Just Max and me… Adventures Day 6

Max caught me out today and arrived somewhat earlier than usual. His mum wasn’t taking Alfie to school today, so it meant I saw Max’s first smile of the day at the bottom of the stairs instead of in the car. That was fine by me. The lady of the house made her way cheerily to work and Max and I just chilled. The fire was lit, and the blankets unfolded, and we just sat and enjoyed each other’s company. It was pretty cool – Max didn’t seem in a hurry to move. I wasn’t keen on doing much either – apart from cuddling Max! The events of the previous day meant I was quite tired and needed a day just chilling out and reflecting.

We watched a couple of Thomas the Tank Engine episodes, before slowly getting ready to go out. We had been invited to share a day adventuring with Max’s cousin Eli and it was agreed we would visit Coconuts again – just two short weeks after our previous visit. Max didn’t mind, he absolutely loves it there.

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We had arranged to meet Eli and Elsie at ten o’clock at the Centre and as we approached it Max went rigid with sheer excitement!  He was so happy. We met the others just inside!

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Eli – as usual- was all smiles to chatting away quite happily. Elsie looked as beautiful as ever. We paid our dues and made our way in and Eli and Max were off.

It was beautiful to see these two little cousins playing happily together, each doing their own thing, sometimes playing together and sometimes playing and exploring on their own.

They both made for the ball pit. Max was in his element throwing the balls everywhere and Eli carefully picking each one up and sometimes throwing them back and sometimes putting them gently back in.

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Max made a big step forward this week. Last time I had to scale the heights and help him through a small hole between the bouncy ladder and the big blue slide. Today he attacked it confidently and made his way to the slide all on his own. He even encouraged Eli to do it and the two little friends had so much fun.

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Elsie watched on smiling all the time and she even had a go in the ball pit herself. I think she enjoyed it – she smiled anyway – mind you she smiles constantly. Maybe she just loves everything!

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At one time the door into the main hall had been left open… Max was onto it straight away and made a bolt for the Noddy Car – his favourite thing of all, I think. No need to insert a pound, Max just loves sitting  it steering to his heart’s content!

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After a couple of hours both little lads were exhausted and so we made our way home after agreeing to make this a regular occurrence. It was so sweet to see all the cousins so happy in each other’s company.

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Max made  dash for the slot machines on the way out.

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He had very heavy eyes when we reached home and gave the biggest smile of the day when we climbed the stairs to the special room set aside in our home for the grandchildren – it is uniquely decorated half with boys’ things and half with a girls’ theme and thankfully they all love both bits. It’s their special place. The shutters were closed, the pillow was plumped up and Max snuggled down to sleep. He dreamt of climbing, sliding and rolling about and he dreamt about his little cousins who he loves so much.

After his extended nap he woke refreshed and we enjoyed a late lunch and listened to the Scallywags DVD.

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It wasn’t too long before Max’s dad arrived. Half term had begun Happy days! We had a lovely day – Just Max and me and Bes and Eli and little Elsie.

Treasured times!

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Just Max and me… Adventures Day 5 – The missing shoe!

As usual I was looking forward to Max’s arrival long before he came.  His smile was visible from the car as his mum pulled up. It was a clear but chilly morning, with just the smallest hint that the first frost of the Autumn was not too far away.

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I had a roaring fire ready and Max and I soon settled down to have our early morning cuddle and watch a few trains on YouTube.We followed this by listening again to the Scallywags CD. It’s great, so full of nursery rhymes and Bethesda songs. Max still likes Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and If you’re happy and you know it the best He was trying a few of the actions himself! We had fun.

We followed this with breakfast then began to prepare for todays’ adventure.

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I had decided we would visit Bridgend not a place noted for its visitor attractions, but I had worked out we could go to Bridgend from Eastbrook, via Cardiff, Pontyclun,  Llanharan and Pencoed and return by the direct route through the Vale of Glamorgan via Llantwit Major and Rhoose.Screenshot 2018-10-24 01.16.13

I have never travelled via Llanharan before and thought that would be rather exciting! We had planned this some weeks ago but never went on it due to a late change of plan. The great thing about this plan is that we leave and arrive on the platform nearest to our house and avoid the need to cross the horrible iron bridge. I understand they are thinking of fitting a lift each side of the tracks to avoid the stairs. Bring it on – crossing that bridge with a pushchair is an absolute NIGHTMARE!!

We caught the 09:58 to Cardiff and I just had time to buy my ticket from the machine on the platform – despite Max having a brief ‘paddy’ because he wanted to press the buttons! I got on the platform just as the train arrived. Perfect.

I got Max out of the pushchair as soon as I could. Trains have windows and windows are meant to be looked out of and Max and I love looking out of train windows. I always remember the old poem I learnt in Junior School…

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

Robert Louis Stephenson

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The journey into Cardiff is a quick ten minute one but still enough to see lots of interest. Halfway there, I looked in horror at Max – he had a shoe missing and they were his new best ones. I remembered the little paddy at Eastbrook. I searched the floor of the train with one hand while making sure Max didn’t climb up onto the table with the other!

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The shoe was nowhere to be seen. This would cause me problems if Max had to walk anywhere which he likes to do.

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At Cardiff we had to change to platform 3 to pick up the train heading for Maesteg. We must go there one day. The train was waiting, and it was a curious one!

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It was a single carriage train that looked like a shuttle. Max approved, and we got on and found a seat with a table. – always essential. We had to leave to the pushchair at the other end of the train but that was fine.

Before long we pulled out and travelled down the main line towards Swansea. We passed Canton, Ely Woods and Saint Fagan’s and the train was going at a fair old pace. I kept looking at Max’s sock and wondered how I could break the news to his dad and mum later. I felt I was in trouble.

Despite it not being a new line, it was great stopping at stations I had never visited, Pontyclun, Llanharan and Pencoed. Quite a few people got on. Maybe Bridgend has improved since I visited with Alfie!

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Max loved the journey and was constantly pointing things out or waving to the people on the stations.

After a 45-minute journey, we arrived in Bridgend in the bright morning sunshine.

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Trip Advisor describes Bridgend like this…

A sleepy little market town nestled at the foothills of the valleys or a bustling shoppers paradise halfway between Cardiff and Swansea?   Bridgend is all that and more. A county town, rich in heritage and history, where zealous pilgrims cautiously waded the fast-flowing river en route to the shrine of St. David in Pembrokeshire.

In medieval times the Pilgrims would sensibly stop off here for shelter and refreshments, while the monks from the nearby Abbey would wash their sore dusty feet. A little hump backed bridge built in 1425, linking the north and south banks of the river and the two sections of the quaint old town now stand on the spot.

The main centre of Bridgend lies on the north bank of the river and is a shopper’s paradise of old and new, happily winding its way through narrow streets, co-existing side by side. The old Victorian market hall has since gone, but the original 127-year-old market bell still hands in the Rhiw shopping centre, near to the entrance of the new covered market. Small local specialist businesses complimented by large national chain stores make the town a perfect day out.

I’m not sure who wrote that, but I tell you they are masters of fiction. Amazingly there is a list of the Top 17 things to do in Bridgend and not a single one is actually in Bridgend. One of the things is the Showcase Cinema complex in Nantgarw which must be 20 miles away.

Actually, it’s not a bad little town especially for a smiling little lad and his fat little grandfather who love to go adventuring together.

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First stop was breakfast – the second one of the day and no finer place than Greggs. I had a bacon and sausage bap and a cup of coffee, which cost me the princely sum of £2 and Max went for a Yum-Yum. A long curly doughnut, which he loved. He ate every single bit of it! While we were in the queue a kind lady informed me that Max had lost a shoe. I thanked her politely and explained what had happened and that feeling of dread returned. Was I in trouble? The wet wipes returned Max’s face, hands and coat to something resembling smartness and we set off.

Within a few minutes Max was asleep.

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The early mornings seem to tire him out and the pushchair is very comfortable. I toured the multitude of charity shops, but found no bargains at all, which was very disappointing – Rhiwbina and Cowbridge remain my favourite places for a charity shop – posh areas. In almost every shop, someone either tapped me on the shoulder or waved and told me my little boy had lost his shoe. Oh dear… I am in trouble!!  Max slept on…

I came across the Bridgend war memorial, which I always find interesting. This year is a very special year, one hundred years since the end of World War One. While I studied it, Max slept on.

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Next, I came across the market, which was actually quite good. I love the atmosphere of an indoor market. Bridgend didn’t disappoint. Passing the delicatessen, the cheery shop owner shouted, ‘Hey mate…your little ones lost his shoe.’ I thanked him and that feeling of dread returned. Max missed the market…he slept on.

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It was soon time to head back to the station. The chill of the morning had changed into a most lovely, warm autumn day. Pushing my precious cargo through this little Welsh town was so lovely.

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When we got to the station the rather large lady who was monitoring the entrance gates asked me if I knew that my little boy had lost a shoe. I thanked her and carried on worrying.

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The station has recently had a new footbridge and looked rather smart. It’s a great little station, because its on the main line. As I sat and waited for my train, one on the new main line express trains pulled in on its way to London. They are ‘hybrid’ trains. Apparently when the electrification of the lines starts soon, they will be quiet electric trains from London to Cardiff but as they leave Cardiff towards Swansea, they will revert to being diesel trains. Brilliant… can’t wait.DSC01468

Max slept on.

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The return journey was along the Vale of Glamorgan line via, Llantwit Major and Rhoose. It was reopened in 2005. Rail campaigners were delighted in June of that year, when a passenger rail service came back to the Vale of Glamorgan for the first time in 41 years.Regular services now run between Bridgend and Barry and then along existing track into Cardiff.

The final work was completed in the summer of 2005 to allow 18 miles of the Vale of Glamorgan line to reopen to passenger trains.The Welsh Assembly supported the £17million project and the line was officially opened by Transport Minister Andrew Davies.A shuttle bus waits for every train and runs to the airport terminal, seven minutes away.
Freight trains continued to travel to Aberthaw power station and Ford’s motor plant near Bridgend after regular passenger services were withdrawn in 1964.
The line was also used for diversions when there was work on the Great Western main line, west of Cardiff.

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It’s a glorious line, especially with the trees in their autumnal beauty. The jewel in the crown of the journey is the crossing of the Porthkerry Viaduct.

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When the ticket collector came around – a cheery chap with glasses and tousled hair – he kindly asked me if I had my little boy’s shoe. Max missed the entire journey as he slept on. I was glad he trusted me to look after him.

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Keep following the blue dot!

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We got off at Eastbrook Station and I was met by the most glorious sight…

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Max’s missing shoe was there, near the ticket machine. Some kind person had put it safe in a place where I could see it! Whoever you are… a massive thank you.

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Max woke up as we got home, and he enjoyed a rather late lunch and we watched some Thomas the Tank Engine and played for a little while until dad arrived and our beautiful time together came to an end. I think Max wanted to stay a bit longer and to be honest I wanted him to stay a bit longer, just Max and me… but with two shoes on he waved goodbye, smiled and went to collect his big brother!

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Just Max and me… Adventures Day 4

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Storm Callum is coming. Beware if you live in South Wales! You have an AMBER warning for strong winds and torrential rain. So said the BBC this morning!

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Hmmm… not the kind of weather forecast you need while you are waiting for Max to arrive!  It made me decide to chat with Max about having an indoor adventure for a change this week. I felt sure my little buddy would agree.

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When he arrived, it was all smiles as usual and Max had a little play with the trains and the track, while I prepared our breakfast. Max had Rice Kripsies with a banana and milk and I had my usual bran-based cereal. We had a lovely time eating breakfast together. I asked Alexa to read us a story, but she wormed her way out of it again. I asked her for some peaceful music and she chose some rainfall in an Amazon rainforest. It was quite soothing.

After our breakfast we watched train videos for a bit before we had a bit of learning. We sat and watched the Scallywags DVD and listened to Karen and Dawn take us through a range of songs all with brilliant actions. Max is starting to do a few now.

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We then decided to head off to Coconuts in Barry. Coconuts is warm, dry and loads of fun – the ideal place to spend time waiting for Callum to move across us and get out of the way. It was indeed raining heavily, as we took the short car journey to the wonderful little town of Barry.

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To get in, I was free, but I had to pay £3.95 to get Max in. I lent him the money and he can pay me back whenever he gets a bit of cash… birthday or something.

Inside Coconuts was just fantastic. Max went rigid with excitement when he realised where he was.

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Coconuts have a designated ‘Toddler’ area where the maximum age is three. It was just perfect and Max had such a lovely time…  climbing, falling, building, sliding, bouncing and loads more, each one accompanied but a huge smile. Fortunately, there was one other ‘grampy’ there, obviously on duty like me. The rest were a load of young mums with their adored offspring; each one with a mobile phone tucked into their back pocket – the young mums not the little darlings. When their child was engaged in some physical activity they would whip the phone out, press various keys with swift use of thumb and fingers, before looking up and smiling if their child called.

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Max was wonderful, he loved playing and he loved being with other human being his own height. There was no language other than grunts, pointed fingers and giggles. It was lovely, no aggression or arguing just kids having fun together. Some haven’t quite learned the art of lining up correctly, but that will come in due course.

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We spent several hours here and I loved every single minute. We were both hot and tired. We had forgotten about Storm Callum and were still thinking about the long hot summer days and we left Coconuts and headed north.

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Coconuts is actually built on ‘HALLOWED GROUND’. It is built on the old Barry railway on the old line between Biglis Junction and Sully Station. As you approach and leave you actually have to drive over one of the bridges that carried countless old steam trains years ago; many carrying passengers to and from Barry Island others carrying good wagons full of essential supplies.

We headed for McDonalds to enjoy an ice cream together. We ordered and took our table ready to eat. Max absolutely loved his – eating every single bit in record time. Had I known, I would have ordered him a bigger one. What a delight!

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Next we headed back towards Dinas. It was time for lunch and ne better place to eat it than in The Plug. My favourite Coffee Shop.

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Here’s a recent TripAdvisor review and it sums up the place so well…

Long awaited return…..

The Plug is my local coffee shop, it’s always been a small intimate place to chill out and meet friends and enjoy good quality coffee. It’s run by Pete, helped by his brother John and a quite charming young lady, who everyone calls Bes! Recently the Plug has been closed due to renovations and enlarging – I think they bought the old hairdressers next door and just made the place bigger!
Today they reopened and what a remarkable transformation! It’s bigger and brighter, but somehow they have managed to retain the intimate and chilled out feeling and the coffee is still as good as ever! I understand the owner roasts his own coffee. It’s truly lovely.
The Plug is set right in the centre of the lovely village of Dinas Powys. It’s a fortunate village to have such a great coffee shop at its heart!
If you are anywhere near don’t miss a visit.

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I had thought ahead came armed with Max’s portable high chair and in no time we were sat together with Max enjoying his lunch and me enjoying a cup of Americano- I even have my own personalised Plug Mug. Max enchanted everyone with his wonderful smile, everyone forgot about Callum howling outside.

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After a leisurely lunch we made our way home and Max went for a nap, dreaming of climbing, falling and building, eating ice creams and spending precious time with a chubby little man who loves him a lot.

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We had such a lovely time…. Just Max and me.

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Just Max and me… Adventures Day 3

Max arrived at the usual time wearing his usual smile. We were looking forward to spending a great day together.

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We had decided we would visit Bridgend, not a place noted for its visitor attractions, but I had worked out we could go to Bridgend via Cardiff and Llanharan and Pencoed and return by the direct route through the Vale of Glamorgan via Llantwit Major and Rhoose. I have never travelled via Llanharan before and I thought that would be rather exciting!

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After breakfast, we began the day listening to the new Scallywags CD. It’s great – full of nursery rhymes and Bethesda songs. Max particularly likes Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and a song about a Dingle Dangle Scarecrow… He enjoyed me doing all the actions anyway! We had fun.

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However after our impromptu singalong , circumstances made necessary for us to change plans. Firstly, I was asked to meet some local councillors to show them around Bethesda as the Library is moving in during some forthcoming renovations and secondly, I was sent on an errand to buy 14 cot sheets and blankets and other bits for our local Christian Conference Centre. The Lady of the house had issued the instructions and I thought it wise to keep her sweet – always a wise thing to do.

 

Annoyingly, the councillors had come and gone before I arrived, so we just made our way to our local Asda to purchase the required bedding items.

I wasn’t sure how good Max is in a supermarket, but I needn’t have worried – he was fab. I played my usual trick of sitting Max in the trolley and pushed him, so he was looking forward. After all trailing around Asda looking at me is not good for anyone’s health!

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We checked in with Asda’s new self-scanning checkout tool. Max loved it and I can tell you that the little hand sets are almost indestructible, as Max launched ours several times and set it crashing across two aisles without any apparent damage at all and it still managed to keep a record of all we had bought!

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We bought all we had to, picked up a few after school snacks for Max’s brother and cousins and made our way out.

A visit to Penarth was next on our agenda after the disappointment of the Bridgend trip.

The Tourist board describes Penarth like this…

Penarth is a seaside town full of charm and character just across the water from Cardiff bay. Penarth’s Victorian and Edwardian founders created an elegant resort with fine public buildings and ornate houses. Its restored art-deco pier, complete with art gallery and cinema is a popular spot for a stroll and port of call for the Balmoral Paddle Steamer.

Penarth boasts a number of splendid parks that link the seafront to the quirky independent shops in the tree-lined centre.

If you go on Trip Advisor, you will find the ‘Top 10 things to do in Penarth’ Hilariously 8 of the top 10 are in Cardiff and include

The Millennium Stadium, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Boat, The Millennium Centre,

Techniquest, Cardiff Glass, Cardiff Bay and the Cardiff Bay Barrage.

Only two are in Penarth… Cosmeston Park and Lakes and Penarth Pier!

We were heading for the Pier. Number 5 on the list.

Parking was a nightmare and I circled the Esplanade three times before finding a parking space. Eventually, we set off from the car and Max loved it. Max always enjoys a ride in the pushchair and happily swings his legs and takes an interest in all he sees. As we approached the pier we saw an important looking ship being escorted into Cardiff Docks.

In what looked at first glance like a last desperate throw of the dice to dissuade we Welsh from leaving the EU – today the French Navy put on a show of force and sent in their warships to pay Pays de Galles a little “goodwill” visit. It’s understood the French are still a little bit sensitive not only about their defeats at Trafalgar and Waterloo – but also about the outcome of the Six Nations last March when Wales beat France by 14 points to 13. This ship however was coming in peace!

As naval custom and tradition dictate, the crew lined up at the bow to signify they had no hostile intent – at least on this particular visit. This occasion is all about hospitality. French hostility – no doubt – is being left for the Brexit negotiations.

Meanwhile the French sailors were evidently looking forward to spending “Le Weekend” in Cardiff to indulge in whatever the French for “entente cordiale” is.

Max loved the pier, investigating every part and enjoying the views.

We decided to have lunch on the pier and I made a fatal mistake. Whenever I visit Penarth I usually end up meeting ex pupils from Cogan or sometimes ex parents. On the journey to the pier we had met nobody, and Max looked so smart. I worried that if Max made a mess of eating his lunch we would probably meet someone on the way back. Well the worst happened; I allowed Max to start with his yoghurt which he now likes to eat on his own. His first large mouthful missed his mouth completely and landed squarely on the front of his cardigan. I fumbled about in the bag searching out the wet wipes while at the same time trying to prevent Max’s second mouthful. Disaster…  the wet wipes were in the car. I just had to rub the yoghurt into his cardigan and lick the yoghurt off his finger. I knew straight away that would certainly mean I would meet an ex-parent on the way back to the car.

After a lovely time on the pier we headed to the beach. There was one other lady with a small child seating near the water line, so we strolled further along till we found a deserted part of the beach and headed down the steps and across the pebbles. Max asked me to carry him as he was unsure of his footing!

When we reached the water the tide was coming in and we had to keep edging back. I could believe how high the water rises here, as when the tide is high the water can be quite near the top of the sea wall. That’s amazing. I must bring Max back here for him to see it.

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The little lad couldn’t believe it when I encouraged him to throw some small pebbles into the sea. Max absolutely LOVES to throw things… most things actually, toys, ornaments, food (especially food) and usually gets a ticking off! Now here was his grampy encouraging him to throw stones. Max thought was in heaven and had such a great time. He always went for the biggest stones he could find – that’s my boy… think big!!

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After a great time with the water licking at our shoes to Max’s great amusement it was time to go home. The walk back up the stairs looked a bit daunting, but we managed it just fine. However, as we got back to the pushchair on the pavement we were greeted by a cheery,

” Hello Mr Newberry, you probably don’t remember us…” But I did of course – they were some old Cogan parents, pushing the daughter of the pupil I used to teach as a seven-year-old in the 1980s. It’s amazing how many Cogan people I can still remember and yet some children I taught recently I find easy to forget their names.

Max, with his yogurt stained and bedraggled clothes, was proudly presented to the Fentons and gave them one of his very best smiles. I couldn’t have been more proud to show off my little friend – we had had such a great time and his messy clothes were a great reminder of that.

We made our way back home and prepared the after-school snacks for Max’s brother and cousins. Having all of them around after school was the perfect end to a truly lovely day!

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It was another lovely day, Just Max and me… friends together.