Saturday, 19 August 2017

Family reunion

Hannah has arrived!  Thank goodness.  I can now take a break from all that park-going, book-reading, nursery-rhyme-singing, etc. that parents have to do...whenever they can't delegate such responsibilities to grandparents or aunts.

Hannah claims to have missed us terribly although her descriptions of massages, lunches out with friends, and the exit row seat she got on the flight tell a different story.  Her brother John even drove down to Heathrow to pick her up!  That's love.

Now we're together in Biggleswade and enjoying the wonderful British summer, when sometimes it doesn't rain for a whole morning!  Pete and his cousin Isobel are almost identical in age, and everything else.  Most of the time they tell us they're Batman and Batdog, and yesterday they got married.  So cute and socially progressive!  Maybe.

The family's asking more and more questions about whether John and Hannah are actually identical twins.

A practical demonstration of moments of force, or \mu _{n}=\int r^{n}\,\rho (r)\,dr as those of us with a theology degree say.

Pete has learned well from his Dad that if you make simple tasks look more difficult it adds a certain element of epicness.

Sam, Isobel and Pete: related by blood, excitable silliness, and an ability to eat their bodyweight at each meal.

...and a love of spying on the neighbours.

...and an obsession with touch screens.

...and a taste for babyccinos.

Hannah is called into service immediately.

More epic climbing.

John got some indoor fireworks for our entertainment ("they're safe - they're from China!")  Isobel knows her father, hence the worried expression.

What could possibly go wrong?

Disaster averted, and time for the obligatory family bath photos.  It all got a bit crowded when John, Laura, Hannah and I jumped in too...

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Carry on my wayward son

Being an incredibly altruistic individual, today I not only repainted my parents' front door (well, half-repainted; you shouldn't rush these things) but also allowed my Mum and sister to entertain Pete all afternoon!

This is actually a pattern of generous behaviour from me, which has included lending my son to several people as we make our way around the country.  Following a quick trip to his other grandparents and his Weymouth cousins we headed to Wales to see more cousins, cows, sheep, and dragons.  It's always nice visiting farming relatives - you know someone will be at home, and you know food will be readily available.  I've managed to defer Texan obesity so far but I was powerless in the face of Welsh cuisine.

Now we're back in the West Country, where I met up with school friend Tony who I haven't seen in...oh...only 25 years.  And there's the small matter of my selfless door painting.  Time was when doing such a job around here would have earned me a fiver, or maybe even a new Lego kit.  Now I do it purely for love.  Although, come to think of it, there are some very cool new Lego kits available...

Well, you can't drive across Somerset without popping into a dairy and picking up some award-winning unpasteurised cheddar, can you?

Pete with my Goddaughter Charity, whose childcare prowess (learned from me, naturally) means she's guaranteed summer employment in Houston anytime.

Em vs. the aforementioned cheese.  There was only one winner.

A quick stop in Bristol en route to Wales, and a coffee.

Em's a Bristolean now, as is her childhood Frome friend Kerry, and this is Kerry's son Arlan with Pete, because cuteness!!

Down the M4 to Cardiff to meet Pete's cousin Kitty, daughter of my cousin Helen.  So second cousin?  Once-removed?  When you're part of a Welsh family anyone older than you is an aunt/uncle, younger is a nephew/niece, and the same age is a cousin.

And finally in Haverfordwest, watching Usain Bolt's last race, which was far less exciting than us arriving.

Doing my best farmer impression with new niece Pippa.

I'm concentrating hard, and Pippa is unimpressed, because this is The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Welsh!  (Y Lindysyn Llwglyd Iawn).

OK, time for some real farming.

Putting out feed for the Texel rams with Uncle Andrew.

Hosing down the dairy after milking the Holsteins.

We attended a cricket tournament where my cousin Liz was playing (the main controversy was the bar running out of Prosecco before play even began).

My Uncle Bill is fond of a cigar when tending his animals.  I brought him a special Texas-sized one.  It took him ten minutes to light it.

With Aunty Liz - the real power on the farm.

New (currently unnamed) kitten!

Emily regrets working with children and animals.

An unconvinced passenger.

We had a quick trip to the local metropolis of Carmarthen to meet more cousins and also Neil, the vicar who married me and Hannah a long time ago.  Emily won two quid on the scratchies!

Aaaannnddd back to Frome.  Where Grandpa needed a long nap after football practice.

Out at Nunney castle.

Checking for marauders.

And that front door I may have mentioned.  Only the primer.  I'll do the top coat tomorrow...or sometime.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Long way home

Some time ago, when we lived in Washington DC and life seemed stable, we booked tickets back to the UK.  Then Hannah found a job she fancied and we were suddenly in Houston.  Now the flight dates have come around and the cheapest connecting route took us through New Orleans via a night with the Muckers to Baltimore and thence to London.  Hannah should be here sometime next week (that was planned - we didn't lose her on the way).

As tradition dictates, Ellen and Meg picked us up and my mother managed to wait an hour of her Grandson being in the country before arriving and bringing us back to the soft green fields of Somerset.  As tradition also dictates, we've already caught up with many friends and eaten plenty of nice meals in the three days so far.  And I thought Texas would be bad for my waistline...

Getting ready to sleep on the overnight flight to London...which didn't help as Pete ate dinner, watched several films, and had about two hours' sleep in 36.

"I don't want anyone to panic," said the stewardess, "but is there anyone on board who can land a plane?!"

Very pleased to see Meg in Heathrow.

Back in Frome, in Grandpa's shed, with Godfather Mat.

With Godmother Emily and Greatgodmother Julia.

Playdate with Ruth and Bethan in Bath.  "Can I live with them?" asked Pete afterwards.  Of course!

My sister got in some delicacies for me.

And some more.

How his Grandmother sees him.

Then on Wednesday I went into London with Mat and met Sharon!  We were all at Durham together years ago?!  No!!

Meanwhile, in Somerset.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Cowboys and artisans

Although I'm sure I could have done it quicker and cheaper myself, I'm pleased to report that our kitchen is now habitable again!  It was all a lot easier than I anticipated - it's amazing how quickly the scouting skills returned once I began cooking on a camping stove again.  But after a dusty few weeks we now have tiles on the floor, cupboards on the walls, and a working fridge.  Paradise, basically.

It was a mixed bunch of men (all men, apart from project manager Regina) who processed through our door, some skilled artisans and some seemingly...less than skilled.  Being British we put a few things right ourselves rather than causing a fuss - the greatest British crime!  In the end I opted to fit our under cabinet lighting myself and Hannah was graceful enough to let me.  Voltage is only 110 here anyway, so it's half as dangerous as doing it in the UK.  I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.

Of course, I'm expected to cook things and make coffee for Hannah again, something cleverly avoided with the excuse "but we don't have a kitchen!"  Now that we do, Hello! Magazine asked if they could come in for a photoshoot...

Hannah and David invite you into their beautiful new kitchen that they spent literally dollars on.

Houseproud Hannah understands the importance of keeping her new kitchen clean and tidy!

David enjoys cooking family meals in small saucepans.  He's wearing clothes that mostly come from thrift stores.

An intimate moment as David instructs Hannah on how to use his espresso machine in their newly redesigned coffee bar.