My week … the one with the new, quiet washing machine

This week’s title does really some up the highlight of my week. Its been a week overshadowed by the worst migraine and accompanying sickness I’ve suffered in years, it was very grim couple of days and I’m still feeling a little fragile and gentle today.

The new washing machine arrived when I was ill, so Mr S got to have the first few gos. In fairness, he does the laundry, apart from ironing which I genuinely enjoy, so he does deserve the fun! Our washing machine has been slowly dying over the past few months, something went wrong with the drum and the noise on spin cycles was unbelievable, you could not have a conversation in the same room when on spin. We ordered one from John Lewis and also got removal of the old machine and installation of the new. This is when Mr S starts to panic over the correct measurements, whether it will be able to be installed correctly as its an integrated machine etc.. but thankfully John Lewis were amazing and all went very smoothly. My new washing machine has made me so happy this week, freshly laundered clothes and quiet washing, its perfect. In a stroke of genius (I was in bed so had no idea of this) Mr S also washed the walking boots and trainers the night before the old machine went as there was no worry about damage to the machine. I appreciate his smart thinking.

With illness there was very little to report this week, Ive not really watched, read or listened to anything apart from my favourite podcasts. Whilst doing a few jobs today I’ve had the marathon on in the background which is always inspiring, always leaving the eternal question do I enter?

Its been very much a home weekend, the rain yesterday actually seemed of biblical proportions and in such a rare occurrence, we didn’t go out at all, this genuinely never happens. It was a day of board games and planning special surprises. This month I have my parents’ 70th and 75th birthdays ( only a few months after their 50th wedding anniversary, its been a busy year) My dad’s is first so I’ve booked a champagne afternoon tea at the very exclusive London hotel they are going to for a few days. Its always been on my dad’s bucket list to stay at the hotel so I’ve just added a little sparkle. I made photo montage cards for both my mum and dad’s birthday and on Saturday afternoon, my daughter and I were looking through all the old family photos, it tickled my daughter to find a photo of her grandad with his parents at the age she is now. It was lovely looking at the old photos, remembering people no longer with us and just the happy times (oh and the fashions and hair styles) I scanned and sent a photo to my uncle of him, his dad, my Gramps and me which is about 45 years old now. The photo was just beautiful it felt like this warm, embracing hug in a picture. I recognised my grandparents front room immediately and could feel the soft velvet seat we were all sat on, their room never changed and the sight of their wallpaper and the old familiar mirror on the wall triggered such treasured memories.

My little challenge this year to keep wearing my shorts and flip flops has ended, but now the latest challenge is to keep the heating off! Its been so cold, wet and windy this week, the season has definitely changed. I’ve been wrapped up in a blanket in the evenings, making the use of a much appreciated birthday present. This weekend I did put away my summer clothes until next spring, there is a certain melancholy to this, but the song by the Byrds, Turn, turn, turn is just a beautiful reminder that each season will pass.

I couldn’t really write this week’s post without reference to the fuel crisis affecting the country. What started as a few issues with delivering fuel ended up as full blown panic and chaos. I had noticed that there were increasing issues over the past few weeks with HGV drivers so last time when I went to the petrol station (pre panic) I actually filled my car up full in case these problems extended to petrol and Mystic Meg that I am, so it proved. I am extremely lucky that I walk to work daily and only really use my car at weekends for the trips to the farm or parkrun, neither of which are essential. However, living in a rural location, vehicles are key to a lot of people for work and daily life and there have been long queues at the stations. I had to go to a neighbouring town for work this week and our journey home took an extra 40 minutes with drivers queuing for petrol. There is lots of talk of ’saving Christmas’ as there are also issues in many industries post Brexit (who would have predicted that!!) but I hope that the past 18 months has taught us that material goods aren’t what makes life tick, its people and relationships. I am in big thinking mode at present there’s a lot to consider.

My week … the one with country roads.

I love my music and am often found creating a playlist with a theme. This week I’ve been doing a lot of driving and what started as a sing song of Country Roads took me down a songbook of great country tracks. Country is not my normal genre but it’s amazing how many of the songs are so familiar and loved.

I have explored so much of the county this week, our county has no motorways and my journeys took me down many country roads, the countryside is stunning but I do prefer straighter, wider roads!

On Thursday I took my son to school, he normally has school transport, and then went to the local town as I wanted to have my glasses altered at the opticians and pop into some of the shops. It’s one of my favourite places for shopping, it’s small but has an excellent choice of independent shops, the book and kitchen shops are brilliant and has some favourites from the high street too, White Stuff, Fat Face, Seasalt etc .. The shops open later around 10, so it was lovely to sit opposite the church with a coffee in the bright sunshine. It had been so nice to take my son to school, he was so chatty and entertaining, I really miss the primary school run. Once I had finished in the school town, I then went to another nearby town for some more functional buys, new trainers for my son who is just growing at such a rate, M&S tights (the best) and a few other bits and bobs. I’m having to be very organised this year as I’ll be unable to do much whilst I recuperate from my upcoming operation. I have even begun to pick up a few Christmas gifts.

On Saturday I continued my travels around the county, but in a different direction, I went to a hamlet with my daughter for her farm work, then off to a nearby small town to drop her off so she could meet friends and then the county town whilst I waited for her. It’s the first time I’ve been to the county town since before the pandemic and I was shocked at the number of shops closed and boarded up. It really has become a ghost town. It used to be one of my favourite towns to go to, lovely shops and cafes, an independent cinema etc .. now it looks very empty without high street staples such as Next and M&S.

As well as my music this week, I listened to Beautiful World by Sally Rooney. I listen on my commute to work and then with all the extra driving there were lots of opportunities to listen to books and podcasts.

I was really keen to either read or listen to the book as Normal People was one of my favourite reads from recent years. However I was wary as I didn’t enjoy Conversations with Friends so strongly. I really liked Beautiful World, although Normal People still tops my chart. It’s a very ordinary story in that nothing really happens, it’s just about the lives of four young adults with some beautifully written parts. I did feel it was written as a tv or film adaption but this is okay and I look forward to watching such an adaption.

Unusually for me I sat down this week and watched a film of my son’s choice, Forrest Gump. I had forgotten what a lovely film this is and the links to American history are amusing. My son asked me if Forrest had special needs like him, a question which temporarily floored me as we always teach him he’s capable of all he wants to do and we’ll always be there for him but he could recognise Forrest in himself. I positively framed the answer in the kindness and support Forrest is able to give because of the way he sees the world makes his special needs his super power but it was a bit heart breaking.

After last week’s Biscoff cheesecake success, my son was keen to make another this weekend as it was his turn for baking with me. He was very creative and we made a chocolate orange cheesecake, the perfect Saturday night treat ahead of Strictly. Strictly made for wonderful viewing with so many highlights, but for me the moment of the night was when the two male dancers tangoed . I felt so emotional (and joyful) to see a male same sex coupling. Sometimes we don’t recognise how far we’ve come in promoting a more inclusive, representative society. There’s always so much more to do, but I did get the feels in last night’s Strictly.

I’ve done lots of running this week, the weather has been lovely and the photo of the dusk was taken as I ran around a local village whilst my daughter was at Youth club. It’s nice to have a change in scenery. The weather has also been hot and sunny so I continue to wear shorts and flip flops, I’m delighted that I made it to the end of September this year. However, looking at next week’s forecast it may signal the summer clothes being packed away.

It’s been such a busy week that I almost forgot one of the nicest parts of the week meeting up with friends on Tuesday night. I made a slow cooker chilli and the host prepared the rice, fresh guacamole, soured cream and tortilla chips to accompany it. We were in my friends garden and it was such a mild night we only needed a fire much later in the evening. It was just lovely and made me consider that some of the things we are doing due to Covid are so much nicer and more personal than what we used to do before.

Next week is going to be crazy… I’m working overtime to do full time and reckon it’s easily going to be a 50+hours working week due to the number of entries in my diary. There is also a tutor evening (thankfully online, it’s a real time saving idea) for my daughter and the usual clubs. My big excitement is a new washing machine on Friday. Ours has been dying for months and is now so noisy you can’t be in the same room when it’s on the spin cycle. I feel like a proper adult, a new washing machine is my highlight of the coming week!

My week … the one with the Biscoff

This was an ordinary week with sunshine! Every September I have a little challenge on how long I can stay wearing my shorts and flip flops. The challenge was easily met this week, so can I now make it to the final weekend of the month?

Its been a week of school, work and the full start of clubs. Scouts restarted for Little Man although for Covid safety reasons they are trying to keep the sessions outdoors as much as possible. Little Miss started a youth club too. For someone usually so confident she was nervous. Its in a neighbouring village but is a more age appropriate than the closest one which is for 10 – 14 years. Despite her nerves she really enjoyed it and the first question when she got back in the car was if she could go again next week.

For the first time this term, I had a work-free day on my non working Thursday. On the first week back I did a full day in school and the second, half a day so it was nice to have a proper Thursday off. I went for a lovely run, had my nails done and met a friend for coffee. It felt very relaxing and reminded me that I need that time for me. Weekends are busy and reserved for family time.

I did have a delightful surprise when I got home on Friday. The local supermarket had donated unsold bouquets of flowers to my son’s special school and the children had sorted the wilted and blossoming flowers and then created their own posies to go home. My son was so proud of his choices and I think it is my favourite bunch of flowers ever, there was so much thought and love gone into the task.

As we start back into the homework routines, Little Miss and I are back into our reading routine. She has to do 20 minutes a night so we sit together on the sofa and read our books. I feel that I need to take the time to be a role model so that reading is not just homework but a time to be valued and cherished. I’m just finishing The Frequency of Us by Keith Stuart. Its a love story and thriller and I’m curious to see how it ends, of course I have my theories but I’m interested to see how the author concludes it.

Saturday remains my favourite day of the week and it was parkrun day this week, Little Miss and I tend to alternate between the farm and parkrun on Saturdays. It was my 30th run and finally Mr S and Little Man came along too to see a parkrun. It was a stunning morning, and the girls ran well whilst the boys walked the course. Some parkrun news which I’ve been hearing from a number of sources was confirmed and its made me v excited. After the run we had drinks in the beautiful walled garden in the sunshine, some days are just perfect for their simplicity.

Saturday is also my kitchen afternoon. I had planned a simple pasta dish using our fresh, home grown tomatoes and peppers (we still have lots of supplies) so focused on a fancy dessert, Biscoff cheesecake. Now, before this week Little Man did not like Biscoff (us girls are addicted to it) so I was really surprised to read in his planner that they had been taste testing different toppings for toast and his favourite was Biscoff! I tested this further the next day by doing his packed lunch with one half of a sandwich with chocolate spread and the other half with Biscoff. Biscoff was the winner again. Although a little confused, I now have lots of opportunities to make Biscoff flavoured foods. My daughter and I had a Biscoff ice cream in the summer, it may be up there in the best ever ice cream flavours …

The other Saturday highlight was the return of Strictly, it makes me happy and is the escapism I need every week in the autumn, it feels that the countdown to Christmas is now on. There have been a few interesting dramas this week but I’ve recorded and kept them for the period of recuperation following my operation next month. I have to rest up with no weight on one foot so I’m preparing with books and films ready to watch. I am particularly looking forward to Help with Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham, which has received rave reviews.

Its a normal week next week, with the bonus of an evening out. I’m meeting friends for dinner on Tuesday. Its a garden house meet up as we’re all still cautious of Covid (cases have rocketed in our town in the past week) and I’m doing a slow cooker veggie chilli (its a school day so prep time is minimal) and yes its a perfect recipe to use up our home grown tomatoes, peppers and chillis. Here’s to a good week.

My week … the one with lots of autumn sunshine.

Thank goodness for weekends as this blog was looking a little sparse earlier this week. It’s back to school and my weekdays are very much work focused. I’ve not found that proper work/home balance this week and even on my day off, I was in work to do those extra things that could not wait. Then there’s also those new term jobs to do, sew badges onto a scouts uniform, organise my daughter with her new timetable and remember lunches. I did have a fail on the lunches this week as I forgot that my daughter was finally back at school. Fortunately Mr S organises the morning and spotted it and she left with her packed lunch.

The one lovely thing about this week has been the weather, with a mini heatwave. On Tuesday evening I did my normal run and the seafront was full of people relaxing in the sunshine. The queues for chips and ice creams sneaked down the pavements and there were lots of people in the sea, swimming, paddle boarding and sailing. When autumn arrives you use and savour every drop of sunshine.

The sunshine has lasted til this weekend. Its been the folk festival in town, one of my favourite weekends and one which seems to mark the end of summer. Its always a treat to pop into the craft tent and potter around the festival. I’ve spent most of this weekend outdoors, two early morning runs at 6am due to family plans, a morning at the farm being impressed and amused at my daughter’s farming skills, especially the goats! An afternoon at the folk festival and then today, a trip to a country park for cycle rides, walks and a picnic. I’m now comfortably exhausted and relaxed.

One final highlight of this week was the British qualifier Emma Raducanu winning the US Tennis Open, such a treat on Saturday night. Emma is such a role model for our young people and it will be so exciting to see her progress.

My week … the one in which I went back to school

This was the week in which Little Man and I returned to school, this marked 26 years as a teacher for me and the start of Year 8 for him. It felt like a bit of a transition week, from holidays to work, the summer to autumn. We also had mid and late week returns so it was a real mixed week and adding in the boys’ overnight visit to Grandad, its been difficult to work out the day this week.

The boys were away on Monday and Tuesday, so I spent the day working at home on Monday, whilst my daughter met her friends on the beach, however it was a bit chilly and they ended back at home where I made bacon butties. Fortunately, we had had a family beach day on Sunday when the weather had been great, so we did get the rays and surf this week. September is generally a nice weather month so I hope we’ll be back again this summer.

I had a very productive working day on Bank Holiday Monday which meant we could have a lovely girlie day together on Tuesday. I had noticed on the previous Saturday at parkrun that Little Miss needed new trainers so we went to ‘big’ town. The trainers purchase was full of negotiations as our budgets were widely different as were our opinions about brands. In the end she got a pair she liked in the preferred Nike brand and I relaxed the budget by £2 so she could get them. Once the trainers were bought we had such a lovely time just pottering and browsing the shops. I got a new dress for work and she spent her birthday voucher on a lumberjack shirt, hair bandana and lots of other little bits and pieces. She does have a real sense of style. We also treated ourself to a M&S food shop, it was a surprisingly healthy haul, my daughter loves their sushi and I their salads and strawberry topped yoghurt rice cakes. I was so pleased when she commented on what a lovely time we had had together and we have pencilled in a Christmas shopping trip on her Inset day at the end of November.

It feels like I’ve spent a lot of time with Little Miss this week, just the two of us. She surprisingly asked if she could join me for my Thurs run and then also came and ran parkrun with me today (although the new trainers are being kept for best for the first school PE lesson) It’s been a good week for talking.

I’ve tried to spend some time with Little Man this afternoon, as I felt I’d not really seen him much this week with him being away and my return to work. We went to the toy shop as Grandad had given him some extra pocket money but in the end after very long deliberations he decided he wanted some specialist vehicles for his army which are only available online. It was nice to just be out with him, I think we need another SAM (son and mum) trip soon.

Next week sees the first proper routine of school, work and clubs start again, I hope it all goes smoothly and safely. As much as I have loved this summer, I secretly enjoy the routine of the school year it gives the comfort and predictability in what has been such strange times.

My week … the one with a new fence

And so to the final full week of summer holidays for my son and I, although my daughter still has another week and a half until she returns to school. It’s been a busy week with a trip to my parents and then a final family day out. I really feel that we have made the most of our holidays this year but am looking forward to what always seems a new start as the school year begins and autumn envelopes the summer.

The children and I travelled to Somerset this week to spend some time with my parents. Mr S stayed at home to be on hand for any problems with the new fence we were having built. It’s been a long, long time coming, we’ve wanted to change the fence for years but the neighbour has never been accommodating (second home owners!!) However, a storm in the spring meant that the fence was destroyed and needed to be replaced. Fencing is definitely a business to go into, as this was the earliest we could get it done, other companies were offering dates in November! We went for concrete bases and posts, so if another storm hits, it would only be any damaged planks to be replaced rather than the entire fence. It looks amazing, I never thought I could get so excited about a new fence but it has transformed the look of the garden. The company who did it were brilliant, and Mr S who regularly gets stressed with most trades people, remained calm and happy throughout.

At my parents, we did the annual school shoe shop as they live next to a Clark’s outlet shop, which makes it much better value. It was momentous this year as my son now has bigger feet than his older sister, which delighted him and he reckons it’ll only be a few months before he is taller than her now. When we adopted him, Little Man was so fragile and tiny and to see him as such a strong and healthy 12 year old is a blessing. Fortunately for the rest of the time with my parents we did much more fun things than school shoe shopping. My mum had bought a treasure trail for us to do in the nearby seaside town of Clevedon. It was great fun to do on a warm and sunny day and we explored so many lovely parts of the town, we also found a delightful cafe halfway round where we stopped for drinks and cakes. It’s the simple things which can make the happiest memories. We also played crazy golf in Weston Super Mare, at my son’s request as he wanted to continue his winning streak. Unfortunately for him, I played a blinder, including two holes in one and victory was mine. However in our grand crazy golf contest between the two of us (it’s s our thing) he currently leads 3 games to 1.

When we were away, we also achieved one of my 21for21 by taking the children for their first KFC. It’s been a bit of a joke that they’ve never had one (and their visits to McDonalds can be counted on one hand) It’s a combination of living in a rural location where the nearest KFC is a 50 mile round trip and when we do go out for a meal we prefer home cooked food in a pub or indie restaurant. Like many things, sometimes the anticipation is greater than the event, and whilst the children enjoyed it they don’t seemed too fussed to return. Personally I really liked the watermelon and lime cooler drink I had, as a vegetarian my food choices were very limited (non existent)

As well as seeing my parents, I also got to catch up with an old school friend who lives near them. My daughter is quite amused that my friend knew me at the age she is now. I think the concept of mum being a teenager is difficult to imagine. In the best 2021 tradition, it was an outdoor meet up at a park. I’m thankful its been a good summer for all these outdoor activities.

Our final family event was a day at a country park with a Go Ape course. I have to admit on Friday morning, I was lacking enthusiasm, it had been a long week and I just wanted to relax at home. However, the activity was part of a county summer scheme and as we had paid in advance, off we tootled. As is often the case some of the things you’re not so excited about become some of the best days. As it was a county scheme, the children were supervised by play leaders, meaning Mr S and I had time together to walk and talk, have lunch together and simply sit and relax (yes, another beautiful day) We watched the children do the Go Ape course and then left them to do the play trails with their peers and supervised by the play leaders. We all loved the day and it was a perfect way to finish the holidays en famille. We did have bonus family time today as we spent the morning on the beach, a rare treat as apparently its quite uncool to go to the beach with your parents. However, normal service resumes tomorrow when my daughter has arranged to be on the beach with friends.

Whilst Covid and its risks have impacted our plans this summer, we have enjoyed our time. It’s been an outdoors summer and as a consequence it feels a more wholesome summer! I was reflecting today on what I had missed and again like last year it was the summer firework displays, watching them from the seafront with a bag of chips. Let’s hope that next year, all our summer traditions are back and we cherish them all again.

My week … the one in Kent

So week two of our holiday and after such a special time in Norfolk, we moved to Kent for a further four nights. After a week of superb weather, swap over day was wet and windy and the next day, cold before it all improved again to a final two days of warm sunshine. The site had quite a different vibe, it was pretty remote so we stayed onsite for the duration ( bonus points to Mr S for organising a Tesco delivery) On site, there seemed to be a much higher proportion of private caravans with some of our neighbours appearing to be working in the area rather than holidaying.

However there was still lots of fun to be had and we spent our time, swimming, playing tennis, crazy golf, foot golf and enjoying the funfair. The children discovered the Waltzers and there is definitely a charm with an old fashioned funfair. I also got a couple of runs in along the Thames path, my way of discovering the local area. When we asked the children their highlights, our daughter chose tennis and our son crazy golf, both of which they respectively won! I really enjoyed both their choices and they were my highlights too. My son and I are having a mini crazy golf challenge, so the stakes were high but unfortunately I now find myself 3 – 0 down. Little Man now is looking forward to seeing Granfer next week and seeing if he can beat the only person to do so to him, he’s on for the family crown!

As the children are now more independent on holiday it does give me a bit more reading time. I read Mhairi McFarlane’s Last Night, I loved it. Initially I was really irritated by what I presumed the plot line was, a simple love story with the protagonist secretly in love with her best male friend. Without revealing any spoilers it is so not this story and is a much more satisfying read.

As I write this on Saturday night, all my washing is done, ironed and neatly away in cupboards. I am ‘that’ person, I can’t relax until this is done, I need order in my home. I have also been updating my diary, making plans for the autumn and of course writing lists, I love and appreciate a good list. We have a few days at my parents next week and then it feels like the summer is winding down with the return to school and autumn.

My week … the one in Norfolk

This week has seen us on week one of our summer holiday. With the postponed 2020 holidays, we’re doing a two centre break this year, this week in Norfolk and four nights in Kent next week. When we were planning our holiday we wanted to go somewhere a little different, we’ve enjoyed Cornwall and Devon so we’ve gone east. I have visited Norfolk before. It was the summer when I was 16 and my friend and I stayed in a small converted barn in her aunt’s garden near Diss. I remember playing Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet CD all holiday, long walks in the fields and a shopping trip to Norwich! Thirty two years later, my holiday looked a little different.

We broke up the journey as it was a long one with a stay in a hotel in Colchester. By chance on the evening we came across the most sparkly rustic pub garden where we stopped for a delicious dinner. It was pretty perfect, relaxing in the sunshine and the dusk with the fairy lights twinkling, great food and simply talking about holiday plans, an unexpected delightful start to the holiday.

We stayed in a Haven caravan park, Wild Duck. As we live at a beautiful seaside resort, we decided to stay more inland and chose the site for its woodland setting. It was a beautiful site, so well maintained and our caravan was nested in the trees, the views from the bedrooms were amazing. The picture above illustrates this, the window did feel like a picture frame for the stunning landscape. One bonus of the forest setting was really poor mobile signals so it was an enforced but welcomed digital detox.

In our family we all have roles and Mr S is chief holiday planner and organiser. I pack! Mr S had the booking system set up very efficiently, so we had daily swimming sessions in both the indoor and outdoor pools. I preferred the outdoor pool, it was so warm and again with the hour slots it was easy to get a sun bed too. One of my holidays reads was a present from a friend the Lido by Libby Page. It’s a fantastic read and the tonic I didn’t know I needed. I did feel inspired by it and the outdoor pool did make me wonder if I should do more outdoor swimming ( I am not going to become a sea swimmer, I need a chlorinated pool!)

We also had lots of other activities on site, Segways, Archery, Paint a Pot (that’s the birds in the picture above) and Bike Hire. The bikes was my favourite activity. The previous morning I had discovered the Angles Way on my morning run and we returned to cycle it. It gave the most gorgeous views of the Norfolk Broads and in perfect weather conditions, bright blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze. We also found some old castle ruins and windmills which added to the fun.

Away from the site, we explored the local area too. We went to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft in the evenings and also had a morning in Gorleston where we played on the beach. I recently discovered the poet Robert M Drake and my daughter and I read some of these aloud on the beach and were really struck by his observations and commentary. There was also fun to be had making pebble sculptures. We also found a craft fair on the field behind the beach, my type of shopping and I did return with a new candle! There was also a brownie stall, with the most amazing array of flavours I have ever seen. We may have bought a few to try! I liked the quiet and peace of Gorleston a real contrast to Great Yarmouth. I didn’t know what to expect from Great Yarmouth but it was loud, bright and brash, the Blackpool of the East. The children of course loved it, spending their money on ice creams, fancy milk shakes and what I can politely describe as tat! Lowestoft was a mix of the two towns, we went to the UK’s most eastern point and enjoyed an evening drink on an outdoor terrace in sunshine. Life felt pretty normal this holiday, with only mask wearing and sanitiser as references to Covid.

We all really enjoyed Norfolk, the countryside was beautiful and the site the perfect setting to explore the Broads. Our caravan was gorgeous and we had treated ourselves to a 3 bedroom caravan so the children could have a room each. This helped night times and gave the children some space and time to do their things. We’re in a 2 bedroom caravan next week and it’ll be interesting to see the difference.

It was a really wholesome week at Wild Duck, our activities were outdoor based and we all benefited from the fresh air and sunshine. The weather was a pleasant surprise, warm and sunny every day and we left feeling refreshed and happy.

On Sunday in Gorleston, we came across what was signed as a Banksy piece of art. It did amuse me as it was the grabber from an arcade machine, the very machines we avoid as it only ever ends in tears. By the time we left it was covered in Perspex and there was security. In looking on the web it seems Banksy is on a staycation and it was part of an art project Great British Spraycation.

My weeks … the ones with my birthday.

Its been another busy couple of weeks. In the winter lockdown, we planned lots for this summer, things to look forward to and to make up for our little treats which we missed in 2020. In our family, we have a six week period chock a block of celebrations, birthdays and anniversaries, so many of our treats at this time of year are linked to these special days, when you add the end of year school treats and holidays its an organisational feat.

The one big celebration we weren’t able to fully celebrate was my parents golden wedding anniversary, it was too near to ‘freedom’ day to make any firm plans so my parents celebrated it quietly in a nice spa hotel. I organised for a plaque to celebrate their anniversary to be dedicated at Clevedon pier which is close to where they live and is somewhere they like to go. I am hoping it will be up when we visit them later this month and we can have a little picnic on the pier. Ten years ago, my parents did celebrate their ruby anniversary with a lovely dinner and dance with friends and family. Its a nice memory and a timely reminder to do that special something when you can as you never know what might stop you doing something similar in the future.

Its been Mr S and my 18th wedding anniversary in these weeks too. It was a quiet day as we were all tired from our trip the previous day to Paultons Park. Originally we had intended to travel up the night before and stay in a hotel to make it a more relaxed weekend. However, when we considered the holiday traffic on a Friday (its so busy here at present) we decided that it was actually easier to get up early and do it all in one day. We didn’t cancel our hotel booking but simply moved it to the autumn when we will visit the area again for a weekend break. The hotel will be an ideal base for visiting Beaulieu or the New Forest.

Paultons Park was brilliant and again for me it is the best theme park. Its so friendly, clean and well organised. There was very little queueing at the rides and with the app and clear timers at each ride, its easy to plan your day well. The children did so many rides, there is a new area, Tornado Springs which is lovely, with a good mix of rides. Our poor daughter did the cyclomator twice in a row and did feel a little queasy for a half hour or so, however she quickly recovered for the rest of the day. My favourite ride is always the log flume and I think we did this about 5 times! We know where the cameras are, so we posed brilliantly and have a fun photo of our day. Paultons Park is also such a beautiful park and is so nice to walk around.

The children have been busy with holiday activities, it seems that most are at the start of the holidays, so diaries are full now but with nothing after our family holiday. They have been doing so much, there’s been football camps, the farm, nerf guns, youth club, swimming and mud trails, from which it took two washes to get the clothes clean again!

It is Olympics and I love it! I love waking up and watching some of the action and then catching up more in the evening. I prefer the sports such as swimming, triathlon, cycling and BMX. I feel these are the real sports which I see people doing rather than sports which are completely new. There have been so many amazing stories and I’m genuinely in awe and inspired by the athletes.

On my social media feed this week, I discovered the poet Robert M Drake, his poem Exactly What It Is, resonated due to some professional challenges. On reading the poem, I did some research on Drake and discovered that he is the known as the ‘Bard of Instagram’ and his work is popular with the YA market. I was able to buy the book and its now in my holiday reading pile and I hope my daughter my dip into it.

I got a little creative this week. I have a beautiful sundress but the sleeves annoyed me, they were separate strips so you could tie them into a knot. However, it was difficult to get both bows in the same position and to prevent them coming loose. They are also gave a strange bulge under a cardigan. I was so frustrated I got my sewing machine out and did a few alterations, This is well out of my comfort zone and I had to google advice but its done and I am so pleased with my work, I have simple sleeves now which don’t fall down and are smooth under a cardy.

We are now on the final countdown to our holiday, suitcases are packed and we’re off tomorrow morning. We are stopping in Colchester for a night and then continuing on to Great Yarmouth for a week and then a further four days in Kent. I feel more comfortable in staying in this country this year but oh I do miss the promise of a summer holiday abroad.

My weeks … busy times

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Sparkles household and I’m very aware that the promises I made myself about life post lockdown seem to be fading. Life is very full again, with things I feel I should be doing rather than perhaps really want to. It’s a difficult balancing act and one I feel I’ve not met in the past fortnight. Things will calm in the coming weeks as the school holidays start but I think Ive got some reflecting to do before September.

In my last post, I was writing it just before the Euro final, so didn’t write about the result. I was sad that England lost the final on a penalty shootout and it was quite hard having to tell our son in the morning that England had lost. He had stayed up til extra time and then despite his strong will to continue watching it, he conceded and went to bed. When I look back on special times, I think me and him sitting together on the carpet watching the match together will become one of those memories. I was simply disappointed and sad with the result but ultimately incredibly proud of the amazing group of young men whom were representing our country. I found it so difficult to read of the racist abuse paid to some of the England players in the following days and this only worsened in preparing an assembly feature for work where I saw some of the graffiti for my research. I have faith in our young people to be the change but feel we need to recognise that racism is a significant issue in our country.

We have enjoyed a heatwave after some dodgy summer weather in these past few weeks. One of my favourite things is to sit in the cool of the evening in the garden with a good book and Matt Haig’s Comfort Book has been a prefect choice. I have watched very little television in recent weeks, although a documentary on the London Olympics was a notable exception. The summer of 2012 was amazing, highlights included watching the torch come through our town, decorating the house and enjoying lots of sport with a renewed belief of what being British looked like in contemporary times. There was a pride, unity and joy in our country, which sadly I don’t feel now. However, I will be cheering on all our athletes in the next fortnight and no doubt finding a new interest in a new sport or two.

With the good weather and growing Covid cases, we have been doing lots of outdoor activities. Last weekend, we took a picnic and did a long walk along the costal path. Fortunately, with appropriate clothing and accessories and a a sea breeze we coped with the heat. We’ve also tried football golf, although as I have a dodgy foot I was the scorer. At the site you can also do traditional putting or frisbee golf, so perhaps a few new options to try. Both children have been to the local water park in the past fortnight, Little Man with Scouts on a wet and cold evening, Little Miss with school on the dream conditions of a hot and sunny day. Both loved it and are desperate to return during the holiday. I was very proud of our daughter’s trip, she was in the top 3 house points for her year group and the trip was a reward. Initially she was hesitant to go as none of her friends were but with careful persuasion and a lot of What’s App messages on the day she went and enjoyed every minute. At this time of year, she often becomes a little wobbly so there’s lots of TLC and reassurance needed at present.

Today was my day as parkrun returned after its Covid suspension. I ran the last parkrun on March 14th 2020 and whilst we recognised it was likely to be our last for a while, I never expected to wait 16 months for the next. I was so excited today to go and Little Miss decided to join me. At first, she was tired so was just going to sit in the car as it was a bit drizzly. Then we met some neighbours so she jumped out and walked over to the start, from where she was planning to watch. I think the enthusiasm of the runners and cheers and clapping in the introduction persuaded her to run the first lap. I never put any pressure to do the full 5k and after the first lap she chose to continue and finally take off the hoodie which signified she was getting serious! After lots of lovely chats with fellow runners we completed it with PBs for us both and she was first finisher in her age group. Her mood was lifted and she was so pleased with her result, the parkrun magic strikes again. Personally i was a bit emotional at being able to parkrun again. I welled up as I passed the start line and realised it was finally happening. I was pretty patient with all the lockdowns (although the hairdressers was hard) but this was the one I needed. Typically I can’t do next week as we have a family day out at a theme park, but from then on, its no longer Saturday but parkrun day.

Whilst Little Man is not a park runner (yet) he’s had a lot of cricket in the past few weeks, finishing off the season last night with a match, which is him in his element. It was a pretty perfect setting, sitting on the club terrace in warm sunshine with a drink. Life is always about the simple moments.

Next week sees the first joint week of holidays for the children. Mr S is chief holiday planner so activities are all booked and days planned. I’m still at work for a few more days but look forward to hearing of their adventures before joining them on a much needed holiday.