Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fairies, Vikings and Vampires!

We've had a hugely enjoyable Tuesday and Wednesday; the week is shaping up to be really rather nice indeed.

Yesterday Kris and Myf came over to see us and we all attended a clay craft lesson at our newly refurbished village community centre. Took my Mum along too. The task was to make enchanted cottages/fairy houses/witch's towers or wherever your imagination took you, with guidance from the artist leading the group. The girls had a ball and did soooo well with it! This is Emily's fairy cottage complete with tiled spired roof, stairs, swimming pool, balcony, secret tunnel and tall flower to put an incense cone on:

We adults had fun too, it was definitely worth doing. Emily and Myf were the only children in the group but you couldn't have asked for a better advert for home educated children - the two of them sat busily getting on with it, absorbed in the task for two hours solid, aimiably sharing ideas and just being so grown up. One of the women in the group stopped me on the way out and was asking about home education in a very positive way, so I think the girls must have been good ambassadors!

After lunch Myf and Emily disappeared to play and we didn't see them again for ages - something very organised was going on with the polly pockets, that's for sure! If you're reading, Kris and Myf, it was lovely to see both of you, and Kris, Emily says you need to finish your tiled roof before the clay dries out, lol - that's been bothering her since you left!

Then it was off to yoga for Emily. Her teacher was very impressed with the amount of practice she's done, and someone came out of her lesson glowing all over with praise, bless her. Her lucky dip this week was a "relaxing stone" - actually it must be some kind of dried plant, you have to soak it overnight and then plant it and it blossoms into a purple flower. Apparently - we haven't had time to soak it yet. The teacher was telling me before the lesson that lots of the older girls are unlikely to actually pass their next level, so they and Emily will fairly soon "meet in the middle" as it were. I'm impressed that they're not just handing out the levels willy nilly. I think that will motivate Emily far more than if she just got the certificates by default. Seven upwards is plenty old enough to understand that you have to work at something.

By the time she got back from yoga Emily's temperature had shot up again; she wasn't really well enough to go, but was determined not to miss it, which must be a good sign. She went off early to bed in a bid to be feeling better for today.

In the event, she was indeed feeling quite a bit better this morning, so we finally made it to York - at long last! After the journey from hell, stuck behind every tractor, learner HGV and road digger in the whole of Yorkshire, it was certainly a relief to actually arrive. We headed straight for the Jorvik Viking Centre/. It was very good, although I have to say I'm pleased we didn't have to pay for it because the rates are pretty expensive for a visit that with the best will in the world lasted only an hour. I was a bit disappointed there wasn't more to it, but Emily loved it and we did get in free, so you can't argue with that! We did take lots of pictures of Emily dressed up in a Viking costume, but wouldn't you know it, they're all blurry. Here she is anyway printing her name in runic characters:
Then off the cafe for some lunch, and a wander down the York Shambles/ where we would have spent lots of souvenir money.....apart from the fact that all the gift shops were closed. Because of course, nobody ever goes anywhere outside weekends and school holidays, do they?

Not to be thwarted, we spent lots in Past Times and various other places too, especially since so many shops still had sales on! Then we ventured down to the York Dungeons. We'd been wondering whether it would be OK for Emily... and the warning signs outside didn't exactly ensure us that it would be, but we grown ups wanted to go, and we'd explained to Emily what it would be like and made sure she understood it was all pretend. When we got there, we checked again with her, and yes, she wanted to go in....despite the dire warnings from the young girl on the till, lol, so in we went.

It was fantastic! I really can't recommend it highly enough. And Emily hasn't stopped talking about it yet, she absolutely loved it. It was very, very well done and yes, pretty scary too. Very gory, very jumpy, excellent actors, a real experience. Mind you, I think Emily's heart was won with the very first section which was about the plague, because she knows a lot about plague treatments and wise women and things like that, so she was in her element when the "wise woman" was wandering round throwing leeches and blood letting, lol. The next section was about Vampires and again the character leading you through that was stunningly well acted. Lots of shocks in that one, with holy water suddenly being thrown over you and the like. Then it was into a medieval courtroom - the "judge" picked on Emily straight away, and she had to go up into the dock and stand accused of her crime (picking her nose and flicking the bogeys at the archbishop in the Minster, rofl!). She spoke up really loudly to the judge - even he commented that he usually couldn't hear what kids in the dock were saying - he was so impressed that she escaped punishment and instead of being hung was allowed to go free ;-))

Next it was into the torture chamber. Apart from the all the (very gruesome) waxworks and exhibits, this was part of a complicated scenario where the visitors had been caught up in the gunpowder plot and were supposed to be being tortured, but was actually being saved by the "torture master" who was, yet again, fabulously well acted. Cue lots of nervous laughter as we were shut in a pitch black room and warned to expect the worst, with things reaching out to you and weird noises, having to pretend to be tortured so the "police" wouldn't know you weren't being. Finally, it was out to watch Dick Turpin's execution - the perfect end to a brilliant attraction. Very educational too! I don't know what it's like when it's really busy, but you could tell today that the actors were tailoring it to be just right for Emily's comfort level - very scary and jumpy, yes, but they were very skilled in taking cues from her behaviour and toning it down imperceptibly or cranking it up appropriately.

We were soooo proud of Emily. We'd gone in half thinking we'd have to come out again (especially after the warnings from the cashier) but nope, she understood perfectly well that it wasn't real, that it was meant to be scary but in a funny way, that the people in there were actors and that nothing bad could actually happen - she loved it so much she wanted to go straight back in again, lol. She has an excellent grasp on reality - and what's not reality. Very grown up. As she put it, "It was like taking part in a play! When can we go again?" It wasn't until later, reading the guide book, that we actually realised that two whole scenarios (one about Roman ghosts and the other about Viking battles) were closed for refurbishment - yet we had still felt that the £30 entrance charge was well worth it, so I guess that must say something!

And so home. There's lots more we wanted to see and do in York, but we just ran out of time. I'm sure we'll go back soon. And now we're all worn out, and trying to ignore the pile of orders and emails..........for now, at least!

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