Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Happy Holiday

Santa on a budget.
Santa has never been shy about using technology. You can even track his sleigh via the NASA web-site as he has had GPS on-board for years now. In Holland he still arrives with his white horse by steam boat and I have seen him on a steam train near Peterborough.  This week at Paxton Pits he arrived in a blue Piaggio pick-up truck. The children who gathered at the Environmental Education Centre were as delighted as ever; he might have arrived from space in lunar landing module for all they cared. I think it is the Dads who get all excited about transport.
U3A group having lunch. A peregrine flew over.

This Sunday afternoon, the Friends celebrated the start of the season with their annual Christmas Music event. It was a sell-out and the St Neots Folk Club singers put on a rousing festive performance. (Perhaps we could book Steel-eye Span next year?)

Meanwhile, the weather has been kind to us and we still have visiting groups that prefer to eat their lunch out-doors, I suppose becasuse they can see the sky and add to their year-list while eating. You might see a woodcock, a peregrine, or even a bittern.

Whale at the Zoology Museum.
Over the Christmas period I am guessing things will be pretty quiet, especially since the weather forecast is dismal, with high winds and rain. However, by New Year we can look forward to blizzards, but don't let that put you off. New Year's Day is always brilliant at Paxton Pits. Do come along and try and beat the 57 species record for a bird watching New Year. If the lakes are not frozen I can guaruntee smew, goldeneye and possibly goosanders, but who knows what else will turn up?

If you are like me, you will have a full house over the holiday with maybe three generations in the house at the same time. This is a very special opportunity as the only other time this happens is weddings and funerals when the agenda is not yours to control. So what will you do with the grandchildren?

Sinister weapon outside the
Scott Polar Institute.
Don't point it at the traffic.
I will bring my grandchildren to Paxton Pits over Christmas, but I admit that they are not very interested in wildlife. One is a bass soloist and the other is a future olympic rower. I am so proud of them, but I know they just need fresh air and a chance to ride a 4x4 and feed the cows. Their Dad can run from Brampton to Paxton and back (via Godmanchester) quicker than I can load the car and drive here. But what do we do with the rest of the time? Here are a few suggestions.

I always enjoy a visit to Cambridge. This is where Pepys, Cromwell, Newton and Darwin studied and where you can find Darwin's house and Stephen Hawking's office today. The University manages most of the museums in town too. See Museums. Every one of them is a gem, but the trick with grand-children is to give them a taste and then drag them away so they want to go back. Just let them scope out what is there on the first visit, then let them home in on the next trip.

Most of the museums are near the Grand Arcade, off Downing Street, but the Scott Polar Institute is a bit further out. Their opening times are bit esoteric so check in advance. If you have never visited them you will be amazed.

You could keep the wildlife theme going by looking for animals and birds at each museum. There are hundreds of them in fossils, bones, paintings, hieroglyphs, totem poles and masks. See if you can find the amazingly accurate and modern looking barn owl among the mummies in the scary Egyptology section of the FitzWilliam's basement.

Peterborough has just one museum in town but it is brilliant, covering all the bases in one building. They even have a genuine Victorian operating theatre, which is really quite disgusting. Kids love it.

Until the New Year, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.