Thanks to the Queen's Jubilee Celebrations, June 2012 began with a four day weekend. Street Party Fever gripped the entire nation so pretty-much everyone arranged outdoor events, including Chris's sister Clare who chose to celebrate her 40th Birthday with a garden party.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn't too kind. Whilst the banks of the River Thames in London were lined with soaking wet people watching the Royal Flotilla, the rain was equally relentless in Leeds so the garden was hastily covered with various tents, gazebos and brollies.
With Chris and Martin on barbecue duty...
... the majority of the guests stayed in the relative dryness of the 'tented village' - some enjoying a nice glass of red, others keeping the cold out with a warming hot chocolate.
Actually, to be fair, there were a few bright spots amongst all the rain and everyone had a great time - or at least, kept smiling...
Of course, the kids didn't really mind the rain at all and all those with raincoats and wellies just went on playing in the garden as if it wasn't wet at all.
With raised eyebrows and tuts of 'typical!', the weather the next day was glorious. This showed off the lovely garden in the way its owners intended - though it was still a little wet underfoot.
Despite a fridge overflowing with spare food from the party, we headed to the local pub for lunch. At least it gave Clare a proper chance to relax for a while - if you can call being crowded by four little ones relaxing...
Making use of the four day weekend, we headed from Leeds over to Southport on the Monday to spend a bit more time with Chris's folks. Leaving for home on the Tuesday, we stopped off at Crosby Beach to show Barb the Anthony Gormley statues that are liberally scattered all over the beach.
These two photos aren't really what the artist was aiming for. The whole set of sculptures are all set in the sand looking out to sea and look far more interesting when viewed from behind (see below).
The whole thing is titled Another Place...
The following weekend, knowing how much Granny likes flowers, we headed back to Wisley for another visit.
Even in just a few short weeks, lots has changed. New beds planted, huge areas past their best and lots more only just coming into bloom - and plenty of paths and tree-climbing opportunities we still hadn't explored.
On the way home, we stopped off at a skateboard park in Woking. Unfortunately, it was being heavily used by a large group of teenagers but luckily it was right next to a playground with a rather unconventional roundabout...
Megan's Mum was celebrating a special birthday during her trip and decided that it was the perfect excuse for a city break to Paris. Leaving the kids with Chris, the two jumped on the Eurostar and enjoyed a three night break, taking in all the sights.
Sights like Notre Dame Cathedral...
... the Champs Elysees and Arc De Triomphe (the photo on the right taken from the top of the Arc De Triomphe looking back down the famous avenue).
Paris wouldn't be Paris without the Eiffel Tower, although the queues were too big to go up top....
... and the traffic was something to behold, with a constant background noise of car horns. Several times in queues like this, a driver would get fed up and simply pull a U-turn in the street - inch-by-inch - whilst everyone around just kept sounding their horns.
The hotel was close to Gare Du Nord railway station which meant the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur at Montmartre was only a short stroll away - albeit a bit of a climb!
With Megan and Barb due back into London at 3pm, Chris decided to be brave and single-handedly take the children to see the Queen - despite the high likelihood of huge crowds and limited access to public toilets. Anyway, the Queen was Trooping The Colour which meant the Mall was lined with beautifully turned-out soldiers as well as the crowds.
For much of the time, the kids took turns on Chris's shoulders but whenever the volume of cheers rose to indicate something or someone special was coming, the other child would climb up and stand on his hip to get a better view. This wasn't a particularly stable configuration so its amazing the photos turned out as well as they did (the video is pretty much unwatchable unless you want to be seasick).
Don't say you weren't warned...
We saw the Queen's carriage again later in the day although again we picked the wrong side as she was sat on the right of the Duke of Edinburgh so we didn't get a good view.
After well over an hour stood in the same location with the kids kept from going mad by the rationed provision of snacks, the party emerged on the Palace balcony to watch a flypast. At least this provided a nice view of the Queen and the kids recognised most of the others too - especially Kate and Wills on the right and Harry in the black.
The flypast was quite impressive with a group of four helicopters kicking things off and the Red Arrows closing the show.
After almost a month, it was nearly time for Granny to head back to New Zealand. Whilst in Paris she'd picked up a cuddly toy each for Cassandra and Matthew and they're now going to be holiday toys getting their photos taken whenever we visit somewhere new.
Matthew's penguin is called Waddles and Cassandra's Unicorn is Rainbow.
To give Granny a bit of space and peace to pack, Chris took the kids to the Aldershot Garrison Show. Despite the occasional shower, the kids had a fab time seeing some of the hardware (like guns and military vehicles), watching the motorcycle display team and dog agility demonstration, trying out all the different sports that the Army support...
...and, course, trying out what might possibly be the tallest inflatable slide they've ever been on.
As if all that excitement wasn't enough, the very next weekend provided another chance to get up-close-and-personal with some serious hardware.
Whilst Cassandra and Megan were away at Brownie Camp (photos next month), Chris and Matthew went to the QinetiQ Family Fun Day, taking the Houghton Family along as guests. As well as the usual Bouncy Castles and Dodgems, Matthew's favourite activity of the day was shooting (toy) crossbows at a makeshift tank target. And in glorious sunshine as well!