a few days in belgium …

a few days in belgium …

A brief write up and a bucket load of pictures from when Pat and I took a short break the week before last in Belgium. We went via the very decent and very easy eurotunnel crossing, which always make for a rapid and straightforward transit to mainland Europe, and if you’re only headed for northern France or Belgium it’s maybe the most hassle free way to go.

Our early start for Folkestone meant we missed the mind numbing traffic delays that the route south is often prone to when you either get the timing wrong or you just get unlucky.

Our crossing was routine and we were headed for Ypres pretty much on schedule.

We drove straight to our apartment checked in and were out for a wander pretty much within 20 minutes of getting there. We stayed just a two minute walk from the Menin Gate – which has its own special place in wartime history.

Ypres itself seemed to be a fairly small and compact place, and a very pretty one as well, with a decent selection of bars and enough variety of places to eat that probably cater for most tastes.

If visiting,  I would say its well worth spending some time to take in the terrific In Flanders Fields museum which is dedicated to the study of the First World War.

The museum itself is in  Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle) on the market square in the city centre.  It really is first class and it’s also worth going to top if the belfry whilst your there.

We also took in the moving Last Post ceremony on both nights we were there (it takes place at 8pm, and has done every night since 1928). It’s a quite fitting tribute to the carnage and lives lost all those years ago.

We also took in a trip to the Paschendale Memorial Museum which is only a short drive from Ypres and another place that is more than worth a visit and recounts the sobering tragedy of the First World War battles that took place in that area of Flanders.

After that we made the short journey to the Tyne Cott memorial, the largest of the British War Commission memorials (in the world).

After our enjoyable and educational time in Ypres we headed for Bruges and an overnight there. We had stayed in Bruges a few years ago, and even though our stay this time was just for the one night we had a great time wandering around and ended up walking a little over 12 miles.

All in all a very decent trip and to places that I’m sure we will return to at some point.

And a few more random snaps below from our all too short break:

if you go down to the woods …

if you go down to the woods …

I had a fine time yesterday when I set off with two of my grandchildren for an amble down the woods – grandchild number three remained at home with my wife, he’s just a little young too join in the sort of walk we had.

There’s seldom a time when we see them that they don’t surprise us and yesterday was no exception – before we had even set off both Daniel and Emma were chanting their 2 and 3 Times Tables to me – I’ve long since forgotten at about what age children learn these things but I hadn’t expected it from a five and three year old. To be fair they topped that whilst we were out walking when they started singing some song about the Romans with mention of Carthage – after they had finished and I had complimented them, Daniel told me in a quite matter of fact sort of way “It’s Geography Grandad”

081117 Woods (3)I had a single £1 coin in my pocket and when we stopped off at a local newsagents I had optimistically thought that we might get three chocolate Freddo’s – alas they had decided that it would be a good idea to get one Milky Bar and one Freddo which they could then both share. The two bars accounted for £0.95p of my single £1 … I was grateful for them both allowing me a small bite of their chocolate bars.

After that it was a pretty much routine walk through the woods down near the River Tame with imaginary worlds to explore and ‘mountains’ to scramble up – and on one occasion, for the three of us to tumble down, it could have been worse and we really shouldn’t have gone up it, thankfully we hadn’t been seen by anyone or I’m sure I would have been branded irresponsible.

We found names for almost everything we came across: slippy bridge, Roman Ruins, white water corner, big mountain, red rock mountain etc … and to be honest I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most!

Lunch was a simple affair – a jam sandwich for Daniel and a cheese sandwich for Emma, I got some of the crusts from Emma’s bread (or bones as we call them).

All in all we walked 3.5 miles, had a good time, got dirty and didn’t go near a television, DVD or Ipad – sometimes the best things really are free.

Although Harry had been left at home – he didn’t look as though he had missed out – and as well as nipping to the shops with my wife, he had generally had the run of the house as well as the endless fascination that a small boy gets from a washing machine.

One last thing – as we walked home we passed the primary school where my children used to go many years ago, I pointed it out to the children and explained that was where their Mummy used to go – they were genuinely surprised and asked me why did she go to school, as children who are being Home Educated I suppose I should have anticipated the next question – “did you teach her Grandad?” … er no, “why not Grandad”, er I don’t think I would really have been good enough to do that,  a look at her Blog will amply illustrate that she really does excel in ways that I never could


pumpkin time …

pumpkin time …

Yesterday was that time of the year when another established routine in our house takes place – the annual pumpkin activity with the children.

The only change in the routine this year was the addition of small pumpkin so that Harry could join in with Emma and Daniel – which he did with enthusiasm.

It’s actually a pretty basic process, the children draw their design (strongly encouraged by me for them not to do anything other than simple – due to my limitations with a knife) – I then attempt to carve out the design  and the children scoop out the innards.

Thankfully I had design control over Harry’s, and whilst Emma’s was a pretty traditional design it just left Daniel to offer the challenge by the inclusion of four eyes in his pumpkin design, it could have been worse as his first drawing had 10 eyes!

The other bonus of the day was that I had received a package earlier that arrived in two large boxes … or cars as the children informed me, so a bit of fun was had in those – which included me ‘driving’ them around the kitchen.

After that the morning was rounded off with some decorating of cakes for Halloween, I was a little dissapointed that the children were allowed to take them all home!



time passes so quickly …

time passes so quickly …

A little over five years ago I was at Manchester Airport about to board a flight to Amsterdam with my son to watch Manchester City play Ajax in the Champions League, with just a few minutes to go before boarding I got a ‘phone call to tell me the news that my daughter Sarah had given birth to her first child – a boy.

Step forward five years and my wife and I were calling to a local community hall to deliver the Paw Patrol birthday cake that my wife had made for Daniel’s 5th birthday.

As well as a bunch of his friends being there, his younger sister Emma and younger brother Harry were also there.

It wasn’t a family party as such, already he’s ‘too old’ for that, so after delivering the cake we didn’t stay too long so as not to outstay our welcome, but we did call back later to help with the cleaning and tidying of the community hall.

It was excellent to see that the children played traditional games and activities (including pass the parcel and biscuit decorating and even better to see that none of them had their heads buried in mobile phones or iPads.

Later in the week – 1,825 days after arriving and on Daniels birthday we met up for breakfast before they called back to our home for some present opening.

timeWe’re fortunate to have frequent and regular contact with our grandchildren, but it doesn’t half focus your mind on the passage of time and we can hardly believe how quickly the days have passed.

Five years ago we didn’t have any grandchildren and now we have three – along with birthday parties and the inevitable cake making being firmly established as part of our family routine.


whose house is this …

whose house is this …

In recent years there is seldom more than a couple of weeks that have passed by  without our nephew, Andy spending a day with us.

This week was no exception – to say he is somewhat settled in his visits would be something of an understatement.

Slippers at the door makes perfect sense but you know you’re losing ground when your wife comes in from the kitchen, offers up a tall Gin & Tonic and it’s not you she gives it too!

And if that isn’t enough – home made ice cream made especially for your visitor gets served up!


Think I’ll call a taxi


capital day out …

capital day out …

We had a decent day out during the week when we took advantage of the Virgin Rail cheap tickets offer – Manchester to London (return) for just £22 each.

Pat had sorted the tickets whilst i was away in June/July on one of my bike trips – and given that we have always enjoyed our trips to London we had looked forward to this for some time – our last visit was in April this year so the timing seemed about right for this visit as well.

Not only are the tickets great value, with a two hour journey time it really does mean that it’s very easy to make a decent day of it.

I don’t think we will ever get bored of visiting London there really is always so much to do, despite having traveled there many hundreds of time when working, its never quite the same when you visit somewhere in a work capacity as opposed to being a ‘tourist’.

We headed for Camden Market first of all – a place that neither of us had been to before, but  a place that is well worth a visit. It was easy to pass time browsing around the stalls (and buying a couple of bits and pieces)

After that we stopped for a beer, then suitably refreshed we headed for The Skygarden at the top of an impressive 35 story office building on Fenchurch Street.

London 181017 (71)It’s free to visit – but you do need to book your place in advance. I can imagine that on a better day (weather wise) the views would be spectacular, even with the low cloud and drizzle it was pretty impressive.

There’s a bunch of pictures in the gallery below, which include a few in the Skygarden

After the Skygarden we headed off for Leadenhall market, Covent Graden and then a wander around Harrods (and no we didn’t buy anything there), before getting an evening meal and wandering a couple of miles back to Euston for our train home.

All in  all a fine day out.


another few weeks pass by …

Peek a BooAnother few weeks have passed by since I last posted on this Blog – that’s not because we haven’t seen much of our grandchildren – quite the opposite in fact, it’s just been a case of there not really being enough hours in the day to keep up to date with everything.


Not surprisingly the children continue to be massively entertaining and the continued development of their personalities and abilities continues to astound us (as well as bringing us great pleasure).

I addition to sampling some of Grandma home made (best served warm) sticky stem ginger cakes we also got to sample some of their home made Slovakian biscuits … which were magnificent.

IMG-20171013-WA0006A trip to my parents in Cardiff saw us come back with homemade shortbread from Great Grandma – heart shaped and with the children individuals initials set into them, which not surprisingly went down well as did the duck shaped egg cups which received a fine thumbs up from Daniel.

Last but not least was the now routine taking of ‘staircase pictures’, this time with Daniel and Emma wearing a couple of my old crash helmets – complete of course with some face pulling!