Butlins 2018, High Ropes, Nine Bots and Hot, Sunny Days.

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Our family loves Butlins, to us its our happy place and we try to visit at least annually for a short break. Over the past 7 years we have done 11 breaks, initially to Minehead but since discovering the amazing hotels at Bognor Regis, we now drive down to West Sussex.   I don’t normally write about each trip, but our visit last weekend was special and different, it felt like the passing of time and deserving of a few words. There are some trips which we have done to Butlins which will always stand out, our first visit was our first holiday as a family and came the week of our adoption order and my first mothers’ day, we’ve also done Easter, Christmas and Halloween at Butlins which are always special for their seasonal celebrations, decorations and personal touches.  We love Butlins for its attention to detail, family friendliness and the variety of activities on offer, there really is always something to do.

Last weekend was special for a number of reasons.  Firstly the weather was stunning, we have never had such gorgeous sunshine and high temperatures at Butlins and finally got to enjoy our room’s balcony as well as al fresco dining around the site.  Mr S in very impressive form had booked me a spa experience and massage as a birthday treat and I had a wonderful afternoon in the spa.  I went from the sunshine and warmth of the outside hot tub to the snow and ice room and many more treats in between.  The massage was one of the best I have ever had and I felt so relaxed and refreshed after my spa experience.  Bonus points for Mr S!

During our little break, we realised how quickly the children are growing up.  We started going to Butlins when they were toddlers and Mr S and I  looked nostalgically at the tots funfair, the toddlers activity centre etc.. all those hours we had spent with the children  in those areas as well as watching the shows and having photos taken with their heroes, Fireman Sam, Angelina Ballerina etc…  This time we didn’t watch any of the children’s shows, only the evening ones in Centre Stage or Reds.  During this stay the children were ecstatic that they were now tall or old enough for new experiences.  They did the High Ropes and although they started cautiously they quickly developed the skills and confidence on the course.  They also tried Nine Bots which are junior versions of Segways.  I was worried how Little Man would cope as he has some motor difficulties, yet he was the stronger of the two and picked up the instructions and directions immediately, he was zooming around the course at such a speed and so happy with his success.  The swimming and slides were great and a welcome relief in the heat, the pool party on Saturday night with DJ and inflatables and props was especially fun .  However, we’re all looking forward to our trip next year with the new water park opening in Spring 2019 as it looks fantastic with lots of new rides and slides to try.

We found this break that Mr S and I had a little extra time too, the children are now at an age where they’re looking for a little independence and we allowed them some unsupervised parent time in the staffed areas like the games room or arranged a meeting point at the fair whilst they did the stomach churning rides that neither of us fancied.  Holidays are now starting to get a little more relaxing for us too (I’m whispering that as we have our summer holiday next week and I don’t want to jinx it!)

I can’t imagine a time when we won’t be coming to Butlins.  I only discovered it with Mr S and the children as I had never been to a Butlins resort as a child and it is now my happy, safe place.  As soon as we enter I feel relaxed, ready to have fun and make happy memories with our little gang of 4, Butlins really is special to us all.

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The summer football came home

 

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I love a World cup summer and I will watch every game I can.  I’ve always been a big football fan and until our move to the seaside I was a season ticket holder at Bristol City.  I’m not a huge premier league fan, that’s a whole different game, I’ve always followed lower league teams as the football community here feels a bit different and real.

My expectations for Russia 2018 were pretty low, I thought that given the reputation of some Russian ultra fans and recent problems that hooliganism would be rife.  There has been no hint of such violence and I’ve also enjoyed exploring Russia through the different venues, the hard, grey cities I imagined have been replaced by venues such as Samara which looked a lovely seaside city.

This has been the first World cup in which Little Man has been really interested in, he has collected his Panini cards, adorned his bedroom wall with posters, worn his England top and been able to talk about the teams and games with confidence.  His enthusiasm has been infectious, from day 1 he believed in the England team.  He had none of the cynicism and weariness of the adults and it was refreshing to see the game I love through such innocent eyes.  Little Man taught me about the players as he knew all the facts like names, clubs, age etc.  These players are his new heroes.  It was also the first World cup when Little Man got to go to a bar to see the game on a big screen and the fun of all the oohs, argghs and cheers, he loved it.  I also liked that we were at Grandad’s for the Panama game and all the goals and my parents watched the semi final with us too, football is about community and sharing the experience.  Whilst my daughter has watched the football too,  she has definitely preferred the social aspect of meeting up with friends.  She doesn’t dislike football, she simply prefers to play.

Sad as I am to admit it, I knew very little about the England team before they left, a team of young, internationally inexperienced players. I was hoping they would  progress through the group stages, gain some experience in a big tournament and be ready to really compete at Euro 2020.  Generally I think lots held similar thoughts, for once the media hadn’t hyped up the team and I think that’s why what happened seems rather magical, the England team just quietly and diligently worked hard on playing football.  As the results came in, the feeling of excitement blossomed, here was something new, a team of youth, with grace, talent and skill unburdened by expectations.  We also grew to love the quiet humility, determination and hard work of our manager, Gareth Southgate, an unexpected appointment which now seems genius.  It was a lovely feeling to experience and I’m so pleased that Little Man got to experience such a positive World cup by England as his first real tournament.

The World cup comes to a close this weekend and its been brilliant, new teams have emerged, the old footballing contenders were knocked out early, VAR has caused some controversy in the early games and the country has united behind our team again.  Its been a memorable tournament and I’m so proud that although we may not have brought the World cup home (but came so close) the England team have brought football home in reigniting our love for the beautiful game.

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A perfect weekend

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We have had one of those weekends when you feel you have actually been away on a holiday as you can’t quite work out how you managed to fit so much into a few days .It was one of those weekends where everything magically aligned and the weather was stunning, a weekend full of awesome moments and happy times.

We spent this weekend in the Bristol area, Mr S and I lived here until our move to our seaside town in 2004, so it was a weekend to see family and old friends.  We drove up after school on Friday afternoon and arrived in time for a quick change and a walk to a local, family run Italian restaurant, which had been a favourite when we lived nearby, for a celebration dinner.  There was lots to celebrate birthdays, fathers day and just being together and we had such a relaxed and delicious family meal with Granddad.  The restaurant has a very clever design so our table in the ‘conservatory’ made us feel that we were eating outside on the hot evening with a gentle breeze.  We walked through the park on the way home and as it was so light and warm we let the children play whilst we simply watched and talked, does anything beat a warm summer night?

On Saturday we planned to do lots with the children to tire them as Granddad was babysitting and we wanted to make sure the children were asleep before Mr S and I left for our night out.  We drove over to Portishead to their open air pool for some swimming.  The lido is gorgeous and retro with a real 50s vibe, it is painted bright orange and yellow and with the blue pool and blue skies it looked amazing.  Its such a hidden gem and we had such  a great morning here with swimming, games, sunbathing on the tiered steps and of course eating our picnic, which seems to become more elaborate each time.  After the lido we walked along the promenade to the park and boating lake where we hired a pink flamingo pedalo.  This was so much fun too, perhaps more for me as I was in the back so got to sit and relax whilst Mr S and the children pedalled around the lake.  It was late afternoon by the time we got home and we succeeded in getting two tired children in bed and asleep by 8pm.  The main focus of our visit to Bristol was for a friend’s 50th birthday party.  Mr S has had the same group of friends since school so it was a lovely to meet up with them all at the party.  Mr S remarked he had been at the host’s 21st, 30th, 40th and 50th parties and I find it incredible that such a large group of friends from school are still so close after all these years.  I’ve known the group for the past 20 years and still feel a newbie! The party was at a stunning and impressive venue and we spent a lot of time outside as it was just so beautiful with gorgeous gardens.  It was one of those parties when it was over so quickly as we were all having such a good evening.

Today we played in the park and met up with friends which meant for Little Miss the absolute thrill of meeting up with teenagers to discuss make up, clothes and piercings.  We then got to watch the England match, for Little Man this is the first World cup he is really interested in and he knows so much, he watches the game with his World cup cards and looks up the players etc… He loved the England match and watching all the goals go in, he has that innocent belief in England, not the cynicism of us oldies.  As we drove home we listened to Three lions which he is now singing along to and then switched to the cricket commentary where England in a thrilling match beat Australia to win the ODI series 5 – 0.

It really felt like a perfect weekend and one that will be remembered fondly for many years to come.  I’m just hoping the adrenaline and memories will now see me through the week, as I am a bit tired!

Being the mum who decided to go for it!

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Last week, I found myself doing some quite different things; within 6 days I had been to a roller disco, done every slide at least once at a water park and had my first kayak lesson.  Looking back on the week, I wondered if I was going through a mid life crisis trying to prove that I had the fitness, stamina and spirit to do these activities.  Perhaps this is true, I was 37 when I finally became a mum after years of fertility treatment and the adoption process, much older than I had hoped.  I always wanted to be one of those mums who did things with her children, who was present not simply physically but experiencing the moment too.  I also feel that its up to me to be that sporty active parent as Mr S suffered significant injuries in an accident when he was younger so cannot do all I can.

The activities I did last week were all with or for the children, we went to the roller disco and water park together and I am taking kayak lessons so I can be confident to go out with them on the water.  I want them to be active and adventurous and its up to me to be that example.  This may sound all very noble, but the main reason I do these activities is for fun, to live in the moment and enjoy time with my children.  We only have 18 summers with our children, I missed 2 for Little Miss and 1 for Little Man when they were in care so my 18 is reduced, we’re now half way through our childhood summers and there is still so much I want to share with my children.  We have many more adventures to plan and experience and I intend to be the mum who says yes and goes for it, life is too short to live on the side lines.

Dear Little Miss ..

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My little note to you hidden in your case x

Dear Little Miss

 

This is now the longest time we’ve ever been apart since we became a family eight years ago.  I’m missing you; your cuddles, kisses and companionship.  The house seems so much quieter and emptier without you.  Its not the first time you’ve been away from home, as you have done a Brownie sleepover but this school residential feels different.  It is an adventure and you are trying new and exciting activities without me there to encourage and cheer you on.  You are now old enough to be creating special memories with your friends as well as your family and I’m sure the PGL trip of Year 5 will become a much treasured trip for you all.

Thanks to digital technology, Daddy and I have been able to see you throughout the trip on the school feed, we’ve admired the photos of you abseiling, raft building, fencing, whizzing down the longest zip wire I’ve ever seen and just playing with your friends.  It all looks so much fun and there you are smiling, confident and looking so grown up.  I’ve heard it was you that started the singing on the coach and I’ve seen the video of the raft and you leaping into the water with so much zest and squealing in delight as you splash down.  You were so excited about PGL and now you’re there you seem to be relishing every moment and I couldn’t be prouder. This is what life is about its trying new things and embracing every opportunity, please never lose your energy, enthusiasm and passion for life, it makes you the very special young lady you are.

I am so looking forward to seeing you tomorrow and although I’ve missed you, this trip has been amazing for you.  I can’t wait to hear of all your adventures and to start planning new ones too.

Lots of love

Mummy xx

A World War 2 Photo Album

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Gramps, Autumn 1939

 

During the Easter holidays, I spent some time at my parents’ house sorting through old photographs.  I love seeing old photographs of friends and family and wanted to find a few favourites of my parents and grandparents to make copies for my collection.

In the big box of delights was a battered old album from World War 2, it begins with this joyous photo of my grandfather, Gramps and then contains fewer photos of him and more of daily life in the RAF.  I was intrigued by this album as so little is known about his military service, I know Gramps was ground crew in the RAF, working as an electrician, his life long career and that he was based for a time in the south of England but that was all the information.  I was always puzzled how a Scotsman could end up in a base in the south but thanks to his meticulous notes on the back of photos and the Internet I have been able to piece the early part of his military service.

Gramps began his military service in Drem in Scotland, close to where he lived.  The photos all show 609 Squadron and following research I understand that this squadron spent time in Drem, Scotland, the north of England, before moving to RAF Northold for Dunkirk and then Dorset and Hampshire for the Battle of Britain.

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Gramps’ military bases

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609 Squadron was a Bomber and Fighter squadron and I have been brought to tears learning about the squadron, the heroic actions of the pilots and the high number of fatalities.  Gramps wrote details on every photo and I have been able to research some of the individuals featured in the photos.  Its been heart-breaking research and it makes me think that the reason that Gramps never spoke of the war was the sadness at so many colleagues killed in action.  Gramps was so kind, loving and caring, a devoted family man and loyal to all his friends. He was quiet and dignified and I think his silence was his respect to his colleagues.

These photos show F.O. Ian Bedford Nesbitt Russell in Scotland a few weeks before he was tragically killed supporting the allies at Dunkirk. For me it is the difference in the pictures, a relaxed young man in Scotland on the airfield and then the pilot leaving on his final flight.  In doing the research I learnt that Russell was a young Australian from Melbourne.  I am sure that Gramps would be very proud to know that his eldest grand daughter now works as a paediatrician in the same city.

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Another photo shows Sgt Alan Feary whom was killed in October 1941, his grave is not too far from our home and I would like to visit it and pay my respects to one of my Gramps’ colleagues  I have seen a number of the photos including this one from the album on the Internet so I am presuming that they were distributed to many of the staff of 609 Squadron.

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Whilst the photos have really brought the history of the second world war to me and I have enjoyed researching 609 squadron, I still know little about Gramps’ war service.  My parents are visiting family in Scotland soon and I am hoping that they will be able to find either his service number or NI number so we can request his service record.  This really is a fascinating photo album and illustrates the sacrifices made by Gramps’ generation for us all, they will never be forgotten.

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Image from ww2today.com

Sources

 

http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/609_wwII.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._609_Squadron_RAF

http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads/flying-officer-ian-bedford-nesbitt-russell-dfc-raf.19891/

http://www.aircrewremembered.com/feary-alan-norman.html

Snow Days

Over the past few days in the media, there have been some stunning photos taken in our county of the quintessential English snowy dream, picturesque villages and moody sea shots.  However, these images don’t convey the reality of living in this idyll in really poor weather.  Here is my guide of life in a rural setting in poor weather.

  1.  The first day of snow is magical.  It is so unexpected as little snow falls at the coast.  It is amazing to watch the flakes fall, the hills and fields surrounding the town become dusted white and the joy and excitement of the children captivates and delights all.  The children run home from school to make snowmen, throw snowballs in a blizzard of snow and simply squeal and dance in delight.  The photos taken from this afternoon will give you the feels for years to come, that look in the childrens’ faces of pure happiness is perfection. We love the snow.
  2. Later in the evening, the reality of the poor weather becomes clear.  We are so rural in a very large county that our roads, many minor or country roads have not been treated in advance.  Colleagues have had accidents on the way home from work in blizzard conditions.  Some have been sat in cars on country roads for 4 hours, others are in rescue centres, others have abandoned their cars and walked, whilst others have been able to turn around and return to work.  Suddenly snow is not quite so magical.
  3. The poor road conditions mean that our town is now completely cut off, the emergency services have closed the routes to  town due to serious accidents and incidents.  There is no chance of gritters tonight, they are focusing on the dual carriage ways which themselves are blocked with accidents, the county is in gridlock.  And then along with the snow, the freezing rain starts to fall making difficult conditions, lethal.  You are thankful to be safe and warm at home.
  4. A new snow day and whilst the scene looks beautiful and picture perfect the conditions are the worst you have ever seen.  The freezing rain and temperatures mean that every surface is now under at least two inches of thick, black ice. There are no vehicles on the roads and the very few people you see trying to gingerly walk along the road all fall.  We live on a steep hill and are now house bound, no fun walks for snow ball fights and sledging, we are stuck in our house.   Snow is beginning to lose its charm.
  5. Time for some community action, messages on social media ensure that the doctor has a volunteer driver in a 4×4 for urgent home visits, neighbours check on each other, those with the appropriate skills and equipment try to help others.  This is the feel good moment, when you are proud of living in a community.
  6. Its time for planning now and careful rationing of food.  You start to make calculations of how much milk and bread you can have per day and how to best use the food you have in the house.  We have been here before, 7 years ago, so we do have a carton of UHT milk in the cupboard and there is enough food in the fridge and cupboards to feed us comfortably for the days to follow.  There’s no panic buying here, simply because nobody can get to the supermarket and we’ll all survive!  In our house, we use the time to enjoy preparing warm, filling meals, a parsnip and apple soup, casserole with homemade dumplings.  At least the snow days have given us the time to employ a little hygge.
  7. At last, we have some gritters on our road, it is now Friday afternoon and the snow started on Tuesday.  Today’s heroes wear high viz vests.
  8. Cabin fever is apparent, Mr S catchphrase ‘Close the door, keep the heat in’ is said on repeat and we have exhausted our family favourite activities, craft, cooking, screen time, movie, table football etc.. The children desperately want to play outside as it looks so gorgeous yet we can’t even go down the steps outside the house because of the ice.  We reluctantly conclude that a snow day is only fun if you get to be in the snow. Our entertainment now is carefully watching the temperature slowly rise in percentage points on our thermometer.
  9. As we go to bed we open the back door and start to hear the crackling of the ice, the dripping of water, what a relief.  It looks like the forecast is correct and we may get grey, mild and wet weather tomorrow and we’ve never been happier for such a dismal forecast.

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