Saturday, 29 September 2012

Saturday Chit Chat

Well I haven't done one of these for a while.  At the moment I'm babysitting for a friend and typing on her old fashioned keyboard - big and chunky keys - "oi you cheeky bastard!" I can hear her say. Tis true. I did bring my funky laptop but I need the code for her wifi. I don't think that this is a worthy enough reason to text her on a night out with the hubster at a 40th birthday party. She's not 40 by the way - she's 33 and worries about turning 40 as everyone she knows are "miserable bastards when they hit 40."

In any event, who know's their wifi code? I am 100% certain she does not. I have the crap-factor on in the background and one of her cats is eyeballing me. I think he likes me. The other one certainly does not as he (it could be a she who knows) has the intellectual capacity to realise that a stranger is in town. I'm not going to squirt him with water or bang my foot loudly like I do with the cats that stray into my garden. So rest easy cat lovers. Its black and got the arse ache when I dared to lean back on the sofa. He looked like he'd take no prisoners so I perched my bum on the edge of the sofa. Its currently sharpening its claws as I type ready to attack at any given moment. Maybe he can sense I don't do cats although we did have one when I was younger. Its name was Fang and incidentally was also black so I don't quite know what my problem with them is. I digress.

Well she looked lovely in her new dress, high heels and still tanned legs from the summer. She is living proof of what eating healthily and working out can do for you.  She used to be a size 16 and is now a size 12. It took the best part of a year but she's kept it off and with no faddy diet. If truth be told she was my inspiration for this diet in the first place.

Still I'd rather be here. This party doesn't sound like a barrel of laughs. The invite specified to "eat before you come" What kind of party tells you to eat some dinner because they'll be nothing to nibble on with your alcoholic drink when you get there? No cocktail sausages, no stale sandwiches, no cold chicken goujons and no vol-aux-vents! You all know my thoughts on them - a party just ain't a party without these buggers. That's one party I don't want an invite to.  Its on a par with "no children at a wedding" - what is wrong with people? Top tip for throwing a party - make sure your guests (you know the ones you invited to celebrate your birthday and give you presents) have something to eat. Skinflints. It gets worse though, not only are there no chicken legs awaiting my friend and her husband she had to totter out of here with 20 frigging cupcakes she was asked to make to bring to the party! Oh lordy, yes there is only going to be a giant cupcake which some other poor bastard has had to make and cupcakes made by other guests.  Yes cakes and alcohol a winning combination. I digress. Again.

So, the chit chat was this. I've had a busy week which has meant I've only been able to exercise once. I will get out on the bike tomorrow so will be twice by tomorrow.  I had a meeting with our head teacher at school together with the chair of governors who happens to be a councillor.  There were 5 of us representing the PTA. We had written a stroppy letter about the school's proposal to change to two form entry. Stroppy in that we threatened them with legal action and gave them 7 days to respond to letters we wrote in July and answers to more questions. I do not take too kindly to people talking to me in a condescending and patronising manner. How dare I have the audacity to challenge anything. I wanted answers and I gave it to her straight. I fear no one and she got the wrath of my tongue. If you are a councillor may I remind you that you are a civil servant so people have the right to question you. I couldn't sleep that night as I had failed to mention that. I will always fight for what I believe in.

Then I had an appointment at hospital to get a mole I have on my lip checked out. Its not raised its just this brown mark that looks like I've been sucking on a biro. Its covered by lipstick but I'm aware of it when the lipstick has worn off.  Anyhow, its not skin cancer and I can have it removed and the lip will heal naturally. So that's good. I can't be doing with all these maintenance appointments. They're a real pain and you have to sort childcare out and blah.  The same day I had a huge filling re-done on a tooth that has had root canal (that's a long story I'll tell it another day) so the dentist says you won't feel a thing - no need for numbing the tooth. ARSE. It did hurt when she was pushing right down on this metal thing wrapped around my tooth. I thought you didn't tell me that you bastard. Tears were rolling down my face. It had been a long day. By the time the seat had pushed me up I did regain my composure. I thought get a grip woman you've had 3 c-sections. A small part of me did think if I cry and tell her it was really painful she might let me off £95 but like I said it was only fleetingly.

I had a much better day on Friday as I met an old friend I used to work with. She's 58 and I'm 38 - that's how we remember how old we are, as there is exactly 20 years between us.  I took buddy who was well behaved colouring in and the like and we catched up on all the gossip. It never is long enough. I've always enjoyed her company. She used to be my boss in my job before my job that I left pre-children.  At first us young ones weren't too happy about her arrival as we'd heard she was a bit fierce. She was but in a good way. She knew her stuff and was this mad organiser. I'd never seen anything like it and still haven't. We used to joke that if didn't move it'll be laminated.  Anyhow, I enjoy chatting to her, she always has sound words of wisdom and can be trusted with all manner of confidential stuff.  Plus the fact she said my blog was like a magazine! Its always good to have a maternal figure in your life.

So that's my chit chat. The parents are coming around tomorrow so more blogging fodder. Until then, I bid you goodnight.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Entrapment Mother F******!

...complete the sentence. My goodness I am getting quite potty mouthed these days. I hope you all take it as its meant - funny or to ham home a point that drives me nuts. I only really curse for affect or is it effect? Who gives a fuck! Now that was a joke.

I do like my posts that start with "The" followed by a character assassination.  I will probably tire of them shortly but until that time I shall continue as I were and you shall bloody well like it.

Now I don't write too many posts about mums in the playground. There are so many of them out there i.e what type of school run mum are you? (yawn - who gives a shit), what to wear on the school run (the first thing that falls out of the wardrobe) and so on it goes. Please don't get me started on the enlightening articles on the subject of wearing wake-up and heels in the morning.  I'm sure the people that write these articles must live in the 'shires' because, quite frankly, us lot in South London don't give a toss. A 'mum' blogger tweeted recently that another mum had brought bubbles to the park. I can categorically state that this would never happen where I live. Knives yes. Bubbles no.

I've noticed that these articles are not solely the preserve of the various 'mummy' bloggers out there. Who incidentally are not defined by being 'just a mother' but always have 'mummy something' in their blog title. Might need to re-think that one ladies.

There is a whole journalistic industry geared towards women who bleat on about being a woman and all that is unfair in their little bubble of existence. When did women become such victims? Poor me. Boo hoo.  Yesterday the latest article was about when to get out of a shit relationship. How the women ignored all his faults (and probably their own) and plodded along. It bores the pants off me. Another mummy blogger (sorry luv!) wrote a very good article about how its a woman's fault if she remains childless through choice. Cue many a violin.

Anyway, back to the task in hand.  The playground is full of wankers it has to be said in much the same way as in the work place.  You don't have to have children to come across all manner of wankers - people you wouldn't give the time of day to if only for the fact you have to see them everyday. There are various types which I touched on briefly in this post but one that needs a special mention is this lady. The Entrapment Mother.

Picture ebay - maybe this could be the school run fashion?

She has issues.  Its nothing personal. Probably stems back to childhood but is quite the malicious bitch if truth be told. In the 1970's she'd be called a "shit stirrer." You initially thought that of her upon first contact and your instincts were well and truly right. Then she draws you in and you begin to have doubts - mmm maybe she's not so bad - she gains your trust and then WHAM! you were right all along. But instead of cutting her loose entirely by not even giving her the time of day, this strange set-up gets repeated over and over again.  You know its wrong but you just can't help yourself. 

For instance, some days she'll say hi others she'll totally blank you.  Some days she'll be chatting to you merrily about all manner of things, other times she gives you one word answers.  Her speciality is starting a conversation in a negative manner i.e "isn't it awful about about this, well I think its really bad, I mean what are you supposed to do...." You probably haven't really thought too much about what she's going on about and if you had its not quite as bad a picture as she is painting but to be polite you nod and agree.  This is where she gets you. You give her some fodder for her complaint, then to your utter amazement, she snaps back something along the lines of "well that isn't very nice is it - nudges nearest mum  - "ere Natasha isn't best pleased with this - not very nice that is it?!"  With that she spins around, the pin well and truly pulled out of the grenade massive explosions occurring, whilst she merrily waltzes out of the school gate home.

That, my friends, is The Entrapment Mother. Know any?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Monday Weigh In

Are you kidding me?! 2lb ON!! No, I'm not kidding.  I feel yuk to be honest - the party is well and truly over. The summer party that is. I had a target didn't I of feeling comfortable and looking half decent in a bikini and I achieved that. I've relaxed and taken my eye off the ball. I need a new goal to focus on now. I thought I'd reined it in on the food front last week - clearly not.  Getting all thrifty making homemade cakes and such hasn't helped. 

Last week I did the Wii dance 3 with wrist weights (3,000) twice. I was sweating and I remember not that long ago that 4,000 was the minimum sweat points I would do and  I found that relatively easy. Just goes to show my fitness levels are down too.  On Saturday I went for a bike ride with my son and it was the first Saturday I really watched what I ate. 

So, here I am sitting typing and feeling hungry. It feels good. I wrote everything I ate today and I worked out to the Your Shape Boot Camp game on the X-box.  Again, I felt much more sluggish than normal. 

My husband said to me this morning "did you read that article about slimming your way to 18 stone?" What he was referring to was women that try all these different faddy diets and manage to put on weight. He said I'd lost my way on the 1970's diet and it pains me to say it he's probably right.  I've been eating wraps and ryvita, the diet lemonade has crept back in (studies have shown it makes you gain weight) and other things that go against the simple way of dieting that has worked for me since I started the blog.

So today I wrote everything I ate down. That helped.  Its not realistic to do this every single day but until you are at a half decent weight I think its essential.  I went back to my sandwich and yogurt and my small portion of our dinner. I worked out. I have set a goal of being under 12 stone by Christmas.  It is achievable and I can do it.  I just have to keep repeating that to myself.

Until next time...

Thursday, 20 September 2012

You're like me

Is what I find people say and not necessary out loud but just by their inference when you discuss any health worries you may have. Of course, they are only trying to help and their illness or similar health complaint is probably nothing like yours but the seed has been planted. It then sits at the back of my mind, replaying the crucial part of the conversation, which then causes me unnecessary worry in addition to the worry I have about what I've been worrying about in the first place!

So we're all clear then. No? Well let me give you a an example. Take my sore eye for instance. I told my friend about it and she then said "my sister had that and went to the opticians and they then sent her to A&E and it turns out she had 3 cysts in her eye which were cleared up with antibiotics." Cue me mentally preparing myself, before my Tuesday appointment with the optician, for a 6 hour wait in A&E and my various protestations that I wasn't going to do that, I had kids, car parking charges, calling husband to come home, why can't the doctors just give me antibiotic eye drops for Christ sake?!!....And on and on went my internal ramblings of a mad women creating every scenario imaginable.

A human eye model - yuk I hate stuff like this - pic ebay

I then popped it on Twitter about my eye and how I had an appointment in four days.  Next thing I get a genuinely well meaning tweet from a stranger, albeit a follower, but hey they count too. She says "What about eye emergency?" Emergency I thought, should it be an emergency? Am I waiting too long - is it too late? Will I go blind if I don't find an eye emergency unit anytime soon? The well meaning tweeter then says she was so glad she did. Cue suspension and more worry. I tentatively replied "Why, what happened?" "I had a detached retina, got it in the nick of time." Oh my god, I've got a detached retina, there is no eye emergency around these ere parts and my appointment is days away. I'm going to go blind.  I google detached retina. I am short sighted.  You have more of a chance of this if you're short sighted by all accounts. I'm even entering the age bracket to be worthy of a detached retina - 40 plus. Okay I am still on the right side of 40 but still.  My panic calms briefly when I see that you have blurred vision and flashing lights if you have a detached retina.  I feel fairly confident its not that.

So with all that worry I show up at the opticians and go through my mentally prepared two way conversation regarding not going to A&E.  It turns out that I don't have to go to A&E, I don't have a detached retina I still have a contact lens in my eye!  That bugger had been in there for 3 weeks and when the optician got it out (had a little chunk out of it must have been what I saw in France) I could have kissed him.  I thanked him profusely and could have clicked my heels mid flight exiting that place.

So are you like me?

Monday, 17 September 2012

Monday Weigh In

-1lb. Call the police! I used to say this many a moon ago when I'd done something a bit wrong i.e forget something "call the police!" I would say. It might make a comeback. It might not.

So last week I didn't exercise 4 times - I did 3 lots instead. I always aim for 4/5 times as it rarely works out like that but it does mean I do at least 3 lots which is good.  I did the Your Shape boot camp workout and two bike rides with my son.

He's so accomplished on the bike now its a job keeping up with him. I have 21 gears and he has 6. Not to mention he insists on going up big hills as he's in training for the Tour de France don't you know. I said to him in my best OB1 voice "feel the road son, feel the road."

My eating has been better but not 1970's diet standards by any stretch of the imagination. But I've made a start and that's the main thing. Last week I was on thrift alert and did lots of home baking which were scoffed down in no time at all.  I also dipped my paw into the cake tin. My friend spluttered with laughter when upon offering her one of my tasty delights (you dirty bastards if you're thinking of something else - my husband would) she said "Aren't you going to have one too? Oh I feel bad.." "Don't feel bad I've had 2 already with - opens fridge - some of that double cream in there."

My brain is certainly getting back into dieting mode. Today I woke up and internally exclaimed "I am going to lose 2 stone." That's right enough with the fanning around I'm getting down to the nitty gritty now.  The nights are drawing in and before you know it Christmas will be upon us. This blog will be one year old in October. I have lost weight and kept it off so much to build on.

In other news, last week I went to the doctors about my eye which is still sore. I punched in my date of birth and up came my appointment on the computerised screen. There were 4 in front of me.  "You've got to be kidding me!" I actually said that. Out loud. In any event, she couldn't really see if it had been scratched so made a referral to an optician on their approved list. I have an appointment tomorrow in the morning. I asked if there was anything that could be done if I'd scratched it. No. So I said why can't I just have the antibiotic drops from you? She said no I'd like the optician to see it and they can prescribe them. What's the bet I get there tomorrow and they say sorry we can't prescribe them. We'll see.

In addition to that I asked about my lip.  I don't go to the doctors that often or certainly as little as I can help it but when I do I normally have a small "whilst I'm here.." list.  So the lip. I have a brown flat mole on my lip. Nice. I can hide it with lipstick but when I'm not wearing any it looks like I've been sucking on a biro.  I wouldn't mind but I got it a year ago whilst on holiday in Normandy and it wasn't even that hot.  So I've left it a year but my friend nagged me to get it seen to. So now I have an urgent appointment with the skin cancer team at the hospital. That's next week.  I did say "Is a year too late?" She ignored me. I mean what's she meant to say to that in real terms? "Yes, you are a gonna my dear."

I googled 'skin cancer' and it says its the most common, easily treated etc. I'm not overly concerned. I don't fancy having a big dent in my lip mind. I'll keep you posted.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Give us your money

Is what Cancer Research said to me the other night but in a nicer manner than that.

I have issues with charities. Big issues (no pun intended) and I don't know what the solution is.  Now take Cancer Research, a huge charity helping millions with no funding from the government. Well they say no funding but they do get tax breaks and such like. Also its in the pharmaceuticals interest for charities to have lots of funding as then they can sell the drugs to the governments the world over. 

Now I don't know many people who haven't known of someone who has died of cancer or has battled the disease.  The cause is not in question.  As you know I took part in the Race for Life and our team raised a little shy of £3,000.00. A few months after the race my sister gave me £20 to add to the team pot. The £20 gathered dust on the top of the cabinet and when I got around to remembering it the team monies had been submitted. So instead of getting myself a take-away (no I wouldn't have done I promise!) I just gave the £20 as a donation via their website.

How could you not drop money into Rupert? pic ebay
A few weeks later I get a call from Cancer Research saying thank you for the donation and how they'd like to chat. I was busy at the time so said can you call back thinking they wouldn't. They did. This time the lady said thank you so much, asked why I had donated and explained what the money goes on etc. She then went into the semi-hard sell proceeded by the full on hard sell.  So not content with nearly £3,020.00 could I make a regular donation of, say, £10 per month? As whilst donations are great they need regular ones they can count on. I said no. I like to give as and when not on a monthly basis. She then re-iterated that it helps fight the disease - going in for the guilt kill now. No sorry.  She was getting on my nerves now.  Then she says well what about £5 per month? No sorry. Then I explained I had a problem with charities in general. The percentage of  money that actually goes to what you want is nominal.

Live Aid being a good example of millions being raised (or was it billions I can't remember) and still we see children starving in Africa. I think only recently someone has said oh actually we need to manage the money rather than give it to corrupt governments and trust them to spend it on what it was intended. Only yesterday it was reported that 50 million pounds of charity money had been spent on...wait for not to waste money.  Erm, raises hand, here's an idea why don't we not spend 50 million pounds on working out how not to waste money?! Can someone pay me for that idea? Still keeps someone in a job doesn't it. Sod the people who actually really need that money.

The struggling saleswomen said 80% of Cancer Research donations go to the research 20% on the rest. The rest would be salaries, offices, websites, big glossy adverts and phone calls like this - the very problem I have with charities. The parasites that take their cut of the very large pie in the name of a good cause. Take charity Christmas cards the percentage that goes to the charity is shockingly low. Individuals make lots of money from charities. Its big business.  I pointed out that 20% of millions is rather a lot of money.  She then said well what about £5 ever quarter? So we'd gone from £10 per month to £5 per month to £20 a year.  No. Again I pointed out that the money I would give would go towards her salary to phone me up to ask me for more money! She then confessed that she was working for a company employed by Cancer Research to raise more money but the cost of this was only £50,000.  I doubt very much its only costing Cancer Research to pay another company to drum up more donations some how.  I said what a waste of money why can't Cancer Research use the people they already employ "they don't have the time".  I rest my case.

I have given money to various disaster appeals, paid for tents in Cambodia, Barnardos, Eastern European orphans, lifeboats, NSPCC the list goes on and on. I will never ever give to a charity that comes a knocking on my door let me tell you. I find that highly inappropriate and I tell them so. I won't set up a monthly donation to any one charity in particular as I don't want to. 

If that makes me uncharitable then so be it.  I think all charities need to be clear as to exactly how much of the money you donate goes to what you care about.  I am not saying don't give to charities - as that's not the answer either. But in truth I don't know what the answer is. Do you?

Monday, 10 September 2012

Monday Weigh In

I'm back and it ain't pretty. Brace yourselves, brace myself. 4lbs on!! Back to 13 stone. Remember last week I said, in a rather smug tone, that I hadn't put anything on? Well I celebrated that fact by continuing in the holiday spirit of merrily chomping my way through anything I saw fit, not to mention not exercising apart from a little bike ride on Saturday.

So I am well and truly back to blogging, back to the 1970's diet and like most of the mum's the world over the diet has resumed after 6 weeks off with the kids and a summer holiday thrown in for good measure.  My house is in order - only taken me a week to wash and put away enough washing that would make widow twanky weap.  The kids are back, order will return.  I will work out 4 x this week and will cut out all the crap I have been eating since my return. The next focus will be xmas and that little concert (see post I wrote today - yes you heard right - two in one day!) to see The Killers in November, not to mention this will be my last year and 2 months starting from now as a thirty something.

I'm back, bigger granted, but back!

Are you a skinflint?

Its such a weird word isn't it? Its origins probably date back thousand of years ago.  Sounds better than its definition of a miser though don't you think?  Are we all skinflints in one way or another? Or are we just careful with money?  No, I think there is definitely a difference between someone that likes to take advantage of a bargain i.e use a £5 off coupon or tesco vouchers for a day out and someone who is first out of the taxi and last at the bar.  Where its a way of life for some people. Someone that is tight at your expense i.e quite happy for you to pay for the incidentals if it saves them money.  They get no pleasure from giving but extreme pleasure from taking. I've mentioned these types before in this post.  Have a read it really is one of my finest hours.

Now my husband isn't a skinflint by any stretch of the imagination.  I like the fact he never makes me feel I'm spending his money (its ours) or ever have to justify things I've bought. Bloody good job really.  But he can, every now and then, surprise me with some skinflint tendencies.

And I've used this picture before but I like it!
My husband tends not to care about the thousands but is more concerned with the pence. He'll practically do a merry jig if the Co-op are selling tins of food you'll never eat unless you were under nuclear attack all because its 20p.  That tin will sit, festering forever more, until it reaches its expiry and then I'll chuck it out.

His not caring about the bigger purchases does me no harm at all. He has been known to buy me lovely presents and only yesterday he purchased 2 tickets (above market value) for very good seats to see The Killers in November. And thats in the full knowledge that I have a not so secret crush, suppressed as best I can, on Mr Brandon Flowers.  I am so excited I cannot tell you. I feel about 15 years old.  Last time Brandon was doing the rounds buddy was 3 months old and I was breastfeeding. I'm not into music festivals - I'm too old for walking around in muddy fields making out the kids are having a fab time and thinking I've still got it. I'd rather have a cup a tea but a concert with seats is just fine and dandy.

Anyhow why the skinflint talk? Well on holiday we bought pancakes for the children with nutella. The children weren't best pleased with them (they cost 2 euros 50 each) but instead of just binning them my husband ate them all so as not to waste money. Work that out. He made himself feel sick and paid for the privilege. Granted he was worried about our money what with his back etc but my immediate thought was "you skinflint, what are you doing?!"

In addition, someone was leaving the campsite and handed us free food. Now the free food was potatoes, carrots and broccoli. Now call me ungrateful but I don't fancy boiled veg in the baking heat in a caravan. But because they were free my husband merrily peeled his bounty for our tea that evening. I could see he was so chuffed with this. He is Scottish after all and the stereotype comes out in him every now and then. The fact that we bought a chicken costing 10 euros to go with our 'free' veg was kind of lost on him and if I had served that at home he would have had cause for complaint.

It got me thinking of all the skinflints I know and I know of a few.  They tend to buy cheap, nasty shit because its cheap and then complain its broke or no one ate it.  Instead of actually saving money they waste it as it never works out how they planned. If they'd only just paid a few pounds more.. but they never learn and continue to do it their whole life.

Even days out they apply the same stupid logic i.e if they've paid for a day out, irrespective if the kids or they are enjoying it, they're bloody well going to stay to get their monies worth.  I once went to a farm with someone who would lie about her children's ages to save £4.95 - which I know a lot of mums did when their kids were younger. I just think you sad fucking skinflints. Here you have a business providing you with a day out for your kids and you want to turn them over? How hard up are you? You'll soon complain when the business is no longer there and you say "oh I used to love that place." So the friend had avoided an entrance fee by lying, done the last at the counter for coffees (in fact there was no trip up to the counter) and one of her children was ill. The child was whinging and moaning and honestly no one was having any fun. But would she go home? No. She was getting her monies worth. They were staying for a good 5 hours. Really? What is wrong with people cut your loses and call it a day.

I think we all have skinflint tendencies in one way or another and when telling my husband about this post he said "this is the woman that wouldn't spend £5 on Ben and Jerry's ice-cream and bought a litre of some far inferior ice-cream that we're not going to eat." Point taken. Guilty as charged. But its not a way of life for me. I find people that continually do this are just mean and I don't like it. It makes me assess their personality as a whole and it ain't pretty.

On the flip side I have friends and people I know that will go out of their way to pay extra for something. They could get the same thing for less money but it makes them feel better if they've spent more.  They need that.

I don't really know how this post came about - free veg I think.  Are you an occasional skinflint like myself, is it a way of life or do you like to splash the cash? Right I'm off to replace that cheap ice-cream....

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Campingnardo

As in officialnardo.That's not technically a word but it sounds good to me.  Continuing on with my French holiday theme blog posts, and ignoring your "enough about bleeding France and your, me, me that's all you go on about" thoughts, let me tell you about The Campingnardo.

Ray Mears (pic from his website) - doubt he stays in Siblu caravans. What do you reckon?

They are experienced campers on the type of sites we stayed on - the static van ones not the Ray Mears lets rough it types. The ones that want to stay in a caravan, they chose to stay in a caravan not because, like us, they couldn't find any rented houses near the beach. No, no, no they love staying on the campsite with all that it offers. 

Now after a 7.5 hour car journey with les enfants, dodgy back husband and Siblu failing to leave our welcome pack in the late arrivals box - I banged on the closed reception window, pressing my face against the glass with a look of sheer weary patheticness that the Irish girl had no option but to let me in. They "hadn't done the late arrivals yet" - we negotiated our way around the campsite to find our home for the following 2 weeks. 

Now when you drive into one of these campsites you have to be careful not to knock down the many  people meandering around. They are on holiday after all.  Much like a cyclist in France, they aren't jumping out of your way for love nor money.   My husband instantly hated the the set-up or as he called it the "compound." I could see he was dreaming of the new house we had in Normandy the previous year, the space, the independence and no Campingnardo's to worry about. Talking of which, this one caught me well and truly off guard.

There she was in all her forty something glory. I mean I had barely got out the car and she was on my case.  "Hello I'm X (and I didn't remember her name all holiday until we exchanged kids email addresses) and this is X and X (who I did remember). She's 8 and he's 5 - How old are your children? What are there names?  We let them play here and they've made friends with the neighbours over there. They're English. We came here Wednesday, the weather's been good, we're off to the show later......" and on and on it went.

Breath woman, breath. I was polite and listened to her for a good 15/20 mins (in fact I think the car was unpacked during this time) eventually she trotted off to the latest Siblu entertainment so we could unpack. What have I done? I don't want to make friends and be sociable I want to do our own thing like we normally do.  Cue internal wailing.

I think she was a bit disappointed that I wasn't a Campingnardo as she soon discovered during the course of the holiday. I nearly cracked though as she was a Campingnardo worthy of cult status. Afterall why would you stay on this site if you didn't use the kidsclub, use the pool everyday, go to every entertainment show going and rarely leave the place? What sort of nutter was I? Now, don't get me wrong there's nothing wrong with this. People work very hard for their holidays and each to their own. How you want to spend your holiday is down to you. But please don't try and inflict your ideas of a great holiday on others.

For instance she would stop me and say "Have you got your fiesta tickets yet?" What the fuck are fiesta tickets I thought? Are we missing some firework display on the beach? As, no, I wouldn't want to miss something like that. Fiesta tickets were, in fact, dump your kids at 6pm-7.30pm and "You get a break" (this featured heavily in any converstaion).  Erm no I haven't got them we don't know what we're doing tonight. She would just stand there trying to get me to do all the stuff she was doing on a daily basis.

I consider myself to be a pretty strong charachter, I know my own mind but my goodness I nearly cracked on several occasions. She'd even cut out the middle man (that would be me) and ask my kids directly  "Are you coming to the show tonight?" "Have you been to the kids club?" "Why not? You are missing a treat." So then they thought they were missing out on something. Incedentially her eldest told me the kids club in the afternoon was great as they got to watch DVD's! Fan-bloody tastic. If I wanted my kids to be shipped off to clubs and watch DVD's well I could have stayed at home.

Essentially the Campingnardos rarely left the site. The kids were packed off to the kids pirates club from 10 am - 12pm and then back in at 4pm - 6pm. They trotted over to the sister site to watch every show going (which were pretty shit I only endured 2 - more of which later) and generally spent as little time with them as possible. This was there third year at the same site. They thought we were mad beach lovers as we were rarely at the pool and were out every night. No, we're not great sunbathers but we like to explore and get out and about and see France. We would come across car boot sales, markets and all sorts on our trips out. Plus we never really got going until 11am - the kids were sleeping in. I didn't want to be packing them off to kids club and having to be somewhere at a certain time. When I wanted them to clear off they had the freedom to go off in the park whilst we cooked tea but by and large we were together the whole time.

On the only day it rained constantly I decided to take the kids to the pirate show and Disney show. The hubster remained on site with buddy even though The Campingnardo had told me in no uncertain times to "put him in the buggy, he'll be fine - I did it with mine....blah blah." I just said no its fine he'll stay here. In any event, I joined The Campingnardos (I'm not that unsociable) and the kids enjoyed the pirate show but oh my goodness the Disney show and all that it promised was merely the entertainment guys singing various Disney theme tunes. I had to watch a Mary Poppins number in French and it was dire!  We were already at the front but Mrs Campingnardo was standing up and said "you can't possibly see it sitting down there (I could unfortunately)..well I'm not missing a single thing." Her son was bored shit less playing a game on his dad's phone, my son was watching the son and the girls weren't that fussed either. At half time (10pm), I said we were going. She was shocked she could not for the life of her understand why we were leaving - I even heard her question my daughter. I said the kids weren't fussed and we were going to catch up with the hubster. I was so sick of explaining my movements by the end of the holiday I can tell you.

Even on their last night they had a meal in the restaurant on site (I think a lot had to do with the fact they couldn't legally leave as they would have been over the limit - they liked a couple of beers in the day).  When I said we were going out I got that familiar Campingnardo look. What was I thinking? I'll tell you what I was thinking - support local businesses. We'd spent more than we normally would do on accommodation and Siblu were getting no more!

In any event, they weren't bad people and we chatted on a daily basis but I would have to say, whilst I don't mind caravan sites, I could certainly do without The Campingnardo that goes with them. Maybe it was just a one off and they are a rare breed but I'm not taking any chances.  Next year, we will be staying somewhere without any Campingnardos and that's just how we like it!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Ou est la gare?

Is a standing joke in my head. It stems from one of those French phrases you learn at school and will remain with me until the day I die. In fact, my friend and I would often say it as a joke on our trip around Europe all those years ago.  It signified our limited amount of French and when we didn't know what to say (in any language) we would say to each other "ou est la gare?" You would have to be there to appreciate it but it was very funny and still gives me an internal chuckle.

Take for instance when I had to visit the pharmacy in France last week.  On the day I had hired the bikes I was merrily inserting my contact lenses and realised that the right eye wasn't in properly. When I tried to find it I thought "did it go in at all?" I came to the conclusion it couldn't have done and wore another pair. That night my eye was very sore - I'm talking conjunctivitis here. I left it another day and then thought I'd pop to the pharmacy. Much like the roads in France, people rave about their pharmacies. In fact, its probably on a 'must visit' list somewhere.  So prior to popping in, I imagined walking up to the counter and saying "ou est la gare?" Of course I didn't and said something along the lines of "avez vous quelquechose pour conjuctivite?" Ta dah! She understood - probably helped by my pointing to the red, puffy swollen eye  So I got the eye solution, paid 4 euros 50 and off I went. That day my contact lens came out. It had been in there all along. Thankfully I didn't have to have my eyeball removed.

Anyway, I digress as I like to do. The purpose of this post was to tell you what I love about France.

I love:-

The signs for the towns. I like the way they put a red line through it when you are leaving. Its like you were here and now you aren't.

The cycle paths. They are huge. They're not tagged onto the road. They are roads in their own right. In fact, cyclists are right up there in the pecking order. They are top dogs. Pedestrians are at the bottom of the pile. If you're a walker you're nothing in France. Step on what appears to be a pedestrian crossing at your peril. There is no guarantee any mode of transport will stop for you.

I saw a box type thing to fill up your tyres with air along a cycle route - like you would get in a petrol station. Love that. Wonder if they dispense puncture kits also. 

The modest advertising boards in the fields by major companies like Super U and Carrefour - yup they just plonk a tiny little board on a wooden pole and shove it in a field. I like that.

The painting of water towers with a theme i.e a seaside theme if by the coast and so on.  They make ugly buildings a bit more attractive by painting them pretty.

The roundabouts. They like to decorate them too - you'll see funny shaped people made out of shells or wicker. Again making boring things look pretty.

The wooded picnic areas dotted all over the place. You can pull up sit and have your lunch in a beautiful setting and away you go. If it were here I'm sure the National Trust would claim it and you'd be charged entry.

They make best use of their natural resources. For instance, its very windy along the Atlantic coast but they promote all sorts of wind based sports. Like people who use a surf board attached to a giant kite. See, they've thought what can you do on a beach when you can't sit and enjoy it? Clever that.

And a few things I don't..

The fact they only give you a few seconds to decide on which way you need to go on the motorway. They tell you once and then you're right on the junction. We like to be told about 3 times before we come off.  When you do come off you also have to negotiate a hair-pin bend.

The French don't queue. They don't give a shit if you were first in line. There is no queueing etiquette. That's a tough one to get over but you have to unless you can row proficiently in French.

Shitting in the woods I was talking about earlier. When we decided to go for a walk in these beautiful picnic areas you were greeted with bright pink toilet paper where people couldn't wait to get home and have a shit - oh no - they thought they'd just do it there. Dirty bastards. I would like to think its the camper vans who can't be arsed to set up their chemical toilets but I 'm not so sure.  I think its accepted as standard but it shouldn't be. Its disgusting. How desperate you gotta be for a shit, that you have to take one in the woods?!

So there you have it. France in a nutshell and if you're there anytime soon be sure to say "ou est la gare?!"

Monday, 3 September 2012

We did it!

I'm back. Did you all miss me? No? My stats are down you bastards! I'd better get back on the blogging and dieting wagon pretty pronto.  Tots 100 have screwed me massively too - down 100 places in the chart that no one can work out but for some reason it matters to have a respectable score.

So we did it. We made it. We got to France and made it back without any visits to French hospitals. Hooray!  Just to re-cap we went to the Vendee region of France (Saint Jean de Monts) and stayed at a Siblu ("French for happy families" so says their slogan) static van camp site.  The kids thought they'd arrived in paradise. It had 2 parks, games room, entertainment, table tennis, a pool with slides and much more. I shall speak more of this in another post as we don't normally do these types of holidays and we happened to be next door to some proper hard core Siblu stayers. 

My husband vowed never ever to stay in a caravan after a very good holiday in Great Yarmouth - we had lots of great days out but the seating and bed were so uncomfortable. On our previous two visits to France we have stayed in a rented house. The last one was a fabulous, large, new 3 bed with loads of space, 2 minute walk to the beach and all at the bargain price of 1,000 euros for 2 weeks. Thing is you can't guarantee the weather in Normandy - its very much like the UK so you take your chances and given that the UK summer had been so rubbish we were heading for sunshine this year.

In the Vendee you are pretty much guaranteed it and for that reason the houses are far more expensive. In any event we really struggled to find a 3 bed near the beach within our budget so caravan it was. 

Well the caravan was lovely - it had decking and was on a quiet part of the site which wasn't that nosey in any event. All was good. The husband had driven 7 1/2 hours and the back was holding out. Then we went to bed. For the love of god the mattress was like a slab of concrete! I mean my back is pretty decent but even I felt like I'd been crushed by a steamroller. Shit. My husband had very little sleep for 2 weeks and would probably be back in hospital had we stayed any longer.  His comment on that first night was "Siblu is French for Suicide!"

We did make the best of the time we had though - he certainly took one for the team that's for sure. The kids had a fabulous time and I enjoyed it too although more so if the hubster had been in better order.  Our days were filled with discovering new beaches along the 26km to choose from. Some days sandy, some more rocky,crabbing, supermarket shopping with the kids peering at the lobsters and crabs and getting excited at ketchup flavoured crisps.  We had bbqs, ate a lot of French bread, the kids used the pool slides, had evenings out along the beach front, a few arcade rides and games, zip wires in the many play areas. It was "action packed" so said my son.  My husband couldn't sit for any length of time so he took many walks along the beach with the kids and we were out walking every evening along the beach promenade. On his side of the bed we had folded four duvets to give him a degree of comfort but it was all a bit fruitless.  I did think about suggesting bringing in the hard sun lounger for him to sleep on but thought better of it.

The best part for me was the day I hired some bikes for my son and I. I had already worked out the French for my requirements and popped over to the sister Siblu site to arrange them. Of course, he spoke fluent English and before I had even opened my mouth he was jabbering away in English and away we went with our lovely bikes. Mine was a Renault number I have you know. The next day we made our way out to meet the others at a disclosed location along the beach front.  We cycled through the forest smelling the lovely pine trees and followed the dedicated bike lanes along the beach front.  There was even a little bike air filling station just in case your tyres went flat. 

We didn't chance our arm and visit Frances 'best kept secret' the theme park Pay du Fou - and my kind of theme park no rides! Check out its website if you get a chance. Its basically various spectacular shows. We thought it would be a bridge too far and you can actually stay within the park so I'm thinking maybe a separate visit one day and buddy will be able to enjoy it more when he's older.

So what of the food. In the first week I had yogurt for breakfast and lunch was french bread (which is pretty devoid of bread its all crust) and our evening meals did tend to be meat and bread.  In the evenings I did enjoy a few Chi Chi's.  Basically its a doughnut but not in its normal guise. Its phallic shaped with ribbed edges - oh er. They sell them in cornets and they're lovely and warm. I missed out on the moules this year - last year it took a long time between courses and 2 hours dinning out with kids is a long time. I could have got a take-away version but much like an Indian take-away its not quite the same experience.

I haven't put on any weight - we were very active.  I also (look away now if you don't want to hear about woman type matters) delayed my period for the 2 weeks. I had no idea you could do this. Why has it taken me this long (I'm 38) to think of this? I took 3 x pills a day and this prevented any inconvenience so I will have a better idea of weight type matters next week but as it stands I'm no fatter or lighter than I was 2 weeks ago.  I normally lose about 3lbs when we go away not because I haven't had a good time but we are so bloody active its not that difficult.

So I did promise a bikini shot - brace yourselves. Now I have to say from the moment I set foot on the beach on the first day I felt very confident. This is because all  women wear them on the beach and I would say at least 60/70% are mum's like me with similar figures so I felt in no way out of place. Take from that what you will. We're all greedy bastards or just normal - I don't know. No one gives a hoot.  I did admire slimmer mums in their bikinis - fair play to them they haven't given up the ghost and probably work hard for their bikini bods.  I did not feel that those same women were judging me in anyway.  Its very liberating. I would highly recommend it.

Trying to pose properly - I'm rubbish I have no idea how to stand!

I like this shot I've just been having major fun in the waves with the kids. The t-shirt is on as I got burnt the previous day
This one hubby took - I'm not really a sun worshipper as I have pale skin and I don't tan brown I go a kind of orange colour!

And this is what it looks like on a fit bod! My size was 36FF with XL bottoms!

So I am back. I have lots more to say. Be back tomorrow!