Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas One and All

Another late night here,just made sure Santa enjoyed the cookies and whiskey that Lara left for him next to our chimney. Rudolph should be tucking into his carrot too now. Santa did leave a stocking full of treats for a good little girl. We've not packed the car up yet, ready to drive up to Radcliffe, but me and the boys are pretty much ready to go, so the pressure will be on the girls in the morning, but Olga's good at speed-packing. Our aim is to be in Radcliffe by 12.30, ready for Grandma's usual perfect Christmas dinner at 1.30ish, then watching the Queen at 3pm before nodding off at 3.11pm. Someone needs to tell Lara and Elizabeth that that's the plan, or Nick, Cath, Olga and I will have to take it in turns to be "on duty" to look after the little ones.
Anyway, now that I can hear Santa's sledge pulling away from our roof, it's time for bed. Merry Christmas, anyone who's reading this.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Disaster Movie?

This was the scene at 11am this morning on the main road leading to our street. It reminded me of a Hollywood film where the town had been attacked with some kind of nerve agent and everyone had slumped dead at the wheel of their car!
We definitely made the right decision to dump the car yesterday, and I was able to get to work quite easily once I'd collected it. I'll park it there again tonight, as I doubt this main road will be clear anytime soon.
Here are some more pics:

Posted by Picasa

Monday, 21 December 2009

LOTS more snow

Where's the car?

We were almost caught out today by another big dump of snow this afternoon. In Marlow, it didn't look too bad, with sleet falling from lunchtime, and only turning to proper fluffy snow around 3pm. The nursery closed early, at 4pm, so we picked Lara up just before that and set off home. However, the fluffy stuff had been falling in High Wycombe for longer than in Marlow, and the main road near our house - which is on a steep hill - had become almost impassable. We only found this out once we'd parked the car up at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac that I know, after being stuck in traffic for 30 minutes, moving less than 50 metres. With another mile or so to go, and with Lara waking from a nap, and hungry, we decided it was better to leave the car and walk home, so we detoured to the street where we've left the car. I could go and try and get it now, but it's not causing any obstruction and frankly, I don't think we'll need it until tomorrow lunchtime at the earliest. It's still snowing now - 10.20pm - albeit not as hard as before, and it's good snow for building snowmen, so I reckon that's tomorrow's priority, building a "no-man" as Lara calls them.
I was reading the BBC News website this evening and found this paragraph:
"People have reported major traffic problems in the High Wycombe area of Buckinghamshire, with some vehicles being abandoned."
I guess, technically, we have abandoned our vehicle too, but I can agree that I saw lots of vehicles abandoned on the main road near our house; I took the dogs out for a walk as soon as we got home, mainy so I could go and see what was causing the traffic problems. Cars coming down the hill (the direction we needed to go) we having to wait for cars coming up the hill to turn around, as they were getting stuck halfway up. I must say that everyone was very polite, in the 20 minutes or so that I was watching, I only heard one car horn beep, and there were local residents wandering about with shovels, helping cars to get some traction. I'm sure we made the right decision, and it'll be interesting to see how many cars were finally left on that road.
At least this new snow will give Lara a chance to try out the new salopettes we bought for her at the weekend. Mainly they're for her trip to Russia, and it was proving difficult to find such trousers for a two-year old, and an "only-just" two-year old at that, but a winter sports shop in Reading had what we needed (and in the sale too!). They're very pink, but they fit her and will keep her warm and dry while she plays in the snow.
And finally, on a wintery, Christmassy note, I took this photo on my phone while walking the dogs the other night - our most over-decorated house in the neighbourhood:

Friday, 18 December 2009

More snow photos

Here are the usual "family playing in the snow" photos that I always take...

Snow in High Wycombe

The forecasters are getting better at this prediction lark, they said it would snow overnight, and it did. At 11pm last night it was snowing heavily but with very strong winds, so it wasn't really settling much, but the winds slowed overnight, and now the big, flakey, great-for-making-snowmen snow has fallen. Olga has taken the boys down to the vets for a scheduled appointment, but she's walking them there, and will see what the main roads are like. I'm staying here with Lara, listening to Terry Wogan's last show, and we'll go out for a play in the snow once Olga is back. Luckily, I don't think conditions are bad enough to prevent us going over to Reading this afternoon for Olga's passport interview, and my night out with the boys :- ):-)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 17 December 2009

More Nativity Pics

Here's an updated Nativity album, with some more pics taken today, and even a video. There's no sound on some of the video, which the more cynical of you might think is a relief!
There was a noticable domino effect today with the kids, when one started crying and was hauled off by a concerned parent, this tended to set another one off, who was then plucked from the floor.. Lara saw us early on - we were surprised and pleased how easy it was for her to pick us out in a crowded, darkened room - but didn't throw any tantrums and seemed to really enjoy the whole thing.

Playing in the park

Last Saturday we went to the park in Wycombe to play, some photos and a video have been uploaded to the "December 2009" album on the left of the blog...

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

It's snowing in Marlow

Woohoo, the first snow of the winter is falling. It doesn't look like the kind that will last very long, but that might be famous last words. The ironic thing is I'm listening to the South Africa v England Test Match on the radio. Cricket, snow, Christmas approaching.. wierd!
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Nativity Play 2009

It's that time of year again! Lara's theme this year is Santa, after being a snowflake last year. She seemed to really enjoy joining in with the singing and clapping, and didn't come rushing over when she saw me or Olga (it brought a lump to my throat when she saw me and climbed to her knees shouting "Paa-paa! Paa-paa!" and waving at me!).
Here are some photos, and one from last year for comparison :-)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

And.. we're back

Just a quick one, seeing as it's midnight on Saturday. We had a lovely time, the weather was poor to start with but improved a lot when it mattered. I've narrowed down the photo & video collection to a mere 100 items, which will be uploaded soon enough, I'm trying to edit the videos together into one rather than uploading a dozen to YouTube.
As a taster, here are 8 photos, two each from Tuesday to Friday. It was after dark when we arrived on Monday, and having driven most of the way in heavy rain (with a very welcome stop to see Catherine, Elizabeth and William - he's gorgeous, and soooooo light!!) I was too tired to dig out the cameras. Phew, I bet you're thinking...

Monday, 7 December 2009

Off on holiday!

We're off down to Devon today, to stay at the "eco-cottage" we stayed at last year.  We'll be there until Friday, and are going to pop in on Catherine and new arrival William on the way down.
There's no internet in the cottage, although I'll try to sneak the odd blog post via my PDA.
Photos galore next week though!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Some new photos

There are some new photos on the left now.

Back safe and sound

It was a busy week in Dhaka, hence no blogs posts, I'm afraid. The journey back was uneventful - no upgrade this time, but I travelled back from Dhaka to Dubai with a colleague, so it was unlikely they'd upgrade two people travelling together.
I got home around 7pm, and was greeted with a big hug and kiss from Lara. Her talking is coming on a lot now, still only stringing two words together at a time, but this is the norm now rather than the exception. It was great to hear "Hello Papa" over the phone or Skype when I called up, and she seems to have got over this habit of calling me Mama - phew!
I bought her a new squeazy duck pillow to replace the one Jackson destroyed, and this time I gave it to her straight away, and she seems to really like it. It'll get its first big test on Monday when we drive to Devon, but really I want her to get used to sleeping with it in time for her trip to Russia in January.
Lara was off nursery for a few days at the end of last week, with a tummy bug, but she seems fine now. The time at home with Lara gave Olga time to strip Mishka's coat (a job that is still going on as I type, Mishka is a very patient boy!) and even Jackson had his first spell on the groomer's table, and looks more grown-up for it.
I'm going to post this now, I've got some photos from last week to put up, and Olga took some nice ones of Lara, so I'll try to get round to posting them tonight, but at the moment Lara is having a long nap so we should try to get a  few jobs done! She had a disturbed night last night (Olga reports she was like that all week). I went to check up on her at 3am, after she'd been crying, but she was asleep, it was as if she'd been crying in her sleep. Other times Olga says Lara's been talking in her sleep, so I wonder if she's started to dream now, and the talking and crying is part of that, but she isn't actually waking up.
Time to start thinking about packing, too! The plan is to be away by 8.30 on Monday morning, and we have all day tomorrow to pack, so we really have no excuse if we're late.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Another Day, Another Dubai Airport Bar

I'm in a different bar this morning at Dubai airport, their Irish Bar, complete with Irish ballards on the stereo system. I've got a four-hour wait here (in the airport, not the bar!) before my flight to Dhaka. The clock says 10.35am, my laptop says it's 6.35am, I'm not sure what time my body thinks it is. It is traditional to have a beer when in an airport bar, regardless of the time (after all, it's 5.30pm somewhere), but even I had to relent when I arrived here, so I had an orange juice and a coffee. An Irish coffee, though :-) Seeing as it is rapidly approaching 11am local time, I think a beer will be ordered next, but I have to think of the bladder effect, I do have 5 hours on a plane soon enough. The beer is £6 a pint - I think expenses will cover it - but at least the internet is free.
It was a good job I chose to take the late flight last night, 10pm from Heathrow rather than the 8pm flight I got last time round, as yesterday was a busy day. We got Olga's passport application checked at the Post Office and sent off, then took the boys for a walk down by the Thames. We let Jackson off the lead, and most of the time he was well behaved, and came back when called, even when there were other dogs to play with. Olga only had to go after him once when we were downwind of him and he couldn't hear us calling him back, so he carried on chasing a spaniel. We hoped he might go swimming in calm bits of the river, and in doing so Mishka would be encouraged to go in, but as you can see from the photo below, they didn't go very far in at all:

They were treated to a bath at home, so we had to very nice smelling, if very fluffy, dogs in the afternoon. I did my best to electrocute myself fixing a new outdoor light, so Jackson can see where he's going when he disappears out of the cat flap in the evenings, but it all worked in the end without any painful disasters.
Lara did her best to look extremely cute before I packed up to go to the airport, I just had to post these photos:

Well, I think that's all for now. More from Dhaka later in the week....

Friday, 27 November 2009

Tree, Dva, Adeen.. Count!!

Lara's speech is improving day by day, she can recognise lots of things in her bedtime story books, she recognises the animals, can say what they are and what noise they make, and remembers how the story unfolds. At least this is the case with one of her "Spot the Dog" books, she shocked me one night when lifting up a flap and saying "Boo", when the image under the flap was Spot in the bath with a speech bubble saying "Boo"! For a microsecond I thought she'd read it, but of course she'd just learnt that that's what Spot says on that page of the book.
She's starting to string words together more, so we hear much more of "My coat", "My hat" etc.. rather than "mine!" and "coat". The current excitement is based on counting, and in the car on the way to nursery each morning she practises counting with Olga - in Russian, just to make it more interesting. I practise with her in English when it's my turn to put her to bed, or at any other time when it's just the two of us. Lara is confident with adeen (1), she loves dva (2) and tree (3), she struggles with chet-eer-re-yeh (4) quite understandably, but enjoys p'yet (5). We're working on 6 to 10, which she copes with quite well, except for vo-sem (8) for some reason, which so far this week has come out as "mornin'". For anyone who wants to practise, here is my phonetic version:
6 - shest
7 - sem
8 - vo-sem
9 - dyay-vit
10 - dyay-sit

Other funny behaviour we're seeing - she's using different tones now, she has different ways of saying "Misha!" and "Jack-jack!" when she's telling them to leave the room (Misha Out!) from when she's wanting to give them one of their toys ("Meeeshah"). She has started ordering us about - we've both been on the receiving end of "Mama, out!" and "Papa, out!", accompanied with a pointed finger towards the door. Once I've been told "Papa, sit!" when I got up from the dinner table. We've dispensed with her high chair now, so she sits on a booster chair at our new, smaller dining table. Hopefully this will help her at nursery, where the staff report that she has a habit of getting up from the table at mealtimes and wandering around, which can set of the other children off wanting to do the same. We think this is where she got the "Papa, sit" command from!

One final thing - happy birthday for yesterday to Olga's mum, and enjoy your reitrement when it finally starts!

A Trip to the Vet

Jackson had his 6-month free check-up this morning, Simon The Friendly Vet gave him a clean bill of health. He's raced up to 8.1kg now, from 5.something back at the start of October, we know there's nothing wrong with his appetite, he normally finishes off Mishka's left over food after he's eaten his own!
He had a rabies shot, which (along with being microchipped, which we had done while he was sedated to have his poorly leg fixed in September) is the first stage of getting him his Pet Passport. In three weeks we'll take him back and he'll have a blood test; if everything is OK, then he'll get his Passport and we can take him to Europe :-)
As usual, we took the opportunity to weigh Lara, and she's now 12.8kg, up from 11.75kg on the 9th September.

Afternoon Tea, Stiff Upper Lip, Cricket et cetera

Olga's ceremony went smoothly on Wednesday afternoon.
There were 16 new citizens, "swearers" sitting on the left side of the room, "affirmers" on the right.  Nationalities represented included India, Pakistan, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, Thailand as well as Russia (one other girl was Russian, and looked it, it's strange how I can spot them now!)
The affirmers stood up, each one individually had to say the "I, " bit, then as a group they repeated the affirmation with the Registrar. Then it was time to receive their certificate from the Deputy Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, Colonel Tim May, and have their photo taken (the attached one is my photo). Olga suffered from the Armstrong problem of being the first one alphabetically called up to get her certificate!
At the end everyone stood for the National Anthem (music only, no singing), and there was just time for a good old British sexist wisecrack from the Colonel (something like "a lovely way to meet such a lot of very attractive women").
And that was that. We went to the pub for a pint of bitter then to nursery to pick Lara up.
Here is Olga receiving her certificate from the Colonel: 

And looking nervous beforehand:

So the next step is to apply for her British passport. The photos have been taken, and the form should be sent off today, so let's see how long the whole process will take.  People applying for their first adult passports now have to have an interview, but the "Applying for your Passport" guide suggests that passports should still be issued within three weeks, although it could take upto six weeks. The plan is to have her passport in time to go to Russia in the second half of January, so she can use the British one to get back into the UK upon her return, although it's not the end of the world if it has arrived before she leaves.
A few other things she needs to work on would be her intimate knowledge of cricket fielding positions and the LBW law, bitter drinking (although she's already quite good at this) and advanced Francophobia, starting with learning this quote from Blackadder off by heart:
Mrs Miggins: Bonjour, monsieur.
Edmund: What?
M: Bonjour, monsieur -- it's French.
E: So is eating frogs, cruelty to geese and urinating in the street, but that's no reason to inflict it on the rest of us.
E: Doesn't anyone know? We hate the French! We fight wars against them! Did all those men die in vain on the field at Agincourt? Was the man who burned Joan of Arc simply wasting good matches?
Of course I'm not advocating Francophobia, I like France. Their Champagne is lovely. As soon as Olga and Jackson get their passports, I'm sure we'll be off there for a weekend trip. It's just the French that I don't have a great deal of time for!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A New Brit

Today's the day Olga becomes British - we're off to her Citizenship Ceremony this afternoon.  I'll post some photos tomorrow - we're currently internet-less at home after our wireless router died at the weekend.

In the meantime, I've added some extra photos to this album:

Photos of William

As promised, here's young William, looking a lot like his Dad, I think...

Don't try to focus your eyes this post is in Russian

This is just a post for the benefit of my mum with some info on UK visas. It's boring and not worth translating into English.

Данный линк откроет вебсайт с информацией о подаче на визу. Ты просто его почитай, но заявление пока не заполняй (оно все равно на английском).

Следующий линк содержит форму, которую надо будет заполнить. В данной форме на стр.13 есть список документов, который надо будет предоставить.

Читай, наслаждайся.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A new nephew!

A quick, but important, announcement... yesterday my sister gave birth to a healthy bouncing boy! William John Joyce arrived at 13:37 (not bad considering Cath's waters only broke that morning!), weighing in at 8lbs 6oz (3.8 kilos). Everyone is well, and I'm sure a photo will appear soon enough.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Everyone's on their travels

There's more travel on the horizon for everyone - I'm going back to Dhaka a week on Saturday for 5 days, then a couple of days later we're all off down to Devon for 5 days of relaxation. Then we'll go up to Radcliffe to see Grandma and Granddad for Christmas.  Then in the second half of January Lara is going on her fourth foreign holiday! Not bad for a two year old... Olga will take her to see her mum in Russia for 10 days, and Lucy is going too. We found some good flights on Finnair via Helsinki to Ekaterinburg, seeing as no UK airline flies there direct anymore :-( It says something about Russian airlines that Russians who have a choice won't fly on them! Aeroflot might just about be OK as a last resort, but the likes of Transaero just worry Olga too much to take Lara on their planes.
I'm excited about Lara going to Russia in winter, and I'm not even going! There are little things I'd not thought of, like Olga's not going to take the pram, as they won't be outside too much in the very cold temperatures of western Siberia in Winter, plus it will be too hard to push the pram through the snow, not too mention that the metal on the pram would be so cold that it would pose a danger to Lara if she touched it without her gloves on!. If they do go out, they'll borrow a sledge and pull Lara along on that (it's how it's done!!).
Somehow another 5 days in Dhaka doesn't seem to compare very favourably :-( !

A Clean House and a Naughty Child

The house is almost spotless now, Olga wants a dust-free environment before she comes home tomorrow with her bionic eyes. I'm on nursing duty, although we're killing two birds with one stone, and I'm having a dental check-up at the same time as Olga's treatment (it's one of those optical / dental places!) so I might be more of a nervous wreck that Olga tomorrow morning.
The staff at Lara's nursery reported today that she had to be "sat out" from some of their activities because she was misbehaving and not responding when asked to stop! The little madam! I can believe it though, we do think she's very independent and confident, we could see this this weekend when we're out and about, she's not afraid to head off on her own. I guess this is normal toddler behaviour, and I'm sure it'll only get worse as we head into the "terrible twos". Also, on Friday last week, and yesterday and today, Lara hasn't had a sleep at lunchtime at nursery. The staff have spent half an hour trying to convince her it's naptime, but she's not agreed with them. We're not bothered about that, it does seem to make her a bit more grumpy at teatime, but it's even easier than usual to get her off to sleep, so I think we're happy for her to drop her daytime nap completely now. She's still sleeping for 12 hours without waking, and although she's stirring when we're moving around in the mornings, she's happy to doze until we come into get her up around 7.15am.

Here she is wrestling her new IKEA crocodile this morning - the croc never stood a chance!

The Boys - an update

I realised I'd not put a photo of the boys up for some time. They are doing fine, we're working on Jackson's training, he has a good "sit", but his excitement just gets the better of him most of the time, he just can't sit still. We did have our first "Marley & Me" moment last week, when I came home at lunchtime to find that Jackson has chewed up a pillow I'd bought at Dubai airport for Lara. It was filled with tiny white polystyrene balls, it would have been a great travel pillow, but now the lounge looked like there had been an avalanche. It was a hell of a test for the hoover, and my patience, but one cute look from Jackson and all was forgiven. I'm a soft touch, really.
Anyway, here they are today...

More on Body Flying

Here are a couple more photos and videos from my "body flying" as it's called.. Lara was all set to have a go!

Nice to see I chose shoes that matched my suit...

My second attempt - Lara was losing interest by now!

This is my instructor showing how it should be done...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Happy Birthday to Me (again)

(16/11 - updated the photo with a better version...)

Here I am enjoying my birthday present from Olga, she got me a voucher for an adventure, and I chose the indoor skydiving at Airkix in Milton Keynes. I might put some video up once I've watched the DVD of my "flights", as the staff called them. I had two, one-minute sessions in the wind tunnel. The first one was more about worrying about my technique, and wondering why wind blowing at 100mph smells of chlorine, but the second one was more about smiling for the camera and looking out for Lara and Olga, in the viewing area outside the wind tunnel. Having said that, this smiley photo was taken during the first flight, and you can see Lara in the background. She was a little surprised when I floated right past her, at eye-level, soon after this photo was taken. I wish I could have taken a photo of her expression!
After a pub lunch to celebrate my safe landings, we went to Ikea. About the only thing on the shopping list was a bean bag for Lara's nursery, but in true Ikea fashion we came home with a dog bed for Jackson, a 4-foot long crocodile soft toy for Lara and a new dining table for ourselves. But no bean bag.
It wasn't all about me this weekend, yesterday Olga went for a check-up at the opticians and came out with an appointment for Wednesday morning to have laser surgery to correct her eyesight. Watch this space... Olga will be able to read this without her glasses from Thursday!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A Walk in the Park

My flights were all on time yesterday, so I landed back at Heathrow at 7am. There was blue sky, no clouds, a lovely fresh autumn morning, and on the walk from the plane to immigration, there was a big poster showing central London from the Thames, and I thought it would be a lovely day to go into London for a walk in the park, and maybe a hot chocolate down by the river. Olga and I think this everytime we go and work in London, that it's so close yet we hardly ever go with as a threesome (or even more if we ever took the boys!). So, in a bid to avert jetlag-induced, all-day dozing, I was home by 8am and we were heading into London on the train at 10.35. We went straight to Regents Park, and had a picnic lunch then let Lara go for a walk and a ride on her trycycle. After an hour or so she was very tired, and was almost relieved to be put in her pram for a nap. We headed towards the river, but only got as far as Oxford Street before she woke up (after an hour's nap, we do like walking London's streets), and we popped into Debenhams to use their baby-changing facilities, and ended up leaving with a bag full of clothes for Lara from their sale. We wanted to be home before it got dark, so we used the new diagonal crossing at Oxford Circus - very handy to have a pram to help cut a swathe through the human traffic in the middle - and took the tube to Marylebone and then the train home. We were home soon after 4.30pm, and it's a day out we'll definitely do again. A treat of fish & chips for tea just rounded off a very nice day, and I managed to stay awake until 10pm, making it a maximum of two hours sleep in 45 hours.

Today's weather of grey and damp made us realise what a good decision we'd made yesterday, and it was just a day of house-cleaning and then vegging-out. We even got Lara off to sleep for her afternoon nap in her cot rather than in her pram, which made a nice change, not least for Lara I imagine. Olga took all three out for a walk after their naps, but before it got dark, so as the boys could be walked before the fireworks started. They don't seem to bother Jackson much, but Mishka does get a bit upset, his tail disappers between his legs when he's out walking, and when he's at home he wants to come and curl up with us on the sofa.
Ahhh, back to work tomorrow. Mondays, eh?

Friday, 6 November 2009

Light at the end of this tunnel

Well, I survived a difficult week, and the silver lining has been to get upgraded on my flight from Dhaka to Dubai on Emirates. I had a little chat with the check-in guy about cricket, and I am dressed smartly casual, and hey presto! Cricket also saved me from having to bribe the security guys on the way into the airport. At first I said I was a businessman when they x-rayed my bags, and this got them interested in the contents of my bags. As they persisted in trying to find out if I was a businessman (their English wasn't great), I decided to tell them I was here for the cricket between Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and straight away they understood the word "cricket" and let me straight through. As it happens, some of the Zimbabwe squad are flying home from the tour today on my flight, and are sat across the room from me here in the lounge. I'm afraid I don't recognise them, and from their slightly portly shape, they may be part of the back-room staff!
The work was difficult, with some quite officious bureaucrats trying to catch me out about the equipment we've provided, but I was able to mostly rebuff them. We did have one problem caused by rats or mice nibbling the cables on an $18000 scanner whilst it's spent over a year in different warehouses! $20 to a local electrician got that fixed though...
The normal staff - not the top brass - were very polite and helpful, as was everyone in the hotel, and the climate was lovely, warm without being too hot. It's a very poor place, but I wasn't hassled on the street at all by beggars.
Skype has been great, although I've had to wait up until after 1am to speak with Olga and Lara, but it was worth it.
OK, time to stop laptopping, I seem to have been in front of this thing a lot this week. Time to get my things together and look forward to a glass of bubbly on the plane! It doesn't happen often, after all.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

En Route to Bangladesh

Well, I'm established in my hotel room in Dhaka, it was a long old day of travelling. Nearly 7 hours from London to Dubai on Saturday evening, then throw in a four-hour time difference, meant I had a Burger King for breakfast at Dubai airport at "8am" which was 4am as far as my stomach was concerned. I did take this photograph there, if you look above the cockpit of the aeroplane, you'll just about make out the Burj Dubai in the distance, what will be the tallest building in the world when it's completed (very soon!).
The London to Dubai flight was very nice, probably the best flight in economy I've had, with a large seat-back TV, showing films on demand and allowing you to create your own playlist of music from hundreds of CDs; I spent 45 minutes making my list of 47 tracks, which meant that between listening to those songs and watching Tony Scott's version of "The Taking of Pelham 123" ("it's not a remake!" - his words), I didn't get any sleep. Then it was a 4 hour flight from Dubai to Dhaka, over the Persian Gulf (flat and wet), central India (flat and green) and into Bangladesh (flat and green/wet). This was on an older plane, and it was full, mostly of Bangladeshis, but with a fair smattering of Western NGO people. The only excitement on this flight (0ther than asking for a Budweiser at 9.30am (local time, 5.30am tummy time)) was that the Bangladeshi man I was sat next to was hauled out of his seat for a rather stern dressing-down by the chief steward for smoking in the toilet.
Immigration at Dhaka was quick and civilised, helped by the fact I'm here to work for the national Oil company, once I dropped that name, I was expedited through the beaurocracy, but this didn't help with the 30 minute wait for my hold luggage. It was rush-hour when I left the airport (now 5.30pm local time, 10.30am tummy time) which meant the journey from the airport to the hotel took an hour and 15 minutes rather than the 15 minutes it would otherwise take.
I have just missed all the international cricketers who were staying at the Sonargaon. My boss, who is here already, saw the England U-19 team last night and this morning, and the Bangladeshi and Zimbabwe One Day teams, both of whom were staying here until this morning, when they moved down to Chittagong for their next two matches.
We managed to have a beer in the disco between 11pm and midnight local time (4pm - 5pm tummy time) but now it's time to retire for the night. I got up on Saturday morning at 9am, so I've not slept for 33 hours, and jetlag means that I'm less tired now than I was 5 hours ago when I got to the hotel, for some reason.
The internet connection here is perfectly OK, and I had a nice Skype conversation with Lara & Olga earlier, complete with Lara kissing the laptop screen at home. I think the 7 hour time difference might make more Skype calls awkward, but we'll see tomorrow how it goes.
Yaaaaawnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, OK, I'm tired again now, night night.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, 30 October 2009

Phew, what a week..

It's been a very busy week. My trip to Bangladesh was confirmed last Friday, and I'm flying to Dhaka on Saturday evening, and since then it's been non-stop at work preparing for this trip. I'm going for a week, and there's probably two weeks worth of work to do, so whilst I'll be staying in a nice 5* hotel (the Sonargaon) I don't think it'll be as relaxing as it could be.
It's Breast Cancer Awareness Day today, and the staff at the nursery are wearing pink, and encouraging the kids to join in. When we dropped Lara off this morning, the other four kids there weren't in pink (maybe we'll forgive the boys!), but Lara was wearing enough for everyone:

Sunday, 25 October 2009

A walk in the woods

We met up with our friends Ed & Lizzie and their daughter Hannah today for a walk in the local woods. It was nice to be able to let Jackson off the lead and still keep him under control, he came back when called, even when we encountered other dogs. If only Mishka would watch and learn! We still keep him on the lead all the time, otherwise we'd spend most of the time on the walk chasing after him.
Lara and Hannah played nicely back at Ed & Lizzie's house, it was all too much for Hannah, who went for a nap while the grown ups had a spot of lunch. Lara couldn't decide if she wanted to eat Ed's lovely fish pie or play with Hannah's toys, but thanks to you guys for a lovely lunch!
I've put some photos in the "New Uploads" album to the left of the blog, seeing as I'd not updated this for a couple of months!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A trip to Radcliffe

We went up to see my parents this weekend, we're getting better at travelling with all the "kids" now, we had barely half-filled the boot this time, and I could see out of the back window for a change! The boys were very good, they spent most of the time playing in the back garden with some treats from Morrisons meat counter, so that kept them occupied.  Lara was busy chatting away, her big new word of the weekend was "Morning", mostly used in context too, to greet everyone, although we of course played along when she "morning"-ed us at teatime. She still thinks it's fun to call me Mama, until the real Mama points out that Lara will get more attention from me if she calls me Papa - I'm hoping she learns this quickly, it's embarrasing at nursery when I go in to pick her up and she shouts "Mama" and comes running towards me with that big smile!
She'll make a fine wife one day, she loves her tidying up, as we found out on Sunday; as the grown ups were busy loading up the car, Lara decided to sweep up in the conservatory where the boys had been sleeping:

On the way home we went through Lincoln to catch up with newlyweds Owen & Catherine, where we stuffed our pockets with the leftovers from their Sunday buffet - thanks guys, and I hope the honeymoon is going well!

Tomorrow it's Photograph Day at the nursery, as if we don't have enough already of her, but let's see what a professional can do with her. It does mean Olga will have to take some time picking out Lara's outfit tomorrow morning - I'm quite glad it's Olga's turn actually, so I can't get the blame if the photo doesn't come out nicely!

Whoosh, and a week flies by

Wow, how quick has the last 10 days flown by? Last week was a pretty normal week; we're learning that Lara isn't a breakfast-person, we've stopped giving her anything at all before she gets to nursery, and even then she's eating anywhere between 20% and all her breakfast there. One thing is consistent though - she's hungry by lunchtime, when she always has second helpings. We've tried changing her cereal, and at the moment Shreddies or Cheerios are favoured over Weetabix or porridge.
The other excitement is that we bought her first bike last week. We've not given it to her yet, it's hiding in the garage, as we went up to Radcliffe at the weekend, but if the weather is OK this coming weekend, we'll take her to the park and see how she gets on. As a token, we did let her try on her helmet - she doesn't know why she has it yet though!

And here's the bike... sssshh, don't tell Lara!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Back safe and sound, and with a new status

Olga arrived back this morning, it was all very smooth. I know people like to bash British Airways and Terminal 5 at Heathrow, but in our experience it's always been very good, and this morning was no different. Olga texted me when she got off the plane, and that was our cue to set off from home. It's a 20 minute drive to the airport, and we entered the Arrivals Hall at exactly the same moment as Olga, and she'd come through the Non-EU passengers queue at immigration. Sometimes she'll go through immigration via the UK/EU queue, if the other queue is huge and she's travellng with me or Lara, or another British colleague, seeing as she now has indefinite leave to remain.
Well, all that will become ancient history soon enough, as yesterday she received a letter from the Home Office confirming that her application for British citizenship has been granted (Olga let me open it when I told her over on the phone that there was a letter from the HO here).  So, after her Citizenship Ceremony in High Wycombe on November 25th, she'll officially be British (and still Russian, too!) and we'll post her application for a British passport that afternoon.  What tickled me was that the letter giving the details of the ceremony had been posted 1st Class, and this was the letter I opened, but the actually letter confirming the success of her application had been posted 2nd Class, with no franking to suggest who the sender was. Thinking more about it, I guess this would be a prize document for someone to intercept and sell to a wannabe immigrant, who might be able to alter it, so perhaps there was a good reason to make it look like regular junk mail. I wish they had couriered it, though, given the obscene amount of money the HO has charged for this application!
Anyway, now's the time for both of us to learn the second verse of the National Anthem... anyone else know it?! And to know if we're flying the Union Flag upside down or not.....

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Lara & Skype

Lara's part of the new generation of kids who'll grow up immersed in new technology. People at work are asking if Lara is missing Olga, and I don't see any evidence that she is, she's too yound to appreciate that Olga's not here, and Lara's routine is just the same as if Olga was here. Her comfort about the situation is helped because we have a skype-video chat with Olga every day when Lara gets home, which Lara seems to really enjoy:

Both Lara and I are very snotty today, and this isn't making life any easier for us. I nearly bit off more than I could chew this morning, taking both dogs out for a walk with Lara in the pram before going to nursery, it all got a bit complicated when we got back home and I had to get the dogs into the house and Lara into the car.
I've made life a little easier yesterday though by doing some essential, non-food shopping online with Tesco, and they just delivered, so that's a fresh supply of nappies, dog food, kitchen rolls, diet coke and lager sorted out!
One more day then it's back to normal!!!!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

So far so good

So three days have passed and I've not needed to take anyone to the vets or casualty, phew.
Actually, things have gone rather swimmingly so far, famous last words. Lara has been sleeping well, as usual. She needed a couple of drinks of water last night, but only before I went to bed, so it was hardly inconvenient.  We both got up a little late yesterday, but I think that was OK given our long day on Sunday, so I slept in till 7.30 and then woke Lara at 8.30 to give her breakfast before nursery (or "nursy" as she now calls it). This morning I decided to get Lara to nursy(sic) in time to have her breakfast there, so that meant waking her at 7.40 for an 8am departure. It's not like she's dead-to-the-world & snoring at that time, but she's also not standing up in her cot crying or shouting for me, I think she just enjoys dozing in bed, like the rest of us!

I've been letting the boys sleep in the same room since Sunday night, it was a risk in case they messed about and barked in the night, but so far, in the two nights since, there hasn't been a peep out of them once I've gone to bed.

Olga is fine in her swanky hotel in Johannesburg. She had to move rooms after the first night - the person in the next room was playing either their TV or in-room IPod docking station at full volume late into the night (and again at 4am!), and the disaster about her new room is that she can't see the heated, outdoor swimming pool from it, and it's going to be 30 degrees C tomorrow and she's worried she won't find the pool when she gets back to the hotel at 4pm... tough life, isn't it!! (Only kidding, darling, you enjoy yourself!! I got my exercise today hoovering the carpet and mopping the floors while Lara ate her tea in front of the TV). Modern technology means we have a pre-tea Skype video call so that Lara can see Mama, and make a big deal of kissing the laptop screen lots of times - Olga's getting more kisses when she's away than she would when she's home!

I'm treating myself to a day in London tomorrow. Well, I might be making it sound more glamourous than it is, I'm going to an IT trade show. Sadly, I'm looking forward to one or two of the seminars about cloud computing and virtualising data centres.  Clearly the stress has got too much for me and I've gone mad.

Cluck, cluck, jibber jibber, my old man's a mushroom et cetera.  This will only make sense to an avid Blackadder fan!  

Can you tell from my over-verbose post that I don't get much in the way of grown-up conversation at the moment?! Other than Skyping to Olga this is my only outlet!! Once I've left work, other than 30 minutes talking with Olga, my conversations consist of little more than:
"Are you going to eat that?" (this applies to any of the kids)
"DON'T DO THAT, please!" (this applies to any of the kids)
"Have you done kaka?" (2 out of 3 kids), closely followed by "Yes, you have, I can smell it".
"Stop drinking water from Mishka's bowl!" (the same 2 out of 3! Lara is getting the message now though, and knows to reach up on to the kitchen worktop to grab her own cup)

Anyway, like Zebedee said. Time for bed.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A Long Day

It was a late night last nght while Olga got ready for her trip to Johannesburg, then a very early morning this morning when we got up at 5.30. I did smile at the irony of turning the tables on Lara and waking her up while it was still dark outside, but then I thought that she will always have the last word when it comes to disturbed nights!
Despite my best efforts, the only nap she had was for 15 minutes while we drove out to Christmas Common to go for a walk with Anton, Becca, Eve and Tess. That was a lovely way to pass a warm autumn afternoon, even if it took four trips to and from the car to load up everything I needed for the boys and Lara. I've stll not unpacked everything, it can wait until tomorrow. Lara and Eve were very polite to each other in sharing their snacks, and Eve certainly will be the "hostess with the most-ess" from the way she was making sure everyone had their drinks to hand.
Lara insisted that I take her to our local pub to watch the second half of the Chelsea v Liverpool game; I wish she hadn't done that, seeing as Chelsea won 2-0, but it meant she stayed awake all afternoon. Here she is enjoying tea while the game is on TV in the background.....

She enjoyed playing with the banana guard but never touched the banana!

After a quick bath she was asleep by 7pm, which is a record for me getting her off to sleep. Olga called to say she'd checked in at her hotel and all was well, so now I can relax - everyone is OK. Another bonus to this long day was the Russian superstition that you don't do any cleaning whilst a loved one is travelling, something that Olga takes very seriously. so other than tidying up after Jackson, the cleaning has been put on ice....

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Spookiest Thing Ever In My Life

OK, for the Frasier fans out there, I've just had a major Daphne Moon moment.  We've just watched Never Mind the Buzzcocks, it was during the Intros round - Ben Miller on Phill Jupitus' team had just failed to recognise a Jay-Z song, and Olga and I agreed that we wouldn't have got it even if they'd hinted that it was a Jay-Z song, and I said "Why is it never anything like Radio Ga Ga" [by Queen]? As Phill Jupitus and Poloma Faith started humming the next intro, I daydreamed about what it would be like if it did turn out to be Radio Ga Ga, how I'd have to go and buy a lottery ticket for the next draw... Then just as Olga turned to me with a very strange look on her face, saying "you've seen this, haven't you?", Ben Miller said something like "I know it, it's Radio Ga Ga". And it was!
Now, that really is the spookiest thing that has ever happened to me, I really did think of Radio Ga Ga before they'd started humming the intro. Out of the tens of thousands of songs they could have chosen, how did I think of that particular Queen song. I'm not even that familiar with the intro to that song, something like Bohemian Rhapsody has a more obvious intro.
That was half an hour ago, I've calmed down a little now, but I was really spooked at the time. A lottery ticket is now at the top of tomorrow's shopping list...

On the home front, we've got our dining room back now, after 7 weeks. Yesterday I took down Jackson's pen, so now he has the pick of the lounge or dining room to sleep in, and Mishka has the hall and kitchen. Jackson will still make the odd mess, but we'll just tidy them up as we go. He can use the cat flap in the back door when we're at home to pop in and out as he pleases.
Jackson also had his final check up with the vet today and had his bandage removed, so we can take him out for walks with Mishka now, but we still have to be careful with him for the next few weeks, no jumping or climbing stairs. We can control the stairs thing, but telling Mishka to not let Jackson follow him onto and off the sofa while we're out is another thing!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A Proper Young Lady

Olga was successful this morning at putting Lara's hair in bunches - I'd failed miserably yesterday to tie it back in a pony tail. She looked great! I'm not sure how long they stayed in for at nursery though....

Little and Large

The boys enjoyed fighting over the cardboard tube from a roll of cling film last night - no need to buy expensive toys for them! Jackson has started copying Mishka, it'll be fun to watch him grow up shadowing his big brother.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Another Personal Best

I don't know what we're giving Lara, but if we could bottle it and sell it, we'd be millionaires. This morning it was 9.34 before Lara woke and asked for Mama. Yes, 9.34! And this was without waking in the night, or at least without waking and making a fuss that woke us up via the monitor.
She went all day yesterday without a daytime nap, but given that she'd only woken at just after 9, we were OK about that. She did seem tired during the afternoon, but by the time we got home from Marlow, it was 6pm and made more sense to just give her a bath and put her to bed as normal.  All we've changed in the past few weeks is to do away with her sleeping bag and give her a duvet, which I doubt she even sleeps under, as she kicks it off when I put her to bed. Also we've put her a sleepsuit rather than pajamas, so maybe she stays at a more comfortable temperature during the night now. Whatever the reason, we're delighted!
This afternoon was spent tidying up in the garden, Olga cleared the veg patch, and I mowed the lawns, for the last time this year I hope! I felt like the Oscar Schindler of the frog world, I moved half a dozen juveniles to safety before powering up the mower. I should have shown them to Lara so she could give them her best "ribbet", but she was busy in her sand pit on the decking.
I hope this post won't come back and bite me - Lara might wake at 6am tomorrow and scream the place down, but we hope not!

Affectionate Pets

We had a new and very pleasant experience last night while watching TV. Mishka, whilst being very cute and lots of bouncy fun, has never been particularly affectionate towards us in terms of sitting on the sofa and letting us stroke him. Normally he'll clear off the sofa when we come and sit down, which I guess would be considered to be good canine manners. But sometimes we'd like him to act like a big cat and cuddle up with us. Jackson has been the opposite, he loves being stroked while relaxing with us on the sofa, and last night I think Mishka got jealous, as when Olga was stroking Jacko, Mishka came up and sat between Olga and I, then lay down on me, and was happy to let me pull his ears and tickle his tum. He's been the same tonight, so maybe now we'll have two affectionate boys who'll get off the sofa when we tell them to, but will be happy to snuggle up with us when we let them.
Here are a couple of photos, Jackson was looking soooooo cute that I just had to take some!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Boys Play Nicely

It might not look like it, but this is Mishka playing nicely with Jackson! We're happy to leave them alone together now, and most likely I'll be taking the pen down soon in the lounge at home, which means they'll be able to interact with each other during the night, which might be interesting.

Sleepy Head & On The Roundabout

Lara seems to be comfortable now sleeping under her duvet, only once or twice in the past two weeks have one of us had to get up in the night to see to her, and just lately she's been sleeping very soundly. Yesterday morning I had to wake her up just after 7am so we could take Olga to the railway station!

This morning was even better - it's Olga's turn to look after Lara on Saturday mornings, and this morning we got up before Lara! We were up at 9am, and Lara only stirred once we started moving around outside the nursery, setting a personal best of 9.07am! I'm sure she'll be back to waking at 7am tomorrow, when it's my turn to look after her!

The weather has been lovely, so we all went to Marlow this afternoon, Lara bounced about on the bouncy castle and took Olga on the roundabout in the park.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Boys Survive

This afternoon we decided it was time to trust the boys to play together without either of us being around, so when I came home at lunchtime to check on them, I set up the downstairs so they would have access to the lounge, hall & kitchen and each other. Until now I've separated them when no-one else has been in the house, usually keeping Jackson in his pen, although earlier this week I did let him have a free run in the lounge, while keeping Mishka in the hall & kitchen - for the animal lovers out there, they both had access to their respective food and water bowls at all times! Jackson was a little destructive when I let him have the lounge, getting hold of some newspapers and some of Lara's toys, and most worryingly a 4-socket extension, which he chewed the cable of, but I'd already turned the power off at the switch to that, so it was safe, but it was a warning to us.
Anyway, I was a little nervous of what I'd find this afternoon when we got home from work, but everything was OK, Jackson still had both ears and all four legs still attached, and whatsmore, apart from three pee puddles, there wasn't any damage to the house.  For the next day or so I'll still only let them play for a few hours at a time without supervision, especially as Jackson is supposed to be "resting" to help his leg heal. Other than the bandage, you wouldn't know to look at him that he has a broken leg, so I'm sure it's healing properly. How do you convince a 3 1/2 month old puppy to relax? It would be like trying to tell Lara to spend the day chilling on the sofa and watching TV.
This evening we've given Jackson even more freedom, by letting him come and go as he pleases to and from the garden, making use of the catflap while he can still fit through it! We're hoping this will help him with his toilet training, which is going in the right direction, but perhaps not as quickly as it should, mostly because we're out most of the day and he's left to his own devices. The thing is, that was the case with Mishka and I remember being pleasantly surprised by what a breeze it was to house train him.  He's continuing to be the perfect older brother, even letting go of his favourite soft toy when a tog-of-war develops with Jackson over it.
Jackson's off to the vet tomorrow to have his bandage changed again, then it's one more week before we can go out for another walk together, it'll be interesting to see if he's as well behaved then as he was on our last walk...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Happy Birthday Olga

Yep, Olga was 21 again yesterday. A shame that work commitments meant she was having to give a training course in London and couldn't enjoy a lie-in followed by a lazy day in the office, buying people drinks in the pub, as would be normal behaviour for a Tigress employee.
We did most of the present-handing-over just after midnight on Monday evening, as there wouldn't be time on Tuesday morning - this week, with Olga working in London, we're having to get up at the unearthly hour of 6am, to be ready to leave by 7.30. Lara does her bit though, and so far she's waiting until 6.45ish before waking, although she was only just stirring when I went in this morning just after 7. Lara had made a birthday card on Monday at nursery, so she handed that over on Tuesday morning. The main celebration was saved until Lara had gone to bed last 3night, when the bottle of Champagne from Lucy & Sergei was opened and I got busy in the kitchen. When asked what she would like for dinner on her birthday, the answer had been "hmmm, seafood", which is what she got, and loads of it. A starter of mussels in a white wine and garlic sauce and oysters followed by Wild Canadian Scallops in Papa's Special Beer Batter (I can be creative sometimes), then a main course of trout stuffed with couscous. It was too late and we were both too tired for the dessert of strawberries and cream, so we'll have that tonight instead :-)

A fun weekend

We had a lovely time at our friends' wedding at the weekend. Everything took place in one hotel, which made life easier regarding Lara. The weather played its part, being lovely and sunny.  As usual in hotels, it took Lara longer to get off to sleep in the evenings, as she was excited about the new room, but once she was asleep, that was pretty much it, only needing a drink of water around midnight on the Friday night and not really waking on Saturday night, even when we came in well after 1am.
Lara contributed to the service by shouting a loud "yayyyy" at just the right moment at the end of the ceremony, and later had fun with her meal, and in particular enjoyed licking the chocolate off Olga's profiteroles during dessert, giving herself an amusing goatee:

On Sunday morning we went for a swim in tbe hotel pool. Lara was happy to get in the water straight away, but she took some coaxing to enjoy herself while we pulled her along in the water. We had a family treat on the way home when we stopped at McDonalds, Lara does enjoy her fish fingers and fries from there, and Olga and I certainly enjoyed (and needed!) the quarter-pounders.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Happy Birthday Mishka

Mishka is three today! He's had a lazy day, mostly being looked after by Lucy. He'll have a nice tea tonight, including some roast chicken, and if he wants to sit on the sofa with us and watch TV, we'll make sure Jackson doesn't bother him. Here are some pics from this evening, including ones where Jackson is definitely bothering him!