Monday 1 November 2021

Autumn at the Duckpond

Been a bit quiet around here over the last couple of months. I haven't found the time to write a monthly round-up post or sum up my photo an hour days because on the 23rd August my dad had a stroke. 

He had neurosurgery at Southmead hospital in Bristol and then spent the last couple of months being looked after in hospitals in Bristol and Bath. And last week, he was moved to Frenchay Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre to start lots of therapies and rehab. 

My mum and brother moved in with us so we could take care of them and also drive my mum to her oncology appointments so the last couple of months have been rather busy. Thankfully my work granted me a year off (as a 'Career Break') so that's helped.  

I've still been taking part in Photo an Hour over on Instagram and of course, life carries on. 

We've managed to do a couple of swims at the local private hire farm pool and there has actually been two small carnivals down here in the South West - one in Chard and one in Castle Cary. Both were what they called 'walking processions' with no large floats involved but were still rather good. There's a few more small processions happening over the next month as well, in Bridgwater, Burnham on Sea and Honiton in Devon. 

Lily did pumpkin picking, carved a pumpkin and then did some trick and treating last night with my mum's neighbours which she seemed to enjoy a lot! (or perhaps it was just the free sweets and chocolate :-D)

And now it's November and it'll soon be Christmas! No idea where the year has gone.


Sunday 1 August 2021

July at the Duckpond

Ooh look I've kept up a monthly post for a second month at least. Bit of a hot month wasn't it? We managed to fit in 3 swims, a bit of gardening, some sewing and excitingly, our first actual show since before COVID. 

  • We had an excellent day out to Portishead and Clevedon, visiting the outdoor pool (which is beautiful and you can even smell the sea when you're swimming), feeding the ducks, finding playgrounds and Lily even dipped her feet into Clevedon Marine Lake.

  • Good books I've read - The Promise by Lucy Diamond and I also reread One Sweet Moment by Maggie Craig (it's set in Edinburgh - I first read it years ago before I started going there and it mentions lots of street names and places so I wanted to reread it now I know where it's referring to).

  • We had a day trip to Barry Island to visit the funfair. We went there in May on the bank holiday Monday and at the time the funfair was far too busy so we promised Lily we'd return when it was less busy. We went on a Thursday and she pretty much had all the rides to herself! She loved it, obviously. 

  • Our last show before COVID was Mark Thomas at Frome's Merlin Theatre. Our first show since then was Russell Howard at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol. We originally had tickets to see him doing a work in progress show at Edinburgh Fringe back in August 2019 but he had to cancel that show. Then we spotted he was doing a gig in Bristol during July 2020 so booked that instead. Obviously it was postponed to 2021. It should have been at the Bristol Hippdrome but they moved it to the outdoors Ashton Gate Stadium so everyone could be sat distanced. It felt a bit weird but was still a really good show. We probably overcompensated because we kept our masks on during the performance anyway even though it was outdoors. We seem to have come through it COVID-free though so that's good. 

  • I had my second vaccination on 10th July (exactly 8 weeks after my first) so I'm now double-Pfizer-jabbed! We're still doing everything we were doing before though - avoiding indoor spaces, wearing masks, etc - as we all know the vaccinations aren't failsafe against infections or mild disease. 

  • We visited White Row Farm fish and chip shop for mother-in-law's birthday meal. If you're ever heading north or south on the A36 near Frome, White Row Farm shop is an excellent place to stop. Their chip shop is really tasty, they have lots of outdoor seating, 2 playgrounds and farm animals to look at. 

  • We had the results from Lily's LAMDA exam and she passed! Her teacher said all the students passed with either a Merit or a Distinction although we don't know Lily's exact score yet.

  • We're looking forward to our August holiday and have even booked 3 shows to see at the Fringe! 2 of them are outdoors shows (1 for us, 1 for Lily) and 1 indoors in a very well-ventilated venue. We "treated" ourselves to a load of FFP3 masks so we'll wear them indoors anyway. 

  • We're looking forward to Series 3 of Sex Education starting in September and also the new series of Ghosts starting in August. I was also excited to spot they're making a second series of Good Omens!

  • Photo an Hour day was on Saturday 17th July - the round-up is here. August's photo an hour day is Saturday 21st - feel free to take part if you like :-)

  • I downloaded the 1 Second Everyday app to use after seeing Denise using it on Instagram. I thought I'd give it a go and see how interesting it it (or more accurately, my life is!). I'll put a summary on Instagram at the end of the month. 

  • We're looking forward to Carters Steam Fair visiting Bath during August. The last time we were there on the fair was back in October 2019 when me and Andrew were working for them for a day. We haven't told Lily they're coming yet so it'll be a surprise. 

  • And we discovered an excellent splash pad play area in Chippenham which was apparently the "best thing EVER!" according to Lily :-) 

How was your July?

Thursday 22 July 2021

A Photo Every Hour - Saturday 17th July 2021

Well, that was a hot one wasn't it!? Too hot to do much outside, instead we did some things inside the house and had an early dinner so we could do a bit of gardening in the evening whilst it cooled down. 

Here's what the day looked like...

6 lovely others joined in:

Susie from Second Hand Susie on Instagram
Jennifer from Pastry and Purls on Instagram
Christine from Christine Lucas on Instagram
Hazel from World of Joy on Instagram (who takes the prize for the best 'photo an hour' news ever) 
And myself on Instagram and this blog post :-) 

August's photo an hour date is Saturday 21st - see you there! 

Thursday 1 July 2021

June at the Duckpond

Many many years ago I used to do a "weekend at the duckpond" round-up on Mondays. I think Jane from Is That You Darling (who was one of the first bloggers I followed) used to do a 'Mondaying' post and I liked the idea of that so did my own version. 

There's absolutely no way I can keep up with doing a weekly round-up nowdays (to be honest, I'm not sure how I managed to keep it up all those years ago) but I might attempt a sort of monthly round-up instead. Sometimes I feel like there's things I'm quite happy writing about, you know, books I've read, places we've been, good recipes, etc but none of them really are quite "big" enough to warrant a blog post all to themself. So I suppose a monthly post is a way of collecting up all those little things that make life interesting but aren't really significant in any way. Well whatever, let's see how many months I keep it up for. 

So yep, how was our June?

  • Photo an hour took place on Saturday 12th - we spent most of the day doing a bit of gardening and a bit of sewing before collecting our supermarket order in the evening. There's a round-up here - - and July's date is Saturday 17th. Feel free to join in if you fancy :-)
  • We had a lovely swim in Mendip Farm Pool, a privately-owned pool local to us that lets households or bubbles rent the pool all to themselves for an hour. Going swimming is something I miss about the pre-COVID life; I used to swim lengths while Lily was having her swimming lessons and also do aqua aerobics. I mean, I miss it but I don't miss it enough to willingly swim with 20 or so other people (all maskless) in a poorly vetilated room. 
  • We bought a load of cheap plants from a couple of garden centres and B&Q back at the end of April and they all seem to be growing quite well.

  • It's been a strange month of two halves - sunny at the beginning with the paddling pool out and ice lollies in the garden. Wet at the end with temperatures getting cold again. I imagine the mixture of hot and wet weather had helped the plants! 
  • It's been very strange without Glastonbury for the second year in a row. I usually work in Pilton village and get a staff pass to enter. Children of staff are also allowed in free of charge (up to the age of 12) and when Lily was born I thought it'll be great that she'll grow up going to the festival each year. As it is, she's only been to 3 so far - 2016 at 4 months old, 2017 at almost 1 and half years and 2019 at almost 3 and half. 2018 was a fallow year and obviously we all know what's happened to this year and the last. If we assume it does go ahead next year, she'll be 6 and half and halfway to the age where she's not allowed in with me. 
  • Andrew's had his second COVID jab, my second one is in a week. He's had AZ and me being a few years younger (under 40) had Pfizer. Between both our families we've had a mixture of the two and Andrew refers to the ones of us who've had Pfizer as "the chosen ones"...
  • Some bits of sewing I've completed over the last few weeks - a skirt for me, a tshirt for Lily and Paw Patrol-themed dress for Lily. Don't look too closely at the seams but they're wearable and she seems to like them :-)

  • My favourite theatre company decided they were going to close. Which is incredibly sad but also understandable (the guy who founded it was 70 last year and decided to step down as artistic director earlier this year). This article in the Guardian is really good - - and sums up the company I think. 
  • Good TV we watched recently - Feel Good on Netflix and Bristol Old Vic's 'Touching the Void' theatre show (they streamed it both as a live performance and also on demand). Andrew's watching The Big Bang Theory from the start - the characters in it are very much like some people he works with! I'm also watching the Great British Sewing Bee on iPlayer; I'm only up to week 4 so far although I already know who won from Twitter. 
  • We managed to see the partial eclipse the other week using Andrew's welding mask. Amazingly the clouds actually parted long enough to get a good shot!

  • We have several tickets for shows in the autumn which were rearranged from 2020 but I also booked tickets for a new show - Wise Children's 'Wuthering Heights' at the Bristol Old Vic in October. It did feel a bit weird booking them but they're obviously not going to run the show if it's not safe so either it'll be okay to attend or the show will be postponed. 
  • We're looking forward to our summer holiday to Scotland and hoping it doesn't get cancelled and it's okay to go! Our holiday style is 'road trip', 'car picnics' and 'sightseeing by driving' so we're not really planning on mixing with other people anyway. 

  • Back in January I decided to listen to every song on my 'liked songs' playlist on Spotify. You know how you add a whole album when actually it's only one or two songs you like? And then never get round to removing the ones you don't like? Yep, well I thought if I listened to every single song then I can remove all the ones I didn't need. There's almost 2200 songs on my 'liked songs' list and I'm up to 'R' at the moment. The idea is that when I've done the whole list then every time I press 'shuffle' I will only ever get good songs I enjoy. 
  • And lastly, Lily took part in her very first exam - LAMDA Solo Introductory Stage 1 - where she had to recite a poem, talk about how to play a game and talk about her favourite toy (a dinosaur, obvs). She came out of the exam saying it was lovely! 

How was your June?


Monday 28 June 2021

The Brutalist Playground

**A note - I wrote the majority of the words to this post back in 2018 but never got round to adding the pictures. So just as a little look back (and because I'd already spent time writing it), for what it's worth, here it is. :-) **

Back in 2016 I think, the lovely Sarah Rooftops mentioned that she'd visited an exhibition/playground up in Aberdeen - The Brutalist Playground.

I thought "sounds interesting", enjoyed reading Sarah's thoughts and then left it as that.

Fast forward a year to 2017 and a poster pops up at the arts centre at my workplace - the very same playground, here, for the whole summer, and only a 10 minute walk from my desk. What are the chances of that?

Me and Lily promptly signed up for the first session of the summer to see what it was all about, on 28th June 2017 (4 years ago today). A week or so later I had an email saying that instead of a quiet opening, they were having a launch breakfast with free food and speeches from the architects - which we were both invited to!

We ended up visiting the exhibition about 12 times - we had to take various friends and family on different occasions so they could all have a go too.  

How to describe the playground? Well, imagine lots of large shapes made out of foam or covered with foam (which represents concrete) set on a padded floor and surrounded by wall projections of the brutalist playgrounds of the post-war period. 

It's fascinating to think that playgrounds years ago were often made with concrete and metal; I can remember concrete tunnels at some of my local playgrounds and of course, as a child you didn't give any thought to getting injured. I can't imagine any sort of places being built like that nowadays.

The whole exhibition was very well done and all very good fun - there's not a lot I can really say about it other than if it ever comes to your area, it's well worth a visit! It's usually free and although it's all a bit surreal, it's good entertainment and definitely something that kids (and adults) will enjoy.

Monday 21 June 2021

Going MAD in Stratford upon Avon

This is almost the last of the 'stuff we did years ago' posts, I promise. Although to be fair, life was probably much more interesting back then than right now...

So somewhere else we visited whilst in Stratford upon Avon back in 2015 was the MAD Musuem. MAD stands for Mechanical Art and Design and it's a fascinating place, quite interactive and full of fun things to watch, poke, play with and do. If you're not sure what mechanical art and design actually is, think Wallace and Gromit's inventions or all the things Caractacus Potts creates in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. 

With the other half being a mechanical engineer, it was right up his street and we spent a good couple of hours wandering around and trying out all the different things. It's the sort of place where it's not just the main exhibits you need to look at, you also end up spotting things in the corner of rooms or around the ceiling. 

I put together a short video of some of the exhibits inside the museum if you fancy seeing some of them in action. 

It probably doesn't get as much publicity as the Shakespeare Museum but it's definitely worth visiting (and you can still visit with using Tesco Clubcard Reward tokens too).



Tuesday 15 June 2021

A Photo Every Hour - Saturday 12th June 2021

Saturday 12th was the photo an hour day for June - it was hot! We spent some of it in the garden and some of it in the house and in the evening, we collected our supermarket order (possibly the highlight of the day...).

Here's what the day looked like...

This month, 10 lovely people joined in:

Hazel from World of Joy on Instagram
Jennifer on Instagram
Jennifer from Pastry and Purls on Instagram
Josie on Instagram
Christine from Christine Lucas on Instagram
And myself on Instagram and this blog post :-) 

July's photo an hour date is Saturday 17th - see you there! 


Saturday 29 May 2021

Shakespeare in Stratford

Here's another post all about something we did years ago (I mean, let's face it, there isn't exactly a huge amount of trips, holidays and visits I can write about from the last 18 months! Fingers crossed for the future though)

So back in April 2015 we added on an extra week to our usual Easter holiday and meandered our way south from North Wales via the Severn Valley Railway and Stratford upon Avon. We used some Tesco Clubcard Vouchers and bought tickets to visit Shakespeare's Birthplace

When we visited the ticket price covered entrance to Shakespeare's Birthplace, Anne Hathaway's Cottage, Hall's Croft (which was the home of Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna and her husband) and I think a couple of other locations too. At the moment though, it looks like only the Birthplace, the Cottage and Shakespeare's New Place are opening this summer. 

(In the spirit of transparency as well I'll add a caveat here that I wasn't massively overwhelmed by Shakespeare's Birthplace; I much preferred Hall's Croft. The day we visited it was quite crowded and it felt very much like you were part of a production line following a snake of people around the one way system in the house. I suspect it was a lot to do with how busy it was that day though and it may well be different on another day). 

We only managed to visit Shakespeare's Birthplace and Hall's Croft as Anne Hathaway's Cottage was a short drive from Stratford. The Birthplace itself is a restored 16th century half-timbered house which you can take a tour around and there's also a museum dedicated to all things Shakespeare and literature. The garden outside has been planted with herbs and flowers similar to what would have been growing in Shakespeare's time. We did think it all felt a bit surreal though: 1) because so much of the house has been restored you're left wondering how much is actually still original and 2) the house is on Henley Street which is just a normal street with shops and cafes. And I know obviously the house wasn't surrounded by shops hundreds of years ago but still, it all feels a bit strange. 

The second place we visited was Hall's Croft, the home of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna and her husband John Hall for a few years. We enjoyed this place more than the official Birthplace as it was quieter and actually felt like someone had lived in it, sort of more authentic (rather than feeling a bit too much like a recreated tourist attraction). The building itself has had many different uses even being used a school in the 1800's and it's been restored really well with an excellent garden too. 

It looks like Tesco have temporarily stopped being able to turn Clubcard vouchers into an entry ticket but even though we weren't overwhelmed by the Birthplace, I think we'd still recommend visiting. It's still an interesting place with a lot of history, especially if you're a Shakespeare or literature fan! 

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