18th April 2011
Your birthday came and passed and we all thought of you.
The Easter holidays have begun and the children are camping in the garden. Even Miss Puddleduck is camping this year. But Rich Tea Boy tells me they will sleep inside at the weekend because it is his birthday. He’s going to be 9. Can you believe it?
We’ve just had a wonderful few days with Mama, this last week. She’s looking so well and says she feels really healthy. Longshanks is as tall as her now.
It was so warm, it was almost like summer and we hadn’t packed our clothes with that expectation. We travelled down on the train with our wellies on. It was the easiest way to carry them! The children each had a rucksack with their clothes in. They’re starting to get quite train travel savvy and enjoy it.
On our first full day, we took the boat that Grandpa made Mama to the pond at Hembury, in the afternoon. I’ve never seen that little boat working. It always used to just sit on a window sill somewhere looking pretty. But Grandpa mended it just before he died and Mama reckoned he would have taken great delight in seeing the children enjoying it. Miss Puddleduck slipped into the water, unfortunately, and got such a shock. I stripped her down to vest and undies and hung her dress out of the landrover window to dry, while we went down to the river bed to collect stones. Mama wanted some stones to fill in the dips in the cobbles in the shippon. She uses it now as Pericles’ stable for the winter and it’s lovely to see it being used for its original purpose.
On Saturday morning, we went to a farm sale at Hembury. They were selling off the surplus deadstock -which isn’t dead animals as one shocked lady next to me misinterpreted the auctioneer. I’m sure you know, it’s inanimate objects and was mainly stuff from their pheasant breeding business. But they were also selling off their entire stock of call-ducks. They are very pretty little things, but so noisy. The children were intrigued by the auctioneer and how he doesn’t seem to take breath.
In the afternoon, we took Pericles out. All the children, except Longshanks, rode him. I realised that he still hasn’t got over Miss Puddleduck’s fall, but we’ve talked about it lots since. He’ll overcome it.
I wasn’t expecting to, but Mama let me ride too. Pericles was so good with the children, but he really tried it on with me. It was fun! He is lovely. Mama was telling me that she has had so many people ask her if he is a Friesan that she thinks he could well be and was just passported with a Welsh Cob passport when the need for passports was introduced.
Lycha is getting very old now. I think she’s a bit deaf. Honey Nut is very arthritic too, but Octavia was as talkative as ever. Quince does look a lot like her but with different coloured eyes.
On Sunday, we went to Church at Frithelstock. We doubled the congregation. I’ve never been there before for a service, but we were remembering the time Mama and I rode to the pub in the village and met up with you and Malcolm. We had a look at the old priory behind the church afterwards. Mama says she attends the service there once a month when there is no service at Putford or Abbots Bickington.
The children were very good, but didn’t know quite what to make of it all. It was so different to their usual experience of church. I told them it was a living history lesson as that’s similar to how church was done in 1662 and hasn’t changed much since.
We had a picnic lunch, on Sunday, down by the stream, below Thornewidger. It was a beautiful spot. You might remember if I say it was where the footpath first crosses the stream. It was such a hot afternoon. The girls paddled and the boys built a dam. They got very muddy, but loved it. There were loads of primroses and we saw a nuthatch.
We were going to go to Malcolm’s for afternoon tea, but the landrover wouldn’t start, so he brought afternoon tea over to us instead and we had it down in the den. It was quite a sumptuous feast.
The children have been renovating the den, in the corner of the 8 acre field. The pallet floor boards had rotted, so they removed them and found some tree stump logs that would do for chairs and an old wooden board that would do for a table top. Malcolm played along with the children so kindly and rang the bell and said the correct password before entering the den. They thoroughly enjoyed all the food he brought!
On Monday, I helped Mama get her landrover to the garage with the citroen she and Malcolm share. Then we went to Hartland Quay. We walked to the old folly across the cliff tops above the Abbey and then went and had lunch down at the Quay. It was a real treat for the children to eat out. We walked down to the beach afterwards. I had forgotten how spectacular the cliffs and rock formations are there. For what started out as such a misty moisty morning, it turned into a beautiful day.
After lunch, we went to Instow harbour and met Simon. He’s getting his boat ready for the water. So we watched the crane put the mast up and the boys stayed to help put the boom on. Simon was brilliant at patiently explaining things to them. Longshanks loved how the things he’s read in Arthur Ransome books suddenly came alive.
We had another sumptuous afternoon tea at Sue and Simon’s. Jo was there. It was lovely to see her. It’s amazing to think I’ve known and seen her fairly often for 25 years! I was telling Mama about the first time I was really aware of her at school and how we played together one playtime, as we were both the last to tidy away our things and leave the classroom to go outside! Typical!
But more amazing was meeting up with Clare, for breakfast in Menai Bridge, just after we got back from Devon. It was fantastic to see her and have a very, very brief catch up. I was explaining to Tim how her sister was my closest friend at nursery school and our families’ paths and lives crossed in subsequent years.
I made the children do school work when we got home, to round up their term’s work. But today is the first official day of the holidays. Longshanks and Miss Friendship have been down to the woods trying to fish. Rich Tea Boy and Miss Puddleduck have been making cakes. Well, Rich Tea Boy was making cakes. Miss Puddleduck was licking out the bowl.
Rich Tea Boy came and asked for my assistance twice. The first time, he was covered in spots of cake mix having not been very clear on how the mixer worked. He had cake mix in his hair and on his glasses! The second time, he was came to me with an empty margarine tub. He was confused. He said he’d used up all there was and still didn’t have the 35ozs the recipe said he needed! He actually needed 35g, so had to put it all back in the tub. The cakes were very tasty!
Tim is extremely busy with the pre-election campaign. I don’t think he’ll have time off with the bank holidays either. But we knew this month would be silly busy and so had mentally prepared ourselves not to expect anything else. Still Tim has been really good in creating family time. He’s been insisting on a walk around the hill for everyone, before bed time. And we’ve had such fun. The highlight is having a pine cone war, at the corner where we pass under the pine trees. Everyone enters in. Miss Puddleduck collects ammunition and distributes it as she chooses! Quince chases cones that are thrown. The boy’s ambushes are getting more and more elaborate and ingenious. I’m not very accurate with my throws, I have to confess, but somehow managed to catch JLongshanks smack on the crown of his head, yesterday. Everyone thought it was hilarious, including himself. He’s growing up!
Miss Puddleduck also likes to collect pieces of pottery on the walk, from the track on the top of the hill. She calls it her treasure and she has a gold pot at home to keep it in.
My new, big and beautiful horse is starting to settle. I am building a lovely relationship with him and really love him. For all his 17 hands 3″, or whatever he is, he’s quite a coward, but I hope to very slowly and gently make him braver. He’s so sweet natured and gives me whiskery kisses, especially when I rub his neck. He loves having his neck rubbed. Grooming him and then grooming the children’s little section A is an hilarious contrast.
Miss Puddleduck’s speech seems to have quite suddenly and miraculously developed into longer sentences, since we were at Mama’s; even the speech therapist commented. She’s so funny. She got herself into a real tizzy yesterday because she couldn’t have her own way and took herself off into her bedroom with all the attitude and body language of a sulk. But she came back two minutes later, her normal self. She stood at the conservatory door and said, “Jesus says you don’t understand me.” I was so surprised, so checked I had heard her correctly.
“Yes, you and Daddy and Miss Friendship don’t understand me.” She said. So, I asked her if she had been talking to Jesus, thinking that’s what she had gone to her room to do. But she said, “No! He lives in my heart,” patting her chest. And that was the end of that conversation.
To celebrate the end of term, I took the children to buy their own goldfish and spend their pocket money. I thought that what they bought summed up something of their different characters: Longhshanks bought itching powder to play practical jokes with, Rich Tea Boy, some chocolates, Miss Friendship, a soft toy and Miss Puddleduck a pink net for catching butterflies or fishing for tadpoles.
I must go now. I hope that keeps you up to date on how we are all growing up! Miss you, but I still completely accept the way things have worked out.
Lots of love,