Thursday, November 26, 2015

Listography - Songs that transport me to a particular time and place

Music is a bit like perfume. One whiff of a certain tune and suddenly you're tumbling down the rabbit hole of space and time into a long forgotten but very precise moment from your past life.

There are so many songs and albums that do this for me (thank you music), but the force is particularly strong in a few select ones.

And so we begin the next Listography. It's a ridiculously easy one - apart from limiting them to just five that is.

Here's mine:

1. Space Oddity - Bowie
Bowie was the gift that kept on giving from my older and cooler siblings. At the time there was something confusing that I didn't get about him, and a weirdness that was almost frightening for a young girl still running around in pig tails and dungarees (cheers Mum). But the draw was always there, and never more so than through Space Oddity. I loved it the minute I heard it and each time I listen to it now I am transported back into the den of my friend Jenny's house, where her sister would eject Madonna's True Blue cassette tape and put it on especially for me. (I never did like Madonna).

2. Blister in the Sun - Violent Femmes
A double whammy. This still brilliant tune is forever welded in my mind to other delights such as The The and Psychedelic Furs. For me it's the moment of getting ready to go out to the local club, when your fake id was the passport to the night's success or failure.
Years later, finally of age and drunk to prove it, I was standing unsteadily in a busy pub in New Zealand wearing a witch's hat and stripy tights when this song started unexpectedly blasting through the speakers. The joy!
Incidentally, I'd like to apologise to all the people who were in the room that night.

3. I hope that I don't fall in love with you - Tom Waits
University was filled with music, from the obvious Primal Scream and Pink Floyd to the 'friends of a friend' new band The Frames and guilty pleasures such as The Carpenters. But the song that brings me sweeping down to that particular house, in that particular street, where that particular guy handed me a tape and told me to 'listen to this' - is this beautiful tune from the fabulous Closing Time.

4. The Sea - Morcheeba
'Left my soul there, down by the sea'. *sigh* Byron Bay was supposed to be a three day stopover as I backpacked my way alone down the Australian East Coast. But on day one it got under my skin and then I just couldn't leave, It was a special place and a special time and this song was the soundtrack to it all.

5. New York City Cops - The Strokes
A boring Friday night, Top of the Pops on the TV playing the same old crap until - hold on - what the f*ck is that! There was no hype to believe on my part, but they would have lived up to it anyway. That song came out of nowhere, hit me in the face and made me remember that there was great music being made out there. Actually, years later Julian Casablancas would hit his manager in the face too. Glad mine was just metaphorical.

So that's my rather lovely list. Now it's time for yours. If you want to join in just add your post to the linky below and I'll pop by for a visit.

Enjoy the trip down your musical memory lane.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Couldn't give a f*ck

I read a post the other day that I was just totally in tune with, and it got me to thinking (I know, I know).

Basically it was telling other mums to befriend the older mums at the school gates as they were the ones who were least likely to make judgements on you and your parenting.

It was a joy to read and as I went through it I thought - that's me (and not just the old part). Couldn't give a f*ck what little 'failures' you may have made - because chances are I've made them too.

I've now named this type of parenting as the Couldn't Give a F*ck school of thought, or CGF for short.

And it doesn't begin at the school gates either...

Natural birth - CGF

Six epidurals - CGF

Breastfeeding - CGF

Bottlefeeding - CGF

Infected every baby in Clap Handies with chickenpox - CGF

Last to walk in playgroup - CGF

First to walk in playgroup - CGF

Messy house - CGF

Car so dirty the 6 year old's friend comments on it.
('Wow, your car is really dirty') - CGF

Epic tantrums in supermarket - CGF

Pull ups at 7 - CGF

Mismatched uniform and odd socks - CGF

Pizza for dinner five nights a week - CFG

The list really is endless. But really, I don't care. And the great thing is - I know I'm not the only one.

So as the media stokes the flames of the 'Mummy Wars' I like to think there is army of CGFers marching to their own drum.

Which is probably plastic, broken and been pissed on.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On writing excuses

Sometimes I think excuses aren't such a bad thing. They allow you to postpone and procrastinate, which in turn allows you to chew over and digest whatever it is you need to, until you get so sick of hearing yourself go round and round in circles about 'The Thing' that eventually you just get up and fucking do it in order to shut yourself up.

Sometimes The Thing is just a pile of crap at the bottom of the stairs that necessitates one simply bending over and picking it up, before walking up the steps we're going up anyway.

I never will work out why that one is so hard.

Sometimes I've left items there for over two weeks. You don't want to know the amount of arguments I have had with myself about that god-damn pile of crap at the bottom of the stairs.

Sometimes The Thing is admin. Admin is possibly the least favourite activity in the universe of Kate. And as someone who waited more than 14 days to move some socks upstairs that's saying something.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I once carried around a change of address form in my handbag for two years before eventually losing it. It's now another two years down the line and I still haven't filled out that stupid form. It's fairly safe to say that the new people living in my old home are probably more up to date with my mortgage interest rate than I am.

But even more baffling is when you make excuses for not doing something you love. This doesn't happen very often. Unless that thing is writing.  And then you are brought into a whole new world of excuses. In fact, when the thought of sitting down to write something heftier than a blog post creeps into my mind my house magically begins to actually get cleaned. That's how extreme it is. The looping, loopy arguments and excuses that run through my brain are painful. ('Well OF COURSE I need to clean behind the fridge today...').

Two years ago I reached that 'Oh FFS! Would you SHUT UP with the excuses' moment and sat down to write the first draft of the novel I had bouncing around in my brain for over a year. One month later I hit close on the document and felt a rush of pride. The next step would be easy.

Except it wasn't. The book got printed out and put on my bedside table. Then it got moved to my desk. Then it went into the draw in my desk. Then into the filing cabinet for 'safe keeping'.

I'm sure its next home would have been the bin, except that now, exactly two years later, November once again beckons and suddenly the time is right to write.

So I might be disappearing from here for the next few weeks while I get on with the job in hand. (And no, that doesn't mean cleaning behind the fridge).

Nothing like a public announcement to make sure the excuses don't fight back eh?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hammamas - Towels for Travellers

The lovely folk at Hammamas recently sent me one of their gorgeous cotton towels to test out. Chic and practical, these towels tick all the boxes because they are light weight, quick drying and they are clever multi taskers. 

If you ever travel as a family you know how much precious space a collection of beach towels takes up. Not so with the compact Hammamas. They even come with their own handy wetpack to store them in.

The designs available are stunning, making it almost impossible to choose a favourite. They also come in various sizes so you can find one that suits each member of the family perfectly. 

I picked a nautical blue and white one which I love. Great as a beach or pool towel and also handy as a sarong or cover up, 

Annoyingly I wasn't the only fan though and it kept getting stolen by other members of the family.

He wears it well

Next trip? I think I'm going to have to get them all one.

Disclosure: Hammamas kindly sent me one of their towels to test out for my recent trip to Portugal. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

For the love of blog

This is exactly how I look when I'm blogging...

5 years ago I sat down at my laptop one evening and Googled 'How to start a blog'. An hour later I had cobbled together a site and a single post and put it out there for the world (or as the case may be - nobody) to see.

I was naive, clueless and keen - and I thought I would probably last a week at this blogging business.

And now here I am over 250 weeks later pondering on all that has changed in that time. It's been a strange and winding road with never a dull moment. I've laid my heart out on a plate and held things inside until I felt fit to burst. It's become my creative outlet, my springboard, my go-to, my 'thing'. And I love it.

What's the point? I'm not sure there is a single point. For every blogger there's a different answer, a different raison d'etre. For me it's the writing and the creativity, the something you do because you're drawn to it - not because you're being paid, or you want to get published, or you have to. It's the place I can brain dump and work out that actually this is how I feel about that thing.

The other wonderful thing is that many of the bloggers I met online back in the day are still around - still sharing support, still following each others lives, still watching each other's kids grow up, still friends.

Six months after I started blogging I wrote this post: A beginner's guide to blogging.  It's nostalgic reading it now - remembering my newness and seeing the names of blogs on that list that have fallen by the wayside and the ones that are still walking side by side with me. Perhaps best of all though is that the list has grown to such a multitude now that I wouldn't even dream of trying to write a new one.

So instead I'll blow a big kiss out to the universe of bloggers and readers that have watched, helped, commented or clicked over the past five years.

Would I still be here if you hadn't?

Not a chance. I don't think I would have lasted a week.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Martinhal 5 Star Family Resort, Sagres - Is it worth it?

At the start of the month we spent four glorious days in Martinhal Resort, Sagres on the Algarve in Portugal. Martinhal has won many awards over the years, and being a 5 star resort it's obviously not cheap - but is it worth it?

If you are considering whether Martinhal is the right place for your well earned family holiday, here's a little of what you can expect.

Top marks for the beautifully designed accommodation. From villas, to houses, to pods and a hotel - the resort really does cater for every preference. With custom designed furniture and balconies overlooking beautiful views, it's hard to fault it. I even went around taking pictures of the rugs and cushions so that I could try to recreate the look at home (never going to happen).

Pj downtime.

Balcony 1 for sunrise
Balcony 2 for sunset

If you are a pool person you will be spoiled for choice. With three different outdoor pools and one half-in \ half-out you won't get bored.

Beside the main pool is the beach, table tennis, volleyball, trail bikes and a playground.

If sports are your thing then kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, yoga, cycling and a ton of other options are available.

Taking time out for yourself is essential and the Finisterra Spa comes highly recommended (by me). An oasis of calm and luxury. Well worth a visit!

Bars and restaurants:
There are three restaurants on site. Los Gambozinos is a casual Italian in the main square that boasts a huge play area outside. Kids come and go between the playground and restaurants as they please and waiters and waitresses are well practised in the art of not just not tripping over them, but tickling, feeding, cajoling and caring for them too. Christine gets an extra special mention from us - so loved was she by the kids that they insisted on returning for hugs with her on our last night.

The M bar, also in the main square, serves amazing frozen margaritas which you can sip from a hammock whilst watching the kids play outside. Holiday heaven.

O Terraco is the resorts fine dining  restaurant and As Dunas serves the freshest seafood overlooking a second playground that the older children can run up and down to. 

Best of all - no matter where you are, no one bats an eyelid at typical kid behaviour. Here's the youngest conked out in the very plush surroundings just to prove the point.

Kids Clubs:
For many parents kids clubs are a life line. But for many parents family holidays are just that - to spend time with the family. Martinhal gives us the best of both world with kids clubs running for a few hours each day - letting the children run off steam and allowing parents that little window of peace that makes the rest of the holiday so much more enjoyable.

For older children there is lots on offer too - with indoor playrooms, playstations, music and wifi throughout the site. They also have the option of day long surfing courses among lots of other offerings.

On top of all that there are the beautiful beaches wherever you go. Hire a car, or a bike and head off exploring.

Martinhal makes holidays easy and fun - even with three kids who want different things and a frazzled parent or two.

Worth it? I'd say so.

Even waiting to pay becomes fun!

More about our stay.

Disclosure: We stayed at Martinhal Family Resort in Sagres as guests of the resort for 4 nights in one of their Pinewood homes. I retain all editorial control of this review and all images and opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The day I met Tom Cruise in the steam room

After a quick session of laps in the pool I decided to pop into the steam room for a moment of calm.

As I opened the door I could hear voices. Male voices. The steam was thick and heavy and the room dark. I peered through the mists of mystery and could just make out the partially naked bodies of two gentlemen. 

Sitting down at the other side of the room I got on with the task of sweating. 

"What she doesn't realise..." - a voice boomed out before me

"... is that I'm fucking Tom Cruise!"

I couldn't see the vision of Tom in front of me at the time, but felt sure that his thick Irish accent meant he was in character for his next role. 

I tried hard not to, but involuntarily spluttered out a guffaw. 

'What?' Tom sounded shocked.

'You think I don't look like Tom Cruise?' 

The mist cleared a little to reveal a middle aged, pot bellied man and his elderly companion. 

I mumbled an apology and promised not to listen any more. 

There followed tales of warring siblings, lost inheritance, loved land, divided farms, marriage, death, drink and betrayal. All that was missing with a war veteran in a wheelchair, the mission impossible theme tune and some cocktails. 

"You're not listening to this now are you?" boomed Tom into the silence, hunting me out through the fog before he went on - 

"Hmm. You look like a guard to me" 

"Are you a guard?" 

No, I'm not a guard. 

"A nurse! You're a nurse!"

No, not a nurse. 

'Well? What do you do then?' he demanded.

"Oh I'm a writer" I said as I stood to leave. "Thanks for the all the great material." 

Tom's face froze in fear and his eyes grew wide. 

"You wouldn't dare" he whispered. 

"Course not" I said, as I clicked the door shut behind me. 

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