Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for August, 2011

Camping vs. Pampering

Peace and Harmony on the Lake

We are on a family holiday only we are not all together.

Families are made up of individuals and as such, each has their own idea what a holiday should consist of.  Harmony cannot possibly be achieved if any one personality is not catered for.  So where as a family do we choose to go for a holiday; Roadford Lake!    We brought so much equipment that it required two cars.  Towing the mirror dinghy full of sailing gear, the smaller topper upside down on roof bars, inside crammed full with camping equipment and kids the car meanders through the lanes to the main road. A second car follows behind; stuffed with clothes and overnight basics or food and drink, we travel down through the West Country to the border between Devon and Cornwall.

It takes so long to put up a tent, particularly a frame tent; with its three bedrooms and kitchen area; room to house the portaloo (Sexy Sporty Dad was adamant he was not bringing that as well) another separate room for the wardrobe, which again was left at home.   The windows have twee little curtains to close at night, which all have to be threaded correctly and laboriously.    Extra bits mean extra effort.  Trying to remember which poles go where and what bit of the canvas tightens at which corner.   Where are the tent pegs?

The whole process is a recipe for an argument and I don’t remember a time when it has been done without cross words.   Teenage boys having grown up helping,  now; either sure they know best or otherwise can’t be bovered to help.   There is something to be said for these throw up tents although they are not that practical for a rainy week anywhere in England during the summer.  At least once the frame tent is up it provides some protection if not comfort from the rain.

Overnight even without rain everything becomes cold or damp and having nowhere to put anything means dirty clothes and clean get blended in a heap of grass flecked damp pungent material.  The towels hang anywhere they can, outside for a shadow of sun or whisper of wind, inside dangling from door frames or roof poles.   It is not often I have to queue to use the shower at home but at the campsite it is a common complaint, having traipsed all the way over to the shower block clutching my damp clothes and wash bag, I stand in a queue while everyone else who got there before me, takes their time.  The lukewarm piddle of water trickling slowly down the body in an effort to clean the night-time grime away.

There is sociability about camping which I intuitively flourish at; chatting aimlessly to the neighbour, discussing deepest secrets as you wash pots together.   Apologising for strained words or fighting, they hardly seem to have noticed although you hear everything going on in their tent.  Lending tent pegs, mallets, husbands to help, borrowing a can opener and bottle opener or sharing a long awaited glass of wine; all come in the unspoken rules of camping.  Children all play and muck in with other children finding any area to kick a football wrestle a rugby tackle or bowl a maiden over at cricket.

I have done my fair share of camping over the years; reaching a stage where it really is no longer pleasurable.   The children enjoy the experience; not fussed by damp clothes, mud, grass or any other inconvenience, happy to forgo the shower altogether.  Middle Son, getting in the spirit of things,  took me shopping for breakfast; ginger cake, biscuits, mini croissants, multipack cereals, chocolate milk, Jaffa cakes and a whole hoard of things I didn’t know existed and certainly do not come under “5 a day”; crates of coke (thankfully; another year or two and it will be beer) to keep the thirst quenched.

The venue for this holiday was to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy the lake and the sailing; Sexy Sporty Dad needed a break from his female orientated office and to get back to the basics.  No 1 Son and Middle Son needed some physical He-Man sailing, with many opportunities for capsizing or racing across the windswept open lake to impress some of the girls who are on sailing courses at the centre, thrown in for good measure.   Mini Son just wants to kayak for hours or days; appearing for food and drink when the need takes him, then to join in playing with any shaped ball with  anybody willing to let him.

I; on the other hand, need warmth, dry, comfy bed, electrical sockets and a touch of pampering.   None of which is available even at the top or the range, fully equipped pre-erected Eurocamp tent.   I chose once again not to be part of this camping experience, instead booking myself into a bed and breakfast just 4 miles down the road from the campsite. Cathy and Paul from The Old Cottage have only one aim in their lives this week, and it all centres around me! Definitely not a feeling I have very often!

Dream about a light pink and lilac room larger than the whole tent, a super king bed with net curtains draped round the head, bigger than Middle Son’s two man tent. This is my reality and my room; all the extras you would expect, tea and coffee.  I can take the weight off my feet and luxuriate, lay even sit on the deep cosy sofa or snug relaxing arm-chair as I watch TV on the freeview set.  When I feel it is all too much the bathroom is as big as most tents, with a bath to rest my weary limbs or a power shower to massage them awake after a long nights sleep.  It is warm, it is dry and I am reassuringly comfortable.

And then there is breakfast.  Breakfast is; I am ashamed to say, a ritualistic and leisurely feast of historical proportions.  I mistakenly assumed when reading the menu there was a choice, but early on have come to realise the menu is an explanation of what you will be eating.

I sit quietly watching over the other dinners, “Jenny-No-Mates”; not a bit of it. I chat to others at their tables, in the small beamed breakfast room.  Cathy and Paul both come in asking of my day yesterday, what are my plans for today, am I alright?  Do I need more toast, coffee or anything else?  Is there anything I need for my room?  I am called “sweetheart” and “darling”; I feel like the most important person in the world.

Afterwards, I wander reluctantly little by little back to my room and then to the campsite where, with the sudden abruptness of a bomb, normality breaks through my haze of magic.

“Hold this!” as I am given a rope with a sail attached.

“Launch me” as I balance precariously one footed, on the jetty pushing a vessel into the water with the other.

“What’s for lunch, I’m hungry” as I rummage through the remaining food stores, now housed all over the tent.

Can I go on the wow balls? Can I have a burger? Where are my clean boxers?”


Sad demise of Tetley Teabag RIP!

You cannot imagine how guilty I feel!  I have killed the cat!

Firstly, so that you are aware I personally am not a cat lover. In our early years Sexy Sporty Dad persuaded me to have a pure grey kitten, Buttons.   I think the idea was to steer me away from wanting babies.  Buttons, beautiful as she was; was a flirt, as soon as a man walked through the door she would be all over him, winding her way round his legs, purring softly, she would roll over on her back expectantly, her colouring and big eyes melted many a man’s heart and he would bend down and tickle her.  A typically jealous female she resented me.  Sexy Sporty Dad would kiss me hello or goodbye, instantly she would be between us; spitting and giving me the evil eye.    Sadly, and nothing to do with me, as No 1 Son was born Buttons developed feline leukaemia.  Following progressively ferocious fits she had to be put down.

Now I avoid cats as much as possible, conversely they single me out.  I am the quiet person in a room of chattering feline loving females but the cat always chooses to sit on my lap!  I do look after and feed my neighbours cats while she is away on her carefree holidays, content in the knowledge they are being cared for!  It is a reciprocal arrangement she looks after our two rabbits and our now one cockatiel when we venture away.


My neighbour, Natty has or rather had two beautiful fur balls; twin cats Tetley and Tilly, who roam the neighbourhood freely.  Everyone knows and loves them, they in turn are happy to be loved by all.    Tilly is far more of a cat than her brother; she will go out and hunt in the fields behind the houses, bringing back little treasures for her mistress.   Happy to be picked up and loved but eager then to escape on to the next adventure.  A little promiscuous she flirts with all the other cats in the area though there is no one special in her life except her brother.

Tetley, got his genes mixed up when he was born; more of a baby or puppy than any cat.  He is a large ball of fur who has to be with people.  He will not venture far from home except to school where he follows Natty to collect her son.   He can often be found curled up on someone’s bed having sneaked through an open door.

He will sit and watch for hours while the rabbit, having escaped, plays happily in the garden.  His fur on end, ready to pounce until the rabbit looks at him and he runs crying from the garden.  Sneaking unnoticed into our house he stands on tip toes holding the birdcage just watching the bird.  Reg the very grumpy cockatiel does not take kindly to this and having pecked Tetley  once in a lifetime, only needs to look in his direction to again send the cat crying from the room.  This huge ball of fur was happiest when picked up and cradled like a baby; he could stay like that for hours if ever given the chance.   Exercise was not Tetley’s speciality; he would prefer to be cuddled or just allowed to sit in the sun on  any surface that caught the day’s rays.

So it came to pass that I was left on Saturday in charge of both cats as Natty departed for her hols.    That evening I dutifully went across, calling and whistling for the cats.  Tetley was on the doorstep waiting.   I opened the door expecting him to twist and turn around my feet in his eagerness to get to the kitchen, instead he cried pathetically and walked upstairs.

Although his behaviour registered slight alarm I figured he was missing the sound of children in the house and fed him as usual.  Returning early on Sunday I found he had not eaten anything.   Now, I was worried, no matter how much he missed the family Tetley always managed a little comfort food.  I found him asleep on the spare bed and as he was not very willing to move I lifted him downstairs and out.    Tetley was seen shortly after stalking our rabbit cage.

We returned quite late and let Tilly in for her tea but Tetley was nowhere to be found.  I guessed he must have wandered into an open house for warmth and food.   How wrong I was!

Next morning I found Tetley in the den the children had made a day or so before, curled round a blanket.  Although definitely breathing he showed no interest in me, even when I spoke to him on my way past with the morning’s first load of washing to hang out.

I knew then he was unwell and this was a job for the vet.  There are two vets in town but which one did Tetley belong to?  Did he have an account?  I couldn’t go running up vet bills on someone else’s account.   Carefully I carried the prone body of the sleepy cat in to the house, wrapped in the blanket.  He moaned; a quiet painful moan that will haunt me forever.   I gave him a bowl of water which initially he ignored.   Later he woke momentarily and manoeuvred himself painfully to the bowl, lapped some water then fell asleep, head in the water.

Holiday or no holiday I phoned.  Like all good comedy films, Natty was in an area of poor reception and a stilted conversation ensued where she only managed to hear two or three words from each sentence I said.  We then got cut off.

Realising it was important, she found a spot in the holiday house with at least a margin of reception and called me back, just as I finished typing a long text.  We agreed the Vet was needed.  She arranged for her brother, plus cat basket to come to collect the ailing Tetley.

“Tetley had kidney failure and had to be put to sleep.  There was no way of knowing that it was happening to him, so please don’t feel bad.”  My text bleeped a couple of hours later.

Bad!  I don’t feel bad,  I feel awful, I feel guilty, I feel as if I have let not only Natty down, but her son Mini Nat, Tilly and most of all Tetley.   227 days into the year and he fell ill on the second day of Natty’s holiday.  It was always going to be a sad day when one of the cats died but it was not supposed to happen when I was in charge.   I will understand if next holiday, that is if she ever goes away again, Natty asks someone else to look after Tilly.

Tilly is bewildered, she knows something is wrong, she keeps coming to me and looking up and crying “where is he?”   How do I explain to a cat that her twin is gone?

Tetley, sadly missed, Rest in Peace!






Capital Punishment

havin the most borin time in London after b’in dragged here by my mum

Middle Son’s entry on facebook read during our recent trip round London.   How much entertainment do teenagers need to keep them from the riotous anarchy that has taken place in the capital.

To the Tower!

What is boredom?  Can this tedium, monotony or dullness lead to anarchy, disorder, chaos and lawless mayhem?     Three weeks into the holidays and teenagers are complaining of being bored.  There is nothing to do, friends are away or they are bored of just watching telly, playing on the DS or updating facebook status.  Emotions begin to run high, there are more arguments, more tears and more injuries.   Are the riots in London an extension of the symptoms belligerently being played out nationwide by bored teenagers with nothing to do but re-enact their “call-of-duty” battles as a release for frustration and energy.

Unpopularly, we took our teenagers away for a couple of days.  We meandered through Hyde Park against a barrage of ennui and lethargy demanding bikes from the bike pools that are now cropping up throughout London.   No way would I allow myself or anyone remotely connected to me to be permitted into the fracas they call traffic around the town. I didn’t plan to spend my holiday at yet another A&E.   However Hyde Park itself has a myriad of cycle lanes and on a damp midweek afternoon in the middle of the summer was not overly populated with unsuspecting tourists.  I relented.

It is not a straight forward process dismantling a bike from the pool but we succeeded in the end. Freedom and off they went; mini son took a turn before Sexy Sporty Dad led the older two round the outskirts of the park, I suspect to where the London Triathlon was conveniently being set up.  Mini son, still young enough, was placated with a large ice-cream.

The motivation for this trip had been to take them to see the Lion King.  Wow!  A fantastic production, the whole theatre came alive and the show was incredible.   The scenery a mind-blowing feat of engineering as it turns and grows up from the stage.  Animals so convincing, a picture could not do them justice; their characters, movements and elegance flowing with the music.  We all took away a special memory but I cannot tell you which bit the teenagers found boring, as they watched awestruck at the spectacle unfolding before them.

Booking in to our hotel we were directed down a steep set of stairs into the basement of the tall building where we found a small room housing a double bed with a further three singles in a row.  With barely leg room between them meant the boys were almost sharing a triple bed.    We did have our own private en-suite which, in a previous existence may well have passed for a built in wardrobe.   The toilet had the basin perched precariously above it.  The shower; a particularly small cubicle with the side panel not quite reaching as far as the wall, left about a foot of unused and inaccessible floor space.  Unbelievably the water that powered out of the tiny shower head was strong and hot, washing away the lack of other facilities.   It was cheap, clean, central and it gave us breakfast.

My Favour rests with Lord Neville

I had vouchers for the Tower of London where, having climbed along the various castle battlements and found the square where so many famous gruesome executions are supposed to have taken place; they disappeared in to the armoury.  Animated with the idea they should have been knights or kings of the realm, these children ran around interacting with bows and computer graphics.  Suddenly we found ourselves on differing sides of the battle of Roses supporting opposing duellers in an “impromptu” battle.  I am delighted to say my allegiances lay with the victor on this occasion; Lord Neville who beat Lord Woodville in the final dramatic battle.

Later we dragged the children to Bella Italia where we fed them copious amounts of pasta and garlic bread followed by the “Godfather” of all puddings; a combination of whipped cream, chocolate ice-cream, chocolate mousse and brownies.   Pudding was demolished in moments!

The next day with the weather unable to concur with the sun promised we found ourselves sat in sporadic showers watching the end of the ladies triathlon full of patriotic emotion as our British girl won not only the triathlon, but her place in next year’s Olympic team.    Having collected every possible giveaway we could manage we caught a cruise down the River Thames where an entertaining crew member gave a colourful commentary of the history as we passed by.

Cafe Rouge, a favourite I have to admit of mine, was the choice for that evening with the French atmosphere and wonderful food.    Despondent teenagers tucked into plates of mussels, garlic bread, steak and of course French fries.   Needless to say the Ice-cream sundaes did not stay in the glass for long.    Still bored we went in search of Covent Garden and the nightlife.

Bearing in mind that it is 30 years since I lived in London and even then my constant companion was my A-Z, maybe my memory isn’t quite what it was.  Turning left instead of right out of the restaurant will not have helped.   We trudged along streets and through still open shops until finally we agreed we were in the wrong place.   Two teenage boys slowed their unenthusiastic pace to a standstill, eyes opening wide, a flush visibly creeping across their faces.  No longer bored; their mother was dragging them through SOHO just as it woke up for the evening.

I remember coming here in my former life; we would frequent a particularly good Chinese restaurant where I learnt to use chopsticks and eat authentic Chinese food.   I don’t remember it being quite so loud or bright. It was dismally dull as we furtively scurried down the shadowy lanes bypassing the occasional noise blocking door or young beautiful Chinese lady beckoning us.

The ladies have been replaced by big thuggish looking bouncers, the dull black replaced by bright colour posters displaying scantily clad young ladies.  Striptease clubs, lap dancing clubs, casinos with music blaring out competing with the neighbours all advertising their wares.   Punters tumble already inebriated out of pubs as they make their way to the clubs, some of them particularly the females dressed in not much more than the girls in the posters.  Apparently SOHO has become more upmarket since my time; we had found one of the few streets still heavily reliant on the sex trade.

Keen to speed them up, each turn took us further into the depths of SOHO, for the first time on our trip not a word of boredom, in fact not a word even babbled from their open mouths.

Not so bored now!

“Oh cause ur funny dragging me through sex ally in London”  


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