threekidsintow

O'Sullivan family travels and beyond


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Remember, remember, it’s already November ….

Well October passed by in a flash and the dark nights of November have come around all too soon.

We did manage to squeeze one last bit of Trick or Treating before the month changed and gathered an impressive haul of sweeties from the local estate where houses were decorated brilliantly. We came home to Jelly Brain for tea …. urgh!

We had a French friend visiting for a week so were busy with jaunts to Canterbury, Ramsgate, Margate, Sandwich and The White Cliffs of Dover to make sure she had an action packed week. I am not sure what she thought of Tracey Emin’s Bed when we went to the Turner Contemporary … it certainly divides opinion! The kids shared their thoughts quite loudly, right next to a tour guide and an enthusiastic coach party. Other displays are equally baffling but interesting nevertheless.

 

The month of November is synonymous with remembrance. The children have been learning about this at school and have supported by buying their poppies. This year is the 100th year and we have seen some wonderful commemorations. In Ramsgate, the waterfall was decorated with crocheted poppies and in Broadstairs, a carpet of knitted ones looked stunning. The time they must have taken to make! A wonderful display to honour the memory of so many – thank you. Sadly the ones at Ramsgate were vandalised but were able to be put back in place before Remembrance Sunday.

 

At rugby we marked the silence at our Remembrance Sunday training, and I was so proud of the Under 6s for managing the full 2 minutes and joining their much bigger counter-parts pitch side.

Events of a more upbeat nature were in full flow earlier this month on Bonfire Night, with an impressive display on Broadstairs beach. We wrapped up warm to watch them. The entire area was packed with people – a fantastic turn out for a night of music and fireworks.

 

Fun was had at the Children’s schools to mark Children in Need. Seamus had to dress in spots and had ‘walk to school’ activities all week, resulting in his Infant School raising over £370. Orla took in cakes for her school’s cake sale and paid her contribution to go to school in her pyjamas on Friday, where they raised over £1000!

We have been as busy as ever with the children’s sporting and school commitments. Aoife took part in the Primary Schools Netball competition and achieved a silver medal after losing 2-1 in the final. Well done to all the Thanet schools taking part. She is also representing the school later this month as the Basketball team have a place in the district finals. Fingers crossed.

Orla took part in an all day opera workshop at school which resulted in joining other schools for an evening performing pieces from Handel’s Semele and work they composed with professional opera singers on stage later that week. Absolutely fantastic. Thank you Garsington Opera  and Looping the Loop Festival. I really hope they manage to secure funding for opportunities like this to continue. Orla loved taking part and we really enjoyed watching everyone. She can now tell us the story of Semele and Jupiter and even Seamus has been singing opera around the house “Lucky Omens….Lucky Omens…Bless our rites!”

The theatrics continued with Aoife performing in the Shakespeare in Schools Festival, Romeo and Juliet to a paying audience at the Theatre Royal Margate. We weren’t able to take photos on the night and much as I support these endeavours, I felt the ones they were selling were sadly so overpriced that I couldn’t consider paying any more (£7.50 plus a further £1.50 p&p for ONE 6″x 4″ photo was the cheapest option) hence the recreated image taken on our stairs. Anyway, that aside, it was a wonderful night.

 

She was treading the boards after some great company, as the previous week we had attended an absolutely fantastic performance of Gyre and Gimble’s The Hartlepool Monkey, based on a legend of my birth place. The acting was first class. The cast, although small in number, never stopped for a moment. But it was the puppetry, from the makers of War Horse, which was most breath taking. An absolutely brilliant evening out. We even got to say thank you to a few of the cast as they headed to the pub! #HartlepoolMonkey

‘Twas a cultured few weeks in the O’Sullivan house.  We even got a chance to be ‘hands on’ by taking part in a performance of Almost Always Muddy  a story telling tour with a twist. The children and adults get to build the scene … literally. With everyone adding to the build, the performers then linked everything, with suggestions and ideas thrown in from the kids, into an amazing adventure with puppetry, music and improvised character acting. Seamus giggled throughout and Orla wants to do it again tomorrow. We built with planks, tubes, netting, wheels, material and a huge array of junk to make amazing shipwrecks, factories, islands, aeroplanes and more. A great event, especially as Seamus was able to be included.

A massive thumbs up for Looping the Loop 2017 we’ll definitely take part and watch what’s on offer next year!

We also managed to squeeze in a lovely evening with our friends in Beechgrove Community to see their music festival – with a nod to Scottish, Irish, English and of course some good ol’ USA songs in the mix. We enjoyed the choirs, the Scottish dancing and the fabulous folk band! Seamus was so impressed he now wants to learn the bagpipes! A lovely evening from some very talented young people. Thank you.

Talents of a different artistic nature have been keeping us busy at home with Christmas requests from school – designing Christmas cards and decorating jars. No doubt I’ll have to buy these back at the up coming school fayres! As much as I try to delay it, the Christmas countdown has begun … best start digging out that wrapping paper and finding the tinsel! Here’s to making the most of the dark winter nights.

 

 

 

 

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Fall into Autumn

Busy, busy, busy … the past few weeks are a blur.

After scooping up real bargains at the Scouts’ Jumble sale (change from £1 after buying a throw, an apron for Orla’s cookery club and joggers for Aoife’s camping trip!), we had a lovely time visiting St Peter’s Church when they opened their doors for Gift Day. The girls took their time to complete the guide quiz, only to find it was double sided and they had yet more answers to find.  Seamus was very content to play in the children’s area, surrounded by books and toys.  Aoife tried her hand at bell ringing, which had her a little worried at first as she imagined herself dangling from the bell tower. Thankfully, she got to ring the smallest bell and managed fine.  We had home made cakes and a welcome cup of tea. What a charming start to a weekend!

Beech Grove Community were celebrating their Open Day too. The sun shone, so the children were in their element enjoying the grounds, playing with others and collecting conkers.  Aoife and Orla loved the flower garlands, then they paid a visit to the animal area. It made such an impression that Aoife has written a Dragon’s Den style pitch outlining why she should own a guinea pig.  Seamus loved the trikes driving school and painting paper plates with the spinner. We always enjoy spending time with our friends from the community and so organised a reciprocal visit, where a small group joined us at home for dinner.

We had more guests for dinner when the teacher of our Japanese students joined us. We made a selection of Japanese and European food for everyone and afterwards played some family games. It has been a busy year having students staying in our home and the pace is finally starting to slow down as winter approaches.

The change of season is definitely telling with regards to the allotment. Our Honesty Box has come to an end, with some very kind comments, thank you cards and even new friends as a result! We’ll be sure to share again next year. The children loved the responsibility of restocking and arranging our excess vegetables, and even made a few requested home visits for some people who couldn’t make it there. We’re working our way through the final glut of the tomatoes and pears and have started to see our potatoes becoming part of our meals.  Aoife is still working hard, regularly helping Ian gather 30 sacks of horse manure from a local stable and both she and Orla go with him to collect the brewery hops. Oh, the glamour of the Good Life.

Out and about, we enjoyed the fantastic puppetry of Fireside Tales with Granddad at Dreamland’s indoor event area – the story telling was excellent and captivating and the show was visual with different styles of puppets supporting Granddad’s tales of grumpy trolls, hungry sharks and making underpants for a giant. Settled on huge red beanbags, and despite a very fidgety audience, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

 

  

Aoife has caught the acting bug. She is involved in Shakespeare in Schools Festival, which saw her attending rehearsals at Margate’s Theatre Royal. She’ll be performing Romeo and Juliet there next month.

The wet weather returned when we paid a slightly soggy after-school visit to Broadstairs Food Festival on its opening day. There were wonderful displays of cakes and brownies, an array of local produce, aromatic curries and tempting tasters which made us forget the grey skies.  The annual festival lasts for three days and is a foodie’s dream with everything from organic vegetables, freshly baked breads and cakes, Kent cheeses, pickles and preserves alongside award winning beers, ciders, spirits, and delicious freshly cooked street-food.  There are stalls selling hand crafted goods and also additional workshops which offer a chance to make (and taste) even more. ​Most importantly, Ian got lots of advice from the Isle of Wight garlic growers where he buys his seed garlic every year.

Equally tasty was my visit to the MacMillan Coffee Morning in Reading Street. There was a wonderful selection of cakes to choose, nice stalls and a friendly welcome. Best of all, the family were in school so I didn’t have to share! Over £900 was raised, and despite buying lots of tickets, I didn’t win the raffle.

We had a much quieter week when Aoife was away with her school outward bound week. She loved canoeing and raft building and had a fantastic time. She was allowed to take a camera with her – I felt absolutely ancient trying to explain how to use a disposable camera. “You won’t be able to see the picture when you’ve taken it.” “You need to ‘wind it on’ after each photo.” “You only have 24 photos.” “You’ll have to take it to a shop then wait for a few days before you get to see if what you’ve taken is any good.” She looked at me as though I had gone crazy.

It’s been just as busy for Orla too. She competed in another Inter-Primary School Cross Country. This time she has to run 1.5km …. plus the additional few 100 metres to get to the start line in time! Ooops. Well earned trip to McDonalds afterwards.

Rugby is back with a bang – every week, rain or shine, we are there. Aoife has been playing home and away as well as training, whereas Seamus seems to find endless energy for the weekly tag rugby sessions. I hope that energy is maintained as we have another few packed weeks ahead, with a school Dance-a-thon, Halloween and secondary school visits to fit in.

 

 


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Margate Rocks

Well the final week of the holiday whizzed by. We enjoyed attending a wedding in Margate over the Bank Holiday. The weather was glorious and the couple looked fabulous – especially when they drove off on their scooters.

We made another visit to Margate to see the new installation of Antony Gormley’s Another Time, part of his series of one hundred, solid cast-iron figures. The solitary man looks fab … although admittedly we got the tide timings wrong on our first visit!

 

While we were there we popped into the nearby Lifeboat station and to have a look around, making sure we left a donation during our visit.

Margate seafront looks great in the summer. We saw families enjoying the beach as we traveled along in style on the Seaside Special open top bus. The kids loved waving at folk and we passed The Turner Gallery and Margate’s iconic Dreamland on the way.

   

There are some lovely hidden gems around Margate. We love the Old Town in particular – it’s always encouraging to see improvements, refurbishments and new businesses pop up and we are hopeful that continues to bring more to the town. Not just financially, but culturally, socially and to bring that much-needed positive vibe. There are parts which still need incredible amounts of investment and care, including sadly the sparse High Street and near the station, but even there we found some wonderful art and things that made us smile.

Making the most of the sunshine, we had fun at the playground in Cliftonville. The kids love it there as it is large with lots of equipment and it is suitable for older children too. It is always busy, especially on a sunny day but it’s a great place to visit with lovely views of the sea. I imagine you get the best view from the top of the pirate ship but I’ll take the kids’ word for it rather than risk getting myself stuck!

As the week went on, we had a truly fabulous day at Quex Park, the estate of John Powell (1721-1783).  We explored the Maize Maze, taking turns to try to find the markers. Goodness knows how many miles we covered (especially when Seamus was leading the way) but we made our way out eventually, only to try our luck in the next one!

 

After we refueled with our picnic, the kids loved playing at the outdoor fun area. With the huge jumping pillow, the hidden nature play obstacles and the pony rides, there was something for everyone. However, most giggles lay in store for the cheeky chicken coop ride, where you sit in the trailer with a huge water pistol shooting targets on the trees as the tractor rides around Quex’s grounds. More than once, a full size chicken leaps out and squirts you back! We shared the ride with a couple of enthusiastic teenagers and another family with a soaking wet grandpa. It was bumpy, funny and very, very wet! If you try it, bring a poncho, towel or spare clothes. Thankfully we didn’t have to go straight home so we had time to dry off a little in the sun as we went to explore the gardens.

 

We topped off the day by popping into the Powell Cotton Museum and gardens. The museum houses natural history specimens and cultural objects collected on the family’s expeditions to Asia and Africa and has diorama displays mounted animals against backdrops of their natural habitats. We used our Children’s Centre card for £1 entry. It was more than worth it; I think it has improved since out last visit, especially with the addition of the handling area where you can touch bones, artifacts and even dress up. The grounds are particularly lovely and the children loved the dens and the interesting hiding spots under the trees.

I had a really lovely birthday treat at Chez Nous. Thank you to Aoife for organising and cooking such a brilliant meal (pasta with homemade tomato sauce) followed by fresh fruit cheesecake. Thanks to Orla for the excellent interval entertainment of surprisingly funny jokes, Seamus for being such a great waiter despite ensuring he had the first slice of birthday cake and big thanks to Ian for his patience in overseeing all of this, including the emergency dash to the shops for forgotten ingredients. Oh, and thanks for buying number candles, ha blooming ha, very funny!

And now it’s time for school as the new academic year begins. The uniform is all pressed and labelled (I hope that saves me from rummaging in the lost property box for at least the first few weeks), the PE bags are packed with clean kit and the busy routine begins again. Shay starts his journey into education next week which we are sure he will love, until then he can enjoy a few visits to the park ‘sans sisters’.

We’ve a few more exciting local events happening over the next few weeks and another family birthday to look forward to. The rugby season has begun and the nights are noticeably starting to draw in. The shops are stocking Christmas wrapping paper (groan!) and we are already noticing subtle changes as autumn approaches and we look back on our action packed, if not consistently warm, six weeks of summer.

#threekidsintow


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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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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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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!