Four and a Dog

A blog about family life

Archive for the category “new experiences”


I’ve always loved the beach. I especially love swimming in a warm sea and building sandcastles. Diva also loves these things. She equally likes getting to eat ice-cream as it rapidly melts over her face and hands.

Bruiser loves kicking his feet in the sand and filling his chubby fists with sticky, wet sand. He also likes ramming big fistfuls of sand in to his mouth before anyone can stop him.

I do not like changing nappies full of sandy poos.

Le Village des Automates

If ever you find yourselves in Provence with children under the age of ten, or you just fancy going somewhere fabulously bizarre, take yourselves to Le Village des Automates. Here you will find an entire park of moving characters, dancing to an eclectic mix of music, alongside a superb array of adventure playground equipment.

The playground equipment really is in very good condition and includes zip wires, climbing frames, slides, tunnels, ball pit etc. There is also a lovely shaded cafe next to a child sized train that can be ridden for 1 euro. Everything else in the park is deliciously run down with some of the older exhibits housing puppets whose hands now lie decaying on the floor. Much like The Small World Ride in Disney, there are also some fantastic displays of racial stereotyping. All you need do is press a button to watch racially inappropriate puppets dance to strange songs that explain stories about pandas that eat too much bamboo…or something…my French isn’t great. Also, like Disney, there are some interesting liberties taken with traditional stories. Gulliver lounges in the forest whilst being fed by the seven dwarves and Pinocchio meets some unusual characters including a couple of people with dog faces… or maybe they were dogs with human hands…

There were also a couple of displays that I doubt Disney, even on his darkest day, would have thought to include in a Small World. My favourite was a set of elves/gnomes extracting another elf/gnome’s tooth with a piece of string. They all look very happy about the whole thing, even though they are stood next to a bucket of cotton wool stained with, what I hope is, fake blood. If that isn’t enough, there’s also an equally jolly set of elves/gnomes elbow deep in a surgical procedure.

I am not telling you any of this to put you off- far from it! I think this place is perfect for the whole family. Diva and Bruiser absolutely loved it! Bruiser’s favourite was a large furry dragon in Santa’s castle (you remember Santa’s castle right? It’s next to a four legged ant riding the Loch Ness Monster) and Diva pretty much loved it all. She travelled around the park in a Little Tikes car in which the owners had considerately added a floor for her feet and a handle for Grandad and Daddy to push with. She got to eat ice cream and run in a motion activated fountain. My Diva daughter, who regularly declares, “I can’t”, whenever she is faced with any kind of climbing (including stairs), climbed ropes, whizzed around on zip wires and scrambled through tunnels. The adults got to laugh, a lot, eat ice cream and enjoy the enjoyment of the children.

Diva has thanked me for her “adventure” every day and can not wait to go back. For those of you still not sure, look what you could be missing…


Music Class

We have been going to an excellent little music class every Monday. Diva spends it fluctuating from one extreme to another. Sometimes she sits with her back to everyone, arms folded, refusing to join in with the activities. There appears to be no discernible reason for this, I presume she occasionally takes offence at the song choice. The rest of the time she dances about in the centre of the room, the life and soul of the party. At these points she usually attempts to play more than one instrument, whilst singing, dancing and generally trying to take over.

Bruiser spends the whole time eating the instruments, or the socks of whomever he happens to be sat next to at the time.


Today I took Diva shopping for a party dress. Normally I just buy her whatever is on sale or that comes to hand in the supermarket. Don’t get me wrong, it still needs to match. You should see my face if Hubby has dressed her and the socks are the wrong colour or her hair slide doesn’t match. I mean, can you imagine?!? It’s just that we also try not to spend very much on clothes that will only be worn a few times before they’re too small or out of season (weather wise not fashion wise).

Now that Diva has been invited to a couple of parties, I felt it was my duty to make sure she is properly attired. With that in my mind, I decided to take her on a proper shopping trip. Grampy very kindly wandered about with Bruiser while Diva and I hit the shops. Mostly the dresses belonged at weddings or on eighteen year old girls, but eventually we found a few we liked in Next. For the first time ever I took Diva in to the changing rooms to try stuff on. For awhile she enjoyed herself running in and out of the empty cubicles in her underwear. However, after she’d tried on dress number one and seen herself in the mirror, she wanted more. She also wanted to buy all of them.

I explained that she could only have one, so she chose the most expensive. She claims it’s because the net under the skirt helps her to balance- a likely story. She liked it so much she didn’t want to take it off. I promised that she could do a fashion show for Nana when we got home, so she relented. After saying goodbye to all her friends (her many reflections in all the mirrors) we were allowed to head off.

We then walked around some more shops while Diva proudly carried her new dress, in a bag hooked on to the crook of her arm. Our trip ended with a quick stop in Costa coffee for a drink and snack. For a child that has never shown any interest in her clothes, or shopping, she has taken to it like a fish to water. What have I unleashed?

Back at home, she couldn’t wait to get changed in to her new dress and insisted on some music so that she could dance. Nana put on, ‘I Feel Pretty’ from West Side Story- Perfect. The music then changed to various tracks from Glee and included the videos. Diva attempted to copy some of the moves. The Diva bum wiggle may become her signature move.


Today Diva discovered Great Grandma’s stairlift. Great Grandma used it to go upstairs to find some books for Diva. Diva now thinks this is the criteria for its use and keeps asking to go upstairs to find books for everyone else. Sadly the stairlifts batteries have run out and all the shops are shut. Shame.

14 in a House With no Wifi

Well it’s been awhile- sorry.

We’ve just got back from a holiday in Devon where Wifi was weak and free time was non-existent. However, the weather was unbelievably good, the company was wonderful and Bruiser even slept… sometimes.

My parents will be celebrating their Ruby wedding anniversary next week and decided that a holiday with the whole family would be the best way to celebrate. These days the whole family consists of two grandparents, three children and their partners, six grandchildren and a dog. On this occasion the house we were staying in did not allow dogs and so Uncle M got to go on a holiday of his own with a lovely lady who actually seems to like all his idiosyncrasies. The rest of us got to stay in a fabulous house in South Devon for a whole week.

It has been a very busy week during which Hubby had to leave and “talk to people about stars” according to Diva. What he was actually doing was attending the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester- same difference. Thankfully that was only for three days and he was back in time to help pack up and drive home.

I could write in great detail about everything we did but I’m sure you would soon become bored and switch to another channel. Instead I will regale you with some of my favourite moments of stress, hilarity and sentimentality.

It is very rare for us all to get together anymore. Everyone lives hours apart and has a multitude of responsibilities that take precedence over fun holidays in the countryside. It’s about time we all became independently wealthy so that our only responsibility was to attend village fetes, buy stuff and have a cause. Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely so we will have to settle for normal life with an occasional get together.

Amazingly we all managed very well during the week. There were the occasional disagreements but nothing that required a Jerry Springer intervention. At some time or another, everyone found that they had missed out on some vital piece of information about what was happening, but I spend a lot of my time being confused about what’s going on so am fairly used to this.

Mostly it was a fantastic opportunity to catch up and to see what wonderful little people all of our children are becoming. I only had one cousin growing up and we didn’t get to see each other very often. I love the fact that Diva and Bruiser have all these other cousins and that they all get on so well.

Or the trampoline if you want to be exact. There was one in the garden of the house and all the kids LOVED it. Usually there were four children, an adult and a whole heap of static electricity inside. Cousins I and G leapt about like crazy, performing some impressive falls and tackles. Cousin T had great fun crawling about, practising his balance and pinning the resident adult to the floor. Diva jumped a little bit and then performed a variety of elaborate falls followed by a selection of dramatic wails. These were normally the result of her cousins not doing as they were told.

On the Saturday we went to visit Crealy Adventure Park where apparently you are expected to have a, “Really, Crealy perfect day.” Diva has only been to a theme park once when she was one and there was nothing for her to do. She LOVED Crealy. It was absolutely perfect for her. There were a variety of indoor and outdoor playgrounds, a merry-go-round, animals, ice-cream, a child size village to terrorise and cars to drive. She didn’t stop talking from the second we arrived, “Wahoo! I want to go on that one, Mummy. I’m really, really excited, Daddy! Let’s do it!”

On the Sunday it was Cousin G’s 3rd birthday. There were presents and cake and picnics in the garden. Diva received some belated birthday presents too. It was a good day.

Old Friends
On the Monday we deserted the family to go and visit one of my old college friends. We haven’t seen each other in about twelve years and it was wonderful to see her and her lovely family. They have three gorgeous boys who were all very patient and kind to Diva. She thought she had died and gone to heaven with all their toys (I think Hubby did too). A perfect afternoon ended with fish & chips in a sun filled garden- bliss.

Is full of retired people, impressive buildings and pretty pebbles. I loved it.

Cot Sleeping
Not all night, but Bruiser has been sleeping in a cot. Hooray!

Easter Egg Fun
We made cards, decorated eggs and beat up a piƱata egg for treats. We also had an Easter egg hunt. In the morning we got all the kids to make an Easter head band with stickers, gems, pom-poms and eggs. Aunty J and Cousin I had made baskets for everyone to fill and Aunty C went to hide a selection of treat filled eggs all around the garden.

The children all responded differently to the hunt. Cousin T went with his daddy to the far end of the garden where he could manoeuvre his wheelchair a bit better and began filling his basket as it hung around his neck. Cousin G went off, Bruce Willis style in his blue vest, crashing through undergrowth and throwing eggs in to his basket. Once he felt the area was clear, he ran off back in to the house to devour his spoils before anyone could take them off him. Cousin I was systematic and thorough. She scoured all the surrounding area and hoovered up every treat in sight. Soon her basket was quite literally overflowing. Thankfully she is also very kind and started adding eggs to all her cousins’ baskets. Diva was late starting, due to a momentary lapse in good behaviour, found one egg and announced she was done. She then proceeded to find herself a comfortable spot to sit down and eat her egg. It took a lot of persuading to get her to join back in.

Throughout the commotion Cousin A looked on with bemusement and Bruiser tried to eat his socks.

Lyme Regis
Another scorching day on Thursday so we headed to the beach. I am in love with Lyme Regis. I have always loved the beach and it would seem that Diva has very much inherited that bug. She couldn’t wait to get in the absolutely freezing water and had no issue with being covered in sand. In fact, she spent a good fifteen minutes practising comedy falls on to the sand.

When it was time to leave she flatly refused. We packed everything up, literally left the beach and she still wouldn’t come. I stood on the promenade watching her and waiting for her to realise I was no longer there. When she eventually did, there was about five seconds of wailing before she sat down in the sand and began playing again.

Grandma and Grandad
They haven’t stopped all week. They must be completely exhausted from being in such high demand. On the plus side, it must be very nice to know you’re in such high demand.

There are many other lovely things that happened but I need to go to bed now.

Thank you my lovely family for a lovely holiday.

Rugby Commentary

My parents are visiting us again this weekend and Grandma decided it was time to train Diva up on Welsh rugby. For those of you not in the know, today was a Grand Slam match between Wales and France. Here is Diva’s commentary on the match.

After Grandma explained the teams…
We like the red ones. We don’t like the blue ones (said over and over again).

Referring to a French player…
Oh no the mean one has it!

Referring to another French player…
Oh no the naughty one has it!

Referring to yet another French player…
Oh no the ugly one has it!

Referring to a Welsh player…
He’s wearing a hat so they don’t pull his hair.

Referring to a scrum…
Uh oh, they’re fighting.

Referring to a try…
Oh no he dropped the ball!

Referring to a conversion…
He did it! Now he can put his hat back on.

30 minutes in to the match…
You need to read me a story now, Grandma.

After several stories with Grandma and a couple of games with Mummy…
Look they won! Yay! They have cuddles now.

I don’t know a lot about Rugby but she seems to have understood the gist. I’m sure Grandma feels very proud…apart from the rude remarks of course, they were unnecessary and not at all funny and we will be sure to tell her not to do that again.

Meeting New People

This morning we went along to a local toddler group I’ve been to a couple of times. It’s a particularly good one. Everyone is incredibly friendly and the lady that runs it is fantastic. Diva likes it because she gets to play with a giant parachute and eat cake- me too. Bruiser likes the singing.

This morning this lovely lady came over and started chatting to me. I was telling her about the fact that Hubby will be going as a resident scholar on a fabulous cruise to see the Northern Lights soon (I am still breast feeding so can’t go and am thus very bitter). She informed me that something similar had occurred when her husband had to go to the Amazon Rainforest. Obviously I was curious and asked her why he was in the rainforest. It would seem that he invests in renewable energy schemes and has bought some of it to save it from loggers. Of course he has. Didn’t I feel foolish for asking.

Upon returning home we saw one of our neighbours and her little dog. She has asked us around for coffee a few times so we decided to pop across and say, hi. During this conversation I found out that her husband had been an RAF pilot that flew in secret missions during the 2nd World War. During one mission they were being followed by German bombers and so had to turn off their lights to avoid detection whilst landing. His plane landed okay but the plane behind him landed on top of him. The propellor ripped through his face and very nearly killed him. He required ten operations to rebuild his face. He was a true war hero and apparently one of the nicest people you could ever meet. Sadly he passed away a few years ago and his lovely wife has been left very lonely. I suspect she has a few more good stories to tell and we may become regular visitors.

There are some truly remarkable people in this world.

This afternoon we went to the doctors’ surgery for Bruiser to receive his next set of jabs. Here we had another, less pleasant, meeting. The waiting room has a very small table for children to play on right at the front of all the chairs.This is where Diva wanted to go. Next to the table sat a large, very serious (grumpy) looking man. As soon as we got near it Diva started shouting, “No, Mummy! Don’t sit next to the scary man! He frightening me, Mummy! Don’t sit there! Ahhhh!”

I’m not entirely sure how you are supposed to deal with this type of thing. He was clearly unamused by the terrified toddler and was very much avoiding acknowledging our presence. Several other people in the waiting room obviously thought it was hilarious- especially the ones with children who weren’t shouting out embarrassing things. I debated trying to cover it up, “Sorry, she’s practising her lines for a play and you remind her of the scary villain”. Maybe not. I also debated pretending she was not my child, but the fact that she was clinging to my leg was a bit of a giveaway. In the end I decided to be terribly British about it and told Diva she was being silly, and ignored it. Thankfully we weren’t waiting long before we were called in.

Our final meeting was with someone I met when we first moved here. She’d forgotten my name. I wonder what any of these people said about meeting us today…

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