Monthly Archives: August 2016

Those Magnificent Flying Machines

P1040011Where we live the skies are full of birds: kookaburras, cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets, ducks, seagulls, and the occasional pelican, to name but a few. But we don’t often hear the roar of a motor overhead. Perhaps this is why Ickle and Mivvy have developed a fascination with flying machines.

We scan the horizon to spot aeroplanes before they disappear from view. And we jump up and down and wave like crazy when the local helicopter zips in and out. Much in the same way that, on Tuesdays, we race out of the front door to greet the rubbish truck as it rolls down our street. Mivvy has recently announced that she would like to fly. (She would also like to catch her shadow and touch the moon.)

So, on our holiday in the UK, Daddy Ickle and I took both girls on a family expedition to the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Ilchester, Somerset. I haven’t visited this destination for as long as I can remember. Housed in a huge hangar is an equally huge collection of naval aircraft, from the early days of flight through to the current day. Exhibits include beautiful old biplanes, a range of flying machines from WWII, helicopters, and – this one truly takes your breath away – the first British-built Concorde.P1030982Opportunities abound for hands-on/interactive experiences. Ickle dressed up in naval gear (a radical departure from her usual princess get-up); we dived into a life raft. I braved the simulated helicopter ride through to Hall 3, where I found myself on board the fleet carrier, HMS Ark Royal, alone in the semi-darkness. So what did it feel like to be an naval officer on watch? Um. A bit disorientating. In fact, I struggled to find my way back to Daddy Ickle and the littlies.P1030997P1040004We stopped at The SwordFish Restaurant, actually more of a classic canteen (think bacon, eggs, pies and chips) for a quick snack, before heading to the museum’s adventure playground. Despite the weather (yup, we copped a lot of rain during our stay), the girls scrambled up cargo nets, conquered balance beams, and steered a model ship into harbour. Mini naval cadets in the making. Magnificent.

Another Stuffy Stately Home

P1030919The rain was tipping down; I was feeling slightly apprehensive about the day ahead. I had arranged to meet friends at Barrington Court, a National Trust property tucked away in the Somerset countryside in the UK. The main draw hadn’t been the Tudor manor house, but a special nature day they were holding in the grounds. I figured the girls, big and small, could run around in the fresh air and let off steam.

Doom and gloom, I thought, as I looked at the raindrops scurrying across the car windscreen. We will have to go *inside*. Ickle and Mivvy will run amok amongst the antique furniture and furnishings with us in hot pursuit. We’ll be whispered about in loud voices by visiting coach parties of stately home enthusiasts. No, this was not good at all.

And then, as we drew into the car park, the rain decided to stop. So we squelched across the lawns to look at the wildlife specimens on display (a hedgehog’s spiny pelt, a grass snake, various animal bones…and so on). Then the girls tried their hand at some classic English games – skittles and quoits.P1030885P1030908P1030917 And we all admired the beautiful gardens and giant koi. It was fun, and way better than I had hoped – not even the teeniest bit stuffy.P1030873P1030878We did summon up the courage to venture into the old stately home, which incidentally has been empty of all furniture and furnishings since 1991. The remaining architecture and fittings are beautifully impressive and well worth a visit. And so is the *surprise* in the Long Gallery: a feathered friend who has only recently taken up roost in the rafters. Want to know more? You’ll have to visit Barrington Court to find out!

A Classic Country Fair

P1030807“Look, Mummy, it’s the Australian flag!” exclaimed Ickle as we approached the castle grounds.

Erm, not quite. We happened to be in deepest Dorset, in the UK, heading to the Sherborne Castle Country Fair. Billed as “One of the South West’s premier one day events”, we were expecting big things.

Despite having spent the best part of my youf in Sherborne, I don’t recall having been to the Country Fair. Set in grounds landscaped by Capability Brown, no less, the event attracts masses of people: 17,000 through the gates in 2015. Every man and his dog was there this year. Many of them sporting tweed ensembles (the men that is); the ladies had opted for hats that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Royal Ascot or Flemington.

The programme was jam-packed with livestock displays, gymnastics routines, dragon boat racing, horseback falconry shows, car stunts, and so much more. Everywhere we went, something was going on.

P1030824The girls loved the traditional Punch & Judy show. They sat on straw bales and yelled “Judy” at the tops of their little voices as Mr Punch fed the baby into the sausage machine.

P1030828Ickle and her daddy braved the helter skelter.

P1030830And I had a peek at the ferret racing, which had drawn quite a crowd.

All-in-all, it was a colourful, lively and classic English country fair.