Travelling chimps

Rye: glamping without the kids

I am a massive fan of ‘doing presents’ – hiding in the birthday present pile looking like another card in a nondescript envelope, until you open them up and unravel a delicious treat. Or you unwrap a weird present that makes no sense, until you work out that it’s a clue for something really cool. This year I had a card with a pic of some champagne on it… inside there was a plan for a night in a Shepherds Hut near Rye. Yay! I gave him an American school bus toy with Travelling Chimps on the side, which was actually a present to go down and hang out with a guy who I’d found who owns an American bus in Devon. It’s a chance to see a bus for real, imagine what it will be like to live in one and find out more about the pitfalls and pleasures of buying and travelling in one. That’s a blog for another time though – back to glamping in Rye.

Rye and Winchelsea walk

Walking map
Our route around Rye and Winchelsea

We arrived early and downloaded a 7 mile walk that would take us to Rye and Winchelsea in a loop. It was glorious sunshine as we parked up on Dumb Woman’s Lane – such a good name – and strolled along to Rye. We’ve visited the town before with the boys but fancied going back for a mooch among the antique shops, cobbled streets and pubs without them. On a sunny day it’s a lovely spot for a beer and we had to try very hard not to have a second!

The ‘Shifting Sands’ walk that we downloaded from Discovering Britain officially starts and finishes in Rye but we joined at point 17 and looped from there. It took us all around Rye (which we realised after we had already walked around it),  past Camber Castle and via a bird hide that looked out on a surprising marsh land,  and on to Winchelsea where there were apparently lovely views of the sea and the shifting sands, which was not apparent to us even though it was a perfectly clear day.

The route is full of commentary from ‘Raymond Molony a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society’ and you can actually download the audio guide or a massive booklet of written commentary. Most of his notes we ignored as it took too long to load up, but we did find some interesting stops using our own eyes! Sutton’s was a treat – a seafood and fruit shop just outside of Winchelsea that served up the loveliest cherries (for me) and cockles (for him), and we saw a great view of Dungeoness, ominously sitting on a peninsula and kick-starting a big discussion on nuclear energy.

Winchelsea didn’t have much going on but we found the one thing we were looking for – Spike Milligans Grave. Oh ok, we didn’t bother with that but we did find a pub. Again, a gorgeous beer garden and an icy beer. It was so delicious we failed to stop after one and found ourselves wandering round a ‘upcycled’ thrift barn where we bought a lamp. Useful for a walk!

Glamping in The Hut

Woodland path to the Hut
Our path to our secret hideaway

We stayed in a Shepherds Hut owned by Extraordinary Huts., following a path through woodland into our secret home for the night. From the deck of the Hut, set in the clearing of a wood on a slope,  you can see nothing but green hills and sheep. It feels very private and remote, even though you are only a short distance from the road.

The Hut was billed as luxury accommodation that has ‘everything you need’ for 4 people but i’d argue that it was probably better for two and it was more ‘glamping’ than ‘luxury accommodation’. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by a remarkable stay in Boutique Bothies  in Scotland, where Jane, the owner, had laid on strawberries from her garden, home-made jam and bread, as well as toiletries. The Hut, in comparison, had lamps with missing batteries, burnt out candles and not a local delicacy in sight! It was still lovely though – a fine balance of nature and comfort –  and after a brief spin back to Rye to stock up on snacks, we settled in.

Inside and out

View from The Hut – not a soul in sight

Inside The Hut there is living space with a sofa and a woodburning stove, a fully equipped kitchenette with sink and a gas hob, a wet room with a good shower and a flushing loo, and an upstairs mezzanine level with a low double bed on one side and two low singles on the other. There’s a ladder up to the bed level and it’s all open; we had toyed with the idea of bringing the kids (for 5 minutes, honestly!), but I’m glad we didn’t as without a guard rail to stop you falling down from the platform as you try to go to the loo in the dark in the middle of the night, one of them would have had an injury!

Outside the Hut there is a fire pit and a hammock, with plenty of wood and firelighters. We had a lovely campfire when we got home from the pub – screeching away to Radiohead until the early hours. Hopefully our neighbours weren’t in earshot – we discovered in the morning that The Hut’s older sibling, ‘The Hide Out’, offers a glamping experience just a thicket of trees and bushes away. Oops!

Dinner at the Plough

Although we could have cooked at The Hut, we opted for The Plough pub. It was a short walk and a lovely pub, although we had to order extra chips because the portions were small . This happens regularly… I’m beginning to think it is our appetites that are at fault and not the pubs we eat in!

If you do go with the family and you van…

Incidentally, If you are looking to stay in Rye in your campervan, the River Haven Hotel charges £10 for an overnight in their car park. It’s no glamping – there’s a fair bit of rubbish and a car wash operation going on in the corner – but it felt safe enough and if you hop over the wall it takes just 5 mins to walk riverside to the pretty parts of Rye. Bargain!

Travelling chimps

Cycling Brighton to Paris – 4 days of bum-numbing fun

This time last we were cycling to Paris on the Avenue Verte. The skies were blue the trees were green and the air was full of honeysuckle, climbing roses and, for a brief moment, a series of profanities after realising we had miscalculated the endpoint by 30 miles. Oops.

Day one:

Cycling Hove to Newhaven, 10 miles

The start of bike ride in Brighton by West Pier
Leaving the West Pier for an epic ride to Paris

I should probably start at day minus one as it sets the scene – we got rid of the kids and instead of packing and having an early night, went to the beach and drank too much wine. So predictable!

You can imagine how we felt when the alarm went off at 5.15am. Uggh. We left the house at 6am and I was tired by the time we got to the seafront… about 10 minutes away. Double ugggghhh.

We made it the 10 miles to Newhaven ferry terminal, an embarrassment of a entrance / exit point to the UK. There is nothing but rubbish, exhaust fumes and a view of the tip to keep you entertained and If you want a coffee, you have to get it before you go through customs; the disgruntled customs officer told us the only machine available to the captive travellers had been ‘broken for months‘. The cafe in the terminal arrivals / ticket office is like a throwback from the seventies – a truckers haven with pictures of lorries and postcards from drivers stuck to the wall with blue tack. It’s almost cool until you realise they haven’t moved anything on from the seventies – is that an instant coffee or (luke-warm) filter? Do you want sauce on your Bacon sarnie?

The Newhaven ferry itself is alright – we’ve caught it so many times we know the routine. Dock your bikes, leg it up to the top deck of the bar and get out on the sundeck asap. There are limited chairs and they are in hot demand.

Cycling Dieppe to Forges-Les-Eaux, 30 miles

We messed up our ferry food. It was the mini-hangover again – we ate our packed lunch at 9.30am and planned to stock up on proper calories (frites) a bit later in the 4 hour journey so that we would be ready for our first 30 mile ride. Somehow we failed. The restaurant was closed when we went to find it and France, being France on a Monday, was closed at 2.30pm when we landed in Dieppe. No restaurants or shops to snaffle any tasty treats. We had to head off for the first real leg with empty tummies.

After about 10 cyclists got muddled on the first roundabout following Avenue Verte signs, we decided to use our phones to find our cycling route through Dieppe to Arques-la-Bataille, where you come off the road and join an old railroad path past beautiful big lakes and greenery that takes you all the way through to Forges-Les-Eaux. It is well-signed, once you get to the turning, and the concrete paths are off-road, which means no traffic pollution and lovely stretches of silence. We were cycling in late May and everything was lush and fresh – new growth everywhere. Occasionally, small villages would rush by – their old platforms still visible on the railroad path. We waved at old men playing boule, spotted an albino peacock and stuck our noses into elder flowers growing along the track.

The novelty of the flat path wore off a bit by the time we reached Neufchatel-en-Bray. We had planned to stop and eat a copious amount of cheese with a cold beer, but we were running (or cycling late) for our airbnb check in and had to press on. Although flat cycling is good, there is little variation and no downhills to give your legs a brief respite. The  signs told us it was another 17km to go and literally every time we passed a new km marker I was counting the seconds to the next. It was a bit worrying – today was meant to be our easy day and we found it a real challenge.

Forges-Les-Eaux  is a small spa town, where people used to come and take the waters. It was pretty but, like DIeppe, it was asleep. All the restaurants were closed apart from one hotel restaurant – La Paix –  that served ‘typical French food’ in a fairly sterile room that was heavy on the white tablecloths and was decorated with peach wallpaper covered in calligraphic painted quotes. Typical French seems to be to avoid vegetables unless they are drowning in butter, so we ordered the prix fixe and ate something very creamy (there was a cherry tomato sized ball of crushed peas on my plate – so I got some vegetables) and had to cancel our cheeseboard for fear of heart failure.  Our French is not great but our attention was caught by quotes that seemed to be about going for a wee against the wall. Good old google translate told us that lo and behold, they were – a celebration of some relevant historical figure spraying the wall with golden piss. What an oddity!

We stayed at an Airbnb close to La Paix and the square. It had a courtyard and separate room to store our bikes and was perfectly clean and tidy. Annie, the owner, greeted us and was very accommodating. It was over 3 floors and the bedroom is right at the top, so that used up the last of my leg energy for the day.

Cycling Forges-Les-Eaux to Beavais 42 miles

We woke up refreshed and ready to go. We were using the Sustrans Avenue Verte book to plan our cycling route and had set approximately 45 miles per day.  Our route took us out of Forges and along small country roads to the hills outside of the town. This was apparently one of the harder sections of the ride but it wasn’t overly difficult. There was absolutely no food shops though, so visit the supermarket in Forges before you set off. After yesterdays hunger we went to the supermarket twice!

Our route wound its way up and down hills covered in poppies, the red stain of the flowers spreading through the green grass. The route was really well signposted and took us along roads that avoided anywhere busy. There was an abundance of creeping roses and not a supermarket in sight. Heaven.  We arrived at our designated lunch spot – Gournay en Bray – just in time for the last of the Tuesday morning market stalls to close up. We really must sort out our timing! At least we had bought bread and cheese in Forges so wouldn’t have to miss lunch again.

The afternoon ride took us back out to the hills – cycling an ascent of Auchy’s hill – and meandered to Saint-Germer-de-Fly, a pretty village with a big gothic cathedral just within the region of Picardy. At this point you have to decide whether to take the east or west route to Paris. The west, through the Vexin areas,  is slightly shorter so we took the east – we liked the sound of the beautiful villages, farms and forests of the Oise.

The route continues along the Pays de Bray until you reach the outskirts of Beavais. This was a much bigger town than anything else we had travelled to but it had a great square with a jumping water feature that our kids would have loved, perfect for cold beers after a days ride.

We stayed in another Airbnb near the centre, hosted by Delphine who kindly stored our bikes in her garage. The house was sprawling with high ceilings and full of interesting bits and bobs. We had to share a bathroom but that wasn’t a problem as it was all immaculately clean. Around the corner from her place was a cobbled street with a few bars and restaurants, all spilling out into the street. We had dinner there and drank wine, there was a great atmosphere. Full to the brim (French food is so rich!) we took a nighttime stroll around Beavais. It was  Instagram paradise with old, crooked houses, quaint shops and the most incredible Gothic cathedral – Cathedrale St Pierre. The dark arches and carved faces were so intricate and the height meant it dominated the whole area.

Cycling Beavais to Senlis, 45 miles

The first thing we realised when we got up was that we had drunk too much beer the night before. Uggghh. The second thing we realised, after we had closed the door and posted the key to the Airbnb through the letterbox, was that we had left our guidebook in the bedroom. The third thing we realised, when we logged on to check the route, was that we had grossly underestimated the distance to Paris and had an additional 30 miles ish to do. We couldn’t spread our cycling over two days because we had already booked and paid for our accommodation in Senlis, which sounded lovely, and the closer you get to Paris the harder it is to find rooms where you can keep bikes.  Ah well – we’ll worry about that tomorrow!

The route out of Beauvais took us through several small villages – it felt as if the roads were getting a bit busier now were were getting closer to Paris. There was a long section where we were just travelling alongside a fairly busy road, albeit on a bike path, and it wasn’t very interesting. We then hit another railroad path which took us away from the traffic.

We were still doing well with the Avenue Verte signs but because we had no cycling maps, we downloaded the route as a gpx file and used an app on our phone for less than £5 to track the route. It wasn’t foolproof – quite often we’d spot a sign going one way and the gpx would tell us to go another, but they more or less went the same way. It became invaluable for helping us to get back on track when the signs seemed to dry out somewhere around Clermont. There was a definite sense that the route was signed from Paris to London and not the other way round – you’d get to a junction and the only sign would be pointing back the way you had come.

Clermont was a busy town and we stopped to eat our baguette and cheese. After so many cheese failures we had picked up some in Beauvais and struck gold – after stewing in our pannier bags for the morning, this cheese was ripe enough to pour over our bread. Delish!

As we cycled on, it wasn’t just an increase in traffic. The buildings were closer together and getting grander, with less farmhouses and more Gothic cathedrals, monasteries and abbeys. The best of the route comes right at the end as you cross Halatte Forest on a series of tracks that join at centre junctions with old signs pointing off from a centre pole. It links the majestic Abbaye du Moncel to the historic city of Senlis and as you descend at full pelt on forest tracks , you get a gorgeous ‘wind in the hair’ moment.

Senlis is beautiful. Full of cobbled streets, roadside bars, quaint little shops and the standard Gothic cathedral. We stayed at a lovely, modern Airbnb, hosted by Didier. It was within easy walking distance of the main town and had a courtyard garden to safely store the bikes.  I’d have liked to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere – maybe go for breakfast or have a lazy start with a walk around town, but tomorrow was a biggy and so we indulged in just one Aperol Spritz, ate a quick Italian meal and went to bed early.


Cycling Senlis to Paris, 80 miles

Yes, you read correctly. We had planned 48 miles for the final day cycling but got it spectacularly wrong. I think we just hadn’t noted down a major chunk between Paris St Germain and Paris centre. Hubby wanted to blame me as I am a terror for getting my numbers wrong (I am a words person!) but he had also checked the book and totted up the count. Whatever it was, we had a long ride to get through and so we started early and headed to Chantilly, 20km away, for breakfast.

The ride out of Senlis took us back into the forest, which was lovely and cool. We passed the incredible Chateau de Chantilly and picked up some pastries and then headed on to have breakfast overlooking the Abbey of Royaumont. Again, the greenery was  vibrant and plants were bursting into life. It was a glorious morning and we covered a big chunk of miles with relative ease.

The route is broken into sections and it felt like an achievement reaching Asnieres sur Oise as we were another stage closer to the finish line. The route is busier, but still lovely, as you join the Oise River and cross from bank to bank via L’isle-Adam, Auvers-sur-Oise and Pointoise. We stopped at Port Cergy to eat a slightly squidged baguette and some leftover blue cheese. Port Cergy is a marina with restaurants overlooking the water. It was sunny and busy and proper torture to sit on a bench with such a sorry lunch as the glamorous of Paris drank cold beer and relaxed.

There was no time for us to drink beer. A cold can of pop and we were back in the saddle, powering on to the point in which the east and west routes of the ride join up and the next section begins – when the Oise joins the Seine. This section is famous for all the impressionist painters, including Van Gogh, who were inspired by the river scenes. It was indeed beautiful and the grand buildings on each side were impressive. I played a good mental game of which one do I want as my legs worked like pistons and we hammered through the checkpoints.

As the route closed in on Paris (and my interest in choosing houses massively diminished) it got more industrial and the poverty became apparent. There were more people, including children, begging and we cycled past a couple of shanty towns and areas full of tents.  My legs no longer felt like machines and my knees hurt. It felt like it was taking forever to get close to the centre and despite the descriptions telling us how wonderful the entry into Paris is, to us it felt crazy busy and a tad dodgy. Motorbikes roared up the bike paths, dogs wandered aimlessly and people were cooking pieces of meat on old trolleys that had been converted into barbecues.

When times get tough on a French bike ride there is one thing that will restore you – pastries. I have never deserved sugar so much in my life and patisserie power is the way forward.  Fuelled with chocolate eclairs and custard tarts we made it down to the canals and found the beautiful people once again as they swanned about on their way home from work. Oh how we longed to stop for a beer there! We felt as if we should officially finish the ride somewhere recognisable though, so headed on to the Seine. That was pretty galling as our hotel was in the other direction so we had to add on extra miles.

The panniers made it tough to cycle through the traffic but I definitely felt as if the French were more accommodating with cyclists. Even though Parisiens can’t be trusted to follow road rules – if they see a space they’ll make a dash to it – they give you a wide berth while they are careering across the road! When you get to the river though there is a good bike path and plenty of spots to stop. To STOP!!! Yes, I have never enjoyed a beer so much.

We reached our hotel about 8pm, 12 hours after starting, and after a quick dinner at the closest restaurant we could find, we went back to our room and fell asleep. We had to leave for our train to Rouen at 10am the next morning but there was no way I was going exploring with my lead-like legs! Next time.



Travelling chimps

Kayaking on the Ouse with the Chimpory Flotilla

We live near Brighton beach so on a hot summers day we…. AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE! The whole of London seems to descend on our fair city, even though that invariably means sitting in an epic traffic jam and then having to find somewhere to park – not easy and not cheap. Although the Hove end of the beach is much calmer, sometimes the chaos and litter just gets too much and we head to beautiful Barcombe Mills to wile away the hours picnic’ing on the banks of the river, blowing up the kayak and paddling in search of a pint.

An inflatable present

Our kayak adventures started on hubby’s 40th. I bought him an Intex Explorer K2, a 2 man inflatable that comes with everything you need except life-jackets. It was a bit of a gamble because we didn’t really have anywhere to store a boat (even one that deflates), and if it was a faff to put up then we wouldn’t have bothered using it, but it was a 40th and I had to produce something legendary. Of course legends are not always great and I’m quite ‘hit and miss’ with presents  – I can come up with something I think will solve all his problems or will allow him to indulge interests he never realised he had, but the response will be a barely hidden bemusement. Then again I can produce things that he truly loves. I’ll leave you to work out which present pile the charcoal soap (to cure his eczema) ended up on….

The kayak was a great success though. We headed out on a calm sea and did a circuit of the West Pier, which, after working with seafront engineers for 2 years, I now realise was horribly dangerous as it could collapse at any moment. Don’t try that one with your kids! Do try the kayak though – it’s really good value and has great reviews as an all-rounder, starter kayak.

Talking of kids. Ours eventually got big enough to go in the kayak and although one small bottom doesn’t really take the boat over it’s weight limit, 2 growing bottoms (or probably 4 growing bottoms if you include us grown-ups…. we were hitting our 40’s and bottoms definitely don’t downsize at that point!) and the poor kayak started to struggle. It ended up with a tear that didn’t affect the integrity of the boat – it still floated – but it didn’t feel like it would forever. We tried to fix it by stapling it together, a questionable solution when you consider what stapling actually does to material.

Needless to say, we are on to our second kayak now – a Sevylor Tahiti. We chose a 3 man kayak this time. It’s still good value but slightly more than the Intex. We also bought a little dinghy which we could tie on and tow.  We spent 6 hours gently paddling downstream on the Loire last summer and the new set-up was perfect. Kit sat in the back lolling around with a fishing rod and Soren got to sit at the front. Lord knows how that kept them happy for 6 hours but it pretty much did.

Back to Barcombe

We’ve already established that collapsing iron piers are not a good choice for a family kayak. Instead, go with the safe option of Barcombe and the River Ouse. I did a bit of research to check it would be safe / legal and apparently the Ouse used to be a commercial waterway and rights of navigation may still exist but it’s a bit of a grey area above Barcombe. It’s also a tidal river, but above Lewes that doesn’t really affect the water. Lots of the official kayak trips state it is good one for families and certainly every time we have been it has been an easy and calm trip.

Barcombe Mills car park is the best place to set off from. Head south on the A26 from Uckfield to Lewes and then turn right into Barcombe Mills Road. The satnav postcode is BN8 5BP.  You can park for free (although watch out for height barriers – we can’t take our van) and then follow a little path down towards the weir. Before you reach it, go through the gate and walk alongside the river on a grassy path. It’s easy to find a spot to blow up your boat and get into the river here, but if it’s busy then just cross the little footbridge and walk a little further around.

The first bit of the paddle can be pretty busy with families and dogs jumping in – I can’t fathom why as it is FREEZING, brown and slimy. Once you have paddled past the hoards though it is lovely – birds darting into the trees, nodding reeds and dragonflies. It’s very tranquil and we’ve seen herons before on this stretch.

If you want somewhere to head, the Anchor Inn is a good destination. It doesn’t take too long to get there – just enough to work up a thirst – and you can get out easily. If you want to go past the inn you have to get out anyway because there is a weir at that end as well. Apparently it’s around here that VIrginia Woolf drowned. Just one more reason why I don’t really see the need to get into the water!

Of course if you can’t be bothered with the paddling effort and you just like being out on the boat, we’ve been known to head for the Anchor Inn and just sack it off for an hour of bobbing around with a glass of something cold (yes – this was a on a day when the kids were not with us!).

This time we took friends with us (one of who had bought his own Intex explorer) and all took it in turns to go for a paddle in convoy. It meant that we didn’t really get to the tranquil bit but it was a good fun day. Ros (my mum) was so inspired she went home and ordered her own kayak. Watch out for the Chimpory flotilla next time you pass a river – we are growing in numbers and confidence!

Travelling chimps Uncategorized

Brighton Festival and Fringe – May’s annual circus

May is a great month to live in Brighton. The launch of the Brighton Festival and Fringe on the bank holiday weekend signify the end of the winter slumber and the beginning of a season of bonkers creativity and non-stop outdoor celebrations.  This year it was even better, with proper summer temperatures and a sense of euphoria about the streets. Summer is here, lets get out and experience it!

Experience what exactly? 

Choosing what to see with your kids during Brighton Festival and Fringe is impossible. There is so much going on that you just get lost in it all. I was well-intentioned,  I think every parent is, and I got the brochures when they first came out and created a complicated highlighted he calendar with all the good sounding shows, the 241 offers and the free stuff. I then earnestly went online to buy tickets and massively failed – it’s expensive as a family of 4 and whilst we’ve seen some great things over the years (acrobatic pirates and the amazing bubble man) there were also some shockers (Christopher Nibble, which was aimed at far younger kids than was advertised). Then there are the 241 deals, which seem great but you have to be a member and I can never remember whether things I’ve liked the look of are to do with the Fringe or the Brighton Festival. So much cross-referencing. So much confusion. So much failing to get to see anything because of it! In the end I booked tickets to Lexicon – we’ve seen No Fit State before and I hoped that they would strike a good balance between the acrobatics and clowning around that appeals to kids but doesn’t make the grown-ups cringe. More about our thoughts later…

It all begins with a launch

The Children’s parade

I kick-started the Fringe at The Warren launch party. The fireworks and festival beer were both rather underwhelming, but it was a night out without the kids and everyone was in a celebratory mood so good fun was had. We then did the child-friendly Brighton Festival launch with the Children’s Parade. –  the largest annual outdoor event for young people in this country. This year was ‘Red-Faced and Grumpy…. particularly schools above number 33’. I jest, they were actually marching with models and costumes made to support the theme of ‘Paintings’, but it was boiling and it must have been hard getting the later school kids walking with smiles when they had to wait so long to start.  It is a great start to the month though and I love that all the schools come together to celebrate – about 5000 kids took part this year and it’s more than just the parade. Same Sky work with each school to help them create a willow structure to carry through the streets and some of them were incredible. I loved the Frida Kahlo – particularly as all the kids had mini monobrows! Kit wasn’t keen on joining the parade because ‘the drums make (his) heart feel funny’, but he loved watching and I think next year I can convince him – I’m definitely going to get my monobrow on and join in anyway!

It was a scorcher and so we dipped our toes into the Spiegeltent beer garden – a quick cool down after the parade. They have ‘done-up’ the back bar with loads of rugs and comfy sofas. There is even a bath??! Whereas the regular bar bit was packed, the comfy section was empty and the kids took their shoes and socks off (they are programmed by years of me shouting ‘don’t get your feet on the sofa!’ ) and kicked back. We were there for an hour – we would have been happy to stay longer as the beer was cold and the sun was just right, but I think the designer of the cosy tee-pee might have assumed a cooler setting. Velvety sofas and heavy rugs do not make for the coolest environment for two little boys and we caved in to their sweaty faces and took them home.

Lexicon – the melting circus

Bank holiday Monday, the hottest day of the year. You can imagine what a stifling sweat pit Lexicon at the big top was – a black tent in a city bathed in a haze of disposable bbq heat and sunburnt bodies. We took a cool bag and hugged the cool packs, which kept the kids from complaining. Top tip though, if it’s a hot day take lots of cold water as it is roasting in there. It might also be worth taking a snifter of wine. They have a bar, which appeals to the British need to booze in the sunshine, but you have to pay a deposit for a plastic glass which you can’t take it in with you. By the time you’ve queued, paid and re-queued for the deposit, there’s a very small window in which to enjoy your bar-bought drink.

Anywho, on to the show. Hats off to the troupe for their energy. We were melting in our seats and didn’t, nay couldn’t, have run around in suits and dresses as they did. It was impressive – lots going on at once and people and props flying in all directions. I wasn’t quite sure the write-up was relevant – the Brighton Festival brochure and website describe Lexicon as  “Drawing inspiration from history, heritage and traditions, this show digs into the underground of memory and celebrates the past, present and future of this much-loved artform.” – but it did ‘dazzle’ as the reviews suggested. The group were full of energy and each routine was an incredible performance of strength, balance and skill. They make it look easy and I wondered whether I would need to explain to the kids how incredibly hard it is to hold yourself parallel to the floor from a vertical pole, to balance two sticks or balance on a piece of rope so they could properly appreciate it. They were gripped though and there was lots of ‘wooooowwwww’ going on – particularly with the trapeze and, rather randomly, the diablos (although Kit has one of these and now wants to learn to juggle three at once). They also loved the clowing around. Maybe I should get them to help me understand that as I’ve never particularly liked all the silly voices and slapstick. Why the fake language?? I did laugh along with them though when the fire juggler set himself on fire.

Before we were told about the no camera rule!

What I really liked about the performance was the drama of it all. No Fit State use light and shadows as well as music to create atmosphere. It also feels very much like a group piece of work -a community in which they all rely on each other and no-one is the star. An accordion player might put down her instrument and suddenly get on a bike and take a turn of the room, while someone who has just performed an incredible balancing act will next be seen scaling up the scaffolding to winch up a trapeze. In fact watching the dance of all the pulleys was theatre in itself – It is so well coordinated that you don’t notice people or objects ‘getting clipped on’ and they seem to just fly up in the air.  They all trust each other to get the job done and to be there to catch them when they are thrown backwards across the room. It’s a magical piece of choreography.

We’d recommend Lexicon – here for a few more weeks. I have no idea of the top of my head if it is on as part of the Brighton Festival or the Fringe but who cares – it’s a great part of Brighton’s May celebrations!



Travelling chimps

A different kind of wedding

50 people up a mountain wearing bobble hats and thermals… sounds like a perfect wedding. And it was.

Love and tax

When we decided to get married we had racked up 10 years together already. We’d travelled around the world, bought houses and cars, had kids… we weren’t just starting our lives together, we were well and truly down the road.

My anniversary card for Guy

It kind of felt like we’d missed the marriage boat and that it didn’t really matter. In fact we often ended up discussing it as an option for reducing paperwork and saving money – did you know that  you have fewer rights if you’re living together than if you’re married? A common-law spouse has no legal recognition, which is mainly only important if one of you pops your clogs or decides to run off and abandon the family. You can get round most of the trickiness by filling in forms but marriage is a simpler option. Oh the romance!

The good news is that it wasn’t just about tax implications and house ownership – we are very happy together and at every wedding we went to, usually ended up drunkenly chatting about how we would (or wouldn’t!) do ours. The whole big dress and sit-down dinner never appealed, but neither did a registry office followed by a humanist ‘pretend wedding’, so when we heard about two friends who had legally got married up a mountain in Scotland as the rules were different, we knew we had found a way to do it our way.

A hike with a legal interlude

Incredible views from Stac Pollaidh

We booked the same humanist celebrant – Penelope – that our friends had used and chose the same mountain (well, did we really need to do all the research when it was tried and tested already?!). A quick recce in January confirmed it was indeed beautiful, do-able and close enough to Ullapool for people to find accommodation, so we told all our pals that they were welcome to join us in the Highlands for a walk, marriage and post-walk pint and then sat back confident that only a handful of people would come.

We got that wrong; it turns out people like a unique wedding!

50 guests…. uh oh!

With more guests than we had imagined there were a few more logistics. You can’t just rock up with 25 cars in the Stac Pollaidh car park and then take 50 people into a bar and hope to be able to all order food. We decided that it would be less stressful to take over somewhere, but when we started enquiring you could almost hear the shift into ‘wedding mode’ – it was all big rooms with minimum numbers, flowers and set menus.

In the end we had a chat with the Frigate  in Ullapool and they offered us a buffet that would cater for oyster lovers (him), cheese lovers (me), pudding lovers (the kids) and vegan salad lovers (well we are from Brighton after all!). They did an amazing job – even decorating the venue for us, which we were not expecting.

Anyway, I seem to be skipping the actual wedding bit so….

The actual wedding bit.

Our guests in their best wedding outfits

We wanted a low-key wedding on a mountain that was a celebration of us and the kids. When we spoke to Penelope we felt as if she understood this completely. Unlike the legal stuff you have to say in England or Wales, we could pretty much say what we wanted in Scotland so Penelope helped us craft a ceremony that was entirely personalised – a mix of our words and Scottish traditions that she felt we might enjoy.

We had told our guests it would take an hour to get to the spot we wanted to get married and to dress up warm – the ‘men’ would go first and hide little painted stones for the kids to find on their way up, as well as leave a red ribbon at the forked path so people would know which way to go. He would find a spot and when you reached him, you could picnic and wait for the rest of the party.

The best laid plans of mice and men…

The kids went before the boys arrived and so there were no stones or sweets to find. The red ribbon wasn’t very clear and so a few people went the wrong way, including our pregnant friend who had to then go off-piste across the mountain to get back on track (passing an adder!). The path was much steeper and longer than we had remembered, which meant for a slower and more challenging climb (perhaps we shouldn’t have based our timings on the speed of Soren. He may be 4 but he is a mountain goat in boy form!) and those thermals that we were all wearing – aaaggghhhh it was boiling hot!  The good news was that the sunny weather meant the views were amazing…. until we reached my husband-to-be’s chosen spot – in thick mist??!!!

Twas meant to be

Dehydrated and sweaty, we all arrived in the clouds and Penelope kicked off proceedings as everyone got off their face on a combo of Bryony’s sugary tablet and the copious amount of whisky being passed around. It was amazing though – we talked about why we love Scotland, why we chose to get married (I didn’t mention tax implications!) and our plans for the future with the boys. We were both focused on the two kids beaming down at us as Penelope spoke  – particularly as Kit had been a bit anxious about it all. It was more special and meaningful than I had ever imagined it would be. The clouds even cleared and we had that gorgeous backdrop we had hoped for.

We drank from the quaitch – a two handed cup filled with even more whisky – to toast our past, present and future together, swapped rings (carefully brought to us by the kids), did a bit of ‘accepting each other’ in front of witnesses and sealed the deal with a kiss. Yay! We then passed around more whisky and apple cake (a nod by Lou to my dad, a fond cake-lover!) and disbanded – those that wanted to hike to the top went one way, those that didn’t went back down. A perfect, no-frills wedding in my bobble hat and thermal leggings!

Let’s get the party started!

A dedicated version of ‘If not for you’ by the amazing Julie and Wilz

There was space in the Frigate for music – thanks Ben with his ipod and Jon with  his guitar – and speeches as well. In the true spirit of stealing other people’s wedding ideas, we took the concept of a ‘Master of Ceremonies’ from our Swedish friend. Rather than the usual list, anyone who wanted to raise a toast or perform something could just book themselves in with my sister, Lou. Both of us took a turn – mine was the ‘produced on a night of no sleep so even if I could properly focus the content was pretty much ineligible’ version. His was the ‘had a quick think, scrawled something down and then delivered it off the cuff with no notes’ version. Damn him!

Ros was much better prepared and had all the classic baby stories, Colin mentions, embarrassing son-in-law jokes and proud mum moments. Cheeky produced something hilarious – a speech he hoped his brain would prepare as he was saying it. Katy, Lou and Jo also got up to share some words and they were of course all lovely. Who knew they were so loved – not me! Who also knew that Jo kept all the a’level photos she took of me modelling for her and had shared pictures of me as a 17 year old bride tasked to look as if she was ‘contemplating running away’ around the room. Awful! Thank goodness for Wilz and Julie who got up and sang an amazing, personalised version of ‘If not for you’ by Bob Dylan. Gorgeous.

Everyone loves a singalong…. don’t they?

Jon took the singalong out onto the streets of Ullapool

Credit where credit is due – Ullapool was very patient and accepting with us. Not one person threw a shoe at us when we took our singalong out of the Frigate onto the streets of the small harbour town, even when it reached 2am! I’m sure we all thought we were doing harmonies (and to be fair, Wilz and Julie on the ukulele, Jon on his guitar and Cheeky can all definitely hold a tune) but it probably just sounded like what it really was – a group of drunk tourists shouting soundy-likey lyrics! It was a perfectly crazy end to a perfectly crazy day though.

Thank you Scotland, thank you friends and family and thank you to my chimps – that was a pretty awesome adventure to add to our list!



Travelling chimps

How to get married on a mountain

In the UK you can’t just pick a spot, enlist the relevant qualified person and run through the legalities to tie the knot. Or can you? Follow my ten steps to get married on a mountain.

First a bit of background…

Rules, rules and more rules

Many, many years ago there was a Marriage Act brought in to stop all the crazy marriages taking place in England. No more irregularities – you had to be a certain age, your parents had to agree if you were under 21, you had to do it somewhere legit, someone official had to say all the right stuff and it all had to be recorded. It was a real spanner in the works for all those underage kids who got pregnant before their wedding day.

Scotland was not part of all this. They didn’t follow the new amendment and instead chose to just stick to ‘mutual consent’ as the tick box for their unions. Anybody could make the declaration of marriage and as long as you were over 12, it was a green light.

Civil license or no civil license

It’s not wildly different today in England and Wales, you still have to follow the rules. The Marriage and Civil Partnerships Regulations asserts that weddings cannot happen just anywhere – you can’t just get married on a mountain. They must take place in a registry office or somewhere that has a license – something that will only be granted if you have a permanent structure with a roof.

Things are still pretty relaxed north of the border. A few changes have taken place – maybe one too many buggers found themselves married off after a few drams too many, so they’ve stopped the ‘anybody can declare it’ rule and upped the age of consent to 16. If a registrar does the job the venue has to have a license, but if you opt for a minister or a humanist celebrant, no license is required. You just have to get them to agree to your location!

Making it personal

No permanent roof structure required!

In order for a marriage to be fully legal, certain points must be met within the service, i.e. you can’t just say exactly what you want. Any registrar or minister-led wedding has a fair amount of statutory stuff that has to be repeated (I declare no legal reason why I…etc. etc.). Of course you can add your own vows in some cases, but it’s not really that flexible if you want to have something entirely personal to yourselves.

Humanist celebrants prefer to perform ceremonies that focus on couple and the relationship, which makes sense even if you are not a declared humanist. The one catch is it’s not currently legal in England and Wales – you still have to go to the registry office and get the registrar to do the bit that makes it real. That kind of spoils it a bit in my mind.

It’s different in Scotland. Humanist Weddings have been legal since June 2005, as long as they’re conducted by a celebrant of the Humanist Society of Scotland who has been authorised by the Registrar General. They just need to hear themselves, and for your witnesses to hear, a verbal contract between the two of you that accepts each other in marriage.

 So… getting married on a mountain

So we’ve identified that you can have the ceremony you want if you head to Scotland and choose a humanist celebrant. So how do you  get married on a mountain?

  1. Find a mountain that is do-able for you and your guests
  2. Find a humanist who will do it for you – you can have a hunt on the Humanist Society of Scotland for a list.
  3. Before you can move forward, join the Humanist Society of Scotland (approx £20)
  4. Apply to the registrar in the area you want to marry for a marriage schedule. To do this you need to both fill in an M10 form as well as send in details of witnesses and original of birth certificates and divorce certificates. You need to include details of your celebrant and also your location (as well as a plan B location). There was a fee for this of approximately £71 to process this.
  5. Run through your wedding script with the celebrant so you are all agreed in advance.
  6. Pick up your form the week preceding the wedding
  7. Get married on the mountain if the weather is ok (yay!) or in the plan B location if the weather is foul (gutted). I get the feeling you can be pretty flexible on this if your heart is set on outside. The mountain car park would probably be fine!
  8. Make sure you get the signed document from the celebrant (it is signed by yourselves, the celebrant and the witnesses) and the form that the celebrant fills in that details what name everybody actually signed.
  9. Drop off your documents with the registrar within 3 days following the wedding.
  10. Marriage documents are sent to you by post.

In the next post I talk more about our specific wedding and our choices. Keep reading if you are interested in that. If not – good luck with your Scottish choice, I can assure you that you won’t regret it.


Ullapool, the Coigach Peninsula and hooray for grandparents!

When preparing for a wedding, the first thing you want to do is get rid of your kids! Bring on the Grandparents!

Whoop, whoop Noni, Lou and John are spending a week with us in Scotland so we hired a cottage on Rhue peninsula, just a few miles outside of Ullapool, for them all to share. We stayed a couple of minutes away in a B&B, allowing us to be close by for the first few days then head to Ullapool to party child-free when our guests arrived. It was a winning solution!

Get your ‘nockers’ out

View from the cottage

The cottage – Seascape – was an amazing find that ticked every box; just 3 miles to shops and restaurants but a million miles in terms of atmosphere. It felt remote and cosy, with a big window looking out over nothing but the sea, mountains and Rhue lighthouse. It had easy access to the beach (although not quite the amazing beaches of Kinlochbervie and Cape Wrath), rock pools and fishing spots – it was a paradise for nature-lovers and ideal for the Grandparents and kids for a week. We had our ‘nockers’ or ‘bins’ (or, as most people call them, binoculars) at the ready and spotted buzzards, seals, all sorts of smaller birds. The kids did not ask to watch television all week.

Where we walked: Rhue

Rhue walk

This was a super easy ‘potter about’ kind of walk for everyone from kids to grandparents. From Ullapool, follow signs to Rhue – just a few miles outside of town.

Drive to the end of the track and park up in the car parking area (watch out for stray sheep!)

Pick your way down to the beach and skim stones or boulder jump across the headland (you can walk higher if you are scared of slipping) to the lighthouse.

You can walk further around the headland but it was a bit boggy when we were there. Very pretty though.

There is nowhere for food and drink on Rhue so take it with you!

Cheeseboard for breakfast

If you find you are in that part of the world, Suilven Vegetarian B&B is a fantastic place to stay. In part this is for all the reasons Seascape was a great find – Rhue is a fab spot – but Barry and Irene have designed and built their house themselves and it was beautifully cosy whilst architecturally making the best use of space and location. There are big windows on the mezzanine that look out to Loch Broom (from where they have spotted whales) and they have kept the whole upstairs open plan so that you can look out at views in every direction: mountains, sheep, water – it’s all there for you.

Barry served the most incredible breakfast of homemade yoghurt and jams, fruit, freshly baked soda bread and a veggie cheeseboard with locally made oatcakes. I love a cheeseboard but had never had one for breakfast… turns out it works. Watch out waistline as I’m swapping weetabix for slabs of Cornish yarg and Scottish blue!

When Irene heard it was our wedding, out came the champagne and our family was invited in to share a glass (my mum) and play with the cats (the boys!). We almost always self cater and what I loved about the b&b was the chance to chat to locals. Barry and Irene are bird lovers, mountain and nature enthusiasts and both owners of flocks of sheep, so it was fascinating to talk to them about the area – we jumped from tractor rallying in Skye to the perils of prawn boat fishing.

Taking the Grandparents for a spin around the Coigach

This was our second trip to this part of Scotland – we came up in January for a recce, staying in Lochinver. While we there we drove to the Coigach Penisula and were blown away by how beautiful and desolate it was. We decided to take the team for a visit as from Ullapool it also meant we could drive past Stac Polly – Saturday’s spot for the wedding – and check out timings and parking.

The Achnahaird Beach was a good kids walk – a narrow, long strip of sand with plenty of stones and shells to collect (and subsequently empty from Soren’s pockets – he is our hoarder and is regularly stopped by airport scanners or is the cause of a clogged up the washing machine. This time I found a whole crab claw in his coat!)

Where we walked

Beach walk.JPG

To reach the beach, drive to the Coigach Peninsula and take the right turn towards ‘the beach’ and Am Fuaran Bar.

Drive past the beach and you’ll spot a turning to the parking area.

It’s an easy walk to the beach with some mini dunes.

Watch out for muddy / sinking sand – sometimes this area can be more of a knee-high wade.


Remote bars are brilliant

When you leave the beach, take the route to the right and drive round the headland to the Am Fuaran bar. It’s a gorgeous spot and as you round the tip the view of the Summer Isles is car-swervingly good. It’s lucky it’s such a quiet road or this would be a crash hotspot as people drift around mesmerised by what’s in front of them.

The Am Fuaran is nothing exciting on the outside but it is the epitome of an old pub inside – dark wood panels, fireplaces and various ancient tools on the wall. A surprisingly good butternut squash soup was on the menu for lunch – maybe it was just me but this place felt so remote and old-fashioned, I was transported back to the days when lasagne sounded exotic and all pub food was beige and accompanied by chips! Of course, chips were on the menu, which is good because, let’s face it, we all secretly want them!

Happy kids, happy grandparents, happy us.


Cape Wrath – dune surfing and hot chocolate

We plugged the kids into their MP3 players for some peace as we drove the stunning 45 minute journey to Durness for some family adventures at Cape Wrath. Of course that just meant we were accompanied by two slightly out of time and two definitely out of tune versions of the SING soundtrack coming from the backseat, but it did mean we could enjoy the view without too many questions about when we would be going to get hot chocolate (just wait and you’ll find out!)

Top of the country


There is something cool about getting to the furthest edge of a country. Cape Wrath lighthouse is the most north-westerly point and we thought this, plus the Avengers style name might appeal to the boys. It’s a faff to get to the lighthouse though – a boat and a minibus – and so we just walked along Balnakiel Beach – following the Path across a short section of cliff top to a second gorgeous beach – and looked out at Cape Wrath and the wild seas. Balnakiel is a great beach for family adventures. It has massive sand dunes to climb up and hurl yourself down. We all had sand in our shoes (and pants) by the time the snow set in and we had to make a dash to the car.

The best hot chocolate ever

Balnakiel Craft Village, is just up the road from the beach and I’d seen a Guardian article suggesting there was a hot chocolate shop there with the best cup of ho’cho’ in the country. Cape Wrath may have been a faff but nothing was going to stop us finding the chocolate shop. I’m pleased to report it was amazing. I had a regular size and it had drippy melted chocolate all over the cup so every time you sipped there was real chocolate to kickstart your mouthful. Warning to parents though – the kids version is espresso cup sized and whilst it may have marshmallows on it, the size difference between theirs and mine was a bone of contention!

We had a look around a couple of the galleries and one in particular was great. A guy finds old pieces of washed up junk on the beach and turns them into pieces of art using their shape or the colours, each enhanced with charcoal or some kind of stain. There were old saucepans with faces marked into the rust and pieces of metal turned into shimmering fish. The boys were really interested in the fact all the materials were recycled and the owner was great with them, explaining his materials – apparently instant coffee makes a great paint!

The secret of Smoo Cave

That has got to be a title out of a Famous Five or Secret Seven book surely? Smoo Cave is really close to Durness and although there are deeper, more exploratory trips into the dark recesses on boat, you can just pop into the first part for free. I’m not a cave fan (claustrophobia alert!) but this was very open – the first section has a blowhole at the top and the second section, along the walk way, is pretty cavernous.

Soren, a massive animal lover, found it hilarious when we spotted two dead rabbits in the blowhole cave. They must have been hopping along the top and fallen straight down the hole. He re-enacted it for us as he chuckled away. Odd child!

Seven seals a’ swimming

On the way home to our ice box, I mean caravan, we spotted something in a loch. We were quite far inland but this was a sea loch, so fed by the ocean. We stopped and saw a seal, then another and then five more. They were all playing around the edge of the water and so we hopped out the car to watch them. They were popping up and down all over the place – an amazing way for the boys to get up close to nature. A big tick off of our family adventures list.

Kit got a bit grumpy that they would disappear as soon as one of us cracked a twig or dared to breathe – I think he thought they would get closer to him. I suppose when you are young it is hard to know the difference between tame creatures that are just a bit shy and wild creatures. I suspect he’ll realise later on how amazing it was to see seven so close.

All too soon we had to pack up and return to our odd little caravan.

Where we walked on our family adventures: Balnakiel Beach

Our walk (in blue)

Follow signs to Durness (and then spend a while wondering why there is a John Lennon memorial garden!) and then head towards Balnakiel Craft Village.

Drive past the village even if the chocolate shop calling is strong.

Park at the end of the road by the beach.

Walk the first beach and then cross over the cliff area to the second, even more deserted beach.

Climb up and hurl yourself down the sand dunes or get lost in the ‘sand dune maze’ (seriously – watch where your kids head because it is very disorientating!!).

Walk as far as you want along the coast and then head back to the car for the trip to the chocolate shop and the arty bits and bobs.

There is a cafe in the craft village but it was closed. The kids were delighted they got to have chocolate for lunch but perhaps it is sensible to feed them up first.

Travelling chimps

Family holiday in Scotland… lovely and COLD

In a few days we are getting married… at the top of a mountain in the Scottish Highlands. After our January trip to Stac Pollaidh (brrrr) we thought we should get ourselves acclimatised with a family holiday.

Watch out for weather

Of course you can’t guarantee the weather wherever you choose, least of all in Scotland, but we’d hoped for something springlike for our family holiday. ‘Wa ha ha ha’ laughs the weather god, for it seems we are more likely to see snow than sunshine. It’s -1 outside and as I sit and type this inside the b&b, I can see my breath in steamy puffs.

Of course that might be because I picked a slightly random place to stay – a mobile home in the garden of a b&b. Why not in the b&b I hear you ask? Where the air is warm and the windows don’t rattle? Where the en-suite has a real shower and not a caravan cubby shower? Where the bedrooms are not a weird crossbreed of tiny Japanese sleeping pod and generic nan’s house; excessive cupboards over the bed and ceramic decorations stuck to the walls?

Our lovely caravan

All I can say is there was method to my madness – I don’t want to go to bed at the same time as a 5 year old because we’re all squished into a family room; I like to enjoy my holiday evenings when the kids have gone to bed. Staying in a mobile home meant separate bedrooms, a living room and somewhere to cook. It’s so flipping cold though we have to huddle like penguins to keep warm. Never have I wanted to spend so much time with the children on top of me!

Supersize me

Scots like to do food big. In Inverness we ordered 2 giant pizzas between 4 (our 7 year old eats adult portions and the 5 year old is not far off) and could actually see the pizza chefs laughing at us. They had to pull an extra table over to accommodate the 2 wheels they had baked for us. Just to prove them wrong we ate it all. Now who’s laughing – the chefs or the fatties drowning in cheese grease?


Margaret, out b&b lady, made us enormous breakfasts too – croissants, scotch pancakes, full English, cereals, yoghurt, fruit,toast. She had a look of fear about her – like she though we might kill her if she didn’t serve us what we wanted. We felt so full afterwards that I couldn’t physically have raised a chubster arm to do the deed…perhaps that was her plan.

But it’s a lovely part of the world for a family holiday…

Everywhere you turn in Scotland the view is phenomenal; rough, wild, windswept and empty. What the houses lack in architectural interest, the scenery makes up for a million times over. Just a couple of miles from our funny little caravan was the most stunning beach. White sands and blue seas – almost deserted apart from a couple of dog walkers.

Yeah so my feet stick out a little…

It’s a great place for kids. We spent hours pootling around at Oldshoremore, collecting stones to paint for the wedding trail up the mountain, scrambling over rocks and climbing out to the headland to spot seals and dolphins (of which there were none!). The sun started to set and if you’d turned the heating dial up a few notches you could easily have been somewhere far-flung and exotic. You can’t though – this is Scotland and you just have to accept the weather. In fact it wasn’t long after it started to snow!

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Travelling chimps

Family baking – nailed it!

How do you choose what to write in your blog? According to the ‘most-liked posts’ in my Facebook timeline, my speciality should not be campervan holidays or travel adventures, it should  be family baking!

Family baking … not for everyone

My kids regularly tell me how awful I am a baking. In fact everybody tells me how bad I am at putting the goods on the table. Thanks to Facebook, it’s even become a standing joke at the school gates . “Saw your dinner last night, what was that???”, “Do your boys want to come over for tea? They look as if they could do with a ‘good’ meal” and so forth.  Fnar Fnar very funny.

Of course I could keep them all to myself and stop making everything a #badbakes moment but when you have a talent for making people feel better about their own miserable dinner efforts, why try to hide it?

A costly habit

The problem is that bad bakes don’t just eat (pardon the pun) into my food budget and personal time, they’ve started to make a dent in our household budget.

There was that time when my family baking mission focused on bread. I had visions of the four of us sitting around to eat delicious sourdough toast on the weekend, covering it with lashings of butter and scrambled eggs. It was more of a mirage  than a vision though. To save my arms, I decided we had to buy a decent food mixer to turn out the copious loaves I planned to bake. I trawled eBay to find a good second-hand one and then instantly broke it with my second loaf. In hindsight, it was a pretty tough loaf… maybe I should have added some water to loosen it. The first loaf had been so promising… not perfect, but what first loaf is?!

Or the time when I wanted to make a cake but it kept sinking and so I decided the oven wasn’t keeping temperature. I bought a thermometer but that seemed to be as ineffective as the cooker, so I bought a new oven. Turns out the thermometer (and undoubtedly the old oven) worked just fine. Lesson learned – don’t blame your tools.