Tonight as I blog, I am a couch spectator for Lumberg as he plays Uncharted. Mind you, I am not really paying attention to his game other than the occasional glances at the somewhat seemingly handsome avatar who has incredible hair. Otherwise, the game is lame to me. I realize it’s odd to say an avatar is handsome, but whatevs…..in university, the fellas rated how attractive Disney female characters were. Ariel was one of the favourites and likewise, she too has incredible, albeit animated, hair. As I steal glances at the tv and this computer screen, I know the games today are technically superior than the games I used to play, but in my opinion, nothing is better than the original Mario Brothers on Nintendo, especially Luigi. I always liked him best. If they could release those exact games with today’s graphics, they’d make a fortune because people’s hearts would persuade them to pay and play those games on modern systems. Moving along, it feels nice to be sitting on our couch and blogging again. As my story seems to go, it has been a while. Mind you, while the blogging feels nice, our couch itself essentially secures a job for the masseuse at the spa blocks away because it is so unbelievably uncomfortable. Having just perused a list of least liked names since 1880, Murl struck my chord and hence, our couch is now named Murl.
And…….this is how easily I get off topic.
Here we are, in August. No one told me London gets muggy and hot. For me, this is tropical weather. Should it get any hotter than this, I will be about as comfortable as when the thong on your flip flop breaks, forcing you to try and walk normally. This happened to me today and if this has ever happened to you, you will understand the trip hazard such a pedal technicality can cause and the discomfort it brings. It was impossible to lift my foot so I shuffled home like con man Kint after taking the kids to the swimming pool and made a note on my list to buy some new flip flops. I love lists and everything about them. I love making them and then crossing items off of them. No cocaine for me, please, because I’m pretty sure crossing items off my lists via striking a line brings the same satisfaction as sniffing one. Luckily, it hasn’t gotten hotter but instead, has gotten comfortably cooler. Lists and cooler weather. Euphoria. I truly love London weather most of the time. So fresh!
The kids have enjoyed their summer and while in London we spent some time taking in more cultural sites. School ended back in early July and both kiddos were recognized in each of their respective classes at the year end celebration for all of their work and effort throughout the year. Sitting in the audience and watching BOTH kiddos go up and get their awards was stupendous. I couldn’t be any prouder. London is not short of history and there is always something to see. I’m still fascinated with the Tudors and specifically with King Henry VIII and have enjoyed reading how back then, his castles and establishments in Chelsea, Richmond, and even Windsor must have seemed as far destinations to travel to by horse from his central Whitehall London. Today, naturally, Chelsea and Richmond have been woven into the fabric of London and both are easily accessible by public transport. I often wonder what Henry would think of the city now if he could come back and observe the colossal changes on every imaginable scale. If you stroll along Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, specifically numbers 19-26, you will pass along the site of the Chelsea Manor that Henry VIII used to send his plethora of queens to. He married Jane Seymour at this manor in 1536, one day after he sent Anne Boleyn’s head tumbling to the floor at the then far away Tower of London. He later gifted the manor to his last wife Catherine Parr, and his daughter (and future Queen Elizabeth I) lived at this residence for a while as well. Chelsea’s elegance didn’t go unnoticed as far back as 1520 when Henry’s Chancellor, a fella by the name of Sir Thomas More, created and established Beaufort House on the river front. Alas, true to his style, Henry VIII eventually had his chancellor executed but he was intrigued with More’s choice of location and hence established his Manor. I wonder how many friends Henry VIII would have on Facebook or hookups on Tinder if he had access to such technology back then, considering he sent so many people, friends and lovers, to the guillotine. Eventually the manor was purchased by Sir Hans Sloane in 1712 and was demolished 39 years later. (Does ‘Sloane’ ring a bell? Sir Hans Sloane was a physician who collected antiques and art, which he donated in vast amounts to start the British Museum. Trendy and uber cool Sloane Square is named after this particular fella). London could not possible get boring. I could read about London’s history all day and relish in taking the kids around and showing them itsy bitsy pieces of history in every direction. I love being able to share the city with them and infiltrate their developing minds and answering their questions about so many things (except for the other day when the Albino Hulk threw me a curve ball and asked me why only women can be pregnant because he feels he would like to be pregnant one day. Verbal tumbleweeds with a symphony of crickets off in the distance is what that question got from me as a reply). I find London fascinating, like I find the Beckhams fascinating. How is it that I like a couple I’ve never met before I don’t understand, but I do. Ditto on my fictional BFF, Kate, the Duchess. I still wish her and I were friends. Sigh.
So. Summer commands a holiday somewhere and so we went on our family road trip recently (the Royals and the Beckhams couldn’t make it) and that proved to be a bit of a test on so many levels. It was a test of flexibility in scheduling (recall, I abide by my lists), a test of putting up with the forecast, a test of agility and speed in setting up or taking down our tent in wind-tunnel conditions, and a test in finding the silver lining and laughter on a vacation that was anything but relaxing. After much consideration and self reflection, I have begun to ponder if I have evolved from being a camper to being a (gasp!)……glamper. Perhaps it’s just that I am not used to the style of camping UK folk subscribe to. I am used to Canadian car camping where I get a little portion of a forest with my own fire pit and staple wooden bench that seats up to 8. The fire pit is the coveted ritual of all camping trips. When I was little at dance and scouts camp, we used to play games with a handkerchief where we had to skip around the fire to a jingle and pick a person to hand the handkerchief to and try to plant a kiss on their cheek. Running around a sweltering fire probably violates a charter of child care somewhere, but it serves as an example that camping was all about the fire. We encircle it with almost religious pride while hypnotically staring into the embers whilst listening to stupendous stories from friends, indulging in stickingly sweet smores, or singing to camp-fire jingles on someone’s guitar. When it comes to camping, nothing beats the sound of a cracking fire, or the sound of loud laughter being carried away into the pines and leaves of eavesdropping trees. British camping in contrast is defined by a large plot of land not far from the beach (in our case), where a central bar and restaurant have been built at which a good percentage of the campers gather at night. There are numerous facilities to shower and use the loo and this large plot of land is segregated into mini-plots on which you set up your camp. Where we were there were no trees and hence, you were exposed to the elements and lucky for us, the elements were putting on record-breaking performances. And fires? They don’t exist. There are no fire pits anywhere. This was a ghastly reality check.
We had planned on touching our toes at Land’s End in Cornwall, and then reaching for the sky at John O’Groats at the tip of Scotland. Into this holidaying calculation we forgot to factor the sensitive car-sick variable. Little Miss Stubborn is like me and easily gets sick in the car. We became aware of this fact when she was 2.5 years old in Sardegna as we drove along the hair-pin roads, causing her to puke all over the back seat. Surprise!! We drove from London and headed south-west to Cornwall and quickly were reminded of her sensitivity. This would definitely damper our plans because we didn’t want her to be uncomfortable on our 24-day journey. On our first night, we stopped and slept in a hotel in Exeter, and over night were woken up by pounding rain. In the morning, the pounding rain joined us for breakfast, and as we drove out of Exeter, the bitchy pounding rain smirked as we foolishly thought it was a good thing we were leaving the rain behind and were moving forward. In Cornwall, we stayed at Trevornick Holiday Park, which was truly wonderful. Don’t get me wrong-there is nothing wrong with the style of English camping, but it is not what I am used to and not what I was expecting. We set up our tent in non-favourable weather conditions and soon realized we were the smallest tent on the block. Brits KNOW how to set up camp. Some had camper vans, many had motor homes but most had these tent-mansions with four or five bedrooms, an atrium, a vestibule, and some other wings. Our four-man tent looked like an ‘effin kennel in comparison. And, we were on a slight slope too so inside we were all involuntarily doing the shuffle as we slept. The Kennel was a bitch to put up simply because the wind that greeted us was testing every countable thread in our tent for durability. This was no breeze but a howling gale that swallowed up my voice when I tried to tell Lumberg that if he didn’t hurry up hitting the pegs into the ground, the Kennel just might end up air borne with him in it. (I may have used more colourful adjectives. I can’t recall.) Happy family times.
We traveled around southern Cornwall for a couple of days and then eventually we inched our way up north. Literally as we drove into our new camp site at Woolacome Bay, the skies opened up again and poured. The wind never stopped and as I ran to take the kids into the loo, Lumberg attempted to assemble the tent on our plot of grass. Unbeknownits to him, our neighbours in the trailer beside us were sipping tea and debating whether they should video tape Lumberg trying to win against the wind with the Kennel. When they saw we were traveling with kids, they decided to put their tea cups down and assemble with him. I came back from the loo with the kids who were already soaked from our quick walk against the wind and rain and introduced myself to our neighbours. Two dads and two teenage sons were part of the project and all of us were laughing at our ambitious attempts. When the final peg was thrown into the ground, we thanked our very kind helpers from York and went into eat at the restaurant. Indeed, we brought a camping stove with us but at this point, it was purely a prop and decoration in the trunk of the car. Coming back to the Kennel after dinner and as the rain and gale forces continued, Lumberg started to feel sick with what think was attributed to a minor case of food poisoning. We also realized water had seeped in and was pooling all over the Kennel within. Frustrated, we went into time-elapsed-speed-mode in the wind and we threw the kids in the car and quickly took our tent apart and repacked the car to drive to whatever closest hotel would take us. We couldn’t sleep in the Kennel that night and our set up was a mere exercise in assembly. Our neighbors surely thought we were psycho and maybe, just maybe, they were right. That night, Lumberg and I passed out in our hotel like washed up ship-wreck survivors but at least we were dry. The kids were simply fantastical because they thought this was all an outrageously fun adventure. Mother’s guilt crashed over me as I fell asleep because on this particular day it was also the Albino Hulk’s birthday and with all the driving we did that day and our change in plans brought on by the weather, we never managed to get him a little cake and candle. Ugh.
Proving to be undeterred, the next day we continued our drive north into Wales, inching slowly closer to the tip of Scotland. Surely, it HAD to be better in Tenby. The town of Tenby was the destination of the day and the more we read online, the more we realized this weather was courtesy of a freak storm coming over the UK. Locals we met were shaking their head in disbelief and online news sources were highlighting the disappointment of the summer of 2015. At least we weren’t alone-there is definitely something to be said about safety in numbers. Tenby was better, but still windy nonetheless. The rain stopped long enough for us to wander the cute town and stunning beaches of the Pembrokeshire Coast. I learned that Henry VIII’s father, King Henry VII, stayed in this town before his exile in the 1400s and was reminded yet again of my interest in the Tudors-there is always something fascinating to learn if you keep your eyes open. Our hotel was cute and quaint and may as well have been someone’s interpretation of Fawlty Towers on the Welsh coast. Should you be in Tenby, we highly recommend the Park Hotel. The staff were warm and friendly and the food, delicious. Happily, we celebrated the Albino Hulk’s birthday, marking six years since I had an uterine tenant. Seeing him as a six-year old in front of me at the table both filled me with pride and aching nostalgia to the early days of parenting. Never would I have guessed when I was pregnant with him that six years down the line, we would be celebrating his birthday in Wales, hunted by a freak wind storm. After two nights in Tenby, upon checking the weather forecast, we realized the treacherous weather was continually heading north as part of our tour. Ironically, the south where we came from in Cornwall was boasting of sun and warmth. So, we decided to change plans and ditch the tour of the UK and head back to the camp site we were at originally. John O-Groats would have to happen another time as we decided to re-plant the Kennel at Trevornick for ten days, and explore Cornwall more extensively. All of us agreed, although the kids weren’t too keen on the five hour drive from Tenby back to central Cornwall. Deep inside, relief swarmed me because I knew being based in one spot meant technically less driving for Little Miss Stubborn, and hence, less nausea.
Cornwall was stunning and provided us with heaps of things to see and do. One can’t complain about Cornwall and if you do, perhaps you’re just a complainer all around. We visited a few National Trust sites, rented mountain bikes, visited beaches, visited different towns, went to an amusement park (Flambards, which is like Calaway Park on valium if you’re from southern Alberta), went to the Eden Project, took the kids indoor climbing at Clip n’ Climb, swimming, and to see Disney’s latest, Inside out. There’s a reason why it has a review of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. To say the four of us were smitten with it is well, the truth. This whole time, the wind never let up except for one day and hence why this entry’s title is borrowed from the handsome Pharrell Williams‘ track. Rain came and went frequently as well but on the 7th day, like God, we had had enough. We intended to stay 10 days but both Lumberg and I were awake at 5am again, pondering if the Kennel was going to lose its roof to the wind or be ripped in half like we had seen an adjacent tent suffer such a loss after one particularly windy night. Then and there we decided to cut the trip short and just enjoy a staycation in London. We packed up, perused some local sites on the way home, and burst into our flat to finally get some rest and relaxation. Being gone 14 days, it was shocking how much we missed simple things like carpets. And countertops. I missed my countertops.
It turned out, a staycation in London was wonderful too. Lumberg never gets to enjoy the city much because he’s either commuting away from it for work, or commuting back to it to get home. In a relaxed way, the four of us enjoyed being residential tourists of this city we love so much. We took the kids to many museums, to Kidzania (which was truly incredible to watch the kids do so many different tasks and careers and have so much fun. You gotta go!), we went on picnics, to the park, some more swimming, and our personal favourite, the kids had a professional photo session to be part of a historical book entitled The Children of London. The first three copies go to The Queen, the Mayor, and the Prime Minister. Booya! What a thrill and honour to have Little Miss Stubborn and the Albino Hulk be part of this project. Watching both kids get photographed for over two hours was a riot (those who know our Albino Hulk are aware that herding kitten is easier than getting him to settle down when he knows he’s got your attention),and again, pride-filling. I also realized Little Miss Stubborn has a better wardrobe than I. Camping wasn’t what we had envisioned and in truth, it was just us who were perhaps a bit unprepared. From now on, we will incorporate a Plan B incase we get swarmed by a hurricane and that plan B will surely incorporate plane tickets to Ibiza, or something. Still, it was a blast and a much needed break from being iPhone vultures. Family time is golden. Maybe I will give camping another try-perhaps camp fires would have been useless anyways with all this wind. Just another reminder to roll with the punches.
With that, I’m rolling off to bed. Will send an update in a few days as we’re going to try out London’s latest trampoline park, for which I will send a little review. The Albino Hulk and Little Miss Stubborn start instrument lessons too so we are going to pick those up in the next few days as well. The Hulk will be serenading us with his guitar plucking while Little Miss Stubborn will have us alert with her energetic attempts at violin. I should warn the neighbours.