Bon Voyage Aunty J

My fabulous sister is travelling to Sri Lanka this evening and will be spending a month there travelling around and watching the first two England v Sri Lanka tests with the rest of the nutters supporters that follow the England cricket team around the world.

It was her birthday in the week so she booked lunch for 7 of us (Dh was working) today at a pub (The Belgian Arms) in deepest, darkest Berkshire. Despite my grumbling at having to chauffeur two slightly grumpy post-ballet 4 year olds around the M25 on a Saturday morning on my own, the trip was totally worth it. The food was amazing, the staff were really helpful and everyone was amazingly tolerant of the girls as they hooted with laughter at J’s antics.

J has a habit of ending up on television when they broadcast cricket from far-flung places (particularly when she joins in with belting out the National Anthem pre-game) and this time she and a friend have constructed a massive banner to make themselves just a little bit more recognisable.

She was in Australia for the Ashes a year or so ago and was occasionally able to Skype. She’s not taking her laptop this time so won’t be able to get in contact with us quite as easily, although she does keep in contact with her long-suffering boyfriend (who doesn’t travel with her) and our parents via text message and brief phone calls.

The girls don’t quite ‘get’ what travelling abroad really means. They’re fascinated by aeroplanes but haven’t been in one yet because we’re not brave enough . It’s something we’re saving for when they’re older and can amuse themselves with a DS or iPod.

It was lovely to see J before she went. The girls completely adore her so she had better come back in one piece…

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Offline

While we were on holiday I went offline. For five days.

I wouldn’t describe myself as an IT addict but I definitely feel a need to be ‘connected’. I’m reasonably active on Facebook, I’m (begrudgingly) on Linked In and I have three Twitter profiles and two blogs. I like being in touch with my family, friends and professional contacts. My job is entirely web and e-mail based, so I spend a significant amount of time at a computer. I have an iphone so even when I’m away from my laptop, I can still keep tabs on things.

I didn’t deliberately plan to go offline. We stopped at a service station on the way to Center Parcs I automatically pulled my phone out of handbag to see if I’d had any messages. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I didn’t feel an urge to check my e-mails, Facebook or Twitter. I waited until we had arrived safety at our lodge and I turned my phone off.

Dh is pretty much wedded to his android phone and I figured that if anyone needed to get hold of me they could contact him. In a dire emergency our families knew where we were staying so could get a message to us. Anything else could wait for a few days.

I didn’t miss my phone at all. In fact, I felt oddly liberated without it. In any case, we were so busy that I didn’t have any time to play even if I had wanted to. I was too busy chucking myself down the water slides and leaping about with R and G to catch up on Facebook or Twitter!

I turned my phone back on just before we left on the Friday and even then I didn’t feel an urge to catch up on anything. As it turned out I hadn’t missed anything at all, aside from a pregnancy announcement on Facebook and that was easily rectified.

I don’t think I could be without my phone for so long in London. Something about living in a city reinforces my need to feel connected. I suspect that if I lived in the country I wouldn’t be quite so reliant on my mobile. Something about the countryside and animals and…nature stuff…makes me feel that the internet isn’t as important, somehow.

Connectivity is a self-feeding beast. You’re online so you Tweet or write a status update or blog. You get a response so you’re encouraged to write more and more and you’re sucked into the ‘If you’re offline you’re missing out’ trap. Normally I like this but I enjoyed living without it for a few days.

Hooky

It’s really good to be able to holiday in term time and we’ll have to make the most of it before the girls start school next September. Most of the children at Center Parcs were under 5 but there were clearly a fair few families that were playing hooky in order to take advantage of the significantly cheaper prices the week before half term.

In fact, I overheard a conversation between two 14 year old lads while I was chucking myself down the rapids to that effect. Lad 1: “Not many girls here this week man” Lad 2 “Half term is next week you MONG”.

I caught sight of something on Twitter before we went away that backed this up. Schools will fine parents c.£60 for holidays in term time, but you can save £500 by going the week before the schools break up. I’m not minded to do it myself but if you want to save cash…

Swimsuit

I used to be a bikini girl.

I was a ridiculously shy teenager and covered myself up as much as I possibly could. Even my swimsuit was one of those ‘hide everything and no-one will notice me’ affairs and, looking back, I had nothing to be ashamed of. I was slim and had a lovely flat stomach. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I stopped hiding myself away when I met dh. I used to buy tiny little bikinis from H&M and loved wearing them. I don’t think they ever saw much water but they looked nice.

I took up swimming (as opposed to posing and sunbathing) the year before I got pregnant and bought a suitably sporty one-piece to enable my progress through the water. As soon as I got a bump I stopped swimming.

Then the stretch marks appeared. Thin silvery lines across my stomach. My bellybutton went wrinkly. I went back to my pre-pregnancy size 12 within a month of giving birth but I no longer felt comfortable with my new, stretched body. With a heavy sigh I consigned my much-loved bikinis to the bin and mourned the loss of my lovely tummy.

(I know this is a ‘first world’ problem, but work with me here…)

The week before we went on holiday I went swimsuit shopping. I went after work. I was tired and stressed. I bought a hideous granny suit that was so awful I nearly cried. Some friends recommended that I try a tankini soI took the granny suit back and bought one, as well a much more flattering one-piece.

As soon as I stepped out of the changing rooms at Center Parcs I realised what an idiot I had been. There were literally ALL shapes and sizes in the pool, all happy to bear themselves in a way that I wasn’t. Women with far worse stretch marks than me were wearing the skimpiest of bikinis. As for the men….MY EYES! MY EYES!

My bikini-wearing days are definitely over, but I don’t feel quite as self-conscious about my figure now. In any case, I’m blind as a bat and don’t wear contacts so I have to wear my glasses in the swimming pool. I look like a total moron.

Forest

We’ve just had a fantastic first family holiday at Center Parcs and I had to be dragged home kicking and screaming. The girls loved their ‘New’ house and were slightly grumpy about returning to their ‘Old’ house, until they ran back through the door and saw their toys. I’m still slightly about being home and not having access to a massive water slide whenever I feel the urge to do something mildly dangerous.

We went to the Longleat ‘branch’(?). I adore Wiltshire and would happily up sticks and move there given half a chance. Dh has said that if I’m made redundant we can ‘maybe consider it’…but that’s something he says to R and G to placate them when they’re in a bad mood so I’m not holding out much hope.

I was apprehensive about the holiday beforehand but it was simply wonderful. I could bore you with the details at this point but I’ll just say that the girls loved the activities we arranged for them – the ballet and tennis lessons and the Pirates & Princesses party went down a treat – and we spent an awful lot of time in the swimming pool. I’m already nagging/asking dh if we can go back next year…or maybe for a weekend in the Autumn…

Holiday! Celebrate!

We’ve just booked our first family holiday.

The last holiday Dh and I had was almost FOUR years ago. We spent a week in the Cotswolds and brilliantly managed to time it so that my morning (pah! All day) sickness started in the service station on the way there. I proceeded to see almost everything we ate on the holiday – every hotel breakfast, every cream tea and every evening meal. On the first day I ate a full English breakfast…and promptly saw it in reverse mere minutes later. By the final day I was reduced to nibbling a piece of toast. I kept falling asleep at random intervals and was only ok when I was a passenger in the car, which meant Dh did a lot of random driving around. One of the few highlights was buying my first maternity bras because my underwired ones were agony thanks to my MASSIVE SORE BAZOOKAS.Our romantic holiday, booked before I found out I was pregnant, was a bit of a washout.

We haven’t managed to have a holiday since because, well, we couldn’t quite face the hassle of transporting everything the girls need to a different place for a few days and then carting it back home again. I admire people that take their small children on holidays. They must be made of much sterner stuff than I. Basically, I’m a massive wuss.

We’ve done a couple of nights away from home with the girls. Two of those were very cheaty because we went and stayed with people that already had twins so they knew what to expect. We stayed in a hotel for a wedding last year and the girls LOVED it. They strutted around the hotel like they owned the place and thought being ‘grown-up’ was simply brilliant. That, coupled with the fact that the girls are toilet trained and desperate to do anything that might involve being ‘grown-up girls’ inspired us to think that maybe we could all cope with a proper holiday.

So, we’re off to <insert name of well-known UK holiday park> for five days in May. To compound our stupidity bravery we’re doing a Monday-Friday break, so the girls will miss three whole days at nursery. This is completely and utterly unheard of. It nearly put Dh off the idea completely but I managed to persuade him that we wouldn’t all kill each other on the third day….

Best of all, it’s at the start of three weeks off work for me in May and June, so I have two weeks at home to recover afterwards.

Whoop! Whoop! 🙂