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.

_87687238_87684685

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.

IMG_4225

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.

IMG_4223

IMG_4224

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 paid 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.

IMG_4228

IMG_4231

IMG_4232

IMG_4233

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.

IMG_4236

IMG_4248

fullsizeoutput_3956

IMG_4252

IMG_4249

fullsizeoutput_3952

fullsizeoutput_3955

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!

IMG_4234

CqIOLBSETOmM2E9hW9B8JA

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.

IMG_4330

IMG_4332

We had a great chat.

We even met with old Father Christmas…

IMG_4244Max wasn’t too sure though!!

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

IMG_4268

IMG_4269

IMG_4270

IMG_4274

IMG_4272

xGXw4Xw8Ry+VOa5yqUiUXw

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

d0+3bT8NQTC1fFAQjfXMqw

 

fullsizeoutput_3944

fullsizeoutput_394b

fullsizeoutput_3948

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

fullsizeoutput_3949

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

aFQF98ITT%qtBVMWRdoYYg

1Zd5Uz4+RLu934i%qSAyQQ

IMG_4308

IMG_4313

IMG_4314

IMG_4320IMG_4318

IMG_4316

W8rTaUCcRRaQExbRsnCf2g

f3UybS2nSzGgZ7ygW5z2yQ

IMG_1347

IMG_4327

U+%m65LUQnaRXmUoSff2hg

IMG_1371

IMG_1374

IMG_1376

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

IMG_4335

Beautiful Elsie Joy….

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

IMG_4408IMG_4409

 

Great stuff.

 

43guBsPzQj21W0OD3iTbjgnYT8XVRcQFyU876hr9Smwg

Advertisements

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!’

DSC01804

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.

IMG_4175fullsizeoutput_391e

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.

DSC01776DSC01775

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.

hall-clockhall2

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

DSC01777

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

DSC01778

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.

DSC01780

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.

IMG_4178IMG_4180

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.

IMG_4182

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

IMG_4191IMG_4194IMG_4193

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.

Ext_1-credit-Phil-Boorman-MAIN-IMAGE

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.

110-Tours02

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.

IMG_4198fullsizeoutput_391cIMG_4201

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!

IMG_4215

DSC01786DSC01784DSC01792

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

DSC01798

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.

IMG_4041

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.

DSC01677

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!

DSC01703DSC01706

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

DSC01681DSC01709

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.

DSC01683

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.

DSC01686DSC01693

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.

Adventuring nearer home – Dinas Powys Quarry

Who knew that behind the big steel gates near Dinas Powys Common and St Andrews Major Primary School, lies a hidden gem of epic proportions?

 

IMG_2791

 

IMG_2792

It’s Dinas Powys Quarry.

gb.3.312000.171000.1986

Picture1

 

Dinas Powys is my home. It’s a village – just- with a village centre, a village hall and an annual village show. It’s a village that the County Council and the Welsh government is trying to change forever with their big building programmes. We have, unusually it seems, a community council, our village is run by local people with a heart for our village. Dinas Powys is a community with a population of 8,800 at the last census and lies approximately 5.5 miles (9km) to the west of Cardiff in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The village also has the remains of a Norman castle…

gb.3.312000.171000.2.1986

….and the parish church of St Andrew’s dates from the 12th century.

Unknown

The population had remained static at about 300-400 until the second half of the 19th century when there was an influx into this thriving rural community, including a big contingent from the West Country.

The growth of the coal industry saw the first passenger train arrive in Dinas Powys on Sunday, December 20, 1898, and after that the population increased rapidly.

Dinas Powys is a thriving community with a wide range of voluntary organisations and social groups for residents to enjoy, as well as a variety of sports clubs. The Common, a large area of open space administered by Dinas Powys Community Council, is a popular recreation area, and organised sport is also played at Parc Bryn-y-Don and Murch Playing Field.

 

It’s also the home of Dinas Powys Quarry.

3525_4_propertydetailsimage3525_3_propertydetailsimage

The quarry was used to extract limestone. The limestone rock was first excavated by hand.   It was used in the building of Barry Docks and for the building of some of the older houses in the Dinas Powys area.   During the 17th Century a rocky outcrop above the quarry became the favourite seat of Hugh Lloyd after he was replaced as Rector of St. Andrew’s Church. This became known as ‘Cadair Yr Esgob’ (The Bishop’s Seat) as Lloyd became Bishop of Llandaff after the Restoration. Hugh Lloyd used to visit the quarry to sit and contemplate about his forthcoming sermons.

IMG_2769

 

IMG_2772

Armed with a treasure map, which Mia had drawn for us prior to our departure, we set out one sunny Sunday afternoon to discover the old quarry for ourselves. Notices around the village have, for some time informed us that the quarry was for sale. That was an intriguing prospect. For sure future excavations would be impossible as the quarry is uneconomic and the public outcry that would follow any decision to reopen with many large lorries full of stone travelling through our village would put the furor over Charlotte Church’s recent party in the shade! But oh that I had the money to buy this little gem- a shy part of our community, hiding behind the great metal gates – and preserve it for all members of the village and the wider community to enjoy.

Out adventure took us across stiles, up paths, across fields and through dense woodland. The adventurers numbered twelve in total.

IMG_2756

IMG_2761

IMG_2762

 

 

IMG_2766

IMG_2772

 

IMG_2763

 

IMG_2767

IMG_2768

The sight we met when we reached the cliffs above the quarry took our breath away.

IMG_2699

The quarry lay hundreds of feet below us. The silence was eerie. You could almost touch it! We spoke little during our early minutes here. At one time the place would have been a hive of activity… large machines digging, huge lorries carrying, massive cranes lifting and explosive dynamite blowing the cliffs apart.

Now, just silence. A silence broken only by the occasional flapping of the wings of the few ducks who have made the quarry their home. The water, reflecting the sun and clouds overhead, hid years of neglect and illegal dumping, its secrets hidden forever or so it seems.

Just silence.

IMG_2690

IMG_2692

IMG_2693

IMG_2694

IMG_2695

Our excitement broke the silence. We chatted, pointed things out and for a short time we sensed that the quarry enjoyed our company.

DSC08806

DSC08813

DSC08814

DSC08817

DSC08818

In the distance the town of Barry, the Vale of Glamorgan’s biggest town. The lights of Jenner park stood proudly on the horizon. The stone from the quarry helped build Barry’s massive docks over a century ago. Beyond the town the Bristol Channel sparkled in the late afternoon sun.

Far below us we saw the roof and the chimney of the home of the current owner. He still lives there it seems. What stories it could tell!

DSC08816

We stood for all long time in awe!

All too soon though, we needed to make the return journey. Our homes in the village beckoned us.

As we left the silence returned, wrapping itself around the acres of land which contained the quarry.

DSC08815

We followed Mia’s map, back through dense woodland, fields, paths and stiles.

 

IMG_2750

IMG_2751

IMG_2753

IMG_2754

As we neared our cars, we took time out to visit the village cemetery, which contains the graves of many of our friends – a little corner of Bethesda, a place full of memories of people we loved and who loved us. People who guided us, modelled life for us and shared our joys and sorrows. People who adventured with us.

IMG_2776

IMG_2781

IMG_2782

IMG_2780

 

IMG_2786

IMG_2787

IMG_2788

Our memories warmed us on a cold afternoon.

As we left, we looked back up the path to the old quarry… still silent.

IMG_2703

IMG_2704

IMG_2705

 

 

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 ’.

Penguin_Race_Game_2

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.

DSC05742DSC05750 DSC05747 DSC05743

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.

rp3

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.

Screenshot 2014-04-03 12.00.05

DSC05750

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.

DSC05766

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.

DSC05787

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.

DSC05740