Saturday, 26 August 2017

Voluntary evacuation

A massive tropical storm is heading straight for us!  Or it would be if we weren't in England.  I'm not sure I feel more powerless in the face of nature from 4000 miles away, or whether I'm just relieved I won't be home when the huge tree in our neighbour's back garden flattens our flooded house.  Still, we'll find out whether our home - or, indeed, Houston itself - is there when we return in a week.

Meanwhile we've been enjoying the more mellow natural wonders of Britain, including quite a lot of sunshine!  Our nephews and nieces took us paddle-boarding around Weymouth, and while they wore wetsuits (this is still an English summer) some actual swimming and ice cream eating did occur.

There was no crime reported in Bedfordshire during our entire stay.

Back in Somerset Hannah partook in some wassailing, where trees are beaten/shot/sung at to remove evil.  It's a West Country thing.  Sadly, she wasn't very successful at dislodging some very tenacious spirits.

Down to Weymouth, and a trip to the beach involving five children, two cars, paddleboards, an inflatable unicorn...

All worth it when we got there.

Oliver: once a baby, now a teenager.

Hannah somehow gets Jacob to give her a personal tour of Weymouth harbour.

Grandma, who cannot be away from her Grandson for more than 36 hours without severe withdrawal setting in, came to join us.

Katharine made a brew - she's done this before.

A snapshot of the chaos.

Danger to marine traffic.


How do you feed this lot?  With fish and chips!

Next day, and more feeding.

A spectacular work of nature.

Two spectacular works of nature.

Chips off the old block.

Swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.

I took my nephew for a strenuous hike along Chesil Beach to show that his old uncle still had the constitution and tenacity of a 15-yr-old.  When it immediately became clear I no longer have the constitution and tenacity of a 15-yr-old I convinced him to find the nearest coffee shop.

Pete takes his Grandad for a few quid after our return to Blandford.

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.