Saturday, 24 August 2013

This ain't a holiday... it's a bootcamp

No, not Fall Out Boy's new song, but a very apt blog post title.  Up until yesterday I haven't blogged for about a month, and during this time I've been trying to get my head together and we've all been away on holiday.  A rather long holiday.  Sixteen days to be precise.  As it drew closer and closer, I started dreading it, but I was having to keep quiet about that because, let's face it - how ungrateful does that seem?  Dreading a holiday?   Truth was, it flew.  We probably did less this time around than we'd usually do in a week, but it was nice just relaxing and not trying to cram as much into one day as possible.    The bootcamp part?   Well, Mr G and I wore our pedometers for the whole time we were away, from morning until night.  And those 16 days we walked... 174 kilometres.  That's 108 miles in real money.   The poor children didn't know what had hit them.

So, like that frightful bore who invites you round for a meal and drinks before foisting their holiday slides on you, only - unfortunately, you don't get a meal, and you'd be safer taking a bone from a Rottweiler than touching my wine, let's dive straight in.  The sooner this is over and blogged with, we can get back to my ritual humiliation and tendency to make everyone feel better when they hold up their own family against my benchmark of lunacy :-)  

August 1st and 2nd - Drayton Manor Theme Park, staying at Drayton Manor Hotel.
My youngest, Adam, has an obsession with Theme Parks.  He knows their names, what rides they have, where they are, and is committed to visiting as many as possible.  We'd done Camelot, Greenwood, Alton Towers and Woodlands, and he was very enthusiastic about visiting Drayton Manor.  We thought it would make sense, seeing as we were halfway to Devon once there, to tack this visit on to the start of our holiday.  Break the journey, so to speak.  

Drayton Manor Hotel

We arrived just as the park opened on the Thursday morning, and we had to go to the Hotel to pick up our park tickets.  The Duty Manager asked for our name and said 'So, that's six of you staying, three adults, three children, two rooms, adjoining, and park tickets for 3 of you.'   That was me, up since about 5 am straight into 'You had BETTER be kidding me!' mode.  Thankfully, I'd taken both lots of booking confirmation bumph from Thomas Cook, the one I'd got when I made the reservation, and the one I'd had posted to me.  In all fairness, the Manager sorted this out in about five minutes and provided a safe, locked room to keep the one bag of valuables we had with us that we couldn't leave in the car.  We could check in from 3pm but we decided we'd check in when the park closed.    

We had a wonderful day in the Park, we'd been told by so many people that it wasn't a patch on Alton Towers, but you know - it depends what you're looking for, doesn't it?   In my humble opinion, Drayton Manor knocks spots off Alton Towers - but - I'm a 37 year old ride-hating coward.   I didn't like the queue lengths in Alton Towers, and I didn't like the way that the park was so spread out, all we seemed to be doing was walking, and I am one of these useless people who cannot ever make sense of those maps they give you.   Drayton Manor, on the other hand, was much smaller, the rides were close to each other, there seemed to be more for my younger children to do, Caitlin is off on the big rides now with Daniel, Adam and Ryan are still too young - and a tad scared, but they're too old for the 'baby' rides.   If you're a thrill junkie, I can see how Alton Towers would appeal more, but there was still enough to keep Daniel and Caitlin occupied, and for us as a family, Drayton Manor wins hands down.  I was quite proud of myself that even I bit the bullet and went on some rides myself.  I even went on Ben 10, twice!   I went on the Stormforce 10 and we were soaked to our underwear.  Waiting in the queue for the human dryer?  It broke down just as it was our turn.  Story of our life that...    

The hotel was absolutely spotless.  When we got to our rooms we weren't disappointed.  Our room had a double bed, with a pull out double sofa bed, and the adjoining room for the boys had three single beds.  There was a fridge and a phone - and everyone had the stark warning not to touch either of them!   Kettle with plenty of coffees, tea, milk and biscuits.  A safe for our valuables, and a lovely bathroom stocked with toiletries. 

The boys room

Our room

We're a family of six on a budget, so I checked out the meals that the hotel provided, or in all honesty the prices of the meals - and I knew weeks before that we wouldn't be eating there.  I checked Trip Advisor for takeaways in the area, and found reviews for The Dugout Fish Bar a mile down the road in Tamworth.  Once we'd unpacked, it was getting on for 8pm, so we popped there in the car.  They were queueing out of the door, and it took us about 30 minutes to be served.  But that wasn't poor service, there were lots of staff on, and they were all at it, serving, cooking - it was just busy.  We couldn't believe the range of choice in the chippy, you name it, they did it.  Steve went for the Doner Kebab, I had a Chicken Kebab which was lovely, and the kids had sausage and chips.  It was really reasonably priced too, and huge portions.  As we were leaving, the queue was the same, snaking around the shop and out of the door, and I asked the girl at the end of the queue if it was always this busy, and she said yes, because it was the nicest chippy in the area.  She wasn't wrong.

Mr G's Full English...

Adam opted for the fresh fruit salad.  After his Full English...

We'd taken the breakfast option with the room, and I have to say I was glad we did.  There was a fantastic array of food to choose from, the Full English had bacon, eggs, sausages, beans, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes and black pudding.  There were cereals, toast and bread, croissants, pastries, fresh fruit salad, fresh fruit, yogurts, and fruit juices.  

Apart from all the various rides, Drayton Manor is home to Thomas Land, which I can imagine is magical for little toddler fans.  I tried and tried to get a picture of him when he pulled into station but kept missing him.  Here's the green one for you.

The green one...
The fat one...

Drayton Manor also has Dino Trail which really impressed Adam who is dinosaur mad, and they also have a zoo with a fair few animals, I was quite impressed.   We loved the meerkat house, it was so hot there that they were all inside; they're cute.  I'll give them that.  But oh my, they stink.  Absolutely stink.

Dino Hunters...

Smelly little buggers!

It was great to have two days there - not as urgently needed as when we went to Alton Towers for two days, but it was nice to make sure that we'd definitely been on everything we'd wanted to at least once, and then finish off and pick our favourites for the next day.   We couldn't fault anything about the trip, the weather, the park, the hotel, the food, the room, the staff - all brilliant.   We'd definitely go again - financially we might not be able to stay in the hotel every time, this was a treat, but we noticed that they had a campsite :-)  I can make a mean fry up on our camping stove, and we'll have the Dugout for our tea.  Sorted!

Congratulations Wigan Warriors!

On your Challenge Cup final win!   Final score Hull 0 Wigan 16.  Not the most thrilling of games, but the conditions looked terrible there.  A win is a win, doesn't matter how.   Mr G has gone down to Wembley to watch the final, and a win really puts a better slant on the day.  Nothing like a 5 hour coach journey home when your team has lost, is there?

And guess who I saw on TV.  Look for the Wales flag, and there, just to the left - is my lovely hubby.  

Mr G in Wembley!

Now that's over and done with, I can't wait to have him back home with me.   I'm completely and utterly lost without him :-)  

Mr G made me cry...

You know how sometimes, someone will say something to you and you wish you'd recorded it, or you could go back in time to write down the conversation verbatim?  I had a moment like that last week.  Mr G made me cry.   It wouldn't be the first time that a man has made me cry, but the difference being when my husband makes me cry, it's always through love.  I've been going through a hard time lately, and emotionally it's been a rollercoaster ride, where the lows have been more than the highs.   I wish I could remember everything he said, the way he said it, but it was along the lines of this.

'For someone who is so into positive thinking, and tries to keep everyone else so positive, you aren't half negative about yourself.'

He then went on to chronicle every thing he found wonderful about me.  I wasn't fishing for compliments, this was completely unprompted, and unexpected.   Do you know how he ended his little speech?   By calling me 'magnificent'.  My husband, thinks I am magnificent.  Not just 'lovely' or 'beautiful' or 'sexy' or 'intelligent' - all words which I don't feel apply to me, although he called me those as well - but magnificent.   He had a massive hug, and I cried.   The madness and the negativity stops now.   With a man like my husband at my side, I can move mountains, I don't need to experience any lows in life at all.  Thank you and I love you Steve.

Linking this one up to Sharing the Love (Marriage Mondays) on Happy Wives Club - for the first time in a long time.  Too long!


Friday, 23 August 2013

Friendship Friday - be grateful for who you have

Add caption?  Add wine!

Hello :-)  I'm back from my break, I'd love to say relaxed and refreshed but that would be an out and out lie.  I'd love to say my mental health has improved significantly but I'm still batshit crazy.  And today - well, this entire weekend - I am unsupervised.   Oh yes!  Cue evil 'bwahahahaha' laugh.  Mr G is off to Wembley Stadium to watch Wigan Warriors in the Challenge Cup Final.   So I decided to round up a few of my friends to have a child and man-free curry night.  The child-free part is going to be a bit hard, seeing as I have more children than the old woman who lives in a shoe.   I'm really looking forward to it though, although we socialise occasionally as couples, and more often as families, sometimes it's nice for the girls to just get together and bitch about men behind their backs, rather than to their faces, isn't it?   Then, Wednesday night, one of my oldest friends of 27-ish years, Sarah, who I haven't seen for four years - messaged to ask if she could come over this morning.   No matter how busy I was today, there was no way I was putting her off.  We have one of those lovely 'pick up where we left off' friendships.  Aren't they the greatest sort of friendships?  We're in touch on Facebook and we keep up to date that way, although we don't live that far apart, life truly has got in the way for us.   But the minute we're together, it's like it was days since we last saw each other.  Those friendships endure.  So I've had a lovely morning catching up with Sarah, and her two beautiful kiddies who have grown so much, and we had a nice slice of home made carrot cake to accompany the coffee and gossip.

Tonight at 7.30pm the ladies are coming for curry.  This could get messy.  And I don't just mean turmeric stains.  Oh no.  I'm talking 'someone hide my broadband dongle or change the key on the router' messy.  Me + Wine + Home Alone = Cringe (Delete!  Delete!  Delete!)²...

I am really lucky to have some brilliant friends, and I'm so glad that over the years I realised that quality is far, far better than quantity.   I've lost friends along the way.  I lost a best friend, Emma, to cancer three years ago.  I've purposely terminated a friendship of many years where the other person was doing nothing but bring me down.  I've lost touch with friends, and having found them again via social media, some friendships have been rekindled, others not so.  The ones I expected to be rekindled weren't and the ones I didn't have turned out to be some of the most brilliant friendships I have.  I have friends that I have met online, some I have met in the flesh, some I hope to one day, and some I probably never will due to location.   If someone asked me if I had a lot of friends, my knee jerk reaction would be to say 'No'.  I'm quite insular.  But upon reading back this last paragraph, and thinking about who I have in my life, I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life.  Don't take them for granted, make the time to reach out to them, even if it's just a card in the post, or an email, or a text message.   I miss Emma so much, her number is still stored in my phone and I can't bring myself to delete it, I'd give so much to have had more memories of us as adults, but life got in the way there too...  So - don't take those people in your life for granted, you never know how long you've got them for.

M x