Back in the day when I was a ‘proper’ blogger actually writing regularly and joining in with the community one of my favourite blogging activities was taking part in the Listography. A simple premise; each week there was a theme or topic and we had to write our own list for that topic. Well the wonderful Kate Takes 5 has been reviving this meme and in particular this week to celebrate her 6th anniversary as a blogger. Clearly there was something in the air 6 years ago as I started my own blog a week before Kate (my first ever post is here if you’re interested) and I know that a couple of my other favourites (like Hello it’s Gemma) also started around the same time, late 2010 was a good vintage! Although I’m nowhere near Kate’s milestone from a stats perspective, for whatever reason I’ve never had masses of page views, but as I’ve always said having engaged readers who comment and interact is definitely more valuable to me than any stat.
To celebrate this blogging milestone the theme for the Listography is my 5 favourite posts so without further ado here’s my list. Would love to know what you think of my choices and if you’re a blogger why not join in yourself?
- Top of the list HAS to be what I view as my blogging peak, an idea that most likely came to me while out running (like most of my good ideas do) and is probably the post that I’m most proud of. I love that it features some awesome dad bloggers, most of whom I still chat to and have even met in person on a number of occasions. It may also be the only Christmas post ever written that features a singing Sooty. The post is of course the 12 dads of Christmas.
It’s 11 weeks since I published a post here and coincidentally that was only the 11th post I’ve published in the whole year, in writing terms that’s fast approaching a drought, one that surely must leave my 1 reader (hi mum) gasping for more? But it isn’t due to not having any ideas, those whoosh into my head on a regular basis while out running, but rather simply not having enough time or space in my brain to actually sit down and write something. I have 3 priorities in my life; family, work and running (not necessarily in that order) and once you add the need to sleep at least 6 hours a night it doesn’t leave much time or energy for anything else.
But right now, sat in a cottage in the middle of the black mountains in Wales I do have time. It’s ever so peaceful, with just the occasional creak from the wood burner as the metal expands a little due to the roaring fire inside and the sound of Bracken snoring from his position curled up at the bottom of the stairs.. The beauty of being away somewhere is you don’t have chores to do, I’m certainly not going to catch up on work email and with no Netflix there’s nothing to watch on TV either. So I’m grabbing this rare moment where the stars align to empty my brain of at least one of those blog posts that has been whizzing around.
You could sense from the children today that they’re also enjoying this slower paced life without the normal daily routines, after dinner today they put their pyjamas on and just played happily on the rug by the fire while the lady of the manor and I enjoyed a little glass of wine (it is a holiday after all). We all needed this holiday, a break from the routine and intensity which is the subject matter for this post; the school travelator.
Like the best Enid Blyton novels I decided to take advantage of the lady manor working nights all last weekend and go on a little adventure with the children. We loaded up the car on Friday afternoon and headed for Wales and the Wye valley for 3 nights of glamping. e love being outdoors and normally I’d have taken them camping if it wasn’t for the minor issue that I can’t put our tent up on my own. Plus the thought of trying to work out the logistics of taking 3 children across a campsite to toilets didn’t really appeal. Glamping seemed the logical conclusion with the added bonus of having a double bed for me to sleep in.
Camp for the weekend
I think with any adventure you have to not think too much about the reality of what it’ll be like otherwise you’d never go on them. But I’ll be honest as we got close to leaving the thought of managing 3 kids on my own for 3 days plus sleeping in a tent was making me just a little nervous. However just like the stars of Enid Blyton’s books I think the best childhoods feature lots of adventures, particularly ones outdoors and whatever happened it was going to be a lot better than sitting around at home.
The choice of glamping location was relatively easy as while I discovered via Google that there are a lot of glamping sites out there, there appears to be equally lots of people interested in going glamping, so finding one available was the first criteria. Thankfully Wye Glamping ticked all the boxes; not too far away, beautiful location, proper showers on site and a reasonable price. What we didn’t know when booking was that there would also be a couple of other families in the other tents on site with children the same age as mine. Perfect!
Every new product released that is electric seems to also need to be smart and connected to the internet, but while I’m not entirely convinced why that applies to my washing machine or fridge having used the Nest learning thermostat for just over a month now I can see why it is called a smart device.
This small, round, shiny thermostat sits quietly in the corner of our kitchen without really being noticed but all the while it’s learning our routine so that it can most effectively control the heating for our house. Now of course we haven’t had our heating on at all in that period, in fact I’m writing this with the patio doors wide open while listening to the pigeons gently coo outside, so we’ve yet to see the full impact of that learning but I’m impressed nonetheless and here’s why:
- The design – simple interface where the outside twists to move around the menu and you push the screen to select items. Simple, intuitive, easy.
- Quick installation – sure you are most likely going to need an electrician to do this for you, but it took all of 30 minutes from the moment he arrived and should simply be a case of replacing the existing program box you have for your boiler.
- Hot water boost – you can program in a schedule for your hot water with as many on/off’s a day as you want and even a different schedule each day. But you can also get a one time boost with a couple of clicks of the thermostat and can choose how long to run the boost for.
It’s now 16 months since the lady of the manor’s mum passed away, I’ve put off writing this post for quite a while, unsure exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. But part of the reason I started this blog in the first place was to share the perspective of being a dad in a world where us dad’s don’t do a good job of talking about how we feel or what we are experiencing. At least when it comes to being a parent that is, men probably do too much talking when it comes to other topics not least politics. But today I’d like to talk about grief and preschoolers.
Grief is such a personal thing, how someone reacts to and feels about losing someone is specific to them and we all deal with it in a different way. It also has a habit of sneaking up on us when we’re least expecting it bringing all those feelings of pain and anger back to the surface. When you then add the complication of the person grieving being 3 or 4 years old it’s hard as a parent to know what you should do. I can remember that night vividly as I sat Matilda and Henry down to try and explain to them what had happened to their nanna and why mummy wasn’t going to be home for a few days. Even writing this now I’m having to hold back tears. How can I, their dad who loves and protects them, be the one to shatter their innocence and bring such heartache into their lives at such a young age? My beautiful, happy little children who have been robbed of the pleasure of growing up with their nanna in their lives.
Going to Cornwall on holiday is now firmly set in our annual family traditions as it was in my own childhood, it’s a place that feels like home whenever we visit, a place that can be horrendously busy if you head to the hotspots but full of glorious scenery and a place where memories are made. I can still remember the smell of the wetsuit rental shop tucked away on an industrial estate in Braunton we’d visit to get out wetsuits for the week, that mix of neoprene with salt and board wax which tell you you’re officially on holiday. I remember taking a rowing boat out on the Bude canal with my brother and annoying all the fishermen as we struggled to row in a straight line, I also remember the journeys down from Oxfordshire where turning off the M5 felt like you were almost there but in reality it was a long way yet. There is another reason why Cornwall will always be a special place for me, Tintagel castle was the place that I proposed to the lady of the manor. A time that feels like a lifetime ago but was a big moment in this adventure we’re on together and that’s good enough reason on its own to go back every year.
But go back we will and with Matilda and Henry loving it as much as we do I don’t think we’ll get much choice in the matter any time soon. Easter is the time we tend to go, risky weather wise but no matter what the weather we know we’ll have great fun and so I thought I’d share with you our top 5 places to visit.
The Eden Project
The Eden Project could well be our favourite place in the UK to visit, we’ve now been 5 times in the past year (thanks to the annual pass which is the same price as day entry) and each time have discovered something different and are yet to be bored, parents or children. ‘The domes’ as Matilda and Henry call them is just fabulous, no cheesy gimmicky rides or activities but so much to keep the children engaged and interested from the short cuts designed just for kids on the walk down to the amazing rain forest walk for those who like heights. There’s the story teller in the Mediterranean biome who we listen to while eating lunch and the ride on the tractor train to get back to the exit. The list could quite honestly go on and makes no mention of the seasonal activities they put on or the wonderful and varied food options. For adults or older children there is plenty of education on the plants and the environment and this year ‘the seed’ a stone sculpture that took my breath away. They also sell a mean latte and some of the best ice cream you can buy (it is Cornwall after all).
There are certain numbers that every parent knows with a high degree of precision; the amount of hours they or their partner were in labour, the weight their child weighed at birth, when their child walked (although that one fades a little once they pass 5 years of age) and how long it’s been (to the nearest day) since they last had kid free time with their wife/husband/partner. Those heavenly moments where you skip out the house as a grandparent, willing or otherwise, volunteers to look after your little
monsters angels. The skip may even be accompanied with a few whoops if it also means that you’re avoiding having to do bedtime with them. Rupert was 13 months when the lady of the manor and I had out first evening out, we went to see James Bond at the cinema, not much change to watching TV in the evening I guess but even so we felt FREE.
The last time we had a night away together without children was on 24th April 2014 and technically one was actually with us because we think that might have been the weekend Rupert was conceived. But at least at that point he wasn’t able to cry, scream or talk to us, or for that matter play with the bin, throw things in the toilet or try to break the telephone.
I of course love my children, I love being with them, playing with them, seeing them grow. But you realise how much you love them when you have a short time away from the intense, all consuming activity that is parenthood. As they say a break is as good as a holiday and those short breaks certainly feel like a treat. But here’s the best bit, it’s also pretty darn good for your kids, especially if you have more than one like we do. Let me give you an example.