12 July, 2016

Abingdon outdoor pool

My family and I have really enjoyed using the Abingdon outdoor pool over the past couple of weeks -- even in the rain, as today!

We always tried to use the pool each summer, but the increased water temperature this year has made such a difference. It feels warm when getting in, even when the weather is cold and overcast. We plan to use the facility much more this summer, as a result.

I was also delighted to read that the council has announced that, at the end of the season, it is going to replace the (rather dilapidated) old pool with a brand-new pool -- they realised that it would be far more cost-effective to do a complete replacement rather than continually repairing the existing structure. So the pool should be even better in 2017!

On a side note -- I bought the kids ice creams at the pool's refreshment kiosk. They chose Cornetto Soft, which they love -- so well done to the pool for stocking that particular brand. I also noticed that Funny Feet lollies were on the ice cream list. I remember these well from my 1970s childhood, but thought they'd been discontinued years ago, so that was an interesting surprise.

All in all, I'd highly recommend a visit to the Abingdon outdoor pool. It's in a beautiful location, is warm and sells ice creams. What more could you want?

19 June, 2016

Trampolining and barges

We had an interesting Sunday out this weekend.

It was our youngest's birthday weekend and she had decided that she would like to go en famille to AirHop, a trampoline park in Guildford. We therefore pre-booked an afternoon session on the trampolines and went to AirHop via Guildford centre for lunch. I've never been to Guildford before, but it's an interesting mix. It is full, predictably, of expensive shops (this is the heart of stockbroker belt, after all) and has some lovely old parts with beautiful houses and picturesque churches, but much of the centre is 1950s concrete at its worst, which is a shame.

AirHop itself proved a real hit. It was spacious and had lots of trampoline-based activities, which the kids loved. I was impressed by how it was run -- by a whole team of what looked liked sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds. They were really doing their jobs properly -- supervising the bouncers very well and keeping the place ultra clean. It was also pretty good value at £23 for two, including non-slip socks.

After AirHop, we stopped off at the National Trust's Dapdune Wharf, where we were able to learn about the barge traffic that used to pass along the River Wey from Guildford to London. Visitors can board one of the old barges, which is very interesting, as well as browsing small exhibitions on barge life and navigating the River Wey. The location is very pretty and there's a small cafe on site serving sandwiches and cakes.

All in all, a very enjoyable birthday weekend.

14 June, 2016

Sugar overload?

I was in a coffee shop today and the person on the table next to me sat down with a fruit muffin and a large hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows. I didn't think much of it until he proceeded to add two sachets of sugar to the hot chocolate.

I tried, but couldn't begin, to imagine how sweet that would be.

At least the muffin was fruit and not chocolate, I suppose...

07 June, 2016


We have two gorgeous kids -- one teenager and one almost teenager. They are lovely (and pretty damned good as people of this age go, I think), but all the things they say about teenagers really are true:

  • They don't come out of their rooms unless prevailed upon to do so, or unless food is on offer.
  • They don't like to leave the house, or not with their parents, at least. Although, see above, if it involves food, they can quite easily be enticed out.
  • They will grunt if they don't want to answer your questions.
  • They will only tidy their rooms if asked to do so.
  • If you suggest going for a walk in the countryside, they interpret this as a fate worse than death.
  • They will get upset if you nag them or disagree with them.

The funny thing is, I distinctly remember being just like this as a teenager. Do you?

01 June, 2016

Bank holiday weekend

We had a busy bank holiday weekend. Here are a few of the things that we enjoyed doing.

We tried out a newly-opened restaurant in our home town -- Wildwood Kitchen. This is a chain, we know, but not one that we have tried before, so we were eager to see what it was like. We were pretty impressed. The food was good -- fresh and tasty, our waitress was very pleasant, and as it was a Sunday evening, the restaurant was quiet -- we had the half of the restaurant in which we were seated entirely to ourselves! The only negative point is that Wildwood's menu is not great for veggies. There are very few veggie dishes on the menu, and the night that we went, the vegetarian risotto wasn't available, leaving an extremely limited non-meat choice.

On the bank holiday Monday, we visited relatives in London and were taken to see a film at the Everyman Cinema in Belsize Park. The cinema was amazing -- quite unlike anything we had seen before. The seats reclined, and you could order nuts and nibbles before the performance, which were delivered to you in your cinema seat on a tray by a waiter! Wow! Posh, or what? Rather a far cry from our local Cineworld, where you're lucky if they have cleared the floor of popcorn from the previous showing...

Before going to the film, we ate lunch at Chez Bob, which is right next to the Everyman. We had a good meal there, with pleasant service. The menu was wide-ranging and the food freshly made. We enjoyed it.

04 May, 2016

Milton Manor: a lovely stately home in Oxfordshire

We had an interesting trip out over the bank holiday weekend. We went to visit Milton Manor, which is a small stately home, situated in Milton village, not far from where we live.

The house is privately owned and is only open for 30 days a year. We have visited once before—probably around eleven years ago now—but it was when the children were very young and so we didn't actually go into the house, but just enjoyed the grounds. We have been keen to visit the inside of the house for a while now and so were pleased to see that it was open on a day that we were free.

The guided tour was given by (who we took to be) the lady of the house. There were very few visitors (maybe ten of us in total), so it was all rather lovely and intimate. You were free to ask questions and positively invited to sit on the chairs. As our hostess said: ‘Well, they are made for sitting on!’

The house is very beautiful, if rather dilapidated (peeling exterior paintwork, silverfish in the wallpaper, a broken pane of glass in one of the windows, etc.). It was built in the eighteenth century by Inigo Jones, and the Gothic library and the private chapel are particularly impressive.

There are things to see and do in the grounds too. You can pet the ponies and the llama, cross the stream on the rope bridge, visit the tree house and walk in the surrounding woods. When we visited there were pony rides for children and teas for sale in the stables.

We had a lovely time, and it was good to see a small(ish) private home open to the public and run in such a relaxed and friendly way.

Jobs, pay and the future

I had an interesting discussion with my youngest daughter the other day about the future, job opportunities, etc.—the kinds of things we all worry about for our kids.

My daughter was clear that she wanted a good job. ‘What constitutes a good job?’ I asked. ‘One that pays well,’ was her reply. Well, that’s a valid answer. It’s great to have a well-paid job, but is that what makes it a good job? And what about being well paid? As I tried to explain to my daughter, ‘well paid’ is  a relative concept. You may work in the public sector and be lucky enough to have  a ‘well-paid’ job. If so, your notion of ‘well paid’ will be quite different from that of someone who works in the private sector and has a ‘well-paid’ job, simply because salaries are higher in the private sector than in the public sector. ‘Yes, but as I said, my definition of a good job is one that it is well paid,’ replied my daughter, coming right back at me. She’s not a fan of shades of grey!

When you’re young and don’t have any experience of the workplace, it’s easy to think that the ride will be straightforward. Good school education. University. Good degree. A good, well-paid job should follow, shouldn’t it? But that’s not always the case, of course. It can be difficult to get your foot on the first rung of the ladder, let alone end up in a position where you are senior enough to earn a good salary. Furthermore, it’s not just a case of getting a good degree; which degree is highly significant as well. As we all know, a degree in a science or engineering subject is a much surer route to a high earning job than is a degree in the arts or humanities. My daughter would like to do something that involves writing and pointed out to me that I had said that medical writing is well paid. That’s true—it is. But what she’d failed to take on board was my additional point that in order to be a medical writer you need at least a first degree (preferably a PhD) in the life sciences. So, medical writing isn’t an accessible career for someone with a degree in English.

On second thoughts, perhaps it’s better that we’re not aware of all this stuff when we’re young. Maybe it is just best to aim for what you love, in the belief that things will come together exactly as you would wish them to. After all, there’s always the chance that they will—and, if not, maybe it’s best to save up the disappointment and negativity for later!