threekidsintow

O'Sullivan family travels and beyond


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Rain, rain go away…

Missing: big yellow ball of heat.  Last seen in the sky some weeks ago.  Reward if returned before the end of the school holidays.

Well, at times the weather certainly doesn’t feel like August, but we are still trying to be out and about as much as possible. We have had to find some rainy day activities too, such as arts and crafts as well as making lavender bags, which involved decorating circles of material cut from an old t-shirt.

And of course, a great thing to do on a rainy day is making cakes…. the victoria sponge was delicious guys!

Aoife organised a great Karaoke night for the whole family. Good job the weather has been so cool so we could keep the windows closed and not disturb the neighbours with our racket!  We had our very own X-Factor and showed very groovy moves. Simon Cowell is probably heartbroken that he missed hearing such a mixture of hits from Taylor Swift, Little Mix, Tony Christie and surprising choice from Orla, Paul McCartney. Great fun and lots of giggles ensued.

We’re in the mood for music as Broadstairs’ Annual Folk Week has begun. Hooray! As the week went on, the sun has come out so we’ve dug out the flower garlands and the festival hat and are ready to join the merriment.  So far Seamus has enjoyed Wanda the Mermaid at the bandstand and we’re looking forward to a few visits to the Hobby Horse club as the week progresses.

Folk Week is now in its 52nd year and the festival has changed over the years from being an event for a core of enthusiasts of traditional folk music into an event that still attracts that audience but also involves the whole town. The local shops are all sporting the yellow and black colours to help everyone get into the spirit. There is live music in marquees in the park, church and community halls, cafes and bars and the place is buzzing.  In 2012, Kent County Council carried out an independent survey of the Economic Benefit of Festivals in East Kent. Folk Week had by far the most significant impact with an estimated £2.3 million into the local economy…. and that’s not just on beer!

The highlight for me is always the parade. I love watching the Morris Dancers as the walk through the town. Though the kids are still not too sure about Clarence the Dragon, this year have started to love the snappy Hooden Horses and Seamus got to stroke Stanley, the hobby-horse.

 

Another parade we were fortunate enough to see was Margate Pride. The atmosphere and the colours were great. It is so nice to see positive events and celebrations and to support them. As Margate Pride’s vision reminds us, “Pride celebrations in the UK are especially important this summer, the LGBT community has seen a rise in hate crimes against them in the last year, not just in the UK but worldwide, notably the murder of 49 people in Orlando earlier this summer; in Margate we wanted to incorporate the ever growing arts community in our fantastic, resurgent seaside town, not only reaching out to the existing LGBT community, but also the wider community through events across the town in the week leading up to the event, encouraging liberation throughout the East Kent Coast and beyond…’ There’s not much to add to that other than we had a lovely time.

We have taken full advantage of the sunny weather and enjoyed a lovely walk along the coast, popped into the Turner Gallery as well as stopped for some lovely pizza at GB Pizza. Costa del Margate.

Quieter events this week have included a quick trip to see the lizards at Westwood Dino Park …

…where we went whilst Daddy and Eoin returned from the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival in London. They had a great night, catching up with friends and sampling different brews. Cheers! Hic!

Whilst Aoife played rugby on the beach with her team, Seamus and Orla took part in the Seashore Safari organised by Thanet Coast Project. Exploring through the rock pools at Joss Bay, they found a periwinkle, hermit crabs, topshells, whelks and lots of different seaweeds. Some other safari searchers found some star fish and a crab. The guides were so helpful explaining the finds and encouraging us to put back everything we found. Orla loved ticking the list, and relegating Seamus to net carrier whenever she could. He loved walking over the slippery rocks.  There were families, individuals and couples taking part and although you can book in advance, you can also just turn up on the day. The Seashore Safaris have been taking place at all of Thanet’s beaches. Great fun and right on our doorstep!

So as Sunday afternoon draws on, the family movie is selected and the wind down begins, we realise that’s another busy week of the school holidays done – 3 down, 3 to go!


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Keep calm and carry on – surviving the school holidays week 2

We had a lovely treat when we were met by dinosaurs on the way to the cinema. The shopping mall at Westwood Cross had a pop up dinosaur park. Seamus didn’t know which one to visit first! What a welcome surprise when you’re passing Primark. Just hope they are still there when we do the dreaded school uniform shopping!

We had gone to Westwood Cross to use our Sainbury’s Nectar Points offer at the cinema. £5 worth of points gets 2 tickets, which is brilliant value. Such an appropriate offer to have on during the summer holidays – brilliant timing! Thank you #Sainsburys. After diving in to Wilkos for their bargain half price pick and mix, the unanimous decision was to see Captain Underpants, which (thankfully) was extremely funny for parents too.  We’re going to use more of our Sainbury’s points to exchange for tickets to see the Emoji movie later, and Ian is going to see Dunkirk with Eoin.

I had to attend a course for my new job so was away for two nights – first time husband and child free for over ten years. Boy, was it strange! Especially ordering food without having to sort out everyone else’s choices first. I found a brilliant noodle place which had meat free beef so was in veggie heaven, more so because I didn’t have to share or swap with someone who regretted their choice.  I was in Salisbury, so spent a little time pottering around the cathedral on my first evening (too much homework and rain on the second night!) I took Cheese string, so he can add another place to his blog page too. (p.s. in case you are wondering, I passed my course – hooray!)

While I was away, Ian took over the mantle of childcare. He took the kids to some lovely events (I left a list!)

They had a great time at National Play Day event in Ellington Park, meeting the farm animals, Creepy Claws and having a bash at boxing. It is an annual event which is free and I believe it was very well attended (judging by hubby’s moans about the queues)

Quieter but just as much fun was the MENCAP festival in Margate. With stalls and activities, the event was really well organised and seemed a lot of fun. Orla is still talking about the football and the lovely man who helped with circus skills. The festival continued into the night for adults with a learning difficulty/disability with music, a bar and more. So great to see something so positive and totally inclusive.

I got back from Salisbury just in time for the fantastic Broadstairs summer fireworks, which had been moved from its traditional Wednesday to the Thursday due to the weather. One of my favourite live bands were playing (80s music Hyperactive) and the fireworks at 9:45 were spectacular. The kids had a fab time, although Aoife was a little embarrassed due to her parents dancing. Brilliant evening – so glad I got back in time!

Yep, the weather has been a bit disappointing – wet and miserable a lot of the time, which always makes things a bit harder. On the plus side, the veggies are growing and the honesty box is going well with people taking our fresh fruit and vegetables at the weekends when we put it out.

One of the language schools, KSE, held a BBQ for host families. We had a lovely time, the kids really loved the swimming pool and the bouncy castle. Thank you Kent School of English. We have had only a brief few days without students in the past few months but were ready to collect our newest arrivals later that same evening. We’ll be busy with back to back students for the next few months or so and always hope they will have a really great time and enjoy their stay.

The rubbish weather has meant more trips to the library and movie watching at home than expected, but in between the rainy days, we’ve still tried to pop to the park when we can. We went to the beach to spend an evening with some lovely friends (an Italian family who return every year with students) Here’s hoping the weather is better for their visit next year.

With Broadstairs Folk Week around the corner, I have my fingers crossed that the sunshine will return soon.

Well, the school holidays are well and truly underway and I imagine the time will fly by….however,  I’m stocking up on arts and craft stuff incase the wet and miserable weather is here to stay. We can usually find fun things to do at home but the holidays can be long so it’s good to have a few ideas ready. The kids want to re-visit slime making with ‘new and improved’ recipes and ‘honest mum’ promises to help tidy afterwards. After being left with the clear up of the last session, I remain a little skeptical to say the least.

One kid has a school friend coming round for the day, another is planning a couple of play dates too and Seamus is reminding us all that it will soon be his birthday when school starts (note to self: eeek! best start planning something) so one thing’s for sure, it’s still going to be busy.

 


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Summer lovin’

What a way to start the school holidays …. we were spoiled for choice of things to do the first weekend.

Salsa by the Sea at Broadstairs Bandstand was great fun. After a reluctant start, the girls got up to boogie but Seamus was showing his groovy moves right from the beginning! Lovely to see so many people taking part and enjoying the music.

We topped this off with a visit to the Victorian Fayre (not sure how the 1950s classic cars fit in but they were lovely nevertheless) The Pearly Kings and Queens were out in force raising money for some fabulous charities and we had a great time chatting to them.

At home, after sharing veg with our neighbours and eating much more than our 5 a day, we set up a little honesty box for passers-by to take what they need and leave a donation if they choose. The kids have enjoyed refilling the box and checking the money. I predict big discussions ahead regarding how much goes to the farmer (daddy) for next years seeds and how the rest is split.  It is always nice to share and we hope it’s raised a smile or two – or generated plans to make an impromptu rhubarb crumble – whilst people have been out walking.

We know that we love finding fresh fruit and veg on our travels.

The summer weather took a little turn for the worse when we visited Ramsgate for the annual carnival. I suppose we’ve been spoiled with so much sunshine for such a long time.  Despite the cold, the on-off drizzle and the ridiculous amount of time it took us to come home due to all the buses being cancelled or diverted, we enjoyed the fun fair and the parade. If the steel band, the rock band, the skaters, dancers,  baton twirlers and beauty queens et al can brave the cold, so can we.

When we attended the annual Pirate Party at Broadstairs Bandstand, the weather looked as though it was going to be glum once more.  We decided to dress pirate-y and embrace the tropical theme to try an encourage the sun to return. Thankfully, the skies cleared and the rain eased just in time, so we could enjoy the wonderful event. With a fabulous West End star singing Disney hits, a terrific toddler time disco and free face painting, Thanet’s little pirates seemed to be having a blast. The free Baby Sensory session meant there were some really cute mini pirates dressed up too, some just weeks old, ahhhhh, (or should that be Arrrrrrr?!) Thank you to the fantastic Helter Skelter for providing such fun!

We are taking part in this year’s Reading Challenge, visiting our local library regularly over the summer holidays. Last year the theme was linked to Roald Dahl, this time it’s Animal Agents. The aim of the challenge is to get children to read any six books of their choice from their library during the summer holidays and thousands of families take part. I think it is a great initiative and encourages us to use the library a bit more…. although, given half a chance they tend to be drawn to the DVD section first!

We spent an afternoon decorating jam-jars to make our candle lit lanterns and went to see the Littoral Lights II, which was a wonderful twilight art installation on the remote stretch of Ramsgate Beach. At 9pm, when the sun set and the tide had reached its lowest point, artists took over the beach to create magnificent light sculptures, performance and sound installations. We enjoyed walking in between the art, the rocks, the caves and the cliffs. The girls loved holding their lanterns and the battery powered light (which soon became the favourite when the night became darker as it didn’t blow out as often as the tea-lights)  Sadly my photos don’t do it justice and we hope it returns again next year.

We returned to the beach in the daylight to take part in the epic battle with cardboardia. We prepared our own costumes from salvaged cardboard boxes, as we weren’t too sure how much extra armour they may have had. As it happens, they had spares, and Aoife was able to re-arm when hers became a bit damaged in the drizzle. En garde!  Such a giggle to see the fight – brilliant idea and lots of fun. Sadly the weather got the better of us towards the end when the rain became heavier, so rather than become soggy, we went to get some chips!

The beach is always fun, but we make sure we watch out for the sea gulls!

The Twilight Dream Marine was lovely to see, with the superb sea creature costumes parading along the harbour leading us to the main sands ….

 

…where we enjoyed the fantastic Fire Finale which looked spectacular on the beach as the night drew in. Wow! Again, my photos don’t come close to doing it justice. The fire, the lights and the performers’ energy were excellent.

So the first week of the holidays has been very, very busy. We’ve been able to do so much and enjoy the start of our school break on a budget by taking part in an array of brilliant local events. We have been fortunate to find so many things to do during the holidays. Thing is, will we be able to keep the pace?!

 

 

 

 

 


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The End of Term is Nigh …..

The kids and I loved taking part in planting of the Listening Wall in Margate, a truly beautiful idea where people can share their thoughts or worries without any judgement, just enjoy the flowers or help themselves to some gorgeous herbs. It will grow and grow over the summer and look even more wonderful.  The kids were super stars, working so hard and taking pride in doing a good job. We encouraged passers-by to place a plant and even received a lovely ice lolly from a passing friend who saw us working in the sun.  Seamus varied between planting and collecting the empty pots to stack and earned the nickname ‘Pot Man’ responding to everyone’s requests for help , Orla was extremely organised and helpful and Aoife really did work her socks off.  I am so proud of them helping to make something for the wider community to enjoy. Hats off to Rachel of the King Street Project, the lady behind the idea and who did all of the immense preparation. Thank you for letting us be part of something so great.

Margate in the sunshine can be wonderful.  We enjoy walking around the quirky streets and along the sea front.  Seamus especially loves to chase a seagull or two, thankfully we stopped him almost directing one into a little shop just in time!

We visited Ramsgate for the first time in a while to see the Battles for Victory Event.  Ellington Park was packed with vehicles, people in costumes, historical re-enactment scenes and lots for people enjoying the music and the sights.  The swing bands were great, as was the John Miller (nephew of Glenn) Orchestra. The park was buzzing with people, the sun was shining – what a lovely day.

The heat got to us a bit (we’d be no good enlisting with the Desert Rats) so we enjoyed any opportunity for shade when we could.

Walking back through Ramsgate Town, we took time to enjoy the Bee Murals. It is so nice to see art trying to make the most of unused and unloved sections of town. Here we are at the top of the High Street….

Even the spots like the subway tunnel to Leopold Street hold some hidden gems …

And it’s always nice to pop into Gerry’s Coffee and Art House every now and then …

Yet more treats for us when we received a lovely thank you gift from a friend who used our Harry Potter props for a family wedding. The sweeties were a real hit – especially the Golden Snitches made from Ferrero Rocher and the yummy chocolate frogs. The kids enjoyed eating them during a movie night at home. Sadly they didn’t agree to watch Harry Potter, so it was The Smurfs… again! Our friend used our papier-mache sorting hat as the seat placement display, surrounding it with wands labelled with guests’ names and their table setting (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw etc.) Wonderful idea for a Harry Potter Wedding. What a great theme!

 

Not quite the grounds of Hogwarts, but in our lovely St Peter’s, Seamus took advantage of a little trip to the Co-op to spend a good while ‘roly-poly’ing down the nearby hill. This is what popping to the shops should be like although it does make nipping out for some milk more than a five-minute task.

He’s had a wonderful time recently, especially at nursery. The best bit was the Pirate Party! One of the parents kindly made a swag bag for each of the class mates (or should that be ship mates!), personalised them and filled them with pirate goodies. The class celebrated in style, with all the kids dressing up and the teachers embracing the day too with inflatable parrots, drawn on beards and lots of yo-ho-ho’ing. I think he will miss the nursery so much when he moves to ‘big school’ in September…. I know I will 😦

 

Equally busy, Orla rocked at the school music concert. She performed with the choir and also played the ukulele. Thankfully she didn’t inherit my singing voice. It was lovely to see so many kids taking part and some really talented musicians.  Well done Orla, you were brilliant!

Aoife has been incredibly busy with drama. Her year group performed a movement piece to Abba’s Slipping Through My Fingers (this close to the end of the school year, the parents are emotional enough without the weepy playlist to set us off!)  However, there was always her performance in Olivia! to make me smile. She was a big Opera lady and embraced the homemade costume with such confidence. She was fantastic in the role and I was so proud of all who took part! I am still waiting for my Blue Peter badge to arrive after rising to yet another home-made wacky costume challenge though!

So it’s time to say goodbye to another school year. It’s been amazing and fantastic for each of them – jam-packed with learning and fun.  Their end of year school reports were wonderful, a real pleasure to read and I have bought tissues in the event the last day becomes a little sad (for me more than them, most likely). I feel very fortunate and just hope the next school year will be equally lovely for them all.

It’s been a truly tiring year! Some of us are really ready for the break…… bring on the summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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More fun in the sun

Most people would enjoy a lovely lie in at the weekend, but having students who need breakfast and packed lunches for the trips to London, combined with children who wake at the crack of dawn means an early start – Saturday or not!

One such Saturday, the girls were both eager to try their best at Upton’s Inter Primary School Cross Country at the morning race. Thankfully the weather was a little cooler than previous days, meaning the 1km run was more manageable than expected.

The sporty theme continued with school and nursery sports days. Orla had a fabulous time, completing circuits with her class group and then individual races, resulting in when her class being the overall year group winners.

The rain held off enough for us to enjoy Aoife’s sports day later that week. She took part in the exhausting mat flipping race and the skipping race, and her class group were the overall Year 5 winners! And Seamus, who not only took part in the siblings’ race at both his sisters’ event, got a Sports Day of his own, with a non-competative nursery sporty circuit. Thankfully both Ian and I managed to escape the parents’ race at all events this year … my excuse – I am still recovering from last year!

Although not natural athlete myself, I do still like to help out with community events, so I was one of the coaches from the local rugby club volunteering my time to run some taster sessions at local primary school. After the school visit, I learned the equation: Caroline + shorts + 2(rugby socks) = a red sunburn stripe on each leg! Sun cream for the following week’s taster day was applied after session!

However, one of the most striking images of sport has to be the iconic scene from Chariots of Fire. Seamus and I went to see the Mayor’s unveiling of the blue plaque in Broadstairs. Seamus got to hold the 1948 Olympic torch and also took part in the beach run. For full effect, look at the next photos whilst listening to Vangelis’ soundtrack, ha ha.

 

Whilst Aoife was in Dreamland rolling skating at a friend’s birthday party, Seamus, Orla and myself went to the Turner Contemporary. We looked at the exhibits but were also able to take part in a workshop. We left the ‘masterpieces’ they both made there, so the can both now say they have work displayed in the Turner Gallery, ha ha! The weekend event workshops are great and made the visit a bit more memorable for the kids.

A week later we returned to take part in the Artgate event, which marked the first day of the Margate Festival. We attended on of the four separate pop up art sessions, then joined the Rock Choir to sing our way through Margate town centre, along the sea front to all meet at the Turner Contemporary for the Big Sing and refreshments.

   

Margate is looking lovely this time of year, and each time we have enjoyed walking along the seafront or having a little picnic on the grass near the Clock Tower. When the weather is this good, it is a shame to be inside!

 

We love seeing the unusual and the bizarre …

Art of a different nature, Aoife’s school performance of Wind in the Willows was incredibly well done. All of the kids who took part were great. She has another play later this month, which we are looking forward to watching. They have worked so hard this term and their effort has really paid off. Really proud.

School has been amazing this term, topped off with the school fayre. Both girls chose to run stalls – Orla with a Treasure Map game and Aoife setting up a craft stall where people could decorate their own bookmarks. In an hour, they raised over £21 for the school, not bad going when they priced at 20p or less.

They did enjoy other aspects of the fayre too….

Learning doesn’t just take place in school though. To celebrate International Women in Engineering Day we took part in a fantastic event delivered by Discovery Planet, with a wind turbine focus. The kids learned how electricity was generated and all about energy. They were tasked to design and make a wind turbine to be tested. Great hands on experiments, lots of encouragement and I hope, good inspiration for all three of them to consider engineering, science or mathematics as career choices.

The village fayres and fetes are coming thick and fast. We visited St Andrew’s in Reading Street and bought brownies and cupcakes. Sadly no success on the tombolas though.

We missed the St Peters fayre though as we lent our voices to the anti-austerity demonstration. Not usually overly political, but I am quite saddened of the thought of further cuts to schools and health in particular.  We joined the small but sweet gathering in Broadstairs, rather than the thousands in London.  Here’s hoping our little voices may still be heard.

Still, self sufficiency is getting closer.  Aoife distributed our excess courgettes, patty pans and potatoes amongst all of the neighbours, which were gratefully accepted and so lovely to see each kid taking a turn to visit a house. We do need to work on the wheelbarrow control a bit though.  Green fingers at the ready, we are off to Margate again tomorrow to help volunteer to make this year’s Listening Wall. We saw it last year and are so excited to be able to contribute to something in the area and actively take part in making something to be enjoyed. Be sure to see it when it’s complete.


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June is bustin’ out all over!

Sunshine, then cold blustery storms, then prolonged heatwave … honestly, we can wear clothes for every season in the same month!

June is a busy time for us – birthdays, Father’s Day – so we are still as hectic as ever. Ian’s birthday was first. We bought him a samovar, a much smaller and less elaborate (for that read ‘cheaper’) version of those we saw on the Trans Siberian Railway last year. Actually, truth be told we are not even sure if it is Russian. The seller researched a bit more after we bought it and now thinks it was used in the war, possibly in Anderson shelters during air raids. Whatever its history, we just hope it makes a good brew at the allotment. We also chose a lovely selection of local beers from The Bottleneck in Broadstairs, so if the tea is not flowing, no doubt the Gadds, the Romney Porter or the Whitstable Ale will be.

Father’s Day was equally fruitful, with presents of Bamberg Rauchbier from the little ones and tickets to the British Beer festival from Eoin … I am beginning to see a theme here. He also got some lovely homemade cards and some local honey, another of his favourites.

This month Ian also went to spend time with a friend in London, visiting London Bridge and Borough Market where the terrible attacks happened very recently. We feel it is important to carry on positively at these times. However, more sad news followed, with London experiencing a terrible tower block fire. It is unimaginable to lose everything so quickly. The month also saw a horrific attack outside a Mosque as people were returning from prayer. Truly saddening times.

Ian enjoyed being back in London, as did Seamus, who was well and truly spoiled, although obviously it was a tiring journey.

Speaking of being spoiled, Orla enjoyed quite a few celebrations for her birthday, opening lots of presents and then enjoying a trip to the cinema and a meal with school friends and family the following day. We went to see Beauty and The Beast, which everyone agreed was great. I don’t think anyone noticed me crying at the end.

As a family we loved the annual Le Weekend celebration in Sandwich. The town embraced all things French, so there was a real French Market with visiting French stall holders selling their local produce and wares such as bread, cheese, tartiflette or Jacques Tati movies, alongside live music and entertainment. We loved the Can Can dancers (who hailed from Canterbury!) and the folk bands. Oo la la! The town was decorated in tricolor bunting and there were stalls and many visitors everywhere. It is so nice to see such vibrant activities and something where everyone mingles and soaks in the atmosphere. Vive la Sandwich!

Whilst there, visited the (very) small Guildhall Museum where Seamus enjoyed dressing as a knight and the girls answered an activity sheet.

Closer to home, we saw the wonderful St Peter’s Village Tour when we walked to our local Co-op. Let’s face it, not everyone gets to see Queen Victoria when they pop to the shops for some milk. Seamus loved the guys in the stocks and was invited to throw knitted vegetables at them as their punishment. It seems the naughty step is not such a recent invention.

With Dickens’ Week well under way, Seamus and I took advantage of a nursery inset day and managed to join the Victorian Bathers as we strolled along Viking Bay.  It was hilarious. Thank you for making us feel so welcome and for letting us take part in the fantastic Dickens Festival celebrations.

 

The festivities last throughout a week in June every year.  It’s wonderful to see costumed characters promenading around the town and a host of great events.

 

This month, we were fortunate to be invited to a friend’s graduation ceremony at Beech Grove, a Bruderhof community of 250 people. It was wonderful to hear the speeches given to and by the graduating students and nice to spend time with everyone after the ceremony. Although the community welcomes visitors with regular open days and meal invitations, this was a more private occasion (hence respectfully I wouldn’t wish to take or post any photographs) and it was an honour to see our friend at such a pivotal moment. The open days are so interesting and the community members have always made us feel welcome. Their values are strong, their ethos to help others is shown all they do (we spoke with people who had recently worked with refugees in Lesbos) and as a family, I think we take something from every visit.

Our family took time to support the #greatgettogether a weekend of community events in memory of Jo Cox MP. We went to a get together at St James’ in Margate and met people from the local area, some of whom originated from Kansas, Germany and London. Homemade cakes, tea and a chance to meet new folks…. love it! I really hope the Great Get Together is repeated in years to come – such a lovely idea from such a terrible tragedy. It reminds you how wonderful it is when communities come together.

 

So with a house full of lovely language students every week, and the final school term well underway,it’s as busy as ever. We have been lucky to enjoy fabulous walks, (cycle and scoot) to school in glorious sunshine…

… sometimes stopping to feed the donkeys or visit the horses on the journey home. How great is that! Let’s hope the good weather continues for the up and coming sports days,an inter schools’ race tomorrow and other events we have planned over the coming days and weeks.

 

 

 

 


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Half term is here again

Wow, the year is whizzing by. Half term arrived again. It started in typical fashion – with a storm, heavy rain and thunder and lightning, but that cleared after about 30 minutes to bring glorious sunshine and scorching temperatures. Seamus loved splashing and singing in the rain while it lasted, even if he was still in his pyjamas!

So when the blue skies returned and the temperature soared, we were needed at the allotment. We answered Ian’s call in style, marching into the allotment singing Hi-Ho, like the seven dwarfs going to work … albeit slightly fewer in number.  It was all hands on deck to help cover Ian’s poly-tunnel. It’s so large we are considering naming it The O’Sullivan O2! Once the doors are on, it will be great for the tomatoes. I felt like I lost a few pounds being inside it as we fixed the plastic, it was unbearably sauna-like in there! To say Ian’s happy that it is one step closer to completion would be an understatement.

But the holidays are not all work, work, work.  Italy may have the fantastic Mille Miglia, but as we are UK based, we headed to Margate to see super scooters. Last year we had to wear woolly hats and scarves but this year it was sun-cream, t-shirts and shorts. Viva la Vespa!

We have been joined by another child this half term, so the three kids in tow blog needs to be temporarily renamed and renumbered to four (not counting our langauge students who live with us each week).  I took all four kids to enjoy the wonderful music at Broadstairs Bandstand. This Sunday, the band was Goosebumps, who were really good. The bandstand is a perfect spot for chilling with an ice lolly or cup of tea. We often go with a home made picnic. We are so fortunate to have a choice of lovely places and free events to take everyone. Our half term ‘staycation’ is well and truly within budget so far.

Everything is better is cake though. We popped in to support The Four Candles (one of the local micropubs) charity cake sale and ate them at the St Peter’s Dickens Mosaic opposite. It is Britain’s smallest brewpub, so it was quite a squeeze to get in to choose what we were going to buy and sitting at the mosaic gave us much more elbow room. The Victoria sponge got the biggest thumbs up, but my vote went to the chocolate beetroot cake, which was yummier than it sounds. We hope they managed to raise a good amount for the fantastic Macmillan charity.

The mosaic is lovely, depicting characters such as Oliver Twist, Ebeneezer Scrooge and Mr Bumble. There is even Bullseye, Bill Sykes’ dog.  Soon it will be Broadstairs’ Dickens Week, so we will be surrounded by Dickens characters and Victorian costumes around the town non stop, so this was a good way to get us in the mood.

This bank holiday Monday, we spent time in Ramsgate to see the Spring Spectacular which featured bi-plane aerobatics and a display from a Mark 16 Hurricane and the “Spirit of Kent” Spitfire. Naturally, the kids only had eyes for the fun fair, which was extremely loud and more than just a bit grubby – especially in the kiddies fun house. It was quite tricky to see the cycle show due to the number of people crowded round, so sadly we missed most of the stunts and tricks as I couldn’t get the kids near enough to see very much.  All in all, what should have been a lovely day out, was much more expensive than planned (I didn’t know the fun fair was going to be there) and although I enjoyed them, the attractions/displays we went especially to see left the kids a bit underwhelmed and moany… always a good recipe for the bus ride home.

Photo taken by Ed Lewis

However, it was particularly lovely to walk back via the harbour, which looked wonderful. We took time to pop into the Sailors Church too. The Sailors’ Church and Harbour Mission was built in 1878 by Eustace Brenan. He saw the need for spiritual guidance and physical help for the men and boys who made up the crews of the sailing smacks who fished out of Ramsgate. It was dangerous, arduous work, especially for the young apprentices who were called Smack Boys. When the apprentices were ashore, they were provided with some comfort in the rooms above the church and later, in the Smack Boys Home next door. It is a small church, but quite interesting and regularly holds services inviting everyone to attend.

  

Broadstairs really looks wonderful in the summer – day trippers, language students and locals all enjoying the beach and more. I didn’t take the photo below, but it shows the promenade off in all its glory.  Soon we will have fireworks in the evening to look forward to. Always lovely, especially when they combine it with music at the bandstand during July and August.

There are some lovely things to see in Broadstairs, some little hidden gems in places too.

One way to get to know our area better was to try the Explorer’s Pack which is avaible to hire in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. #coastalexplorers. The waterproof backpack can be hired for £5 and contains activity cards and equipment to help discover the natural environment and local heritage. There are marine identifaction guides, compasses and a trail map showing where you do activities such as ‘art on the beach’, ‘seaweed and shell search’, ‘write a postcard’, ‘play hopscotch’ and learn about the weather and clouds. We learned how to make a sundial in the sand, how to spot whether the tide was in or out. Cards give information about the area and its history, encouraging kids to spot clues and make stories. Seamus loved the binoculars, Orla liked the mini microscope and net. It was a different way to get to know our beach. #coastalexplorers. We hired ours from Lillyput Minigolf, but Ramsgate and Margate packs are available from their visitor centres.

 

As all seaside towns, we have the amusement arcades. The kids love to visit and play on the 2p machines. I honestly think they like the machine which converts the change as much as the actual amusements! A few ‘lucky’ wins, a lot of 2ps inserted randomly resulting in noise and flashing lights, we were then able to trade our tickets for two key fobs and a badge! Of course, the kids were delighted and think this represents a grand haul in recognition of their skills.

The following day, we had beautiful sunshine again while we played mini golf at Lillyput Crazy Golf. The grounds looked lovely with flowers in bloom. Admittedly, there was a wee bit of cheating going on at times (I said I wouldn’t mention any names, didn’t I Seamus?!) but everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Pierremont Park has been a lovely little oasis for us, sitting under the trees for shade. It’s a perfect spot to eat our chips or sandwiches and close enough to pop to the Co-op for some refreshing ice lollies. We made a couple of trips there this half term. At lunchtimes, it fills with students from the local language schools, gathering together to chat and share pizza and giggles, but is equally used by families and those wanting to spend a few moments reading their book. I was lucky enough to pick up a book left on the seat, inside was inscribed that it was free and to be passed on … I may drop a few around town myself to keep the spirit of sharing going.

Back in the house, the first of the broadbeans have been harvested and eaten. Seamus and Orla did a good job of preparing them for dinner soon after they were picked. As you can see, the usual pose of sitting on the kitchen floor has been resumed!

May 2017

May 2014 – baby Seamus starting young

And finally, as the week draws to a close, preparation is well underway for Ian (Daddy’s) birthday. The kids have been painting the box for his gift. Best not say too much more incase he reads this! Fingers crossed, we hope he likes it. That reminds me, we need to pop to the shop to buy a few more candles!!

All in all, we have been extremely fortunate to have had such lovely weather this half term. As usual, there has been lots of things to do in Thanet for children. The countdown for school has begun as I start to put the PE kits in their bags and dig out the shoe polish. School on Monday – phew, I’ll be glad for a wee rest!