Planning our trip to Trinidad and Tobago

This post was written on behalf of Clickstay

So we are going to Trinidad and Tobago this summer…for a MONTH! Well, Laurence is going for two weeks because of work but the kids and I are making the most of getting over there for the first time in four years by staying that bit longer. Send me all your positive thoughts, prayers and vibrations for the transatlantic flight back on my own with three kids. I’m well intimidated but we’re a tiny team and it’ll be worth it.

When people find out I’m from Trinidad and Tobago they usually ask how often we get to go back. We mainly live on one income and with five tickets to buy, it’s easier for my parents to come visit us, even if we have made that more challenging by moving to remote Cornwall. With their help we’re finally making it out there and it feels like such a big deal, not least because we have no idea when we’d manage it again.

That’s why we’re planning ahead and thinking carefully about what we want to achieve with this trip. Seeing family and friends is a given as it’s my home country but it’s a holiday too so we’re thinking about how best to slow it down somewhere hot, sunny and beautiful. We also hope this will be a chance for the girls to start making longer term connections with a place and culture that’s an important part of their own identity. Certainly, at seven and four, Talitha and Ophelia are likely to remember their time there.

We’ll mainly be based in Trinidad, the bigger, faster paced, more urban sister isle where I grew up and where most of my family lives but we definitely want to make some time to chill out in Tobago which offers more of the classic Caribbean holiday vibe. We may also look at spending some time in the capital city, Port of Spain, just because it’s not something we’ve done in the past as my parents are based in South Trinidad.

I’m thinking of options for combining seeing people with the holiday thing and I think getting a villa could be an ideal solution so I’ve been taking a look through the properties on Clickstay. It allows you to stay somewhere self-catered with a swimming pool, generally in great locations, while splitting the cost of food and accommodation with whomever you’re staying with.


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I really like the look of this Clickstay villa in Mount Irvine in Tobago, for instance. The location would particularly suit Laurence as it’s near the surf. Villa prices compare with hotels and Air BnB’s we’ve researched and we’ve found in the past that set ups like this allow us to enjoy quality vacation time with grandparents, for instance, without getting too much in each other’s space.

I’m keen to really document our time out in Trinidad and Tobago since it’s a big deal for us and it’s a bit of a “different” destination for a lot of people but one I think is worth considering. Perhaps I’ll pop a little bucket list on here before we go and I hope to put together a small guide for families once we’ve been. Let me know what you’d like to see and if you’re living out there, I’d love your suggestions. I haven’t lived there since I was nineteen and haven’t visited since Talitha and Ophelia were three years old and six months old so the proposition’s changed quite a bit this time around. We’re getting properly excited now!

Thanks to Clickstay for working with me on this post.


Valley Fest – Delilah’s first festival

Though it was only at the beginning of last month, Valley Fest now feels a long time ago. If you’re anything like us, though, you’re already daydreaming about festivals for next year. Maybe this will give you some inspo.

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We opted to spend just a few hours at the festival on the Saturday as we didn’t want to overdo it with a newborn. It was pouring with rain and really put our waterproofs to the test! Luckily the babe I was sheltering with a broken umbrella was fast asleep for most of it.

We hung out for a bit in the green energy tipi where innovations were on display and they gave us some fascinating demonstrations on energy harvesting. I was particularly interested in the compostable tent, Comp A Tent, which biodegrades, offering a solution for those who abandon tents at festivals. We happened upon this tipi by accident because we weren’t given a map or any information, which we really could have done with but no matter, we muddled through.

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Then we hit the big tipi to take in some folk music before grabbing crepes and boardgames and a trundle back to the car in the mud. It was wonderful being out in Chew Valley, overlooking the lake. It’s a great spot for a little festival like this and close enough to Bristol that we could have gone home for the night if we fancied. Actually, we opted to go stay with my in-laws who live in a village nearby. Another year, we’ll camp.

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We made it over earlier on day two and it wasn’t raining so we took in bands both in the tipi and at the main stage. Talitha loved getting her hair wrapped in what we’re calling a festival braid – I can’t remember if it’s actually called that! She still has it in now! Ophelia had her face fully painted for the first time and actually fell asleep while it was being done, sweet girl.

The rest of the time, we wandered around Valley Fest, taking in the sights. We were fortunate enough to bump into Eleanor and her daughter from The Bristol Parent and hang with them for a bit. Ophelia and Delilah were pretty worn out by the end but Talitha was completely in her element. I think she could easily have stayed for longer.

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That makes me look forward to hitting a festival or two next year. We may even come back and do this one as it’s a bit smaller and less hectic but still with lots of good stuff going on.

We were given tickets for Valley Fest in exchange for coverage.


Our visit to Longleat Safari Park

The last day of my mother’s stay this summer is immortalised as the day a monkey pooed on our car. Seriously, my kids thought it was the best souvenir ever. In fact, our visit to Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire was one of the best family days out we’ve had and a real memory builder I was especially glad we got to share with my mum.

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We had conflicting suggestions on when we should arrive but wound up getting there for lunchtime as it’s tricky for us to get us all out of the house at the best of times and we were cleaning for an estate agent to come around and take photos the next day. So we packed lunch and had a little picnic on one of the tables next to the giraffes before walking over a rope bridge to see wallabies and lemurs. We got back in time to see the giraffes feed then headed back to the car for the safari.

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We spent maybe a couple of hours driving through. The kids were spellbound. We all were. Well, Delilah was mainly feeding (yes, none of them were in their car seats – the cars were going at snail’s pace). I think the most memorable bit was driving through the monkey enclosure when a monkey jumped up and hung out on our car (see monkey poo reference above). Laurence had prepped the car but the monkeys still managed to nab the cover of the soap container for our windscreen wipers.

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Afterwards, we stopped for supper at one of the restaurants before hitting the mini zoo bit where we looked at parrots, walked through the butterfly house and the girls took turns holding a snake! We then stocked up on treats from the sweet shop in preparation for the end of day parade in the square.

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Longleat gave us tickets to visit for its 50 year anniversary celebrations and as part of that, there was an evening parade featuring African singing and dancing, pretty impressive floats (a couple splashed the audience to the girls’ delight) and donkeys being led around and scooped up after (their poo was also a highlight).

We wound up staying until past the girls’ bedtime which isn’t something we’d normally do but it was well worth it and both kept talking about our day there for ages after. We’ve meant to visit Longleat ever since we moved to Bristol six years ago but just never got around to it, partly because we felt it was expensive. Now that I’ve been, it seems a bargain for the experience and that’s even with needing to take it slow with a six-week-old. I’d be up for trying it again during their Festival of Light later this year as I’ve heard great things about that too. We might even get there a bit earlier to do more of it next time.


Mini adventures in Dyrham Park and the South West Outdoor Festival

On the way to a workshop in Bath recently, a friend who was giving me a lift asked whether we’d taken the girls to Dyrham Park, a nearby National Trust property. Her children now grown, she fondly remembered the days they’d spent there when they were little.

When we recently made the most of a last snatch of summer by heading to Dyrham Park for the day, this was very much on my mind. These little outdoor adventures with the children, these are our memories.

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With lots of wide open space, the girls found the perfect spot to fly their kite. There was the gentlest bit of wind but their optimism wasn’t misplaced. They took it in turns to fly it, thrilled with this small, brilliant thing: a kite in the sky.

We became National Trust members a couple of years ago because we wanted to inspire our kids’ love of the outdoors while feeding our own. It occurs to me that for that to really happen, we need to slow down so we can stop, notice and enjoy what they do.

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While an adventure in our books might involve kayaking down a river or throwing an axe, for them, searching for mini beasts, balancing on a branch or even just stopping for a picnic is hugely exciting right now. In a way, that’s a relief because we’re restricted in how much we can reasonably cope with as a family with a newborn baby.

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We managed to make the time for all of those things and more mini adventures, Talitha rolling down a hillside while her little sister found tree hollows to dip in and out of. They managed tick a few more things off their 50 things lists.

All in all, it was a day worth capturing on film below and I’m glad we did. It’s an uber short video. Take a look and let me know what you think.

We’re conscious that as the kids get older, we’re going to want to up our game and push out further in what we do as a family. We’ve done a lot of camping and hope to keep that going. I’m still learning to ride a bicycle but I’m hoping that we’ll one day all cycle together. Basically, we’re saying yes to more wild swimming, more foraging, more time having fun in nature and more seeking genuine microadventures.

The National Trust’s South West Outdoor Festival promises to be a great starting point for inspiration and information for anyone looking to push out further into new outdoor challenges. It’s a new festival in stunning Heddon Valley in Devon with activities for all ages ranging from stargazing to kayaking to bushcraft.

Alongside a cracking lineup of speakers and workshops ready to whet your appetite for the wilderness, there’ll be storytelling, local bands, film viewings, an outdoor bar and the chance to hang out around a campfire in desperately beautiful Exmoor.

The festival is set for Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th September, which could be a brilliant way to shoot into the Autumn when many of us, especially those with kids, could be tempted to go into hibernation mode instead of continuing to pursue life outdoors. It could be just the time to learn to raft as a family or sneak in that last camp out before the seasons properly change.

Weekend camping tickets are £60 for adults and £25 for children. You can check it all out on the South West Outdoor Festival website.

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This post was brought to you by the National Trust


Hoo Haa! Festival and easing in to life with three

My mum left two days ago to go back to Trinidad and Tobago after a few weeks of staying with us. Between Laurence’s paternity leave and her stay, I’ve only had a handful of days on my own with three children. I’d probably done solo bedtime just three, maybe four times in those six weeks and I’d certainly fallen well out of the habit of taking Ophelia to the toilet!

It’s been a real blessing not least because Laurence has started a new job which is taking him away for one full night and two bedtimes/wakeups a week. In a way, it’s good that he was working in London a fair bit while I was pregnant because two nights with three kids feels much less daunting that five with two.

At any rate, I’m really grateful that my mum was here to help me ease into life with three children, not least because I doubt I would have managed so many days out with them on my own this summer. Or I would’ve taken them but been a sweaty, shouty, stressy mess.

One of those outings was to Hoo Haa! Festival at Colston Hall in Bristol. It’s an innovative music festival aimed at children and their grown ups. We enjoyed it so much last year, we couldn’t miss this one. Most of it was free with film screenings, community art projects and lots of musical acts in the foyer but there were also ticketed gigs throughout in the theatre spaces.

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My mum bought the older girls tickets to go see Wild Things the first day. They left Delilah and I behind and returned much delighted with their interactive musical journey, brandishing crowns they’d made as part of the show.

The second day, I’d bought tickets to go see the Vervain Folk Band with Lilliput Family Concerts since their cello concert was such a hit with my girls a few months ago. Talitha opted to continue at the church holiday club she’d been going to all week instead, which was nice in a way because we could give Ophelia more attention. My brother also joined us so it was actually the opposite of me being outnumbered by children!

The theatre was stripped of chairs and we all sat on the floor. Children were free to dance, which many did, and the players took time between songs to introduce their instruments. Afterwards, the kids could go up and try some of the instruments, which Ophelia did. The concert was as much for me as for her as I relished listening to traditional folk favourites.

The big excitement of the day was seeing CBeebies’ Andy Day (think Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures) perform. In fact, when he did his free “dino raps” in the foyer, Ophelia even abandoned her chips to go sit on my brother’s shoulders to see Andy. He found it amusing when I explained that the mop-haired guy on stage was a bit of a celebrity, amongst the five and unders, anyway.

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Afterwards, my mum and brother took Ophelia to meet him. She bought the girls his CD, which he signed and got a snap of her with Andy for Talitha’s sake. Talitha was thrilled to know Ophelia had met him (and Ophelia was pleased too though she looks like she’s wondering what on earth is going on). They’ve been playing his CD over and over ever since. Even Laurence and I have to admit it’s a welcome addition to the car repertoire.

We finished the day on a high by going to see Andy Day again in a musical take on We’re Going on a Bear Hunt which were sent tickets for in exchange for coverage. The performance came complete with full orchestra and someone dressed up as a bear. With actions, singing and a chance at the end for some children to form their own orchestra on stage, we all got to participate in that well-loved bedtime classic. In fact, we’re still singing the story whenever we read it now!

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Hoo Haa! has become a Bristol summer staple for our family. I really recommend checking it out next year if you’re around or keeping your eye open for other children’s gigs on at Colston Hall. We’ve yet to be disappointed.


Eight reasons we’re looking forward to The Good Life Experience

Laurence was the first to spot The Good Life Experience. “If there’s any festival I want to go to, it’s that,” he mused, “but we probably can’t this year because of the baby.” I looked at the calendar. The 16th-18th September would make Delilah almost nine weeks when we went. Could we really do a festival with a baby that young?

Then again, Talitha was six weeks when we took her to a festival. We just didn’t camp. The most stressful part of that experience was that I wasn’t used to breastfeeding in public – not an issue now. We did camp with Ophelia at four months. Maybe, maybe, oh why not? Worse comes to worst, we’d just ditch the camping bit and sleep somewhere local.

So we were delighted when The Good Life Experience offered us tickets. Here’s why we’re excited about going.

1. It’s a festival with real zest for the outdoors
The Good Life Experience plugs into the yearning many of us have developed for reconnecting with nature, rewilding and pursuing simpler experiences in the outdoors. From axe throwing to wild running, foraging to adventuring, abseiling to yoga, there’ll be lots of wilderness inspiration with a great lineup of people who are genuinely out there living their passions and are excited about getting others involved.

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2. It’s about so much more than the music
This is a festival that’s as much about books, craft and The Great Outdoors as it is about the bands. There are masterclasses in henna decoration, pumpkin carving, mosaics, woodcarving and more. The Meek Family who’ve written about their many outdoor adventures and their experiences worldschooling will be there as will a pop up library, a mobile bookstore, author and adventurer Ben Fogle, and Mark Shayler of the Do Lectures.

3. But also, it’s about the music
There are a few familiar names in the lineup like Mercury Rev, Cerys Matthews and Gilles Peterson but we’re also looking forward discovering music. We’re particularly looking forward to taking in some rootsy folk and gypsy groove. It could be fun to check out the brass band too. We’ll definitely have to pack ear defenders for the kids.

4. We like that it’s a smaller festival
So many festivals have blown up over the years and become grimly overcrowded. We’re hoping there’ll be a bit more breathing space at The Good Life Experience.

5. There’ll definitely be the chance to learn something new
Apart from the crafts and books I’ve already mentioned, the festival is teeming with opportunities to leave having picked up something new, whether it’s an insight into bee keeping, a Welsh phrase or some swing moves.

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6. We love its commitment to small business
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that a couple of the organisers are also behind Pedlars vintage shop, the festival’s bias is towards smaller businesses that display careful and creative craftsmanship, sustainably making beautiful things that last.

7. We’re looking forward to eating real food
There’s also a strong lineup when it comes to food. There’ll be campfire cooking sessions, authentic southern style barbecue, The Independent on Sunday’s weekly food correspondent Bill Grainger, food writer and television presenter Thomasina Miers, craft beer and a farm shop, to name a few.

8. The festival is equally aimed at children and adults

The Good Life Experience claims to aim everything at children and adults alike. We’re really hoping this is true. Certainly I can imagine making flower headdresses in the WI tent with my girls, checking out a children’s author or joining in a campfire singalong. Less segregation between ages, more experiences together, please.

To find out more about the festival, check out them out on their website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Adult tickets start at £69 for a non-camping weekend ticket and whether camping or not, kids 11 and under go free.

Thanks to the Good Life Experience for having us as guests!

Photographs 1 and 3 by James Fibonacci, Photograph 2 by Nenad Obradovic


Valley Fest 2016 – Our first festival as a family of five

The weekend of September 2nd to 4th, we’ll be donning our wellies and heading to beautiful Chew Valley in Somerset for Delilah’s first festival, Valley Fest. We won’t be camping since she’ll only be six weeks old but the valley is in such easy reach of Bristol that getting there and back each day will be just fine. I’d love to wake up to a view of the Chew Valley lake, though, so that may be a plan for another year.

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We are, of course, looking forward to the music and a look at the lineup confirms there’ll be plenty to make my folky heart exceedingly happy. With a good range of acts covering funk to ceilidh and three stages, the outdoor Lake Stage in the daytime, Tipi Valley in the night and the acoustic stage at Village Green, everyone’s covered. Certainly, we’re all well up for a jig in a field in some stunning countryside.

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Speaking of fields, for us a huge draw to Valley Fest is its commitment to organic produce and ethical farming. Not only does this mean excellent food is on the menu but messages about appreciating the land and valuing sustainable practices underpin the festival. The Communal Sunday Picnic features cooking stars of the South West and organic partners like Riverford offer us the chance to get intimately involved in the food’s behind the scenes, from farm tours to cooking workshops.

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As a small festival with lots on for kids, this looks like a great first for us. The Run Wild area promises storytelling, circus skills, craft sessions and lots more. With a baby change and nursing area, Delilah and I will be able to take it easy if it all gets a bit much.

If we all need somewhere quieter, we may well retreat to Village Green. Spa treatments, listening to speakers and discussions may be out for us this time around but we could take in the art installations and get involved in one of the art projects. For some serious chill time, we might hit the Film Field for a family film. It’s about time I introduced Talitha and Ophelia to Labyrinth.

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It’s also our anniversary weekend and with a six-week-old in tow, there’s no chance of a child-free celebration so this sounds like a brilliant way to celebrate instead. After all, two of us made the promises that started our family seven years ago, right here in the Somerset countryside.

Adult weekend tickets are £80, £40 for children under 16, plus booking fee. Under 6’s go free. A family weekend ticket with 2 adults and children is £200. Maybe see some of you there?

Valley Fest has given us tickets in exchange for coverage on my blog.