Dorset County Show


Moving house must be traumatic! For the past few weeks, I have concentrated on my feelings, the progress we are making, the packing and unpacking.

With the advent of the end of summer, the countryside explodes with shows and events. In early September, Dorset sets up for its greatest show…The Dorset County Show!

We had seen the tents, the toilets, the parking spaces being pegged out, put up and pulled in on the exhibition ground just outside of Dorchester. Clearly it would be big, but we had no idea how big!

My daughters came down for the weekend with Keoni. This seemed a great way for us all to experience this new way of life. So we piled into our cars and set off. There is a one way diversion around the show ground, but parking is very easy and free. As we drive onto the parking lot, I gasp at the size!

Fields and fields of neatly arranged cars span the horizon. It is well organised with plenty of efficient marshals and we are soon parked up and ready to roll.

As Keoni has fallen asleep in the car, we are able to push him round the first sections and gain an impression quickly. It brings back several experiences to me.
– a small show in Lincolnshire which my aunt took me to: I remember the men washing, combing and smoothing their cattle just prior to the show
– the village fete we attended the other day in Piddletrenthide, where people took their time to admire and discuss
– the ‘Grand Designs’ exhibition in Excel Centre, London (or indeed the Education Show in Birmingham) where you see more exhibitors of things related to the theme of the show than you could ever have imagined existed!
Country crafts, fine artisan cheese, life sized model horses demonstrating bridles, honey bees, log choppers, ploughs, combine harvesters, tractors, hens, sheep, country clothing, more food stalls than anyone could manage…the list just goes on and on.

We did not get round a quarter of it!

Keoni woke and loved it. He adores any large machinery, tractors in particular, and here he could climb on them, touch them and see them in every direction. He must have walked miles. Having taken in the first impression of tractors, he was drawn to the central ring where stunt drivers completed their show, followed by lovingly restored vintage tractors, a tractor dressed up as a police car (including siren) and finally the prize winning sheep, goats and cows paraded.

Cows! Some of the bulls were enormous! Beautiful sleek animals, whose coats gleamed in the sun and whose muscles rippled with pride as they walked their lap of honour.
Sheep! Their wool was such a variety of colour, so clean and their feet so trim.
Goats! They gained a dignity which the word does not usually imply!

There were pitches for local independent schools, for faster broadband connectivity, for artificial grass and straw logs.

As a way of learning about our new domaine, I would say it was excellent.
As a day out for the family: exhausting but great value.

Three tons of love


The pace of change is astonishing! Just a week ago, John and I went to Dorset and changed plan to move there rather than the South Downs. Just a month ago, my daughter and I came back from a week’s holiday in Spain with a master plan which promptly crumpled with a phone call.

The part of the story with my daughter is best told through hints. Forgive me, dear reader, you will have to guess this subplot.

The conclusion of her story is told through a heap of boxes, and a half empty attic, when her husband arrives with a truck to transport his family down to Devon. All morning, grandson, Keoni and I walk the street on a homage to playgrounds in the area he has known and loved. Meanwhile my daughter, her husband and John achieve a gargantuan task of loading a three ton truck with her belongings.

She had no idea she owned so much! A lifetime of clothes, toys, baby things, cooking stuff from previous flats, bits of furniture accumulated over thirty years of travel and life. The house feels empty, as though it can breathe again now it is all gone.

Of course, it was all integrated amongst our things, while they looked after the house while we traveled round Australia for six months. Slowly, it has separated.

Slowly we have separated!

My generation of parents have approached their role in a totally different manor to our own parents. We all seemed to leave the family home, never to call it home again, usually about the age of twenty, if not before.

We have a stronger , more empathetic relationship with our children. They famously boomerang back after traveling, university or divorce. Multigenerational living is the subject of magazine articles and clearly has its ups and downs.

But I loved it! Watching my daughter grow in confidence as a mother. Knowing that Keoni was totally comfortable when we looked after him. Seeing my daughter with him: her skill, patience and love. A total magic beyond words.

All bundled up in a three ton truck. Waving goodbye partly because John and I have chosen to move on. The dilemma of emotion in forcing this parting and regretting this split is incredible.

Of course it is best for them. Of course they will be fine and we will see them often. Of course I want this to happen…but Keoni’s room is empty tonight. The hurly burly of childhood suddenly stopped, leaving a silence of old people.

Yet our future is so exciting! Today we await the exchange news (again) the removal firm are booked, the new house awaits with a new community, new challenges and a new lifestyle. There seems so much to do and so little at the same time.

A Grand Design to see the Queen


Flushed with success as Nonna and Poppy, John and I are happy to be asked to care for Keoni again for a day. Actually, it was all a bit of a mix up. My daughter and her husband are keen to move to Devon, but have lots of packing to do before they can. I have generously given them old sofas, chairs etc but as they have no where, as yet, to move to they are reluctant to take them with them.
I am reluctant to take them back. Everyone is agreed that selling this house is high priority and that it is crammed full of 28 years living. So they agree to hire a van, and take loads of stuff to the dump. Trouble is, I don’t realise that they will not be able to manage Keoni, so John and I have booked to go to the ‘Grand Designs’ show on the same day.
Still, toddlers love large spaces and new things. How hard can it be to take him too?
This particular journey across London, involves several trains. Right down Keoni’s street: he loves trains. We get to Waterloo without incident. John plans a short detour, purely for educational purposes. Today is the State Opening of Parliament. the Queen is in London. So we stop at Westminster station, with just ten minutes to spare before she is due.

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He loves the horses, the bells, the beautiful coaches. Even though we cannot actually see inside to be sure the Queen is there, it is worth the effort. The British do pageantry with a particular panache.

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By the end of the day, Keoni seems to recognise the headlines in the newspaper of the Queen’s carriage and happily ‘reads’ the paper on the train.
After our Royal Appointment, we head over to the Excel exhibition centre. This involves two more trains. By the time we arrive, he is asleep, which is great because it gives us time to get orientated and visit the stand we really want to see: oak frame houses. Part of the dream is to buy a wreck, knock it down and build our own house.
We are impressed by the range of companies and the standard of care and design they offer. For a short while we believe this will actually happen.
When Keoni wakes we dedicate our time to him, allowing him to tell us what to see. Favourite things are; houses you can walk into without queuing, garden seats where you can sprawl and a giant telephone.

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Armed with our information about timber framed houses, we begin the journey home.
Another successful day.

A wet weekend and a game of hide and seek


Mamma and I had taken Keoni round Tescos almost as soon as I returned from Australia. They had run the stocks down. I did not know what we needed in the way I usually did when shopping. Taking a toddler round a supermarket is a skill I have to re-learn. Mostly, Keoni participates in the debate about choice. However, he seems to need treats like a strange bag of fruit purée which you suck through a screw top, or oatcakes quite regularly.
Tescos is not stupid. Their marketing boys knew their onions! Part of the store is devoted to extracting money from parents through pester power. You can avoid it, of course, but what is a Nonna supposed to do. It’s a well known fact: grandparents should spoil their grandchildren. Anyway, who is counting a £10 box of wooden train track and an additional box of engine.
Keoni has already discovered Thomas the Tank Engine, but he is not discriminating against cheap replica. He loves this new toy and for the next few days, we play at building the track, chuffing and tooting together, while Mamma grabs some well earned rest. Toddlers are highly demanding of attention. However many adults there are, you always need one more. That’s the law!
On Saturday, Mamma goes to work. Usually Pappi does the minding but I’m keen to try my hand. The trouble is it rains all day!
So what shall we do?
(Just before we get to that part, I need to explain the names slightly or you might get confused. You will have gathered the Mamma and Pappi are my daughter and son-in-law. But Poppy is their name for John as Grandad and I am the Nonna. So now we can all play Happy Families)
John reckons that trains are such a hit at present, we could take the train to Waterloo. Good plan!
We pack food, change of clothes, nappies and associated material into the buggy.
By the time we have walked to the station, he is asleep! On the platform, the excitement is lacking due to the heavy relaxed sound of breathing coming from the buggy. The train whooshes in, but Keoni maintains a dignified snore. All through the journey, this continues. The rain pours down the carriage windows and the delighted grandparents wonder why they decided to do this in the first place.
He does not even wake to the sounds of a busy London terminus. It is only when we are walking towards the embankment that he stirs. He seems puzzled as to his whereabouts; fair enough really. Suddenly, Poppy and I begin to realise the additional burden of trying to negotiate stairs with a buggy. We walk a long detour to avoid carrying the deluxe buggy too far. It’s heavy!
It’s past lunchtime and we need to find food. Restaurants are packed with families, all sheltering from the rain. Eventually we find space within the Festival Hall and encourage Keoni out to explore. But he is still sleepy, reluctant to be exposed in a foreign environment with Nonna and Poppy. If he has to be out, he prefers to cling to me, burying his face in my coat.
Still, the food does wonders for his mood. He livens up and begins to gain confidence. John and I are feeling a little tired by now, but that is beside the point.

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Strop over! Let’s enjoy life!


I’ll not beat about the bush!  It was dreadful!

I hated being back home from 6 months travel.  Poor Mr was a final straw.  I simply stopped, sulked and shouted a bit!

I still miss Mr.  He was a fantastic cat.  The other two seem slightly relieved it is over.  Perhaps they knew he was suffering.

Topping that, the house is still full of two families belongings.  My wonderful daughter, her husband and son have done a great job at cleaning and caring but their things have entered the fabric of the building.  We are only just beginning to see how to extricate them from us!

They plan to move from London to Devon.  Although they have job prospects, nothing substantive has been finalised yet.  As a consequence they are finding it hard to leave.  Besides, I honestly wanted them to stay on for a little while so I could get to know my grandson again after our six months apart.

He is gorgeous!  I’m amazed by his sense of humour!  Before we traveled, we were lucky enough to see him nearly every day sometimes, and certainly every week.  So we both felt there was a lot to catch up on.

We decided it was time to go on an outing.  Three generations packed into the car: it’s a Mini so ‘packed’ is the right word. I had forgotten how much space a 20 month old takes with all his paraphernalia!

Polsedon Lacey is the headquarters for the National Trust in Southern England, some 4 miles from Dorking, Surrey.  It was bought by Mrs Greville, an Edwardian hostess, in 1906 and became a fabulous venue for weekend parties, including visits by royalty. Best for a toddler are the gardens.  At this time of year, there are fabulous displays of tulips.

Keoni is very keen on nature and ‘ohh-ed and ah-ed’ well at the displays.  The hen house is a new feature, which I had not seen before; Keoni loved it.

He was quite keen to explore the flower beds and look for minibeasts.  In fact, he must have walked for miles on the muddy grass, simply because he will not walk in a straight line!

Ok, so maybe it’s not so bad, being here!  We had a great day out!  Thanks Keoni.