Thursday, 30 April 2015

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.....

Never mind all the fuss about the "beach body ready" ads, if you've got small children then there are far more important things to be worrying about than fitting into a minuscule yellow bikini.  Here are the questions I'll be asking myself before we head to the seaside this summer:

Have I got three lots of sunscreen?

One tube to use as soon as you arrive, a second tube because the first one will get dropped in the sand rendering it impossible to apply without exfoliating your children, and a third to use because the second one has only got a teaspoon of sunscreen in it because it's last year's and you didn't check it before you left.

Are the buckets and spades the same size and colour?

The ad they should have run..
"I want the castle-shaped bucket!" 
"No it's my turn to have the castle-shaped bucket!" 
"Mummy; Daddy promised me I could have the castle-shaped bucket!!!" 
Don't let this happen to you - it will end in tears and expense and you can bet the only castle-shaped bucket left in the beach shop is larger than the one you already have....

Have I packed enough carrier bags?

Wet clothes, soiled clothes, nappies, cheese sandwiches that have been left out in the sun, the trainer that fell victim to dog poo.  You don't want any of these working their way unguarded into your bag - they make for terrible discoveries after a four hour drive home in a roasting hot car.

Have I packed a book and a magazine?

Don't kid yourself that you're going to get to read either of them - you'll need the book as a weight for the corner of your picnic blanket.  The magazine should be pre-rolled to hit wasps with / use as a megaphone to beckon your children out of the sea, because at some point during your adult years your tolerance for the temperature of British sea water has dropped to zero.

How much would it cost to hire a donkey?

What with walking miles to find the "right spot", hauling a windbreak and mallet (I cannot believe that forms part of my beach packing - the glamour!), needing to give at least one child a piggy back, carrying a cool bag, beach bag and rucksack filled with towels that will be twice as heavy by the end of the day because everything will be soaking wet, I am seriously thinking about making the investment before my back gives out.

Have I stamped on my sunglasses?

You might as well do it in advance.

Given that family trips to the seaside are technically a feat of endurance, I'll settle for the small triumph that is being able to drop my tired body into a picnic chair with a drink that doesn't have sand in it.  Oh wait - the chairs.....we forgot the flipping chairs!!

Soundtrack: I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside by John A. Glover-Kind

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Sunday, 19 April 2015

What I've Learnt About Half-Term

So here I am on the eve of returning to work after a week off and it has been quite an education - here's what I've discovered:

If you take your children to a National Trust Property with your friends and their children this is what will happen:

* One of them will say "booooriing"
* One of them will say "this room smells"
* One of them will unleash a silent but violent guff
* At no point will your group resemble the images in the National Trust booklets of Boden-clad mummies, earnest daddies, and artfully disheveled children in hand-knitted Arran sweaters

I made this!
If you take your children to the New Forest with your friends and their children, this is what will happen:

* One of them will sink their foot so far into a bog that it will suck their trainer off and you will then spend £32 in Clarks
* One of them will manage to get a splinter lodged into their finger that is so massive that blood pours out of their finger tip and you will actually feel the resistance as you draw the damn thing out when you finally get home and locate a pair of tweezers
* You will be in awe of your friend who carries her own mini first aid kit, and it will inspire you to create your own

If you take your children to Longleat, this is what will happen:

* They will be disappointed that the monkeys didn't rip every bit of trim off your car
* One of them will skin their knee on a drop slide and appear in front of you with blood running down their leg
* You will be glad that you have copied your friend's mini first aid kit and feel mightily smug as you deal with the knee

If you take your children on a long off-road bike ride, this is what will happen:

* One of them will hurtle so fast down a rutted track that you will fear for their life
* One of them will manage to introduce their legs to every single stinging nettle in the countryside
* You will wish you'd put aloe vera in your mini first aid kit

If you stick to your promise to not look at work emails for the week you're off, this is what will happen:

* You will marvel at how relaxing it is when your home is not a workplace
* You will marvel at how relaxing it is when you're not worrying about work
* You will realise that big splinters, skinned knees, letting out guffs in National Trust properties and being bored make for some brilliant family experiences.

I'm looking forward to next half term!

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Friday, 17 April 2015

Don't Look Back in Anger

Right, this week I'm going to be 40 and so what?  Well, what it is, is this:

There are times when I have looked back at parts of my life and felt unhappy, angry even.  This has occasionally been a useful tool to spur me towards the things that I wanted to achieve (as John Lydon so beautifully, and accurately, put it "anger is an energy"); had I been brought up in a privileged bubble perhaps I wouldn't have been quite so hungry for the experiences I have pursued.

But enough is enough.  And so I am resolved, that every time I feel a little bit "poor me" I will make a point of reminding myself of all the great things that I have had, and do have in my life.  In that spirit, here are the five very best things that I am grateful for having as a child:

Every child needs this book!
1. Books.  Whatever else we were short on, there were more books in the house than I could read.  Thank you to my parents for buying "Would You Rather" which me and my brother would pore over for hours, and now my children read, daring each other to choose the least unpalatable way to be killed by an animal.  Thank also to my mum for buying me a "Woman's Experience of Sex" which was thrilling, educating and horrifying in equal measures to me and my twelve year old friends (and their parents - it's not every day you can sit on a wall in Winklebury and read an instructive paragraph on female masturbation).

2. Nursery Rhymes.  One of the teachers at my local school told me that she sees children starting school who haven't had nursery rhymes sung to them.  If I find the parents that aren't singing Humpty Dumpty to their babies then I'm going to hit them over the head with a book of nursery rhymes.  These songs stretch down generations, and have saved us more than once - on one particularly horrendous occasion Old MacDonald's farm extended to incorporate a zoo as our infant daughter screamed her head off until we added another animal....

3.  40-40 In.  No, this is not the stronger version of the revolting drink 20-20.  This is perhaps the best game ever and perfect to play on a council estate where there are rabbit warrens of alleyways and where boundaries can be clearly drawn between the houses of your mates.  Whatever you do, don't be a post-hanger.  Nobody likes them.

4.  Living on an estate.  Aged 8, I could walk to the doctors, dentists, Co-op (before they were "good with food" - who the hell thought that up, it only rhymes if you're Scottish!), bike shop, hairdressers, chemist, primary school, grocers, wool shop, and all of my friend's houses without having to cross a road.  It was the safest bloody place on the planet and the doctor's waiting room had a cool picture of Superman defeating Nic-O-Teen.  This was slightly at odds with the fact I could also buy cigarettes if I had a note from my parents.

5.  Freedom.  No devices and rarely any watches meant that we could go out to play "until it gets dark" and could focus on playing 40-40 or fighting or hiding dog poo under piles of grass, or lying on our backs (once we'd checked for dog poo under piles of grass) looking for shapes in clouds.  We never ventured too far, and there was always a parent who knew what was going on - or reminding us when it was time to go in - like the mum who we could set our watches by (if we had one) as she'd bellow "Riiicharrrrrrrd!" when it was time for tea (her son was called Richard, it wasn't her code-name for teatime) but we felt free - something that I now realise was a priceless gift.

So there you go, no looking back in anger, just five reasons to be very, very cheerful indeed.

Soundtrack: Don't Look Back in Anger - Oasis

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