Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The elusive chocolate chick

This freakishly good weather has even graced the Lancashire hills. With friends due round for lunch and a stroll, we're set up for a perfect Sunday. They bring wine for us and three chocolate chicks for the kids, which I quickly designate as walk incentives.

The initial steep farm track isn't the problem, it's the long gentle incline across the sheep field where the kids tend to go on strike. While we're admiring the views across the valley, they're already slumping behind. Chasing shadows is our friend's genius invention and gets us two thirds of the way. My idea to pretend a trough is a pirate ship has entertainment value, but also hampers progress.

It's time to talk chocolate chicks. They can only be found on high moorland and I'm giving my daughter the job of hiding them for the younger boys. Well that makes her scamper ahead in no time.

My son needs a different incentive. Romans. Hundreds of them. Up ahead. He glugs down his magic potion (I'm not allowed any because I fell into it when I was a baby) and we brandish out broken twig swords. Charge, bosh, biff, nearly up the hill.

The moors stretch out under a clear blue sky, but we have no time to stand and stare. Rosa's hidden the chicks and the hunt is on. Joe finds the first two in record time - one for him and one for his mate.

Now there's only one left and it remains stubbornly elusive. Four adults and three children search low and lower in the thick moorland grass. Try as she might, Rosa hasn't a clue where she hid the bright yellow foil-coated chick. She's understandably (and quite amusingly) pissed off.

Our walk incentive has seriously backfired. Now it's a lesson in sharing. Two between three. Sticky chocolate faces and fingers. A mini sugar high. Quick - let's get home before it wears off.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Things I like about Spring

Putting the washing out on the line. It never seems to dry but there's something about clean sheets billowing in the wind. Or maybe it's just the novelty of no rain.

Ducks in the garden. They waddle by, as if they own the place. To be fair, they've probably been in residence longer than we have, even if they are second-homers.

LAMBS. I actually feel quite privileged to be their neighbours and watch their infancy up close. At first it's obvious whose lamb is whose. The newborns nuzzle and stay close to mum. Then they begin to stretch their invisible umbilical cord only to be tugged back by a maternal bleat. "Baa baa" is far from accurate. It's more like a "Blerrghhh". Then mum begins to relax and suddenly six lambs are all frolicking together, while the mums just eat grass. I know the feeling (sort of).

It's lighter later. We even took Chicken Boat Mark 2 out for an
evening sail.

Curlews. Or rather being vaguely aware of different birds arriving en masse and deludedly deducing that this must be the centre of the universe.

Fresh eggs from the landlady. I think this has something to do with Spring, but perhaps more to do with her buying new chickens because the others weren't laying.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The chicken boat

After roast chicken for Sunday lunch, Malcolm suggests a paper boat race down the stream. Creative, aesthetically pleasing, an excuse to get the kids out of the house... and ultimately a soggy flop.

It's the rapids' fault. One whoosh of water over the bows and an origami masterpiece is doomed. Even the long sticks we are allocated for legitimate boat assistance can't refloat a sodden, dissolving lump of wood pulp.

Almost reluctantly Malcolm reveals the reserve contender in his race armada. The roast chicken's plastic packaging. It has depth, it has a bow and a stern and, crucially, it's waterproof. Meanders? No problem. Rapids? Pretty good. Plunge pools? Nothing a flip with a stick can't solve. Tunnels? Best not to risk them.

The aborted race has now turned into operation Get Chicken Boat Down Stream, with purpose and determination. The kids would gaily carry on until we reach the sea, but luckily we reach a barrier at the end of the sheep field instead, and the chicken boat is retrieved for another idle Sunday.