Family Traditions Part Two: Camping!

Looks bliss, doesn’t it? Well, I’ll be honest, it is. This particular camping tradition has become a yearly event ( before the schools break-up) and is shared with extended family. There really is no-where on earth more beautiful than Cornwall in the sunshine and for four years in a row, we’ve had sunshine.

If you’re thinking I’m being all smug about our brilliant camping experience, then rest assured we have had many camping disasters. Here are just 3 rubbish camping trips we’ve had to show that we have in fact earned our camping stripes:

  1. A weekend years ago when we decided to ‘wild camp’ in the New Forest. Turns out I have a very over-active imagination, but at the time I really did think there was an axe murderer on the loose. In hind-sight it was probably a pony rustling around in the dark, but I was so terrified I made us abandon the tent in the middle of the night and sleep in the back of the car instead.
  2. This one was so dreadful I’ve even blocked out where exactly it was from my memory. The kids were aged 2 and 3 and they weren’t exactly a barrel of laughs to take camping. It rained the whole time, and we were so desperate for things to do with the kids that we played football in the tent. It was a pretty small tent too.
  3. Hmmm not sure which one to go with here, the festival where I had a serious stomach upset & we were camped a long way from the toilets, OR the one where it rained so much the tent leaked and we had to pack up in the middle of the night OR the one where I had  to get around on crutches with a badly damaged knee……………..

Our yearly camping trip to Cornwall is the glittering jewel in a very rusty crown. There’s a lot of family history here as my maternal grandparents and great-grandparents lived in Cornwall. Many summer holidays, sometimes the entire summer holiday were spent there. I was even named after a fishing boat in the harbor, thank goodness it was Sarah Louise and not one of these totally stupid but real boat names: Tip Sea; Shipfaced or my personal favourite, Breakin Wind.

There are so many memories attached to Cornish summers for me, that I wanted my own children to have some of the same experiences. Mum found this absolute gem of a campsite and from our little patch (pitch) of heaven we indulge in the following pleasures:

Cycling to the seaside town for lunchtime pasties; kayaking on the estuary; bodyboarding at Treyarnon; sandwiches at Constantine; taking the ferry to Rock (even swimming over to Rock once as part of the Padstow to Rock swim); supporting the National Lobster Hatchery; hair wrapping on the harbor wall; clotted-cream icecreams; evening drinks on the campsite whilst the kids play with friends they meet every year; time with extended family (1 of my sister’s also camps every year, 1 visits for the day from Devon and the other needs a little nudge…..it will happen!); drinks at a harbor view pub/hotel to mimic the times we spent there as kids ourselves playing in the games room; rock climbing; dodging low flying seagulls; post beach drinks at The Cornish Arms………and a new one to add after this year, dancing in the harbor square to The Floral Dance with the kids and their cousins (after a few drinks). Note the drink theme, maybe that’s the secret to good camping?

Suffice to say, this part of Cornwall steals a little more of my heart each year. I hope the kids will grow up with equally fond memories of their summer trips.

On the journey home, T piped out from the back seat ‘Are we back in England yet?’ Part of my brain thought ‘Blimey I need to get a map of the UK out and teach some basic geography’ and the other part thought ‘yeah, I know exactly what he means. Cornwall does kind of feel like some wonderful foreign land’.

Happy Camping!


Family Traditions Part one: Poetry

Random reciting of poetry is somewhat a tradition in my family. My Grandpa Popsie, used to sing, recite quotes and poetry to myself and my sisters. It gave him such joy, and his face would light up as we listened eagerly. He’d pick the same favourites to recite aloud from memory and it was comforting. I miss Popsie and the comfort blanket of his poetic words. One evening at bedtime all those years ago, I recorded his singing and poetry on cassette, which I still have, but can’t quite bear to hear now that he has passed away.

My Dad has taken on the mantle for my own children. He will turn up on our doorstep and recite limericks and poetry, all created by him. Sometimes he wakes in the night with poetry whirring round his head, or thinks up crazy rhymes as he walks the 20 minute journey to our house.

Here is Dad’s latest offering, which he wrote in 15 minutes in the middle of the night this week, especially for L and T. ‘Big Brown Bear’ is his alter ego, a persona he acquired when the kids and their cousins were just toddlers. He used to switch into ‘Big Brown Bear’, which the kids would find both scary and utterly thrilling. This particular poem is based on the ‘spy’ games L and T play, following him halfway home, ducking and diving behind parked cars and lampposts, trying desperately not to be seen.

The Stealthy Trackers

 If you follow in the paw prints of the big brown bear,

You have to use much guile and take great care,

Be as nimble as a newt, as quiet as a mouse,

When you follow his tracks from house to house.


If you walk in the shadow of a big brown bear,

You have to glide like a ghost and sprint like a hare:

You need the strength of a lion and the eyes of a cat,

And the ultrasonic senses of a vampire bat.


So heed this warning from one, who knows,

Be on your mettle; be on your toes,

For if he turns and catches you there,

You’ll feel the force of the big, brown bear.


Robert Esau


Dad is a big part of my children’s home ed life, and I love the enthusiasm for life, the knowledge, the jokes and of course the poetry that he brings into our home.


A Perfect Birthday

SDC11832Well, as a dear friend told me, I’m another year wiser!

My birthday has been simple since having the kids. It has usually involved our normal day, and then a takeaway, a bottle of wine and a film in the evening. A bit uneventful really.

This year my birthday came at the end of our holiday in Portugal to see Mum, and it was perfect. I awoke to handmade cards from L and T, plus a special plate of gifts carefully selected by T: 2 favourite shells collected from the beach, 3 special stones he’d found and 1 juicy nectarine. No-one could have chosen a better present for me, and I’m not just saying that! The nectarine was the sweetest, most delicious piece of fruit I think I’ve ever tasted and I love sea drift treasures. It certainly beat my present from him last year, which was my own sieve from the kitchen cupboard wrapped up!

My only birthday request this year was to swim in the sea, our little family of four together. It was freezing, but weirdly that’s how I like it! I love the buzz of a cold sea swim.

For the past 3 years I have entered charity open water swim events with my youngest sister, but she is due baby no.3 imminently and so we’ve decided not to do one this year. It was actually nice just enjoying the sea without the pressure of having to train.


We then went back to the villa complex and had a pool swim before lunch at the pool bar. More swimming= my perfect birthday!

Lastly we popped into town so the kids could spend their holiday money and Mum insisted on buying me some shoes she had spotted which she thought would be perfect for summer dog walking.

The evening was spent travelling home, which we reached at 1am. Tired, but happy.

Of course our holiday is not a break from home education, life and learning just goes on. However, the sun, sea, change of scenery and having Sean around for a week has revived and energised me.

Home Ed, I’m ready for you!



Ebbs and flows

Learning……it’s a bit like a stream…..sort of. The ebbs and flows, the times of constant swirling activity and the times of still, serene waters which to an onlooker may appear as if nothing much is happening. There is an under-current of learning happening all the time however, yet we cannot always see it. Our job as parents, is simply to trust.

On a hot day, a week or so ago, I took Land T to a nearby park. The idea was to walk our dog Legend and play in the park, but they had other ideas! They took off their shoes, rolled up their trousers and got in the stream which ran along the edge of the park. Legend followed, jumping in excitedly, then kept coming over to me to shake dry whilst I tried to enjoy 5 minutes of peace on a nearby bench.

It was futile of course, and I was wet by this point anyway, legend had made quite sure of that. I dutifully ditched my shoes and rolled up my own trousers and slipped down the muddy bank into the freezing water. L and T love me to join in their adventures and so I followed their lead: upstream, under the bridge we had played pooh sticks from earlier, through the shallow and deep. It was fun and I felt brimming with something…….aliveness!

The next morning T awoke excited about the stream,’we need to go back today Mum!’ and we did. We went back 4 times in all, until eventually they had explored a huge section of the stream. Towards the end of the fourth visit, they were waist high in freezing water and had to use a fallen tree to lever themselves out.

It was a great adventure to them, and they were learning. I couldn’t be sure what exactly, but years of living alongside them has taught me to have faith. I assumed of course, that the learning was centred on the stream itself. Not because it mattered much what the exact nature of the learning was, if it was important to them it was important to me, but because the world which children inhabit fascinates me.

L got out of the stream first and was shivering, then T got out and declared ‘well, we’ve done the stream now Mum, I’ve reached my limit with it’.

As it turned out, they were learning about themselves, their limits. Pretty important stuff I’d say.