Javelin Service (A.K.A Southeastern HS1)

Now it’s very rare that I’m positive about commuting, or even Southeastern for that matter. They must have anticipated my grief over the Olympics timetable, because today I received a nice little letter from Southeastern, containing a £40 voucher.

Thank you for thinking of me Southeastern.You give me air conditioning, fold-up tables, travel to London in 25 minutes and now compensation for putting up with sweaty overexcited Olympics fanatics.

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Olympic Torch

Day 63 was our day for the Olympic Torch Relay. Crowds gathered and lined the streets eagerly, way before the proposed time. I hadn’t anticipated this whilst trying to find a parking space and for some idiotic reason, I decided to drive through the Olympic Torch route. The crowds cheered as I drove along; I was embarrassed for the most part, though I did feel somewhat famous.

I eventually parked and raced towards the crowds to find a spot near the front. There was good atmosphere and I got into the spirit of things, which must be quite something considering I am rarely over enthused about things like this especially since I found out that there are more than one Olympic Torch. As I expected, DS went crazy over the police motorbikes.

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All in all, it was good experience and one to add on the list of things I’ve seen and done. It’s a bit of a shame that my hometown has made another embarrassing mention in the papers, though it’s not much of a shock. Gravesend, how low can you go?

Summer, Summer, Sun Come Shine..

Enough of CBeebies..

One of the hardest things about the summer holidays is finding cost-effective fun for the kids, and of course, yourself. As promised in my previous post, here are reviews of my top five outings in the past, in no particular order. Obviously check the prices on their individual websites before you get going, please do not take my every word as fact!

Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle

Where is it? Bodiam, near Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5UA.

What is it? An extravagant castle with a moat that was built in 1385. The inside has been destroyed and is now filled with grass, however the stairs and the outskirts of the castle remains. It is situated in a quaint village with a stream running through the picturesque greenery; perfect for a picnic or a walk with the dogs.

Cheap? Adults £6.80, Child £3.40. It might work out a lot cheaper to purchase the annual membership if you plan on making a few trips to National Trust. Also, between 1st – 26th August, up to two children can get in free per paying adult/member. Don’t forget coins for parking if you are not a member.

Facilities? The only toilets available are in the car park, which is also home to the tea room and gift shop. Literally just outside the entrance of car park there is also the Castle Inn pub.

Anything else? This is one of the  most amazing castles I have ever seen. For those who want a little bit more, they also hold activities for kids; when we visited, they were firing bows and arrows at various targets for £2.50. I would also warn you, if you are talking small children, make sure you have some reins or a pram. I almost had an anxiety attack over DS attempting to run down the steep hills and charging towards the moat!

Shorne Country Park

Shorne Woods Country Park – DS trying to play with the older kids.

Where is it? Brewers Road, Gravesend, Kent, DA12 3HX.

What is it? An extensive park with beautiful gardens and wildlife. There is also a play area for children of all ages – an enclosed park for the younger kids and a large adventure play area for the big kids. DS loved the swings, but he preferred running around screaming with a football. They also have various events and activities for children to join in.

Cheap? Free entry, however there are parking charges (Monday – Friday £2.00, weekends and bank holidays £2.50).

Facilities? The eco-friendly visitor centre also has a cafe.

Anything else? There isn’t much shading, remember to bring a hat and sun-cream!

Farming World

Where is it? Nash Court, Canterbury Road, Faversham, Kent, ME13 9HY.

What is it? A farm with all sorts of animals, varying from pigs, sheep, horses, birds, llamas, goats and cows.There are also several children’s play areas for all ages and tractor rides for the bigger kids. There are lots of events you can go to, sometimes if you dress the kids in a particular theme then it is free entry.

Cheap? Adults £6, Children (3-15) £5. I took DS when he was 16 months and he loved it. He didn’t fully understand but it was a fun way to show him the drawings in the books exist in real life.

Facilities? They have a cafe that is pretty busy. We bought a pack lunch and sat in one of their many benches scattered around the farm.

Anything else? Bring the antibacterial gel and lots of wipes.

Camber Sands

Where is it? It is situated in Rye, East Sussex. A useful postcode for the Sat Nav would be TN31 7RB.

What is it? It is a lovely sandy beach with dunes. I have a vague memory of a fun trip to Camber Sands when I was a child, and on that small dose of nostalgia, we set out on our adventure.

Cheap? Of course, no entry fee! You may want to research the local car parks or whether there is residential road without parking restrictions you could sneakily leave your car at. On our outing, the local farm were charging £5 all day for cars to park in their open area, which was much cheaper than the standard car parks run by the council.

Facilities? There should be toilet facilities, and there are usually small shops and cafes around. We had fish and chips for lunch, however it is very busy during lunch time (obviously!) so expect to wait a while. DS and I were wondering whether Daddy had done a runner as he had been gone an hour and a half to get lunch! You may want to go prepared with a pack lunch or take down the post code for the nearest Tesco.

Anything else? Lots of sun cream, nappies, wipes, water, cheap sandals, a hat and an all-in-one swim suit. We found a UV sun tent helpful, as we could store our belongings and it gave us a shaded area. Do not wheel the pram over the sand, as it will probably break. We overpacked for DS and completely forgot about ourselves, which left DH looking like a lobster… For a more in-depth beach survival guide, this is a good website.

Scotney Castle

Scotney Castle

Where is it? Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN3 8JN.

What is it? Scotney Castle is made up of two houses, separated by a large hill and a beautiful garden. It has a lovely picturesque moat and the ruins of an old castle.

Cheap? Garden: Adults £8.10, Child £4.95, Family £22.50. House and garden: Adults £12.60, Child £6.30, Family £31.50. Similarly to Bodiam Castle (above), it would be cheaper to purchase the annual membership from the National Trust. You can also gain free entry for kids between 1st – 26th August, up to two children can get in free per paying adult/member.

Facilities? There is a tea room, baby changing facilities and a gift shop.

Anything else? Standard sun-cream and maybe bright clothing; there is a lot to explore and you might find your little one playing hide and seek. Be wary of the moat, there is not a barrier and is very dangerous for young children.

So I guess all you need to do now is get dressed, get the kids dressed, pack their bags, pack yours, make the sandwiches, load up the car, grab the camera and the Sat Nav, lock the door… Have I forgotten something?!

Farewell Canterbury.

So yesterday was my final day at work, the last of my excuses for being in Canterbury. No longer will I have to risk my life driving 40 minutes each way half asleep, only to sit in a dark room made of glass. Nor will I have an excuse to buy random objects in my lunch break, to receive odd looks when I return with a laundry basket, mop and a whole chicken.

With my ties to CCCU severed, it leave me with an odd feeling; I am not overjoyed, yet I am not completely saddened. Perhaps a little empty; after all, CCCU and Canterbury have played a large part in my life over the past four years. I have lived the student life, become a responsible parent, a wife, and a full-time worker all under the same setting.

After drinks with my colleagues, I had to say my farewells and make my journey back ‘home’. The sun was setting on my walk to the train station along the city wall, making Augustine House sparkle; a picturesque view I have mentally stored and taken back with me to dreary Gravesend.

Strike a Bargain.

I think I become a little obsessive when it comes to getting the best deal. I refuse to pay more than I think an item is worth, considering how the majority of our hard-earned cash is spent feeding these capitalist pigs who make the world go round. It is sickening, yet I buy into it because I am materialistic and I do value inanimate objects. I also need to survive so thank God for EDF, Southern Water and Morrisons.

One to avoid - Although I like bargain hunting, I do not like second hand goods.

When seeking an item I wish to purchase, I almost make it a goal of mine to get the best price for it. For example, our Gaggia Baby coffee machine we recently bought (see previous post) sold at John Lewis for £209.95, offers the standard 2 year guarantee plus an extra year at the cost of £28. As you may know, ‘never knowingly undersold‘ is a policy John Lewis upholds; if you find the item cheaper in another high street store, they will match it. However, after much research I discovered a family business based in Dorset called the Hart of Stur who also sold the same item for £199.95, including £35 worth of Gaggia goods – Gaggia espresso cup and saucer, a milk jug,  a milk thermometer and Gaggia coffee. It was even better as Hart of Stur‘s coffee machine came in black, to match the rest of our kitchen appliances.

Another good find of mine, which you may or may not be interested in, is Sky Rewards. Every Monday they offer £3 adult tickets for any showing of any film at O2 Cineworld in Greenwich; for two adults, obviously adding up to £6, saved us £17 on the original price. I discovered this a few weeks ago and have been waiting patiently to order my tickets a week prior to the showing of Harry Potter in 3D. Being a bit of a Harry Potter geek, I have been eagerly anticipating this since Part 1 a year ago, which did not make it to 3D in time for the release date.

Being such a keen bargain hunter does not always have good outcomes. Last week whilst browsing through the rails at Primark, I found a dress in the sale for a mere £2. At the time, I remember laughing to myself that only in Gravesend would you have 6 and 8 the only sizes remaining in a sale; all the obese freeloaders must have bagged all the rest of the sizes (bearing in mind that Primark goes up to a size 22). As I thought it was such an impressive find, I did not hesitate in buying the dress. A few days later in the queue at Morrisons, I recognised a distinct pattern on the dress of a large woman in front of me. After a few seconds I looked down at myself, stared back at the woman, only to realise that we were wearing the same Primark dress. I was horrified to say the least. I am glad she did not notice me, as I am not sure who would have been more embarrassed.

WARNING: Consider all consequences that may arise as a result of a bargainous purchase.

Long drive home.

So the weeks have passed and I am now residing in the filthy town that is Gravesend. My days are spent in denial of this fact, concealing my devastation behind my desk with my Admissions hat on. It is only when I set out on my arduous journey home, crossing the Medway border on the M2 and the skies turn grey, does reality smack me in the face.

It has only recently occurred to me how much I took for granted, living in the city centre, working for a decent wage with no travel costs and a neat apartment minutes away. I would enjoy regular visits from DH and DS during working hours and finish my day at 4:30PM, to find my bouncing baby boy waiting for me at the door.

I no longer have these privileges living in Gravesend. I see DS for a maximum of two hours a day, in which the morning hour is spent rushing around trying to get ready for work. In the evening my boy greets me with red eyes, exhausted from having such a fun day with Daddy, and slums into his high chair eager for dinner before bed. I barely spend any time with my boys before it is bedtime and I am forced to wake for the next day.

I remember I came across this battle when I first committed to working full-time. Yes it got easier, because my son was across the road. Will it get easier again? Doubtful. I am becoming worn, reliant on caffeine and desperate for my son’s attention.

Get outta this town.

Westgate Gardens, Canterbury.

So this is it. My days of living in the beautiful town that is Canterbury has come to an end. No more living in an apartment within the city walls, strolling two minutes to, what could be, an outdoor Bluewater. No more trips to the charming Westgate Gardens with a canal running through it or the Dane John with a little maze DS loves. Pushing my devastation aside, I guess I should take consolation in being here for 37.5 hours a week. Even if I am trapped in the centre of a glass building, where ironically, there is no natural light.

Moving back to Gravesend was not the end goal, but to fill the gap in the interim period between university and finding our feet. Let’s face it, it is not the most picturesque town and the people who occupy it are not the friendliest. It is a town people live in to be closer to London and its’ surrounding towns; you choose to live there so it is easier to escape. The remaining population who are not commuters, probably live in the many lovely council estates.

High speed exit out of Gravesend - 25 minutes to St Pancras International.

Generally in Gravesend, the chavs you see roaming the streets are seeking that extra 10p for a packet of fags, to then threateningly ask you to buy it for them. There is no politeness in their requests, cutting straight to the point and inciting fear in the process. In Canterbury, there are less chavs, or at least they are hidden. We mainly house the drunks and homeless in our underpasses, where they busk for money and thank you in return for your change. A couple of years ago when I was pregnant a homeless man asked me for change, but upon noticing my protruding belly, he backtracked and apologised for asking. In Gravesend I would have most probably be singled out as an easy target and mugged.

It is when you fight your way through the cloud of smoke on the High Street in Gravesend, you get the sense that no one wants to be there. The occupants are either in a rush to be somewhere else or just loitering to pass the time. In Canterbury passerbys smile at you and you smile back, in mutual recognition of how happy we both are to be here. I am not being cheesey, just pointing out facts; Residents, tourists and students alike choose to be in this town. Gravesend does not have tourists, nor do they have willing students.

I have lived in Gravesend for the majority of my years so I feel I have a fair judgment. It is pretty dire place to grow up in as a teenager and I fear it has not changed in the slightest.