Monday, June 27, 2011

In Which I see my Lovely Cousins and Play Pooh Sticks


My cousin Julie and I are only a year apart in age but we live thousands of miles apart so it’s tough keeping in touch in any kind of a meaningful way. I did get to see her here in the UK four years ago when her little boy was only four months old, but that feels like such a long time ago. So it was great to spend today with her and her husband Simon, and their son Oliver, who is now 4 years old.

We met halfway between Preston, where she lives, and Hay, at a National Trust site called Attingham Park near Shrewsbury. It is one of those lovely old homes that you see in movies with the sweeping grounds and rivers running through. It was actually a nice day today so there was no need to huddle under umbrellas while running from one building to another. We could actually be outside and not freeze. In fact, it felt a bit warm at times. It was probably only 21 or 22 but we are all so used to feeling cold and wet that it was a bit of a shock to the system. We looked like a pack of vampires, white-faced, throwing our arms up in the sunshine to shield ourselves from the burning rays.

Anyway. We had a great visit and some laughs, and Oliver was as cute as a button and seemed to love meeting his cousins too.

And of course, there were things like this, as well


Ummm. Did you say ‘Wigloo’? And who exactly is going to sit in this?

Tony: June? Juune? JUNE? Where are you, June?

June: I’m just here, Tony, in the Wigloo

Tony: The whot?

June: You know, the Wigloo. In the middle of the labyrinth. It’s just the perfect shape and size for sitting in…

Tony: Well can you get a move on. I want to pop down and see the Eel Underpass.

June: The whot?

And so we follow Tony and June out of the labyrinth and down the river where we see this:


How thoughtful. And did you know baby eels are called ‘Elvers’? Neither did I until I came across this helpful poster which goes to great lengths to explain exactly how, when and why, this eel underpass will be built. Fascinating. North Atlantic Oscillation clearly has a great deal of explaining to do.

I could go on and on about it but I will instead encourage you to pursue this topic on your own should you so desire. Otherwise, you can come and join us on the bridge for a game of Pooh Sticks.


If you are not familiar with Pooh Sticks then you must go and read some Winnie the Pooh stories.

I am pleased to say that I won.

Pooh sticks was followed by a new version of the game invented by Jacob which he called Pooh Rocks which, I will venture to say, may not hold the same universal appeal that Pooh Sticks enjoys. I suspect Tony and June will have an opinion on this.

Interesting thing about Tony and June is that I keep seeing them all over the UK. June is about 60, with a striped bias-cut skirt, blouse, oversize glasses, and raincoat, and Tony is a few years older, a few inches taller, wearing a short sleeved shirt, cardigan, beige slacks, balding and carrying an umbrella. He usually has a slight hunch, and June wears sensible shoes. I’ve seen them in the airport waiting to get on a plane, I’ve seen them waiting for a train, They are always having tea and biscuits wherever we go, and I often see them discussing the price of a cooked ham, or a head of cabbage, in the grocery store. Weird.

Anyway. Can’t wait for the cousins to make a trip to Canada, which they promise me they will do.

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We drove the two hours back to Beatrix Potter world and went for a swim in the river. It was a bit muddy. and cold, and fast moving. But we tried our best.

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Zoe and Jacob spent the rest of the evening torturing small minnows by swooping them up by the hundreds in dip nets, marvelling at them while they squirmed and gasped, before being returned, at high speed, to the river.

The evening was complete with a trip to the wild strawberry patch.




Thanks for reading. More tomorrow-



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