What's going on at the cottages?     -  The Sunnybank Blog!    2017 

Dec 28 A steady drive home via Water Orton (near Birmingham) where we bought lunch and relaxed a while.
Dec 27 A lazy day with Ben and Alison before we head north tomorrow.
Dec 26

Today we all went to Caroline and Andrew's house in Staines where all four girls had a whale of a time especially when they decided to "get" Uncle Ben!

We enjoyed a lovely meal cooked in their new kitchen and then opened family presents around the tree.

Eventually, we returned to Ben and Alison's house after a lovely family day together.

Later in the day, on our return to Winnersh Richard required a nap to recover energy.

Some irreverent person (Ben is the prime suspect) decided to do this!

Dec 25

Christmas Day and after breakfast it was time to open Father Christmas's presents.

Ben shows Daisy how the inter-active globe works - it was a really impressive piece of technology.

Later we opened the family presents and Poppy was instantly in love with her purring kitten which we had given her.

Dec 24

Christmas Eve and Jimmy (the cat being looked after by Ben and family) enjoys climbing the tree and swatting the baubles till they fall off.

Look carefully to find him - this is not a faked picture!


Later, it looks as if Jimmy is looking for Santa!

Dec 22

A spot of gingerbread making took place today! With Megan, Jessica and their good friend Alana, we made enough gingerbread mix to make 61 gingerbread figures.

Once cooked and cooled, we decorated them....


There were so many biscuits that we invented a few new shapes including bikini clad ladies, snails, elephants, octopuses and dinosaurs - all vital to the Christmas story!

Dec 21

Today we drove south to Ben and Alison's at Winnersh to collect a key before carrying on to Staines where we were to stay with Caroline until Saturday.

Dec 7

The bottom picture shows Keith's wall being stripped of its plaster in No 1 cottage in an effort to cure the recent damp issue. Doing so revealed what the wall would look like if it was all removed.

The massive stone lintel is clearly visible. Unfortunately, previous owners had filled in the original fire place with whatever came to hand before installing a modern fire.


By way of a comparison, the top picture shows the wall in our Cobbleholes cottage which has been exposed since the early 1960's. The large space has allowed us to put in a wood burning stove which is very very effective!


A few days later Keith wall was hidden behind waterproof cement and a new layer of insulated plasterboard. The finishing off remains to be done.

Dec 3

On arrival at Robert's we had a surprise as James (Robert's son) arrived with his two boys Oliver and Harry and with him came Helen (his sister) and her two children George and Matilda. To almost complete the family line up was Charlotte (Robert's youngest daughter - taking the photo in the mirror) and her boyfrend Joe (extreme left). The only person missing was Katy who arrived next morning.

We had lots of fun before we headed for home on the following morning.

A very varied and interesting weekend!

Dec 2

This morning, after a very comfortable night's sleep, we took the tram to Piccadilly so that we could visit the Manchester Model Railway Exhibition within the university buildings.

With our car safely parked in the hotel car park, we realised that this was definitely the best way to visit Manchester before Christmas.

The show was very busy but we enjoyed seeing the various layouts and looking for little additions for our layout. Jill spotted some wheelbarrows and lawnmowers, which she bargained for at a good price! (We certainly know how to live it up!)

After returning to the hotel later - we then drove on to Richard's brother's home - a riding school near Congleton for a night's stay and a family get together.


Dec 1
Dec 1
... because after checking-in we took the tram (free with our bus passes!) right into Manchester to see the Christmas Markets for the evening. We spent several hours wandering from market to market. The amount of mulled wine being drunk by visitors was of epic proportions!

Today we met up with Jill's old school colleagues in Haydock for a lunch and afterwards we headed to Altrincham, where we were going to stay in a hotel for the night.

We were on the top floor - very quiet with no business people there as it was the weekend!

Hotels in Manchester were either fully booked or hideously expensive. This move proved to be a great idea...

Nov 18

The big day has arrived and Rich was out at 7am reserving two car park spaces near the Market Place for the real reindeer "landing zone" .

Then back home to pick up Jill and all her items needed for the WI stall in the Market Cross area.

After taking all the tickets at the pier as the first Father Christmas Special Cruise set off at 11am, it was back to town to oversee the arrival of the reindeer at noon.

Once the reindeer and its owner, (Everly Buckley) were in position it was off back to the pier for cruise 1 return and cruise 2 departure!

By 4.30pm Rich was leading the parade with Belle the reindeer followed by the sleigh, lanterns, Winter Costumed Figures and a massive crowd as we wound our way through the streets before ending up in the park for the firework display.


Later we found that the bucket which Richard had fixed to the reindeer pen railings had gained £332 in just four hours!

The official estimate is that around 10,000 people were in town for the day - which makes it our biggest crowd ever!

To watch a visitor's video of the parade and fireworks display - CLICK HERE

Oct - Nov

We have been busy preparing for the Christmas Lights switch on. That has meant Rich and Jill checking over 3000 bulbs which will zig zag up the various streets in the town. From Oct 15th onwards, Rich was out with his installation gang each Sunday morning from 7am putting up the lights. Later it was putting up the 21 artificial Christmas trees around Market Place as the road is too wide there for cross-street lights.

Even the trees along the promenade at Waterhead have had new wiring this year so that now every bit of wiring around the town is three years or less in age! Richard is now the "Infrastructure and Logistics Director" for Ambleside Community Christmas Lights Ltd. (The limited company status is to protect the committee from personal liability (our houses!!) if something goes wrong!)

Oct 21
The Christmas display was in full swing at Hayes (as it has been since early September!!). Daisy and Poppy took the chance to pose in the Alice in Wonderland" themed chair - together with selected head gear!
Today we all went to Hayes Garden Centre and had a snack at the terrace cafe. During the meal Jill showed P&D two personalised Santas which she had bought for them.
Oct 20
In a wet and muddy Rothay Park, Poppy and Daisy enjoy some fresh air amid the brand new playground rides. It was a good thing that they wore mud proof clothes!

Today Ben, Alison, Poppy and Daisy arrived for a few day's stay.

It wasn't long before Poppy and Daisy asked to have the little railway set going. It is a narrow gauge railway which goes around a bunny school (bought in Hamburg some years ago).

The fun part is putting the little rabbits on top of the train to see how long they can stay on!

By the end of their stay - several bunnies were missing their ears!

Sep 30
Poppy loves to be attacked by the "Tickle Monster" (also known as Richard) but today it was a cuddle time instead!

Today we took the girls to Ben and Alison's house in Winnersh (Reading) for a "girls' get together". As usual, Ben did a superb roast dinner - enjoyed by all!

On Sunday afternoon, Jill returned to Staines with Meg and Jess and Rich stayed on at Winnersh to get Daisy to school the next day. Jill would be taking M&J to school before Rich reappeared at Staines to await Caroline and Andrew's return.

Sep 29
As our group headed home to Lancashire, we headed to Staines to look after Meg and Jess whilst Caroline and Andrew went off to Florence for a birthday treat for Andrew.
Sep 28
As we walked back across the Covent Garden piazza, we came across a model photo shoot. Not your average clothing for London in late September!

For our final day in London together, we all took the bus to Trafalgar Square and then walked to the Churchill War Rooms Museum near Horse Guards Parade.

The museum was a fascinating insight into how Churchill and the High Command avoided all the air raids.

Afterwards we walked through St.James' Park to the refreshment pavillion for lunch. That was OK unless you had an aversion to pigeons - who waited for the slightest chance to grab a tasty morsel.

Sep 27
As Jill was suffering from the amount of walking due to her rheumatoid artritis, the others headed for Kew Gardens today but Jill and Rich took a bus to Westminster and we met up with Caroline for lunch in a converted church in Smith Square.
Sep 26

Tonight we all went to the Duchess Theatre to watch a play called "The Play That Goes Wrong".

The whole play was a catalogue of errors and we were all aching from laughing by the final curtain.

Click here to watch a short trailer for the play.

Sep 26
Today we took a bus across London to Maida Vale and then walked to the canal basin to take a ride on a narrow boat to Camden Lock and back. After the hectic street travel, to sit and watch London Zoo slide past at 3mph was a very pleasant change. At Camden Lock we all had coffee before a short split up to do souvenir shopping. We returned with a wind spinner and a geode of beautiful crystals .
Sep 25

Today we set off on our annual trip with Richard's B.Ed group which has met every year since they finished their part time course at Edge Hill in 1982!

This year we were staying in Drury Lane in Central London, close to all the main attractions. That night, after checking in, we all enjoyed a Greek meal with tapas-like dishes piled high on plate racks.

Here Jacqui (L) and Liz(R) contemplate their next course!

Sep 20 Today Rich took his car to Carlisle for its service and whilst that was happening, he took a train to Glasgow at a bargain price. Whilst there, he found some new duvet covers and pillowcases in Debenhams. Glasgow was not an attractive city based on what Richard saw - litter and the debris left by rough sleepers in alleyways and unused shop doorways!
Aug 8

Jessica holds up a white bait during the meal.

After battling through the crowds at Waverley station, we were back on our train with reserved seats to Oxenholme.

For Jill, the chance to have a nap!

From the Old Town, which was full of Japanese tourists (which prompted Megan to say "Does anyone from Japan EVER leave home without a camera!") we wandered down to Princes Street Gardens and Rich and Jessica had a ride on the Ferris Wheel whilst Megan and Jill watched from below. Before heading back to the station, we had a lovely meal at Richard's favourite French restaurant - Chez Joules.

The waitress took our photo with our drink of choice - Kir Royale.

As soon as Jessica saw these two performers she wanted a photo to make her Dad, Andrew, jealous!
Our next stop was The Old Town where we met the vast crowds here for the Edinburgh Festival. All sorts of weird performances were going on but the girls wanted a picture with a piper... so here they are!

The girls were intrigued by the iceberg which was a very large lump of ice in a very cold room! There were various holes where people had put their hands and melted it slightly.

Here, Jess (R) puts her hand in a hole as Megan (L) touches the ice as Jill wanders past.

Our first stop was the "Our Dynamic Earth Museum". This is an interactive museum about the history of the earth with volcanoes, glaciers etc. You start off by going into a lift which appears to go deep into the earth to discover its secrets - all very well done!

Today was our anniversary so we decided to make a special trip to Edinburgh with Megan and Jessica.

We took the early morning train from Oxenholme and by 1015 we were in the city and heading towards the place where we would board a sightseeing tour bus.

The girls had a list of things to see... a piper, a man wearing a kilt etc and it didn't take long to tick off both of those items!

Aug 3

At the end of very busy play day, the girls are not quite so neatly arranged in bed as their teddies had been!

This was the scene when we peeped in at 10.25pm

The girls were in their element today. The settee became a teddy hospital ward with four beds.

Each teddy has a name card with details of their names, illnesses and even a temerature chart!

Jul 31
On arrival the girls and Richard made a pizza (as a surprise for Jill) but this is no ordinary pizza. The base is watermelon and the toppings are all fruit. Bizarre but realy good!
Jul 31

On July 2nd Jill was fine. The next day she seemed to have been hit by a virus which caused arthritis.

As a result - without pills, she has trouble moving around, so it fell to Richard to take the train to Euston today to meet Caroline, Andrew and the twins, have a quick lunch and then return with the girls who were to stay with us for two weeks.

Here Megan (L) and jessica (R) pose at Euston with just some of their teddies!

Jul 23

A trip to the local model shop in Twyford revealed a fantastic hand-made thatched doll's house. The owner of the shop gave us a guided tour! The thatch was made from coconut "hair" and every brick in that wall had been stuck on by hand. The walls were hand plastered.

It was amazing and a snip at £3500 (unfurnished!!!)

Jul 20

The reason we had travelled down was to be able to see Poppy in her end of year school concert.

Ironically, Poppy was content to just sit and smile and wave and not sing a word! ...but then she is only three years old!

Jul 19

Faringdon Library???

Must be the world's smallest one. Actually you can take any book for free and of course you can also leave one if you wish.....

Today we drove down to Reading via Faringdon near Swindon. We had found a paving firm there which sold slabs in the shape of segments (for a garden project we had planned).

We liked Faringdon, a sleepy small town, and we ate lunch at this very old coaching inn.

July 2
At 5.50am, the rising sun was just catching the ridges in the fields outside our bedroom window.
July 1

Richard's day out! Today he went by train from Carnforth to Keighley where he boarded this train (an ancient diesel multiple unit) on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway of "The Railway Children" fame. At Oxenhope there was a model railway show in the station buidlings.

On the return journey on ths train the driver opened the cab door to allow Rich to video the driver's eye view ahead.

The weird thing is that Rich remembers travelling to Derby aged 16 in one of these deisels when it was brand new!!

Jun 23
Blackburn Cathedral is hosting an exhibition by Rotary to celebrate the centenary of Rotary Foundation. As Rotary Assistant Governor for Lancashire and Cumbria, Rich decided he needed to go and see. This bronze statue was seen outside the station at Blackburn - the little boy desperate to grab his dropped teddy bear!
Jun 18

Today we had a ride out. First stop was to find the desserted and much overgrown station at Bassenthwaite. Sadly, it was impossible to get close to it and it looked on the point of collapse.


Next we drove towards Caldbeck, a village "behind" Skiddaw, where we had tea and a cake as we sat by the river. These cottages must have been in the firing line during Storm Desmond in 2015!

Jun 15

The result...... one collapsed wall. To say that Rich wasn't happy when he saw what happened would be a massive understatement!

The tarmac firm were contacted and they soon agreed to pay for the wall repairs.

One of them steered onto the grass near our fence behind the cottage, compressing the land.....

It arrived in a fleet of lorries like this one - eight wheel monsters which crawled up Kirkstone Road with their loads.

Then they had to reverse along the track to get to the machine shown below.

Jun 15
After 40 years of having a rough track to the farm, tarmac is finally being laid - 260 tons of it to be precise!
Jun 3
Also added - a new dining room for the rabbits with appropriate menu!
All the girls (Megan, Jessica, Daisy and Poppy) are entertained by the Bunny School, complete with narrow gauge train. Of course we now needed more rabbits so Grandad (aka Rich) went into production using white polymer clay which is then baked in the oven at 130C.
May 25
After various attempts, we have installed a new CCTV camera on the gable end of Keith's cottage to look down on the car park. Jill proves that it works!
May 19

Now that the frosts are (hopefully) gone, we have replanted our selection of hanging baskets and fence troughs.

This basket hangs from the base of our American-style post box which we brought back from Caroline's wedding trip to New York in 2006.

May 17
Back home again and we discover that the new Belted Galloway / Highland crossbreed calves in the field across the road are eager to find out who we are!
May 15

In the garden at Winnersh, we rose to the challenge for Daisy's homework (these days known as "home learning") which was to make a boat.

This was Rich's effort made from a sheet of A4 paper. It worked so well that we then added stones as cargo until it finally sank but not before we had the evidence of a photo to take to school!

May 14
Later that morning - Daisy and Jill are involved in art work - making headbands which were one of the birthday presents.
May 14

Daisy has a white board and so Rich and Daisy decided to draw a picture to depict Matilda by Roald Dahl. Miss Trunchbull hurls Amanda Thripp out of the window by her pigtails as Bruce Bogtrotter gets stuck into eating the giant cake etc.

Outside, Miss Honey and Matilda hold hands as the Wormwood used car, bought by Miss Trunchbull) emits smoke from the bonnet.

In the skies above, the Wormwoods flee from the pursuing FBI helicopter!


(Note 4 months later - the picture is still more or less intact in their dining room!)

May 7

In May, on a bright and sunny Sunday morning - it's time to think about Christmas Lights!!!

To be precise, Jill and I were supervising the removal of the lights from amongst the trees at Waterhead promenade. Later the wiring will be replaced and then the lights will go up each year - as opposed to being up there for 17 years in a row!

Bad news - during this operation Rich lost one of his spectacle lenses at a cost of £71....

In Barkham village hall Poppy and Daisy listen to Snow White as she explains the next game at the birthday party for Daisy.
Apr 30
Today we did some baking with Megan and Jessica. Of course licking the spoon is part of the ritual!
Apr 28
W We are back down in Staines and it is wisteria blossom time!
Apr 12
Today we drove to Haverigg Beach - our favourite! Poppy and Daisy loved playing in the clean sand and the playground was a hit too!
Apr 10
Not to be outdone... Grandad sports a pair of unicorn ears on the swing too!

Poppy looking particularly cute as she enjoys the fairy swing!


Note the unicorn ears......

Ben and Alison are with us for the week (after a false start when their BMW turbo blew!)

The next day Ben, Ali, Daisy and Poppy arrived in Alisons's dad's car!

We had booked a visit to Fairy and Dragon World at Hayes Garden Centre.

Here we pause for the picnic provided!


Apr 3

Back home in Ambleside after a great trip including birthdays and holidaying, we found that Ambleside is one giant film set in Compston Road as a scene for a new feature film about Peter Rabbit is filmed at Ambleside Toyshop!

The right hand layby was full of film trucks.

We heard later that every truck was booked by a traffic warden!!

Seems no-one told him that the layby was out of action! The tickets wer cancelled later!

Mar 26

Daisy blows out the candles on her clouds and rainbow cake. The cake and all its icing had been a Herculean task for Alison!


Daisy gives Grandad the thumbs up as the light catches her hair and her face is lit with reflections from the table!
Today was Daisy's 5th birthday and we all headed for a soft play / indoor play area in Reading. After 2 hours of shrieks and screams as the party chased each other around the play area, it was time to sit down for the birthday tea.
Mar 25
On a lighter note, as we returned to the car we passed a fudge shop, whose owners had made a novel use of fudge!

The Magna Carta was is a small "tent" within one of the cathedral's chapels and no photography was allowed.

See Richard's photo!


Of a computer screen outside before you get ready to alert the authorities!

On our final day of the tour, we left Shaftesbury and headed to Salisbury - a town neither of us has visited before. It was a sunny day and the crowds were out as we headed through the shopping area towards the cathedral, where we were hoping to see one of the 4 remaining copies of the Magna Carta.

On the walk we passed this building - a home of a former bishop.

Mar 24

We checked into our B&B in Shaftesbury and then searched out Gold Hill - regarded as one of Britain's steepest streets and definitely an iconic view.

Here Jill climbs back up Gold Hill but without the Hovis loaf which featured in the famous advert!

Later we had a meal in an Italian restaurant in a converted chapel. The single room, high ceilings and a party of "lads" made for a rather noisy meal before we returned to the B&B.

Richard's Buddhist Pine

Today we said goodbye to Cornwall and set off on the long drive back towards London with the plan of stopping the night in Shaftesbury. The new road over Bodmin Moor was very impressive but we had to trundle along in a queue through the continuing roadworks.


Near Exeter we stopped at a Bonsai Tree nursery and bought some lovely bonsai trees - one for Ben, one for Caroline and one for us!

Ben and Caroline's Japanese Holly

Mar 23

Tonight we stayed at another farmhouse bed and breakfast at Summercourt near Newquay. Once again it was down a single track road, this one with potholes awaiting your arrival!

The hostess was a beekeeper and also keeps pigs which provided the bacon and sausage for breakfasts. Interestingly, she was a complete dead ringer for actress Emma Thomson.

Mar 23
On the road into Laddock, we spotted a rather interesting sign! Quite why it has a heart next to the word "poo" is a mystery!
Archie is quite a cutie!
We spent a lovely day with Hayley and Archie who was very friendly and alert and sat happily on Jill's knee.

After a memorable stay at the Driftwood, we drove across to the northern side of the Cornish peninsula to Laddock where Hayley, Jill's ex bellringing friend now lived with her husband and 9 month old baby boy.

Their house is a converted old mill with loads of character.

Mar 23
Next morning we enjoyed another superb meal - breakfast at the Driftwood. Jill had scrambled eggs surrounded by smoked salmon. Beautifully presented!
Rich went for smoked haddock and a poached egg.
When the egg was cut open it had the brightest orange yoke which you could imagine!
Mar 22

Chris came out to meet us (much to the intrigue of the four people on the next table) and Jill got a quick smooch!

We were glad to have had a once in a lifetime experience of staying at dining at the Driftwood.

Thanks to Chris for making it so special!

Our pre-starter...

caviar in a apple shaving slower with blini.

Helford crab, radish, Granny Smith apple, Shiro Dashi and sea purslane.
Pork jowl, clotted cream boudin blanc, crackling, hazelnut, rhubarb and cider.
Curgurrell corner young leeks, roasemary gnocchi,radish flowers and confit pullet egg yolk.
Roast monkfish, red wine salsify, curly kale, sunflower seeds, Jerusalem artichoke, and miso.
Forty day old fillet of Ruby Red beef cooked over coals with smoked bone marrow, garlic and spinach.
The Driftwood cheeseboard
Spiced pineapple, palm sugar, coconut, lemongrass and lime.
Chocolate bar, salted peanut, honeycomb and milk sorbet.
Finally, Chris sent out an extra dessert for us - his signature dessert and was named "thunder and lightning".

Let the meal commence.

The pictures above show the courses with the first course at the top and the last course at the bottom.

Mar 22

We were booked in for just one night at £250 but as it was still the "off season", that price included dinner at £65 per person!

However, that was for the "bog standard" 3 course meal - we decided to go for the "tasting menu" - nine courses (it finally turned into ten!) at £95 per person! We decided against the matching wines for each course at £75 per person....

Mar 22

Our room - Room 3 -had every comfort. It turned out that Ben and Alison had stayed in the same room when they visited the Driftwood!

Bedside lamps, picture frames and mirror surrounds - they all have drift wood in them. A theme which goes through the entire hotel.

Tonight we were staying somewhere special - The Driftwood Hotel near Portscatho non the southern Cornish coast.

Why here? Our son Ben just happens to know Chris Eden - the hotels Michelin Star Chef! Ben had laid plans for our arrival and we had an idyillic room looking out over the cliffs. The hotel has its own private beach!

Mar 22
After crossing the food area between the two biomes, we entered the Mediterranean zone - delightfully cooler than the tropics and although not quite so spectacular, there were some beautiful plants to pohotograph.

As Richard watched, Jill made her way along the very highest part - the tropical skywalk - above the canopy of trees.

Jill pauses for the camera at the start of the second level section from the left. Or was she simply getting her breath back?

Jill crosses the one way suspension bridge high up in the tropical biome.

The heat inside the tropical biome was energy-sapping (36C and 85% humidity) but it got worse as you climed further and further up the slope inside!

A bewildering array of tropical plants surrounded us at every turn, and occasionally we saw small tropical birds scavaging in the dense undergrowth.

The Eden Project is based in an old china clay pit so is completely hidden from the outside world. Two enormous biomes made of triple glazed layers of plastic covering. The whole site was started in 2000 and opened for the first time on March 17, 2001 but the project is still on-going. One biome houses the tropical rainforest zone, whilst the other houses the Mediterranean zone.
Mar 21
Our accommodation for tonight was the Royal Inn just outside the town of Parr. Not a pretty part of Cornwall but it was just 3 miles from the Eden Project - our target for tomorrow!
The jewel iun the crown is the long gallery - just about the only aprt which was razed to the ground in the fire. The arched ceiling was an amazing depiction of scenes from the gospels. At the far end, a voluteer played the piano as we walked around.

The owners certainly had wealth. No expense was spared. This is just one part of the kitchen area. Bread making, cheese and butter making, meat, veg preparation and desserts all had their own rooms!

Today we drove on further through Devon and into Cornwall. Our first stop was at a NT property - Lanhydrock. It is a magnificent Victorian country house which was restored by the Victorian owners after devastating fire. It nestles down in a small valley and required a walk of half a mile from the car park. We waited until a massive hail and rain shower had stopped!
Mar 20

After the parties, we started out on our trip to Cornwall. Today we went via Winchester where we explored the cathedral before searching out Stockbridge (the real Stockbridge - as opposed to the Stockbridge which features on Richard's model railway)!

It turned out to be a delightful Georgian village!

Our destination tonight was a farmhouse B&B near Yeovil. We eventually found it down a single track lane!

Rather than have a meal we ventured into Yeovil, found Tesco's and bought a snack meal to eat back at the farm.

On the way back from Yeovil Jill spotted a sign which read "Crematorium - Long Term Parking" (should it be "eternal" rather than long?)

Mar 19

Poppy in purple dress chooses the exact moment to twirl around!

Today is the actual birthday of Poppy, Jess and Meg but as 8 yr olds, we thought that the twins would like a party trip with just their friends rather than with Nana and Grandad. They were taking some of their school-friends on a Dukw trip on the Thames at Windsor.

So we headed over to Ben and Alison's to join in the party atmosphere there. The party was to have a Snow White theme with a party performer dressed for the part! Add 29 little girls..... you get the picture!

Richard's job for the day was to construct a Playmobil toy (left) of a swimming pool.

Poppy (R) is 3 whilst Daisy (L) is 5. Size difference!

Of course Poppy is sitting on the table!

Mar 18

Today we had a birthday dinner at The Three Horseshoes in Laleham village.

The party consisted of Caroline, Andrew, Megan and Jessica as well as ourselves and Eunice, Andrew's mother.

Jess decided that her mummy needed a hug and a photo!

It was a lovely meal and we could all enjoy a drink as Caroline had organised a people-carrier type taxi.

Mar 17

Being the start of the birthday season, we headed down to London for the twins' and Poppy's birthdays, not to mention Richard's! The following weekend it will be the turn of Ben and Daisy so we are planning a trip to Cornwall in between!

First stop was to have lunch with Jill's colleagues in Haydock.

The celebrations in Staines started with a Shaun the Sheep birthday cake for Rich (the only way lamb is allowed in Caroline's house!)

Jan 29
Souvenir photo with Pate Waterman, Jill and Rich along with one of the two autographed copies of Pete's book which we bought.
The sheer scale of the model, housed in a specially converted barn is shown in this view of Leamington Spa and this is only half the layout. The passenger train heading through the station towards the men of the right is between 18 and 20 feet long alone! Jill watches from the other side of the tracks!


Pete's famous layout is focussed on Leamington Spa. Click here to see the trains in action


Rich had the chance to drive a train and here he watches as his freight train with an abnormal load works its way into Leamington Spa station.

Today was to be a memorable one. We drove down to Cheshire to visit Pete Waterman's model railway which is truly amazing - not just by its size, but but it's attention to detail and authenticity!

We won the First Prize when we entered a competition at the Warley National Model Railway Show at the NEC last December (see the 2016 blog page) and this was the prize!

Here Pete explains to Jill how he makes the wagons which run on the layout.

Despite his fame, Pete was "one of the gang" on the day. Jill and I both feel privileged to have been invited to his home, and we thank the Warley Club for arranging the visit for us.

Jan 23 The drive back home to Ambleside today took us 4hrs 20mins which must be one of our most straightforward journeys.
Jan 21

Of course Jessica had to do the same. Like many 7yr olds, the girls are quite used to handling I-phones and swiping screens!

Once we arrived at Ben and Alison's, the phones were ignored because Poppy and Daisy - the twins' cousins were full of ideas about games to play!

Today we took Megan and Jessica over to Ben and Alison's house whilst Caroline and Andrew dealt with mortgage matters.

Rich was to help Ben get two network cables under the floorboards as part of the preparations for their new garden room project.

Here Megan is playing on Jill's phone as we travelled from Staines to Winnersh.

Jan 20

Today we travelled down to Haydock and St.Helens before driving on to London, taking all Caroline's and the twins' luggage back after Christmas!

First stop was to drop off some boxes for future log supplies at Jean and Roy's house in Newton-le-Willows.

Then it was a quick dash to St.Helens for our dental check-ups.

Next we returned to Haydock for lunch with two ex-colleagues (and one lady's husband) from Jill's old school.


The pictures here show the two Kaths and Harry (top) and Kath L (bottom). Kath L is the person who ensures that we keep up to date with this blog!

Jan 18

Today is the Annual Dinner of the Bond or to give it its correct title.... "The Ambleside Association for the Prosecution of Felons".

The Bond started in 1813 and was a forerunner to the local police force. Local businessmen paid an annual sum to help pay for law enforcement. The constable would ensure that criminals were delivered to Kendal Prison and beggars and vagrants were escorted out of the parish!

Today there are over 200 local men (sorry, no ladies!) who pay £29 per year for a meal. The meal is always the same - vegetable soup, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding etc and followed by Christmas Pudding (in mid January!)

Richard became a member (Bondsman) in 2009 and has a Bond tie with the Hangman's Gibbet. A draw for tickets takes place each year on Jan 5th. It is always over-subscribed!

Tonight, the Salutation Hotel will be packed as 115 lucky ticket holders enjoy the food and humourous speeches.

Richard has ticket 113 (only just made the draw!)

If anyone is unable to attend, one of their friends shouts the traditional "half a crown" when the roll-call is read out and then pays £1 on their behalf! (That's inflation for you!)

Jan 17

This afternoon, almost a year later than planned, we went to the Daffodil Hotel at Grasmere for afternoon tea.

Caroline had given Jill a voucher in 2015 to celebrate her birthday. However Storm Desmond in December 2015, followed by Frank in early 2016 put a stop to that plan as the hotel was (like most of Grasmere) flooded!

So today it finally happened... in a beautiful setting we enjoyed the tea with our good friends Shirley and Joe. The savouries were delicious - the cakes were too and the afternoon was also the time when two Polish people were married upstairs and then came down with their two friends to enjoy a similar tea! Definitely a small scale wedding!

The "lollipops" on the stand were cake lollies - one was chocolate and the other was an almond sponge!

Afterwards we returned home with absolutely no need for an evening meal!

Thank you Caroline!

Jan 15

The rest of the lights were taken down today - in rain! The rain has washed away the remains of the slight snowfall of the last two days. We have escaped lightly compared with the east coast!

In Kelsick Road we were about to complete the removal of the last string of lights, when Jill suddenly said "take a picture of me! Kath Loveys says that locking manhole covers (see December in the 2016 Blog) have limited interest to her!"


So here is proof that Jill was out with the lights team helping to control traffic as we lowered each string of lights and packed it away into large plastic boxes ready to be checked later.

It is worth pointing out that Jill was the only one who had the use of an umbrella!

Jan 8 Up early today (7am) to start removing the lights from around the town. It was dry so we took down a total of 700 metres of lights between 7am and 12 noon.
Jan 5 The decorations were packed away today and put in the attic. The house looks bare without them!
Jan 2 The cottage is strangely quiet after the departure of all our visitors over Christmas!