Category Archives: Just Max and me

Just Max and me – Adventures Day 9 – Techniquest.

Max looked tired when he arrived this morning. He still had the lines of his pillows imprinted on his cheeks. He still smiled and we took a long time to gently prepare him for the day!

Max ate 3 Weetabix for breakfast! He ate slowly, enjoying it and watching the wood burner glowing in the fireplace.We had our adventure planned already – a day at Techniquest.

techniquestWe had our adventure planned already – a day at Techniquest.

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Each month this exciting Science Exhibition in Cardiff holds a Toddler Day. They call it Snowflakes and Sparkles – although I wasn’t expecting to see either.

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We also received the good news that Max’s cousin Eli was also coming down, that would be great fun.

Max got dressed and prepared for the day. We set off just before ten for the short journey down to Cardiff Bay.

Techniquest first opened on 13 November 1986 on the site of the old British Gas showroom on the corner of Duke Street and St John Street in Cardiff Town Centre. There were 48 exhibits at that time, many of them were designed and built by Techniquest. The former showroom housed the centre for around nine months. Less than seven weeks after it had opened Techniquest had welcomed its ten thousandth visitor.

In 1988 Techniquest re-opened in a pre-fabricated building opposite the now demolished Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum in Bute Street. The two buildings were removed to make way for Mermaid Quay.

They moved again in 1995 about 100 metres along Stuart Street to its present location on the site of the former Baileys engineering workshop which is now its permanent headquarters. The building, the UK’s first purpose-built science discovery centre, opened on 1 May 1995. It uses the steel framework of the original building which can be clearly seen on the photograph.

We parked up and waited for Eli to arrive.

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Kids are free on Toddler Day. I asked for one OAP ticket but was rebuffed and told that all tickets were cheaper today, so I duly pad my £5.80, put on my wrist band and in we went.

Max absolutely loved it and so did Max. Every exhibit brought new delights.

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It was an effort to drag Max from one to another, he cried when we moved on but squealed with delight when he saw what was next it was truly wonderful.

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We did stop at one place so Max could have a tattoo done. Unusually he sat quietly while it was being done. In all fairness the young man who was doing it was really gentle and kind. Max was fascinated!

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On our way round, we met several friends. Bibby was there with Oliver and Clive and Beatty French were on Grandparenting duty with their little ones.

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We had a great chat.

We even met with old Father Christmas…

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We moved on and made our way upstairs to see even greater delights….

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These two had no body to play with!!!!

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Max and Eli are such lovely friends as well as cousins….

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We even let the boys make a bauble for the Christmas Tree!!!

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It really was a day filled with wonder…. and one of the greatest wonder of all…..

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Beautiful Elsie Joy….

On the way out, Max even sat still to have a reindeer painted on his face.

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Great stuff.

 

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Just Max and me – Adventures Day 8

‘Well, he’s a smiler, isn’t he?’

‘I bet you look forward to having him every week!’

‘What a beautiful smile!’

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These are just some of the things that people said to me today as Max and I were out and about. On the bus out, on the bus home and in Cardiff as well, wherever I met people. Max invokes that response. It’s that smile that brightens up my Fridays.

Max arrived looking very bleary eyed and tired. He had been plucked from his cot and brought to our house early. His first smile preceded me opening the car door and I knew we were in for a good day. We spent the first hour or so snuggled under a blanket, talking and watching some train videos on YouTube. The house was warm, the blankets were soft and the thought of staying there all day was briefly tempting. However, Fridays are adventuring days and today we ere off to Cardiff Bay to continue Max’s education.

We caught the 10:30a.m. 304 Cardiff Express from Eastbrook. I was very relieved to see the pushchair space was free on the bus – a full pushchair space often means alternative transport and a quick run to Eastbrook Station to catch a train, folding up a pushchair and carrying Max while the bus passengers look on is not an option.

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The 304 is run by NAT – NewAdventure Travel, very appropriate for name for a bus carrying a little boy and his chubby grandfather on an exciting trip. Cardiff Bus 95 will take you to Cardiff Town but the 304 goes to the same place but by a different route and stops right in Cardiff Bay. I was sat with Max facing down the bus and the first few rows sat under his spell… he smiled and waved all the way into Cardiff. We got off not far from the Coal Exchange, one of my favourite Cardiff Buildings.

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There was a time in the coal exchange history where the grand building housed the biggest coal trading business in the world and the hub for the city’s then thriving shipping industry. The building was built in the late 1800s and, despite being left to rot and in a desperate state of disrepair, has taken on a new lease of life as The Exchange Hotel. The Coal Exchange has enjoyed a long history of industrial excitement and intense trading, with up to 10,000 people passing through the doors each day at the height of business.

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We walked past the Exchange and down a few alleyways that we would not have done twenty years ago before the Bay was redeveloped.

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There are some grand buildings there, the place is steeped in history.

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We walked down past Trumps Coffee Shop – we popped our heads in to see if Donald was working but he wasn’t, so we just carried on.

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Our first stop proper was Greggs, its not really possible to pass by on the other side, that would be so rude. Max was thirsty and hungry, and I realised it was time for our elevenses! We decided on coffee and a Yum-Yum each a Yum-Yum is a twirly kind of sugary donut. Max had a squash.

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We really enjoyed our break and Max devoured his Yum -Yum and was looking my way to see if I had any left. I saw how much he enjoyed his, so I left him a little bit of mine… well…he is my friend.

After Greggs, we explored the Bay. Max looked longingly at the boats, but time and the weather meant a boat trip wasn’t on the agenda.

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We saw the Senedd, the Welsh Government Building and the wonderful old Pier Head Building.

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It was a chilly dismal day, so we headed for the Millennium Centre – it was warm there. My old mum loved this building. She wasn’t so keen when it was first built. She called it an armadillo. Now it’s an iconic landmark.

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The Wales Millennium Centre, situated at the heart of Cardiff Bay, is the nation’s home for performing arts and world class entertainment.

Wales Millennium Centre opened in 2004 and has already established its reputation as one of the world`s iconic arts and cultural destinations.

The vision of the Centre was to be an internationally significant cultural landmark and centre for the performing arts, renowned for inspiration, excellence and leadership.

The building exterior is dominated by walls built of waste slate, collected from the many quarries throughout Wales, laid in coloured ‘strata’ depicting the different stone layers seen in sea cliffs; naturally-occurring purple slate came from a quarry in Penryn, the blue from Cwt-y-Bugail, green from Nantlle, grey from Llechwedd, and the black slate from the Corris Quarry in mid-west Wales. An important industry within Wales for centuries, Welsh slate has changed the landscape of North Wales forever and is important to Welsh heritage.

On the front of the WMC, cut directly into the steel façade in large Celtic lettering, is the inscription “CREU GWIR GWYDR O FFWRNAIS AWEN,” which translated into English means “Truth is as clear as glass forged in the flames of inspiration.” The inspiration for this came from the forging of the metal roof and the glass from which each letter is made. Each letter stands over 2m tall and is a window for those inside the WMC overlooking Cardiff Bay.

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There is also an English inscription: “IN THESE STONES HORIZONS SING.” The strata of the slate walls reminded Gwyneth Lewis, the author of the inscriptions, of the horizons seen just beyond Penarth Head in South Wales. She also felt that the stones would “literally be singing” once the building opened.

Max loved it in here.

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Soon it was time to head towards the bus. On the way we stopped by the ‘water-feature’ just outside the Millennium Centre. Max was fascinated and it looked like I was the proud grandfather of twins!

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The bus took us home and Max again enchanted the passengers on the bus.

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We arrived home tired but happy and Max had a little sleep before his mummy picked him up. I am sure I saw him dreaming of Yum-Yums, buses and the boats he hopes to go on next time….

Happy days!

Just Max and Me – Adventures Day 7 – A visit to Llanishen

November is my worst month of the year. It’s the longest time to go before Spring appears, Summer seems miles away, December has the promise of Christmas – one thing however brightens up November…my Fridays with Max.

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He arrived today as he arrives every Friday with a big smile that is like a ray of the bright summer sun. he gives me a massive hug and a kiss and then we always sit down together to break the day in slowly. Today the lady of the house was out to work almost as soon as Max had arrived. Max waved goodbye.

She had however given us a job for today which will guide our adventure. We are to drive to the north of Cardiff to pick up some very important presents. Max enjoyed the journey up watching some train videos thanks to my new gadget.

It also gave us the chance to get Elsie on our family pebble picture. We were happy about that. While the lady kindly added Elsie, we had a couple of hours to while away so I thought I would share with Max some places of my childhood. I don’t know if Max will remember this day when he is grown up enough to read this, he probably won’t, but at least he can see he spent the day treading in my footsteps of long ago. I want him to know what a lovely childhood I had.

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After we had dropped the picture off, we made for the house where the lady of the house grew up – Waun y Groes Road in Rhiwbina. It’s quite posh in Rhiwbina and I was from the neighbouring council Estate. It’s true to say I probably married above my station. It was a bit like the song Uptown Girl by Billy Joel.

It was a lovely place to grow up and Max’s gran had a lovely childhood and parents who loved her sacrificially. Tragically her dad died when she was just eighteen. Life seems so unfair sometimes. Her mum, Beatrice rose to the challenge and loved her three children and worked herself to a standstill to provide for them.                                                                 I think Max loved the house.

From here we moved on to the place where I grew up.

I was actually born in Grangetown in Cardiff in the front room of 205 Penarth Road, where my parents rented some attic rooms in the early days of their marriage. We moved to Llanishen in 1952 into a brand-new house built as part of the post war building programme. It was an idyllic lace to grow up. Council estates in the 1950s had big back gardens and grass verges between the pavement and the road.

The local History Society tells me this….

 Llanishen has a rich history stretching back over 1,000 years. In A.D. 535 two monks set out eastwards from the then-small settlement of Llandaff, aiming to establish new settlements, or “llans”, in the wild terrain below Caerphilly mountain. One of these monks, Isan, established his “llan” on the present-day site of the Oval Park, an ideal location offering a ready fresh-water supply at a natural spring and the nearby Nant Fawr stream.

 

“Llan-isan” remained a peaceful place until the arrival of the Normans. In 1089, a large and bloody battle, the Battle of the Heath, was fought to the north of the settlement. Crushing the Welsh resistance at this battle and gradually securing their hold on Wales as a whole, the Normans began to expand Llanishen, commencing work on a church at a site on higher and drier ground to the north of the old settlement. This church was completed sometime in the 12th century and was dedicated to the now St Isan.

Despite the many upheavals in Britain in the following centuries, “Llan-isan”, which gradually became corrupted to Llanishen, stayed a quiet rural village whose principal occupation was agriculture. This only changed significantly in the mid-nineteenth century when the area came under the gaze of the Rhymney Railway Company. Seeking to build an alternative route to Cardiff Docks to rival that of the mighty Taff Vale Railway, the company was granted parliamentary permission to create a new line running from Caerphilly, through Llanishen, to Cardiff. In order to do this, the company first had to blast its way through Caerphilly Mountain, creating a tunnel some one and a half miles in length. Unsurprisingly, in an age before health and safety of any kind, accidents were common, and a large incident inside the tunnel cost the lives of several of the railway “navvies”, some of whom were buried in St Isan’s churchyard. The line gradually marched through the village along a large embankment, work being completed around 1871.

The advent of the railway had a marked effect on Llanishen. Wealthy residents of Cardiff could now move out into the “country” and live in the pleasant surroundings of the village, while still being able to commute into the then-town from Llanishen station. In the twenty years between 1851 and 1871, the village’s population rose by over 20,000. It was a trend that was set to continue. In 1887, after a long period of negotiation, two reservoirs were built in the village to support the rapidly growing population of Cardiff. By 1922, after continued expansion, Llanishen became a suburb of Cardiff.

As with so many towns and villages throughout the country, the outbreak of war in 1914 was to leave its grim mark on Llanishen. The war memorial inside St Isan’s church testifies to this with a long list of men who did not return. Among these was Lt. Col. Frank Hill Gaskell, who after being wounded in 1914, returned to Cardiff to help raise the 16th Cardiff City Battalion. Leading it back to France in May 1916, he was killed when a German bullet struck his ammunition pouches, causing an explosion that left him mortally wounded.

The coming of the Second World War was, however, to have a far more overt effect on Llanishen. In 1939 the government established a Royal Ordnance Factory along Ty Glas Road. The factory produced tank and anti-tank guns with a largely female workforce and was highly productive. In the nearby fields, anti-invasion defences were erected to try and ward off the feared German paratroopers. When the threat of airborne invasion gradually began to decrease in 1941, the RAF established itself on the site, clearing the defences to use the wide-open spaces to train Air Cadets in the rudiments of flying in rickety training gliders. This is where the area’s modern name of “Glider Field” stems from. The old glider field became the home of Llanishen Leisure Centre, while the surrounding farmland and market gardens were replaced with industrial and buildings. The majority of these have since been replaced, particularly the ROF complex, and the area is now occupied by the Llanishen Business Park and a large area of housing. In spite of all this change however, Llanishen has retained its village feel, with its bustling heart being focused around the old village centre and St Isan’s Church.

Going back to Llanishen is always good, I have so many happy memories. We parked near my old house and Max was ready to get out and have a look. Thankfully, it appeared the current owners were at work. Max had no idea where he was but appeared so excited!

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One thing I noticed was the disgraceful state of the roads – they were awful.

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Together we walked to the shops, the short journey I took probably thousands of times. I remember once my sister was entrusted with a ten-shilling note (50p today) to get some shopping and she lost it. My mother was sad and upset for days. It was a lot of money for her to lose in those days.

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When I was a boy the shops were brilliant. There was Hamilton’s the Greengrocers, Wally’s the sweet shop and paper shop. Patterson’s the Butchers and Ablett’s the Grocers. Wally’s was the centre of our world and we got to spend our pocket money there on sweets – Fry’s Five Boys chocolate, sherbet fountains, Sweet peanuts and liquorice roots, bits of sweet tasting wood.

The Hamilton’s were a sort of rough and ready sort family, Stuart was my friend. Wally had a big row of stitches across his neck – his name was Bafico. – maybe he was Walter Bafico? The Pattersons were just ordinary but friendly and the Abletts were great.

Joe Ablett always wore a white coat and had a bacon slicer and an adding machine – no calculators then – with a handle he pulled down after adding each item, we were spellbound as kids. His wife was a posh lady who always wore fancy glasses.

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When Max and I got to the shops, I was so sad. All the shops had morphed into one shop – Fishguard Road Stores. All the others were shuttered up. I peered through Wally’s window and it was just a mess. It looks like Fishguard Road Stores may be taking it over. After Wally’s it became Shah’s and Mr Shah ran the post office and was extremely kind to my parents, they loved him.

There was one more shop, Abletts had been split in two and the one end was a barber shop. I was happy to see that. When I was young Mrs Preece was the local hairdresser, she lived in Heol Merlin. We went to her front room to be done and she charged 1/3d – probably about 6p today. Max had his hair cut last week and was charged £10.

 

Max and I walked around past the shops and up Portfield Crescent to the park. When we first moved in the park was a patch of rough ground which the council turned into a park. In the sixties it had its own Park Keeper, a grumpy old fellow that we used to tease unceasingly.

Max was longing  for a play, but dank November days are not the best for playing in parks covered with leaves.

Next, we strolled to my old church, Llanishen Evangelical Church. It’s where the lady of the house and I did a lot of our courting. We made many wonderful friends there. When the estate was built the council set aside the plot of ground for a place of worship and my parents were the original members. The church began with a tent, then a wooden building and then the current building in 1958.

My dad and a few friends bought the building from a hillside in Bedlinog, dismantled it, brought it to Llanishen and rebuilt it. It was heated by paraffin stoves which glugged their way through every service.

 

After visiting the church, we decided to walk ‘up the gully’. This is a path from the estate to the posher houses on Fidlas Road.

On the left are the allotments where my dad sued to have a plot. He grew a lot of our vegetables while we were growing up!

 

Max loved this he was excited all the way. As children we walked this path to school every morning. It leads past the allotments through a big railway arch and onto Fidlas Road. Its where we used to catch the bus – 28 or 37. The 37 took us to Grangetown, where we visited our nanna. If we visited my dad’s parents, we would have to catch the 28 or 37 to town and the catch a 10B Trolley bus to Ely. Max particularly loved the tunnel. He paused at the entrance looked and smile before shouting loud, loving his echoey voice.

At the other end of the tunnel was Fidlas Road where Workman’s Garage and shop were situated. Further down Fidlas Road was The Salad Bowl, another shop we loved but never had much to spend there.



We walked back down the gully, I noticed that they have fenced off the part where we used to climb up to watch the trains on the embankment. Probably not the safest pastime but we always loved it.

When we headed back to the car, I noticed the old street sign had been moved. It reminded me how much I hated the name – St Dogmael’s Avenue. It’s horrible. Its named after a pretty village in West Wales, as are Fishguard Road and Crundale Crescent but I hated it – and still do, I think!

I was always so embarrassed, when I had to give my address in school, the other kids always used to laugh and start barking!

It was a lovely return visit for me – for Max it was just a lovely walk around with his grandfather. He was on top form. So happy, so excited and so pleased (I hope!) to spend time with me. I so enjoy spending time with him!

Next we were headed for the graves of my parents and parents in law, but had to call into Greggs en route – it would have been rude not to!

When we reached the Cemetery, I turned around to find Max sleeping peacefully.

I didn’t wake him, much as I would like to have, but put flowers on their graves and wiped tears away as I reflected on the fact my precious parents and parents in law would never know my grandchildren – how they would have loved Max’s smile – but I never forget how much our parents did live to see.

Max slept all the way home dreaming of trains probably and his family. He woke up when we arrived home and enjoyed his lovely lunch.

Before long, his dad arrived to whisk him away…

 

I love you Max! Thanks for a great day.

Just Max and me… Adventures Day 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treasured times!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Louis Stephenson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trip Advisor describes Bridgend like this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Within a few minutes Max was asleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max slept on.

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

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

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

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

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Keep following the blue dot!

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

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

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

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Just Max and me… Adventures Day 3

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Tourist board describes Penarth like this…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Max and me… Adventures Day 2

On the way home from school on Thursday Alfie asked me, “is Grandma still at your house?”

No sooner had he said it, he realised his mistake and after hitting his head a few times with a clenched fist he corrected himself. ‘Is Margaret at your house?” he said giggling.

 

Max arrived a little later than usual. His mum was taking Alfie to Breakfast Club – a real treat for them both. When I opened the door I didn’t know what to expect as Poor max had been unwell earlier in the week with his new teeth and various minor infections. I was met with the biggest smile ever and I knew my little friend was better and looking forward to one of our Friday specials, Just Max and me. However today was going to be slightly different. Today was going to be Just Max and me and Margaret.

Margaret is my friend. We met by accident 26 years ago nearly when I paid a trip to Northern France to sing with a group of young people.  It’s been a lovely friendship based on mutual respect and a desire to support each other. Margaret teaches English to Senior Citizens in France and also tries to share her Christian love with all she meets. She has dedicated her life to serving others.

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Max spent the first couple of hours having his breakfast, playing and watching train videos – his absolute favourite pastime. Watching steam train videos is a mark of great parenting (and grandparenting) skills!

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After breakfast we had a game of ‘Hide the Remote Control’. I am beginning to get to now some of Max’s favourite places to hide it!

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We had already decided to head for Barry Island, it was a glorious day late in September – too nice to stay at home. However Max looked a little tired and so we decided he would catch a later train after he had chance to nap. He certainly didn’t want to sleep all the way around Barry Island.

 

The yapping dog woke Max and we prepared to set off. It was something of a motley crew Max , Margaret and me!

Going to Barry on the train is wonderful but for a young lad in a pushchair it has a nightmare beginning. We have to negotiate the iron bridge over to the Barry Island Platform or Platform 2 as the lady robot announcer calls it.

So, pushchair under one arm and the other holding Max’s left hand and Margaret holding Max’s right hand we set off.

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The train arrived on schedule and as Max saw the oncoming train he was visibly shaking with the greatest excitement. Unprompted, he waved frantically at the driver who waved frantically back and even gave him a personal toot on the train horn.DSC01369

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Max was very anxious to leave the confines of the pushchair and sat excitedly by the window. He just loved the train journey, down through Dinas Powys, across the moors, through Cadoxton and the various Barry Stations. As we slowed down Max waved to every single passenger waiting on every single station.

When the guard came around I had a moment of panic! In my rush to make sure I had everything, I realised I had left the very thing I needed most at home – not Max or Margaret but my wallet. I searched every pocket three times at least as she inched her way towards me. A big smile and a cheery ‘Tickets please’ gave me hope. I asked her if I could pay with my phone and after she confirmed that I could all was well. I gave all my fellow passengers a look of disbelief and told them I had no idea how it works but was grateful that it did. They all smiled and looked at the two ‘old dears’ and the smiling little lad!

As we were heading towards Cadoxton, Margaret must have been thinking and she asked me if Alfie ever still called her grandma. I smiled and told her what Alfie had said to me just the day before! I think she liked that.

She replied, “Well, he’s the nearest I will ever get to be anyone’s grandma!”

I had a moment of sadness in my happy day. Margaret would have made a lovely ‘grandma’ – she has so many talents that she could have shared with them. Mia used to love and sit and watch Margaret knitting and they would often spend hours together.

As the train past the Docks Building I explained to Margaret what an wonderful building it was.

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Barry docks office building

The Dock Offices at Barry cost £59,000 to build. Constructed of red brick and Portland stone, a clock tower was added at an additional cost of £6,000. It has a ‘theme’ of the calendar. There are four floors – the seasons of the year; seven lights in the traceried fanlight window – days of the week. The porch has twelve panels – months of the year.
Within the building are 52 marble fireplaces – weeks of the year. The windows number 365 days, one for each day of the year. Each window has four panes of glass – weeks to a month. In the east and west walls of the entrance hall are two circular windows – Sun and Moon. The staircase, made of Portland stone, has 31 steps (days of the month) from ground to first and second floors and has an ornamental ironwork balustrade with circular foliage and fruit trails.

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We pulled into Barry Island spot on time and made our way off the station. I looked at the lovely old building and remembered many happy visits here in the 1950s, when I arrived on a proper steam train and Barry Island had a proper station. How good it would be if the new franchise did up these great old places.

 

I spent many happy hours in Barry Island as a child. My mum and dad would take us on the train from Llanishen Station to Barry Island on a regular basis. Most of the journeys were on steam trains. Unforgettable bliss!

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On the way, we would hold our breath after Grangetown Station, as the train would take one of two routes as it approached Penarth. The short way was via Cogan, Dinas Powys and Cadoxton and on to Barry, but the long way, which always brought groans from us kids, was through Penarth via Dingle Road, Alberta Place Halt, Swanbridge, Lavernock and Sully, before joining the main line near Cadoxton. I would give my right arm to be able to travel that line again on a steam train. Sadly houses have been built on the track bed in some places and so that dream will never become a reality and I will never have to learn to write with my left hand!! A few years ago I did walk the old line from Biglis Roundabout to Penarth Station. I had to sneak through a garden near Lavernock but an amazing amount of track bed is still left.

The journey home would be made smelling of calamine lotion as we always got sunburnt and spent two days in agony every time. No sun cream or after sun gel in those days!

Max loves to ride in the pushchair and look out at all the interesting things there is to see. We had to walk around the fairground, now closed until next summer and headed towards the beach, It was glorious. Max was so happy. After crossing the road Max got out to walk and investigate everything. He’s just at that age where he wants to look into everything and find out about things.

 

We walked down towards the beach and stood by  Number 4 on the sea wall, the scene of many beach missions with my old buddies Mick and Clive. Max was desperate for the beach, but I wasn’t ready for shoes full of sand – some other time my little friend.

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As we walked away from the beach I saw Margaret heading towards the local gym. I noticed she had worn her trainers and was thinking maybe she was after completing a couple of circuits….

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We headed for Whitmore and Jackson’s, Max needed his lunch and Margaret and I were about to share a cream tea, Doug and Joy’s Christmas present to her from last year! It was delicious.

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Max negotiated his way through his lunch, insisting he ate both yoghurts all on his own – he did a great job!  Some of his jam sandwich fingers ended up with one side on the floor but he enjoyed it all. He certainly has a great appetite.

We were having such a lovely time that we decided to catch a later train home, which we did.

With some spare time I was able to tell Max and Margaret about the old tunnel that once ran between Barry Island Station  and the little dock station. At one time you could get a train right to where the Paddle Steamers left for Weston and Minehead. I would loved to have travelled on that little stretch.

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We had another bout of Max shaking with excitement as the train crawled around the sharp bend into Barry  Island Station for our trip home. Amazingly Max had another wave from the driver and another special toot from the horn. Max needs no prompting he just waves madly himself. Even I get the urge to wave at a train driver!! Why is that?

Max loved to journey home, no signs of tiredness.  It was a great day – such fun and such good company – Just Max and me…and Margaret! Looking forward to next Friday before this Friday has finished!

 

He was met by  his brother Alfie who was looking for someone to be a Robin for his Batman.

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Happy Days!

 

 

Just Max and me. Adventures Day 1

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I cannot believe it was six years ago that I was first entrusted with my grandson Alfie, while his parents were at work. I loved it and created Adventures with Alfie, chronicling the fun times we had together. He will soon be at an age where he can read the accounts for himself – I hope he loves them.

History is about to repeat itself and every Friday for the next few months it will be ‘Just Max and me’.  This will be fun!

Max, like Alfie, is something special. He was born to parents who were at one time told that they had ‘little or no chance of ever conceiving and raising children’. God had other ideas and Alfie came first and then Max made a surprise but very welcome appearance. He is eighteen months old now and a real ‘character’. He is happy, loving and possesses a smile that reminds me of a sunrise on a beautiful summer day. At this age he wants to know everything about everything, pick up everything within reach – the breakable ones interesting him most and several things have to be moved to safer places before his arrival.

 

I love him.

The Blue Fairy once told Pinocchio, ‘Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy. I hope that the times we spend together, just Max and me, will help him along that road.I always try and remember that a real boy is the only thing that God can use to make a real man.

Max arrived early with his mum and brother, we had breakfast together with his cousins before walking to school. I love those days.

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In the school yard we met up with another Max – someone who is so famous his name is on every cooker and record player in the world – so he says!!

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After the drop offs and kisses Max, and I walked to the shops before heading across to visit Eli and Elsie. We were greeted by a yapping Mash who welcomed us in!

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Max and Eli had a great time playing together with the trains and Eli’s wigwam.

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After a while we headed home, as we were going into Cardiff to give Max some valuable lessons on the place of his birth.

Before we went Max had time for a  little relax, a quick drink

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and then I taught him all about the biscuit tin!

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After his quick snack, he walked into the children’s room, patted the television saying ‘Cho choo!” He spent the next half hour glued to a YouTube video of the best steam trains of 2016 and 2015. Epic stuff! We sat together for most of that time, just Max and me.

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I’ve worked out now that the best way into and out of Cardiff with a pushchair is train in and bus out. Catching the 95 bus into town is something of a lottery because if there is already a pushchair on board, having a second one can cause a bit of a fuss. It’s possible you would have to let the bus go without you if it’s full. Coming home the 304 bus from Custom House Street always has space as that is the terminus and you can get in the pushchair space nice and early.

Max enjoyed the train ride in, but between the Central Station and Queen Street Station he dozed off. Not good! He was going to miss some valuable lessons. Getting off at Queen Street made me remember what a great station it used to be. Now it’s a soul-less piece on concrete. Years ago it had class and atmosphere, but in their wisdom the city planners pulled it down. That was an act of Social Vandalism.

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We got off and made our way along Queen Street and popped into a few shops. Max slept on…

Lunchtime was approaching and I had hoped we would eat together but as I was passing Greggs, the pushchair developed a fault and violently swerved to the left. I felt compelled to stop and sample some of Greggs finest wares, giving the pushchair a chance to correct itself.

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I had a Steak slice and a carton of fresh soup – chicken, butternut squash and greens. It was exquisite! The soup had a slight ‘aromatic’ taste which was beautiful and anyone who has ever eaten a Gregg’s Steak Slice will know it’s the nearest thing to heaven this side of the veil. Max slept on.

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We then made our way to the market so I could show Max Ashton’s Fish counter and the butchers in the far left hand corner of the market hall. Both are legendary places in my humble opinion. Every child should spend as much time as possible looking and learning and being fascinated by these great shops.

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Max slept on…

Had he been awake I would have shown him the pigs’ heads, the ox hearts and the sheep testicles, as well as the massive beef bones. This butcher wastes not a thing. One day I must try cow cheeks he has on sale, although my days of eating tongue have sadly passed. Growing up we often had all kinds of strange meat – liver, stuffed hearts and rabbit, but I only ever saw my dad eat brains once – only ever once!! I can’t think why!

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As we were leaving the market  the little man stirred and a street musician nearby playing loudly helped him wake up. But the timing was good, we were nearing Howells, where I had planned to take lunch.

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If you know Howells you will know the second floor restaurant which has a wonderful play area for the kids. Sadly the shop’s days are numbered, Howells will soon become block of apartments and this historic building will no longer be  a part of the lives of Cardiffians as it has been for generations. (I hope they save the church hidden with its walls!)

We made our way to the second floor where Max enjoyed the lovely lunch his dad and mum had prepared. While the rest of the shop appeared empty the restaurant area was quite full of young mums and some families all with at least one little person with them. It was so lovely. We made a rather an inglorious entrance. I found a place quite near the counter, collected a high chair for Max, but as I lifted him out of the pushchair, the weight of his bags made the pushchair tip backwards and as it did it knocked a chair over which made a terrible racket! For a few brief seconds chaos reigned. All eyes turned to see what was happening with this little old fat chap with the cute little boy. I think I got away with a shrug of the shoulders and a roll of the eyes.

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Max enjoyed his lunch immensely, but kept looking over his shoulder at the other little kids playing quietly. He obviously wanted to get down with them, which he eventually did. He was great and played quietly with the others and when it was time, he sat quietly back in his pushchair as we made our way to catch the two o’clock 304 bus back home.

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It was the bus journey home that in many ways was the highlight of the day. We got on and parked the pushchair and immediately Max wanted to get out. Was this the best course of action for a one year old on a bus ride home? Absolutely!

Max loved it! He loved looking out of the window and waving at anyone who passed.

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He stood up on he seat and waved at all the other passengers on the bus and all the passengers on the bus waved back. His smile lit up the whole place. He then proceeded to play ‘peek-a-boo’ with the middle aged couple in the seat behind. He would duck down behind the seat and look up at them between the handle. It was so cute! He had a fit of the giggles, which lasted much of the way home. Most of the bus waved to him as we got off.

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When we got home he walked straight into the children’s room patted the television and said ‘Choo-choo!’ I sat on the settee, patted the settee beside me and my little friend came and sat quietly beside me.

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Dad arrived soon after and Max was bundled into the van to pick up his big brother.

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It was such a lovely day, I’m sixty five and half years older than him, but we had such a special time…

Just Max and me.