Living without a car

11 Sep

When we came home from our round the world trip a year ago, we decided not to buy a new car.  We live in London’s Zone 2 and have pretty much everything we need on our doorstop, from schools and libraries to shops and doctors.  We also have a car club, which we’ve joined and make use of every couple of weeks.  We weren’t saying we’d never own a car again, but it seemed very achievable to live without one for at least a year or two.

We then unexpectedly became the owners of a large, quite bouncy dog.  I wondered whether our no car policy would be tested, I had no idea whether the car club allowed dogs, and she’s a country bumpkin who’d never been on public transport.  But a year later, it’s going well.  The dog squeezes herself quite happily into the back of the Zipcar VW Golf for days in Richmond.  She’s sits, not very patiently, on the bus, attempting to leap out at every stop, for trips to Battersea Park.  And she has even travelled by escalator; paws splayed, alarmed look on her face as the wall moves next to her nose.  It helps that she rarely barks, loves people, and is very calm when she’s on the lead.

We’ve taken her on holiday by train a few times now.  People always ask us if we have to get rail tickets for her too, but dogs travel free.  I think she quite likes the train, she tends to be a minor celebrity with everyone stopping to stroke her as they make their way to the buffet car.  She’s so friendly that people can’t help but smile. Apart from the horrified family who were supposed to be sitting next to us but hurried away to another table saying “what if she does a poo.”  Honestly.

We’re generally considered odd, for choosing to live without a car in this day and age, but I think more people should try it.  It’s good for the environment, which makes me feel better about my hot bath addiction, and it’s really not as difficult as most people seem to think it is.  Even with a dog.



Out and about, the MAD blog awards carnival!

17 Aug

I’m a fan of getting out and about.  Whether it’s exploring a book maze a short bus ride away from our house, or staying in a Borneo village accessible only by boat, I don’t think there are many places you can’t take children.  So when I was asked to host the MAD Blog Award Carnival on the theme of Out and About, I said YES!

First up are some people after my own heart, who have blogged about taking their children abroad.  Dorkymum had a very big adventure in Canada, possibly TOO big if you ask her son.  The Sojourn Series went to Prague and discovered that pretty much anywhere is good with small children as long as you’ve got a swimming pool.  Kiddycharts has been to Austria twice in the summer and thinks the mountains are a great destination for children.  I couldn’t agree more, having had a lovely holiday in Switzerland a few years ago.  Actually Mummy visited the vineyards in Catalunya and can report that the wine was very good!

I almost didn’t include this one because I was so jealous that the Transatlantic Blonde was travelling to Mallorca WITHOUT her children. But hey, I’m generous.

I’m also a fan of tourism at home, discovering what you can find in your local area.  Yesterday we went to a rainbow beach, walked through a maze made of books and became citizens of Antarctica.  All for the price of a bus ride. Ever so slightly less successful on the outing front was Relentless Laundry.  I know it’s wrong to laugh at someone else’s misfortune, but she does tell the story very well.  And I now know why she chose her blog name.  Baby Budgeting has a very lovely friend who told her about a scarecrow festival which kept her children happy for a whole afternoon; we all need friends like that!  Little Sheep had a lovely day at Birmingham Thinktank, a place I’ve never been but now want to visit.  Northern Mum has been holidaying in the UK and is extolling the virtues of caravans, just as long as you don’t mind leaving your sex life at home.  Next time, I’d recommend she takes a tent.  And Geek Mummy has had her first proper family day out, it’s lovely when everything goes well and everybody enjoys themselves.

If you’re feeling crafty and want to make use of any ‘treasure’ from your latest outing to the park, have a look at Science Sparks Outdoor Craft Adventure post.  It’s a lovely idea and perfect even for little ones.  Also perfect for little ones is Red Ted Art’s leaf crown, especially lovely with Autumn leaves.

Family budgeting has tips for eating out without breaking the bank, very useful when you’ve got a horde of kids!  And last but not least, All Baby Advice tells us what it’s really like to get your heart’s desire and actually own a Stokke Xplory.

So that’s it, I hope we’ve inspired you with our tales of getting out and about.  There are still three weeks of the summer holidays to go!

What we did on our holidays

8 Jun

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Do you remember Victoria Wood’s Val de Ree (Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha) with the estimable Celia Imrie?  It’s a while since I’ve seen it, but as I remember, Victoria and Celia hike for the best part of a day across moors to reach their bed for the night in an windswept and inaccessible Youth Hostel.  When they arrive, their greeting could be warmer.  They’re told that they’re not allowed in until evening, despite the driving rain, and they spend some time trying to outwit the formidable manager by sneaking round the back.  When they finally make it inside, they’re forced to listen to an interminable evening lecture whilst eating one, only one, biscuit, then they’re kicked out again at the crack of dawn.  It’s an experience they wish never to repeat.

I’m happy to report that if Youth Hostels were ever like that, and I suspect that Victoria Wood was using a little artistic license,  times have mercifully changed.  You can stay inside all day, should you wish, eat as many biscuits as you like and compulsory evening lectures are thankfully absent.

What you do get is a clean, well-appointed, en-suite family room, a large self-catering kitchen with everything you’d need, a common room with TV, books and board games, a small shop selling food and drinks, and real coffee for breakfast.  The staff are cheerful, helpful, and a mine of information about the local area.  Did I mention the real coffee?

When were offered the chance to review a Hostel over half term, we asked if we could stay in one that was by the seaside, close to London and accessible by public transport.  The nice people at YHA suggested their Eastbourne Hostel, which fitted the bill on all three counts, including the public transport, which isn’t always the case outside of London.  The Hostel is on the edge of the town, a short bus ride from the beach and pier, right next to the footpath for the South Downs Way, and a shortish – depending on the length of your legs – walk to Beachy Head.

We ate proper fish and chips in cafe with formica tables and straws for drinks; sheltered from the weather on the pier, feeding two pence pieces into slot machines and coming away at least a pound poorer; found interesting shells and paddled on the blustery beach; got thoroughly muddy sliding down a bank, in the late evening sun on the footpath just behind the hostel; looked at Jubilee related art and made up words in the fab Towner Art Gallery; played new-to-us boardgames and discovered that Steve’s knowledge of boy bands is more extensive than any of us thought; and kept our spirits up on the slightly damp and extremely blowy walk to Beachy Head with large quantities of very sticky rock and a rousing rendition of Val de Ree.

I like to think that Victoria Wood would approve.


If you’d like to stay in a YHA property during the summer holidays, click on the link below for a SPECIAL OFFER: £99 family rooms for 3 nights during the whole school holidays! Bookable until 12th June for stays from 7th July – 12th September.  OFFER CODE: FAMSTAY-027.  WEBSITE LINK:

We stayed for free for two nights at the Eastbourne YHA Hostel, where the manager makes very good coffee.  All views expressed are my own.

Gold Medallists

30 May

I love the Olympics.  I rarely take much interest in sports on TV, but there’s something about all the nations of the world competing together that does it for me.  The fact that this year they’re in my home town, makes me prouder than a proud thing.  And I have tickets!  I’m as excited as a small child on Christmas Eve, I probably won’t sleep a wink the night before the opening ceremony.

I’m pretty much interested in absolutely everything about the Olympics.  Nothing passes my notice.  So when Royal Mail asked me to write about their new stamps, I said YES!  Did you know that they’re producing a special stamp for every single one of the Team GB Gold Medallists, THE VERY NEXT DAY?  This is the first time it’s ever been done, at any Olympics anywhere.  Not the first Royal Mail Olympic stamps, obviously, they had them in 1948, but the first stamps commemorating individual gold medallists.

Throughout the games, the Royal Mail’s team of picture editors, graphic designers, printers and drivers will be on standby, waiting with baited breath and ready to swing into action when Team GB strikes gold.  Which they will often, I hope.  The main image of the stamp will, wherever possible, be a photograph of the Team GB athlete or team in action from their gold medal winning final. If it’s not, it’ll be taken from a heat or from their winning moment on the podium

The special stamps will be produced overnight and put on sale at 500 Post Offices by lunchtime the next day and on  They will also be distributed  during the Games to a further 4,500 Post Offices nationwide.  Some Post Offices will even be open on Sundays for the first time!  There will also be Paralympic stamps and everything.

So, what do you think?  There’s an awful lot of Olympic inspired tat out there, but I do like a stamp.  I shall be buying.

Register your interest now and Be The First to get the new stamps!

28 May

Another old post for your delectation…

It's a small world after all

Water drips in fat splashy drops from every leaf of every tree.  It stopped raining half an hour ago, but it’s never dry.  Won’t be for months.  We’re right in the middle of the wet season, after the humid, temper-inducing build up, and before the violent storms of the knock ‘em down season.  Over a couple of months, the heavens are dumping their annual load of rain on Australia’s tropical far north.  We fall asleep to the thundering of torrential rain on our canvas roof, which almost, but not quite, drowns out the crickets, frogs and other noisy nocturnal creatures.  We wake up to the gentle pattering of drops on the deck outside.   Throughout the day, rain comes in waves, sometimes a fine mist that settles on your hair like dew, sometimes so heavy that it’s like standing under a dinner-plate sized shower head on the needley setting.  Occasionally, the…

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It’s begging time again

13 May

Do you remember that a while back, I asked you to vote for me in two separate blogging competitions?  Well it appears that someone was actually listening, as I’ve reached the finals of both!

The Brilliance in Blogging awards are now decided by a panel of judges, so we’ll just have to wait and see on that front, but the MAD Blog Awards are decided by you, the readers of blogs.  If you could kindly see your way to voting for me AGAIN, you could have the satisfaction of being friends with an award winning blogger.  Which is surely too good an opportunity to miss, isn’t it?


10 May

It's a small world after all

We were on Hawaii’s Big Island when it started snowing in the UK.  Sleeping in the jungle and being eaten by mozzies.  The children were disappointed that they were missing out on a snow day in London, remembering the wonderful day two years ago when the city stopped and the whole neighbourhood congregated on the Common to play.  We pointed out that they were missing nine months of school, which mollified them somewhat, but over the last month their one true complaint, has been jealousy of their friends on the snow front.

We’d always planned to see glaciers in New Zealand, but when we actually sat down with a map and tried to work out how to squeeze everything in, we decided that it just wasn’t possible.  But after an amazing first couple of days in Dunedin, during which we saw two types of penguin, albatross, seals, sea lions and…

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