Don’t Stop All the Clocks

A few weeks ago there was UPROAR because Big Ben isn’t going to bong for many years whilst the Houses of Parliament are undergoing renovations!  People were quoted as saying it may harm tourism?!?!  (To be honest most tourists want a photo with Big Ben in the background not a sound recording of the bongs?!?)

Big-Ben (1)

In the mid 90s I lived on St Paul’s Square in the centre of Birmingham.  There was a church in the middle of the square (cue reminiscing about my brother in law doing a comedy dive over one of the benches in the churchyard the day they helped me move in!)  Anyway – I digress.

St_Paul_Birmingham

 

When I first became resident I was really concerned that the clock would keep me awake – but it didn’t at all.  In fact the only time it was an issue was when the clock was broken and stopped chiming every 15 minutes, and bonging on the hour!  I think my subconscious would wait to hear it – and when it didn’t happen I’d wake up – weird!

We now live within striking distance of one of the churches in our village.  Bell ringing practice on a Tuesday can be a wonderful sound (or it can be quite annoying when children use it as an excuse as to why they can’t possibly get to sleep!)  Again the clock at this church chimes every 15 minutes and bongs the hours. This was very useful before I wore a Fitbit 24/7 – as if I was up in the night with small children I could work out what time it was even if I wasn’t near a clock.

St Laurence Church

The other day the 5 year old announced that as the clock had just struck she was coming in for some lunch – given it goes every 15 minutes, I’m not sure why this particular ringing meant food time?!

Although award for the craziest bell has to go to the church in the centre of Le Biot in the French Alps where my BFF from school and her family live.  There is seemingly no rhyme or reason to when or how many time that bongs!!  But at least I’m not moaning about the cow bells – which apparently most English residents living there don’t like (well, according to the Daily Mail anyway – so it must be true!!)

Le Biot France

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You know you’ve been at Centerparcs Longleat for the week when…………

  • You’re not sure if the children have got mud or chocolate on their faces – and frankly you don’t care
  • Daddy has cycled the tagalong bike through every possible puddle in Longleat and covered the smallest child in yet more mud.
    Tagalong
  • The adults all have rapids related injuries from the swimming pool – where the kids are all totally fine!  Centerparcs elbow is a well known ailment in our house – and tends to have just recovered before the next visit!!Rapids
  • ‘Essentials’ from the Parcmarket on the last night are bread, milk and prosecco
  • You’ve had to stand on the top of the hot tub to get a decent phone signal to take a work call
  • You’ve hit your steps target on your Fitbit every day from marching from the outdoor activity center to the Jardin de Sports because your activity planning didn’t take geography into account
  • The number of parents growling through gritted teeth at their children ‘we’ve paid a lot of money to be here, you should be enjoying it’ has hit triple figures
  • You’ve got back ache from pushing a small child’s bike up (and down) hills because they’re only confident on the flat (of which Longleat doesn’t have much!)
  • The sauna has been used every day without fail – but only to dry towels and swimming stuff.
  • You’ve bumped into a friend from school that you haven’t seen in 25 years – but you’re both necking booze at lunchtime
  • The story about Mummy crying on the Tree Top Trek has been recounted to many staff and random strangers #thankskids
  • You’ve decided to try and ignore the fact that the pool is human soup and satisfy yourself that the chlorine levels must be fine as they’re making everyone’s hair a bit lighter too!
  • The house has had to be re-mortgaged so that the children can paint random pieces of pottery that will end up being stored in the loft within 6 months
    Pottery
  • You’ve realised by the end of the day that the changing rooms at the pool need a health warning – so you plan to go earlier in the day to avoid the strange things people leave in the cubicles…
  • You’re shocked at the number of people who don’t wear cycling helmets and don’t insist their children do – having witnessed first hand the accidents that can happen even at slow speed when coming off a bike I want to shout at them all (but have refrained!)  but for us – no helmet = no bike
  • You’ve decided that donuts are a perfectly acceptable breakfast and pancakes a perfectly acceptable lunch (apologies to the parents of the children we brought with us!)
    Pancakes
  • The highlight of the week was to be the full body massage you had booked for the last afternoon – but it drops off the Centerparcs app the night before – so you almost weep with relief when the lovely lady at guest services tell you that it’s still booked #phew (and it was WONDERFUL – thank you Molly!)
  • You’re sending your nephew home with trainers entombed in mud from where he rolled his quad bike – and potentially half of his wardrobe is in a similar state #sorrysister
  • You’ve made loads of brilliant memories that will be talked about for years – and you’ve already booked to come back again for New Year and are bringing some overseas Centerparcs virgins with you!!

 

Thank you again Centerparcs Longleat for a fab stay.  Last time we stayed in this lodge we went home pregnant with our 4th child – hoping we don’t have QUITE such a lasting memory this time!!!

The Prices do St Lucia

St Lucia flag

14.5 years ago the husband and I got married in St Lucia.  Back then digital photos were a new fangled thing – so there weren’t many to chose from – but here you go! (Can’t believe how young we all look!!)

Wedding day 2003

We got married at The Body Holiday at Le Sport.  It’s a fabulous resort – and you get beauty treatments included each day as part of the ‘all inclusive’ aspect for the resort.  Even my Dad got in on the treatment action back in 2003. I  was actually 16 weeks pregnant with our eldest daughter (I’d come off the pill when we booked the wedding expecting it to take forever to get up the duff – but it didn’t!) and so was limited with the treatments, watersports, food and drink when there for the wedding.  But thankfully made up for that when we returned for our 5th and 10th wedding anniversaries!

40th birthday

Anyway – apart from this one ‘in utero’ visit for the eldest, the kids hadn’t seen where we got married – so we thought we’d take them across the Atlantic for a summer holiday in the Caribbean. Some friends have a timeshare slightly further down the coast from where we got married – and unlike The Body Holiday, this resort permits children to stay too.  We could have a large 5 bedroom villa in  the grounds of the hotel – so having the hotel facilities (room service, restaurants, water sports, spa etc) on tap but still staying in our own space.  So we booked a villa at Windjammer Landing through James Villas.

We headed of to St Lucia with British Airways (Virgin also fly there) – with the nice lying down seats!

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The youngest signing her landing card! 

We’d been given some top tips for arriving at Hewanorra airport (UVF if you’re interested in airport codes #usefulforPointless) – basically, keep left if you’ve got young kids with you, as there’s a dedicated ‘families’ queue at immigration which is loads quicker! And it was great – straight through, bags grabbed, men trying to charge you loads of money to help avoided and out into the every sweaty concourse to await our driver.

We knew the drive from the airport was arduous!  We’ve tried a helicopter transfer before – and with all the faffing about, and the fact it only gets you to Castries, not the actual hotel – meant we stuck with road transportation.  I suffer HORRIBLY with car sickness – and the roads in St Lucia are pretty windy, bumpy and altogether vomit inducing – but I managed not to chuck for the 90 minute transfer.

It was all a bit chaotic and ‘Caribbean’ in service levels when we got to the hotel. I’m not sure I’m cut out to be laid back and all ‘irie’.  Anyway – we got up to our villa and our view was AMAZING!!!  It was just the most stunning ever.  There were a ‘few’ issues – but I’ve saved those for the Tripadvisor review 😉

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The stunning view from our villa 

Whilst the husband and I had been to St Lucia before, we hadn’t ventured out of our resort – so we decided to do a trip around the island.  I – and 2 of the 4 kids – aren’t great on boats, so we did it by road.  This was not cheap – but we plumped for it anyway.  We saw Marigot Bay, did the sulphur springs, the waterfall and the Pitons.  The weather was FOUL, it took FOREVER to get anywhere – but we all survived (just!)  We’ve only seen rave reviews of doing these sites by sea – so it must just have been doing it by road that made it really hard work – of course, not helped by the fact the rain was pretty torrential.  It also highlighted just what a high proportion of the island is living in total poverty – quite sobering to see when you’re safely ensconced in your luxury resort most of the time.

On other days we did the zip wire over the rainforest (and the youngest and I did a cable car instead as she was too young to zip wire – and I’m too scared of heights!!)

The husband and girls also did horseriding – including a ride along the beach.

We also went to the water park in Rodney Bay with our friends which was brilliant (again the 5 year old was too young, and quite put out about this!!)  – but the older kids and the husband enjoyed it (although he struggled to move the next day!!) We also had an amazing meal at Spinnakers on the beach that night.

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And, of course, we took the children to see where we got married #romantic

The airport lounge for the flight back is not the best lounge we’ve ever been in (Dubai International – DXB – is the best if you actually want to know!) but we passed the time there, and then flew back (not the best flight ever either – a 5 year old with ear ache meant I spent a large proportion of the flight sat in the footwell of her seat comforting her – and my lovely bed went unslept in!).

But lots of family memories – good, bad, amusing and disturbing – were made over the fortnight!

The eldest daughter made this fab video of what we got up to – which shows what a great time we had (thankfully it doesn’t include the torrential rain, or the times the kids just wanted to sit and watch their iPads!!)

Thank you St Lucia – you’ll always have a special place in our hearts as it’s where we said ‘I do’.  I’m not sure in January 2003 I would have expected to return 14 years later with 4 children in tow!

 

 

 

 

New York – with kids in tow!

A few years ago the husband and I had a childfree break to New York – and it was fantastic! This time we took some of the kids with us – which had to lend itself to a ‘how a trip to New York differs when you take the kids’ blog post!

  1. Never trust a bargain airport aparthotel!!
    When the husband and I have had an early flight we’ve always stayed on airport.  But travelling with the kids meant it would have to be 2 hotel rooms – or try an apartment.  Yeah – I failed with that one.  The on site parking was good (although an additional overnight charge which I must have missed in the booking) but the slashed sofas / smashed window / ripped sheets / non functioning in room phone were all not the best – and cost almost £300.  But hey ho, you live and learn, and we definitely won’t stay there ever ever again!!
  2.  They will find the free wifi EVERYWHERE – so can be relied upon to provide this information quickly – be it the free airport wifi before the lounge, the lounge, the airport waiting for the baggage, the hotel whilst waiting to check in, random shops etc etc.  Lack of availability of free wifi and the possibility that their social media streaks may fail is seemingly a fate worse than death.
  3. Travelling in the back of a New York taxi in a heatwave is unbearably hot!  Now I don’t know this personally – because I always had the front seat (a ‘benefit’ of horrible travel sickness!)  but the drivers and I were always lovely and airconned.  However, the plastic screen between the front and the back means the cold air does not circulate – and so the back is ROASTING! We did find one driver who had improvised his aircon – which was very welcome!


    I can also say that it would appear New York cabbies don’t like taking 4 customers!  The huffing involved with removing things from the front seat seemed a regular occurrence.  We are also spoilt with taxi drivers in the UK – and especially London – knowing their way about – it would appear that anyone can drive a cab in New York, even with minimal grasp of English let alone any ‘knowledge’ at all!
  4. Siblings will always fight over who has the best bedroom!!  We stayed at The London last time – and after some research, found that their 2 bedroom suites were cheaper than 2 separate rooms in other hotels – so went for that!  Actually the living room was big enough to house a roll out bed – so once child could be in there and one in the separate bedroom to avoid fighting!   The only downside was that the 2 bedroom suites don’t have the view of Central Park that our one bedroom had last time – but that wasn’t a major issue.  Sadly we didn’t celeb spot anyone in the lift this time! (Telling Billy Idol about working in WHSmiths in Acocks Green still ranks as one of the most surreal and random moments ever!!)
  5. Sights that can be Snapchatted / Instagrammed are key to the children!  (I should have guessed this after a dog Snapchat filter was applied to the Mona Lisa in February!) They could tell what shops were nearby by the available Snapchat filters (who knew?  Well, who over 40 knew?!)

  6. You can take kids to lovely restaurants (The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, the King Cole Bar in the St Regis Hotel) – but they’d be just as happy at McDonalds or Burger King. #heathens

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    Helping his Dad with the world famous crab cakes!
  7. For us and people of our age you can remember exactly where you were when 9/11 happened (the husband was having lunch in The Sports Bar on Broad Street, Birmingham – I was at the office of the aerospace company I’d started working for 10 days before) but for the kids it’s history.  We went to the memorial and the museum – which are both really well done – but the emotions for the kids were very different than for us.

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  8. Things end up REALLY expensive when you have to double up – so, for example, taking a bike ride round Central Park.  We were right royally screwed by the 5$ per minute and 25 minute ride (which included the fighting amongst the drivers about whose fare we were, the stopping so we could walk through Strawberry Fields and then stopping at traffic lights IN THE PARK!)  Anyway – 250$ later, and me moaning about thieving robdogs to 2 large Eritrean gentlemen and the lesson has been learned!  Oh well – at least we got to pose in front of the fountain from Friends……..

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  9. You can’t wing it with Broadway tickets!  When the husband and I went to New York previously we watched The Book Of Mormon – which was BRILLIANT – but possibly the least child friendly musical ever!  So we planned ahead and booked tickets for School of Rock – which is equally awesome (but with a lot less swearing and rude stuff!!)

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  10. You might have the kids with you – but your husband will always be the biggest kid of them all!

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    Fountains at Battery Park
  11. You can persuade them to walk further when it’s something interesting – in this case, walking the Highline!  The 12 year old was insistent we did complete end to end too (he is slightly obsessive about such things – but it increased my steps for the day!!)

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  12. Even when your kids are 14 and 12 it’s still really annoying when the flight home is delayed – but at least they managed to sleep on the floor!!

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In summary New York was still so good they named it twice – just different going with the kids in tow – but so lovely to make memories. Also, when you’re used to 4 kids, going away with 2 was surprisingly easy – and we’ve already told the little 2 we’ll take them in a few years time.  I wonder what will have changed in New York by then (this is said with the context that when I went in 1999 I didn’t go to the top of the World Trade Centre as I wanted to go to the shopping mall underneath – and said I’d do ‘Windows on the World’ next time I went………………)

 

 

 

There are two kinds of people…..

Fuel gauge 2

I saw this on Facebook yesterday, LOL-led and gave it the obligatory like, because it is exactly me and my husband (I’m the sensible, prudent accountant on the left, he’s the ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ entrepreneur on the right!)

This morning family logistics necessitated a car swap – which I was quite impressed he’d remembered when he left the house at 5.30am this morning in the correct car! However, I didn’t LOL quite so much when I got into his car and the fuel gauge was not only in the red, but in the fancy pants display said it was 0% full with the ability to drive 8 miles!!

Thankfully, and despite my sweaty palms from nerves not just the weather, I got the boy to the train station and the car to the petrol station before it used up the remaining diesel fumes!!  It can now drive 433 miles before the next refuel.  Or probably more like 233 if it’s me driving it…………

 

 

 

 

 

New York, New York – twice!

A couple of years ago the husband and I had a wonderful childfree few days in New York!

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Tourists on board a river cruise

And in a fortnight we’re heading back – but this time with a 12 and almost 14 year old in tow!!

We’re currently paying for the big 2 to go to school – which means their holidays are loads longer than the state schools (although you can practically fund the school fees in the reduced holiday costs #economics!) – so the little 2 are staying at home (with the nanny!) and we’re taking the big 2 on a city break.

Excitement levels are high (mostly due to Snapchat and Instagram ops!) and we’re hoping the children manage not to kill each other sharing a hotel room.

We’ve booked to see ‘School of Rock’ on Broadway – and to eat at The Boathouse in Central Park – but otherwise, we’re going with the toursit-y flow!

We’re staying in the same hotel as last time – and after our Billy Idol encounter last time, are hoping for a more relevant celeb spot in a lift this time!

I will, of course, report back how a city break with teens / tweens differs to an adult city break!!

Bring it on New York!!!

New York.jpg

‘Relaxing’ spa break……

My husband has always enjoyed a good spa break – in fact where we got married in St Lucia you had a treatment each day included in the price – and he quite happily had a massage / facial / body scrub up in the treatment area (there were A LOT of steps to get up there!)  Hey – he even had a back, sack and crack there once – but that’s a whole other blog post!!!

Tonight we are at a fabulous hotel in the Cotswolds overnight for my birthday and that has included some time in the spa.  But it has been far from relaxing with the husband in tow!

Dormy House Spa

Last time we were here he struggled with doing nothing – and spent most of the time working in the restaurant / bar attached to the spa.  Today he was even more of a nightmare!

Firstly – he sprayed me with cold water in the steam room as I was quite happily enjoying the temperatures.

Then – as I was enjoying a ‘tropical rain’ shower, he crept up on me and put a handful of crushed ice down my swimming costume.

And subsequently, he jumped into the tranquil swimming pool causing a mini tidal wave.  Then there was no calm swimming with your head out of the water in a true spa day style – now – he had to prove he could swim to one end from the other under the water (he did!)

Thank goodness I have a spa break with the girls booked next month – I am sure they will be far better behaved!!

 

 

 

 

 

Human Soup!

Yesterday there was a Tree Top Trek – today there wasn’t – thank goodness!

There was A LOT of walking (but that’s good for the Fitbit challenge I’m in – where my little sister is in marathon training and so the usual winner!) and also quite a lot of time spent in the ‘Subtropical Swimming Paradise’.

longleat-rapids

To be honest I would question all of the words used in that description.

I fear ‘Human Soup’ is a better description.  At one point this afternoon the rapids were shut because someone had VOMMITED in the pool (I am seriously hoping it was a baby and not some adult who’d been on the Jagerbombs at lunchtime?!)  But – they were shut for about an hour (I am assuming to give time for the sick to dissipate?!?  I am hoping there are protocols / chlorine levels to ensure this is dealt with safely?!?)

I am pleased to report I saw no evidence of vom floating about – but plasters / hair / unidentified floating solid things were all witnessed!

The kids adore the rapids – and despite being 42 and a size 18, I threw myself down them too (thankfully not landing on too many people in the process!)  I did, however, manage to flash most of Centerparcs after my boobs escaped after a particularly vigorous descent.

You will be pleased to hear there are no photos of today’s escapades!!

I also fear a rotator cuff injury and a mid back muscle issue – and all this despite the fact I only take responsibility for myself – with the older siblings (and spare one!) doing a sterling job with the little ones.

I also thought the pool water would be kill or cure for my horrific eczema – and at the moment it seems to be cure #winning

So no doubt there will be more Subtropical Swimming Paradise – Storm Doris Flailing Nightmare – tomorrow! #livingthedream

 

 

 

 

 

Tree top trek

Firstly – those three words are more difficult to say than you would expect – try it!

Secondly – I am never, ever, ever doing such a thing ever again!!

This week we’re spending half term at Centerparcs – ‘just’ us 6, with an extra one (whilst his Mum is busy kicking cancer’s butt!)

All of the kids wanted to do the aforementioned Tree Top Trek – but as 2 of the kids are under 8, that meant two over 18s were required. So I didn’t really have a choice…….

2 years ago for February half term we went to Bluestone in Wales, and I ended up a sobbing wreck and having to be helped off (and given gin afterwards) a similar rope course, so I should have expected the worst – but I really thought I would try. Friends are going through much bigger stuff than me being scared of heights – this would be fine……….

The boys did it first – breezing it, whizzing round, and as they did it so quickly, then being allowed to do it backwards just for LOLs.

the-boys

Then it was time for Daddy and all the girls (I am including myself in that – although at 42 I realise it’s a stretch!!)

The order to try the course was – Daddy, 6 year old, 13 year old, 5 year old – with me bringing up the rear.  The first thing was a zip wire.  The first 4 went off fine.  I dithered.  I had a pep talk off the instructors.  I had a pep talk off a random Welsh lady walking past. I dithered some more.  Then FINALLY I stepped off the platform.  I screamed – and I did not land it as brilliantly as the children had……

libby-landing

I then was stuck like a beached whale for quite some time – but eventually managed to haul myself up on to the platform.

I’d only signed up for this ‘fun’ because of the requirement for all under 8s to have an adult with them – I’m just not sure I was the adult that was in mind when setting this requirement!  Thankfully the 13 year old did a sterling job with her littlest sister.

13-year-old

I hated every single obstacle.  There was much swearing – inwardly and outwardly (sorry Centerparcs) and shaking of legs.  It was HORRIBLE.  Of course this just caused more hilarity for everyone else!  The 12 year old was videoing it and threatening to put it on YouTube – and there was quite a gathering of passers by to witness the spectacle.

At the same time I was trying to be encouraging to the children – particularly to the 5 year old who had only scraped the height requirement by a slightly bouffant ponytail!  At the climbing wall I said “Mummy is so  proud of you, you’re doing brilliantly’ to which the response was ‘Well, you’re doing rubbish Mummy”…….

libby-and-5-year-old

I dithered ridiculously over the climbing wall – absolutely petrified – and announced that my large breasts would inhibit my passing across the void.

libby-climbing-wall

I think my face pretty much sums up how I felt about the whole thing!!

But eventually – I just went for it – and I DID IT!  I loathed it.  I feel no sense of achievement – just a massive headache with the stress.  In fact – I couldn’t even face gin afterwards, that’s how bad it was, I just had a pint of WATER!!!!

I fear for the rest of the week I will pointed at around Longleat as ‘that crazy woman from the Tree Top Trek’!!

NEVER, EVER, EVER AGAIN!!!