The Last Car Boot Sale

Car Boot Sales!

I have promised Iron Man that this really is the last one.  It’s going to have to be as no loft means no hoarding.

This one has had to be hardcore though.  Alarm set for 3.45, leave by 4.30.  Never before have we been so committed.  The Kid had a sleepover and the attention seeking rabbit was left with enough supplies to see her through the morning.

There is no room for the 7.00 sellers these days.

You end up in the cow-shed and go home with everything you came with and 25p.

That’s enough to rock any marriage.

So here we are at Dunton in Essex and for the first time in weeks, I’m cold.  So cold that I’m tempted to start dressing myself in the very items I am selling.

This will probably be the closest I will get to a modelling career in brown leather boots and a Pom Pom scarf.

In fact, I’m glad to see it’s not just me that’s cold because there are people here shopping in their fleecy pyjamas.

I often wonder what possesses people to get up at such an ungodly hour to buy other people’s toot but wild horses couldn’t keep them away.  Just as well really.

We are rather departmental this time around and Iron Man could easily be cast as Mr Selfridge as he stands over the merchandise negotiating with purchasers that are interested in the giant inflatable champagne bottles.

Mr Selfridge

As I sit in the car, I feel proud that he has stuck to his guns and held out for 50p per bottle. Especially after the effort of blowing them both up.

This is despite being offered 50p for two.

Sale agreed!  Inflatables Are Us!

Our Christmas section has been unveiled and as I have said before, it would rival Harrods.

The 3 sided tree is out in all its glory.  No shift so far.  People keep wanting to buy all three at a heavily discounted price.

I’ve had to impose a limit of one per customer.

No one needs 3 trees.

I can vouch for that because they have been sat in the loft for years.  I am doing these people a favour in not taking their money.

And as for the three sided tree – well, rooms will always have corners.

There will always be a need.

Trade is picking up slowly, very slowly.  As I sit in the car nursing my chilblains,  I can hear Iron Man engaging with more customers.  I think he may have cracked a joke too.  Time to investigate and the sun is out.

I am seriously wondering to myself though whether the days of the car boot are over.  It’s much quieter than it used to be.  Maybe we have chosen a good time to retire and bail out.

It has been a very long slog.

Lots of bartering and haggling and fun.

And lots of nice people stopping by.

Many satisfied customers.

And some unsatisfied.

I am never going to let you have something for £2 if I’ve asked for £10.  This is not the way to successfully negotiate a deal.

The charity shop will always win this one.

I will also never fail to be amazed at the ability of women with Size 7 feet that try and squeeze them into a size 5 and then want a discount because they are the wrong size.  Such are the antics of these places.   You can never have enough shoes of the wrong size at times like this.

It is these things that make the whole thing worthwhile when you have stood on your feet for 8 hours.

Of course we forgot the chairs.  And of course among the 22,000 stalls, we were unable to find a pair.  This is known as Sod’s Law.

The temperature warmed up nicely over the course of the morning and as we queue to leave at 1245 after 8 hours trading, I am a little charred.

In the boot of the car is more or less what we came with.  Including the trees!!

We have made £130 in sales which is not too be sniffed at but we could probably have both done an 8 hour stint in Poundland for more.

And with the car as full as when we arrived, we go home via St Francis Hospice Charity Shop laden down with goodies for them, so nothing is going to waste.

Best seller of the day goes to Barbie.  Her late entrance proved to be worthwhile.

Her authenticity was questioned and we thought we may have to get Ken involved but she held her ground.

I gave her new owners some wise advice.

It is not OK to bend a dolls legs and arms backwards.  EVER.   It is also not OK to imply that my goods are anything other than legit.  Do we look like we are the type to house fake Barbie’s.  No.  Thought not.

Do not even think about asking me to knock the price down.

People can be cruel sometimes.

I do hope we have done the right thing for her.

And the ex soft furnishings from The Kid’s old bedroom are on their way to Thailand with another satisfied customer.

Everyone is a winner.

I can honestly say that I will never do another Car Boot Sale in this lifetime.

Iron Man and I are at one on this.

We are done with this chapter of our lives.


The marriage would not survive.






Who’s Doll Is It Anyway?

The Kid and her doll

Our first foray into the American Girl Place in New York with The Kid was a bit of an eye opener and I have to confess that we did have a bit of a giggle at the craziness of it all.

Parents (mainly dads) carrying multiple red bags, sitting in the waiting room of the Beauty Salon (asleep!), families dining in the dining room, dolls that looked real – which collectively was a bit scary, little girls dressed in the same outfit as their dolls and multiple floors of pink candy stripes and well – more dolls.

However, if you see all of this through the eyes of a child – you will realise that we ended up being well and truly dragged in and five visits later, we did emerge through the revolving doors carrying said red bags and laughing the other side of our smug faces.


You are quite right in thinking that we appear to be quite sensible people on the whole but in our defence this place is a whole new world.

On a corner of 5th Avenue lies a very unique shop for little ladies wishing to purchase a doll that looks a bit like them and with whom they can experience a world of activities and experiences that are equal to girl heaven – and some.


Dolls can be selected to match a child’s skin, hair and eye colour.  The rest of the floors are a little bit like a department store for dolls in so far as you can purchase outfits, accessories, friends, more dolls, books, food and hair and beauty treatments.  I understand that there is also a dolls hospital should one be required.

So, armed with her birthday money, The Kid decided that she wanted to buy one of these dolls.  At $115 before taxes at the till, these dolls are rather an extravagant purchase.  However, it was her money and after we explained all of this, she decided to go ahead on the basis that it would always remind her of the holiday.

So which one then?

American Girl

That part took care of two visits at least.  When faced with an army of dolls, choosing the right one can be a very nerve-wracking experience for the uninitiated.

Our experience in the shop showed us that it was simply the best compliment if someone said how much your doll looked like you.  No pressure here then.

The Kid and the doll

At this point I should warn you that The Kid’s doll did not come with that outfit OR that hairdo.  We are only on Visit 4 anyway so keep up!

Toilet anyone?

Dolls holder

Doll holders can be found in cubicles and next to sinks.  No need for grubby mitts.

It was at this point, The Kid decided she would like to get the dolls hair done.  So up a few flights and we found ourselves here.

Dolls Hair Salon

Only to find there were no appointments.  I kid you not!

Dolls hair salon

Which meant that there would need to be a 5th visit.  As we pencilled in a 3pm appointment for the last day of the holiday.

Dolls hair styles

So for now, we could leave.

Doll purchase

Until the next day when we saw ourselves running down 5th Avenue in the 30 degree heat to get to the hair appointment.

Doll at hairdressers

Where the hair was beautifully plaited by a doll stylist

Dolls hairdresser

But there was no time for any further treatments

Dolls manicure

We had a plane to catch and this doll needed to get back to the UK along with her owner.

Dolls hair plait

And her lovely hairdo.

We had to miss this.

Dolls Cafe

And of course you won’t be surprised to see this.

Iron Man and the doll

Of course he couldn’t wait to muscle in.

And we made sure to walk far enough in front so that he looked like he was on his own.

Me thinks he may be needing this!


All told we probably spent a day of the holiday in this shop.  It was like nothing on earth, yet wonderful and crazy at the same time.  Pure jaw-dropping entertainment for the adult and the child.

The doll and her owner are now safely back in the UK and all is well.

No further beauty treatments have been necessary.

Would you have done the same?


It’s Up To You in New York!

Manhattan. Broadway. Yellow Taxi.

There really is nothing quite like arriving in Manhattan for the first time.  It really is JUST like you see it on TV!  I was so excited for Iron Man and the The Kid as it was their first visit and I wanted them to experience it as I had (almost 20 years ago).  This was Iron Man’s 50th birthday soiree and he was keen to visit in the spring.  My previous visit was during the winter and I have always associated New York with cold weather, hot chocolate and ice skating – just like in the movies.

On arrival in New York we were greeted with very intense 30 degree heat which stayed with us throughout.  For me, this was like seeing a whole new city.  It is very different in the sunshine and it was a treat for me to see New York through different eyes.

Washington Square fountain

As with most big cities, the best exploration and finds are generally done on foot.  These are the times when you can look up and around soaking up the atmosphere and where you stumble upon little gems like this just because you happened to walk into it.

The heat should have slowed us down but it didn’t.   I would love to know how many steps we did.  It can be easy to forget that we have a 10 year old with us sometimes as we have certainly put our legs through the paces over the last week.  We did so much yet we still have so many reasons to go back.  I guess that is always the way.

Walking Brooklyn Bridge

It was also Memorial Day during our visit and it was wonderful to see so many service men and women out and about in the city.

American Navy

One of the things that we truly love about America is the patriotism and the way the American flag is everywhere and on everything.  Absolutely everything.

Slightly blurry picture of the Subway train but you gotta take your chances where you can – think Whoopi Goldberg and Ghost!

See what I mean about the flag!

The Subway proved a godsend for speeding up journeys.  It was quick, reliable, safe, easy and the air con made it the place to go for a cool down.  Just like the tube in London!

New York Subway

Food Glorious FoodIce Cream

You can never eat enough in New York.  There are so many things to try and we really didn’t have time to do it justice – another reason to go back.  We managed a few bits though.

Macaroons & Cookies New York

 Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

Whilst waiting to board the Staten Island Ferry at rush hour to catch a glimpse of Lady Liberty with the workers of New York returning home, Frank Sinatra’s version of ‘New York, New York’ started to belt out.  It was one of those rare wonderful moments that was just so fitting and cheesy at the same time.  Probably not so for the workers who I’m sure hear it every day, but there is no way that any respectable 40 something Brit on tour is going to do anything but start dancing.  Why should we be the exception?!  Of course we blooming well danced.

This is a less fun for a 10 year old with her parents who hasn’t been brought up with this song at every family party since she was 2.  It just doesn’t hold the same meaning.

We won’t mention the foam hat kiddo!

Travel Note – In order to alight at the Statue of Liberty and to climb it, you have to pre-book online.  We didn’t know this prior to travel and were disappointed to learn that it was fully booked until September.  Next time Libs!Statue of Liberty

Madison Square Garden

An absolute must!  With or without kids.  We booked in advance to see the New York Liberty play Minnesota Lynx.

From the moment you walk and hear the American Anthem it is wall to wall entertainment.  It was a well fought game and I have to say there were some pretty powerful women playing.  The highlight of the intervals had to be the large shooters catapulting t-shirts into the crowd.   The atmosphere and excitement in the stadium was palpable.

Basketball. Madison Square Garden.

The High Line

The High Line New York

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad.

In some ways it reminded us of the Olympic Park – beautiful flower beds and a great way to see the city.  Well worth doing.  Lots of artists at the end selling their wares and many tasty food stalls from which to sample more treats.

Check out these slushies being made from the ice block!

Slushies. Ice block

We ended our route in Chelsea.


Chelsea Market. New York.

Another must visit.  Both the neighbourhood and the Market.  So many things to browse and some wonderful entrepreneurs selling their wares.  Absolutely loved this jewellery made from real fruit.

Crafts. Chelsea Market


Another must.  Brooklyn itself and the Dumbo district (mad name!) is a great place for a mooch.  The walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge is a wonderful way to view Manhattan – especially in the glorious sunshine.

Brooklyn Bridge. New York skyline.

Rockefeller Centre

Rockefeller Centre.

I thought the Ice Skating Rink was the preserve of the Rockefeller Centre but it turns out that it lends itself pretty well to outdoor summer dining too.  Loved it the first time, loved it even more the second time.  The favourite.

American Flag. Stars and Stripes

Central Park

Another fave.  The heat precluded us from spending too much time here but we made sure we saw Alice.

Alice in Wonderland. Central Park.

 Memorial Site

We passed through on our first day but on the basis that we hadn’t had the conversation with little lady about 9/11, we didn’t linger.  Had we been alone I expect we would have gone into the museum and spent a little more time here.  Having said that it was incredibly busy and we found it a bit uncomfortable to see people taking selfies.

We felt that just being in the City made us reflect on what happened that day.  Sadly, it is also one of those moments in history where one can remember exactly what they were doing.   During one of our many walks, we passed an open fire station where the crew were training a new recruit.  Seeing photographs of the fire crew that had lost their lives that day was incredibly moving.

Here is a picture of the Fire Truck getting ready for a training session.  See what I mean about the flag!

New York Fire Truck

 American Girl Place

Yes.  I’m afraid she did.  This place.  There is nothing like it.  On Earth.  Five visits.  Five bloody visits.  Suckers.  I cannot do it justice in a paragraph so against my better judgement and because it was quite fascinating and crazy mad at the same time, it’s getting a post of its own.  Be afraid.  There is at least one doll in the UK.

American Girl Place

If you are in any doubt about taking children to New York, don’t be.  I felt incredibly safe there, we all did.  So very different since the clean up and my last visit.  There is loads of for kids to see and do.  There is also plenty for Iron Men to eat and drink.  Hell they even sell Stella Artois.  Of course he was gonna be a part of it.

New York, New York!!  Have you been?  What were your highlights?












There Is No Such Thing As a Free Lunch

But there is such a thing as a free cup of coffee!

Pret Flat White Organic Coffee

Who knew!


I certainly didn’t.

Having a had a bit of a bad coffee experience on my way to the tube which involved a bit of a machine explosion and delivery of a rank drink, I needed to top up my caffeine levels.

Being typically British I paid for the exploding coffee on the basis that I was supporting a local business and I know that their goods are generally tip top.

Mistakes happen.

When I arrived at Paddington I headed to the closest coffee shop – which happened to be Pret – where I ordered my usual Flat White.

As I reached for my purse, the Barista said ‘it’s on the house’.

On the house. Free.

Being typically British (again), I replied ‘sorry?’.

After several times of the delightful young lady repeating that it was indeed ‘on the house’ I sat down in shock and joined my friend.

She was less surprised as she had heard of this happening in Pret before and explained that she believed this is something that staff are free to do in lieu of a loyalty card scheme.

We wasn’t sure of the exact story and I wasn’t able to find any further details on the website unfortunately but let’s just say I was made up.

Yin and Yang

It was almost as though it was meant to be.  Not that the Barista would have any idea of the happenings of my morning but it felt like a bit of yin to my yang (or yang to my yin).

On the basis that there was no evidence of a milk froth avalanche on my person, I’m going for the yin-yang theory.

It was also a really good Flat White and it’s not often I say that so, thumbs up all round.

It did also get me thinking about how unaccustomed we are to being gifted unexpectedly as the consumer.

We automatically think that there is something wrong or some kind of mistake.

We are really not very good at not paying for things.

Maybe it’s the fear of the tap on the shoulder on the way out.

We can often be seen arguing with others about who will pay in a “I’ll get it”, No, I’ll get it” kind of way.

My daughter finds this whole practice very amusing.

The only exception to this rule is if you are with someone tight and on those occasions, you definitely ‘will get it’!

The law of averages says that you will probably get it the next time too.

Otherwise, there is that wonderfully British trait of saying ‘no thank you’ or ‘thank you’ too many times.

We even thank for thank you cards.

I was still mumbling my thanks for the coffee for several hours afterwards.

Isn’t it refreshing though.

An unexpected act of giving that really puts a spring in your step.

I am sure there will be others who have had their day made by this kind offering.

I thought it was a really nice touch and I wanted to share that.

It really made my beautifully sunny day sunnier.

Thank You. Grateful. Appreciation.

Thanks Pret!

These little gestures really make the customer experience memorable.

Perhaps my lovely readers have had a similar experience or heard of this happening.  I would love to hear your stories.












Living The Dream


Me : “I’m going to do a dark wash”

Iron Man : “Ooh I may have something to add to that”

I suspect he is coming on to me as I know he is referring to underwear.

Don’t think I can’t spot an advance when I see one.

It feels like a little celebration.  A joint coming together of underwear and possessions.

Just me and him!

Wey hey.

I know what you are thinking guys.

Check us two out – right?!

Hell no!!  The Kid has gone away for the week and this is our Rock ‘n’ Roll.

This is the common ground for the 40 something parents when The Kid goes away with the school for a week.

The coming together in holy matrimony of two child-free parents over a wash.

You can’t keep a good opportunity down.

So, what’s going on?

We should be out every night, going away, making merry and whooping it up at the first opportunity – shouldn’t we?

Well we may be doing a bit of the making merry – can’t desert the Prosecco when the sun is out now can we.  It’s what nature intended, after all.

The Kid departed on Sunday and after jumping for joy, sobbing uncontrollably for several hours we got it together.

We both had a day off yesterday.

And we made no plans!  No plans!!

Look at us – embracing spontaneity, how very retro!

We needed a blooming good catch up.  A catch up on anything and everything.

Let’s face it who has much to say of any substance during the week.

Who can be bothered with a full scale conversation with their partner after the day is done.

I’m generally onesied up and ready for bed not long after The Kid and I know Iron Man is always happy to jump on board an early night.

Of course, there are usually 3 on our team anyway, so our conversation is generally all together.


For this we feel very privileged.

However, there comes a time when you just need to talk grown-up.

Mortgage, finance, household and a general MOT of all things in The Department of Mum and Dad.

These are not things that are of much interest to a 9 year old or perhaps at times, conversely,  of too much interest.

And some things just ain’t for kids are they.  However much they want to get their two penneth in.

And then of course there is having a bit of a natter.  Which, again – doesn’t always fit easily into the flow of the day.

So this is our rock ‘n’ roll and I’m glad that we can do it.

A whole week with no agenda.

There was a time I felt a bit nervous about us being on our own post kid – I think everyone goes through that.  Bit of an identity crisis and you have absolutely nothing in common except the child.  It happens!

I’m sure we’re not alone in having that little period of time.   Dull days they were!

Fortunately it passed.

And so we started the day with no plans and worked our way through ‘the list’.

A second date was agreed for IKEA on Wednesday evening so things were looking good.

Iron Man cracked two jokes during the ‘date’, GSOH – tick!

He got the wrong end of the stick several times and I had a few moans – ha.  Some things will always remain but I can make a good recovery with my quick wit!  Ha! GSOH – tick!

So far so good.

And we’re not completely dull either.

We hopped on a train and randomly ended up in Westbourne Grove.

If you haven’t been it’s definitely worth a mooch.

Lovely shops.

angel-1300048_640Top Date Tip : Don’t suggest they might want my coat when we walk into a posh charity shop knowing full well it cost less than their cheapest item and that it came from Florence and Fred!!!!

A few glasses of wine and some food in a cool little restaurant and we were ready to come home at 8.00.

Yes I know others are going out at that time.  We passed them.   We used to too (see ‘retro’).

A seat on the tube home and an Evening Standard each!

Happy days.  No risk of over exposure.


Joking apart, we do actually do a lot of nice things together – with or without The Kid.

It’s very easy to think you have to cram every single little thing in to make the most of kid-free time together .  We’ve danced at that party too.  A few sneaky weekends away have certainly been notched up over the last few years.

But this week is all about having no restrictions and no agenda and being a grown-up.

So that is us.

And if you happen to see us in the Market Place at IKEA making merry with storage jars, art and too many pot plants – know that it’s OK to say hi.

You won’t be interrupting anything – really.

We are just living the dream.

Packing it all in and who knows,  IKEA meatballs and chips might even get involved.

Spontaneity is the spice of life this week.

Thank you for reading and I’d love to hear how your child-free ‘hoolies’ compare.


Brilliant blog posts on

Keeping Calm and Going Camping


The Kid and I were very made-up and flattered to be invited to go camping with some friends over Easter.

However, being a bit of a wuss by nature and given my love of all things homely – like my own bathroom and loo for example, I have to admit to rising panic at this forthcoming adventure.  I hate to be cold and public loos and showers bring me out in a rash at the mere thought.

Couple that with the fact that I’m a bit of a tidy freak and that I’d be living out of a bag in a tent with 8 others – well of course I bloody said yes!!!!

This probably surprised my beloved camping buds but the ‘give it a go’ in me, coupled with the fact that I knew The Kid would love it, saw me agreeing like I’d been a camper all my life.  I also knew we would have a really good laugh.

Too late to change your mind now girlies!!!

Iron Man found the whole thing hilariously amusing given my wimpy nature.  He generally wouldn’t put me and camping in the one sentence.  Glamping – yes, caravan – yes, treehouse – yes, lodge – yes.  Camping no.

He managed to contain his excitement about having two whole days to himself and I certainly didn’t begrudge him this as I know how much I love my own space.

So without further ado, a camping meeting was underway and a pitch secured at a Haven campsite in Clacton.

Wanting to be on top of things, I immediately snapped up this tea towel in Primark which was to become the camp mascot.


Advice was forthcoming from another camping friend in the form of making sure you put something under the airbed and take lots of layers.

Let me tell you I could have single handedly done my own fashion show with one days worth of clothing layers.  No need to tell me twice.  She shalt not be cold.

A Dora the Explorer table cloth and a picnic rug for under the beds were also packed.

It would later transpire that Dora would be responsible for our redemption.

I was also usefully provided with an electric cable for hook up courtesy of my brother in law which Iron Man kindly converted and shortened as it was on a ridiculously long lead.

I was sorted. The camp would be sorted, with our combined strength, we would make Bear Grylls look like Barbie.


And so came the day.

Generous lashings of rain leading up to our departure assured us of a nice soft ground for pitching.

Departure also gave us ringside seats to a police chase before we had even left home.

A taste of the excitement to follow.

As we approached Clacton, the sun shone brightly and warmly.  So brightly that it belied the fact that every tent on the field was surrounded by straw.  It had been a very wet week.

Not for us though.  Coats off and out came the tent.  It was at this point that I was humbled by the tent erecting skills of my pals.  This was to be my chocolate teapot moment.  I did not have a clue how to put a tent up and was happy to be the apprentice erecter under their expert direction.

It’s all about teamwork at times like this but on the basis that a team is only as strong as its weakest member (me on this occasion), it was somewhat shocking that the whole thing was done in an hour and we were sat drinking Prosecco in the sunshine laughing at how lucky we were.

Time to test the electricity.

It turns out there was a reason for the lengthy lead – to allow it to go into the tent and stay dry.  No worries here though, 8 beds were swiftly inflated and it was baking.  Thumbs up all round.


We had a tightly packed schedule of forestry, swimming and rifle shooting that afternoon and by 7pm we all fell down in the entertainment lounge for food, drink and a show.

Time seemed to stand still while we were there as we seemed to pack so much in to one day.  This is one of the great things about camping.

I have to say as far as sites go, this one was pretty much spot on.

We also had a ban on technology for all, not a popular choice but also very liberating and it wasn’t missed.


And did I mention shows?

It turns out that we were treated to another as we left the lounge to return home.  This time a lightning show!  The rain was coming down in stair rods and we had to get ourselves and the six kids back to base across the bog.

This is real camping.  None of this Prosecco and sunshine lark.

Mud, rain, dark, cold, loo runs and rain beating down on the tent with the occasional bolt of lightning.


Needless to say, not too much in the way of sleep that night and a face full of rain awaited the first person to unzip the tent as they glimpsed the dark sky of the new day.

Three out of four rooms had wet bedding.  For some unknown reason, ours being the 4th was bone dry.

No beach today.

We were soon conferring and changing plans whilst sipping a lukewarm cuppa from the travel kettle that took 5 hours to boil, while attached to the metre long cable in the rain on a bin liner!

Not deterred, we set off with our list of indoor pursuits and had lots of fun.

It was during our game of chicken charades that the ‘bug’ came.  An  over enthusiastic charade was initially suspected but unfortunately for one poor member of our crew, this was not an isolated incident.  We had a poorly camper.

We were not deterred.  Rain and sick did not stop our play and another days events were enjoyed by all.

There was just a small matter of some of the children getting lost on site but a recent headcount shows that 6 returned home safely.  No flies on our childcare!

The rain finally let up and we were treated to a clear sky and plummeting temperatures for our final sleep.

The Dora table cloth was to save the day by going someway towards insulating us from the ice cold floor.  On reflection, it was probably Dora that kept us dry too.

A peaceful night ensued with the occasional snore and quack.

It was then time to do the whole thing in reverse and take down our house of fun.  Once again we were treated to wonderful sunshine.

Operation clear-up was another success.

And we all survived.  Happily.

Dora the Explorer emerged as a hero of the holiday.

I did it.  We did it.  I’d do it again.

I didn’t phone home once.

Best of all you can roam around in a fleece onesie and a funny hat looking like a teletebby and no one cares.  Imagine that!

There are a few tips that I would offer to any prospective campers which I shall be storing in my camping file for future reference :

If you think you are getting away from a snorer, think again – you will effectively be sleeping with everyone else’s snoring husbands (or wives).  There is no sound proofing in a tent.

  • Never take a pitch next to a caravan.  Not only will they piss you off annoy you for being dry and warm in a thunder storm but their ability to watch TV loudly until late will really get on your wick as you lay freezing trying to nod off.
  • They will also wake you every time they walk across the floor and when they get up and they bang their doors very loudly.  The only way to meet behaviour like this is with another caravan.  Canvas is no match in this relationship.
  • Take a longer electricity cable.  Short leads are for houses.
  • Do not wear wellington boots that no one can get off – even if they are fashionable.  They will hinder progress.
  • Research inflatable sick buckets.  One for Amazon.  Pack.


And as if by coincidence, it would seem that we were not alone in our experience.  Even the PM was getting involved.

Here is the headline in the newspaper on our departure day.

So where were you Dave when the rain came in?

Trying to pinch my wellies no doubt!


Such a memorable few days for all.  There are no barriers and secrets with camping.  I think we all know a little more about each other than before we went!

I wonder if I have changed your mind if you are a non-camping type like me?

Or maybe you are a seasoned camper and have seen it all before?

Either way, I would love to hear how you shape up under canvas.

Thank you for reading.

Until next time ….



The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

Walk to the Rhythm of Your Heart


Continuing with my theme around Celebrating Success and Cheerleading, I am going to be talking to Heather Waring today who has recently launched her new business around walking and transformational walking experiences.  The walking experiences focus on providing you wonderful women with space and time to reflect on the life you want to be living – hence ‘Walk to the Rhythm of Your Heart’.

I first met Heather at a networking event several years ago when she was working as a Business Coach.    She is a woman with many strings to her bow and I find her incredibly warm and engaging.

As well as being a brilliant Business Coach, Heather has always had a great passion for walking.  One of her pursuits has been walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostella from Le Puy en Velay in Central France.  Heather has walked a section every year since 2008 with a fellow walker.


What I really love about your story Heather is that you are bringing together your skills and passions and turning this into your work.  A perfect combination for success.  You must be feeling really excited about sharing this?

It’s a really exciting time and so heartening to see it all come together at last.  I’ve had many parts of this plan for a long time but a number of issues have stopped it coming together before.  One of the biggest issues was myself standing in my way and not allowing my passion for walking and the difference it could make shine through.  I believe this is true of many of us women.  Our self belief is not always as apparent to ourselves as it is to others.  I ran myself into the ground a few years ago through helping everyone else but not myself.  Through that recovery, I found out so much about myself.   It also enabled me to see very clearly how many other women are the same and how I can help them become the best version of themselves. Walking is my sanity, it allows me time and space and the health benefits are enormous.  By knowing my values and then using walking as the vehicle, everything has fallen into place, it’s all aligned with my top values and I get to do what I love with people I love, every day and I get to make a difference too.

Your story perfectly encapsulates the message in my recent blog about celebrating success, I talked about how it can be difficult going it alone, getting an idea off the ground and keeping it going.   You have done this very well – any cheerleaders?

Working for yourself isn’t for everyone as it can be lonely and that’s not something you should ignore.  If you need a team, then perhaps working from your kitchen table is not for you. I actually like the space and peace that I get from working on my own but that’s because I have built a number of support systems. For example I am in my 10th year as a member a women’s networking organisation which meets monthly and the women I have got to know there are like a family. These friends are the people I can pick up the phone to which is really important when I’ve had a bad day and need to sound off or get advice.   Equally useful when you have something to celebrate and want to share good news.   We support each other reciprocally.

I have other communities too which provide support and opportunities such as my speaker colleagues and most importantly my Mastermind group.  My current Mastermind group consists of 5 women (myself included) and we know each other inside out.  We have no need for pretence or  anything other than openness and honesty.  They are probably my top cheerleaders and I love them to bits.

As regards celebrating success,  this is one of my big things.  In my family it’s any excuse for a celebration and that’s something I encourage, and often insist, my clients do. It doesn’t have to be expensive or take a long time but it does have to be a celebration (however large or small).


Of course the theme that runs throughout this series is not just about being a business owner.  It’s about allowing ourselves to have a go at doing the things we have always wanted to do.    That can be tough for women with so many conflicting priorities.  How did you make time for ‘your thing’

The first thing I did was to ensure I married a man who knew that freedom was important to me and that I needed my space. I was older when I got married so maybe this helped but it’s really important to know your values and what makes you who you are and then to build from there. You need to honour your values so creating an environment for this to happen is crucial and communication is important. 

Although I’d always walked, my passion for it started to build at a very difficult time in my life when I was being bullied in the workplace and my daughter was a toddler. I took on many personal walking challenges and when I was training, that walking gave me a break from all that was stressing me. On top of a mountain, life does show you perspective!

It’s really important to make time for you and what you love and to find a way to make that happen. 

I had to be a little selfish, which is a word with so many negative connotations, and something we women find so hard but when your needs are met you are so much more able to help others. I would just encourage you to really strive to do what you want to do, what you need to do and find that balance in the family that allows you to see that through.  Everyone will benefit. Don’t be put off, stay strong, you deserve to forge your path.

And the inevitable ‘shoulds’ that often stand in the way?

‘Shoulds’ are someone else’s agenda not your own. Just think about it and when you say ‘I should’, see it for what it is.

I should go to the gym” for instance – who says? 

You don’t want to otherwise you would go so it’s probably you feeling guilty or wondering what others will say if you don’t show.

“I should get it touch with…….”

Do you want to?  Sometimes we need to cull people in our lives and I would suggest that if there are people we don’t enjoy seeing then it’s time for a cull. By getting rid of some people, we make room for new people who bring us joy.  Please don’t think I am absent of ‘should’s’.  They crop up in my life but over the years there are a lot less and now, in most cases, I recognise them for what they are. There is a lot of guilt in our lives, this fuels the ‘shoulds’.  Changing this isn’t necessarily easy but it can be changed, remember that and next time you find a ‘should’ creeping in, analyse it a little and take appropriate action.



Many people reading this will be parents.  You’ve been able to do all of this while raising your daughter.  That’s not without its challenges is it?

Being a mum is one of the hardest jobs and you don’t always get the recognition or the rewards you deserve so living the life you want while being a parent is indeed challenging.

I go back to something I said earlier about the kind of man I married, as well as knowing that freedom was important to me, I also needed someone who could be a true partner. From the time our daughter was born, he stepped up to the role being a father.  We found our balance which is never a flat surface but always in flux. He travels a great deal so on many occasions it was Ellie and I at home and I felt a little like a single parent (and have great admiration for parents bringing up children on their own).  I need my space.  It’s finding the way forward that suits you and your situation. It’s give and take. It’s important though to have your voice and make sure it’s heard. This isn’t always easy and at times I had to battle that.

You also need wider family or friends that you can depend on to pick up, do a school run, have your child for a sleepover and share the work load with…and also to sit down and open a bottle of wine with. Now our daughter is at University and we have so much freedom but we still plan the times together and the space to do our own things in parallel. The journey never ends, it just changes. 

Walking is a really popular fitness pursuit.  Walking and talking is a wonderful combination.   I imagine you have already had a lot of interest.  When are you hoping to get started with the sessions? 

Walking has been called the ‘near perfect’ exercise because of the benefits it brings; because you need little gear to get going and you can do it from your own front door. You can also do it anywhere so it’s an easy form of exercise to fit in when you travel, great for me.

Many people find talking about personal issues difficult and this is where walking and talking is so great because when you are walking you don’t have to keep eye contact with the person you walk with and this helps so many people open up. There’s also something about walking in the fresh air that expands your creativity and thinking and I find it so much easier to develop solutions and come up with ideas when walking both for myself and for clients. It also takes you away from the people and the environment that may be causing the stress, overwhelm or trauma in people’s lives and again that makes it easier to get clarity and see the way forward.

My transformational walking experiences take women away so that they have time for themselves. Through the walking experiences we exercise every day in a natural environment and learn how to appreciate being in the moment.  There will be the support of others as well as time just for you so that you come away feeling clearer, with a plan to make the changes they want and with new friends and support.  The first of these weeks away will be happening in May and another in late September/early October.

I have also just launched an initiative called Women Walking: Women Talking which is a monthly networking event where women give themselves the gift of a day to walk with others, explore, build relationships and recharge. 


Heather, thank you so much for sharing.  I am so excited for you, I can see this really being a great success.

Your story perfectly illustrates many of the points I have raised around success in this series.  You have also touched on some very important topics here that helped to shape your direction that I am sure many readers will identify with.

I recommend taking a look at Heather’s website where you can read more of her story and find out more details about the walking experiences.

Please feel free to comment below if you wish to.  All comments are gratefully received and responded to.

Next week I shall be talking to another local entrepreneur about her story.

Thank you for reading.


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My Kinda Concert


When my husband spotted tickets for a Little Mix gig in the Bizarre section of The Sun last week, he never thought he would actually manage to get 3 for us on Sunday.

The fact that there were only 500 available for an intimate gig at the Brooklyn Bowl at the O2 made chances even more unlikely.  That they were only £9.50 each was an absolute steal but someone has to be lucky and this time it happened to be us.

The Kid is a huge fan and was delighted.  Big brownie points for dad!

We went to one of their concerts last year and they were really good.  I say this having also attended a One Direction concert last year which, as much as I hate to say it, was as dull as dishwater by comparison (sorry guys!).

So on the day we were ushered in to the Brooklyn Bowl and as you can see we were really close to the stage.    In fact it was hard not to be given the size of the venue and the small crowd.

It is for the above reasons and those I shall come on to which make this my kinda concert.  Let’s face it if us parents are going to accompany our kids to these gigs, it’s nice to have a bit of comfort thrown in.

The Parent List of Ideal Concert Scenarios

  1. Short journey to and from the venue.
  2. Afternoon concert on a Sunday – guarantees being tucked up in bed at the required time (very important for the parents!)
  3. A bar stool and a table.
  4. Clear view without having to stand (small people at concerts are the perfect people to stand behind).
  5. A bar!
  6. A bar with no queue! (as majority of attendees too young to drink!)
  7. Prosecco, beer, a bar stool and table and still not having to stand to see.
  8. Being able to have a mum boogie and then sit back on stool.
  9. Easy access to toilets and no queue.
  10. Being able to return to said bar stool and continue Prosecco.
  11. Leaving the venue easily.
  12. No queue or crowd control for the train.

All of the above are concert heaven in my opinion.  I may sound a bit like a golden oldie but if I could guarantee all of those luxuries at any concert, I’d be snapping up tickets every day of the week.

Little Mix as always were fabulous.  The kids (and adults) loved them.

What is concert heaven for you?



A Bit Of Everything

Here we ‘Sloe’ Again                      

Man carrying ladder

You wouldn’t be blamed for looking at this picture and thinking that Iron Man had got a job working for Torpoint Council or a window cleaning round on a bungalow estate.

You would be quite wrong though.

What you are seeing here is a prize winner in search of his next batch of sloes in his home village of Crafthole, Cornwall.

Last year saw the first production of his Sloe Gin which was to be entered into the Annual Village Flower Show competition for the much coveted prize of ‘Winner’.

Sloes were picked from a place called Wacker Quay in South East Cornwall.  Over the course of several months they were lovingly transformed into a very delicious Sloe Gin.

Wacker Quay

There has been much vying amongst us and the in-laws for prizes in this highly esteemed show and this year the gloves were well and truly off.

Iron Man’s first ever production of Sloe Gin scooped the prize of 3rd place fighting off at least two many other contenders in Category 74 – Best Alcoholic/Non-Alcoholic Drink.

His Sloe Gin was declared to be well balanced with good presentation, clarity and colour.

Bottle of Sloe Gin

This year the triumph of hope will give way to experience as Iron Man takes up the mantle again to produce a drink, not only to rival but, to exceed the excellence of the previous bouquet.

And so we set off.  This time we went armed with step ladders and a walking stick loaned from the family home.  The Kid decided she would sit this one out.

Experience has taught us that the sloes that are unpicked are generally high up and in places that are difficult to reach.   Last year saw me whacked in the face several times with a branch every time Iron Man let it go without warning.

Forewarned is forearmed as far as I am concerned and the walking stick was to enable us to lower the branches to enable easy access.  We see this as progress if we are to take next years competition seriously.

The fact that the stick also had a name and address on would also help speed up my rescue should I be knocked out with a branch whilst standing on the ladder.

This year he was hoping for a new area from which to pick the sloes but we were a little late in the season and whilst we managed to find a couple, they were in the main poor quality.


So back to Wacker we went where once again the sloes were growing abundantly.  We set to work and filled our bags, boots and my hair.

Picking Sloes

Once again, I was gainfully employed as the trusty assistant whilst Iron Man showed his expertise in the area by using words like ‘plucking!’? instead of picking.  What a show-off!!

The aim was to get more this time around and I think we achieved this.

Bag of Sloes

And so for the preparation.

A gentle rinse so as not to remove the ‘bloom’.


All of the sloes need to be pierced several times which is quite laborious.

They are then placed into a large container where they will do their thing over the course of the next few months.  A layer of sloes a layer of sugar until they are all in.

Sloes and sugar

The cap of the bottle is released every couple of days which lets off a big hiss as part of the fermentation process.

And then we wait.  A little taste every so often adds to the fun.  Chefs perks and all that!

Next August will see the second entry of the Wacker Sloe Gin proudly placed among all the other wonderful entries in the hope for the ultimate prize.

Will he do it?  Will he beat his own personal best?

Will the journey from London to Cornwall bear fruit?

Of course, the fun is in the participation and we have had some real laughs along the way.

Have you had a similar prize winning speciality?

Mind the ‘Age’ Gap



This one reared it’s head for me whilst travelling on the Central Line  to London recently. It got me to wondering how we determine the age of another.

How efficient can one be at making such assumptions.

When is it OK to imply that someone is older and more in need than you are?

I was travelling with Iron Man, The Kid and my cousin.

An elderly gentleman and his wife boarded the train with very heavy suitcases. No one moved, so after having a little mind tussle as to whether my offer of a seat would be offensive, I decided to speak out. When the gentlemen replied jokingly “do I look that old then?” I was able to quickly respond “no not at all, it was the heavy luggage!”  No flies on me.

Iron Man pointed out that I’d surged too early. That he wouldn’t have assumed the couple would want a seat.  He didn’t think they looked particularly ‘elderly’.

Not being a frequent traveller on the underground as part of the daily commute nowadays, would, perhaps deem me out of touch with the etiquette of judging how ‘seat worthy/needy’ one is.

Apparently, there was no look over of expectation for a seat. No eye contact. I’d missed the signs. There is a new Code of Practice operating on the tube to which I am not privy. Left to my own devices it would seem, I could make one feel older than their years.

For the purpose of this blog, I now find myself ticking the age group 45-60. I’m at the very lower end of the range but how, I ask myself did, this happen? It seems only last week I was in the 21-25 category.

I do often wonder if my being a little older makes everyone look younger. I often find it difficult to guess the age of another now. It seems there is no benchmark on which to compare. Iron Man agreed that he feels the same.

Perhaps we are boringly middle aged.

So we did what all sensible parents do after their child has been carted off to the theatre with free time on their hands. We played a guessing game. Iron Man and I played a little game of guessing how old people were as we continued our journey through Oxford Street. Not the wisest idea given the crowds on a Sunday. Never mind trying to shop!

Anyway, we got fed up with that but we would seem to agree in the main. The exercise, however, proved precisely nothing.  We took ourselves off to a bar to commiserate our time wasting.

Central Line

I remember working in Tottenham Court Rd in my early 20’s and without fail an elderly gentleman would get on at exactly the same time and place at Holborn. Every evening without fail I would give my seat to this man. Common sense should have told me to change carriages. In hindsight, given how wrong one can be at judging age, the gentleman was probably only 40 at the time and is probably still doing the same journey. I bet he’s missing me though if he is!

It’s a bit like the pregnant woman thing. You are not sure if she’s pregnant and are worried about causing her embarrassment versus staying put while the poor cow suffers thinking how inconsiderate you are. Both equally embarrassing, I’ve done both. Thank god they brought the badges out.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of getting the seat whilst not pregnant. I have to say I took no offence and dived in to the seat swiftly.

Would I do the same though if I was offered a seat because I was old. Hell no, I’d be bloody mortified. I’d probably start rapping in the carriage just to show I wasn’t.

I guess it’s probably not in order to query why someone is offering you a seat either. Chances are you aren’t going to like the answer.

Could it be that whilst thinking I was being courteous in offering a seat to a perceived ‘elderly’ person, I was in fact making them feel awful. I hope not. I could have had a far more comfortable journey and so could they.

So, where does one stand (or sit) on this potentially sensitive subject.

Are you a seat ‘giver-upper’ or a ‘head in your newspaper’ commuter?

Does it need to be about age or is it about courtesy?

We were brought up to respect our elders but is it possible that respect can be misinterpreted in this case?

Of course, if I were to ask The Kid, old is anyone over 25.

We are older parents in comparison to many people. Ancient in the eyes of The Kid. We are cool with that.

We have a wide range of friends that vary in age from much younger to much older than us.

Of our older friends, I wouldn’t dream of offering them a seat based on how they look but by rights, they are entitled to one. I know that none of them would accept it though.

Is it a battle that everyone faces as they reach their mature years. Is it a realisation that ‘you’ve arrived’, the first time a younger person relinquishes their seat?

Is there room for chivalry if we are trying to be appropriate. Which comes first?


I am asking this question at a time when everyone looks so wonderful and so young.  At a time where 50 is the ‘new 30’ and 80 is the ‘new 60’.

It’s not easy when you think about it, is it?

What qualifies a person as ‘elderly’?

This is a subject that is not limited to public transport.  It reaches much further than that.

I’d love to know what you think.  Do you have similar difficulties in determining age?  Maybe you are of the age that ‘should’ get a seat but don’t want one for the reasons I describe above.

More questions that answers in this Blog so I would love to hear your thoughts.


Twinkly Tuesday
My Random Musings
A Bit Of Everything