February 2016

After a year of planning, deliberating and then waiting for the right builder to step up to the mark, we finally embarked on our home improvement plan - a two-storey side and rear extension. To prepare the ground we first needed to demolish the old conservatory. Chris was all for taking a sledgehammer to it but Megan managed to find a buyer on E-bay so a more measured approach to removal was taken and most of it survived intact despite its age.

More on the building work later. First, some half term activities. We started the week meeting up with Clare at the National Space Centre in Leicester. This turned out to be almost exactly half way between us and made for an interesting visit. Much of it was interactive - and not terribly photogenic - and the planetarium show was excellent. Our best souvenir photos were these in the space suit...

 

Cassandra and Matthew went back up to Leeds with Clare for a few days and then over to Southport for another couple of days before we finally caught up with them again at a different half-way point ... the rather less interesting Ikea, Birmingham. Still, turned out they'd had a really good time and done all sorts of neat things - including a visit to the new Clip'N'Climb climbing centre which they loved.

On the Friday, Megan and the kids met up with some friends at Gravity Force, the indoor trampolining centre in Camberley. Matthew spent most of the time, as usual, on the bouncy dodgeball court whereas Cassandra spent much of the time on the gymnastics-style bouncy runway. Here she is showing off a few skills...

On the Saturday, we headed down to Southampton to enjoy Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the Musical, which had been one of our Christmas gifts from Chris's folks. Fantastic show starring comedians Phil Jupitus and Jason Manford and a few other famous faces. In the evening, the kids went to stay at Granny's whilst we headed to Runways End Activity Centre for an adults-only camp for cub and scout leaders and helpers. Neither of us are leaders but we do sit on the committee of the 2nd Aldershot Scout Group. Unfortunately, we'd missed a few of the afternoon activities - making 'armpit fudge', cooking on an open fire etc., but after a hearty evening meal we enjoyed a night hike with a few points of interest along the way such as navigating by the stars, use of thermal imaging equipment and assorted team-building activities. By 10pm, everyone was ready for a drink and by 11pm a few hardy souls - including Chris - headed out to the camp-fire to keep the evening going in style - eventually crashing to bed around 3.30am.
Whilst most people who attended stayed in the indoor accommodation, a few had braved the elements in hammocks. Matthew is due to attend a hammock camp in May so Megan decided to have a try in the morning before they were packed away. Pretty comfortable by all accounts.

Sticking the scouting a bit longer ... Matthew's two years in cubs was rewarded with a Queens Scout Silver Award which was presented in a slickly-run celebration where literally hundreds of bronze, silver, gold, platinum and diamond award winners all got their moment on stage and a short summary of the activities they'd done to qualify. Matthew's pack was amongst the largest group present and included one of the platinum award winners.

Back into the open air for a country walk - and an opportunity to catch up with some good friends, Alex and Nick. Matthew and Harry started off on some relatively low and easy to climb trees...

.. but soon took on more ambitious climbs - joined here by Cassandra and Grace. This was Puttenham Common, chosen partly because its got lots of great paths and heaps of good trees for climing and partly because it was on the way to Guildford where Matthew had a violin lesson.

And so back to the building work. First job (for the professionals) to lay some land drains in the back garden to cope better in heavy rain. Time will tell how effective this will be - but at least having a digger and a dumper truck on site made the whole project seem a bit more real. Plenty more photos to follow...