Summer holidays 2014

It’s been a while since I updated my space here. I know holiday photos are boring but this is mainly for me and my family archive. If you want to see some happy pictures, feel free to read on.

Our holidays started with a trip to Shap to take part in the 2014 ‘Total Warrior’ 10km muddy obstacle race. This is the ‘before’ picture.before total warrior 14This is one of the most energy sapping obstacles we did. The Husband and I are smack bang in the middle of this photo. I’m the one up to my chest in mud. I was very grateful to swim through a river shortly after this! The weather was dreadful, which didn’t make much difference to us as competitors but it wasn’t much fun for spectators.total warrior 14 in the mudFortunately, things improved the day we drove to Beddgelert in North Wales. The mountain you can see in the distance is Snowdon, the highest in Wales and England. This was taken from in front of our caravan, which was parked at Cae Du campsite, a site that prides itself in providing a peaceful, quiet environment. Driving the caravan there wasn’t an experience for the faint hearted but Beddgelert proved to be a good base for exploring Snowdonia. View of Snowdon from CampsiteOne of our first days out was to Criccieth, a little coastal town which had everything you could want (except perhaps sand). We found a patch of sheltered pebbly beach and settled in to eat freshly fried chips. We spent the rest of the afternoon building rock caves instead of sand castles. I could have spent a few days here as there seemed to be a high street filled with delightful, independent shops but I never got any closer than admiring them from the car. There was also a cute little castle close to the beach but we never made it to that either, we were contended enough on the beach.Sea at Cricceth North WalesCaenarfon Castle however, was unmissable. It is truly spectacular. There were so many towers and turrets to explore that we spent hours there. You need plenty of stamina and a head for heights. Climbing the towers gives wonderful views over the town, the Menai Straights and the mountains of Snowdonia.Canaerfon CastleThis is the view from the Snowdon Mountain Railway. There aren’t many mountains you can ascend by rail in the UK but Snowdon is one of them. It was very expensive for us to do this trip as a family of five so we were very grateful for mostly good views. The summit was cloudy, cold and windy but I suppose that was a good experience too. Our children now know how true it is when people say that the conditions can change quickly in the mountains.View from SnowdonWe did have some rainy days during our holiday. This photo was taken the day that the remains of Hurricane Bertha passed over. Apart from putting the storm straps on the awning, it didn’t affect us too much. We just settled in with games and crafts and eventually dodged the showers for a walk to the village.Indoor games caravan Wet Wales hillsidesAnother of our days out was to Plas Newydd, a stately home on the Anglesea side of the Menai Straits. The estate is owned by the National Trust, who have made their properties very family friendly in recent years. Our children generally enjoy the quizzes that the NT provide and the Plas Newydd experience was no different. They also took full advantage of the playground and happily explored the terrace and formal gardens. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me because although I’d never really visited the house or gardens before, I stayed at the adjacent outdoor education centre a few times when I was a biology teacher. I used to visit with the 6th form on their field trips and we spent many an hour foraging in the seaweed on the shore below the house.Garden at Plas Newyyd AngleseaSnowdonia has some fabulous coastline. This picture was taken at Nefyn on the Llyn Peninsula. The colours and the light are a wonderful combination of blues, greens, browns and white. We got quite a taste for swimming in the sea, with the beach at Llandanwg, near Harlech having water that seemed surprisingly warm.Ready for swimming Into the Sea North WalesHarlech and Nefyn both had great sandcastle sand too.

Sandcastles 2014In truth, we could have spent a lot of time just exploring the area around the campsite and Beddgelert. This lake was a short, easy walk away along a quiet lane and scenic footpath.Paddling in lake near Beddgellert Beddgellert scenery lane at BeddgellertBut, North Wales has plenty of attractions too and and we couldn’t resist another rail trip from Beddgelert to Porth Madoc on the Welsh Highland Railway, a narrow gauge railway that runs North to Caenarfon too.Dragon bench on Welsh Highland RailwayWe could have spent lots more time exploring North Wales but our time was up after 11 nights. We had a pressing deadline. The Middle Miss wanted to be home in time for her seventh birthday. However, staying on a site with tents stimulated a short camping trip over the August bank holiday weekend. I told Son Number One that I was never camping again and that if he wanted to I was happy to keep paying his subs at cubs. The Husband fancied a trip though and planned to take the older two children to a site near Robin Hood’s Bay, which is just an hour away down the coast. I hummed and ahhed about joining them and eventually I felt sorry for Babykins, who was going to be left behind if I didn’t go. Luckily, it was a great trip on a pleasant site with plenty of sunshine.tent set up camping camping tea timeOn the Saturday, The Husband, Son Number One and The Middle Miss embarked on a bike ride from Hawsker to Ravenscar, the same trip that we did last September with the local scouts.


Coastline from RavenscarBabykins and I explored Robin Hood’s Bay itself.

IMG_1698IMG_1670IMG_1668IMG_1655IMG_1652IMG_1651IMG_1645IMG_1644 It’s an incredibly photogenic place but I just haven’t captured it. The houses appear to be piled on top of each other and cling to the sides of a steep road down to the harbour.

robin hoods bay housesEverything about it is quaint and picturesque.

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As you can see from the picture below, fishing is still a part of the town’s activities.

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I didn’t know it had it’s own sea monster!

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Mainly, I think, it’s a place to make happy holiday memories…

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Yarn talk: Yarndale

I have bought a lot of yarn in the last few weeks, most of it at the wonderful Yarndale festival. Luckily for me, Skipton, where the festival was held, is within a couple of hours drive. Even luckier still, I was able to head there for two nights with my Mum’s caravan and a yarn-loving friend. I was very, very pleased to have her with me as navigator and for general reassurance, especially as it was my first ‘solo’ caravan trip. I had a bit of a panic when we reached a particularly interesting archway across the road. You can see a picture of it here. We breathed in, peered in the wing mirrors and drove through very slowly. We made it through without a hitch but I had the return journey in the back of my mind for most of the weekend.

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Apart from the thought of driving back through that arch we had a perfect weekend. We were able to visit another friend and her new baby who lives close to Skipton. Her husband treated us to a delicious home cooked meal (and a much needed glass of wine) and on the day of the festival, she acted as a taxi service.

IMG_3618We found our way to the auction market by following the bunting that had been strung along the path. As we approached the building we admired the other wooly decorations.

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IMG_3615But of course, there was much, much more to see inside.

IMG_3610I took very few pictures inside the exhibition. I was far too busy, viewing, stroking and buying yarn.

IMG_3607This was one of the more eye-catching pieces of crochet on display. I’m sorry I don’t know whose stall it was on.

IMG_3608I could have taken pictures of ‘The Natural Dye Studio‘s’ stall all afternoon. Their patterns and yarn were absolutely amazing, so brightly coloured and so soft to the touch. I bought a copy of their ‘Desirable Crochet Motifs’ book though goodness knows how I will make use of it. If you want to spend some serious money on some beautiful crochet, you could do a lot worse than to visit their website and buy one of their kits.

My friend and I both spent a ridiculous amount of money (I had been saving up for some time so I don’t feel too guilty).

IMG_3621This was our joint pile of purchases, mine on the right, hers on the left. Anything left of and including the cone of thick, carpet yarn in the middle is hers, including the fabric. We both had things in mind when we bought our yarn. I really shouldn’t need any more projects for at least another year. In order to use up this stash I am going to have to learn some new skills. For example, the fluffy, brown coloured yarn in the bottom right-hand corner came with the most delicate, flowery pattern for an infinity scarf knit on a circular needle. You can see how it is supposed to look here. I bought three different sock yarns, though I have absolutely no idea how to cast-on with four needles. They may become crocheted slippers. I think my favourite purchase of the weekend was the fluffy, rainbow dyed yarn. I specifically wanted something in these colours in order to make a new hat for The Middle Miss as she really has a thing for rainbows at the moment. Apart from some tiny snowflakes, made from the crochet cotton near the top right of the picture, the rainbow hat has been my first project.

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I don’t think it will be long before it is finished, though there is a bit of trial and error going on as I decide how big to make it and how to finish it off.

I think that that is about the end of my post about Yarndale. There are lots of other bloggers who have written about it much more definitively than me so if you want to see more, do a bit of googling or maybe start here.

More yarn talk coming soon….

Oh, and I made it back through that archway with centimetres to spare, under the gaze of a group of cyclists and a worried looking motorist heading in the opposite direction. Not. Fun. At. All.

Summer in Somerset

It is less than two weeks since we came back from our summer holidays but it seems like ages ago. We seem to have packed so much in since then. In the interests of documenting family life, here is my pick of the Somerset pics, a lovely region to visit.

Views from our campsite across the Somerset levels towards Glastonbury Tor.

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Beautiful Wells, the smallest city in England. This is Vicars Close, which is supposed to be the oldest, continually inhabited, residential street in Europe and below that, the cathedral.

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Cheddar gorge and caves. A day out courtesy of my Tesco clubcard points! We visited most of the attractions – the show caves, the museum, the open top bus tour up the gorge and finally, we climbed up the steps to the top of the lookout tower. All 274 of them.
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IMG_7925IMG_2972A Somerset cream tea. Much needed to keep me going on a busy sight-seeing day.

IMG_7916More Somerset produce.

IMG_7933Picnicking at the top of Glastonbury Tor. Our picnic rucksack, containing knives, forks and plates has been well used.

IMG_7941Heading up…

IMG_2995View from the top, where we tried to spot our caravan, though it was much too far away.

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IMG_3004Inside the ancient barn at the (free) Museum of Rural Life in Glastonbury.  This beautiful barn, which originally belonged to Glastonbury Abbey is almost 600 years old. Amazing to think of the time, money, care and attention that was spent on it.

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IMG_3025The Middle Miss was very taken with this shop display in Glastonbury – she loves rainbows.

IMG_7939The best sandcastle sand I’ve come across for a while, at the almost deserted Burnham-on-Sea. Much building was done as you can see below.

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IMG_7970The sky looked like this through most of our holiday. It’s classic English summer weather; blues sky with white fluffly clouds. Warm enough for shorts but not too hot to be uncomfortable. Perfect, in fact.

IMG_3050Well, this is England. It wouldn’t be a summer holiday without a little bit of rain.

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Looking for Old Jack’s Boat

Monday was a bank holiday in the UK and amazingly it coincided with the best weather of the year so far. Actually, the hottest, sunniest day was Tuesday but luckily for us, my children had an extra day of holiday due to school being closed for staff training. Days like these are few and far between. It was a great opportunity to get out and about.

I have been promising The Middle Miss a trip to Staithes for a while now. It’s not far from where we live – less than an hour away in the car. Usually, if we are heading that far along the coast we aim for Whitby but Staithes is actually closer and we had a reason to visit.

If you have small children and you watch CBeebies you will probably know where I am going with this. If not, I will explain… Old Jack’s Boat is a relatively new series starring Bernard Cribbins as ‘Old Jack’, the captain of a magical boat called The Rainbow.

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Now, I have yet to watch a full episode, but, a while ago I saw the opening and thought “That looks a lot like Staithes”. As I watched a bit more I heard the words (that begin every story that Old Jack tells) “Once upon a twinkly time The Rainbow set off from Staithes, waved goodbye to Whitby and headed off over the horizon…” Not only had the BBC filmed the series in such a lovely, local place, they had also chosen to keep the real name. I hit google to find out more and discovered this quote from the show’s production team “Staithes was a wonderful backdrop to the series and we took the decision to retain its name as we wanted the programme to feel rooted in a real place.” I was immediately excited by the fact that I could take my children to see this very real, very special place.

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Staithes is a very magical looking little village, especially on such a sunny day. There is one main street winding down the steep cliff side to the quay. The houses seem to built on top of each other, each one clinging on to it’s place alongside the road or the river. It’s not really the best place to visit with a pushchair because of the gradient of the hill….I’m not sure which is worse, going up or down.

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IMG_2313We wound our way down to the seafront, ready to look for Old Jack’s Boat. Alas, it wasn’t in port. If it had been, it would have been moored up on the far side of this picture, just in front of the lobster pots and the small stone building with the red square on it. If you watch the opening sequence on the CBeebies website you will be able to see it.

Undeterred, we went on to the small crescent of beach where, I was reliably informed by The Middle Miss, Jack’s dog, Salty, lost his blanket. We thought we had better go and search for it. In fact, the children just got stuck into digging in the sand, enlarging big holes that someone else had previously begun.

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We had the beach pretty much to ourselves, the sun was shining (have I mentioned that already?) and we were sheltered from the wind. Bliss, a chance to sit back and feel the sand between my toes or skip off to take a few more photos.

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The digging progressed into seaweed gathering, which was then turned into ‘hair’ on a very sandy face by The Middle Miss. The only downside of the beach being so quiet was that I think the whole of Staithes could hear my darling daughter keeping her brothers in order. She told them in no uncertain terms just what she required for her work of art. Eventually Son Number One resigned from her work force and it was time to head back up the village.

IMG_7063On the way we passed Captain Cook’s Cottage, where, as is says on the plaque, a young James Cook got his first taste of the sea while working as a shop apprentice. Both my children have studied Cook at school and Son Number One was quite taken with the idea that he actually lived in this house. Another example of a story coming to life in Staithes.

IMG_2331A bit further up the hill, we found a craft gallery selling all kinds of things knitted, stitched and painted. This beautiful mermaid sculpture was in the sunny courtyard behind.

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IMG_2341Finally, we crossed the little foot bridge across the river to see if we could spot Old Jack’s house but we weren’t very good at that. We had a little peek in at the lifeboat station and stood on the quayside where Old Jack would be coming back soon to moor up The Rainbow, next to the lobster pots. After that there was nothing for it but to drag ourselves (and push the pushchair) back up the hill, just in time for tea and cake.

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Autumn Outings: Part One – Durham

The weather has been reasonably kind over the last few weeks, allowing us some autumn outings.

In the first week of the month, Son Number One went on a school trip to Durham Botanical Gardens. The following weekend we decided to have a family trip there as he was keen to show us around. It was a perfect day to appreciate a garden in autumn.

I bet every visitor to the garden photographed this tree

Bright blue skies and golden leaves, warm enough to leave your coat behind but cool enough to be autumnal.

There were still lots of lovely bedding plants around and I couldn’t help taking lots of pictures of the dahlias.

Although it was hard at times not to imagine the pleasure of a child free visit to these gardens, the real joy of this trip was watching Son Number One. He helped his sister do all the clues on the ‘quiz trail’ and guided us around the garden in a very confident fashion.

By a complete coincidence we met some of our best friends there, though they were almost ready for leaving when we arrived. It didn’t stop the children exploring the greenhouses together. One houses a small collection of ‘minibeasts’ (well, the spiders weren’t so mini, they were big and hairy) and a fish pond, one houses the cactus collection, one houses a ‘tropical rainforest’ complete with spray and one houses a large tank containing giant lily pads (somehow I managed to miss this). The boys had a great time trying to photograph the minibeasts. I won’t scare you with the results but I will give you Son Number One’s fish photo’s because I think they are quite pretty.

I should probably mention that a large part of the garden is accessible with a push chair. We took our Phil and Ted’s 3 wheeler and managed to go ‘off road’ quite a bit. All in all, we had a lovely afternoon out. We should visit Durham more often as it really is on our doorstep. It was funny to be there on one of the first afternoons of the new university term. The Husband and I felt quite old as we watched swathe after swathe of students go to and from the playing fields. They all looked so young and full of vim and vigour. It seems incredible that is is almost 20 years since we began our university careers. Son Number One is closer to University age than we are. Scary thought.

The Joy of Caravans: Part 2 – Whitby

My children have been back at school for over two weeks now. The summer holidays seem a long way back even though we were still caravanning into September. Our last trip was to Whitby, one of my favourite places of all time. My family have been camping near Saltwick Bay for many years. We have old black and white pictures of my Grandparents enjoying their holidays there. All my children have been to visit since they were little babies. My first ‘holiday’ with the Middle Miss was to this caravan site when she was eight weeks old.

Whitby is an incredibly picturesque seaside town, full of history. James Cook, the British sailor who ‘discovered’ Australia learned much of his sailing skills here and the first ship he commanded was a Whitby Bark called Endeavour. Although there are lots of modern businesses here now, it doesn’t take much creativity to imagine the town in his day, over 300 years ago.

No trip to Whitby would be complete without a trip to ‘The Lucky Duck’ Shop.

As you can see, they make lots of cute little glass objects. We were on a mission to buy a lucky duck for The Middle Miss (who has never had one) and  a new one for Son Number One (who broke his). They both chose Harlequin ducks. The Middle Miss named hers ‘Multi Coloured Mary’. Sadly the shop no longer demonstrates making the ducks. “Health and Safety” is apparently to blame.

After the lucky duck shop we all had an ice cream, even Son Number One who has only recently decided he likes it.

We wandered along the narrow streets, enjoying some of the displays.

Some of them rarely change from year to year, for example here is the window of the fishmongers…Obviously they change the produce but the shark jaws in the window are a permanent fixture. I remember them from my childhood. Clearly they are just as fascinating to the children of today.

 

We were heading for the beach, because it was a lovely day: fine, dry and calm.Son Number One and I collected some deck chairs, passed the donkeys and set up our patch of sand.

We waited and waited for Grandma and The Middle Miss to return with some lunch from the nearest fish and chip shop. It seemed to take a long time but I wasn’t worried, there was likely to be a queue. When she arrived back she was full of curses for the local bird population.

Grandma had been dive bombed by a seagull, loosing all her newly acquired fish and chips in the attack. In her words “It was like an exocet missile”!

The next day was another sunny one. After our terrible early summer weather we wanted to make the most of any sunshine that appeared. We invited some friends to join us for the day. That’s another of the good things about Whitby, it’s not too far from home.

Babykins climbed the cliff path down to the accessible part of Saltwick bay under his own steam (well, some of the way at least)

The Son Number One and his friend made dams and learned to ‘open the flood gates’.

The beach was virtually empty, all the local schools had already re-started for the new term. The children had a great time playing together but eventually it was time for our friends to head home. We settled into the caravan to enjoy the nightly sunset show behind the Abbey (hard to capture with just an iphone, let me tell you!).

Our last night in Whitby was the second last day of the school holidays. I was very grateful for this trip. I was starting to go a little bit crazy by the time it came along. Having said that, I think we made the most of the summer break this year, squeezing in as many happy times as possible, from morning until night…..

We enjoyed the summer holidays, right until the last moment.

The Joy of Caravans – Part one: Knayton

Caravan holidays are a favourite part of our summer holidays. They are not always easy with three small children but they are worth it. My Mum and I are becoming masters at this type of break. This summer we have specialised in the ‘last minute dash’ caravan holiday. The first of our two trips was to Hillside Caravan Park at Knayton, near Thirsk in North Yorkshire. We stayed for four nights from the 8th of August. Luckily for us, the weather was fine, warm and dry.

Hillside is a great caravan park for novices because the pitches are flat and there are several that you can drive onto without the need for reversing. It is also fairly luxurious. The toilet block has underfloor heating and is spotlessly clean. We used a pitch that not only had an electric hook up but also the potential to connect your fresh and waste water. More importantly for a family of Olympic addicts, it had a direct link to the TV arial too. Normally I wouldn’t mind doing without TV but without it we would have missed the spectacle of Mo Farrah’s 5000m win and the drama of Tom Daley’s bronze in the 10m platform diving. It is a quiet, family-friendly site in a ‘play-outside-from-morning-until-night-with-new-friends’ kind of way. Fortunately Son Number One and The Middle Miss were very happy to do just that.

When we were entertaining the children, water was often involved. We visited the local stream a few times to enjoy the usual games – plopping stones in, building dams and playing Pooh sticks.

Our sunsuits and ‘crocs’ have had plenty of wear this year, despite the earlier dismal weather in April, May, June and July.

The Middle Miss preferred wellies. She wasn’t keen on the temperature of the stream water.

There is a lot of freedom for children on a caravan holiday. They get to ‘play out’ without obvious supervision in a way that they don’t at home. The danger from cars is minimal on this kind of site. Because of this, most of the time the oldest two just wanted to go to the ‘park’ (think play area with swings, a climbing frame, slide and balance beams). We had to train them to slip out quietly because Babykins always wanted to go too. Sometimes we went with him when he toddled off after them (sometimes we had to run after him in our nightclothes) but often we went for distraction. You can have a lot of pleasure pouring water from one container to another when you are 20 months old….

Bathing your horses is fun too.

I managed a few moments of peace and quiet. It’s always nice to take time to ‘smell the roses’. In this case it was more like ‘appreciate the blooming verges and hedgerows’.

There was a little bit of time for crochet. As you can see I’m still working on circles for my blanket.

I polished off a bowlful of cherries after scoffing that two whole packets form M and S was surely too much to buy. Well, they’re wheat free after all.

All in all, it was a very pleasant little break. I’ve got a feeling it might become an annual tradition.

Blackpool

We spent the second week of the school holidays in Blackpool. Look, there was sunshine!

These photos were taken on our very first afternoon in town. The Middle Miss soon spied the Big Wheel on the Central Pier and begged to be allowed a ride. I wasn’t that keen, but I climbed aboard with the rest of the family. I think Babykins was a little bit scared by the experience, he certainly held tight to his Dad (and his hat).

It does look like an awfully long way down….

It is quite some time since I have been to Blackpool. In fact I think it was probably around 1995. The Husband (merely The Boyfriend at that time) and I had a day out at the Pleasure Beach. Somewhere, we have one of those cheesy roller-coaster action photos to prove it. Truthfully, I was a bit nervous about a family holiday there. However, if you are not bothered by or can ignore the tackier side of the British Seaside, Blackpool certainly has something for everyone.

For example, if you are a lover of modern art, I give you this view of the Prom, walking north from the Central Pier. The North Pier can be seen in the distance, though we never made it that far. The large black bendy things are some sort of ‘installation’. I haven’t been able to find out much more than that. I will leave it to your imagination what the majority of the locals said about them when I enquired. Personally I quite liked them. They bend and move in the breeze. I’d be interested to see them on a very windy day. Our host said he had seen them with only about 8ft of clearance from the ground!

If the traditional, bucket and spade approach appeals to you then Blackpool can certainly supply the sea, the sand and the donkeys. You have to be prepared to retreat from the beach though because when the tide comes in, there is no sand at all.

The donkeys were a big hit, in fact the children went for a ride three times. They were very cute. The fleecy blankets under their saddle caught the children’s eye. For example, they would have described the nearest two in the picture as being disguised as a ladybird and a tiger respectively. They also took a very keen interest in their names, which were on their nosebands. Babykins thought the whole experience was fantastic. He grinned from ear to ear as they plodded down the beach and back.

My children are also hooked on the ‘money games’ as they like to call the arcades. They must have spent £5 each on 2p slot machines but it gave them a lot of pleasure. The Middle Miss even managed to extract a couple of dubious prizes. I know it’s a crazy way to loose money but hey-ho, it was a small price to pay for two or three hours of entertainment. We made them spend their own pocket money on that, so that they knew where the limit was. I was, however, also persuaded to part with the best part of £25 for some rides on the roundabouts, helter-skelter and dodgems. Surprisingly, the Middle Miss is quite a daredevil when it comes to these rides.

They all enjoyed this little ride and must have been round in at least four different vehicles each. The Middle Miss did a sterling job of looking after Babykins until he got enough confidence to ride alone.

This water shooting game was another family favourite.

Of course, Blackpool can offer all the important and traditional culinary experiences associated with the British seaside. Son Number One was astounded at the number of fish and chip shops. He would have been happy to test every establishment.

I really wanted to go into the convenience store in this picture to see if it had a vicious till. If you are familiar with the work of Ronnie Barker (think Open All Hours) you will understand what I mean. A bit further along this street was a shop where you could go and watch rock being made. It looked like a busy family business. I couldn’t help but laugh at the words inside the rock that was being produced while we were there: SKEGNESS.

There are all sorts of expensive attractions in the vicinity of the Central Pier in Blackpool: Madame Tussauds, The Tower and The Sea Life Centre. We only visited the latter. I thought Madame Tussauds would be lost of the children because they wouldn’t know who half the people were.

Compared to some other aquariums, the Blackpool Sea Life Centre is quite pleasant. All the usual creatures are on display, in pretty much the usual way but it somehow seemed smarter than the last one we visited (I won’t name names but it was in Yorkshire). Maybe it was just the fact that we were pretty much the first visitors of the day, so it wasn’t crowded, and, on the basis of past experience had decided to leave the pushchair behind.

If wildlife is your thing, Blackpool also has a pretty good zoo. The enclosures are reasonably animal friendly and there is certainly a wide selection of species. For me, the most impressive were the Gorillas. They live on an island so there is relatively little in the way of bars separating you and them. There is plenty of distance, of course, but they still catch the eye as they go about their business. The sight of the male silverback moving around is very impressive. Here are some of our other pictures.

You may be wondering why we ended up in Blackpool, considering I mentioned near the start that I wasn’t sure about it as a destination. The truth is that it was a deal too good to refuse. Because of Son Number One’s connection with the RVI and CLIC Sargent we were offered a holiday at Donna’s Dream House. The house was set up by the Curtis family in memory of their daughter, who died in her early 20’s of a rare form of melanoma. As holiday destinations go, it’s a one off! How many places have you stayed with that are decorated with old Blackpool illuminations? Can you spot us in this photo? We are camouflaged.

This is the play room. There are so many toys there is hardly room to play with them.

The back yard has it’s share of Blackpool paraphernalia.

These fish are a fitting decoration for outside the hot tub room. Oh yes, this place has a lovely hot tub. The children LOVED it. We enjoyed it but it was a far cry from the old ‘BC’ days when one of our neighbours had one. There was no chance of having a quiet glass of red wine this time.

Another big hit was the home cinema. There was an enormous screen, proper flip-down seats, surround sound and even free popcorn. What more could you want.

Thanks to the generosity of the people who support Donna’s Dream House, the holiday was free. Previously we have benefitted from static caravan holidays with CLIC Sargent. When Son Number One was on active treatment they were a great benefit. Children undergoing leukaemia treatment can develop serious infections at the drop of a hat and have to be hospitalised. This makes it impossible to consider booking a holiday, there is little chance you could get insurance. This year, almost a year since he finished his chemo, he was really quite well. I felt a bit of a fake really. I just told myself that it was treat for the children that we might struggle to afford otherwise. Both Son Number One and The Middle Miss have had to put up with a lot because of leukaemia. Thankfully, it’s an issue that is mostly in the past. I think this will be the last holiday of this type that we will have. Though I’ll miss the opportunity to go on holiday for free, (who wouldn’t) going out and putting down a deposit on a break will be another milestone in our family journey up and away from childhood cancer.

Out and about on a school night

The appearance of the sun on Monday galvanised me into action. I have been wanting to go to Saltburn again to view the new Jubilee themed yarnbombing. I packed up the car with sand toys and a picnic, scooped up the children as quickly as I could from school and headed over there. It was still half past four by the time we arrived. Nothing ever happens fast round here.

By the time I had unloaded the children from the car and attempted to squeeze all my bags under the pushchair, time was running out. The cliff lift was only open until 5, the yarnbombing was at the top and there was no way I was pushing my groaning pushchair up that hill. We just had enough time to go to the top, inspect the knitting and ride back down again.

It was very satisfactory actually. I am so impressed with the skill and sense of humour of the knitter or knitters. Riding the cliff lift is a fun experience. The inside is wide enough for a pushchair or wheel chair. You get a lovely view out to sea and the windows themselves are worth looking at. They have beautiful stained glass that my photo really doesn’t do justice to.

Once we were back down at promenade level and had negotiated the inevitable toilet stop, we had a little walk on the pier to see the Olympic yarnbombing. But there was no holding the children back – they were ready for some sand action. They scampered off onto the beach via the steps. I was left with the fun task of trying to get Babykins and the pushchair down the very rutted and ridged stone slope (see first picture).

I was tickled by how the older two had arranged their shoes. They were wedged in behind a big rock “Keeping the sand out of them, Mum”. Wishful thinking.

They indulged in much digging and fetching of water, the eternal childhood pleasures of a trip to the seaside. It felt as if it was the first time that I had been able to sit back and let them get on with it. When they were younger I think I supervised the sandcastle building a bit too much. Nowadays I am just too preoccupied with keeping an eye on Babykins to worry too much about the older ones.

I finally managed to get the picnic out and persuade the children to keep a bucket of water nearby to rinse their sandy hands in. Nevertheless, I think Babykins managed to ingest his fair share of sand. Why is it that at home, he is very keen on using cutlery but when his hands are holding half the beach he thinks its a good idea to use his fingers?

Despite my preparations, there was one essential piece of kit that I had left behind. I normally have my swiss army knife in my bag (you never know when you might need scissors or tweezers) but typically, on the day when the ring pull came off our can of sweetcorn, I’d taken it out.

No problem, Son Number One had the answer.

Him: “Why don’t you take it up to one of the cafes and see if they’ll open it for you Mum?”.

Me: “Yes son, but I don’t want to pack up all our stuff and I don’t want to leave you guys on the beach on your own”.

Him: “I can do it”.

I pondered for a moment. He’s at the age where he wants to be more independent. He needs the practice at asking for things from people like shop assistants. Not long ago he would have been terrified of the idea of speaking to someone he didn’t know. I would be able to see him the whole time and there were no traffic issues.

Me: Alright then, off you go.

Result! The kind ice cream parlour owner helped us out. She was even sensible enough not to send him back with a sharp can lid. What my boy will do for sweetcorn.

Time was getting on again and Babykins was starting to get cold. The Middle Miss requested an ice cream and I was happy to oblige. They had done a good job with their picnic tea in difficult (sandy) conditions and I was all in the mood for treats. Alas, the ice cream shop had been shutting when Son Number One went to get our can opened. Instead, we had a couple of portions of chips and sat up on the prom to eat them. As far as I am concerned it’s practically obligatory to eat chips when you go to the seaside.

As we sat, the light changed. The sun shone just that bit more and was lower in the sky. It really lit up the beach beautifully.

We decided to finish our trip by walking the full length of the pier.

You can just about make out the cliff lift in this picture. The carriages are half way up because it is closed.

The shadows were really starting to lengthen as we headed back to the car. It was half past eight by the time I got them home and into bed but I had one of the best trips with my children that I’ve ever had.

I don’t regret going out on a ‘school night’ though I wouldn’t stay out as long on a regular basis. In the ‘summer’ we are having, you’ve got to take the chance when you can.

I hope enjoyed reading about our little trip. Make the most of the the sun today because tomorrow it’s going to rain. Again. A lot.