Tag Archives: travel

Three Things Wot I’ve Been Doing Lately


Thing Number 1 – Struggling to Travel on the Train

Every few weeks I need to take the train somewhere for my job. Lately I’ve had issues…

  • A couple of months ago I threw my train ticket away in a bin outside St. Pancras station. As soon as I threw it I remembered that I still needed it for the final leg of my journey. Unfortunately it had dropped down through the rubbish, so I had to stand outside the station picking my way through the rubbish bin to retrieve my ticket. Not my finest moment.
  • A couple of weeks ago, at Paddington station, I was just about to go through the ticket barriers to catch a train to Bath when I realised that I couldn’t find my ticket. I retraced my steps and found it in the Costa Coffee shop, on the floor, slid under the stand where you get milk, with just a tiny corner sticking out. If it had slid another inch under I’d have never found it – how lucky was that!
  • Last week, at Holloway Road tube station, I got stuck in these ticket barriers:

Tube station ticket barrier

It turns out you can’t just follow the person in front right through without waiting for the barrier to close and reopen again. I don’t want to talk about it.

Thing Number 2 – NaNoWriMo

Yes, in November I did NaNoWriMo – I think everyone knows what that is, but just in case, it’s National Novel Writing Month, where you aim to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I did it once before. This time I didn’t quite reach the 50K words, I did around 42K, but I was really happy with what I achieved. I needed to do quite a bit of reading research for this which I should really have completed before November, but didn’t, so the majority of my November NaNo time was spent reading rather than writing. Within the 42K words, I have the framework for the whole thing, I got to the end of the story, and there are lots of places throughout where it says things like “Write this bit here”, “Expand this bit”, “Write about that here”. So the bones of it are all there, and I’m happy with that.

Thing Number 3 – Getting Crafty

A while back, a work colleague announced that she was organising a Christmas craft fair for early December, and asked if anyone would like a stall. Well of course I jumped at the chance, what a great opportunity to show off my crafts! Something was niggling at me though and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and then it dawned on me – I don’t actually do any crafts (incidentally, I’m also really excited about the opportunity I have coming up to show off my motorcycle stunt skills…wait…oh crap).

So I bought a selection of cheap unfinished plain little wooden and card boxes, and some wooden hanging leaves, and decorated them with paint, pressed flowers, and beer bottle caps. Here was my finished stall from last Saturday:

craft stall

Did I make my fortune? No. Did I have fun? Absolutely – I really enjoyed decorating the boxes, this was mostly done over November, which you’ll remember was also the month I was trying to write a novel. I really don’t have any artistic/crafty type talent, but I was pleased I managed to do SOMETHING to put on the stall.

EDIT: Neil just reminded me of the other bit to the craft stall story, not sure how I forgot this bit – soon after I had set it up all lovely (as above), and the craft fair was well underway, I decided to quickly nip over to another stall, in doing so I tripped over the tablecloth on my stall and dragged it, along with ALL the boxes, onto the floor, and I fell amongst it all. There was a big crash. I don’t want to talk about it.

What about you? Do you ever volunteer to do something and then realise it was a mistake? Do you save beer bottle caps in case they come in handy some day? Do you ever get stuck in ticket barriers?



Adventures in Greece

The kids and I returned a few days ago from a wonderful trip to the beautiful Greek island of Corfu. We did some great stuff while we were there – parasailing, banana rides, and water skiing are examples of some of the things we watched while lazily lying on the beach drinking cocktails and eating ice cream, ha!

Here are some of our pics…

Corfu Corfu Corfu Corfu Corfu

Corfu is one of the cheapest places to go to from the UK if you want to go somewhere hot and abroad – consequently some people get a bit snobby and look down on it as a place to go. Like anywhere, it has nice parts and not so nice parts, some areas are definitely just for the young rowdy party crowd, but we’ve been to the island before and we love it. It is located off the north western coast of Greece, east of Italy, and practically touching distance from Albania – those mountains behind the sea in the picture below, that’s Albania, see how you can almost touch it…

View of Albania from Corfu beach

One day while we were walking around, we saw a man unloading crates of fruit from a truck. I made the mistake of saying “Ooh lovely fruit!” a bit too loudly, which prompted him to rush over and pop a grape into my mouth. Not being fully aware of the local customs, I was a bit worried that this might mean I had to marry him or something, so we moved on swiftly, while he called out something which I think was –

“The grapes are good yes, would you like another?”

But could have been –

“Can you learn to make moussaka like my mother?”

Just in case, if Pedro the fruit seller comes looking for me, you haven’t seen me ok? Ssshhh!

Stray cats and dogs wander in and out of the restaurants – in the main they look very healthy and well fed, hard to believe they are strays, I imagine they do well for tidbits from the tourists…

Cats in Corfu Dog in Corfu

Late at night, children, 6/7/8 years old, wander in and out of the bars charming the tourists into buying glow stick bracelets from them. I was a bit of a sucker for those, I felt sorry for them and found it hard to say no to these friendly, smiling children, again though, they looked healthy and well looked after, and seemed happy. They also made a beeline for me each night because they’re pretty savvy and quickly learned I was an easy sale.

On another occasion, after swimming in the sea, we came back to the beach and found one of my sandals was missing. We combed the beach and came across a beach worker emptying the bins. I held up my sandal, and asked him in my broken English with a Greek accent whether he had seen the other one. Obviously my English isn’t usually broken, but I’m under the clearly misguided impression that I will be better understood that way. He grinned, “Ya!” he said and took the sandal from me, I followed him, delighted, expecting him to lead me to the other sandal, but instead he threw my sandal onto a pile of junk. Clearly my Greek accent hadn’t been good enough to make myself understood. We eventually found the other sandal bobbing in the sea – hurrah!

Here I am trying, and failing, to look casual, as if I hadn’t just said for the 50th time that day “Take another picture of me! Take another picture of me! Make sure I look good!” clearly showing both sandals (the picture just wouldn’t be the same with only one sandal right?)…

Vanessa in Corfu with sandals

We took an excursion to Corfu town which is the main town on the island. The town has Venetian origins, and definitely has an Italian feel about it. It’s a very pretty and historic town with lots of little lanes to explore, and is well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Corfu.

Corfu town Corfu town
Corfu town

I had wondered ahead of going to Corfu whether we would notice any impact from the Greek economic situation. On the surface everything seemed fine, the businesses – shops and restaurants etc were all functioning well. The people working there were as friendly, welcoming, and hard-working as ever, but the kids and I definitely felt there were significantly less tourists around than when we were last there, which is a real shame for those businesses who are totally dependent on tourists for their survival. I do hope the situation improves for them all soon, and really there’s no need for people to stay away.

So, have you helped any country’s economy by buying glow stick bracelets and cocktails this summer?


End note – Yes, I know that I STILL owe someone a poem. I don’t have a good excuse for not doing it yet, very sorry, it WILL be soon!

When Kids Go Out Alone

Child with dog

I usually keep my posts fairy light and amusing (they are fairly light and amusing, right?!), but today I want to tackle a more serious issue. The issue of kids traveling around without adults.

Recently, my 10 year old son took his first bus trip without an adult. It was just a 20 minute trip, he was with a friend, and they were put on the bus at one end, and met off the bus at the other end, so it was all very controlled, but I still felt a bit anxious. What if the bus broke down on route? What if a stranger tried to lure them off at an earlier stop? Over the last few months, he has been going out and about in our village with friends and no adults, and I still feel a bit anxious about that, but I allow it because I do believe it’s necessary for kids to be allowed some freedom in order to develop independence and general survival skills. When I was his age I was already confidently zipping around London on buses and underground trains on my own. People say that it was safer back then, but I’m not sure whether it actually was, or if it’s just that we are more aware of the risks these days. One thing is for sure, kids were much more streetwise back in the 70s and 80s when I was growing up. They were out there without adults and they learned to be resourceful and figure things out if something went wrong.

When I was five, my Mum moved to France and my Dad stayed in England. From the age of five, I started regularly traveling between England and France on my own. Of course I wasn’t just left to my own devices, I was put in the care of the airline staff and handed over from parent to parent. Most of the time it went smoothly, but sometimes it didn’t. There was one occasion when I was six, I had to take two flights, changing at a Paris airport. Something went wrong at the changeover airport and I was left wandering around the airport on my own. I remember feeling quite scared and alone, trying to figure out where I should go for my connecting flight. Eventually I approached a member of staff at one of the desks and they sorted me out.

There was another occasion when I was seven. Rather than fly, I was to travel from England to France by ferry. I was put in the care of the coach driver who would look after me on and off the ferry and get me back on the coach in France, to travel across country some way. All was fine on the ferry and getting on to the coach, but then the coach broke down. We were apparently told we would have to find our own way of making the rest of the journey, as the coach driver had to stay with the coach. A couple of adults took it upon themselves to take me the rest of the way, and so they took me to a train station and we caught a train. This was mid 70s, so it was pre-mobile phones. Waiting at the coach station, my Mum was told that the coach had broken down and that passengers were having to make their own arrangements for the rest of the journey, but nobody was able to tell her anything about me. All she could do was wait at the coach station, and hope that I eventually turned up, which I did. As a parent, that just makes me feel sick imagining what she must have gone through waiting there!

I think it’s a really tricky balance for us parents, protecting our kids, but not over-protecting them so much that they never learn how to manage on their own. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to what age children should be allowed out on their own, each child is different, and parents have to make decisions based on their own children’s maturity, and other factors such the area in which they live.

I’m interested in any thoughts, from parents or non-parents? Or if you don’t like me tackling serious subjects on my blog, then lighten it up yourself and tell me a joke, and make it a good’un.