Top Tips for Travelling in London with a Baby

This is a guest post in collaboration with Kira Browdy

It wouldn’t be surprising if, despite having a hankering for visiting the Big Smoke, you decide to put it off for a while if you have a baby. The sheer thought of travelling to the city with a pushchair and a young baby is enough to drive you to despair, never mind navigating the Tube and pushing a buggy around the crammed-to-bursting roads. However, it needn’t be so daunting. If you fancied staying overnight (after all, there’s far too much to do for one day, and an overnight stay will undoubtedly reduce the stress levels a little), staying at Travelodge can provide you with a pleasant stay, while the family size rooms will ensure that you and your baby have plenty of room in which to relax. As for the other aspects of your stay, here are some great tips to guarantee that you’ll leave the city having had a great time, with your sanity still intact.
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A funny thing happened on the way to the forum (#TeamHonk)

You know how you read a blog post and you think “Wow that’s great!” then you read the bit where it says “Why don’t you join us?” and you get all excited & you say “Yes! I will!” so you write a comment and send off an email…

Climbing mountains is a very serious business you know

Climbing mountains is a very serious business you know

Then you wake up the next morning and realise that you’ve agreed to CLIMB A BLIMIN’ GREAT MOUNTAIN?!

That.

Yes, I’m joining those crazy cats at #TeamHonk to climb up Mount Snowdon in North Wales.

And yes, I probably am mad.

It is however, as they say, for a good cause: none other than Red Nose Day.

So if you feel moved to send a few kind numbers with a ‘£’ in front of them I would be very grateful.

And I promise not to use any of it to buy the plasters. You know, which I will inevitably need. For the painful blisters on my feet. From all that walking. Up steep, sharp rocks. In the cold, & the driving rain. In the dark. With all those bears and mountain-lions. And the Yeti.

OK, it’s possible that I may be exaggerating, a little. There aren’t any lions in Wales, obviously. But I expect it will be cold & wet. And I am worried about the Yeti. And I am starting to wonder what I’ve gotten myself in for.

Snowdon Climb Sponsor me!

So to make it all worthwhile you can sponsor me here (click the pic):

And, yes: that is an old photo there. Thanks for asking….

You of course are also welcome to join us! For a start I need someone to carry my stuff: that massive barbecue set & all those crates of beer aren’t going to get to the top by themselves!

There are at least 17 of us so far so you’ll be in good company. And I’m really looking forward to finally meeting some of these odd people from my computer screen that I keep reading about.

It’s all happening on March 2nd, so watch this space!

The Gallery: Colour

Stowe Gardens  in Buckinghamshire, July 2007. It’s very green.

We used to go to public gardens & National Trust sites a lot Before Jallie, & as they get older we hope to more again. This country has a wonderful heritage of beautiful gardens, parks & woodlands, stately homes & castles. And this is coming from a guy born & raised in New Zealand! I think we Brits often don’t think of our country as a major tourist destination but it really is, & most of the rest of the world I think would agree. We have a tremendous cultural  heritage of which we should be very proud, in my opinion.

These are one of my favourite public gardens, back from when we lived in Brighton. They are probably the most photogenic of any I’ve been to, & seem to be designed with that in mind. Although it was July it was a grey overcast day, but even so I got many gorgeous photos there.

It’s well worth a visit if strolling through beautiful gardens is something that floats your boat!

The theme this week for Tara Cain’s wonderful Gallery at her ‘Sticky Fingers’ blog is ‘Colours’.  Why not go have a look at other posts there, & prepare to be dazzled! Just click the pic:

I just wanted to add a note, actually. It’s occurred to me that this photo may look as if it’s been tinted or otherwise altered. I assure you this is absolutely unaltered, straight from my camera – apart from the watermark. I often click Picasa’s ‘I’m feeling lucky’ to correct over- or under-exposure but I didn’t even do that here; it looked just right. I try as much as I can to reproduce what my eye sees; heavily photoshopped or altered images are an art-form but not what I would call photographs. WYSIWYG pics! Just my opinion; everyone’s different. For more see my ‘Daddy’s Photo Policy’ page.

Memememe

I’ve been memed, not once but twice. I love being memed! So thank you Tom Briggs at Diary of the Dad & Blue at bluebirdsunshine

These are the (combined) rules:

You must post the rules
The only rule of the blog memes is that you don’t talk about the blog memes
Thank the blogger who has awarded you and link back to them.
Post 12 (7) fun facts about yourself in the blog post
Answer the questions the tagger has set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the fellow bloggers you plan to tag
Tag 12 (5) people and link to them on your blog
Let them know you tagged them

It’s just possible that I might have made up 1 of the above rules

OK? Let’s go:

12 Fun Facts

1) “Fun facts about me” is probably an oxymoron

2) I like to use fancy-sounding, often obscure & sometimes completely made-up words to make myself seem more cleverer than I really am.

3) I like irony but I hate ironing

4) I have scars on my left forearm & left knee (bike crash*), right knee (surgery after a rugby injury) & the palm of my left hand (trying to open a can with a staysharp knife). It’s just occurred to me that my scars probably represent my life in microcosm…

5) Somehow, somewhen I my fractured left clavicle (collar-bone) & now have ruptured shoulder tendons as a result. I’ve had this for at least 4 years. It causes acute pain & restricted movement in arm & shoulder, both worsening. I was going to go into a rant about how shitty my local NHS hospital were in taking over a year in diagnosis & then – it appears – deliberately preventing me from having the op I need. And about how I think that this sort of thing is indicative of how the NHS badly needs radical reform, & how I have a deep, intense & entirely justified dislike of NHS Managers & some admin staff.  But then I remembered the ‘fun’ facts thing. So I won’t. Although I was going to refer you back to fact no. 1…

6) I use ‘fun facts about me’ memes to have a moan about my bad shoulder & the failings of the NHS.

Christchurch City (New Zealand) from the Port ...

Christchurch City (New Zealand) from the Port Hills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7) As well as my home town of Christchurch, New Zealand (yes, the one flattened by the massive earthquakes last year) I have lived in Chicago & Atlanta, USA; Brentwood, Essex; Wood Green, Green Lanes & Lewisham in London; Brighton in Sussex & Erdington, Birmingham. I am also about to move to south Wales from my current home near Birmingham

8) I regularly played club rugby with a bloke who went on to win the Rugby World Cup. Playing in my position, on the wing. And he wasn’t even quick back then! I’ve always thought that it should have been me. I’d hate him with a passion but he seems like a pretty decent bloke.

9) I sort-of hold the New Zealand 100m sprint record for under-14 boys. I always will as they changed the age criteria just after I broke it! 11.7 seconds, in case you’re wondering.

10) I used to write film reviews for a company magazine, & had my own film reviews website back when the word “blog” was just a twinkle in its creators’ eyes.

11) I once spent £100 on a taxi ride from London to Dorset. I was determined to visit my cousin & his family there for Christmas, I didn’t drive & I didn’t know that public transport virtually disappears on Christmas Eve. I think that may have been the best Christmas present that that cabbie ever had!

12) My 2-year-old son can Beat-Box. FACT

12) I am unusually anarchistic in my attitude towards numbered lists. And I believe that any number greater than 12 isn’t really worth bothering with.

*I’d say “bike accident” but it had more to do with stupidity than anything ‘accidental’. I was young…

12 Answers to 12 Questions

1) Where is the most memorable place you’ve ever been? Skinny-dipping with my wife on my birthday in a hot pool in minus 10 degrees on a mountain in Iceland

2) If you could change the end of any film, which would it be and how would you change it?  Mamma Mia. The end should be scrapped entirely. As long as ‘its end’ is defined as starting exactly 1 microsecond after its beginning.

3) What would be your dream job? Getting to scrap the ‘ends’ of really bad films

4) What is your favourite smell? I love the smell of burning celluloid in the morning

5) What is your greatest extravagance? Cream in my coffee. Several times a day. Every day

6) If you could be a condiment, what would you be and why? Salsa. Because people like to say “salsa”

7) Where do you stand on the dunking of biscuits? I stand as close to the biscuits as I can, so I can eat them

8) My colleagues Lee and Fran are being cheeky; which one should I slap? I cannot condone violence of any kind in any way. But you could slip laxatives into their coffees. They are both really annoying

9) What is your favourite scary movie? Mamma Mia. Anything so utterly execrable & yet so popular makes me fear for humanity ;)

10) If you had to read one book from your school days once more, which would it be and why? My head says George Orwell‘s ‘1984’ but I think I’d find it too depressing to have confirmed how accurate were so many of its predictions for our society. I’d go with my heart then & reread ‘Puppet on a Chain’ by Alistair MacLean; because I remember enjoying it.

11) How much of your life did you spend on this meme? For this post I have carried out exhaustive research, both online & at the Library. I have searched my soul, wrung my hands & probed my conscience in anguish over & over again. I have lost track of the vast investments of time & energy I have made in the writing of these words.

12) Was it worth it, or do you hate me now? My life will never now be the same! And yes I do, but only on Mondays.

12 questions for the next victims participants to answer. 

1) Would you describe yourself as a ‘glass half-full’, ‘glass half-empty’, ‘just grateful to have a glass’ or ‘why isn’t this glass chrystal? And full of Cristal?’ type of person? And why?

2) How important to you in your blog writing is correct grammar, punctuation & spelling?

3) Jedward: Evolutionary throwback or the future of mankind?

4) While writing this post I came to see that my life could be, somewhat crudely,  summarised by my scars. Have you had any unusual insights into your life recently, & if so what? (That question almost sounds as if it could have come straight out of ‘Blind Date’. Sorry).

5) What are your pet hates?

6) What in your life most brings you joy?

7) Do you move around a lot, like me, or have you mainly lived in the same place?

8) Do you have a “It shoulda been me!” story? And if so, what is it?

9) What is your main claim to fame?

10) How long have you been blogging & what prompted you to start?

11) What is the most extravagant purchase you’ve ever made, not counting house or car?

12) If you were to enter Britain’s Got Talent what would your talent be?

You’re ‘It’!

If you feel that you have better things to do with your time I fully understand, & I apologise if you’ve already been tagged or even made a post for any of the memes that seem to be going around at the moment.

So, my Dirty Dozen:

BabberBlog
first-time-daddy
Here Come the Girls
SAHDandproud
Not Just Another Blog
Daddacool
daddy of two blog
Trouble Doubled
Chronicles of a Reluctant Housedad
Dad Who Writes
slightlysuburbandad
The Crumby Mummy

So go for it! It’s quite fun, honestly. And I’m looking forward to reading what you come up with :)

The Gallery: Light

This is another shot taken on my Honeymoon as was my last entry for Tara Cain’s Gallery.

This one is from one of the Galapagos Islands. Their main claim to fame is in being one of the most important locations for Charles Darwin in his formulating the Theory of Evolution. So I guess for Creationists it must be one of the most evil places on Earth!

For lovers of nature like me it’s more like Heaven on Earth. The landscapes are often other-worldly, bizarre. Wildlife there is unique, not least in the way that animals are grouped together unlike anywhere else on the planet. One minute you’re admiring beautiful flamingoes in a lake, soon after you could be watching penguins swimming around on a rocky coast lined with cactii, where iguanas are sunning themselves in between diving into the sea for food. Birds with bright blue feet dive-bombing the surf in unison, nesting birds with red balloons for throats trying to attract a mate, albatrosses dancing with each other, brightly coloured crabs, flying fish, groups of playful sea-lions as friendly as puppies, giant tortoises. A weird & wonderful place!

So of course my photo features no animals at all – unless you count me – on a beach that probably isn’t that unusual. But trust me, it’s from one of the Galapagos Islands.

And where are the rest of the party we were travelling with? They’d been rafted out to some nearby rocks which were great for snorkelling. I’d been left behind, probably because I’d lost something. That happens a lot. I’d asked our guide on the beach if maybe the raft could be sent back, but he just said: “Just swim there”. It was quite a way out!

I’m not a strong swimmer, mostly because I am one of these odd people who doesn’t float, at least not enough to keep my mouth above water. So I hate & avoid being in water over my head. But give me a good snorkel & mask & a decent pair of flippers & I instantly become Aquaman! Or at least Aquaman’s Uncle – you know: the one who turns up at weddings, drinks too much & dances very badly…  

So swim there I did, & it was great. I came across creatures I wouldn’t have otherwise, notably a couple of turtles who I managed to get really close to before they dived too deep for me to follow. The hardest part in fact was trying to get onto the ladderless raft from the sea!

Back to the Theme: what I like about this photo is the Light. Shooting against the sunlight has made the foreground appear a lot darker than it really was, partially silhouetting the subject while he sits in a finger of light sparkling on the surf ahead & on the sand behind.

I’ve always loved this photo; as well as capturing a great memory it to me is really atmospheric, peaceful, happy.

To achieve True Enlightenment, or at least to see some great pictures & posts about Light, go to Tara Cain’s wonderful Gallery at her ‘Sticky Fingers’ blog. Just click the pic:

The Gallery: Landscape

Machu Picchu, ‘The Lost City of the Incas’, Peru

This was taken on our honeymoon.

Retiring to an idyllic beach resort for sunning, swimming, & other things that might be considered the norm for honeymooners? Not us. Nah, instead we decided to do what each of us would regard as a trip of a lifetime. A cruise around the Galapagos Islands: her choice. A river cruise & stay in the Amazon Rainforest: a joint choice. A cruise then overnight stay with a local family in Lake Titicaca:  not our choice, just part of the package. Climbing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu: my choice.

While there I spent the coldest & one of the worst nights of my life on the homestay. I got altitude sickness, had to be given oxygen & almost pulled out of the Inca Trail trek.  I was later mugged & had my wallet & passport stolen. My digital camera broke. In the Amazon I was nearly eaten alive by the local horseflies, hungry for my sweet blood. Finally I nearly missed my flight home trying to get a temporary passport from the unfuriatingly frustrating Peruvian bureaucracy.

But would I still go if I knew what was ahead? In a heartbeat! It was wonderful.

Machu Picchu was as magical & magnificent as I had expected. In the time of the Incas it was only accessible by long, narrow & often treacherous mountain paths reaching altitudes of up to 4300M (nearly 3 miles) above sea level, of which the Inca Trail is one.  It appears to have been a special city, used for ceremonial / royal / religious purposes. To this day no-one is really sure, & this aura of mystery still surrounds this wonderful place. Whatever its purpose it is & always will be special, one of the great locations of the world. I feel very privileged to have had the chance to go there.

This was written for Tara Cain’s wonderful Gallery at her ‘Sticky Fingers’ blog. To have a look at the other posts there just click the pic:

Lies, Damn Lies & Memetastics

Blog Awards: they’re like London busses!

Having had none, in the last couple of weeks I’ve received 3: & 2 of those are the same!

Of the 2 I’ve just had the first one I’d already received & it resulted in this post.

And you know what else? I’ve lost track of who (re)sent me these latest 2 awards. Oops, sorry….

I’ve also lost track of the originator of the new award: again, sorry.

So if the guilty parties would like to make their way to the podium please…

The creator of the Memetastic Award gave it the following rules (in her words):

1.
You must proudly display the absolutely disgusting graphic that I have created for these purposes (put it in your post, you don’t have to put it in your sidebar, I think that would seriously be asking too much). It’s so bad that not only did I use COMIC SANS, but there’s even a little effing jumping, celebrating kitten down there at the bottom. It’s horrifying! But its presence in your award celebration is crucial to the memetastic process we’re creating here. If you need a higher resolution version… I totally have one!!
2.
You must list 5 things about yourself, and 4 of them must be bold-faced lies. Just make some shizzle up, we’ll never know; one of them has to be true, though. Of course, nobody will ever know the difference, so we’re just on the honor system here.
3.
You must pass this award on to 5 bloggers that you either like or don’t like or don’t really have much of an opinion about. I don’t care who you pick, and nobody needs to know why.

OK, so here goes: 4 lies, 1 truth

1) On my 16th birthday I lost my virginity to a ‘full-figured’ Maori girl called Kim. We were in a tent in the New Zealand bush on a church camping holiday.

2) I celebrated my 21st birthday in & around the Adventure Sports World Capital: Queenstown, New Zealand. I fell off my jet-ski so many times I flooded the engine & had to be rescued from Lake Wakatipu‘s 4 degree water.

3) For my 30th birthday I had a boys’ night out in a London strip club. I was on antibiotics but went anyway. As a result I was horribly sick after my first pint (which I’d drunk too quickly in all the excitement).

4) On the day of my 40th birthday I was in a hot pool in the snow in the mountains of Iceland; the air temperature was -10.

5) I saw the in new Millenium in Times Square in New York. In all the excitement I managed to miss my flight back home.

So what do you reckon? Which is the honest truth, & which are the porkie pies?

And now here are my 5 Award recipients: a ‘reward’ for being among my first subscribers ;)

David Braziel

Mrs Shilts

Chris Passey at Confessions of a Composer

Cake & Tea Blog

Cherry Mum of 6

Enjoy, & I look forward to your posts!

UPDATED: The truth is revealed! See my comment of February 12th, below :)

http://www.wikio.co.uk

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Me, But Were Afraid To Ask

Apparently there’s been a big old game of tag going on in the blogosphere tonight while I haven’t been paying attention.

The idea is to list “7 things you never knew you wanted to know about me”

I’ve been tagged by the lovely Mañana Mama, who seems to think that my 7 will be more interesting than hers. Not sure why; I may have to disappoint…

So anyway, here goes:

1) I hold a New Zealand sprint record that will never be broken: under-14 boys 100M. They changed the age criteria just after I set the record (11.7 sec’s in case you’re wondering).

2) I played club rugby as a right winger, & scored lots of tries. Our First 5/8 (fly-half) went on to play in the New Zealand All Black team who won the first ever Rugby World Cup. On the wing – MY POSITION. He wasn’t even fast back then. Probably because I stopped growing (vertically) at 14 & he didn’t. I’d hate him with a deadly passion, but he seems like a decent guy.

3) I got married in Brighton Pavilion. By a happy coincidence so did my wife.

4) I am afraid of heights. Probably dates to when I was a young boy & fell off the asymmetrical bars at a gymnastics club.

5) It was therefore the obvious thing to honeymoon by walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, climbing to over 4000M (that’s 4 Kilometres – UP). Plus cruise around the Galapagos Islands, stay overnight on an island in Lake Titicaca & spend several nights in the Amazon Jungle. I got mugged, losing my passport & wallet, got severe altitude sickness, was partially eaten alive by horse-flies & nearly missed my flight back home. It was great! I wrote about it briefly, with a couple of photos, here.

I was hoping to use an Inca Trail photo for Tara Cain’s Gallery on the theme of Mother Nature. But 1) it’s analogue (my digi. camera broke), & 2) I can’t find it. :(

6) I have a fractured left collar-bone (clavicle), a ruptured tendon in my left shoulder, a detached tendon in my right bicep & arthritic fingers. And I’m not even that old – honest!

7) I have a scar on my palm where I nearly severed my thumb trying to open a tin with a knife. A World Cup had just started so I was in a hurry. I also have scars on an inner elbow (bike accident) & knee (surgery after a rugby injury). No photos, sorry…

Still reading? Well done!

So now I have to nominate some other bloggers. I think we should get some more of the boys in, so I’m going for:

Mr Baby Food & Diesel,

Him Up North &

Dan at All That Comes With It. YOU’RE IT!

Also, because she has obviously had an eventful life, & because she asked so nicely, fellow parent of twins Mari from Mari’s World :)

You know who I’d really love to hear from though, but it’s probably a long-shot:  the weird, wonderful & (in)famous Bloggess. Here’s hoping…

UPDATED: I’m delighted to be able to say that I’ve found the Inca Trail photo I was after & have had it & the others in that roll processed digitally. I hope to make my contribution to the Mother Nature Gallery tonight (Friday 21st). I’m doubly pleased about this as they are some of the best photos I’ve ever taken :)

UPDATED: A day later than planned, my Gallery post is here

Their First Noël

Travelling with the twins to be with family at Christmas: for many reasons, the main one of course being the weather, it seemed the Christmas destined not to be.

Through thick & thin however we made it happen! Timing our journey so that it fell between blizzard & big freeze, we actually made pretty good time & found that there wasn’t too much traffic on the roads. A cunning detour to avoid a potential huge delay helped.

The only other time we made a long journey Ellie cried nearly all the way. It was awful. Being older we were hoping she’d be more tolerant, but I sat in the back between them anyway. They slept for the first hour or so but when they woke up they cried, so we stopped at the nearest services & had a coffee. Why these places don’t have facilities for children I don’t know! There were enough of them there to justify it.

Back on the road they were still unhappy. I had a few toys to hand, but when even they didn’t work I had to resort to feeding them the muffin – toffee & fudge muffin no less – that I’d brought as an adult snack. All that sugar, normally a huge no-no! But desperate times call for…

Anyway they couldn’t get enough of it, & I hope I was able to feed them just enough to keep them happy, but not so much as give them a taste for unhealthy food. I don’t think they’ll need my help for that in years to come…

When we got there they were excited! They seemed really happy at being reunited with more of their loving family & all the new & exciting things to see & explore. Or maybe it was a sugar-rush! Probably both…

The first thing they did? Made a bee-line straight for the largest present & starting ripping off the wrapping as quickly as possible. It’s almost as if they knew what it was: these kids scare me sometimes…

After we managed to pull them away from there they had a great time crawling around & socialising, then we were able to settle them without much trouble into the padded playpen we’d brought with us. They did however both end up in bed with us when they woke up overnight, as they often do now.

Then it was Christmas Day! We of course had to dress them up as little Santas! Ellie especially seemed really excited:

Then: Presents! This time they were allowed to rip away at the wrapping to their hearts’ content. But of course, babies being babies, they now seemed less enthusiastic than the day before when they weren’t allowed to!

It was a very generous gift from our hosts. But it ‘required some assembly’. A bit of prodding, head-scratching, hammering, & – as a last resort – reading of instructions & we had a horsey!  OK: technically, a Zebra. It can be wheeled,

Ride 'em cowboy!

You must figure I'm a reeaal dangerous man

 

Yee-hah!

and rocked:

Cool-hand Jake

Next up, & thankfully needing slightly less assembly, a spinning car arena!

 

It's a serious business, this car-racing

Um, I'm pretty sure it's cars you're meant to put in there, Ellie. But sure: we could try the big squeezy ball!

A lot of smaller toys later – including an alien robot – & Jallie were as happy as kids in a toy shop! Which they pretty much were.

Then of course there was the inevitable ‘playing with the packaging’…

Not surprisingly, they wore themselves out with all this & had a nap before Christmas lunch.

They woke up while we adults were eating though, & were very happy to be with us; first Ellie

Cheeky!

Yes, I do think that was funny!

Right, I've had enough of this silly hat!

and then Jake:

 

Jus' like that!

A cracker? Don't mind if I do!

I won!

After a great lunch & a bit of resting & TV, the twins again settled without much trouble – but again both ended up in bed with us.

In the morning we packed up, somehow managing to fit everything into the car despite it seeming full when we’d left home. Unfortunately Ellie didn’t get the memo, & decided to have a sleep after I’d packed the playpen / bed!

We set off after lunch, not forgetting to feed the babies of course:

Feed me!

Oi! What do I have to do to get some service around here?!

Going back we were very well prepared. I sat in the back again, & we had a bottle each for them, some rice cake snacks to chew on & plenty of toys. After a slurp & a chomp, they were soon asleep & slept right through ’til we arrived home – to a very cold house.

It was a terrific Christmas, one which we all I think thoroughly enjoyed. For Jallie’s first one I couldn’t have asked for much more; they had a really happy time, & you can’t ask for better than that. Our hosts were just fantastic :D

Whatever the future may hold we’ll all always be able to look back on Christmas 2010 as a happy time.

So a very merry Christmas to you & yours!