musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Storm Fuckwit — August 26, 2020

Storm Fuckwit

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There comes a point in every holiday when the pervading mood tips from ‘enjoyment’ to ‘endurance test’.

This is usually on the way home when you may have been up at the crack of dawn to get that coach transfer which crawls along picking up people all feeling as depressed as you from 8 billion hotels before depositing you at the terminal where your flight is running 3 hours late and the only shops open sell dried up cheese croissants and terrible coffee.

Or maybe when you have been chucked out of your hotel room at 10am so the next lot of guests can sit on your veranda with a pina colada whilst you try to ‘enjoy the facilities’ whilst living out of a suitcase and using the communal shower facilities (which on one memorable occasion for me were smeared with human excrement) before getting on that coach and… see above.

Or you have to catch a train from Biarritz to Paris and then from Paris to London and then from London to home and you are finding it nigh on impossible to get the hire car into the incredibly tight multi storey in Biarritz , return 3 car seats across a very busy road whilst wheeling 5 suitcases and managing those three car seat occupants and it is 40 degrees in the shade. 

Etc.

Currently I can only dream of such privations.

On our current staycation we have hit the tipping point on Day 3.

Of 10.

We are currently caravanning in Northumberland and in the first 2 days we had weather. The weather did not stop us enjoying Lindisfarne Priory and Holy Island on Day 1 (including a cycle across the causeway for hubby and kids) nor Alnwick Castle and Gardens on Day 2 (although not Seahouses on the way home which hubby asserted was ‘lovely’ and which really wasn’t and turned out to be a step too far).

Although we had weather we also had coats and hats and hike boots and therefore we could deal with it.

Then Day 3 hit. We had already decided Day 3 would be a day around the campsite. It did indeed turn out to be a day around the campsite mostly because we were hemmed in by unrelenting pissing down rain. It started in the small hours and was quite relaxing whilst we had a lie in with cuppas and the paper.

It got less relaxing once we headed outside and found that our awning was basically a river. Thereby rendering most of our shoes and kit soaking wet.

To give us a break from the Chinese water torture sound of unrelenting pissing down rain on caravan roof we eventually decided to venture out to Berwick upon Tweed, a place which you will know if you have read Winter is Coming is one I had decided never to return to. It is 19 years since I froze all my digits off walking the walls in November. It hasn’t got any less grim. That probably wasnt helped by the unrelenting pissing down rain (did I mention that already?) which had now hit 12 solid hours.

Anyway we found a cafe for lunch, spent a happy 30 minutes and a lot of cash in a sheet music shop (which I haven’t done since a year last April when I found a similar treasure trove in Penrith another town with many independent shops), was disappointed by the cycle shop and spent a small fortune in Go Outdoors. Along with many other people a lot of whom were in flip flops and shorts and were buying up the waterproof clothing aisle. They had not prepared for weather at all. We also bought more rock pegs to try to peg down more of the awning and prevent the torrent passing through. That turned out to be a good move.

We were then pushed back to the site by the unrelenting pissing down rain and a date with the campsite swimming pool. I demurred (having had more than my fair share of water for the day) and I spent the hour doing loads of washing in my in laws’ static caravan (considerably dryer than ours) and emptying the caravan toilet in the unrelenting pissing down rain.

We had a nice curry cooked in the caravan by Youngest which went some way to masking the hideous smell of 5 pairs of drying trainers and then decamped to the in laws for the evening for warmth, alcohol and less fetid air. I don’t actually drink alcohol. Its days like day 3 when that seems totally irrational. 

Anyway we had to eventually go back and transform the caravan from its day configuration to its night configuration (a process that involves a kind of sliding block puzzle of cushions and duvets and pillows and PJs and teenagers made more difficult by 5 pairs of wet trainers whilst husband is abluting in the shower block (every damm time)) and went to bed. Assured that tomorrow would be a better day.

About midnight I was awoken by the howling gale that was now besetting our caravan and driving the continued unrelenting pissing down rain sideways.

I knew the south had been beset by high winds from Storm Fuckwit but the forecast had not mentioned them getting so far north. Nose bleed north.

(I know, by the by, that it was not Storm Fuckwit but its actual name escapes me. I know we had Storm Ellen about a week ago so I know that it is an F and male (bloody men) and Fuckwit seems as good a name as any).

We were not particularly worried about the actual caravan it weighing more than a small house but our inflatable awning was flapping alarmingly against the side. The inflatable awning had gone up really easily. This now seemed more than a little alarming and I was starting to miss the steel poled edifice that took two days to erect in balmy Norfolk. We had visions of it taking off and acting like a some sort of kite sail and dragging us across the site. This probably would not have happened but in the dead of the night such things loom large.

Husband decided to go out in the unrelenting pissing down rain and gale force winds to try to secure it back down with those new rock pegs.

He did so and in the process woke up all the kids (and probably our neighbours too) so we lay there listening to the wind and the slightly less flappy awning and the kids sighing and wondering which shake of the van was the kids turning restlessly or the gale force winds for about an hour until the awning was once again flapping free.

This set a pattern for most of the remainder of the night.

No one really slept. The unrelenting pissing down rain continued. The gale force winds continued. Our paranoia continued. The smell of drying trainers continued. I prayed for day light. And deliverance. 

When we awoke at 6am we seriously doubted we could stomach our planned trip to Edinburgh. What I actually felt like doing was stuffing all the wet gear in the van/ car/ bin, hitching up the caravan and driving home to civilisation and brick walls. 

Anyway we forced ourselves to carry on regardless. And actually we have had a great day. The weather was mixed again. But it was warmer than here and there were dry shops and a castle and Costa and MacDs. And a great view of the sea from the train.

And I remembered my umbrella. I am sure after a (hopefully) good nights sleep we will be back to enjoyment again. 

Until Friday the weather forecast for which is ‘heavy rain and a fresh breeze’  all day. 

Ouch. 

 

 

 

 

Trust in me… — August 24, 2020

Trust in me…


We are currently on holiday on Northumberland. Some of you know this from Winter is Coming. Today we went to Alnwick Castle and Gardens which has re-opened (albeit on a restricted basis) and it was 12 degrees and wet. This did not dampen our spirits as we got wet(ter) in surprise fountains and ran manically down tree corridors and got lost in bamboo labyrinths.

A day out at Alnwick is unusual for us. And the reason is because it is not part of the National Trust or English Heritage. We are card carrying members of both and love nothing more than to flex our membership and avoid any privately owned houses.

We made an exception for Alnwick as it is really cool.

We have taken our kids to National Trust properties and English Heritage sites since they were tiny. We don’t have that many near us in Bedford but Wimpole Hall Farm and Angelsey Abbey have been perennial favourites along with Wrest Park. And Christmas is not Christmas without our annual pilgrimage to Waddesdon Manor and it’s amazing lights and decorations.

Every year we go on an extended family Easter holiday (not this year obviously) to somewhere in England and it is great when we go to a location with many of these places. Over the years we have seen everything from work houses to the small residential houses of authors to enormous stately homes to massive castles to battle fields to priories to coastline to seals to lighthouses to tile museums. There are so many wild and wonderful properties to visit.

Some take a whole day like Dover Castle or Chartwell or Sutton Hoo or Battle. Some are little gems like Henry James’ house in Rye or Scotney Castle or Igtham Motte. Some blow my mind like Orford Castle (awesome plumbing) and Standen (amazing arts and crafts) and Hardwick Hall (Tudor I love the tudors).

But all these places have one thing in common. They bring history to life. My kids have learnt more about their country’s history in these places than anywhere else. We have seen every era. Discussed the War of the Roses, the Civil War, the Reformation, the World Wars, Viking’s, Saxons, Tudors (lots of Tudors), the Industrial Revolution, and everything in between.

English Heritage mainly does castles and priories. Often ruined. Very often quiet. You can usually get an audio tour. And a wooden sword.

National Trust are usually grand houses (or smaller ones) with gardens and often parklands. As well as the history my children have learnt about trees and plants and kitchen gardens and Capability Brown and Repton. There is always a cafe selling cream teas. And a shop with blankets and chutneys.

We have a fridge rammed with magnets from all the places we have visited.

Recently the National Trust has been in the news for a leaked document that suggests it may need to close all but 20 of its properties to save cash. I sincerely hope they can avoid this. Although in the relaxation of lock down we have still enjoyed the gardens and parklands of Felbrigg and Sheringham Park it is not the same without the houses. The houses and their contents (including the teasels on chairs) bring it all to life. As do their wonderful guides full of stories and interesting facts.

I paid my membership throughout lock down as it is not all about getting my ‘money’s worth’ but also about ensuring these places remain open for everyone.

On the way back from Lindisfarne yesterday (English Heritage) Eldest rain a quiz for us. He read the descriptions from either handbook of places we have visited over the years. One point was available for the name of the property and one for the correct county. It was amazing how many we got right, let alone had visited.

The National Trust and English Heritage are woven into the fabrics of my kids’ lives. They remember many places with great affection. As well as huge numbers of facts. (Mainly about re-redorters and lodges at the entrances to parklands and which is a beech tree all of which are my areas!).

I hope to be able to gift them memberships for their families in the future, and indeed go with them on some trips as my mother has done. And bore my grandkids about latrines and tree species and gatehouses.

Let’s hope this virus does not mean the end of such experiences.

Winter is Coming…. — August 22, 2020

Winter is Coming….

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So today we set out on our second round of ‘Caravanning in a Pandemic’….still not as intrepid as it sounds but perhaps a little more so than last time.

And that is for two reasons: 1) winter is coming and 2) we are oop north.

Let’s take 1) first. In England the long summer school holidays run from mid July to early September. This isn’t that great for many reasons. The light lasts longest in June when in usual times kids are sitting very important exams with BBQs in neighbour’s gardens running on until 10pm and hay fever at its peak. And anecdotally the weather is usually best in May, June and early July. See my exam point above again…

By this late in August one can smell that winter is coming. The light changes and gets that slanting misty feel which makes driving at about 8pm very tricky. It completely disappears at 8.30pm- those runs you were doing (I say ‘you’ because I don’t run but my offspring do) are seeing you return in the dark- not ideal.

There is a bite to the wind. All those beautiful lush gardens and hanging baskets are looking dry and yellow. I actually don’t like August much. It is a nothing month. A time when you feel you should be having a ball but all you really feel is like all those Winterfellers…. for winter is coming. It might hide behind a brief Indian summer, always after the kids have returned to school, and it might break you in gently with conkers and blackberries and kicking fallen leaves with gay abandon whilst avoiding dog shit. But it is there. Lurking.

This year it promises even more menace with predictions of gloom and virus resurgence.

It is against this backdrop that we got up at 5am (in the dark, note people) to set off for our next caravanning trip (so far with water but we got this far last time so we ain’t counting our chickens yet….if you are baffled please read Corona Camping).

And we arrived at 12.30pm. Because we decided to come to Northumberland. But not just Northumberland the northern most part of Northumberland. We are actually nearer to Scotland than the next major English city. Point 2)…

My husband booked the site. He is from the north east. But even he is a southern softie in these parts. People from north Northumberland probably feel the same about those from County Durham as geordies feel about those people from the midlands, places like Sheffield. We sailed past Sheffield before we stopped half way.

We booked the trip to meet up with my in laws who still hail from those parts. My husband must have said about twenty times “I didn’t realise just quite how north we are going”….

The one upside of the journey was that we got on the A1 at Bedford and got off it at the entrance to the camp site.

I am not sure we have ever done that many miles on one road before. About 270 in total. It is a truly astonishing road. Motorway and 3 lanes in places and then up here single carriageway and full of tractors and hay wains (well lorries but you get my drift). There are service stations with Greggs and Costas and caravan parking. And road side burger vans in parking bays.

Today it felt a little interminable. If I am honest.

Anyway 6.5 hours after leaving we made the site. It is fine, a little rough around the edges but on the whole fine. I am not sure there will be any moth walks.

Already we have visited Berwick upon Tweed. For duck tape (all that water has it’s downsides) and gooseberry yoghurts (not from the same shop I hasten to add). I vowed never again to ever visit Berwick after we came for the day during a holiday to mark our 1st wedding anniversary. We had booked a hotel whose exact location now escapes us. What we remember most about it was the ‘swan’ theming of our room. Even down to the gold swan taps that spewed hot water. Luckily in copious quantities. For we got married in November and so the holiday was a little parky. (That is pretend northern speak for cold).

We decided to spend one day walking the walls of Berwick. The wind was whipping mercilessly off the North Sea. I have to say it was probably the coldest I have ever been. Except for that other short break my (not yet) husband took me on to the Fatted Lamb in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria (another would be northern place) when we got snowed in and the pub had a power cut. I had to swap bed sides with my (not yet) husband as the draft through the window was making me so cold even in thermals, bed socks and PJs….and as anyone in a long term committed relationship knows swapping bed sides is only a last resort when all else fails…

But today I had to brave Berwick as it is the only place between us and Scotland.

The weather forecast for this week is best described as ‘mixed’. We have already had some weather. I was fitting that duck tape in the rain. Quite heavy rain. It was hard to see if I had fixed the leak to be honest (I hadn’t by the way).

We have rather optimistically brought the wet suits… hmm…

Anyway what we will probably spend most of the week doing is visiting castles in the rain. There are a lot of castles. Due to that Scottish border proximity. There is also part of a wall. To keep them out. Maybe it gave Trump the idea. But then it was built by the Romans. We have learnt since then. Walls don’t work and are very expensive. And anyway currently most Scots want to keep us out not vice versa….

And we will be walking along mostly empty beaches, often overlooked by castles and priories. And probably digging a big hole. I will be wearing my hat. I brought two. Both are woolly.

For although it is very north and has weather and many tractors Northumberland is absolutely stunning. We will be sure to make the most of that. Before we get back on the A1 and get off at home.

Waiting — August 17, 2020

Waiting

Currently there is a lot of waiting.

There is micro level waiting. To enter a supermarket or a bank. For a haircut booked once salons reopened for the first available appointment which was weeks later. For on line packages of clothes much needed after months of growing (upwards or outwards). For the end of a 14 day quarantine period after that trip to France.

There is macro level waiting. For schools to reopen. For a vaccine. For life to return to normal. For a dental appointment. For cancer treatment. For a hug with your mum. For certainty.

And then there is the waiting being imposed on around 700,000 children awaiting c 5 million GCSE results on Thursday.

There is not level to describe this waiting except for that free falling feeling you get when you know someone is going to give you bad news but you don’t yet know what it is.

Or it is like trying to stop your car in vain as it hurtles towards a pile up. In this case that pile up being A level results.

This whole sorry mess is unbelievably stressful for over a million kids.

And it was avoidable. At so many turns.

But yet again this government has shown a total disregard for young people.

And if anyone else tweets about failing their exams I am likely to explode. The clue is there…you failed. These kids have not even had that luxury.

And now the opening of schools maybe threatened by this debacle. Making it more and more likely next years cohort will find themselves in this position.

As a parent of a Year 11 and Year 10 I can honestly say that all those petitions to scrap GCSEs for next year need to be withdrawn.

I would not wish this on anyone.

Life ain’t fair…. — August 12, 2020

Life ain’t fair….

When I was a kid and I uttered that oft bemoaned phrase 

“It’s not fair!”  my mum would always reply 

”Life ain’t fair!”

How right she was. As one gets older one realises more and more the fundamentally unfair nature of life. The fairness of who gets the last home made orange lolly from the freezer, you or your slightly younger brother, or who has to clear the table after tea begin to pale into insignificance in the face of the total lack of equality between people’s life experiences. 

My kids are still at the stage where that ice lolly is the most important thing. Even though they are approaching adulthood (in a long and tedious way which seems to involve two steps forward and 20 back) they are still mostly stuck in their own small world.

And generally what a privileged world that is. However it seems that whilst teenagers are able to rationally understand the general unfairness of the experiences of minorities or refugees or those unfortunate enough to be born in countries torn by war, poverty or famine (or all three) they are simultaneously completely and utterly fixated on their own situation. 

And recently we have been playing a lot of the ‘unfairness game’; that is who has been most affected by the current pandemic. 

On the face of it none of my children have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. No one we know has even had it let alone been ill or tragically died. Both their parents still have jobs. There has been food on the table. Love and reassurance a plenty.  Birthday gifts. A staycation. On line school. 

But these things mean nothing to my teenagers. Subconsciously they are probably appreciated although outwardly one would never know. Because these are things they expect. Take for granted. And maybe that is the way it should be. 

What they focus on is what they have lost. Exams, school learning, social lives,  sport, tours, music, the summer following exams and the adventures planned. Pointing out that they have it better than a lot of others does not help. And it feels like a real loss to them. 

And actually it is. These things are not important in the scale of climate change or catastrophe in the Lebanon but they matter to millions of kids.

And I think what they have actually lost most is their sense of security. The sense of continuity. That events will follow a pattern, a time line. And their futures, which seemed mapped out to some extent, are now clouded and unsure even down to whether they will actually go back to school in September or on what basis, or even where.

And all those kids tomorrow and next Thursday getting exam results face an uncertainty no other cohort ever has and I hope (for my next child’s sake) never will. The endless debate and arguing is unsettling and treats these cohorts of children as statistics rather than human beings. 

So actually although in real terms the unfairness of their current situation is small, in relative terms it is huge. 

I/ we need to remember that. 

 

 

Jean Therapy — August 4, 2020

Jean Therapy

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So here is a thing. That is not my arse….I wish.

Loyal readers and indeed friends will know that, barring temperatures hitting 25 plus as has recently happened for a few days here, I always wear jeans. If you want to understand more about this I suggest you read Let’s Not Skirt Around the Issue– still my most read post of all time….

I have a few pairs of jeans but hitting age 50 and a serious Tyrrells salt and vinegar crisp habit saw me limited to 2 pairs that fitted comfortably.

These pairs are from a well known retailer, are the same size but different colours, skinny fit, high waisted, branded ‘lift, firm and shape’ (and let’s be honest who over the age of 30 doesn’t need help in that department), one pair light denim, one pair indigo.

Until about 5 years ago I was a fan of the boot cut. I still have a couple of legacy pairs of these. One pair that I wore to death now have a slit in the knee which is quite fashionable amongst teenagers but probably a pit passe on a 50 year old but I still put them on to clean toilets. The other pair are my designer ones that I bought at a charity fashion show held in aid of the NCT which I helped organise and was indeed a model at about 2 months after I gave birth to Youngest, so nearly 13 years ago. I can still just about get into them and they are lovely but they are just a bit too long and only really work with 6 inch wedges….so not great on the school run… but I do wheel them out to every 50th birthday party, holiday disco and wedding reception (second times around mainly now). How I was in better shape 2 months after giving birth than now remains a sore point. See my earlier reference to Tyrrells.

I also have a pair of Levi’s. One day about 7 years ago a friend (who is in great shape) persuaded me into a Levi’s shop (when such things were fun) in order to have my ‘curve‘ analysed. Well my curve was described as ‘bold’. Which I believe is £75 a pop jeans retailer’s code for ‘fat arsed’. A perky 20 something persuaded me to try on a 28 bold and then persuaded me into a 26 bold. Even before my Tyrrells habit took hold they were snug. Which is apparently the idea. And they did look amazing with boots. Once I wrestled them over my arse and hips and into place. I had flash backs to my teenage years when jeans were so tight we used coat hangers to pull up the zipper. Every so often I would get them out of the wardrobe and wonder why I had not worn them in a while. I would put them on and once in place be really quite happy with the look. Then I would need a wee in a hurry and remember why I don’t wear them. They are the most expensive jeans I have ever bought £ per wear wise. After a day of wearing them I ache to pull on a pair of joggers. I keep them I think partly as a salutary lesson about the power of a sales person appealing to your vanity by mentioning the number 26 and partly in a semi aspirational way if I ever find the will to make the most of that Weight Watchers subscription (was sort of working pre lock down and then abandoned when everything worth living for was abruptly suspended and the thought of not eating crisps became more than usually intolerable). I will probably never wear them again. Maybe Youngest will.

I also have a pair of red skinny jeans I bought on a whim one spring day when the sun was shining, they only really work abroad. And I ain’t doing that again anytime soon.

So just before lock down I was down to my 2 old faithful pairs of jeans. Those skinnies as mentioned above.

The indigo pair went fist around the zip. They are still wearable but fragile. Then the light denim pair developed a hole in the arse. I have a bad habit of putting my phone in my right back pocket, sitting in the car, and then getting it caught on the car seat as I get out. This has taken its toll and the pocket became ripped from the rest of the fabric leaving a fairly substantial hole. Enough to show a bit of knicker. My knickers are not worth showing off (M&S high leg, were white not really anymore, a touch of baggy elastic). My husband started to complain.

So the time had come to buy new jeans. Logically enough I ordered 2 pairs of exactly the same jeans in the same size and the same colours. They arrived. And they are just a little on the snug side. Not enough to go up a size but enough to mean I am back in relief at getting into joggers mode. (I am not sure why the font here is so small…it may be a metaphor or something).

I don’t get this. Why change the sizing? It isn’t as if jeans loosen off with wear. In fact I am dreading that first put on after a wash moment. Always tough. Bound to be a right pain with these particular pairs. And yes I have a Tyrrells addiction but these size jeans fitted fine just last Friday….

Anyway I will persevere. I have no choice. I am not going jeans shopping in person in the middle of a pandemic. Jeans shopping is bad enough normally what with all that struggling in and out and having to remove shoes every time whilst trying to avoid looking in the unflattering mirror (all fitting rooms have lighting designed to make one’s cellulite look worse)  just to decide that yet another pair is not quite right. This is why once I find a style, size & brand that fits I just keep buying them. And why it is so annoying when retailers decide to change them.

Please stop. Thanks.

 

 

Beach Snob — July 26, 2020

Beach Snob

No sand…

So here we are in sunny Norfolk. I am being a bit kind here as yesterday evening it was anything but sunny as we sat in our caravan listening to the thunder and the rain pounding on the roof and thanking our lucky stars that we weren’t still in a tent.

Tomorrow, the day before our departure, and hence the day of the great awning dismantling (a virgin procedure at that) torrential rain and 40mph winds are forecast. This has thrown our plans into some disarray. It could be worse, though, we could be in Spain. No really we could be, had we not decided to cancel in April and forfeit the deposit. That is the best grand I ever spent. We would have flown yesterday just before Tui pulled out again and the 14 day quarantine period was reintroduced.

Phew.

Anyway we have decided to ignore the great awning dilemma and have a beach day.

We have had 2 beach days on the holiday so far.

Before I describe those I must take a moment to introduce my husband. It is pertinent here as one of the things you need to understand about my husband is that he is a beach snob.

To my mind the perfect beach day involves sand, sea, tea, icecream for the kids, a fish and chip shop, a lavatory and usually some amusements. I won’t be frequenting amusements currently as I cannot comprehend how it is remotely possible to make them covid secure. My kids missed 4 months of school due to children being considered so covid unsecure and so I resent the fact that a small unventilated room full of shared machines and dirty coins (I used to work in a bank and I learnt there that a frightening amount of coins test positive for cocaine; a virus should have a field day) with staff who usually never venture out of their booths except to dispense one lollipop for 1,569,436 tickets are allowed to open first.

Usually in the UK to achieve such delights one needs to venture to a seaside resort. Like Cromer. I really like Cromer. When I get bored of the beach (usually after I have been required to play around 8 different ball games and been shamed and laughed at thoroughly for not being able to catch/ throw/ hit a ball by my obscenely sporty offspring) I can have a wander round the shops selling shell ornaments, jigsaw and enormous sweets in the shape of dummies. Even with a face mask this is still appealing to miss another round of French cricket.

This holiday my husband had other ideas. He has an aversion to well facilitied resorts. He finds them beneath him. He is a beach snob.

Unluckily for us the Times published a guide to Britain’s best beaches this week and 2 were local to us.

To be fair the first beach day was  not designed to be a French cricket and chips affair. My husband decided we should walk from Cley on Sea to Blakeney point to see the seals. He advised me this was 4 miles.

We arrived at Cley and set off. Like the majority of beaches round here it is made up of shingle carefully sorted by the sea into size grades based on the difficulty of wading through them. We schlepped for what felt like a couple of days until we reached the halfway house. Which was a quarter of the way…. my husband informed me that the walk back was also 4 miles but inland so easier on the knees.

We finally reached the dunes which are actually a step up walking difficulty wise and ate our lunch. It was at this point that my husband read the second part of the walk and discovered that we had to schlepp back along the beach after all. I lost my sense of humour.

Anyway the dunes were full of amazing dune plants which I had some fun identifying with my plant ID app. And we then walked on some boardwalk (utter bliss) and then on some more dry sand (grr) and finally we reached the National Trust ranger who was banned from sharing his scope so we couldn’t see any of the seals or the 3000 nesting birds except as dots in the distance. He was a font of knowledge though and it was lovely to hear all the birds.

The 4 mile trudge back wasn’t so great. At one point Eldest and Youngest began a Disney singalong to pass the time. That was a low point.

Anyway the day was one of those that you look back on with hindsight and think you enjoyed. Which to be fair in parts I did. I would probably have enjoyed those parts by driving to Blakeney. But there you go.

Anyway our next beach day was going to be a full french cricket and wetsuit affair. We loaded the car with everything required for such a day including no less than 6 sorts of ball and set off to travel the 12 miles to Holkam beach listed as number 2 in the aforementioned Times survey. As is the way in Norfolk those 12 miles took 45 minutes and several near misses with range rovers.

It would appear that there are an awful lot of Times readers currently in Norfolk. I probably could have guessed that from the number of times a range rover has nearly crashed into us head on by driving far too fast down the single track lanes. The car park was rammed. The queue to pay stretching out in a socially distanced conga to somewhere near our campsite.

What the Times had failed to mention about this 2 mile long secluded beach was that it is at least a 30 minute schlepp across dry sand and/ or marsh full of sea lavender (the clue is in the name) and wet dogs off their leads that shouldn’t be) to the sand and then a further 15 min schlepp to the sea. Sea and sand proximity is not good.

And there are no facilities at all. No tea, no shops, no lav. Anyway we made the most of it and I played beach tennis and French cricket and was laughed at as is tradition and 3 of the idiots made the extra 15 minute schlepp to go in the sea and then we all schlepped 30 minutes back (this time through a pine wood which was a little easier). And then we travelled the 45 minutes back to the camp site and the luxury of a wee.

Today is forecast to be lovely. Yet again husband decided we should have a beach day. On a beach that has made the top 10 of Britain’s best beaches in the Times. Overstrand.

This time we drove through Cromer to get here. So close and yet so far. We arrived at the car park where some people were sitting in deck chairs next to their cars. I mocked them. It is such a British thing to do. To drive to a seaside and sit in the car park. Wierd.

Any way this car park had lavs. We used them, loaded up and started to trek down the slope. When I say loaded up imagine every shoulder and hand of 5 people occupied with carrying burdens of various shapes and sizes.

On our route down we saw a cafe. My spirits lifted. Tea and lavs ticked off the list was a win.

It became apparent that there is one massive downside of Overstrand beach. There is literally no beach at high tide. None. High tide was precisely the time we arrived. We are all now sat on the prom/ sea wall waiting for the beach to appear. We are not alone. This may explain the deck chairs in the car park.

There is sand in Cromer.

The prom is nice
Corona Camping… — July 22, 2020

Corona Camping…

So many moons ago, about last August, just after we returned from our summer holiday in France we began the annual ‘Where shall we go on holiday next summer’ debate.

This is a long and often fractious process with wildly differing views and opinions and indeed aspirations.

Suffice to say that Eldest and I won out and we booked 2 weeks all inclusive in the Canaries. We had been to this particular hotel twice before please see Sunbed Wars for further info.

Then the pandemic happened. The quite astronomical balance was due by the beginning of April, (never have 3 kids seriously or if you do never allow them to grow up) people were struggling to get refunds for holidays actually cancelled and it was likely that even if we were able to go by late July all the best bits of an all inclusive (buffets, discos, karaoke, squashing balloons against virile German chests etc etc) were unlikely to be allowed. Add to that booking a pool slot or beach hexagon and wearing a mask in 38 degree heat and the whole idea seemed, well frankly, much less appealing.

So we cancelled. And yes we lost the deposit. But hey if you can afford 2 weeks in the Canaries you can afford to lose the deposit. And someone’s job might be saved.

My husband then began another round of the great and now twice annual ‘Where shall we go on holiday this summer’ debate but with bells on.

He decided to buy a caravan.

My initial reaction was one of horror. This is often the case. I am wont to see the downsides in his hair brained ideas.

Once I calmed down it seemed like a relatively good plan. We were still in the midst of full lock down. But logic and rumour dictated that camping sites were likely to open early on due to them being outside and naturally socially distanced. A caravan with it’s own loo and shower meant that if shared showers we ruled out we could still go.

We are quite good campers and had all the gear. My hips no longer cope with more than 3 nights sleeping on the floor so a caravan would allow for a longer stay.

It cost about 2 lots of the holiday we had just cancelled. And had a resale value.

Hubby did the research, as he likes to do, and found our perfect caravan for sale at a local ish dealer and booked a showroom visit on the weekend that became allowed.

We also booked two campsites. To begin with hubby was keen on north Devon. I reminded him that on our trip to Woolacombe in February half term we had nearly had kittens driving our car down the really very narrow roads flanked by high solid verges and having to badly reverse when meeting a tractor coming the other way. I suggested that our cortisol levels may take 10 days to return to normal if we added an 8ft wide caravan into that mix. We went for Norfolk (flat, relatively wide roads, soft hedging) and Northumberland (A1)…

Again this was a punt. Neither site was open or knew if they would be. However the Norfolk one was doing full refunds and the Northumberland one was for the end of August and cheap as chips it being oop north.

The site in Norfolk was well known to us as we had been numerous times in our tent. We knew the pitches were generous and the site large.

The weekend of our caravan viewing arrived wet and miserable. We took the kids (the whole event had the feel of a carnival as the kids had not been out of our village at this point for 3 months) and even Eldest who remained sceptical was won over by the ingenious cupboards and fridge.

So we purchased, collected a few weeks later and spent 2 hours manoeuvering it onto our drive, emptied our camping trailer into it, sold the trailer and tent and waited for our holiday to arrive.

And now we are here. Thankfully all the planets aligned. We managed to get the van off our drive with only minimal damage (when we manoeuvre it back on the drive upon our return we must park it further away from the fence), tow it successfully and reverse it onto the pitch with the motor mover which I am so glad we bought as our reversing failed spectacularly. As soon as they are allowed again we are booking onto the Caravan Club’s reversing course… I can vouch for the fact that watching you tube videos is absolutely no substitute for doing it in person.

The communal facilities are open here which is fortunate because during the first night we had a spectacular water leak which saw us awaken to 2 inches of water on the floor, sodden carpet and flooded cupboards..not so ingenious now… a repairman and part is coming Fri evening.

We also failed to put up the awning correctly (the instructions made IKEA ones look comprehensive) and so it nearly broke on that first night under the weight of the pissing down rain. But it didn’t and we worked it out the next day.

After 5 days here are my observations about staycating in a caravan (without water) during a pandemic:

The facilities which are usually clean here are pristine.

The site is half empty which means there are no queues for anything. Except the shop. And plenty of space to play cricket, footie, catch etc. And to try to reverse your caravan (badly)…

There is a booking system for everything from pool, to tennis, to moth walks.

This favours the organised. And that is me all over. Before we had even left home I had booked 2 National Trust gardens and parklands.

The National Trust is still doing socially distanced al fresco cream teas. Thank god.

It is the first time in a long while that I have forgotten about the pandemic for hours at a time.

Suffice to say we are officially sold on caravanning. We all love the beds. Eldest loves the fridge as he can eat as much cereal as he wants. We all love sitting in it at night playing poker at a table without the need for thermals or head torches.

We may never fly again. Seriously.

I’m Just a Teenage Dirt Bag Baby… — May 28, 2020

I’m Just a Teenage Dirt Bag Baby…

There’s this thing at the moment. Indignation. We are becoming (even more) of a nation of people bristling at the audacity of ‘other people’. Social media is awash with despairing posts outlining the latest transgressions of various ‘other people’. I live in a village. People here are incandescent with the outrageous behaviour of ‘other people’. Never before have I seen that little red, cross face appear so often on Facebook posts as in recent weeks.

Now some ‘other people’ are quite rightly deserving of our incandescent, bristling outrage. Dominic Cummings for instance. Spam that little red face all you like.

But before we condemn whole parts of our society of ‘other people’ to our outrage maybe we should stop and think. And to my mind a group of society which often comes up against a disproportionate amount of these outraged feelings are teenagers.

I live with 16 and 14 year old boys. As well as a nearly 13 year old daughter. I know of what I speak…. I will relay to you how many a conversation goes with my teens. It may help you understand,

About 9 weeks ago everything my teens knew and understood of the world collapsed. One can argue that it did for everyone. Old and young. But bear with me here. Overnight (literally) everything in their lives was curtailed. School, education, exams, social life, romantic life, sport, music, hobbies, holidays, clubs etc.

They got on with it. They toed the line. Mine did not leave the village for 8 weeks. Not even to shop as they were too old to be taken to supermarkets as they could be safely left at home. They settled to home schooling.

Now cast your minds back to the summer you were 16. Really try. Think about what you did and where you went. I can only speak of my own experience and maybe I was very different to the norm but I doubt it. Yes I did my O levels. And I went to school. But I also lived outside. I was at home to eat and sleep and that was about it really. I roamed the streets and countryside in a gang of mates. I went to the cinema. I went shopping. I bought illicit alcohol and drank it in the woods. I had a boyfriend and started on a road of (shall we call it) romantic discovery. I was forced on a 2 week holiday with my parents during which I was miserable and probably a complete pain in the arse.

Maybe you did some of these things. Maybe you worked. Or did more wholesome activities. But I can absolutely guarantee you did not spend 8 weeks with your immediate family and only your immediate family. It is not natural. Teenagers need to push against the rules. Explore the world. Expand their horizons.

Is it any surprise, then, that when we release lock down a little these same teenagers want to meet up?

Mine have stuck by the rules. All of them have met one mate at a time outside. Eldest’s friends want to meet up as a four. He asked our opinion on he and his one mate ‘accidentally’ bumping into his two other mates (well not bumping obviously as they would be 2 meters apart) whilst in the park.

And the easy answer is ‘ it is against the rules so not a good idea’. But, and it is a big but, as he said others are also breaking the rules.

This weekend I spent a lot of time in my front garden. Within one day I saw 2 grandparents walking with 2 grand kids. I saw 2 families with at least 2 young kids each walking together. I also know of people meeting in their gardens. I saw three elderly ladies all sitting on a bench together. All of these things are not ‘allowed’. (Unless they all live together in households. They might. It is unlikely but they might. Even so these sorts of things are happening).

And although ‘allowed’ the media pictures of beaches and beauty spots over the bank holiday do not send a message that many are taking their responsibilities particularly seriously. And do not get me started on Cummings again.

Moreover these things are being done by ‘other people’ who should know better. Who are more at risk than my 16 year old. They are in the parts of society he is being asked to protect by drastically altering his life. ‘Other people’ who should be setting an example to the younger elements.

And actually, yes, I do think teenagers and young people are sacrificing the most. My teens are certainly sacrificing more than me. I had my summers in the sun free of responsibility and with my future laid out before me like a glittering prize. Most of us did. They aren’t and may never. Currently they do not even have the basic developed world right to their education. I would happily sacrifice more to allow them a bit more freedom. Because at the end of the day I am at more risk.

So yes there are ‘gangs’ of teenagers out there. There are also daily transgressions by a whole host of ‘other people’. People who should know better. I doubt many are entirely without sin. If you are please feel free to polish your halo. But be honest.

In the end we all agreed that hanging on a bit longer is the way forward. Trying to stick to the rules helps everyone in the long run. However hard and unfair that may feel. But I am not going to condemn others who feel they cannot tolerate it.

Before we cast stones maybe we should actually stop to think and praise our youth for perhaps one of the most altruistic acts of recent memory.

After all they will be paying for it for the rest of their lives.

Sunday — May 24, 2020

Sunday

Some days are just shit aren’t they. Today I had to deal with my disconsolate daughter who crawled in bed beside me and sobbed for half an hour.

She has been doing ok. Like all of us she is sometimes able to settle into the new routine and deal with the day to day of our new reality.

In fact yesterday was a relatively good day. I drove her to a public park to meet up one on one with a school friend whilst I went to the nearby supermarket. They walked 2m apart round the park. She said they talked about the virus and school and the new age and it seemed to have helped. She hasn’t seen her friends for over 2 months. She is 12.

But today she is again struggling. She is struggling with intrusive thoughts. She is struggling with grief. She is struggling with a sick feeling in her stomach. She is struggling with hours of empty time. She is struggling with loneliness.

She is not alone. There are millions of children out there who feel hopeless even if that’s only some of the time. They are impotent. They cannot help. They are the subject of intense debate. They are carriers and spreaders. They are unwanted; at school, in shops, on the streets, sometimes at home. They cause issues. And don’t think for one minute that they don’t know this.

They are children.

It worries me intensely what all this is doing to our youth and their futures which are all our futures.

And apparently children are resilient. Quite often that is not how it seems.

There is no answer. I have no answers for her. I cannot wave a magic wand. I can’t help make it right.

This virus has stripped me of my ability to do that.

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