Parenting, profundities and humour

Sunbed Wars… — July 31, 2017

Sunbed Wars…


Time for another holiday missive. I cannot quite believe it has been a year since my last holiday blogs from Portugal. Such gems as Wind Up and Why are there no Aspirin in the Jungle? Please do look them up. I have limited technology here in sunny (and windy) Fuerteventura and so I struggle to provide links. Oo actually I think I may have mastered it. Let’s hope so…

For those of you that remember the latter blog it dealt with the fact that Middlest and Youngest had developed raging ear infections from over pool use and the lengths we needed to go to sort that out. Well by way of background that happened again in October in this very hotel and we spent another day of our precious holiday at doctors and pharmacists.

And so I bought them earplugs and gromit bands to wear on this holiday. Needless to say that hasn’t gone down too well. It is somewhat of a battle to get them to wear them. I actually think they look kind of cool. I would post a picture but all photographic evidence is banned.

I am a lonely voice in favour of such a get up, even husband suggested “We should play it by ear”. Not only is that a dreadful pun but I am also not sure how that would work. Until “we had played it by ear” enough for an ear infection, or possibly two, to develop? What and then wear the gromit bands? After the fact. I pointed out that if that did occur he would be getting the taxi to the pharmacy in the next town and trying to get by in rudimentary Spanish. That was enough to get him to back down. My husband is legendary for his lack of linguistic ability. I once came back from a loo trip when we were in Gran Canaria and discovered him trying to order two pineapple juices by miming a pineapple. It has gone down in Harrison folk law. I intervened. Dos zumo du pina por favor? The look of relief on the poor waitresses face was a sight to behold. I am sure it has gone down in waitress folk law too…..

I also reminded the off spring of the night of agony they both suffered. Middlest on the sofa crying. The subsequent pool ban for the rest of the holiday. The increased pain on the return flight. Apparently all this is like labour pain. Forgotten conveniently by the next time. That has cost me quite dearly. I didn’t want it to cost them. Like many many things I do that appear mean and heartless (apparently) I am doing it for their own good.

So they are wearing them. I put my foot down. And as everyone knows I am the boss. I saw a bunch of pre pubescent Germans pouring all inclusive Fanta on their heads and diving straight into the pool yesterday. I rest my case….

Anyway this wasn’t supposed to be a blog about ear infections but as always I have got massively sidetracked.

No this is a blog about sun beds.

We arrived at midnight on Saturday evening after a traumatic trip which saw us nearly miss the flight due to the M25. Needless to say we didn’t fancy getting up too early on our first day. At about 7.30 then we wandered blearily down to breakfast. Early is a relative term with my kids.

My first inkling that something may be up was when I went onto the balcony to take in the view. The view consisted of a lot of middle aged men, many in Lycra  (can I go nowhere without mamils?) reserving platoons of sun beds. I shrugged it off. In October here we had wandered down after a leisurely breakfast (by 8.30) and still been able to sit in the shade, a must for my family two of whom are very pale skinned. One of those is a fully grown man who still believes he will get a tan, despite 43 years of evidence to the contrary. The other is Middlest who spends his holidays getting more and more freckly in an endearing but ultimately futile way tan wise.

Anyway after this particular leisurely breakfast (probably the best in our All Inclusive experiences with proper sausages and bacon that is so well cooked it cracks, the only way to eat bacon in my opinion. I do wish the continent could get its collective head around the need for cold milk with tea though, not hot milk or, worse, cream and provide tea pots and proper sized mugs. That might be just me of course) husband wandered down and could only find sunbeds in full sun and then they were sandwiched between the bins and the showers.

Nevermind we carried on undaunted. After lunch I happened to be passing a family with a small child vacating their beds under the shade and I pounced securing the beds with everything I was carrying; sun hat, one towel & my sun glasses. I toyed with removing my bikini top to secure the fourth bed such was my desperation for shade, sweat having formed on the back of my knees, but thought better of it. The resort is partly naturist but it isn’t really my style…I ran back to husband and we embarked on a change over procedure.

Despite this retreat to the shade for the latter part of the afternoon Middlest still got mild sun stroke as we were to find out at 11.30 pm when Eldest pounded on the door to advise that Middlest was vomiting copiously into, luckily, the toilet.

I resolved to find shady sun beds the next morning come what may.

Anyway at 07:00 hours I pulled on shorts and a tee shirt and joined the mamils reserving sun beds. I found five in the shade further from the activity pool than everyone wanted but not bad in my opinion.

I got chatting to an English man who was arranging his towels on the run of beds next to ours. My family find it odd that I will strike up a conversation with such people. I was about to spend the day lying approximately four inches from at least one member of his party. Getting on friendly terms seemed fair enough.

Whilst he had a fag and I tried not to stare at his sleeve tattoos we discussed the state of affairs which had apparently got worse in this, his second week of holiday. He had been unable to acquire beds any nearer to the activity pool and this got us to wondering what god awful time those in the prime spots had actually arisen at.

There is a rumour circulating that people are setting out towels the night before. They must be German surely? It is a risky strategy as the wind here is truly phenomenal. It is not our first holiday involving wind, as detailed in the aforementioned post Wind Up. In fact I am starting to wonder if my husband is actually seeking out windy locations, this being our third in a row. That Rugby World Cup hoody is back in action. It looks a bit out of date now but it is still very serviceable.

With regard to sun bed reserving I hold the shop partially responsible as they sell beach towel pegs to fasten your beach towel to your sun bed. I have seen a number of towels flapping kite like from their pegged mooring,  Those beach towels carry a €15 deposit, not sure I would risk it. I like JJ the overweight Bulgarian entertainment team member as much as the next woman but not enough to risk that kind of wonga. I will forsake laughing at people doing spin in the water to ensure I don’t lose €75.

My new friend was off on a couple of day trips in the forthcoming week and he was looking forward to the lie in. I had to agree. Of course there are signs up forbidding the reserving of sun beds, the management reserving the right to remove unattended articles. Of course these signs are totally ignored. And some of the more moral amongst my holidaying compatriots actually sit on the beds from seven am thus getting around this issue. In any event can you imagine the mountain of beach towels and lilos (a particularly risky sunbed saving article here in the force nine gale especially the ones shaped like lobsters whose claws seem to catch the wind very easily) and sun hats and random bags that would be created if the management did carry out their threat? Aqua spin would be highly likely to be called off whilst they sorted all that out annoying a huge amount of slightly over weight women. I am sure the management have thought better of it.

I wouldn’t mind so much except that a huge amount of these reserved sun beds do not get occupied until I am going in for lunch, maybe they should start a rota system?

In any event I have it better than my new found sun bed chum whose party consists of his 20 year old lad and his girlfriend (who was indeed the member I spent most of the day lying four inches from which was quite annoying as she was, well, 20 and therefore didn’t paint me in a particularly favourable light) his wife and sister in law  (overweight, unfortunate sun burn lines, tattoos that were possibly once attractive why couldn’t I have ended up next to her? ) and his 16 year old daughter. He doesn’t get a sunbed for her because she might not turn up all day, and he is British and so has a sense of decency about these things.

The reason I have it better is because he was off to await the forming of the a la carte dining queue which, he informed me, he had been unsuccessful in on a previous three occasions. He had a new strategy planned and was hopeful. I shall look out for him in the all you can eat buffet later. That is where we will be eating every night.

I imagine sun bed man (who of course I did not exchange anymore words with once our families had arrived, for that would be weird) would probably also choose the buffet too. During our chat he agreed with me that the food is great.

Especially the bacon.

Off to set my alarm. Good night.




Elly (or maybe Elee, or Ellie or even Ely…) — July 4, 2017

Elly (or maybe Elee, or Ellie or even Ely…)


May I introduce Elly (or Elee or Ellie or possibly Ely…I haven’t written his/ her name down before weird huh? We’ll settle for Elly I think).

Elly is a very, very important personage Chez Harrison.

Elly was purchased for Middlest by Eldest (well by daddy but chosen by Eldest) the day after Middlest was born. And he/she (we never did determine the sex of Elly it has remained a fluid thing to this day) has been a constant and well loved fixture in Middlest’s life ever since.

He has been everywhere with us. Florida, Norfolk, Spain, France etc. Elly is not allowed out of the house except to make these holiday trips for Elly is a ‘bed elephant’. He was not carried around when Middlest was a baby but until recently Middlest had not spent a night without him.

That only changed this year when Middlest announced he was not going to take Elly on Scout camp. A bit of me died. Middlest has always been a strong character not prone to caring what others think and so I saw this caving in to peer pressure as a sad turn of events. But no actually Middlest had decided not to take Elly:-

“For his own safety. People throw cuddlies around mum! I can’t risk that with Elly” all delivered in a shocked tone.

Generally Elly is packed last. He is on my ‘pack in the morning list’ along with Oo Oo (Youngest’s monkey) and deodorant and toothbrushes. He goes in hand luggage as Middlest does not want to risk turning up at a hotel without him.

Elly is nearly 12 years old. And he looks it. His fluff disappeared a long time ago. His eyes are scratched. His ears flop and his seams sag. To my mind this makes him even more adorable. I empathise with Elly. He looks how I often feel. Tired, slightly put upon but well, well loved.

To say he is precious is an understatement. I cannot contemplate what would happen if we ever lost Elly or he fell apart. It does not bear thinking about.

The fact then that, as we speak, Elly is whizzing around in my washing machine is more than a little worrying. He is ‘safely’ encased in a pillow case. But even still. I am awaiting the end of the cycle in a state of trepidation.

In the early days when Elly was often sicked on or worse he was no stranger to the washing machine. And I didn’t bother with a pillow case. But now he looks like he might not survive the ordeal.

Part of what makes Elly so special to Middlest is this lack of washing for Middlest is a very sensual person. He has an incredible sense of smell. In fact it is quite possible he may grow up to be a ‘nose’ or a perfumier. (He also has a way with words so I guess he would be quite good at the sort of pretentiousness often displayed by those wine tasters on the 1980s show ‘Food and Drink’).

Middlest likes to build up a good scent on things. Like a dog. In fact there are only two sorts of smell tolerated by Middlest when it comes to bedding. One- line dried sheets and Two- his own scent. If I dry his sheets indoors he complains until a few days have gone by and he can smell himself on the sheets again. Luckily for him I am quite slovenly housework wise, especially in the winter when drying the normal day to day laundry is a challenge never mind sheets as well, and so he gets ample opportunity to smell himself. Weirdo.

So for all these reasons Elly has not been washed for …a long time…

Today, as the sun is out and I can produce that other allowed smell- line dried sheets, I stripped Middlest’s bed. Elly was there as always curled up under the covers where he had recently been left by Middlest when he finally managed to pull himself out of the duvet.

Elly was crusty. Yep crusty. Middlest has a very specific way of hugging Elly which comes from his thumb sucking days when Elly was an intimate part of that ritual. (Eldest swears blind those thumb sucking days are not actually over and sneaks in a lot to try to catch Middlest on camera in the act). Elly spends a lot of time around Middlest’s nose and mouth and I can only assume that is where the ‘crust’ emanates from… It’s best not to think too hard…

Wherever the crust comes from Elly smells like extremely concentrated Middlest.

Despite my slovenly housekeeping even I had reached the limit of Elly crustiness.

And so I have risked a wash.

Middlest is going to be furious. I will try to line dry Elly but I know that won’t come close to compensating for those years of ‘me-ness’ he has built up.

I can only hope Elly survives the ordeal. For if a lack of ‘me-ness’ is bad a lack of Elly at all would see me permanently ostracised.

47 minutes to go. Wish Elly and me luck…


One Meal To Please Them All…. — November 25, 2016

One Meal To Please Them All….



This week I hit a high point in my eternal quest for the Holy Grail.

I have been on this mission for about a decade and to be honest it is starting to piss me off. Ever so slightly.

It doesn’t get any easier. In fact as time marches on it merely gets more and more difficult as ever increasing numbers of obstacles are bunged in my path.

I am not even convinced that the Holy Grail exists anymore. I am sure every questor in the history of questing has had this moment of doubt. At some point Frodo thought to himself:

“Sod this treking through the barren wastes of Mordor with this ever so slightly irritating and overly upbeat gardener, I’ll just wear the sodding ring and become a dark overlord at least that way I can get my hands on some more pipeweed and stop eating this god awful yet strangely satisfying dried biscuit” or something similar.

I feel pretty much the same. Why am I even on the quest? Why don’t I just give up and go home? Wear the ring and hide invisibly in the corner. Gibbering.

When I started out all those years ago I made a fundamental error.  I picked the wrong ‘fellowship’. I do a lot of role playing. And before any of you get hot under the collar I am referring here to fantasy role playing. That hasn’t really helped any has it? I mean elves and dwarves (if we must, must we?) and orcs and dungeons and dragons.

As every role player knows the make up of one’s team is paramount. There is no use setting off on that quest with a party full of weedy magic users or an entire group of beefy yet brainless fighters. No, balance is the key.

I didn’t think about this when I picked my group. To be fair I gave birth to three of them so it is at least half my fault. And I married the other one when his peccadillos seemed, well, quite adorable rather than sodding annoying.

And so I am on this quest with a whole bunch of people making it harder. And harder.

Have I told you the aim of my quest yet? My own personal Holy Grail? I haven’t? How remiss of me. Here it is then. I am after a list of meals that all my family will eat. And enjoy. Preferably a week’s worth of the same. Sounds easy? Sounds like it really shouldn’t have taken me over a decade to not succeed at? Well it has.

To begin with I was meandering quite gaily around The Shire. My husband and I ate quite a quantity of processed food. We had a repertoire. Pasta sauce out of a jar. Curry out of a tin. Sausage casserole. Kedgeree. Takeaway. Etc. The only issue slightly marring our countryside idyll was the Shadow of Cheese. A faintly malevolent spirit (shall we say it is in the east?) which occasionally cast a shade over proceedings when I misread the ingredients of ready made pasta. And made my husband curl up his nose in that way…

I had children. Bad idea. Like having a maverick uncle. You just know that one day he is going to cause big big trouble. And they didn’t disappoint. Sure enough all to soon I was visited by the Wizard of Weaning. He had bad news. Lots of things I had previously enjoyed would have to be eschewed in order to save my small humans from an awful Fate. Salt, sugar, jars and other such demons had joined the Shadow of Cheese. They chased me maniacally round the Shire and my quest had begun.

Over the years as I have journeyed with my fellowship many more obstacles have had to be overcome. I was almost permanently undone by the Gluten Intolerance Balrog. He wielded a seriously large whip. It derailed me for quite a while. I fought back though with the help of the ‘free from’ aisle. And a lot of potatoes. But only after I had had several set backs such as Bread Like a Stone and Unrisen Cake.

I stumble repeatedly in the Forest of Random and Ever Changing Dislikes. The paths never stay the same. Occasional random and completely unexpected Dislikes drop in for a time and then magically disappear again. Totally at random. Did I mention the randomness? These Dislikes hang like menacing spiders waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting traveller, trapping you in their webs ready to devour you later. Often the Dislikes are things that have previously been eaten without comment. For years. Such as mushrooms. And Mummy’s Curry. And the Shadow of Cheese is ever present. Ominous. Menacing.

Over the last couple of years the Mines of Logisitcs have also had to be negotiated. I am permanently lost in their tortuous caverns and tunnels. The Mines of Logistics also never stay the same. There are sharp edges. And steep drop offs. A steady path will be found and then a new and unexpected fork will appear, just for that week, making mapping the Mines impossible and futile. Things such as the Fork of Cubs is Off Site or the Path of House Swimming Gala. And bizarrely the Forest of Random and Ever Changing Dislikes seems to thrive down in the Mines of Logistics. And even down here as I flail in the Mines whilst simultaneously macheteing my way through the dense undergrowth of the Forest, even in all that, the Shadow of Cheese penetrates and weighs heavy.

And now the Shadow of Cheese has an ally. The former friend of the Wizard of Weaning, the Wiseman of Fish That Isn’t White.

And sometimes, just sometimes, when I manage to emerge briefly from Mine and Forest and Shadow and Wiseman and Balrog I often find myself in the Valley of Guilt sitting under the Tree of Too Much Reading dipping my toes in the Stream of On line Shopping Substitutions. Trying to avoid red meat and too much sugar and processed food and ham. And sure enough I get dragged back in.

So imagine my delight when, from the Oracle of Facebook, a recipe emerged which seemed to satisfy everything. The Mount Doom of recipes if you will. However I had been here before. Up other Mounts that had turned out to be not The Mount. The gluten free, cheese free, red meat free lasagna for example. Which only three of the fellowship enjoyed. Or the prosciutto wrapped cod with herby new potatoes, which stumbled in the Mines as it failed the ‘reheating later’ test. Or the sweet potato and lentil curry which only three of the fellowship enjoyed. A different three. Or the Mexican Bean Chilli which fell foul of the Forest containing, as it did, chick peas. Or ….. you get the picture.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more disheartening to the Leader of the Dining Room Fellowship then tracking up a mountain only to discover it is not THE mountain and having the rest of the party drag her back down with their Ropes of Hardly Touched Food.

And so I curbed my excitement. In any event the recipe was by Jamie Oliver whose revolution of school dinners could not redeem him in my eyes from his ‘Meals in 15 minutes’ book. The whole premis of which was a blatant lie.

I adapted it slightly. Let’s be honest who has fresh rosemary in the middle of November? I balked a bit at sherry vinegar worrying that it would moulder on the Shelf of Ingredients Only Ever Used Once Normally After Following A Jamie Oliver Recipe until I finally die in the Mines or the Forest or at the whip of the Balrog and the rest of my fellowship throws it out having decided to live permanently off takeout. I did decide to get the fresh flat leaved parsley and run the risk of the rest of the packet becoming permanently stuck to the back of the fridge in a sort of icy tomb.

I cooked the meal. Everyone liked it. It had no cheese. No red meat. No Random Dislikes (for now). No gluten to upset the Balrog. It could be made in advance and put on automatic to be ready for the exact second we landed home, it could be served in the 4 sittings required and it was good reheated. And thus it navigated successfully through the Mines.

So you may think the Ring is finally in the Mountain. I can go back to the Shire and live out my days peacefully as the unassuming, unsung hero of the Dining Room Fellowship. Well not quite. I still need about four more of these god given gifts to be finally rid of the damn thing. And I really need more than four to avoid the Curse of Eating The Same Seven Meals Every Week.

But still it felt like a step forwards.



Things What Make My Life Easier… — October 9, 2016

Things What Make My Life Easier…


This is a piece about first world problems. There is nothing deep and meaningful here. Sorry.

Last week I took delivery of a new dishwasher. Those of you who count yourselves amongst my oldest and most loyal readers will know from a blog entry back in the depths of time (well Summer 2015) that my old dishwasher was, well, pants. If I could be bothered to trawl through my old posts I would give you a link here for those that are keen. Or at least keener than me. But I am not. Bothered that is.

We inherited this dishwasher from the previous owners of the house. Along with dodgy electrics and a leaking downstairs loo. A couple of viewings and a survey are never enough are they? To fully identify all those little ‘quirks’.

Anyhoo it has never worked. Quite how bad it was has only really become apparent since I took delivery of my new dishwasher.

I bought it from a local Euronics dealer which my children call ‘the plug shop’ as it has a giant smiling plug on the roof, which lights up at Christmas and is joined during the festive period by a blow up snowman and Santa. As such I already liked this shop before I even set foot in it. I like shopping local. And independent. And they were happy to provide a man called Steve to fit the dishwasher in for me. There was no way I was going to rock up at some appliance superstore and buy one to fit myself. No siree. We don’t do things like that here. I will plumb in washing machines if I must. But I draw the line at integrated appliances .

It being an independent retailer the brands on offer included some I had never heard of. I was still in mourning for my Miele dishwasher which I left behind at my old house in favour of my current piece of built in crap. But they didn’t sell those. The salesman said he had something almost as good. At around half the price. And it had a cutlery tray. One of those things that makes life easier. Is there anything more horrible than trying to drop food encrusted cutlery handle down into a cutlery basket? Well is there?

I had never heard of the make- Blomberg. I have heard of Bloomberg and was momentarily confused until I spotted the missing ‘o’. The company is apparently German. Always a good start. I know, I know I should buy British. But really one cannot beat a German appliance. Plus it came with a 5 year guarantee as these missing ‘o’ people are so confident in the durability of their product. They haven’t met my kids yet.

We went for it. I balked at waiting 3 weeks for the lovely Steve to be free to fit it. Until husband pointed out that we had been living with ‘top basket falls out when pulled, smells constantly of curry, moves dirt from plates onto glasses, sounds louder than a Jumbo jet’ for over a year. Fair point.

Anyway Steve over delivered and turned up 3 days early. I could have kissed him. But that would have been a bit ’50 Shades’ and also embarrassing if I had to call on that missing ‘o’ 5 year guarantee. I could just imagine all the chaps in the shop laughing over him having to return to ‘so excited about getting a new dishwasher three days early she kissed him’ woman. So I restrained myself.

It was a good idea I did get this lovely chap (and he was quite lovely) to sort the fitting for me as as soon as he tried to remove the old dishwasher things started to get a bit hairy. In such a way as the ‘cupboard’ door it was attached to was ‘not right’. The side panel of the end run of my units was actually glued to the side of the old dishwasher. The cupboard next door was a bit rotten and so had extra longs screws holding on the hinge which would have scratched my new lovely dishwasher and needed replacing. With a bolt. Etc. God I hate this kitchen.

Steve was not happy with the outcome of his fitting. The door levels are uneven. I have no side panel anymore. The kick thingy doesn’t stay on very well. I couldn’t care less. The new dishwasher is awesome. It easily rivals my Miele. It has passed the ‘porridge stuck to bowls left in it all day’ test. It has passed the ‘mashed potato’ test. It has even passed the ‘reheated macaroni cheese dish’ test. My glasses sparkle. It has reduced the amount of hand washing-up exponentially.

It has really made my life easier. And more joyful. I actually look forward to opening up the door, once the little red light projected onto the floor has gone out signalling the end of the (very long) wash cycle, to discover how it has tackled my latest challenge. And, yes, I love that light. It is so cool.

This got me pondering on other things I have discovered that make my life easier, more joyful, better. So here you are. In case you are interested.

  • Baking parchment circles. Before I discovered these little circles of loveliness, and once I had returned them to the store and exchanged the 9 inch ones for 7 inch ones, who said men are the only ones who over estimate size?, cutting out rounds of baking parchment to line cake tins was my least favourite baking step. No more! I merely smear my insides liberally with Stork and pop in one of these beauties and get onto mixing. Genius.
  • Not ironing. Nothing is ironed in this house. Well that is not strictly true. Husband occasionally irons something. I have been known to iron a Beaver Scout necker before life got too hectic to care about the state of one’s scouting children’s neck ware. But generally nothing is ironed. I hate ironing. It hurts my arm. I send out my husband’s shirts to a lady who does like ironing , for cash (my god that makes me sound SOOO middle class, but hey I am so there) and everything else is merely hung up straight from the washing machine to dry. No one ever comments that I or my children look unkempt. Maybe we do but if no one says it what do I care? Life is quite honestly too short.
  • Cutting chicken breasts with scissors- I know it sounds nuts. This was my little brother’s idea passed on to me via my mum. Cutting up chicken breasts, to make a curry or some such delectable dish that at least two of my family will love and two will declare inedible, with a knife is a ball ache. Well not actually, as I don’t possess testes, but you know what I mean. It could have something to do with the sharpness or otherwise of my knives, but even so. Bro suggested using scissors instead. It has revolutionised my life. Again not quite but it certainly makes butchering more bearable.
  • Avoiding moving dust- you can’t see it unless you move it. Or the light is unkind. As it is when it shines on my (annoyingly badly installed) kitchen black granite worktops. But in dimly lit spaces unmoved dust is virtually invisible. Giving me back hours of my life.
  • Delay timed washing machines- I love my Miele washing machine which I consoled myself with when I had to leave my Miele dishwasher behind and my old Bosch died in the move. It has a delay timer. As do a lot of models. And so every morning I wake to a drum full of freshly washed laundry ready for the line. Simples.

So there you have it. Some solutions to my first world problems. Try some if you like. Especially the no ironing one. Go on I dare you. Or at least stop it with the underwear already. OK?




Too Many Richards… — September 6, 2016

Too Many Richards…


So today is the last day of my children’s summer holiday. We always like to do something special. To mark the occasion and keep their minds from fretting about the return to school.

Yesterday we brain stormed ideas but none of the days out they suggested were going to work for various reasons. Closures, height restrictions,  weather etc.

In the end I had a brain wave and decided to take them to a place I haven’t been to in 22 years. Leicester. It is easy to get to on the train from where we live. My Family and Friends railcard makes it affordable to do that. I have an A-Z Street Map for the city dated c 1992. And it boasts a new Richard III museum since they discovered, excavated and reinterred his bones in the city recently.

I am a bit of a history nut. I love a castle or a stately home.

It is odd really because I dropped history when I picked my O level options mainly as the curriculum centred around modern European history and that wasn’t really my bag at the time. I find it fascinating now but as a 14 year old it didn’t float my boat. So I did Geography and spent a large part of the subsequent 4 years (as I did A level in it as well) knee deep in rivers and grappling with concentric town development and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

But as an adult I have got more and more hooked on history. Until now I was mainly obsessed with the Tudors. To the point where I would shout at inaccurate film plots – there was a recent one about Anne Boleyn that particularly annoyed me.

But more recently I have started to get more involved with what came before- namely the War of the Roses. And as such a visit to the Richard III museum was right up my alley.

Eldest is also a history nut so I had no problem persuading him. He has been studying 1066 and all that this year and has got as far as the first crusade. But he will engage with any history really. He pours, probably unhealthily, over World War books. We have been to Bletchley Park and he loved it.

The other two aren’t so keen. Although Middlest is keen to point out (repeatedly) that he got 100% in his Roman test in Year 4. Two whole years ago. I offered fresh Pokémon for the catching thereof and they were keener.

So off we went. During the train journey Eldest wanted a synopsis of Richard III and how he fitted in. Hum. The train journey was 40 minutes. I wasn’t sure I had time to do it justice. Especially as he likes to go over things ad infinitum until they are fixed in his head.

So I had a go.

There was this king Henry V who was quite popular. Why? Because he conquered lots of France. Always a good move in a monarch. (I reminded him here of us watching a re-enactment of Agincourt but he struggled to remember it- until I mentioned the long bows and a swearing gesture, then it came to mind…). No I can’t remember who his father was. It doesn’t really matter here. He was Lancastrian though- their symbol was a red rose. Anyway he died (young I think). No I don’t know of what. So his son Henry VI became king. To start with he was a baby so Richard Duke of York (he was a Yorkist whose symbol was the white rose) was Lord Protector. It means basically in charge. No that wasn’t the Richard whose bones we are going to see. It was his father. Henry wasn’t popular. Not sure why. Think it was some mental health issues and an inability to retain all those bits of France. No I don’t know what sort of mental health issues. I think he lost it when he lost it in France so to speak. They were probably the sort of mental health issues we would nowadays understand but not in the Middle Ages. Anyway there was this guy called Richard Neville who basically wanted to get rid of Henry. No not that Richard or that Richard another Richard. The Earl of Warwick. Why did he want to get rid of Henry? Because of all those reasons I just mentioned and because he wanted power for himself. You have to understand that all though kings were powerful they relied on their nobles to raise taxes and armies for them. So they had massive power too. Thank King John for that. So anyway this Richard (lets call him the Kingmaker, why? cos folks did) schemed to put Richard (the dad not the one whose bones we are going to see) on the throne. He did have a claim. Inconveniently for the Kingmaker Richard was killed in battle. So he turned attention to his son Edward. So, if you follow, that makes Edward Richard’s brother (the one whose bones we are going to see). Richard was still a boy at this time. Anyhoo Edward became Edward IV. Then he pissed everyone off by marrying the wrong girl- Elizabeth Woodville (who folks claimed was a witch) and then making all her family very important. So eventually Richard (Kingmaker) decided to put Henry VI back on the throne as a sort of puppet. Henry had been kept to the fore thanks to his amazing wife- Margaret of Anjou who had actually led troops for her husband…girl power. Well yes I did think that interesting actually. Meanwhile Edward had had lots of children. Another Elizabeth and crucially two sons Richard (yes another Richard) and Edward. Henry lasted 6 months. Why? Over reaching egotisical acts by Warwick. He got killed, silly billy. Edward was back. With an heir, Edward and a spare Richard. All seemed rosy. He made Richard (his brother not his son, no not either of the other two either they are already dead) Warden of the North. Richard (bone man) married Anne Neville (ironically the daughter of Richard (the Kingmaker one) and widow of Edward (not the brother, the son of Henry VI) and lived in the north. The other brother George had been married to Anne’s sister Isabel. Nothing like keeping it in the family. But he had backed several rebellions against his brother (Edward IV keep up) so had been executed for treason. By drowning in a vat of wine. Apparently at his own request. This is a bit of an aside but I fancied some guff about someone called something other than Richard. Or Edward. Or Henry. So brother one was out of the frame. Brother two was safely ensconced and kept busy in the north keeping the Scots at bay. Warwick was dead. Henry VI and his son were dead. He had a possible 2 male heirs. All looked rosy. Then Edward stupidly died. Bad move. His sons were 12 and 9. Too young to rule. Elizabeth Woodville (that’s the mum witchy person) wanted to control them. So did Richard (yes our Richard) so Richard intercepted Edward (and Richard) on their way to London with their mum and put them in the Tower of London. They never came out. Richard then made himself king. Not a great move. He alienated nearly everyone. The remaining Lancastrians (clinging on by their fingertips to a very spurious claimant (something to do with John of Gaunt and mistresses) Henry Tudor- yes I know you have heard of him keep listening, son, keep listening) and the Yorkists who believed Edward (the son of Edward) was rightful king which he was really but he had ‘inconveniently’ disappeared. Then Richard’s son Edward (don’t confuse him with Edward’s son Richard or indeed Edward’s son Edward both of whom are also dead but under more ‘mysterious’ circumstances) died. So he had no heir either. Ouch. Then he stupidly asked Britanny to give up Henry Tudor and Henry got wind and escaped into France. The French couldn’t wait to help upset the applecart and gave Henry (yes Tudor not the VI, he is dead) loads of dosh and mercenaries. Henry landed in Wales (where he had spent some time, had family and support) and marched into England. He met Richard (bone man) at Bosworth. Henry had less troops but those pesky Stanleys decided at the last minute to support Henry (once they could see he was winning- they liked to hedge their bets) and Richard made a fateful charge at Henry’s retinue and got himself killed. The last English monarch to be killed in battle. And then he got buried under a car park in Leicester. Henry became Henry VII (no that doesn’t mean he was Henry VI’s son (his son was called Edward and was married to Anne, daughter of Richard, before she married Richard, Edwards brother, son of Richard) just that he was the seventh king called Henry), married Elizabeth (the daughter not the widow of Edward IV) and created the Tudors and a new red and white rose. Ahhh. Then Richard (yes our Richard) was demonised by Shakespeare who we have to remember was writing for Elizabeth (not either of ours another one) who was queen at the time and the daughter of Henry, granddaughter of Henry and sister of Edward….no Richards though….

Got it?

Half way round the museum we gave up on the history. Just too many Richards. But we really enjoyed all the stuff about how they found his bones, proved they were his and decided what blow from what weapon killed him. Awesome. The replica plate mail was also cool. As was his new tomb (above). I am pleased Leicester won the York/ Leicester who should have the bones battle. They deserve it.

Ironically my children have uncles called, yes you guessed it Richard and Edward….weird huh?


Amphibious Issues — June 24, 2015

Amphibious Issues

Here’s an interesting one… well I thought so…

At our old house our bedroom was above the Sky satellite receiver. Often lying in bed at night I would hear a beep beep beep. Really quite annoying. I put it down to some sort of electronic malfunction. With the Sky dish. I never got round to calling Sky.

Whenever I opened the window I could swear the sound had moved and so I began to blame the neighbour’s burglar alarm. I never got round to mentioning it to the neighbour.

We were moving. So I thought I would leave such issues behind.

Then a couple of weeks after the move I noticed the sound had followed us. Our new Sky dish was…well brand new so an unlikely culprit. And so as we now owned a burglar alarm I blamed that. When we had the service company out to give it an overhaul I forgot to mention it.

Then recently I was chatting with one of our new neighbours, who also happens to be a friend, about how we were liking the new abode and I told her that we found the owls in the wood opposite a tad noisy. She told me that as her neighbour has six cats they were often awoken by fights in the middle of the night and that also the midwife toads were a noise nuisance. I asked her what they sounded like.

And she described my beeping precisely.

I looked it up on You tube. And all along it has been an amphibious issue.

Thank goodness I never mentioned it to anyone.

Sometimes that senior brain of mine saves all sorts of embarrassment.

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