Tamsin's World

Family life, adventures and food

Big Little Lies

Our epic travels are over and frankly we’ve been wallowing in a gin soaked pit of gloom wailing ‘please let us be back in Barbados’ for the last month.  OK – that’s not entirely true.  Since we’ve been back I’ve coped with it all by doing what I do best, yup, attempting to organise a million things at once and over committing to a tonne of new projects until I wind up poorly and ranty.   So in between trying to get my job back and get a little promotion, starting volunteering at the local foodbank, getting the kids settled back into school and their ridiculous amounts of after school clubs, organising seeing all of our mates who we missed while we were away, leaping back into the usual PTA shizzle and the usual cooking, cleaning, breaking up squabbles and trying to keep the household vaguely functional and attempting to get my *best selling* travel book written (17,500 words written – boom – and partly the reason behind less blogging – only so much I can write and if it’s on here then how the hell can I sell it?!) and we bought a puppy.   Because that’s what totally normally people do the second they return from a sabbatical.  He’s cute and fluffy and cleaning his puppy shit off the playroom floor is totally taking our minds of wanting to be back on a tropical beach sipping rum cocktails.

When we were away we spent many an evening discussing ‘how things will be different when we get home’.  Now, some of the discussions were more “realistic” than others.  Some were, with hindsight more whisky fuelled rantings than actual plans.  At various times in our travels we had absolutely, completely, definitely decided on the following as things we were absolutely, completely, definitely going to do:

  • Sell our house and go and build eco-domes and run an eco tourism business in Barbados
    • Kill all of our parents and family members in a dastardly yet undetectable fashion so that we could inherit enough money to move to Barbados without the, quite frankly, pretty hard work of running an eco-tourism business and having to deal with eco-tourist wankers who would complain that their hemp stuffed mattresses irritated their allergies or that the beach was too sandy or some other nonsense.
  • Live in New Orleans FOREVER.
  • Mardi Gras FOREVER
    • Oh.  Yes it does get awfully humid and hot in the summer in New Orleans,  and what’s that you say? The next hurricane is only ever a few months away and the whole city is built on a swamp under sea level.  Ummm, those Garden District houses are possibly out of our price range are they?  Whatever.  Maybe we will just visit again at Mardi Gras.
  • Buy an antebellum mansion in rural Arkansas for about 30 dollars and set up an amazing non-profit to help re-generate the South and kick Donald Trump in his massive fat orange butt.
    • Oh.  Yes maybe the reason that houses that size are 30 dollars is because there’s fuck all here for many many miles in any direction and the Civil War is still a recent source of discord and you have to go to church otherwise everyone will hate you.
  • Buy a small ranch in Texas and shoot things and cook over a fire-pit every night
    • Fuck me those mosquitoes are bastards – no way are we living in a place where so many living beings actually want to kill you.  Bitten to shit every night, snakes lurking, wild hogs that ‘might charge at you but probably not’, alligators and let’s not even get started with the Texans of dubious sanity and access to legal firearms.
  • Then there was lots of list of  practical things we can learn from our travels and incorporate them into our daily lives and make some changes for the better
    • Be more creative – more writing, reading, music
    • Make more family time – just us – not constantly filling every moment seeing people
    • Go to bed earlier and get up earlier in the morning – make the most of the day (easier to get out of bed in Barbados and sit watching humming birds in the sun with your morning cuppa than on a freezing cold grey Manchester morning when you’re frantically trying to remember which of your children needs to take what to school with them and where you put the bastard letter about the school trip)
    • Not just watch telly every night………….

Telly.  Hmmmmm.  FAIL.  When we were travelling, and in fact on any holiday we go on we never watch any telly.  Most of the places we stayed on this trip didn’t even have a TV.  We didn’t miss it once.  Too busy spending the evenings making grandiose plans involving eco-domes made out of sand and turtle spunk whilst sinking another bottle of spiced rum.

Although travelling round America it’s pretty impossible not to be aware of TV even if you’re not actually watching it.  The Americans do some things very well.  Self promotion and advertising being chief amongst these.  Bill boards.  TV adverts.  Radio.  Subliminal mind waves.  So there I was being all lofty in my travel wanker outfits of birkenstocks, ripped jean shorts and a t-shirt referencing a previous destination in a subtle way (go pigs), reading my literature based in each of the places we were visiting along the way, listening to ‘local music’ on our portable bluetooth speaker and eschewing the virtues of this wholesome world experience…… yeah while I was doing all that I was also clocking all the billboards and thinking – fuck this hippy shit – we all know that the minute we are back home I’m going to be in my pyjama bottoms with a big old glass of chardonnay binge watching all the TV crack I’ve SADLY MISSED during this edifying experience.

Big Little Lies was being advertised EVERYWHERE when we were in the States.  I think it started earlier over there.  It might not have done, it might have been just a very long lead in period.  Even if the great American public are not, as the rest of the world has come to assume, thick as actual pig shit – they are certainly treated by corporate America as if they were.   American ad campaigns have the subtlety of their current President,  Say it big, say it often and tell outrageous lies that make no sense  because someone, in fact probably a lot of people, will buy it.

In the face of such an onslaught of Big Little Lies propaganda – despite the smorgasbord of amazing experiences we were having – I knew that by hook or by crook it was going on the goggle box the minute we got home.  Interspersed between all the mindfulness and new hobbies and pursuits though you understand.

Imagine my joy then when we got home and realised that episode 1 started that very week.  It was meant to be.

And what a show it was.

Great actresses, beautiful locations, strong dialogue, great music, artistically shot, intriguing plot and a twist in the ending.

Not going to lie, couldn’t completely shake the fact that I quite fancied that stupidly tall vampire bloke off of True Blood even though he was a wife beating cocksucker of a bell-end in this.  Nor that Nicole Kidman’s hair was quite ‘wiggy’.  Or that every single house in that town seemed to be accessed by driving over that really long bridge and have an ocean view – this must make it a very long skinny town indeed.

The main lie of the show though, if we are honest, was that ‘school fundraiser’ in the last episode.  Really? This was purportedly a public school and it holds a fundraiser with the appearance of a glitzy black tie corporate event, naked flames on school property (come on, it’s verboten to walk around a school with an unsheathed cup of tea for fear of catastrophe), a free bar, the best costumes EVER and oh, what’s that, at least 3 of the parents sing at professional standards?  As a mum who busts her ass trying to organise PTA events to raise funds for the school and having recently travelled round the States I’m pretty darn certain that in real life it would be the same 3 hardy mums who had agreed to organise the stupid gala night because at the meeting at the start of term a load of gobshites had been so enthusiastic about the idea and gushed that everyone would come and it would raise so much money.  Oh, you’re busy with work now are you?  Your dog had puppies?  You can’t be fucking arsed?  Really.  Well looks like it’s your usual mugs to organise it as per bloody usual then.  Stuck with organising something which they never wanted in the first place.

Personally, I would have liked one final scene where Nicole Kidman is trying to fit all the black tablecloths they bought in the tiny PTA cupboard and Reese Witherspoon attempting to get a refund on the glasses taken away as Police evidence and that big shot PayPal CEO bint working her way through the receipts and realising the event made $25 maximum.

I do like the name though Big Little Lies.  We’ve spent most of this year formulating big plans and little plans – having big adventures and little ones too.  Are the plans lies we tell ourselves in a frantic bid to reassure ourselves that our lives will not revert to the mediocre, the hum drum, the non stop stress and chaos of family life? Will we ever go and build those eco-domes in Barbados?  Possibly not.  Is it a lie to tell yourself you are definitely going to do something even if you know that on the balance of probabilities it isn’t going to happen?  I don’t think so.   Dreams don’t have to be practical.  Dreams don’t have to come true – sometimes they’re just there to alter how you think of the every day.  Big dreams don’t necessarily come true but that doesn’t mean that they don’t facilitate hundreds of little dreams which ultimately make you happier.

I mean, instead of watching another episode of masterchef last night I wrote this blog post in front of a roaring fire, listening to music, with a sleeping puppy by my side.

 

 

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Flying high

Women’s magazines have a cyclical stock article pool and one that has always bemused me is the one on travel tips for stylish yet comfortable flights.  I’ve read it in many guises for as many years and essentially the advice remains the same.  Suggestions of ‘luxe’ leisurewear.  Travel pack essentials to include cashmere scarves to double as blankets, coconut water and raisins, organic lavender oil spritzes to ‘freshen up’ before you change into the arrival friendly outfit you’ve stashed into your Louis Vuitton hold-all.  The aim seems to be to swan through the airport with nary a queue in sight, effortlessly sporting your hold-all over one arm (magic luggage inside that is in no way heavy), sleep on the flight or read inspiring holiday literature and then emerge into your tropical destination with perfect hair and skin sporting a crumple free maxi dress as you waltz into the sunset.

Nobody in the history of fucking time travels like that.  With the exception of maybe Kate Middleton.  And she’s a bloody princess and travels on a private plane with a butler, nanny and assorted royal back scratchers.  Even then I bet she loses her shit with the kids when they announce they need a piss just when the plane has started its final descent.

We all know that magazines pedal impossible dreams but seriously?! I’m writing this on a plane travelling from New Orleans to Boston and let me just break down the flight for you.

To catch this flight we had a 7 hour drive the day before, by English standards that’s a “bloody long way” #technicalterm but not so much by the vastness of America standards.  Driving in America is, to be fair, pretty sodding easy.  Most of the roads don’t even have bends in them.  Point the car in the direction of your travel and just keep on keeping on.  You don’t even have to change gear.  Watch the repeating vista of McDonald’s, Cracker Barrel, Sonic, Starbucks, Waffle House, IHOP and gas stations which signal each junction of the interstate unfold.  Pick one when you need sustenance or a piss and then back to the drive. Oh look another Waffle House…….

Add to the mix a very overloaded car and two small children.  Then just to make it that bit more fun let’s just say one of the kids has a rotavirus from hell.  It’s a lovely and enriching travel experience for everyone to stop at Starbucks for much needed caffeinated fuel only to have your 8 year old magnificently projectile vomit over the floor, rest room, another bit of the floor.  I mean who wouldn’t want to run towards the toilets with a child under your arm, fountains of vomit splattering onto the floor, shouting ‘oh my goodness I’m so so sorry we’ve ruined your coffee’ to the customers by the worst pools as you fling handfuls of starbucks napkins in your wake in a vain attempt to cover the worst of the devastation.

If you’re reading Starbucks then it would make a totally effective marketing campaign.  Your staff were super lovely with mop duties AND no fucking coffee EVER tasted that good or was that NEEDED as the cappuccino I had after that incident.  Amy Schumer could play me.  I’d let her.

A lovely relaxing night though in an airport hotel was just the tonic and left us perky and flight ready.  Woah there tiger. Did I really just use a sentence containing  both the words ‘relaxing’ and ‘airport hotel’ in? Sorry, my bad.  Airport hotels are ALWAYS shit.  Even the good ones.  They’re noisy with plane noise (strange that given that they’re AIRPORT hotels), there’s guests coming and going to catch flights at all times of the day and night.  The decor is an 80s time warp and the rooms are always ridiculously hot.

All that’s a given.

But that’s not all.  Add spending the whole night tending to a puking child who also now has the runs. Making a nest for him on the floor by the bathroom of towels and pillows, emptying out wastebins to use as buckets, trying to keep the other sleeping healthy child both in quarantine and asleep, trying to doze in between bouts of puking whilst keeping one ear open for any murmer of impending bum geyser to ensure Usain Bolt speed sprint/tackle to toilet location manoeuvres.

So, all in all I think we all arrived at the airport a little ‘jaded’.  By ‘jaded’ I mean ‘wanting to curl up into a little ball and hibernate’.  But even when you’re in peak physical condition airports are a complete endurance test.

I’ve already failed the first magazine article ‘essential’ – I’m not wearing luxe leisurewear, I’m not carrying a handy cashmere blanket and I haven’t applied extra moisturisers to combat the perilous drying conditions on flights.

I’m wearing yesterday’s clothes with the exception of knickers (clean.  One has some standards, albeit low) and my hair scragged up into a bun on the top of my head.  No makeup or any other beauty product but I’m quite impressed that I have at least showered and brushed my teeth.  Breakfast is a peanut granola bar purchased in the airport because strangely enough after a night of vom I’m in no mood to tackle the breakfast buffet in the hotel.  We have 5 suitcases, a huge rucksack, 2 boostapack car seats, coats, handbags and a Moana popcorn bucket which has been repurposed into our portable bucket of doom.

For the first time in our trip all 5 of the cases are under the weight limit and if my husband and I weren’t at the ‘I bloody hate you, I hate everyone but I realllllllly hate you this morning please god make this stop and get me a coffee you twat’ stage of child sickness/travel stress we would totally have high fived at the avoidance of the Miami airport jigsaw puzzle of packing and repacking the cases on the floor in front of check-in, holding up the line and getting massive scowls from the American Airlines bitch incident.

Going through security is always stressful.  With kids even more so.  There’s nothing you can do to make it easier.  The line is long and you have the constant ‘I’m hot mummy.  My rucksack is heavy can you carry it?’ ‘Why is this queue so long?’ ‘Mummy so why can’t you take GUNS through security?’ ‘Shhhhhh’ ‘Do people make BOMBS?? I MAKE BOMBS on minrcraft’ ‘shut up right now’ ‘I do I BLEW UP A TOWN’ ‘anyone know who this kid is because he’s not mine’.  Then you’re at the front of the queue and it’s even more flustering than the Aldi checkout.

At speed you have to take shoes, belts, bracelets off you and 2 small people and empty iPads/kindles/phones/assorted teddies into the grey trays.  At New Orleans our stuff took up 10 trays.  Not even joking. Then the 8 year olds ADSD tendencies kick in and he won’t walk through the gate on his own.  The underwriting on my massive boulder holder bras sets the alarm off and we’ve forgotten to take the bottle of water out of the bag so get a naughty telling off.  (Although hey, at least we aren’t subject to the disgusting race bias of stopping and searching anyone brown we’ve seen in US airports).

You just know your gate will be the furthest one from security.  Getting snacks from the airport shops costs as much as a full meal in a gourmet restaurant.

But you can relax on the flight right?  Snuggle into your cashmere blanket slash muddy cagoule whilst applying a generous layer of creme de la mer slash nothing because your toileteries are in your case and reading your edifying literature slash oh shit I forgot to charge my kindle.

We are getting to be old hands at flying with the kids now.  Do I have any pearls of wisdom for you? Do I bollocks.  It’s an endurance test of epic proportions.  iPads for the kids, gin from cabin service for you. That’s all I’ve got.  The following incidents  will most likely happen on the flight:

  1. Someone will drop something and cry until you’ve contorted yourself into a position no 41 year old can manage without needing a subsequent chiropractic session to retrieve it.
  2. They will demand chewing gum the minute you board to avoid ear popping then announce they don’t like it and stash the chewed gooey mess in your hand.  Nice.
  3. My 8 year old reads the safety card in full on each and every flight then starts a half hour q&a session on disaster management strategies ‘so mummy would you go down the slide first into the sea or would I? I don’t really want the sea to go in my eyes’ ‘don’t think we’d give a shit about water in our eyes if the plane had just crashed in the sea’ ‘well I have got my goggles in my case so maybe we could swim to our case and get them’ ‘good luck with that, we stayed in Florida a week before we located them in our mountain of luggage and that was on dry land and not in a disaster scenario’
  4. At least one person will spill a drink (i will admit that’s often me)
  5. There will be a loud ‘I need a poo’ announcement and then a queue situation in which a discussion about ‘that lady must have needed a MASSIVE POO because she’s taking FOREVER’ will occur.
  6. The refreshments will have run out of the 3 things they’ll consent to eat. Then they’ll moan about being hungry and eat all your snacks they’ve previously dismissed and then you’re hungry.
  7. iPad headphones will mean they SHOUT everything to you.
  8. Forget the fuck about napping/reading/even thinking without constant interruptions (I wrote earlier I was writing this on a plane. I was in 3 minute intervals.  I’m now finishing it a day later in Boston)
  9. They’ll need a wee or poo the minute the seatbelt light goes on.

iPads for them and gin for you.  They both help a bit.

Thankfully the gods of travel were smiling on us and the flight passed with only the usual annoyances and the Moana bucket of doom wasn’t used.

Nobody changes their clothes to get off a plane.  I put on some flip flops instead of trainers once just before we landed and was incredibly smug at my packing foresight.  A whole outfit though? Airplane toilets are very small.  Even first class ones (which I’ve discovered are the one perk to travelling with kids, cabin crew are more than keen to let you sneak up front to avoid a kid piss on the floor scenario and I’ve enough cabin crew mates to know they hate the posh twats in first class anyway).  And somewhere in the queue behind you as you wriggle into your beautiful maxi dress, trying to avoid dragging it over the piss soaked floor, there’s a kid in the queue announcing to the whole plane that you have the shits because you’ve been in there so freaking long.

My pre-disembarking beauty regime is to re-do my scraggy bun, brush the worst of the crumbs off my trousers and maybe applying a bit of lip balm if I can locate it in that stupid plastic bag of liquid things bag.  That annoys me.  How is it a security measure? Do terrorists think, gah my fiendish plan is foiled now my lipstick must go in a plastic bag and I can’t take a bottle of water with me? Unlikely.  Once I went mad and applied actual lipstick but an ill advised selfie revealed it made me look like a crazed clown.

We always have an argument with the 6 year old at the baggage reclaim due to his insistence that he’s strong enough to heft every suitcase off the carousel.  He isn’t. Then another one about why he isn’t allowed to ride on said carousel.
I’m willing to accept that it wouldn’t sell as many magazines to write articles reflecting true to life travel experiences.  Advertisers aren’t going to queue up to provide glossy spreads of portable buckets of doom.  But actual TRAVEL is the necessary evil of TRAVELLING.  Getting from A to B is a massive ball ache.  The adventure is not in the journey.  The prize is in arriving in one piece and then making the most of your destination.

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Where to stay?

When we were planning our world adventure we knew what we didn’t want for our accommodation and had a wish list of things we did.  We didn’t want to stay in anonymous hotels, that whilst lovely I’m sure, could be anywhere at all in the world.  We wanted to feel like we were getting to know a community a bit,  to stay in quirky places that were totally different to our suburban Manchester home and to have space to spread out – to feel like it was our home for the short time that we were there.

Hotels are by their nature transitory and anonymous.  How many people have slept in that bed before you?  Who was in it last night?  What did they do in here?  (Ewww) They’re mini-communities with a staff dedicated to meeting your every need.  For a short trip that can be just the tonic. (Especially if it’s brought to you via room service accompanying a large gin) There’s no cooking or cleaning to be done.   Delicious food is made for you whenever you want it.  You can leave your room in an utter shit tip and go out for the day knowing that when you come back the maid will have restored it to crisp turned back sheet pristine order.  But for a family with young children we knew that long stays in hotels weren’t for us (and not just because frankly it would have been too bloody expensive).

Hotels run to a timetable – meals are served at set times.  There’s a flock mentality where most of the guests fall into a similar routine.  Up at a certain time, breakfast, get a sunlounger by the pool, lunch, pre dinner drinks, dinner……. and repeat for the duration of the stay.  You quickly get territorial, which is ridiculous when none of it’s ‘yours’.  The cheek of someone nabbing the sunlounger on the side of the pool which you’ve decided, for no other reason than that’s where you sat on the first day, is your preferred spot.  The cheek of it.  Someone sits there and that’s you shooting dirty looks at them for the rest of the day.  That’s my sunlounger you cheeky bitch.  Mine.  

Hotels are noisy and you get sucked into other people’s lives vicariously.  You eavesdrop shamelessly and make up back stories for all and sundry.  You pass judgment readily. ‘Well, they’ve clearly not been married long, they’re still in that snogging in the pool stage, get a room already’ ‘look at that dickhead who clearly decided to forego sunscreen and then fall asleep by the pool.  Monsieur le lobster.’ ‘Jesus Christ I thought my ass looked shit in a bikini but seriously thongs should have purchasing restrictions placed on them’ ‘She is so going to have a row with him back in the room, look at the dirty old pervert sucking his belly in when those teenage girls go past in their teeny tiny bikinis.  And they can fuck off, yeah – enjoy it while you can girls – 2 kids and 20 years and the white string bikini won’t be an option for you either.’  All the while, you have that nagging knowledge that they’re all watching you and passing judgement right back at ya.  

We went to a lovely boutique hotel in Turkey when I was about 16 weeks pregnant with Corey.  I was really showing my little bump in my swimsuit but you couldn’t really tell in the evening under a flowing sundress.  We were sitting at the bar one night, me sipping some shit mocktail and a couple in their late 50s started talking to us.  The lady starts talking about the other guests in the hotel and comes out with ‘yeah, and have you seen that pregnant lady by the pool – it’s terrible that she’s sunbathing in her condition,  she’ll hurt the baby’.  I smoothed my sundress over my little bump and said ‘yes, that’ll be me then.  I think my child is just fine thank you very much’ and stropped off to bed.  The look on her face was priceless.

I’m a sociable person and love a good chinwag but I can’t stand those fake conversations you have with other guests in hotels.  I’m on holiday, I don’t want to know that you’re from Milton Keynes and work as a dentist and that you’re worried about your dog in the kennels because it’s a picky eater.  It’s like a more grown up version of freshers week ‘what do you do?  Where do you come from? What have you been doing whilst you’ve been here?’ – the same questions ad infinitum.  You find yourself wanting to make up shit just to spice things up a bit ‘Yeah, I’m Tammy and a pole dancer – but I was made redundant because I got too fat and with the payout I’ve decided to come to Majorca to set up an intimate piercing business,  do you know there’s nowhere you can get your clit pierced in Majorca?  I think I’m on to a winner.  I’ll give you a discount if you want.’

To be fair, I think there’s plenty of reasons why hotels don’t really want us as guests either.  The boys are boisterous, noisy and prefer to be naked for at least 2/3 of any given 24 hour period when we are on holiday.  Corey, as a holiday treat, chooses to never wear pants on holiday.  They are going through a phase where they like to swear and shout ‘get back in the darkness you slimy dickhead’ (click here for YouTube Aussie man lizards snakes Planet Earth. I kid you not, it’s so funny I’ve let the kids watch it a million times even though the swearing is worse than a Liverpool docker) or ‘S H ONE T’ guffaw chortle guffaw – I see it as a rite of passage – a retired bank manager from Chorley might think otherwise. 

Also, I am even messier than usual in a hotel.  It’s as if within 20 seconds of entering a hotel room – after, obviously, taking photos from every angle for instagram purposes and examining the toiletries in the bathroom (‘I’m taking that one Dan when we go.  Love a bit of Molton Brown’ ‘Tamsin, you’ve got a whole bloody bathroom of toiletries at home you don’t need a mini Molton Brown shower gel that’s not even in a nice smell’ ‘Don’t care, it’s going in my bag.  And a couple of them mini jams from the breakfast buffet.  Make sure you wear shorts with pockets to breakfast’) – within 20 seconds the entire contents of my suitcase EXPLODE and scatter themselves to the 4 corners of the room.  There’s never enough places to store things, you can’t remember which drawer you put your pants in, the chi chi bathroom doesn’t have anything useful like a shelf for you to put your stuff on so every time you need your hairbrush you have to rummage in your sponge bag and get your hands all sticky from that mini bottle of Molton Brown shower gel you stole from a previous trip which mysteriously burst in your bag on the plane and now all of your stuff is a bit slimy and sticky and smells of orange and bergamot, but you can’t be arsed to empty out every last thing out of your sponge bag and wash it because you’re on holiday innit and life is too short to be washing tubes of toothpaste on holiday.)

Step in Airbnb.  Airbnb has revolutionised the travel industry.  A quick search on your mobile and you can find everything from a yurt up a mountain to a multi-million pound villa overlooking the sea with its own private butler.  There should be a warning on the front page though – along the lines of – ENTER THIS SITE AT YOUR OWN RISK.  YOU WILL LOSE MANY HOURS OF YOUR LIFE ON THIS SITE PLANNING TRIPS YOU WILL NEVER GO ON AND MAKING WISH LISTS OF ACCOMODATION YOU WILL NEVER STAY IN.  Honestly, I lost DAYS browsing for destinations we had no intention of going to.  But I can recommend a lovely glamping location in Kerala, should you ever need one, now. 

It’s like a dating app but for accomodation.  You get totally judgey based on nothing other than a cover photo.  Swipe, that one looks like it smells, swipe, I don’t like those kitchen cupboards, swipe, really wouldn’t you clean up BEFORE you take photos to advertise your property, swipe, c’mon now that isn’t a rustic cottage it’s a trailer in a trailer park, oooooo, this one has a jacuzzi overlooking a lake – click click click Oh it’s twice our budget but that jacuzzi  – I’ll put it in my wish list.  

After spending inordinate amounts of time trawling through airbnb, and eventually booking pretty much all of our trip using it, this is what I’ve learnt.

A large amount of artistic license is used when it comes to describing the location.  Especially in the US based properties.  I know, I know, it’s a big country and they drive like 4 hours just to go and grab lunch.  But to describe a property as convenient for New Orleans when it’s 100 miles away is taking it a bit far.  There’s clearly an Airbnb ‘how to take good pictures of your property’ tutorial that stands out a mile when you go through the photos – there will always be one of the dining table set for dinner to make it look homely and a vase of flowers next to a bowl of fruit and a cafetière in the kitchen shot.  My favourite listings are ones that have nice photos and have a description where you get a sense of who the owner is and what they like about their property.

Still, it’s felt like a huge leap of faith booking property online after just email contact with the owner.  In Barbados we opted to stay at Oughterson.  It’s a plantation house – the 3rd oldest in Barbados – and has 3 holiday cottages and is located in 5 acres of jungle and beautiful gardens.  The pictures on Airbnb and the website are stunning.  A brief google search on the owner, Peter, didn’t reveal any headlines such as ‘Manchester family remain missing after trip to Barbados.  No remains are expected to be found’.  I had been e-mailing Peter regularly since booking the trip – there was a slight mix up with the booking for the first few days here and Peter kindly decided he would move out of his house and let us stay in there for the first few days.  He messaged me to find out more about us as a family – he sent photos of his dogs and described them all for the boys.  The night before we flew out he sent me a message to say ‘have a good flight, I will be waiting for you just beyond customs with a cooler of cold beer and fruit juice’.  

I’m not going to lie, we were bricking it.  What if it turns out to be a shit hole?  What if he is a weirdo?  Is the car that he’s arranged for us going to turn up and do we really want to be paying some bloke in cash in the middle of a car park by the airport?  Will he even be there at the airport?  What exactly do we do if he isn’t with two small children after travelling 10 hours?  

True to his word though there he was at the airport – holding a sign up that said ‘Tamsin and family’ and with a cooler at his feet.  The relief at seeing him and the hug he gave us, as if he was greeting old friends, made that ice cold Banks beer literally the nicest I have ever tasted.  The boys were instantly at ease with him – jabbering away to him stories of their friends at school and what they wanted to do during their travels.  We got back to the plantation in the pitch black – it was 1:30 am UK time and we had been up since 7 the previous day.  Peter cooked us a delicious meal which we ate outside – everything unfamiliar – the sounds of the birds in the trees and the crickets, fireflies in the mango trees, the 7 curious dogs begging for scraps and wanting to get to know the kids.  We went to bed that first night excited and still a little anxious – unfamiliar beds, windows and doors wide open to let in the cooling trade winds, mosquito nets draped round the beds, tantalising glimpses of the property and a feeling of ‘wow, we’re actually here, we did it’ going round in our heads.

In the morning we woke stupidly early and watched the sun rise, the sky gradually lightening to a deep deep blue and the sun on the palm trees.  We got up to a breakfast of freshly made drop scones and tropical jam and sat outside in the shade of a mango tree to eat them.  Not a sun lounger in sight.   Not another person around.  Just the sound of nature all around us.  Our first Airbnb experience has been even better than we had hoped.  The property is magnificent, we feel at home, we’ve made a wonderful friend in Peter and really couldn’t be any happier.  

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King Edward of the beach

The beaches in Barbados really are the archetypal tropical paradise – the sun is blazing hot, the sand is white with just a tinge of pink from the coral, the palm trees rustle appealingly in the breeze, the sea is so blue it makes you blink to look at it.  As well as the pale Brits (generally retirees – studiously glued to their novels and being very sensible about staying in the shade until it’s time to head back to the hotel and get cunted on rum), the Americans (Yeah.  Awesome.  That’s so cute. Can I get another rum punch?), the Canadians (see Americans but slightly less irritating because at least they haven’t voted for a megalomaniac orange nutter for their leader), the Bajan families (families with babies, lots of retirees floating in the calm shallow water on special rubber rings because they don’t swim chatting and passing the day most pleasantly, dreadlocked Rastas, dudes with their tops off posing on their jet skis and admiring the ladies, ladies of all shapes and sizes working it).  

The beaches here also have a community of vendors all working hard in the heat making it all happen, making sure that everyone has a lovely time and trying to scrape a living  – the air is scented with the smell of flying fish being fried, a sweet/tangy/smoky smell of fish cakes, chicken roti, hot sauce and jerk chicken.   The amount of food that the skilled cooks make on a small gas bbq is astounding,  they delve into multiple Tupperwares and foil covered bowls and produce the most delicious fresh street food for the hungry beach goers.  Yes, there’s usually a massive queue because each order is cooked one at a time.  Yes, you will get told off if you try and pay at the WRONG time (I’m yet to discern what is the RIGHT time – it’s not when you order, it’s not when the food is ready and given to you, it’s somewhere in between the cook’s assistant having a chat with his mate and refilling one of the humongous coolers with ice and brightly coloured sodas.) But your patience will be rewarded with a cornucopia of delicious food at (for Barbados) minimal prices.

The toilets are all pristine and guarded by a ferocious uniformed attendant.  If your feet are too sandy you will be denied entry and re-directed to the tap and told to wash your feet.  Woe betide you though if you turn on the tap too strongly.  You will get told off and asked to turn the water down.  The toilet roll is only ever a 1/4 full so as not to encourage you getting too comfy.  But when Mitch went for a massive beach dump and broadcasted from his cubicle that he had no loo roll left the, normally stern, attendant rushed to his aid with a whole roll she’d unearthed from her secret stash and couldn’t have been nicer to him (especially considering he was hanging out of a toilet cubicle door half naked having unleashed a stench of WMD proportions upon the facility). 

In fact that pretty much sums up our experience of the Bajans we have come into contact with since we’ve been here – initially somewhat formal and reserved.  It’s as if it’s England in he 1950s (or so I imagine, not actually having been born then and all that).  When you pass someone on the street they say ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ never ‘hi’ or ‘hello’ or ‘morning’.  I get called ‘Ma’am’ and Dan gets ‘Sir’, the boys have even been called `little Master’.   It’s January and in the shops you get wished a Happy New Years.  Once you get chatting though pretty much everyone has a lovely sense of humour and is keen to chat.  The women are also keen to tell you off though.  As well as the toilet bollockings I’ve also been roundly admonished for not putting enough sunscreen on my child’s face, for letting them get bitten by a mosquito, for the fact that the UK has generous maternity pay (it’s a long story how that topic of conversation came up) and for attempting to put my filled bags of shopping back in the trolley to wheel it to my car (here you have to use a special trolley – one that isn’t used inside the supermarket only outside or a gangly youth carries it to your car which feels slightly ‘slavey’ and uncomfortable when, let’s face it – it’s not that hard getting your shopping to the car yourself. Although that one time in 2010 when I was pregnant and my 1 year old refused point blank to get out of the trolley and contorted himself into the impossible shape  and weight that only a protesting toddler can achieve and the staff in Waitrose had to press a special buzzer to ask for the ‘shit mum assistant’ to come and help me remove him from the trolley and get my shopping into the boot I could really have done with a gangly youth to chat to as he cheerfully loaded my shopping into my boot no questions asked. 

Back to the beach, there are always coconuts you can buy – fresh off the tree, the tops sliced off and filled with ice and fruit flavouring and as  or as little rum as you want.  They’ll even make a kids version replete with a gummi bear cocktail stirrer.  

There’s vendors renting out sun loungers and parasols.   Jet ski owners asking you if you’d like to go for a spin.  Women selling beach clothes.  Cold drink purveyors.

There isn’t the hard sell here that I’ve encountered in beach resorts in other parts of the world.  If you don’t want to buy you don’t get harassed. Even though  you know that they are making their whole living by working day to day on the beach – their success or failure governed by the vaguaries of the weather and the willingness of the tourists to part with their dollars.  If you say no there isn’t that undertone of dismay or animosity we encountered in the Spanish resorts we visited last year. 

Our favourite beach vendor we’ve encountered so far though plonked himself on the edge of one of our sun loungers and introduced himself with the, quite frankly, wonderful 

“Hi, I’m King Edward”

A tall dreadlocked, well built guy who was probably older than he looked.  We’d been watching him come down the beach being shooed away like an annoying stray cat by every tourist he approached.  Carrying his red velvet sack over his shoulder, bulging with his hidden wares that he wasn’t getting the chance to show anyone.

“Tank you for giving me the chance to show you what I do.  Them others, they tell me to go away and then go and buy that Chinese SHITE they sell in de shops.  The tink they want to see the real Barbados but they don’t know nuttin.  I a craftsman.  Everyting I make I make it meself.  Wid me own hands. Ain’t nobody in the whole of Barbados who can do what I can do”

His accent a beguiling mix of West Indian patois wth a hint of Irish via the West Country.  

He empties out his sack – bracelets, anklets, beads, fishing string, wire all come tumbling out.  He explains that he makes bracelets and anklets right there on the beach for you – any size you like and using semi-precious beads of your choice and fishing line to make them strong.  We agree to have one each – an anklet for me and matching bracelets with magnetic hematite for Dan and the boys.  He sets to work.  Counting out beads,  Stretching wire and expertly wrapping – over and under, over and under.  Getting us to hold the wire taut while he works.  All the while keeping up an irascible yet good-natured banter. 

“I can tell you is good people.  I like English.   The Americans are the worst, always wanting to make the drama.  I tell you – drama, drama, drama.  And some of the tourists they fat, fat fat – I see this Canadian the other day – 19 years old and she look twice your age and twice as fat and she not got your titties.  I tell you, she a disgrace”

At this point King Edward tells me to hold the rope a little tauter and a bit higher.  Conveniently around my very own titty area.  Eyes down King Edward, eyes down.

“Ain’t nobody make these like me.  It a skill.  They strong as strong.  You can wear them in de sea, de shower, you wear dem for ever and tink of me”

Shouting out greetings to all of the other vendors – loud – enquiring as to how they are.  Sharing private jokes.  Then to us:

“She got a face on her that one.  None of dem like me.  They want me to be showing dem how to make these.  That would be stupid though.  Stupid I tell you.  I got a skill.  Dem, they just buy shite to sell.  No, not me,  I the only one in Barbados who can make these”

All the while, measuring our wrists – counting beads – weaving over and under, over and under. Getting us to help.  Shouting the boys over and measuring their little wrists and asking them to count out the beads they want.

We know we are paying way more than the bracelets are worth but we don’t mind because the entertainment factor of chatting with him and the dazzling speed at which his hands work making the bracelets are worth the tourist premium.  It’s a good afternoon for him, selling 4 in one go.

He tells me he has 5 children and 3 grandchildren.  I comment that it must be noisy at his house.  He says he lives on his own and all the kids live with their mums.  He tells me I have good good boys to be proud of.

He’s finished.  He ceremoniously ties the bracelets to the boys’ wrists and the anklet round my ankle.  He shakes hands and gives me a massive bear hug “King Edward doesn’t shake a fine looking woman’s hand, King Edward gives you a big big hug”

We admire our bracelets and watch our new friend weave his way along the beach.  Every single person avoids his gaze, heads down, a few muttered “no thanks, I have one already, not interested sorry”.  They’re missing out.  King Edward – the consumate salesman, the big talker, the hugger, the slightly flirty titty perver, the talented craftsmen was a true gent.  

And our bracelets have stayed on.  It’s true.  They strong strong. 

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Why would you want to do THAT?

I don’t think that there’s anyone in the Greater Manchester area that has come into contact with me in the last three months who I haven’t told about our impending travels.  The butcher ‘how much mince do you want love?’ Me ‘only a pound because we can’t use more than that because soon we will be travelling’.  The post office staff ‘how many stamps do you need?’ Me ‘well, 1, but soon I will be coming in to buy dollars because we are going travelling’.  Random shop assistant ‘that’ll be £9.99 please’ Me ‘oh gosh it’s so hard to find decent swimsuits in the shops this time of year, we need them because we are going travelling’ Shop Assistant ‘this is B&Q you bragging muppet, we don’t sell swimsuits at ANY time of the year.  So feck off’.  I’m sure that all of our friends are pretty darn sick of our rising excitement and non-stop chatter of beaches, travel plans, packing woes and escaping the murky Manchester winter in favour of Caribbean beaches and American adventures.

I’m actually writing this sitting in the grounds of a 350 year old plantation in Barbados, but I thought I would rewind the blog back to before we got here before I go onto tales from our travels.  And lots of showing off with photos of pristine white sand and palm trees.

So, in the conversations I had with folk about our impending travels – of which there were rather a lot, as detailed above.  Certain questions we were asked really surprised me.  

Why would you want to do that? 

Seriously? The thought that people wouldn’t want to take a step outside the humdrum routine of school runs, work, trips to Tesco, homework, meal planning, house cleaning (OK OK we all know that I don’t spend THAT much time doing that last one) baffles me.  I honestly  thought that most of us spent time daydreaming about travelling the word, meeting new people, shedding responsibility, lazing in the sun, learning new things, trying different foods, exploring.  We have been super lucky in that we inherited some money last year (thank you Grandpa and Mum and Dad for making this possible – hope you’d be pleased Grandpa that we are using your money to have an adventure – admittedly if you’re not pleased we a). won’t know and b) there’s sod all you can do about it – but we are choosing to believe that you would be chuffed and that me blogging it is the millennial version of your endless slideshows and lecture tours you did in the church halls of Gloucestershire to WI groups and random societies of your travels to the Bahamas, Switzerland, New Zealand.  You’d like Barabados Grandpa, there’s a LOT of Methodist churches here.  Which I’ve driven past on the way to buy rum punch.) Dan’s work have given him a career break, I’ve handed my notice in at the prison on the premise that there’s always going to be criminals so therefore there’s always going to be jobs there.  We’ve taken the boys off the roll at school for the term and will reapply for their places when we get back. 

What are you going to do with the kids? Or, my personal favourite, are you taking the boys?

No, we are a bit bored with this parenting lark now.  We have been doing it for 8 years and frankly they’re annoying, they eat quite a lot too as they’re getting bigger and we won’t be able to go out clubbing if they come so we thought we would leave them at home – set up an account with Domino’s Pizza to deliver one each night and stock the cupboard with cereal.  They’ll be grand, after all that Kevin kid in Home Alone was of a similar age and proved to be hugely resourceful and not only survived with only minor mishap but also his parents didn’t seem to face any Social Services intervention when they returned from their childless jaunt to Paris.  

Really? Not take the boys?  This isn’t a long weekend in Paris (although that would be nice thanks ) we are away for THREE months.  I mean that Dominos bill would get expensive no?  That’s the whole point of why we are going away.  To all spend time together – free from the constraints of the endless school runs and work stresses. To enjoy each other’s company.  To reconnect.  To experience more of what the world has to offer.  To teach our boys the importance of global society (well that sounds wanky, but it’s actually something I really believe in).  Given the political fuck up of 2016, perhaps if more people took the time to experience other countries and cultures, make friends with people of other nationalities, regarded travel as something other than a 2 week sojourn in the sun where the only ‘natives’ you encounter are those who pamper you, cook for you, change your beds – Perhaps then people would consider our global society before voting for selfish politicians hell bent on protecting their own tiny corner of the globe and to hell with anyone else.   Obviously we will have to reign in these political sympathies somewhat when we arrive in the Deep South of the USA merely days after Trump’s inauguration.  I hold my beliefs dear.  Not dear enough to discuss them with a card carrying member of the NRA though.  One good thing about Trump getting in is that after Brexit bollocksed the Stirling exchange rates – Trump getting in shagged the dollar rate too and our car hire is a little cheaper (see, even bleeding heart liberals can be selfish!!) 

Hopes 

  1. Get through a 9 hour flight without killing each other, anyone spelling any boldly fluids and hopefully being seated away from THAT crying baby.
  2. Space, time, to read, think, play, not rush anywhere.
  3. Food – my list of foods I ‘must eat while I’m away’ is a long one.  My Instagram feed has been largely filled with food accounts from places we are going to like @eatingnola @bajancookingiswellnice @youwillgetdeadfatintheUSA @friedchickenthough (only one of those is real)
  • Flying fish
  • Rum punch
  • Coconut fresh from the tree
  • Cuban food in Miami
  • Soda in an all American diner
  • Po’boy
  • Gumbo
  • Grits (I think they’re horrible but maybe not?  They look weird)
  • Biscuits n gravy
  • Clam chowder in Boston
  • Lobster
  • Beignets and cafe au lait in New Orleans
  • Hot dogs, chilli dogs, corn dogs
  • Cherry pie
  • Waffle fries
  • Moonshine
  • mint julep
  • BBQ

Experiences we want to have

  • Swim with  turtles
  • Watch the sunrise and sunset over the Caribbean
  • Fall asleep in a hammock
  • Sail on a catamaran
  • Submarine trip
  • See waves go through a blow hole (very famous Five)
  • See wild monkeys, alligators, manatees
  • Art Deco in Miami
  • Seaquarium
  • Jog along the beach
  • Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans
  • Read
  • Write
  • Antebellum mansions
  • Slave plantation
  • River boat steamer on the Mississsippi
  • Hear the blues
  • Dance
  • Grace lands
  • Road trip eating American junk food in the car with the radio blaring out country music
  • Crystal mining
  • Go to as many play parks as we can
  • Buy a pair of cowboy boots in Texas
  • Watch stars through an observatory
  • Space Center
  • Have lunch wth an astronaut
  • Swim in thermal pools
  • See the Northern Lights
  • BBQ on the beach
  • People watch 
  • Get haircut
  • OVERALL   – Laugh, love, fun, time and learn 

So, will we get to do and eat all those things? Time will tell.  Thanks for joining us on our journey.

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Harper Valley PTA

So, Dolly Parton had a point.  Well Dolly always has a point.  She is a living legend of curly hair, pert bosom and country wisdom.   There isn’t really a bitchier environment than a PTA.   Let’s be frank, school playgrounds are bitchy places anyway.  Anywhere that around 150 tired and grumpy parents have to congregate on a daily basis there’s going to be ructions.   Personally, I’m really not a morning kind of a gal.  Usually by the time I have battled with my kids over the somehow insurmountable task of putting a uniform on the right way round, tried to round up shoes and coats, fed them, had a big argument about why they’ve left the tap running in the bathroom and are still not dressed 35 minutes after being asked to get sodding dressed,  had another argument about why a freddo really isn’t a nutritious breakfast,  tried vainly to remember if it’s a football day or if homework has to be handed in, realised that the football kit is in fact still dirty and wet from last week, wondered why the feck I bother to wash school uniforms because they’re covered in bloody melted freddo (grrrrrrr) and toothpaste………..yes, usually by the time all that has happened I am not really in the mood for perky playground banter.  Obviously, then the fake friendliness comes into play. Apparently it’s not sociably acceptable to wear a badge to school that says ‘piss off and don’t even think of talking to me, I haven’t had any coffee yet, I haven’t had a shower and don’t be fooled by my perky gym kit wearing, I am not in fact going to the gym straight from the school run – it’s the only way I could spam back my greasy hair and get away with no makeup.  I hate my own children right now.  I really hate yours.  I don’t like you either.’  That’s also way too long for a badge. You get the drift of the sentiment though.

So, in the morning it’s all bleary eyed ‘hi’ ‘running late, sorry, chat later’ whilst internally making lists of who exactly in the playground you hate the most.

Afternoon pick ups are more civilised, the cliques are formed and chat ‘pleasantly’ – unless it’s raining in which case it’s WORSE than the morning drop off, but with the added challenge on how to get a 3 foot tall cardboard junk model robot home in the rain without damaging it (even though it’s blatantly going in the recycling the minute your little artist is in bed).

So, somehow out of these fraught playground exchanges the PTA has to be formed.  Ahh, the PTA.  Good old PTA.  Obviously being an all round do-gooder and busy bee (and not at all annoying to the general population in any way) it will come as no surprise to you to learn that yes indeed, PTA duties at our school have fallen to me.

Sadly my inner bitch that really wants to properly slag off the full workings of the PTA at our school must be silenced,  for a large number of years, because if my oh-so-secret identity on my blog (Tamsinsworld – Tamsin – now who could that be?  No.  Idea.  Oh wait.  THAT Tamsin, the one who does the PTA and comes to school in her gym kit fooling NOBODY.  Yeah, she’s for it.  How dare she slag us all off.  Bitch) is revealed then I am toast.

Therefore please understand that I LOVE and RESPECT everybody at our school.  I don’t dislike ANY of the other parents.  The PTA is in no way sapping my very life force.  ALL the teachers, parents and kids are unfailingly supportive and friendly and nothing is too much trouble for them.

Go Team PTA at tamsinsworld Primary.

Unlike at Harper Valley the PTA doesn’t really exist to pass judgement on the morality or dress sense of parents.   Well maybe it does, but it’s my drinking and questionable skirt length they’re slagging off so I just don’t know about it.

I’m not sure that anyone actually VOLUNTEERS for the PTA.  You may attend one meeting (because your little precious has started school and you are fresh faced and keen and want his little acorn to grow into a mighty oak in an educational establishment that has fun fairs, discos and raises money for pointless i-pads which they all have at home anyway) and then when the existing committee say ‘right we need a new committee to run this PTA because if we have to wrap one more lucky dip prize or apply one more tattoo to the arm of a sweaty child at a disco then we will require a short stay in a padded darkened room with a litre of gin  EACH ’ and then it suddenly morphs into a Ferris Bueller moment.  Bueller……Bueller……. Anybody?  there is a silence so all encompassing that you think you have gone deaf.  Then you hear a voice saying ‘I’ll do it’ and then realise OH SHIT THAT’S ME, what have I done?  The old committee skip out of the door assuring you ‘it’ll be great, honestly, all for the kids, they’ll love it, loads of people will help you, it’s not that much work…….byeeeeeeeeee…… *sound of their relieved cackles echoes through the corridors*’.

I am counting down until that day.

In every school up and down the land, the PTA is essentially 3 parents and 1 reluctant teacher who has been told that they have to do it by the head.

Others will turn up to meetings and come up with all sorts of ‘helpful’ suggestions.  ‘Have you thought about having a pamper evening? Everyone loves a facial, it’ll raise loads’ – great idea, shall I put you down to organise that then?  Oh, you’re too busy to actually help and run an event.  Shut it then.

Everybody – parents, kids, teachers – is well and truly BORED of the same old events every single year.  Oh yay!  It’s the Christmas fair.  It’s over a month before Christmas, Father Christmas smells funny, my children have bought a load of plastic crap they neither wanted nor needed and I have won a bottle of bubble bath from Aldi on the tombola which smells funny and suspiciously looks as if it has been used. Oh yay! *said nobody ever* But any suggestion of changing events is met with huge suspicion and entails endless discussions re cost-benefit analysis of tombola vs raffle and pearls of school folklore like ‘we tried that in 2005 and the real reindeer shat all over the hall floor and the caretaker fell over on it.  It was bit like the Blue Peter elephant and the head has said no live animals can ever come into school again.’

A load of people volunteer to help and then immediately regret it and suspiciously start dropping their kids off to breakfast club – sucking up the £4 instead of risking the chance of getting collared in the playground in the morning as to why they haven’t actually done the poster/organised the decorations/got the raffle prize that they had so earnestly promised.

The majority of parents neither volunteer or spend much at the actual event and then slag it all off in really loud voices ’50p for a go on splat the rat,  I could go round the back of the bins and splat a bloody real one for free’.

The PTA faithful spend evenings sobbing into wine and wondering if their children will be the only ones donating books for the book stall, checking the weather for the summer fair obsessively, sending out increasingly desperate facebook statuses that employ an awful lot of !!!!!!! and grovel in an unbecoming fashion.

Good things about being in the PTA:

  • Raises money for school, yeah that wealthy(ish) school in the middle class area where pretty much all the kids want for nothing and the school is pretty well resourced anyway.
  • All kids love a disco. Actually mine don’t, they think it’s too loud, too dark and don’t like dancing in front of girls and only want the glo-stick they get given.
  • The Summer Fair is so much fun. Unless it rains.  Which happens 3 out of 4 years.   A rainy Summer Fair is shit.
  • You get to go to meetings and make friends with other parents (the same 6 people come to every meeting and as the years go by the discussions get increasingly cynical and all the rest of the parents in the school hate you because you pester them to do crap)
  • You have access to the PTA cupboard and can sneak in there for a strawberry lace if you’re having a particularly bad day.
  • Going into school in the day under the pretence of PTA work really enables you to totally stalk your own children and watch how they behave when you’re not there. I know, I’m a weirdo.
  • MAIN REASON FOR DOING IT you get to suck up to the teachers, they after all are responsible for your kids’ education and it’s my view that if you show a bit of willing then they will look upon your child more favourably and it’s easier to have an ongoing dialogue with them.

Although at the beginning of the next school year I am tempted to moot a year’s PTA embargo – if we all just give £50 at the beginning of the year then we can actually spend our free time doing what we want.

*totally got Dolly Parton lyrics going round in my head now*

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Fat Camp

I’m all for personal choice,  I’m all for female empowerment, I’m totally against body fascism, I’m pro-choice, I’m all about live and let live.  Sadly, I’m also all for cheese, chips, crisps and chardonnay.   Actually not ‘sadly’.  I LOVE food. Food makes me happy.  I love cooking it, I love eating it, I love catering for friends and family, I love eating out, I love watching cookery programmes.  None of these things make me sad, and nor should they.  They make me happy.  What doesn’t make me happy though is being asked if I’m pregant when I AM NOT (Rude.  Hurtful.  Fuck off), looking at holiday photos and thinking ‘who is that fat knacker?  oh it’s me’ and my jeans being so tight that the imprint of the button is still on my belly 4 hours after taking them off.

If I was Lena Dunham, I would wander round wearing crop tops and letting it all hang out in a cool New York Girls stylie.  Bog off conventional beauty standards.  Fuck you airbrushed unattainable cover girls.  All the right junk, in all the right places.

But the truth is that I don’t want to be fat.  I don’t want to be buying big sized jeans.  I want to run and keep up with my boys.  I don’t want to get diabetes.  I don’t want to jeapordise my health.  I want to wear pretty clothes.  I want to feel confident and good about myself.  Who doesn’t? I think the ‘right’ size is different for everybody, it’s about being comfortable in your own skin.

My wardrobe contains jeans in sizes 10,12,14 and 16.  I can’t even blame having children.  I’ve fluctuated forever.  In 2015 I injured my hip running so had to stop exercising and also celebrated turning 40 for about 6 months straight with a diet of cheese and prosecco.  The size 14 jeans were in play and those 16s were starting to look dangerously close.

So in January I joined weightwatchers.  I used it before and lost weight slowly and surely and it stayed off until the ‘Tamsin turns 40 and uses it as an excuse to eat like a medieval baron’ year of scoff.

If you haven’t done weightwatchers before then this is what you need to know:

You are not on a DIET.  You must never mention the word DIET.  It is a ‘healthy eating plan’.  Is it bollocks.  It is a DIET.  As in every diet in the world, including those ones where you eat spiralized grapefruit and chia seeds for 2 meals a day and a kale and avocado smoothie for a ‘treat’, you will LOSE WEIGHT if you eat LESS.  This is not a hard concept.  It is, however, very hard to stick to.  Especially when food like macaroni cheese exist in the world.

‘NO FOOD IS FORBIDDEN’ wellllllllllll, that’s not entirely true is it.  Weightwatchers is essentially for people who can’t be arsed to calorie count.  Calories and nutritional value are given a points system.  Mars Bar = 12 points.  Apple = 0 points.  So given that you only get around 30 points for the entire day, if you ate 2 mars bars and a curly wurly then that’s you done for the day.  Obviously if you have raging PMT or a hangover then that’s just a light snack.  Nobody with a hangover ever said ‘oh I know what will sort me out, a nice crisp apple’.  So it’s not forbidden as such, you could have your 2 mars bars and a curly wurly every day, be within your points and still lose weight.  You’d also have the teeth and rickets of a 17th century pirate and feel like shit. Although as I write that sentence I do wonder if I could market the ‘chocolate diet – eat only chocolate and lose half a stone in a week’ as essentially people are stupid and will buy anything that sounds easy and promises unattainable weight loss.

To recap, it is not a DIET you are not CALORIE COUNTING you are counting points based on calorific information which is entirely different.  Or not.  You can eat what you want, but if what you want to eat is crisps and chocolate then you will be unlikely to lose weight.

I am a member of a weightwatchers online group.  On the whole it is great.  A lady posts’I lost 3lb this week and am so pleased because it’s my wedding in  month and I’m only 7lb from my goal’ and within miliseconds a hundred people have commented ‘well done hun’ ‘you’ll be a gorgeous bride’ ‘keep it up’ and used a lot of celebratory emojis.  Of course for every comment there are 10 readers thinking ‘hope it rains on your wedding day you skinny bitch, I put on 5lb this week because it’s my period and I ate a whole cheesecake whilst crying at Grey’s Anatomy’.  Everyone loves a bit of virtual  e-bitchiness afterall, but on the whole there’s a lot of support and encouragement.

Mind you, I’m a little tempted to set up my own weightwatchers support group that has some kind of quiz system to determine basic intelligence requirements for membership.  At least 3 times a day someone posts ‘I’m confused.  How many points is in this fruit salad’ (NONE YOU MORON ALL FRUIT AND VEG IS ZERO POINTS – apart from peas and sweetcorn which are inexplicably fat increasing enemy veg) or ‘jst joind ww cnt wrk out pnts of nandos’ (QUITE A LOT) or  ‘thinking of joining weightwatchers but want to check if any food I like is allowed.  I don’t like any fruit or vegetables.  Or fish.  Or brown bread.  Or rice…..[list goes on]’  (WHO ARE YOU?  NEVER LET ME MEET YOU IN REAL LIFE.)

Are people really so dense that they don’t know what foods make you fat?  I had just assumed that, like me, in the face of tastiness they didn’t care that much.   Do people really look at a plate of chips and at a plate of salad and think ‘I wonder which of these is the healthiest?’.

Weightwatchers is designed to be understood by actual monkeys.  It couldn’t really be simpler.  My 5 year old understands it.  All food has points.  You eat the food, you count the points.  You have a certain amount of points.  Stop eating when you reach that number.

I do love the meetings though.  Everyone, myself included, acts utterly ridiculously and lies through their teeth at most junctures.

You get weighed on massive scales of shame.  They don’t shout out the number or anything but bloody hell it is actually one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my adult life.  There’s always a queue, just to keep you waiting that little bit longer to find out your weight (even though you actually know as you’ve blatantly weighed yourself at home only 20 minutes earlier – naked, after going to the loo, before eating or drinking anything) You’ve got a mantra of ‘Please let me have lost this week.  Pleeeeeeeeease’ replaying through your mind.  Like I just said, because everyone in the whole world on a diet weighs themselves pretty much daily you know if you’ve had a good week or not.  You also know this because you are bestowed with a MEMORY.  This means you KNOW if you ate 3 croissants, a McDonald’s, a chinese takeway and 2 bottles of prosecco and a baileys over the weekend.  It should not be a surprise to you if you have not lost weight.   You will also REMEMBER if you sat grumpily eating your McLimp McSalad while everyone else had a Big Mac.  But in those few minutes of waiting you can’t help feeling that the leader is going to say ‘Jesus Tamsin you’ve broken my scales you heifer’.

Rules for weigh in – only wear minimum clothing (vest top and leggings is my outfit of choice), no shoes, minimal jewellery, go to the loo at least 3 times in the preceding hour,  nil by mouth in the run up, if you know that you’ve been horrendous then don’t even go at all.

So, you get on the scales and, if you’ve been good and stuck to the diet (sorry PLAN) you’ll get a well done and there’s STICKERS and CERTIFICATES and shiny things.  You’re basically treated like a well behaved toddler.  You get to have very earnest conversations about ‘why have you done so well this week?’ ‘well I ate LESS’ ‘and did you track everything you ate?’ ‘Yes’ you reply (whilst thinking ‘No.  No I didn’t.  Nobody in this whole room tracks any points on weigh day.  I’m going home via Sainsburys and I’m planning on buying a bag of doughnuts and a bottle of wine because I’ve been having actual doughnut based hallucinations since Wednesday.  I shall not count any points in any of these items and tomorrow shall pretend that it never happened’)

If you’ve done really, really shite in a week then let’s face it you won’t even be at the meeting.  If you’ve ‘maintained’ you get to have a ‘so what will you do differently next week?’ talk ‘Eat less’ ‘Will you track everything?’ ‘Yes’ (‘Still getting them doughnuts though you sanctimonious cow and I’m going to add in a Haagen Dazs chaser now because you’ve depressed me’).  If you’ve, the shame, the shame, gained then you’re too busy trying not to cry to take in what she is saying to you.  She essentially is saying ‘don’t be such a greedy cow next week’ but in nicer words.  Your post meeting Sainsburys shop also gets even more expensive.

I like it when there’s a bit of a ruccus at the scales.  When someone demands a recount.  ‘But at home I was 15 stone 3 and you’re saying I was 15 stone 6’ ‘my scales are better,  they are scales like NASA use to weigh Astronaut’s helmets’ ‘well, I’m not having 15 stone 6 written on my card’ ‘I can only write what the scales say’ ‘I ain’t having that’ (everyone in the room is thinking, ‘c’mon love, let it go, you’ve eaten all the pies this week,  slink off and go and have a little cry in the toilets like any normal person’).

The meeting part includes a cringe-worthy and all too American ‘would anyone like to share their success story from this week?’.  This is met with a smattering of jealous applause from all of the not so successful members of the meeting.   There’s a little shop where you can immediately start eating as you’re starving as you’ve not eaten anything at all before the meeting, so most of what the leader is saying is drowned out by the rustle of tiny exorbitantly priced sweet wrappers.   Everyone at the meeting knows what she’s saying though – it’s ‘EAT LESS, MOVE MORE’.

There’s something strangely comforting about the meetings.  At mine there’s a possy of women in their later years, who are all gold members (skinny) and have been coming for years.  They clearly come for the 20p cup of tea and the banter.  They’re not even overweight.  Then there’s the really massive members, who have also been coming for years, putting on and then losing and then putting on the same stone.  There’s new mums with tearful, wide eyed tired stares and a post-partum tum.  There’s a few slightly embarassed men.  It’s a little community.

For all my talk of how easy it is – it’s so far from easy to stick to it.  Life’s too short to only eat salad.  I’ve been trying to have treats at weekends and then be really restrained in the week.  Of course, life gets in the way of that and it only takes me to have a bad day at work and then the wine is poured and dinner becomes a cheese based affair.

Weightwatchers,  good old weightwatchers, is keeping me roughly on track.  I’m 17lb down in 2016 and I actually kind of look forward to the meetings on a Friday.  Ridiculous though they are in so many ways.

Wish me luck for weigh in tomorrow!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s a woman’s perogative to change her mind. So there.

  So, a couple of years ago I had this ace idea for a book.  I started writing it.  I was all media savvy and set up the accompanying blog and Instagram account for it.  I asked advice from author friends and contacts.  I was all over that book thing.  I even bought new pens and pads and went and wrote in coffee shops looking all cool and busy.

So now I’m an internationally published author, am on the talk show circuit and am about to have my own column in the weekend Guardian.

Thanks,  yes my success IS well deserved and I completely agree – it really couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.  I worked hard for my spot at the top and won’t forget the little people who helped me on my way…………

Oh wait.  The book is still a BIT written and a LOT unpublished.  So what happened?  Life I suppose.  Life and self-doubt.

Self-doubt is a bit of a fucker really – I started telling my family and friends that I was writing and hoped to actually get published some day.  Support was, err, mixed shall we say.  Infer from that what you will.  Then the niggling ‘this is a pile of shit, nobody will read it, nobody will buy it, who the feck do I think I am to be able to write a book’ crept in.  Author contacts either didn’t really give me any help (I honestly think there’s an element of ‘aaaaargh I have a publishing deal if I give you some advice then maybe my author crown will pass on to you and I must guard it with my life’- well either that or they thought my idea was utter crap) or those kind enough to give me advice didn’t paint a hugely rosy picture of dealing with publishers and the process.

I still think it’s a good idea I have for a book.  I really need to get some writing time in.  I mean if it’s not written then it’s not actually a book is it?  The sitting down and actually doing it is where life crept in.  I like to write in a style that makes people laugh.  I’m not a performing clown though.  If one of the kids has barfed all over the floor at my late Grandfather’s funeral and then all the way up the M6 back to Manchester (yes that happened) then excuse me but I will find it hard to spin it into a funny story.  Even the bit about me having laryngitis at the time and having next to no voice and therefore having to mime ‘hold the container very tight because otherwise the sick will spill over the car’ over my shoulder on the motorway,

You read these articles about inspiring successful people in magazines.  You know the ones, all ‘I had 4 kids and was a single parent and yet I worked 3 jobs and stayed up super late to write my globally successful novel’.  How do they even do that?  I can’t work out if those people are quite frankly freaks of nature (or big fat fibbers) or if I am actually a massively pathetic lazy amoeba of a woman.  When I’ve got my period I lie on the sofa wearing massive pants, clutching a hot water bottle and eating my way through a huge bag of Walker’s Mix-ups (crack in crisp form).  When I’ve got a kidney infection that has had me up most of the night with a fever I lie on the bed weeping and am unable to think about anything else other than how to make an emergency dr appointment.  If it’s a sunny weekend I want to go out with the kids and have fun.  Then there’s the bloody endless cycle of cooking, washing, sorting out after school activities, sleepless nights with the kids, poorly kids, husband away working, more cooking, more washing – in fact more of absolutely everything.  Oh and I went back to work again as well.

Times I have realised I am pretty much incapable of being productive:

  • When I’m tired (continuous state since the birth of my son in 2008)
  • When I’m poorly or when one of my progeny is poorly (I think there was about 6 days in 2013 when nobody in the family was under the weather)
  • If I have my period (and boy are they worse since babies wrecked my lady parts)
  • If it’s sunny (too nice to work)
  • If it’s really cold (nobody feels perky and productive when it’s cold)
  • If it’s a public holiday (drinking from midday or early is a pre-requisite)
  • If I’m hungry (most of the time)
So that’s quite a lot (most) of the time then when those creative juices aren’t flowing.
I’m still suspcious that those successful, dedicated, published author types are actually robots. They probably are those massively annoying types who ‘forget’ to eat lunch.  I have NEVER forgotten to eat lunch.  When I was a lawyer and in all day meetings/court I often didn’t get the chance to eat lunch.  On those days I would  be a mess of lunch- based anxiety all morning ‘when will I eat lunch?  I wonder if I can run in these heels and get to pret a manger and back in under 3 minutes? Why is nobody else wondering about lunch?  If I could have lunch what would I have………??’ and then the afternoon would be spent in a massive hangry funk about the fact that lunch had been missed.   Who forgets to eat?  Nobody I like, that’s for sure.  
They probably set their alarms a bit early to ‘get stuff done’.  No.  Just no.  My youngest didn’t sleep through the night for the first 3 years of his life.  I have minimal recollection of 2011 as I was so sleep deprived.  Even now he likes to wake me up for completely spurious reasons in the middle of the night.  Last week he woke me up at 4:30 to tell me which pants he was going to wear the next day.  Any single second of a night that I am able to be asleep but am not comatose makes me feel cheated.  Who am I kidding about this ‘alarm’ anyway.  Who with young children has need of an alarm clock?  I haven’t used an alarm clock in 7 years, with the exception of our one foreign holiday where we had to get to the airport in the middle of the night.  Of course that night Mitch wasn’t up to tell me about his underwear choices and I had to tip him out of bed forcibly.  I get woken up by small boys who stink of piss and launch into ‘mummy which baddy in Star Wars do you like best’? before I’ve even opened my eyes.
So I think we’ve established that everyone who has ever written a book at the same time as having an actual life is an alien with alien children.  Of course there is that possibility that they’re just massively more talented, dedicated, organised and hard working than me.
In a nutshell – there is still a book in progress, it hasn’t progressed THAT much recently, I’ve decided to blog again on tamsinsworld because despite me having written nothing at all on it in 2 years it somehow gets hits pretty much every day.  How I have no idea.
Yeah, so HELLO – I’m back (I say that – I can’t promise that the next post won’t be in 2018)

 

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Mrs Brow-Beeton

Hi – I’m gradually transferring everything over to my blog at Mrs Brow-Beeton so I’m not really doing new posts over here any more.  Maybe you’d like to have a look

It has crossed my mind that maybe I should have just changed the name of this blog as, to be honest with you, I’m finding it pretty confusing having two.  I keep worrying that some people only look at this blog and are missing things over on the other one.  So, if you only follow this then please head over and follow me at Mrs Brow-Beeton.

Thanks.

Oh and if anyone knows of a way I can transfer some of my older blog posts to the new blog then all help gratefully received.

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Curry sauce on the menu again

Hi – a rehash of the fat free curry sauce recipe I posted on here a while ago is now over at Mrs Brow-Beeton

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