Category Archives: Adventures with Mia and Millie

The Great Seel Park Adventure

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We all decided that an Adventure trip to Seel Park was a good idea. The day was warm, but overcast – a great day for adventuring. The four intrepid explorers Mia, Alfie, Millie and Lois set of with rucksacks full of provisions enough to see them through. We set off a little before lunchtime hoping to make base camp by the time we needed food.

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It was a long, first treck for Lois’s little legs but we were in high spirits. It was a challenging journey up Chapel Close, through the dangerous gully, which borders Ray Shaw’s and then across the dangers of High Field Close before we reached the edge of the great wilderness of Seel Park. There were many dangers, but our trusty dog Belle helped ward off any trouble. Little Lois particularly found the trip hard but she walked every step of the way.

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We scaled the slope up to the playground area and found an ideal place to set up base camp. When we were settled, the kids left the lady of the house and me to set up the tent and establish camp while they ran off to investigate the surroundings. They found plenty of things to keep them occupied!

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When base camp had been established, we called the kids for lunch and rucksacks were opened and the plentiful rations were consumed quickly. We had fun!

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After lunch it was back to climbing, swinging and spinning. The mood in the camp was good and Team Leader Mia was, as usual, kindness itself watching over the younger ones, helping, encouraging and keeping them as safe as possible.

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The lady of the house watched on nervously as the little ones climbed, slipped from time to time and took risks to improve their performance, and they had the most wonderful time.

Greying skies overhead forced us to make for the jungle sooner than we had expected. Little Lois was left behind in base camp while Mia, Alfie and Millie guided by Sherpa Rog took off. We had left our bags and anything that would slow us time back with the support team led by Nanna Newberry.

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We left the field and entered the jungle slowly, we knew not what dangers lay ahead. Feeling confident Alfie and Mia ran ahead, Millie preferring to stay near her guide. She let out several ear-piercing screams as she saw ‘bugs’ and once even saw a dreaded butterfly. Alfie, as usual, found a stick for protection. We walked a long way down, the green undergrowth was thick and made things quite dark and scary at times.

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Several times we reached a fork in the track and the little ones looked for guidance.

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Eventually we made to the bottom, where we found a locked gate with barbed wire blocking our progress. Undaunted, we took turns at climbing over. We all helped keeping the brambles away as we overcame this obstacle. Disaster struck as we reached to top of the field looking for a return to base camp. There was no way through, so we had to retrace our steps, climb over another locked gate before heading up another field.

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We crossed several dangerous stiles, before we saw base camp away in the distance.

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The reunion was sweet with so many stories to tell.

Back in HQ the explorers were weary but Millie had just enough strength to build herself a cushion bed before drifting off to sleep to dream about jungles and thorns and bramble and bugs.

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We had fun!

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Rainy Days and Mondays….

Alfie stayed  the night and all through breakfast this morning was talking about Millie’s visit. He loves his Monday get togethers with his two cousins. He was standing on the box near the window when she arrived and the expression on both their faces as they saw each other spoke volumes of the love and friendship they share. It was magical.

They spent the morning playing together in their special part of our home. The latest ‘must play’ game is a game they call ‘Penguin Race ’.

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It’s a bizarre little game where a group of three penguins climb a steep staircase only to slide round and start again. I bought it cheap on Amazon; UK HOTdeals recommended it. The kids absolutely love it although the repetitive tune does grate a bit after the first two and a half hours.

DSC05400After playing they settled down to watch UP! – to my mind the best film ever made without a shadow of a doubt. Up is a 2009 American computer animated produced Pixar and released by Disney. The film centres on an elderly widower named Carl Fredricksen and an earnest young Wilderness Explorer Russell. By tying thousands of balloons to his home, 78-year-old Carl sets out to fulfil his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America and to complete a promise made to his lifelong love. Docter. The producer began working on the story in 2004, which was based on fantasies of escaping from life when it becomes too irritating. He and eleven other Pixar artists spent three days in Venezuela gathering research and inspiration. The designs of the characters were caricatured and stylized considerably, and animators were challenged with creating realistic cloth. The floating house is attached by a varying number between 10,000 and 20,000 balloons in the film’s sequences.

Up was released on May 29, 2009 and opened the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first animated and 3D film to do so. The film became a great financial success, accumulating over $731 million in its theatrical release. Up received critical acclaim, with most reviewers commending the humour and heart of the film. Edward Asner was praised for his portrayal of Carl, and a montage of Carl and his wife Ellie aging together was widely lauded. The film received five Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture making it the second animated film in history to receive such a nomination (and Pixar’s first Best Picture nomination), following Beauty and The Beast. (1991) – this is the favourite film of the lady of the house.

Carl Fredricksen is a shy, quiet boy who idolizes explorer Charles F. Muntz. Muntz has been accused of fabricating the skeleton of a giant bird he claimed to have discovered in Paradise Falls, and vows to return there to capture one alive. One day, Carl befriends Ellie, who is also a Muntz fan. She confides to Carl her desire to move her “clubhouse” — an abandoned house in the neighbourhood — to a cliff overlooking Paradise Falls. Carl and Ellie eventually get married and grow old together in the restored house, and they planned to have children, but Ellie was diagnosed as infertile, so Carl wanted to fulfil their promise of travel to South America. They repeatedly pool their savings for a trip to Paradise Falls, but end up spending it on more pressing needs. An elderly Carl finally arranges for the trip, but Ellie suddenly becomes ill and dies.

Some time later, Carl still lives in the house when he accidentally injures a construction worker over damage to his mailbox, and a court orders him to move to a retirement home. However, Carl comes up with a scheme to keep his promise to Ellie: he turns his house into a makeshift airship, using thousands of helium balloons. Russell, a young Wilderness Explorer becomes an accidental passenger in his effort to earn his final merit badge for assisting the elderly.

After surviving a thunderstorm, the house lands near a ravine facing Paradise Falls. Carl and Russell harness themselves to the still-buoyant house and begin to walk it around the ravine, hoping to reach the falls before the balloons deflate. They later befriend a tall, colourful flightless bird (whom Russell names “Kevin”) trying to reach her chicks, and a dog named Dug, who wears a special collar that allows him to speak.

Carl and Russell encounter a pack of dogs led by Alpha, and are taken to Dug’s master, who turns out to be an elderly Charles Muntz. Muntz invites Carl and Russell aboard the “Spirit of Adventure” where he explains that he has spent the years since his disgrace searching Paradise Falls for the giant bird. When Russell notes the bird’s similarity to Kevin, Muntz then becomes hostile, prompting the pair to flee with Kevin and Dug. Muntz catches up with them and starts a fire beneath Carl’s house, forcing Carl to choose between saving it or Kevin. Carl rushes to put out the fire, allowing Muntz to take the bird. Carl and Russell eventually reach the falls, though Russell is disappointed in Carl over his decision to abandon Kevin.

Settling into his home, Carl looks through Ellie’s childhood scrapbook; finding photos of their happy marriage added into it, along with a note from Ellie thanking him for the “adventure” and encouraging him to go on a new one. Reinvigorated, he goes to find Russell, only to see him sailing off on some balloons to save Kevin. Carl empties the house of furniture and possessions, lightening it, and pursues him.

Muntz captures Russell, but Carl manages to board the dirigible in flight and free both Russell and Kevin. Dug defeats Alpha and become the dogs’ new leader. Muntz pursues them around the airship, finally cornering Dug, Kevin, and Russell inside Carl’s tethered house. Carl lures Kevin out through a window and back onto the airship with Dug and Russell clinging to her back, just as Muntz is about to close in; Muntz leaps after them, only to snag his foot on some balloon lines and fall to his death. The house then descends out of sight through the clouds.

Carl and Russell reunite Kevin with her chicks, and then fly the dirigible back to the city. Carl presents Russell with his final badge: a grape soda cap that Ellie gave to Carl when they first met and made their promise. The two then enjoy some ice cream together.

One of the best things about the film is that Carl Fredrickson is the spitting image of a friend of mine, a chap called David Chapman.

As time went on I had to collect the Princess Mia from school, something I always love to do. We strolled back and chatted about school and what she would like to do that afternoon.

One thing we had to do was visit Aunt Ciss – not a real aunt but the best friend of the mother of the lady of the house. Ciss never had children of her own and so the lady of the house has given Ciss a card and present for the past 45 years – without failing once! It’s an incredibly kind thing to do. I know how much Ciss appreciates it and thinks of my dear one as the daughter she never had.

On the way we decided to stop at Roath Park to feed wildlife. Roath Park stands in a beautiful location at the centre of Cardiff. The park still retains the classic Victorian Park atmosphere where local residents and visitors alike can enjoy their leisure time in many different pursuits.

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The land for Roath Park was donated by the Marquess of Bute to the city in 1887. Work initially focused on creating the lake from an area of marshland.

A lighthouse was constructed in the lake containing a scale model of the ‘Terra Nova’ ship as a memorial to Captain Scott who sailed to the Antarctic from Cardiff in 1910. The park’s atmosphere today still retains the Victorian elegance and its status as a Conservation Area ensures these qualities will be protected.

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There is a wide range of habitats in the park, which attracts a diverse variety of wildlife. The lake acts as an important habitat for over wintering and breeding birds, including mallard, cormorants and herons. Islands within the lake also act as safe nesting sites. There is a wildflower garden included in the park where the area is managed to encourage wildlife and native species.

The most interesting thing about the park is it stretches from The Oval, just past Cardiff High School then follows the Roath Brook, Nant Fawr from north to south; The Wild Gardens, Roath Park Lake, Botanical Gardens, Rose Gardens, Pleasure Gardens, Roath Park Recreation Ground, Roath Brook Gardens, Roath Mill Gardens and Waterloo Gardens. It’s a huge swathe of green land in the heart of our city.

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As we arrived it started raining, but we did what we could to feed the birds. They were all a little bit nervous at first – the children not the birds – but as they watched me they all became a little braver. Millie in particular was fearless and ended up chasing the geese around.

DSC05754 DSC05755 DSC05753We strolled around and then went and stood on the railings, looking at the birds. We noticed a coot, which had built a beautiful nest out in the safety of the water. The kids loved it.

DSC05764 DSC05763 DSC05759rp1After a while Alfie Millie and I strolled through the Wild Gardens while Mia and the lady of the house sheltered in the car. The Wild Gardens is the area to the north of the Lake, which was to be a second lake in the very first plans for the Park. That idea was abandoned on the grounds of expense.

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DSC05769 DSC05771In June 1894 when the Park opened, this area had not been developed. Shortly after, in September 1894, a public shelter was built, and this was followed in 1895/6 by the creation of footpaths and two bridges over the brook. Apart from these additions the Wild Gardens retained much of its original state with indigenous trees, plants and wild flowers and that is how it is to this day. The shelter has long gone but the area is still very natural and very peaceful.

From here we moved on to visit my mum’s grave; we had not been able to visit the day before, which was mothers day. We were hoping that Mia. Alfie and Millie would put the flowers on but the rain was chucking it down. We had bought a beautiful basket of spring bulbs. My mum LOVED flowers. I was thrilled that the grave looked so good. Obviously my brother had been hard at work – he is so kind and caring like that.

DSC05782 DSC05777DSC05780 DSC05781 DSC05782 DSC05783I spent a few quiet moments then realised we needed to push on to Great Aunt Cissie’s

Cissie is 93 year old and lives alone. She was delighted to see us and especially the kids. They were great with her and her friend who had come to visit.

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DSC05794 DSC05798 DSC05791 DSC05790After about an hour it was time to go home and the kids were bundled, giggling into the car and by the time we reached home all three were heavy eyed and happy. It was so good to be together and to be at home.

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Spring 2014

At last Spring has arrived and after months of putting off adventures because of the rain and the cold, the bright blue skies and warm sun made today a good day to go adventuring again. Alfie did not stay over last night and arrived just before eight followed by Millie just after nine, after the Princess Mia had been dropped off at school.

We had to wait until Mia’s lessons were over before we could go, so Millie and Alfie spent a leisurely morning playing in the little piece of paradise their Nan had created for them. The grown ups – Millie’s mum, the lady of the house and my good self enjoyed breakfast together and chatted through many things, putting the world to right. Just after ten we were joined by Belle’s aunt, who had brought some left over chicken and a little love note. Belle had soon devoured the chicken and Belle’s aunt had joined us for breakfast, which meandered into coffee time, as relaxed mornings do.

Before long it was time to pick up the Princess Mia from school and I was duly dispatched leaving the ‘girls ‘ to carry on nattering.

The Princess was glad to see me but it soon became obvious that she had a ‘tights’ problem. Every five yards of walking saw her tights drop down to her knees and after pulling them up many times, we decided the best solution was a ‘piggy back’. This worked fine and we soon arrived home and the problem with the underwear was duly reported to mum, who rolled her eyes and blamed the incorrect sizing!

After a hasty lunch we soon found ourselves heading for the station and the first real adventure of 2014.

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After battling with the machine at the station, the tickets were carefully placed in an accessible pocket, the dog in another pocket and we awaited the arrival of the train. Image

We were quite a crowd with three little kids, one glamorous gran, a little fat OAP and a scatty nervous little Yorkshire Terrier.

We looked quite a sight on the platform. Getting on and off the train need some technical manoeuvrings, but the lady of the house was magnificent at lifting the pushchairs, the kids and the little fat OAP onto the train in Eastbrook, off and on another train at Cardiff Queen Street and eventually off at Lisvane and Thornhill. While I was being helped on the train in Cardiff I noticed work on the new platform had only progressed slowly since we last adventured this way. I wondered what had caused the delay.

I gazed down at my dad and mums old house as we passed Llanishen and thought about my childhood growing up on that council estate in North Cardiff. When we stopped at Llanishen Station my mind went back to the days when the stationmaster tended the station garden and old steam trains came and took us to Barry and Lavernock.

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The walk from Lisvane Station to Cefn Onn Park was a short one. I longed for the days of the old Cefn Onn Station, which took you to the heart of the park.

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Parc Cefn Onn, originally named “Parc Cefn On”, in Lisvane, north of Cardiff, is a country park created in the valley of the Nant Fawr stream, which eventually runs into Roath Park. There are no early postcards of Parc Cefn Onn, because it originated in private ownership and was not open to the public until acquired by the Council in 1944, well past the peak of postcard production.

Beginning in 1911 the park was laid out by Ernest Prosser, General Manager of the Taff Vale, Cardiff, and Rhymney Railway Companies, whose intention was to create a woodland estate and house on the land then known as The Dingle. In the park he built a summerhouse where his son could convalesce from tuberculosis. Prosser abandoned his plans to build a house at The Dingle when his son died in 1922, but he continued to maintain the grounds until his own death in 1933. The estate was then inherited by a nephew who sold it to the Cardiff Council in 1944 for £7,500, after Prosser’s gardener, Tommy Jenkins, alerted members of the Council to the opportunity.

William Nelmes, Cardiff’s Director of Parks, described how Parc Cefn Onn came to be acquired:
“Local Authorities are often blamed for the protracted way in which they conduct their business and probably with some justification. In the case of the Parc Cefn On acquisition, however, very prompt action was taken: On a certain Saturday, in 1944, news was received that the property was for sale and the next day it was inspected by several members of the Council; on the Monday a deposit was paid by the Chairman of the Estates Committee and on the Tuesday a meeting was specially convened to approve the purchase of the property by the Corporation.”

The purchase was formally agreed on 21st August 1944 and the name Parc Cefn On was adopted the following month.In 1951 repairs to the thatched roof of the summer house cost £25-10-0.

The park quickly became popular with visitors, such that more frequent bus and train services were introduced and Cefn Onn Halt was opened by the Great Western Railway. The Council continued to develop the park into a site of national horticultural importance, attracting many visitors especially in the rhododendron season. The present day Parc Cefn Onn contains some rare and important native and exotic trees, while the streams, ponds, woodlands and other planting provide varied habitats for wildlife.

THE name Cefn Onn means ‘ridge of ash trees’.

There is an extensive network of streams and ponds throughout the woods. The biggest pond is artificial and created by damming the stream. Eventually this stream, as I said before, runs into Roath Park Lake. The streams and ponds act as a habitat for frogs, toads and common newts to spawn in the spring.

There are many rare and exotic trees in this park and some of them made Mia, Millie and Alfie gasp in admiration.

The size, colour and variety of trees are simply stunning – The Dawn Redwoods are the largest of their species in the city at 28 metres and an Edwardian- planted Grand Fir at 48 meters is reputed to be Cardiff’s tallest tree. The colour is forever changing with rhododendron and azalea providing late spring interest.

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Once we walked in through the gate and under the motorway and into the park, the dog’s lead was removed, the kids set free from the pushchairs and we were off, running, kicking dead leaves, picking up sticks. We had the most marvellous time, breathing in the fresh air and celebrating the arrival of Spring.

We passed many other people, old and young alike; all stopped for a chat or exchanged pleasantries. It was so good to be out.

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Before long we passed the magical spot where the path, now long overgrown, slopes down to the old Cefn Onn Halt.

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The kids had no idea, but even the lady of the house became a bit misty eyed as she herself thought about those happy days of long ago.

We arrived at the large pond, which the three little ‘uns loved and many sticks and stones were thrown in.

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After a while we moved on towards the old summerhouse, built for the first owner’s sick son but now derelict.

We decided on a photograph but I was reminded of my age and lack of agility here. I set the camera on timer and went racing up to join the others, but things I did a couple of years ago are no longer possible.  I failed!

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She did well.

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I had forgotten how beautiful this park is and we made our way around before finding a picnic table to stop and have a drink.

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After a brief break, we continued and Mia felt like a break, so she asked Alfie to push her in the pushchair. He duly obliged!

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We carried on around the park and soon found ourselves back at the gate. It was so wonderful to be out and to be able to enjoy such beauty, with three little treasures and one amazing lady who has brought such joy to my life. I looked at the kids running through the leaves and thought of Oscar Wilde’s story of The Selfish Giant. At one stage in the story the Giant says… ‘ I have many beautiful flowers in my garden, but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.’ Today I know how he felt!!

 

We made our way next door to The Old Cottage.

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This is now a pub/restaurant, but years ago my friend lived here; it was their home. It must have been an idyllic place to live! Here, we enjoyed a welcome cup of tea, before thinking about heading home. We arrived home tired and happy, with fresh air in our lungs and happy memories locked in our minds, never to be forgotten.

I reflected on the old hymn I used to sing in church…

“Count your blessings, name the one by one.” That is almost an impossible job for me I have too many…

 

But here are three to start off!

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The Lost Adventure

While I was sorting through some old photographs, I came across some of an adventure the lady of the house and I shared with Millie and Alfie a few months ago. It was a great adventure and worth remembering.

It was a beautiful Autumn morning and Millie and Alfie had agreed to meet at our home to spend some time together. The Princess Mia was at school. We all had breakfast together, before heading off to find some new things to discover in the wonderful city called Cardiff, which is near to where we all live.

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We headed down towards Cardiff Bay, once a place to avoid, but now a bustling area where many Cardiff people love to go. Cardiff Bay is a diverse waterfront built around a freshwater lake known as ‘the Bay’. You will find a great mix of Cardiff attractions, entertainment and events, coupled with vibrant bars and shops that create a truly unique atmosphere worthy of any capital city!

Cardiff Bay is the area created by the Cardiff Bay Barrage in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. The regeneration of Cardiff Bay is now widely regarded as one of the most successful regeneration projects in the United Kingdom. The Bay is supplied by two rivers the River Taff and the River Ely to form a 500-acre freshwater lake round the former dockland area south of the city centre. The Bay was formerly tidal, with access to the sea limited to a couple of hours each side of high water but now provides 24-hour access through three locks. Cardiff Bay played a major part n Cardiff’s development by being the means of exporting coal from the valleys to the rest of the world, helping to power the industrial age. The mining industry helped fund the building of Cardiff into the capital city of Wales and helped the third Marquis of Bute, who owned the docks, become the richest man in the world at the time.

As Cardiff exports grew, so did its population; dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled in neighbourhoods close to the docks, known as Tiger Bay and communities from up to 45 different nationalities, including Norwegian , Somalian and Yemeni, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and Irish helped create the unique character of the area.

After the Second World War most of the industry closed down and became derelict. But, in 1999, new life was injected into the area by the building of the barrage one of the most controversial building projects of the day but also one of the most successful.

We parked in our usual place outside the Coal Exchange in Mount Stuart Square. It is still being renovated and still looks a bit sad these days, but I am sure it will soon be restored to its former glory.

We had two pushchairs, one each for Millie and Alfie and as we set off from the car I really fancied a pushchair race, but as I looked across at the lady of the house, she did not look to be in a racing mood so I let the matter drop. If anyone fancies a few laps of racing pushchairs around Mount Stuart Square some time…

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We moved rather sedately down to the water’s edge and spent some time feeding the ducks. Millie and Alfie loved this. I had raided the good lady’s wholemeal bread allowance, so we were well prepared and the Bay ducks had a healthy meal that morning.

On previous visits to the Bay we have met the Welsh Ladies Football team, had a trip around the Bay and shared many cups of coffee and had breakfast in Subway on more than one occasion. As we fed the ducks I saw the following sign.DSC05141

I really fancied a trip up to town up the River. I mentioned the fact tentatively to the good lady who shares my life and when she replied, ‘As long as you are paying Fatboy!’ I knew this was a possibility.

We waited in the queue along with a large group of school students who were admiring Millie and Alfie. They were obviously kind, caring people because when the boat came in they promptly took all the seats and left the four of us standing forlornly on the quayside. The teacher, incidentally a friend of ours, looked a little guilty as the boat pulled away and I knelt down to wipe the tears from Millie’s and Alfie’s cheeks. We decided to stay and wait for the next one so the two dear grandchildren played around the area and it meant when the next boat came in we had the choice of seats.

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It was BRILLIANT.

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We had a great view as the Lady Katherine chugged across the Bay, past the St David’s hotel where the rich and famous hang out (although I must say from the outside the building looks a bit like a sixties housing estate), up the Taff under the Bay Bridge, past the Channel View Leisure Centre and the Marl where I played many a game for North Clive Street Youth Football team, round past Taff Terrace, up Taff Embankment under the Railway bridge by Cardiff Central and we came to a stop next to Cardiff Castle and Bute Park. It was a splendid trip and well worth parting with three pounds, well six actually because the lady of the house had yet again ‘left her purse at home’.

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We strolled through Bute Park and then up into town.

The strange sounds coming from Millie and Alfie’s tummies reminded us it was lunchtime, so we made for Howells – one of the great department Stores in Cardiff.

James Howell’s first step towards the present Howells department store began with the establishment of a shop under the Stuart Hall in The Hayes, a street near St Mary Street. From there the first part of the current store was built in the late-19th century, this part of the building includes an ornate facade that is visible on St Mary Street. In the 1920s a large and well-proportioned neoclassical extension was built up to the corner of St Mary Street and Heol-y-Cawl. A unique result of this extension was that Bethany Chapel, built on the site of an earlier chapel in 1865, was absorbed into the fabric of the building and its frontage was incorporated into the interior and is still visible in the store today, fronting onto the men’s department.

Further extensions were added throughout the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s, causing the building to show the architectural trends of the Late Victorian Era to the Modernism of the 1960s.

Howells Department Store was originally a family-run business, owned and managed by the family of James Howell. In the 1950s, the store was sold to Welsh banker Sir Julian Hodge, who subsequently sold the store to Mohammed Al-Fayed, owner of the Hose of Fraser chain, meaning the store ceased to be an independent department store. The store is still owned by House of Fraser, although the chain was bought by Icelandic investment company, Bauger late 2006. In the 1990s the Victorian frontage on St Mary Street, neglected for the best part of 50 years, was cleaned and restored, greatly enhancing the building’s appearance.

The building is Grade 2 listed. It also has a great restaurant, which is the most child friendly place in Cardiff.

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We had a great time there; Mille and Alfie ate their lunch, played together and watched some episodes of Peppa Pig. The lady of the house and I had tea – served in little silver pots and in Howells you always get a little jug of hot water without asking. Total class!

After leaving Howells, I wanted to catch a bendy bus back to the Bay but the dear lady wanted to walk. It was a nice day so I did what I was told; I mean we agreed to walk back to the car, still parked near the Coal Exchange.

It was a good walk on a bright clear, warm day. We had not even reached John Lewis and the two little ones were asleep, dreaming no doubt of ducks and boats and castles and posh shops. We walked down Bute Street, a street full of friendly faces

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We put them in the car, drove home and carried them into bed and still neither woke up.

It had been a great adventure, but the best part of all was the fact that the friendship between these two beautiful little cousins was growing closer.

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It had been such fun!

The lady of the house graciously allowed me to bring her some refreshments as she rested. It was a good end to the day.

Disneyland Dinas Powys

Alfie stayed the night, as he has been doing every Sunday since his mum changed her working days to the first part of the week instead of the latter part. Usually, Millie calls over and spends most of the day with him. They are growing close and are becoming great friends as well as cousins. The lady of the house was on nursery duty, so it meant I could have a little lie in after the busyness of the past week. It was about 8.15 am that I heard the first shouts of “Rog…Rog’ from the bottom of the stairs. It wasn’t the lady of the house calling me to get on with my chores, but my little friend Alfie wanting to play. Some months ago, Alfie’s parents were teaching him animal sounds…. ”What does a cat say? What sound does a lion make and so on, until someone said, “What does Nanna always say? In response to this the whole family shouted….”Rog!’ … and from that moment Alfie has called me Rog. It’s kind of cute and I don’t take it as a mark of disrespect from the little fella.

We were all excited about Millie’s visit today. We always love it when she comes to play on a Monday.  She came to our house just after dropping her big sister at nursery. I think that she thinks she is coming to Disneyland Dinas Powys as she turns the corner into our street. The lady of the house had switched on the Christmas lights outside – her impression of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation – even though it was daylight. True, it was a dark and dreary December day, but once Millie and Alfie get together every day is a bright and happy one and I am sure she just felt the lights were an added bonus. Actually I am dreading the bill next time round, I am sure it’s going to be massive. I’ve been creative in thinking of ways to save money. Last week I was fed up of watching the fifteenth consecutive episode of Knots Landing on Sky plus, that I told the lady of the house I was going to the cinema. I told her to put her coat on and she asked if I was taking her with me? She didn’t look too happy when I told her that I wasn’t and that I was just turning the central heating off! It’s only fair…  I am surviving on a pension!

Today, both Alfie and Millie smiled broadly when they saw each other. We hope that when they grow up they will remember these happy and special times.

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They played first with the Disneyland Express train set.

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This is the latest addition to the little piece of paradise that the lady of the house is creating for our precious grandkids. During December our dining room is transformed into what can only be described as Disneyland Resort Dinas Powys. The whole room is decked out with everything Disney. Soft toys, dolls, decorations… the lot. The Christmas tree is full… and I mean FULL… of Disney character ornaments, collected over the past years. Family friends and relatives from far and near bring their kids to participate in a Disney Treasure hunt on our tree – with a prize to the one who can collect the most names.

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I always feel sorry for Tinkerbelle who has the most uncomfortable place of all to spend the Christmas period.

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….and always without a word of complaint… OUCH!

Last Christmas her collection of Disney baby princess dolls was lined up looking out of the front window. It looked a bit like a scene from the Rocky Horror Show but at least it kept the carol singers away!

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This morning we had a bit of trouble keeping the train on the tracks but the addition of a couple of straight tracks solved the problem. Millie especially adored the little train with its sounds and music. She especially loved the Disney carriage, which has Minnie dancing romantically with Mickey. She gazed longingly at it for a long time. So cute!

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Alfie succeeded in knocking the train off the track half a dozen times as he ran excitedly round it trying to jump over it when he needed to!

Afterwards they spent some time checking out the characters. They were able to name and find loads of them. We were really impressed.

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We had Toy Story playing in the background and soon they were sitting side by side on their very own settee watching the film with a snack. It’s not just old people who have elevenses – Millie and Alfie love having a mid morning snack.  Toy Story is just one superb film; I love watching it too!

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One day soon they will be all grown up and will no doubt meeting in Starbucks. We hope they will remember our little house where their friendship was nurtured… such happy and special days.

Later in the morning we sat down for a story. I have started training them to become Roald Dahl fans and today we read The Enormous Crocodile. It’s a great tale about an enormous crocodile that loves to eat fat. juicy children. I am not too sure what Millie thought of my props, but they enjoyed the story… at least Millie did when the crocodile changed hands!

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Alfie loved feeding the crocodile with toast, hoping I am sure to avoid being eaten himself. He’s a canny lad!

ImageIt wasn’t long before our real life Princess Mia arrived at our house, her lessons for the day all over.

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Millie and Alfie both cheered and clapped. The three children played together happily before the girls had to leave to visit their grandma.

When Millie’s mum arrived she had with her a huge Victoria Sponge for us – not quite Bruce Bogtrotter proportions but big enough for us to realise today’s diet would not last too long! I loved it, the lady of the house loved it and so did Alfie!

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Mia loved playing with the enormous crocodile and I could see the enormous crocodile eyeing her up as a tasty snack as lunchtime was approaching. Luckily, being a princess, she had her magic wand with her, so she was able to keep the dreaded animal at bay. As she left she cast her spell on him so he cannot move until she returns.

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In a similar way these beautiful children cast their magic spell on us and enchant us every time they visit. Come back soon little ones!

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Mia, Alfie and Milie… you are loved!

Cornwall 2013 with Princess Mia and Angel Millie

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‘All I want to do this year is swim in the sea.’

Those were the thoughts that constantly went around in my mind during the long, dark days of the winter just gone, the coldest winter on record. I gazed longingly at brochures and web sites wondering how I could arrange it. Really I am not a fan of beach holidays and the thought of being stuck on a sandy beach for hours at a stretch, does nothing for me. However I do like the sensation of swimming in the sea, something I rarely do. This was my aim for 2013. I imagined it would mean a flight to somewhere warm to achieve this, but the prices in the holiday were a bit too steep. Our youngest daughter had just announced her intention to marry her childhood sweetheart, so savings had to be made and thoughts of a holiday in the sun were put on the back burner.

Until that is, the day Gaz rang me and asked if I would like a week in a caravan in Cornwall. I immediately had flashbacks of my last caravan holiday – in Scotland – a number of years ago. We arrived in the rain and were enchanted by the sound of the rain pattering on the caravan roof. On the second day we enjoyed the sound of the rain on the caravan roof. Day three of the rain of the caravan roof became a bit annoying. By day four of the rain pattering on the caravan roof, saw my face take on similarities to Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining. By day five I became a candidate for a part in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. We left Scotland soon after!

Cornwall sounded slightly more promising but two reasons prompted the lady of the house and I to say YES straight away – the opportunity of spending a week with the Princess Mia and Angel Millie our two incredibly wonderful granddaughters.

We agreed and I started Googling. I guessed Treyarnon Bay, our destination, was a nice place, as Keri’s family undertake an annual pilgrimage there every Spring. Google told me…

ImageTreyarnon Bay is a lovely beach and is popular for surfing but is most renowned and enjoyed as a family beach.

The beach has a large expanse of sand with a huge area of rocks and pools on one side, and Trethias Island to be explored on the other. Everyone has their favourite part of the beach.

On Treyarnon, you can always find shelter from the wind or sun with hundreds of small caves and gullies. This beautiful bay has small pools for shrimp fishing at all tides with rocks to explore and the well-known natural swimming pool in the rocks on the north side of the beach. The swimming pool – featured by Kate Rew in her book Wild Swim, in which she discovers the best places in Britain to swim in wild places – is cold and exhilarating with a wealth of interesting flora and living things to discover, nearly as good as going snorkeling in the warmer seas abroad.

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The rocks and pools stretch around this side of the beach providing hours of fun particularly at low tide.

To the south of Treyarnon, pools run down the side of the beach – perfect for learning to swim and games. At the shoreline is Trethias Island separated from the mainland by a gulley, where the sea rushes in and out according to the height of the tide – its great to explore but can be dangerous at various states of the tide, so please be careful. This island has been given to the nation as a bird sanctuary. Should you visit there be careful not to be cut off by the rising tide.

Treyarnon can be accessed from both sides – but Trethias side (south) is only really used by walkers and those lucky enough to be staying here. Here a small path runs down to the beach from around 15 houses but there is no public parking or facilities.

On the north side, there is a beach car park and access down a causeway to the beach. Or there are plenty of routes down the low cliff over the rocks. In the car park over the summer is Gary’s shop – almost a ‘tardis’ supplying most of what you may want. It’s particularly good for morning paper, bread or croissant and milk – but really is always worth checking for anything you may be after! On the short causeway down to the beach, there is often an ice cream van – in the same place – and enjoyed – for many years. For more extensive shopping, you can walk through the campsite up to Constantine Bay Stores at the Des’ surf shop next door in about 10 minutes. Here you can buy a range of quality foods and provisions as well as renting or buying any surf equipment you want.

Surfing can be good at Treyarnon – receiving plenty of waves, but with a little more protection than Constantine alongside. It is best at mid to high tide and the sea is usually full with children and adults of all ages. There are lifeguards on duty through the summer months.

It did it for me. I looked forward to the things our friends spoke of, especially Malcolm’s, the local baker, who has achieved legendary status with The Lewis Family and friends.

I calculated that if we had Scotland style rain, I had a range of places to visit including nearby Padstow, Bodmin and Wadebridge. The forecast was good though, and we were mid way through the hottest heat wave since the 1970s. We were getting excited.

On departure day the lady of the house was working, so we had to travel down later and Gaz and Keri and the girlies went down ahead of us to get everything ready for our arrival.

We had an uneventful trip and the last couple of miles, which took us through lanes where the grass and hedges scrapped against my car on both sides, were a bit scary, but suddenly out of the darkness we saw Gaz’s car, he had come from the campsite to guide us through the last leg of the journey.

Gaz and Keri had warned us that the caravan we were staying in was a top of the range van – in 1964 – so not to expect too much. They were teasing though and when we arrived we found it to be comfortable and welcoming with plenty of room. It even had a bathroom! Growing up in the 50s and 60s, we always went in caravans and that always meant a walk across the field in the morning with your toilet bag and towel to the shower block. This was luxury for us…a double bed room and bathroom.

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The girls were sleeping peacefully and after a cup of tea with Keri, we turned in to get some well needed sleep.

When we awoke the next morning, we thought we were in heaven! The sun was shining gloriously and there were two happy, smiling faces looking at us from the end of our bed!

This was the best time of all. Ten days stretched out ahead of us with these two precious little girls and their delightful parents. This, together with the thought

that it would be shorts and T-shirts and no socks for a week, really excited us.

We spent the first couple of days chilling out on the beach and enjoying each other’s company.

Mr. Google was right the beach was idyllic and our caravan was just about the closest one in the whole of The Bay to the beach.

Each day began with a stroll across the field to Gary’s shop for the morning papers and then a stroll back to read them over a leisurely breakfast.

Princess Mia and Angel Millie were fantastic, with us and with each other. Mia had not appeared to have packed any of her royal dresses and seemed as please as us to be in shorts and swimming costumes all day long.

One of the first jobs was to bury them in the sand.

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This was accompanied by many giggles and laughter. At times when the girls played together, I was able to listen to Test Match Special on my little wireless.

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There is nothing better on a warm, summer day in Britain than to listen to TMS, as it is affectionately known. I grew up listening to John Arlotte, Brian Johnston and these days Henry Blofeld.  These men are true legends. You may think ball-by-ball commentary of a cricket match might be slightly boring, but I challenge you to listen for 10 minutes and you will be hooked. These days my favourite commentator is Henry Blofeld. He has been a regular commentator for TMS since 1991. Blofeld’s cricket commentary is characterised by his plummy voice and his idiosyncratic mention of superfluous details regarding the scene, including things like construction cranes or numbers of pink shirts in the crowd; as well as pigeons, buses, aeroplanes and helicopters that happen to be passing by. After the tea and lunch breaks he is also known to talk for extended periods of time about the food on offer, in particular cakes, with occasional interruptions to describe the situation on the field. He also uses the phrase “my dear old thing”.

In due course, I ventured into the waves and realised this year’s holiday aim of swimming in the sea. It was glorious and Keri and the lady of the house joined me for a very special time.

In the evenings we would stroll down to the beach, the sun was setting across the water and we told the girls if they listened carefully they could hear the sizzle as the sun hit the water. I’m not sure they believed me.

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The lady of the house played boules with Gaz and the girls and her competitive streak came to the fore and the celebrations when she won put the overpaid, over rated premier league footballers to shame.

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Her joy knew no bounds. Gaz gritted his teeth and looked forward to the card games when revenge would be sweet.

We spent some beautiful days there at Treyarnon Bay. It was idyllic, especially after the weather broke slightly on Monday. Up until then it had been almost overpowering. After a couple of thunderstorms, the weather became just the perfect British Summer weather with cotton wool ball clouds and gloriously warm sun. I felt sorry for those who had spent a lot of money going overseas in search of nice weather. This august Treyarnon Bay achieved perfection.

On Sunday Gaz and I went off in search of a church to attend, but despite a tour of the whole of Padstow, we ended up in a café overlooking the harbour and enjoyed a full English and talked about how blessed we are with the family we share.

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Padstow is a town and fishing port on the north coast of Cornwall. The town is situated on the west bank of the River Camel estuary approximately 5 miles northwest of Wadebridge. The population of Padstow civil parish is around 3000. It is famous because Rick Stein a restaurateur, food expert and celebrity chef lives here and owns several businesses in the town. It’s a truly lovely place to visit on a warm summer day!

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Mia and Millie were treasures all week – they are so good! Mia is growing up and becoming more independent, wanting to do more and more for herself and make more of her own decisions. Millie is just an angel in every sense of the word – quiet, gentle and with a smile that would melt the hardest of hearts. She is also so inquisitive and will open every cupboard, bag and case and she seeks to explore the world around her. I thought of Alfie, adventuring with his parents in Canada and America and thanked God as I do every single day for such precious gifts of grandchildren and our three are precious to us beyond words. It has been said that there in no greater joy in life than to love and be loved. I pray that our children and grandchildren know and experience that.

It’s wonderful as a grandparent to take a back seat and watch Mia and Millie with their parents. It made us think of the special times we had when our three were little.

One thing we could see clearly is that Gaz and Keri are truly wonderful parents to these two little girls.

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Keri is a fantastic mum, so thoughtful and caring, providing for their every need with a smile and a cheery word. Every thing she does is filled with the warmth of a mother’s love. Gaz, too, is fantastic with the girls and spent hours talking to them, encouraging them, playing in rock pools, building sand castles and enjoying long walks along the beach in the beautiful Cornwall sunsets.

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During the evenings we would often sit outside the caravan and Gaz would play his guitar. I so regret not being able to play a musical instrument. There was a guitar in a flea market in St Merryn, our nearest village, but Gaz advised me against buying it…. One day I’ll get one and treat myself to some lessons.

We spent two wonderful evenings with friends Dave and Joanna Brown who were staying at Mother Ivey’s Bay caravan Park just a short distance from us. They have two fantastic kids Jola and Luke. We had such a lovely time with them and have agreed to meet again once they are home. On the way we passed a sign to Booby’s Bay.

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Gaz and I were keen to check this out but the lady of the house put her foot down in no uncertain terms. Have you seen the lady of the house  put her foot down… Gaz has!

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We made many visits to St Merryn the nearest village to us, mainly to visit Malcolm Barnecutt the local baker.

The Barnecutt family has a distinguished history as quality bakers, dating back nearly 80 years to their first bakery in Liskeard, opened by Malcolm’s grandfather, Percy, in 1930.Today, they have many shops throughout Cornwall offering the finest Cornish Pasties, Saffron Cakes, a wide range of mouth-watering confectionery, and several recipes handed down by Malcolm’s father and grandfather.  As well as the bakeries, they have two restaurants. The first opened in 1983 at the Old Guild Hall in Bodmin, and can seat up to 100 people. The shop in St Austell’s Fore Street houses the second Café Barny’s – the ideal place to relax and enjoy one of their famous Cornish pasties, or a nice large slice of Saffron cake!

They have also just opened a deli in the bakery in St. Merryn for Cornish meats and cheeses, as well as the usual mouth watering Danish pastries and various savouries.

Keri and the lady of the house fell in love with the Chelsea buns and these and Malcolm’s wonderful doughnuts were bought almost every day!

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 It appears George Osborne is a Malcolm Barnecutt fan too!

On the last day we decided to go cycling along the Camel trail from Padstow to Wadebridge. We got up early and made our way in and parked near the harbour.

The Camel Trail provides access to the beautiful Cornish countryside along a disused railway line between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow. The Camel Trail is an 18-mile largely traffic free, surfaced and virtually level multi use trail, which passes through some of the most spectacular countryside in the southwest. Following the disused railway line once used by the London and South West Railway, cyclists hug the Camel Estuary from Padstow to Wadebridge before joining the route through the deeply incised and beautifully wooded Camel Valley to Bodmin. At Bodmin yet another line, one of the most historic in the country, winds its way inland to the foot of Bodmin Moor where it comes to an end near Blisland, an extraordinarily pretty moorland village. 

Landscape and wildlife designations abound, contrasts in scenery are striking and access to country and seaside towns provide opportunities to use local shops, pubs and visit attractions.

The trail provides access in to the heart of North Cornwall, experienced cyclists can make off, away from the trail exploring the many villages and country lanes, which lie close to the trail.

We hired our bikes and set of Mia and Millie in specially designed seats. It was great fun.

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Perfect weather and perfect company. The level trail made pedalling quite easy although it soon became aware that I had to protect my undercarriage. I was not used to a hard saddle. And before long I was adjusting my position from cheek to cheek at regular intervals.

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I was grateful to reach Wadebridge without too much damage, but began to look surreptitiously in shops as we wandered around to see if I could find some Lycra shorts with built in undercarriage protection. The cycle home would be a challenge. We enjoyed looking round a few shops before finding anther Malcolm’s where we had a snack for lunch and my first Cornish pasty of the week. Delicious indeed. Whilst in Wadebridge we came across a wonderful Army and Navy Stores. I bought a jacket ready for next years 70th Anniversary of D.Day and also Gaz and I took the opportunity to try on some other nice looking gear!

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I need not have feared the journey back was fine and although I had to walk back to the car with my legs slightly apart, I suffered no permanent damage as far as I can tell. I envied Mia and Millie in their seats and think maybe next time I will try and find an adult version so the lady of the house can transport me to avoid any further chaffing of my nether regions. As I handed the cycle back I promised myself I would come back – with a cushion and cycle all the way to Bodmin and explore more of the old line and the disused stations along that stretch of the trail and maybe even take in a steam train ride in Bodmin.

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We left with many great memories of a wonderful week. I had swum in the sea, walked barefoot along the beach at sunset with my precious granddaughters, built sandcastles, cycled along an old railway line, been well fed, but above all spent time with people who are so very precious to me.

I remembered to words of Desmond Tutu who once said

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.

I thank God for the wonderful gift of my family, spread out at the moment, here in Cornwall, back home in Wales and touring America, but bound together with bonds of love.

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Angel stories Chapter 2

I went out with a young lady today… a very young lady…in fact a little angel. The lady of the house didn’t mind at all!

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She and I were looking after Princess Mia and Angel Millie while her mum went to work as a supply teacher. Mia has to be in school, so Millie and I decided on a trip to the museum… just the two of us…friends together. It was going to be great.

The day started off so well, when cousin Alfie was bought over while his mum went off to run off a few pounds in the gym. What fun… the three grandchildren, all together at 8.30am on a Monday morning. How is that for a good start to the week!!

They played, ate breakfast and watched Disney films, all three side by side on our kids’ settee…  the lady of the house was fit to burst with excitement.  Alfie was collected just after 10, by his mum, who definitely had been to the gym, looking very hot and certainly a few pounds lighter.

Millie and I set off just after lunch catching the train into Cardiff. Our neighbours are having a new drive, but Millie wasn’t too interested as I tried to show her. Never mind!

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There was a delay at the station, which did not bode well for our return some hours later.

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Millie loved the train ride, looking out of the window, shouting and talking all the way. We got off at Queen Street Station and I showed Millie the renovations, which are taking place.

We walked through town and Millie enjoyed the sights and the smells of this great city. We walked through the Capitol Arcade and noticed several new shops including a new toyshop, which Millie loved.

We strolled on, up passed The New Theatre and then across into Gorsedd gardens, just in front of the museum.

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Gorsedd Gardens were established when the new City Hall was opened in 1905 and Cardiff declared a city It has as its focus the sandstone blocks of a druidic circle. The central altar stones, often used as a site for drunken prancing right up until the eighties, are now gone. The rocks of the Heritage Coast are still standing. They are not just an antiquarian artifact; the stones are nineteenth century quarryings from the cliffs of Penarth. They were used for real in 1899 when the Eisteddfod visited Cardiff and held its performances in a massive wooden shed erected where City Hall now stands. That was the Eisteddfod where the committee threw tradition to the wind and opened a bar on the Maes (Eisteddfod field); no poem was found to be good enough to win the chair; and on the last day the pavilion collapsed. The omens had all been bad.

The stones were moved when the City Hall foundations went in and it was agreed that they should become the centrepiece for a new public garden. There’s no celebratory plaque and their origins have been forgotten.

In the sixties Tom Jones, Wales’s macho rock and roll dynamo from Pontypridd, played the Cardiff Capitol and underestimating his attraction to the massed screamers ended being chased up Park Place and into the Gorsedd Gardens where he hid himself behind a weeping cherry. Happy days!

It’s the Cardiff park that gets the most foot traffic. You might think it would be Roath Lake, crammed with citizens any sunny afternoon or Bute Park, the vast swath of grass and trees that runs from the Castle to the Cathedral.

Gorsedd gardens have three entrances, two paths and some of the best-maintained flowerbeds in the city. These are seen daily by the thousands of workers who track from Queen Street, the station and the car parks, to the National Assembly Government, the City Hall, the Temple of Peace, the University, the Law Courts and the many other official centres of Wales.

In the gardens are statues of Lloyd George, high on his plinth, dripping green as his copper degenerates and John Cory – Coal owner and Philanthropist – silently facing the bushes and the bustle of traffic rolling, along Boulevard de Nantes.

We stopped to record the visit on camera and I chuckled as Millie let out a loud… ‘CHEESE!’ as she did every time I held the camera up. Some people were laughing as they sat enjoying the afternoon sun.

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When we got to the museum, we were disappointed. There were some film crew lorries outside and as I prepared to climb the steps with Millie, a loud cry came to us and we were turned away, and we were told the museum did not open on a Monday.

Bother!

We had no other option than to head for town and what else could I do when I take a young lady out other than take her for afternoon tea in Howells. We stated to make our way there.

As we turned to corner into Working Street there seemed to be a major incident taking place with an ambulance and a police car and crowd of people. A lady lay on the ground, looking the worse for wear. A group of buskers were miming and several people were speaking to police officers.

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As it turned out the BBC were filming a scene for the series Casualty. We both watch fascinated. The director clapped his clapper board and shouted ‘Scene 120 take 2 ‘ and as the scene began there was a sense of quiet among the crowd, till a little voice shouted ‘CHEESE’ as the camera came into view. It was a beautiful moment, which I am sure will be edited out. There were several broad smiles from those around us.

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We were determined to be extras come what may and I watched carefully for our chance. In another scene, as it started, Millie and I broke ranks and walked right across the ‘set’, although slightly in the background. They did not do a retake so I think we made it! If you watch Casualty, it’s the episode where and elderly lady with blonde hair  get’s knocked down and as the paramedics arrive and run to her, Millie and I will be seen walking from left to right near the ambulance!

We pushed on to Howells and detoured into the market. Millie refused to be initiated into the Cockle Lovers Club but loved looking at the fish. I also showed her the saltfish and told her of my childhood treats.

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When we got to Howells, we had the kids’ area to ourselves and we enjoyed some quiet, quality time together, over a pot of tea, a pecan and raisin Danish and some oat biscuits.  The assistant put Peppa Pig on the television and we both loved this quiet but special little time together.

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Millie played with the toys and read a few books before we made for home.

As I expected we were held up on the Central Station for a long time. The delays had been caused by a points failure in Grangetown, just the way we were headed. It did give us chance to look at the trains and I am sure Millie loved them as much as me. She was pointing and talking as they all came and left.

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On the train ride home a young lady was fascinated by Millie and complemented her over and over for her cute looks and smiles. I was proud… very proud.

I looked at her and I thought again what a beautiful, gentle little soul she is. My little angel, thanks for a lovely day…

You are loved!

Angel Stories Chapter One

Millie is an angel.

She is our third grandchild, our second granddaughter.  She is loved. Millie has a fantastic cousin called Alfie and a beautiful big sister called Princess Mia… living with Mia is great fun…. living with a princess is even greater fun. I never knew until Millie was sent to live in our family that angels had blue eyes, but I know now.

Millie is beautiful inside and out. Today I get to take Millie out on my own.

Millie stayed in her own house overnight but woke up early to get ready to spend her day with me. Mia is off school this week, which means so are all the other dear little ones who will be crowding out the places I usually visit on a Friday. This called for some serious thought. Looking out of the window I saw the sky was clear blue, it reminded me of Millie’s eyes. Today would be good.

The angel and I decided to make use of the fine spring like weather and go to Cosmeston Country Park, near to where we live.

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For over 80 years, most of what is now the country park was a limestone quarry, with four massive separate holes being dug to remove the stone.

The quarry had its own railway to take the stone to the nearby cement works. As a young boy I used to enjoy watching the trains running across the road to the cement works. When I was in the sixth form I had a holiday job working in the quarry, I used to work on the bottom of what is now the lake… believe me it is very, very deep.

Today the cement works have gone, replaced by houses at Lavernock Park, and the railway is now just a path. The factory office of the cement works is the only building that still remains, and it is the Harvester Restaurant on Lavernock Road. Even before quarrying finished, two of the holes were filled with rubbish from the houses and factories that the cement helped to build.

In 1966, a government white paper recommended the establishment of publicly accessible country parks close to large towns and cities, and preferably on sites in need of improvement. Cosmeston was ideally suited – despoiled land close to Penarth and Barry and not far from Cardiff, created countryside on the city dweller’s doorstep.

The then South Glamorgan County Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Borough Council together restored the land to provide an area of safe and accessible countryside.

It was first opened in 1978 and the country park is still being developed and improved. Unlike the town park in Penarth, with its formal gardens and cultivated flowers, the country park is sensitively managed countryside, which provides a balance between conservation and recreation.

After Millie arrived, we set of as quickly as we could, because we both wanted to make the most of this precious time, alone together – a little angel and her grampy, who loves her to bits!

It was a beautiful day.

When we arrived who should we meet but old friends John and Thelma Foote with little Evie, their grand daughter. It was so good to see them.

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We all made our way to the lake. I smiled, both Evie and Millie had bread to feed the ducks and swans. Millie thought Evie was a bit posh because she had pitta bread in her bag and it was still frozen, good job swans don’t have teeth that can be broken by eating frozen pitta bread. Millie had taken some wholemeal bread belonging to the lady of the house.

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We had fun feeding the birds but I noticed Millie was a bit reluctant to throw the bread to the ducks and swans. It was then I noticed that she was happily tucking into the bread.

 

It made me smile and made the swans mad and they strained forward to reach the food, which they wanted so much.

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It was so much fun, out in the warm sunshine, being in such a beautiful place, with Millie and our friends.

We decided to walk around the park slowly enjoying the fresh air and the birds singing. Recent heavy rain made the roadways and paths very muddy, but we battled through looking out for signs of spring.

We said goodbye to The Foote Family as they wanted to take Evie onto the adventure playground and we strolled around this little haven of peace together. Spring being not too far away made everybody happy and we exchanged many ‘Good mornings…’ to everyone we passed and they all gave the little angel I was pushing around an extra big smile.

After we got back to the car, I wondered what to do. What would Millie want to do? The other ladies in my life, the lady of the house and the great Aunt Bes (‘great’ as in wonderful not age!!) would have said immediately… ’Hit the shops!” so that’s what we did, made our way into Cardiff. By the time I got to the park entrance Millie was sleeping, something else I learnt…angels sleep with a little smile on their faces, maybe she was dreaming of the ducks and swans and her grandmothers tasty wholemeal bread!

I parked the car, lifted Millie out, strapped her in her stroller and reached town and she still slept. I had decided to do with Millie what I had already done with Alfie, teach her about the great place she lives – Cardiff the great capital city of Wales.

On the way into town we passed a Big Issue seller who had a great dog. He was dressed in a coat and scarf and looked really miserable, like a dog version of Victor Meldrew!

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I decided to have lunch first while the little angel was sleeping.

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Lesson one for Millie was eating places in Cardiff and the number one place is The Louis on St Mary Street. St Mary Street was looking good, all done up for the Six Nations.

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The Louis is the most wonderful place to eat, inexpensive and like something from a bygone age.  Older ladies dressed in black wait on the tables and chat to you like long lost friends. I ordered my all day breakfast and scrambled egg on toast for Millie. I asked her to hold on for the eggs until the little angel woke up. The old girl brought my tea, two pots, one with hot water and a little china jug for the milk. Her little greeting ‘There you are love, a nice cup of tea.’ was sweet music to my ears.

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I was halfway through my all day breakfast when Millie woke up and smiled. I dipped my last little piece of fried bread into my egg, and then lifted her into a high chair. I summoned the old girl back and the scrambled eggs were soon on their way. Just like her cousin, Millie charmed all who sat near with her smiles and garbled language.

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When I looked at Millie one time I am sure I thought she looked a bit like me…. the old girl serving me said so every time she came to our table!Image

After a leisurely lunch, we put our coats back on and restarted our lessons for the day. Next stop Cardiff Market another wonderful place full of character and interest.

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When I was growing up Cardiff Market meant three things, the pets, upstairs on the balcony, the Christian Bookshop and the butchers’ shops. Sadly the bookshop is no more and the pets are almost non-existent. You can buy fish and birds but very little else…I am sure that the Health and Safety brigade are to blame!!

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However, there is still plenty to see in the butchers’ shops. As a young lad I would stand for ages looking at the unusual cuts of meat. I showed Millie and wondered what I could buy for the lady of the house for tea, beef cheeks sounded different and so did the diaphragm skirt, but I guessed she would not fancy ox-tongue or pigs heart. My mum used to feed us with heart, liver and other bits of offal. I remember one time my dad eating brains, but only once!!

ImageImageMillie had the giggles when we came across a little group of pigs’ heads. They reminded me of The Mona Lisa. Whichever way I looked at them they were looking straight at me…creepy! On the way out we noticed that Elvis had not left the building!!

ImageImageOn the way back to the car we stopped off in Howells to check on the nappy situation. Revisiting the mother and baby room I checked and found all was well…no feeding mothers or offspring being changed… That is so last season calling it a mother and baby room, I want to fight for a Grampy and baby room. Equal rights for us male oldies!!

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We reached home in good time for Millie to have a little play and we enjoyed being together.
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I looked at her playing quietly and I thought a gentler and more placid soul I have never seen. My little angel, thanks for a lovely day… You are loved!

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Mia and Millie – A Weekend Diary

17 – 19th November 2012

Several months ago, Mia and Millie’s parents asked us if we could have them for a long weekend. The lady of the house and I thought long and hard for all of half a second before agreeing. Nothing beats a weekend with our ‘girls’.  Seems like the loving parents were off on a Newberry Tours trip to see The Northern Lights in Iceland. At first the dear lady who shares my life was a bit put out that she hadn’t been invited on the trip but when came to the crunch, it was a choice between The Northern Lights or sharing a weekend with the two precious little ones that are the Light of our Lives…it was a no contest. We looked forward to it enormously!

Turns out that the weekend was the same weekend as Mia and Millie’s great grandmother reached the ripe old age of ninety and a little coffee morning/tea party had been arranged. The dear lady of mine had been in her element for weeks organising the wonderful day for the special lady that was her mum…

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We had been into the Cath Kidston shop earlier in the week and bought a whole load of stuff to give away as presents to all those who came. It was such a lovely idea and on the day all the ladies and gents who turned up went home with a little goody bag from the grand old lady herself. Everyone was thrilled!

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The whole event was a fitting tribute to a unique and wonderful person. I came across a poem some years back, which I once sent to the lady of the house; the sentiments still ring true with my dear lady and her mum…

The Time is Now

If you are ever going to love me,

Love me now, while I can know

The sweet and tender feelings

Which from true affection flow.

Love me now

While I am living,

Do not wait until I’m gone

And then have it chiseled in marble,

Sweet words on ice-cold stone.

If you have tender thoughts of me,

Please tell me now.

That little party was our way of not just telling a dear, sweet, old lady, but showing her too that she is loved. We will have no regrets when she leaves us. We told her then, as we tell her every time we see her….that she is loved. Surely there is no greater feeling in the world than to know you are loved!

The party had many benefits and some things we will treasure forever, the look of sheer joy on Beat’s face when she realised her sister Grace was with her, the meeting of the generations of the Bateman/Musgrove families…. from Millie all through to the great lady herself and people seeing each other after years of being out of touch. It was a good day… a very good day.

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After the party had finished and the parents shipped off to Iceland we settled down to enjoy a great weekend together. We had a chilling session on Saturday evening and just enjoyed each other’s company, watching my new favourite film ‘Up’.  Mia decided that she wanted to sleep with her Nan so I was promptly dispatched to the nursery to sleep in the princess bed to ‘watch’ over Millie while the girls climbed the wooden hill to the land of Nod. Sadly, Millie slept perfectly all night and there were no little midnight cuddles on offer. But the next morning she was raring to go. Seeing that beautiful little face and those blue eyes smiling at me was just the best way to start the day. Millie has the ability to smile, not only with her face but also with her eyes. She is such a treasure.

We had breakfast together and I was due to address a church in Newport, so we decided to do something special in the afternoon.

It was a glorious day!

So a trip to Barry Island it was at lunchtime, to take Yappie and Scrappie the two little pests the lady of the house calls her ‘girls’ for a long overdue walk. Most people would describe these tiny living creatures as dogs but not my dear one… they are only ever ‘girls’…and yes for those who were thinking…they DO have a Cath Kidston dog bed…nothing but the best….

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Mia loved holding the lead despite us getting tangled up quite often. We had the obligatory photo shoot outside Marcos Coffee shop, and the guy I asked to do the shooting offered to take us on the whole Gavin and Stacey tour…but we declined. As we walked around we had trouble keeping Mia out of Nessa’s Slots, an amusement arcade, whose bright flashing lights invited all passers by to come in and waste their money!

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We walked round and had a delightful time, Millie was watching the world go by from the security of the Barbie puschair still warm from Friday’s Adventures with Alfie and it so much more suited the little darling that was Millie.

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Mia walked with us chatting away and enjoying our company.

We walked along the promenade and passed hundreds of dogs. From September to March dogs are allowed to run free on the beach and many people take advantage of it. We passed one mean looking Staffordshire Bull Terrier who was eyeing up Yappie and Scrappie as I would eye up a large fresh cream doughnut. I was very tempted at first, but looked across at the love of my life and thought better of it and gently pulled them away from the Staff’s salivating jaws. I did mention to the Staff’s owner that her dog looked like it was expecting a snack and she just smiled. Did you know that Yorkie’s are the only dog that can kill a Staffordshire Bull Terrier…apparently they get stuck in their throat!

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As we walked back passed the decaying fun fare we though it would be nice to have a treat and have lunch in Barry. Good move! We passed a few Burger Bars and fish and chip shops and also had a little look in Big Dave’s, but the sight of Forte’s further down the road made up our minds. When the good lady and I were first married Forte’s was the place to go. They served frothy coffee before the world had heard of cappuccino, latte and Americano. Forte’s was up and running when Starbucks and Costa Coffee were just a mere twinkle in some entrepreneur’s eyes. We made our way in and found ourselves in a fifties time warp. The place looked like the inside of a set from Happy Days… without the lights. We settled in and ordered tea, which came in Pyrex, cups with odd saucers. The good lady ordered a Clarks Pie and chips. I looked at her adoringly and was so glad I had married such a fine person…Clarks Pie and chips, obviously a lady of good breeding! I went for Cod and Chips and Mia ordered Egg and Chips. Life was good. A Calor gas fire burned happily in the corner near our table. Then came the bad news – we were told they had run out of Clark’s pies. Oh dear. Did you know that a stare from my good lady can turn a waitress to stone? The one in Fortes in Barry does!

While our food was being lovingly prepared I went across the road to draw out some cash. You could tell it was a Barry cashpoint as the machine was issuing fivers. When I got back the food was waiting…on Pyrex plates. We smiled… the food was good, Millie had already eaten her lamb dinner and fruit pot and Mia enjoyed her egg and chips and we soon found ourselves walking out. As we did so I gazed up at the sign I felt sure when Forte’s left they forgot to take their sign. I later checked on Trip Advisor and it has two positive comments… it was very dated but we loved it!

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On the way back to the car we gave the girlies a go on Thomas the Tank engine… it was fun!

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While we had been eating Yappie and Scrappie had been locked away in the boot of our car and I suddenly wondered if when we got back to the vehicle, the boys in blue would be surrounding the car with some RSPCA officers; but they had been quiet and not ripped each other to shreds.

We drove home tired but happy the girls fast asleep in the back. They missed church but woke up in time to visit Uncle Gareth and Aunty Mercedes in Millbrook Heights. The lady of the house had arranged a visit to talk through her mum’s party and give Millie and Mia a chance to get to know their relatives a bit better. We all had a lovely time. Mia and Millie played happily with Uncle Gareth who is brilliant with little ones and an expert toy builder with a first class honours degree in Lego. Mercedes looked after us really well and we even watched the video of Beat’s Best Bits of her ninety years on the planet. We had a beautiful time. It had been such a great day.

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Things returned to normal at home and my dearest one slept in the nursery watching over Millie and Mia slept with Aunt Bes. I was upstairs snoring only to myself!

Monday was the day we had to pass on the care of these two precious bundles of fun to Nanny and Bampa,Image but on the way we called into Alfie’s for a play and some quality time together. It was such a great time, our three precious little ones having fun together. We watched them with great pride and gratitude.

It was a good way to end our weekend and we are saving up now to send Mia’s and Millie’s parents off somewhere else… so we can enjoy them again.

Thanks girls…you are both so special.

Adventure with the girls – The Magical Mystery Tour!

 

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I had set aside today for getting my application ready to start doing some supply teaching work, but Mia has been looking at me lately implying that she has been reading Adventures with Alfie with a hint of ‘When are my adventures going to happen?’ The truth is we have had loads but never recorded them until now. Last week I promised Mia and Millie that I would have a word with the lady of the house and sort it out for this week. When we agreed on today, it was all set up for a sleepover followed by the Great Magical Mystery Tour.

I had ideas in my head but needed to check out the day first as the place was new to me as well.

 

The girls woke early; Millie had her morning drink and snuggled back under for an extra half hour. Mia always sleeps with Bes in her double bed. John Denver once sang about his Grandma’s Feather Bed. Bes’s bed, too, is legendary and Mia always shares it. John Denver’s song says ‘Didn’t get much sleep but we had a lot of fun in Grandma’s Feather Bed… and I suspect from the oft heard giggles after ‘lights out’ that Bes and Mia always enjoy these times! Today though Mia was despatched early to let Bes catch up with her beauty sleep. So, Mia came in to wake me up – I was faced with a choice – send her back to Bes’s bed, send her to the nursery to have a bit more sleep there, or get up and have some fun. The opportunity to spend some fun time with my eldest grandchild was too good to pass up! I had a good scratch and a cough and I was ready for what this brand new day could offer. Mia and I had some toast to keep us going till breakfast and proceeded to make the lady of the house her first cup of tea of the day. Many years’ experience has taught me it pays to keep the dear lady happy. Mia and I tried some early morning TV but all those presenters calling everyone ‘guys’ and sounding so energetic and cheerful put me off, so we settled for a viewing of the old Disney film Pinocchio. We both loved it, snuggled under a blanket, covered in toast crumbs yet blissfully happy.  The song “There are no strings on me…’ reminded me of Mia. She is becoming so independent lately and turning into a lovely young girl, full of questions and starting to ask ‘why’ after every question or request. I love it…  she is so delightful and I treasure the times I spend with her. I have many lessons about life to share with her.  Millie in the meantime was enjoying her cuddles and preparing for the day. Millie is so wonderful, the sweetest, gentlest child imaginable who is becoming a big rival to Alfie in the smiles department…. and that takes some doing!!! Her piercing blue eyes are striking and add to her beauty. We were in for a great day.

Today though was different…very different. Adventures with Alfie are just the boy and me… quick bread and cheese wedge; spare nappy and we are off. Adventure with the girls means the lady of the house has to accompany us… so it was breakfast, and then an age waiting for her to prepare everything Cath Kidston! There was a Cath Kidston rucksack for each little darling, a Cath Kidston baby bag with nappies, cream and a spare of everything, a Cath Kidston cup and bottle and I am sure even Cath Kidston dirty nappy bags. I am certain in my mind that the dear lady was about to call me Cath… before correcting herself, regaining her dignity and saying ‘Fatboy, get the Cath Kidston pushchair in the car and be quick!’ Quiet obedience followed!

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I had prepared a CD of kids’ songs for the journey and we set off singing merrily about the Wheels of the bus going round and round. It was great fun. When we sang about a Flippy Floppy scarecrow, I felt quite sorry for him. I began to wonder how old he was and if anyone cared for him in his flippy floppy state. I nearly caused a multi vehicle pile up as we headed over the Cogan Flyover. We were singing ‘If you’re happy and you know it’, when verse four came on and at my age I’ve got to say I found it quite difficult to clap my hands, stamp my feet, nod my head and goodness knows what else, whist negotiating the mid-morning traffic. I think I just about managed it. We were headed for Cefn Mably Farm; it was so lovely to hear Mia singing along to all the songs. When It’s a Small World came on the lady of the house and I exchanged knowing glances and without words being used we both agreed, just with a smile, that another visit to Paris is long overdue!

I had my journey planning spot on because as we approached the farm, the car CD player was playing Old McDonald had a farm… perfect timing.

We didn’t really know what to expect but it turned out to be a kids’ paradise! I have always thought much about the difference between being childish and being childlike. I firmly believe, even when we are grown, if we can retain a child like outlook on the world we will enjoy life so much more. Forty years in teaching helps me look at the world through a child’s eyes and I was as excited as Mia and Millie as we arrived and saw this big transit van painted pink with ears on top and a tail behind. How cool was that!  Sadly for me though, in my life, I was too often childish and it got me into trouble far too often. I remember time I was about forty five and drove into a ditch while playing air guitar to Bohemian Rhapsody at full volume or the time I broke the church organ doing what I thought was a fantastic imitation of Lurch from the Addams Family.  You will be interested to know I am slowly beginning to settle down.

Cefn Mably Farm has a large indoor area containing settees and tables and chairs, a large café serving both drinks and hot meals. It also has a fantastic children’s soft play area, with one section for the fours and under and another section for the over fives. There is also a covered outdoor section where there is a range of farm and domesticated animals in clean pens. Mia was beside herself and let us know it was the animals she wanted to see first. We had already bought a bag of food and she was off! She adored them all, from rabbits to guineu pigs. There were goats and sheep and even three little pigs in one enclosure. As we were looking I was reminding Mia and Millie of the story and true to form as I was telling the story one of them did ‘Huff’, another ‘Puffed and the third one blew off judging by the awful smell that surrounded the enclosure.

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At one place Mia was invited to hold the rabbits and guineu pigs, which she did lovingly and with great care and patience, staying there until one particular little black creature finished a whole piece of carrot! There were also some pedal tractors there, free for the kids to use. Mia was in heaven! Millie too enjoyed looking at the animals, not quite sure what to make of some of them.

Outside, there was an open area with some tiny horses, Shetland ponies and some more sheep and pigs. Then the big challenge came when we saw a sign announcing…. horse rides £2 a go. Mia had no idea what we were suggesting I am sure, but willingly agreed to a horse ride. I paid my two pounds, she donned a hard hat and looking somewhat unsure went on this ride on a tiny horse that looked like something out of the 2012 Barbie Annual, with its bleached blonde mane and fluttering eyelashes. She was wonderful and overcame her fear with grace and a dignity that belied her years. Wonderful memories!

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We scrubbed our hands, as instructed by the signs, and made our way to lunch. Millie was starving and ate straight away. Mia and I headed for the soft play area and boy did we have fun! We had to juggle a bit with a bit of bending and pushing but I did eventually get my head low enough to get passed the height restrictions.

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After lunch Millie joined us and we had a wonderful time. Millie was so lovely crawling around and playing so well with all the equipment. At one time a little incident happened which caused me to smile. A young boy aged about four came into the ball pit and in the course of their play, picked up a ball and threw it hard right into Millie’s face. Mia was shocked, but lovingly put her arm around her little sister, made sure she was okay and then proceeded to tell the boy not to throw balls at her sister’s face and showed him how to throw the ball away from her. It was a touching little moment that would have been easy to miss but caused me to reflect that as they grow up together these two beautiful little people will need and support each other and I have no doubt Mia will be the most marvellous big sister to Millie. I will watch them grow with interest and much love.

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As I sat there up to my knees in balls and coloured cubes and I just thought that if we try hard enough, even ordinary days can become adventures if we just take time to look through the eyes of a child!

As we made our way out of this lovely little place Millie fell asleep between being lifted out of the high chair and being placed in the pushchair. Mia just made it to the car before slipping gently into her dreams. Both slept soundly, both with smiles on their face and happy memories of an ordinary September day when together, we made special things happen.  No singing on the way home, although the lady of the house and I kept the kids CD playing all the way home. It had been a magical day.

As we drove along the road towards St Mellons my dear one gazed with great affection at our sleeping girls, then looked lovingly across at me and said ‘I think I’d like an old goat? I tried not to looked puzzled… I thought she already had one!

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Mia and Millie may not remember this day, but there are two old people who will and one of them is putting an application form for supply work back in the drawer.