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!
Last weekend we had a few days off work and holiday club, so headed away for a few days. We had a short Essex family break – getting away from it all.
A short Essex family break isn’t the first thing you’d think of when planning a few days away. Initially we were looking around Europe for something within the £500 range, but soon gave up.
Hands up, who has never been to Essex properly ever? Me. I don’t know why. There are lots of places in this country I have never visited properly, and Essex is one. It’s also one of the closest to where we live, M25 traffic permitting.
To celebrate Shaun’s birthday (as his is two days before H’s), we headed to Mount Hall Woodpecker Yurt as a little getaway for the three of us. After our previous brilliant but noisy Yurt experience, I was hoping for something a little more quieter and we got it.
Mount Hall is just outside Colchester, again another place I had never visited. I mean, without knowing anything, the name Colchester doesn’t sound like somewhere you would actively visit, right? But oh, so wrong. The history!
H’s first topic in Year 4 is the romans, and as we couldn’t make it back to York, Colchester is as good a place for some proper Roman history. Colchester Castle is really interesting and worth visiting too.
Fancy a half hour drive? Then you have Clacton-on-Sea and Walton-on-the-Naze, both have piers you can walk along. The Walton Pier is massive, and a quite decent long walk out to sea whereas Clacton’s Pier is full of amusements. Both are good places to use up your spare 2p’s on the machines in the arcades.
Out to sea is a windfarm which covers the skyline. I think we’ve seen it when coming in on flights as you line up with the Thames Estuary – you can’t miss it.
Walton-on-the-Naze has an entire hill full of beach huts all beautifully coloured which you can see from the pier.
The best part of our short Essex family break was the location. You’re not far from the A12, there are shops nearby for supplies but it’s still quiet. You are under the Stansted flight path which doesn’t make it completely quiet, but it’s still quieter than our previous stay.
Woodpecker Yurt has its own shower and kitchen block, as well as games for the private garden area. We could also borrow cycles. H enjoyed having a go on an adult bike while I fear she’ll need another bike already as it only felt like yesterday that she got her last one… she grows too quickly.
Around the Woodpecker yurt are apple and pear trees, with grapes growing on a side wall. We didn’t hear the woodpecker, but could still hear the chickens and horses just over the wall. H’s new found love of animals since she went to Coombe Mill meant she went to feed the horses some grass every day we were there.
Every night we had a BBQ. It’s quick and easy, in fact, the most difficult thing was finding somewhere that had vegetarian food. The local Co-Op had run out so we had to drive to a Tesco in Colchester. The joys of arriving on a Sunday when the shops had closed. On the second night we toasted marshmallows at the fire pit.
It was a lovely relaxing stay, and I feel like I want to discover more of Essex. I don’t know why we’ve never ventured out there. It’s so pretty!
Of course, what this now means is we’re going to look into getting camping gear, and get into the camping lark properly while the weather is still good. This may be a bonkers idea, but right now it feels like a REALLY good idea!
We’re linking up to Country Kids this week, it has been a while – it seems only fair as H and Shaun are in the Coombe Mill blog this week!
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.
We recently had our first summer holiday of the year (yep, we’re greedy, we’re having two), and headed to Cornwall. We had a wonderful week there and as usual didn’t have enough time to do everything. Every time we venture to Cornwall or Devon I like to break up the journey a bit and stay overnight somewhere. On the way back this time we stopped at Kingsmead Centre near Taunton for two nights in a yurt.
I had no idea what to take for our first camping break – though let’s be fair, it’s glamping rather than camping. All we needed was towels and food and toiletries – bedding is included, as is wood for the fire. We didn’t need to use the fire in the end as it was so warm and cosy, though did use some for the BBQ outside which is included in the price – made from an old washing machine tub! What a brilliant idea!
You’re provided with a cool box to keep anything you’d normally put in a fridge – and within the shower block area there are more fridges, though they’re popular. You can refill your cool box with specially marked Kingsmead frozen blocks when they thaw.
You get your cups, plates, cutlery, cooking tools all neatly stored in the chest next to the cooking area – heck, there’s even a small gas stove inside, perfect for filling up the kettle first thing. You really are spoilt!
Sleep-wise, there’s a comfy double bed with a super warm duvet on it, as well as a fold out futon and bedding stored in a chest at the bottom of the bed.
So what else is there in the yurt? A bookcase, a chess set, a table and chairs for sitting down and doing civilised stuff (like play chess – Shaun taught H). It’s a lot of space well laid out.
The Woodland Yurt at Kingsmead Farm is made from local materials too, which I thought was pretty cool.
Outside of the yurt, you’ve got important things like a shop in the reception area (a slightly longer walk) which is open until late most nights with all essentials. There’s a laundry room near there too which we didn’t need to use. The toilets and showers are brilliant – with one electric shower and one wonderful one that is tap operated. It was easily the best shower I had on my whole trip! I was able to share the cubicle with H and have loads of space too, but take some shoes which are good for walking on wet floors (like crocs, flip flops). The toilets are fine too – there were two of them in each room. Between the toilets is the previously mentioned room with fridges, which has a wonderful memory tree – I left a note there!
Kingsmead has a strict no noise policy after 9pm, and 10pm at weekends which everyone stuck to apart from the idiots who pitched their tent next to us. They stayed up talking LOUDLY until 4am… which was annoying. We should have reported them to the owners of the campsite really. I would say as long as you have considerate neighbours you’ll have a wonderful time. Noisy neighbours aren’t the campsite’s fault, so I have no problems there.
We paid £85 per night with extra for H – and I’d happily stay in the yurt again (although they have a gorgeous looking bell tent now too). It’s a good location for exploring some of Somerset and North Devon, or if you fancy just chilling around the campfire, doing just that. H went off to make friends and it felt like a safe place where she could – although be aware there are roads for cars to get to the tents, with a 5mph speed limit. H’s road sense isn’t quite there yet, but we’re working on it.
In summary, what did I think of our stay? Were it not for the noisy neighbours it would have been perfect, wonderful. The location is fantastic and it is somewhere I would happily book again. We don’t have any camping gear, so this is ideal – especially as we had a car full of things with us, so no room for extra things. H thought it was brilliant too!
Kingsmead Centre’s page for the yurt can be found here. It looks as lovely as that too – I can only hope we’ve done it justice!
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