Thursday, 17 December 2015

A grand day out

Because of the relocation of the school, we have a longer Christmas holiday than usual with several extra days tagged on to the beginning and the end.

Fortunately the weather has been kind so with the mercury nudging up towards the mid teens in recent days we've not had to be confined in the house as can happen in the winter months. Just as well really as there's over a week until Christmas still and I do like to get out and about when the weather allows - just as we did in October when we made it on to the beach at Skegness.

Today Claire was working and I didn't want to be cooped up at home all day so we decided to go to Towcester for a day out, one of the places we've been considering moving to if we don't make it up to Louth or can't get a decent place near the new school.

We got there late morning and went for a walk up the Bury Mount which is the remains of an ancient castle, now just effectively a big green hill. You can wind your way round this reading the metal plaques in the ground that tell you the history related to it and the town. The kids love this sort of thing. At the very top are a collection of stones you can sit on and admire the view - or in our case, eat our picnic. Despite it being quite windswept up the top, it wasn't cold and we were able to sit and eat quite comfortably - remarkable for the time of year.

On top of Bury Mount

As usual the kids didn't want to eat their crusts - not a slight on my home baking skills but just kids being kids. However, at the base of the mount is a river full of ducks who were only too keen to munch on them. Well most of them anyway. The Dairylea spread crusts from Jamie's sandwiches went down well, but Ollie's Marmite smeared leftovers produced an unusual response. A couple of the ducks were almost fighting over them, but a couple of the others turned their noses up completely. In fact they swam away. I can only conclude that the whole love it or hate it thing about Marmite also applies to our feathered friends!

In the afternoon we did one of my favourite things and went to the races at Towcester. I've long extolled the merits of a day out here because it's completely free to get in and most of the entertainment is free - providing you don't gamble or drink that is. It was packed out today and that was hardly surprising. In addition to the horse racing there was a Christmas market there, a beer and cider festival as well as entertainment for kids. Not that there were many kids there as most of them haven't broken up yet. There was giant Connect 4 and Jenga, and also a very funky bouncy castle. This one was more like a cave, only a small entrance into a fully enclosed play space, but it was the coolest bouncy castle I've ever seen - it was like a disco inside with lights and music. Even adults were allowed in and like everything else at Towcester, it was free.

When it came to the betting, I was not very successful with my modest investments on this occasion. In the first chase we walked along to the fence by the furlong pole where you can get right up close to the action. I told Jamie to look out for No. 6, my horse, as it jumped the final fence, and true to form, it jumped the last magnificently. Unfortunately there was no jockey on it, he had been deposited somewhere over the other side of the track but we were so far away from the grandstands, commentary and big screen we hadn't realised this until the horses actually reached where we were standing.

Later on I picked out what I was convinced was a sure fire winner, a nice price too. Unfortunately this time I had some difficulty getting the kids off the bouncy castle and then Jamie struggled with putting his shoes on. By the time we got to the betting ring the race was off and it was too late to get a bet on. This horse of course romped home! But never mind, these are minor considerations and make for amusing anecdotes. The fact was we had a lovely day out in the fresh air and the kids loved it. There was not a cross word between them or a hint of misbehavior all day and they were polite to everyone we met. I did not have to tell them off once and that's a result. Happy kids is worth any 5/1 missed winner.

We didn't stay right to the end as it started raining about 3pm so we missed the after racing fireworks display but we were happy to go then to beat the traffic. We rounded off the afternoon with a trip to McDonalds and the kids, completely unprompted both said "Thank-you Daddy for a lovely day out" in the car on the way back.

You can't buy that...

 Jason Ayres is the author of seven books, including his best-selling time travel novel, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, available here:

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