I guess children have to learn to live with disappointment: but it wouldn’t have happened with LEGO.
I bought Alex a Nano block model of Big Ben for his birthday: he enjoys playing with LEGO so much (he’s always asking for more and I’m always saying no, as we have the proverbial foot-spiking spread of bricks constantly across his carpet) that I thought something smaller and more fiddly and less attractive to Edward might appeal to him. He’s previously had a Nano block elephant which seemed quite popular, although unlike LEGO models it hasn’t got broken up and metamorphosed into other things but has remained an elephant, merely minus a tusk or two.
Nano blocks might not appeal to Edward but they did appeal to Isabella, so when Alex appeared not to have shown any interest in the box (i.e. he left it untouched in his bedroom for a day or two), she decided to help herself and to get started on the model.
Apart from the fact that Bella knew this would wind Alex up, there was nothing wrong in her doing so – she’s extremely good at precise, detailed work and the model started well. When Alex got it back – at about 1st floor level – all seemed fine. A few days later I thought I’d have a go at building some more (having checked with Alex first), partly to make sure there weren’t too many pieces missing as Bella has a habit of scattering everything (clothes, shoes, hairbrushes, books – last week she omitted to take a towel to school for swimming) to the four winds and something as tiny as Nano blocks would be easy prey for her carelessness. Again, all was going well – until it appeared we were missing all the blocks of a certain size. Bella stated that she had found a lot missing as well: I checked under her bed just in case and all I found was one of her lipsalves.
Alex was the next to have a go and we then found that even more pieces were missing, and yet we seemed to have a plethora of others. Leaving him to adapt what blocks we did have to create something which looked like Big Ben, but stripey (the colours were wrong as well as the sizes), I went upstairs to read to Edward and to Isabella. A howl of fury and frustration, a small crash and then footsteps stomping up the stairs indicated clearly that all was not well.
Having got all three children tucked up in bed, I went back downstairs to find the stripey clock tower of Big Ben in chunks. I started again: and soon discovered the frustration. More missing pieces: and those that could be constructed into the right shape then didn’t fit on the bits they were meant to fit on. I cobbled something together, then to find that a tree trunk was missing – chuh! Only two trees, not three. There was a surplus of all sorts of unnecessary bricks and a distinct lack of the ones we did need. Short of prising the entire thing apart brick by painfully small brick, to doublecheck Bella didn’t use any of the teeny tiny bricks we needed in the tower at ground floor level (and in fact I trust her not to have done), we have a stripey, slightly wonky model of Big Ben with off-centre clockfaces, and a pile of spare Nano blocks. Pretty, isn’t it – but not quite an accurate impression of the real thing.
Sadly this wasn’t the only disappointment of the bank holiday weekend. Saturday’s forecast was for dry weather, and I told the children we’d go down to Ambleside. I’d been asked to write a review of Hilltop (Beatrix Potter’s house) and thought we could go across on the ferry from Bowness: whenever previously we had been travelling home from Grizedale via Hawkshead and I suggested the ferry David always said no.
This turned out to be the excitement of the day, although even that wasn’t desperately exciting: I think Alex would have liked force 8 gales and a choppy lake. Hilltop was lovely but I was reminded of something Christine said, who used to work there: “there’s not much there”. It was too wet to run around in the garden and the tea room we went to nearby, although the food was good, was ridiculously overpriced.
Heading into Ambleside, all three of them just wanted to get home. We stopped at the garden centre where Davina was collecting for the Nepal crisis, and bought Bella some walking boots for Robinwood (“only 13 days’ time”). I hadn’t realised that there’s a Cotswolds in Hayes garden centre, and the girl who served us understood Bella completely and couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful.
Sunday’s weather started off as a repeat of Saturday’s and by the time it cleared up and I took the children for a walk in Gelt Woods, there wasn’t much time before we needed to get back so I could get the dinner on. This was probably just as well as the river was flowing high and fast and Alex was insisting on walking too close to the (muddy, slippery) edge: if any of them had fallen in it would have been the end of him or her, and also where Alex goes Edward is quite likely to follow. There was a bit of dam-building and splashing in puddles so it wasn’t a complete dead loss.
Fortunately today (Monday) went rather better. It was at least dry when we awoke, and having had a lie-in we all then had Hallsford sausages for breakfast before heading over to Hexham to go to the Wentworth Centre for a swim.
It was the first time I had ever taken all three children swimming on my own. However with Alex and Bella now both being able to swim and aged over 8, not only am I allowed to do so but I also feel happy doing so. Swimming provision in Carlisle has always been one of the few but huge drawbacks of living where we do (I used to choose where I lived depending on whether there was a decent swimming pool nearby) and the pool in Hexham puts everything in Carlisle to shame. It’s a modern complex with a 25m pool, two toddler pools and a learner pool: and at one point the toddler pools had jets of water in and one of them had bubbles. All three children were happy – even Alex, who would have liked flumes and lazy rivers and so forth, gave it 9/10 – and all have said they would happily go there again. I was also impressed that they do a ‘family ticket’ which is for one adult and three children – as opposed to two adults and two children, or even two adults and three children. The only minus point was the changing village which was small and where we had difficulty finding a family changing room.
A trip into Waitrose next door for some lunch and then it was back to Brampton. I dropped the children round at David’s, sprayed the weeds in the garden with the weedkiller I had just bought, and got on with updating my CV (at last). By the time the children returned from David’s the evening was sunny and there was an air of calm over the house.
But I won’t be buying Nano blocks again.