Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Over the past few months, I have joined a number of Facebook groups for photos of the Suffolk countryside and church architecture. I've seen stunning photos, learnt about places I'd never even heard of before and am getting to know some new people.
Recently in the Suffolk churches group, a tour around Ickworth Church was advertised. I knew of Ickworth Church, which is situated in the grounds of Ickworth House, but had never really visited. So I got a couple of tickets and last night 13yo and I drove over at the end of the afternoon. It had been a beautiful, sunny day, almost summery, and it was lovely to walk down from the grand house to the church in the valley below.

We had a quick chat with the tour guide who turned out to be the church coordinator. The church was closed down in the eighties and fell into disrepair. In 2006 the Marquess of Bristol set up the Ickworth Church Conservation Trust with a view to restoring the church, as his ancestors are all buried in the vaults. The restoration started in 2012 and cost more than a million pounds. The church was reopened in 2013 and is now permitted to hold six services each year - the harvest festival, a Christmas carol service and 4 wedding blessings. They regularly hold other events, such as concerts, exhibitions and the tour we were about to do.

There were about 8 of us altogether, mostly volunteers and employees from the National Trust, which was really interesting as they knew quite a bit about the history of the family.

The building has several fascinating parts, such as a rare double piscina but not anywhere near the altar, a squint but so incredibly small that you can't imagine more than one person at the time being able to look through it, and a triple-decker pulpit. The reason the pulpit was so high became clear as we went up in the family pews - which were in the south aisle, completely separate - the only way you could see the priest from there, was if he was on the top deck!
We also had a look in the bell tower and were taken down to the vaults, where all the marquesses and earls, and their wives and children, are buried.

The tour took about an hour and both 13yo and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked it so much that I signed up to become a volunteer - it will be nice to spend a bit more time in a place with so much history.

We were told that the view from the top of the tower is stunning, but weren't allowed up there ourselves. As we walked back to the car, the first thing 13yo said to me was 'I want to go on that roof!' Well, with a bit of luck, they may just let him sometime!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thursday 9 April 2015

I think it was last year or maybe even the year before that 16yo asked to go to London for the day as one of her birthday presents. She loves going to London and would go every weekend, given the chance. I'd be pretty surprised if she ends up going to university somewhere else. She regularly goes with J. but then they go with the three of them, and sometimes she likes going with just me. Most of the time we do one or two of the walks from this set that my dad bought for me a few years ago and has turned out to be really good.

This year we set out rather early on Good Friday - getting up at 7 on the first day of a long 4 day weekend was not what I had planned, but it was worth it as we arrived in London at 10 and it was so lovely and quiet. Because of the holiday weekend we were worried it would be very busy, so we avoided the main tourist areas and headed towards Farringdon.

The walks in this set often start in areas where you don't expect to find anything interesting. You wonder what you're going to see and if this one is going to be disappointing, when you'll turn a corner or be led down a small alleyway and suddenly you end up in a very pretty part.

Farringdon feels very much off the beaten track and miles from the city centre, but in truth it isn't that far and we suddenly found this view - St. Paul's and the shard shrouded in mist

Next it was time for a coffee stop. A few years ago we discovered WholeFoods in Kensington on a trip to renew our passports. We often go there for a coffee but as it was completely the other direction from where we were spending the day, we decided to see if we could find something else.
We saw this little French brasserie, Café Pistou, on Exmouth Market that immediately took 16yo's fancy and where we ended up having a second breakfast...

Possibly the best coffee I've ever had, plus crepes for 16yo and eggs royale for me - yum!

And if this had been open, we would have gone here for lunch... Unfortunately they were closed for refurbishment!

Myddelton Square was almost at the end of our first walk. From Angel it was only a stop or two to Hoxton, where our next walk started.

Although it was an interesting walk, it was definitely one we enjoyed less than others we've done. We got lost several times, it was along a very busy road and it had you retrace your steps several times.
The Geffrye museum, which sounded interesting and looked very pretty too, was closed for the holiday weekend, which was disappointing. And then 16yo started complaining of needing the toilet, which doesn't help when you're trying to enjoy yourself!

So, time for a toilet stop and a spot of lunch and then the last walk of the day from Old Street to Liverpool Street.

We started off at Bunhill Fields, a small, quiet and very full old cemetery where we found Daniel Defoe, William Blake and John Bunyan. You couldn't actually walk among the gravestones, in order to protect them.

Next was Finsbury Circus, where most of the buildings miraculously survived the Blitz. Beautiful buildings, although the center was a building site for Crossrail.

The Gherkin

According to 16yo this building is called the Walkie-talkie. You could see the lifts going up and down.

I'm sure she's texting her best friend here 'mum's busy photographing churches again. I thought this was supposed to be MY birthday treat'.

She was right, I was photographing a church... this was Bishopsgate Churchyard with St. Botolph's church.

And that got us to the end of our third walk and back to Liverpool Street Station. We both fancied a visit to Foyle's so we walked down there, but by the time we got there, we were both so tired, that neither of us could really be bothered to look around for long! So it was a cup of tea and then we headed back home.

Lovely day though, exploring another part of London we'd not have gone to if it hadn't been for the pack of walks. I'm already mentally planning our next visit...

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sunday 5 April 2015

To my big girl

Today is your sixteenth birthday. Sixteen - it sounds as though it should be a milestone birthday. It sounds so grown up. And that is what you are, getting very grown up. You have become very independent, very self-reliant in the last year. It is an important school year, as no doubt school is telling you over and over again, taking your GCSE's. I always knew you were a hard worker but you have impressed me so much with your motivation to do as well as you can. An A isn't good enough, it has to be an A*. I don't have to ask you if you've done your homework, I know you're getting on with it. I love seeing how pleased you are when you come home with a better-than-expected grade, and I'm sure you're going to surprise yourself when you come to pick up your grades in August.

As you're getting older, you are becoming such good company. You are much quieter than your brother, and you and I don't have endless conversations. But there are lots of things we enjoy together. We both relish our Saturday mornings, with our ritual of a coffee in Cafe Nero, people watching, you playing Candy Crush and me knitting for an hour or so. I can always rely on you to give me an honest opinion when I want to know if I look good in something. You tell me off when I need telling off. You support me when I need a hug. You even make my cups of tea how I want them, even though we don't really agree on what brand of tea is the nicest.

I've always felt that when you become a parent and see your children grow up, to start off you need to hold your child firmly by the hand. As they become more independent, you can slowly let go of that hand, until you walk behind them, ready to catch them if they fall. That's where we are now.
It's only another two years until you go to university. You're so excited about this that you've already ordered some university brochures. And although I can't imagine how much I'm going to miss you, I'm also so very proud of the young woman you are becoming. The world is a better place because of you and it is an honour and a pleasure to be your mamma.

Happy birthday mijn grote meid, I love you lots.
Mamma xxx

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday 1 April 2015

To my little man

Today you turn 13 - finally a proper teenager!

You've been showing teenage tendencies for a while though. You're beginning to sleep longer in the mornings, although I think you will probably always be an early bird and not so much of a night owl. You love your computer and you're a little bit lost when I say it's time to shut it down and go and do something else. When I ask you to do something in the house, I usually have to ask three times before it gets done.
But to me that's all normal teenage behaviour and something to be expected. It is such a pleasure to see you grow up and develop into an adult. You're such a generous, caring young man. Whenever I feel unwell or a bit sad, you will go out of your way to try and make me feel better, with blankets, a cuddly animal and the remote within reach. A few months ago your older sister was feeling unwell and stayed home from school. Before you caught the school bus, you put her duvet and pillow on the sofa, there was the bear that is yours but that she likes so much too, and there was a drink in her favourite glass on the side.
You also have a very patient side which is completely opposite to me sometimes getting stressed a bit too quickly. You stay calm, push me out of the way and quietly sort out whatever it was that was making me cross.
You are great fun to be with. I love going to Holland with you because you like everything there and you like the same things as I do, even the very simple things like going for a very quick bike ride on the little folding bikes that opa bought for us at the Hema a few years ago. I enjoy having you around in the kitchen because you have such an obvious talent for cooking. I like spending that half hour in Costa with you every week while your sister does the shopping and you do the Maths puzzles in the newspaper ever faster. I love cycling and playing table-tennis with you - specially because really, you're much better than me but you obviously still enjoy playing with me.
You often make me very proud, like last weekend when you took part in the squash tournament and you lost every match but you still enjoyed yourself. The way you never ask for big presents. How you didn't mind not having a television for a while. When I get told by your teachers how hard you work and how polite you are.

I say it every year but I am so very proud to be your mamma and I love you lots, exactly for who you are.

Happy birthday mijn kleine mannetje,
Mamma xxx

ETA the only photo I have of you from this year, as you hate having your photo taken...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Last Saturday, I helped out at a Knit and Natter day at Kentwell Hall. Although Kentwell Hall is just down the road from where I live, I can only remember visiting once, probably at a similar time of the year as it was to see all the lambs. It was so foggy that you couldn't see the house at all. It was years ago, when the children were still small and you try and find things to do with them because staying cooped up at home drives you crazy.
Someone from knitting group is very much involved with the re-enactment society at Kentwell Hall and asked recently if anybody wanted to come to the Knit and Natter day that was being organised. If visitors brought their knitting, they'd get a free coffee and piece of cake, with volunteers also on hand to help teach. For us it meant a day of knitting, with tea and cake and good company - what's not to like!
Unfortunately when I got there, it turned out the location was just too cold - an open barn with a tent attached to it, but no heating and no electricity. So we ended up in the cafe, which was warmer and smelt delicious with hot coffee and cakes and lunchtime foods. The Knit and Natter event was going to run all weekend and I only helped on Saturday, but we didn't have that much interest. I don't think the event was that well known and most visitors were young families coming to see the baby animals, like I did all those years ago. A few people would look over and smile, but not really come over.
Still, it was a day's guilt-free knitting with friends, which I'm not complaining about! Besides, I got the chance to have a wander round and take a look at the house, and buy some of the wool from Kentwell's own sheep for my knitalong blanket.

I thought the house was National Trust or English Heritage property, but it turned out it's in private hands, bought 40 years ago as a near-derelict building and since been done up. No wonder they organise plenty of events to get the public in - it must cost a fortune to maintain a house of this size.

The back of the house isn't nearly as pretty - it was the servants' entrance, so didn't need to impress...

The house doesn't open to the public until Easter but there is another Knit and Natter event planned for June when they hold the sheep shearing weekend. I'm hoping to be involved in that one too and then maybe get the chance to visit the inside of the house.

On Sunday I'd arranged to meet a friend for coffee and a long overdue chat in Ipswich. I'm still not back to sleeping very well (very frustrating for someone who normally sleeps like a log, and the world doesn't feel like a nice place at 5am) and was awake so early on Sunday morning, that I was out on the bike by 8.30am. I knew I only had a couple of hours so I'd planned a vague route the night before.

This is St. Clare at Bradfield St. Clare. There is a better view without the hedge in front, but I quite like how you can see the church through the bare trees still. In another month or so the buildings will be hidden.

Then onto Gedding. The map didn't really show a church as such, just a little plus sign which usually means a chapel of some sorts. But hidden behind a hedge in a turn of the road was St. Mary.

Sadly the church had no leaflet with information which is unusual. These often hand-typed leaflets can contain lots of history and other little facts that you wouldn't notice if you walked around just looking. I've even learnt some church architecture from them. I'd really like to learn more though. One day, when a day miraculously contains more hours!

The map also showed Gedding Hall, with a moat around it. It wasn't really on my route but I'd already spotted a large country house from the graveyard so decided to cycle up to see if I could get a better look.

This was the best view I could get. When I got home, I looked it up and it turns out it belongs to Bill Wyman, but in the past it was allegedly used by the Kray brothers as hide-out.

Next was St. Mary at Brettenham. The tower is in an unusual position and seems to take the place of what is normally the south porch. A service was just starting with several very well-dressed people attending - I felt out of place even in the graveyard, so decided to put this one on my list of churches to come back to in the future.

Another St. Mary and the last church of the ride - this is at Thorpe Morieux (pronounced M'roo). By now I was running out of time so I didn't even stop to look at the exterior but pedalled on towards home.

My house is on a busy main road which is not really designed for cyclists. If I want to avoid it, I have to start my bike rides down a fairly steep hill. Which is lovely at the start but also means that coming home, I have to go UP that hill. Suffolk really is hillier than Norfolk and this hill is a bit of a killer when you've already done several miles. I'm proud to say I've not had to get off the bike and walk yet!
A nice 18 mile ride.

After putting the world to rights with my friend in the very overpriced Suffolk Food Hall (the view is great though), I came home and made what 15yo later described as 'chocolate brownie cake'. Yum.

Another few days until the children break up for Easter. They both have their birthday in the holidays, which means I'll have two proper teenagers at home. I'm sure there will be more cake, although having said that, 12yo has asked for trifle for his birthday cake. I suppose it makes a change...