Family - Adventure

The best time to hand over your keys

When the kids are old enough to drive

DS: “Mum, I can drive at 15.”

Me: “No you bloody well can’t.”

DS: “I can. I’ll prove it to you.”

Quick Google later, and he shows me that you can get a license at 15 years and 9 months. Who knew that? Why so early? His excitement is already unbearable.

I learnt to drive in my parents’ diesel estate car. I took my driving test at rush hour in London. We sat in traffic most of the time, pulling into a side road to do the three point turn and emergency stop before rejoining the traffic jam. The most exciting part was the cyclist lurching across a pedestrian crossing. At the end the examiner asked if I knew where third gear was. I pointed it out to him. I passed.

I still remember the registration number of my first car, A764 CPH. A very sporty silver Metro City.

My first car

Anyway, whilst DS dreams of a sports car, I enjoyed this blog from Fraser’s Fun House

I realised recently that I rarely talk about the girls despite them accounting for two thirds of the Fraser clan – this is partly because they would most probably die of shame – so today I’m going to dedicate a whole post to them! A recurrent topic in our house lately is the length of […]

via Growing Up: Learning To Drive — Fraser’s Fun House

Family - Adventure

Why glamping is the best solution for muddy hooves

I used to camp loads when I was younger. I had a little tent that I backpacked round the world with, free camping by glaciers and lakes. Then when the kids were younger we got a family sized tent with a carpet and I shouted “shoes off” every 15 minutes in an attempt to keep the mud out, only to be defeated by a New Forest pony with very muddy hooves that popped in to say hi.
But, as I’ve got older, I find it harder work, and the tent has been in the attic for a couple of years now.
So when I left it too late to book a hotel or B&B for a big family gathering during Victoria week in Ballater, I googled campsites a little nervously. Then I stumbled across a nearby glamping site that actually had spaces, Howe of Torbeg. Camping with a bit more luxury and less mud. I’ve never glamped. I’m not a camping purist, I just never got round to it.
It’s actually only been open two months, and, as it turns out I was one of the very first people to book. Although the owners have lived here for five years, levelling the steep slope enough to build the huts on was a massive construction project. And they’ve done it beautifully. Four cute as a button domed wooden huts.
glamping in Scotland
Ours even had a proper, very comfortable, bed. And I used to think my tent carpet was luxury.
glamping not camping
DS was on the floor on a midget sized mattress. His feet stuck over the end, but he slept like a log anyway.
Each hut has its own fire-pit and picnic bench with uninterrupted views over the valley. They sell baskets of logs and charcoal, plus you can hire crockery and cutlery sets for a few pounds which definitely beats paper plates.
Having said “we’ll never use all these” as we collect the huge basket of logs, we do. It’s too lovely an evening to retire early. DS collects fallen branches and twigs from the woods.
If you worry about campsite facilities, don’t. The shower block was immaculate, better than many hotels I’ve stayed in. Again, for a few pounds we added a towel pack rather than bring our own.
Even my non-camping sister, staying in a nearby hotel with her four-poster bed, was impressed. Next year I think I could persuade her to join us. Even if just for one night. My tweenage nieces are definitely up for it. At worst I get “best aunty/ sister” points for taking them for a night.
The positives?
  • Fun
  • Beautiful setting
  • Spotlessly clean
  • Far easier than camping
The downsides?
  • Literally none from my perspective.
  • There was virtually no internet so I expected some teenage grumbling. I was wrong. I confess I was surprised by that, but not going to complain.
  • In future, I predict a downside will be getting a space. Book early!
I’m now tempting myself with a treehouse and DS fancies staying in a double decker bus … Why are there never enough weekends in a year?
But does glamping still count as camping? Even allowing for the glamorous bit, our little hut is so close to being a holiday cottage I’m not sure. I’ve decided glamping is where you still need to walk outside to get to a bathroom and may encounter patches of mud. Does that mean our grandparents glamped all year?
outside toilet glamping
Have you glamped? What did you think of it?
Family - Adventure

Why the kids packing has hilarious results

“What? You’re packing for him?” My mother is outraged. “You packed all your own stuff for a holiday from when you were nine and it was perfect.”

Perfect? Really? I have no recollection of ever packing myself, or being praised for it.

I’m always puzzled when I see people dragging vast suitcases at the airport. What have they got in there? I can’t imagine taking so much stuff for a week on a beach? Skiing, yes. Camping, yes. But a week in Spain? I’m not actually sure I own that much summer clothing. I’ve even packed my espresso machine and my bag is still smaller. Actually I would trade a pile of dresses just to make space for the espresso machine if it came down to it.

I’m a member of a great decluttering group on Facebook who were lamenting the challenges of packing. They were shocked when I said my last trip was ten days and I travelled hand baggage only and that included my horse riding helmet. And a pair of boots. And my espresso machine. So I guess I pack light.

Anyway, it’s all granny’s fault that the kids are packing for themselves this year. I’m off duty.

“Everything’s packed mum.”

DS Trip 1

  1. One t-shirt
  2. A quill pen and bottle of ink
  3. A wooden treasure chest

It’s all very neatly packed in a 5 inch metal dinosaur tin. Even by my standards, that is extremely light packing.

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Apparently this is enough for a week.

DS Trip 2

  1. Chopsticks
  2. Mouse for the home computer
  3. Pillow. Apparently this is not negotiable, it is coming with us. Does it count as an item of hand baggage itself? Otherwise I’m going to be impersonating a pregnant lady through check-in.
  4. Flip flops. We’re off on a family trip to the north of Scotland. I add a raincoat.

Niece 1

  1. Cropped vest top – striped
  2. Cropped vest top – ribbed
  3. Cropped vest top – sparkly
  4. Denim mini skirt

Yup this is for the Scotland trip too. The midges are going to have a field day. I almost comment on the scant size of the clothing but then realise I am turning into my mother, so bite my tongue.

Top tips for light packing

My three top light packing tips would be

  • Pick a colour scheme so you can mix and match.
  • Throw things out/ give to charity when you finish. I don’t bring flip flops home at the end of summer as they are inevitably on their last legs by then. Ditto t-shirts and sun dresses that I know I will replace next year.
  • Accessories allow you to change the look. I love my jewellery pouches. I actually have two – a larger one for city breaks and a smaller one for outdoorsy trips.

 

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Large jewellery pouch from Stella & Dot. I love the separate compartments.

 

Would you trust the kids to pack for themselves?

What’s the strangest thing you (or they) have packed? I once took an anchor instead of a suitcase on a flight. That got strange looks when it arrived on the luggage belt in Turkey.

Books

The Alcina Is A Stunning Boat In Real Life

Top advice for authors usually includes “Write about what you know” – well I know nothing about smuggling, but I do know a lot about sailing so that’s where the whole idea for The Relic Hunters started.

Finn and Aria’s boat is based on a real boat, Indianna. We anchored next to Indianna in a small bay in a Greek island and started chatting to the owners, Roger and Anne. They lived aboard Indianna with their two dogs, Indi and Sollie. The story is that one day, after (quite) a few lunch time drinks, they decided to quit their jobs and buy a boat. Sailing round the UK while they were learning the ropes seemed a sensible idea given they were both novices, but this was in January. Unsurprisingly, a couple of hundred miles north, Anne announced “if you don’t turn this boat and head somewhere warmer, I’m getting off.” And that started a nine year trip through the Mediterranean.

Indianna is a lovely ketch – solidly built, with beautifully varnished woodwork down below and a deep cockpit.

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Books

The truth about the locations in my books

Sailing gives a wonderful freedom to choosing your location. The first book, Eternal Seas, starts in a lush tropical island, passing through some ports with bustling bazaars, before returning to the rugged islands off the north west coast of Scotland via London.

None of the locations are real, but they are all based on actual places.

 

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