Parenting, profundities and humour

Storm Fuckwit — August 26, 2020

Storm Fuckwit


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. 


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. 






Winter is Coming…. — August 22, 2020

Winter is Coming….


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.

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.

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.

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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