Tag Archives: kids

Zebras by the window

Jexi is starting the serious task of looking at colleges and schools for next year. She wwants to go to a dance and performing arts school, and the choices are boggling. They are spread all over the country, have differing reputations and specialities, diffeent qualificatiosn and structures. Anyway, we have come down to leafy Surrey to do an Audition Preparation day at what is probably the best school of its type in the UK.

We came down last night, and landed about 2030 at the hotel, before we went out again to find the school and have bite to eat. Back to the very nice hotel room, and not to late to bed. When we woke up in the morning, we dicovered zebras standing below our window! The hotel is part of a large adventure park, and so we had a taste of Africa before breakfast.

We came into the town, and Jex went off with all the rest of the kids for the day. The grown-ups had a useful presentation by the vice principal, and then have been left to our own devices for the day. I have been wandering around this pleasant little town, and am now sat in Starbucks having a mango-passion fruit smoothie ice frappe latte type thing.  Whatever it is, I like it.

I have most of the day to kill, so will do some web-ing, maybe some work, I have bought a new book with me (the first new John Irving for ages) and might even, if I get really bored, do a bit of shopping. We’ll see.

It is nice to have some one-to-one time,  it doesn’t happen often at the best of times, but with being in Oz so much at the moment, I don’t get much time with anyone. I seem to be really busy, between being the taxi, doing all the errands that I would normally be doing in 2 months squashed into less than 2 weeks, working and stuff.

Ugg Boots

So large parts of this last weekend were taken up by boot shopping. The current “must have or we will surely die” fashion accessory is the Ugg boot. Uggs are a type of boot, and a brand of boots- and if you are bit confused, so was I. Now everyone knows that any self respecting teenage girl who doesn’t have her own set of Uggs is just not with it. Everyone also knows that Uggs come from Australia. So, put together the following ingredients:

  • 15 year old girl (Exhibit A).
  • 17 year old girl (Exhibit B)
  • Ugg boot hysteria (Exhibit C)
  • Dad in Australia (The known home of everything Ugg-like) (Exhibit D)
  • Large amounts of disposable income (or not!) (Exhibit E)
  • 1200 miles of walking across Sydney 8 times (no exhibit tag number, but the blisters are Exhibit F)

and you get a pretty surefire combination.

I could tell you the long sad story, but there is more clarification needed first. Uggs are sheepskin boots, suede exterior with thick fleecy wool lining. Ugg is a generic term for this type of boot, which has a long history (over 80 years) of being the favoured footware of early pilots, surfers, workers and wallabies (I think). Both the Aussies and the New Zealanders claim to have originated this type of boot, and the infamous Ugg wars of the 1950’s were the bloodiest that these 2 countries have ever fought (or something like that, my history does get hazy when I can’t dash over to Google every 20 seconds).

Anyway, to slightly truncate an already long story, some Aussie surfer boy went to the good ol’ US of A about 25 or 30 years ago, and started a brand selling these type of boots, which he called “Uggs of Australia”. They aren’t even an Australian company, but hey – you can’t believe absolutely everything you read now, can you? In a deft piece of markting, this Yankee company has sold its brand all over, and done so very well, to the point where, in large parts of the uncivilised world, Uggs means only one thing – boots made by the “Uggs of Australia” brand.

Meanwhile, here in the actual Australia, Uggs are just woolly boots. There are 25 or 30 reputable brands, and a whole lot more of Chinese origin. The American company tried to get a ruling to stop anyone else using the brand, to which the Aussies, in their typical laid back style, said “Fuck off, Mate”. “G’day”. So that was that – here in Australia Uggs are woolly boots made by anyone with a sewing machine, a supply of compliant sheep, a didgeridoo and a schooner of beer in their hand.

If you take a mix of exhibits A through E, you get the kind of deadly mixture called “Dad goes shopping for shoes for his daughters”. Now, Dads don’t like shopping for very good reasons. Dads don’t even like shopping for themselves, let alone for anyone else. And Dads expecially don’t like buying articles of clothing, footware and other sized fashion garments and shoes. To counterbalance this obviously disastrous combination, the daughters pointed Dad at a comprehensive website, and furthermore furnished our hero with a list of sizes, lengths, colours, measurements, fit types, box colours and drill-bit dimensions. So, armed with more information than NASA needed to set a man on the moon, I trundled off to buy my darlings their little hearts desire. I checked and compared prices in 18 different stores, bartered with shopkeepers, and nearly bought a camel from a passing nomad in my efforts to be thorough (well, the camel was SUCH a bargain).

I finally parted with more money than most smaller countries need to run their health and energy services for a year, and came back to my hotel with a precious cargo of precisely specified boots. Ever so proud of my achievements, I duly took pictures of the boots and messaged them straight to the offspring concerned. Well, as you might have guessed from the start of the long and dreary tale of woe, I got it wrong. Everything was OK, except for the bit about the tag. It HAD to be “Uggs of Australia” – did I not know that an Ugg ain’t an Ugg unless it is an “Uggs of Australia” Ugg (how often do you think humankind has managed to fit the word Ugg into a sentence 6 times. I think I deserve a significant literary prize for that).

Anyway – I had bought the wrong boots. Not one to want to disappoint my little birds cooing in their nest, I set off on my faithful steed to right wrongs, slay dragons, and swap the bloody boots. I could tell tales of bravery and bloodshed, excitement and adventure, but I will leave those to another day. Suffice it to say that the Dad character in this story managed to get his money back for the sinful, shameful, and most of all non “Uggs of Australia” boots, send various photos from various shops to various daughters, part with even more money, lose another 2 kilograms and create 3 more blisters while walking across Sydney twice more, to finally and triumphantly return to his hotel room with THE RIGHT BOOTS. Yay Dad!

I have further photographed these from every angle, sent pictures to the princesses, verified the authenticity of these uber-Uggs, and can now sleep soundly in the knowledge that I have “the right thing” in my possession, and thus will be allowed to return home and ensure that, at least for a little while, they will be pleased to see me.

Tussauds, Brothers, Cousins and Camden

Boy, were we tired. We got back from the Lion King and into bed by about midnight, but had to be up at 0730 as the logistics for Thursday hadn’t taken such a late night into account. We were off to Madame Tussauds, and had an Entry/Ticket Collection time of 1030 to 1100. This meant leaving at around 0900 to get stocked up for a picnic lunch and then onto the bus into Town, by way of breakfast. We struggled out of bed, but had to do our makeup and hair as there were going to be loads of photos at Mme T’s.

Breakfast, walk to the station about 15 mins away, Tesco’s to buy food, then on to the Bus – number 82 if you must know. It goes right to Baker Strasse, so we got off about a minute from the wax museum. The crowds have to be seen to be believed – and not all of them are English, so they don’t know how to queue! But, more about that later. We went into the VIP queue as we had pre-ordered tickets, and proceeded to wait with everyone else. It only took about 15 minutes or so to get in, –  but that is as far as the VIP treatment went. Unfortunately, the rest of the rabble also get into the same attraction, and we were packed in like cattle into a truck.

It was probably 20 years since my last visit, so most or all of the exhibitions had changed. Showing my age, there were a fair few current celebs or entertainment personalities that I didn’t recognise, but there was enough for everyone to enjoy. We jostled and shuffled with the crowds through the different sections, taking pictures and gawking at the dummies.

Ben and Jexi went into a replica of the Diary Room from Big Brother, and were on the closed circuit TV being interviewed and given tasks by Big Brother. They really enjoyed that – Span and I watched from a safe distance. One section we went through was a sort of horror/guillotine (Mme Tussaud made her name doing deathmasks from the French Aristocracy who were ‘processed’ by the Guillotine. This section was people by real actors who took every opportunity to scare the crap out of you – and it worked.

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While queueing to go into the horror section, there was a couple behind us who kept so close to my backpack that I thought he was going to climb into it and curl up for a sleep. Honestly, each time I took half a step, he took three quarters of one, and kept pushing me until I got quite sick of it an waved them past. They advanced about 14 inches ahead of us, but at least I wasn’t being shoved for the rest of the day. Bloody Foreigners, they have no respect for the voluminous personal space that Brits require. Humph!

After a thoroughly enjoyable few hours, we walked up to regents Park. It was a glorious day, and we were quite tired from Londoning, so we lay in the sun and had our picnic, and generally chilled out, watching the world go by. After a nice relax, we walked back to the bus, and headed north once more, this time to Golders Green.

My iPhone is a wondrous thing, and has a London travel appliction that has to be seen to be believed. It tells you bus routes, times, stops and more, and helped enormously in saving us time and leg-miles. All 3 kids slept on the bus back toward Golders, and then we hopped onto another that took us toward my brothers.

We got to Craigs (the brother) and were met by him and various of his kids playing out in the street. We went in and had cups of tea, cake and conversation with the various offspring, with Craigs wife and eldest turning up a bit later. It was nice to catch up and have some times with the cousins. we spent a fair amount of time comparing school regimes, as Jexi and RS are in the same school year. While all 3 of my lot are at the same high school, Craigs lot are at 4 different schools – what a nightmare to manage. Craig is just starting a teaching job at a new school – hope it goes Ok for him.

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Anyway, we had a nice time with the Religie’s, after which we got a lift back to the hotel for a quick costume change, then once more unto the tube, dear friends. This time, we were headed to Camden Market, to meet up with Laurie and Maia. We found them, along with Lauries cousin Genevieve, in a lovely bar near the lock. Maia was full of beans, and her and Ben ran around doing all sorts while I chatted with Laurie and co. I think Laurie really enjoyed the chance to have a beer – another joyful English custom.

After an hour or two, we had a wander about, and then set off to find some food, eventually happening upon a Nandos, which I love. We had a very loud and active meal, and then set off back towards the various homes. I got off the tube with Laurie, Maia (I had to carry her, she had turned into a little zombie on the train and was fast asleep) and Ben. We went back to Dave’s brother Brett, where they were staying. It was nice to have a catch up with him, while Laurie put sleeping beauty to bed.

Laurie came back down, and we spent more time, til eventually Ben and I walked across to the bus stop, and aimed for the hotel, where we found the girls still awake. We had a nice talk about everything and nothing for another hour or so, despite everyone’s tired spirits, before dropping off to snore-time.

The tales of London Town

So things got busy for me last week while we were in Londington, so I didn’t manage to complete my bloggery about the visit. Anyway – it is Friday lunchtimr, and many of my colleagues have gone to the pub for a pint, so I thought I would blog instead.

On Wednesday we were quite tired, so it took a while to get everyone up and going. We had a late-ish breakfast, and then returned to the hotel room so that Ben and I could sit and wait while the girls did hair/make-up/texting/facebook/talking/choosing which shoes to wear/other stuff that men don’t even know what it is. Eventaully we were in a fit state to leave the hotel, so we walked up to the tube station, about 15 mins away, and got a train to town. It was drizzling slightly, and when we got to Russell Square the rain got quite excited for a bit.

We headed off to the British Museum, and whne we got there hired a multimedia tour guide thingy-ma-bob for each of the kids. You can either use the map, or type in a display object number, and it gives you a good description and shows reference pictures about the item. Span chose to listen in French, to practise her A level language. We wandered around the Ancient Egyption/Sumerian/Greek stuff for abit, then went upstairs to see displays of clocks, and Roman Britain. The girls left us to go ‘do stuff’ (I think they might have gone and sat downstairs and watched people), while Ben and I went on to see all the Mummies and displays from tombs in another Ancient Egypt section.

We met up and had some lunch (Sushi), did a bit more museum-ing, then went to find a suitable South African shop. We visited a shop at London Bridge station, which was quite limted, so went to one I know from previous visits near Charing Cross. We stocked up on sweets and Biltong, then went and mingled with the tourists in Trafalgar square. ben and Jex climbed up onto the lions for some pics. We eventually walked along the Starnd, toward the theatre where we were due to see the Lion King. Nearby is a nice restaurant called Sophies, so we popped in there for some pre-Theatre dinner.

Hywel wandered down from his part of the town to meet up with us, and we had a lovely meal, after which we went up to the theatre, and found our seats with about 10 mins to go to curtain up. I have long wanted to see the Lion King on stage, and I have to say it was spectacular. Everything was so well done: the costumes, the way the animals moved, the choreography, singing, dance, music – the whole lot was just fabulous.

It was a long show, which we all loved, and when it finished we were pretty tired, but the chaps wanted Hagen Dasz Ice cream in Leicester Square, so I treated us to a short taxi ride up from the Theatre. We bought our treats, and then walked to the tube, and got on a train back. We got to the hotel, and crawled into our beds, tired, satisfied and happy.

Eye Eye

It is ten to eight, and my appreciation for the musicality that my kids have has risen even more, if that is possible. The kids are snoring in harmony in the hotel room. I am wide awake so thought I would do a quick blog.

We arrived in London on Monday eve after an uneventful drive down. We are staying in a hotel near Daves brother, and it is pretty comfortable. Yesterday I was working, so I headed off early leaving the 3 angels snoring (though not so musically), and took the bus to town. I was a bit concerned as we are staying in between Finchley and Golders Green, and it is a big adventure for the kids who are not used to getting around London.

Anyway I left them plenty of instructions, and got a call by 11 saying they were in Oxford Street, and having adventures  while spending half of their inheritance which I have left them ‘just in case they needed it’. I guess they must have needed it.

I finished work around 1530, and met them at Euston where they were doing lunch. I was proud that they had managed fine, without losing or killing one of their number, and had even seemed to satisfy each of them in terms of what they did with their time, at least partially.

One of the key reasons for coming to London was to meet up with my best friend from school, Dave, his wife Laurie and their daughter Maia. I hadn’t seen them since their wedding in the States 7 years ago, and I have not met Maia, even though I am her Godfather (not sure how an atheist gets to be a godfather, but there you go). Anyway, I digress. They had been in Israel for a family do, and were stopping in England for about 10 days on their way back to California, so we arranged to spend some time together.

At Euston, I got a call from Dave saying that he had been stopped at Heathrow, and as the rules had changed last year about South Africans needing a visa to get into the UK, he was not being allowed in. Laurie and Maia are on US passports so that was fine, but even though the airline had checked Dave in and told him that his green card was enough to let him in, immigration stopped him. They agreed to let him in for 24 hours, but he has to fly home this morning.

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Anyway, realising we only had a short time to be with Dave, we headed back from town, via our hotel, to meet up with them. Maia was sleeping when we arrived, being pretty jet lagged and having had a very long day of travel and hold-ups. It was so lovely to see Dave and Laurie though. Dave is one of those few people for me that I am always connected to – if I don’t see or speak to him for years, when we get back together it doesn’t feel like we need to ‘catch up’, there is no initial awkwardness or not knowing what to talk about. We were best friends since we were ten, and went through our teens together, and there is a bond that will never change.

We hung out while their princess slept, drank tea and talked shit, as we normally do. A couple of hours passed and my lot were a bit tired and restless, and so Dave woke Maia, who took a little while to come round, but once she did we all headed off towards town again. Maia took a deep breath when we left home (at least I think she did) and then didn’t stop talking for 2 hours. She is a bright and utterly delightful girl, and fitted in so easily with my lot.

We went on the tube to Waterloo, and walked a few minutes to the London Eye, the massive wheel that had been installed for the millenium. We first had a 4D (whatever that means) show about the wheel, which I have to admit was very well done and spectacular in its’ presentation. We then walked to the wheel itself, which is on the banks of the Thames opposite the Palace of Westminster. It has glass pods that you go in, and takes half an hour to do a rotation, giving fabulous panoramic views of London. It was dark, and the city was lit up so we got really exciting views of the city. Maia sped about the capsule, my lot were slightly more calm, and Ben panicked a bit about anyone falling out – not that they could as the capsules are completely sealed.

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We all really enjoyed the ride, and the company, and felt like we deserved a nice meal, so we headed north again to Camden town, and went to a branch of Wagamama, one of our favourite noodle bars. We ordered enough food for a small army, and it arrived pretty quick. The food was not bad, but still suffering the fluctuation in quality that we have seen there from time to time. Anyway, Maia and Laurie were pretty exhausted by this time, and so we ate up and wandered back to the tube station, and hopped on a train.

We said goodbye to the Daves, and then got off at the stop after them, and took a lazy bus (it is only about a 15 minute walk back to the hotel). We were all pretty tired ourselves, but had expereinced a really lovely day. The girls made Ben go shower (he has to do it at least once a year), and then we all lay down and were asleep in seconds.

We are going to the British Museum today, and to see the Lion King tonight – can’t wait.

Tally ho!

Off t’London

It is term holidays at the moment, so me and the winkies are off to London for a visit.My best friend since forever, Dave, is coming to London with his wife and their munchkin for a few days, so we are going to go down and meet them. Lena is staying home as she is just a week into her new job.

We are all very excited – I have booked tickets for the Lion King, and we are also going to Mme Tussauds – the rest we will sort out while we are there. We are going on Monday afternoon, and will be back around lunch-time on Saturday. Can’t wait

Be Good