2017 hasn’t been our best year. I’ve been the one who has sucked the joy out of the party like a death eater (Harry Potter reference there, folks). I’ve been the one who when asked how I’m doing, has someone close to me who isn’t doing well. It has been one of those years. Something I’m very conscious of. So from now onwards, let’s focus on the good, or at least try to.
In 2017 we took out a Historic Houses Association membership and discovered loads of new places. That was a REALLY good move, and one I’d recommend. We still have our Royal Historic Palaces, English Heritage and National Trust memberships too. We’ve been to Hever Castle and rowed on the lake for my birthday, to visiting Alnwick Castle and doing Harry Potter related things.
Australia will have to be mentioned because, well, it’s Australia. We had an unexpected trip after a death in the family. My work were brilliant, and I managed to work remotely from there while doing everything else. We were able to visit places in between working and I found a happy medium without having to dump everything on my workmates while we were out there. I love Australia and still dream of moving out there one day.
The summer holidays felt like they were a long way away, so when they came it was good to stop.
Coombe Mill was our Cornwall base, followed by Woodspring Farm Hut near Weston Super Mare. It was where H grew in confidence – and she wasn’t pushing herself, just following her own instincts.
H started in Year 4 and for a short while I became “that mum” – the one who insists she stepped out of her comfort zone and attend an after school club, doing Young Voices. Up to now she hadn’t had any interest in singing in public so it was quite a jump. The added bonus was her teachers from last year run it.
She came out having had the most wonderful time and is looking forward to joining lots of other schoolkids and singing at the O2 in January. I’m really looking forward to trying to find her! It works out cheaper than a gig too, so I think it’s a win-win situation.
H is still swimming and switched classes again. By the end of 2017 she had gained her Bronze award. I know she’s ready to move onto a bigger pool and depths, though she has swimming with school this year so we’re holding off until September. At the moment she’s working on her 800 metre badge, so we’ll see how that one goes!
It goes without saying, football has played a big part of our lives in 2017.
We worked with the FA to help promote women’s football, and H started playing every weekend with Crystal Palace Wildcats.
She’s starting a new term there from January, has made lots of new friends and they all even got to be mascots at a Crystal Palace Ladies game which was great fun (and very cold). While she may never play football competitively, she’s having so much fun. I like that she’s doing an activity where she didn’t know anyone at all and has made new friends.
We’ve watched Tottenham Ladies a couple of times now and our aim for 2018 is to catch a Tottenham game at Wembley just the once.
We bought a new car in 2017. After having had an old Vauxhall Astra, we switched to a Skoda Fabia. I love it! The car suits me and my driving – it’s not too big and not too small. It fits quite a lot in it and has sensors for parking too. My downfall in our last car was when I reversed into a bollard and dented it…
We took out a PCP deal to buy the car, and with Shaun working from home this meant the money we save in him travelling to the office now pays off the car. We’ll do more trips next year as my biggest problem with getting anywhere was whether our old car could do it. Oh, and we had a carbon monoxide problem with the car too.
Carbon monoxide. That was a busy week. I was one of the case studies for Gas Safety Week 2017 (it doesn’t mention this blog at all so you wouldn’t know), speaking about my experience of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. I intend to work with Project Shout Co in 2018 too. We have to keep shouting.
Our year ends on a quieter note, with a visit to the Roald Dahl Museum and a trip to see Hogwarts in the Snow at the Warner Brother Studios. There will be reviews to follow in the new year, and always photos on my Instagram.
I get the feeling that while I will never stop blogging, this slower pace of updating is where we are. Essentially I am now working four jobs – my dayjob, this blog, my PTA responsibilities and finally of course the work I do with Brownies as a Leader in Training. Oh, and parenting too.
2018 will be about finding a better balance in my work – home life. We’ll get out more and I’ll blog about it more.
We’ve enjoyed staying in a yurt and a shepherds hut this year. I’d love to think we’ll go camping at some point too.
I never do resolutions, mainly as I’d forget them. We can leave 2017 with our heads held high and know that we’re out of it intact and that’s all that counts.
Happy New Year, and all the best for 2018!
This summer we went back to Cornwall for a third year, and decided we’d stay at Coombe Mill. We join in with Country Kids as much as we can, and enjoy the outdoors. Just follow Coombe Mill’s Instagram and you’ll see the beautiful scenery and fun on the farm.
Coombe Mill is in St Breward, near Bodmin. It’s a working farm, something I had a lot of questions about, because I’m a curious person who likes to know stuff. I’ve often wondered if owning a farm and rearing your own animals means you could eat them. We soon found out that the animals without names were the ones which went! H was doing her Brownie ‘Friend to Animals’ badge there and learned a lot of facts which helped too.
We stayed in Trebah, a Scandinavian style lodge which was cosy and comfortable and had everything we needed. You have a washing machine and a dryer which came in handy as we had a lot of rain. We also had a wood burning stove which kept us really toasty on the more chilly nights.
Two doors down was The Boy and Me gang so H had a playmate, and over by the train tracks was Jo from Mummy Needs Wine. It was a proper blogger get-together!
So what does Coombe Mill offer? For H, freedom. We live in London and I get twitchy enough her going to post things at neighbours houses. We joined the feed run every morning, and H got to drive the tractor with Farmer Nick twice which she really enjoyed.
She learned facts about the animals, picked them up and by the end of the week was way more confident with them than at the start.
Bear in mind as we rent we can’t have pets, and she has never spent a chunk of time around animals this was a big deal for her. By the end of the week she was picking up hens and rabbits without a care. At the start of the week there were a few strops when they didn’t just magically come to her!
Coombe Mill is in a great location with several places close by. As ever we ran out of time to do everything we wanted to. We discovered the fabulous beach at Perranporth and are trying to plan next year’s holiday. That may be a part of it…
Coombe Mill is a great place to stay. It’s somewhere you could stay through the day and still have plenty to do. Aside from the feed run there’s the daily train ride from Coombe Halt which H insisted we HAD to go to. H even got a circuit on her own!
We loved watching the wild deer every morning on the feed run.
I loved opening the doors and listening to it all. The river, the birds, the animals. I started to breathe again, to relax. But then all of a sudden our week was over – it flew by! I wish you could bottle it up so I could have some to remind me of the calm.
The thing I loved the most was meeting parents every morning on the feed run and chatting. Everyone was so friendly – and H made new friends. She’s sending a Christmas card to a girl she met at Coombe Mill as they swapped addresses and write to each other.
Our last night we had an outdoor barbecue with the bloggers, and it was a lovely end to a lovely week. The kids all played around us, their age differences didn’t matter as they all got stuck in and enjoyed each other’s company. You can’t beat that as far as holidays go.
What can I say about 2016? It has been a strange year, but one where we got things done. A year when friendships got stronger or just disappeared completely. Where we did things and they actually happened. It has been a good year with plenty of memories, and as a family, one I know we’ll remember. Especially H now she’s at the age where your memories stick with you.
Here’s our 2016 in review.
The 1st January was spent in Brighton. We traditionally go to the seaside at the start of the year to get some cold air and breathe again. We usually alternate between Brighton, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis and it’s usually very closed and quiet apart from the odd Fish & Chips place. I like it because it’s cold, closed, dark and fresh and crisp; nothing like bringing in a new year that way every year.
We took out Historic Royal Palaces membership and headed to Hampton Court early on in the year, showing H somewhere I used to love going when I was her age. My Auntie Florrie lived in Teddington and that whole area was somewhere we spent a lot of time when we visited London back in the seventies.
H had her first horse riding lesson. It’s too expensive to keep up, unfortunately. She loved it though.
I had always wanted to visit Kensington Palace as it intrigues me. You’re visiting somewhere next door to the almost-untouchable current Royals. Anyway, it was an interesting place. HRP membership covered that.
March and we were back to Hampton Court as my friend got an invite to preview the Magic Garden, so we popped along. It didn’t disappoint!
March also brought H’s first proper gig – Adele at the O2. It was both of our first time going there. I booked us a hotel nearby so we didn’t have to get all the way home afterwards – and had a brilliant evening. H loved it too! Adele is one of her favourites and I’ve enjoyed working on her records for these last few years.
The following day we took the Thames Ferry to the Tower of London using our HRP membership to get in free. Again, loads of fun and we got our money’s worth.
Easter was an Emmett’s Gardens and Chartwell visit, as our National Trust membership was getting a bit unused, and National Trust always have the best Easter Egg trails. It didn’t disappoint.
Our Merlin Passes were also quite neglected so we made our first trip to Legoland, choosing a rainy day which was a bit cold. It seemed to work, and we got on most rides without a queue. We even managed Mia’s Riding School three or four times in a row before I had to stop.
April brought the weird stuff. We found out we had a carbon monoxide leak at home, which explained a lot of things. Forgetfulness? Tick. Feeling sick a lot? Definitely. Just being sick without any reason? Been there, done that. Our boiler was taken out of action and a plan was set, to get central heating put in when we went on holiday in July. Mainly as it would be so disruptive so we wanted to be away from it all. Every morning I had staggered to work like I was hungover, wondering when the virus would shift. It had never occurred to me it was this. Once the boiler was shut off I never felt like it again. We’ve since bought more carbon monoxide alarms. Too close a call. But why did it affect just H and I? I think because Shaun falls asleep downstairs and would often leave the heating on. I’d go to bed at 11pm and eventually come downstairs to shut off the heating at 2am. Because the leak was in the loft, both H and I were exposed to it more than Shaun as he was downstairs.
That’s my only explanation.
I got out to some gigs in April too – Lush reformed and I had a rare night out. Just getting onto a train and going across London was making me pretty nervous. It was a great night, I had far too much to drink, and the night was to be repeated a month or so later but with Shaun while H went on a sleepover.
Getting to work became an issue. Southern Trains were becoming increasingly rubbish and I was having a lot of palpitations. One day I got into work and burst into tears which isn’t like me at all. One word – perimenopause. I’ve done several things to calm the symptoms, they still happen especially the anxiety, but I’m learning to control it. I had a Mirena fitted which is helping a lot too. I had a journey home with the best train driver ever.
May also brought our annual trip to Wembley to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final. It’s good fun, cheap and I’ve already bought tickets for next year – they’re on sale now – and kids go free. It’s a great atmosphere!
We popped to Kew to view Kew Palace on our HRP membership. Don’t forget to print out your 2 for 1 vouchers beforehand like we did… you don’t get in free to Kew with HRP, you get a discount. 2 for 1 works out a bit cheaper too – meant we had more money to spend in the shops there!
June brought our second trip to Wembley. I bought tickets for England’s last friendly before the World Cup. H has finally seen Harry Kane play football (and Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker). Next season we’ll try a Tottenham game. We missed the National Anthem thanks to it taking forever to get into Wembley, but caught the majority of the game.
June also brought our trip to the WB Studio Tour. H is a fully-fledged Harry Potter convert now – she has seen all the films and knows more about each character than me. She has also read my books more than I have… We all really enjoyed it – even Shaun who tolerates it (and usually falls asleep in the films). We’ll be going back when we can save enough money – maybe for Hogwarts at Christmas in 2017.
June also brought a trip to Southampton to see the touring production of Mary Poppins on stage. The production was nowhere near London so we decided to make a night of it, and booked into the Ibis there (which H loved as it had a bunk bed over our double bed). We had seen it way before H was born, and loved it again. Zizi Strallen is an excellent Mary.
June also brought BritMums which I really enjoyed, hanging out all day with Mary who is excellent company.
July brought the Bottersnikes and Gumbles preview where we interviewed one of the characters and found out the recording didn’t work. My memory was still a bit rubbish so I can’t remember anything he said either. I fail. H was interviewed for CBBC but it wasn’t used (I thought that might happen, she was quiet).
July was also the start of our holidays, heading to Cornwall again. We stopped in Weston Super Mare on the way down, wandered around there and made the most of late evening beach walks, donkey rides, fish & chips and relaxing.
The following day we arrived at Hallagenna Cottages in St Breward, and had a lovely week there discovering loads of new places. Up the road at Coombe Mill The Boy and Me gang were staying. H and The Boy both got on famously, so next year we’re going back to Coombe Mill to stay!
I love Cornwall. Great beaches, great weather and having a proper holiday is always a good thing.
On the way back to London we stayed in a Yurt at the Kingsmead Centre which was loads of fun!
We used our Merlin Passes and visited Weymouth Sea Life on the way back to London.
August arrived. We had a short break to Paris planned which didn’t break the bank. We stayed near the Eiffel Tower for a couple of nights. After that we headed to Disneyland Paris and H didn’t have a CLUE! She also got in for free as if you’re six, then that’s what happens. She was seven the following day – and it counts from check-in date. We also managed to do Jedi Training Academy. So that was her surprise 7th birthday treat. We had glorious weather and needed a month to recover afterwards.
In September H moved up to Junior school. She has settled well and is loving it. Her confidence is growing too which is great. She also started Brownies and had moved up a level in swimming at the end of summer to Stage 5.
At the end of October we headed back to York to see my mum, staying there for the first time in a long time. H loved spending time with her nana, and I loved stopping and recharging my batteries. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the whole of half term off, so we took H out of school for two days so she won’t get her 100% attendance this term.
We visited Fountains Abbey with my sister and her boys too.
We also found time to visit Alton Towers which I’d spent plenty of time at in the eighties. I recognised parts, but not that much really, although I’d occasionally have moments where I’d say “Hang on? Wasn’t The Corkscrew there?” and be right.
November was Bonfire Night which was fun – we stayed by our local ponds and had great views, rather than enter the park and have some views. The end of the year is all about saving money! I booked a ticket for Blogfest earlier in the year and attended but it wasn’t the same. I don’t think I’ll be going next year.
We went to Epsom Downs and saw the supermoon which gave me lots of silhouette photos I do love to take. We planted Miffy Tulips, and got some mesh to put over our plant pot so the foxes won’t dig it up. H did her Brownie promise and remembered it, and I wore my leaders uniform for the first time and felt like I had confidence to do it.
December. We had the school fair (which H helped me on the stall with – see, this is a new confidence she’s found. She used to hide behind me), she has moved up a level at swimming to Stage 6. She has lost two more teeth taking it to 10 total, and is almost there with her handwriting at school, holding out for a pen licence.
Completely unexpected, but H was Star of the Term as voted for by her teachers. She ran up to me incredibly proud in the playground. Their note sums it up. I love that the unexpected things make everything feel even better.
We went back to York for the York Panto which was Cinderella. H got her name read out in the shoutouts part of the production which she loved – and she got a Wagon Wheel! I am still persuading her not to eat it…
We had two visits to see Father Christmas. One was at Chessington Garden Centre and the other at Tottenham’s ground. Of the two, the Tottenham one was the best – he was really warm, fun and engaging and had H chatting. I asked him if he could make sure Tottenham win the league for my present and we all left feeling cheery (but I don’t think he’ll have much luck with that, another good season would be good).
We’re finishing the year off inviting neighbours around to our house. This is a big one for us – until now I’ve felt like our house is too small, though a friend did it last year and made me realise it could be done. Then we had H’s party which proved over 20 people could be in our house with room to spare. My biggest problem had been our heating. It was fine us living here with the crappy heating which I always hated and felt like it only warmed the landing upstairs and our front room – but now we have proper central heating. This house is welcoming again… though I suspect our 1st January trip to the seaside may need to be postponed by a day… that and I’m sure our car won’t make it there and back!
So what will 2017 bring? I know my aches and pains and anxiety aren’t going to go away, but I’ve found if I keep myself busy it helps it not be at the forefront of my mind. I’m going to progress with my training to be a Guide Leader though I’m still not sure I want to be in charge. But we’ll cross that bridge…
We’ve taken out Historic Houses Association membership so at some point we’ll get to Hever Castle which we’ve wanted to visit for a while. We’ll probably need to buy a new car as ours is on its last legs.
Coombe Mill has always been on my to-do list, and as if by magic, up pops this year’s Christmas at Coombe Mill competition. So I’m going to give it a go.
Christmas at Coombe Mill sounds amazing. I know what Coombe Mill is like now – while we didn’t stay there when we visited Cornwall, The Boy and Me gang did and invited us over. We all made friends – and that is the first thing about the place. You make friends. I like to think I can make friends easily, and indeed, get me chatting and you might wish I’d shut up… and what I loved the most about our two visits was how social the place is.
We’d be sat outside TBaM’s lodge and people would come past saying ‘hello’. You really have to get out of that London frame of mind where nobody speaks to anyone. We’re all escaping somewhere people don’t look you in the eye and going somewhere that opens up new opportunities, new friendships and happiness.
I love that outside the Scandinavian Lodges is a large grass area where children can play. Get them dressed up in the right gear and it’s all-weather play there too.
The thing I will always go on about is the BBQ Hut – what a brilliant idea. A hut which can seat plenty of adults and you can set your BBQ going and it’s cosy. How flipping brilliant would it be to have a BBQ in December? Toasting marshmallows on Christmas Eve? Yep, I’m dreaming now…
Of course, there’s the morning feed run – H loved it, and got stuck in after running around and looking a bit cross. The animals ran away from her (err, that’s what they do… you need to pick them up with a sense of purpose rather than hope they’ll come to you). Once she had picked up her first there was no stopping her and her confidence grew. Feeding the animals and wandering around with Farmer Nick and the other kids was a brilliant experience for her. She loved picking branches from the trees and feeding them to the donkeys. I loved that she did it without a second glance back to Shaun or I, apart from when she proudly showed us what she had done.
I think that’s another important Coombe Mill thing. It’s brilliantly geared for children to do things and adults to take a bit of time out (while still casting a watchful eye over them of course), that you can switch off from it all. Add that Cornwall thing of a patchy mobile signal, and you can really get away from your phone. You have to when there’s no signal! Talking of signals, H loved operating the one on the train line which runs every weekday. This service is way more reliable than Southern Railways and probably runs over Christmas too!
My overall impression of Coombe Mill was having the space to breathe again. Every Christmas we tend to stay at home and slob out… and if I’m to be honest it’s a lovely family thing, but not a special moment for H. She knows no different. I remember at her age having a pillowcase at the bottom of my bed and checking all the time to see if Santa had been. Christmas Day was a big family occasion with grandparents, aunties and more. Sadly that’s impossible with her surviving grandparents living in York and Australia! She’s also reaching that age where she could stop believing in the next year or two. I want her to have one big magical Christmas before things change.
This is why I think Christmas at Coombe Mill would be just that. We’d all switch off and enjoy some quality time together as a family and as part of the Coombe Mill celebrations. I’m hoping the BBQ Hut will feature too, of course!
This is my entry for the Christmas at Coombe Mill competition over here. Even if I don’t win, we’re going next August and I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!
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