Tag Archives: short attention span

Carry On Glamping

My hubby is buying camping gear again.  He is studying the screen of his iPad as if his life depended on it, scanning the various deals on Ebay and bidding against other Dad campers looking for the best price in portable gas cookers or enamel mugs.  It has become an addiction of his ever since I begrudgingly agreed to ‘give camping a go’. Apparently, sleeping in a home decked out in waterproof material in the Great Outdoors is fun! It will reconnect us with nature, he says, make me appreciate the peace and quiet around me and help us embrace back to basics living.  I, however, envisage a weekend of living like a survivor from The Walking Dead, looking grubby all weekend, not bothering to change out of my pyjama’s during the day and trying to make a family meal out of a can of beans and a pack of sausages.

When the whole camping holiday idea was put on the table last year it was laughed out of the room by me and my 7-year-old daughter.  Sleep in a tent? Wee in the woods? My daughter won’t even use a public toilet without moaning about the state of the facilities.  However, with two sons aged 7 and 11 with a reason to behave like Bear Grylls on holiday, not having to wash much and being allowed to wee in the woods, us girls were outnumbered and the camping gear started arriving in the post.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, for hubby’s birthday in April, I booked us 5 and our golden Labrador Chester on a ‘Glamping’ holiday.  It would be 3 days in a “luxurious home from home canvas retreat”, basically a posh tent with wooden floors, proper beds, working toilet, a shower and a kitchen.  This is how camping is meant to be done, as if I am a member of royalty on safari in Africa.  If I could hack this and actually enjoy myself then I would definitely slum it on a normal camping holiday after.

Out of Africa and into a Chicken Farm in Suffolk!

Out of Africa and into a Chicken Farm in Suffolk!

There were 5 tents situated in a large farmers field on a working chicken farm.  Thankfully, a free range egg farm, with about 3,000 chickens happily scratching about in a neighbouring field.  The tent was love at first sight with oak wood floors, thick canvas on the outer walls with huge tapestries hanging from the inner walls. The tent was decked out in shabby chic furniture and the beds were beautifully made with plenty of hanging space for our clothes.  It was, however, definitely back to basics as my eldest discovered whilst trying to plug in his iPhone.  There was no electric hook-up and our only source of heat was the Aga in our lounge area, but we did have running water which was a bonus.  I was already picturing myself in a scene from Poldark, making pies for the Aga, trying my hand at needlework in front of the fire and taking a turn round the room with hubby in the evening.

In the tent next to us, we thankfully had neighbours consisting of a family of five like us with children of similar ages to ours and even a dog for Chester to harass.  Kids being kids struck up a friendship with each other after about 7 minutes whilst us grown ups just waved and made a bit of small talk about the weather.  Despite my fears of the children moaning constantly about being bored, they instead become feral quite quickly and proceeded to build dens and climb trees and introduce themselves to the farmer all within the first few hours of arrival.  All was hunky dory as we settled down for our pasta evening meal that I had prepared on our two gas ring stove (planning on cooking my Poldark pies on the Aga tomorrow, might even bake some bread).  Hubby had got the Aga fire burning to its maximum capability and we hoped that soon the tent would warm up nicely for our first nights sleep.

After an hour or two, we realised that the heat output generated by the Aga was not really going to warm up any part of the tent and that it was mainly for show.  As the kids started to shiver and put their coats back on in the tent, I realised then that all was not well, that in fact there was quite a strong breeze coming through the gaps in the lovingly sanded wooden floors and that the sheer size of the tent meant that any heat generated was never going to be distributed.  As it was only 7.30pm we couldn’t really go to bed to warm up, so brought ALL of the quilts into the lounge to play Scrabble.  As a westerly breeze blew through the lounge, we wrapped the kids up with hats and gloves and starting to unpack our clothes so we could wear all of them.  Chester, who normally will happily sleep at our feet, climbed on top of our quilts and moaned.  The dog was even cold, this was not boding well!

We sent the kids to bed in as many layers as possible and wished them goodnight whilst trying to laugh off the fact that they could actually see the breath leave our mouths from the cold environment around us.  I was now refusing any offers of wine as I was too cold to visit the loo and against medical advice, was dehydrating myself in a bid not to have to undress at any point.  Me and hubby took our turn around the room, however, we had to do it with the throws from the couch wrapped around us and it was more of a shuffle and a shiver then a pleasant stroll.  Luckily, hubby had brought hot water bottles which was the only reason I didn’t cry when inserting myself into the freezing cold bedding.  We prayed for a sunny morning and hoped we would make it through the night without frostbite.

The Children earning their keep!

The Children earning their keep!

The following morning, we were all up bright and early.  Our neighbours had literally moved into their car so they could put their heater on.  Thankfully, the sun came out and we were able to defrost a bit. We headed off to the local supermarket and as well as our planned shopping list, stocked up on firelighters and even managed to find some long johns in the sale section. We spent all day out and about visiting the Suffolk coast and basking in the sunshine, trying not to think about another cold night in the tent.  When we returned ‘home’, Chester point blanked refused to enter the tent as if the tent had transformed into the vets.  Our host, the farmer, walked over to see us and in true British fashion we told her how settled we felt and how well we had slept, with no intention to complain, stiff upper lip and all that.  She told us of a dog friendly/child friendly pub in walking distance that we could visit that evening and with the promise of a real open fire we decided it was the best bet.

After trying to persuade the local publican to let us sleep in the pub and despite being joined by my daughter who was too cold to sleep alone and Chester who looked like he was silently weeping, we made it through our last night. As we packed up on the final day, my last glimmer of hope was that this might have put hubby off the whole camping lark.  We weren’t campers, we couldn’t even glamp! Unfortunately, it had made him more ambitious to see it through with the reasoning that normal camping is warmer!  So, in 3 weeks time, we will be taking our Ebay purchased tent and accessories and sleeping in a different field and apparently doing that whole embracing nature thing again.  Oh well, at least I have my long johns now!

All The Fun Of The Fair

So here we are on the last Sunday of the 6 weeks hols, 2 days left before I find out that I have mis-spelt the name on the kids iron-on tags or I’ve forgotten some essential part of their uniform for their first day back. It feels like ages since they were at school, but it also feels like the summer has flown by. And although I will miss our lazy breakfasts, the old routine will be welcomed with open arms. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed spending some quality time with my little cherubs, but 6 weeks with 3 children is expensive and tiring! I found myself suffering with a degree of OCD when it came to child-friendly activities, I have literally not been able to pass a craft event leaflet or kids activities booklet without stuffing it in my handbag. It’s not that I relish these events much, I like to see my children happy obviously, but with my (reluctant about anything) 8-year-old son and (energetic with a short attention span) 5-year-old twins, I need to have plans set in place in order to survive school holidays! So, when last weekend the Havering Show came to our local park I had it firmly penned on the calendar in black ink!

As country fairs go, it’s not a bad event and as it is advertised with free entry it is definitely worth a look. However, my kids have a talent for turning any free event into an overdraft busting experience quite easily. There was a free circus tent which was a nice treat, free because they were circus students! I didn’t even realise there was such a thing as circus college, but we got to see their abilities so far. To be fair, they were quite good, very brave trapeze artists in skimpy costumes and a ringmaster with a booming voice to wake you up between acts. However, it was the knife throwing duo that were the most difficult to watch mainly because they couldn’t do it! A very nervous looking assistant stood against a wooden wall with a manic smile on her face while the knife thrower didn’t throw the knives hard enough, so they kept bouncing off the assistant to the amused gasps of the audience. It can’t be a good act to ‘study’ and it felt particularly awkward when they finished and we all half-heartedly clapped them as the assistant checked herself for stab wounds.

In the centre of the park they had erected an arena for acts to perform for us. There was a stunt motorbike act who was jaw-droppingly mental and the overkeen medieval tournament players who treated us to a ‘jousting’ competition where they clearly tried NOT to knock each other off. They were entertaining enough but really need to be told that they are not actually from the medieval age with their over use of ‘hazzars’ and ‘fair maidens’. There were other tents dotted about the fair such as the horticultural tent where local allotments competed to sell their marrows to the general public or the ‘craft and sweet’ tent which has an unhealthy amount of fudge on sale. There is also a little homage to Glastonbury with Havering’s very own music stage showcasing a bizarre line-up of has-beens and wannabe music acts. Although Suzi Quatro did rock the field quite impressively, even if she has now progressed to elasticated leather trousers.

The outskirts of the field were predictably covered in fairground rides courtesy of the nearest traveller population. My kids had been desperate to go on the rides as soon as they saw them being erected while we were at the swimming pool a week earlier. As we checked out the rides on offer, weighing up which ones look less like death traps, I noticed that all of the rides were priced between £3-5 per child, bargain! My daughter thrust her purse in my hand as if reading my mind suggesting she paid for her own rides to help me out. Massively touched I looked in her purse to find 15p, bless, I thanked her anyway and thanks to our grandparent chaperones were able to allow the kids 3 rides each. As most of the rides are the inside of a lorry trailer there isn’t much to them, so as the twins did a fourth round of their ‘funhouse’, I decided to take eldest son on one of the scarier rides as an extra treat. I had seen The Twister earlier in the day and had been transported back to my teenage years, hurtling around it with my friends to the sounds of ‘On A Ragga Tip’ and as I wasn’t prepared to revisit my 99 flake on this occasion I decided to drag my eldest son on The Sizzler instead. Back in my teenage years, The Sizzler was a bit too tame for me and my mates so I thought it would be a good choice for us. We happily jumped into our seats without having watched the previous ride so was unaware of what was in store for us. For those not experienced in The Sizzler, the ride basically consists of 2 people seated in a car with the heavier person on the outside, the car is on the end of an arm and when it starts moving you are flung from side to side as the cars race back and forth in diagonal directions. I don’t remember it being particularly fast and it was always over so quickly, but not today, for me and my son were in for a bit of a shock. It started off at a fairly normal pace and with a smidge of g-force my son was pushed against me as we flew about, still able to wave at our family members. But then it picked up the pace… A LOT! Suddenly, I felt like I was in the space simulator scene from James Bond. I was unable to check on son as the g-force had disabled all ability of speech apart from the odd slurred groan which was emitting from our mouths. As our car was flung in the direction of the cabin which housed the ride operator, with great effort I craned my neck to see if perhaps he was slumped against the controls to explain our sudden speed, but he was fine, sat upright displaying his toothless grin. The delighted screams of the passengers had now transformed into horrified shouts as the ride seemed like it was never going to end. Thankfully, it eventually started to slow down and I knew the torture was almost over. I felt too dizzy to feel nauseous and as I tried to untie mine and my sons limbs from each other my green coloured son looked at me and told me that he had loved it. I made some weird noise in reply as I gazed at the other weary parents on the neighbouring cars, the Dad next to us was rubbing his temples trying to re-engage his brain. With our wobbly legs we rejoined our group, where the twins had completed their allocated rides with much less stress and we were more than ready to head home.