Alone on the farm

As much as it’s enjoyable doing manual outdoor work, there is so much to do that we decided to spend some money and get some help a couple of days a week. Ali found a couple of young guys willing to put in a shift and we pointed them in the direction of our massive and very overgrown dry stone wall. After one day they’d cleared about twelve meters.

The 5m of wall from the right had not seen daylight for around 30 years!

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Today was their second day of work and they’ve cleared the rest of the back wall 

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And here’s the view as you enter the old orchard now:

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Quite a change from what it looked like when we first arrived, bother photos were taken from pretty much from the same spot.

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Ali took the kids to see family in London leaving me with the dogs and a big list of things to do. Some of the walls have suffered with mould and that’s affected the kitchen units so we’ve decided to replace them.

Ive taken all the units out, and while I have easy access started replumbing everything. Unfortunately some bright spark decided to incase the waste pipe in brick and concrete which in turn is holding up the sink. Rather than destroy everything I might have to cut them short and cap them securely. 

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Meanwhile I’ve replaced the old copper pipes leading to the kitchen sink.

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Unfortunately (but understandably) Ali decided to leave the dogs here for her visit to London. When I stupidly left the kitchen door open Lulu snuck in, knocked over a jug, smashed a bottle of wine and ate a loaf of bread. As a result I’ve put up another pallet gate. 

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I feel a little sorry for Golly who used to have complete access to the downstairs and is now being restricted to the corridor because of his fellow canine. Ah well hopefully it’s temporary.

After the plumbing I moved on to putting in one of our new kitchen units, the main job was levelling the floor; between the cooker and the left hand wall there’s an uneven 11cm drop. I’m really happy with the levelling but might need to do something to hide the somewhat agricultural levelling frame underneath.

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After a lot of work and a late night with some new friends from the village that I met dog walking (thanks Golly), I was feeling really drained. One of them mentioned they were heading out to see the sunset the next evening. It stuck with me all day, in the end I locked the dogs in and wondered off for an evening stroll accross the cliffs, it was just fantastic.

Looking South West towards the Rivals and Nefyn:

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South West again with more of a view of west end beach and the tailings from the quarry up to the left:

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Looking East towards Snowdonia in the distance:

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A major reason to move here was to have easy access to this sort of landscape, too often though we’ve felt a bit trapped with Golly not wanting to be left behind or doing the bed time routine or some other thing. We need to go and do this more! I feel refreshed.

Bye bye Lulu?

Lulu has been driving us batshit!

Effing puppy what were we thinking? 

As cute as she is, she’s the equivalent of a 1 year old baby, but fully able to stand and run. She’s into everything, goes up the stairs, tries to eat her way into the cat food and nicks everybody’s stuff to chew since she’s teething. But the worst thing by far has been her impact on the kids, they are scared. It’s not all the time, but whenever she’s in a frenetic mood there’s an inevitable scream followed by tears, after the hundredth such interruption I completely lost it.

It had been coming, shouting at the dog had become an hourly occurrence, (once you start shouting it’s hard to stop) my patience reserves are so depleted that when the kids do something stupid (fairly common) I’m shouting at them too as well as having rows with Ali.

This was not helped by a busy few weeks, aside from the daily house management, the emergency luluproofing carpentry work (we’d been gradually barricading the house) the utility room:

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The new stair gate

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We also had good friends coming for a week’s holiday in the area and we wanted to make the most of it.

After my spectacular rant I asked (demanded) that Ali get in touch with the breeder/dog trainer for advice. Her advice was that we were giving her far too much freedom, if we’re not around to supervise, we have to put her away for own safety if nothing else.

This may seem like a small bit of advice, but it has really helped. To improve the kids lives that little bit more and to limit the spread of dog poo we also bought some pig grade fencing and fenced off the garden.

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Now the kids have a whole side of the garden for themselbed let’s hope there’s a marked reduction in tears and yelling!

 

In other news, we had great time with various visiting friends. Fred had his first sleepover, which went so well he stayed for two nights! During his stay he also had a successful first go at waterskiing.

Finally karate continues to go well and both F&G have progressed to yellow belts, they (and we) are well chuffed!

 

 

Last few days with digger

After having the digger for about a month we’re giving it back on Friday. Queue crazy last minute efforts to make the most out of it while we can. 

There’s so much to do here, it’s often completely overwhelming. I’ll start on something, turn away see something else that needs doing, I’ll then start doing that, then the next thing and the next thing. In the end I end up with a hundreds of started projects, none of which are near getting finished. I make lists and sub list and secondary lists to try and keep myself on track and while sometimes I get the pleasure of crossing a couple of things off, often after a heavy day of working I realise I’ve not even started anything on my list!

This week thankfully has been a little different, we really focused on things that were only manageable with the digger and tried to leave other things for another day. 

The big destruction effort was clearing the old orchard and chicken coop.  what it originally looked like:

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After day 1 the chicken coop is now visible

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After a bit more work:

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After two days: 

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With all the debris we’ve been making some cool bonfires. This one’s about 10feet high,

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and burnt very nicely.

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It was so hot it was still smouldering two days later.  

Continuing on the wood front, we had several trees down and a few rotten ones as well, so we brought in a man with a chainsaw to do some work, which then nessessitatted building somewhere for all the wood to go. My first effort:

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and my new and improved version:

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I already have plans for a third version.

Away from land/house work we’re adjusting to life with two dogs. With lunatic Luluaround as comparison Golly has suddenly turned into the worlds greatest dog! Calm, relatively obedient and gentle with the kids. Clearly the perfect dog crown sat uncomfortably with him so one day at the beach he decided to roll himself in dead fish:

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He stank! The kids walked home 20yards behind us to avoid the smell.

So in a futile effort to sort the smell out Ali shampooed fish face. 

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The dogs are getting on well, Golly occasionally asserts his dominance agressively, but they also chase each other around the garden having fun (we all scarper out of the way in those situations taking any unwary children with us since Golly and LuLu running at full speed is like mini titanics playing dodgums with icebergs).

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Newfoundland’s are bred to save people from water by grabbing them with their jaws (carefully) and dragging. At this age though she’s already practising by grabing any convenient limb left dangling around, due to her height it’s the kids that take the brunt of it, particularly D. When you first see it happening it’s a little unnerving seeing a dog double the size of your child bitting her arm until you realise she really doesn’t bite down (except by accident), all the same there have been a few tears. 

I don’t bite, I just slobber, really:

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Lulu

After my dearest wife very carefully questioned my greenhouse bed layering efforts, I did a bit more research and reversed everything! First the cardboard to stop anything unwanted growing through, then the wood chippings and when we’re ready compost and plants. 

The wood chippings certainly looks nicer. 

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We also finished the seating area with a layer of gravel...

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 ...then furniture, then D.

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To finish off a busy day we invited some friends over to roast marshmallows on our bonfire. It was a lovely evening with new friends, great weather and totally sugar hyped up children!

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Also got a pretty cool smokie photo.

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After a late night the next day was doggie day (oh and my parents came for a visit too).

Here’s the little munchkin. Lulu is 6months old, about as big as a Labrador already and very cute! 

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Her tongue is about two feet long and she isn’t afraid to use it!

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Our biggest concern was that things wouldn’t go well with Golly, but in the end it was a none event, he had a quick sniff decided she wasn’t a threat and promptly ignored her. Over the last few days other than occasionally asserting his authority with a small growl it’s been amazingly calm. 

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On the positive side for him, having a puppy around makes him look like the best dog in the world! 

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She’s into everything!!! She steals toys and food from the kids, drinks from the toilet, shits and pees inside, goes through the recycling and possibly worse than anything wakes up at 5am every morning - Aaaargghhhh!!!!

So that we can get her out fast enough in the mornings to do her business outside, I’ve been sleeping in the living room with the dogs. The only very very very minor positive about this situation is that I’ve seen two beautiful dawns...

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while been jumped on by an oversized pup.

As Ali and my attention has been focused on figuring out how to cope with our latest addition and hosting guests, everything else has taken a bit of a backseat.

This morning we seemed to find a bit more of a method and had some good fun with the kids. Ninjas in action bravely facing down some calves.

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Before we all went and had a couple of hours on the beach and sea tested our new Kayak - the kids had a great time! Might have to get another one for me!

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Busy couple of weeks

While awaiting the diggers arrival, I finally popped in to the quarry. Their main business is curling stones (see photo below of rejected blanks), but they also do the odd table top, wine rack and a few other bits and pieces. I got a bit of tour, the granite is absolutely stunning and after showing Ali, it looks like we're going to get them to make some kitchen worktops for us.

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The digger and dumper arrived and after prying the children off it, I went for my first drive. 

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The scale of the task ahead! All that grass has got to go!

This was the original entrance to the house and is much nicer than the current one, so the plan is to reinstate it.

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The original path it turns out was really well built, huge granite stones were layed along the length of a drainage ditch and the path was then filled in with aggregates and packed down. Once we’d cleared the top two-three inches the path is good to use.

Before using the digger I was seriously nervous but it moves really slowly, so I quickly built up confidence. The digging itself is surprisingly easy but really powerful. When things go well you can progress really quickly when things go wrong, errors can really get magnified. Since you're likely curious I managed to tear off a massive granite boulder from the side of the road before I realised it was going wrong.

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After two weeks of pretty solid digging the path is clear(ish) and definitely driveable!!

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While I did most of the digging, Ali found she really enjoyed it and to our surprise F turned out to be really good at it too! I would really recommend it, it's one of those things that always seemed so scary/difficult/needs a professional but actually really doesn't. 

A curious lamb understandably impressed at my digging prowess.

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Away from hard landscaping we've been enjoying our surroundings as the weather continues to warm and the garden blossoms. We're out every day come rain or shine and it's great slowly seeing the plants come out, figuring out what's been planted in the past and really experiencing the seasons change.

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In all we have about eight apple trees of various ages, it will be interesting to see what they produce.

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Our garden in full spring Glory

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This side of the house faces North East it’s great for a warm morning cup of tea when the sun's out.

In the afternoon it’s very much in the shade though, so we set up the seating area in the garden to catch some late rays. After a slightly bodged first effort at creating a patio for the seating we started a more thorough effort today. First we dug up the sod, laid some weed proof membrane, then some nice slate we had lying around

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then added gravel...

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...which we have left over from Ali’s new path.

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We couldn’t quite finish it tonight so we’ll have another go tomorrow.

Earlier today while Ali took F&G to martial arts, my able helper and I cleared out the old greenhouse floor, put a layer of wood chips in the beds and covered the lot with cardboard ready to plant next spring.

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Away from the house, we've enjoyed our first real beach day at the local beach on the bank holiday Monday, the kids made some friends and even managed to get a spin on a kayak (F imediately asked for one for Xmas).

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Another photo from the bank holiday weekend this time of some cool clouds that were caught behind the mountains, when they did spill over on this side they just disapeared.

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On the less warm days we invariably still spend time by the sea, here F and I found a dog fish which are a regular catch in the area, this one was washed up on the beach, an another one F and I saw was still twitching before being a fisherman's dinner. F had a good look, poke and carry of it. Amusingly when asked by the fisherman if he was going to go to school he promptly responded: no! If I did I wouldn’t be able to do things like this! 

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So finally with the landscaping work progressing well, Golly behaving himself a bit better, the kids progressing smoothly towards their yellow belts and us starting to make some local friends, we decide it would be an awesome time to throw a spanner in the works and get Lulu: 

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oooohhh! Isn’t she cute?

She’d been rejected by her family and so needed a new home. As nuts as it seems, adopting her feels like the right thing to do (I can’t fathom why) perhaps she’ll make Golly a good companion.

To give an idea of what she might look like in time here’s a photo of her prize winning dad. 

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Good looking fella don't you think? 

We really need our heads examined!

First month in Wales

We’ve been in Wales for just over a month. It’s been a little busy, so busy that Blogging’s been the last thing on my mind.

however it would be a shame not to record some of the goings on, so here are some photos.

First sunny day in full ownership... 

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Cold, but stunning landscape.

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Still winter

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Quarrymen cottages. Trefor is a Quarry village, it still operates but in a much reduced capacity.

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Nanou and Grandad helped me with the kids, the dog and the move in while Ali went on a jolly for a week to the states.

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Kids doing kid stuff in our large garden

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Welsh lawnmower keeping the drive groomed

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More fauna, this time a heard of eight wild billy goats. Seemed amazing at first, until they decided to break into our garden to kill our fruit trees -not ok!!

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Golly struggling with the fauna that we inherited with the house

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my first self driving petrol mower. It and my chainsaw were not working at this stage and driving me crazy!

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occasional interludes to pretty places, with alcohol and sand! Our house is just over the bit of land directly above the boat furthest to the left.

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while our garden is pretty well maintained, a lot of our land looks like this:

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and this. In fact this tree crashed into a dry stone wall which, in turn smashed into an irrigation tunnel and blocked it which has worsened our already marshy marsh/land

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Spring! Making it easier to figure out what trees we have

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Our house today

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some views 

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and more views (old greenhouse in garden and view east to the hills)

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and another view:

- Goliath not escaping, but avoiding the sun on this scorching 10 degrees day.

- the rented turf cutter (otherwise known as the earthworm lacerator) and the resulting chaos.

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after another tough day hard landscaping, a quick escape to the beach. It’s just gorgeous here...

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Tomorrow we swap the earthworm lacerator for a digger and a dumper truck!! Don’t even need a license apparently should be an exciting few days. I’ll post some pictures...

We’ve moved to Wales!

We’ve moved to wales! It feels unreal. In part because we can’t yet move into our new house but also because we’re so used to rocking up to a new place and staying a while (then leaving) that it doesn’t feel at all permanent - maybe once we’ve lived here for a year or so.

While we wait for the house sale to complete we’re renting a small cottage in the village, there’s no room for the bus, but thankfully our seller agreed to let us park it at the new house. While we were dropping it off she invited us round for a cup of tea and some cake. The house or at least the kitchen has the same wonderful feel that it had when we first visited and the kids seemed instantly at ease. We sat around the dining table with the owner and her two daughters (who are helping her pack) who were gracious enough to give us local advice and reminisce about the good times that they have had there despite being very upset to be leaving.

The kids sat in a window alcove looking out at the snowy weather coming down and spotted a couple of the cats that we’re inheriting and were escorted outside by one of the daughters for a closer look. In the end we all took the opportunity to have a little stroll in the garden. It is stunning, even at this least flattering time of year,

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but one thing is for sure we’re going to need a lot of wellies! There was so much water and so much mud, aside from realising I’m going to be spending half my life cleaning D, it was clear that we’ve acquired the wrong colour dog.

In addition to four cats and of course Goliath, The land and area is apparently full of fauna; there are currently sheep on the land, some fish carcasses indicate the presence of otters and in this cold weather they are regularly visited by wild mountain goats which come down from the hills to munch on daffodils. That’s not even talking about the local sea life which apparently include seals and dolphins. At first I took all of this with a pinch of salt but after seeing a mountain goat walking down the main street in the village the very next day complete with foot long horns, whose to say there can’t be otters in our back garden?

Since that first day’s visit to our new house we’ve stayed a respectful distance away, explored some of the nearby towns but mainly just enjoyed the village and its surroundings. Wherever you look there’s a view.

The harbour complete with sandy beach.

 The currently freezing cold and more rugged western beach

The currently freezing cold and more rugged western beach

 Some ex-fauna 

Some ex-fauna 

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D wondering off exploring

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The old miners cottages

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One of our main concerns when moving to this corner of Wales is that we just don’t know anybody, how do we get ourselves involved and connected with the community? with the other villagers? Alice has threatened to turn up to Temple, I’ve volunteered to explore the pub, but so far our main success has been Goliath, he’s a great conversation starter.

It’s over

Today I went for my first run in about three weeks. I’m getting old apparently and injuries will come periodically. I’ve really missed the exercise, so thankfully today I felt strong.

Running around a reservoir turned nature reserve with views of the sun setting over the Thames, is about as good as it gets in London. And yet you still can’t escape the pollution and dirt, on the non river side is a busy road with the lingering smell and resulting chesty breath caused by diesel fumes.

As I walked back to my in-laws house I switched my switched my music to one of my favourite songs. I let my mind wonder, aware of my body beginning its recovery, the sweat on my brow, my legs getting stiffer, my posture for once excellent. I looked around at this typical but very wealthy corner of suburban london, standard semis, big extensions, luxury cars, a group of dog owners having a chat in an enclosed park, but grey, so grey.

As the music crescendos I realise this is likely to be the last time I will be here in this situation. That morning the last of our things got picked up by the movers, we have exchanged, we complete on Friday and we will be getting the keys to our new life in Wales in three weeks!

Next time I’ll be here will be to visit, no longer a Londoner, no longer with nowhere else to go. I could look back at the delays, crazy fuck ups and the huge financial expense of the last few months. But instead I’m just elated. Elated to be moving on, and so, so grateful.

Grateful for my in laws who are housing our rather large and noisy family yet again. Grateful for friends who will be housing us soon. Grateful for my parents who have housed us one way or another for huge parts of the last three years. But mainly grateful for my life, my wife, my kids, the potential, our options, the future, just everything.

By this point I’m grinning like a Cheshire Cat as I stride up the road, my mind wonders off towards potential futures/plans/ideas, when my song and thoughts and mood are rudely interrupted by my phone alarm beeping at me.

Perhaps a gentle reminder that not everything ahead will be smooth sailing...

After a quick fumble, the song resumes, then the lyrics and music slowly come to an end.

I turn it off and enjoy a peaceful moment.

It’s over.

Role play game

I was chilling out on the sofa when F&G ran up to me excitedly, they wanted to launch a massage shop and explained that they needed a massage assistant. I usually find their role-play games hard to enthuse over, but I thought this one might have legs, at worst I would have to give someone a massage at best I might receive one. So when I was encouraged to volunteer I responded quick as anything what can I do to help?

You need to lie down while we do a massage on you - result!

With no further prompting I was lying on the couch with my top off while small hands proceeded to kneed my back, legs and hands. Apart from the occasional pain of a toy being jabbed into my ribs (which was D’s contribution to the game) and the unconventional massage techniques employed, I would highly recommend it, best 20 min role play game ever!

Good year for onions

The soothsayers were correct, the stars have aligned, the onions have grown enormous and there is a shit load of snow in Chamonix!!! I’ve not seen as much since 1984 and it just keeps coming down! Our garden has almost waste high snow at the moment and another 30cm is dropping as I write. There's probably enough snow already to last the whole season.

This slightly freaky weather has added to my list of new experiences, from the mundane: I'm becoming an expert at manoeuvring snow from our drive into the path of the snow plough and some more exciting; I went for a night time walk with Goliath, along the river side path near our house, when I suddenly saw two torch lights approaching extremely quickly for such a snow clogged path, thinking it might be a snowmobile I flashed my phone light on to warn them of my presence, they slowed down, but as I approached it turned out it was two skiers being pulled down the path by three Huskies. Funnily enough they were more freaked out than I was, without my torch on, all they could see was the reflection of a gigantic dog's eyes coming towards them in the middle of the night.

Outside of new experiences I've taken advantage of the great snow conditions by taking F&G to the low slopes. F on a snowboard where he’s recovering his mojo:

and G for her first real ski, this is a clip from day 3:

After this latest dump it’s time for my first adult ski of the season. Tomorrow’s forecast is set fair and there will be loads of fresh snow, I’m going to have some fun!

Back in England

The last few times I've arrived in Dover recently this is the overall first impression is GREY! steel grey clouds, not cold, not wet, but a bit damp. (Which could be a discription of England's weather generally), That's not to say that northern France is any better, it's worse, at least Kent has hedgerows and a few trees while from Arras? up thanks to the wars the view from the motorway is just industrial scale potato farms under steel grey skies, not cold, not wet, just damp. But somehow driving through the department du Nord you either have home to look forward to, or the rest of France/chamonix/Europe so it doesn't seem so bad. From the moment I joined the M20 the only really pleasing site I came across was the first glimpse of the Thames as I arrived in Sunbury. I'm sure the weather in wales is often much the same, but I'm hoping/guessing/banking on that on that like in Chamonix the views available on the sunny days will make it all worth while.

We've come back to the UK to winter the bus in a more temperate climate and took the opportunity to bring back a load of our stuff which we'd stashed in Chamonix while we travelled. With shipping costs exorbitant we decided to ship all our random belongings back in the bus with just enough space for F, Goliath and I to sleep. The girls had gone ahead by plane,  by the time we arrived it had been a full week. At D's age that's more than long enough for significant changes! Trying to explain the contrast is difficult, I've tried to list the differences but really the only clear one is that she now says Umga! When she’s thirsty. There are hundreds of little changes though which when you put them together reveals a child’s poise about her rather than that of a toddler. They grow up so fast, sometimes a short absence can remind me to really pay attention to the daily evolution. There are changes with the older kids too of course G has now turned 6, which just seems weird, F turning 8 was OK but my little G turning 6? Wow!!! I've come back to her radically changed, her granny took charge of her semi dreadlocked thatch of hair, got her a proper London haircut, some new clothes and she’s taken to carrying her mobile around, if it wasn't for her choice of delightfully practical footwear I would have been seriously concerned.

The main reason to come back to London had been to pack up the house for the move to Wales, unfortunately soon after booking various tickets the bottom link in our chain fell out!!!!!

We are totally gutted, and generally furious at the stupid way houses are sold in this country, but what can you do? No point losing the plot entirely, the rest of the chain is still committed and selling a two bed flat in Epsom should be quicker than finding a new proceed-able buyer at our end. We have our fingers crossed and we’re very thankful that our seller wanted a final Xmas in her house since it gives us some breathing space (funny how things works out).

Present and grateful

After messing around building a sled run in the garden whilst keeping the kids and Goliath out of Ali's hair, I sat down on the log under the balcony. I leaned back against the rough wall, the low autumn sun warming me and I breathed in the smell of pine needles. My eyes slowly looked up to take in the view

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and in that instant everything was right again in the world.

I could see my actions and mood over the last few weeks, my inward focus, how disengaged I was with the children, my resentment of Goliath, my exasperation at D's antics and knew I had had a choice. In that moment as soon as the regret came, it just washed away. I was just grateful. I looked down at D as she sat down next to me and smiled at her, probably the most full hearted and happy smile I'd managed in her direction for weeks and she smiled back. I think she really sensed a change in me, off she'd potter, then come back and snuggle up next to me and with a shriek demand my arm around her shoulders. I'd look down at her, next to my thigh, thinking how perfect and tiny she is, with legs dangling off the log. Again we'd exchange a smile as she rested her head against my chest. For whole minutes she just sat there with me, when normally she doesn't stop moving, I loved and embraced every second. I was present.

Happy moments like this don't come all the time, wish they did. Without some bad times how would you recognise the good? (I try and convince myself) But these are not bad times, frustrating yes, and sometimes boring but I'm choosing to kill time on my phone and not be present. Every day I have hundreds of choices, when D brings a book and smacks me in the face with it do I scowl at her and turn away in a huff, or do I drop my phone, pay her some attention and read her the book? I've made plenty of positive choices but I would say that the general theme had been more - than +

How can I be impatient, angry and frustrated at this perfect being. She just wants to be loved. She also wants to put her fingers in the plug socket, and reaching for a sharp knife from the counter often seems a good idea, emptying all the books onto the floor is a daily routine, helping herself to the china is normal for a one year old and poking the dog's nose is just irresistible at times, but mainly she just wants her dad to enjoy being in her company. Today I am. Won't be every day I'm sure, but today I really am enjoying being with her.

Can I keep it going? I don't know but I intend to...

It's tempting to convince myself that it will all be better when the waiting and stress are over. It will all be better when we move to wales. But that's rubbish. Whatever is ailing me now I will just take with me. If I want to make a positive change it may as well be now. Small steps, more + choices, less telephone time, but also taking a bit of time each day to just sit and enjoy where I am and with whom. Being present and grateful.

New year, new home

Our house sale is now really progressing, it's not sold yet but lawyers are involved, surveys have been done, and we are likely to exchange this month and complete early December. All our fingers are crossed.

It's not been entirely straightforward, our initial buyer's house was not moving so we ended up going back on the market. Somehow without setting foot in the country, without using an estate agent and with tenants in our house we (By we, I mean Ali) managed leads, arranged viewings and got under offer within three weeks. A fourteen year old girl ended up showing round our buyers - who needs estate agents? In fact as with all our previous sale/purchases they have just been a hindrance, this time it's been their crazy valuations in a dropping/difficult market: we've had to drop our price by around 30% from their initial valuations, and our first buyers had their house valued at four times the price of the only recent sold price on their street (they dropped their price 10% but still no movement). Your house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  If there's ever an industry ripe for disruption it's that one, we used https://www.settled.co.uk/ which was fantastic.

To simplify our sale, we separated it from our onward purchase. This turned out to be a good thing because unfortunately for us (but understandably) our seller after 26 years in the house wants to have one last big family Christmas there. This means we will be clicking our heels until our move in date is in late January. 

To pass the time, after returning to Sunbury to pack up our house in December and saying goodbye we'll be heading back out to Chamonix to catch the early Ski season; I'm praying for snow!! The last two years have seen dreadful snow conditions in Dec/Jan but apparently there are some good omens: It's an el Niña year, it's already snowed in November and it's been a great year for onions in the valley which apparently means early snow. Certainly it looks and feels wintery out here now:

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Not too seriously

I have an awkward relationship with Facebook. On the one hand I really appreciate the ability to keep in touch easily with friends and family wherever they happen to live. But I think it's the access to groups which really keep me hooked, if you're not on the network you can't access a ton of useful resources for niche interests.

My relationship with Facebook has come to mind because I was recently tagged by a friend to do this:

Seven days of black and white photos of your life. No explanations, no people, no pets. Challenge someone new every day for 7 days.

I was actually happy to be invited to take part, happy to take a B&W photo daily and post it, but extremely uncomfortable at having to nominate other people to take part too. 

When I normally see one of these things flying around Facebook I frown and move on. 

Why is this one different? I like the fact that there is no cause or personal interest, it's just a photo of my life, but also because I'm finding it so awkward perhaps I should do it and see if there's something to learn from the experience. Plus as Ali says it's nice to have some neutral and interesting posts to look at for once rather than the usual political/Brexit/Trump/personal development/inspirational quote/advert/fail video etc... so why not add some to the mix. Mind you if it's photos I like perhaps I need to spend more time on Instagram but I figure one social network is enough.

Anyway I have posted and I have nominated and nothing dreadful has happened. But I still fret that I'm imposing on others. What's the worst that can happen? They can do it, ignore it, unfriend me, that's about it. I think the worst case for me is that my nominees/friends will think less of me and my carefully crafted persona.

I need to take myself much less seriously.

 

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

Express yourself

D is Exploring the full range of her voice. She was after all once told by a noted critic (a rather irate fellow M&S cafe customer) that she had the potential to go all the way in the opera.

It all started a few days ago, her siblings had helped themselves to ice creams and rather than let her do the same I notified her that I would be holding the ice cream for her. Queue her first really full on tantrum; wailing like a banshee while seeming to have an epileptic fit on the floor, she flayed about so much that after about 15min Ali was holding the back of her head so she wouldn't brain herself on the tiled floor. After about 25min she finally calmed down.

The first toddler tantrum is one of those things you don't really forget, I think I actually have video footage of G's first big effort in Sunbury which was similarly spectacular. From memory it also ushered in what Ali and I used to refer to as the terrible one's and three's since both F&G missed the notorious terrible two's.

Obviously once you've done one big tantrum and seen the chaos and attention it attracts it would be a shame not to do it again. This morning after waking up at a now thankfully rare 6am, she quickly decided we weren't doing anything exciting and instead of hanging around she just walked out of the door to see if anything more interesting was going on elsewhere. She soon came back with Goliath in tow and a book in hand demanding that it be read to her. Wanting to encourage this early interest in literature I started to read what remained of the book, this resulted in a huge protest, Ali then took over which after a brief pause only seemed to increase the noise. At this point having had enough of the shrieking, I left the room to make a cup tea unfortunately D decided to follow while in full hysterics.

During her first tantrum I'd managed not to rise to it and had it together enough to tell Ali not to laugh at the theatric thrashings since a tantrum is a serious matter from a kids perspective. It does not need pandering to, but is totally understandable. Since I still have them as an adult why can't a one year old lose the plot occasionally. This morning I was not so zen, after 10min of tantrum in the kitchen I blew her a raspberry in exasperation and Ali had to give me a ticking off. Not being in any state to deal with any more I focused on making tea and left Ali to deal with it.

While difficult on the ears, it's yet another developmental step. She is more independent, more certain of herself and of her desires as an individual. Part of me is proud and happy for her and the other is looking forward nervously to her continuing to express herself.

One certain outcome is that I can add a couple of reasons to one of my favourite blog posts (http://jasongood.net/365/2012/12/46-reasons-why-my-three-year-old-might-be-freaking-out/):

She's not allowed to use her ice cream to paint the house, her face or her body.

I'm not reading the missing page in her book that she ripped out yesterday

Indian summer

After the less pleasant doggie escapades, things have been going better, we've gone on a couple of hikes and he's copped great. Our relationship is definitely improving.

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We've even managed to get him to the hairdressers. Doesn't he look handsome?

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As you can see, it was only a trim!

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Otherwise we've been enjoying some unbelievably good October weather; while it's down to just above freezing at night, in the afternoon it's been consistently in the mid twenties. The steepness of the valley does allow the cold to linger longer than most places since the sun only starts warming the centre of town around midday. Here's the sun's first appearance at the Paradis des Praz where the sun first gets through around 11am. 

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We've settled in so well that we've even found a babysitter and managed to get away for a cheeky lunch without the kids. 

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It still feels a little soon to leave Goliath behind, so he came along and was served a refreshment from a rather classy dog bowl.

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The great escape

Some moron has not locked the door, they're going to regret that; quick press down on the handle, pull the door towards me and it's time to get the fuck out of here!

I run down the track but my path is blocked by a train line, where to go? To the right there's men working with chainsaws, other way! without slowing down I bare right and sprint up the road. Where to now? Take the road under the railway tracks or left towards the river and the forest beyond? No contest they'll never find me in the forest, left I go, over the bridge, quick check behind me, oh shit there's the warden running towards me yelling. He looks a right state, not even wearing matching crocs, time to move. Now if I remember correctly, left takes me straight back towards the prison, so right it is!

With the warden on my tail they know I've escaped, they'll have alerted their fellow chamshareists, I must assume every human I see is the enemy, and I need to be wary of their collaborator dogs.

I dodge past a couple of turncoats and then a human, the warden is yelling at her to stop me but luckily she's American and can't speak French. I sprint past her as continues to shrug in a bemused fashion at the warden. Fork in the road up ahead, do I follow the river or head up higher? Doesn't matter as long as I can stay out of site, the warden's going to have to check both routes and I can make my escape muahahaha!!

I've been climbing for ages and no sign of the warden. Have I done it? Hold on are those two old ladies down there shouting my name? Damn I've been spotted, how did they mobilise their forces so quickly? Must keep moving, must keep moving... just then I here GOLLIATH!!!! from up ahead. WTF? Someone must have circled around me! I'm trapped!

Oh I see him now, it's the warden. Right I'm heading into the forest. Oh wait, what's he doing? He just sat down, has he not seen me? He's breathing very heavily that doesn't sound healthy. He's still not looking me, do I run? He really is sounding dreadful maybe I should check if he's OK. I'll just give him a quick are you alright nuzzle then be on my way...

Damn it! It was a trap he's got my collar!! Oh no.

Captured!

Goliath

The last week or so has been a bit shit. It shouldn't as we've spent a really nice time with friends and have now made it to Chamonix where we're staying for several weeks to reconnect with friends and enjoy the mountains, but one way or another my mood has been dreadful. I'm impatient with the kids and any minor setback is likely to send me into a downward spiral.

My dearest wife of course has been very sympathetic: "You're bringing all this upon yourself with your bad attitude!"

I won't deny it's likely, but still.

In addition to the sympathy Ali also decided that this was the perfect time to add to our numbers and get a dog.

I wasn't anti getting one (in time), since assuming our Wales plan goes through, with that much space it would be a shame not to have one. But right now while mainly based in the bus common sense would suggest waiting a little while. So of course we now have a dog.

With the aim of missing out on the training/floor wetting/cost, Ali looked into rescue dogs and we ended up with the aptly named (pony sized) Goliath.

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It was clear from the first meeting that he had a fantastic temperament, very calm gentle giant who was great with our kids. We were also assured that he was well house trained and other than a penchant for chasing cats had no issues at all. Of course the latter was total bollocks! He is requiring an unbelievable amount of our time and attention.

Perhaps I should have expected it, rescue dogs however well looked after will need time to settle into a new environment, but I didn't. The first few days have been really rough; trying to figure out how, where and when he might do his business, trying to settle him into the chalet when he won't climb stairs and is too heavy to carry, waking up in the middle of the night scratching at the door, and running away at the first opportunity. Things that were easy like going to the shops, or going to the playground are now so much more difficult.

I don't feel like I signed up for this. While I didn't use my veto, I thought I'd made it clear I thought this was the wrong time, and had voiced more and more concerns as we approached the day. Ali was adamant though and a mixture of not wanting to say no to something she really wanted and trusting that her intuition was right about the timing meant we went ahead.

Three days in, after a tough day in town with Goliath I started mentally reliving the last few days in an effort to write this post. In the process I got riled up and instigated a blazing row with Ali. You can't always control when you explode, but it was a shame that it happened then, since things had been improving, he's sitting when prompted, he's a lot calmer and hopefully progress will be even faster now that Ali's has had some help from a dog trainer (who embarrassingly witnessed the first salvos of our argument).

According to the trainer, as long as we work hard at training him over the next few weeks, we should have a wonderful companion since his underlying character is so good. Fingers crossed he'll soon become a playmate for G, a source of responsibility for F, a minder for D and a good excuse for a walk for all of us.

Heading South

Few photos of the last few days travellling South:

The Camping des sables blanc near Quiberon

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sunset from our pitch

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Morning back on the beach, still no one around apart from kite surfers in the distance.

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I found some more rocks in Carnac!

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Lots more rocks

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and even some at our stopover in the aptly named La Roche Bernard.

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Pretty good view 

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Ali by this point had enough of rocks so we went and found more civilised surrounds  

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in Saint-Martin-de-Ré

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doesn't get much swankier than this...