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spikegifted.net - Archive Q3 2013

September 2013:
Home: It has been a week since the boys have started in their nursery and we have already found how disruptive the afternoon slots at nursery was. The Ruler_of_spike, being a diligent mother, has had a whole range of activities lined up to keep our two active toddlers engaged and occupied in nearly every weekday morning. Most of these activities finished around eleven in the morning. As soon as these activities finished, she rushed them home so that she could cook their lunch. (Yes, cook, not warm up!) As soon as lunch was finished, it was time to get change into uniform and potty time. After rushing the boys to the nursery, she would return home. She would them have at most ninety minutes for lunch and rest, before heading back out to pick up the boys. As the nursery was at the time when the boys would usually had their nap, by the time the Ruler_of_spike picked then up, they were tired and getting difficult to deal with. That was the result of London not having enough resources to deal with the growth boom. That was result of long-running government policy of redistributing resources from the 'rich south' to the rest of the country. The result is, in order to ensure our boys have a good chance of going to a good school without paying for private education, the Ruler_of_spike and the boys were suffering as a consequence of the governments' poor planning. So much for being dutiful citizens who pay our taxes.
Home: So the boys have completed their first week at the nursery and it has been an interesting week for them. They seemed to have settled into their new routine, which was very unusual for them as they were no longer having their naps in the afternoon during the school week. Instead, they were thrust into this loosely structured, yet organized environment called nursery. So far, they seemed to be enjoying themselves and were not showing any signs suggesting they were having trouble adjusting to the new regime. Long might that continued.
Work: In the work I was doing, being the coordinator who sat in between all the internal departments and our clients, we had to maintain strong working relationships with all the different areas whom we had to work with to bring our work to fruition. As we were seen as the area which coordinated and maintain the momentum of the work carried out by other areas, we were often seen to be accountable for certain tasks while we did not hold the responsibility. Owing to that, it was vitally important that we maintained cordial working relationships with the other areas. As there was always a pressing need to the job done, we let a lot of the unfair comments pass as we overlooked the injustice and got on with the job. That, however, did not meant we were the punch bag. We were all competent in our roles as we were knowledgeable in all aspects of our jobs. So while there were colleagues who let their frustration got the better of them, there was still professional respect. On the other hand, there were others who saw us as interfering in others' jobs and chose to dismiss our work. That was probably the most difficult part of our work which I needed to square away in my head.
Home: The day had been marked for a long time and the Ruler_of_spike and I had been waiting for it to arrive from weeks away - the boys' first day at school was here. So after three years, nearly seven months, the boys were being let out to the world! They were ready. They were, at some level, eager to have their first taste of the wider world. The nursery has been very careful in introducing small number of children into the class at any one time. Unlike other children, the boys had never been placed in daycare. Therefore, being away from the Ruler_of_spike was a new experience for them. Much to our relieve, the boys have found their ways to settle themselves into the class. We believed that the fact that there were the two of them together was an advantage, at least for now. So the boys' world has just grown bigger and, so far, they seemed to have managed it well.
Home: Once in a while, I got to look after the boys on a Saturday. Not only did I have the whole day to bond with the boys, it also provided an opportunity for me to sharpen my parenting skills. As I usually left for work not long after they woke up and did not return home until they had gone to bed, there was little time for us to interact in the morning. So those Saturdays were pretty important from perspective my own development. One of the principal 'event' was the food shopping. Normally, the Ruler_of_spike and I would each push one trolley and we tried to coordinate and grabbed different bits. However, doing that on my own meant that I had to establish my own authority and tried to lead the boys through the shopping. One of the key tactic I learnt was to be quick. Being strapped in buggy, the boys were asked to be participate in the shopping without 'contributing'. Of course, the longer the trip took, the opportunities there were for them to get involved or they find ways to entertain themselves which did not align with what we would generally consider as 'good behavior'. Owing to the need for speed, decision making time was at a premium, which meant that certain decisions were not made with the clearest of mind. During the shopping, I was planning our meals over the next couple of days. As I was hurrying along, I ended up with too much food! I doubted this was something suffered by couples who did not have children...
Home: What made us traveled forward and backwards to and from the hospital four times? That's right! It was Master Chill's hearing test! First time was equipment problems. Second time was lost concentration and a cold (which affected the ear drum test), and their time was not effective as the tests were borderline suitable for children of his age. As we returned for the fourth time, hoping that all the stars were aligned in their correct positions and Master Chill remained focused. Thankfully, the equipment was functioning, Master Chill was focused throughout and he did not have a cold. He passed the test in flying colors, just as we have expected. It was a shame that it wasted four trips to the hospital to have that box ticked.
Home: The boys have been given places in our first choice nursery near our home. We have already been to the nursery for a parent evening before we left for the summer when we had an introduction to the teaching staff and the facilities in the nursery. Now, with the boys just a couple of weeks from starting at the nursery, it was time for the home visit. This was an opportunity for the teacher, her assistant and the school nurse to see their new intakes in their home environment, where they should feel most comfortable. Wow! They were in good form. To start with, they moved their bean bags to between the sofa and the coffee table so there were no seat left in the room. Then they were running around the house, causing a total racket while Ruler_of_spike tried to answer questions posted by the teaching staff and the nurse. Not quite sure that the nursery staff would make of the boys, but they sure got a dose of that they were capable of. We just hope that they would behave in the nursery when they eventually started.
Home: Back in London and we were trying to get back to some kind rhythm. The harsh reality was that after a couple of amazing time with my family, I had to go to work the day immediately after returning home. The Ruler_of_spike was left with task of getting the boys back to the rhythm of London, rather than Brittany. As the boys visited a beach almost every day of their seven-week stay in Brittany, it was only natural for them to ask for the beach. How disappointing they were when they were told that there was no beach nearby and we would probably not be visiting any beach for a while. They showed their bewilderment and disappointment, but it was not long before they gotten over that. The Ruler_of_spike had done an amazing job keeping the boys entertained while preparing them for life in London which was so different from that in France.
Home: After spending a day being reminded by the boys that we were going home, we were on our way. We were invited to stay over at Saint Malo again and the invitation was gratefully accepted. The real drawback of a day crossing was that a whole day was wasted. Additionally, we had to find a way to keep the boys entertained during the crossing. While the ferry was a large vessel, there was only a limited number of things we could do with three-year olds. We ended in the arcade games area where there were a number of games which seemed to have caught their imagination. They basically fell into one of two categories: side-by-side driving games and side-by-side shooting games. The rather excitable engine noise-over was a real treat, while watching the boys manhandling the 'weapons' was entertaining. While it was possible to spend a little bit of time in the arcade, I could only keep the boys there for a limited period. We had a tough time keeping them entertained.
August 2013:
Home: The boys have developed so much during the summer. It might have been the case that I was apart from them during periods of time which led me to believing that they have made exception progress. On the other hand, there were definitely tangible signs which suggested that they were making great strides. They were now really linking names to faces and people to events. They adored their uncle and they thought the son of one of the Ruler_of_spike's friend was the coolest dude on the planet, which I thought was really cool. Their speech was the most noticeable aspect of development. On the other hand, their were other visible signs of their development - Master Chill was completed his potty training, while Master Cheeky was less enthusiastic about this transition. As the same time, Master Cheeky was off formula milk altogether and was just consuming cows milk. Their developments were often times in small doses over periods of time. Nevertheless, taken together, there have been some significant developments.

Home: After seven weeks away from London, we were packing!! Naturally, there was a lot to pack. Additionally, as the boys continued to grow and reached different milestones, the content of our car and roof box continued to evolve. Just as they were excited by the sight of the roof box when we were in London at the beginning of the summer, the boys were getting excited again after seeing the roof box being re-attached. They had no idea what they were getting into!

Home: Our trip to the beaches off Erdeven was so amazing that we decided to go back there again. This time, I got the boys to help with collecting seashells on the beach. Even with the limited time we had there, we managed to pick up a nice collection, which I tried to create something for a desktop background for my PC...
Home: The boys have good appetite! You would not register their capabilities when you were looking at them. When they wanted to, they could consume a good deal of food. Take this was a recent example. It was a lunch with grandpa: mini scrimps with shells, one and half sausages each, meat from 3 ribs each, fries, camembert, Tartare cubes... Master Chill actually wanted Kinder Country to polish things off, but put we managed to change his mind and put them to bed for their nap! My father-in-law observed that, each on his own, the boys actually consumed more than he did! With appetites like these, these was little wonder that the Ruler_of_spike complained that she had to revisit the local supermarket once every couple of days to refill the refrigerator!

Home: "Papa boomer biggy photo, hallo big l'eau" was the statement made by Master Chill a couple of days after coming back from the boat trip and unscheduled tumble in the surf off Ile d'Houat. For the uninitiated, the full translation of the statement was: "papa broke camera, phone in sea". What? How did he get that? The Ruler_of_spike has been circumspect in her reference to my tumble and, in truth, could have given me a really hard time. On the other hand, although references were made, it was not explicit nor directly to the boys, so we were wondering how Master T figured it out so accurately. Anyway, if Master T knew about my tumble, then his brother also knew about. Thankfully, the Ruler_of_spike helped me save face by not talking about the subject and the boys seemed to forgotten about it.
Home: My brother-in-law invited us an overnight boat trip and. The Ruler_of_spike and I eagerly took up the offer. After arranging some babysitting for the boys (and we were very thankful of the offers we received), we joined him and his children at the harbor near his mooring site. Once leaving the harbor, we headed out of the Gulf du Morbihan and headed for the Ile d'Houat. When we reached Houat, we decided to go on the beach to have a walk around, which could be reached with a dinghy. As we approached the edge of the beach, I jumped down from the dinghy to steady it against the waves. However, a large wave came in and took the boat with it and dragged me under. At one point, I was under the dinghy. Everyone in the dinghy was in the water and everything was wet. As the waves was very good at churning the sand, there was sand everywhere. For some unknown inspired reason, I took my compact digital camera, old cell phone and wallet with me on the trip. Needless to say, the phone and camera pretty much stopped working soon afterwards and the content of my wallet was soaked. As we waited for my brother-in-law to pick us up, I was keeping my fingers cross that the SIM card, flash memory and chip-n-PIN cards would continue. As things turned out they all were functioning. It was only the hardware that was affected. As we were churned by the waves after falling into the sea, there was just sand everywhere. We washed in the shower back in the cabin and there was sand. No matter how much we rinsed our clothes, the sand was stuck to them. We were thankful that we were back on-board the boat where it was warm and dry and not much sand in sight...

Home: The boys were speaking more and more. Their French and English vocabulary was improving rapidly and they were creating sentences. The 'problem' they had was that they were mixing up the languages, which was a common occurrence in bilingual families. Through their speech, we could tell what were the important things for them. The thing that appeared to be most important for them was food. Next up was their activities. They were also handling conceptual ideas which were often no easy to describe. While these were impressive, it was their politeness which really stood out. 'Thank you' and 'merci' were words that we heard often. One incident stood out was when I moved some chairs out of the way of Master Cheeky while he was on the scooter. He thanked me as he went zooming pass. I was gobsmacked! There might be toddlers who spoke better than they did, but ours were surely polite by any standards!
Home: With the part of Brittany, the Gulf du Morbihan, being a gulf, the beaches were very different from those that were exposed to the open ocean. In general, the beaches were shorter in length, shallower in depth, muddier and had much much more algae. While that had much charm and character, it was very different from those white or golden sandy beaches that people would imagine being 'beaches'. Then, some friends of the Ruler_of_spike recommended the beaches off the little town of Erdeven. So we made some sandwiches, packed our beach kit. Compare to our daily trips to our nearby beaches in the Gulf this was a relatively long trip. We drove passed the town and our excitement built as we found the road signs for the beach. Owing to the contour of the sand dunes behind the beach, the beach was not visible from the car park. However, as soon as we walked pass the edge of the dunes, the sight that greeted us was breath-taking! There were beaches and there were beaches. This was a beach with a 'B'! It appeared to go on for miles in both directions. It was so flat, the sand very smooth. What made the whole scene was the fact that there were no blocks of apartments and hotels behind the beach, just a lone single-storey life guard building. It was a protected area, so there were no developments of any kind allowed. As such, this was as 'pure' an experience you would get as you could imagine. Owing to the fact that it was late August, it was less of a crowd, which improved the expansive feel of the place. The tide was well down, we literally had to walk over a couple hundred meters from where we pitched up to the water edge, which was fine as it was sandy not muddy. The water was clear and, thanked to the fantastic weather, warm. All of us had a great time there. The highlight was teaching the boys how to jump over the incoming waves, something I thoroughly enjoyed as a child in Hong Kong. The Ruler_of_spike has thoughtfully prepared some sandwiches for the boys and she and I had a light lunch of salads and baguette. After more running around, collecting shells and messing around the water edge, we packed up and headed home. What a fantastic way to spend a day!
Home: Nearly another two weeks has gone by since I last saw the boys and I found that they have again more matured than they were previously. Their speech was particularly evident as they were a lot of communicative. They were still using predominantly a combination of French and English and less of the twin-talk that they had been using. Master Cheeky was particularly imitating the adults when we were telling off Master Chill, and he did the sound effects, finger-waving and facial expressions with a alarming level of likeness, but he also had a big cheeky grin on his face. So we knew that he was making fun out of us adults at the same time. To underline the boys bilingual capabilities, they could pretty much count to ten in both French and English unaided. I must therefore work hard to make sure they could do so in Cantonese in the near future...
Home: At long last, I have survived the summer alone in London to my two-week annual leave. It has been a incredibly long time - nearly five weeks have passed since I returned to London on my own. Although I have been kept busy both at work and at home, it was horrible to be alone in the house. So it was a great deal of relief that I finally stepped on the Eurostar train in London that I would reunited with my family in a matter of hours.
Home: One of the things I missed the most when the Ruler_of_spike was not around was her sanity checks on my crazy ideas. One morning at the really un-healthily early time of 3:30am, rejecting whatever I have been eating a few hours earlier. In short, I had a long day at work and I did not have a chance to get back early enough to visit out local supermarket. Also, I was going through the refrigerator to see if there were any leftovers which I could finish. It was there where I found, amongst other thing, a tub of salad I picked up in France just prior to coming back, eleven days ago. The content looked and tasted ok, or so I thought. Had the Ruler_of_spike was there, she would have allowed such crazy things to happen. So there I was, feeling rather unwell, hungry and tired. Needless to day, I did not make it into work but was too weak and tired to do anything constructive in the house. I did however managed a trip to the supermarket where I found some Korean instant noodles! So there was a plus in this unfortunate incident.
Home: As I would be away for two weeks to join my family in Brittany, it was quite essential to get some cleaning completed before leaving. Being an old Victorian house with old fashion wooden floorboards, dust came into the house from under the floor through the gaps between the boards. There was nothing we could do to prevent that, unless we were to lay carpets again. But then, it would defeat the point of having wooden floorboards. Since the arrival of the boys, cleaning our house has been an evolving battle between their growing mountain of toys and our patience. Not having them around was already a big plus as the boys were very keen to get involved in the cleaning, without necessarily helping at all. At the same time, to actually clean properly, it required moving toys, furniture, rugs, etc. from one room to the next and then back. It was very time consuming. My task was not helped this time as one of the wall-mounted shelves in the spare room collapsed while I was cleaning. All in all, it took a lot longer than I originally anticipated to get the job done.
Home: The painting in the house was just dragging on and on. The gloss on the bathroom door and the loft door frames was taking way too long than advertized amount to actually dry properly. The bathroom door was the most problematic as the dark grey of the undercoat was still visible after four coats of gloss. Then, there was the climbing up and down with little pots of paint which was quite unnerving, despite the generous covering with dust sheets. There was simply not enough time to get things done in the limited amount available after long days at work.
Home: Less than 48 hours after I returned to London, the Ruler_of_spike was informing of a near-disaster in Brittany. In many parts of the world, when the weather got warm, mosquitoes appeared, Brittany was no different. To allow the boys to have a good night sleep, the Ruler_of_spike has invested in a totally natural mosquito repellent for them. All the ingredients were natural and we just sprayed a few time in their room when they went to bed at night and that stopped the mosquitoes from feasting on them. As with all thing medical, we placed this product somewhere high up so the boys would not be able to reach it. One afternoon during nap time, the boys pushed their cots to next to the high chest of draws on which this product was kept. It would appear that Master Cheeky had gotten hold of the product and was spraying it everywhere. As it was dark (thanks to black-out blinds), it would appear that Master Cheeky somehow managed to spray the product on Master Chills face and into one of his eyes. That was when the Ruler_of_spike was alerted as Master Chilled shouted out to tell his brother to stop. She immediately put Master Chill under the shower and rinsed his eye with copious amount of water. She then took him to the nearby doctor to him examined. While the immediate prognosis was that his vision was not affected, given that he was no eye expert and did not know the full list of ingredients in the spray, more needed to done. So the Ruler_of_spike took the product to the local pharmacy to call up the manufacturer to obtain the full list of ingredient. Then she had to take the list to an eye specialist in the nearby town. However, she needed an appointment first and the phone was not picked up. Luckily, she managed to obtain an appointment the next day and was informed that there was not know that the ingredients on the list would cause long-term damage to the eye. While it was a big sigh of relieve, there was a lot of unnecessary stress. Something which she could have done without.
Home: Four days with my family was just too short. It felt like it was over so quickly. The Ruler_of_spike and I barely had time together. Then I was time for me to head back to London. Public transport actually delivered me to the train station I wanted without much delays. However, that was not the end of the story. While I was on the train heading out of London Victoria, there was already some seriously dark clouds overhead. As the train approached my station, there was a light drizzle. As I left the station to head home, the precipitation remained relatively light and I thought I could make home if it stayed the same. That, of course, did not happen. As I was roughly a third of the way back, the heavens opened. The rain was so heavy that I was drenched in no time. There was no point trying to hide or to run as I was already soaked. All the important things in my rucksack were out of the way in places where I knew would remain dry. So I walked the rest of the way home in torrential rain. I was so wet that even my underwear was soaked. Most of the content of my rucksack was also wet or moist. I took off my clothes in the entrance porch and there was a puddle of water there on my return after drying myself. Welcome back to London!
Home: I did not know other children, but our boys loved strong flavors in their food. Not only did they tackled many of France's cheeses, they actually asked for, and probably preferred, the strongly flavored varieties. They loved Camembert, but actually preferred the more matured ones. They asked for Boursin at breakfast time. They loved smoked salmon and other seafood. Basically, they loved all the smelly good stuff that were typically French and not really British. Amazing...
Home: While the weather in London had cooled a little, there was little sign of the weather turning in Brittany. The weather was so nice that to took advantage of it fully and took the boys out to the beaches twice a day. Once late in the morning, and another time late afternoon/early evening. They loved the beaches. A year ago, they were limited to just potter around the stretch of beach that we settled on, but now they roam the whole beach right up to the water edge. They played together, gave instructions to each other, argued with each other and fought each other. They had a great time with each other!
Home: Having not seen the boys for just over a couple of weeks, it was immediately obvious that they have been progressing nicely since departing the UK. Their speech was the noticeable as they were very talkative and there were these torrents of French/English/twin-talk all mixed up in their own particular ways that came from them. At the same time, they were keen to show how much they knew and were constantly trying to get our attention. While it was invaluable to have them showing that level of interest to me, it was often difficult to have a conversation with the Ruler_of_spike as we were insistently being interrupted by the boys. Of course, being three-year olds, not only did the boys wanted to say their own thing, but they also wanted to do their own things, which often were not aligned with we adults wanted to do. I guessed it would be normal to say that they were naughty. On the other hand, that was what three-year olds did. It was a case of aligning our interest roughly the same to achieve progress. And that was why the Ruler_of_spike was such a great mother. My parenting style was more rigid and narrow-field, while hers was more flexible and holistic. Her was more adaptive and cooperative, which was the reason why she had so much more success in getting the boys to respond to her than I to me. I have so much to learn from her.
July 2013:
Home: Now was the time that I really questioned my own sanity... In my hast of covering the bare wood of the bathroom door, I did not thoroughly go through our paint collection. Instead, I picked the pot that said 'undercoat' on the tin, and it was a grey undercoat, ideal for finishing with dark color paints. The bathroom door, like all the doors upstairs was going to be white... Four coats, at some places five, of gloss white later, I finally managed to hide all hints of grey. Luckily I found the white undercoat for the loft doors. Otherwise it would have driven me insane.
Home: After a nearly three weeks of hot weather, the heat was finally subsiding. Our house in London was built in mid-1840s, so the ceilings were high, and if we were being careful, it was actually possible to move from one side of the house to another to accommodate the heat throughout the day. While I was perfectly happy with temperatures above 30C, London, and the rest of the UK, was simply not built for such temperatures. The London Underground was notoriously such a case. While the temperature on street level was 30C, it was easily another ten degrees Celsius high in the trains. Given the ancient infrastructure, it has been used again and again over the years for not investing in air-conditioning in the Underground carriages. Even now, as the day-time temperature eased back to the mid to high twenties, the carriages were still piping hot, especially during the evening rush hour. It would only require a slight delay on the line and it would turn a very comfortable journey into an unbearable one.
Home: Owing to the insufficient holiday allowance, there was quite a gap between leaving the Ruler_of_spike and the boys in Brittany and returning for a long weekend. It was slightly over two weeks since I last saw my family, and how I missed them. Although I talked to the Ruler_of_spike on the phone, nearly every day, it was not the same as having her around and we could just chat. While the boys were often very demanding, their little personalities were also sorely missed. So it was great to be together again. My holidays had allowed me to spend four uninterrupted days with them in Brittany. How precious was that!
Home: It was hard to believe, but I was reminded that it has been well over a year since we have had the bathroom redecorated and the loft doors repaired. It was quite alarming that the new bathroom door has survived on just a couple of coats of undercoat and the loft doors and the surrounding frames were not even touched. With the boys being away, it was time to crack open the paint pots again and got a few coats slapped on the wood. You could hardly expect any painting being done with the boys around - it generally took the gloss paint twenty-four hours to dry and I would need a ladder to paint the loft doors and surroundings - it would have been a disaster waiting to happen. No, the time to paint was when the boys were out of the way. To paint the bathroom door, loft doors and their surroundings, I needed four different types of paint: special paint for bathrooms and kitchens for the first two coats of the 'in' side of the bathroom door, gloss for the outside, final coats on the inside of the bathroom door and the surrounds of the loft doors, undercoat for the loft doors and then normal emulsion to finish the loft doors. There were door fixtures lying around, newspaper to cover parts of the bathroom floor, dust sheets over the carpet in the hallway and parts of the spare room and a step ladder being folded in the hallway. No, I could not have done that with the boys around.
Home: While the Ruler_of_spike and the boys were away, I had the opportunity to channel surf, something that I could only normally do late at night. There I was, sitting in my sofa, remote controls in hands, readied for a serious session of channel surfing. There was nothing in the main channels, which was not unexpected. Discovery and History channels were always good bet for interesting programs, so I flipped through to Discovery. There was 'How's It Made' in fifteen minutes. I was too lazy to move to another channel, so I sat and watched whatever program was on. What I saw was disturbing. It was supposed to be a ''reality" TV for a bunch new recruits who wanted to work in a gun store. I kid you not. What I saw was just recruit after recruit being given weapons which were too large to be considered for home defense. They were given the suitable ammunitions and were instructed to empty them into a firing range on some plastic canisters with colored liquids. The finale was the most pointless. The entire assembly of recruits and their instructors spent nearly a minute unloading on more canisters, expanding so much ammunition that would be considered careless.. It was nothing short of 'gun porn'. I was surprised that I saw that on Discovery. It was a pointless waste of ammunition and a pointless waste of TV time masquerading as entertainment. Worst of all, it was a pointless waste of my time and I am ashamed to say that I did not pull myself away from it until the end of the program.
Home: As with most things we did with the boys at this stage, we suggested, we asked, we encouraged, but we never forced, which would have proved counter productive. However, with the boys joining the nursery in September, it was time for potty training. With the beautiful weather, the boys were spending most of the time out in the garden, it was an ideal time to rid the nappies. The boys obviously saw the exercise in a different light. They were not that interested in the potties (yes, they each had one), but the actual task of peeing. It was lucky that they spent so much of the time in the garden, otherwise the mess would have been indoors rather than in the paddling pool or the grass... We needed to find another way to encourage them.
Home: While we were still in the UK, the week prior to us leaving for France, the weather was beginning to turn warm. It was getting to the point that I started wearing shorts for my commute and then change when I get to work. The heat wave was in full swing when we were in France and how glorious it was having spent more than six months suffering with the horrible weather during the winter. Now the sun was and whole atmosphere improved. The heat wave did not subside after my return to the UK. Daytime temperature continued to get close to or even breaching 30C for over a week. Wow!! We have not enjoyed weather like this since the summer when we moved into our house, that was 2006. While I was reveling in the heat, our back garden was suffering as the lawn was effectively scorched.
Home: Owing to the limited number of vacations available annually, the stay was limited to the 'long' weekend. The fact that I only had two full days (we were on the road before lunch on Friday and I spent the Monday sitting in trains) with the Ruler_of_spike and the boys, but ended up using two days of holidays, meant it was not the most 'cost effective', in terms of holidays taken. In any case it was great to spend time with my family. The weather was beautiful and sunny every day I was there. It was impossible to tear myself from the Ruler_of_spike and the boys. On the other hand, it was even more difficult for the Ruler_of_spike - she was looking after the boys on her own for nearly 1 month until my block annual leave.
Home: After the scare we had on our way to Portsmouth, the remainder of the trip from St. Malo to south Brittany passed without further 'excitements'. The boys were so excited that they were out of the car as soon as it stopped. They have been looking forward to this pretty much since returning to the UK at the end of the last trip. Needless to say, they settled down in no time. The Ruler_of_spike did some quick shopping to tie us over, and after unloading the car and removing the roof box, it was time to relax a little. However, there was little to get too relaxed - there was plenty to do as parents of any young children will testify.
Home: I managed to leave work early on the day we were traveling. We managed to pack everything we needed and all the people in the car, and lock up the house in good time. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of the rush hour. We decided to get on the motorway as soon as possible and void the towns as much as possible. Everything was going fine until we got on to the motorway. We were stuck in a tailback which stretched out to miles and the motorway signs was informing us that there were problems on the road need to get on to get to the ferry port. At one point we covered 2 kilometers in 45 minutes. We were getting worried that we would miss the ferry. All kinds of horrible, and expensive, permutations would result from that. We finally made it to the junction for the road to Portsmouth, but the signs were still saying no connection to the south bound side of the road. My thoughts were that as long as we could get on the right road, it did not matter if we were going the wrong way, it was just a case of turning the car around when the opportunity arose. Then, as we were driving along, it suddenly donned on us that there was nothing wrong with the connection. In fact, the road was clear and traffic was light. The messages on the motorway was wrong and we were on our way. We checked the time and made our way to the ferry port. We were fine!
Home: It was approaching our ferry crossing to France and I mounted the roof box to the car one evening after the boys have gone to bed in preparation for the trip. As a sign of how much the boys were looking forward to go to Brittany, when they saw the roof box mounted on top of the car the next morning when they said goodbye to me as I left for work, they both shouted out 'Baden' - the name of the village where we stayed. They were ready to go! Unfortunately, it was not time yet...
Home: Since our guest has been in London a few times on her visit last year, we tried something different. At the same time, we were trying to avoid going into central London, so we decided on Hampton Court Palace. I went there years ago, but it was always good to return to places like that as there was always more to discover. After parking our car and gaining entrance, we got the boys some audio guides, which they loved and spent much of the time being entertained by the voice of the tour guide. The Ruler_of_spike has very thoughtfully packed a picnic, so we had lunch amongst the trees of Henry VIII's old backyard. We then tackled that Hampton Court Maze before returning back the main palace buildings. We visited Henry VIII's rooms, in one of which Master Chill managed to set off the alarm as he tried out sit on the throne. The boys had a great deal of fun in the palace.
Home: Our schedule was stacking up and we were getting busy. One of the boys' playmates was having a birthday party. That was a new experience for me. We have been invited to children's birthday parties before but, for one reason or another, I did not believe I have attended one before. It was always great to go and visit other people's homes. The boys were in their element - zooming around the place, trying out the toys, checking out trampoline. As time passed, it was time to get some food and the boys ate everything that was on offer. They stole the show.
Home: Just as one guest has left, I was off to pick up another. This time was the daughter of another one of the Ruler_of_spike's friends. She was here last year prior to us leaving for France, so it was a pleasure to welcome her back. Unfortunately I was held up on my way back home owing to delays on the London Underground. To make up time, I had to drive at the speed limit. After my "close encounter" with the Hampshire Constabulary, I was really watching my speed along the way. Thankfully, the traffic was very agreeable and our friend's daughter did not have to wait around for long.