What's going on at the cottages?     -  The Sunnybank Blog!    2019 

May 16

A lovely surprise today was Rich received a special message from Megan and Jessica!

Thank you girls!!

They are coming to the cottage for a holiday with Caroline and Andrew on May 25th.

Richard cannot drive for up to four weeks due to the gas bubble inserted into the repaired eye which helps keep the retina as flat as possible.

Clearly the popular button box will soon be in action!

Certain less reverent members of the family took the photo below and suitably adapted it!

Jill travelled down by train and together we returned home by train and were collected at Windermere station by Jim - a close friend.

There now follows two weeks of eyedrops four times daily, a plastic eyeshield at night and ensuring that he DOES NOT sleep on this back! (on alternating sides is OK.)

May 14

After rapidly been seen by various doctors, Richard was prioritised for emergency eye surgery later the same day. A new hotel room was booked as he waited for the opertion (as a return to hospital the next day was required).

Here Rich takes the world's most gruesome selfie after the 80 minute operation (under local anaesthetic!!!)!

With 12 stitches in the eye, the thick protective pad was probably better than seeing the eye!

Not that Richard noticed it at the time, but this massive bee in the atrium is the symbol of Manchester since the terrible events at the Ariana Grande concert.

Soon after seeing the optician, we were on our way to Barrow Hospital with Rich's partially detached retina.

Within an hour we were heading home so that Richard could catch the train to Manchester for a visit to Manchester Royal Eye Hospital the following day.

He stayed in a Premier Inn for the night.

This is the main hall of the hospital.

May 11 - 13

This weekend we drove to Kelso in the Scottish Borders to enjoy a get together with Richard's old work colleagues. On the Saturday night we dressed up for a Murder Mystery Dinner!

Here, Jill and our host Christina are walking around the house admiring the lawn which has a robotic mower.

On Sunday we took the new Borders Railway to Edinburgh for the afternoon. Whilst there, Richard started to see a shadow in the bottom corner of his left eye.

On Monday we drove carefully back to Ambleside and he went straight to the optician.

May 9

Today we went to Workington to collect a total of 10,000 coloured pencils for Richard's Rotary Club to send to Calcutta nd Uganda to help schools and street children there.

These are around 3000 of the 10,000 !

May 5

Somebody had fun fitting all this track into the layout of the field!

We started and finished at Millerbeck Junction station on the left.

The woods along the rigfht side of the field were full of bluebells and a herd of alpacas were grazing in the field next to the track in the bottom left corner.

This loco would be perfect for a visit by Ben, Alison, Daisy and Poppy!

It is a replica of a slighthly larger loco which worked in France in the First World War.

May 5

We decided to be tourists today and headed to the Millerbeck Light Railway near the bottom end of Windermere. The trains there are only open to the public on Bank Holidays. We had two rides, each lasting 14minutes and snaking around the grounds for a mile.

CLICK HERE to join Jill and Richard as they travel behind steam loco "Ailsa" but watch out for passing trains "Poppy" and the double headed Canadian Pacific diesel train.

Apr 30 Richard finally gets the date for his new hip operation in Kendal - May 22nd!
Apr 13

Richard and his "little" brother, Robert outside the Knot Inn where Robert's surprise party took place.

Little means 6'4" as opposed to Richard's 6' 6.5"

Apr 13
Helen presents Robert with a framed picture made from all the leaves they collected on the walk around Stock Ghyll when they came to us for the weekend last autumn. Matilda (aka a unicorn) and George look on.

Today we travelled secretly to Macclesfield and later the Biddulph area to be there for a surprise 70th birthday party for Richard's brother - Robert.

Once he had arrived and recovered from the shock of "SURPRISE!!!" we took this family group picture outside the pub (The Knot Inn at Rushton Spencer, between Biddulph and Leek)

 

Robert's family:

Back (L-R) James, Helen, Robert, Katie and Charlotte)

Front (L-R) Oliver, George, Harry and Matilda

Apr 5

After a few days in Ambleside, it was off down south again - this time by train. Ben and Alison were going to be involved in a family party for her Auntie Pauline's 80th birthday and so they needed babysitters!

So we took a train from Oxenholme to Manchester Picadilly and then this train to Reading.

We returned on the Monday (8th).

Mar 25 We finally headed home by car, via Ben's house after a wonderful trip with birthdays and new places seen... and harrowing locations visited.
Mar 22 Our visit to Bruges was over and today we took the train back to Brussels where we boarded the Eurostar train to London Waterloo and home to Caroline's house. It had been a memorable few days!
Mar 21

The tour concluded with a visit to Ypres and the Menin gate which has the names of 55,000 soldiers whose bodies have never been found! It was a sombre reminder of what they went through in the First World War.

We even found an "Attenborough" amongst the names.

From Ypres, the minibus took us back to Bruges and we enjoyed a second meal at the Pompe Bistro.

We travelled on along the Menin Road and past "Hellfire Corner" to a cemetery with thousands of graves from the Battle of Hooge, near Ypres. The cemeteries were perfectly presented and tended by CWGC workers.

Today we decided to take a full day tour of the Flanders Fields on a minibus with a English speaking guide. We visited several war grave sites and we were even shown unexploded shells like these which farmers leave at the side of the road for the bomb disposal people to deal with. There are still millions of unexploded shells in the ground and they are found almost every day, especially at ploughing time!

These shells and a grenade were close to Passchendaele - a sleepy village now but a living hell in WW1.

Mar 20

Daisy wanted a teddy bear but we had not seen a shop but as soon as we told Ben this in a Whatsapp, he came straight back with a link!

After traversing the town we found the shop which was a little treasure and the man was like a small version of Herr Flick from "Allo Allo". It turned out that most bears he sold were Steiff bears and cost literally HUNDREDS of Euros each. However, we did find a reasonable one (and another for Poppy) and watched as he wrapped them in brown paper in the old fashioned way.

This one cost over 500 Euros! Note the trademark button in the ear!

Later, we had a very pleasant meal at a nearby restaurant - Le Pompe Bistro (just near an ancient water pump).

The market contained lots of fruit, veg and flower stalls and a couple of chocolate stalls like this one.

Today we lazed around a little and paid a leisurely visit to the market.

 

Perfect fruit and veg is available in the market during the morning. The mangoes were huge, as were most fruits and vegetables!

Mar 19
For the meal tonight we went to a recommended restaurant at which we had failed to get a place last night. There was a bunch of loud elderly British men at the bar but once they had left the place was more peaceful.

By now we were hungry and found a pizza restaurant. During our meal we were entertained by two girl tourists from Taiwan who are studying in Paris. They took loads of model pose photos of themselves eating. Eventually we offered to take a photo of the two of them together which they loved and then proceeded to tell us their story!

Next was a boat trip. We shared the boat with a local junior school class and three men from Eastern Europe who took 2000 selfies during to 40 minute voyage!
Time for a coffee on the museum balcony overlooking the main market square.
Not wanting to miss out of the pomp and ceremony.....!

Today we explored the town/city in glorious weather. We started at the museum which featured an interactive display in various rooms telling the story of how the city became important.

Speaking of important - Jill decided to dress the part!

Mar 18
In search of a restaurant for our first meal we discovered that Bruges has the largest number of chocolate shops you could ever expect to find in one town. Every conceivable shape including rabbits in top hats!
Another day another adventure. We are off to Bruges by Eurostar! The journey was quick and after a change in Brussels we were soon in Bruges and a taxi to our hotel.
Mar 17

We started the day with Richard's birthday breakfast at Ben's with American style pancakes and then we were off back to Caroline's at Staines as we had a birthday lunch planned at the Swan Hotel (it didn't catch fire this time!).

To the amusement of other customers, this cake arrived via a waiter with all the staff singing Happy Birthday! Then it was a matter of who had an eye and who had a foot! It was lovely cake but probably broke the diet rules!

Mar 16 Took the train to Ben's house for Poppy's birthday party which was a Gymnastics Party. We helped prepare the room above the gym for the actual party food. Later it was back to Ben's for the night.
Mar 15 Today we drove south again, but this time via St.Helens for a dental check up followed by lunch at the Lymewood with Jill's ex-colleagues and then on to Caroline's home!
Mar 7- 14 We are actually at home for this period but coming soon....
Mar 6 Our trip to Blackpool was over but as we both had hospital appointments in Kendal the next day, we stayed overnight at Garstang Golf Course and Hotel. Jill discovered a bouquet of flowers in the room upon arrival and we enjoyed the restaurant to ourselves for a relaxed evening meal!
Mar 6

Today is Jill's "actual" birthday and Richard had arranged for us to go to Blackpool to see "The Lady Vanishes" at the Grand Theatre.

We parked near the theatre after a big police diversion away from the sea front! We eventually reached our desired car park and learned that there was a Royal visit in progress!

Here, Jill poses outside the theatre where we were to see a play which Caroline had seen in Windsor and was now on tour.

The theatre was "grand" both in name and in terms of decor. However the stalls seats were almost level and so Jill had a poor view so at the interval we moved to some empty seats a little further back.

One of the stars of the show was Juliet Mills - the daughter of Sir John Mills and sister of Hayley Mills.

As we reached the promenade after a pre-theatre lunch we met the crowds outside the Tower where Prince William and Kate were about to emerge from a meeting.

They both went around the crowds, with Prince William coming around our side. Richard, being fairly tall had a great view as the prince chatted to people just in front of him!

Mar 4 After breakfast, a friend of Keith's arrived to take him to the airport via their old canoeing haunt in Shoreham. We were then free to load the car and, after final checks, set off for home - a 300+ mile drive!
Mar 3

With just three of us left after the others departed, we set out for Beachy Head and then via the outskirts of Eastbourne to Alfriston - a beautiful Sussex village with ancient buidlings.

We found the Star Inn which really was ancient and included a ship's figurehead outside. Jill seemed keen to kiss the figure head as we departed after a very good Sunday Roast meal!

We the returned to the "House in the Woods" and relaxed and packed ready for our departure the next day.

Mar 3 Today we received a phone call to say that the i360 was working again..... but it was too late - so a full refund and apologies followed from British Airways. Caroline and family and Ben and family needed to head home as it was school as usual tomorrow!
Mar 2

From Portslade we took a circuitous route to fool Jill as we approached the next location...

 

 

The final surprise of the day was a meal in the very pub where Jill and Richard had their wedding reception on August 8th 1970.

Now it was called the "Garden Room" and it was quite noisy as Brighton and Hove football team had just won a game. There was also a children's birthday party in full swing but we had our own dedicated table.

The girls enjoyed the colouring books and plasticene provided by the pub as we waited for our meals.

Later, Poppy decided to use Ben as a high chair!

After a long and eventful day we headed back for the 20 mile drive to the house where we were staying.

Jill just had to show the girls the "Roman Wall" at the bottom of the garden (which Jill had tried to impress Richard with in 1969). The "Roman" wall was actually made from London Brick Company bricks and faced with flint - but the trackway was used by Romans to carry salt inland from the sea.

Here the girls seem suitably unimpressed with Jill's history lecture!

Next, we headed to Portslade to see Jill's old family home where she, Keith and Steve grew up. It looked quite smart but the beloved garden had been swept away into a low maintenance affair.
Next stop was Devil's Dyke on the top of the North Downs. It was bitterly cold with a strong wind so we all took refuge in the very popular cafe for hot drinks.

Today (Saturday) a day of surprises was planned. After breakfast we set off in two cars for Brighton sea front where we had booked tickets for the BA i360 (see left) but a phone call to Richard explained that it was out of action for the day! Some people were quietly relieved as the prospect of going up 157 metres in the "doughnut" was a little scary!

Instead the girls enjoyed playing on the beach, chasing waves and looking for interesting pebbles!

Lunch followed in the i360 restaurant.

Mar 1

The house is pretty spectacular. It is an Eco-House with one side mainly glass to collect heat.There were six ensuite bedrooms and a large open area/garden for the family to explore.

Eventually we were all there - Jill and Rich, Caroline, Andrew, Megan and Jessica, Ben, Alison(arrived Saturday am), Poppy and Daisy and Keith.

Mar 1 Today was the start of another adventure to celebrate Jill's 70th birthday. We (Richard actually) had rented a large house in Sussex for the whole family for the weekend. We drove down and after a stop at Sainsbury's at Crawley we made our way to the house and met Keith who had flown down from Scotland.
Feb 25 After a weekend relaxing with Caroline and family, we headed North after all our adventures!
Feb 23

As we were only a few miles from Statford, we made a call on Mike and Elaine Lily (relatives of Jill's father's second wife Gladys).

They live in a unique house within a house near to Ann Hathaway's house in the village of Shottery.

We met the family and Ben the autistic help dog. The black post behind Ben's neck is the older (inner) house and the second black post above his head and the horizontal balck beam are part of the outer (newer) house.

Feb 23
After another night at the B&B, we had a breafast in the old dairy and we were entertained by a swarm of ladybirds which wandered around the window frames but occasionally landed on our table!

Feb 22

There was in ampressive display of armour inside the castle and here Meg and Jess pose infont of a knight on horseback!
Feb 22

After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast, we were ready to visit the castle again. We arrived early so there was no queue for the archery and the girls had a quick lesson before loosing their arrows!

Later we saw another archery display and the twins (along with the all the other children watching) learned the original meaning of the "V sign" but the man made it clear not to use the sign towards their teachers when they went back to school and were asked to say what they had learned during their holiday!

Feb 21

Although we arrived during the afternoon, we still had time to explore and watch the birds of prey display including this bird!

Tomorrow we would have the full day in the castle....

Feb 21
As our time with the twins was coming to an end we started out to take them home to Staines - but on the way we had booked into a B&B at Warwick where we would visit the castle with all its half term activities!
Feb 20
Today was the date set for Richard's Rotary club to help host a meal for 60 local people in aid of Polio Eradication. Megan and Jessica did a superb job of helping set up the table with place mats, cutlery, glassware and condiments....

An hour later... the meal was in full swing and it raised over £800 for Polio Eradication (to which Bill and Miranda Gates would add another £1600).

Finally they helped draw the raffle tickets before we cleared the whole room once the event was over.

Feb 19

A firm favourite with Megan and Jessica is Sunnybankopoly (made some years ago by Ben).

The highlight of the game is when the chance card "Nana is fined £200 for skinnydipping in Rydal Water" comes up!

Today we went to Keswick and took the girls to the Illusions Museum, which is full of optical illusions, holograms etc.

This room defies logic where you can hang off the wall or slide up the stairs!

Feb 16
Caroline and the twins have arrived and one task was to send this picture to Daisy to show her that Santa's sleigh has a home in Ambleside!
Feb 15
The crocuses planted last year on the triangle outside the cottages have burst into flower!
Feb 9 Blog Day! 2018 finished off and 2019 started! Enjoy!
Feb 8 Today we travelled to the Warrington area to meet up with friends who have met for 40 years since Richard and they had started a B.Ed Honours course. Over lunch we planned our next joint adventure in Bath.
Jan 24

Conditions further up the road, however, were more severe. This is the view from the main road outside the Kirkstone Pass Inn, looking down towards Sunny Bank. The road signs at the bottom said "ROAD CLOSED" but various people ignored it! Most returned a few minutes later after slipping to a halt. One car full had to be rescued by Mountain Rescue!

"Should have gone to Specsavers!"

Jan 23

Despite the weather, Richard travelled to Kendal Hospital for a hip X-ray, the waiting room was full and some people had been there a while! Fortunately, he was seen and out within an hour!

Due to his length, the staff had to wind the bed/table down to the floor and the actual camera up towards the roof to make sure the whole hip area fitted on the X-ray.

Jan 23
This was the view from our bedroom. About an inch of snow outside.
Jan 23
The winter has finally arrived and so has a pheasant who now pays daily visits to our bird feeders! He cannot reach all the food but happily hoovers up anything within range with his head through the cage bars!
Jan 20

As Richard was hobbling around with lights, Jill was down in London taking Megan and Jessica by train to Ben's for the day. All four girls - Megan, Jessica, Poppy and Daisy love to get together. Jill had taken a Silly Milly story with her. Richard had written this to entertain the girls. Here, Jessica is reading the story on the train to Reading.

Like to read the story? Click here

Jan 20

The second and last Sunday morning of removing lights. We started at 7am and ended at 3pm at which point Richard returned home, had a long hot shower and went to bed for 17 hours!

Meanwhile, Jill was in London, having taken the second batch of pencils!

Jan 13 The first day of taking down the lights around Ambleside. Rich struggled with walking as he seems to have osteoarthritis in the right hip (an ongoing saga!)
Jan 12

Today we went to the theatre in Keswick to see Beauty and the Beast. Afterwards, we went to Workington to collect 7000 pencils (not a mistake). The pencils were donated by the Derwent pencil company for use in poor areas of the world. Richard's Rotary club had recently heard about a village in Uganda which is visited each year by a local lady or her friend in London. So we collected the pencils and she then took a suitcase full to fly out to Uganda later this month. The suitcase had around 3000 pencils in it. A few days later Jill was due to go to look after Megan and Jessica so another 2000 went down with her! Jill met the lady under the clock at Waterloo to hand over the pencils! Rather like a John Le Carre film!

We still have 2000 pencils ready to go down the next time we drive down!

Jan 1 Happy New year to our Blog readers! This message is a bit later than planned but am finally catching up with the blog entries.