Thursday, 25 September 2014


As a child I was always a bit of a worrier. I remember a Brownie meeting when a fireman came and talked about turning off all electric plug sockets at night. My Dad was resolutely determined not to have to reprogramme the Betamax video recorder everyday so refused point blank. I went to bed convinced we would burn in our beds.

I had to have the door open just so (my own palm's width) and the landing light on.

I went through a fear of my parents dying which I obviously never mentioned to them. Instead I thought it was better to say "see you in the morning" every night. If they said it back everything would be fine. If they didn't I spent hour tossing and turning expecting the worst.

I shouldn't really be surprised therefore that my own eldest daughter can worry for England. Although it only happens the instant I leave the room after I put her to bed so I'm pretty sure it's sometimes a delaying tactic. She's not daft. Mention a fear of death and what parent doesn't hang around for another half an hour chatting in a reassuring fashion?

That isn't fair really. She definitely does worry. Although the worries sometimes seem wildly different from each other.

Last night she was worried she'd upset her friend two months ago by refusing to let her do her nails. Last week it was about having to swim without goggles. She is often worried about the saggy state of her panda's arms. Often it's how long she will have to live with her verrucas and whether bits of her will fall off.

Tonight she is worried about all the endangered animals in the world and what on earth can be done about it. This one has come up more than once and, well, I can't exactly say "it'll be alright, go to bed and I'll add more stuffing tomorrow" to fix it.

So in a desperate bid to get her to go to sleep (so I can actually write something) I've promised we will consider some more fund raising efforts for the WWF (not the wrestlers of course) as a family. So brace yourselves.

Let's hope tomorrow's worry is about socks again.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Another letter to the council

To whom it may concern

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to raise this concern. The website allows me to complain about pot holes and litter but there is no way of complaining about thoughtless dangerous people parking in the wrong place. So I’m sending this to you in the hopes that it reaches someone appropriate.

Now I appreciate some parents can be extremely troublesome. I, for one, am annoying. I keep writing to the council about litter, potholes and traffic congestion. But it seems that some parents are even worse than this, especially when it comes to the use of their legs.

For many parents apparently the idea of parking safely around a school and walking 100 metres further is a terrible inconvenience. I could be forgiving and say there is perhaps a much better reason for this than ignorance and laziness. Perhaps they can’t read the signs, or don’t understand what a yellow line means. Which is worrying in itself as they all appear to have driving licences.

So some of our parents, (for whatever reason they think justifies it) park on yellow lines and up curbs at school drop off time. This makes it insanely difficult to see clearly enough to cross a road with small children and without Tufty the Squirrel (1970s road safety reference) it’s a real challenge. 

Bad parking makes the road narrower of course which also results in those drivers who are trying to legally travel down Bannerdale Road getting irate and therefore being much more likely to break the speed limit and narrowly miss running over small children on a daily basis. 

Traffic wardens simply act as a deterrent on the day and nothing more. They see them standing there and park further away. For 24 hours.

The school has tried to explain the dangers to parents. They don’t seem to listen. Signs are put up. We even had the school council (six year olds and a grown up) challenging parents directly which was a good tactic but it only worked for about three days. And if you aren’t going to listen to a six year old who are you going to listen to?

So answers? Ultimately I suspect hitting parents where it hurts is the answer. For some this would be points on their licence; for most it would be cold hard cash.

Here’s my suggestion.

Just ask your traffic wardens to start their shift a little later. Turn up at 8.45 and just see the result. 

1. Everyone could get a parking ticket slapped on their windscreen while the parents are in school depositing their children. Cue swearing and stamping from returning parents and a lesson learnt. 

2. The council earns enough money in one morning to buy the litter bin I’ve been asking for for 3 years.

Isn’t that a win win?

Yours sincerely


I usually do several long rambling posts about our summer holiday. But in Northumberland apparently no-one has any internet connection and frankly the weather was so cold I couldn't hold a pen. For this reason, and the fact that it's now nearly a month later and I'm trying to catch up, I'll do a summary.

Day minus one: Car breaks so we have to hire another one. Which means I spend all week panicking about scraping it on bushes and the amount of sand in the footwells.

Day One: Beamish. Flipping brilliant - highly recommended. Children now obsessed with writing with quill and ink.

Day Two: Walk to Dunstanburgh Castle. This was so windy the kids had to wear snoods in August. It was an upbeat day although exhausting.

Day Three: Alnwick Castle which involved flying broomsticks where Harry Potter did. Not that they are allowed to have anyone dressed as Harry Potter, which seems bonkers to me. Basically a great day if a bit blustery.

Day Four: Obligatory mum meltdown when my careful planning was scuppered by weather. There was no chance of going on a boat because it was too damn choppy. In retrospect I always lose it a bit on day four. We ended up geocaching and failing to find any treasure but finished up in the pub so not all bad. We gave in and lit the fire in the cottage because it was chuffing freezing.

Day Five:  Yay for Lindisfarne! We had the most fantastic day all over the island. It's our new favourite place.

Day Six: Lots of rain so we visited yet another castle - Bamburgh - which was good and full of slightly unusual exhibits and staff. One was convinced it was full of ghosts. And I mean really convinced. We ended up eating posh picnic on the beach and having a great afternoon.

Day Seven: Finally got on a boat and the sun shone. Seals, lighthouse and fish and chips. Thank goodness for that.

Day Eight: Drove home via a farm shop (thank the lord for bacon sandwiches) and an overpriced farm with llamas.

As usual we had a pretty amazing week and Northumberland could now be our favourite coastline in the UK. It is so stunning with castles peppered all the way along and sandy quiet beaches. It was flipping cold though. But we will be back.

Yorkshire Wildlife Park

I love the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. The conservation approach, the layout, the variety of animals, but essentially the reason I really love it is because it's the living embodiment of Zoo Tycoon.

In the beginning they had limited resources so they had a couple of big names, celebrities from the animal kingdom, but mostly it was full of, well let's just say it as it is, crapper animals. I mean goats are lovely but they aren't exactly what you would call wildlife. Unless you live on a mountain in Spain I suppose.

So people came to see the lions and just like in Zoo Tycoon they were disgruntled about cost and walked about with little clouds over their heads. But people kept on coming. Because it's a flipping long way to Chester if you live in Doncaster. And so money increased and the park has changed accordingly.

If you've never played the game this probably won't make much sense but it's so true to it it's remarkable. The paths got longer. More enclosures arrived. Goats were moved to make way for bigger names like tigers and giraffes. Soft play got more impressive. The shops got bigger and bigger and are now a village apparently. And there are infinitely more litter bins.

I love it. It's been like watching a computer game but in better resolution.

I am being a bit daft of course. It is essentially a thoughtfully designed evolving wildlife park and if you haven't been then you should. Because yes it's expensive but it is without doubt one of the best days out in the North. Not just because they have a spiny anteater.