Friday, 9 December 2011


We 'summer' in Carnforth. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration.  Every year we meet up as a family and have two lakeside chalets in the south lakes... it is lush. It has become more stressful as the kids have come along and it takes hours to pack but well worth it especially with Steve down in London and Becky in Dundee.

This year Sally has been unwell and wasn't fit to travel but Steve and the kids took one chalet, Mum and Dad were in a caravan just down the road, the Chambers's were in the other chalet and Becky came and crashed on the sofa.

We also smuggled the dog, badly I might add. The Pinelake resort is a few hundred cabins surrounding one central lake. We arrived in the car and waited for the coast to be clear, with no sign of any golf buggies carrying employees about, we shoved her in through the french doors. Unfortunately, Moomin ran out through the kitchen door barking and chasing the swans that started honking. She proceeded to launch herself into the lake opposite reception still yelling. All I could do was stand on the shore dying of embarrassment, calling her name through gritted teeth and loudly mentioning that it was time to go home with 'her owners'. Bitch. We waited to get removed from the site but nothing happened and she behaved like the little peach that she is for the rest of the holiday.

After the 'swangate' dust had settled, we settled down for a beer in the sunshine in our perfect little corner.

Our first day began with a walk along the canal. We took a fishing net and specimen jar with us (optimistically). It was a lovely easy walk, Moomin got to stretch her legs and the kids got to have a nosy at the narrow boats. Aimee played a blinder by saying 'why do they live on boats, is it because they are poor?' right next to the open hatch of an occupied boat... I babbled something about them just being very lucky, loudly and ushered her on.

We didn't see any fish but decided to grab some canal water to examine anyway. We discovered that the fancy magnifying lid didn't screw on properly when Cameron picked it up and it hit the deck covering him in green water to the whoops of our merry band.

Whatever the day's activities and whatever evening meal we scratch together it always ends up with a few bottles of vino on the verandah overlooking the lake.

We bummed around the site for the next day because we were awaiting Becky's arrival. We checked out the crazy golf on the site which was set out as a jumble of letters, we stood there for a frustrating five minutes trying to work out what the letters spelled out. I suggested writing them down and we go back to the chalet and doing a countdown kind of challenge. Craig was shaking his head in the background muttering 'it says pine lake' for five minutes before I twigged.

We also did a mushroom hunt. We have seen massive puffballs on the site in the past so we set out with Craig's beloved mini mushroom book. All we found were these shiny little suckers, don't think we agreed on what they were though.

We had a great plot this year with a nice patch of grass next to the lake which caught the sun into the evening. Craig had bought a tent for the kids to play in which we pitched on the grass. Freya stood in it and said "I am so happy" and Edie loved crawling under the side. Becky got some great photos of Edie emerging.

Our Becky arrived in a cloud of lovely perfume and swish of fantastic clothes, looking fabulous after a few months of her personal trainer Kevin thrashing her in the gym.

The promise of one sunny day had us packing a picnic and heading down to the beach. It is not the Seychelles but it is amazing how much fun you can have with children on a beach. Craig managed to get the kids excited about building sandacastles, I think Cameron was a bit sceptical at first but soon found his 'inner child' again. We cracked out the picnic basket and it all felt spiffingly british. Freya even had a paddle in the sea.

We suddenly noticed the alarming rate that the water was advancing up the beach. Coming from the east coast Craig has always banged on about the sea coming in 'faster than a man can run', I have always teased him about this especially when he has stood on Southport beach demanding that I get out with no evidence of apparent danger. However, you couldn't turn your back on it to pack your bag without it sneaking up another few inches. I hurried to take a picture of the sandcastle before the beach disappeared.

We grabbed our stuff and carried the kids up onto the safety of the grass before we put on their extra layers. I wish I had brought talc, I have seen it on a lot of blogs this summer, it dries all the wet sticky sand and you just brush it all off and you can put your shoes back on... genius. I have only learned this at the age of 34, you can tell I have always lived inland.

This year, we decided to do a photography challenge. I had seen this picture on pinterest and knowing how fabulous Becky and Craig's photos are, I thought it would encourage some happy snapping. Steve also used to have an interest in photography, going a bit further with developing pictures and using an SLR but doesn't travel with a camera these days. We did a lot of good photo taking but still never got round to the competition. At least we all learned what 'bokeh' is.


One of our days was spent in Kirby Lonsdale, a nearby market town. They have a great little cheese shop which has the greatest range of cheese, not cheap but fantastic nosh. We walked out of there a few pennies lighter but laden with goodies.

On our journey we passed the pet shop where a life sized stuffed dog modelling a life jacket spooked poor Mooms.

After a swift afternoon tea we headed to the park which was actually really good fun for adults and children alike. I thought Craig was going to pass out from peddling the kids merry-go-round. Steve impressed us all with pull ups demonstrated on the adventure playground. We managed to squash all the cousins together on the 'bird's nest' for photos. The photos and behaviour deteriorate throughout the shoot, so here's the best one.

One of the best things a bit these little towns is the crazily expensive but cute shops. I managed to bag some wonderful soap and a couple of beautiful cards. The soap was a real treat to use everyday.

We had forgotten our fishing net but managed to grab one in Kirby Lonsdale and nanny had bought Cameron the wonderful 'viewing jar' (When I was young we had to make do with an ice cream tub), so a bit of fishing was in order.

I was wonderfully surprised when Steve actually caught a fish after ten heroic minutes searching. The kids were unimpressed with 'fishy' but I thought it was cool. I think he survived less than a day and we gave him a 'burial at lake' swiftly, while the kids weren't looking.

A surprise guest came in the form of cousin Martin. He had had a fight with his partner Lisa and jumped in his van and drove up from Newark. More food and wine lead to a very pleasant evening sharing music on various phones and ipods and Becky's little portable speaker. Another late night.

This year we discovered the children's club, Aimee was such a great little dancer and Cameron got friendly with a bunch of lads and had girls fawning over him. It was funny to hear Aimee teasing him about having a 'girlfriend'. Despite the over-enthusiastic and creepy children's entertainer, It seemed like great fun for the kids and nanny and Steve got to have a couple of lagers while chaperoning  them.

Sadly, it came the day when Becky had to go home. Craig took her to the station with Freya while I stayed with the sleeping Edie. Freya seemed happy train spotting until aunty Becky's train arrived at which point a look of panic spread across her tiny face, with wide eyes she said "please aunty Becky don't go". Parting is usually a miserable event but Freya excelled herself in making aunty Becky cry all the way home to Scotland.

Steve and the kids left a day early, think the kids were missing mum and they were fast running out of clothes- shame they missed the last disco though. Steve managed to cheer Freya up by promising her a ride in his convertible next time he came to visit.

The Chamberses decided to take a trip out to Aysgarth Falls to walk the dog and managed to persuade Martin to join us. It is a beautiful place, I have only seen it when it is roaring but it was actually used in Robin Hood prince of thieves for the scene where Robin fights little John in the ford.

We had a picnic then took a small walk round before we said our goodbyes to Martin.

I am always horrendously sad when everyone leaves. I had a little cry, a cuddle from Craig and went to dip my feet in the lake, enjoy a beer and read my new vintage copy of 'The Wind in the Willows' (my favourite children's book bought from the most amazing second hand book shop in Morecombe).

Then we sat down on the grass to enjoy some pasta and beer in the fading sunshine before starting the mammoth packing session.

 Ah... back to reality.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Chin up, think of Christmas...

 Well, that's me installed on the King's Cross train from Dundee. I have very little voice left, even less money and a real sadness about leaving my sister behind in the city. It feels like when I take Freya to nursery, I actually want to call the whole thing off and take her home with me... I feel the same way about my sister. I don't think we are meant to be apart as a family as when one of us leaves someone always cries. Chin up and think of Christmas...

When Becky said that she was buying me a train ticket for a trip away without the girls, I was excited but the weekend has so exceeded my expectations. It has been like a spa retreat. I had a room with fresh flowers, white sheets, thick towels, padded hangers for my clothes and a bathrobe.

The shower was to die for and I even had a relaxing bath on the Sunday. I can't say I feel refreshed, I actually feel like I have alcohol sweats and laryngitis but it's been good for the soul to be me again.
The date had been arranged months before, but as usual Thursday night was an exhausting last minute marathon of packing and washing. I also had to pack the girls and the dog to go over to Immingham for the weekend. I am guilty of micro managing Craig and made a mental note not to do it again. I began packing my own clothes at half past midnight. Admittedly, I had spent time painting my nails dark burgundy and polishing my shoes and boots and then finding nice accessories. I really wanted a holiday from the scruffy, yoghurt covered woman that I have become.

I think I achieved that 'polished' look this weekend. I had even had my haircut for the first time in two and a half years. Becky's friend Gill was horrified after recently having to give up monthly appointments for six-weekly ones. I explained that the transformation between rat's nest and beautiful do was much more noticable under the two and a half yearly appointment system.

The thing that I most enjoyed packing was my hand luggage, not because it was Cath Kidston loveliness but because it was things to fill my time with on the journery for five hours. I usually don't get five minutes so... I had crochet, magazines, my kindle, my laptop, my MP3 player and if I got bored I could take a little snooze. I was not disappointed.

My day started early at half five. I had left a lot of time to get to Preston as I was freaking out about missing my pre-paid seats and having to buy a really expensive ticket to Dundee. With my beautifully coiffured barnet, new yoghurt free coat and long earings swinging in the breeze, I got a taxi. When I told the taxi driver my ultimate destination he was rather excited about Fat Sam's, a nightclub in Dundee, apparently, it is his dream to go there one day.

Damnit, have just paid for some crisps and a twix and realised that I haven't got rid of my 'funny money' before leaving Scotland, bugger.

At Preston, I had a time buffer and decided to get a nice cup of twinings and do some crochet. I even got to take my cup cosy for a test drive... very good it was too.

I just finished the edging on Becky's orange cloth to match her kitchen tiles. I know that they definitely match because I have had to transport 5 tiles in my case after some of theirs had been damaged and the replacement tiles could only be found over the border in England. The cloth may not be perfectly practical but good enough for swilling mugs out.

I got a call from Mum at around Penrith to ask who Moomin was insured with, uh-oh. She had been a little whingy the previous night but had managed to vomit which is usually the end of it. Apparently, when Craig went to take her to mum's she couldn't get up out of her basket, her stomach was rigid. Dad took her to the vets and she was given a couple of shots and sent on her merrier way with painkillers and instructions to come back if necessary.

Edie was also sick. I was starting to feel that the universe was conspiring against me. Luckily for me, Mum and Dad are very capable and I was on a one-way train. I reasoned that I was already away. Luckily, it all worked out OK and Craig took all the girls and supplies of medications away with him.

Becky came and collected me from the station looking stunning as usual. We dumped bags, had a cheeky wee glass of champagne before heading out to lunch at 'Byzantium'. We caught up over Lamb Kofte and although the waiter talked about snow in Aberdeen, it was warm and sunny.

After lunch we retired to the comfort of Becky's sofa where we watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and snoozed with the dog. It was warm and soporific like the 'Wood between the Worlds' in C.S Lewis' book The Magician's Nephew.

After a cat lick in Becky's 'boutique hotel' bathroom, Becky, Serge and I were off out. Becky's bathroom is worth a mention. It is very stylish and contemporary but with little splashes of Becky thrown in. 

She had bought bright pink bath towels and accessories which seemed to be causing a bit of banter between her and Serge. Could have been worse, she could have purchased a giant metal chicken to piss her husband off, like a woman on Pinterest

We started in 'Droothy Neighbours', and then moved to Laing's and finished in a bar in town where we bought a bottle of champagne, probably the first one they have sold this year, however, it was Champagne Thursday all weekend. We had sunk a fair amount of alcohol before we got a cab home. The taxi driver was telling us about a film that we just had to see called 'One Day Removals' it was supposed to be a low budget Aberdonian Trainspotting. Serge actually got up and downloaded it next morning, I look forward to hearing all about it.

A lie-in followed by tea and toast, then a woodland walk by the hospital Becky works at, Nine Wells. It was a lovely morning but I had forgotten my camera so the photos are poor to say the least.

I loved these stone thistle gates to the hospital. Apparently, they had recently finished making a woodland trail in the hospital grounds. It was lovely, much nicer than the view that patients get out of the Royal Blackburn. We talked about Becky getting a new dog, they can't decide on a flavour though. Serge wants a lab but Becky is hanging on for a Basset hound.

Serge was working a night shift on the Saturday night. This is Freya's toy Uncle Serge that she carries around with her, she even knows what B.A. stands for (if you don't know, I'm not telling).

Becky and I headed into town for a quick mooch at the shops. She wanted to try on her first pair of size ten jeans which she did and they fitted perfectly. I am so jealous but know how hard she has worked for the pleasure. I saw a couple of things that were fabulous but having the weekend away was my treat for this month, so I managed to restrain myself.

We then headed to the Playwright, one of Becky's favourite bars. She has been wanting to take me there for ages. They have Belle Epoque on the bar and do great champagne cocktails. I was rather partial to the Jane Mansfield which is a strawberry champagne cocktail, it was going down very easily.

It wasn't long before Gill and Paula arrived, looking glamorous as usual with killer heels, great hair and make-up. The food was to die for and sadly just the right portion size (rather than too much) We chatted about everything from conjoined twins to Jimmy Choo shoes. We stayed there till late, deciding not to go home for a power nap but mooched on up to the casino because I had never been.

What a cracking idea, there were big sofas and you could chat and the bar carried on serving until 6am. We did a fair amount of people watching, there were some sights to behold, mainly big girls in short clothes although there were a couple of corkers that particularly stood out. Namely, a girl in a greying white dress with a blue bra on and pink shoes and a big girl in a catsuit with a belt up round her rib cage.

Loved the Vegas 'Golden Nugget' style  lights.

We were also being bothered by some harmless but irritating men. After being out drinking for 12 hours we were ready to go, Becky seemed amazingly composed but developed narcolepsy in the taxi. She just about managed to cook a pizza and I made a cup of tea before bed.

Another lie-in, tea and toast on Sunday morning. We were quietly dying on the sofa watching the X-files film. Becky popped out for some milk and I went and had a really deep, hot bath. Becky had bought mince pies from the shop, my absolute favourite although I was planning to restrain myself at least until November (having had a mince pie problem in the past). I had a big mug of tea and two pies.

In an attempt to clear the 'fog' we took Bailey across to the park for a nice refreshing walk, this enabled her to add to her stone collection. She is building a small cairn by the back door therefore if any of us are killed in a mountaineering accident, the job is already done.

And here I am back on the train rushing to see Craig and the girls who are meeting me at Preston station... if only I could stop sweating.