Category Archives: Magic Moments

Jamboree dreaming


Ollie has returned from 10 days of heaven on earth.  What an amazing time he has had at NZ’s 20th Jamboree, luckily for us just in the next town.




The “Palmy Panthers” had a great camp set up when we visited for a day.



The entrance to their camp was really rustic.  There were some incredible gateways to been seen wandering around.  I liked their homemade, lashed gate with turnstile.




There was such a lovely laid back vibe about the camp, so much fun, so much comraderie, wild activites plus down time and badge swapping galore for Ollie!


IMG_4532Nearly 4000 scouts setting a world record for the most people wearing paper hats at one time!



They had the huge staduim that they used each evening for  events – party at New Years, circus, movie, opening ceremony etc.



IMG_4538Followed by a massive water fight with coloured water and fire engines!

Ollie has self diagnosed PJD – post Jamboree depression and has spent the last few days organising and now sewing badges on to his campfire blanket – he has 164!





He has returned walking taller and seems older somehow.  Here is a cool Australia shirt he swapped with one of his many new friends.  Ollie was just on a high the whole time, he really was.

Scouts is such a big passion for Ollie. I really loved to see him just buzzing, being a great leader, making friends and living like family with a huge bunch of like minded teens for ten days.  It was such a dream he really did not want it to end.  I totally understand that feeling.

Next stop World Jamboree, Japan 2015….




Paris – better late than never


(Ahhh…’weee-feee’ at last……)

Pairs, like a trip to Africa, has it’s “Big 5.”

Une: Sacre Coeur


I even had my portrait sketched by an artist in Montemarte!  (Well it was a sketch of a young girl….)


Deux:  Arc d’Triumph…..and here the view from the top down Champs Elysees


Another view from L’arc…..


We only window shopped…..


Trois:  Oui, the Eiffel tower and yes we went to the top….bein sur!


And from the top…..the wonderful weather we have enjoyed everywhere continued.


Quarte: Notre Dame


Cinq: La Louvre!  Oh boy it was magnificent…and we only cycled around the outside!



The top 5 and then you add on other biggies…..Pompidou Centre, all the musee -Orsay, Rodin, les Jardin…..

The best thing we have done here is another cycle tour.  A few years I read an article about this Kiwi guy who had a company in Paris  and had filed it away especially for this trip.
For me there are many great things about a cycle tour.
A chance to hang out with other English speaking adults and have a laugh (we had two other Kiwis and 2 Americans  who were into homechooling, with us), this is really important for me.
Then there is the fact I can just sit back and follow, no decisions to make, no guide book to read, Marcel our guide just told us the stories and led us to fabulous places, nothing I had to do but enjoy it. Hearing a potted version of the French revolution on a bridge over the Seine while gazing at where the Bastille had been was priceless!
Riding around a city is such a superb way to see it.  Grand avenues, tiny alleyways, cobbled streets, private gardens, mini villages, Seine-side, food filled streets, bridges parks and the best ever – riding around The Louvre!  Yeeha!!  Such a huge and grandiose Palace.  That was ‘formidable!’  (En Francais).


We visited Victor Hugo’s house….


Even though we negotiated some major roads at times, riding along the Seine was fantastic!


Tracking down the latest Parisian  graffitti artist who leaves a “pacman”….


There are two bridges where couples buy a padlock, write their initials on it, lock it to the bridge and throw the key into the Seine. The bridges are totally loaded with padlocks of all shapes and sizes.


There was a Japanese couple in their wedding clothes doing this, all very romantic until they threw the key and it landed on the roof of a passing boat!!  Not sure what this means….

My 4th form French has flowed surprisingly  well.  The kids were suitably impressed with me the first time I conversed and was understood.  The man at the local vege shop, where we have bought stuff for the third day in a row, greets us like old ‘amies’ and tonight congratulated me on my French!  The absolutely very best way to learn the lingo, be here and buy things!!


Twice we  tried to visit The Catacombes, and twice we  failed.  They are very strict about the time they let the last people in to walk through the skeleton lined passages.  In fact it is the biggest queue we have encountered….and we were just third from the front when they cut us off. 😦

C’est la Vie!

The most peaceful place was La Pere Lachaise cemetery, yes Jim Morrison is buried here, but also Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Liszt…..The place is huge with tombs that range from public phone box size to mini cottages, very tranquil although Ollie got the creeps after a while….


Huge family tombs.


The leaves made it feel almost Autumnal….


Jim Morrison’s underwhelming grave….and Oscar Wilde’s flamboyant nouveau angel-topped one!IMG_3941

I contained myself buying artwork, only a couple of prints after a visit to Musee d’Orsay – the Impressionist biggie…

Ollie is happy as we have seen all the scams.  There are warning signs aplenty about pickpockets. There are pamphlets about all the scams you will encounter.  We had heard a lot about these from other travellers, which naturally fascinated the boys more than just ‘another old church’…..  So very exciting, that they are just everywhere….The fake petition, the ring, the 3 cup swindle.  Oui!

Charlie’s Paris trip has been interesting.  He had reached his expiry with regards to old buildings, churches and his very worse “ just wandering around the place.”  So as a soundtrack to Paris and  our sightseeing he has been plugged into “Harry Potter” (all 7 books!) being read by Steve Fry.  Good old mp3!  I am wondering how he will remember Paris though.  Will the Eiffel Tower be forever linked with Cedric’s death?  Will he only remember Voldemort’s return when he sees a photo of us up the Arc d’Triumph?  Mmmmm….

Still he loved the cycle tour and kept up the very front as per usual, being very attentive and admired by all. (Mp3 free)
The Metro is so efficient and quick.  We have been buzzing around.
Parisians do seem exceptionally well dressed, stylish .  So many women wearing ‘real’ shoes, high heels. Perhaps this is just in contrast to us in our well scuffed Teva sandals and after 4 months of wearing the same stuff.  Charlie’s 2nd pair of sandals is dying….just got to get to Bali….


Versaille was high on my list and I am so glad we spent a day out there.  Such a huge palace.  Such grand gardens.  Tres magnifique!


MInd blowingly huge and opulent….



We stayed for the fountain shows, dozens of different fountains, all very unique in it’s own  garden, each one designed beautifully.  Good to see and hear about some history on the other side of the channel, Marie Antionette et al.


The grounds were spectacular (oops I can feel myself running out of adjectives….)





We have been couch surfing in Paris.  Hosts here get inundated with requests as you can imagine.  So we were very grateful to Armelle for picking us out of all the others, especially as I have two kids and we wanted to stay for 5 nights.  She had a tiny apartment in the 12th   arrondissement (district) and worked such long hours – a self confessed perfectionist.  Also a great traveller and an artist in her spare time.  We managed some great conversations over a late supper  in her very good English and my careful, slow deliberate English.  As I described what we do about schooling she sat there frowning at me (as many have done before) I thought oh no…. Formal education is so very strict and so very important in Europe (no homeschooling in much of Western Europe).  She said how very different, how completely at the other end of the spectrum this sounded to French school.  Ten minutes later she touched me on the arm and said –

“What you were saying made me dream….”

I was touched.



So Paris was bonne indeed.



We spent 4 extra hours at the airport, as our flight was delayed, but we passed that playing with 2 youngsters whose mums were both French but had married Australians and lived there now.  Both had been ‘home’ for the summer  and now were flying solo back with their babies. Ollie had a ball with the 2yr old , well a balloon mostly….

How is the unschooling going?


People do ask us if I am homeschooling the kids during our trip.
(I don’t mean to be picky ,but the technical term is now “Worldschooling.”)

Of course the answer is no, I am not homeschooling the kids while we travel.
No I am not making them write a journal every night, or sit and do maths equations and I am most certainly not nagging them to read a novel every night (who is carrying all the books??)
However if they mean am I answering questions not-stop as I have for 12 years now, then yes.
If they mean do I support them in their passions, then yes.
If they mean am I helping them to be the best person they can, to be happy, to show compassion, understanding and patience, well then yes I am.
If  they mean am I showing them the world…well,  the clue is in the label “worldschooling.”

Life is just same as ever really.
Except we are travelliing and visiting historical sites,


cathedrals, ruins,


castles, stately homes


and an unusually high number of tourist shops and tea rooms….


Charlie has kept tabs on all the exchange rates we have and will still use.  Over lunch today he converted between each for fun.  There has been plenty of spending going on so it’s great to see the kids getting to spend other currency and work out the denominations.

Reading timetables, bus routes, airplane departures lists, the underground map, converting time zones….all things I once wrote meaningless  unit plans for as a teacher. All things the kids are doing in context with maximum motivation.

Charlie has been watching Horrible Histories, The Pirates of the Carribean (savvy?) and listening to Steven Fry read Harry Potter on his mp3.
Ollie follows news feeds and keeps us updated on the Syrian situation, any natural disasters as well as any debate or proposed change to gun laws in the States…..
He has managed to read several Harry Potter books and many Chris Ryan (SAS) books while staying with people too.

But as usual much of the kids learning is  through conversation.
We have had some humdinger discussions while driving.  Usually this is Charlie and I.  As navigator he is in the front and keeps up a commentary…..

-Mum, it is about 5 miles to the next service
-If we take junction 15, then the A55, it should be easy to get there
-You are doing a great job Mum!  (he is a very positive  navigator and has never yelled at me once.  🙂
– This is fine this way don’t worry, actually it is probably the best way (see what I mean…?)
– OK turn left onto the B6318….yes this one, here…..good …..

Then when we have been somewhere that has sparked questions for him directions are interspersed  and added to the mix.  These have caused several unplanned routes for us as I seem unable to concentrate on English roads while remembering random facts I studied 20 years ago!
So it goes more like…._
-But how did Henry the 8th just make up a whole new church?
-About 2 miles until our turn-off Mum
-Why did the locals not use the Roman baths after the Romans left?
– Yes here, stay on the M5….left lane…..
– So was King Arthur actually real then?

Grappling to understand the reasons why humans have gone to war, have burnt and tortured ‘witches’  and condemned each other for their differing beliefs has at times been belittled.
Mainly this is due to more pressing things like navigating huge trucks and a myraid of road options off a massive round-a-bout.
But mostly because a 9 year old looks so perplexed and just asks “why?”




And so our worldschooling continues.

My treat


I wrangled things so that after three and a half months of travelling with my children I had a whole 24 hours alone…in London!

Post airport-drop-off I headed to The Tate (modern) for a quick look around. So much to see, I saw some and bought postcards, but the outside  was calling.

The building impressed…

as did it’s position on the banks of the river Thames, teeming with life…..
street entertainers every twenty paces, people sitting, eating, strolling….


Giant bubble making busker…..and a great little band that reminded me of the sounds we make at home…


Headless performer….


The Millenium Bridge was needing walking over as was the South bank.  Views to be had, places to put on a list for another time….

The next day from a mighty adventurous list I selected Camden Market  first, where I indulged in one of my favourite pastimes of present-buying.  Lunch at a funky vegetarian cafe overlooking the canal that had an array of raw delights too.


Then Tralfalgar Square where the National Gallery beckoned to me and I was happy to be absorbed by hundreds of years of some incredible art, gallery after gallery…..


The new addition to the 4th plinth in Tralfalgar Square…the giant blue rooster!
I just liked the symmetry with the London Eye behind…


This guy was great to watch, floating in mid air, except for the pole he was holding.

My “walking through parks” part of the day was so  wonderful and took so long, from St James’, to Green Park, to Hyde Park  and along to South Kensington, that the V & A only got a wistful glance, instead of the hour long visit I had imagined as I hurried past to catch my tube…..

IMG_3435And this squirrel the only photo….
A train trip to Devon in the evening was the perfect place to sit down after 8 hours on the go and contemplate the last 5 weeks of our trip.
(thanks to the boy-sitters in Devon.  🙂  )

Out and about in Devon


We are a fluctuating group of family spread over three homes and two towns…

So there is plenty to do and plenty of people to do it with…
After years of seeing photos of my Mum  (she is a regular visitor during the English summer) with all her family is it so wonderful to actually be taking the photos…or sometimes even in them.


Heading off through the ‘smugglers tunnel’ to a little beach, where ironically even though it was a stinking hot day the water was so leg-numbingly freezing  none of us could bring ourselves to swim.


The two aforementioned towns are connected by a little ferry boat that runs constantly across this stretch of water…..Here is Teignmouth seen from Shaldon.


Hannah and Charlie on the ferry.



Charlie has found some commonalities with Lily and Laura, other dog-adoring cousins… they all spend ages grooming Quiddy, who quite happily sleeps through anything….



Next up was a water carnival, a parade of boats….very festive and lots of fun!


This Life of Pi one was clever, a tiger towing the boy on his raft….


The ‘Tinytanic’ was pretty well done too…towing an iceberg.


The hot favourite was a ship of pirates who shot water bombs from a huge catapult into the crowds on the beach.


My hot favourite was being able to walk down to the beach with my cousin Kate and her family.

Family times


I can understand the pull of family for many of our English friends living in NZ.
The kids are just buzzing on the fact they can walk down and have a cup of tea  (what else?) with their Great Grandmother!!  (turnng 93 on Saturday!)



We are down in Devon and enjoying being surrounded by family…with more arriving this week…



It is such a treat for the kids to get to know their extended family, spend time with them and for us to be a part of their lives for a wee while….My auntie Wendy has had the boys hard at work cooking – there are a couple of birthdays to be catering for….



I passed my wheelchair-pushing test and what fun to be able to push my Granny along “the Prom”,  especially with such gorgeous  sunshine.  Hannah has enjoyed several trip out with her Great Granny…op shopping for clothes!  (Charity shopping)




Right Royal education


I am loving having the Guardian arrive on the doormat each morning (there are some things about Britian that I just love…)

And the kids are too.  They all have a good browse through it and it has certainly been the catalyst for some great conversations.

Of course it is mildly exciting to be right here for the Royal birth and we were very close to Paddington at the time!
Today we have been treated to pages of history, information and a great visual family tree concerning the Royal family and the newest members place in it.  From looking at this we have been discussing all sorts of topics stemming from (mostly) Charlie’s questions –
The name, the fact that the two longest serving monarchs are both women, the lineage, how the crown passes.
I just love the things that are brought to the table when a new experience arrives in my kids lives.  How each one examines it and considers it in their own wayand from their own perspective.  This just adds so much to my own education and enjoyment of what is happening.

I was just happy looking at the photos and thinking how awful to have to appear a.) dressed
b.) smiling
c.) in public

the day after you have had your first baby.

When I had Hannah I truly thought that when you gave birth you just slipped back into your size ten jeans the next day and carried on.  So I gave my pregnant sister my favourite materity dungarees (yes, yes, I know….but they were so comfy…) while still  in hospital (unnecessary c-section instead of planned homebirth).
So imagine my surprise when all I could fit into was an old sarong, which I tied around my still huge and flabby middle regions.

The size ten jeans languished unused for ages.
I didn’t go anywhere for months, and most days if I got in the shower it was a miracle and then it seemed to take all day to get there….

At least I didn’t have the worlds media wanting photos of me though.
Just as well really.

And no we have not queued up to take a photo of the birth announcement on an easel outside Buckingham Palace.
Seems slightly outdated when one could just tweet it….