Tag Archives: Travel

Staying Calm in The Car

Hello!  I’m still here, I’ve just been hassled to bits with the kids and life in general so I’ve not had time to breathe, let alone blog.  Before I go on to try and update a bit more Fortnight in France, I just want to introduce a guest post from Sainsbury’s Money Matters.  The photo below is definitely not Horace and I by the way.  Horace would never wear a hat like that, and the sun doesn’t tend to be as bright a blue around here either, more’s the pity….  However we do bicker like mad in the car at times, and the bit about back seat drivers certainly could be us.  I swear one day Horace will chuck me out of the car for saying ‘Do you think we’re possibly, just a leeeetle bit too close to that car in front?’  whilst sitting as far back as possible in my seat, closing my eyes and miming pushing an invisible break pad with my left foot.

Ps. I can’t stop this blog from typing in itallics, sorry.  It’s an obstinate kind of blog it seems.

Staying Calm in the Car

From disputes over directions to quarrels over the quality of the driving, there are a million and one things to bicker about on a long car journey. So we’ve devised ways to keep cross words to a minimum when you’re on the road. Read on to find out how.

Problem: Strain over navigation

According to a study of 2,200 people by Halfords, most arguments in the car are about navigation and following directions. While a third of us argue over the route to a destination, two thirds say disagreements flare up as a result of their partner’s poor map reading. In fact, 80% of women and 65% of men complained their partners didn’t even check the route before setting off! And while en route, 85% said they argued because the driver refused to ask for directions.

Solution: Before you set off, look at your route with your partner and agree on the best way to get there. Take a map and a sat nav – your best defence against getting lost.

Problem: Disagreement over radio station/music choice

We might adore our partner, but that doesn’t mean we love their obsession with thrash metal. Which explains why 20% of us argue over in-car music or radio station selection, according to a survey of 3,000 people by SEAT.

Solution: Understand one thing – you might never love your partner’s questionable music taste. But you can show a bit of tolerance and agree to compromise. Why not listen to each other’s choice of music for 30 minutes, and then swap?

Problem: Cannot agree on car temperature

It’s the height of summer, so your partner has the window open and the air conditioning on, and yet it’s raining and about 12ºC, so you’re desperate to put the heater on. This situation is more common than you’d think – 15% of in-car arguments are about having the heating too high and 14% are about the air-conditioning being too low, says SEAT.

Solution: This is a fairly easy one to crack. If you feel the cold more than your partner, take some extra clothing to wear in the car. That way, the air conditioning can be on and you will still feel warm. There is no need, however, for the windows to be open as well – choose one or the other.

Problem: Designated driver dispute

You’ve planned a big night out with your partner and friends, and you really don’t want to drive because you want to enjoy a few glasses of wine. The trouble is, so does your partner.

Solution: The easy answer is to go by cab, or arrange to stay at your friends’ house or a cheap B&B so neither of you has to drive back. If those options are out of the question, one of you is going to have to drive. But being a designated driver should be a shared responsibility, so whoever agrees to drive shouldn’t have to do it next time.

Problem: Constant backseat driving

There’s nothing worse than being continually told how to drive by your passenger, or having your motoring skills constantly undermined by them. Is it any wonder that 20% of those surveyed by SEAT have argued with their partner about backseat driving? And if the driver becomes distracted by such comments, it could lead to an accident.

Solution: If you’re a passenger having a go at your driver, but you don’t actually want to get behind the wheel, keep your criticism to a minimum. The occasional justified comment is fine, but don’t go on. After all, if you really feel unsafe, get out and walk, or do the driving yourself (provided you have the right car insurance cover

Equally, if your passenger is constantly complaining about your driving, instead of getting all worked up, think about what they’re saying. If they have a point, alter your driving for both your sakes. But if you disagree, tell them to put up and shut up.

A Fortnight in France – Part 3

A Fortnight in France – Part 3

If you’d like to read Part 2 you can find it HERE and if you want to go even further back (you glutton for punishment you!) Part 1 is HERE

In this Part, I write about our children’s divine table manners and etiquette and extol the virtues of gravel as a plaything.

Stinky Stuff

Darlek loves it here, I heard her saying the other day – ‘Can we stay here for ever and ever and ever’  I have to agree.  It’s beautiful.  We’re in three separate ‘Gits’ each with their own facilities, all the amenties we could need are in each property, although I think one of us is lacking a washing machine.  I can’t remember who in the party that is, but I suspect my nose may tell me towards the end of next week.  (not really, nobody stinks, honest!) ….actually having said that Darlek seems to have terrible wind!  Anyone would think we’d been feeding her dead rats for the month prior to the holiday.  It is funny when she does her ‘Farticus’ impression as it has been christened, but it stinks to high heaven!  Thank heavens for light breezes and that we’re mostly outside.

Son is still burping like a bullfrog at every meal.  I suspect our family is now notorious for blowing off in one way or another now.

The park directly in front of our ‘Git’. The kids played outside most of the time which was probably a blessing considering….

Tantrums and Rocket Lollies

Darlek had a minor meltdown over a ice-cream yesterday which was a bit traumatic. There was only one left and as Sausage is younger and often misses out on things because of this, he was given the ice-cream.  Poor Darlek thought that this was unfair and sobbed in a heap in a chair indoors for what must have been an hour.  No amount of cajoling could persuade her to rejoin the rest of the party and I sat there feeling like an absolute cow.  But really, have you ever tried splitting a rocket shaped ice-lolly in two?  Not gonna happen.  She got over it eventualy, but I suspect the emotional scarring may be permanent.

Matilda

Gangdad has been reading Matilda by Roal Dahl to her every evening.  She is spellbound!  Gangdad does all the different voices and really gets into the spirit of the book.  I suspect the voices get more muddled as more red wine is consumed towards the end of the evening where most of the reading is done.  I’m not allowed to read the book now as it’s Gangdad’s special book and he wants to know what happens.  I read a chapter the other day and he re-read it to Darlek as he wanted to keep tabs on the plot.  I know my place!

Saucy and Saucisson

Sausage has been rechristened Saucisson, which is French for Sausage we have  been told.  Speaking of funny names, Horace came back from a trip out with two huge cones of cardboard, sealed at the end with ‘Surprise!’ written across them.  I think they were the french equivalent of lucky dip bags.  Inside were random little tatty gifts for kids, one for a girl and one for a boy.  I think the real surprise was the pretend silver tiara, necklace and earrings that held the brand name ‘Saucy’.  We all decided that this little gift set was probably made in Hong Kong where no-one could speak english, so consequently they’d asked some random translation package on the internet for a translation of the chinese word for ‘Cheeky’ and had ended up with ‘Saucy’ as a suggestion.  With all the erm…’dodgy’ associations with the word, it was generally agreed that the goods had probably been politely refused in the UK and had been shipped over to none-english speaking countries where they could be sold without raised eyebrows.

Darlek thought they were a bit young for her I think and refused to wear them, not ungraciously though.  Grandma Sweara sat beautifully bedecked in plastic jewellery for a while instead until she got bored of them and Saucisson adopted the necklace for a while.  Parading them up and down over his ‘Monster’s’ T’shirt.  Darlek has suddenly become very grown up, and a lot more self aware than she was.  She now refuses to have her hair in pigtails because she says they laugh at girls at school who wear them.  It won’t be long until she starts with a passion for Prada and posh hair straighteners.  I know it’s a cliche to say they grow up so quickly but they really do.  I looked at her the other day and noticed how long her legs have become, and how tall and lithe she is.  I’m not saying she wasn’t beautiful before, but it was a slightly chubby little girl beauty before, with the slightly dimpled elbows and filled out face.  These days she seems built like a racing grayhound as my dad would say, and I can see her running ahead towards her girlhood and away from her babyhood.  Ah, my gorgeous girl!  The most gorgeous girl in the world if you ask me, but then I’m biased.

A quiet interlude on our balcony.

Me stood on the balcony eating toast and looking spaced out.

The gits we are staying in are really like home from homes, complete with sitting rooms with leatherette chairs, well- equipped kitchens, bedrooms with little bunches of lavender tied with ribbons on bedside tables, handy bedside lamps; quirky little paintings on the walls.  The little touches such as the hairdrier in every house is much appreciated too.  I forgot mine, along with Sausage’s specially bought swim pants, the toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and conditioner and the bottom half of my new bikini.  Thankfully I also bought an all in one costume too so I shall not have to go swimming whilst completely indecent.

I suspect the favourite facility is the outside swimming pool.  there are two, one in the grounds of the house and one raised up further up the hill.  Both are beautifully maintained (no chips or cracks in the masonry, loungers that all work and look new), and are heated by the sun throughout the day.  Around the pool there’s baby doll pink, red and white roses so it is framed very picturesquely.  It may not be an infinity pool, but it’ll do nicely for us.    They’ve even provided a baby floation belt and two floatation tubes so the kids have something to play with in the pool if visitors have forgotten to bring inflatables (which we did!).  The best thing about the swimming pool is that it is completely fenced off with a reasonably tall wooden picket fence, gated with a chidproof lock to ensure there’s no unattended children in there. My daughter in true precocious style has mastered the lock but thankfully has the common sense (usually) not to go in there by herself.  She did once and was right royally told off, she’s not done it since!  Anyway she can swim quite well now. Saucisson cannot swim and is less precocious so cannot get in there, which is a great relief.  I can’t imagine anything worse than having an acessible swimming pool in the grounds of a holiday home.

Slowly burning to a frazzle but not minding at all.

Who Needs Toys When You’ve Got Gravel?

The younger kids seem fascinated with gravel and stones.  The trip to the river resulted in a medium sized basket of stones of varying sizes, the most prized being the lovely amber rose coloured quartz which seems endemic to this area.  The plaza in St John is cobbled with the stuff.  The other stones which have proved as substitute toys are the gravel that covers the pathways from the houses to the roadway.  Endless hours have been spent with the kids shovelling stones from the pathway onto the seated area, and then back again ad infinitum.  Sausage has been taught to use the smaller brush to brush the stuff back on to the path in a vain attempt to stop the path invading underneath our outside dining table.  Unsucessfully of course.  Someone has organised a bowl of water with stones in for the kids to play with, because of course they always look prettier under water and kids love wet stuff.  I’ve just heard the parent of the youngest child shout ‘Stop chewing rocks!’ at her, something you just don’t expect to hear shouted whilst in the midst of a civilised sitting-in-the-garden-drinking-vodka-and-tonics afternoon.

I can’t remember what Sausage was saying at this point, but It was probably something along the lines of ‘The gravel is all mine, all MINE! Mwahhahahaha *evil laugh*’

This reminded me of when Darlek was a ‘littly.’  I was once memorably heard to yell ‘Stop waving that penguin in such a threatening manner!!!’  Another usually unheard of phrase.  Daughter was in the posession of a wooden penguin on a stick and was waving it like she was going to bray someone with it.

The Day France was Closed.

We had a disasterous trip out for the second generation, ie, the older kids, leaving their brethren behind for the first generation to look after them.  The plan was to find the local caves, and then find somewhere for lunch.  As it was we decided to visit a chateau on the way, which was like a huge dramatic building on the outside, complete with gargoyles and towers, inside it looked like it had very little furnishings left apart from some elaborate tapestries and inexplicable, expensive looking paintings of rhinos. And no, I’m not making that up.

Stunning on the outside, loads of paintings of rhinos on the inside. Armadillo’s! (sorry, not sure where that came from, I’m not mentally scarred from advertising or anything….)

We then went on to the caves where they had some ancient cave drawings on display – which was closed.  So we decided to go and get some lunch and stopped off at a roadside garage / cafe – which was closed too.  After a couple of soft drinks we headed off to a larger town to find food – every single solitary place that sold food  was closed.  We laughed it off and starved quietly.

This is so completely alien to me!  I didn’t realise, but France is known for ‘closing’ mid-day for a sort of siesta, and you have to time things around their routine.  In Britain you can find a butty at Greggs almost any time of the day!  The starving bit wasn’t so much fun, so we went to another restaurant – which was, guess what, closed.  In absolute desperation we went to a shop to buy a packet of crisps to share  – it was closed!  I have vivid memories of Annabel in the back of the car saying ‘I’ve got some chewing gum, there’s only one piece, but does anyone want it?’ and I think at that point we thought enough was enough.  About ready to chew our own arms off we all sheepishly returned to the git and devoured bread and cheese and then called it a day.  The day of freedom didn’t quite work out, although I still enjoyed it because we were child free for once.  We could have driven round aimlessly in circles for 2 hours and I’d have been fine about it – wait on…..we did.

I ate more way, way too much French bread and pate. Note the hamster cheeks.

Oui!

Sausage’s potty training has gone to pot, I’m not sure if it is because of the casual french used here and there.  We all say ‘Oui!’ (wee!) at regular intervals and he seems happy to oblige.  I am so sick of wet pants.  It has been suggested that we send him to Africa because they are short of water there.  He apparently has the abilty to wee more than he actually drinks, a valuable resource over there maybe.

To be continued……are you bored yet?……or are you booking a flight to France this very second.  I know what I wish I was doing……. *sighs*

If you’d like to read Part 4 – please click HERE!

A Fortnight in France – Part 2

A Fortnight in France – Part 2  

Part 1, can be found HERE if you’d like to read that first)

The days as they pass in no particular order and comments passed in passing….whilst in the Perigord region of souther France

….In which I write about wanting to catch lizards, and go on about ham sandwiches in French quite a bit.

30th August

Canoing down the river Dronne! 

I thought it would be a lazy day, casually paddling down the river.  It turned into a marathon of shoulder crunching river mashing.  Having said that, it was very pretty, even if completely knackering.   There seemed to be tons of velvet blue damselflies flickering around the lilypads (or whatever they are), one even hitched a ride on the back of the canoe for a millisecond.

Our 'Room With A View!'

Later that day I momentarily thought Sausage had become interested in nature  – He said: ‘I’ve found a moth!’ and then continued with, ‘I killed it with this!’ and proudly waved a small plastic baseball bat.  I was sadly mistaken.

Relaxed preparations for dinner!

At dinner we had a classic comedy moment:  Sweara, on being told that we were having Coq au Vin, announced ‘I’ve had enough Vin, I want some Coq now’.  Completely innocently as well, which made it all the more amusing.  I hope she won’t mind me writing that down, it was just priceless and I can’t help myself.

Darlek’ swimming skills are coming along nicely, she swims very well, but makes scary ‘I’m drowning!’ gasps which scare the life out of me.  She’s very enthusiastic whilst swimming and attempts to drown any available adult in the pool.  Had a laugh ducking flies, and also an out of hand game of catch with an inflatable ball.  Sausage and Darlek both had hold of the ball and were jokingly yelling to get each other to let go of it, it escalated into a screaming match whereupon I couldn’t shout loud enough over them to tell them to shurrup, and Horace came over to check we weren’t all in some terrible screaming drowning accident.  I was actually laughing too much to stop the screaming and was being irresponsible and worrying fellow guests apparently.

Roses bordered the swimming pool, they were very well watered while we were there. The kids loved splashing about and trying to drown us grown ups.

Later we went swimming at the top swimming pool whilst a thunderstorm lit up the skies.  The clouds were amazing, one was shaped like a chamelion with a forked tail and an eye; another one looked like a sausage dog with jaws that lit up like fire when the lightening flashed.  Cauliflower white clouds built in the midst of a eggshell blue sky on the other half of the horizon, with dark grey smudgey clouds on the other side.  The sky had gone schitzophrenic as far as we could see.

You can't see too well here in the evening light, but the cloud in the distance actually bubbled and grew almost in front of our eyes! I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.

The quiet, civilised, grown-ups-only swim was completely foiled and Darlek and Sausage swam around too.  Mark dived in fully clothed, Darlek thought this was amazing and may have been disappointed that I didn’t follow suit.   The pool sparkled with underwater lights and little lanterns lit the edges.  So pretty!  I felt like we’d accidentally wandered into a film set where James Bond should be sat at the side drinking martinis, shaken not stirred.

Another fond moment later in the week:  I remember lying on a picnic blanket on the grass in the dark after a late tea – me, Darlek and Horace, with Sausage running around with a ball pretending to be a dog.  Darlek had him sitting, rolling over and playing fetch.  We lay and watched the stars and tracked satellites.  A quick rendition of Billy Bragg’s ‘I saw two shooting stars last night, I wished on them, but they were only satellites, it’s wrong to wish on space hardware….I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care!’ with Sweara.

Darlek with her makeshift beauty treatment, cucumber eye patches!

One thing I loved about this holiday is that I often ended up drinking wine in the afternoon whilst reading bathed in sunshine.  As I typed this I was sat on one white plastic chair, legs propped up on another.  Relaxevous!

Horace gets a loose grip on speaking French.

Horace raided the french dictionary and found the word for Gay Bar which is Gay Box translated literally apparently, then appeared to forget every other french word he’s ever learnt and just remembers that.

Cooking with Lavender

Horace and I made tea for 15 people and chose spag bol.  We made enough spaghetti to feed two armies.  Put two huge bowls of spaghetti on the table and then confessed that we had another left in the communal kitchen, everyone thought we were joking because they didn’t think it possible that anyone in their right mind could actually cook that amount of excess.  We had spaghetti omelette the next day.  Unusual and lovely.  Highly recommended by us, probably scorned by Itallians.  Spag bol was also served for lunch the next day too.  ‘We shall not starve for the lack of spag bol’ I thought to myself.

Dominos, Backgammon and Star Wars Top Trumps with the kids were the games of choice. What a fabulous way to while away an hour or so. I loved the calm way of life, a fortnight was not long enough!

I was nervous about cooking tea, but was determined to prove I could cook, so set about making stock.  Had the usual ingredients, half an onion, bit of courgette, peppercorns odds and ends – and added some ‘herbs’ from the garden that I thought were Rosemary.  Sweara came into the kitchen and  very kindly saved me from a fate worse than cookery death, and told me I had actually made a stock with Lavender in it.  I had lined up a huge wadge of Lavender to add to the main dish too.  If I hadn’t have been stopped in time everyone  have had to have eaten it and been polite, whilst wondering what the hell I’d done to the food to make it taste of flowers.

Little Lizards!

Little lizards everywhere!  Love em!  Skittering up and down walls, between decking, and amongst the gravel mostly.  So cute!  Would love to catch one and hold it in my hand so I can check out the markings, but they are unbelievably quick and nervous of people.  They are a lovely dark olive green / grey with a stripe along the side, dotted with shadings of spots and dashes as far as I can see.  They definitely like the sunshine and are most active when the sun is splitting the flags as they say in Lancs.

Our two were little hoodlums and regularly wrestled anyone and everyone given half a chance.

Playing Hunt The Market!

Unusual trip out to a market!  Everyone piled into the car, and arrived on scene to find one fish stall in a quiet car park, and a lorry that appeared to be selling something, but I couldn’t work out what.  That was it!  We ended up wandering around an apparently post apocalyptic town with no-one in it, apart from a few posh food shops, bought some meat for the BBQ, postcards and wandered back to the car.  Tried to get a drink in a cafe, but they said they were only serving drinks with meals.  In actual fact it looked more like a couple of the locals were having a good gossip and they couldn’t be arsed.

Mark had a long indepth discussion with an old French lady who apparently began the conversation with ‘Long Live Queen Elizabeth!’ and advised him on tourist friendly bits of this very quiet town.  She told him there was a restaurant (see above), and also somewhere that had a garden with flowers and Rose wine.  Mike said she went on about how she liked the flowers but had no need of the  ? or something (whatever that was).  Found a couple of other tourists with kids sat outside the Syndicat D’Initiative looking a bit lost.  They’d been on an unsucessful market hunt too.  The last one they’d been to had 2 stalls too.  My overall impression is that markets hide from tourists.

Bella! When she's old enough to go finding markets herself, she'll be a danger with a credit card. I have never known a child have such an fixation with shoes in my life! It didn't matter if the shoes were 10 sizes too big - she still wore them with the same panache, style and ocassional shuffle if they were really miles too big.

French Supermarkets

Our visit to a French supermarket was interesting.  They had similar foods, all packaged differently.  I struggled to find Shampoo and Conditioner.  After a while I identified shampoo, as it said something like ‘shampooing’ on the bottle; next to it was something of the same brand in a tub which said something like ‘nutrisse’.  I’m not used to conditioner in a tub, and I’m still not sure if I’ve chosen correctly.  Who knows, maybe I’ve been putting handcream on my hair for the last week.  So far my hair hasn’t stuck together in clumps, so I think I’m ok.

Mucking about with French

We’re all dropping bits of french into the conversation all the time, some more successfully than others.  I am apalling.  I have a terrible habit of joining in with these French speaking mucking about sessions, by simply announcing ‘Je vous drais un sandwich jambon!’ and giggling.  It’s not funny really, but I suppose I just imagine going into every french situation possible and showing off with this particular phrase.  Eg, going to station, instead of asking for ticket, simply say ‘Je vous drais un sanwich jam bon’.  Visiting post office, wandering to till with postcard, proferring it to assistant and saying ‘Je vous drais un sandwich jam bon’ – just because that’s just about the sum total of my french speaking skills so I may as well use them.

Part 3 to follow.  Is anyone actually reading this?  Or am I being a longwinded, boring, waffle-monger?

You can read it on 31st Jan at 9am, set your watch!!!!  Click HERE for more ramblings about ‘The Day France Was Closed’ and a photo of me eating french bread and looking like a hamster.

A Fortnight in France!

Considering it’s near Arctic out there, and that the wind’s howling like a banshee – I thought I’d hark back to sunnier times.  Here’s the ‘Fortnight in France’ I promised you a while ago.  It’s a bit rough in places, but I hope you’ll enjoy the read.  I certainly enjoyed remembering blue skies, swimming pools and sunshine.  Roll on Summer!

There’s rather a lot of this, so I’ll have to get it updated in installments.  I could have written so much more, and even now I think I probably should.  But with time constraints and Xmas looming ever nearer, I’m going to leave it as it is for now.

Did I ever mention I want to be a travel writer?  And an astronaut *sighs* ;O)

This is in no particular order and is written in a hurry, sorry.  All names have been changed to protect the innocent ;O)

‘Are you sitting comfortably?’

A Fortnight in France.

The days as they pass in no particular order and comments passed in passing…..whilst in the Perigord area of Southern France.

28th August 2011

Ah the sunshine!!!  We arrived in France yesterday and I’m currently writing whilst sat on  deckchair beneath a sunshelter outside a French Gite or ‘Git’ as I’ve taken to calling this style of french housing.  We’re on our hols until the 10/09 and I have to say I think we’ve landed in some kind of French heaven.  It is beautiful here, absolutely fabulously wonderful.  I couldn’t possibly gush enough about the place!

To backtrack a little. We set off yesterday from our rainy, drizzly home town, after a little bit of bickering and running around screaming ‘Where’s Darlek’s goddam sandals?!’ and ‘I’ve just packed that suitcase, get out of it!’  Personally I breathed a sigh of relief when we were finally sat in the taxi and were on our way to Manchester airport – it meant that all the horrendous packing and washing was over with, the next bit was the fun bit.  I’ve always found airports to be quite fascinating places, although a little intimidating with all the rooting around in baggage for passports and the awful full body scans that they have now.

Manchester Terminal 1 did not disappoint.  I love people watching in airports.  So many people, with so many different accents and dressed in various outfits ranging from full on bhurkas to posh dresses, to shorts and T’shirts.   A mass of colours and slightly stressed people.

Look at the planes! Wow!

The kids were brilliant, no tantrumming, just the odd bit of running about like crazy things and randomly running off with hand luggage which did cause a few moments of heart failure – but they were generally very good.  After a while we met up with our fellow travellers, Gangad & Sweara, plus Grandma Mu-Mu, Auntie J, a lovely lady I’m gong to call Annabel with her cute little daughter Bella….and then we began the checking in process. There was a bit of a fraca over boarding passes or something which wasn’t so much fun, but that was sorted without too much ‘Raargh! going on, and we boarded the plane.  Bella got really excited and started doing high pitched ‘Yeeaarrgh!’ screams all the time.  She is only a little ‘un though so has an excuse for being highly strung, I think I’d have done the same if I’d have been able to get away with it.  I was so pleased and hyper because we were actually on the way to France after all the preparation!

'I'm so exciiiiited!!!!'

Darlek was so excited too – ‘I’m soooo exiiiittted!!!’ she kept saying – she was absolutely beside herself at the prospect of flying and paid great attention to the take off and as the plane got higher and higher she squealed at the clouds and how amazing they looked close up. Sausage was just completely baffled as to why we were on a plane instead of just being at home.  He kept asking when we were going back and said ‘Why are we on a plane?’ a few times.  The little love had no idea about what a ‘holiday’ was or why we were going on one.  Both of them behaved very well which was a relief.  I was expecting fidgetting and ‘I’m bored!’ but they were kept occupied with a travel activity pack supplied by Grandma Sweara full of drawing pads, pens and sweeties.  No-one was sick or complained that their head was going to pop because of the air pressure, so that was good at least.

They did behave very well, although I did cringe a little bit when the pilot announced on the intercom that the plane was landing.  Sausage yelled ‘We’re going down!!!’ as if the plane was going to crash.  I hope that the nervous flyers on the plane were too pumped up with Valium to pay any attention.  Nobody screamed, not that I heard anyway.

Note the cracked windscreen! The hire car company had thoughtfully knackered the car a little before loaning it to us. Considerate we thought...

We arrived at Brieve airport and were whisked away in  two hire cars to our destination, which is  ??!! in Proghjdbgj.  True to form we got lost on the way there and as the sky grew dark, the games of I Spy With My Little Eye became more and more ridiculous, ie, I spy with my little eye became ‘I Spy with My Little Magic Eye’. You can see anything you want if you play with a Magic Eye, but it does make it rather difficult to guess the answer, eg, ‘I spy with my Magic Eye, something that begins with R.’  Answer Robot.   Darlek and I sang an out-of-tune, out-of-time rendition of Kuckaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree, and a few of us practised saying ‘I am Bored!’ in french. As far as I can remember it’s something like ‘Je suis envie’ which could just as well mean ‘I am a turnip’ for all my french skills are worth.

Eventually we arrived, piled out of the car, ate a very late tea, and climbed into our beds in our lovely ‘Git’ and fell asleep looking forward to a fortnight of sunshine, relaxation and hopefully no rain.

The location is between the Dronne and the Cole rivers, the river at the bottom is called the Donkey’s Tail. Not sure if I’m being wound up or if it actually is called that.  So there’s the location for you!

DAY 2

We walked to a ‘nearby’ pub which turned out to be frigging miles away, but the sun shone so that made it ok.  When we eventually got there we sat in front of a 12 Century church and drank beer and shandy in the shade.  When we got back the kids played in the pool and nearly drowned us grown ups. Horace and I practised club juggling which we haven’t done for years.  I swam, and yelped like a kicked puppy when I went into the pool because it seemed so cold, eventually I got used to it though.   So tired and have had a few too many glasses of red wine so am incapable of typing anymore.

This church sounded to have been ransacked and re-built several times. I don't know why they didn't build this out of medieval lego, surely it would have been perfect for the seemingly constant assembling and disassembling process.

*Sorry. Last note: little lizards everywhere.  Kids & I have been stalking them to try and get a closer look. They are so cute!  Grandma Mu Mu said it was like hunting dragons, mini ones of course.  Grandma Sweara said a similar thing.  She commented that watching the geckos was like watching dinosaurs from a very long way away.  That reminded me of the old Father Ted sketch when Father Ted was explaining to ? about the concept of sheep being near, which is when they’re ‘Big’ and when they’re far away, they’re ‘Small’.  Always cracked me up then and still does.

Sausage and Darlek spent many happy hours harassing adults and rescuing crickets.

Summary of the day:  Gits are gorgeous, well these are anyway.  Beautiful little cottagey sort of things.  Drinking in the middle of the day is nice, but makes me giddy and then sleepy too early in the afternoon and finally: kids + swimming pool = all they could ever want.  Wish I could buy them a swimming pool for christmas and leave it out the back door.  Problem being it’d get full of manky leaves, drizzle and sweet wrappers.  It’s idyllic here though.  I have been wondering what squatters rights are like in France.  If they’re lenient I may not be returning home.

29th August

Went for a beautiful walk down to the chocolate brown river at the bottom with Grandma Sweara, Horace and the kids.  We decided to have a wander off site for a bit of an adventure.  The adventure started when we spotted some green plants entwined around a fence, they had huge light green tendrils that stretched towards absent minded walkers.  Grandma Sweara became entangled in a pantomine style with them, called them Trifids and mimed being strangled, which was nice and dramatic for the kids.  I’m sure they were a little wary of those plants from then onwards. On we walked past an old tractor, that looked like an aged member of Bob the Builder’s gang, past green fields and down sunshine dappled country roads.  We arrived at the river, and were greeted with overhanging trees, skittish minnows in the shallows and a multi-coloured stones flickering under the surface of the river and about a million pond skaters.  I think we’d stumbled upon some massive pond skater convention.

A milk chocolate and dark chocolate coloured river.

Sausage and Darlek began lobbing stones into the depths and soggying their toes, whilst I muttered about drying out trainers.  There was the most rickety bridge I think I’ve ever seen in my life.  It consisted of about four metal grates with metal supports at the joins, absolutely no sides to stop hyperactive 3 year olds or 6 year olds falling in, and just one metal wire thing to hold on to.  I watched both kids clamber across it with my heart in my mouth, even though it was only a small bridge that would probably only house one single slim troll.   But no accidents thankfully and spare clothing was not necessary.  Phew!

Dappled Sunshine and Amber Coloured Pebbles.

Sausage filled his pockets with pretty gravel, Darlek went for biggers stones and the ones that weren’t thrown in were stored in a makeshift pouch made of her purple dress all bunched up for the purpose of storing them. After a while of making big splashes and me fish spotting (I am obsessive about spotting fish when in the presence of rivers) we set off back.  Grandma Sweara spotted some very impressive spider webs and two spiders that looked similar to Harvest Spiders you can find in Britain.  These lurked at the edges as we stared at them, and pointed out the complexity of the webs to Sausage and Darlek.  Sausage’s first reaction was to try to wreck the web, and was quite disappointed when his plans were thwarted. We stressed that it had taken ages for the spiders to make their webs and that they were quite amazing really.  In true Sausage style, his grand finale was to pick up a stick and throw it at the web just as we carried on walking.  Luckily his aim was bad.

As I commented to Sweara about how I despaired of Sausage ever developing a love of nature, I turned round and saw him stamping on something and digging his heel as if he was stubbing out a cigarette.  I don’t know what small furry caterpillar he’d just massacred, but it definitely proved my point.

Bob the Builder's Scruffy Mate.

On the way back we took a picture of Sausage sat on the old decrepid tractor.  We thought he’d love that, but I have to admit he sat on it looking like he had no idea why he was being stuck on this knackered bit of machinery.

To be continued!  Here’s a link to Part 2 in which we go canoing and talk nonsense in French. Pls click HERE</strong>