Tag Archives: holiday

Learning (loads) in Lanzarote

The unschooling diaries: weeks eleven and twelve

We spent a week in the Canary Islands over Easter, and once again I have been blown away by just how much there is to be learnt from travelling. We weren’t even motivated by anything more than the desire to get away somewhere warm and spend some quality time as a family, but the tremendous scope for discovery and new experiences that Lanzarote had to offer completely surpassed our expectations.


We were especially lucky, I think, with the base we chose. We stayed in the most wonderful eco-resort in the North of the island, away from the main tourist trail. We slept in gorgeous yurts, which was an experience in itself. Our closest neighbours were chickens, ducks and donkeys, and there was a lovely solar-heated pool. Not forgetting the playground, which was right outside our little complex: it had a trampoline, and climbing frames, and a boat, and sand, and dump trucks, and little houses, and for Arthur it very quickly became home.

Outside of our little idyll, there was a whole new world to explore.

Unsurprisingly, the sea was central to much of our experience: admiring it, travelling across it, eating its many fruits, and of course swimming in it. We found an incredible lagoon, and some magical tidal pools. Between those and the pool Arthur well and truly shook off any wintery reluctance to jump right in, and his confidence and skill in the water came on in (literal) leaps and bounds.



He was mesmerised by the little fish that swam around our ankles as we paddled and splashed, but it didn’t stop him enjoying them on his plate, too… I’m not sure how many three year olds would demolish boquerones with quite as much relish as this one did. I like that he’s happy to eat fish that looks like fish, though – and that it gave us the opportunity to talk about where it came from and how it had been caught. I don’t want to freak him out about the food he eats, but I think it’s useful to be able to make the connections and understand our world better – especially when it’s him asking all the questions!


Away from the sea, there were of course the volcanoes. In the run up to our trip we’d watched some videos and talked about the volcanoes we were likely to see there, and wherever we went Arthur was full of questions about the nature of the mountains around us. We took a (very windy) trek into the lava fields, climbing up to the top of one volcano to peer into the caldera and walking into the depths of another. Both were long dormant, but that didn’t stop the incredible power of nature being evident everywhere we looked.




One of the other highlights of our trip was completely unexpected. I had never heard of Cesar Manrique, but he was an inspirational artist and architect who through his work and his vision had an enormous impact on the infrastructure of the island. We visited several of the sites he created, and Arthur soaked up the paintings and the sculptures and the unusual spaces, as well as being fascinated by the exhibitions about the landscape around us.



Last but very much not least, inspired by an advertising board that caught Arthur’s eye in the airport, we took a trip on a submarine. It was the first time any of us had been on an actual submarine voyage, and it blew all of our minds a little bit – but especially Arthur’s. Just the whole mechanics of it was pretty exciting, watching the little screen at our seat compute our depth, the pilots with their illuminated control panel and the propellers at the rear. And out of the window we saw wrecks, lots of fish, and even a diver feeding a huge ray. It was pretty cool.

It was all pretty cool, actually. And it really got me thinking about how we can work some longer trips into the next few years. It’s one of the main reasons I’m not super keen about getting stuck back into the constraints of the school system any earlier than I have to, and why I’m trying to evolve my working life into one I can take on the road with me.

We shall see…

For now, though, we have plenty of memories to be mulling over. I’m going to make a photobook for Arthur so that we can pull it out from time to time and be inspired afresh by our experiences. It’s a lot to compute for a growing mind after all!


13/52 & 14/52



“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

We were away last week, on a much-needed family holiday in Lanzarote. We have come back with wonderful memories and far too many fabulous photos. It’s going to take me a while to process them all, but in the meantime here are two of my favourites…

The first, from Easter Sunday. Our yurts made an unusual setting for an egg hunt, but I was determined that Arthur would have that experience this year. He loved it – a little confused as to how he’d manage to miss the Easter bunny whilst he was having his breakfast, but delighting in finding the little foil wrapped morsels of chocolate. He unwrapped each one with such care, savouring the aroma before taking little bites and letting the flavour explode in his mouth.

The second, towards the end of our trip. We joined a trek to two of the island’s volcanoes, and entering the lava fields was much like I imagine it might be to walk on the moon. Arthur was happy to stay in the sling for the first part of our explorations, but when the ground flattened out he was desperate to get down for a run. Buffeted by the wind, he squealed with joy as he immersed himself in this strange new world.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

The joy of sandcastles

For the last two summers, Arthur’s interest in sand hasn’t extended much beyond eating it. So you can imagine my relief (and Leigh’s delight) when on our recent holiday to Crete he began to understand the pleasure to be had from building castles in the sand.


Many a day would begin with me lying back in the sun with a book (pretty much my idea of bliss) whilst my boys readied their tools and began the digging and water gathering and moulding that would culminate in a majestic castle.



Arthur grew very attached to his little bucket and spade set, and would not go to the beach without it.


He especially loved anything to do with water. He was fascinated by a little water wheel he found that became the mechanism for filling the channel to the moat, and very amusingly got attached to a broken bucket, not quite understanding why it was always empty when he returned from filling it up in the sea.


I was not super keen on the whole getting covered in sand part, but I couldn’t resist getting involved at the exterior decoration stage. There’s something about moseying along at the water’s edge collecting pretty shells, stones and sea-worn glass that transports me right back to my childhood.


And as for Leigh – he was there! Totally rapt in the task, enjoying the banter and admiration it invited from other dads. His piece de resistance was an Arthur-sized sand car, which drew quite a crowd of curious toddlers before being washed away by the sea.


I think the inherent transience of sandcastles is a big part of their appeal – you’re working with what nature has to offer, albeit with the help of a few man-made tools, shaping it into structures that spark the imagination. And then before the next day comes the sea has reclaimed its wares, leaving behind a fresh slate for you to begin again.


I have a feeling there will be many sandcastles in our lives this summer, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Arthur and his daddy come up with…


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Postcards from Crete

Back in the days when meaningful communication was mainly written out by hand, I always managed to leave my postcards until the last day of the holiday. And even then they were lucky to escape without a UK stamp, sheepishly sliding onto the doormat a couple of days after I’d got home. In this digital age you’d have thought it might have been easier to stay in touch. I never actually meant to be quite so absent from the blog over this past week or so. But then I suppose that is the sign of a good holiday.

So here it is, our last night in Crete, and I find myself reflecting on the days we have spent here. On turquoise waters and dramatic clouds, on delicious food and wine and impeccable hospitality.

For me, the standout moments have been those when I have dived into the bracing sea, catching my breath after a few determined strokes to turn and gasp again at the snow capped mountains overlooking the beach.

The weather has not always been perfect, but Arthur has been undeterred from his ongoing stone-throwing mission, the skills perfected on the Devon coast making him at home on Cretan beaches and providing the ideal topic of conversation to bond with his fellow toddler travellers.

Leigh has excelled in making sandcastles. A talent that has lain dormant for many years, but one which I think we will all enjoy this summer.

We all took to Chania, with it’s ancient harbour and winding streets spilling out delectable seafood – quite literally at one point when we had to pause to allow an octopus to cross our path en route from water to table.

The list we had compiled in late night chats and perusals of the guide book of places we wanted to explore lay almost entirely untouched, but whilst there’s much we didn’t get to see we loved what we saw.

There will be more posts to follow once I’m back and settled into reflective mode, but for now suffice to say that the little corner of Crete we have experienced was well worth the travels. Hopefully we’ll make it back some time to see some more, but in the meantime here are some of the many moments we have enjoyed this time round.









This week my word of the week is holiday.

(I might have been back for a few days now, but I’m still there in spirit)

The Reading Residence

Reclaiming my body


When we set off on holiday this Easter I had two main objectives: to relax and unwind after a hectic few months, and to spend some quality time with my little family. I think we achieved these rather well, but there was something else that happened that I hadn’t really been expecting or even realised I needed: over the week we were away, I gradually began to feel like my body was mine again – something I haven’t really been able to say since before I fell pregnant.

Since puberty, and in common with many other women I know, I’ve had a bit of a tricky relationship with my body. I struggled with anorexia as a teenager, and put myself through the mill with rather too much partying in the years that followed. Through my twenties I was plagued by an underlying paranoia about being frumpy and overweight, though looking at pictures of my younger self now I realise this was completely misplaced. My body was simply the physical manifestation of my self-esteem: the less happy I was, the more I hated what I saw in the mirror.

Through all of this I never stopped exercising – sometimes healthily, sometimes to excess. Having loved gymnastics as a kid I became obsessed with trampolining when I discovered my local club aged fourteen. It was that, actually, that stopped my anorexia being more damaging than it was: my coach declared one day that I was not allowed to come to training if I lost any more weight, and slowly but surely I began to find a balance. I kept the trampolining up through my late teens and twenties, funding my way through university by coaching at local sports centres. I also rediscovered gymnastics with tumbling classes at a circus school in East London, and loved going to yoga whenever I could slow down enough to fit it in. I also started going to the gym from time to time, though I’ve never had much patience with exercise just for the sake of it.

In the lead up to my wedding though I worked out a lot, made suddenly nervous by the idea of all those photographs. When we got married in the summer of 2011 I was probably in the best shape of my life. I was happy, and felt comfortable in my skin for the first time in many years.

Then when we decided to start trying for a baby the following spring my focus changed. I was terrified that the abuse I’d subjected my body to when I was younger would mean that I wouldn’t be able to have children, and focused everything on creating a nutrient rich environment to nurture a new life. It worked, and I fell pregnant more quickly than either of us had imagined, but that was just the beginning. I was scared all the way through that something would go wrong, stayed away from vigorous exercise and let myself gain probably a bit too much weight. I really wasn’t thinking about that though – I was following my instincts and doing what I felt would be best for our baby. The one thing I am really glad I stuck to was a pregnancy pilates class. That was never really about keeping in shape, but it did help keep me grounded as my body changed beyond recognition.

After Arthur was born, I was amazed at what my body had created and couldn’t begrudge it a single ounce of the extra weight it had acquired along the way. None of that mattered any more: my body had gone from being an awkward shell housing pent-up insecurities to a powerhouse that had grown a brand new person and delivered it into the world. And all that was important to me in the early days was to help that little person thrive: to work through the challenges we faced in establishing breastfeeding and keep myself strong and focused enough to be his mum.

Those days turned into months, and though I’ve shed a little weight along the way through breastfeeding and kept my core strong through babywearing my body is a long way from where it used to be. It’s not that I want my old body back – and I certainly wouldn’t want the angst and neuroses that went with it. But something has been niggling at me about wanting to reclaim a little of my body for myself, and that’s what happened on this holiday.

Between us, Leigh and I gave each other some time over the week to focus on ourselves. Just an hour or so a day, but even that felt pretty incredible after being on duty pretty much permanently for the past sixteen months. I did yoga and pilates classes, swam some lengths in the pool, went for a run. I even got to lie in the sun for a while, the warmth of its rays caressing my skin. And possibly best of all I enjoyed some proper swimming in the sea, back and forth along the bay as Leigh and Arthur played in the sand, feeling my breath quicken and my muscles tighten as my body slowly became my own again.

I’m not expecting to have it back entirely: I am still very much committed to breastfeeding Arthur – for how much longer I’m not sure any more. I still enjoy co-sleeping with him, even though it means I can never entirely relax and often wake up feeling achy and stiff. And I still intend to wear him in the sling for a while yet, which lovely as it is does restrict my movements rather more than I would like. But alongside all this I’m going to make an effort to get to know my body again, to give it the attention it deserves after everything it’s been through.

There’s a trampolining class I’ve been going to at the place Arthur does his baby gym, but I’m often too exhausted to give it my all. I’m going to try to rectify that, to make the most of the opportunity to do something physical that I love. I have a hula-hoop that was one of the main tools in my arsenal for getting fit for my wedding, and I’m going to try to pick that up again whenever I can – even just for ten minutes at a time. And I’m also going to try my best to fit in some of the other things I enjoy – swimming, yoga, running – and let Arthur and his Dad spend some time together, which I know they’ll love.

This holiday didn’t immediately transform my body, but it reminded me that it is mine, that it is strong and flexible and that I shouldn’t take those things for granted. I am looking forward to building on that over the weeks and months to come: to continuing to be a mother, but also remembering to be me as well.

Thank you to Sara at ‘Mum Turned Mom’ for inspiring this post with her prompt ‘In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius!’ (Mehmet Murat ildan).


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Chillaxing in Cyprus


So it turns out that Arthur’s not as bad at relaxing as we initially feared. The above picture of utter chilled out bliss captures his third nap of the four he managed yesterday. Today he dozed off again in the sun after his mid-morning milk feed, enjoying the embrace of the warm air whilst being sheltered from the sun’s rays by our makeshift towel tent.


This afternoon he zonked out after a supremely relaxing lunch – he was mesmerised by the taverna’s in-house guitarist, and happily munched on octopus whilst Leigh and I enjoyed each other’s company. I’d fully intended to write this post this afternoon, but Arthur’s chillaxing was contagious and I joined him for a nap instead.


In between his many naps, Arthur has been increasingly delightful company. He is especially loving the water, the myriad stray cats and the birds that flit around the gardens. He’s getting his confidence back, but at the same time being adorably cuddly. I think it is safe to say that we have achieved our goal of relaxing more than just a little, and as our holiday comes to an end are feeling revitalised and ready to face the next phase of our adventures.



Word of the Week: Relax

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:


It’s a work in progress really. We booked this week in Cyprus back in January, knowing that it would be a long hard term for Leigh and that, if all went to plan, I would’ve just finished the first draft of my second novel. The fact that we made it – to the end of winter, to the successful completion of all our deadlines, and then to this little island so very far away from Devon – is achievement enough, really. But I’m not convinced we’ve got the whole relaxing thing cracked yet.

It is beautiful here. And were Leigh and I here on our own then chilling out would not be a problem. Having Arthur with us definitely complicates things a little – not that we’d have it any other way.

It’s the first trip like this that we’ve attempted since being parents – one where doing as little as possible is the main prerogative. Last year we went on lots of adventures, but we didn’t do much staying still. Oddly enough it turns out our fifteen month old isn’t too good at that.

We could of course have put him in the crèche, and we did consider it – although it doesn’t sit too comfortably with our attachment parenting approach, nor with the fact that Leigh and Arthur have missed each other so much over the past few busy months.  As it turns out he hasn’t been very well, has been teething like crazy and breastfeeding like a newborn. He also, though he had been appearing to be pretty confident and independent, has suddenly hit a wall of separation anxiety. And all in all leaving him with strangers didn’t seem like such a good idea.

So we’ve been hanging out together, and Leigh and I have been learning that all the many demands of parenthood don’t go away just because we happen to be on holiday. But we’re working as a team, and managing to grab some moments for ourselves. And Arthur, though he’s undeniably a bit more grouchy than usual, is clearly enjoying being somewhere new. With a pool. And warm air. And lots of other little people.


To be honest, however much we’ve been yearning for some chill out time I think Arthur maybe needs to be able to relax a little too. To have mummy and daddy around enjoying each other’s company, and not to have to keep to all the different schedules we impose on ourselves back home.

And if we all enjoy some time together, relaxing as best we can as a family, then hopefully by the time we go home he’ll be healthier and happier with newly recharged confidence to face the next set of challenges that lie ahead.


The Reading Residence