Parenting, profundities and humour

September — September 8, 2019



Unyielding leather creases across youthful feet
Unused to such confinement
After days of summer sandals and sloppy trainers
Those flip flop days that passed in a drowsy haze

Sun slanting at an angle more acute
Than the overhead heights of searing heat
Which beckon from only yesterday
Condensation bedews window sills
Behind curtains drawn at an earlier hour
Than of late.

The smell of windfalls lying unused on the lawn
A mocking indictment of crumbles unmade
Freshly chalked side-lines bedecked with watchers
Alternating in and out of coats
As summer remains unsure
Whether to linger longer
Or exit out of the door

Returning to the timetables of life
The schedules and menus and planning
Of time which seems more fleeting

The song of birds earlier and later
Plaintive; mourning what has been
The barbeque lit in defiance
One last time

Clinging onto the last vestiges of the season almost over
Sewing on name tapes in fresh new cotton
Robed in my fleece in the garden
In the last rays of evening light
Contemplating the inexorable slide

To winter.

In Search of Waves… — July 31, 2019

In Search of Waves…

imageSome of my more loyal readers (and let’s face it with my posts getting scarcer and scarcer you would have to be pretty loyal right now; and that scarcity is a whole other story I may write one day) may remember that I enjoy a bit of body boarding…

If you don’t remember why not go back and revisit Surfing or Surfing….or not…. or even If the Suit Fits they all bear some testament to my love of riding the waves. On my belly…. I decided after Portugal to just give up on proper surfing for good, The relief is palpable. Body boarding…all the thrill…much less effort..

In search of waves last summer we went to Polzeath in Cornwall for our annual two week summer holiday. The house we rented was literally a short trot to the beach (admittedly across a car park) and then it was only a small hike up the beach to the waves. We had decided to buy full length wet suits of a decent quality and exorbitantly expensive Dry Robes (TM) which as it happened were unnecessary as Cornwall basked in unusually high temperatures for our entire staycation.

Once we realised you needed to get your boarding fix either very early or very late to avoid the hoards of surf schools and sightseers we had a high old time. The waves were mostly good.

Probably beacuse we didn’t get the Cornwall weather we expected and felt cheated by all that sun we decided to head back in October half term for another go. This time the weather was distinctly Cornwall. We used those Dry Robes (TM) in anger as well as neoprene hats, shoes and gloves. You may scoff but we body boarded in November. In the rain. And howling wind. The waves were ‘frisky’. It was quiet.  But nothing was open. All the cafes and tea shops and chippies had closed up for the year.

In a bid to combine sun & open amenities with not hitting your head on a surf board or taking out a toddler or two on every wave we decided to head back to the west coast of France this year.

We last did this in around 2011. We remembered excellent waves. Long empty beaches. But we have moved on a bit from static caravans. So husband found a house again a stroll from the beach. With a pool and jacuzzi. And a washing machine. We bought a roof box for all the wet suits, neoprene accoutrements and Dry Robes (TM) (the weather in West France can still be a bit hit and miss if memory served) and off we drove across the tunnel and seemingly all of France.

The house is spectacular. The beach beautiful. But not body boardable. We tried, looking a bit ridiculous in our wet suits amongst all the bikini clad French bathing in fairly calm waters, but really, no.

Luckily Rob, who had shown us around the house when we arrived, had mentioned a surfer beach, La Conches, just up the bay. He claimed it was a bit busy with surf schools (sigh) but worth the trip especially as it had life guards.

Yesterday with a surf report of 5-7 foot waves we tried our local beach one more time, gave up after having to walk over the rocks to the waves which were breaking at weird angles, got straight in the car sitting on towels and said Dry Robes (TM) and drove in sandy flip flops and wet wetsuits to La Conches which took all of 15 minutes. We banged the roof box on the car park barrier, got out and walked to the beach.

We were greeted by awesome waves of indeed epic proportions breaking in huge straight lines. The beach was deserted. As it was raining.

So off we went striding into the sea catching wave after wave and skimming the shore with our boards. Looking like we at least needed the wet suits.

We went back today in slightly tamer 3-4 foot waves. Which allowed Eldest to catch them just before they broke much to his delight, and Middlest to try his barrel rolls.

2 hours later we again sat on those towels and Dry Robes (TM) in the increasingly sandy car and drove back to our house and the outside shower. All exhilarated, tired and ready for our baguette, cold meats and cheese.

Why do I like it so much? I love the visceral effect of the sea. I love being so close to all that power. I love fighting my way back out through the breakers. I love the crash of the breaking wave, the gurgle as you ride the breakers and the rustle of the shingle under the board. I love the smell. I love the pull of all that energy propelling you up the beach. I love that time slips away unnoticed. I love seaweed tangled in my feet. I love the feel of sand in my toes. I love the triumph when you catch one just right and go from shoulder high water to inches of foam.

And you see here is the single best thing about body boarding. It is a physical activity that I enjoy and can actually do as well as my off spring. In every other area I lag behind, get tired before everyone else, feel like the lame duck. But with body boarding I out last them all. Except Youngest who could have stayed even longer. It is truly a whole family activity.

At one point during today’s session we all managed to catch the same wave riding it up to the shoreline in what , in my mind, was exquisite harmony. Perfect.

Body boarding is something that I can foresee carrying on with even after the kids have left and into my older years. I imagine myself at 60 or even older still riding those waves.

And then I struggle into or out of my wet suit slowly and often with help and reconsider…. I will have to develop an immunity to the cold. Or a layer of fat. And do away with one altogether. For I never want to give up that feeling of pure exhilaration.




Sorry — June 6, 2017



I feel I should apologise.

Not to all of you.

Some of you live abroad.

But to all my local readers I need to be humbly sorry.

For the unrelenting pissing down rain and heavy winds that we are currently experiencing in the south east of England are a direct result of my children’s school.

Eldest and Middlest are on Activities Week. Let me explain. The school has a commitment to ‘outdoor’ education which means nothing for most of the year (except for a requirement to stand on cold, muddy pitches an awful lot and having to avoid square drill marching cadets on Tuesday evenings) but for one week a year it does mean the children go off on jolly japes and adventures in the great outdoors to commune with nature, learn more about themselves and drive their parents into a tizz over the kit requirements.

Now don’t get me wrong I am all in favour of outdoor education. All my children are in the Scout movement. We camp. We bike ride and swim and hike and surf and climb and take measured calculated risks with pen knives and camp fires. In short we do a lot of outdoor stuff. I love the outdoors. So do my kids.

Middlest (in Year 7) has a week of fiendishly complicated logistics which involve him in 2 local days out at three different locations and a three day, 2 night away trip. Easy peasy? Not really. Despite filling in the comprehensive (bizarrely yellow) forms stating that I was not going to collect Middlest from either off site venue as he has, you know, siblings that I needed to collect from school contemporaneously I still got a panicked call the week before half term during an important meeting demanding to know if I was collecting Middlest from the Country Park on Thursday. I ignored the call, so they rang my husband who knows nothing about logisitics who then also interrupted my important meeting. In any event Middlest is camping in Oxfordshire on Thursday and so clearly even if he hadn’t had siblings I was not going to be collecting him from the local (ish) country park. We got that sorted. Eventually.

Yesterday he spent the day at a local lake. It was too windy to sail. He was a bit disgruntled about that claiming that surely the more wind the better. I explained about capsizing and ramming. Into each other and the bank. He relented somewhat. Not to worry he had enjoyed the kayaking (although he was frustrated at having to go slowly as he is a bit of a ‘pro’ at kayaking (his words)) and the bell boating. And the replacement sailing activity. Sliding down a piece of astro turf straight into the lake and swimming back to shore. He thought it necessary to wear his waterproof coat during this manoeveur. Not entirely sure why. Maybe I should have explained before the event that waterproof does not mean full immersion proof.  And he could have removed all manner of crap from the pockets first. Which I had to fish out and discard later. Yuck.

So a bag of wet clothes, towels, water shoes and waterproof coats awaited me. Not to worry plenty of time to get that coat dry ready for today. Not. It is at times like these that I seriously regret not having a tumble dryer. We love the outdoors remember. And would like it to stay unmolested by global warming for a little bit longer…

I hung the coat on the line outside and left to get Youngest from her footie training leaving Middlest with strict instructions to bring in the coat (and water shoes) if the black ominous clouds lived up to their appearance. Guess how well that went. I suppose I only lost an hour of drying time.

He needed that coat today as the weather forecast was even worse. He was due to spend half the day on a high ropes course which from memory when we did it a few years ago had no shelter at all and the other half in a wood orienteering. This is the wood which is one of our regular haunts in the holidays. The picture up there is what my children looked like after a wet day there last year. I was severely dreading facing the state of the waterproof coat, and indeed hike boots, when he returned.

It has rained solidly all day. And been very windy. In fact it would have been better if he had been sliding into that lake today as he got drenched to the skin anyway from the unrelenting precipitation.

His hike boots are literally waterlogged. His coat sodden. Not to worry these things dry out except that I have to pack them all later in a suitable rucksack so he can take them away camping tomorrow morning. He will be wearing both there. There is no way they are coming into contact with his sleeping bag. Which is currently dry. Looking at the forecast I doubt that will last.

Luckily Middlest is made of strong stuff. Despite his small and slightly puny appearance he has a great capacity for tolerating mud and rain and immense fortitude in the face of adversity. On the Year 6 ‘Outdoor Education’ trip he fell flat on his face in the mud whilst doing a blind trail. He thought he should just dive head first straight through the tractor tyre. He just found it funny as muddy water dripped off his nose. Apparently. Today he was fortunate as he was the first on the high ropes course (he volunteered- that’s Middlest for you, loves heights and climbing and is an all round monkey) and therefore got round the course before it was abandoned due to high winds. Some children had to be rescued after only a few obstacles.

So he will probably enjoy then next three days when again unrelenting rain is forecast- except for tomorrow when they are travelling there- he won’t wash, brush his teeth or change his clothes. He has a plan. Wear his waterproofs over his clothes all the time. Simply remove them before bed. And sleep. In the middle of the tent (or shelter if they are mad enough to go for that) away from the probably muddy door and also the probably wet sides. With his mates. So they can chat.

We packed all the other stuff anyway just in case. No PJs though. No point.

As for Eldest he left for a week on the welsh coast on Sunday. It was nice when they arrived. According to the text we got and the sparse Facebook photos. I glanced at the forecast for the rest of the week, shuddered and decided not to think about it. At least they are spending part of the week in an actual building.

So again my humble apologies.

The weather will improve next week when they are back in Maths and Geography.


The rucksack wearing Middlest




Conkering Hero — October 2, 2016

Conkering Hero


Today has been one of those perfect autumn days. Sunny. Crisp. Warm. There are probably not many of these left here in good old Blighty before the damp and cold of winter sets in.

I love this time of year. The colours are fantastic. Hedgerows are full of berries. Fields have been harvested. Squirrels are busy laying away acorns and beech nuts for winter. Cobwebs shine in the early morning dew. Daddy long legs flutter at twilight. The last hopeful butterflies emerge and dance in the sunbeams. The crispness of the, increasingly later, dawn gives way to a warm sun-filled day.

We have had a lovely summer and autumn here in the South East of England. It took summer a while to get going but during our long school break the weather was generally kind. Unless we had a day planned at the lido.

September has also been generally glorious. There have been many days like today. To start with actually hot, unseasonably so, but now pleasant with the heat of the summer sun ebbing away into autumn. Even so I have line dried sheets and walked coatless much later in the year than usual. A couple of weekends ago Youngest, husband and I blackberried in glorious heat with insects still buzzing. Of course we have had rain, mainly on Saturdays to coincide with pitch side viewing, but mostly it has been set fair.

This weekend was Harvest festival. I have spent a large part of it at church celebrating the bounty this season provides. Eating too much good food. Yammering with friends. Marvelling at the low October light streaming through the stained glass dancing coloured shadows on the floor. Singing Rutter and hymns. Enjoying children serving food and singing Sambas. Including my own.

And today was also the day for our Annual Conker Extravaganza. As to my mind nothing symbolises autumn like conkers.

As a child I can still recall the excitment of finding a spiky case fallen from a horse chestnut tree. An unopened package containing one or possibly two beautiful gifts. Finding such bounty was difficult. All horse chestnut trees near my home were regularly scoured by children with sticks beating the branches to release these packages. One had to get up early and brave that crispy dawn to find them.

Last week I went on a walk to the local bottle bank and passed a beautiful old tree near to our local school. I was amazed to find literally tens of conkers and unopened cases lying underneath. I guess life is busier. Kids have other activities to soak up their time. But even so I find it sad that there are any conkers left for a woman of a certain age to collect on a random Thursday lunch time. Of course I was unable to resist hoovering them up and taking them home for my children.

But really that is not the same as doing it yourself. So today we went off to do just that at a local park. In the well trodden areas I was heartened to discover that conkers were hard to come by. People who had got up earlier than us had been bothered to collect them. So we had to resort to ‘children on shoulders’ to retrieve some directly from the branches.

But in more tucked away areas there were still hundreds to be found on the ground. The slight wind also helped as we had timed it perfectly and newly ripened fruit regularly dropped to the ground around us. It was very exciting to chase after them as they bounced along the grass. Youngest came away reluctantly from one tree pockets bulging with beauties.

Of course there is no use in just collecting conkers. One has to play the game too. Which we duly did in the back garden. Youngest remained undefeated. Middlest burnt through three, Middlest one and myself two.

I have plans for Christmas decorations for the rest of our not insubstantial haul. Maybe a wreath or tree hangers.

Horse chestnut trees are in trouble in this country due to a leaf mining insect and a fungal infection. They are dropping their leaves earlier and often look rather dry and sad by this time of the year. They still produce their wonderful fruit though. I am not sure how many more years this activity will be viable. It will be a very sad day indeed if they do die out.

For as much as we love bashing the bejeebers out of each other’s conkers the real joy is in the collecting and unwrapping of these wonderful free gifts provided by Mother Nature.



Wind Up? — August 9, 2016

Wind Up?


We are currently on holiday in southern Portugal. I think you may have gathered this by now. If you read either of my other two entries- Surfing and Brother Mine, Sister Mine.

On our first day here the weather was decidedly cool. In fact we did start to panic gently. I am not sure the temperature got much above 24 degrees, which even the good old unreliable British Summer can often achieve. Well certainly in my south eastern corner. I know those of you reading this that hail from the west of our isle or the north or, heaven forbid, Scotland struggle to attain such balmy heights. But hey I am sure there are compensations. Deep fried Mars bars for instance.

The local ‘Guest Relations’ manager, who clearly hailed herself from the wet and often disappointingly cool climes of Ireland was quick to assuage our concerns and assert that the sun would be back. I took that with a pinch of salt. I bet she didn’t see much sun in her childhood. So I was dubious on her definition.

Anyway we awoke on the Sunday to much brighter skies. I was relieved. It would have been a shame to fly for two and a half hours and subject ourselves to passport control and 5 different modes of transport in a day to spend two weeks with weather that was available at home. The trees were bending ominously though.

We had read somewhere that this area of Portugal was windy. And when I say somewhere I mean on Trip Advisor, which my husband had been pouring over daily since he booked the holiday last year, giving me regular updates on the reviews left by other tourists of our destination hotel. To be honest it got a little wearing during the depths of February. He had a chronic and classic case of ‘bookers regret’. That feeling one has when one has reserved a holiday in an unknown place on a bit of a whim hoping it will be worth the considerable dough. Apparently the only way to deal with the worries is to read endless reviews. And hope they are all good.

We hadn’t really booked this holiday on a ‘whim’though. We had fancied Portugal for a while. Because I had been there before; pre children, in fact pre husband. And really enjoyed the sardines and beaches and friendly locals, many of whom were tanned and fit and of the male persuasion. And we picked this hotel because it has three room villas and all the pools are heated. This may seem irrelevant when the air temperatures regularly hit the high twenties to early thirties. But it really isn’t. Middlest cannot do cold water. We went to a Greek island three years ago and he would last literally ten minutes in the unheated pool before emerging blue lipped and shivering. Despite it being in the low 40’s air temperature wise. I got sick of playing rummy with him.

The next time we went to Greece we ensured there was a heated pool. We didn’t see him all day. Perfect.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes Trip Advisor. Wind. This part of Portugal (the south western tip where Atlantic meets Med) was apparently windy.

I had stood over my suitcase for a while when packing. I had had to sacrifice my usual middle sized suitcase for the emergency Mickey Mouse case in order to fit in wet suits, sun tent and flippers. The Mickey Mouse case is only an emergency case in the sense that I had to buy it in the States in an emergency to house all the extra purchases that we had made in Disney World. It is actually a fairly well made and laid out case and usually my one of choice. Despite it being adorned with a large silver picture of the mouse himself. It screams tourist. And not really in a very subtle way. But it is not my case of choice when faced with two weeks of packing.

The middle sized case which is usually mine was full of things to enjoy on the sea and to combat the wind. And all the sun cream and toiletries which wouldn’t make a mess of anything that wasn’t already covered in sand from Devon if they exploded in the cargo hold. Middlest and Youngest were sharing one of the two large suitcases, Eldest had the other middle sized one (he is now as big as me and was insisting on such bulky items as pre ripped jeans which his hormones considered essential and my hormones had no wish to fight over) and husband needed the other large case to allow room for the forty eight t shirts he requires on a fortnight’s holiday. It is a standing joke, his over packing. Well when I say joke…

I had packed my thin, flouncy cardigans that I only ever wear on Greek islands or to posh dinner dances. But I was trying to decide on whether to take a hoodie. Because of Trip Advisor. And that oft mentioned wind. The question was what I was going to sacrifice out of my groaning suitcase that already had its extension zip fully unzipped to make way for it.  Mickey’s face was already looking distorted as it strained against my clothing. I decided I could take out a pair of linen trousers but was loath to do so.

In the end I decided to wear it en route. Airplane air conditioning can be over zealous and I could always tie it attractively round my waist in extremis.

My god that was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It is up there with going to university, having children, moving to my south eastern corner of England.

I have worn it at least daily since we got here. I need it in the morning  to get to breakfast and in the evening to walk to dinner. It also best when swimming in those heated pools to not raise your shoulders above the water level. For fear of goose bumps. And that run from pool to towel is… bracing.

For although the sun may shine here a lot no one was lieing about the wind. In fact wind is really under stating it. Gale is more appropriate. The prevailing wind, moreover, is north westerly. And that means it has a ‘nip’. In the evening it is down right cold. There is nothing balmy about an evening spent here. I had a stand up row with Youngest before we left as she wanted to squeeze a pair of jeans into that shared suitcase. And I refused. What an arse I look now as she wears her trackie bottoms to dinner for the umpteenth time. No pretty dresses here.

Eating  al fresco doesn’t really work. It is too cold and anyway condiments and serviettes cannot withstand the breeze for long.

It has its compensations. Waves for instance. I am struggling to think of another. Well it is cooling when it is hot. I guess.

Yesterday the wind shifted direction and came from the south. That was warmer. I didn’t need my hoodie at breakfast anyway. It is moving again today. It seems to be easterly now. Still warmer than before but getting a bit of that ‘nip’ back.

According to the kids’ kayak instructor  they only have 50 days a year without wind.

So upon my return I will be adding to the cacophony of voices mentioning ‘breeze’. I thought on the first day that people were staring in disdain at me and my family in our matching England Rugby World Cup 2015 hoodies. But after a week I realise it is actually envy.

They should have paid more attention to Trip Advisor.



Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot… — July 19, 2016

Feelin’ Hot, Hot, Hot…


So it is finally hot here. Seriously uncharacteristically hot. More than 30 degrees.

We (and by ‘we’ I mean the British) have been moaning on for weeks about our lack of summer. Discussing precipitation and lack of UV.

Someone was listening and so now, almost out of nowhere, we are basking in Mediterranean style sunshine. And of course now we still aren’t happy. We never are. Most people’s kids are still in school. People are having to commute still. Soon the railways will shut as the tracks have become too hot. The shops had given up on summer ever materialising and put all their summer clothes on sale and so now we have to trawl the stuffed, disorganised racks to find some linen trousers that aren’t size 20. And so we are now moaning that it is too hot.

Most schools break up on Friday. And everyone is assuming the rain and mid teen temperatures will then return. It is quite likely.

I am fortunate. Mine are already off school. Yesterday we spent six hours shopping for footwear. Yes six hours. In the heat. That is a whole other blog though.

So I had planned a lazy day for today. Some friends are popping round about four for tea. I had to nip to town for a birthday gift. But otherwise I thought filling the paddling pool was as ambitious as it was going to get.

I achieved the gift purchasing within an hour before it got too hot. I also made the most of the Debenhams swimwear and lingerie sale. Must try all that on later. I don’t try on swimwear and lingerie in the store. There is something unnerving about stripping down to one’s altogether in semi public. And in any event the lighting in those changing rooms is soooo unflattering. At least that is my excuse. I find I look my best in dim lighting.

I got home and hung out some laundry to take advantage of the oven baked temperatures. Then I went into the shed to retrieve the paddling pool.

Part of me thought that if I set it up early enough then the sun would heat the water over the course of the day and allow me to merely use the outside tap to fill it. This is probably nonsense. But I did not really fancy hauling buckets of hot water from the kitchen tap into the garden. In the heat. Have I mentioned the heat?

I located the paddling pool under a dust sheet at the back of the shed. We purchased this paddling pool about two years ago. It is large. Not as large as those that come with filters and require a licence from your water company to fill, but large.

I decided on a large one when Eldest slid down the slide into our old ‘Spiderman’ paddling pool (diameter circa 1.2m) and promptly slid straight out the other side. They could all stand up in it but had to take turns to sit. The new pool was quite expensive. Certainly more than I remembered paying for the Spiderman set up which also came with a free beach ball AND rubber ring- both of which were still going strong. But I remember being extremely impressed when this new pool came with a heavy duty patching kit…well, I thought, years of service will negate the cost.

So anyway as I said I located the pool. Unfortunately our ‘friendly’ mouse family that reside in the shed had also located it and torn it into shreds. I like to think that we have a family of ‘friendly’ mice, all pink ears and twitching whiskers, because the alternative is too awful for words. The nest I found was small and so I do believe it is mice. Hopefully endangered harvest mice or something equally cute. And please do not get back to me with statistics which say things like ‘you are only ever 200m from a rat’….and such like. It won’t help.

So the paddling pool was a no go. I calculated that each ‘use’ had cost about £17…but at least it had kept some friendly rodents in nesting material. Moreover I had promised the friends a paddling pool. And my offspring. So a ‘hunting out new paddling pool’ trip was on the cards. The old paddling pool was not only shredded but also smelt a tad…..fruity. Putting it politely. A ‘tip’ trip was also on the cards.

I have needed to go to the tip for a while. The garage is full of cardboard. And used jars. And a few used bottles. And old clothes that no one else wants. And of course after my footwear escapades of the previous day my house was full of old shoes.

So I emptied a fair proportion of my garage into my boot. Along with the fruity, shredded paddling pool.

Off we went. I promised the kids they could post glassware into the bottle bank as a sort of bribe. They still like doing this. Odd people. We got to the tip. It was hot. Have I mentioned that? It was only after depositing cardboard, supervising glass posting, getting rid of that paddling pool and manhandling large sacks of old clothing into a bank two feet taller than me that I realised all those old shoes were still on my kitchen floor. Damn it.

Anyway there is a large superstore near the tip which to my mind was bound to have a paddling pool. It did. But it was only 1.2m in diameter. Never mind we bought baguettes for lunch. And went off to the DIY store opposite. Some paddling pools were on offer. Again only 1.2m. Yet more shops that had been taken off guard by our sudden and unexpected summer.

By this point the heat and exertion had made me very, very hungry. As I filled up with petrol at the superstore forecourt I was in a quandary. Whether to go to the toy store on my ‘way’ home. Or go home, eat and return later.

In the end we went to the toy store on the way home, ignoring our rumbling stomachs and, according to Youngest, parched mouths. Youngest had remembered seeing the exact same paddling pool, without holes and mice wee, at this toy store when we were in there yesterday purchasing water guns as a slight detour from shoe shopping hell.

She was right. There was one pool left. Once we got someone to serve us we left for home.

We really enjoyed our baguettes.  During them Youngest checked to make sure I would be adding hot water to the pool when erecting it. Damn it. Again.

I am now hiding with a cup of tea before braving setting up the pool. I need to find the electric pump. There is no way I can manually blow the thing up. Not in this heat. And then set the hose running. And I guess ferry the odd bucket of hot water out there.

I am going to get them to sign affidavits in blood swearing that they will stay in the pool for longer than ten minutes and go back in tomorrow even if there is cut grass and the odd dead fly floating in it.

I don’t think it likely though…

Footnote: Handy Hint Service-During the filling of a paddling pool it is always wise to see if the paddling pool has a plug, and then check if that plug is in…my lawn is nicely watered anyway…


Weather… — May 15, 2016


The British are known for many things, not all of them that complimentary, and one of those things is our preoccupation with the weather.

It is true that a lot of small talk on our small island revolves around the weather.
We are obsessed with TV weather forecasts. Weather forecasting apps. The shipping forecast. The Countryfile extended forecast. Even those of us disinterested in rare breeds of sheep or rustic cheese making in the Cotswolds will tune in to Countryfile for that last ten minutes just to catch the extended forecast. I tune in partly because John Craven reminds me of my youth and Matt Baker makes me feel all youthful, in my dreams. But mostly I tune in for that forecast. With the weatherman in casual clothes. They dress it up as if it is for farmers but they know and we know that that slot probably gets higher ratings than Game of Thrones.

I am sure many of our European partners scoff into their chocolat chauds or flaming schnapps about this seemingly inane obsession.

But here is why we are so obsessed. British weather is totally unfathomable. Unpredictable. A right royal pain in the arse.

Take this week as an example. On Friday last week I was still wearing a thermal vest and duvet jacket on the school run. Now it is fair to say that I am nesh. In case you do not know what that means, and many of you may not, it is a term that refers to the fact that I am always cold. Well colder than the average person anyway. I blame my extraordinarily low blood pressure. Once in hospital, I think it was on the second of my two bouts of pneumonia, the nurse had to recheck it because she thought she had made an error with her pressure cuff, that or I was clinically dead, but no, it was just very very low…anyway suffice to say I feel the cold. But even so most of the parents at pick up were in jackets of some description.

I rolled up to Youngest’s football match on the Saturday morning in jeans and the afore mentioned vest and duvet jacket. Obviously I had other stuff on as well, for the sake of decency. By about 10 o’clock I had divested myself of much of it. I had not divested myself of the vest because that would have involved flashing the referee or doing a complicated manoeuvre with sleeves. But most of my other garments were in a pile on the floor. It was damn hot. The sun on the back of my legs was burning through my jeans in a severely uncomfortable way.

When we retuned home I felt as if I had been bitten by some insect on the backs of both knees. But, no, in fact it was just a severe case of heat rash.

So there we have it I went straight from thermal vest to shorts, well ok not straight as I had an unpleasant couple of hours on a football pitch in far too much clothing, but you get my drift.

Sunday was the same. It hit 28 degrees. We went hiking. I had to apply sunscreen. We left the house with no waterproofs but copious bottles of water. We still ran out.

Monday was similar. I worried about Middlest playing long hours of cricket. Luckily they wear long trousers and for some bizarre reason he had his cricket jumper on over his shirt. So only his face caught the sun and thus began that annual process of the freckles on his cheeks and nose joining together. In that really rather endearing fashion that happens every summer. He will hate his inability to tan in a few years, it is all his father’s fault.  I also got five loads of laundry washed and line dried. And thank god I did.

Because then Tuesday arrived. Wet. The sort of persistent, mizzly wet we get sometimes in this country. It rained here all day. Steadily but gently. We are not really given to short sharp bursts of intense and impressive rain. No ours likes to linger ensuring it is unavoidable. Even a brolly doesn’t really help as the rain seems to come in from all directions. It was still warm though. And so there was water vapour coming up from the pavements too creating a sort of mist to meet the drizzle coming down.

Wednesday had promised brighter weather. Well my weather app had anyway. My weather app is often wrong. My husband loves weather apps. He has several. One is called optimistic weather app. We tend to use this when lieing in bed on the first morning of a UK based holiday trying to decide how to spend the day.

Then there is pessimistic weather app. I use this to attire myself for pitch side supporting. Hence my overdressing error of the previous Saturday.

My husband will often look up the weather on his weather app and declare that the weather is not what should be happening. As if the weather should replicate the app and not the other way round. He really gets quite disgruntled. “It shouldn’t be raining now it isn’t four o’clock yet” and such like.

Anyway my app said Wednesday would be cloudy but mostly dry. The air was still damp from the drizzle fest of the previous day so I headed into town in my waterproof coat with my mother. She was not there for weather reasons but just along for the ride.

We went into Boots for some migraine tablets. High pressure plays havoc with both our heads. And in the ten minutes it took us to raise a member of staff we had been transported to monsoon season. The rain was hammering down in a way not often seen on these isles. As I think I have mentioned. It was raining so hard the drops were bouncing up off the pavement. We were trapped in a pharmacy. In the end we used the rear exit and headed through the undercover shopping centre to a coffee shop to allow it to pass. So there was an upside, chocolate orange tiffin tray bake.

Thursday was a non descript sort of a day.  I went out to sing in a concert in the evening with no coat. On the way back to the car it was cold.

By Friday pick up I was back in my duvet jacket. I watched my daughter turn slightly blue in a rounders match. The heating kicked in Friday evening.

And yesterday we were back to football watching. It was one of those days. Sunny in parts and cloudy in parts with a northerly wind with a bit of a bite. It was a woolly hat and sunglasses day. We all got our faces sun burned, or it might have been wind burned. But by golly I had needed that duvet jacket and on occasion gloves.

Lots of people were horribly underdressed. Making me feel cold. That is because some people have a ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ wardrobe and have to make ‘a decision’ about when to swap from one to the other. I do not possess enough clothes for that. My wardrobe is my wardrobe which makes switching from flip flops to knee high boots and back again on a daily basis much easier.

So there you have it. The weather has been weird. And actually this is quite often what it is like here in the UK. We sort of take a run up to summer. One step forward two back. Sometimes we never seem to achieve summer at all.  We all look back on that weekend in May and realise that WAS summer.

I hope this year we get more than that.

Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside… — January 1, 2016

Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside…


We are currently on holiday. I believe I began a post like this before. I think it was Greece is the Word. I would link you to it but I am on holiday. And therefore I am unable to do so. As I lack the IT resources.

Suffice to say that if you do find that post the view from the window on this holiday is not quite the same.

We are spending the week in a house on the Kent coast.

Some of my readership hail from far flung, even tropical places. And so therefore I need to perhaps explain what a holiday by the seaside in England is like in January.

One word springs to mind. Cold.

In the UK we have been experiencing a very mild winter this year. When we left our home it was 15 degrees. Really odd. It should be around ten degrees cooler than that. Anyhoo it has been unseasonably warm. So when I printed off my ‘Family Holiday in the U.K.’ Packing list I nearly discounted the thermals section as well as the wet suit and sun hat section.

But then I remembered we were going to the coast. And I packed them anyway. Thank god.

However warm it is in the UK it is reliably a lot colder by the sea. Especially when that sea is the North Sea. I never go to the British seaside without my woolly hat. Ever. Even in June. Because I will get earache without it. To go with the facial exfoliation provided free by the blowing sand.

In theory it seems a wonderful idea. A break by the sea off season. One envisages bracing walks along the coast. I lasted precisely ten minutes on the sands today watching my offspring roll around after a rugby ball before the cold and the fear that they might tackle each other into a pile of dog muck got the better of me. So I left to explore the slightly less windy town.

And there you notice that other thing about most English seaside towns. They have an air of neglect. Which is even more apparent in the winter. Most of the shops remain closed. The lack of sun and people shows up the peeling paint and rusty balustrades. I feel sorry for these places.

In most you can see the grandeur that was there in the height of the British tourist heyday. Before cheap flights lured us all away to sunnier climes. The Art Deco hotel facades. The huge train stations that would have received thousands of holiday makers each summer. The pleasure grounds. The piers. The boating lakes. But often these wonders have been blighted by neighbouring 60s planning monstrosities. By a lack of up keep. By graffiti. By the insufficient numbers of punters.

And then there are seagulls. Nough said. They pinch your chips and poo on everything. I hate them. Flying vermin.

But then despite all this such places have an appeal. We like 2p amusement arcades where an hour’s fun can be had for a couple of quid.

We like watching the New Year’s Day nutters swimming in the sea…weird.

We like the fish and chips.

We like the ice cream parlours.

We like building castles and shell hunting and chapped lips.

We like crabbing off abandoned piers and rock pooling.

We like looking round tacky souvenir shops.

We like drinking proper tea out of styrofoam cups.

We like coming back and getting cosy.

So, yeah, the Med is great. But so is the North Sea.

If you dress up proper.



Camping…it’s in tents… — September 1, 2015

Camping…it’s in tents…


We have just got back from a three night camping trip.

Well when I say just I don’t actually mean just. Because in order to be in a place to have some time to pen this it is around 3 hours since we returned from our three night camping trip.

In those three hours we have only managed to partially unpack. We still have a trailer full of wet ‘stuff’ to unload and dry out. But that is totally pointless currently. It being slightly….inclement. Well I guess it is a Bank Holiday Monday and so one should expect to need the heating on and a pair of waders.

I have a love hate relationship with camping. I love it in the dry. And I hate it in the wet.

And even that is not strictly true. I love it in the dry but only once we are set up. And I don’t love it in the dry when taking it all down again. And I truly hate it all in the wet.

The things I like about camping are the freedom it affords the kids, snuggling up in layers of thermals in a toasty sleeping bag with all my children within touching distance, the fresh air, waking early, going outside and putting on my whistling kettle and watching the rest of the site wake up whilst supping tea, and the low cost.

None of this is much fun in the rain. Excepting the cost. But even then it feels like good weather should come as standard. Not an added bonus.

Through our years of experience we have decided that the optimum length of a camping trip is between 3 and 6 nights inclusive.

There is no point camping for less that three nights. The ratio of ‘putting up and taking down’-ness to time enjoying the actual camping is too low. And after six nights I cannot stand yet another day of bending down. To do everything. Unzip the door, make a cup of tea, get into bed. Etc etc. I crave worktops and door handles. And a toilet in the same abode as me. I am lucky to possess a cast iron bladder. And I do not drink. So do not need to venture out at night. Unfortunately my children often do. And require some assistance.

Part of the ‘putting up and taking down’ problem is that we do not camp light. This is, in part, down to trying to mitigate the ‘bending down’ issue. So we have collapsible tables, a cooker on legs, pop up dustbin, portable picnic table, very large tent etc.

And on the subject of tents. Tents come under the ‘gear’ category of purchase. My husband has a penchant for buying ‘gear’ for whatever activity he currently favours. He will pour over websites for hours checking reviews and ensuring whatever it is he purchases is the best in the field.

He ordered our most recent tent when our old one was irredeemably broken. Well he ordered a different tent to the one we currently have. Actually it was the same tent but in canvas. He had read somewhere during his extensive research that they have better thermal properties. He had failed to realise that it would weigh about as much as a small elephant. And would not fit in the trailer. Well I could have got it in (with the aid of a small crane) but nothing else would then have fitted. And I wasn’t going to leave all those knee saving devices at home just for a bit of thermal equilibrium.

So I was the one who rang the on line store. They were very good about it. Apparently it happens a lot. Men struggling to comprehend the dimensions on a website. Seeing truly is believing. And they agreed to send me the same tent in man made fibres and remove the huge boxes littering my hall. Which I could not physically move.

Still the tent is a monster. There are five of us so we do need quite a bit of space. But even I think being able to ball room dance in your lounge area in a tent is a little excessive.

However it comes into its own in the wet when all our other equipment has to come indoors. And we want to play endless rounds of Uno with whichever friends we are camping with. When I say ‘want to’…..

So today after a lovely few days when the rain had held off and we went biking and touring flour mills and eating cake and dancing to live bands and playing Bingo and doing scavenger hunts and chatting by our fire pit we collapsed everything. In the pouring down rain.

I managed to get the boot packed before it got really bad. But the gear in the trailer got soaked. We struggled more than usual to manhandle our gigantic tent into the small bag. Probably because there was a gallon of water in it. And also because, yet again, husband could not remember how to fold it. And we had the ‘Great Folding the Tent’ argument. Again. Every time.

Anyhoo as soon as there is a break in the clouds we will be putting the tent up again. In our garden. We will have the great ‘Trying to get the Pins into the Legs’ argument. For the second time in four days.

My boys are getting old enough to share a pup tent. I believe it is time we downsized. And got fibre glass poles.

Or a caravan?

The back of our the garden...
The back of our tent….in the garden…
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