Unpredictability - Good for your health

Our modern life is based on organising an environment free from the unexpected. The house needs to be as stable and reliable as possible. The job as safe as possible. Nothing should break down. Nothing but what we predict, should occur.
This is the life of the zoo animal. Let's explore the life of the Nomad. Let's live the life of the Nomad.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Devon Cliffs - Sandy Bay

I had picked my Nephew up from the Uncle in the New Forest.  Five of us were packed into a little Citroen DS4.  My two girls, my eldest's best friend and my Nephew.  Yes that is right.  One middle aged man responsible for two teenagers and two youngsters for five days in the Devon Cliffs Sandy bay holiday resort in Exmouth.  Driving down the A35 that day with darkening sky and rain sweeping horizontally against the windscreen - I did wonder if I had made the right decision.  Last year's holiday was abroad.  This year I fancied something local - without the stress of airports, foreign currencies, inflated prices and the unavoidable early am shake-up for the shuttle bus to the airport on the return leg.  My anxiety about the weather was miss-placed - from the Tuesday onwards we had fine weather hovering between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius.  I was never an extreme heat person, with thin white skin that would blister rather than tan brown after session in the sun.

It was a five hour journey and we were eager to see what our Delux standard caravan was like.  In these Haven holiday resorts you can book a static caravan to a grade suitable to your needs.  Initially I had booked the Standard Plus grade which seemed to have everything required for a gang of five - that is, beds and cooking facilities.  On reading through the brochure it was clear that this standard risked an odour of the canine.  Nothing against dogs but I really don't like their smell so upgraded to the Delux version and this grade guaranteed a shelter free from eud de canine. The van was a model Rio made by Willerby Holiday homes.  It was smaller than expected but very nice and comfortable with everything needed to keep the gang fed and accommodated for the week.

A Haven Holiday Resort

Nephew - interrupted Kindle episode

In the evening and after a healthy dinner from McDonalds it was time to let the kids loose in the entertainment complex.  You can level both praise and criticism at the management of these Haven resorts - but even the most scrupulous would have to rejoice in the way they keep kids entertained and happy.  You will have swimming pools with slides both indoors and outdoors.  There will be pantomime and concerts and karaoke. There will be a full schedule of sporting activities and there will be a full arcade worthy of a pitch on any Las Vegas strip.  The Haven arcade of-course, caters for those under and over eighteen.  This evening, and every evening I sat myself down in the Barrel and Mash with my book and a drink and let the kids loose to enjoy the complex.  They would return to see me every half hour or so - to assure me they were fine and also to get more money out of my wallet.

Now I want to interrupt the flow of the post at this point and discuss the issue of feeding.  Other male nomads out there may be considering taking a group of kids away on a nomadic adventure but with much anxiety on how to feed them properly.  Us nomads can easily put a meal together for ourselves from whatever is in the cupboard - whether that be a can of soup a few years out of date or a fray bentos pie.  Food is energy and we don't tend to be fussy eaters.  Feeding kids is a different story.  Firstly you should make it clear to them they will get three meals a day - but if they are hungry in-between meals they will have to help themselves to whatever is in the pantry.  So take them, like I did, to a Liddles and get them to fill the trolley.  These kids selected all sorts of edible things from biscuits to crisps to fruit and cakes.  And Liddles is very good value.  A full trolley of food came to 40 pounds - and the equivalent in Tescos would be at least double that.  Now: for breakfast determine what cereals they all like and get in plenty of boxes and also don't forget to get fresh milk in on a daily basis.  Break it up with something different at least once during the holiday - on the Thursday I toasted some waffles which they all enjoyed.  Lunch is just as easy.  Find out what sandwiches they like and make them two each for the day and throw in a packet of crisps and a piece of fruit.  They wont eat the fruit but it is there just in case.  Make sure to bring a can of soda each - they will get thirsty.  Dinner is a bit trickier.  Remember it is your holiday as well so you don't want to be slaving over an oven all evening.  If you can afford it get take-aways.  On the Monday I got them McDonalds and on the Tuesday I got them a fish and chip type dinner take-away.  For a cheaper dinner option go to Tescos and get some pizzas in or some ready-meals that you can stick in the microwave.  Dinner for Wednesday and Thursday was achieved perfectly well this way.  There is really no need to worry about the feeding issue - just work out what they like and get it in for them.

Ensuring that the children receive the nomadic experience may be a little more difficult.  Us nomads are action orientated.  It is not in our nature to sit still and you may very well be perplexed by the behaviour of the modern day youngster.  Each of those kids will have more silicon technology in their kit bag than NASA could have dreamed of when sending man to the moon.   You will be itching to get behind the wheel and explore something new - but the youngsters will happily sit down with kindle or with laptop - with TV or with DVD.  When their necks are bent and their heads hanging over some screen or other - you will need to display some leadership and make it clear that this will be a week of exploration and movement.  Go to the reception in the resort and grab a handful of those activity brochures and let each child choose an activity for a day.  This is the buy-in technique and works very well.

Nephew Liam chose Tuesday's activity and this was to be Crealy Adventure Park.

This park had pretty much everything to keep everyone busy - rides and slides and even some meerkats. There was also a great indoor play area and most of the time was spent in this less busy part of the complex.  These adventure parks are great value - but beware they will be very busy anytime on a school holiday and the rides will all have lengthy queues to negotiate.

There was much debate concerning Wednesday's activity, and since no consensus was forthcoming I suggested a place called Bicton Gardens.  The kids needed some convincing.  I filled them in on the selling points - a sixty three acre 18th century garden with supurb play areas and an incredible maze where they could get themselves lost for a while.  They all agreed it would be awesome and so it turned out to be.

The two teenagers decided they wanted to do their own thing on the Thursday - go to the beach, flirt with some boys or whatever it is teenage girls like to do when they are not under direct adult supervision.  So the the younger daughter and the nephew could choose the day's activity.  They were not really sure what to do so I put my foot down and decided on a ship cruise around the coast of exmouth.  To my surprise they were dead against the idea so I compromised and took them to a country park adjacent to the holiday resort itself.
This was a great little park with a museum section of old vehicles for the adults and the usual slides and play zones for the children.

After paying the entrance fee we entered a hall area with some remarkable exhibits.  I just loved this old caravan.

And indeed it is amazing what can be made from matchsticks.

And a superb Gypsy caravan.

The children insisted on posing for the camera.

It was then time to let the little ones loose in the play areas.  Those children have spring-coiled energy in their bodies and can play all day.  I sat down with a coffee and read through an interesting book written by Judith Tebbutt - A Long Walk Home.  Judith was kidnapped while on holiday in Kenya by Somali pirates and her husband was killed in the struggle.  These pirates were highly religious in the Islamic sense and made their money by kidnapping westerners and demanding a ransom.  It is an interesting book to read - but may put you off your next holiday if it is anywhere near the same region.

At three pm I rounded the kids up for the highlight of the day - the falcon display.  I just love sitting in on these displays and marvel at the beauty of these wonderful birds of prey.  

And that was the tail end of the holiday.  Early on Friday morning the kids were cajoled to get everything packed into the Citroen and we made our way East and back home.  I was happy that the holiday went well and sure that the children had a great time in Devon.  It is not the sort of holiday I would do every year but provided you are willing to gamble on the British weather - there really is much to be said for spending your precious holiday weeks in the UK.

Peace To All

Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Barras

This weekend I stayed over in Glasgow to release my mind and body from the usual journey from the top end to the bottom end of the United Kingdom - and back again.  I have taken to using the public swimming pool that is only a five minute walk from the hotel.  So the weekend's activity had the pattern of a morning swim followed by this nomad's favourite pastime - walking.  I am never bored on a long walk and love exploring new territories.

On the Sunday I set myself the challenge to swim a little more than the set thirty minutes and achieved the goal of swimming for one hour straight.  I was tired but pleased with this effort.  I walked around the corner to an Italian cafe and ordered a cup of coffee.  This particular cafe does a fine coffee - far superior to the fast coffee served in the well known high street hangouts.

How rare it is to have a day ahead without an itinerary to structure the hours.  I thought back to a comment left by the author of one of my favourite blogs - "Our Life In a Caravan".  "Have I visited the Barras yet", asked Jools.  I really had no idea what the Barras was so punched it into my new Samsung Galaxy Ace phone - and with interest I learnt this was some sort of trading market in the East of Glasgow.  At the turn of the last century, when the children of the poor had to work - a twelve year old girl, Margaret Russell, discovered a talent for trading when she minded the fruit barrow of her mother's friend.  The girl that had to work had a vision beyond the shackles of her impoverished surroundings.  The vision became a huge trading court and static stalls would be rented out to the hawkers, the collectors and those whose place in life was to duck and to dive as way to survive.  Her vision became "the Barras".

Now this new gadget of mine has a GPS function and so I decided to see how it worked.  I selected the Navigate application and entered the location of the Barras.  The phone calculated a route and to get there would only be a 20 minute walk.  And so I paid the nice lady in the cafe and set off on foot to see what the modern Barras was really like.  I was impressed by the huge gated entrance.

Walking through the gates is to enter a trading world on a complete tangent to the high street with its fancy air conditioned plazas and branded shops.  Here is where the less fortunate and the thrifty gather to sell and to buy the material goods passed from hand to hand and from generation to generation.  Here is the car boot sale to beat all car boot sales.