Thursday, June 20, 2019

Dads day number 1

Forgive me friends, for I have sinned. It has been frigging ages since my last blog post.
I promise to kneel for no apparent reason and chant some crazy mantra 4 times in succession in order to seek remission.

So that's that then . Hey you? Whats up? Nowt? Good.

We have been back in the land of Snow and Mosquitoes for 42 days now and its been a continuation of life as parents to a growing maniac. Here's a quick summary up to last weekend.

Got back from Costa Rica, went back to work, got ill, worked one day and took 4 days off sick. Went back to work, still felt shit, eventually got better after 2 1/2 weeks.

Buffy stayed at home, Hannah slept, cried, grew and slept again. Buffy worked.

Susan and Jon went to Europe. We borrowed their car to to to Merica'. To Minneapolis, to see Eddie Izzard do a comedy show. That was a good weekend - Hannah stayed awake for 11 hours on the way and fell asleep as we arrived. We saw some of the city, stayed in a nice hotel. I had my first beer in 25 days and we played a number of pianos on the street and after sneaking into a conference room in said nice hotel. We also played a street harp...

Here are some digitally remastered pixels, stuck together in order, that tell a small story, in pictorial form, to visually explain and titillate the readers interest in the few hours we spent on our journey to and from the city of Minneapolis.....

Baby feed on the way

Penis shaped lamp



After our jaunt, back in Winnipeg we went to Kidfest. Which is a fest for a kid. Hannah played some pots and pans and got lost in some wave the rain.

The suddenly and without any notice at all it was last weekend and we found ourselves packing for a 2 year jaunt around South and Central Asia for us and at least 20 families. However, this wasn't the case, as we were in fact packing for the 3 of us, for a weekend camping in Birds Hill park - Just 30 minutes drive from the city. I still have no idea why we took so much stuff!!!

It was a great weekend though and made even better by the fact it was Fathers day weekend and as my sperm did their job a couple of years back, I am the proud owner of an 11 month old crazy pants wearing, watermelon eating fiend.

Once we got unpacked, built the tent, started the fire and started drinking, I really enjoyed the weekend. Hannah and Buffy were amazing and even presented me with a lovely memento of my first dads day...

We were joined on the weekend by Joel and Byron and Adam and Alena with Jack. They too were celebrating their first fathers day. Here, once again are some pictorial representations of what we did when we were there....

She stole my chair and likes fire!

No shame squirrely bugar

We had a lovely afternoon down on the beach by the lake, enjoyed a huge bbq dinner and sat chatting round the camp fire whilst the kids slept. A wonderful way to spend the weekend and hopefully the first of many fathers day camping trips!

Fathers day made me start to think though. Its five years this month since dad died and was cremated and it makes me a little sad that Hannah will never know her Groovy Granny and Gardening Granddad from little old Skegness in England. 

I will tell her all my dads old stories when she grows up and all about mums sense of humour and generosity. But I wondered which bits of my dad and other dads I think I would like to pass onto Hannah. Dad would do anything for us kids, especially lending us a car or picking us up from somewhere - even if it was hundreds of miles away. There are lots of photos of dad when we were little kids, with his big sideburns and one of us kids in his arms. I hope I am as close to Hannah. 

Here are a few old photos, taken from old albums, of the family. Including a few great ones of mum and dad with us kids. 

For me, trying to emulate what my dad taught me and my brothers is about a good target to being a dad. If I can get close to that I would be happy. But I remember as a kid in 1970's and 1980's UK there were at least two other father figures that regularly popped into many children's lives. I would love to be able to bring a tiny bit of the influence of these people into my fatherhood and maybe some of the excitement I used to feel when these giants of children's TV appeared and made their way into the hearts and minds of the 40 somethings who now look back on the magic of TV as they grew up. The two superstars I remember watching as I grew up - Johnny Ball and Brian Cant.

Johnny Ball was and is the main reason I love numbers, spreadsheets and all things counting. While some kids were watching ITV and stupid shows like Tiswas, I was hooked on Think of a number, Think Again and Johnny Ball reveals all. Johnny spoke to kids like they were little adults, never patronizing and never too silly. Funny, honest and interesting stories were told about how things worked, how maths could be fun and how the more you knew the more you wanted to learn. It was a special day when Johnny was on TV and he is still one of my boyhood heroes now. Here's an entire episode of one of his shows from the 80's. Take a quick look and you will see how good it was. Even if you don't watch it all, read the comments. You can see what an influence he had on everyone who watched. 


The second father like figure was Brian Cant. He appeared in numerous kids TV shows from Play Away, Play School and voiced the amazing stop motion shows Trumpton, Camberwick Green and Chigley. Brian has a softly spoken demeanour ad like Johnny Ball never talk to kids as kids, but like little adults. I have many amazing memories as a kids crossing paths with these two legends as they appeared on our screens as we grew up and they seemingly never aged. Here's a quote from Brian I found online....

When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. When I became a man I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, and they paid me for it...!

Here's a clip from Play School. Brian Cant comes on at 2 minutes...

and here's a full episode of Chigley - voiced by Brian. I am definitely going to introduce Hannah to all 3 of these classic series. 

I think I could do a lot worse than taking these 3 giants of men and trying to take just a little of each in my quest to be a good dad. I think I am doing OK so far - Hannah is crazy but clever, tiny but strong and shy but forthcoming. She has an amazing mum and thanks to them both I had an amazing fathers day.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Rain, rocks, selling bikes and a bigger baby

The journey home....

Our trip home started early on May 7th from Puerto Viejo. It had been a hot humid night and for the first time on our trip we had seen and heard a few mosquitoes flying around. Luckily, we had good mozzie nets and Hannah was in her flying peapod (not flying anymore as it was now tied down) which has inbuilt netting, so none of us got bit more than a couple of times.

Hannah woke at a good time so after a quick breakfast and packing up, we all had a last cool shower to get rid of the sweat and make not of taxi numbers, before hitting the road for the simple 4 hour drive back to Alajuela, where we were returning to the same condo we rented when we swapped cars 2 weeks ago before flying out tomorrow and back to real life, Winnipeg, grass cutting, work and weekends at the cabin. So a simple 4 hour trip.....

The shower in Puerto Viejo

A perfect place for taxi numbers....
 The weather cleared a little as we packed the car but as soon as we had locked the multiple padlocks, closed the two gates and then locked the keys in the key box, the heavens opened (Is there a heaven? or just a sky with a well known, studied and proven water cycle? I am betting on the second) The rain fell and kept falling, which slowed traffic immensely, then we hit the beautiful seaside city of Limon. Only Limon is also the main East coast port of Costa Rica and as such has a huge oil terminal and lots and lots of container terminals. This means that the main road heading West is full of trucks and tugs pulling hundreds of containers and oil from base to base. One of the main bases here is the DelMonte fruit conglomerate, who have a huge area in which to distribute the bananas and fruit around the world to your lunchbox. All this coupled with the rain meant that the road was slower than slow and we crawled our way westwards, dreaming of the lovely coastline and beaches that lay just a few hundred yards away...

This photo shows the crazy road with container bases and the oil refinery.....all coupled with a lovely photo that Limon really wants you to see!

Once we finally got past all the craziness and the rain slowed to a trickle from a torrent, we headed into the mountains again, just an hour or two shy of our last stop for the last night. Then...dum, dum duuuum.... Drama everywhere.... The road became a parking lot and we sat for about 20 minutes without moving. Traffic was slowly coming past us in the opposite direction, but we moved no more than a few yards once or twice. A car came past us with emergency lights flashing and that's when I realised the traffic coming the opposite way, was in fact cars being turned around. So I took a decision and turned around too, adding an hour to our trip we headed north further up into the mountains to try and get around the traffic jam. It turned out to be a great decision as when I dropped the rental car off a few hours later I found out there had been a landslide causing a huge rock fall, about a mile in front of us. No one was hurt but apparently, it had been on the local news as the rocks were as big as cars and had completely blocked the road.

This was the 7th May and the road was due to re-open on the 9th. As I type this now on the 11th, I took a look at google maps and there is still a huge queue of traffic on the road. It IS open, but there are repairs still being made that is slowing traffic. So I am happy we only sat there for 20 minutes before taking our detour.

We turned round where the pin is and headed north, west then south to get to the Condo
The rest of the journey was crazy, as the road was tiny and as windy as a wind up toy, being wound up by a wound up kid. It was one of the best and scariest roads we had driven on in the entire month. Trucks coming towards us on blind corners and steep up and down slopes, driving past gushing waterfalls and through steep jungle sided valleys. We would have photos, but the rain kept falling the roads were slippy and to be honest, neither of us could keep our eyes off the road or the views. It was the perfect last test for the 4x4.

We finally arrived in Alajuela nearly 7 hours after starting the drive and so I dropped Buffy and Frau Hannahbear off for a snooze before filling up with diesel and dropping Kevin Bacon off at Dollar Rent a Car. I then had one of those weird times with Uber, when the time for the Uber to get there and take me home was about the same time it would take me to walk, so I did. Straight along the side of the dual carriageway motorway, just like a local. Back through Alajuela city and home for the evening,

On the way I took a couple of photos of one of the weirder parts of Coats Rica shopping. You see they have a lot of outlet stores that sell all sorts of stuff. Washing machines, next to mattresses, next to TVs, next to motorbikes and quads. I even passed a store where an assistant was revving a motorbike INSIDE the store. Weird...

 I got home and Buffy had got most of the laundry done, Hannah had got some shut eye and we headed out for our last dinner in CR. A weird hot dog and half pizza/half burrito later and we were home, getting some sleep before a long days flying.

The 8th May and Hannah decided to be crazy, she has found her voice and decided to let the entire airport know. I am sure that everyone waiting for our flight really didn't want to sit next to us...She sounds like a rabid seagull..

Luckily, for everyone around, she was great on the flight. A couple of little moans but in general she behaved really well, making friends all around - Especially Joe who sat next to us and was on his way home to Vancouver. He played peek a boo behind his hat and kept Hannah amused a lot.

A 3 hour layover in Toronto gave us time for dinner and a last pint for me (I am quitting booze for the rest of the month just to get a break from it) and then we were on our last leg - flying to Winnipeg - arriving at just after 1 in the morning.

We were home and in bed just after 2am, Hannah was knackered and slept in well the next morning meaning we got a whole 5 hours sleep! Yay.

Its been a superb holiday. I am so glad we live in a place that allows both parents to take time off to spend it with the baby and still get paid for it. We have a thing called EI, which gives you 55% pay for the time you are off work, which is amazing. In the USA apparently even the mum only gets a few days.

Anyway, we are now settled back in and getting sorted for real life again starting Monday when I go back to work. I will miss hanging around with Buffy and Hannah all day and I am sure they will miss me a little too. For now though we are getting used to being back home. At least the weather has warmed up and so we can play in the garden, soon the patios will be open for summer.

The weird thing is we now realise how much Hannah has changed while we have been away. Seeing her back in familiar surrounding gives us perspective on her size and her actions. She can now stand and stumble around in her crib (we had to lower the mattress so she cant climb out) and she moves so well around the floor now. Along with her new 2 1/2 teethe we can see how she has grown in just 4 weeks. Its crazy!

A last ride in the holiday stroller

Yay - I can go outside!
 In other news, we had movement at the building site near us. Its been a couple of years in the making, but finally the work has begun on what will be a new condo block with retail space below. We are really hoping that a good restaurant or pub will open in the retail space once it finished.It would be amazing, if someone built us a pub, a local modern pub. For now its just a few concrete pillars, but you never know what will happen. Its all so exciting.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Broken baby, outdoors indoors and illegal border crossing....

Before I ramble on with this update, I wasn't able to add the last few photos from the last post. So here are a few of the beach with caves and a stick insect we found on the screen door

Stop eating sand Hannah! 

So we're now on the Caribbean coast just outside the town of Puerto Vieja, just a short drive north of the border with Panama. It is hot and sticky here but our house helps to keep it cool. We are staying in an unusual house, which is basically a covered outdoor area with 2 bedrooms off one side and a kitchen and bathroom off the other.

It feels slightly Japanese or Asian in style and is a lovely place to spend our last few days in Costa Rica.

The trip here took us two days as we didn't want to do drive a 9 hour drive with Hannah, so yesterday we stayed overnight at a wonderful rustic house right up in the Quetzales national park, at just over 3000 metres above sea level. It was a great drive, passing through two levels of cloud and gaining well over a mile in altitude to reach our destination. The Iyok Ami hostel, where we met our hosts, Camilla, Bedrich and their 6month old daughter Estella. Bedrich takes tours through the trails here and so we spent the remainder of the afternoon hiking down through the forest enjoying the coolness away from the heat of the coast. They made us a lovely dinner of fresh trout and we spent the evening chatting with them and a nice Dutch family who were camping outside

Hannah and her friend Estella

View from the bedroom

Saying bye bye. 

After a great sleep we had a huge fruit pancake for breakfast before saying sad goodbyes to our new friends and heading out again.

The drive here took another 6 hours, including a 30 minute wait at roadworks in the middle of nowhere, but we eventually arrived to meet Carlos the caretaker who let us into the house and gave us a lot of useful info. After a really good dinner in town we relaxed for the evening, making full use of our new hammock in the outdoor/indoor space.

We were woken by a crashing sound this morning and when I rushed to Hannah's room, she had somehow managed to knock her and the peopod she sleeps in, onto the floor. She has a fat lip now, but apart from that is her usual crazy self and still wants to climb everything. Carlos is bringing us a crib to use for her for the next few days and we will make sure that when she uses the peapod again, it is tied down securely. That's what happens when your 9 month old learns to stamp up I suppose!

Kids! They be crazy!

Outdoor toilet, I mean shower! 

Sleeping solidly after her fall. (it is now tied down and cannot move) 


Look, I'm fine! 😊😊😊😊😊
It's a few days later now and the keypad for my tablet is finally giving up after an incident with a swimming pool in Tamarindo. The v,b,n and c buttons don't work and so I am resigned to using the on screen keyboard, which is harder to use. But I will continue...

Yesterday's main goal was to see if we could successfully leave Hannah in a cage with monkeys and see if we could escape before anyone noticed. To do this we went to the Jaguar rescue centre (spoiler... There are no Jaguars there') where a local couple (from Barcelona ) take in injured and found animals before helping them recover and returning them to the wild. (apart from the ones they keep who now live there)

Highlight of the 90 minute tour was the sloths. They have adult, juvenile and baby sloths, who as you can imagine, don't do much except lie around looking cute. You may remember we saw a big 3 toed sloth up a tree last week. But to see so many, up close and all curled up with each other was really fantastic and knowing that they will be returned to the wild is great. Incidentally, we were told of the misnomer of the 3 toed and 2 toed sloth name..... Apparent toe and finger are the same word in Spanish. Sloths have either 2 or 3 fingers, not toes and when translated the translator chose to use 'toe', instead of 'finger' in English. Funny.


We were also introduced to a Margay. A wildcat just bigger than a domestic cat, but wild and able to leap 12 feet vertically and also imitate the sounds of its prey, who are mainly bigger than them.
This beast eats monkeys and can live in trees. It looks like a really pretty,  domestic cat, but can and will eat your face off. Also we saw a croc, wild pigs, spider monkeys and cappuchin monkeys (they spotted Hannah but wouldn't let her stay) a cayman, toucan and lots of snakes, including the deadly Coral snake. One of the other tourists showed a photo they took earlier that day, removing a harmless snake from their pool with the pool cleaning stick. Turns out it was a deadly coral snake and they didn't know. Ooops.

Not a cat a killer! 

Booby apparently

It's now getting really close to the end of or journey. Just a couple of days and we return to Canada, we are happy that the snow has gone at home and summer is here. We have a new hammock to put in the garden and Hannah will be running around soon. We will miss our time here but one thing we will definitely miss is the jam. Yep, jam. Over here it doesn't come in jars. It's in a squeezable packet with a short tube. You can squirt it directly onto bread, muffins, toast or into your 10month old daughters gob. Genius. Pure genius

Here's a thought for you... When we get home, Hannah will have spent 1/10 of her life in Costa Rica.

Anyway, once again time has passed and it's tomorrow. Yesterday was hot and sunny, so we spent the morning looking around the indigenous town of Bribri, with its tradition shacks that the people still live in and then the afternoon on the beach, swimming in the warm Caribbean sea and climbing a dodgy dangerous graffiti covered shipwreck, as you do.

Hannah loved the sea yesterday and didn't eat much sand from the beach, which hopefully means she won't be pooping it out again.

It was a lovely day though and even better considering we are current holed up in the indoor outdoor house as the heavy rain falls outside and a little inside. It's our last holiday day though as we return to just outside San Jose tomorrow before flying home the next day. In 30 days we have had the odd shower, but this is the first day we have had more than a short storm. That's fine though, Hannah is asleep, Buff is in the hammock and I am relaxing here. It's nice to be so relaxed. It also keeps the crazy hot temperature down too, which is nice.

Sandwich, not sand, Hannah! 
The day after we went on yet another adventure. We had wanted to visit Panama on this trip, but the logistics of renting a car, crossing the border or flying home from Panama made it difficult. So we decided to do it illegally instead. At the Sixaola crossing bridge, the immigration offices are easy to sneak by and we had heard it was easy to get across the bridge, step onto Panamanian soil and sneak back. So we did.

After I did a bit of reconnaissance, watching people come and go in groups, the three of us hung around behind a group of tourists doing the crossing legally. As they walked across the bridge, avoiding the trucks also using the one lane,  we followed behind them, looking nonchalant and stopping for pics as they did. The armed guards paid us no attention and we made it all the way across with ease. After 10 minute or so looking round the Panama end, taking photos for proof, we idled back again, looking innocent and playing with Hannah. The armed guards ignored us again and we sauntered past the final checkpoint, without checking in, and were back in the safety of Costa Rica. Amazingly, that half hour was the only part of the day that had no rain until we sat on the beach for one last cocktail, before a nice dinner that evening. A successful day out!

Sneaking past the lazy CR police

Our unaware crossing helpers 

They made it

Costa Rica to the left... Panama on the right

The old bridge

Hannah gets 'feet on the ground' 

Here's the rest of the day in photos and video... 

So that was our last day of actual holiday... All we have left is to get to the airport tomorrow and back to Canada, that should be simple eh.......