We escaped today – a whole day of freedom for me and the kids.
My sister is here for the weekend to stay with Dad. It’s partly because this latest health issue scared her too and partly so that she can give me and the boys a break. I had realised that I hadn’t actually spent any real quality time with them all week, and all the plans they had been so looking forward to had gone awry. So although it would have been nice to get a bit of time with my big sister – and especially to talk through our ideas for the future – we decided that she would devote herself to Dad for the weekend and I would go off with the boys all day.
And what a brilliant day it was. The Go Wild series on British Nature on the BBC was mostly filmed on the Isle of Wight, apparantly (Why did nobody tell me that while it was actually ON?) and this weekend, as the culmination of that, there’s been a Wild on Wight (WOW!) weekend with events and displays as a celebration of our countryside and heritage. It was housed at Dinosaur Isle, the pterodactyl-shaped museum at Sandown that was opened last year (or was it the year before? I don’t know – time goes so fast!). We’d been meaning to go there for ages, and free entry was a real bonus. The verdict of ourselves and others as regards the museum was that it was a really interesting and well presented first room…. but really for the entry fee you’d expect more than just that one room!
So, what was there to do? Well, first off the boys got involved in some serious pond dipping. I have to inform you that they caught: lesser water boatman and greater water boatman (We now know how to spot the difference!); a damsel-fly nymph; several bloodworms; loads and loads of brackish water prawns; two sticklebacks and a lovely little beetly thing that zoomed at high speeds round the petri dish and refused to stay still long enough to be identified. The eco-van had a microscope attached to a TV screen so the kids could see what they’d caught – fascinating indeed!
Next Tiddles decided to make a bird box. These were free to make and take home, so we now have to find somewhere Charlie won’t be able to reach it! Tiddles has been longing to do some woodwork – but found that hammering nails isn’t as easy as it looks. It was looking fine until we picked it up to put it in the car….
Smudgelet was appointed weather-man and got to fill in the weather records on a huge chart, using the official sensors and gauges and bits and bobs… and got to wear a special hat with a solar panel which powered a little fan which blew fresh air on your face. He was enchanted. Anything that spins is beloved by Smudgelet who has a washing machine fixation. (No, seriously!)
We toured the museum, which was fascinating. The Isle of Wight is incredibly rich in fossils – unbelievably so. I mean, who would ever have expected to find elephant and hippo remains here, and an early crocodile as well as mammoth and bison and a whole host of dinosaurs. You wouldn’t think the Isle of Wight was big enough to contain all those fossils! And there’s still plenty more to find (as we learned as we watched a demonstration of sieving for fossils and saw some ray teeth and some thick-shelled cockles come to daylight for the first time in millions of years!
There were about twenty displays of different organisations from round the Island. Needless to say I am now inundated with countless pieces of paper that I intend one day to read. (Hmmm… wonder if one of the stalls was about recycling paper?) I think my favourite was the stand where we looked at original Island historical artifacts and had to try to identify what they were. We get the answers by post on Monday. Wonder how many we got right? My second favourite stand had to be the red squirrel information post, and of course I have to comment on the wonderful cave paintings on display from the Young Archaeologists Club. They clearly have some very talented artists in their group. Ah yes, it was my sons, wasn’t it?
Finally, after an abortive attempt to get a decent lunch (Yes, because it’s the end of season, they’d sold out of almost everything except cheese and ham sandwiches – goodness knows what they’ll do tomorrow!), we were lured into the talk being given by the bat hospital. They’re based just up the road from us, and they home 77+ sick and injured bats in their dining room and spare bedroom. They give a brilliant talk – and had brought two gorgeous little bats in for us to meet. You can’t touch them because we can transmit diseases to them which could be fatal. I think the most amazing fact we learnt was that one bat can eat over 1000 mosquitoes in a night. Hooray for bats, that’s all I can say! Oh, and you can tell the difference between bat droppings and mouse droppings by rubbing them between your fingers – the bat droppings will disintegrate to dust while the mouse droppings will stay firm. I don’t know that I particularly ever hope to put that knowledge to good use.
There was so much to do that we sadly missed half the activities. You can’t do it all…. but I wanted to! I was annoyed that we missed the fossil hunt on the beach as they would both have loved that, but apparently they start next year as early as February half term and if we ring mid January we should be able to book up. Hopefully by then Smudgelet will have matured a little as at present I am a bit concerned at how difficult it is to engage him in anything, despite him being quite bright. But Tiddles is keen to do anything and everything and absorb as much as he possibly can. Hmmm…. it seems that both of them have absorbed quite a bit of sediment from the pond dipping, to judge by their fingernails.