At Dad’s funeral we made a solemn promise as a family to make sure we saw more of each other, such of us as are left. To my delight, my cousin stayed with his promise and came down to the Island for a few days and today he, his wife, and their grandson (which we worked out with pleasure was Smudgelet’s second cousin twice removed) came to spend the day with us. And what a wonderful day it was.
I’d never really known my cousin that well when I was a child, him being of an age with my sisters and brother rather than with me, but I’d always rather liked him and today I feel that we have become friends in the same way as he is friends with my siblings. An added bonus is that their grandson is currently living with them due to family circumstances which give him a lot in common with Smudgelet – more than simply being the same age – and gave us as adults a lot of chance to compare notes. But the greatest thing was the chance to spend the day together doing lovely things….. despite the bitterly cold.. no, I ought to say “bracing” and “cobweb-ridding” … no, bitterly cold wind that had us wishing we’d worn our thermals.
Stage one: well, visitors from the Midlands just have to go to the beach, don’t they? We chose St Helens. It’s a wonderful place – every type of beach rolled into one, with places to walk and a rather lovely cafe for the adults to hide in. It was so lovely to watch the boys play on the beach, being chased by the waves, getting sand in their shoes, throwing stones, writing in the sand and having a generally good time (while we shivered!)
Stage two: You Midlanders think you know what a castle is – well let’s take you to visit Carisbrooke and enlighten you with the most amazing castle in the world. We were all entranced. We lost the boys quite quickly as they were up on the walls and away at great speed, circumnavigating the battlements and racing up and down the steps into the keep at breakneck (almost literally) speed as though no use of leg muscles were required at all. Typical, the boys managed to get into the wellhouse to see the donkey wheel demonstration and the door closed, leaving us adults outside and donkeyless.
Stage three: A rather lovely meal at the Blacksmith’s Arms – slightly later in the day than normal but hey, we were having too much fun.
Stage four: On to Fort Victoria at Yarmouth. It was too cold by this time for the beach, the countryside walk, or to climb the ramparts, but we did have an amazing time in the aquarium. Most of the fish in there are from local waters, although there is a lovely tropical bit at the end. It was fascinating, especially walking over the ray/shark pool and watching the rays demonstrating their vertical backwards chassaying. One tank appeared emtpy. The assistant came in and asked us if we could see anything in there. He furked around in the sand with a stick and eventually a fish shot out, apparently one of four weaver fish that were in there. No wonder the first thing that many people notice of this poisonous fish is when they step on it while paddling. It was completely hidden, and its three companions remained so.
We watched crabs and lobsters, shrimps and pipefish, bream and butterfish, seahorses and pufferfish and were in there for ages simply enjoying the quiet and relaxing atmosphere (though not the draught!). Smudgelet was ever so slightly disappointed not to go in to see the model railway too, but the prospect of taking his second-cousin-twice-removed home to play for an hour or so soon compensated for that and very soon the two small boys were scarily silent as they became engrossed in building with lego and other construction toys. Whoever would have thought they would become such good friends. As for me, I think I too have two new good friends. My cousins are keen to come back in the summer and I am really hoping they do.