This weekend the girls and I went to a 'music' festival with some friends. Now, I wasn't exactly excited by the line-up (it was actually pretty poor and not my kettle of fish) but I thought it would be fun, especially for Annie and Eliza, as it was being promoted as a family-friendly event.
I've never been anywhere as far removed from fun, or anywhere more family un-friendly.
It rained for the entire duration of the first day and intermittently for the next few days (except for a two hour window during which I somehow managed to get sun burnt). From the first morning the whole place was a mud bath (the photo above was taken when we first arrived, it got worse, much, much worse!).
A-ha, I thought smuggly, I have had the foresight to bring wellies. I haven't worn them since before Annie and Eliza were born though, when my feet were a whole size smaller. Within half an hour I had the biggest blister on my heel. So I had to wear my sandals for the rest of the weekend with the mud squelching between my toes and around my ankles. My beautiful birkenstocks will never forgive me.
The site was a mile-long boggy trek from the car park, which I had to make three times to get all our food, clothes, bedding and tent. In the rain. Obviously although the children need a lot of stuff, they don't carry anything! And then back again at the end.
The 'organisers' had provided two port-a-loos at the entrance to a campsite for about 10,000 campers, which, unsurprisingly, were seriously minging after half an hour. The only other loos were inside the festival area or a very long trek away.
And there was no water on tap. Honestly: No water. I don't mean no showers or basins/sinks. I mean no water. at. all.
And no rubbish bins. Intermittent recycling bins but no actual rubbish bins. So you can imagine what a state the site ended up being in.
I had the worst nights sleep ever. Annie (who is obviously going to grow up to be a traveller-extraordinaire) slept like a log but Eliza was really unsettled.
I'd bought an air-bed which I couldn't pump up, because it required a nozzle of a different size to the three we'd brought along for Annie's, Eliza's and my friend Esther's air beds. And even though I have lots of God-given, chocolate-enhanced padding, the ground was hard, hard, hard.
Add to this the happy campers either side of our tent violently throwing up in the early hours, someone thoughtfully having an impromptu camp-fire, playing the guitar and singing (badly) at 3.30 am and, the final straw, being woken up at 6 am by people trying to find some drugs to buy.
And we were in the 'family' field.
I've always liked to think of myself as something of a practical, down-to-earth, sturdy girl, but I couldn't stand it.
I hated every. single. moment.
I am now officially a lightweight. I will never go camping again without a written contract promising dry weather, ample loos, water, thoughtful organisers and considerate fellow campers.
I wished I'd stayed home and shared David's weekend which involved queuing with entertainment in Borders on Friday night for the book and then enjoying a child-free uninterrupted reading marathon.
The up-side is that when we got home I had the best, most loveliest bath of my life. And my feet are very soft, mud is obviously super-hydrating.
Oh, and the girls had an absolute blast! They loved the mud, the puddles, the un-ending squelch-iness! But that's because their mother had the foresight to pack their wellies...
Remember when I bought this book to help me with the bird apron and then promised to show some samples? Well, as a kind of trial run I made this bag using 'invisible machine applique' (and a slightly adapted version of my original design):
It worked really well, the book was incredibly easy to follow, so well written and the technique works beautifully. Preparing the pieces for applique is fairly time-consuming but actually applying them is a breeze. (Isn't that always the way with sewing?... It takes me an hour to cut out and prepare pieces for dress-making and then thirty minutes to construct). I had some problems with clipping and tucking under the fine pointed tips of the leaves so they are a tiny bit frayed in places. But the book does offer an alternative method (or four) which I can use to combat that when I come to do leaves again.
I'm so glad I tested the technique before throwing myself into the apron (that's not how I usually do things!) because I've learned a lot and I'd have been gutted to have my finished piece spoilt by the little flaws in this. And I so highly recommend this book if you're at all interested in applique, machine or otherwise.
I'm most self-satisfied with this bag because I used fabrics I had already. I usually jump on any opportunity to buy new fabric, but I'm starting to feel a little extravagant. The deep brown and white fabric I used for the applique is from a thrifted apron which I ummed and ahhed over buying for a few days (and it was only £1.50: crazy huh?!). I dyed the green fabric myself a year or two ago with a big project in mind which never came to fruition and I slipped the purple from David's shop before he closed it. So now I feel a little more eco-friendly and am on my way to justifying a new shopping trip!
Continuing the feathered-friend theme, Annie and I made a bird's nest this week while Eliza napped. We got the idea from a book called 'I'm Bored', which is just full of great ideas for things to do with your children, most of them free and all excellent fun. And while I haven't decided to turn this blog into a book promo site, it would be really handy to have around during the Summer holidays. (See this post and the great comments for more inspiring ideas also).
We constructed it by building up our nest from a hexagonal base, overlapping the twigs slightly at each corner. Then Annie lined it with moss and we decorated it with flowers, petals, leaves and pine cones.
It was an incredibly enjoyable, thoroughly therapeutic activity. I would still have loved it even if Annie wasn't there(!), but it was obviously all the more sweet because it was something we could do together.
The whole concept is so magical from the details such as the music, the sets and the narration, to the characters and their names. For example, there are the 'tombliboos', 'Makka Pakka' ( who sleeps with a rock rather then a teddy bear), the 'ninky nonk' (which is a tiny train which the full-size characters miraculously fit into) and the 'pinky ponk' (an airship). My favourites, although it's a close run thing, are the teeny, tiny 'pontipines'.
It's reminiscent of the children's programmes I remember from when I was little, which is probably why I love it so much. Cbeebies have come up with so many gems lately, like Doodle-do, Tommy Zoom, RazzleDazzle. I suppose they all remind me a little of the first children's shows, but they're so much more successful than the re-makes of old shows, like the new Andy Pandy and Bill and Ben, which somehow seem to lack the imagination and inventiveness that made the originals so special. I used to love Mr. Ben, Bagpuss and my absolute number one programme was The Clangers. They all had a touch of magic about them and I remember them really fondly and with huge ladlefuls of nostalgia.
What programmes can you remember liking when you were little? Tell me, I'd love to know!
Still going back in time; last Sunday, we went to Thetford Forest, which is just so beautiful. Obviously there's the natural beauty of the woods on a bitingly cold, blustery but sunny Spring day:
But there's also the most fantastic children's play equipment dotted throughout:
Of course the girls enjoyed it, but I don't know if anyone had as much fun as their father:
The girls and I had the best fun making these collages:
They are so simple to do: Just hack up some old unwanted magazines (not the latest issue of Selvedge, or the most recent Boden catalogue, some things are just off-limits!), and re-construct!
One of the great things about this activity is that there's no skill involved. In fact, mis-matched, out-sized features = crazy and giggle-tastic results.
So everyone was able to take part, regardless of age or dexterity, and it's not immediately obvious which of us made each picture. I strongly urge you to try this, either with or without kids; mine had finished and left long before I lost interest!