Happy New Year of the Ox!

Well here we are, it’s time to celebrate Chinese New Year again! We’re dressed up, and we’ve got all our decorations out.

All the vaarks are gathered in front of a painted bamboo backdrop, wearing chinese style jackets or hats.

First of all, we’re having our traditional Dragon Dance, as always! Look how it snakes about.

Some of the vaarks are under the body of a long Chinese dragon, snaking across the room

Oh Nano, are you afraid of the Dragon’s fierce head?

Nano looks up to the head of the dragon

No no no, says Nano, I’m fine. I’m just…. Inspecting the inside of Microvaark’s hat.

Nano is hiding under Micro’s Chinese hat.

Hello, Fury looks like she’s about to do something dangerous…. Ah, yes, it’s time for the firecrackers!

Fury is wearing ear defenders, eye protectors and has a fire extinguisher.

Ratvaark talks to Fury

Bang bang bang! Bangbangbangbangbangbang! Bangbangbang! Gosh these firecrackers are noisy!

The vaarks watch from behind a tape as Fury sets off a string of firecrackersA close up of Fury and the firecrackers – some sparkling, some smoking, some burnt at the edges.

Hold on a mo. Arnold normally watches out when we have fireworks. Where is he? And Ernest!

Ratvaark turns to talk to the rest of the vaarks.

Oh, yes Nano of course, it’s the Year of the Ox, that’s what they are sorting out. Yes, you go and get them now if you like.

Ratvaark talks to Nano

Here they are in the Pantomime Ox!

The vaarks look at a pantomime cow, we can see Arnold and Ernests bottoms sticking out below the costume.

Bernard has been reading up on it, and says the Ox is Diligent, Dependable, Strong and Determined. All very vaarkish qualities!

Bernard looks at the Ox.

Nano says, the Ox is certainly a fine way to travel!

Nano is sitting on top of the ox, holding the halter rope.

Well, after all the excitement, it’s time to sit down for our banquet. We’ll be having all sorts of tasty dishes, eaten with chopsticks, of course!

The vaarks are gathered around a table, with bowls, and chopsticks.

Nano can’t reach into a normal bowl, so we borrowed one from the dolls’ house for him. He says it’s might be small, but he’ll have seconds and thirdses!

Nano has a tiny blue and white pattern bowl and chopsticks.

So, a very Happy New Year to all our friends. Gong Hei Fat Choy!

Ratvaark faces the camera to wish everyone a happy new year.


The Vaark Repair Shop

Some time ago, we got word of a vaark in need of a little help. Not just any vaark. This is the First Ever Vaark. He’s ten years old, and he’s had a happy life, but age has wearied him a little, and he had a bit of a run in with a puppy.  So he came to the Vaark Repair Shop, and got fixed up. And because he is so important, we made a film about it. Here it is:

Advaark, Day 1

It’s Day 1 of Advaark! We are having our usual Christmas Planning Meeting. I have outlined the things we need to think about. Bernard has taken on the role of Budgetary Adviser and Esther is in Charge of Purchasing Arrangements.

All the vaarks are gathered around as Ratvaark speaks to them, with a blackboard of plans

It is, of course, Nano’s first Christmas with us. He took a good look at the agenda, and asked whether we were giving sufficient attention to the Food Aspect. His point was noted.

Nano reads the board on which is written Christmas 2019 Food Cards Presents Food Entertainment Food Snacks.

After the briefing, we all mingled to discuss our plans. Winston took the opportunity to remind Esther that if watches featured in her purchasing plans, he had a good stock.

All the fun of the fete!

Well, we’re very excited, it’s time for our May fete! We’ve got all the usual food and snack concessions set up.

The vaarks gather at the May fete

Gino is minding the ice cream van and Vincent’s taken charge of the Burger Box. Winston’s got so many enterprises he can’t run them all.

In fact, Winston has really gone up a step – he’s got himself a market barrow, selling antiques and second hand stuff.

Winston shows off his new barrow

Fury’s spotted a really decent drill for her toolbox, and Microvaark is very pleased with his bicycle. Bernard said he didn’t know Microvaark could even ride a bicycle!

Ofelia is looking after the donuts. When Nano asked for some and she asked “How many?” he said “Five of course!” Esther, who is a bit controlled than some, is supervising the Guess the Weight of the Cake stall. Fury offered to help if the cake turned out to be too heavy….

Winston had to do a quick run round when Tessa showed an interest in the Pistachio Shy, but it turned out she was just wondering about his spelling. Someone had already told her the nuts were glued on…

tessa looks at the pistachio shy as winston talks to her

Alan had a go on the tombola and was very pleased when he drew the winning ticket!

Peggy and Mary are running the teas, and… oh hello Dim, you’re looking after the Candy Floss this year? Where’s Matilda? What’s that, she’s got a new enterprise?

Oh! A POPCORN stand! That’s amazing. There was soon a big long queue for popcorn and Matilda was worried she might run out.

So she turned the heat up a bit. There, now it’s popping nicely. Er… Maybe a bit TOO nicely. Run!

Phew, it’s run out of corn and stopped! Winston’s in a flap though, he’s lost his hat in there! But then we realised something even worse. Nanovaark’s in there too!

Ernest quickly stuck his snozzle in, and rooted about sniffing. Thankfully, he soon found Nano, who was sheltering in Winston’s hat. He said he thought he wouldn’t have any more popcorn for a while please. All’s well, as Matilda sweeps up!

After all that excitement, we sat down to enjoy the Punch and Judy show. Nano made sure he got a good view, and Arnold could hardly even feel his weight.

Next it was time for the Morris Dancers. Dim played the Fool as usual, and Hypno played the accordion.

As ever, we’re having a traditional Maypole dance. Can we make it two years running without getting tangled up? Oh Ernest, I don’t think it needs steadying. Whoops! Oh dear, we did it again.

Once we’d freed Ernest, a little voice said “ There’s a good view from up here!” Oh Nano, get down!!

Of course, after the fete, we always have the funfair! Arnold has brought along his Test Your Strength machine, and he’s changed into his Grandfather’s circus strongman leotard. Nano is impressed.

Tessa had a go and did very well, but Arnold was a bit alarmed when Fury insisted on using her Flipping Big Hammer!

Everyone giggled at their reflections in the Hall of Mirrors and Dim and Matilda enjoyed a romantic swing on the swingboat.

Ernest was hard at work turning the ladle-go-round. Look at it go! Look at Ofelia’s ears waving in the wind!

Of course, we are very excited this year to have our Ferris Wheel, which was a mystery present from an anonymous friend. Fury has even arranged a steam traction engine to turn it!

Some of us were more interested in the steam engine than the wheel, so Fury shows them how it works and how she keeps it running with her oily rag.

The wheel is great fun and the view from the top is great. What lucky vaarks we are, to have such friends!

One a penny, two a penny.

I was out for a walk when I came across something the humans bought yesterday. Hot Cross Bun cheese! And suddenly, I remembered it’s Hot Cross Bun day!

I asked Mrs Human where the buns were and she said there was no way we were going anywhere near the toaster after last time, but if we were good, she’d toast one for us.

Ratvaark looks straight at the camera

So we queued up politely and waited for the bun to toast. Alan and Nano had never had a Hot Cross bun before so they were very excited. In fact, Arnold had to step in and stop Nano getting too close!

We were very glad when it was all toasted and buttered for us. Nano said it was the best bun he’d ever tasted, and what were we having?

Checking out a new motor.

Fury here. So, the humans went out yesterday and got a new car. Well, new to them. So I thought I better give it a look over. Engine first.

Fury, in overalls, sits on the top of a car engine

Got me torch out to have a proper look. Got to get into all the nooks and crannies, right?

OK, what’s it like underneath? Well, it’s a bit muddy, but it looks alright.

Fury lies under the edge of the car with her torch

Ah, 4×4, that might explain the mud. And it goes all the way up to 6! Nice!

Fury examines the gear knob

Now the important part. Snack storage. Seems to be well provided, excellent.

Boot’s nice and big, room for me tools and stuff. And access to the cabin via a tunnel, cool! Needs a bit of sweeping out though, reckon it lived on a farm or something!

Soon get some tunes going with this. I’ll get all me AC/DC CDs out. Oh, and a bit of treasure I found cleaning up. I think it’ll do fine.

Molten Metal!

Fury here. I went to Warrington FabLab to have a go at casting metal in sand. Funny looking folk over there.

Fury looks at a warning sticker of a face in a gas mask

First thing you have to do is push some special sand through a sieve to get the lumps out. Then you pack it into a metal frame, like making a sandcastle.

Then you put the thing you want to make a cast of onto the surface of the sand, and put another frame on top and fill that with sand too.

Then, when you lift the top frame off, very carefully, and pick out the model of the thing, you’ve got a hole the exact same shape in the sand! This is going to be an axe!

there is a hole in the sand the shape of the axe

There’s a hole, to pour the metal into. What do you mean you can’t pour metal? You can, when you’ve turned the heat up to gas mark 21!

And in goes the metal! You know the mould is full, when you see the metal in the second hole. Now, it has to cool down for 24 hours. I’m hoping they’ll send us a picture of the finished thing!

Anyway, after all that hard work, we needed some dinner, so we went to IKEA. Now, which to have, meatballs with JAM?! or chicken and chips? Or perhaps, a nibble of each…

Bernard rocks!

Bernard has been hard at work, making himself a rock garden. He’s always out there raking the gravel to keep it tidy. So I took Alan out to see it. He said it was very pretty, which pleased Bernard.

Bernard was keen to show us that one of his plants is flowering, such lovely pink flowers!

Bernard, Ratvaark and Alan look at some pretty pink flowers on an alpine plant

Then I remembered that I’d found a very pretty green pebble when I went to the beach last week, so I went to fetch it.

Ratvaark shows Bernard a pale green pebble.

Bernard said it was most interesting, with a vein of quartz in it and he had just the spot to place it. I’m glad I picked it up!

Bernard places the pebble carefully in the gravel

Looking back at 2018.

Well, what a year we’ve had in 2018! Here are a few reminders of what we’ve been doing. Of course in January, we had our panto, and we celebrated Burns’ Night!

In February Dim and Matilda had a romantic night out for Valentines, and Microvaark had a bit of a tumble skiing at the Winter Olympics! He took some defrosting, I can tell you!

In March, Peggy gave us a display of Irish dancing for St Patrick’s Day, and Ernest helped to make a paper organ pipe at the Guild of Makers launch. Makes a most amusing hoot. The pipe, not Ernest.

In April, we were surprised when Arnold announced he was going to cross America on his bike! And Fury had fun at a Makerfaire in Newcastle. She says she didn’t press the button…

In May we had lots of fun – there was Morris Dancing at our May Fete and we had a street party for the Royal Wedding. Any excuse for a party!

In June, we went and looked after a whole farm! We had a go at spinning, and Dim and Matilda frolicked in the shade of a tree making daisy chains.

In July, while Arnold celebrated Independence Day in America, Fury was considering a career in rocketry, but thought better of it. I don’t think there are enough snacks in space.

In August, Arnold briefly became a film star, but back at home we were busy setting up the stage and equipment for Vaarklife ‘18.

Of course, September started with Vaarklife, and we had so many bands, but the highlight was Arnold’s return! And then after that we went on holiday to another farm, where Fury found a tractor even she couldn’t fix.

In October we got an amazing gift, all the way from Australia, a real radio! And there was also a skateboarding craze when Winston opened his Skate Shack.

We started November with our Bonfire and Firework display, complete with special centrepiece. And we ended it with a new, very tiny, friend, Nano!

December of course is a very busy month, with making and baking of all sorts. And we found 25 little things to decorate our special Advent Tree!

What a wonderful year we had. Here’s to even more adventures in 2019. Happy New Year!

25th December: Merry Christmas!

For our final dish, on Christmas Day, we have a candle. Arnold has agreed to supervise, so that we can light it!

Sometimes candles are used to countdown the days or weeks to Christmas. Candles can be made of wax or fat, perfumed or not, but they all give off light, which is an important feature of mid-winter festivals. When we’re all missing the sun a bit, it’s a message that the light will come back again!

Ratvaark lights the candle

And so, we wish you all a Merry and Peaceful Christmas, with snacks galore!

All the vaarks look at the camera, gathered in front of their tree, with the candle glowing at the top.