National Stud Centre day

I took a week off during the Easter holiday to spend some time with the family.  We didn’t have much time or money so we could only do small things.  Plus, the kids still had gymnastics most of the week.  But the highlight for them was visiting the National Stud Centre in Newmarket.

The girls love horses and have done so since they were babies.  They have not had formal riding lessons (as they are so expensive) but they have gone riding and the guides have always noted that they sit well on a horse.

We had watched the Grand National the week before.  One of the horses in the race came from the National Stud Centre and had not returned when we visited. But it did not detract from the kids’ enjoyment of being around the foals and seeing other former prize winners.

They also learned a little about breeding.  I must admit it was a bit uncomfortable when the older girl started asking questions about how it all worked.  I wasn’t exactly ready to discuss sex and breeding, even if it was about horses, especially in front of other people.  Luckily, she didn’t pursue the subject in detail as her younger sister would have done.  She was more interested in the fact that the workers lived in houses on the grounds.  She hopes to join them someday.

Foal at the National Stud Centre, Newmarket
Foal at the National Stud Centre, Newmarket

The National Stud Centre has a racecourse next to it and they run races during the summer.  There is also the Newmarket racecourse, which was not too far away, so we drove over to see what Newmarket was like.  It was rather small, still retaining some of the old village character.

From there, we decided to go over to Cambridge, as the younger girl hopes to go to King’s College someday.  After walking around the town (it was late afternoon and most of the shops had already shut) and around the colleges, we stopped for ice cream and watched the punters going down the Cam.  As we walked around the back, we took pictures of her and her Pooh Bear with King’s College in the background.  It will serve as a memento, in case she doesn’t go to Kings.

Wow!  It’s been a while since I posted.

My hours were supposed to be 9-5, but there’s no 9-5 about it.  Paperwork was rushed through so that I could start on the agreed date.  It’s a good thing I’m only working 4 days a week.

Unfortunately, last Friday was taken up with clearing out of the old house.  Still some unfinished business, but after threatening legal action, I think the agents are  starting to see our side.  It also helped that a couple of them have already come out to see it and have exclaimed in disgust at the conditions we were forced to live in.  Then it was our daughter’s last gymnastics meet last weekend, followed by another hectic work week.  So, I am finally back to post about my time in Britain.

I’ve had loads of things I wanted to say, but I’ve forgotten most of it.  However, I do want to comment on my mode of travel these days.  I’ve been taking the trains in to work.  It actually works out less costly than if I were to drive (that is, if I ever get a chance to practice for my exam).  The most inconvenient thing, of course, is to live by the train schedule.  It can be tricky as well when the work days are so variable that you never know when you’ll finish, so you don’t know which train is best.

In my first week, I just had to go with the flow.  But, by the end, I managed to get a rough idea of the timetables from a couple different stations.  The one closest to work is rather small, so there are fewer trains that stop there.  So, some days, I have to walk an extra mile to get to the next station.  I may have to get creative with the routes I take.  It may mean that I also have to walk further at the house end.

It’s such a novel thing for me to commute to work via public transport.  I know that in big cities in the US, people do it all the time, but I never lived in those cities.  It’s more common in the UK, even in the smaller towns.  Given the state of the roads these days, I’m surprised not to see more people doing it.

Of course, you start to notice the regulars on the train as well.  It’s a bit of a surprise for me to find large groups of students travelling from one town to another to attend school – a state school, not a private one.  It makes me wonder about the availability of schools.  Which reminds me, the deadline for secondary school admission is next week – better get going on that.

I had meant to write about all the places we’ve been recently, but several things in the past couple of days changed my mind.  At least for now.

The first happened Monday morning when I went out to the clothes line to get a leo for my elder daughter to go to gymnastics.  That morning I was awaked by some noise outside which sounded like some metal being moved around.  It reminded me of the sound of moving metal dumbbell weights around on the ground.  I thought the farmer was doing some work outside.  When I got to the clothes line, I found two sheep eating outside the window of the bedroom.  One was making herself comfortable by lying on the ground as she ate.  They were around the rose bush and the plants we had in jars and pots around the little porch.  I frightened them and they ran towards the fence, but turned around and looked at me.  I went inside to wake my daughter but when we looked outside, they were gone.  However, I noticed that the sunflower which had taken us months to grow was uprooted.  My husband heard the commotion and came out.  We went to the living room window and saw that one jar was smashed.  It was the noise of the jars that I had heard in the morning.

My husband went out to inspect the damage and found the sheep again.  They had not gone far, probably just around the house and came back again.  They had eaten our chives and got into the carrots.  One of the sheep was on the ground again.  But when they saw him, they ran again.  Our daughter came out and they ran out our front gate.  My husband told her to shut it, but she came in without doing so.  When next they went out, the sheep were in again.  This time, my daughter shut the gate after they left.  As my husband went out with the girls, he was going to try and get the sheep back into the fields by moving them behind their gates; however, the gate at the top of the drive was open and they went that way.  He found them down by the main gates into the estate, but luckily, or unluckily, they veered off and went into the landlord’s yard.  We have seen the landlord shoo them off his yard previously, but he wouldn’t have wanted them out on the streets either.  We don’t know what became of them.  I know our landlord was busy with the electric guy because they came down to see our place and he was too distracted for me to mention the sheep.

Now, I know I mentioned using the sheep as our natural lawnmower, but we had managed to cut the grass with shears and now only the weeds are growing in between, so it was unnecessary for them to donate their services now.  Besides, they left a trail of poo on their way out the gate.  As I said previously, that was one downside to using sheep, so we had nixed the idea.  As the saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side”, and the sheep obviously believed it.  But, then again, the chives, sunflower and carrots were probably delicacies for them.

Having two bank holidays in May makes this month go by really fast.  I can’t believe it’s half-term already, and the kids had only been in school for 5 weeks this time.  Unfortunately, it will mean that the other half is much longer.  I’m unsure when school actually lets out this year.  If it’s as my husband suspects (July 24th), that will mean 8 weeks after the half-term.  I suspect it may be 1-2 weeks earlier, because they will be doing their Stagecoach performances on July 11th, and the school’s drama club will be presenting theirs the week of July 6th.  Anyhow, having two bank holidays also means that sometimes you can’t get things done in as timely a manner as you’d like, because businesses are closed (i.e., banks, post offices).

On the other hand, it does mean lots of family fun events.  There will be two nearby fetes this Monday and I’d love to see them both, just to get a feel for them.  But, unfortunately, you might not get a very good feel for either if you don’t experience everything – and that takes time.  Ah, decisions, decisions.  It’s too bad that they’re both at the same time and they only last 3-4 hours.   Then, of course, we don’t even know if our daughter has gymnastics practice that day or if they’ll close for the day like last time.  Just as long as they don’t change the time because it is half-term – I wouldn’t want her to miss out on the fun.