Life lately …

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I feel that life recently has been quite focused on Little Miss, its her final year of primary school and there’s been SATS,a residential trip, secondary school transition visits and lots of other school events leading up to the leavers party and final assembly next week.  It is overwhelming and she’s pretty tired and definitely needing the summer holidays.

However Little Man has also been busy in the background too and has done lots of things which I’m really proud of.  This morning was his class assembly and it really was one of the best I’ve seen.  The class put such a show on, an assembly themed on Invaders and Settlers complete with time travelling machine, stunning props made in class, a funny script and some brilliant songs.  ‘Viking Rock, take me to Valhalla’ may be my favourite assembly song ever! By a strange quirk of the birth rate in our town, Little Man is in a very small class of 15, so unlike other class assemblies where everyone struggles to get a role, these children have to take on several roles each and Little Man was a Roman and Viking (clever on stage costume changes)   The change in Little Man’s demeanour on stage has been amazing, in Reception he struggled to even be on stage and looked scared, today he said lines out loud, acted brilliantly (he likes a mock fight scene) and sang his little heart out.  The teacher really had put so much into the assembly and she produced a stunning performance from them all.

His assembly came after a brilliant session at cubs the night before.  My children have grown up at the seaside and know nothing else, the beach is their playground.  Last night’s cubs was down at the sailing club where they were taught the basics of sailing and went out in the bay.  This wasn’t a special session, they have been outside every session this term and it was included in our subs.  The parents were asked to stay and help to push the boats out and bring them in again, so it was a nice session for us too as we chatted and watched in the evening sunshine.  I watched Little Man listening to the instructor and to be honest I wasn’t sure how much he was taking in, however he’s very much a doer than a listener when it comes to learning and this again showed last night.  I was impressed how well his little boat did and his enthusiasm for the activity.  I cannot put into words, how much cubs has helped Little Man’s confidence and skills. He finds school difficult because of such an academic focus, yet at cubs he can do, explore, make, participate etc.. and feels an equal. He’s already been on two camps this year and is already looking forward to camp 3 at the end of the summer holidays.

Little Man is very much looking forward to the summer holidays now, it’s days on the beach, visiting favourite places and playing with friends, no academic pressure just fun. The new school year will bring new pressures but for now summer is here.

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#nourish and the summer solstice.

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I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin and her podcast Happier and often have a go at some of her ideas as they are simple and practical strategies to facilitate life.  At the start of this year I chose my #19for2019, a list which is progressing nicely and chose a one word theme for my year, nourish.  In this week’s podcast, Gretchen suggested we revisited our one word theme of the year on the summer solstice.  Before listening to the podcast I had made plans for the solstice as I wanted to celebrate the longest day of the year and my plans fitted with my theme to nourish, a long run at dawn to appreciate the early start to the day and an evening on the beach to enjoy as much of the light as I could. It was a day to nourish body, mind and spirit.

As dawn was due just before 5, I knew I couldn’t get up at 4.30am, work and then still be on sparkling form for the evening so I got up just after dawn at 5.15 for my run.  Living in a seaside town the solstice is usually marked by dawn runs, walks or swims so it was a surprisingly social run with lots of friendly greetings.  I was inspired at a local beauty spot where people were enjoying an impressive picnic breakfast watching the sun come up over the bay, another activity to add to my bucket list!

I have always wanted to hire one of the new beach huts in town as they look so beautiful and are in an ideal spot on a pedestrianised walkway in front of the beach.  The huts are difficult to hire as they are normally hired by the week and are popular.  However with a little careful research and planning, I managed to book one for just the one day, the summer solstice.  I was so excited by my hut, I decorated it on the outside with bunting and had fairy lights inside! There was a family celebration this week so we used it as an ideal opportunity for both children to invite friends to join them for beach fun and food.  I kept everything simple, so I could enjoy the evening too.  We started with mocktails in a fancy jug and glasses with a few nibbles.  For food, I had a little barbecue for sausages, and we bought a big bag of chips to share as our main and then used the barbie to make S’Mores for pudding, simple and tasty beach food.  I had popped to the market earlier in the day and the bags of summer fruits went down so well with the children.  The weather was perfect, warm sunshine and the children played on the beach, swam in the sea and danced on the sand with a boom box playing from a playlist designed by my daughter.  I looked out to the children playing and felt so warm and happy, its these little moments which make you go all warm and fuzzy.  I also fell in love with the beach hut ….

I really enjoyed celebrating the solstice this summer and I have been inspired with a few ideas for the winter solstice too. The solstice is an ideal opportunity to embrace the changing seasons and the beauty of our natural world.

Me Time.

 

Today I had one of those days where due to a strange alignment of events, I found myself at home alone for 24 hours! Little Man is on cub camp and Mr S has taken Little Miss to see his Dad.  As Grandad is older and frailer now, Mr S only takes one child at a time to visit to make the stay a little easier.  This left me with the glorious prospect of a day alone.  I am never alone and to have a day to myself is such a luxury.  I decided to keep Sunday morning for all the household jobs and Saturday for me.  I chose not to do something big but just simple pleasures, so my day today has included …

  1. Listening to a Podcast and not Capital radio in my car.   Its the little things..
  2. Park Run with no time constraints or pick ups etc.. to think about (and I got a PB)
  3. A shopping trip in big town.  I didn’t buy much but it was just nice to potter.
  4. A few nice nibbles from Marks and Spencers’ food hall for tea.
  5. A good coffee in a café simply thinking and daydreaming.
  6. Treating myself to and appreciating a bunch of peonies.
  7. Reading the Saturday paper in bed because its comfy and indulgent. (the front cover relates to an article on male ballet dancers, in case you’re wondering about the unusual image)
  8. Likewise watching a film in bed in the afternoon (Crazy, Rich Asians, I loved it, a perfect romcom for my mood today)
  9. Enjoying a bubble bath with a relaxing playlist, a magazine, a cup of tea and no interruptions.
  10. Writing some blog posts without the tv being on and just my music.
  11. Planning, organising and writing lists (I love doing this!)

Its been a wonderfully relaxing day and I’ve enjoyed my little pleasures, of course I’m looking forward for our family being back together whilst appreciating my time alone today.

Splashing, whizzing and sliding at Butlins

 

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Butlins in Bognor is our family’s special place, the place for us all to relax, have fun and make happy memories.  We’ve been coming at least annually since the children were small, it was our first family holiday and our Butlins break is always one of the highlights of our year.  This year, thanks to a conveniently placed Inset day, we went for the second part of the May half term holiday, with the big attraction being the newly opened swimming pool.  The weather was perfect, hot, sunny days (and we have done Butlins in every type of weather over the years…) just what we needed for all the outdoor activities we wanted to try.

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We’re pretty organised with our visits now and plan our arrival to allow an early check in at the hotel, to book in all our activities and then to go swimming which is always our first treat.  We were all very excited for the new swimming pool and it really doesn’t disappoint.  The art deco building is stunning and the detail in the changing rooms is perfect, large lockers, changing rooms for different sized groups, a separate area for showers with space for toiletries and to hang towels, heated floors and the perfect summery soundtrack.  The music is a highlight in the pool, someone with a great sense of humour has designed the playlists for the different areas, the music by the showers includes Splish, splash, I was taking a bath, whilst in the wave pool the start of the waves is no longer started by a loud alarm but a playlist including Wipeout, Hawaii 5-0 and lots of Beach Boys, it really adds to the atmosphere.  We were all tall enough to try every slide and flume, so we of course had a go on them all.  My favourite was the family flume, where you travel down the flume in a big inflatable, it was busy but our maximum queuing time was only about 20 minutes.  However on two mornings we were in the pool for opening and managed to be first and third in the queue! There was little queuing for the other slides, we managed the ‘scariest’ ride Adrenaline with only a few minutes queuing and the Wave Riders and Sticks of Rocks have 4 slides on each so there is little waiting time. The children loved the Garden Rapids and spent most time here.  I thought this was the most dangerous ride as the rapids can knock you over and you do need to be a confident swimmer.  However you cannot fault the pool safety at Butlins as there are so many lifeguards on duty.  On our four day trip, we managed 6 trips to the pool, going twice on Saturday and Sunday, the pool is brilliant and really adds to the holiday.

As well as the pool, we were keen to try some of the more outdoor activities this year and we bought the children adrenaline passes so they could go on the zip wire, climbing wall and ropes.  I am always impressed by the staff and safety and the children had a great time.  Last year the children tried Mini Bots ( a junior Segway) and it looked so much fun, that I really wanted to join in too this year.  Its really difficult to describe the vehicle (an electrical skateboard steered by a stick between the knees?) but after a very slow and steady start I got the hang of it and was able to join in the games and whizz around the court.  The children were much more skilled and confident than me but we all had great fun together.

As the weather was so good, we spent a lot of time outside, watching only a few shows, the pantomime (oh yes we did), the silent cinema which showed Mary Poppins Returns and a Skyline Gang show for nostalgia! We had hoped to go to some of the later music shows but after really full on days we were in our room just after 9pm each night.  One evening we had a game of 10 pin bowling which has become a little tradition for us.  The late night fair is always a highlight, its quite magical when all the rides are lit up and the music is playing.  I became a bit of a hero at the fair for winning Blue Llama on the horse racing game for Little Miss, I’m dead chuffed at my ball throwing skills!

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Blue llama, Little Miss’ new favourite toy! 

Our annual trip to Butlins is such a happy, family time and I get all the feels as we arrive.  As the children have got older we get to try new activities and easily fill our days, there is something for everyone.  I simply can’t imagine not having a Butlins trip pencilled in on our calendar, its just like a big family hug for us all!

 

 

Voting ..

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Today where I live there were elections for both our town and new county councils, a busy day at the booth where I had to choose 8 candidates! Politics is my guilty pleasure, I studied it at uni and follow it closely.  For me its not about a political party but the processes, culture etc.. Despite this keen interest, I am exasperated about the current political system and do wonder if we are at the time in history where our party political system will implode.

I always vote in every election and say a quiet thanks to the suffragettes every time. Although, I live in an area where one party holds every seat and there is never any competition, I still gamely go along and make my choice. 

Today, for the first time ever,  I paused at the booth and wondered why am I doing this, I don’t feel represented.  In fairness, the town council was a fairly easy choice, I know a lot of candidates and despite party politics they are all good people trying hard to improve our town. 

I struggled with the next layer of government, our new council.  We pay one of the highest council taxes and yet I genuinely struggle to see how it is spent to improve services in our small town. All schools have deficit budgets and our library, with its opening hours cut, is always under the threat of closure, despite it being the hub of our town and housing so many additional services.  I don’t have direct experience of services for the elderly but I am sure it is a similar state too as there are always local campaigns for all services. I despair at some of the decisions made around education and key services and do feel other towns in the county benefit more than others. Ironically the most common council employee in our town is not for services but teams of traffic wardens raising revenue which is not reinvested in our town. The wardens are legendary in their ticketing and not just for obvious violations but really obscure ones you didn’t even know were illegal!

I’ve lost confidence in regional politics how do these people represent me and provide the best services to our population? And this is just at a local area, I’m not confident in our national political system either. I’m an ordinary citizen and yet feel unrepresented. I can’t help but feel that is how extreme political parties develop, preying on the politically vulnerable and isolated, polarising opinion, turning people against each other and I am fearful that this is how our country may become. We need to become more focused on solutions, serving all members of our communities and respecting differences so that when we do vote we are confident that our voice is heard.

#nourish

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This month was all about nourishing the mind, body and soul in the great outdoors.  It was Easter holidays and I know that our family relaxes best with being outside, that’s walking through the forests, following a trail, hiking to a local landmark and we embraced all such activities this month. There were also a few, bright days which led to beach adventures.

We also got good nourishment from a family get together for Grandad’s birthday where we ranged in ages from 9 – 87 but all enjoyed good company, warm sunshine and ice creams on the beach!

Given it was Easter and then a busy time at work, I didn’t get my planned nourish day, that’s the reality of being a working mum but I felt relaxed and chilled by the month, the outdoors is where I get to be happiest and grounded.

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My Saturday Read

Every Saturday, normally just after lunch I sit down and read Caitlin Moran’s column in the Times magazine. I love her writing and each week, her piece is refreshing, honest and often, amusing. I’ve kept many columns for Little Miss to read in the years to come, to encourage, inspire and comfort.

This week’s column made me smile and remember the music, films and books which shaped me in my teens. I’ve made a little collage of some of my likes, I’m not embarrassed these are the songs, books and films which made me me!