Sunday, 25 October 2015

Five things to do - for free - in the school holidays

School holidays are expensive - even if you're not heading off for a week in the Canaries.  The expense is inconsistent too: a day at Legoland will sting you for at least £70 even if you have collected your cereal packet vouchers; two hours at the cinema will cost you close to £30 for an adult and two children, but one of the local holiday clubs near me (why aren't they called 'play schemes' anymore?) charges only £11 per child for 5 hours.  Whichever way you turn it's going to cost.

So, in an attempt not to hemorrhage money this summer, I thought I'd rack my brains for those times when my children have enjoyed themselves, and it hasn't cost me a penny.  Here's my top five:


1. Let them make a 'potion'

Give the kids a bowl or jar and (almost) free reign to put what they like into it. When it's complete, decant the potion into a used water bottle and 'voila' your very own 'marvellous medicine'.  It will be disgusting but you will get at least 30 minutes peace.

Warning: Before you attempt this - make sure you've put the good stuff away or your favourite hand cream is going to go missing (as I discovered here).

2. Funny face drawing game

Beautiful - no?
Get a sheet of paper, fold it in three and take it in turns to draw parts of a face.  Warning can be addictive - you may need a ream of paper.

Double warning this can get very silly, very quickly - watch out for the addition of "wee and poo" to the character that you've worked so very hard to render accurately.

3. Tickets Please!

This is a much loved game in our family (read more here).  We play it using our slide - but you don't need a slide to do it!  Here's how it works:

  • You are the ticket inspector - it is your job to inspect your child's 'ticket' (real or imaginary, either will do) and decide whether they are allowed to pass (down the slide in our case).
  • You never, ever allow your child to pass on the first go.  You must inspect the ticket, then explain in outraged voice why you cannot let them pass because their ticket is out of date / for a different mode of transport / poo-stained.
  • Once you decide to let them pass, you must let them think they've got away with it before exclaiming "Hey!  That ticket says Mickey Mouse / is a used chip wrapper / is poo-stained!"
  • You then chase them around the house / garden / park until they are back at the start.

4. Shout at your children in a foreign accent

This game started in our family when we found ourselves stuck in a caravan with no tv on a very wet day.  Having become frustrated at the children's failure to listen to me shouting at them not to play with the pull-out bed, I thought I'd give it a go whilst using a German accent (and the handful of German words that I know).  It resulted in unexpected hilarity and gave us a welcome respite from playing Uno for the 130th time.  
Note: You don't need to speak a second / third / fourth (okay, okay uber-talented linguist) language to succeed in this game, but you do need to shout it like you believe it.  

5. If all else fails.....give them an Argos catalogue

Who needs the internet
when you've got one of these?
I reckon Argos could compete with serious publishing houses for the amount of print that they produce...and the popularity of their free doorstop-sized shopping bibles.  This popularity seems not to have waned with the advent of the digital generation - my children love them more than the internet!  And far from turning them into mad consumers it has actually made them aware of how much things cost, encouraged conversations about saving, and there is the extra bonus that there is absolutely no risk of them clicking a link and adding twelve Lego Death Star kits to my basket.

Warning: You need one per child or all out war will start.  No-one wants to be given the furniture section whilst the other one gets the toys....

Well those are my top five - perhaps not quite enough to get us all the way through the holidays but it's a start - if you've got anymore let me know!

Like this?  Check out my book here

Duvet Wars

It's time for the Duvet War
And I want to have more
Than you
The problem is
You want more too

Image from
The weather here is freezing tonight
And in our sleep we start the fight
I wake up and my left side is cold
Because you, my one true love,  have rolled
And gripped the duvet between your thighs
I shiver and wish it was King-Size

I tug the corner
But it’s stuck tight
And you are out, just like a light
All toasty, sleeping like a log
Dreaming merrily in our 10 tog

I pull hard and wake you
But I don't care
This is Duvet Wars 
And you must share!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Tandem

Ten minutes after this photo was taken
I wasn't smiling quite so much.....
"Let's ride a tandem" my husband said
Planting a seed inside my head
Of a romantic gesture, built for two
"I'll ride up front, and chauffeur you"

I thought it was a marvelous treat
Until ten minutes spent in the seat
Revealed that the tandem we had on loan
Had a back seat that was made of stone

And whilst the pace was easy to keep
My nether regions fell straight to sleep
"Please can we stop" I found myself sobbing
My legs were fine but my noony was throbbing!

We dismounted: and this feels hard to explain
But along with standing like John Wayne
Came a pins & needles fizzing sensation
That made me lose my concentration

Back on the bike and I can vouch
I said something a lot stronger than "ouch"
It felt like a brick was beneath my smalls
I held in a scream and wished I had balls

The man at the bike shop said "How was your ride?"
As I hobbled, wobbled and staggered inside
"My bits really hurt" I said with a choke
"I see why", he replied, "that seat's meant for a bloke!"

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

If Estate Agents had to Tell the Truth

I have been highly entertained this week by an estate agent's description of a house that is up for sale near me.  It says that it can be accessed by a "ramp passing up over a stream".  The 'stream' in question is actually a culvert that is either bone dry or full to bursting on those rare occasions when the rivers that flow underneath the village rise up and surprise us all, bringing shoals of energy drink cans, and crisp packets discarded by people who are allergic to bins, floating up to the surface.

The point of this post however, is not to expose the estate agent in question, but rather to ponder whether we'd sell be able to sell our houses if we had to tell the truth.  To try this out, let me take you on a virtual tour of my own home....

The front garden
Estate agent: "a charming gravel drive with stepping stones leading up to the front door".

Me: "if I slip one more time on this bloody gravel I am going to block pave the entire bloody thing and don't get me started on how bloody difficult it is to pull a pushchair / wheelie bin / carry shopping in heels up here.  We've got gravel on a slope - who in their right minds would do that?!"

The hall
Estate agent: "a bright hallway which allows light to enter the length of the house."

Me: "this is where the children dump all their crap.  Sometimes they simply shed their shoes as they enter the house which means you can't shut the front door."

Clear stairs - so rare
I took a picture...
The stairs
Estate agent: "an elegant enclosed staircase with very high ceilings giving a sense of spaciousness."

Me: "this is where my husband dumps his coat.  It also acts as a transition point for crap that should belong upstairs but has made its way downstairs.  The high ceiling means it is an absolute bitch to decorate and impossible to remove cobwebs from without balancing perilously on a chair at the top of the stairs.

The living room
Estate agent: "a comfortable room featuring French doors that offer easy access to, and from, the garden."

Me: "this room has no storage.  Unless you count "under the sofas" oh, and "behind the sofas"".  Nobody steps from the garden into this room - it's got a bloody carpet!"

Don't go in there...
The kitchen
Estate agent: "built to an excellent specification, this kitchen has been incredibly well designed to accommodate family dining."

Me: "this room cost us a fortune, so it should look nice.  Just don't open the cupboard under the stairs unless you really like the sight of 3,000 plastic bags and 112 cook books wedged in at right angles around a hoover.  And mind the change jar doesn't fall of the shelf and kill you."

The bedrooms
Estate agent: "Period features bring charm to these three well appointed rooms."

Me:  "These rooms do not have enough storage.  Unless you count "under the beds".  The period features mean you will smash your hip at least once on one of the fireplaces."

The bathroom
Estate agent: "a high quality, very modern family bathroom."

Me:  "This is where I spend at least 3 minutes a day cleaning wee that is not mine from around the toilet, 30 minutes a day sorting out washing, and 10 minutes a day hiding from my children.  It is the only room in the house with a lock on and normally has a child outside of it shouting "muh-meeeee!".  If not that, there will be a child on either side of the door shouting at each other.  The floor is hard enough to smash a smartphone screen."

Fortunately I am not an estate agent, and not about to sell my house.  But if by some chance either of those come true, and this post comes back to bite me on the arse, at least I'll have told the truth.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Errant Fly

Errant fly
I don't know why
You zoomed into my mouth as I was running
Was it a premeditated act of cunning?

Or did my ill-timed intake of breath...
Draw you, buzzing, to your death?
And as you travelled towards my gut

I think we both wished, I'd kept my mouth shut.