Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Days in DC

Monday, May 27th, 2019

On arrival in Washington DC from New York for the second half of our holiday, we checked in to our hotel and headed a few blocks south to the White House. It ended up being a longer lap of the building than we had anticipated as the immediate area was cordoned off due to a security incident earlier in the day.

The next day was a Saturday and we took the Metro to Roosevelt Island, somewhere that is probably not high on the list of attractions for most visitors but is the home to one of DC’s parkruns. It was nice to be out doing something other than seeing yet more sights. After showering back at the hotel, we walked along the Mall where the Cherry Blossom Parade was just coming to an end and went to the Botanic Garden. My eyes were streaming by the end of the day which I put down to the tree pollen and spent the rest of the holiday on antihistamines.

The next day was spent at the National Air and Space Museum. The downside of the Smithsonian Museum’s being free is that it was absolutely jam-packed with people. We’d booked in to see a 3D film which was a relief from the crush even if two out of the four of us ended up watching the film in 2D (with the same colour glass in each eye!). We walked back to the hotel via the tidal basin where the cherry blossom was, unfortunately, past its best.

Christine was working the next day so we were left to our own devices. We started at the far end of the Mall this time with a trip to the Library of Congress where the baseball exhibition was somewhat wasted on us. We then moved onto the Postal Museum which was a surprise hit (even if just because they were giving away free stamps to start your own collection). Next stop was the Natural History Museum which was as packed as the Air and Space Museum had been; the butterfly exhibit that Emma had quite fancied also turned out to be a paid extra. We rounded off the day with a quick whizz round the Museum of American History and eventually found the superheroes exhibit.

Christine rejoined us for our final day when we spent about seven hours at the zoo! The main aim was to see the giant pandas and they duly obliged (if only because they had been kicked out whilst their cages were being cleaned). Emma also finally got the large soft pretzel that she had been the object of her desire for most of the holiday!

We were flying back from New York although out of JFK so the following morning we took the Amtrak back up north. Christine had ended up on a different flight back (a long story) and so had an extra five hours to kill at the airport. We were having breakfast on our flight around the time she was having dinner on hers! I’d had several hours asleep at home when I was woken by the phone asking us to collect her from Winchester station.

All-in-all a fun ten days away even if it did sometimes feel like we were working our way through a long list of tourist attractions. Indeed, Duncan was heard to remark at one point: “I just want to do something rather than see something”. I suspect we’ll probably revert to our normal formula in future of a few days in the city at one end or other of a more outdoorsy holiday.

New York, New York

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

I’ve been getting horribly behind on writing blog posts so I’m going to make a concerted effort to catch up. On the plus side, it means that you’re likely to get just the edited highlights! The first couple of posts cover our Easter trip to the US. Christine has been on sabbatical this semester and we decided to combine her visit to some American colleagues with a holiday in New York and Washington DC.

Christine was already out in the US so I had the pleasure of escorting the children on their first transatlantic flight alone. As anticipated though, they were no bother, with the opportunity to spend quite so many hours sitting in front of a screen going down a treat. We could have done without the 75-minute delay on takeoff and Emma was less than impressed by airline food but otherwise, the journey was uneventful. We were flying into Newark which at least meant the journey to our hotel in Jersey City was fairly short and Christine was there waiting for us on arrival.

The next morning we went in search of breakfast and must have made a good choice given the length of the queue around the corner from the bagel shop. From there, it was a short journey on the PATH train (note to visitors that one ticket can be reused by up to four people) under the river to 33rd Street where we walked around mid-town Manhattan taking in Broadway, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, St Patricks Cathedral, the Rockefeller Building and finally Times Square. Particular highlights were the Macy’s Flower Show and the Lego Store.

We were staying in a suite with a kitchen (something that was made affordable by staying outside of Manhattan) so at least when everyone woke early the following morning we didn’t have to wait for breakfast. Just to vary our transport options, we took the ferry today. This time we went up to 39th Street and spent the day at the Intrepid Museum of Air, Sea and Space (the NJ Transit discount made the price more reasonable). The museum has it all: it’s based on an aircraft carrier, has a submarine moored alongside, and has a space shuttle parked on the flight deck! We walked back along the High Line which, I have to say, wasn’t looking at its best at this time of year. It was a good excuse to have a nose at the Hudson Yards development though including the Vessel and the recently opened Shed.

I felt sufficiently with-it the following morning to go for a run along the waterfront. To even up the science/arts balance we then headed to the Museum of Modern Art. The building was undergoing redevelopment but there was still plenty to see. We then hit Central Park where Christine ticked ‘going for a run’ off her to-do list.

We couldn’t visit New York without going up a skyscraper and it might as well be the tallest: the One World Trade Center. Even having found a decent discount, it was still ridiculously expensive but on a clear day, there were excellent views to be had from the Observatory on the 100th floor. Perhaps as a consequence of the price, the queues were minimal. We wandered around the 9/11 memorial afterwards but declined to visit the museum which just seemed a little too ghoulish. Instead, we went for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

For our last full day, there was one obvious attraction still left to go: the Statue of Liberty. The last time I visited NYC as a tourist (over twenty years ago) I had just done the Staten Island ferry. Tickets for the climb to the crown sell out months in advance but getting a ticket to the island that included the museum and ascending as far as Liberty’s feet was easy enough. Unfortunately, the museum is about to relocate from the pedestal to a new building which meant the audio tour described lots of artifacts that had already been moved!

Next stop was the immigration museum on Ellis Island which has enough content in its own right to easily fill a day (including an exhibit by the Clan Currie Society!). The children were definitely beginning to flag a bit by the end though and didn’t appreciate the detour on the way back to the hotel to take in Wall Street.

The following morning, we packed our bags and took one last trip on the PATH train into Manhattan to Penn Station where we were to catch the Amtrak train to DC. It would probably have been cheaper to fly but, not-withstanding environmental concerns, we thought the train would be more fun. If we’d been more on the ball, we would have got one final advantage from our Jersey City accommodation and joined the train later at Newark Penn Station. All that remained though was to sit back in the enormous comfy seats and watch Philadelphia and Baltimore go past as we sped our way south.

To be continued…

Exmoor Half-Term Hols

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

A (very) belated blog post to record our half-term trip to Exmoor. The destination was selected as someone not too far away but where we haven’t spent much time before. As we drove there on Friday evening, what we’d failed to appreciate was how slow the roads would be to get there. The roads got narrower and narrower until, after passing Porlock Weir, we eventually reached a toll gate. I had started reversing back up the single-track road before Christine checked the details which indicated that we should pass through the arch, then through a tunnel under the coast path, which would take us to our randomly selected cottage (the left half of the building in the picture).

Reading through bumph left in the cottage it transpired that the cottage was part of the Ashley Combe estate, once owned by Lord William King, and where he honeymooned with his bride Ada Byron (to become Ada Lovelace) mathematician and colleague of Charles Babbage. The tunnels were part of an elaborate scheme to keep the tradesmen out of sight!

We woke to beautiful views north across the Bristol Channel to South Wales and east across the bay to Hurlstone Point. Our first day was fairly relaxed. We explored the private path down to the pebble beach and then drove back to Minehead to stock up on food. Christine and I took it in turns to explore, running from the cottage.

On Sunday, we drove to Bossington at the other end of the bay. From there, we walked up the headland to Selworth Beacon, returning via the National Trust tearooms at Selworth and an obligatory cream tea.

For the next two days, I was making the most of my remote working and saving a bit of vacation for later in the year. On Monday, the others went to Dunster Castle where they met up with their cousins and on Tuesday they explored on foot from the cottage.

Come Wednesday, I was back in holiday mode and we headed along the coast to Lynmouth. I then drove whilst the others took the cliff railway up to Lynton. From there we spent a few hours exploring the Valley of the Rocks. We returned to the cottage over Exmoor which looked particularly bleak at this time of year.

For our last full day we went south to Tarr Steps, a 17-span ‘clapper’ bridge. Our walk ended up being a little longer than anticipated as all the other crossing points on the river were under water until we reached Withypool (where the tea shop was not due to open for another week but the village shop ran to ice creams!).

Friday was departure day and we decided to stop off at Stourhead on our way home. The house was closed for its winter cleaning so we joined the masses on a lap of the lake as the sun broke through the morning mist.

It was a fun week but, other than perhaps to walk the Coast Path, I don’t think we’ll be rushing back.

Another Classic Weekend

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

It was another two day’s of racing this weekend. On Saturday BAOC had an urban race around Winchester based at Peter Symonds college. Christine was resting her knee so it was just the children and myself competing. Their courses were confined to the college grounds with Duncan finishing 5th M12- and Emma 3rd W12- (although they were running the same course and Duncan actually beat Emma).

The navigation wasn’t particularly challenging with many long legs meaning there was lots of hard running to be done. With a late start, I knew what time I should be aiming for and things became increasingly frantic as I headed into the last five controls. Needless to say, I managed to waste time on the last two controls, but still managed to take first place. The time of 43 minutes looks more respectable in the context of the 10k I ran and not the 6.4k quoted for the course length!

Sunday brought the November Classic. We all started today although only because I’d entered Christine by mistake! There was light rain over Hampton Ridge whilst we were out (the picture above was taken later in the day). We met with mixed fortunes. Duncan had a good run, finishing second on M10A. Christine walked round a few controls before returning. Emma was out for over an hour without finding any of her controls. My legs didn’t feel too bad until the last part of the course. My downfall was repeatedly hunting for pits in the bracken which saw me finish in 5th place. Thankfully, no events planned for next weekend!

OMM White

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Last weekend it was the OMM in the Black Mountains, South Wales. Christine’s parents had offered to mind the children so Christine and I were running the Medium Score together. There was a biting wind but blue skies as we set off on Saturday morning. There was some early indecision but we soon settled down to a steady mountain marathon pace. As the morning went on, the skies started to look increasingly ominous and, as we cross one bit of particularly bleak hillside, the snow began and persisted for long enough to paint the mountainside white. We reached the campsite with around twenty minutes to spare – not long enough to have fitted anything else in.

It was a long night in the campsite, made more bearable by being able to chat to Christine brother and his wife in the tent next to us. Due to the cold, we both ‘slept’ in all of our clothes, including waterproofs. We were certainly glad to discover that, as third mixed pair, we qualified for the chasing start and had an hour less to spend in the campsite in the morning.

Although we removed a layer, we both kept our waterproofs on for the whole of the second day. Christine’s knee was giving her grief (a likely outcome even before we started the weekend) and, as a consequence, we were setting a pretty stately pace. We reined in our plans as we went round and, although we finished with another 25 minutes to spare, at the speed we were going it still wouldn’t have got us another checkpoint. We were 47th on the second day which brought us down from 13th to 28th over the two days. Still respectable but not what we would have hoped for had we both been fit and healthy. On the plus side, it did mean we could slip away before the prize giving and make it home in reasonable time!

If you watch the promotional video, you’ll catch a brief glimpse of us finishing on the first day around the 1:33 mark. Thanks to Christine’s dad who purchased the image above where we were reunited with the children at the finish. You can also find our routes from Day 1 and 2 on RouteGadget.

British Schools Score Champions

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

Today we were down at the British Schools Orienteering Association Score Champs, taking place at Moors Valley Country Park. It was a lovely day to be out in the forest (particularly compared with Friday’s weather). This was the first score event that Emma and Duncan have done on their own and the game plan was simply for them to head around the loop of white-standard controls, picking up a few others on their way. They both executed on this and, despite (or perhaps because) of being back well inside the 45-minute time limit, won their respective courses. (Duncan ran up as the event starts at Year 5.) Prizes were presented by Gillian Cross, author of the Demon Headmaster series, and member of the organising club. Results and more pictures can be seen on the British Schools Orienteering Association website. We won’t be travelling up to the non-score Champs in Blackburn later this year but nearby BADO are due to host the event in 2019…

Birthday Hash

Monday, October 8th, 2018

Lest this blog become entirely about technology: it was Duncan’s 9th birthday last week. His party took place the weekend before and, given it was up at Farley Mount and all outdoors, the weather was very kind to us. Emma and I laid out a hash whilst Christine and Duncan waited for ‘the boys’ to arrive. We returned to find a game of capture the flag (a Cub favourite) well underway.

Having laid the hash was a good excuse to stay behind and mind the lunch whilst everyone else disappeared off into the woods. Thankfully they all returned again about half an hour later although I could still hear them for about half that time! In the meantime, I’d started frying for the bacon sarnies. I was cooking on gas but the plan was to light a fire in the site’s barbecue grill so that they could toast marshmallows for s’mores. Christine had even bought a flint and steel and, with copious quantities of cotton wool, they did eventually get a fire going. This was quite something given the trouble I then had just trying to light the candles on the cake (with a match I hasten to add). Christine had lots of other activities planned but they seemed happy to round things off with another game of capture the flag.

When the day itself came it was fairly uneventful. Emma gets lots of enjoyment from just watching other people open presents and, given she leaves for school before Duncan gets out of bed these days, he was kind enough to wait until they’d both got back from school. Duncan had a week off football so that things weren’t quite as manic as usual but, after a birthday tea (where, as you can see, he only got the leftovers of his cake from the party!) he and Christine then headed out to Cubs as usual.

Hursley 10k

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

It was Christine’s turn to run the Hursley 10k this year so the rest of us went along to spectate (Emma is always keen when there’s prospect of a cake stall!). There was lots of Eastleigh Running Club orange out for us to cheer on. As you’d expect given the location, there were also a few IBMers although, looking at the results, I also failed to spot many I should have seen.

On Christine’s return, I raced off for a quick run (a chance to knock out the September Challenge). It took longer than I anticipated but I made it back just in time to see Duncan cross the line in the KS2 race. He seemed pleased with his run. It’s just a shame that it’s another four years before Emma is allowed to take part in any of the races again.

More photos on Flickr.