rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Last weekend we made a family visit to the inlaws in High Wycombe, for some low-key hanging-out time together for the cousins to play together and the adults to gossip.  It was Too Hot, but at least every train on the way home had aircon, as did the taxi.  We experimentally departed from Cambridge North, as we are roughly equidistant from the two railway stations.  Advantage: not going through the centre of Cambridge. Disadvantages: only one direct train per hour to London on the weekend, no cafe or shops (yet), slightly more expensive by taxi.  But it was worth conducting the experiment to be sure.

We all struggled with the heat this week.  This house does a good cross-breeze when such a thing is worth doing - this week that was usually from approx 9pm to 7am, so a lot of opening and closing windows and doors according to temperature and people being awake.  We acquired a standing fan to help. I did a lot of waking up about 5am to open things and then droop back on my bed waiting for the breeze to help. I think I'd be a lot less resentful of the lost sleep if I'd been able to be productive with the time, but no.

I went out to a PARTY yesterday and enjoyed catching up with people, and being introduced to Subjective Guess Who?  This is played using the standard board game set, but you can only ask questions which have no objective answer - some memorable ones from last night included "Have they ever played World of Warcraft?" and "Are they a morning person?".  The kibbitzing from the audience is the best part.

Going to the party was utterly self-indulgent given the state of my studying since the election. Today will probably not include much studying either, as plans already include: taking C to see Transformers: The Last Knight, attempting to get some sandals beforehand, getting in my weekly call to my mother before she gets on a bus to San Francisco, and making the cheating version of Tudor costume for C's class trip to Kentwell this week.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I took Nicholas to see the Northern Ballet production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears at DanceEast in Ipswich. Partly because the tour wasn't coming to Cambridge, and partly to see how feasible the journey is if I want to see other things on at DanceEast.  It's an 80 minute train journey each way, but the train wasn't crowded and I enjoyed looking at a landscape I haven't travelled through in years.

It took us about 20 minutes to walk from the station to DanceEast, but that was at a four-year-old's pace.  We took a path alongside the river which was a bit scruffy but quiet and very pleasant in today's sunny spring weather.   It's not very wide, so I spoke quite firmly to my fearless four-year-old about walking sensibly next to me, and the undesirability of falling in.  We made it both ways without incident.   Overall, it was probably a bit longer than going to a theatre in London, but considerably less crowded, noisy, polluted or stressful.

The production was excellent and Nicholas was very focused on it.  An adaptation of it will be on CBeebies next weekend, and I shall try to get a recording, as last year's is still among Nico's favourite things to watch.  I did notice that the audience was very noticeably gender-skewed, both children and adults, which made me a bit sad. 

Back in Cambridge, I took advantage of having to change buses in the centre anyway to take Nico for passport photos.  As we weren't in any hurry, I indulged his desire to ride all the escalators in the Grand Arcade and John Lewis.  We just missed a bus home and I opted to spend the twenty minutes before the next one on a gentle walk across the park to the next stop on the way home, which did the trick of keeping the child of infinite energy entertained. It did not noticeably tire him out.

I, however, am very tired out and have done almost nothing since we got back, but I think I will be ok tomorrow.  Go me, matching my exertion to my available stamina.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Things I have learned with recent travel planning.

Virgin Trains East Coast release Advance tickets a week at a time on Saturdays, to the Saturday 12w away.
First Great Western release Advance tickets a week at a time on Saturdays, to the Wednesday 11w 4d away.

(No, this isn't documented anywhere I could find easily, this is me checking for Advance tickets every morning until my travel dates come up.)

Naturally, the journey where I want to travel out Friday and back Sunday is with the first, and the one where I'm travelling out Monday back Friday is with the second, so in both cases I have to wait a week between outward and return journeys being released.  Either I wait until both legs can be booked (and in my experience, the cheapest tickets WILL go in that week, if not on the first day), or I get the outward leg and spend a week hoping I haven't messed up and will be able to get the return leg ok.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Nights away: 3
Hotel rooms: 1
Towns visited: Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Rhos-on-Sea
Mines visited: 1x Bronze Age, 1x 1800s-present
Piers visited: 1
Transport modes: mainline rail, tramway, cable car, steam train, foot
Objects left on trains: 1x umbrella, 1x baby's shoe
Days without eating icecream: 0
Days eating icecream in the rain: 2
Play areas played in: 4
Paddling pools played in: 1
Changes of clothes required due to child faceplant in paddling pool: 1
Times baby scared me by falling over in paddling pool before deciding it was too cold: 2
Number of comments on baby's walking skills: >10
Number of compliments on adorable children: > 20
Photos: still on camera

rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Today (Sunday) we went to the model trains in Newnham for the first time.  Charles loved them and zoomed around with his friend A while Tony & I hung out with A's parents.

Yesterday we went to London, first to join a meet up organised by [livejournal.com profile] techiebabe in the Red Lion, and then we took the DLR to the new cablecar.  Charles was delighted with both the "ROBOT TRAIN" and the cable car.  It was a bit tedious slogging back across London and by the time we got back to Cambridge we had just missed a half-hourly bus so we walked home in the surprisingly warm evening.  It took us about an hour, including a loo stop.  Pretty good for a six-year-old.

Last week Charles was in holiday club because of Easter holidays; the previous week all four of us went to France to stay with Tony's mother Louise.  While we were there two particularly noteworthy things happened:
  • Nicholas WALKED for the first time (several consecutive independent steps, repeatedly). He's doing it a few times a day, but he seems to prefer crawling for rapid progress.  He still does this one-knee, one-foot.
  • Nicholas made friends with one of his grandmother's cats, a kitten about the same age as him. One morning I saw the kitten rubbing its head on the baby, who promptly rubbed his head back on her.  DED OF CUTE.  Sadly, I did not have a camera handy.
February and March are a bit of a haze of being ill, recovering from being ill, and trying to get on top of things lapsed while I was ill. 

I managed to meet all my OU deadlines, have finished the two modules I was taking, and now have a whole three weeks off until I start working on the next one.  I've worked out my timetable for the remaining modules to finish the degree by the deadline of December 2017. 

I had fallen into the habit of cosleeping with Nicholas, and not-getting-round-to getting a cot when he outgrew the moses basket. Then he threw himself out of my bed hard enough to cut his mouth, and bled badly enough that I took him to A&E.  After he tried to throw himself out several more times in the days following, we got a cot. Well, [livejournal.com profile] arnhem gave us a cot and I bought us a new mattress & bedding, and Tony did the bulk of reorganising the bedroom to fit it in.  Nicholas does not yet entirely reliably sleep in the cot but he hasn't thrown himself out of it either.  I'll take that as a win.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I am nearly home. I had a work-related meeting today in Glasgow, which was scheduled from 10:00-15:30 but underran which is my favourite kind of meeting.

I travelled up the West Coast Main Line yesterday evening and down the East Coast Main Line this afternoon/evening. I didn't have reserved seats and I managed to keep picking empty seats with only half a window view and only realise once settled in, but I have managed to see a lot of lovely landscape on both sides of the country.

(Yes, I considered flying: it would have been at least 4 hours each way once you include security screening and transport to/from the airport. Aside from disliking short-haul flights, being xrayed and Ryanair, on trains I can use my phone and the internet and usually manage to sit by myself with enough legroom.)

I saw very little of Glasgow apart from taking the time to walk from the meeting to the station this afternoon. I missed my family ridiculously last night and this morning. Thanks to the early finish, I may just make it home before Charles falls asleep.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
We spent yesterday on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, riding steam trains, drinking beer, and visiting the Brontë Parsonage museum in Haworth.

Now, the nearest I have got to reading any Brontë novels is reading the Eyre Affair, and watching the first part of the most recent TV adaptation of Jane Eyre, but I still found the museum interesting: giving a real sense of life-at-the-time and a lot of useful background to the Brontë family. There's currently an art installation in the museum, alongside the existing displays, with book cuts and a contemporary dress cut with heather.

The gift shop is packed with every possible edition you could want of all the books, including the comical Twilight-style edition of Wuthering Heights, but I resisted for I am strong (and I just finished cataloguing my to-read shelves on LibraryThing and anyway they should be in the local library).

Mostly I was left with a rather sad sense of the waste of life and potential to early illness and death: thank goodness for TB jabs, smear tests, good sanitation, insulation and central heating.

Back in Leeds, someone has been knitting ornaments for the many statues in the plaza in front of the station. Most of the women have got little knitted bikinis, though others have a knitted icecream instead. And one rather imposing gent by the door of the building had a rock guitar when we were heading out to Keighley:

Rock guitar & scarf

Sadly it had disappeared on our return, presumably nicked.
rmc28: (grouchy)
Today we have travelled in:


When originally planned, today's journey had no taxi, no Metro and 2 fewer trains in it. Engineering works, volcano-driven crowds, SNCF strikes (what a weekend to do so!) and useless customer service[1] have conspired to delay us, and we have conquered them all to arrive safely with Tony's mother.

[1] "You have to wait 3 hours for the next train there" ... digging for myself on the free station wifi I discovered that no, we could walk 400m and catch a train to Paris from the other SNCF station. Tony confirmed our tickets would be valid and we were only about 80 minutes late in the end.

Montparnasse is significantly easier to negotiate with Charles on a Trunki than with Charles in a buggy, especially where stairs are concerned.
rmc28: (finches2)
We made a day trip to Leeds yesterday to celebrate my stepfather's 60th birthday. I realised then how far we've come in the amount of stuff we no longer have to haul around for journeys:

No buggy, or sling, because Charles can walk quite a long distance, and can balance reliably on parental shoulders if he gets tired.

No nappy bag, just the folding seat and some spare clothes, which fit inside my rucksack with my netbook and magazines for the train.

His toys/books go in his own little rucksack, which he carries at least 25% of the time, but otherwise fits inside his dad's bag.

Next weekend we're going to France, and have splashed out on a new suitcase for Charles. It will hold all his clothes and he will be expected to pull it at least some of the time. And we still won't need a nappy bag or a buggy, or even a sling.

It does get easier, sometimes, rather than differently-hard.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
I've had a bit of a nasty cold the last couple of days - bad enough I left work at lunchtime yesterday and didn't go in today. Determined resting seems to be helping, though I have a butterfly attention span. So what better to do than post a random set of stuff.

Indi is doing well after his operation. We managed to keep him in the recommended 2 days, by some miracle, probably helped by him obviously feeling very sorry for himself and lethargic. He's more back to normal now, and although I've stopped catching him and shoving pills down him daily, he's still very wary around me. Charles was particularly gentle and sweet with him, and seems to finally be developing some impulse control around tails. Stitches out tomorrow, but then it's vaccination time for both pusses.

Charles is being a darling. I decided he was wittier than me so made a Twitter account to post his short gems to. We have established a regular library day and he is very keen on borrowing DVDs of his favourite things (e.g. Thomas, Postman Pat). I have decided the best thing about this is that they go back after a week before I want to smash them due to repetition. (Double-pity that we are missing today due to my lurgy - luckily we can renew everything online, his and mine both). He frequently "reads" his favourite stories, and also engages in lengthy complicated storytelling/play with his toys that we delight in listening to.

Recently he had a sudden breakthrough around jigsaws, partly driven by enjoying doing a large 40-piece one he got for Christmas. And we've been playing a bit with numbers, counting, and a flipchart book I got him ages ago and he's finally interested in. He has the hang of phone calls now, and will happily talk to his various relatives, as well as making a lot of "play" phone calls both at home and at his childminder's.

Potty training is creeping along slowly. He is (usually) dry at night, but less confident and reliable in the day. If he asks for a nappy I will put one on but we are trying for more and more nappy-free days. His childminder is helping us with this.

Other things:

* We did a day trip to Leeds last month to meet up with my mother and based it around the Royal Armouries. I picked it primarily as an indoor thing we could get to easily from the rail station. It is in fact a fascinating place, both in layout and exhibit contents, and we all happily got lost in it for hours. Literally - at one point Mum and (I and Charles) were in the same room for at least 20 minutes and didn't see each other until I rang to ask where she was.

* I saw Nation broadcast from the National Theatre to the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse. It was an impressive adaptation and the broadcast tech worked well for me as well. Will do again (much easier and cheaper than going to London).

* We have booked two trips in the next few months: a holiday with Louise in La Charronniere in April, and the tenth anniversary AFP Gamesmeet. Both by train, and we get a double-decker TGV down to Poitiers. I can't wait to see what Charles makes of that - he goes nuts enough about double-decker buses.

* And of course we have DWCon to look forward to in August.

* I have begun training for the London MoonWalk in mid-May. Unlike training for the half-marathon last summer, this time I am counting calories so I don't just eat more with the additional exercise and end up fatter overall. I fell back very easily into the habit considering it's been four years - in fact too easily, and gave myself migraines by trying to undereat more than my target in the first couple of weeks. I have given myself a stern talking-to and think I'm more stable now.

* I've been listening to a lot of podcasts while walking, and have been enjoying A History of the World in 100 Objects (though the incidental music is a bit annoying). It's just the right length for getting to work.
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
This weekend I have been trying to tackle two household issues: somewhere to store Charles's toys and books to make tidying easier; the constant pressure on drying space on the landing.

We line-dry outside where possible, though in winter that's hard. I've had a washload hung out on each of Saturday and Sunday for the majority of the daylight hours, and they came in much less wet, but not actually dry. It did at least reduce pressure on the drying space indoors and allow us to catch up a bit. In the long term, when we have the garden a bit more sorted, I am going to get a rotary dryer and put it in the odd little corner behind the house where people don't tend to go - so we can continue to dry outside easily in the summer even when wanting to use the garden for parties or just eating outside.

Inside, we have a miscellaneous collection of folding airers, some much more efficient than others. Everything takes noticeably longer to dry in winter. There are four airers apparently permanently in use on the landing and I have ordered replacements for all four, all of them taller and with more drying space than anything we already have, without taking up any more floor area. I also chose some bog-standard radiator racks for the bathrooms, and some rather fancy radiator racks that unfold to hold quite a lot of laundry - these are intended for the two lodger rooms, and I hope will give Jason and Jonny a bit more flexibility.

I have also ordered a number of Really Useful Boxes in which to store Charles's toys and books, picking out sizes that should fit well on the existing corner unit shelves we are using. They worked well at first but now there is so much stuff that it all just forms an amorphous heap in which it is hard to find anything, and which Charles will pull all over the floor given half a chance. I'm planning to use the boxes to store similar stuff together, so hopefully we'll have less "pull everything on the floor" and in any case it'll be easier to quickly tidy up and actually have it look tidy rather than a heap on a shelf. [livejournal.com profile] fanf is quite excited because one of the sizes I've ordered may work well on the ordinary IVAR shelves as well; I ordered two extra just to see.

Finally I spent far too long wrangling train times and ticket prices, but have now got reserved seats and tickets to visit Tony's sister in March. The Family Railcard is very useful here. Charles is getting big and boisterous enough that it is an advantage to have a seat reserved for him by buying him a ticket, as well as saving the money by using the railcard.

I used to be a long-standing customer of TheTrainLine.com but they have really started gouging for credit card charges and postage charges. East Midlands Trains sell tickets "powered by TheTrainLine" but without the gouging. A useful discovery, although I had to register before I could confirm it for sure.


2007-10-11 16:37
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Just booked travel to France for Christmas with Tony's mother. We are going by train, and a little ritual I have after booking the train journey is to look up the cost of the equivalent "cheap flight" in order to reassure myself I am saving money as well as the earth. So far I always have been so reassured, but not this time. So as not to introduce a reporting bias, I am noting it here.

London-Poitiers leaving 21/12 returning 27/12 has cost us just over 400 pounds (still wincing).

Ryanair would fly us to and from La Rochelle for just over 300 pounds on the same dates. Travel to/from La Rochelle would be by a car journey rather longer than that from Poitiers.

We also have a rather short change time at Lille on the way out which I may regret nearer the time, if only for getting stupidly stressed as we approach the station.

Annoyingly, the France-internal trains over the Christmas period were only bookable from today, and it seems all the cheap seats went before I got a chance to start booking.
rmc28: (happy)
Just back from a short break in Leiden, staying with Tony's ex-colleagues Dirk & Ardy, who were marvellous hosts and arranged for us to spend lots of time with other ex-colleagues Hari & Sander and Sander's family. Charles was somewhat trying, still very fond of the random piercing scream approach to expressing displeasure. If you have to go for long walks with a trying child in hopes of calming them down/sending them to sleep, there are many worse places than Leiden to do this.

Our outward journey started with a delightful interlude between Cambridge and London with a baby very like Charles but a few months younger; both of them seemed delighted to play around each other and occasionally grab at each other. In London we randomly met [livejournal.com profile] bugshaw and [livejournal.com profile] major_clanger, and were able to say casually that we were meeting [livejournal.com profile] nhw for afternoon coffee in Brussels. Which we did, and it went fast. Somehow we need to make time to visit Brussels rather than pass through it.

Nothing quite so remarkable happened on the return journey, although Charles did his best to charm the entire Eurostar waiting room and hid shyly from another toddler a little older doing the same thing. One of the onboard train managers managed to patronise us on both occasions she passed through the carriage: "There is a baby change compartment there" (yes we know, that's why I booked us seats here) and, upon finding Charles pottering in the corridor 2 seats away from us, and under our eye "is this your baby? - don't let him wander through the carriages when we're in the Tunnel". Grr.

Tony has been efficient with housework on our return while I settled Charles to sleep. I have tomorrow off work to recover from the holiday, then three days at work before we get back on Eurostar, this time via Paris for a week with Tony's dad in France.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
Rachel Coleman

September 2017

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