Budgie Smugglers in Brittany

We were all really ready for a holiday. Waiting until the last week of the summer to go away has advantages and disadvantages.The biggest advantage being that at some French campsites the end of the summer is considered off-peak and the prices fall dramatically but the activities and kids clubs always stay open until August 31st so there is still lots to do – at the good ones anyway.

This year we were holidaying in a group. My parents, their three daughters with husbands and five children. So imagine the domino effect of hilarity that burst forth from the females in the group when my observant sister posted one of the rules that she had astutely observed from the campsite booking forms:

SWIMMING TRUNKS, LYCRA STYLE, NOT SHORTS, MUST BE WORN AT THE POOL

“Have you all got budgie smugglers packed?” she asked laughingly.

My concerns about how exposed I would look in my bikini totally evaporated. The husband would have to wear speedos. This was the best news I had heard all year.

In response to the post about the compulsory budgie smugglers, the exchange went like this:

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Before I ordered neon yellow speedos with budgies on the front for the boys I needed to know if this rule was actually upheld, so I called the campsite Yelloh Village L”Ocean Breton.

Answering the phone the person at the end of the line confirmed that yes this rule was true.  Men had to wear tight lycra shorts. It was a hygiene issue. It was not a joke and that it was upheld at all times.

I immediately called my sister to share the good news. We proceeded to laugh uncontrollably, without breathing, for around five minutes.

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Unfortunately we didn’t have time to place an order for 7 pairs of bespoke briefs and lycra swimwear was not that easy to find, fortunately Decathlon turned out to be a winner, which made sense when I realised that it is French owned. Not only did it have all manner of tight lycra for the boys, it had swimsuits for £1.99 and amazing microfibre towels that were so small I could fit about 25 of them in my handbag*.

We opted for the Daniel Craig style square short brief and as my son was trying his on he told me he wouldn’t wear them. He didn’t want everyone to see his big thighs.

I was shocked. He is nine. With nine year old thighs. “Your legs are amazing. They are the reason you can run so fast,” I said.

“Can we get these long ones?” he asked. They looked more like cycling shorts. I decided not to let him in a bid to try and encourage him to lose the self-consciousness. “No. But we can get Dad the same shorts as you.” I said, which cheered him up a bit. But I think what really made him get over it was his Grandpa who proudly wore his speedos and didn’t give a flying truck what anyone thought. I think this really helped my nine year old get over his initial wariness. As did the pool, which was brilliant. It was heated,  had four slides, a lazy river, two indoor areas with a little VW camper van to play in. Ironically as everyone adjusted and proudly sported their lycra, the rule did not seem to be strictly enforced. But most of the boys wore their budgie smugglers anyway. I think they preferred them.

*We stayed at Yelloh Village campsite L’Ocean Breton and it was FANTASTIC. We have stayed in quite a few French sites and this is by far the best so far. I’ll write a blog about that soon.

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The beaches in Brittany are perfect

*I did not steal 25 towels. Honestly

The back seat strawberry monster

It was a normal Thursday evening and we were sitting in the car waiting for my 8 year old to finish football training. “Have you got any food Mum?” said my five year old daughter who despite having demolished two bowls of pasta and a pot of trifle was complaining of being hungry.

“Only the shopping but you have had your tea so you’ll have to wait until we get home,” I said.

She glared at me, but  accepted my decree and went back to watching Lego Batman on her Amazon Fire.

At he end of the session I went to collect big brother. I could see the car from the pitch so let little sister stay in the warmth. We were not gone for long. But it was long enough for trouble. I opened the back door and realised that something wasn’t quite right. The car stank of strawberries. And bananas. I looked at my daughter. Her hair was hanging in front of her face like a curtain and her cheeks were shining with sticky, dewy liquid. She was lolling in her car seat drowsily like a baby in a milk coma.

“What have you done?” I asked even though it was obvious. She had climbed into the boot and gone through the shopping, eating two bananas and a punnet of strawberries.

“I told you not to eat any of this.” I said trying to be outraged. Her brother burst into hysterical laughter.

“I was going to make you some strawberries and ice cream at home, but its too late, you have eaten them all.”

“On no Mummy. I didn’t know,” she wailed and immediately started to cry.  Her brother enjoyed this immensely – then realised he wouldn’t be having strawberries either. “You are the worst sister ever,” he yelled and began to cry because he was tired, he didn’t score any goals and as it was the end of term and he was generally exhausted. They both cried all the way home. Sigh.

strawbs#

A broken car, 12,000 acts of kindness, and no tumble dryer

“You know nothing Norm Snow,” I said and called the RAC

Tonight I was driving along the A5 on my way to Milton Keynes to collect my son and his friend from a laser quest party when the lights on the dashboard systematically began to flash

Flash: The ABS is broken

Flash: The VSA light is on (I don’t know what that is)

Flash: The yellow triangle with an exclamation mark on it is flashing. Emergency, emergency it shouted silently.

Flash: The wierd yellow jug thing is alight.

Flash: Flash: Flash: All the lights are flickering.

Excellent. Just what I needed when the mechanic husband was 500 miles away. I checked the dashboard again. The temperature read as normal and there was no smoke coming from the engine so I kept going because I was only about 5 minutes away from the party. As soon as I arrived and parked the car the battery light came on and once the engine was turned off, it would not turn back on.

Balls.

I called the mechanic husband who talked me though a diagnostic electrical fault finder using an ap on my phone called Torque (Lite). “No Fault Detected” it said. Well that was no help at all. “You know nothing Norm Snow,” I said and called the RAC.

But then I had a brainwave. The party was at the Daytona go-karting track. Where there are cars, there are mechanics and sure enough there was a trainee mechanic on duty (Sam) who kindly came out to take a look.  He and fellow parent Paul, quickly worked out that the alternator was failing to charge the battery. This was confirmed 45 minutes later by the RAC mechanic and his gadgets.

RAC
I’d complained about the £200 Norm had made me spend on full RAC membership but alas he was right. Maybe he did know something about cars after all…….

By this time there had been approximately 12,000 acts of kindness bestowed upon me by friends from the wonderful Deba who took my 8 year old home with her and her lovely  boys; Jorge who waited with me for the RAC to arrive – and put his life at risk as I drove home  with just sidelights on to keep the battery going (the RAC van was close behind); Paul who pulled out his jump leads and diagnosed the problem, and Paula who took home my son’s friend (because I was supposed to). The wonderful Wendy who kept my daughter for 18 hours longer than she originally planned to and the lovely Sam who went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that the RAC were able to sort out the car.

So despite the fact that this is the second car failure I’ve had this month I feel lucky. Lucky to have a lot of lovely friends and a car that might break sometimes but I still have one. Unfortunately I don’t have a tumble dryer and the cash that I had ready to buy a heat pump condenser dryer (more efficient, no vent required), is going to be spent on an alternator and a battery. My dreams of a laundry free living room are on hold.

It’s time for a glass of wine…….

cheers
Drinking, no driving!

 

 

 

Sibling battles: car wars

“Mum can we sell her?”

This infuriated Georgie so much that she took off her slipper boot and started hitting her brother with it.

If the kids are in the same room, or even if they are not, they will definitely have a row. I’m getting so sick of it that today when they were arguing in the car I threatened them with no snacks after school. It worked for about 5 minutes. Their car row was about which of them was the blue power ranger and which was purple.

“I am blue Archie,” said Georgie firmly.

“No you are purple and I am blue,” said Archie defiantly.

“I AM BLUE” yelled Georgie fiercely almost leaping out of her seat to shout in his face.

“No Georgie you have to be purple because I am blue,” said Archie more loudly puffing out his shoulders and showing her that he was bigger so he must be right.

“You can both be blue,” said Grandpa diplomatically. He had the bad luck of being in the car with us that morning.

This row came a few minutes after Archie had yelled at Georgie for looking at his privates when he went for a wee. “I’m not looking at your winkie,” said Georgie primly (who was clearly looking at his winkie). “I looking at your feet.”

However all of this pales into insignificance compared to the car argument of last night. It started off with Georgie throwing a massive tantrum because I wouldn’t buy her skittles from the vending machine at the swimming baths. I offered her a bag of crisps instead (inferior) which she rejected and then hit me. I bundled her into the car where only the threat of telling her teacher that she was naughty made her hold still enough for me to fasten her seatbelt. Then she began kicking the back of my seat. “I want my crisps,” she yelled. This made me laugh. “No chance. And you are going straight to bed when we get home. You don’t hit Mummy”

She wailed and then turned on her brother who was enjoying the show while contentedly munching his way through his salt and vinegar walkers. “Not fair,” she yelled as Archie gloatingly scoffed his crisps.

“Mum can we sell her?” asked Archie

This prompted a burst of laughter and infuriated Georgie so much that she took off her slipper boot and started hitting her brother with it.

“Perhaps we could just leave her in the forest like Hansel and Gretel,” I responded.

“Noooooooo, don’t do it,” she cried.

“I’m joking, I wouldn’t do that. But you are going straight to bed,” I said.

Georgie decided she was not getting anywhere with violence. So she stopped whacking us, composed herself and then said: “I want my crisps please.”

But after attacking her Mum and brother this was closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.

By now Archie had devoured his crisps and turning to Georgie with a twinkle in his eye, he said “You can lick my fingers if you like,” which brought about a fresh bout of uncontrollable laughter and another whack with the slipper from his sister who was also trying to scrape him with her nails.

There was nothing else I could do but put her straight to bed when we got home and of course when she woke up in the morning she was an angel. The mild row they then had over Mr Bean seemed like nothing.

Georgie: “Mr Bean doesn’t have a Mum does he?”

Archie: “Yes he does Georgie, she is just not in the programme.”

Georgie: “No Archie, he doesn’t have one.”

Archie shouting: “He does Georgie. Everyone has to have a Mum or you can’t get born.”

Georgie: “Mr Bean prays for a Mum.”

*This was 24 hours. There are sooooo many more. Like the fight over a sick bucket, who gets in the bath first, who has the best belly button and so on. In fact there is nothing that can’t become an argument and at 4 and 7 years old I suspect this is just the start……

Car talk

“My farty face looks good”

Driving home from a friend’s house tonight and the kids decided to make history by not having a massive fight in the back of the car. Instead they began a conversation that you could not ever imagine.  Unless you are under 7…..

Georgie (4) “I am ready to do my name changing now Archie.”

Archie  (7) “Paaaaa haaaa haaaa. Your name is Georgie.”

Georgie “My name is Rainbow Dash Rainbow, because of all the beautiful colours” 

Archie “Paaaaa haaaa haaaa. Look at my two nipples Rainbow Dash. They look good.”

Georgie “My farty face looks good”

Archie “Baddy punch farty face is coming” (Baddy punch face is the “baddy” in all of our made up stories)

Georgie “His underpants are too tight”

And they both become hysterical. And so do I. 

Women’s work: car maintenance

We were two independent, educated women who could add oil to the bloody engine all by ourselves. Except we couldn’t. Shit

Last weekend I went away with the girls for a leisurely 2 days of relaxing, drinking wine, sleeping for over 8 hours a night, having naps and eating food that I had not had to cook. It was blissful. I was feeling liberated after flying solo for 2 days but on the drive home the oil light started to flash on the car dashboard. What does that mean? I discussed the implications of the light with my co-pilot Jo, and then rang the husband, he is a mechanic after all. And as he is so fond of saying to me (in your face Norm): “You don’t get a dog then bark yourself.”

His advice was simple: “If it is orange stop at the next garage and put oil in. If it is red pull over now and stop the car,” he said. It was orange.

At the next garage I bought a litre of engine oil (£14.99 – what? Probably the same price as the pick and mix) and then the fun started. Where the hell was the button that pops open the hood? This was already embarrassing. Not only did I not know how to check the oil after 18 years of driving I couldn’t even open the bonnet to start to get it wrong. We even asked a stranger who fortunately couldn’t find it either. Then Jo demonstrated a flash of genius. “Where is the manual?” she said. Oh yes. I’d had the car since December and had not yet looked at the manual which was in the glovebox.

The manual told us that the bonnet button was just behind the fuel button, which it was but tucked around the inside of the panel down by the accelerator. Not obvious. Obviously.

We popped it open.

Next stop – the dipper, which we couldn’t miss because it was bright orange. We pulled it out and looked for the minimum and maximum lines. There were none. We looked harder. There were two tiny holes and the oil hadn’t even come up to the first one so it was definitely low. Excellent. This was not rocket science. Now which tank was the oil tank? “It usually has an oil lamp on it,” said Jo who, with her powers of practical deduction, was fast becoming my hero. To my mind there were three different openings that could have been the oil tank so I consulted the manual again. It was the black one, which once I wiped it clearly had an oil lamp in it. Bingo.

I tried to twist it. Nothing. Jo tried to twist it. Nothing. We alternated a few times and then looked at each other in dismay as the bloody thing refused to shift. We were on the final lap (of a very short race), we didn’t need a mechanic husband or anyone else for that matter, we were two independent, educated women who could add oil to the bloody engine all by ourselves. Except we couldn’t. Shit.

A few people had noticed our struggle most notably a bearded gentleman in overalls. We waved. He sauntered over and after a few seconds of explanation he reached down and immediately turned the cap which turned as easily as a  child’s windmill in a strong breeze. “It has been over tightened,”  he said kindly. Then he smiled, nodded and sauntered away as we thanked him, our politeness disguising the resentment that we had needed to ask in the first place. Fifteen minutes later we were back on the road feeling empowered. The car needs a service in January. Perhaps Norm would like me to do it instead……

 

LEGOLAND: everything is not awesome

 

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Grasping bastard

There is something quite distasteful about arriving at a theme park and being told that you must pay £5 to park your car, despite the fact that an adult ticket cost £49 and a child admission is £45. It is like arriving at a nice restaurant and being told that you must hire a knife and fork. Even worse the cheery yellow lego man in his officious parking attendant uniform waving his grabby little claw hand demanding your fiver, is one of the first things that you see as you arrive. When you have been up since 6am getting three excited children ready, not had time for breakfast and spent 90 minutes singing Little Mix and Frozen songs to prevent your 3 year old having a meltdown during rush hour on the M40, the sight of that outstretched hand is enough to make you grab one of the sandwiches from your picnic and launch it at him.

However I had been promising to take my 6yr old for approximately two years and it was the highlight of his year – so I wasn’t going to let that grasping bastard ruin our day.

Arriving during half term in October meant that the park was busy, but we got there for opening time (10am) and moved through the (tired looking) entrance pretty quickly. Using the Kellogg’s Adults go free offer meant that we only had to pay for the three children and parking for two cars making the total cost to enter £145.00. The entrance is at the highest point so after walking in and past several shops (BIG shop, Star Wars shop and a clothes shop), you head down the hill and into the main park. The park and the rides are set out in several areas: Land of the Vikings (I had high hopes for this area – see Vikings TV show), Heartlake City, Pirate Shores, Miniland, Knights Kingdom, Lego City and so on.

Balls to that
Balls to that

Advice from experienced theme park aficionados is to head all the way across to the far side of the park immediately and go on rides that other people haven’t meandered over to yet. Like the Dragon rollercoaster which we didn’t go on because 3,5 and 6 year olds can’t queue for an hour. Of course we could have paid to queue jump by using the overly complicated QBot system which has three levels of pushing in available ranging from £20 to £75 per person. Yes – no need to get your reading glasses on. It does say £75. Who pays that? For our family of 6 this would have been £450. Equivalent to a whole month’s worth of chocolate for me (just kidding – I spend at least £1000pcm).

But heading to the end of the park to get started wasn’t possible for us because the kids wanted to go on everything that they walked past – including the many, many stalls and games that you have to pay for. Want three shots at getting this basketball through the irregular shaped hoop to win a massive minion? £5 please. Face painting like a fairy? £7 please. Burger? (£8.25 for a meal deal – take sandwiches). I spent a lot of time saying no to the kids – creating a sense of disappointment that was definitely not awesome. Thanks Legoland.

In the interests of balance and fairness I have to say that the kids loved the bits that we had already paid for. The adventure playground – also known as the Castaway Camp was a hit, along with the Atlantic submarine experience and the Vikings’ River Splash. They all did different driving experiences in Lego City and the 6 yr old loved the Jolly Roger pirate ship and even managed not to vomit on anyone #winning (he gets travel sick so the signs were not good).

My tips:

  1. Take sandwiches and snacks. Good ones so that they don’t reject them and beg for burgers making you into the worst parent ever (despite that fact that you have taken them to bloody LEGOLAND in the first place – ingrates)
  2. Don’t leave at dusk/closing time. It took 1 hour to leave the immediate vicinity of the park. 90 minutes to arrive, 150 minutes to get home. Killer.
  3. If you are visiting with children of varying ages take an adult per child and consider splitting up as they will definitely want to go on different rides to their siblings/friends. Try getting a 3yr old to queue for an hour for a rollercoaster that she is too small to go on. You are better off sticking your naked hand into a beehive and grabbing the Queen.
  4. Don’t spend £3.95 on a bag of fruit pastilles. The audacity of the price will keep you awake at night for weeks afterwards.
  5. Decide what you want to do most and go there first.

Now the cost for reading this is £20. And £5 for sitting in your chair while you do it. Sofas are £10…..

*Reading this back I feel like a tight fisted miserable bitch. I am glad I took the kids. I just wish I didn’t feel so exploited. And one the bright side I now know all the words to “Black Magic”. Karaoke anyone?