Friday, 18 February 2011

Game Girls go looking for Big Game

Tomorrow, child 4 and I set off to Kenya for a week's safari with my mother. This is one in a long line of grandmother/grandchild holidays which have been running in our family for the last ten years. It will be a great adventure and one which, I hope, the smallest one will always remember - not just because Kenya will be an amazing, mind-blowing experience, but because grannies are precious and one-to-one time with them on a trip like this is something really to be treasured.

These multi-generations holidays that we go on are always an adventure. It's clearly not enough for my 82 year old mother to sit on a beach for a week - no, we have to go up the Nile and visit the Valley of the Kings (very glad we're not doing this in the current climate in Egypt!), explore the souks of Marrakech, go on a lightning tour of New York City and so on. This will be our second safari in Kenya (for my mother and me) and last time we took number 2 daughter. I can still remember the realisation that, in our camp in the Masai Mara, we were the ones who were guarded and enclosed - not the animals. It was an incredible and memorable trip and when my mother suggested doing it again, I thought, nine years on, she might think better of it. It does, of course, involve a lot of hopping into and out of jeeps and getting up at 5.00am to go on game drives and is therefore physically quite demanding. But no, she is a game girl and off we go again!

We do get some interesting comments when we are on these trips. Other travellers seem amazed that we can go off to places and all get along well. Of course, we all have our moments, but generally we entertain each other pretty well - and everyone else along the way. Occasionally, mum will decide that she needs some down-time and leaves us to head off camel-riding, shopping, ice cream hunting etc on our own, and usually, by the time we get back, she has struck up a friendship with another group and we can hear their laughter as we walk back in.

While we are away, we are leaving the men of the household to fend for themselves. Both excellent cooks, child 3's major concern was that he might weigh 22 stone by the time we get back due to the enormous amounts of fattening foods which will be on offer next week. My major concerns are, in no particular order, no-one will feed/walk the dogs/cat, wash-up, wash clothes and remember to check my work emails. But I expect we'll all survive the experience and we'll all be better for it.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

On a Journey to Tick the Boxes...

The twins are sitting an English module for GCSE next week on creative writing. One of the topics is 'Don't get me started on...' which is an invitation to a rant. One of my self-imposed blogging rules is never to rant. I suspect that most of my rants may be entirely peculiar to me and therefore not something that anyone else would interested in. My family get my rants (and have a fair few of their own) but this is not the place. 

However one of my micro-rants, if one was allowed such a thing, is the way that language seems to get hi-jacked by reality television. All through the autumn, X Factor and Strictly contestants harped on about their 'journey'. Do they even know they are using a metaphor? And, frankly, if they use that expression, I would like them to be on a journey  - home! So having admitted to my taste for low-brow television, I must admit to my guilty pleasure of watching Escape to the Country where the most frequently-used expression is 'tick the boxes'. 

What makes this programme the perfect accompaniment to doing the ironing is the strange ideas that people have about life in the country. It would appear that their chintzy ideas are based largely on regular doses of programmes like Heartbeat, The Archers (well, as an addict I can't argue with that) and possibly Lark Rise to Candleford (or as my son used to call it, the Post Office). This week we were treated to Aled Jones taking a couple of ladies round houses in North Yorkshire. First, Aled, dear boy thinks he's Peter Pan (all the charm of a twelve year old when his development may have been arrested, height-wise anyway), decided to conduct the entire programme with what he thought was a Yorkshire accent. Because obviously we all refer to women as 'lasses' and so on...! Then one of the ladies said she wanted to be involved with the village hall - in what capacity, letting it, hiring it, cleaning it - who knows? And so it goes on, people with rose-tinted glasses who think the countryside is all about views, cosy kitchens and growing your own veg. 

I've lived in the country nearly all my life as has my husband. Village life is something special and something we've learnt over time to appreciate. We live some way out of a village, down the most anti-socially pothole-ridden track, so we don't get many casual callers and, indeed, we like to batten down the hatches now and again and be on our own. But the four square corners of our village community are probably, in no particular order, the school, the pub, the cricket and the church. Involvement in one or more means that you get to know most people of a sociable nature and generally become a part of the community. And the community here really is something special. 

Occasionally people move to the village on roughly the same basis as the hapless punters on Escape to the Country. They fall for the house, like the idea of the village shop, love the views, fresh air etc and then... are quite surprised, and occasionally affronted, when people knock on their doors offering teenagers to babysit, invite them to church events, talk to them without introduction in the pub and so on.

If you think you're escaping to the country for a quiet life, think again. The countryside is not just about box-ticking or being on a journey (personal or otherwise), it's about knowing and looking out for your neighbours, doing your bit and joining in and as a quieter option - forget it!