Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mr. McSprawly Bedhog

The little prince, Ollie our four-year-old Cairn Terrier, got into the habit of sleeping with us a couple years ago. His favourite thing is to snuggle down under the covers in the winter months. The upside of this arrangement is that he gets a weekly bath to keep the doggy BO to a minimum. The downside is that the little fella's 20 lb frame seems to take on St. Bernard proportions when he's sprawled across the sheets, even in a king size bed.

The husband and I have talked about sharing sleeping space with the dog, possibly getting him a new bed for the master floor or returning him to his crate since that's where he slept for the first two years of his life. But it just seems so cruel. How would we make him understand we still love him, but are tired of adopting odd or uncomfortable sleeping positions so we don't disturb him. You understand our predicament.

I had seen this pet bed in a catalog at some point, so decided to check it out. It's looks so cute and comfy, and it should be since it costs upwards of $300. Plus it's so big and bulky. How does that person have to get on and off the bed? And what if you forget it's there for a middle-of-the-night potty run since the middle age bladder seems to be shrinking. That could get downright painful and leave bruises if you hit it square on in the dark.

The husband got this bright idea to order a small baby bed with a side that drops to allow co-sleeping. We set it up, put a padded dog bed in it and placed it adjacent to my side of the bed at the foot. No dice. We put Ollie in it a couple times and he promptly hopped back onto our bed. So I pushed it over against the wall since the husband decided he'd train Ollie to sleep there once warmer weather arrived.

Yesterday I was running some errands, namely hauling these bags of purged clothes to the local recycling centre, when the teen texted me a pic. She's on spring break this week and next.

Sure enough, there was Ollie lounging on his bed like a champ. He was hogging space on her double sized bed that morning, so she rolled his bed into her room and he was easily coaxed onto it. Go figure. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter Saturday Afternoon, 2016

After leaving Exeter, we drove over to Bovington for the afternoon because my husband wanted to tour The Tank Museum. It's housed adjacent to Bovington Camp, a British army military base. It houses soldiers and provides training for the Royal Armored Corps. It's the real deal, including a tank crossing sign along the road leading to the museum.

The great thing about the museum is that everything was so well labeled and explained. These information placards were found on the almost 300 different vehicles inside the museum's six large display halls. Below is a picture of the Scout Car information, as well as the teen standing next to it. 

There were tanks both large and small, as well as other different types of tracked vehicles.

Tanks that dated back to World War I, which were completely unfamiliar to me.

Tanks as far as the eye could see.


Towards the end of our time at the museum, we ended up in the hall where a small military band was playing. I recognised that old wartime favourite, "The White Cliffs of Dover". 

When I looked up the song here at home, I discovered it was released in 1942 by singer Vera Lynn. That's the year my grandfather joined the army and was sent to fight in northern Africa. As I placed this video into the blog post, I realised the area where I did the brief recording houses vehicles used in the African campaign. It's funny to think that my grandfather, who served in the motor pool during the war, might have worked on some of the vehicles just like the ones I was seeing. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter Saturday Morning, 2016

We spent Friday night in Exeter so we could tour it's lovely 13th century cathedral the next morning before driving to Weymouth via The Tank Museum in Bovington. The weather went to hell Friday night, ushering in rain that often fell on the diagonal thanks to winds gusting up to 40 mph. Thankfully, I got some pics of the the cathedral's exterior late Friday afternoon before the weather turned nasty. There were impressive towers located on either side of the cathedral's centre structure. I loved the way the stone seemed to glow with a golden light in the late day sun.

Below is a close-up of one of the angels carved into the facade. This was the best of the bunch. The bulk of the cathedral was built from 1270-1342 and was actually hit by a bomb during World War II, so it's a wonder the exterior is in such good repair at this time.

There were many interesting old buildings around the cathedral. This was one of my favourites, with a sign reading Mol's, coat-of-arms and the date of 1596 above the floor of windows. 

We returned Saturday morning bright and early to tour the cathedral. The handheld audio players gave us a lot of interesting background. This cathedral is undoubtedly well known because it's the longest unbroken and unsupported Gothic arch in the world. That big brown structure in the middle is the organ, sitting about halfway up the centre of the cathedral.

I loved all of the details found in the nooks and crannies, as seen below.

There was the obligatory stained glass, no doubt removed and hidden away during World War II since Exeter was bombed extensively by the Luftwaffe in 1942. 


Above is a pic of the husband checking out the large central wooden doors into the cathedral. Below is a pic of the early 14th century hand-carved bishop's throne located in the quire area. It stands 59 feet tall and is a very stately sight.

Like all older English churches, there were the inevitable beneath-the-floor burials and crypts with sarcophagi lying in repose. The floor slab inscription below really tugged at my heart. It says Elizabeth died in childbed at age 28 and is most deservedly lamented, the last line of the inscription.

I would have loved to learn more about the lady below, but alas her epitaph was written in Latin.

No doubt a victim of the Reformation, the figure standing next to the knight's head was decapitated. Man's best friend at the feet of the night below has also been defaced. I could wring King Henry VIII's neck for allowing religious buildings that had been in operation for decades and even centuries to be looted, pillaged and destroyed during his reign. Such a loss of amazing architecture and history that future generations will never be able to enjoy or appreciate. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Good Friday 2016, Dartmoor National Park

Since the 9th grader kicked off her spring break Good Friday, and the husband had a four day weekend due to a bank holiday on Monday, we opted to do a bit of touring through the southwest of England. We started the day early on Friday by driving to Dartmoor National Park. I had read about the one lane wide roads, so crept along carefully once we got off the motorway. Our first break was in Chagford, where we had lunch at the Three Crowns pub. There's a pretty little 15th century parish church directly across from it with the obligatory cemetery, so I enjoyed a bit of tombstone reading in the lovely spring weather.

I'm fascinated by epitaphs. There oughta be a law that you have to provide more of a biography on these things because I'd love to know all of the backstories and history of the folks who lived in that area during the various time periods. In the pic below, I was struck by the trinity of crosses because it was Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. The barely legible inscription seen below was found on the taller Maltese-style cross in the middle. I love the phrasing FELL ASLEEP.

There were spiky bushes all over the moors, covered in these small bright yellow flowers. I discovered they're gorse bushes. If that rings a bell, it might be that you're a Winnie the Pooh fan. In the movie, his first attempt to reach honey in the tree he was climbing resulted with Pooh falling into a gorse bush.

In the afternoon we visited Grimspound, a late Bronze Age settlement dating back to 2000 BC. All that remains are the stone perimeter fence and rocks that denote where houses were located. 

Above are the teen and husband standing inside a small house in the centre of the settlement. You can see the perimeter stone fence in the background. Below is the teen striking a pose on one of the entrance gates into the settlement.

 The picture below was taken from Grimspound, looking across the moors.

Above is a lone tree along a little stream that ran through Grimspound on its way down the hill. Weren't those Bronze Age folks smart, making sure they had easy access to fresh water. While we were exploring Grimspound, the teen pointed out the tor found atop a neighbouring hill.

Along the way to see Hound Tor (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's inspiration for setting in The Hound of the Baskervilles), we drove past fields of sheep. Some with precious little lambs. And some just walking along the road. Or chewing their cud beside the road. 

We saw a few of the famous Dartmoor ponies. It looked as if they were still in their shaggier winter coats. Then we arrived at Hound Tor, the most spectacular of the tors in this region. We climbed up to the base, then the teen scurried atop some of the flatter (read safer) ones for some pics... of the jumping variety. That's right, doing our best to uphold the stereotype of the annoying American tourist turned loose abroad.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lessons in Lacrosse

The third, and final, sports and activity trimester kicked off this week. The 9th grader had her first lacrosse practice yesterday and it was a real humdinger. She has never played before, so it's all about trying to figure out the whole shebang. Positions, moves, rules, the field, practice drills, game lingo, yada yada yada.

It has been relatively dry lately, for England, but her cleats were still caked in mud when she tossed them inside the front door upon her arrival home yesterday evening. Unlike her older sister who had to have deets of the school day dragged out of her, the younger daughter practically gives me a blow-by-blow description of what happened since she left the house on the school bus. Which I LOVE, of course. She got busy using her borrowed stick to show me the moves and explain everything. 

She seems enthusiastic about this new adventure. We were kinda hoping she might take a break from an organised sport in this last trimester to take something less demanding, like a yoga class, so she could get a break from the time drain of four day per week after school practices/games in order to focus on her studies. Though, honestly, she's making good grades in all of her classes, so it's not as if she needs to go the easy route in order to pump up her GPA. So yeah, knock yourself out with the personal challenges and commitments - more to add to the high school resume she's building for herself.

I was asking about the lacrosse game schedule, figuring the daughter wouldn't see much field time but wanting to attend a few games since I'm completely unfamiliar with this sport. Lo and behold, there are no bleachers for crowd viewing at the field. The thought of standing around in chilly and possibly wet weather just isn't appealing to me. Plus the wind blows more than you think it would over here, but we do live on a big island and so maybe that's the reason. Just to be on the safe side - warm and dry, dontcha know - I ordered a one person pop up spectator tent that will accommodate me in a lawn chair for my game viewing pleasure. Oh yes indeedy, I'm gonna be that nerdy momma on the sidelines. Now I just need to order a folding chair and I'll be all set!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Easter Fossil Hunt

Since our girls are 20 and 15, we haven't had to do the Easter bunny egg hunt for years. No pink and blue dyed fingertips. No hiding them a zillion times after the initial hunt. We'll eventually get to enjoy that again with grandchildren. Until then, we have the opportunity to do whatever strikes our fancy for Easter.

This year we're doing something unique. I just ordered each of the items above - hammer, chisel and safety glasses - because we're spending Easter afternoon fossil hunting on England's Jurassic Coast in Charmouth. I'd love for us to find some lovely fossils we'd be able to display. What a great memento not only for Easter 2016, but also for our time spent living abroad. As you can see in the pic below, I've got high hopes. Isn't it wonderful? I'll let you know if we hunt down anything cool, other than quality family time spent together plus a sore back from bending and stooping for several hours.