Sunday, 14 August 2016

Week 253- things I have learnt whilst camping...

Things I have learnt from camping in France with two under-fives for a fortnight.

1. Clean out the car immediately if someone pukes in it. It’s not going to smell any better after two weeks in the baking sun.

2. A second bottle of vin rouge seems like a good idea at 10.30pm, but isn’t such a winner at 5am when your two-year-old has done a poo and it’s leaked into his sleeping bag.

3. Download a shitload of Peppa Pig’s onto your iPad, it is the only way to get five minutes lie-in in the morning.

4. After five minutes your kids will lose patience with Peppa Pig and each other, and start fighting really loudly. That’s fine when you’re in a house with sound-proof walls, but in a tent people can hear EVERYTHING. Including your bollockings.

5. You can hear everything from other people’s tents. Not everyone has children but are still ‘noisy’ at night.

6. If you have a cool box, buy those blue freezer things to go in them. And if you remember them, remember they have to actually be frozen, otherwise you are just heating up a shitload of smelly cheese in an insulated hot bag.

7. However big your car, you will always over-pack. Your children will not be able to see each other in the back. You will have no legroom in the passenger seat and it will be like being set in concrete for the best part of eight-hour journeys.

8. However full your car, there is always, ALWAYS room for a fuck load of cheap wine to bring home.

9. Your children will only remember the good bits; making friends, being allowed to go to the playground on the campsite on their own for the first time, spending their pocket money on friendship bracelets and tat from vending machines. They won’t remember having their knees under their chin for the long hot car journey home as they have five boxes of wine in their footwell.

10. I have no idea if number 9 is true. But I’m hoping it is.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Week 251- angry drivers, a raging world and the strength of kindness...

The world feels like a very angry place to live in at the moment.

There is so much rage.

Every time you turn on the news or open a paper there in another example of hatred and fury.

And it feels like it’s spilling into every day life.

Into seemingly ‘normal’ events.

Since Brexit there has been a significant increase in the number of hate crimes being reported.

People who have lived in Britain their whole live being told to ‘go home’ because of the colour of their skin, their accent or the clothes that they are wearing.

What has happened to us? When did it become acceptable for people to be so fucking cruel?

Only yesterday I was driving to a meeting on a busy dual carriage way, and, having moved lanes to let a lorry in had obviously riled the driver behind who had to slow down to let me in.

Having flashed his lights at me, he then proceeded to undertake me and then slam his breaks on, leaving me no other option that to do an emergency stop or crash into the back of his car at 70 miles an hour.

As he drove past me, he and his wife, both in their mid 50s, scowled at me.

There’s no way they could have not seen the child seats in the back.

Or the fact that I was clearly shaken.

What kind of red mist descents on a person where they feel their only way to express themselves is to risk at least three people’s lives?

As I continued with my journey, jumpy and shitting myself every time I heard a beep or a loud noise, I started to get angry myself.

How fucking dare he behave so irresponsibly?

What if I had crashed into him, what then?

Had he thought past that?

What about my children? How would Ben explain to Nancy and Thomas where I was? That I wasn’t coming home, that some fucking prick had acted on his some misguided instinct and changed the course of so many lives in that split second.

I could feel the anger starting to bubble away.

I was gripping the wheel, my teeth clenched.

And then it struck me.

The idiot in the car was winning. I was angry and he was winning.

But I didn’t have to be.

I was shaken but I was OK.

He, on the other hand, has to live with that fury day in, day out.

His wife has to listen to him raging, and shouting and taking risks everyday.

But we do have a choice.

We can decide how we react to things.

How we treat people.

How we live our lives.

To listen.

To think before we react.

We have a choice.

So let’s choose kindness and compassion.

Because we can’t change some of the shit that is going on in the world at the moment.

But we can change how we make people feel in our own lives.

We can hug our children tightly.

 We can stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

We can show kindness.

Because the world is a fucking nasty place at the moment.

But if we feel angry, let's channel it.

Let’s not let it get the better of us.

Let's not be that guy.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Week 250- go the f**k to sleep...

I’ve taken to doing the times table to bore my son to sleep.

Which in itself is proving a bit of a challenge.

I can’t remember anything past the sixes.

And this guy is literally impervious to sleep.

We’ve been scooting, paddling and trampolining today.

I’m knackered thinking about it and I was just watching.

But still he’s wide-awake, singing his rendition of ‘Danny Boy,’ which sounds uncannily like  he’s drunk as he only knows every third word so just makes undecipherable noise for the rest of the time.

So the new plan is to just be so unbelievably boring that sleep seems like the more exciting option.

Which as someone who prides herself on being ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS is not coming easily.

I’d play him the talking clock if it wasn’t so fricking expensive to ring up off a mobile.

This is now my life.

Fun times during the day.

Paint-dryingly boring from 6.45pm onwards.

I could be a freaking super hero.

Super Dull, bringer of boredom.


Sunday, 10 July 2016

Week 249- leftovers, The Bachelorette and squeezing into a bikini...

OK, so I’m thinking, and it is ONLY a thought, but maybe, just maybe, I can’t continue to blame baby weight on the fact that my skinny jeans are so tight they basically cut off the circulation to my legs.

My children, at 2 and nearly 5, aren’t really babies anymore.

And you don’t hear mothers talking so much about losing their toddler or nearly-started-school weight.

I have, to, possibly, face up to the reason that I’m currently sat watching The Bachelorette with my top button undone is not because I have had two children.

It may have more to do with the third helping of roast dinner I ate.

Now, in my defense, it was the children’s leftovers, so, in my head, they doesn’t even count.

I don’t know when I started eating what the kids leave on top of my own dinner, but I don’t even bother with a fork now, just stuff it all in my face on the walk to the dishwasher.

I have been on a ‘diet’ since I was about 13. That doesn’t always mean not eating, but always thinking about not eating even when I’m eating.

But now my ‘diet’ involves eating an average of six meals a day, at least three of them by mistake.

The thing is, it wouldn’t really bother me except we are going to France on holiday in 18 days and I have, for a reason only know to my logical still-awake-at-3am tiny brain, bought the most gorgeous Boden bikini.

Unfortunately the model on the website and the reality in the mirror couldn’t be more different.

Now I don’t think I’ve EVER looked like the Boden woman.

BUT, I can’t even get the bottoms on at the moment, and the picture of her didn’t involve her wearing a pair of pants painfully stuck somewhere round her mid-thighs because they wouldn’t budge any further up.

The problem is, and this must be the Northerner in me, but I have now had them too long to return them, so, at an eye-watering forty quid for the set (SERIOUSLY, what happens to your brain in the middle of the night when a two-year-old has woken you up by kicking you in the kidneys?) I have decided that I will squeeze into the bikini if it’s the last thing I do rather than have spent forty smackers in vain.

It’s not going to look pretty.

Or even comfortable.

But I will get them on.

And at the same time make sure that there is no photographic evidence.

So I have 18 days to lose about a stone.


The internet told me so.

And my first step is to stop eating the kids’ tea.

See, it might not be the weight I carried from pregnancy, but it is child-related weight.

If they ate their tea I wouldn’t have to.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Week 248- showing off, wearing sunglasses in bed and everything going to shit...

My two-year-old son now openly mocks us at bedtime.

I made the cardinal mistake a few weeks ago. I said out loud that I thought bedtimes were going well.

Almost as it slipped out my mouth, the look of horror crept over Ben’s face.

‘What did you say that for?’

‘I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know.’

And as I downed my glass of wine, I could feel everything slowing going to shit.

He now absolutely refuses to go to bed.

I don’t mean that he has a tantrum and then eventually nods off.

He is, 100% non-compliant.

He will close a book mid-story.

Politely respond, ‘no thank you,’ when asked to stop kicking his covers off.

And then just hops out of bed and leaves the room like he’s getting up to have a shower before work.

Yesterday, he sat downing a bottle of milk, legs casually crossed, wearing my sunglasses IN THE DARK. When I asked him if he needed to wear shades in bed, he just pushed them up to rest on the top of his head, before finishing off his drink and leaving the room.

When I do find him, he’s sitting on the sofa, arms folded, requesting Peppa Pig.


He is impervious to being told off.

Non-plussed at threats of having fun things withdrawn.

And generally above any kind of parenting tricks.

Short of lying on him till he gives up the game, I have absolutely no idea what to do.

So, it looks like for the foreseeable future, we have another buddy to sit off with until 10pm.

That will teach me for showing off.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Week 247- REVIEW. Bosinver self-catering cottages, Cornwall.

Before we went to stay at Bosinver, I did a bit of a straw poll of parents to see what they’d ideally want to find at a family-friendly cottage to make life easier.

As we know, packing for a family of four is a nightmare, you might as well hire a removals van. So unsurprisingly the response had been the bulky stuff like a travel cot, or towels.

Luckily, Bosinver had thought of everything.

We’d had a totally awful drive down taking over nine hours; standstill traffic and carsick children do not a good journey maketh. Luckily, we are now so experienced at dealing with puking kids that the moment someone even suggests they feel unwell, we’re there with a carrier bag under their chin.

By the time we reached Bosniver, which is nestled in the valley between St Austell and Mevagissey in Cornwall, I was slowly losing the will to live.

But this place is beautiful, like picture-postcard beautiful. With horses in fields, and chickens and ducks wandering around kind of beautiful, and I could feel myself almost decompressing the moment I got out the car.

There are twenty cottages of varying sizes but the two-bedroom one we stayed in, called Rose, was so tastefully decorated it was like walking into my real-life Pintrest board.

Nanny Pat and Farmer Dave, as they are affectionately known, run Bosinver with a thoughtfulness that only comes from being grandparents themselves. Having lovingly used their grandchildren as their test case, they were able to see, first-hand, what a family with young children needs to have a relaxing break.

It’s not just that there are toys for the kids in the cottage, or plastic cutlery and plates for them in the cupboard; the entire ethos of the complex is built around adventure and play, encouraging parents to let go a little bit and children to play and explore a bit more.

After breakfast on the first day, we joined Farmer Dave to feed the animals. He opened the doors to the coup and about thirty hens flew out, followed by a domineering cockerel that, as if pre-rehearsed, took pride of place on the fence and crowed, much to the delight of the children.

Armed with handfuls of seed, the kids fed chickens, ducks, sheep and goats. And then picked an egg each for us to take back to cook for breakfast. (Well one of them made it that far; I think I’d over estimated the dexterousness of an over-excited two-year-old boy!)

There is a super-warm swimming pool, kitted out with all the floats for children, and bumbo in the changing room. It’s the perfect way for children to burn off some energy, and if that’s not enough, there’s a swing park and trampoline, as well as a games room fully-equipped with a soft play area.

We didn’t leave Bosinver on the first day- why would you? The kids thought it was the best place EVER and, brilliantly, they were so knackered by the evening that the pair of them went straight to sleep without complaint and we were able to sit outside and have a glass of wine with just the sounds of the Cornish wildlife for company.

It feels like they’ve taken the hard work out of going away with children there. I met a family there who return every year, and, this year, having just had their second child, had decided to stay for two weeks and get the grandparents to join them for some of that time to entertain their eldest so they could have a break with their newborn baby.

And I thought, of course, this is the ideal place to come on maternity leave. That first trip away with a new baby is terrifying. You don’t know what you need to bring so you just bring everything. 

It’s more of an endurance test than an enjoyment.

Something to tick off the jobs list to say, right, we’ve survived it, we’ve been away with our baby, we don’t need ever go away again now if we don’t want to. WELL DONE US.

So imagine going somewhere where you could genuinely relax and they take the stress out of the whole experience by providing everything you need. And if you have older children, they can go on the Gruffalo trail or brave the zip wire. The place is totally kitted out for babies up to big kids, both in age and spirit.

For us it was a long journey, but completely worth it for this look on our four-year-olds face in the morning when realising where she'd woken up!

*I am not getting paid for this review, but we stayed in the cottage for three nights free of charge. We knew the owners of Bosinver prior to our stay, but the review is an honest and fair account of our experience there.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Week 246- sumo wrestlers, bear hugs and headlocks, and rolling with the punches...

If family life was personified, I imagine it would look like a sumo wrestler, tensed and ready to get you into a headlock in the clammiest bit of his armpit, and at the point that you are about to tap out, he would release his grip and give you the mother of all bear hugs.

Oh, and while you are trying to tackle/ hug him you are also juggling about ten plates, literally and metaphorically.

Our car has died. (The headlock.)

We only bought it for three hundred quid from my brother so I wasn’t really expecting it to last three weeks, let alone three years.

But, after recent family holidays, where the soundtrack was a panicked, ‘is that our car making that noise?’

‘Can anyone else smell that smell? Is it an engine smell?’

‘Is that light on the dashboard important?’

We have now had to admit defeat, but, and timing is everything, it dies days before we have two weekend trips away that rely entirely on driving the car.

One of our best mates lent us his car. (The bear hug.)

It’s posher than anything I’ve ever driven before. It’s so quiet I’m unsure that I’ve actually turned it on. And the children sleep for the best part of five hours at a time as it’s so comfortable.

We’re away for a weekend but Ben has so much work to do that he’s had to bring it all with him and lock himself away in a room to see if he can make some headway. (The headlock.)

But the cottage is the most incredible place to stay with children, with a swimming pool, a Gruffalo trail, animal feeding and a soft play area, so the children are beyond happy, so knackered at the end of the day that they fall into bed and stay there. And I get the holiday gin out. (The bear hug.)

I’ve realised, probably a bit late to the party, but that I need to learn to roll with the punches a bit more. 

To not expect everything to go the way I want it to. 

To be pleasantly surprised when it does, but to not go crackers when it doesn’t. 

To deal with the headlock and give as good a bear hug as I get.
I’ve realised that I need to be a bit more like my two year old.

Not all the time.

Of course.

I don’t think I’d last long in my job if I went fucking mental if someone moved my coat or if I didn’t want to put my shoes on.

But more like him in taking real pleasure in the good stuff.

This is my son.

He’s delighted because I've just told him we are going swimming.

I want to be that guy.