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?

The Bigger Picture.

So it’s Valentine’s Day, hurrah. An occasion marked by Clintons where you are required to purchase some kind of gift for your loved one. Over lavishing is frowned upon as wasteful but arriving home present-less leaves you in the doghouse. I have always said presents are pointless for Valentines, extravagance is completely unnecessary; I am more for the gesture and effort behind it.

I am usually pretty awful when it comes to Valentines and, admittedly, expect more than I give. This year however, I decided to change my ways and pull out all the stops. Don’t get overexcited or anything – It’s not that amazing; it’s fairly good, I’ll give myself that.

So the idea originated from Not on the High Street; a photo frame with three separate maps in a shape of a heart of where you and your partner met, married and lived. I also did some digging and found a blogger who had a very successful attempt at it. I thought it was very cute and such a personal gift, but unwilling to part with £78, I took it upon myself to get creative.

I bought the wooden frame from Amazon, the map secondhand from Amazon and used plain white A4 paper I had home.

I used autoshape on MS Word for the heart template, adjusted it to fit the A5 frame, printed it and then cut it out. Placing the template on top of the towns where we met, married and lived, I drew carefully around the heart with a pencil.

 After a few rubbings out and redrawing, I cut out the heart shapes on the map.

Once they had all been cut out, I rubbed out the pencil marks that were left around the heart. Using the A4 paper, I halved it into A5 size so it would fit the frame and stuck the heart in the middle. This sounds easier than it actually was; it took quite some time to centre the heart and ensure the space was consistent in all three frames.

After a lot of fiddling about with scissors and glue, whilst trying to keep DS preoccupied, I can proudly say I have actually made something that actually isn’t too bad.

Happy Valentines Day DH :)

Time for closure.

Last week was DH’s graduation, marking the end of his degree and our life in Canterbury. We were very excited for the excuse to visit the city we once knew and still love, basking in memories of cobbled streets and Sunday mornings in a coffee shop. Of course we were celebrating the future as well as harking back, after all, DH did achieve a First in his degree and win the International Relations Prize, whilst juggling his role as a stay-at-home-dad. DS and I are amazingly proud of him!

It is crazy how time flies, as the same day a year ago was my graduation. I love how DS is present in both our graduation pictures; whilst our faces remain the same with a difference of one year (or so I hope), DS has almost doubled in size. To my surprise, with a few adjustments to the elastic, DS’ trousers and waistcoat from a year ago still fit him.

Oh how my boys have grown!

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?!

School’s Out.

The six week break from school has officially commenced. Last week it was hardly believable, but now as we tumble into Tuesday after a long weekend, the tiredness is settling in and  parents nationwide are trying desperately to make fun-filled days. Obviously DS does not attend school at his age and I am not a pro-rata worker, but I do sense a slight comradeship with parents who do fit into the above categories. As I said farewell to Canterbury last week and have embraced motherhood once again, I somehow feel that this is only a temporary adjustment and in the next six weeks, normality will resume.

In the spirit of summer holidays and celebrating our newfound time together as a family, we have been on various days out. We ventured to Bodiam Castle on Sunday, which was an hour drive away. The scenery was stunning and the castle was extravagant to say the least. We have a ‘young persons’ (13-25 year olds) annual membership each with the National Trust, which works out cheaper than individual or ‘joint’ memberships. We have a vague interest in history and the stories that follow, but we mainly signed up for the memories we would make. Magnificent buildings and the extensive open space pose great potential for good photos. DS loves running freely in the open space, swinging his arms side by side as he toddles along.

My boys watching the ducks at Bodiam Castle.

It is worth looking into annual memberships for the National Trust and English Heritage, as it brings variance to your trips and spurs you on to actually get up and go. On both websites, you can locate on a map where your nearest National Trust/English Heritage sites are; it is important to research this before committing to a membership to ensure they are within a distance drivable from your home, otherwise it may be a bit of an effort to get your money’s worth. It is a great way to get kids interested in history, architecture and keep their minds stimulated.

I have been researching into various play centres and fun days out for DS, but it is difficult at this time of year as the activities are mainly aimed at older kids. Another issue I have come across is trying to find cost-effective outings, as businesses often use school holidays as an opportunity to squeeze parents dry. I did discover A Whale of a Time, which advertises ‘£1 Mondays’ on their website, however upon arriving yesterday I found out this is only valid during term time. Disgusted at the 500% increase to £5, I decided against this and took DS to Bluewater‘s outdoor play area instead which I did not have to pay for. This change of heart would have been impossible if DS was any older, but oblivious to the world at 19 months, he did not care too much about walking away. £5 is an extortionate rate for under 4’s, especially charging a baby who would rather chase a ball. Do not be afraid to walk away for any reason, you should not have to compromise yourself.

I will review various attractions I have visited in my next post, giving my overall rating on service, level of enjoyment and cost. I will also comprise a list of places I wish to take DS in the coming weeks. Watch this space.

Writings on the wall.

Do not get the wrong idea, I do not condone vandalism of any sort. Although I do love how the graffiti in Canterbury are of a much higher calibre than the ones found in Gravesend. They attempt to be thought-provoking with some kind of message, as opposed to a ‘cool’ pseudonym in an effort to conceal their real name but still maintaining their street cred. The graffiti does not necessarily make sense or actually hold any weight in the intellectual realm, but that is irrelevant. At least it tries to have an agenda.

Surprise!

I had planned DH’s birthday event last night for the past three months. Obviously it did not actually take every day leading up to October to plan it, but the initial booking of the tickets required me to get in there early.

Tickets for what I hear you ask? Marlowe Comedy Club, which is a comedy night (hence the name) held in Bramleys Canterbury once every month. I gathered our friends from our hometown by the means of Facebook; the thought of using any other form of communication seems absurd to me. DH was unaware of what was happening, but I did have a scare when Facebook decided to remind me on my homepage that the event was approaching. In massive letters ‘DH’s SURPRISE Birthday Event’ was surely a giveaway, but luckily he was quite unobservant.

So the night came and my mother stayed over to look after DS; I am so glad he was a good boy as I am always anxious when someone else takes charge. I led DH into the town centre towards the Cathedral much to his confusion. Regardless of our lack of faith, he seemed to think I was taking him to mass. We bypassed the Cathedral and arrived at the Seven Stars pub for pre-drinks, where our friends were waiting for us.

It was such a good night seeing the group together, we had not seen them for months. We all lead our separate lives, be it in Canterbury, Gravesend or London, and so it is hard to organise everyone to be in the same place at once. The comedy was hilarious and the drinks were good. Overall, making it a very successful night.

All of us with a drink in hand almost made it feel like we were in the Pocock in Gravesend again, but the wooden piano in the corner and the girl sitting with a book gave it away.