Thursday 31 December 2009

Rain in Spain

Our friends Sean and Helen purchased a wee little holiday home in Spain. And we celebrated. Visions of sunny breaks in our dark winter danced in my head. And what a better time than the week between Christmas and New Year to get a bit of Vitamin D on a beach?

Our plane landed in Faro, Portugal and as we walked across the parking lot to get our rental car the wind lashed us and the rain soaked us. I prayed the skies would clear during the hour drive to Spain. Alas, it was not to be.

This part of Spain has had record rain fall and we have found ourselves dashing outside to enjoy the brief breaks in the grey sky. The beach is full of shells and starfish and bubbles (that might be sewage?). Just in time we ducked into a Chiringuito on the beach at Playa de Punta Umbria to enjoy lunch whilst the biggest rain drops lashed the beach outside the windows of the restaurant. The storm clouds were frightening and the Spanish staff rushed to fill the gaps in the windows as the water leaked in. We sat oblivious as we enjoyed a meal of shrimp pancakes, cuttlefish, baby squid and anchovies. The children are being a bit adventurous in their culinary choices (they must be starving). Even Marc is enjoying the fish.

We've played Quirkle and Scrabble and Cluedo. I am thanking the nerds of the world for iPods, iPhones and Nintendo DS Lites. Lottie and Abgail have entertained us with a variety show every night. Tonight is the Grand Finale.

As I write this the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the weather forecast is improving! We may get our Vitamin D after all.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Breakfast with Santa

We had our annual breakfast with Santa a few mornings ago and the gift lists have been officially registered. Of course, we couldn't hear what the children told him so who knows if they will get what they asked for. Apparently, parents aren't allowed to hear what the children tell Santa. Well, that makes it a bit of a challenge!

Third Tooth

Sebastian lost his third tooth yesterday whilst we were enjoying tea and mince pies round the neighbour's house. We got another one that is loose. I do believe he has added teeth to his Christmas list.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Hawaiian Christmas

In the tale of The Littlest Angel, angels travel all over the world looking for the perfect place for the son of God to be born whilst the littlest angel falls asleep in a stable in Bethlehem. The angels travel to North America and visit the Native Americans. They travel to the Far East and see beautiful gardens. They travel to Scotland where it rains but the people are very nice and dance funnily. They travel to Hawaii where the sun is always shining and the flowers always in bloom. And they hula.

Abigail was a hula girl and a fine hula girl was she. I can honestly (and boastfully) admit that she was the best hula girl I have ever seen in my entire life.

When the angels report back all they have seen, the littlest angel wake sup and admits she has been asleep the entire time and it is decided that if the stable was good enough or the littlest angel it is good enough for the son of God. And so Jesus is born in a stable in Bethlehem.

I love school Nativity plays!

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Rainbow Promise

In September Abigail started in the local troop of Rainbows which are are the group before Girl Guides (which is like Girl Scouts in the USA). Last week she made her Rainbow promise and is now a full fledging Rainbow. She took it all very seriously!

Monday 14 December 2009

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Faces of World Leaders

I just love this collection of photographs of world leaders taken at the UN this past September. If you click on a photograph you can then play the narrative by the photographer about that photo. A face is worth a thousand words....

Monday 30 November 2009

Georgetown Chimes

According to instructions available on Facebook, this is my debut album cover. If I had a band it would be named Georgetown Chimes, and my first album would be titled 'make him mad'. I fancy myself as the lead singer and am setting about to write some songs.

To create your own album cover, follow these steps (and pass on these instructions to your friends):

1 - Go to Click “Random Article" in the top left navigation box. The title of the random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to
The last few words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. I suggest if you don't have your own photo editing software. You can work online and save it to your hard drive for free. :)

Sunday 29 November 2009

I Love the Whole World

Which led to this comic.......

Which led to....

Thursday 26 November 2009

Virus & Violins

I dragged myself from my death bed for a very special date with my son.

Back in June I had booked tickets for just the 2 of us to go to Cadogan Hall in London to see a violin concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Neither of us had ever been to Cadogan Hall or seen the orchestra before. This was going to be a bit of an adventure.

But I was ill. Very ill. I am on antibiotics and just about the maximum cold medication dosage allowed. I wasn’t going to take any chances. I loaded up on throat lozenges and cough syrup at the local chemist.

I started getting ready at 1 in the afternoon so I could rest in between exertions like taking a shower and blow drying my hair. When Seb arrived home from school he found me flat out on the sofa but determined to have a magical evening.

He changed into some very smart looking trousers and shirt and we set off with our map to the hall and nearby parking in hand. We had a lovely discussion on the way whilst navigating the nightmare of rush hour traffic (5:30 pm) into the centre of London. Sebastian entertained me with his philosophical observations like why do minutes go so slowly but hours go so quickly. Good question I thought. Why do we have to pay congestion charge when driving into London? An even better question!

In a mild panic I realised that my car doesn’t lock. The car is a cheap disposable kind. OK, not that cheap but French and they certainly don’t build them to last. It has one of those keyless key thingies. You’re not supposed to need it to unlock the doors or start the car. Just having it on your person or your handbag is sufficient. At least it used to be. About 6 months ago the key stopped working on the door locking/unlocking and I have to put the key in a slot to get the thing started. The locking thing isn’t a big deal usually because there’s no way a person walking past can tell if the car is locked or not so I make sure there is nothing valuable in it and just don’t lock it. Which is fine in our driveway. Not so fine in the centre of London. I found comfort in the fact that I was headed to a very posh part of London and the chance of random vagrants/thieves walking down the road trying every car door was remote. Besides I had a Renault Megane and all the other cars were going to be Aston Martins. Surely, they’d rather have one of those. I know I would.

In a bit more of a panic I turned right too early and we had a bit of an adventure getting back to where we needed to be in order to get to where we wanted to go. That will only make sense if you’ve ever driven through London. The streets are laid out with less sense than a spider’s web. You think you’re heading west and then bam, the river is in front of you which means that you’ve actually been driving south for the last 4 miles. Ah, those medieval peasants had quite the sense of humour.

We found a parking space and Sebastian made the astute observation that we had parked right in front of the hall. So we did. As I read the parking restriction signs I knew it was too good to be true. We asked a man at the hall if he had any suggestions and he sent us on a wild goose chase down Kings Road. After several aborted attempts down various roads finally I gave up and headed back to where we started.

We found some 4 hour meter parking just around the corner from where we had started. I duly fed 12 pound coins into the meter. Why I was carrying around 12 pound coins remains a mystery to me but I am going with the story that it is daily weight lifting routine. Again you will only get that if you have ever carried around pound coins in your handbag. They are heavy.

We walked up Sloane Street with me bundled up like a rough sleeper. I had about 4 layers of clothing under my coat, scarf, gloves, hat. I think maybe Sebastian was a bit embarrassed by my appearance but he never would have admitted that since I was buying the sushi. My fever had me sweating under the layers as was walked what suddenly became an epically long journey.

We were originally headed for Yo Sushi! at Harrod’s until I realised that Harrod’s is miles from Sloane Street. OK, not miles but too far for us to walk in our condition, especially since our wrong turning and parking misadventures had left us pinched for time.

As I walked past all the designer shops with dresses for skinny minnys my days before children and mortgages flashed back from the depths of my memory and the answer became clear. Harvey Nichols. Back before I had other’s depending on me for food and a roof, HN was my favourite place to drop a few bob and have nothing meaningful to show for it. But boy, did I feel great for having done so. But Harvey Nichols had a Yo Sushi! on the Fifth Floor. And that was all I needed tonight!

Seb was in heaven as he removed plate after plate from the conveyer plate and despite the difficulties of eating when you have an extremely loose tooth and a mother resembling Frosty the Snowman he got his fill.

When we went to pay I found that the tickets weren’t in my handbag. Mmmmm, that was odd.

I remembered during the parking hunt Seb had taken them out of my handbag so he could look at the map they were attached to. Not that he was helping much but he was trying so hard. Then I put the tickets in a safe place on the dashboard. As the minutes ticked away (very quickly he added) he checked the tickets for the start time of the concert. And that was the last we had seen the tickets. Oh, they must be in the car I thought as we moved off back down Sloan Street towards the car. Not too worry it was on the way to the concert hall and don’t pay too much attention to the sweat on my upper lip. That would just be my fever.

We turned that car upside down but the tickets were nowhere in the car. We turned my handbag updside down – no tickets. I turned Sebastian’s pockets inside out and no tickets. I broke down in tears and still no tickets. Sebastian made another philosophical observation that since Daddy wasn’t here we couldn’t even blame him, wish we’d brought Abigail.

Intellectually, I knew those tickets were in the car. Seb on the floor of the back seat found the tickets down along the side trapped. We slide the seat back and voila, tickets.

We had 10 minutes to spare.

The concert made everything we had endured up to that moment worth it. Seb was one of maybe 4 children in the audience and he was certainly the youngest. Watching an orchestra play is more satisfying than watching a sporting match. Sebastian plays the violin. Or at least he tries to. For purely selfish reasons I had wanted him to see and hear the possibilities of his playing. I wanted him to see professionals attain perfection. I wanted my ears to have a night off.

And it was magic. The orchestra started with the Carnival Overture by Dvorak which is just so much fun. Seb’s eyes were wide. So-Ock Kim was the soloist for Mendelssohn’s violin concerto and she was inspiring. Sebastian told me the music was louder if you closed your eyes. I thought he was falling asleep. During the internal we picked up a programme and drinks: OJ (for me) and cranberry juice (for him) and talked about how much practice these musicians must do every single day. I hope I wasn't too subtle. After the interval we head the emotional Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky. During the breathtaking parts, Seb would squeeze my hand. He was impressed. Not bad, mum!

We headed back to our car in the cold November night. Sebastian held my hand and told me how the orchestra was amazing and maybe he wanted to be conductor and how plucking the strings made a different sound to bowing the strings and the difference between a viola and a violin is size and sound and how big the bass cellist was and did I hear the harp and and and and?

We turned up the car heater and headed up Sloan Street passing the beautiful Christmas lights and deserted roads of nightime London. In under 5 minutes Sebastian was sound asleep. He went straight into bed when we got home. And I will remember this night for my entire life. I wonder if he will.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Remembrance Day

Today is the commemoration of the World War II armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Compi├Ęgne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning - the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month."

At precisely 11:11 am 2 minutes of silence is observed.

For weeks leading up to this date poppies begin to appear on the lapels of suit coats, macs, jackets, school children's uniforms, dinner lady's dresses. Everyone on the television and on the streets are wearing them. And we know why.

Over 1 million men and women of Great Britain died in the two World Wars. Over 400 have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must never forget.

The Sunday before 11 November is known as Remembrance Sunday. It is on this day that sons, daughters, mother, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands and wives all over Great Britain pause to remember those who have paid the ultimate price.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
--Laurence Binyon

When you go home, tell them of us and say, 'For your tomorrows these gave their today'.

--John Maxwell Edmonds

I dream of a day where there is no war. I fear it will never come.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Christmas Goodies

Last year we gave boxes, baskets, and parcels of homemade Christmas goodies to all the people in our lives that help to make it the rich patchwork that it is: teachers, music instructors, postal deliverers, rubbish removers, scout leaders, gardener, classroom assistants, headmaster and headmistress.

Don't kid yourself into thinking this is the easy (or cheap) way out. Believe me, it would have been so much easier to hop onto the internet and buy them all a coffee mug or hand over a generic bottle of wine. And for cheap, has anyone checked out the price of sugar and butter (key ingredients in Christmas goodies) lately?

But the joy is in the giving. And the response to our homemade goodies was overwhelming. The children loved making it (although their contribution was limited to a lot of stirring) and they loved giving it. They really loved helping with the eating.

So we are off again. I am planning on what goodies to make. And I want your help. What is your favourite Christmas sweet, bread, and/or cookie?

PS Forget the popcorn balls. This particular goodie requires a skill that my Grandmother only managed to hand down to my sister who through lots of trial and error has perfected it and without her standing by my side I dare not attempt. It would only disappoint leading to tears and tantrums.

Thursday 5 November 2009

It's November: Gartner Symposium

In addition to being a mother, wife, prolific reader and force of nature, I am also an IT professional. Every November I attend the Gartner ITExpo Symposium in Cannes, France. Some of you might think this is just a jolly good excuse to get out of the office. But those in the know, know this is an exhausting and demanding experience.

I come every year to update my skills and my knowledge of the industry. I spend 4 days (and nights) learning about the trends in the industry which are going to shape the future of my work next year and indeed the trajectory of my career.

During the days of week I've learned a lot about MDM, Sourcing, Collaboration, SOA, EA M&As, Methodologies. I've learned so much that right now I feel like my brain might explode.

The evenings have brought numerous opportunities to network with other IT porfessionals facing the same challenges as myself as well as Gartner specialists who have provided key direction to help me approach these challenges.

I've twittered every step of the way. I've met some clever people. I've picked up real nuggets of insight. I'vve been disappointed by the number of women in attendance. I've been frustrated at the lack of thought leadership shown by the attendees. I've been angered by a man complaining about my typing during a session whilst ignoring the man snoring next to him.

I've been soaked in a downpour and nearly blown over in the wind. I wish I had enough time to have gotten sun kissed but find I am pale from spending 90% of my day in windowless, overheated rooms.

I've dropped my engagement ring down the bathroom sink in the hotel but didn't miss a session as the hotel pulled out all the stops to get a plumber to me within 30 minutes who lovingly recovered this prized possession. I've drank far too much coffee (and wine). I've worried about my son at home ill with swine flu without a mummy's loving embrace.

I engaged in philosophical debates about the gap in the IT haves and have nots and the value of Twitter. I debated the impact of out sourcing on the economies of emerging nations.

Am now ready to go home, hug my children, kiss my husband, and put everything I've learned to the test.

Tuesday 3 November 2009


Yes, I have neglected my blog. Yes, I have had a few other things on my plate. Yes, I will try to do better in the future. But quite frankly I'm not making any promises. Sometimes the cup just runneth over and mine is flowing down the hallway.

I've been so busy (with work, with family, with friends) I've not had a chance to sit down and get the creative juices flowing. I'm not reading. I'm not knitting, I'm not quilting. I was doing a lot of working. I am an over booked mummy taxi. I am an unpaid under appreciated director in a company which doesn't pay me (ok so my husband's business does pay me.....a little). But life is finally easing in a way that allows me to be more creative and think more. About life. About me. About you.

So let me just make clear I will try to do better. Because when I neglect to write I am neglected myself. This outlet is a non-negotiable extension of me and by not participating here I am not investing in myself. And we just can't have that now, can we? And, mom, get off my back! I'm back.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Year 1

Year 1 is a big step up. The emphasis shifts (albeit gradually) from playing to learning. She thinks she's ready for it. I'm not so sure.

Friday 25 September 2009


Sitting in the chapel for the third week in a row and I am in awe of my son and what he is doing.

I can hear a soft rumbling outside the Quire as the chapel enters the church and they assemble themselves.

The organ echoes off the ancient walls of this historic chapel. At my feet is the burial plot of King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour (his 3rd wife). I sit in ancient oak stalls with the brass plates of the Knights of the Garter behind my head. King Louis V is to my right. They represent the servants of the realm and the Queen’s most trusted advisors. I feel like I am part of this history. Or at least my son is.

He walks into the chapel with the other choristers towering above him. He is by far the smallest; perhaps the smallest chorister ever. They’ve even had to shorten his cassock so that it would fit him.

His cassock is a rich burgundy red. The colour suits him. He looks so grown up. Or maybe he looks little acting grown up.

He wears an uncharacteristic stoic look on his face until his eye catches mine and I see a slight smile in his eyes. Sometimes his mouth betrays him and he gives me a proper smile. But it doesn’t last long. He is all business. He knows this is important.

The voices of angels are heard every time these boys open their mouths. They soar to the roof tops and back. I get goose bumps every time I hear them sing and tears spring to my eyes as I burst with pride. Is this my child? How did he become this incredible person? And what was I doing when he became him?

Sebastian sings every word of the service. He sings in English. He sings in Latin. He concentrates and knows this is his duty. To God. To Country. To Queen.

He sneaks me a wry smile as he exits the Quire. He is full of himself and his accomplishment. He knows he has a lot to learn. His enthusiasm about music theory I find quite baffling. His dedication to his piano is admirable. He frustration with his violin his pitiable.

I won’t speak to him until tomorrow evening by which time his performance will be long forgotten in the memory of an 8 year old. But these moments I will never forget.

Thursday 10 September 2009

The Sex Talk

I am so not prepared for "the sex talk". Actually, I think I'm more prepared to give my daughter the talk but far less prepared to give my son the talk.

My mom and dad never gave me the sex talk. Well, I think my mom probably thinks she gave me the sex talk but by the time she got round to it I think I had lost my virginity. I must have been about 17. And my dad, well, let's just say I think my father imagines both of my children were conceived via immaculate conception. I should have been named Mary.

I went to Catholic school and let's just say they teach sex education the way they teach the theory of evolution. They don't.

I was annoyed, nay outraged, when I read my Oprah magazine a few months back to find that they had dedicated the entire issue to talking to your daughters about sex. Hey, what happened to our sons? Isn't it just as important to talk to our sons about their roles and responsibilities? Doesn't so much that happen to our daughters around sex happen because of the boys and what they've been taught (or not)?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. I'm still at the basics. Stuck there really. I don't have a clue on how to approach this with either of my children. And Seb is definitely at the age where he needs to have a talk.

I've read the general advice: Make sure the vocabulary is accurate but also age appropriate. This could be a contradiction. My husband doesn't even use what I would consider to be accurate terminology. Or age appropriate for that matter. And who's to say what is age appropriate. My daughter is far more mature at 5 than her brother is at 8 about some things.

Oh, I'm so afraid.

I attempted the talk one time when I was out having lunch with him. Just me and him bonding. Over pizza. Jump right in.

I asked him if he wanted to know anything about sex. He didn't miss a beat and replied it was just about a whole lot of kissing and he wasn't all that interested. Right then. Job done.

Just kidding. I knew my job was far from over.

My sister's advice was simple and straightforward. Tell them all. Tell them everything. Tell them now. She assures me this is the approach she's taken with her daughter and that it has worked a treat. I reckon she does this just so they get so overwhelmed they never broach the subject with her again. And I'll bet her daughter's extensive vocabulary makes her very popular at school. Now I'm thinking she might have something here.

You see, I was racing through the drugstore the other day. I was buying Seb a new hair brush and comb, a new toothbrush and some toothpaste, some shampoo, all for boarding school. Oh and I just need to grab me some of these. What's those, mum? Um, just things for mummy when she bleeds.


We join the queue.

So, mummy, why do women bleed?

I gasp. The lady in front of us whips her head around, looks at Sebastian, then at me and cracks me one of those "whatcha gonna say to that?" smiles.

My pulse quickens and my palms sweat. OK, I can handle this. Just the facts mam.....

Women bleed so they can have babies.


Here's me thinking I've managed that one. But nooooooo. it was never going to be that easy.

What does bleeding have to do with havin' babies, mum?

At this point the whole queue is snickering. Loudly. Indiscreetly. I take a deep deep breath. I bend down to his level and smack him. Not really.

I calmly explain to my son in a soft, gentle, supportive voice at his level that this is one of those private subjects that I am happy to explain to him in excruciating detail in private, when we are alone, say in the car. And the radio is turned up.

So we carry on with our errands and an hour or so later return to the car. I have bought him a book on astronomy hoping the distraction factor would be sufficient to keep his attention. I crank up the radio just as soon as I start the car up. We exit the parking garage singing loudly and there I am feeling smug with myself in the hopes that he has forgotten all about it.

I turn right on the road and feel myself coasting home when he leans forward, turns off the radio, and says, ok, so explain, the whole bleeding baby thing.

Heaven help me. I nearly drove the car off the bridge and into the rushing river.

So I gave him the facts. Very basic. Nothing about the seeds and daddy's role. Nothing about loving relationships or healthy expressions of your needs and desires. Or the anatomy.

So I ask you my beloved readers: you gotta help me out here. Anyone got a script I can read from. I just don't think my "when you bleed you're not having a baby and when you don't you are" will put him off for much longer.

And be quick about it. I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown here.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Harvest Time

Anyone who knows me knows that I love autumn. I love the harvest of crops and the crisp sound of leaves crunching under foot. I love the nip in the air and the anticipation of the first fire in the fireplace. I love imagining that snow fall is just around the corner (although now that I live in England this isn't necessarily true anymore. I love back to school and buying school supplies (although I could do without sewing on countless name tages, thank you very much).
Our harvest this year was a bumper one. The foxes and rabbits got to my pumpkins, squash and courgette (zucchini) just after they flowered so I will need to make alternative arrangements for next year but the tomatoes, pepper, chillies and corn were amazing. And the beans were planted way to late but I'll now have sufficient ammunition to nag my husband with next year.

I loved watching the children pick the veg and husk the corn and boil it and eat it. Mmmmmm, good! Freezer now stocked! Bring on the winter....

Monday 7 September 2009

That wasn't the plan

Tonight we were planning on taking Sebastian's boarding gear to the school. That means we put his pillow case and duvet cover on his bed and unpack the clothes that he will keep at the school during the week.

I kept myself together all day by telling myself that even though we were doing this he wasn't actually going to be staying overnight tonight so everything would be just fine.
Well, man plans and god laughs.

We arrived at the school and there was a buzz in the air. Only the probationary choristers were being allowed to go home tonight and come back in the morning. And one new boy was going to be staying since his family lives miles away. He was going to be all on his own in the dorm. And of course my son just quite simply wouldn't put up with that.

When I offered him the chance to stay he jumped at it.

So now I have come home one child lighter. And that wasn't the plan. There was so much I wanted to tell him tonight. I wanted to cuddle him and hold him close. Oh heavens......I hope I've done the right thing. Could someone bring me a gin and tonic?

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Porthcothan Bay 2009

One of my favourite beaches in the UK is Porthcothan Bay down in North Cornwall. It isn't ever crowded and as the tide comes in and out the beach changes dramatically, exposing pool to explore and a river down the middle to ride a boogie board.

We've been to this beach before and we shall return. Let's just hope that next time the sun decides to make the journey with us. out of 7 days camping we had only 2 days of sunshine and only 2 half days of no rain. The rest of the time it completely tipped it down. Not to worry though: we had the Bentley of all tents. Our Outwell Vermont XL held up very well. In fact it was more comfortable than some caravans we've stayed in. Right up until we had to cook in the driving rain.

never mind. We made s'mores and drank hot chocolates and grilled lobsters and crabs and fresh mackerel (caught by our camping neighbours). We covered ourselves in our waterproof trousers and rain coats and pulled on our wellies and just ignored the wet weather.

Monday 31 August 2009

Captain, My Captain

I need to post one last but most deserved article about the man who made last week possible and without whom we could not have had such an amazing adventure.

My husband, Marc, showed us the way and kept us safe. He steered. He navigated. He winched. He demonstrated tremendous patience with us of less experience. He explained (sometimes numerous times) the finer art of sailing. He referenced tide tables again and again. He checked the weather forecast endlessly.

Mostly he kept us safe. And he did a fine job.

I am so proud of my husband. I am proud he is my husband. And my Captain.

Sunday 30 August 2009

Gale Force 8

I have a shirt which says "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but a gale force 8 excites me." What was I thinking?

Arriving in Lymington made me feel like we were home safe and sound. The showers were amazing and made me feel like a new person. I jut wanted to stay right there. I had neglected to give even the slightest consideration to the fact that we still had to get to our home marina in Gosport which was still a 3 hour sail away.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning and breakfasted on land at Vanilla Pod in Lymington, highly recommended although the service was a bit slow. The American Breakfast was superb. Bit of a shame though when the fressh squeezed oj machine broke down. We did some shopping at the T&G shop which is closing down and snagged a few bargains. We were delaying our departure hoping that the wind would die down a bit. It just wasn't happening.

So at 12:30 we set off down the channel. It got worse as we headed out of the marina. The Isle of Wight ferries were being blown sideways and with our engine full on we could barely move south. But once we turned east the wind was over our stern and with the tide's assistance we were moving at a clip.

We couldn't let the sails up because it was blowing a gale force 8. Seriously! Never mind! We still did 8 knots through the water although 3 of that was tide. We had a brief rain storm just before we turned into Portsmouth harbour but I took the children below deck and we stayed nice and dry.

Unpacking the boat was tedious and we had massively over catered particularly since we didn't eat during a couple entire days due to illness. We arrived back home last night 7:30 and got take away pizza and pasta.

My legs are still wobbling and rooms sway if I stand still for long. Marc says it will be several days before my body adjusts back to normal. My face is sun/wind burned despite sun block and little exposure to the sun. I have bruises in odd places and my manicure is ruined (although I only broke one nail during the entire trip and that was in Lymington Marina)!

My sense of accomplishment and pride is soaring. I am so proud of myself and my family and our friends. You see the character of a person when all is stripped away and I can't imagine there being a group of individuals that would have made a better crew or companions. We laughed and very briefly had a few tears. But mostly we laughed. At the situation, at each other, at ourselves.

Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat!

Friday 28 August 2009

Back into UK Waters

As I watch the sun rise over Lymington Marina I reflect over the sailing trip this past week. For the very first time I sailed where the horizon had no land in sight in any direction. Water surrounded me for 360 degrees. It was a strange and lonely feeling....I wouldn't want to be there for long. What an amazing adventure!

Hurricane Bill had left us wind swept just sitting in the marina all day on Wednesday. Any plans to sail to Saint Vaast were completely scuppered as the wind whipped through the marina and not a single boat departed.

We took the opportunity to walk around Cherbourg and enjoyed a glorious lunch at Cafe du Theatre. I wanted a goat's cheese salad and an omelette but no matter how much I tried to tell the waiter that I did indeed want 2 main courses he was not going to bring it to me. In my really poor French and in his unbelievably persistent French (he spoke NO English) I relented and enjoyed a really large salad. Boy, was I glad he was adamant. I headed back to the boat for a nap with Sebastian and the others went for a wonder round the supermarket.

Sebastian and I got a wee bit way layed by a gorgeous yacht, Northern Child. She looked divine and we just wanted to have a nose about. We met Lucy, the 1st mate, asked permission to board and a long chat with her and the Skipper about what it's like to live on a boat 9 months of the year sailing all over the world. They are headed for St Barts over the next 45 days. Don't think I'll be doing that anytime soon but it was fascinating.

We departed Cherbourg Marina in the pitch darkness that is 4:00 am. Neither Marc nor I have ever sailed in the dark and the feelings of dread had moved into my stomach. My body was in knots from being so tense with the anticipation of a miserable return sail. Every sway and gust I clenched my jaw and closed my eyes. It is scary in the dark at sea. Duh! We had given both Abigail and Kerry dosages of sea sickness medication in the hopes that we would minimise the extracurricular over the side activity. It worked in that it meant that Abigail slept for nearly 6 hours of the journey. We just had to keep her propped upright.

Soon the sun began to rise and France drifted away on the horizon. The wind blew a manageable Force 3-4 over the stern and we had a comfortable run all the way back to England. I was thrilled to see the Needles of the Isle of Wight on our bow.

Sebastian had a brief moment of sickness over the side but this was due to eating the entire family size bag of Doritos I handed him. Since I was paying more attention to sailing than what he was eating he ate the entire bag. We even managed to have a few cups of tea and some lovingly prepared sandwiches during the trip. The only fatality was our carafe of perfectly pre-prepared tea. A gust of wind hit the boat just as I was returning from the galley and knocked it into the chart table. It shattered and I'm afraid we didn't get a single cup from it! Never mind.

On the trip over I was amazed (and mildly disappointed) that we saw very few (6) ships in the shipping lanes. It just didn't live up to its billing as the busiest shipping lanes in the world. I had visions of spaghetti junction on the M6 in Birmingham. Not only that but we didn't see a single yacht on the way over. Maybe they knew something we didn't. But on the way back we saw loads of ships in the lanes in both directions although we only had to slightly alter course once to avoid one. Our top speed for the day was 8.16 knots and there were very few white caps (salt surfers, as Seb calls them) out on the waters. The waves were completely manageable. We also saw several yachts sailing pretty much the same bearings we were on. Some were smaller than us and we sailed away from them. Others were bigger (and motoring) so they overtook us. One thing about sailing is that it is a lonely activity but also a close quarter activity. It's you and your mates and that's it. You better have great mates.

We were lucky. We had the best mates in the world. Eddie is an ancient mariner. He was in the Royal Navy and has done a few Atlantic crossings so we were in safe hands although I started to get worried each time he knocked his head on the hatch over the companionway. You would think he would learn after the first time. He is nearly 70 years old so we'll forgive him this time.

Kerry was brilliant in helping me out with the children. Whenever we were tacking or jibing or vomiting she was hanging on to the children and just making sure they stayed out of the way and were safe. She kept Abigail warm for much of the journey and we couldn't have done it without her. She even steered for a bit and managed a tack. And you should see that woman use a winch. Once she figured out which direction the sheet needed to be wrapped she was a cranking maniac.

We turned right after the Needles and sailed into the Solent only to come face to face with boat congestion looking like rush hour traffic. Guess everyone else was having a lovely sail as well. On a jibe our Genoa got itself all in a twist. No matter what we did we couldn't get it sorted. We pulled and tugged and let it out and wiggled it and then as if by magic, she filled with wind and we had a glorious smooth sail into Lymington Marina after only 11 hours of sailing. We would have made it in 10 if the Genoa hadn't messed about. Oh and if those idiots out sailing in the Solent could have been just a bit more considerate and gotten out of our way. It seemed that our predicament was entertainment for all and they just couldn't help themselves sailing back and forth in front of us and despite them having right of way they could have made a nicer decision and just stayed out of the way! Neptune will get them.

We struggled to find the berth reserved for us but eventually found it. A man looked like he was going to be superbly helpful but then just stood on the pontoon looking up at us as our fenders bounced off the boat next to us. Finally, Eddie just threw the rope at him and when it hit him in the face he decided to grab it and help. Cheers mate.

Seb made a dash for the toilets in the marina and returned with a report that the toilets at Lymington Marina were 5*. Kerry was just grateful to be able to pee for the second time that day since she was not dehydrated from hurling over the side all day. The marina was filled with some of the most beautiful speed boats and yachts we've ever seen and Seb has announced that he wants to have a few of those when he is older. I have explained to him that he better do well at school since the one he liked the most goes for roughly £600,000 (used).

We enjoyed a dinner of filet steaks, baked jacket potatoes, halloumi cheese and sauteed peppers with a brilliant bottle of red wine then tucked ourselves up into bed ready for the final leg of our journey. Back to Gosport!

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Cherbourg Day 2

We needed a rest. Every one of us were exhausted. Our muscles ached. Our minds were weary and our bodies weakened. We ate a large breakfast of croissants and pain au chocolate with large cups of coffee. We then set about getting the ourselves and the boat cleaned and tidied up. It was a mess. We were too. Feeling a bit better but not completely recovered we decided to have a look at Cite de la Mer (Museum of the Sea).

Walking on land felt very strange for the children and Abigail told us she felt drunk. I wonder how she knows what it feels like. We had a look at the reception area of the museum but balked at the 18 euro entrance fee per person since we wanted a diversion for a few hours rather than a full day.
We made a quick run to the market for a few provisions (mostly batteries for the GPS) and then prepared to set sail.

Now some of you may think us crazy for sailing after the ordeal of yesterday. But I knew that if we didn't get right back on the water my children may decide they didn't like sailing which just wouldn't do. Abigail had a bit of a moan saying she never wanted to sail again. So we locked her in the forward cabin (just kidding) and set off.

The sun was shining. The wind direction was perfect for the direction we wanted to go (and come back). It was warm and the sea was calm(ish). We assured the children this was not another epic journey.
Indeed it was a dream sail. At the end of the sail Abigail was even up on the side of the boat admitting that she was having a great time. Sebastian was starting to understand the science beyond the wind on the sails. We even got Kerry to have a steer at the helm. And she smiled the entire time. Yesterday we had numerous minor injuries: banged fingers, cut knuckles, bumped heades, bruised knees. Today it was a text book sail with everyone returning to port in a good mood. OK, that's if you don't count a couple failures to tack due to short boat speed but that's down to our own laziness.
Tomorrow unfortunately we won't be so lucky I fear. Hurrican Bill is headed our direction and a Force 7 won't do any of us any favours. We may head east up the coast to St Vaast. But I am slightly worried about the return journey. But today is Tuesday and I'm not going to worry about that. We will probably not have wi-fi there but don't worry about us if you don't hear.
We are having a blast!

The Channel Crossing Part 1

Arrived in Gosport on Sunday early evening full of optimism and high hopes for a pleasant crossing on Monday. Marc and I had decided that it was a great idea to take the children across the English channel to France on a sail boat. We invited two friends, Kerry and Eddie, to be crew. We hired a 38' Barvaria boat and carefully packed and planned. Marc got all of his required certifications in order. We were rearing to go.

Kerry and Eddie arrvied an hour or so after us and after getting the boat sorted we took the ferry over to Southampton and enjoyed a gorgeous dinner al fresco in some of the best summer weather we've had all year. My optimism swelled. This was going to be soooo much fun.

Sleep was hard to come by overnight as I was frightened we wouldn't wake up for the required silly early departure time. At 4:30 am I viewed Venus shining brightly in as the rising sun changed the colour of the sky to pale oranges, yellows and finally read marvelling at other people exhibiting equally poor judgement at this insane hour. I could see the weariness in their eyes and maybe for the first time thought this might not be such a good idea. Something about red sky in the morning = shepard's warning. Trying desperately not to panic or wake the rest of the boat I got the coffee on and prepared for a small, quick breakfast. Finally everyone one else stirred at 5:30 am and bang on 6:00 am we set off in a dead calm.

The first few hours the sea was like a mill pond. It was hard to believe that we weren't just on a small lake. No wind, no waves, no swell, and a strong tide in the opposite direction meant we were going nowhere fast. We motored for quite a bit although not nearly as long as we should have. Seb was desperate to sail so we prayed for wind. The power of our prayers for a bit more wind came in all at once. And then the seas roughened. The wind was right on our nose so we had the sails tight in and the boat was tipped right over so much that a simple cup of tea became an impossibility.

Abigail was the first sailor to feel the effects of the bopping and swaying. Kerry held her over the side right up until the point that Kerry started hurling over the side. This pattern continued for the remainder of the 15 hour epic journey. Thank goodness no one wanted to eat because we quite simply couldn't have made anything. Any more than 1 minute under deck and the tummy started doing somersaults. Sebastian only had one spectacular event hurling over the side.

But undoubtably the 1st pplace gold medal prize goes to Abigail who never whined, never cried, never moaned, never complained. She sat on deck in the spray, the wind, the cold and just hung on. Sebastian comes in at a close second by fortuitously lifting everyone's spirits at the very end of the journey when we all were disheatened and thoroughly fed up he started singing, telling jokes and stories, and pretending to surf. He helped to keep Abigail warm by cuddling up with her.

Abigial announced that she could hardly wait to get to France so she could have a croissant. We must have laughed for 30 minutes. Here this wee little angel was wet, cold, miserable with sick in her hair and all she wanted was a croissant. Bless her!

We finally entered the harbour and moored at the marina. I have never been happier. Abigail and I went for a hot hot hot shower whilst the boys prepared some soup and bagels.

It could have been so much worse. It could have been raining. It could have been colder. The wind could have been stronger. The waves could have been bigger. The children coul dhave been crying and freezing. And althought it was the worst sea conditions I've ever sailed in, I am so proud of my children and us as a family. This was an adventure of a lifetime. And it's only just begun!

Saturday 15 August 2009

An Indian Princess

Uncle Matthew brought this beautiful sari back from India for Abigail.

Friday 14 August 2009

Thursday 13 August 2009

Ballet Performances

The end of the school year brings yet another round of ballet performancess and this year was the best ever. Sebastian obtained his next level exam with merit and we were quite simply enchanted with Abigail's performance of her butterfly dance.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Sports Day Performances

Despite the persistent threat of rain, we managed a whole day of hilarious sporting performances from our children. I wouldn't look to see either of our children in any Olympics anytime in the future. But they sure enjoyed themselves!

Monday 13 July 2009

Africa Rain

I want to be a part of this choir!

Monday 15 June 2009


Sebastian has lost another tooth. This is only the second one having lost the first one when we were on holiday in America last summer. It had been hanging loose for quite a long time and tonight his dinner proved a step too far or perhaps a bite too many. We had blood everywhere as it dangled there and he finally gave his mother permission to grab hold and give it a good yank. Out it came!

Saturday 13 June 2009

Summer Ball

It was that time of year again and we dutifully botted and suited set off for the annual Summer Ball with our good friends, Sean and Helen. A big thanks to the babysitter, Gill, who made sure the children were tucked away safe and sound whilst we drank far too much champagne and danced until our feet bled (literally). A fabulous night was put on by the dedicated school volunteers and hopefully we raised a substantial amount for charity (and the school)! Until next year.....

NOTE: My husband made (sewed) his very own bow tie. he was so enamored with my choice of frock (ie dress) that he set off to the fabric store, picked out a matching colour of fabric, brought it home, made his own pattern, and sewed his very own bow tie. Check him out!!!!

Sunday 7 June 2009

Prima Donnas

These are some photos taken at the end of last term of the children demonstrating their outstanding grace and superb ballet skills. Or not......

Saturday 6 June 2009

Don't Rain On My Parade

Today Sebastian made his appearance as a sprite at the Old Windsor Carnival. For the very first time in my memory, it rained on Carnival Day. It rained hard enough for them to have to cancel the horse and carriage. But that wasn't going to spoil our day. The locals in the village scrambled and the sprites were very happy to make do sitting in a convertible despite the drizzle.. Sebastian looked very handsome and made a dapper attendant to the Carnival Queen and her entourage.

Thursday 4 June 2009


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Happy 8th Birthday, Sebastian!

Much love,

Mummy xxx

Wednesday 27 May 2009


Hippo as Human

And make sure you watch this all the way to the end!

Tuesday 26 May 2009

The Ghost by Robert Harris

I've never read a book by John le Carre. Despite my effusive praise for the Baldacci novels, I'm just not all that into guy spy novels. and I've always firmly put Robert Harris into that category. I read his book Fatherland which is about the alternate reality of what might have been if Hitler had won the war. Joseph Kennedy, the father of JFK, is president and we all speak German. This book seriously freaked me out.

When the local book store held a signing with Robert Harris I gave it a miss.

But then someone I know told me that Harris felt this was his favourite novel of all the ones he'd written. And that she loved it. I trust her recommendations so I decided to give it a go.

Now I'm thinking I'm going to have to read more Robert Harris.

The Ghost is about a writer who writes autobiographies for intellectually challenged sports stars and celebrities trying to wring the last out of the shine out of their star and into their bank account. These ghost writers are considered to be much more intelligent than their subjects and are considered to be the laughing stock of the literary world.

So it's a bit of a surprise when The Ghost is hired to finish writing the autobiography of Adam Lang after the original writer, Mike McAra, allegedly commits suicide. Lang is the politician of his time and as his influence fades he is desperate to tell his story but he's more style than substance. And the draft McAra has left behind is a disaster, so badly written that the only option is to start over.

I loaned this book to my mother when she needed something to replace her Baldacci debacle. She took it to France and never put it down. We had to pry it out of her fingers when we went to Disneyland. I'm afraid I had much the same reaction. Luckily, it's not long or verbose so I managed it in just 2 days.

The book does take so many twists and turns that I lost my way a couple of times and had to go back a few pages....I even reread an entire chapter. And just when you think it's all over and the mystery is revealed the ending wallops you up side the end and you realise you didn't have anything figured out. Genius!

Monday 25 May 2009

Easing In

In September Sebastian will begin as a probationary chorister. This is a huge honour and something that he wanted to do. I wasn't so keen on the idea but when your child wants an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than himself, you kinda don't want to get in the way.

Yes, that might mean your very own sacrifices but this isn't about me. It's about him. He is going to be performing with one of the world's greatest boy's choirs in the world. The training he will receive will benefit him for the rest of his life. And he wanted to do it. I've never seen him so determined as I did before his audition.

But the step towards Year4, and choristing, and boarding all at once seemed a step too far. Seb is like me and doesn't like change. So we decided to break it up into bite size chunks. He'll do a night of boarding every week for the remainder of the year and then next year when he goes to 2 times (Tuesday and Thursday) every week it won't be such a shock for everyone involved.

The boarding school is great fun for the boys. They have a big flat screen TV. They have a Play Station, a Wii, an xBox. They have gap students who's sole purpose in life is to entertain them. They have each other. They have a chef in the dining hall who cooks them amazing dinners and a hot breakfast every day. They have supervised prep to help them with their homework. they have tennis courts and a swimming pool and cricket grounds. Quite frankly, it's a bit better than home.

Except we're not there.

Abigail misses her brother when he is away. The first morning she was in a state and didn't quite know what to do with herself. The next week she wasn't quite so bad. And she has announced that starting in Year3 she wants to board.

From the day a child is conceived everything you do, every decision you make, every guidance you give moves you closer to that place where that child ceases to be a child, ceases to be reliant on you and moves out into the big world. Show me the child at 7 and I'll show you the man. We've done a great job raising him and our job isn't finished.

For now, he's merely having a sleepover once every week! Stop worrying.....

Sunday 24 May 2009

Frankie & Stankie by Barbara Trapido

Or is it Frankie and Stinky? It should be.

I was filled with hope as this book started. Set in South Africa, the story begins in the 1950s as two sisters, Dinah & Lisa navigate the turbulent world of adolescence and apartheid.

My hope soon gave way to dismay as the sheer volume of minutia deadens the flow of the story or perhaps more accurately stops the story altogether. My dismay turned to disgust when 2/3 of the way through the novel I realised that there was unequivocally and absolutely no plot.

It was as if the author had found some young girls diaries and put them together with all the mundane observations and called it a book. The details are exquisite and evokes the era with perfection but the girls just meander through life and despite the fact that they are living in this extraordinary time, they are wholly unaffected.

I have to confess I did not finish the book. I abandoned my efforts about 3/4 of the way through and decided to move on. Maybe the ending is amazing. But I wasn't going to waste another minute of my life to find out.

Book Group Verdict: One woman loved it. Not so much any one else. But we had a 40th birthday to celebrate so who could be bothered to talk about a book that was such a waste of time.

Saturday 23 May 2009

Divine Justice by David Baldacci

Another Baldacci novel. Another rip roaring read.

My mother picked this up after reading my reviews of his previous novels Split Second and The Camel Club. She tried to read it on the plane but abandoned it and left it here for me saying she just couldn't get into it.

She must be nuts. Or maybe you just need to read the other two novels first. The characters are nearly all recurring throughout the plots and subtleties of characterisation and story line might be lost if you don't know what has come before.

Divine Justice saw the return of my favourite Baldacci character, Oliver Stone, and the plot is just as improbable as his name is real. I'm not a conspriracy theorist and I hope to heaven that the governments of the free world really aren't this corrupt and conniving. But the story twists and turns like a Mach 10 rollercoaster ride and I just never know where the story is going to take me. Just hang on and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Where's My Teddy Bear?

You would think that a mother would send her beloved son off on his very first boarding experience supremely prepared for all that may come his way.

He had his jammies, his slippers, his dressing gown (robe), spare pants, spare shoes, toothbrush, tooth paste, shampoo, hayfever liquid, flannel (washcloth), bath gel, school clothes, play clothes, warm weather gear, rain gear. We were prepared for every eventuality.

But this mother forgot the most important piece of equipment a little 7 year old boy needs when away from his mother at boarding school: his teddy bear, Chloe.

And he was missing Chloe more than ever at 3 am and mummy wasn't there to wipe away the tears and tuck him back into bed. Oh, please tell me I haven't just made the biggest mistake of my life.

Monday 11 May 2009

Carnival Sprite

Saturday was the May Fair which is a fundraiser for the local Scouts and Girl Guide organisation. The May Fair is also the occasion to pick the attendants for the Carnival Fair. There is a Queen, a princess, 2 young attendants and 2 sprites (a nod to equal opportunity for the boys).

Last year Sebastian gave it a go and didn't make the grade (although we are never quite sure what they are looking for but it doesn't matter because it is just a bit of fun). This year he gave it another go and I am proud to announce that he will be one of two sprites in our Carnival.

He will appear at the Donkey Derby on Friday night, ride the float at the Carnival Parade on Saturday morning and be at the Carnival for various other activities throughout the day on Saturday as well as Sunday.

If you live local come out and support this fantastically old fashioned and incredibly fun filled weekend - June 5-7!

Thursday 30 April 2009

A Map to Lulworth Cove

After Stonehenge we headed to the beach given that it was such a gorgeous sunny day. Unfortunately, my husband doesn't really believe in maps. And he won't ask directions. So we spent nearly 2 hours driving around in circles in Dorset looking for Lulworth Cove. The good news is it was worth it. The bad news is we could have driven straight there if he'd just referenced a map and spent quite a bit more time on the beach. As it was everyons's nerves were frazzled and my mother looked like a pretzel all tangled up in the back seat with the children.

Once we got her straightened out though we taught her how to act like a Brit on the beach! Sandy biscuits and the ever present threat of rain and/or darkness did not dampen our spirits.

Lulworth Cove is on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset on the southwest coast of England. Amazing fossils of numerous prehistoric creatures continue to be found here. And there is no end to the surprises of the rock pools!

Bailey loved it most of all!

Wednesday 29 April 2009

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

I read this book all wrong. I read it thinking it was just a novel. And when I finished it I had no idea what had happened or what it was about. But you can't read this novel that way. And I wish I had known this before I started reading it because now that I know what I know I am going to have to read it all over again.

Changez is from Pakistan and honours his family by winning a scholarship to Harvard University. Upon graduating he is offered the top place at the premier management consultancy, Underwood Sampson. He excels by living and breathing his work. He falls in love with a woman, Erica, who does not, cannot reciprocate his love due to her history.

And then 9/11 happens and Changez's love affairs with America and Erica end. His place in the society abruptly and subtly morphs into something much more sinister.

Reviews I have read indicate this book is metaphor for the US and the changes that have happened there since 9/11.

The book is entirely told in the first person. You never hear the voice of the American Changez is speaking to. You have no idea how they met or what brought them together. You don't know if Changez is good or bad and you don't know if the American is good or bad. The allegory works perfectly.

Hamid is originally from Lahore. He attended Princeton and worked briefly for a management consultancy in America. He now lives in London. One wonders how much of this is autobiographical.

Book Group Verdict: This was the second selection of the Waterstone's book group and probably my favourite of the two. More people read this book than the other I think largely because it was much shorter and took no more than a few days to get through it. It's not one of those books that you "like". It just makes you think. Which definitely means I recommend it. Thinking is good. As a result of the book group I increased my understanding of the content and will definitely re-read.