Tag Archives: outdoors

Fatigued To Meet You

When I talk to my closest friends, actually in conversation with words and mannerisms and not by text or Facebook messaging but in real life or on the phone, it is not uncommon for the conversation to result in a moan about how shattered we both feel. It’s not that we are all manic depressive but that we are quite often very tired and have waves of feeling a bit peeved from the hamster wheel of everyday life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish to sound ‘Poor Me’ as I know how fortunate I am compared to others who live in desperate situations, but our lives are all relative to our own situations so we are allowed to indulge in a bit of a moan about things sometimes.

It is widely reported that Modern Life is a fast paced experience for most people with our 24/7 lifestyles. Many of us are guilty of relaxing on the sofa for our evening downtime with one hand on the remote control and the other on our mobiles refreshing our inbox or checking Facebook. Those of us that are employed are working way over our contracted hours, lunch hours on the go and a constant juggling act with home life and work. I work from home but feel like I have to find my inner Derren Brown to balance my week of school runs, kids activities, dogs demands and other things that get thrust into the daily chaos. Our fast paced existence can mean that we miss out on the finer things in life; the appreciation of what we have, noticing the simpler things and relishing the pleasurable things in life. I took my daughter on a nature day today at our local country park, we had a group of very enthusiastic ramblers who were ‘in charge’ of the activities. They were intent on opening up the children’s eyes to all things nature by encouraging us to collect nature’s materials to make a scary Halloween artwork. So we decided on a spider, arranged our leaves and twigs to create a sculpture that Tracey Emin would be proud of and despite Rambler helper pointing out that spiders don’t have red eyes, the kids were massively enthused by the activity.

It is my third nature activity this half term in my bid to ‘get the children out in the fresh air for an educational experience’ and even though we are starting to sprout webbed feet from the constant damp conditions, I feel good that we are taking part in something worthwhile. Every day of the half term I have crammed full of ‘experiences’ and play dates until my Mum pointed out that ‘I could just stay home with my children as that is what I used to do with you and your brother.’ Good idea I said, ‘I’ll buy some paints and glueing stuff to make art installations or bake cakes?’, she wearily shook her head explaining, ‘you can do simple things like read books, play board games or just cuddle up and watch a film?’. Hmmmm that sounds far too relaxing and easy, must cram something else stressful into my day surely?

But no matter how you try to slow life down it never seems to feel that way. And apart from whingeing to my nearest and dearest, the rest of the time I will happily paste on my air hostess smile to anyone else who asks how things are, replying with a bright and breezy ‘great thanks’, even though inside I am secretly Ebenezer Scrooge grumbling incoherently under my breath. I am definitely no stranger to tiredness and I think this is the reason behind the expert moaning me and my friends enjoy as our extra curricular activity. Parenting is a great introduction to exhaustion, I didn’t sleep a full night for the first 5 years of my daughter’s life, I spent many days with the dull ache headache of exhaustion, feeling a little bit sick, a fit of tears minutes away, unable to have intelligible conversation, eating too much chocolate and barely capable of keeping up with the storylines of Scooby Doo.

Life is definitely easier now I’m off the baby Groundhog Days, I loved the nurturing years and wouldn’t have missed raising my little ones for anything but there is that point when they start school for you to return home that first day, look in the mirror and think ‘Christ!’ at the gaunt mad haired woman looking back at you. I adore my children, appreciate my husbands long hours at financing our lifestyle but find myself in part-time writer, part-time child-rearer, part-time domestic goddess and still feeling a little bit in part-time limbo land. My friends and I used to discuss films, politics, new bars and restaurants, recent clothes purchases and weekend plans. Our main topic of conversation now is whinge whinge, feel tired, what is my role now? What diet are you on? What vitamins are you on? Shall I take Probiotics? So when we’re not moaning we are quite often taking part in another hobby of ours, worrying. Worrying about our children’s ability at school, their daily consumption of fruit and veg, their friendship groups. Or we worry about our relationships, money, post-babies figures and our current favourite topic; our future health and future beauty regime, discussing how many wrinkles or grey hairs we are sprouting, what ailments are starting to take hold of us. I doubt very much that James Bond worries about his daily alcohol units when swigging his martinis in the afternoon. What we need to do is stop worrying, stop moaning and appreciate what we have. Me and my friends moan a lot but we do occasionally remember to make each other laugh in our stupid shared sense of humours, to still talk about ambitions we still have and to know that there is someone always less fortunate than ourselves. For sometimes the only way to move forward past the blues is to slap on that mad grin and remember how lucky we really are.

Putting The Great Into Greatstone

As I sit here and swelter in our (bit late really) humid summer, amongst the unpacked bags and mountain of sand sodden holiday clothes, I actually feel relaxed following a fab holiday away with my family.

Over the last few weeks, hubby has been stuck in his never-ending Olympic shifts and the rain has ensured that days out with the kids have needed inventive planning to save on costs, deter whingeing and conquer boredom. I have managed to cover my quota of soggy country park picnics, messy and bizarre make-a-craft events, swimming with the masses, overdraft busting cinema trips and the time consuming (but will be good for them) summer library reading challenge.

Early August culminated in the twins 5th Birthday party, 30 children, 3 bouncy castles, thankfully taking place at a playcentre and not in my house! We came to this decision following the twins 4th Birthday party, when we removed a fence panel between ours and our neighbours gardens to create a bigger space for our bouncy castle party with special guest Roger the Magician. Until it rained that is and we all ended up crammed under a gazebo with Roger the Magician and a few hardcore kids braving a dangerously slippery bouncy castle.

While organising this party of the century (according to my kids), my parents mentioned they were looking to book a week away and would I and the kids like to join them to alleviate my 6 weeks with lack of hubby? After I shouted Yes a bit too loudly in response to their kind offer we set about finding somewhere suitable. We quite often holiday on the Kent coast as it is only an hour’s drive, has some gorgeous sandy beaches and now in light of our new family member, a long stretch of dog friendly beach to use during the summer months.  Me and Mum trawled through numerous holiday websites looking for dog friendly/child friendly cottages, feeling like J.R. Hartley after constantly being turned down once they knew we were bringing our beloved Lab.

Finally, we happened upon a place called Dune House, slap bang on the Greatstone seafront, dog friendly, spacious and available! We motored down last Sunday with hubby planning to join us on the Tuesday once he had begged some leave to tag onto his allocated days off.  When we arrived, we were not disappointed. I reckon Terence Conran would even be up for a week away at this place with its white washed walls, wooden flooring and decked garden backing onto the sand dunes of Greatstone beach. And with 6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms it was a far cry from our pig chalet experience in March! The backing onto the beach bit was a massive highlight for all of us, especially Chester our dog who was being treated to a pre and post breakfast walk, a day on the beach followed by a pre and post dinner walk. By the end of the week we managed to make our 8 month old Lab look like an arthritic old dog with his stiffened legs! The beach was thankfully sandy and the sea was clean, however, the tide was often out and in its place was a deep clay type sand. Pretty much every day, the children wanted to ‘walk to the sea’ when the tide was out, which meant wading through sludgy sand praying not to find some crab claw or washed up jelly fish or worse! And this isn’t for the faint-hearted walking, as you couldn’t stop and stand still, for as soon as you did and the sand took hold and were left looking like a weeble with arms flailing around trying to pull your foot back out as the rest of us went into fits of giggles and ended up stuck as well. One particular evening it was such a trek on our ‘walk to the sea’ that my Dad said he could hear the faint sounds of accordion playing drifting over the Channel from France! Then after reaching the water and the kids agreeing that we had ‘reached the sea’ we had to trek back through the sludge and one of us had to tiptoe to the sink, fill up the bucket with soapy water to wash our ‘mud socks’ off before entering the cottage.

Throughout the week, we didn’t venture far from the cottage and our back garden beach, as the kids and dog were happy with our lazy beach days. However, one day we made the short trip to Dungeness to visit the Lighthouse and miniature steam train ride. And for those of you that haven’t been to Dungeness, the word barren would be an understatement. It is a bizarre area, a nature reserve full of wild flowers, but mainly covered in shingle with every house resembling a shack from the 19th Century. It has a desolate quality with its provinicial shed type houses and sparse distances between each property. I fully expected to see a blue boiler suit and mask hanging from one of the washing lines with a chainsaw  propped up against one of the shacks. However, it does house a lot of artists and is a fascinating place to visit, though wouldn’t fancy it at night, not for fear of safety but more for feeling like an extra from The Woman In Black!

We cooked most nights, but on our last night we decided to look for a nice place to eat. I fired up my laptop to look for our usual criteria of ‘dog friendly/child friendly’ venues and stumbled upon an old pub called The Shepherd and Crook in the neighbouring village of Burmarsh. We deliberated whether we would be welcome as it would probably be a locals pub and they might not appreciate our over-excited Lab and twins incessantly asking questions about everything, ‘Mum, what is a pub? will I like the pub? will the pub like me? can we live in pub?’. However, we were very much welcomed by the staff and found a corner we could stow Chester and could steer the kids questioning to the random wall hangings, ‘Mum, is that a real gun on the pub wall? can I hold the gun in the pub? why is there a gun in a pub? does the farmer come to the pub? will he shoot me in the pub?’. After getting a word in edgeways we were pleasantly surprised by the menu, a rare sighting of vegetables on the kids menu and a choice of vegetarian dishes other than pasta bake.

We arrived home today majorly feeling the holiday blues. Chester keeps heading to our back gate looking for the sea, the kids keep asking when we can go back and if we can buy Dune House as they have £47 between them – bless. Hubby is heading back to work in a few days and I am back on the circuit of local kids events for the last 2 weeks of the school holidays. But we have happy memories of simple holiday pleasures and with Britain finally getting a bit of sunshine, Kent definitely delivered.

The Great British BBQ

We haven’t had the best summer so far, something I remember saying last year too. As a child I can remember my 6 weeks holidays mainly being warm, we always holidayed in this country and I have photographic evidence of me on the beach in a swimming costume. But in the recent years, the summer weather has been a bit pants, not exactly a meteorological term, but fitting I think.

And even though July and August have become quite rainy months, the price of holidays, weddings, etc during this time have not been reduced to make up for it. But we are learning to adapt to the rain, rain and constant rain. Having said that, it is a sunny day today and as I sit and write this blog, I also have one ear tuned to the radio for a weather update and I am remembering to keep an eye on the cloud coverage, as I have decided to chance the washing on the line.

I can remember how unprepared for rain I was at my first festival. We all travelled down to the V festival in Chelmsford, me and hubby were in the early stages of dating so practical hadn’t been on the agenda when I chose my outfit that morning. I opted for unpractical boots with short skirt and trendy top. I hadn’t bargained for the fact that it had rained the night before so everywhere was a mud pit, the chemical toilets were less than sanitary under foot and unless you had a picnic chair strapped to your back, the only seating available was a well trodden muddy field. I came to the conclusion my boots and outfit wouldn’t be the same again and embraced the mud and rubbish, it was only when it started raining mid afternoon that I realised that I hadn’t brought a raincoat but a denim jacket as it was a lot more fetching. Thankfully future hubby gave me his waterproof in a gentlemanly gesture and fashioned himself another with a plastic bin liner.

After we got too soaked to care anymore, helped along with a lot of warm beer, the first day of the festival drew to a close so we headed back to the car to get some sleep. We figured that the car would be more comfortable and warmer than a tent at that point. Luckily, hubby in Scout mode had brought an inflatable mattress, so we pushed the seats down in his battered up BMW and laid the mattress on top. I removed my boots, wrung my socks out and we crashed out in a beer induced coma. A few hours later we awoke to find ourselves sat forward where the mattress had leaked air through the night and slowly had delivered us into a seating position! With my outfit wrecked from the day before, we nipped back to our homes, showered, ate and changed into more suitable clothing to go back for the second day of even muddier surroundings for bands and beer.

My Dad turned 65 at the weekend and has also retired from work, which meant a double celebration was in order. With an 80% chance of rain we decided to have a BBQ anyway as that is what we do with summer celebrations. We prepared ourselves by erecting a gazebo, for rain coverage not sun.  I dressed the children in their party outfits and packed their rain coats and wellies, then we layered up to brave the garden setting on a fairly cold cloudy June day.

We all love a summer BBQ as it is a good way of getting everyone together to eat, drink and be merry. But there are aspects of the event that always make me chuckle. Any other dinner time, if I was to serve hubby up a paper plate with a heavily grilled sausage in a dry bun, he may think I had lost the plot but if we are out in the garden and the said sausage has been heavily grilled on a BBQ that is a different matter. However, BBQ food has evolved and on Saturday we went to a lot of preparation with side dishes of salad and rice and a Jamaican family friend arrived with curried goat so there was lots of variety. With a few vegetarians in the family, we have to run two BBQ’s in order to not transfer ‘meat juices’, so whoever is chef needs to have a good supply of utensils and know where to use them.

We made a vat of Pimms, bizarrely the only drink where it is completely normal to have a cucumber stick and strawberries in, which seemed an acceptable tipple for daytime consumption. The kids loved the fact I wasn’t pushing vegetables and my daughter could get away with consuming processed burger cheese in large supply.  The BBQ was a great day, the drink was flowing and even when a ‘fine rain’ arrived we all put on a jumper and huddled under the gazebo until it passed over. Unlike the Iceland adverts where their summer is permanent, I think perhaps the rain at a BBQ is what brings us together after all.

 

The Fate Of The School Fete

We are going to be a bit spoilt this year with Bank Holiday’s, thanks mainly to her Madge and the forthcoming Jubilee celebrations. Bank Holiday’s are a bit of a double-edged sword in our house, as hubby being a City Copper normally means he has to work them if there are any activities occurring in London! But this week he was able to spend Bank Holiday Monday with us, so with the weather forecast unsurprisingly leaning towards wet, we had to find something to do.

With grandparents on board for the day, along with my 4-year-old niece, we decided to head down to Hubby’s old primary school as they were holding their annual Fete. It promised a “family fun day” with the added treat of a classic car show along with shows of Karate, majorettes and children’s entertainer, plus a Pimms Tent and BBQ. So with all age groups covered and a £1 entrance fee, we debated it would suit us as a cheap day out.

Arriving at the school on yet another drizzly day, we were directed into a cramp hall by a group of soggy but still over-enthusiastic Scouts. The helper on the door explained that the field was too water-logged for the car show so had been cancelled and the weather had put a stopper on any outdoor activities so everything was taking place in the 2 assembly halls. We paid our entrance fee and squeezed our way into the first hall, laden down with our picnics previously prepared with an outdoorsy day in mind.

The first hall was crammed to bursting with various stalls selling local crafts, but mainly tombola stalls which were decorated to entice the children to spend their pocket-money with a promise of “everyone’s a winner!”. Even though prizes were along the lines of a tin of butter beans or a bottle of Yardley’s perfume. There was a mob of pensioners at one end of the hall crowded around the garden stall and before I knew it, my Dad was elbowing his way to the front like an autograph hunter at a concert. As we followed, protecting the children from the stampede of gardeners, a friend’s Dad explained that the plants were so cheap that a lot of people just come to these Fete’s for the garden stalls alone. We squeezed past, leaving my Dad to haggle for a Raspberry plant and into the rain-splattered playground.

We found a corner of the playground with a bench and with our ‘Blitz Spirit’, regardless of the “fine rain” in the air, we laid out our picnic so we could gain some strength to enter the “entertainment hall”. After the usual pleading and bargaining that goes hand in hand with feeding my 4-year-old twins their lunch, we decided to check out the now ‘indoor should have been outdoor displays’. My 8-year-old had met up with a friend and fleeced his grandparents for money so had gone back into the tombola hall. Me, hubby, grandparents, my twins and my niece headed into the entertainment hall, squeezing past majorettes trying to avoid being poked in the eye with a twirling stick, via the Pimms table (not really the same as a Pimms Tent) to where the children’s entertainer was setting up. I placed the 3 little ones at the front (pushy mum syndrome) and retreated to the back and noticed some chairs in the ‘Bingo corner’. I asked the Bingo lady if I could borrow 3 chairs for the children’s show, she paused to eye me up and down while expressing a long sigh. She reluctantly agreed as long as I promised to not go too far with them and bring them back straight after the show for the Bingo would be starting then. I assured her I wasn’t planning on taking the chairs and carrying them around with me for the rest of the day, but was literally moving them 3 metres in the direction of my relatives and promised to return them immediately after. The kids loved the show, although trying to explain to three 4-year-olds that Mr Custard can’t make balloon animals for every child isn’t the easiest argument to win! So we promised them a go on a tombola stall to make up for their lack of balloon poodles, that is if my eldest hadn’t run up too much of a debt in there!

I returned the chairs to the crowds of Bingo fans waiting for them (NOT!) and we squeezed past the Karate Kids and Brass Band members on our way back to the other hall. We thought we’d try our luck at the drinks tombola as there were a few bottles of decent wine up for grabs, unfortunately once we had purchased our 4 tickets for a £1 noticed that there were also bottles of ketchup and shower gel as prizes too. So with all adults having a go, we ended up £5 down with winnings of a fruit shoot, a bottle of bitter lemon and a small bottle of Belgian beer, bargain! We surgically removed our eldest from the chocolate tombola and headed out the exit before the cake stall came into the children’s line of vision.

It was a funny day out but certainly not cheap, though it was for a good cause so didn’t mind too much. The children had fun which was the main thing and my Dad was victorious in his Raspberry plant battle. I have a feeling my parents will be attending more Fete’s than me in the future though, now they have wind of the plant stall bargains.