Category Archives: Indoor Activities

Airfix versus Warhammer

Assault on Black Reach - apparently

In the morning I am taking Boy the Elder into Leicester to spend his birthday money.  The only thing which was on his list was a Warhammer series 40,000 Assault on Black Reach gaming set. If you understand what that means you are either likely to be a 13-25 year old male or a nauseating parent who is really sucking up to her children.  You know who you are, Sister the First.

BTE has been an avid Airfix fan for ages and has got some beautiful models of WW2 planes, tanks and ickle tiny soldiers.  He’d started to get really good at the building and painting and I understood it; it was real things painted to look like real things that did stuff that actually happened.  The Aged Parent bought him membership of The Airfix Club for his birthday and he gets enamel badges and everything.

Supermarine Spitfire - obviously

Then suddenly Warhammer came on the scene and there are dozens of little grey plastic mutant figures littering the house and desperate, plaintive pleas for Ork Stompas echo around the rooms, and I just don’t ‘get it’. But then I’m not really supposed to, am I?

Thus, tomorrow morning, we are venturing into Leicester to find a shop called ‘Tabletop Tyrants’ where, being a Saturday morning, it will be awash with hundreds of teenage boys, who are strangers to soap and don’t have a girlfriend or a clean pair of underpants between them.  BTE will hand over his shining debit card (the glancing light blinding the shuffling youths) in exchange for box loads of plastic mutants with machetes and assorted weaponry plus the associated paints, brushes and glue.

I begged him to shower tonight or wash his hair, as a gesture that he has a shred of individuality, but to no avail.  He did paint his nails purple though, which I suppose is a start.  I will hide his trainers and leave his Chelsea boots where he will trip over them but I fear that the use of a toothbrush will be a step too far.

Lancaster Bomber

Ork Stompa

Airfix seems wholesome, Wargaming does not.  Still, at least he’s balanced – an Ork Stomper on one shelf and a De Havilland Mosquito on the other.  Boy the Younger will, of course, insist on combining the two and will strafe and dive bomb the mutants with neatly painted Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers.  Boy the Elder will flip his lid and a horrible fight will break out on the dining room table between a lanky evil-smelling geek and a  malevolent, grudge-bearing 8-year old.

Now THAT I get.


Filed under Children, Collecting, Indoor Activities

I must spend more time with my children

I don’t spend enough time with my children, despite the fact that I mostly work from home.  I am always busy and when I’m not busy,  I’m so knackered that I’m no good to anyone.  I know that a lot of this has to do with the recent house move (added to the previous three)  and a very, very stressful few years, but a) this is not going to get any better and b) that will be no comfort to me when they’re suddenly eighteen and have left home or simply don’t want to hang around with me anymore.

Boy the Elder spent most of this weekend with a friend (at the Cosby Air Show) and after we had dropped him off, Boy the Younger and I decided to go for a walk at Foxton Locks.  On a whim, we popped in and took one of his friends along as well.  We had a lovely time but as we drove back BTY asked if this friend could come back for a sleepover.

Now, I am ashamed to admit that I absolutely hate having my children’s friends over for sleepovers.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with their friends, but particularly with the younger ones, I resent the extra responsibility of another child.  Isn’t that awful?  And particularly at the moment, when there is still so much work to be done in the house before it will be as I want it, the additional pressure leaves me feeling absolutely drained.

The boy sleeping over was fine but I couldn’t wait for him to be collected, mostly because I could feel a massive headache coming on of the kind that requires a day in bed with hot water bottles on the back of my neck.

I’m also not very good at being spontaneous.  I used to be spontaneous years ago, renowned for it in fact, but not anymore.  Spontaneity suggests large chunks of free time that have been unaccounted for and I rarely have those.  When they boys are at their dad’s, I usually spend my time catching up on jobs or asleep.  By Sunday evening, I’m starting to relax a bit but then Monday comes again all too soon.

A basic 8884 Sponge Cake mix with a lot of food colouring *

But after the friend had gone and BTY and I were on our own, I felt far too guilty to go to bed and leave him downstairs alone, so I suggested that we bake a cake together.  This was extremely well received and although he got a bit silly and messy, he eventually produced a multi-coloured cake decorated with bright yellow buttercream and Smarties.  He declared that it was a Happy Cake and couldn’t wait for Boy the Elder to come home and have a slice.  My heart melted a usual.

While we were waiting for the cake to cool, I suggested that we get a jigsaw and we returned to an old favourite depicting three Spitfires against a stormy sky.  We got the straight edges out and did the outline first and then he got to work on the Spitfires.  He was so thrilled when he managed to get pieces in the right places and we really enjoyed doing the puzzle together.

When Boy the Elder came home, the dynamic changed, but it brought it home to me very strongly that I have to make more time for them.  When BTE was little, he didn’t have an older brother muscling in on his time, telling him what to do or generally being a git.  I also had the time to do creative things with him on a regular basis.  BTY has always had to share his time and I have not been in the position to do lots of creative stuff with him.  He needs to spend quiet periods with me, just being together and having a bit of fun.

Must try harder.  Otherwise I’ll live to regret it.

* Click here for basic sponge cake mix


Filed under Children, Family and Friends, Indoor Activities, Leisure

A day out at Canons Ashby and a Wartime Housewife Quiz

Canons AshbyToday, and on a whim as we have spent too much of the summer holiday relocating, we fired up the Escort and visited the National Trust property of Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire.

Canons Ashby was owned by the Dryden family for four centuries from the late 1500s; bookish, conservative, modest people who respected the buildings enough to re-model and extend but never to completely sweep away the past.  The house itself is rather more than a manor house but not quite a grand mansion and much of its beauty lies in its homeliness and attention to the decorative.

Sir John Dryden (1631-1700), the very first Poet Laureate, is a member of this family and was appointed by Charles II in 1668.  He was the best poet, dramatist, translator and critic of the age and his translation of Virgil is one of the great masterpieces of translation in English.

The house is full of interesting and beautiful things, including some fascinating items which I have never seen before or didn’t know about.  Let’s see if you can identify them.  There will be a modest prize for the person(s) who can identify all five correctly.  If you click on the pictures, you will get a larger and more detailed image.  Good luck!

This competition closes on Friday 2nd September 2011 and the winners will be announced on Saturday.
The Wartime Housewife’s decision is final.




NB: This soldier is 5 feet high




Filed under History, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

Bank Holiday Weekend

In which the Wartime Housewife discusses, Easter, Good Friday, the amenity of Welland Park, food mixers, crucifixions, St George’s Day, Hallaton Bottle Kicking and Simnel Cakes.

The last two days have been fairly varied and marginally calmer than my life usually is.  We all had a bit of a lie in on Friday morning and then my former common-law sister-in-law, Eliza, came round for a coffee and to give the chaps their Easter Eggs.  We decided to go to a performance of Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’ at Rothwell Church in the evening, which seemed particularly appropriate being Good Friday.

Not that anyone would have known it was Good Friday.  My electric food mixer decelerated to a halt on Thursday and I had to buy another one in order to make Simnel Cakes for Easter.  I know, I know, I have a wooden spoon and I’m not afraid to use it but time is precious, it is.  I naively rang Argos to see if they were open on Good Friday and the girl on the end of the ‘phone came as close as she dared to saying ‘Errr yeah, durr?’ (you can add the irritating teenage inflection yourself).

Welland Park

When I went into Market Harborough it was clearly just another shopping day with every shop packed to the gills with people loading up trolleys for the oncoming siege situation of a Bank Holiday.  I bought my mixer, taking care to take out the extra 3-year cover, as the last two mixers have only lasted me a year each.  Well, a year and three days actually so they were JUST out of warranty. (Insert your own choice of compound swearing here).

I dropped the boys in Welland Park for a couple of hours and went home to make Simnel Cakes.  The delicious smell of hot cinnamon, nutmeg and fruit cake wafted around the house in a tantalising way as I rolled out the marzipan for the top and made the 11 balls for the disciples (twelve minus one for Judas Iscariot).

I left the last two in the oven and went back into town to pick the chaps up.  Welland Park is a wonderful facility just on the outskirts of Market Harborough.  There are tennis courts and bowling greens, a cafe for tea and ice cream and a massive play area for the children, as well as open grassed areas for ball games or sitting quietly under the trees picnicking.

But the most glorious thing is the gardens.  As you walk in past the tennis courts, there are the most glorious flowerbeds in complementary colours ranging from soft pinks and mauves to vibrant reds and oranges.  My favourite was a bed full of swathes of forget-me-nots in pink, white and blue with deep mauve tulips standing guard over their smaller, fluffier cousins.

As I walked towards the playground, I passed through the rose garden which has the bell tower from Symington’s factory as the centrepiece, and which has just been planted with tiny, intricately patterned box hedges.  In the summer the smell from this garden is heavenly from roses, lavender and the honeysuckle which boldly scales the trellises and archways round the edge.  We are fortunate indeed.

In the evening, we collected Eliza and headed off to Rothwell to hear ‘Crucifixion’.  It’s not an easy piece of music and it was performed admirably by the choir and the two soloists, particularly as quite a proportion of the choir can’t read music.  There are some familiar hymns in it and the congregation joined in which was most enjoyable.  It’s a very moving piece and just the thing to round off Good Friday.

Today, I dropped the boys off with their father and headed into town, which was even more packed than it was yesterday.  I bought some wide ribbon to finish off my cakes then returned home and ate my lunch whilst watching a repeat of James May making his plasticene garden for The Chelsea Flower Show.  St George’s Day appears to have been completely forgotten in all the excitement of Easter and a Royal Wedding.  I shall have Mushrooms for supper (after Dr Who, of course – hurrah!).

Tomorrow morning, I am driving down to London to pick up The Aged Parent and take her to Sister the Second for Easter Day.  I am hoping for many Lindt Bunnies for I have been a good girl all year.  So far anyway…

On Monday it is The Hallaton Bottle Kicking and Hare Pie Scramble.  Hip Hip Hurrah!


Filed under Indoor Activities, Life in general, Outdoor Activities, Slider

How to make an attractive display case out of an old cutlery tray

Cutlery trays

Old wooden cutlery trays can make useful display cases or storage trays for little things.  My boys love little things and have masses of tiny plastic abominations which are carefully abandoned about the house in case I should feel the need of a nasty accident.

I had a cutlery tray left over when I bought a larger one to accommodate a new cutlery set, but you can pick them up at junk stalls from between 10p and £1.  I bought acrylic paints because they dry very quickly and wash off hands and clothes easily with soapy water; these cost about £1.25 a bottle and last quite a long time.  I found the felt squares in the local stationery shop costing 45p each.  For sticking the felt, you can use PVA glue, although I used a hot glue gun in the interests of speed and less mess.

First coat of paint


1 x wooden cutlery tray
Acrylic paints
PVA or hot glue
Paint brushes – 1cm wide
You might also like some transfers or sparkly things or varnish
2 x Small mirror plates if you wish to hang it on the wall

Line with felt

Firstly, choose your colours
Then paint the insides of the tray, overlapping a bit on the bottom where the felt will go
Leave it to dry then apply a second coat
Then paint the outside edges, leave to dry then apply another coat
Lastly paint the back, leave to dry then apply another coat
If you are varnishing, apply a thin coat and leave to dry, applying another coat if necessary
Cut out the felt to the size of the compartments
Glue the felt into place, making sure the glue goes right to the edges

Add extra decoration

Apply any other decorations
If you wish to hang it on the wall, apply two small mirror plates to the back

Boy the Younger's Blue & Green tray

Boy the Elder's Gothic tray


Filed under Collecting, Decorative, fashion, Household Hints, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Re-use Recycle, Tips, Skips and Scavenging

Shamefully taking advantage of a busy man

Apologies for the blurry photo - it was very dark

I don’t know if any of you watched the wonderful series ‘The  Story of England’ presented by Michael Wood on BBC?  In it, he told a fascinating story of the history of England through the records of the small Leicestershire village of Kibworth.  Now Kibworth is just up the road from me and I go there every day which add an extra exciting dimension for me and the many others who were involved in the series.

The Father of My Children had a degree of involvement in the series and I accompanied him to the book launch at Kibworth.  These things are always good fun, but I will own up here and now that I find Michael Wood hugely attractive; it’s that tousled toff thing combined with unbounded enthusiasm.  Works for me every time and it means that I get history and totty in one fell swoop.

After a film show and an excellent presentation, I duly bought the book and queued up at the end to get it signed.  He had a train to catch, so everyone was thoughtfully getting their books signed without engaging him in too much conversation.  I sidled up and smiled my most winning smile. 

“Could you please write ‘To the Wartime Housewife?’” I asked.
“Of course” he said.
“And after your name, could you please just put, in brackets, TWC?”
“TWC?  Oh-kaaaay” he obediently wrote it, but asked no questions.  He was in a hurry.

And what, you ask, does TWC stand for?

Thinking Woman’s Crumpet of course!  One for the gallery I think.

Oh how could I!!!!


Filed under History, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Life in general, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, The Gallery

A Tale of Two Childhoods


The Boys are off to Norfolk with their dad for a few days tomorrow and, while the washing machine was carrying out its incessant and inexorable labours, we went into Leicester, primarily with the intention of seeing if we could get Boy the Elder’s camera fixed.  Yet another example of our throw-away society – a £50 camera would have cost £120 to get fixed.  They can get f****d.  (Fixed – what did you think I meant?)  I haven’t been into Leicester since Christmas and I think one visit every eight months is all that’s necessary.

We looked in many shops.  The boys looked at toys, computer games, gadgets and books while I looked at shoes, boots, sandals and books. I bought a boxed set of Powell & Pressburger DVDs for a fiver and a hairband with a red bow on – last of the big spenders, me.

However, we went into two shops in The Shires which, to me, were about as opposite as it was possible to be. 
The first was called (I think) The Model Shop.  It sold model kits of things; aeroplanes, tanks, ships, rockets, cars, Star Wars and Dr Who stuff and sets of figures to go with your kits.  It had a whole corner devoted to Hornby train sets and all the glorious paraphernalia that goes with it and we were all dry mouthed with excitement for different reasons.  I have a train set rattling in its box with nowhere to set it up.  Boy the Elder likes WW2 tanks, planes and ships and Boy the Younger likes planes, Star Wars and anything Boy the Elder has got.

There was no music playing and it was staffed by young men who knew all about the things they sold.  One chap spent ages with Boy the Younger helping him to find something he could manage without getting overwhelmed and dispirited.  All the things in the shop required an initial interest, patience, a bit of skill and the opportunity for development of one’s skill and the associated learning that comes with collecting things. 

It was lovely, although I admit I was the only girl in there and certainly the only one dribbling gently on the ‘OO’ gauge landscaping materials.  I nearly bought a ‘Trackside’ Morris Oxford, just in case, but Boy the Elder calmed me down, gave me an injection and persuaded me not to empty the garden shed in order to re-create a post war rural layout (mixed traffic)  in obsessive detail. 

The other shop was a place of horror and revulsion.  The Disney Store.  In some ways, I don’t feel the need to say anything else.  There was loud music blasting from speakers in the ceiling, nauseatingly perky, yet strangely passionless shop assistants pounced the minute one was through the door and the lighting could have been used to extract confessions from Russian dissidents.

It was bulging with plastic and polyester shite designed to turn parents upside down to extract every last penny from their fraying pockets.  Racks and racks of hideous merchandising from every film you can think of and some we didn’t even realize were Disney.  I didn’t see Mickey Mouse anywhere.  When Boy the Elder spotted Marvel Comic merchandise, he started sounding off in the way that only indignant teenage boys can.  When I explained to him that Disney had bought Marvel for $4 billion last year, he walked out of the shop, convinced that the world had ended.

Poor Boy the Younger just wanted to look at Buzz Lightyear drinks bottles, untroubled by the wailing and gnashing of teeth from his family, but it was horrible.  The worst thing was that everything was instant, required no skill or imagination and was utterly disposable. 

The two shops seemed to represent two separate worlds; one in which children’s play could be calm, constructive and fun, and one in which children were willing victims of the iniquity and greed of the merchandisers.  And naturally it is presented in such a way that the children are encouraged to want more and more as every new film comes out and the parents are too enfeebled and anaesthetised to say no.

Would anyone like to buy me a shed?


Filed under Children, Collecting, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Life in general, Product comparisons, Uncategorized