Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Dear Jay

Dear Jay,

I miss sharing things with you, especially our birthday. Miss your face and love your guts xxx

Monday, 20 May 2013

Ten Tors 2013

Last weekend Ben took part in the Ten Tors 45 mile challenge (I wrote about the 35 mile challenge he completed last year here.) The Ten Tors is an event for teenagers who, after months of training, set off in teams of six (with no adult help) to navigate their way over Dartmoor using only their compass and map. They climb up and down ten selected tors along the route (where the army have checkpoints) and cover distances of either 35, 45 or 55 miles, depending on age. This challenge has to be completed within 34 hours and requires them to wild camp on the moors.

Ben's team this year was the same as last, they are a really well-matched group of boys and work so well together. The school took them up to base camp at Okehampton Army Barracks on the Friday where the teams set up camp, went through safety talks, checked their kit one last time and were assigned their route for the weekend. They went over their route and filled in their route cards. Here are the Teign Valley Ramblers early Saturday morning before they set off to the start point (Ben is fourth from the left):
We all got up early Saturday morning to drive out and see Ben's team off. The weather this year was unfortunately wet and misty, typical Dartmoor weather, and the exact opposite of last year! Here's a hooded Ben in the background walking up with his team to the start point:
There are over 2400 teenagers that take part in the event, it's quite a sight to see them all (well...kind of see them through the mist) getting ready to start the challenge:
The Brigadier started off the event with a quick speech and by saying the traditional Ten Tors prayer:

O God who has made the Earth of great beauty,
And who has given us the Spirit of Adventure,
We thank you for the beauty of the world,
For the courage and vigour of young people,
For the companionship and for the opportunity
To enjoy all these gifts.

We pray that you will keep them safe on this great venture
And grant that they may meet each challenge
And difficulty with unselfish courage and so find the
True spirit of comradeship as shown to us by
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Isn't that wonderful? There was a trumpet salute and the firing of the canon to set the teams off:
There they all go, off into the misty hills of Dartmoor:
All Saturday we kept checking the Ten Tors website; they updated the team's progress as they reached each tor so we could see what time they arrived and keep track of their progress and speed. The rain eased off by Saturday afternoon and the team made it to just below tor eight before they camped out. First thing Sunday morning the mist and rain were back, but undeterred they registered at tor eight and set off to complete the challenge. We left home earlier than planned (they made such great time) to meet them at the finish line. There were 17 different teams walking Ben's particular route, and apart from tor nine, Teign Valley Ramblers were the first team to reach each tor and the first to finish. Here is the team arriving at the finish on Sunday at 12:44pm (Ben is on the left in black):
A wet but happy team:
Collecting their medals:

Although Ben's team were doing a 45 mile route, they actually walked 51 miles (the route distances don't allow for the extra mileage of walking up and down the hills). I was so impressed at how quickly they completed the challenge, last year they finished the 35 mile walk in 28 hours 33 minutes, this year they walked 51 miles in 29 hours and 44 minutes! To say I'm proud would be an understatement.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Easter Road Trip

School broke up last Thursday, so on Good Friday we packed up the car and the children and made our way to south Wales to visit with our friends for the weekend. We love driving over the bridge into Wales.
Our friends live close to my sister Amy, so we got to spend the weekend with her too, and see sweet Isobel:
The children made Easter nest treats:
And I indulged in a chocolate bunny:
On Monday we said our goodbyes and drove on to Windsor to go to Legoland. Nanny Miles came with us (it was her Christmas present for the children) and it turned out to be the coldest day ever to be outside. (Maybe not, but it felt like it!) We braved the elements and had a great time, Noah and Ethan especially loved the Star Wars display:
We did a little gold panning:
There were lots of fun rides to go on:
The children loved the mini Lego scenes, especially the London one:
On Tuesday we went into Windsor itself to see the castle. The queen was in residence (Rosie kept asking if we could visit her!) and the Royal Standard was flying:
We were just in time to see the Changing of the Guards at the palace. It happens a couple of times a day; when the guards change shifts the traffic is stopped and the new guards march up the streets from their barracks with a band leading the way:
This happens every day, come rain or shine! I caught a little video of the guards returning to their barracks after the changeover:
video
I love our silly traditions. I also love old cobbled streets, I think they give a place character...
...as does crooked old houses:
I really enjoy walking around old churches; the wooden carvings, vaulted ceilings, tiles on the floor and stained glass windows are just gorgeous.
After a trip to the museum and a little window shopping, we drove back west to Bristol to finish off our trip by taking Ben and Ethan with us to see Imagine Dragons while Nanny Miles looked after Rosie and Noah. James' brother Dave met us there too, so it was nice to catch up with him. As it was the first standing gig for the boys it was quite a new experience for them, and they loved it.
The band were really energetic, you can't help but get sucked in by the energy of the music and lose yourself for an hour and a half. Ethan didn't complain about my singing in his ear all night, so I can't have been too bad!
The band handed out the printed set lists at the end of the show and Ben and Ethan were thrilled to be given one each, it was kind of them to single out the young fans and make sure they had a keepsake from the night. It was a great way to end our trip.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Kodaline

Last Saturday I returned to my favourite small, sea-worthy music venue Thekla (I wrote about it previously here) to see Irish band Kodaline at the start of their UK headlining tour. I've been a fan of their music since last summer; they've released a couple of EPs and I am eagerly awaiting their album in June. They were all I'd hoped they would be, they sounded terrific harmonising and playing together, and sang so intensely at times that it felt we were sharing something very personal. They were humble and grateful, and we left with the impression we had witnessed the beginnings of a great band with a long journey ahead. I'd recommend you listen to my favourite songs 'All I Want' and 'High Hopes', and fall a little bit in love with them...like I did.
In other news, I've been asked to be a regular contributor to my friend's blog on his 'Tuesday Tunes' days where I'll share songs or albums I like. Here is a link from last week,  and this week if you'd like a peek.
 

Monday, 11 March 2013

The Start Of Us

This Saturday was our 17th wedding anniversary. It's about time I shared how we met.

In the October of 1995 I was 17 and in my second year of college in Crawley, West Sussex. James was 21 and had decided to take some time out from painting cars after he'd returned from his mission, and took a job in security and cleaning at the London Temple.

One weekend I attended the temple with the Laurels and Priests in my stake to do some baptisms. On the Saturday we did some work in the temple, and I noticed there was a handsome young man helping out. When it was my turn to do the baptisms, he took my hand I felt like I had come home. Who was this stranger that could make me feel so comfortable?

That evening the convention ended with a dance back at the chapel in Crawley, so we were directed to vehicles to take us there. I was ushered into a VW camper van which just so happened to be driven by this handsome man, James. We introduced ourselves properly and enjoyed the evening dancing with my friends to a live Caribbean steel band and eating delicious Caribbean food. I discovered James had just moved to the temple accommodation from West Wales and didn't know anyone, so I had a quick word with my mum when James dropped me home and she insisted he come for Sunday lunch the next day. So he did!

That week James met up with me and my friends when we went to the cinema, on walks, or to church. I found him to be kind, funny, and a gentleman. I also thought he had a crush on a friend of mine. But then on a Tuesday he surprised me after work and asked me on a date that Saturday. Something incredibly unexpected happened to me over the next few days, and in my soul I knew that James was it for me, he was the one I was going to marry. The sensible part of my brain told me to stop being so silly, he'd only just asked me out on a date, I hardly knew him and I had no plans to get married until I was at least in my late twenties!

That Saturday, two weeks after we met, James took me on a picnic. We talked for hours about everything and nothing; it was the first time we'd been alone together and it wasn't awkward at all. It wasn't awkward when James told me he loved me, nor when he said he knew we were going to be married. It wasn't awkward that I returned those same feelings.

However, it was awkward trying to figure out a way to tell other people. How would they understand? We kept our engagement between us for a couple of weeks. When James did ask my dad's permission to marry me, my parents took it so well, they already loved James and knew we were happy. Some people were sceptical, some predicted failure, some thought we should wait. But we knew. What was the point in waiting to start our lives together?

On the 9th of March 1996 we were married at the chapel in Crawley, then sealed at the London Temple for all eternity. Our adventure together was just beginning, it was the start of 'Us'.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Family

This weekend we spent Sunday in South Wales; first stop was Brynmawr and Merthyr Tydfil for the blessings of our newest nephews on James' side of the family, Sidney and Seth.
It was so lovely to finally see the boys and have a cwtch! It seems I haven't lost my touch with babies either, they both found me sufficiently soft and squishy enough to have a good sleep on me.

On our way home, we stopped in to see my sister, who could resist a visit with this gorgeous baby?:
I love being an aunt, all the fun without the commitment!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

I Heard Them Calling In The Distance

Yesterday I ran away with James again, this time to Bristol to see Of Monsters and Men.
I've had a love affair with this six-piece band from Iceland for months now, and they certainly lived up to my expectations.
Their live sound was beautiful, with quite an eclectic mix of instruments and sublime vocals.
Hand clapping and audience participation was of course very necessary:
If you get the chance to see this band live, go! Who doesn't love just the right amount of quirkiness mixed with fabulous tunes?

I Love Where I Live

My smile lines recently:
Blossoms arriving on the trees:
Walking along the coastline:
Stone hearts on the beach:
The Shaldon ferry:
Carved wooden seats:
Sweet poems on benches:
Hide and seek in the trees:
Piggy backs:
Peacocks:
Woods:
Green door in a garden wall:
Devon has my heart.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Wearing The Floor To The Boards Again

My favourite band were back in London this week so of course I was there, along with my friend Ema. It was an acoustic gig and although I missed the electric guitars, drums and cello, I loved how much noise was made with just the three guitars. There wasn't a strict set list for the night, Brandi asked for requests so we heard a few songs from their back catalogue that they don't usually play anymore. I'd never heard Again Today live, so that was a treat for me.
There were a few times when the band would come down from the stage and sing unplugged on top of the big speakers to the crowd, this is always my favourite part, the lady has some serious pipes:
My smile lines are deep this week!