A mistake

Yesterday it rained.


And so I made a mistake.

I thought that dragging the kids out on another forced march jolly family walk would make them miserable. So I thought, let’s go to where there is civilisation, let’s go to Ambleside. There will be stuff to do there.
I was basing this on my last visit.
Which was, gulp, over twenty years ago.

I remember mooching with my dad, looking in quirky little shops, eating at a surfer/climber dude vegetarian cafe. It was great.

That was twenty years ago.

Now? Well it’s great if you like to shop in the kind of shops you get on any old high street anywhere in the UK.
Admittedly with more than the average number of outdoor pursuits high street chains (Blacks? Tick. Mountain Warehouse? Tick. Trespass? Tick. Fat Face? Tick).
And if you like your coffee shops following the Costa/Starbucks, barista and muffins route.

But the thing was.
All these outdoor pursuits shops, filled with people buying stuff?
And nobody seemed to be walking anywhere.

We walked the 1mile to the lakeside, and saw hardly anyone.

Caught the boat to Bowness.

And there was another huddle of people, all trying to find stuff to buy.
And ignoring the beauty of the lakes and mountains around them.

But perhaps I’m being unfair.


We wandered around, trying to fill the time until we could catch the boat back again.

And ended up having our feet eaten by fish.

The kids love the Garra Rufa experience, but the spa? treatment room? fish shop? (what do you class this experience as?) near us closed down a few years ago.


If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em 🙂


Then we caught the boat back to Ambleside


And dragged the kids out on a two mile walk around Tarn How just to cheer them up.

They’ll thank us for it.

One day.

Maybe. 🙂


Character Building

The tiny house on the left hand side at the bottom of the mountain in this picture?


That’s where we’re staying.

The mountain making up most of the rest of the picture?

That’s what the kids wanted to walk up today.

And who am I to stop such madness foolishness enthusiasm?

The weather forecast said the weather would be a little overcast but generally sunny.


We didn’t go straight up the mountain.

Not being goats and all.

A more circuitous route was planned, with an ultimate goal of ending up at Levers Water.

We started.

It started to drizzle.

But never mind! We survived the Festival of History, we can survive a little drizzle.


We climbed higher.

It rained harder


And harder.

And harder.

The mountains disappeared, covered by weather.

Lots of weather.

The intrepid explorers were cold, wet and miserable.

But no matter! We had read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy! We were prepared! We had…


No longer cold wet and miserable.


Um, well maybe a bit cold wet and miserable.

But the towels made all the difference.


The Celts are coming!

Or rather, the Celts are going!
Going back down the mountain as fast as their little legs could take them.

So we didn’t make it over the top of the mountain.

Unless you count the mountain of whipped cream that was on the well deserved hot chocolate they got back at Base Camp


Might have to climb those again tomorrow 🙂


A beautiful sunny day.

We decided to force march, enjoy a jolly, family 4mile walk around Grasmere today.

Saw Wordworth’s grave


And the place where he lived, Dove Cottage


All together now…
“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vale and hill
Mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble
A host of golden daffodils”

Then, the walk.




We stopped for a picnic lunch by the River Rothay


At which point youngest child fell in.

I’d like to say it was a preplanned opportunity for wild swimming.

But no.

She just fell in.

Very soothing on the wasp stings though. 🙂

See oldest child’s face?


That’s the face of a proto-teenager who’s just realised they’re only half way through the walk and still have 2 miles to go before they’re back in civilisation.

He’ll look back on these walks fondly.

He will.


In fact he’ll probably inflict forced marches jolly family walks on his children too.


Totally worth it for this view though!

And then, the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop


Totally worth it for this view too 🙂



Ups and downs

This morning, the view from the bedrooms was something like this



That was an “up”.

We caught a boat around Coniston Water

And that was an “up” too.

A visit to John Ruskins house, Brantwood


And lunch overlooking the Lake


Yep, “up” and “up”.

And then minutes after this happy photo was taken


Youngest child was attacked and chased by a swarm of wasps and stung 16 times.

Definitely a “down”. Big, BIG time “down”.

She is fine, if a little sore. I, however, am less than impressed that a number of other people had been stung that day at Brantwood and the staff had done nothing more than wander a little way up the path and report that they “couldn’t see anything”.

Not good enough.

Swamp thing

First thing off my list

History Live at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire.

The weather forecast said it would be gloriously sunny between 10am and 2pm.
They were wrong.
Very, very wrong.

Imagine having a bucket of water the size of, oh let’s say, Milton Keynes, tipped over your head.
That’s what the weather was like on Saturday.

Until about 4pm when, yes, it was gloriously sunny.

But never mind, we’re British, we’re used to the rain.

And so we watched a reenactment of the Battle of Stoke.


In the rain.

And the gladiators.

In the rain.

And we had a picnic.


In the rain (that’s the picnic rug being wrung out).

Great fun!

If you haven’t been to History Live before, then do go next year if you can. It is one of the most surreal days out. You can queue for your (not too overpriced) cappuccino next to a pustule ridden plague victim, chat with a woad daubed Celt and then watch a medieval battle take place in the company of Suffragettes, Roman centurions and Georgian ladies.


The day finished with an aerial dogfight between a spitfire and a Messerschmidt (um, I think. More of a medievalist myself…).

In the sunshine.


20 Days of Summer

Well, it’s traditional.

The schools break up for summer.

And so does the weather


Six weeks stretch out ahead of us.

Full of possibilities.

Last year I tried to be uber mom. In a fit of misplaced enthusiasm I got the kids to each write ten things they wanted to do over the summer on to small slips of paper and put them in a jar. We could then take it in turns to pick things from their wish lists and do them all over the summer.

Super right?


They moaned, they groaned.

Oldest child had one thing on his list, which was “play with x”

Youngest child included a trip to Paris on hers.

Which wasn’t such a mad idea given we were going to France on holiday…

only, we were down near the Spanish border.

So this year there is still a list of fun things to do

But I’m writing it.

Sod family cooperatives, I’m changing it into a dictatorship.

Anyway, as we all know, mums are always right and have the best ideas don’t they. 🙂

Don’t they?

Twenty Fab Things We Will Try To Do This Summer

I’ve tried oysters. We forced encouraged the kids to eat snails in France last year. I feel the whole foodstuff as bogey experience will not be complete without the addition of winkles to the canon.

Homemade sushi
Which will no doubt end up the size of giant sausage rolls, but I feel it must be done.

Grasmere Gingerbread.
We’ll be in the area for a week this summer, so it would be positively rude not to.
Every single day.


A new Caribbean restaurant has opened in Leamington. I’ve never eaten Caribbean food. Is this kismet?

Homemade Cherry Pie.
I will, yet again, face my arch-nemesis, pastry.
I will remember the televisual experience that was Twin Peaks

Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District.
I find the stories virtually unreadable, but the illustrations? Aaah.

during the candlelit procession to Our Lady of Walsingham. As someone who is slowly moving into agnosticism and possibly paganism, I will be out of my comfort zone here. A spiritual tourist?But I am in awe of people who have such faith, and I am always open to different routes to enlightenment.

The Tate Modern. Apparently, according to his Art teacher, oldest child needs to learn more about different schools of Art and different Artists. I did think that was one of the things they were supposed to teach them about in Art lessons at school – but what do I know? Anyway, we did visit the Tate Modern a few years ago, and did the obligatory “oh my god what is that?” . And, “ha! I could do better than that!”, so I think it could be time for a revisit. We will be cultured and appreciative this time. We will, honest.

The Leamington Gurdwara
is open for Heritage Open Weekend. I’ve been meaning to visit every year since it opened and failed miserably. This is the year I will do it.

English Heritage’s History Live festival of history.
A grand festival of reenactors and other historically minded people. And it’s today. And it’s raining.
Glastonbury for geeks intellectuals 🙂


Rock pooling.
It’s summer. It has to be done.

A headstand
That doesn’t involve me slamming into the wall and then slowly collapsing sideways like a felled tree trunk.

Lace making.
I bought the kit in a car boot sale over 15 years ago. This year I will actually have a go!

A picnic in the park.
In the rain if we have to.
And we might have to…

Leamington safari
There are so many bits of our town we haven’t explored.
Foundry wood.
The canal.
All the mini parks.
We will know our town by the end of the summer.

Something old

Mum’s favourite, and something I haven’t re-read for many years.

Something new

Should be published in the next week or two. Very eagerly anticipated!

Something Borrowed
Well, it’s on the kindle, so not really borrowed, but this was on the recommendation of Tracey (hi Tracey!) so, sort of borrowed…:-)


Something Blue
No not that kind of blue.

A book about a silent retreat in the Himalayas.

Probably quite short then? 🙂

And finally, just so it makes the list up to 20, and I’m a bit OCD that way…

Something that’s been mouldering on my bookshelves unread for a while and I’d really like to stop it looking at me reproachfully every time I choose a different title to read.


It’s good to have a plan 🙂

Fiction Friday

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading


I loved this book. It was quirky, erudite, interesting, funny and quite a bit weird.

The premise? An authoress, Laura White, (a little bit Tove Jansson), lives in a little Finnish village where she writes a series of books about a mythical place called Creatureville. To the delight of the villagers she sets up a “literature society” to nurture the writing talents of ten (and never more than ten) local young people. Laura holds a party to welcome the final, tenth, member and mysteriously disappears during an indoor snowstorm.

With me so far?

Cue weird and wonderful happenings…

The Game

Trolls (possibly)

A rotting Laura appearing in people’s dreams to read them bedtime stories.

And the mystery of the previous, precociously gifted, tenth member. Did he die? Or was he murdered?

This is great stuff.


It’s a murder mystery of sorts, but the book is about much more than that.

Adult vs children’s perceptions

The writing process as theft.

Group dynamics.

And the ending is shocking in it’s hilarious mundaneness

Next Week I Shall Mostly be Reading


A Jewish woman, abandoned by her husband and left in the position of being unable to divorce and unable to remarry, sets out to buy a refrigerator, but in a rash moment commissions a portrait of herself instead. A novel that describes the heroine breaking out of conservative Jewish society and diving headlong into the art world of 1960s London.

I believe it doesn’t include trolls.

Dreaming Spires

Friday evening.
Sitting in the gardens of Corpus Christi College Oxford with Jean (hi Jean!) a friend going way back to Library school days.
A full moon casts its silvery light over the mellow stones of Oxford. Champagne. Conversation.

The distant clang of a gate being locked.

The dawning realisation of being locked in the garden.

We shouted for help.

No help came.

The sinking realisation that we were going to have to scale the fence.

All 8 foot of it.



A trip to the newly opened Story Museum a quirky and eccentric homage to Children’s Literature. You get to play at dressing up and to explore a rabbit warren of children’s book themed rooms and exhibits. Fab


Neil Gaiman as Mole from Wind in the Willows 🙂

Lunch at the Ashmolean, and sun kissed wanderings around more of Oxford’s colleges (thanks to a borrowed Alumni card. Ahem)


Fabulous dinner at Edamame, a tiny Japanese restaurant, so tiny it’s like eating in someone’s living room. This was going to be a weekend of new experiences and so I tried octopus and sautéed burdock root, neither of which are generally available in Pizza Express :-). Yum.

And then…

And then….

(Drum roll please)

My first classical concert.

I know. I know.


But um, growing up in a house that favoured Country and Western music.

(I know)

And favouring more of a goth/indie vibe myself, classical always seemed so “not for me”.

There’s so much of it, for a start. I mean, where do you even begin navigating your way around the different periods, styles etc?


My first classical concert.

Turns out, there’s not so much difference between the Sisters of Mercy and Bach as you would think.

Mahan Esfahani? Very rock ‘n’ roll.

I enjoyed it very much.

Until half way through the second half when the older lady next to me elbowed me in the ribs and whispered loudly (and accusingly) “But where is the viola d’amore?”

I hadn’t got it, that’s for sure.

Back to our fab rooms at Corpus (I could get used to this)



The grounds at Magdalene


The sounds of a choir practicing in the chapel.