and seeing how it's received. Places like this are excellent forums for writers, because they always draw plenty of comment, and as the people who read the work are not close friends or family, one tends to get an accurate appraisal :) I think I've done a very positive thing in joining hubpages. Apparently, because of the use of advertisements on these pages, writers can earn a little bit of revenue. But that's not really why I'm there at all - I'm there to have my words read, because what's a writer without readers?!

It'll be nice to get the kids back to school (I've enjoyed the summer holidays tremendously, because my plan to stay off the computer while I'm with them worked very, very well - I've lapsed a bit this week, but then the kids have been so exhausted that they've just wanted to relax at home, so I've not really been naughty!), and to get back into our lovely routine. I want to get stuck into some projects, and I want to make use of all my spare minutes (if I had an iPhone, this would be easier!).

Of course, you know it's all words with me:
'If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men's cottages princes' palaces...' Portia, Merchant of Venice, A1, Sc2, l13.
This quote, which I found today, sums me up perfectly. (Sorry, can't remember how to reference properly - it's been a long time!) Were I still at school, my report should still say'... full of good intentions, but must try harder...'! I thought about getting the above Shakespeare quote as a tattoo somewhere about my person, to serve as a reminder to myself to get off my backside and get on with my work! But I found a different one that I love very much indeed, it's incredibly beautiful, and I understand it *shakes head in disbelief at her own astonishing intelligence, for she reckons she must be approaching the same IQ as Stephen Fry now*. It's sonnet 61, and although it's very long for a tattoo, I've had a good idea for a way to have it positioned on my shoulder and upper arm without it looking like just so much text.

Here is the sonnet, incase you don't know it!:

Is it thy will thy image should keep open
My heavy eyelids to the weary night?
Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,
While shadows, like to thee, do mock my sight?
Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee
So far from home, into my deeds to pry,
To find out shames and idle hours in me,
The scope and tenour of thy jealousy?
O, no! thy love, though much, is not so great:
It is my love that keeps mine eye awake;
Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,
To play the watchman ever for thy sake:
For thee watch I whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,
From me far off, with others all too near.
I am thinking that this is enough Shakespeare from me tonight. I wanted to hub about this quote, and I'm not supposed to hub anything that I've written elsewhere! Difficulties may arise :oS

Linda: Goodnight ladies and gentlemen :) I must high me hence (to bed), and rest awhile. (Exits, to the sound of tumultuous applause)

Monday, 23 August 2010


Where to begin...

I was kind of thinking that I'd like to tell you all about our wonderful holiday. I really shouldn't've been so lazy, and should have blogged while we were away, since we had broadband in our lovely house, and I had plenty of free time in the evenings. But for some reason my body and mind were in agreement about me needing some proper recharging, and they conspired together to force me into vegging on the couch and watching films and telly every night. There was absolutely nothing I could do.

Good thing is that I'm itching to write now - I have this blog entry to do, I have two letters to write, and I have my book manuscript to finish. If I could bottle this feeling of motivation, and perhaps concentrate it so that I could just take a sniff of it for it to work, like smelling salts, I could get so much done. Of course, then I'd be motivated enough to become an entrepreneur and I'd produce large quantities of my concentrated motivation, and I'd sell it all over the world. But would it start to become a problem, would I become addicted to it, and would I become over-motivated? What would happen to a person who had too much motivation? Would they burn out perhaps? Would their brain run at a faster speed than their body, and would they mentally age prematurely, maybe? Or would the brain's reaction to the motivation induce a physical response also, so that the body could keep up with the brain, and mean that there was a sharp decrease in life expectancy? Or perhaps the concentrated motivation would allow a person to think at a faster speed, so that the person would seem to have more hours in the day and it wouldn't really matter that they had less years to live. If a person had more hours in a day, and a brain working at a faster speed, I wonder whether the person would start to be more intelligent, and I wonder if the person would start to access the large areas of the brain that lay dormant. And I wonder if the person would actually be able to start to use telekinetic powers and become a Jedi? Mmm, I think it is decidedly so. I will start to work on bottling my motivation right away.

That's the biggest digression I've ever taken, I think. Sorry.

Our holiday in Northumberland
We are still getting used to being in a place where the rain stays. We made good use of our waterproofs in Northumberland, but the rain comes in torrential bursts over there. The clouds move so fast that rain showers are over before you've even had time to fasten your raincoat or put up your umbrella. You might as well just get soaked and get used to it :) The sun comes right out and dries you up pretty quickly anyway. But we were really pretty lucky weatherwise, and have been since we got back to Lancaster too - so much so, that I'm almost tempted to make small talk with people about how good the weather's been this summer, except that most people beat me to it and tell me all about the rain they've been experiencing, and then I feel rather sheepish and guilty and daren't tell them that I've had sunshine following me around for six weeks!

Now then, I don't think it's going to be a good idea for me to sit here and go through the list of places we visited in Northumberland and give you an hour by hour debriefing (no, I do not mean anything to do with taking clothes off!) about everything we did and saw, complete with photos and captions. I think you would soon lose interest, after you'd fumed for a while in green-eyed bitterness, and you would perhaps decide not to bother being my friend anymore if all I could think of to write was braggings about my perfect holiday and my perfect family. So I will just keep it quite brief (I always say that, and then I always go on for reams!), and I will post a few pictures of the best places we visited. If you will bear with me while I get this post out of the way, then we will return to my normal ramblings from tomorrow :)

(Edit: I have now finished this post, and as usual, I did not manage to keep it brief at all - apologies. If you cannot be bothered with photos and captions, please feel free to leave now :) )

Right, this is one of the views of Alnwick itself. Alnwick is where we stayed, in a beautiful terraced house in a street just parallel to the main street. Alnwick is beautiful, and we love it with all our hearts, and we want to live there. The boys want to live there too, and James particularly said that he wanted to move all of his toys from our house in Lancaster to our house in Alnwick. But it doesn't have a Waterstone's, and that is its only flaw :( It's quite a serious flaw - I don't know if I can live without a Waterstone's. I know they sell online, but it's really not the same!

This is a picture taken by James, of the Trincomalee. It's pretty big, but as far as tall ships are concerned, actually rather small. I loved this ship, loved walking around the lower decks, imagining the people who lived and worked on it, imagining the smells and the sounds (lots of which would not have been pleasant!) and the places that it visited two hundred years ago. Quite an amazing experience, if you're willing to let your imagination run free, and not just see the Trincomalee as a boring old ship. When we visited another place later on in our holiday I saw some children flouncing around a museum saying 'ugh, another boring room, another boring bit of pottery, ugh!' and felt sad for them that they were not getting more out of their day/lives. I'm feeling very smug right now that my children enjoy museums and are interested in what they're seeing, and try to understand what I'm telling them (in my pidgin history) about Romans and pirates and Victorians and so on. My poor children, I'm determined that they shall be geeks!
Us having a look at a typical meal aboard the Trincomalee.

I found myself taking a lot of pictures of the ship's rigging, and many of masts from different angles. I'm going to make a collage of them, because it's all very beautiful, very romantic and evocative of the great swathes of maritime history and stories that abound in our country (and in many others, I'm sure!). I mean, I know they're not trees, but I did find myself possessed of a powerful urge to climb the ladders, and shout 'Avast' a lot. I know absolutely nothing about sailing, as is perfectly obvious, and I was ashamed that I didn't even know port from starboard (or even if port and starboard are real terms, or just myths!).

The Tyne Tunnel. Mmm.

This is a bit of Alnmouth. Beautiful little coastal town. We only spent a couple of hours there, but will have to go again next time.

This is what we got to do at a little gem of a place called The Barn at Beal. The Barn at Beal is a small raptor sanctuary, just across the causeway from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne :) It's got spectacular views of Holy Island, and you can see the cars crossing the causeway when the tide's low. The birds at the Barn are very happy, very well cared for, and love to fly for their admirers. Thomas and James held several of the birds. Matthew wasn't so keen, but did poke one owl with his finger once. In this picture you can just about see the rain starting to come in - a few minutes later, BLACK clouds came across from Lindisfarne and drenched us, and then the sun came out.

Thomas with Tinko. I can't remember this species of bird, but Thomas was left holding him for ages, until his arm was really rather achey :)

Aaah, this is the inside of one of the shops at Beamish. Beamish is an incredible place, and I think everyone should see it. I've already provided a link to its website in the previous post, but here it is again. I would quite like to live in Beamish, but that's not possible of course. I could get a job there though, and show people tiny hundred-and-thirty-year-old shoes all day. You can see the teeny little shoes in this photo - generally speaking, people were smaller in centuries gone by you know! It's true!

Thomas in the schoolroom in the Pit Village. That schoolroom was incredible. We spent a long time there, soaking up the atmosphere. The boys were fascinated by the writing slates and the ink pens and ink wells (we bought some ink pens for them to use at home - they were very patient with them, and can write very well :) ). They also liked the pickled snake and the pickled frog on display in a cabinet.

Writing with ink pens, and using blotting paper :D We used blotting paper when I was at school - ahh, memories. Who remembers those scratchy blue fountain pens that Mr Liptrott gave us to use, and we always had to go up to the front to get new cartridges because we weren't allowed to change them ourselves, and the pens always got clogged up and Mr Liptrott spent most of his time shaking them fiercely and getting ink splatters on his desk? Mr Liptrott really hated his job sometimes I think!

In the playground on the schoolhouse, trying to figure out this hoop and stick contraption worked. I got it once, but then couldn't get it going again. The boys couldn't really figure it out at all, but just spent a long time scraping the hoop on the floor because it was VERY loud, and that was fun enough :)

Berwick ramparts. We went to Berwick specifically to fly kites on the ramparts. We did fly kites on the ramparts for about twenty minutes, and then the rain came in and we had to give up! But it was very nice to see Berwick again - Berwick does not have a Waterstone's, but it has a WHSmith that sells quite a lot of books :) Not quite good enough to make me like Berwick more than Alnwick though. Alnwick's got a magnificent castle, which is always going to trump a WHSmith.
Oh, something weird happened to me in Berwick, and I became incredibly and pathetically scared of heights. Last time we were on the ramparts I was fine - they're very high, and any of my kids could have plummeted to their deaths if they'd leaned over the edge, but I was never remotely scared of that happening. But this time I couldn't really stand for anyone to go anywhere near the edge - I had nightmares about it that night, after we'd got back safely to Alnwick. Kev worked out that it's because Matthew is a holy terror and runs off very quickly the minute he's allowed out of the pram or to let go of mine or Kev's hand. He's a right tearaway, and I was subconsciously convinced that Matthew's number was up that day in Berwick - I knew that if one of us was going to perish by dropping off the edge of a grassy banking, it was going to be Matthew. Well, we all made it back alive, phew.

Did you know that when ducks and geese eat corn out of your hand it really tickles?

The Washington branch of the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust was excellent. We had a great day just enjoying some fresh air, and roaming free. We can't proclaim to be proper bird watchers, mainly because the boys can't be quiet enough, but we had a restful day here. A beautiful place.
This one's a crane. The boys knew what it was because there's a crane in Kung Fu Panda. Hmm. Maybe Disney/Dreamworks DVDs are educational after all.

The Alnwick Garden is a place of wonders! Well, okay, maybe a little exaggeration. It's a very lovely place. But my opinion of it was soured somewhat on this visit. Noomski and Jessica came to stay with us for a couple of nights, and we decided that we'd show them the Alnwick Garden. Lots of people now know that I love to climb trees, and the Alnwick Garden has the most incredible climbing tree. I was excited about finding it again and showing it to Noomski - he would definitely challenge himself to climb higher than any of the rest of us! Imagine our absolute horror when we found the tree but there was a dirty great sign next to it saying, in a whingey, whiney voice 'don't climb me please, I'm very old and might get damaged'. Pah! Pardon me, but are climbing trees not supposed to be climbed?! Disgusting.
Well, never mind. The rest of the garden was great. Thomas, Noomski and Matthew got drenched in one of the water sculptures, and Matthew spent the rest of the day shivering. We're very cruel - we could have gone right home and got him some dry clothes, because the castle was only five minutes from our house, but we were just too lazy.

This is another gem of a place. It's the Sanctuary, at Ulgham, near Morpeth. It's just a little tiny place, probably only an acre or two. It's home to some goats, some ponies, some owls and a few other raptors, a couple of foxes and one mammoth pig. That pig was the biggest pig I have ever seen. It was a right pig. Whoever reckons pigs are cute has not seen this fat bloater!

Isn't it nice when your kids stop being frightened of feeding animals on farms and things :) Here's James, and a donkey.

Bamburgh beach - now officially one of my favourite places in the world. I'm definitely going here again, oh yes. It's the most perfect beach, with the most perfect view, and the most perfect weather. Here you can see some darkish clouds, but some blue sky in the distance - look, I'm pointing it out to you! And it's got great waves - some people were body boarding, and some had bigger surf boards. I'd imagine that later in the year the waves get much better. They were good enough for Matthew at this time of year though, and he got swept off his feet a couple of times - it's alright Mum, I had a firm hold of his arms :D

Some blue sky a few minutes later. Ahhh, refreshing, revitalising, invigorating. Look at that - it's not every beach that has a view like that. Proper cracking little place is Bamburgh Castle. (For anyone who reads my blog and is a fan of Anne of Green Gables, and who has seen the Megan Follows films, these grassy dunes are just exactly like those on Prince Edward Island where Anne drops her manuscript and the pages all go blowing about in the wind, and then she meets Morgan Harris! I was looking for him here, but he didn't turn up - perhaps because I hadn't brought my manuscript with me to chuck about.)

Rainbow. We were treated to an excellent rainbow display on this day, really rather spectacular. The world at work, in a very visual and drenching way. If you don't like rain, I'd recommend playing in the middle of a nice big shower on Bamburgh beach, and you might well change your mind - it's well fun!

The absolutely real and genuinely proper Professor Dumbledore and Hagrid. Taking the mick out of Kev :) This is Alnwick Castle, backdrop of Hogwarts in Harry Potter, of course. This is also officially one of my favourite places in the world - aside from being steeped in magic, courtesy of JK Rowling, it's also a beautiful castle, with 700 years' worth of history all of its own. I look forward to spending some time in it by myself in a few years' time, when I can learn some of its history properly and look at some of the incredible paintings for longer than seven seconds.

Imagine this bit of the castle with a lake in front of it, and some turrets and more windows, and being a lot cleaner, and surrounded by a dark forest, and there you have Hogwarts.

This is us saying goodbye to Alnwick, having a little walk around the town and trying to fix the buildings in our minds. Thomas here is doing some sword fighting, with the sword he got from Alnwick Castle, against some invisible invading baddies that have come to occupy our town.

On our way back to Lancaster (see, I can't quite bring myself to say 'on our way home' because I want to live in Alnwick!) we went to Vindolanda, another open air museum. It's a big site, and you can see some of it here. It was absolutely fascinating to walk down a roman street, and to see the size of the buildings that were inhabited and worked in by people almost two thousand years ago. The indoor museum, which houses some of the finds from the site, was quite staggering really. There has been a tremendous amount of archaeology unearthed at Vindolanda, because the conditions over the centuries have remained perfect for preservation. Read about the Vindolanda tablets here. As far as the boys were concerned though, Vindolanda was a great place to run around and climb :D (I'm not at all sure that we were allowed to climb all over the walls, but everyone else was doing it, so we just guessed that it was alright :oS .) It's a place at which I'd like to spend quite a lot more time.

So that's a bit of a glimpse of our holiday. Hope you're still awake. Sorry for being dull, but I've had a bit of an OCD about this post, and needed to get it written so that I could move on!

Almost Christmas!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Tall ships, traditional folk dancing and raptors

We love Northumberland :) Might live here one day, it's so beautiful, and is full of beautiful people :) You know how, when you walk down the street in some towns and cities, no-one smiles when they catch your eye? It's like that in Lancaster too, very often. But up here, in Alnwick, and all these places round about, everyone smiles when you catch their eye. Lots of people say nice things in the street when they pass by. When we were in Alnmouth yesterday for our tea, I paused to take a photo of the view of the coast, and a man, who was just walking past and about to get into a white van, stopped to say to me 'it's a beautiful view isn't it?', then he smiled and carried on about his business. Gorgeous people :) Suits me fine, because I always smile when I catch someone's eye - that vacant look of indifference that my smile is usually met with is often like a slap in the face, but I haven't received a single face-slap since we arrived in the North-East! Lovely service in shops, and in restaurants/pubs, by absolutely everyone that you have to interface with.

And there's so much to do around here. Admittedly most of the really good stuff costs a little bit to get into, so the touristy things can't really be done for free. But nothing is expensive, and everything is excellent value. There is plenty of free stuff of course, because the beaches here are just stunning! Bamburgh is particularly amazing. We're holding out for a very nice day to go to Bamburgh, because beaches, although still good fun in the rain, are not places to spend a whole day on when it's wet and wild. But Alnmouth is just down the road from here, so it's handy to pop along to the coast for a walk for a bit. It's also got beautiful beaches, and lovely places to have food, and is just a very tranquil place. We had a little paddle there before tea yesterday, and I spent some quality time by myself (the kids were actually with me, but I was just ignoring them), lying on a bench and staring up at the clouds.

We've made ourselves a rough list of the things we want to do while we're here, and we're ticking them off. There's some rain, but nothing awful, nothing to keep us in the house all day.
Waterproofs were a good investment last week :) The boys are shattered because they're not used to being forced to do something fun every single day!! They're enjoying themselves, but there's quite a lot of bickering going on, and this weird thing happens every time they sit down in the car - they suddenly become very deaf and have to shout at each other, which is giving me headaches, lol. Testing my patience, as I'm the driver! But we've had a restful day today, and they've gone to sleep pretty early, so we should be rejuvenated tomorrow :)

Our first big trip out was to Hartlepool, to the Tall Ships festival. These ships are on a race around the North Sea, and Hartlepool was the finishing point. Well, I just want to be a sailor now - but not now, no, I want to be a sailor two hundred years ago! Tall ships are beautiful, they're inspiring, they're romantic, they're day-dreamy, and I want one. I took loads of pictures, but they're mostly of rigging and masts - I didn't want to bore you with them, so here's just one. This ship, the Christian Radich, was the one that I got the best picture of because it was the only one that I could fit into the frame properly!
The biggest one was the Trincomalee, which is permanently in port at Hartlepool (she's almost 200 years old), and I loved her and wanted to spend a bit of time sitting on deck and daydreaming, but the boys were not quite as impressed as I was - they were impressed, just not enough to want to stay on it when there was a play area right next to it :) My little laddies were super all day though - Thomas and James walked miles, because I had to drag them round the marina to find a cash machine! Then we had to go all the way back around the marina to the actual festival - they must be getting quite used to walking long distances now because I did not have one single word of complaint from them :D They slept well that night though! It was a really, really excellent day at Hartlepool - what a fantastically well organised festival. The park and ride was easy peasy, we didn't have difficulty in finding our way to anything. And I must just tell you that the portaloos were the most impressive portaloos I've ever seen! Seriously! They were clean! Yes, they were! And some blokes were going round the whole time cleaning them! That was easily the most impressive bit of the day.

Here we have a troupe of dancers from Poland - these dancers were children, I guess from about eight upwards. They were wonderful. We just wandered into town on our first day here, and stumbled upon this market square that was full of seating and this stage. It was lovely, and I kept fighting back tears for some strange reason - I think I was a little overwhelmed with the loveliness of it all. The first group we saw were Dutch, and they were a troupe of more mature ladies and gentlemen (pensioners :D) - they were the ones that had me crying the most, they were just so full of energy and having the time of their lives, it was fantastic. They were singing along to the music, and of course, we couldn't tell a word they were saying, but that didn't matter at all because it was still beautiful to listen to. All three of our boys were mesmerized, and again, not a word of complaint from them about being bored :)

Today we went to the Barn at Beal. It's a lovely little gem of a place, that we visited last time we were over here, a little bird sanctuary. And similarly, like last time, the birds were not able to fly for us properly because of the rain! But we were still able to see them for a little bit - the handlers allowed everyone to have a hold of one or two birds. James showed us that he is just not shy anymore, as he was the first volunteer that the lady asked for and he didn't hesitate to say yes :) In the photo is James with a Harris Hawk. He also held a long-eared owl, and another owl that I can't remember the name of. Dude :)

Mmm, lovely. It's very beautiful here, and I wish that we could stay for a month. The house we're staying in is wonderful - it's better than our house! The boys will not be wanting to go home at the end of next week, and neither will we. Here feels like home :) (Maybe it's just because the house was spotlessly clean and tidy when we arrived - still is actually!)

We're off to Beamish tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Liverpool rocks!

Sorry it's all about the kids and our summer holiday doings at the moment, but that's all there is right now :) I am only Mummy Linda at the moment (this is what Matthew calls me, or sometimes it's just Linda).

Today we went to Liverpool on the train - it was quite an adventure! It took me a while to decide whether to drive or to go on the train, because while I know that it's quicker to drive, Liverpool roads scare me half to death and I can never remember how to get to the best car parks, and then how to get from the car parks to the right galleries, and there are just too many variables for me to consider. I'm not usually so pathetic, but Liverpool does this to me, makes me unsure of myself. So we went on the train, because I know that the Walker gallery is practically on the doorstep of the train station. Easy peasy. (Of course, I forgot that I seem to have some kind of curse hanging over me, that never fails to ensure that I will have a horrendous return journey - but a little more about that later.)

The boys were very excited about going on trains, but not so overexcited that they couldn't behave nicely. They were perfect! I was so proud. They had some colouring to keep them occupied, and they worked away diligently for the whole of the journey, playing 'I Spy...' at the same time (yes, it would seem that my boys can multitask!), and they kept asking funny questions about where we were going and what we could see out of the windows, making the older gentleman, whose table we have taken over, laugh quite a lot. One change at Preston, absolutely no problem, all children present and correct when we disembarked at Liverpool, all walking nicely and doing as they were asked.

Weird weather in Liverpool - when we got to the exit at the station I looked out and saw that it wasn't raining. We must have flicked some kind of weather switch as we stepped out the door though, as we were suddenly spat upon by all the Gods! Soaked almost to the skin within a matter of moments by a completely freaky downpour, that ended as quickly as it started. That was kind of fun :) The boys thought it was hilarious!

By the time we got to the Walker Gallery - what is it, about 200yds away from the station? - the sun was out and we were already starting to dry.

I had no definite plan for the day, but had it in my mind that we would do the Walker Gallery until the boys got bored (I expected them to last about an hour at the most), and then we would try to remember our way to the Tate on the Docks. I am very pleased and proud to be able to report that we stayed in the Walker for four and a half hours :D It was really fantastic. They have a kids' room, called the Big Art room, right by the entrance which is full of arty activities and books and all kinds of things to look at and touch and listen to. It's really great for creative kids, like mine :) Today one of the activities was Magic Maize, and the boys made a picture each using these things that look like Wotsits, that you wet and stick onto paper. Thomas made a plan of our house, James made a pumpkin, and Matthew made ... erm, something abstract.
So this here picture is Thomas, James and Matthew in the Big Art room - this look of concentration on Thomas's face was fixed in place for the whole afternoon: he used it in this room, he used it in the workshop upstairs, and he used it when he was sampling a chocolate torte in the cafe :)

We checked out some paintings on our way up to the First Floor, and James was very interested in them - he particularly liked Napolean Crossing the Alps (sorry, can't remember if names of paintings are italicised, or stuck in quotation marks!). Thomas was not so interested, which surprised me because he's been talking about how he wants to be an artist for the last few months. He was more interested in the sculpture display - that was very, very good, and we all liked that. We spent a lot of time looking at the sculptures and talking about what each figure was doing and who they were and when they would have been alive and what their stories were. Thomas liked looking at the materials that the sculptures were made from. Matthew liked telling us, in quite a loud voice, which ones were naked, and which ones had bottoms and boobies! If I hadn't have been laughing so much I might have been very embarrassed!

Upstairs on the First Floor there was a fantastic workshop going on, and that is where we spent the most time. A nice lady showed us one of *Lowri's famous paintings, and explained to the boys about the matchstick men, and invited them to make their own interpretation of the painting using pipecleaners, tissue paper, masking tape and coloured pens and pencils. All three boys made their own picture (which I will post pictures of later when I get chance to scan them), and sat so quietly and studiously for about an hour. I was stunned. I thought perhaps they would be content to work for fifteen minutes or so, but when I kept asking if they were enjoying themselves and if they were happy to stay, none of them looked up from their work, and each one nodded enthusiastically and grinned and said that they were having fun. Fantastic!

Laurence Stephen Lowry (1 November 1887 – 23 February 1976) was an English artist born in Barrett Street, Stretford, Lancashire. Many of his drawings and paintings depict nearby Salford and surrounding areas, including Pendlebury, where he lived and worked for over 40 years at 117 Station Road (B5231), opposite St. Mark's RC Church.

Lowry is famous for painting scenes of life in the industrial districts of Northern England during the early 20th century. He had a distinctive style of painting and is best known for urban landscapes peopled with human figures often referred to as "matchstick men". He also painted mysterious unpopulated landscapes, brooding portraits, and the secret 'marionette' works (the latter only found after his death).

Now for the story of the Mystery of the Missing Priceless Lowries. After we had finished our work in the Walker gallery, and had taken some refreshments in the cafe, and had purchased some small souvenirs in the gift shop, and had had a final loo stop before the train, we went outside for a leg stretch and some fresh air around the big-black-fountain (see photo). Another delightful half hour was spent here, the boys choosing to hare it around the fountain getting wet in the puddles and sprayed by the fountain water whenever the wind picked up. Another little boy came to play, and after a few minutes I noticed that he had made a Magic Maize picture as well. That was when I realised, with complete disabling horror, that our artwork had not left the gallery with us. In a second I knew exactly where I had left the beautiful pictures - on a shelf next to the sinks in the toilets! Without a moment's hesitation we were on our way back across the road to the gallery, hoping against the odds that the priceless works would still be there. Thomas was brave and fast and he ran ahead. Of course, the pictures were not to be found in the toilets. So, already sweaty and red in the face, I set off to find out who had stolen the precious pieces, that my boys had laboured over for hours. Half of our day had been spent on those masterpieces, and I was not about to just leave without them. I spoke to every person in uniform on both floors, asking, with tears in my eyes, if anyone had handed in any particularly impressive drawings. No-one was very helpful, or very interested, and didn't seem to think our loss was particularly important. I am not ashamed tell you all that I went back into the restroom and rooted through the bin - to no avail :(

But then, as we were about to give up and leave the gallery, I noticed a bin by the exit. In it were some large sheets of rolled up, slightly crumpled paper. I stopped breathing for a second, as my shaking hand reached into the bin to retrieve the treasure. Oh what a deep, deep sigh of relief we all breathed when we saw that the Lowries had been recovered! Phew! And that the was the story of the Mystery of the Missing Lowries :)

The big-black-fountain picture:

James posing for a photo out front of the Walker Gallery ('do you want to take a photo of me Mummy?' 'Where do you want me to stand Mummy?' 'Shall I stand up on this step Mummy?' 'Do you want me to smile like this Mummy?'):

James and Thomas looking at the lasered artwork in the pavement outside Lime Street station (I don't actually know if these reliefs were lasered, but they looked it):

Matthew making a run for it (this the first of many attempts to escape before we got back to Lancaster - this photo captures the exact moment that the devil entered his soul):

This is where the perfect day ended! Return journeys always go wrong for me for some reason or other, but it is enough to say that my children are not the most patient of little dudes when there is absolutely nothing to do, and will always resort to teasing each other and invading each other's personal space until two or more of them are howling and screaming loudly enough to make fellow travellers raise one eyebrow in disgust at my useless parenting. I never really like to think that my children embarrass me - I'm almost always so proud of them - but today they were pretty embarrassing, as they decided that it was going to be more fun to spend the journey (and particularly the waiting periods at Wigan and Preston) thwacking each other about the head and arms, and whining about having nothing to do. Matthew got possessed by some demons, and although he had no tantrums at all, did spend two full hours laughing his head off and saying very inappropriate things about 'bums' and 'poos' so that not only our carriage, but the whole train, could hear :) I had to keep one hand on him at all times to prevent him from legging it out of the door each time the train stopped, and to stop him from hurling himself onto the tracks at the stations.

I lost my patience lots on the way home, and kept promising that I would never take them on the train to Liverpool ever again. But now that I'm home and I'm thinking about the day, and am remembering that it was proper ace fun, and that even the adventure on the way home was pretty funny (only because I made it home with all three children) I think I will probably take them back to Liverpool quite soon :) They really did enjoy it, and it really was a huge success - one cannot expect absolutely every aspect of a day trip such as this to be completely perfect with a six-, a four- and a two-year-old to look after.

My next goal is to teach Thomas, James and Matthew to be patient when necessity dictates that we must sit for a time with absolutely nothing to do - I must teach them the art of intellectual conversation (trouble is that I don't know how to have that kind of conversation myself outside of Aberystwyth and without having imbibed several pints of snakebite and black!)

Might not post for a bit now, so I'll see you when I see you :)

Have fun.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Just goes to show - you should always stick to the original plan!

Things I have learned today:
  • The M55 takes you right to the Central carpark in Blackpool - no need to go down the A6 and try to figure out your way through the town centre! How old am I? How many times have I been to Blackpool? Why has it take me until now to realise this simple fact?
  • The Sealife Centre is extortionate - especially for such a small place.
  • The Sealife Centre is extortionate - it's such an important point that I needed to say it twice.
  • The Sealife Centre makes mums sweaty.
  • The Sealife Centre makes children hyper.
  • Never put off plans to do something outside just because it's raining - it will invariably brighten up when you decide to do an indoor thing!
  • The sharks at the Sealife Centre are worth the sweatiness of the mums and the hyperactivity of the children :) We loved the sharks.
We did have a nice day, don't get me wrong. The boys behaved beautifully in the Sealife Centre at Blackpool, and they loved seeing all the fish, and particularly the sharks. We just sat down on the treasure chest and watched the sharks circling above us for ages - they're very beautiful (although Thomas was not as impressed as the rest of us, because these sharks weren't big enough for him). But cor bloody blimey, I don't like paying more than £10 per child for somewhere that only takes an hour to get round. It's incredibly overpriced. It's a shame, and I know that places like this cost a lot to run, because the animals need looking after, and there are conservation projects and stuff going on. But the zoo at Dalton is about the same price, and it's much, much bigger and is a place that you can spend all day in, and you can see lions and tigers feed, and you can handfeed penguins!

The real trouble is that I completely spoiled the boys in the Sealife Centre shop, and now I can't afford to take them to the zoo! I didn't tell them that I might take them to the zoo though, so at least I don't have to break a promise :) And they're very happy being little pirates with their new swords and wee pirate hats! No, honestly, it was a lovely day - I just always feel guilty when I've spent a fortune like that, and it skews my view of the day.

Now, what can we do tomorrow that won't cost anything at all? Ugh, I really don't know, if it's raining. Might have to be a visiting grandparents day if it rains again. I know that I said that I love the rain, and I do, but I do hope it'll bugger off soon, because I'd like to do some of the things that we used to do in the summer like taking a picnic to Lancaster Castle, and going for walks by the river or the canal - things that we don't need the car for, things that we can do every single day without spending any money at all. Playing at home is great, but it's better when it can be in the garden.

Come on sunshine, show us your smile!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

It's going well so far, but I've lost my words again!

Yep, we've been having a lovely time since school finished. Not doing anything much that's interesting enough to blog about every day really, just playing and relaxing. Not even taking any photos! I know, not like me. But sometimes it's nice to just get on and enjoy your time, rather than missing it in frantic attempts to make a record of everything all the time.

I have lost my words though. I'm well out of practice with any kind of writing. I've been working on a letter to my goodest pal Jamie, and I've not been able to get it finished because I've lost the will to do anything except flob on the couch in the evenings. Well, it's alright to do that for a while, to recharge sort of thing, but I really can't do nothing for the whole holidays.


Flob can indicate:

It's high time I got on with rediscovering my enthusiasm for the written word. I can't remember how to write a thing, and it's really only been a fortnight since I last worked on my book, but it's all gone! I mean, it's still there, obviously, on paper and in files on my computer. But I can't remember what it is that I was doing with the story. It's leaked out of my brain. I'm going to have to try to find it again, otherwise I'm never going to get the bloody thing finished. I left off on a bit of a lull in the story, which is never a good thing to do, because when you go back to it you remember that the bit you were working on was a load of rubbish and it's difficult to pick it up again. But I must crack on - I really want to get it finished very soon. So I'm going to finish off reading a certain (highly demotivating but deliciously vampirey) book that I'm reading, and stop faffing about. And I need to finish it because I have other things waiting in the back of my head that are crying out to be worked on; it took me ages to find my first idea, and I always thought that I'd struggle to think of things to write about, but this has proved not to be the case at all.

It'll be tricky to find time to work over the next few weeks, we have a busy three months really. We go on holiday at the end of this week, and when we come back we have some birthdays, and then Noomski's stag weekend, and then school starts again and James will be getting used to that. Then we have Barbados, and Noomski and Jessica's wedding. I would like to be near the end of the first draft with my book, but I don't know if I can do it. But life doesn't ever stop for books to be written does it?! No, it certainly doesn't. Life happens all the time, every year, so I can't keep making the excuse of being busy, because I'll never get it done.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Procrastination refers to the counterproductive deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. Psychologists often cite such behavior as a mechanism for coping with the anxietyassociated with starting or completing any task or decision.[1] Schraw, Wadkins, and Olafson have proposed three criteria for a behavior to be classified as procrastination: it must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying.[2]

Procrastination may result in stress, a sense of guilt and crisis, severe loss of personal productivity, as well as social disapproval for not meeting responsibilities or commitments. These feelings combined may promote further procrastination. While it is regarded as normal for people to procrastinate to some degree, it becomes a problem when it impedes normal functioning. Chronic procrastination may be a sign of an underlying psychological disorder.

This is quite funny, that procrastination can be put down to stress and anxiety and all that, when in my case (and I would suspect that it applies to lots of people) it's definitely all about laziness. LAMF - that's what I am. I'm not going to translate that little acronym, because it's got swearing in it, but a LAMF is what I am!

Right-o. Got to go. Early night needed, in preparation for another week of fun and frolics :)