Friday, 25 February 2011

I'd Like to go a Wandering ...

I've recently come across a blog that I'd like to share with my readers. It's called Wondering Wanderers and it will 'follow a family of four on their adventures around the UK in 2011, WWOOFing, living in a van and learning as they go'.

The freedom of the open road has a mythical attraction. I'd be surprised if there is anyone who hasn't at some stage in their life dreamed of upping and offing to travel the world. Most of us haven't even got as far as the front door but this family have packed up their house, loaded their camper van and are on their way. Part of me thinks they're completely bonkers but the rest of me is full of admiration, and not a little jealousy, for the path they have chosen.

I'm looking forward to keeping up to date with their adventures and am grateful for the opportunity to 'virtually' travel with them.

Monday, 21 February 2011

A Far Far Better Thing!

It's half term and, while giving my kitchen a bit of a spring clean, I listened to Vanessa Feltz standing in for Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2. The premise of the show, for those not familiar with it, is that listeners call in to respond to one of the advertised questions of the day.

One of today's questions was 'Can we afford to have children?' (or something along those lines). I was frankly appalled, and genuinely saddened, by some of the comments. A number of women phoned in to say that they could not afford a second, or third child, but there were a few who said that, having done their sums, they had decided that they could not even afford one. The most tragic was a woman who admitted to having aborted her second child for financial reasons.

I really and truly didn't get it. It would be foolish to suggest that children don't cost money, and irresponsible of prospective parents not to give any thought as to to how they could be afforded. But surely couples in a first world country cannot seriously be claiming that they cannot afford to have a family? Or can they? Vanessa referred to a recent Aviva survey which estimates the cost of bringing a child up (to 21 years) at £271,449. It goes on to claim that some parents spend, on average, £1,000 per month on each of their children! I'd be interested to examine the breakdown of these figures as I'm certain we don't spend anything like that amount on our two girls.

Our decision to have children was not taken lightly. We lived in London for the first 6 years of our married life. When we decided to start a family we knew that, although we were comfortably off as a couple, we couldn't afford to have a child in London, given my desire to give up work until they reached school age. We could have moved elsewhere in London but we eventually landed up in Bristol where my husband was fortunate enough to find another job and where we bought a house for less than the sale price of our London flat. Our first child was followed two years later by a second. If we have made sacrifices I am not aware of them, nor would they matter in comparison with the returns. Our house is small but perfectly adequate. We do not own a car. We have one TV. We bought the girls laptops for their school work but they've never had X Boxes or Wiis. We go on a fortnight's holiday every summer, usually to a cottage in Cornwall, but we've also been to France, Italy, Majorca and Greece. We visit family and friends in Scotland. We take day trips to London. We eat well at home and go out for the occasional meal. The girls have instrumental lessons and get to go on school trips. We are careful with what we have. I don't know how we stand against the national average. Perhaps I'm one of the lucky ones and should stop lecturing people less well off than myself. But then again, perhaps I'm justified in advocating an achievable simpler lifestyle Happiness cannot be measured in terms of our material possessions and instilling this truth in our children is worth more than any expensive toy.

I am therefore puzzled by the women who called in to speak to Vanessa. It is, of course, impossible to judge them without knowing their personal circumstances, but from what they said I gather that, for some of them, their jobs are the stumbling block. To return to work would mean having to shell out hundred of pounds a month in childcare costs, but to stay at home would either put paid to their careers or drive them insane. I guess I have difficulty understanding someone who claims to want a child but is not prepared to make the necessary adjustments to do so. It hasn't always been easy but when I look at my two daughters I have absolutely no doubt that they are the best thing I have ever done, and there is nothing I would trade for the experience of bringing them up.

This is obviously a very emotive issue and one which I may regret having broached. However I was disturbed by the notion of a price being put on a child.

Please feel free to comment. I'd really like to know what you think.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Food for the Soul

Last night was Curry Night at my local church (St Aldhelm's, Bedminster). Under the direction of one of our members, a group of us transformed the rear end of our church into a restaurant where we served chicken and vegetable curries, rice, naan bread, a trio of side dishes, gulab jamuns and pista kulfi.

It was hard work but well worth it, judging by all the compliments we've received. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. There was a healthy mixture of ages, backgrounds and religious persuasions. Diners lingered over their drinks and their conversations mingled with the bhangra music.

The church had a distinctly spicy aroma as we walked in this morning.

However, our efforts were a mere foretaste of what is to come. Watch this space for details of a pop up restaurant coming this way!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Love is ... a heart shaped cake!

This the cake my elder daughter baked me for Mothering Sunday last year.
It tasted every bit as good as it looked!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Baubles, Bangles and Beads

Last night I was invited to a bead party. It was my first, but I've been to many similar evenings involving Tupperware, candles, kitchen equipment etc. I confess to mixed feelings about them. While I'm grateful for any opportunity to get together with friends over a glass of wine and a bowl of tortilla chips, the pressure to buy, no matter how downplayed by the hostess, invariably detracts from my enjoyment of the evening.

So I'm glad to report that last night was an unqualified success. It got off to a promising start with a glass of sloe gin and a bowl of chilli but continued to please even when we moved into the dining rooms to get down to business. The tables were laid out with an impressive selection of gorgeous glass beads and exquisite silver spacers with which we were given free reign to design our own bracelets, necklaces etc. There was no pressure to do anything more than have fun playing around with the colours and shapes.

Fortunately for my friend, who received 10% of the takings, I created, and bought(!) two St Valentine's Day presents for my daughters. For many years now I've bought them 'a little something' on the 14th of February. It's usually something less expensive,but they've both impressed me with their hard work and determination this year,and I think they deserve a reward, especially one they'll not be expecting.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Made me Smile!

A pair of unusual plant plots on a windowsill just round the corner from me.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

What Larks!

It's been 18 years since I saw one of my old college friends. She celebrated her 50th birthday this weekend and another friend and I drove across to Surrey to attend the party. We got hopelessly lost between Gatwick airport and our Travelodge, and were an hour late in arriving, but it was well worth the effort to relive our experiences in Aberdeen 28 years ago. 28 years! It seems like only yesterday!

It's funny how one year can leave such an impression. Was it because it was only the one year (and an academic year at that)? Or because we were mainly strangers to the city and each other? Or because of the diversity of our backgrounds (newly graduated, through ex teachers to an RAF squadron leader)? Or because we were all girls? Or because of the number of public houses we frequented?

Who knows? Whatever it was I'll never forget the time I spent in the Granite City, nor the friends I shared it with.

Friday, 4 February 2011


Bristol's famous for street art (think Banksy). I recently came across Bristol Street Art an impressive catalogue of the city's most prominent artworks, with photos and locations.

Then there're Upfest, an annual urban paint festival, which I missed last year but which I hope to catch this June.

This afternoon I accompanied a school trip which started off in the Upfest Gallery and then proceeded to the workshop where the children were let loose (under close supervision I hasten to add) with spray paint cans. I found the smell of the paint fumes unbearable but I was impressed with the end result.