Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

It’s inexcusable really, and I can’t use “I was busy” as an excuse for every hour of every day, can I?
I guess it’s been a combination of not having chance and not wanting to actually blog at all.

It is so very much harder to continue this blog here in England.
It feels almost fraudulent and so I may let it slide in its current form.
But while I make that decision (which may happen during the course of creating this post), I’ll catch you all up.
I’m aiming for brief catch up, but I make no promises!

As you know, we – Nik, Eliot and I – went to Portugal for a 9-day holiday at the beginning of October.

Eliot and Nik were super-excited about it and they loved the whole trip. The accommodation was booked in the area we’d lived in so it was like being home… except when it wasn’t.

We did plenty to keep occupied as much as we could afford (holidays are EXPENSIVE, aren’t they?!)

We played minigolf. Twice actually. It’s great fun and reasonable value if you do the full 18-hole course (honestly, DON’T bother with the 9-hole unless you have toddlers)

We – well, Eliot – played in the pool. Not bad for October, eh?

He even took his skateboard (we’d had to check a suitcase in especially to take it!)

He met with school friends (I don’t think WordPress.org allows me to embed the video but Eliot has it posted  here )

We met with most of our friends we had made while out there: a shout out to Dave and Aly; Phil, Julie, Luke and Jasmine; Peter and Lesley; Matt; Antonio and Rita; everyone at The Lighthouse and apologies if I missed anyone.

“Did you eat at The Lighthouse?” I hear you ask.

Well, dur!

We ate at all the places we knew we liked to eat and went to all the places we knew we liked to go and Eliot and Nik had a fabulous time.
I know you’ve noticed by now so I’ll go ahead and answer that question in your heads: not really, no.

I think if it had been anywhere else, it would have been a holiday and it would have been fine and great, but being on holiday in somewhere that was home.
Not so much.
It felt awkward and every time they were loving “being home” I was feeling worse and worse about the decision to move back to the UK. The more they had fun, the worse I felt.

I’ve told them that next time they can go without me, and I mean it. I actually don’t want to go back to visit again.

Maybe when the campervan is done.

The van is progressing slowly. Naff weather has hampered progress a bit and, even thought we have, for the time being, moved on to internal works (we’re currently installing electrics and final fixing ceiling panels with their vinyl coverings and lights) it’s still so cold in the garage that it’s not much fun out there. We’ve resigned ourselves to being a bit out of action until after the snowy weather for now. No point making it a chore! It’s supposed to be fun!

So we’ve done some van bits and been working and schooling and oh yes, let’s have a school update then!

Eliot is coming on well. We had been concentrating quite heavily on his maths but we’ve scaled it back to 2-3 times a week now and it’s keeping the interest up.

He’s been home edding since the start of May now so that’s 8 months although 2-3 months of that has been summer/Christmas vacations, I guess, but in the 6 months we’ve been learning, his maths age has gone up from about 9yrs 10m to about 11yrs and 8m. That’s nearly a 2 year leap in 6 months which is phenomenal. I wish he could see just how far he’s come!

I’m taking a gently, gently approach with English. We’ve learned some interesting stuff, the usual yawns about nouns, verbs, adverbs etc, but more fun was trying to remember the WORD onomatopoeia (I’m going to thank my computer for its spellcheck at this point!) from one lesson to the other, and I’m currently tackling something specific that he has trouble with: comprehension.

He’s frequently said that adult conversations (and movie dialogue etc) is completely alien to him and I think he just needs to read/hear more, so I’ve started reading to him.

Yep, at 12-years-old, I’ve started reading to him! I’ve chosen a book he likes to begin with – A Minecraft storybook – but I’ve encouraged him to ask about words he doesn’t know and phrases he doesn’t understand and I think it’ll definitely help.

So that’s Eliot!

Jake – who turned 16 this December gone! –  is studying hard (!) for his Maths and English GCSEs which he is taking this summer. He’s had decent grades in his English assessments so far and we’re hopeful he’ll pass both easily enough (he’s brainy; he should!).

It should be enough to get him into Lincoln college in September to study…well, here’s news actually… not plumbing!

He’s now decided he’d prefer to be an electrician and we’re behind him 100%. Plumbing would be excellent and he’d do well for work, I’m sure, but being an electrician could be so much more flexible. He could end up employed doing something off on a tangent from electrical work or he could ultimately become the self-employed electrician that he hopes to be, but I do think it’ll offer him many more opportunities.

Either choice is good, but electrician is the one we’ve applied to college for.

I love that he has goals!
Jake has life goals!

Sheesh, after they year we’ve had, I never thought I’d say that!

What else happened?

Jake drove his first car: a Lamborghini Gallardo at a local track day. That was fun!

And we went to the motorcycle show where Eliot could sit on any bike he wanted which was ALL of them…TWICE. He LOVED that!

We (well, in fairness, mostly Nik) removed our open log fire and replaced it with a wood burner.

We went to a gaming convention which was something of an anticlimax but Eliot enjoyed meeting Jacksepticeye (he’s a YouTuber!)

What does 2016 hold in store for the Hands then?

Well, the van is on course to be finished by the summer (of 2016, I hope!) so we’ll be using that a bit to make sure we iron out any snags before we head out into the wider Europe.

There’s school, of course. Jake has exams in May and June and we’re hoping he’ll get some work experience in over the summer before he has to go to college (we’re also hoping college accepts him!)

There’s work. There’s always work. This isn’t a bad thing when you run your own business!

Oh, and I’ve signed up for a beginners Sign Language course at a local training centre. There’s an advanced course later in the year too so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it enough to follow-up with that one and then, who knows?!


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OK, so Valencia isn’t actually in Portugal, so what is it doing here in my “Personal A to Z of Portugal”?

Well, seeing as it’s a “personal” A to Z, the fact that we live here is what led to Nik visiting there last weekend for the final round of the MotoGP. He and a friend (and friend’s 17-year-old son) drove nearly 1000km from Lagos to Valencia!

So, in my books, that’s qualifies it for inclusion. I won’t make it a long post – it’s kinda cheating really 😉

They were by no means alone at the MotoGP last weekend. For those who don’t follow it, rookie Marc Marquez, reigning Moto2 champion, in his first year in Moto GP was leading the championship by 13 points. Jorge Lorenzo, current and defending MotoGP world champion, was in second place, and it was ALL down to the wire in the last race.

The fact that the top 3 riders in the championship (Marquez, Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa who, although in third place, couldn’t win overall) were all Spanish, meant that the track was packed to capacity. Over 104,000 people in attendance!

Lorenzo needed to win, no doubt about that, and Marquez needed to come 4th to win the championship… in his rookie year… as the youngest winner ever.

The guy is, already at 20 years of age, a motorcycling legend. He broke so many records this year. Youngest to do this, first to do that. His riding style is completely different to the more experienced riders but, to his credit (and unlike many rookie riders) this doesn’t mean he takes risks and falls off. It means that he KNOWS his limits and pushes himself to them… usually with great success.

Knee-down is for losers! Elbow-down is the way to go!

Lorenzo, being the skilled rider that he is, did win. It was all he could do. He tried, in early laps, to keep the riders in close quarters to each other, with the hope that someone, somewhere could take or affect Marquez’s performance but, ultimately, it didn’t work.

It was Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Marquez for much of the first half of the race until Lorenzo got thoroughly peeved with Pedrosa’s continual taking of the lead and bumped him out of the racing line and back into fifth.

Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Marquez, Bautista and Rossi.

Marquez was in second place for much of the race after this, only conceding it to his teammate Pedrosa (who had made it back to third from fifth) towards the end (Marquez only needed to come fourth, after all)

Marquez hot on Lorenzo’s heels

Marquez did make it past Lorenzo at one point but Lorenzo, with so much to lose, fought back into first place once more. He deserved the win, he really did. He fought hard for it, but it was all just too late for him, and Marc Marquez was crowned Yougnest Every MotoGP World Champion in his rookie year.

After the race, Nik and posse rushed to get home – as much as anybody can “rush” to drive 1000km! (athough the speed camera flashes and policeman who stopped them (well, Matt) for speeding would attest to the fact that they did, in fact, rush home!)


He had a great weekend overall. There were a few disasters along the way, such as not actually getting ANY sleep and the digs they had booked being a complete dive, but he’d do it again in an instant.

In fact, we are doing.

It’ll be our holiday next year – a MotoGP weekend in Spain. Jake is staying home, and I think he’s as excited about that as we are about the GP!

Nik and I, along with Eliot and Nik’s mum Pat, are all going to Jerez in Spain for the MotoGP 2014 race in May. It’s about a 3.5hr drive from here – positive local in comparison to driving to Valencia – and it’ll be my first every trip to Spain. Hopefully, because it’s rather closers and we’ll be spending considerably less time driving, we’ll be able to appreciate Spain a little bit more and, if we happen to call into Seville to a supermarket, on the way home, and fill up the car with cheaper groceries (and cheaper fuel!), then that’s a bonus!

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As promised, I took some photos of Eliot’s recent bedroom makeover.

I mentioned before that our property is a rental so, as every rental home seems to, it has the obligatory “white walls all round”. This is great for making your home looks bright, airy and clean. Well, until you move a young boy into it, that is!

One of El's main walls before we attacked it.

After nearly 2 years, Eliot’s walls were covered in pen, stickers and even footprints! The horizontal dark patch on the wall is the area that was directly along his bed line and is a result, mostly, of a 7/8yr old’s grubby feet!

Eliot's bedroom, pre-makeover

Bedroom, pre-makeover

Eliot chose the new paint colour and we all agree that he made a perfect choice. The paint was on offer in Bricomarché at €17,99 for 2 tubs of 4 litres (each claiming approximately 10 sq mt of coverage) We weren’t entirely sure how much paint we’d need but, for the record, we used around 5 litres of it in total.

The same wall, after re-paint and switch-around!

This is the same wall! We moved his bedroom around, when we brought the furniture back in, as the different layout allowed us more free wall space for the new storage units. Eliot has a LOT of toys and needed much, much more storage space than he had previously. We picked up the 9-hole unit and the 5-shelf unit in Bricomarché in Portimão for €59,99 and €25,99 respectively . They both needed some modification to make them secure and Nik the bridged the gap between unit and bed to make a bedside table out of a divider that we didn’t use in the 9-hole unit (his original bedside table didn’t quite fit!)

You can also just about see his new mat, inside the balcony door. It’s actually about 2 meters long (which we didn’t realise) so has had to be tucked in underneath the shelf unit and a table the other side of the door. It was a good buy at €9,99 from DeBorla, at Portimão Retail Park, though.

DIY bedside table

His TV and Xbox unit was moved over  to near the wardrobe. This gives him a TV/Xbox “area” rather than having to sit on his bed.

New location for the TV/Xbox

You can also see El’s new curtain here. I say curtain, I mean curtain, singular. To be honest, our budget didn’t stretch to a pair and, as it’s in addition to window shutters anyway, one curtain is really enough (two would be nice though. I’ve suggested that Eliot requests a second one for his birthday!) He chose this multi-stripe affair from Aki at Portimão Retail Park. It was a bit pricier than we’d budgeted, at €22,99 for one curtain, but hey, we only really needed one anyway!

Lots of new storage for lots of toys!

As you can see, we now have lots of lovely open storage which, for Eliot, works best because it’s accessible both for getting to his toys and for putting them back (something he really is not good at!)

A place for everything and everything in its place - for now!

The storage boxes themselves are a complete mish-mash of whatever we had in the house. We still need to pick up a few more for some of the toys (both the K’Nex and the Meccano are in too-small containers right now) but those can wait. For now, the budget is exhausted!

Spiderman keeps an eye on the place while Eliot isn't around

We’re thrilled with how it has turned out. The colour is lovely. Not too pale and “baby-ish”, not too dark. It’s bright, clean and perfect. It came in at under €150, including the new units and we spent 2 days on it in total, clearing, cleaning, painting and buying/building new furniture. Money and time well spent, I think.

Eliot loves his new room too. And that’s the most important thing!

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I wouldn’t usually do this but it IS for a good cause and I’m determined to get my good friend Linda a nice helping of sponsorship!

As a former stroke sufferer, she is  walking the Great Wall of China in aid of The Stroke Association.

It’s an excellent cause and she deserves the love and support of EVERYONE.

Please consider sponsoring her. Even if you can only spare a small amount, EVERY little helps.

Linda’s “Just Giving” Sponsorship Page

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