Weekend with the In-Laws

Mr Techno grew up in Suffolk, in a lovely rural area near the coast. It’s where we spent Christmas this year. His family are very close – he has an older sister and younger brother – and all try to see each other regularly. Sadly, Me Techno’s schedule means that we rarely have days off at the same time, which can make it difficult for us to get up to see them as often as we’d like. We are doing better than usual at the moment though: not only did we spend a good amount of time there over Christmas, we also managed to visit again last weekend.

The main purpose of our visit was so that Mr Techno could accompany his dad on the local shoot, which my father-in-law runs. Mr Techno was taught to shoot as a child, and now always tries to have one weekend a year where he can go out. They shoot pheasants and partridge, which are then turned into pies for us all to fill our freezers with. I know some people will have issues with the idea of killing for sport (I do not agree with fox hunting, for example), but in terms of ethically sourced meat, shooting game birds scores pretty highly in my book. You don’t get much higher animal welfare than a bird who has been raised completely free in the Suffolk countryside.

They headed off on Saturday morning, well wrapped up against the cold and with a huge hamper of lunch prepared by my mother-in-law. Meanwhile, we women (and Tom) were left to amuse ourselves.

One of the things I love about visiting my in-laws is that they understand the need for people to have their own space. Although they are all very close, there is no expectation that everyone must join in with every activity, and people are always welcome to go off and do their own thing. This makes family time much more manageable and enjoyable! So on Friday evening, my mother-in-law and I agreed that we would have a relaxed morning, doing our own thing, and then head to Snape Maltings for a walk and a look round the shops in the afternoon.

Having arrived relatively late the evening before, Tom and I had a bit of a lie-in, not getting up until 7.45. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then got Tom togged up in his coats and wellies, and headed out into the garden. I was just planning a gentle explore of the lawn, maybe some swinging, but Tom had grander ideas and headed for the gate. So we went on a mini-walk down the farm track, across the road and down a footpath, accompanied some of the way by my mother-in-law and the dogs, who had caught up with us on their way to the village shop. Tom took a couple of tumbles and got a bit muddy, so we turned back to find him some lunch, whilst my mother-in-law continued on with her walk.

After lunch and Tom’s nap, we all piled into the car (dogs included) and drove to Snape Maltings, which is a collection of shops, galleries and a concert hall housed in buildings that were once used to malt barley for brewing.There is also access to a range of walks along the River Alde, which, because of it’s tidal nature, attracts lots of wildlife and birds. Raised walkways have been built around the estuary to allow people to walk without getting wet or stuck in the mud!

It began chucking it down with rain almost the moment we parked the car. Luckily we were all well prepared with hats and waterproofs, and snuggled Tom up in the buggy under the rain cover. The rain didn’t last long and eased off as we headed out along the river. The area has a stark kind of beauty at this time of year, with the bare trees making incredibly sculptural shapes against the flat land. I grew up in the Surrey Hills, and always feel the lack of slopes when I’m in Suffolk, but I can’t deny that it has its own attractions.

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After a lovely, though slightly muddy, walk, we headed back to the Maltings for a quick look around the shops. By now the light was fading, so it was time to head back home and get Tom’s dinner. We arrived home at the same time as the men, who were both very pleased with their performance. A lovely looking pheasant pie is now sitting in our freezer.

We were heading home after lunch on Sunday, but still managed to get out in the morning for a wander around the farm grounds (the fields are let out to local farmers, but the family still own the old farm buildings, keep chickens and grow vegetables and fruit on the remaining land). Tom very much enjoyed having both his parents with him to explore, although he did need a helping hand on some of the more uneven bits of ground.

All in all, a lovely weekend with plenty of opportunties to explore the Suffolk countryside. Plus plenty of good food, family time and good wine (for the adults).

Life Unexpected
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Weekly Report: W/c 07/12/15

Tom was feeling a bit under the weather for most of this week, so we took it more gently than normal. He was very cuddly whenever we went out, wanting to sit with me or ride in the buggy, rather than run around all the time as he normally would.

Monday began with a trip to the park, where Tom wanted a nice long cuddle with me before he went off to play. It was a lovely moment of quiet connection that inspired me to write about the power of silence. We went back to the park in the afternoon, but this time we were on the hunt for more sycamore fruit to use in making Christmas decorations.

On Tuesday, Mr Techno took Tom to choose a Christmas tree and wreath whilst I went to work.

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Wednesday morning began with a short walk around our local woods, on the way back from the shops. We then spent the afternoon indoors – partly in deference to Tom’s cold and partly so we could make some Christmas decorations for the tree.

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On Thursday and Friday, we walked into nursery as usual. Tom had a bit of a meltdown when I came to pick him up on Thursday – he didn’t want to put down the car he was playing with. He was clearly tired, so didn’t really want to play for long when we stopped in the park on our way home. On Friday, Mr Techno came to meet us and we drove down to Kent, so we missed out on our normal walk home.

We spent the weekend at our friend’s house in Kent – you can read more about our adventures here. Staying on a farm more than made up for the slight lack of outdoor time during the week – we had a great time exploring, greeting the various animals, and getting extremely muddy.

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Tom’s cold is much better, but Mr Techno and I have been suffering this week! Hopefully we will all be better for Christmas and some outdoor adventures in Suffolk next week.

 

A Festive Country Weekend

Though London is fun at this time of year, I am always pleased when we get the chance to escape the city for a day or two and get out into the countryside. Mr Techno and I have a great group of friends from our university days, and we all try to meet up a couple of times a year for a country weekend.

Usually we have to rent a cottage, but we got lucky this time as one of the girls’ parents were on holiday and kindly offered us the use of their house whilst they were gone. Her dad is an apple farmer and they have this great, old house in Kent, with more than enough room for all of us.

Mr Techno picked Tom and I up from nursery on the Friday evening and we headed straight down, arriving just half-an-hour after Tom’s normal bedtime. The timing was perfect, as he went straight down to sleep, so we could concentrate on catching up. We are the only ones of this group to have a kid. In some ways it is good – Tom has a lot of very indulgent adults in his life – but it does mean that the others aren’t really aware of the needs of small children. We are lucky that Tom is such a good sleeper, so we do at least get to enjoy adult time!

On Saturday, we were all very excited to go on a proper country walk. In fact, we were so excited that we decided to go on two walks.

The first was a wander around the farmland, which took about an hour. We all went, including the four dogs. Mr Techno and I quickly realised the buggy wouldn’t be able to cope with the terrain, so we ditched it. Tom walked some of the way, and then we took it in turns to carry him.

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Of course, we had to stop off to visit the horses.

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And the chickens.

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And the ferrets. Tom was less sure about the ferrets – they tend to be a bit bitey. He took shelter leaning against Mr Techno’s legs.

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After lunch, Tom went down for a nap. Mr Techno and a couple of the others stayed home, whilst the rest of us headed to Bewl Water for a longer, very muddy walk.

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After all the walking, we definitely felt like we had earned some food. We cooked up a big Christmas dinner. Tom went to bed and the adults enjoyed the food, wine and company. Knowing I’d have to be up early, I flaked out just after midnight, but some of the others were still going strong at 3 am.

Needless to say, Sunday was a rather subdued day. I had to get up at 6.30 as usual with Tom, so had a quiet start whilst everyone else…recuperated. Once they appeared, we had a lovely lazy morning, grazing on leftovers and reading newspapers by the fire. Tom and I did escape outside for a while as well – he had started chasing the dogs around the house and clearly had some energy to burn!

We headed back to London after lunch, thoroughly refreshed by time away from the city with some great friends.