First there was swimming, where M and the boys have a long-running competition to see who can get shouted at the most times by the life guards. On this occasion F returned home victorious. Grinning, he proudly informed me he'd been told off three times for various swimming-pool related misdemeanours.
After that there were numerous swingball and badminton-related injuries to contend with. Why can't boys just play a game without a) trying to kill or b) trying to maim one another? They then retreated to their computers and I had a hell of a job prizing L off his (always a joy) so he could do his homework, which in itself is reminiscent of trying to extract blood from a stone. I washed the school uniforms (I've given up asking where the various marks come from: I think it's probably best not to know), chatted to M, who was preparing a Jerk Pork Feast for supper courtesy of Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals ("15 minutes my arse!" can be heard coming periodically from the kitchen whenever M tries a new recipe from this book), and then took the boys into Romsey for Friday Sweets Day (despite it being Saturday). L has various food allergies so tends to stick to Lovehearts (despite the inevitable jokes about secret messages to girlfriends, to which he just rolls his eyes) and F bought "Toxic Shock" and then spent the remainder of the day screwing his face up so he looked inhuman and bouncing up and down as he tried to get through the "sour" phase of the concoction without spitting the sweet out. J, 17, had taken the bus into Romsey earlier to meet a friend for lunch in a coffee shop. Tres refined, although still not above the temptation of a Toxic Shock herself as she proved later, displaying a facial gurney worthy of F's best efforts.
Finally, the day was nicely rounded off with purgatory in the form of the local village fete.
It was freezing cold, blowing a hoolie and raining to boot but the boys were determined to go. Sadly the bad weather hadn't been enough to put off the indefatigable troop of acutely cheerful and relentlessly stoic morris men and women either. They insisted on setting everyone a thoroughly good example of British Stiff Upper Lipness by plunging, leaping and prancing about manically grinning through the weather, merrily waving their bells in the air and crashing their sticks together with dreadful determination. The beer tent, which was next to the "dance area", was full of parents trying to anaesthetise themselves, but even they were jumping at every stick crash and bell ring and beer was being regularly sloshed over the edge of pint glasses to add to the pool on the already sticky rush matting. This is what morris dancing does to you.
Teddy, who was on an extendable lead (and admittedly M wasn't paying sufficient attention to him), got thoroughly over-excited at all the leaping about, joined in, managed to wrap his lead around several pairs of stockinged legs in what I thought was rather a good impression of dancing round the May pole, then bolted when M yelled at him which had the effect of pulling the lead tight round said legs and a clutch of morris people were sent crashing to the floor. Those who'd been in the beer tent longest cheered.
After that we thought it prudent to explore the other side of the fete field where village children were busy cramming fluorescent candy floss in their mouths at a rate that beggared belief and chucking coconut shy balls at each other; one child climbed a tree and got stuck in it and then his shoe fell off during the rescue mission and hit an innocent passer-by below on the head. The row of increasingly ancient, peeling and doddery-looking cars and tractors that were rolled out for the same purpose last year were settling into the bog of a soggy corner of the field where they were getting slowly wetter and wetter. People, clearly perplexed at their presence in such a tiny event, wandered past trying to avoid the owners' eyes and murmuring politely in a distracted sort of way to avoid further conversation. For some reason I couldn't fathom there were also three McLaren F1 racing cars in a tent near the entrance.
As we were making our getaway we were accosted by a woman who was manning the "wildlife area" near the exit. Skillfully positioned with a bucket to trap people who had already been badgered into plundering their pockets in support of several worthy village causes all the way round the field, she proceeded to complain to us about her husband, who should have been helping her but wasn't, because he was under investigation by the police for taking photographs of local girls out riding their horses, and the village had pretty much turned against him as a result.
After that we couldn't leave fast enough. The cold and damp had got into my chest and I spent the remainder of the afternoon on the sofa drinking wine, watching the Voice and feeling rather grumpy about the length of time this bug is taking to go away. I am an impatient patient.
To combat all of that and restore some peace, sanity and normality to the weekend, M and I decided we would take the kids out for a bluebell walk on Sunday.
They were thrilled.
L walked the entire way some distance from the rest of us plugged into his i-pod, and telephoned back on his mobile when he wasn't sure which way to go, while F spent the majority of the walk repeatedly kicking his sister in the bum and throwing strands of goose grass in her hair, which is her pride and joy and rather too expensively maintained. M drew the line at pine cones being used as grenades, but only after one had walloped J (currently revising for her AS levels which start next week and are causing, as you imagine, no small amount of stress) in the face.
Oh, the joy of country walks with teenagers.
At least Teddy, M and I appreciated the rare and unique beauty of these ancient woodlands carpeted in a vibrant sea of blue. They were just about at their zenith so it was worth dragging the kids round to see them. Not sure the photos really do them justice and if you get bored with so much blue please skip through them! I'm a bit enchanted by bluebells, have been ever since I was a child growing up on our farm in Sussex where the wood opposite was full of them.
I love this knackered old milk churn lying in the woods on the edge of the Green Lane. Wonder how long it's been there, gently rotting?
The Green Lane leading through the woods. Mottisfont Abbey is in a direct line from here across the fields so I assume the lane is an old trackway that used to connect the woods with the abbey.
The Charcoal Burner
The far side of the Green Lane
Teddy amongst the bluebells
A haze of blue in the woods
The Chalk Quarry seen across the fields
What time is it?
An unfurling fern
Hazel coppicing helping to maintain the health of the woods
Mottisfont Abbey seen across the fields
Running through the woods is thirsty work for dogs
Crikey! They're nearly as tall as dad! When did that happen?!
Happy dog running through the woods after boy who has gone on ahead, attached to i-pod...
Speedwell (I think?)
Ted looking at the bluebells (or more likely scanning for rabbits/ squirrels)
And just to break the monotony of the Blue, here is a White Bell