A lovely day out

Today, given the sunshine after the week (or more) of miserable, we decided to take a trip down to Cardiff Bay. This weekend has the ‘Fish and Ships’ festival down there, as well as a general food festival, so was good and busy by the time we got there.

We took a picnic, and stopped to eat it beside the Norwegian Church, which stands out on the side of Cardiff Bay with it’s crisp white paintwork.

As we walked back around the Bay we could see a couple of tall ships moored for the weekend.

We had a walk around the wetlands which is right beside the Bay, but quite well hidden if you don’t already know it’s there! There was a large selection of birds flying and swimming around, although GG was disappointed that he didn’t see a kingfisher!

After that walk, we saw the lifeboats circling in the Bay and realised that it was about time for the Royal Artillery parachutists to do their display, so we hung about to see and weren’t disappointed!

It must have been bloody cold landing in that water! I know they didn’t stay in long before pulling themselves onto the nearest lifeboat!

After the display, we were just about to head back to the car when I spotted this group of swans proceeding in an orderly fashion towards the river – maybe a swan double date?!

And finally, beside the Millennium Centre we spotted this  Gilbert and Sullivan-esque Captain with his Ship performing for the crowds Рloads of fun!

It really was a good few hours out of the house, and really hot when the wind died away. Cardiff seems to be getting better and better at organising these sorts of events – there were certainly enough people around to be able to declare today a success! Oh, and I was incredibly strong and didn’t go to the food festival. Resisting Temptation are now my new middle names!

Random things (you’ve got to love it when I run out of ideas!)

Ten days left of my January NaBloPoMo. And nothing interesting happening in Jennieworld. I’m over tired from rushing round after a group of five and six year olds yesterday at Techniquest¬† in Cardiff Bay. Cheeky’s yeargroup had a school trip and I volunteered to be a parent helper. What. Was. I. Thinking? I suppose it wasn’t that bad. The problem¬†was that I’m just not used to kids that are like little Houdinis. I’ve put the fear of God into my two from a very young age and so they don’t stray far from my side without express permission. The six children entrusted to my care yesterday hadn’t had that, and so scattered around the museum the moment we got through the door. I spent the morning feeling slightly panicky, trying to marshall them all into looking at the same exhibit at the same time (futile. Extremely futile. And foolish. Not to be repeated in a museum aimed at children with hands on exhibits). In the afternoon I was a little more accustomed to them, and so let them dash from place to place. I, meanwhile, walked continuously round the museum (it’s open plan, so the theory is that you can see the children all the time. This is not the case.) counting the children in my group, repeating their names¬†like a mantra each time I saw them. Of course, they all needed toilet stops every time I turned round, and of course, one of my group managed to lock themselves in the toilet cubicle. Thankfully, he managed to unlock the door before the member of staff could return with the screwdriver; I was very glad as I had visions of being sacked from my voluntary parent helper role before I’d had a chance to get started!

The children were all asked what their favourite bit of the day was. My favourite bit was definitely the moment I did a last head count once we were back in the school playground and I was relieved to find that all of my group were back safely! I’m sure though that actually teaching wouldn’t be so stressful, I just saw the group when they were at their most excited and hyperactive! I honestly don’t think they could have been more energetic and lively if I’d fed them all pure sucrose all the way to the museum on the coach!

In other news, I’d like to mention an appeal that I heard mentioned on the radio the other day. Marie Curie Cancer Care are looking for volunteers to give an hour to collect money and sell daffodil pins for their annual appeal in March. This is a great opportunity for those of us who are richer in time than money and who would like to help out. Marie Curie Cancer Care provide nurses to care for terminally ill cancer patients in their own homes, and I think they do a wonderful job. So, if you’re in the UK and have an hour to spare in March, click on the link above and register. They have set themselves a target of 20,000 hours and so far have 2051 hours promised. I’ve just volunteered. Will you join me?

Do you know, that between going on a school trip and going to the Pantomime last night, I didn’t knit a stitch yesterday?! I think I’m having withdrawal symptoms and will have to make up for it today! I’m working on the collar of my jumper now, so I’m hoping that the last few inches won’t take too long. I’m itching to move on to the next project (or more truthfully, finish the one I started when I got bored in the middle of my jumper!).

Also, I’m in the process of updating my blogroll. If you can see any obvious ones I’ve missed out, please let me know.

Southerndown

Today, we had a rare day of nowhere-to-go and nothing-pressing-to-do, and as GG had taken a day off work, we decided to have a little outing. We wanted to go somewhere that we hadn’t been before, but that was cheap and fun for the kids. A beach seemed an obvious solution, and so I settled on Southerndown. It also needed to be somewhere quite close to home, as I’d been relaxing all morning and didn’t get round to deciding where to go¬†until nearly midday!¬†

Southerndown’s not too far from Cardiff. If you go past Barry, Cardiff Airport and Llantwit Major, you’re there in next to no time. It’s a lovely big sandy beach, and on a hot, sunny day I’d imagine it would be gorgeous. It was still very nice today, but as the day started off grey, the sand was still damp when we arrived. However, in jeans, t-shirts and trainers we weren’t dressed for sandcastles and paddling, so all was well!

Any ‘Doctor Who’ fans out there? If so, you might, as my elder son did, recognise this beach;

36. southerndown

Do you get it? Any idea? Imagine it deserted, wintry, TARDIS in the middle distance, Rose looking upset. Any clue yet? Handsome got it straight away – Bad Wolf Bay! I have to confess it was my main reason for visiting. I knew my kids would be thrilled to see this location. I think the moors above the cliffs have been used for a couple of things, including the opening of ‘New Earth’ and the stand off between the Master and the Doctor. But don’t quote me, I could have completely the wrong place!

We had a lovely picnic, the boys played ball and drew in the sand, had a walk to the cliffs with GG and then the tide started to come in really quite quickly. So we decided that it would be a good idea to go home.

southerndown

You see? It really had raced in. Now I know why they issue so many warnings about being caught on cliffs when the tide comes in. Anyway, we ambled back to the car, but as we reached the top of the hill, we were caught in swarms of flying ants! Eurghhh! We had to race, mouths shut, eyes shut, into the car as fast as we could, swatting the irritating insects who had followed us into the car. What makes swarms of flying ants appear all of a sudden, anyway?

We had a lovely time, and Cheeky has decided that we’ll be going back next July! Not sure why he picked on that date so far in the future, but I’m glad to know he enjoyed his day!

Cardiff Castle and the Mediaeval Mel√©e

There was a competition on in my office for the opportunity to win tickets for a family of four to the Mediaeval Melée at Cardiff Castle this weekend. And I won! So, off we trotted yesterday into town and had a lovely couple of hours wandering around the grounds of the castle. However, we actually had no need of tickets as, as Cardiff residents we are entitled to free passes into the Castle grounds. Apparently, Lord Bute left Cardiff Castle to the people of Cardiff and so anyone who lives or works in Cardiff can get a five year entrance pass for free. So, we picked up the neceessary forms and will fill them in during this coming week. As GG said, it would be a lovely place to spend your lunchtime break, rather than sitting in the office and looking at the same four walls.

Anyway, we didn’t have the passport photos to complete the application there and then, so we were grateful to have the complimentary tickets from work. As we entered, we were greeted by many interesting sights, including a mediaeval style encampment, a sword school, some sort of dramatic performance off to our right and a display from the Castle Falconry to our left. Some pictures, I think!

castle keep

This was our view as we entered the castle grounds. The hollow keep (which we ascended later at the insistence of Cheeky) is immediately in front of you, preceded (on our visit, at least) by a row of mediaeval style tents for the weekend’s events.

eagle owl

This is Ollie, the eagle owl. Isn’t he beautiful? He was the star attraction in the falconry display, flying from one handler to the other, across lying-down bodies of visitors at one point. He flew quite close to the ground, so it must have been a real thrill to see this bird of prey flying so close above your head, if you were one of the people lying on their backs on the grass. I got lots of pictures of him, but none captured the¬†strength of his eyes like this one, where he appeared to be glaring directly at me as if to say, “did you ask my permission before taking my picture? Insolence!”.

motte, moat and north gate

In this picture you see the side of the Norman motte, part of the moat and the northern gate which leads out to Bute Park at the rear of the castle. The moat, as you can see, is heavy with lilypads which are adorned with many beautiful water lily blossoms.

castle grounds

Finally, this is the view of the castle grounds from the battlement walk. I really enjoyed walking on this part of the grounds. We ascended through the tower at the north gate, and were able to walk all along the eastern wall. I think this would be my preferred location for enjoying a quiet lunchbreak away from the office. I might even treat myself to that, once the kids are in school and I can get awayfor a couple of hours on my own. However, I will DEFINITELY be bringing my packed lunch with me.

We had such a lovely day, and yet the memory of it is tarnished in part, due to the bad experience we had when we decided to have lunch in the castle caf√©. We had anticipated that it might be expensive, but not to this level. We decided to have the advertised Cawl (Welsh vegetable broth, with chunky vegetables and lamb) with a slice of cheese and a roll. This came to ¬£5.50, each! And when you’re just looking for a quick lunch for a family of four, this together with drinks makes it a pricey decision.

We ordered this, went to a table and waited. Eventually the kids’ bowls of soup appeared, but we had to wait a further ten minutes for ours. This made no sense to me as it was exactly the same meal, with just a little more broth in the adult bowls. When it arrived, my cheese had obviously been sitting on the (hot) plate for a while longer than the soup bowl, as it was completely melted. Then I cut into my bread roll, only to discover it was frozen in the middle. GG’s was cold, but not quite frozen, while Cheeky’s was also frozen. So, the rolls went back to the kitchen. Not much in the way of apology was offered, and I had to wait a fair while for someone to find me a couple of fresh rolls. Lo and behold, mine was frozen again. I was extremely vexed by now, and stomped back off to complain one again.¬† Another fresh roll was produced, after a considerable delay, which I think had been put in a microwave for a few seconds, judging by the feel of it, to avoid the whole frozen issue.

My attention having turned to the soup, I was really disappointed. The broth part was flavourless and the vegetables were exceedingly nondescript, to say the least. Two chunks of vegetable (I’ve no idea what they were supposed to be, but they looked a little like swede) tasted to me the way I imagine wood would taste if it had been soaked for a very long time and rendered soft. I couldn’t eat them.

So, in conclusion, visit Cardiff Castle if you get the opportunity as the grounds are lovely and the buildings are very interesting. But avoid the caf√©. It’s OK if you just want a cake and a drink, if you have money to spare, but I think that when I go again, I’ll take a leaf out of one lady’s book who I saw sitting outside, picnicking on the grass. I shall make a detour to the Subway across the road and buy a freshly made roll which is guaranteed to have triple the flavour for half of the Castle prices!

Ogmore-By-Sea

On Wednesday, Jo and I went down to Ogmore by Sea for a walk. jo, snipe and midge at ogmore

The dogs loved being off their leads as there was no-one else on the beach when we arrived.

frozen rock pool at ogmore

It really was incredibly cold. I’ve never seen frozen rock pools before; there were also icicles and a mini glacier at the edge of the beach – I was incredibly impressed!

snipe and midge at ogmore

Snipe (the labrador) was loving dashing in and out of the sea, despite the low temperatures, but Midge preferred to stay just on the dry side of the waves and watch her friend chasing sticks into the ocean!

We hope to make these walks regular occurrences, weather dependent, and in answer to your question Jo, I think we should try somewhere else along that same bit of coastline. I like the sea!

Bird man

bird man

When GG and I had a day out in Bath, we saw this guy doing the ‘living statue’ act, and although I’ve seen loads of these now, this one stood out due to the pigeon which sat quite happily on his shoulder, even when the ‘statue’ started moving. We stood watching the pigeon for longer than we did the man!

Happy London Saturday

(Written on Saturday morning, extremely early!)

I’m off to London for the day today. I’m on the train at the moment, having left Cardiff at stupid-o’clock this morning. I got up nice and early so I could get myself ready, as I don’t generally wear make-up unless I’m going somewhere nice. Well, today qualified as a make-up day, so I had to allow extra time for that! I obviously have forgotten how long it takes to do a full face of make-up, as by the time I had finished I had no time left to make breakfast. So, instead of the lovely sandwich and couple of pieces of fruit I had planned to take with me, I bought myself a packet of mini-Eccles cakes at Cardiff Central station. [For my overseas (non-UK) readers – do you have an Eccles cake equivalent? It is a cake made with flaky pastry which contains dried vine fruits, and is named after a town in Lancashire, England.]

I’m travelling with a group of friends who all have children in school with my boys. Once of them, A, celebrated her 40th birthday recently and so T, who organised the whole trip has brought Bucks Fizz, strawberries and chocolates and even disposable champagne flutes along for the train journey! And so the party is really getting started, before 8am! T is justifying it as a champagne breakfast; I can see that I (I don’t drink) am going to end up carrying half of them around Covent Garden on my back! (Only joking – they are all, of course, mature, responsible ladies ūüėČ )

I think the plan is to get into London by about 9.30, spend the morning shopping, so and see the show, have a long and relaxed dinner and then make our way back to London Paddington to catch the train home. After which I will write an update on our day. Happy Saturday!

So, my day went more or less as I had expected. We had a cooked breakfast when we arrived in town, which set us up for the day. We spent the morning and early afternoon walking around the Covent Garden boutiques and then the Jubilee market. We had the obligatory pub stop before heading off to the theatre to see … Dirty Dancing! Yay! It was fabulous! I’d not seen the film for several years and so it was lovely to be reminded of all the more subtle nuances!

The dancing was fantastic and the singing awesome. I really thought that there was a CD playing until I saw the lips of one of the girls moving and realised that it was her singing! ‘Baby’ looked just like the actress who played her in the film. The time flew by, and it wasn’t until we were on the train on the way home that I realised that it was three hours long.

More about my day and photos tomorrow – this post is getting a bit too long and it’s time for me to get ready for bed (I’m exhausted!) so I’m going to split it in two!

Wordless Wednesday

A fountain with a rainbow, in Cardiff Bay yesterday.

Sponsored Walk on the Taff trail

I was apprehensive about the weather when I got up yesterday morning. it had been sunny while I enjoyed breakfast in bed, but then had clouded over considerably before I got dressed. I can’t think of many more miserable family activities than dragging a seven and a four year old four miles through a downpour when they would blatantly rather be spending the afternoon being spoiled by their Gu (short for Mamgu, Welsh for Grandmother). But I was lucky yesterday. The Angels smiled on our small fundraising venture and so at just after 2pm the four of us set off, after enjoying a delicious and robust Sunday Roast, from Llandaff Cathedral to walk the nearly four miles to the Millennium Stadium in aid of Cancer Research UK.

I decided to keep a photo journal of our walk, as much to prove that we had done it as for any other reason. Our brother in law gave us a lift to the Cathedral, and after a couple of photos of the children at the start of their walk, we set out. I admit, I did go a little bit crazy with the number of photos I took along the way, but better too many than too few! I’m just really glad that we have digital cameras now, otherwise my photo processing costs would be absurd. I’d have to take on another job to pay for it!

After a slight detour (a bit of a wrong turn which led to Pontcanna allotments) we soon found our way to the Taff Trail. As it was the first half decent day for ages, the trail was busy with plenty of cyclists and walkers enjoying the sunshine. I love rivers, so this was a really nice walk for me. On this part of the Taff Trail you stay within sight of the river for almost the whole way.

We strode out, with only a couple of short stops for drinks (during one of which, youngest son decided to sit in an anthill – you can imagine the panic which ensued! However, all was well and the offending insects were quickly brushed off) and made really good time.

Only an hour and twenty minutes after starting out we were within sight of our goal. Now, we had allowed two hours for the walk, bearing in mind the (lack of) length of the children’s legs, and so as we had arranged to meet my parents to celebrate finishing the walk, we decided to have a bit of a sit down in Bute Park in the sunshine so that we wouldn’t be too early! And so, just over one and a half hours after setting out, we crossed the (imaginary) finish line and went for celebratory pancakes with my parents! The final total for sponsorship has yet to be received, but they definitely raised in excess of ¬£200! Not bad for two small children!

2008 International Food Festival, Cardiff Bay

¬†Yesterday we visited the Cardiff International Food Festival in Cardiff Bay. We’ve been (I think) every year since it started, and thoroughly enjoy it every time. A couple of times we’ve got a babysitter and made an evening of it, but as I had the day off work we decided to go in the daytime this time, and take the children.

¬†For those of you who are familiar with the ‘Torchwood Tower’, I expect you’d be surprised to see strawberries all over it! However, strawberries are the fruit chosen by Cardiff Council to represent their Cardiff Summer Festival season, and so there are strawberries everywhere. There are even little Ford KAs painted to look like strawberries, with green stalks stuck on the top!

 The weather started out fairly threatening, with short sharp showers, but by the time we left the sky was clearing and an unfamiliar colour was creeping across the heavens Рblue! I was so amazed at this unexpected and overwhelming improvement in the weather that I had to take a photo to chronicle it, and decided to capture the contrast in colour between the Millennium Centre and the summer sky. Fabulous! Long may it last!

After we had eaten our fill and inspected all the different stalls we decided that we were having far too much fun to go straight home so we went to the cinema. Now, the cinema complex is probably one of my sons’ favourite places, as there you can go bowling, eat pizza and ice cream (although preferably not on the same plate!), go and see a film AND visit the Doctor Who exhibition (which you can see in the background, behind the ice cream cafe!). What more could two Doctor Who obsessed small boys want? Unless…

¬†…oh I don’t know, you were to find a real life proper road sign featuring a Dalek?! This is indeed a real road sign, dreamed up to advertise the way to the Doctor Who exhibition and is positioned just outside the entrance to the Red Dragon Centre in Cardiff Bay. I’m told that there are other such signs around the country near the other Doctor Who exhibitions. But seriously, a question to all ‘TARDIS’ fans out there, if you saw a sign telling you to turn right towards Daleks, surely a true Gallifreyan’s initial reaction would be to ‘turn left’ and run – ‘gotta love the running’! (Sorry for the two really bad Series Four references there, but I couldn’t resist!)