For the love of Pod!



Oh my word, I love Desert Island Discs. That isn’t forceful enough. This requires a shout from the rooftops. I LOVE DESERT ISLAND DISCS! It is possibly the most perfect programme ever devised. I am arguably obsessed beyond what might be considered normal or acceptable with Kirsty Young and her liquid gold voice. I cry at the end of every episode when she says in her heartfelt way, “Thank you VERY much for letting us hear your Desert Island Discs”. I feel like she bores into the heart of these people and extracts things that you will never hear in another interview with them.

I became obsessed with Desert Island Discs when I was on maternity leave with my 3rd child. I would download and listen whilst doing the mundane jobs in the house. It became the sound track to my ironing, my hoovering (headphones on), my utterly interminably boring treks round Aldi, and then, when I had some time to myself, my crochet and my waiting around in the car for clubs and school to finish. I accessed the archives and found people I had never heard of or knew only vaguely about. I critiqued the styles of the various presenters, although I never cared much for Michael Parkinson and whilst Sue Lawley was good, she was perhaps not my type!



But still, the format, the people and the peace it brought me, kept me coming back for more. I have just listened to the 3 hour special celebrating 75 years. I have loved every minute and I am excited that there are more episodes to be found in the archives. It amazes me and pleases me. This humble broadcast is a slice of modern history. It is literally an archive of the people who have shaped our humanity. It is fascinating to hear the evolution of the way people spoke in the 50’s to the present day. The trajectory of the gramophone record over 75 short years – now more of a concept than an object to touch, to hold.

And yet, the one immoveable point remains, and the reason why this programme is as relevant now as it was in 1942; the simple fact that music informs our lives, contains within its abstract ethereal nature, strong, individual narratives and personal memories that turn one global thing into something unique to each of us. It is this fascinating truth, that whoever you are, whether you are royalty, comedian, musician, writer, innovator or groundbreaking scientist, that one piece of music that millions of other people listen to and love, still defines an era in their life, still contains importance and resonates with something in them. It is a great leveller. Perhaps that’s why it is such a clever idea. It is at the same time unique and individual, yet global and proletarian. This is why it is not the sort of interview where us plebs are left feeling like we are less than these great and famous people, but instead that they are just like us and we are just like them – people with memories and experiences which are precariously held in the shared memory and narrative of popular culture.

I believe I am a podcast bore! Podcasts. The thing that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The idea of such a thing. I remember getting our first digital radio and trying to understand that I could pause live radio! that I could come back later and listen to something that had just been broadcast! I reached an age where having music on in the background just didn’t do it for me. Those months where I would be awake, feeding my baby in the middle of the night, they were times when the voices on the radio would keep me company. These voices have become my companion in my world of stay at home mumdom!

I look forward to Woman’s Hour! And I love listening to the news quiz and Kermode and Mayo’s film podcast, or the very funny Adam Buxton, as I go about my daily life. I love hearing other people talk about their wonderful lives and worlds and feelings and thoughts. I feel connected to the world outside. I also often feel like I am a sad loser who has no life and must rely on the lives of others to exist. But in an attempt to remain positive and upbeat it also highlights the diverse wonder of the world I live in and the life I have. I am no scientist, but listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage for instance can provide an insight into concepts and ideas that I have no way of accessing on my own, being a total philistine when it comes to science. And then I always return to and savour my weekly hit of Desert Island Discs, always my favourite, go to place for solace and enjoyment and therapy!


I Skyped with my friend in Australia last week. Another treat! My fix of someone who just gets me, my topping up of ‘ah yes, that’s who I am’ conversation. She is the person who just knows who I am so we don’t need to go through all the preamble. It’s just, boom, 2 hours of total connection. Usually, at some point in our chats, she’ll say ‘what are you reading?’ And now inevitably we also discuss what podcasts we are listening to. It is hard when you have come to the end of a run of a particularly brilliant podcast, something like ‘Serial’ or ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’.

Antoon van Welie (Dutch 1866-1956) Portrait of an Old Woman Crocheting – or, portrait of me!!!

I binge listened to Radio 4’s back catalogue of Soul Music last year and regretted immediately that I hadn’t rationed it because I wanted to experience it all over again. And I guess I feel like I am at this point with my beloved DID because enough time has passed now where I can revisit some favourites, like Lauren Bacall, Dustin Hoffman or Gene Wilder and hear their stories again.

Anyway, I have tentatively subscribed to some new podcasts, I have stepped away from the Radio 4 shed to tread new waters. I feel a little bit like I am cheating on an old and beloved friend. But, it has to be done. I need to spread my wings. I need to try and find some new obsessions for 2 main reasons. One is that I will soon run out of my trusty old faithfuls and two, because I am aware that my tastes are rather old lady and perhaps I should be aiming more at things that are intended for a slightly younger demographic (not that I am young anymore, but I can dream). I realise that whilst many of my friends of a similar age are still listening to banging tunes, applying make up, brushing their hair, keeping an eye on fashion and generally occupying their time with slightly less octogenarian pursuits, I am listening to podcasts, mainly from radio 4 and making sure that I have a crochet hook and a ball of wool with me wherever I go.

So, here I go. My choices today include, ‘The Guilty Feminist’, ‘Radiolab’ and ‘WTF with Marc Maron’. Anybody got any recommendations? I’d be glad to get them and give them a go! Wish me luck, I’m going in, but not before I’ve listened to David Beckham’s DID and had a quiet sob!

Candy Cane Crush!

Buddy the Elf and the Candy Cane Forest

My childhood Christmas was essentially a traditional Danfest, from the tree adorned with Danish flag garlands and real candles which were lit on Christmas Eve, to the traditional boozy rice pudding dessert at the end of our meal which contained a whole almond. Whoever got the whole almond won a marzipan pig. Santa delivered our gifts on Christmas Eve – he would leave them on the doorstep in a black bag and ring the bell. For 3 years in a row, I was convinced Santa drove a motorbike as every time my sister and I opened the door, we would see a bike speeding down the road into the darkness. I never noticed that my mum was quite out of breath and was coming in through the back door as we were running to the front!

My Danish Aunt Rigmor’s amazing Christmas Tree from last year complete with real candles and Danish flags.

For me and my sister, there were no stockings on Christmas Day. No, for us, Santa’s elves did the leg work on the long run up to the 24th. Throughout December, our advent calendar or Julekalender was a magical pocket hanging on the wall and every morning, the Nisse (Danish Elves) would leave us a small gift: a pencil, a ruler, a sweetie, a book, sometimes some knitted items that looked suspiciously like things my Grandma might make! Then, on Christmas Eve, the main event.

After my Mum died far too young, it became of the utmost importance to keep our Christmas traditions alive. There were a few incredibly painful years when it just seemed too much as teenagers to keep it going. It felt wrong that the very reason why we were doing all these things was not there. None of us felt like doing it much anyway. However, there was also something so therapeutic about getting the tree, digging out all the old decorations, cooking the food in the same pans and serving it in the same dishes that our mum had done for us.

So what about my 3 melting pot children? Well, they get the Danish Julekalender and, I must confess that there is a stocking in the mix too. Lucky kids, stupid mother! But hey, why not?

My advent calendar visited by the Danish Elves over the years.

My youngest has this year developed a regular and lengthy correspondence with the elves. This is very heartwarming and sweet. It is however, rather time consuming. On the 1st of December, I was met in the morning with an indignant child who was quite frankly pissed off that she had not received a reply to her picture and extensive list of requests that she had left in her basket. The elves learned fast and the next morning there was a reply!

Then, what can only be described as candy canegate occurred. The elves delivered a very cute candy cane pencil, a lot like the ones you can buy in Tiger! It was well received. This got my daughter thinking. Last year, the elves had delivered real candy canes. She hated them obviously because they were minty but she knew of a candy cane in other flavours, strawberry to be precise. So yesterday afternoon another detailed letter was produced. Yet another list for Santa requesting such things as puppy surprise (retailing at £29.99), some mental interactive chimp doll (retailing at almost £100), a smart watch and ‘my own ipad’. You have got to be having a giraffe my girl. My oldest daughter and I laughed heartily and explained that Santa can’t bring you everything you ask for. Youngest child shed a few tears and exclaimed ‘why not? He’s Santa’.

Anyway, at the end of the note to the elves asking for high ticket items, was this sentence: ‘And please give me a real candy cane tomorrow morning.’

I tried to deflect this. Even my son (still a believer) had to point out that it was unlikely seeing as mummy only lets them have sweets on Saturday (technically yes, in reality this is almost never achieved). But my girl was adamant. Who were we to question her resolve? As if it is any of my business anyway.

So, into the magic basket went the letter.

And finally, everyone was in bed, and finally, I awoke from my usual position, slumped on the sofa from where I had intended to arise to do all the boring shitty stuff that needs to be done most evenings. It was 9.45. The elf had to wrap some presents and write another fucking letter. Sadly, not being magic, there was no candy cane. So, the elf wrote the required response, fully supporting mummy and her rule of no sweets until the weekend. The elf then added strawberry flavour candy cane to the now growing list of requests that the kids have – yo-yo, ruler, smelly pencils, etc.

The next morning, I awoke to a relatively happy child. After all, the stickers she got were pretty shit hot really and she does love stickers. The letter to her (that had been lovingly written in elvish swirly script) was glanced at, tossed aside. There was a bit of crying, but mainly because her brother laughed at her and she was irritated. And then, much to my horror, a new letter was wafted under my nose before being deposited in the basket for that night.

Dear Elves please please please please give me on Saturday a strawberry candy cane please please love from Ivy

What is this monster I have created? Can I take much more of this? Perhaps the next Elf response will be in Danish. That might slow things down in terms of correspondence. Maybe the elves will explain that there is a postal strike or that Santa has a backlog of notes to respond to. Perhaps I should just suck it up and enjoy this moment which will surely pass as quickly as it has arrived, and hope that one day she will not hate me when I present her with all of her letters.

Suffice to say, she will not be disappointed on Saturday morning, thanks to the local ‘Elf’ shopping centre in Feltham which luckily sells strawberry flavoured candy canes.

planets & unicorns & rainbows, oh my…

Last week, my son had to dress up in a space related costume for his topic at school. I am not very good at that stuff. After a brief chat in between Pokémon Go and some irritating game involving a ball rolling around on the iPhone, we settled on the planet Saturn. Thank the Lord for Amazon and a few clicks later I had ordered a rubber ring – ring of Saturn, an orange tshirt and some fabric pens. Boom. A planet is born. Admittedly, on the day, he just looked like a boy wearing his scruffy trackies, an orange tshirt with some brown squiggles on it and a neon orange swimming pool ring. He loved it. This is why I love him!

Obviously the first thing you think of when you look at this is the rings of Saturn!


The fabric pens had been left abandoned on the table. The smallest child clocked them and then the nagging began. ‘Mummeeeeee, can I draw on something, can I colour in my trousers, pleeeeeeeessssseeeeee, mummy,mummy,mummy, please, can I draw on my clothes’. For the full effect of the campaign, just re-read this about 60 times. Blimey, it’s irritating and mind blowing how a 6 year old can ALWAYS do enough to get exactly what they want. I came up with quite a lot of reasons why she shouldn’t deface her clothing. Eventually, I caved. It was the only way I could get on with all the other shit I was trying to do. So I told her to go and get one of her school tshirts. She reappeared a few minutes later with a white tshirt, white pants and white socks. I heard not one peep for over an hour. She sat at the table scribbling away. For a brief moment the allure of Youtubers opening kinder eggs and My Little Pony or Peppa Pig playing on a loop was redundant.


As you can see, there is a distinct theme here. The rainbow is key. I’m getting strong My Little Pony vibes with a definite nod to naive art. Quite worrying to see that the unicorn in the top left appears to be farting a rainbow. It is literally propelling itself with the magical multi-coloured gas.

The t-shirt received un-solicited plaudits from the siblings. They were impressed and this gave me that warm glowing feeling you get from your children. It went something like this:

Child number 1, ‘that’s really good!’ Child number 2, ‘yeah it’s sick.’
Both children, ‘can we have some ice cream now?’

Listen, it’s enough!

Luckily for my daughter, the next day was wear your own clothes day at school, commonly known as mufti day – don’t ask me, I don’t know what it means. I do know however that it means that we need to bring either jars full of sweets or booze to school to contribute to the Christmas fair tombola. It’s a quid pro quo thing – you have an argument with your kids about what they can wear on a school day, and, oh yes, you also get to have that moment of panic when you realise that you haven’t got anything to take to school for the fair!  Not much of a deal to be honest. More like another way to fail dismally at co-ordinating more than one action that is not routine. Luckily for me, I live a few 100 metres from a petrol station, so cut price, chemical filled wine that will surely give you the hangover to end all hangovers found its way to the school (sorry fellow school people, but you know you do it too)!

The youngest child ecstatically and enthusiastically dressed herself (a rare occurrence). From rainbow striped pants, to socks and finally the tshirt displaying the farting unicorn. I had a mixture of emotions: fear that by the end of the weekend all her white items of clothing would be adorned with wobbly rainbow etchings, joy that she didn’t care about what she was wearing, pride that she had created her own unique art and above all, deep, uncontrollable, inexplicable love.

Mermaids Trump Shark

So, yesterday was a pretty shitty day. Just the same as with the EU referendum, I had gone to bed at 1.30am having seen Clinton edging ahead and I felt a bit less twitchy. I woke up to the words President and Trump being bandied around. Came downstairs to the boy watching BBC News and looking scared and confused. It had rained all night and continued to rain heavily. It felt like the day was a direct representation of what was happening on a global scale. It is hard to laugh right now. Scary times. Forgive me then for this trivial frippery of a blogpost. But in a way, this is all I can talk about right now, because anything else is just too scary or painful.  It might also make you smile which is hopefully a positive thing. I mean, bear in mind that by smiling or laughing you are directly laughing AT me, but given the disastrous situation out there in the world, I think I will not take offence if you do decide to laugh.

Last week I finished my latest craft project. It started in September when I made a mermaid tail blanket for my youngest for her birthday. Have you seen them?


It’s like a big tube with a tail really.  Very sweet.  Looks like you’ve got a mermaid tail, albeit a cosy, woolly one which wouldn’t be happy should it get wet. I was very excited to give it to her because she had told me that she really wanted to be a mermaid! I mean, she liked it when she saw it but she didn’t gush all over it as I had secretly hoped in my heart.

Surely you will agree that if you make something with love, and you use those precious moments after kids have been shouted at, fed, watered, put to bed (which is getting later and later by the way) that you want some kind of positive response, at worst a smile, at best a hug.  You know, when all the shit from dinner has been tidied up etc., and you have awoken from your post meal nap on the sofa and then settle down with your craft project whilst drinking wine, eating chocolate and watching violent shows on Netflix such as Fargo, (that your husband has assured you won’t be too bad at all but is in fact the goriest, bloodiest thing you’ve watched since the last gory, bloody thing we watched, and by now you are completely hooked anyway, even though you have to hide behind your hands for a lot of it, but hey, that’s why crochet is so great because you can look down at what you are doing and count how many stitches you’ve gained by accident) you do want some love back.


I realise in hindsight that it is churlish and naive to expect a 6 year old to heap praise and gratitude on her mum for a homemade thing! I know I was extremely unimpressed with home knits when I was that age.  The plastic my little pony equestria girls won out on the day. However, the blanket is now very popular and when my other children wanted to use it, the 6 year old got a bit antsy and territorial not wanting to share it. This secretly pleased me as it indicated that she had grown an attachment to it, and I resolved to make 2 more blankets for my son and oldest daughter so that there would be no more squabbling.  I had admittedly bought quite a lot of wool so I did need to use it up. I made another one for the oldest child and then my friend asked me to make one for her daughter! So I whipped one up for her.

Can you tell I’m feeling quite smug here? And then my friend made an inspired suggestion. For the son, a shark tail blanket! The clever lady who sold the pattern for the mermaid tail also luckily had a pattern for a shark. You should check out her patterns here.


The shark was a bit of a longer project as it involved a dorsal fin and side fins and teeth! Different wool too. But I was so chuffed when I finally finished it. I pulled a late night in front of a documentary about Kate Bush. Very satisfactory! My son loved it. I took some cool pictures of him in his blanket which look like he is being eaten by the shark. I was very very pleased. The only problem was that when I showed my husband, oldest daughter and other family members some photos of him in his blanket, they all laughed quite a lot. And then I saw it as if with new eyes and I realised why they were so amused. As you can see from these pictures, it is quite glaringly obvious!

image  image

Yes yes, it’s ok, you are allowed to laugh. I seem to have created the most phallic shark fin imaginable. I laughed but then I got extremely irritated! They just don’t bloody understand, I was thinking. I have slaved for hours to make this fucking thing and you are all laughing. I think it is safe to say that I over-reacted and possibly should have lightened up slightly! I was certainly a little bit sensitive about my crafty endeavours. It played on my mind. I kept looking at the picture on the pattern. Where had I gone wrong? Why didn’t it look so rude on her pictures?  It really was not bothering my boy, but still, it niggled away.  So, the other day I unpicked it, did a bit of jiggling around and took some stuffing out of the fin so that it has now gone a bit floppy but it is now more triangular than willy shaped!!  I then took a photo of my son lying on his side in order to deflect the idea that the fin is sitting in ‘that’ place! I’m still thinking about it though!


Is it worse that it is now a bit floppy rather than sticking up all the time? Why can’t I make it look less funny or phallic? Why do I care quite frankly? No-one else is going to see it (apart from anyone who reads this now I guess).  But seriously, Donald Trump has just won the Presidential Election.  Need I say more?

I’ve just had a request for another mermaid tail blanket.  I will happily make it. At least there will be no ambiguous phallus/fin to contend with. But first of all I am going to make some cute Santa slippers for everyone in my house. Yes, everyone. No, I don’t give a shit if they want them or not! Double edged sword living with a crochet obsessed person!

You can’t buy hygge

A perfect example of Hygge – a cool but cosy restaurant in a micro-brewery in Copenhagen.

I am from Danish stock. Admittedly, only half of me is Danish. But, it’s been a pretty massive influence on my life. When I am with my sister, this Danishness is heightened. Our shared memories and experiences are laced with Danish tradition, time spent in Denmark, speaking Danish and the innate understanding of this word ‘hygge’, this state of being that seems to be the buzz word right now. And I have to say that I am worried.

I am worried that hygge is being hijacked by the world of retail. For a start, until the recent craze, ‘hygge’ was not the version of the word I had used.  I have always said ‘hyggelig’ (pronounced hoogerlee). But, semantics aside, whatever you want to call it, by purchasing Scandinavian designer furniture, lighting candles, dimming lights and wearing fair-isle sweaters, you cannot achieve this state. Seriously, this is in fact the negation of hyggelig. Hyggelig is a state of mind. It is the feeling of love and connectivity with family and friends. It is the sense of being more than the sum of your parts. Yes, the candle light and the cosiness and the pleasing décor does all add to this. But this is entirely based on your own taste. Being hyggelig is about having shared experiences. Having a hyggelig time is about laughter and love and togetherness – obviously doing this in a pleasant environment where you feel comfortable and at home and welcome is imperative. But reader, be warned, this is not something you can buy in John Lewis.


When we were younger, on our summer holidays in Denmark, we would listen to our relatives talking about how hyggelig something was, and I remember we would roll our eyes and huff and puff a bit. I mean, when you are a kid, a hyggelig evening translates to sitting around in a boring house with people talking about stuff you have no interest in whatsoever, watching them drink coffee and eat pastries, sitting on classic Danish designed furniture in sympathetic surroundings, all laughing and chatting and generally being hyggelig.   This is not something that travels well into a child’s world.

But there were occasions as a child when I knew that I was having a hyggelig time and I would get that feeling of warmth and love and contentment.   For instance, when my Grandma would make a picnic and we would go with her and my Grandad on a trip to pick heather and stop on the way home to eat. My Grandma had a red picnic case that she would fill with beautifully created open sandwiches. She would bring a tablecloth, plates, knives, forks, salt and pepper and other condiments! There was a thermos of coffee and Danish pastries too. The picnic was a feast. We loved it and the only way to describe the experience would be – hyggelig.

Now, if you imagine the kind of picnic that I create for my family –slightly soggy ham/cheese roll, shop bought sausage rolls, crisps, maybe some pre-prepared fruit – a picnic rug if I remember. This is not one for the memory bank. There is no ceremony, no finesse, no pride taken in the simple and mundane process of turning the humble food stop into an ‘experience’. This to me is a large part of what a hyggelig moment entails.

Thinking about the process, creating a moment, taking pride in it and most importantly, sharing it. This is the path to hygge.

A hyggelig evening round the table with my Danish family and my children playing Yatzy

I had a rare day yesterday when I met my sister and we spent 6 hours together. It could possibly go down as one of the best days of my life. Do you want to know what we did? We met in the café at John Lewis in Kingston upon Thames. We were alone, all 6 of our children now finally being in full time education. We drank a cup of coffee and we spoke uninterrupted about what we wanted to talk about. My sister has had to take a bit of time off her unbelievably stressful job, and she is going back very soon.  So we thought we would have one day off together luxuriating in the fact that we did not have to make a detour to the toy department, playground, toilet to change a nappy or be interrupted to the shouts of boredom and attention seeking. After our coffee we spent about 2 hours looking at curtains and curtain fabric and cushions. Nobody complained. We gossiped and laughed. We had a really long lunch. Then we went our separate ways, back to reality. I felt extremely sad knowing that we will probably not have another day like this for a while.

But, my overwhelming sense was that I love my sister more than I can express really, that this makes me very happy and that the ostensibly run of the mill day we had mooching around a shopping centre together, just being in one another’s company will be an enduring and happy memory. This, my friends, is the perfect example of HYGGE.

I’ll just book a hotel, won’t take a minute…

I would give anything right now for a room in this hotel!

I want to start by saying, before I get lots of people dissing me for moaning about this – I have 3 children by choice. Nobody forced me to have 3 children. I am blessed and lucky and totally realistic about my situation. I understand that booking flights and hotels and eating at restaurants and getting into overpriced venues around and about the place will be more expensive because, no shit Sherlock, I have 3 children. Yes, I get this.

But, and it has now grown into quite a big, towering, throbbing but – should it really be so unbelievably impossible to book a relatively good value hotel in the UK for one night without it costing THE EARTH? I really can’t stress enough that I do not expect to get something for nothing. But really people, you must agree that hotel rooms in the UK are overpriced however many people you are booking for. It’s just that it is intensely magnified and very very incredibly impossible to find anything for a group of 2 grown ups and 3 non grown ups.

So, innocently, a couple of weeks ago, we started talking about the logistics of going to visit a family member who lives in Norfolk. It’s quite a long drive back to SW London so we usually stay overnight somewhere on the way home to avoid falling asleep at the wheel and causing a massive road traffic accident. That’s all we want though, a bed, a few hours sleep. In the past we have booked places on Airbnb which were great! A whole property to ourselves, not necessarily the cheapest, but very very comfortable and welcoming and happy to let us stay for just 1 night.

We are planning to go on our little jaunt up the M11 on the August bank holiday weekend. So, after having spent one evening a couple of weeks back having a cursory look, it dawned on me that this might be a bit more tricky than originally thought.   It’s bank holiday weekend in the middle of the school holidays, and this part of the world is quite popular with holiday makers. Everything on Airbnb seemed to be booked up. Never mind I thought, Airbnb is out, but surely, surely there is a little b&b, or failing that, a generic, heavily advertised motel type establishment out there. You know, the ones that always advertise a friendly welcome, affordable yet comfortable accommodation.

The other important thing to point out is this:  I have come to learn that now that our youngest is almost 6, and our oldest is knocking on the door of 12, we absolutely cannot get away with 1 big room in a hotel. In years gone by I fondly (through gritted teeth and wearing very very heavily rose tinted spectacles) remember the kids topping and tailing in a variety of pushed together sofas or beds. In reality, it was hell on earth.  The kids were out of control, over excited balls of energy most of the time and me and the husband had to turn lights and tv off in order to trick them into going to sleep.  We would lie in a pitch black room trying not to move until the sound of their breathing indicated sleep and by then we were probably snoring too.  Invariably we would wake up the next morning, in a sweltering hot room with the stench of 5 sweaty people up our nostrils! However, at least it was cheap-(er)/ish!

The watershed moment happened when we all piled off to New Zealand for a holiday of a lifetime. Half of the time we were in a great big camper van – the kids were still just about small enough to all fit in the cabin over the driver’s cab and it was very cute seeing them all snuggled up together. This was fun and manageable for about 2 weeks. For the other part of the holiday, we stayed on the road in motels and hotels and had 2 rooms or on one lucky occasion, a massive room like a dormitory with a bed each! Everyone slept much better and we didn’t take hours to recover the next morning! So, we knew that there was no going back.

Fine. That’s fine. It’s all good you know. But in the UK there seems to be some disconnect. Like I said, I have not been forced to produce 3 offspring. However, I do ask that I am not penalised or vilified because of it. Here are a few things I have learned in my quest so far today:

I always start my searches with this type of place in my mind. Dream on!

An allegedly swanky boutique type hotel in a nearby village to where we are going actually does not take bookings from people with children.

Several hotel and comparison websites have those little boxes for you to fill in number of adults and children, but the number of children box only goes up to 2. So what do you do if you have more than 2? Is it just not allowed? I get very excited when I see hotels have ‘family’ rooms. On closer inspection this means that there is a double bed the size of a large single bed and a sofa with a sheet on it. By my reckoning this is a great room if you are a very skinny couple with a kid. One hotel had double rooms for over £100 but with a shared bathroom!

I have spent the last 4 hours and I am not shitting you here – 4 hours, looking for 2 rooms in a guest house/hotel that will accommodate us for one night to rest our weary heads and will not fleece us so that we are spending on 6 hours sleep what we might spend on a weekend away somewhere in Europe.

I have tried every conceivable combination of rooms, I have tried most comparison websites and lists and individual listings. I have sat with my road map locating places that are alleged to be ‘near’ to the place I have typed into the search box – they are in fact an extra 40 minute’s drive and they are not available anyway. My computer has frozen. I have sworn a lot in front of the kids, in fact I have just told them to stop talking to me because I can’t be responsible for what I might say or how much I might explode.

Is it wrong to feel like there should be something out there that will work for me and my situation? Last time I looked, there were quite a lot of people in this situation. Oh, but does that mean that we (meaning adults who need somewhere to sleep with their children) shouldn’t book hotels or if we do, we should definitely not expect to get something worth the extortionate amount of money we are paying for it? Is it right to expect me to book 3 double bedrooms for 2 adults and 3 children under the age of 12 at a cost of £300 plus, or to get a room that is so small and yet stuffed so full of extra beds still at a cost of around £200 that it feels more like a punishment than a good night’s sleep?

And is it really really true that every single fucking hotel in the region we are visiting is fully booked? I mean, if that’s true, then the tourist industry in this country must be doing considerably better than I had been lead to believe. Respect is due, especially seeing as most of the reviews on these comparison sites for a lot of these places are damning to say the least and put me off wanting to book them anyway. Having spent hours poring over these reviews I find myself seriously considering whether I should choose a bathroom with damp mould all over the ceiling over a room where all the furniture is dirty and the bulbs are broken in the lamps, or where the décor is late 80’s chintz and polyester, or where the hot water doesn’t work, the shower leaks and the toilet doesn’t flush. Oh yes, but they have a large family room for £250 – quick book it!

Seriously. Hoteliers of Great Britain. Get your finger out and do something about this!

What a lovely view. I think it is totally worth £220 for one night not including breakfast!

I always start these searches in good faith, with an image in my mind of breezy, bright hotel rooms with lovely squishy beds, beautiful views of countryside from the windows, welcoming smiles, fresh air and a relaxing night’s sleep, oh, and change from £100.

I have now reached the predictable yet depressing point in my search where I am ignoring the fact that the hotel looks like a maximum security prison, sits at the intersections of 3 major roads, the windows are un-openable for security reasons, and the view at best is of a carpark, at worst of bins backing onto a carpark, at the edge of a busy dual carriageway.

Just because they are children, oh b&b owners of the world does not mean that they are little shits intent on destroying your Terry and June décor. They just want to go to sleep in a bed without their faces squashed up next to their sibling’s smelly butt. They, like you, want what is referred to as a good night’s sleep in comfortable surroundings.

My only other hope, apart from a miraculous finding of a generic heavily advertised motel type place at the eleventh hour, is to go to the free public event that a man has just handed me an invitation for. Yes, in the midst of my hotel search, I opened the front door to find a man standing in the pouring rain. My heart sank as I realized he had one of those bags stuffed full of those leaflets inviting you to let Jesus into your life. I felt bad for him as he must have clearly seen my face drop (I thought it might be the M&S delivery of school socks and pants). Luckily, he made a quick judgement call, handed me the ‘invitation’ and scuttled away and I closed the door relieved that he was not going to try any preaching on me today. On reflection though, maybe I’ll pop along. Maybe I need Jesus right now, because google, and tripadvisor are not cutting the mustard. It’s at Excel in London on the weekend we are supposed to be going away. But what the heck, apparently they can answer all my questions and there’s even a movie about someone called King Hezekiah. Could be good….

The Shopkins Effect

can you tell that this was not created using a template from the internet?

Back in May I talked about my youngest child’s 2 week abstinence from poohing! As a result, I hastily created a sticker chart. I say a chart, I drew some wobbly lines and wrote Pooh Stickers all over it which amused me because it made me think of Pooh Sticks in Winnie the Pooh. Nobody else seemed to get the joke though.  Oh well.  The rules were as follows: 2 small rabbit pellet poohs get 1 sticker, a medium sized pooh (left to discretion of inspector) gets 2 and a mahoosive log gets 3. Fair enough I thought. When she has filled in one row, she would get a prize up to a certain value.

Anyway, the Pooh Sticker Chart is going very well. There have been leaps and bounds and massive mounds of pooh! And stickers galore. This has resulted in an abundance of Shopkins.

What, I hear you ask are Shopkins?  Good question. I had no idea either. They are very small plastic collectible figures that mainly resemble items of food from celery to doughnuts, but sometimes home appliances like vacuum cleaners. They have little faces and come with tiny shopping baskets that I assume they must live in. They each have a name that relates to what they are like Cheekie Cherry and Pamela Pancake and some are apparently more rare than others.  Having investigated on the internet, I am informed that they have their own Youtube channel and a Twitter account.  They seem to have no provenance like a TV show or cartoon. They are utterly utterly bizarre, useless and I am unable to understand their purpose. Yet, they are truly a victory for the world of marketing as they are advertised mercilessly on the childrens’ tv channels resulting in children like my daughter believing that this is something they really really need.

the ever increasing Shopkins collection

What does the kid do with them? Well, she mainly tips them out of her bag and lines them up and then she puts them back in her bag. Nice. That’s worth it then!

But actually, on balance, at the moment I am forced to say that yes, it is worth it as it is currently providing the most regular bowel movements of her 5 year existence!

One question I have asked myself is, when will the pooh chart be able to be safely shelved? How many weeks, months, years will the chart be the crutch, the incentive for a regular bowel movement? And, more crucially, how much more money can I justify spending on this stuff that, let’s face it, may well find its way into the bin before the year is out? There is a large part of me that feels guilty for denying my oldest daughter the joy of Silvanian Families or the other odd collectibles that were the rage when she was 5. I happily bought all that stuff for her friends’ birthday presents, delighting in palming off the tiny furry figures and their even tinier accessories.  Ha ha I would chuckle to myself – no child of mine will collect strange little items that will sit gathering dust and silently mocking my errant cleaning skills and chiding my empty bank account.

And yet, here I am in desperate times, bribing the youngest with tiny plastic avocadoes with scary faces. This is not helped by her obsession with Youtube and its abundance of films of what can only be described as saddo (though undoubtedly very shrewd) adults, usually American, who collect these things and film themselves opening the packages and cooing over them in high pitched whiney voices. The most prolific of these is Cookie C Swirl who seems to like Shopkins as well as the miniature My Little Pony toys that come in Kinder Eggs.  She gets hundreds of thousands of views which is just mind-blowing to me and inexplicable really.  But, whilst totally freaky, it is I guess, harmless and is clearly very lucrative for Cookie C Swirl!  And hey, because of it, my daughter is producing body waste every other day and is a whole lot more chirpy. We all have our crosses to bear.