EU Referendum: now it is done, we are bereft

The votes have been counted, the decision made, the argument done. And now, after the weeks and months that have brought us here, there is disbelief, terror, and hurt.

While the politicians made their speeches, while they made their claims and accusations and promises and predictions, while families exchanged cross words, friends fell out and acquaintances were strengthened or nipped in the bud – while all of this, something shifted.

It was a crumbling at first, of usually solid exteriors, and a quiver in the foundations. But it didn’t stop. The cracks grew. And as we got closer to the point, of the votes being counted and the decision made, the fractures zigzagged their way across the country – into offices, social gatherings and our homes. The glue that bound us was forcibly pulled away, leaving a gash we can’t fix.

And this is why I’m hurting. We should never have been asked to choose – because in choosing, we have exposed the worst of ourselves and each other. It was a job too big for us. How could we know the facts, the answers, the future? How could we protect each other from the fear? We couldn’t. And what has been left behind, now that the votes are counted, is a country divided and reeling from being torn apart. We are bereft.

It has become the thing, to shout and fight and accuse. It has become the thing to voice prejudice and act on hatred. In this land where I was born, I see battle lines and divisions where they’d not been before. Had they been hidden from view, or have they grown from this sorry mess that has left us bereft? For now here we are, in a Britain that has woken up after harsh words uttered in haste, in the heat of the moment. Like a nightmare that comes back to you through the day, the hangover of how we acted, what we did and said, isn’t going away.

A family member was racially abused on the street this week. I have never before felt so detached from the country I have grown up in. This isn’t home. This place where the language tells stories of us and them, where the people are filled with resentment. Where dissatisfaction has bred fear and hate.

The voting is over and we can’t undo what’s been said, the words that have been shouted, the hurt that’s been felt, the seeds of hate that have been planted. I’m angry that we were made to vote. It was never going to be the answer. It has made our problems much, much worse. The vote became a vehicle for people’s anger and resentment and it ran away with it. It became a symbol of dissatisfaction over a changing world, it became an outlet for expressing disappointment, it became a beacon of possibility where people couldn’t understand how to change the lives they weren’t happy with.

I am distraught, but I am also terrified because none of us know what this will mean.

And now it is done, I look around this country, and I know I can’t forget. The scars of our referendum tell the story of a place divided, where there is bitterness instead of humanity, where prejudice is rife and where simple kindness is lacking while fear and mistrust have won. What this will do to us fills me with horror.

This morning, my children are waking up in a country which doesn’t feel like home. With my brown skin and Indian name, I’m not sure this land wants me anymore.

 

 

 

Work in progress

When do we reach a stage where we really know who we are? I used to think that by the time I was somewhere in my mid-30s I would know me and I would get me. More and more though, I’m realising I was wrong. Perhaps we’re always destined to be works in progress – shifting, changing, moving, going back and forth and around depending on that day, that year, that memory.

There’s something that happens as you get to that point where it looks like you might finally have your shit together. There’s the house, the job, the children, the husband, the realisation finally that hair oil tames the frizz and life’s too short for shoes that rub. Yes, there’s all that. There’s the seeming certainty over what you’re doing and where you’re going – at least on the surface of it all. But, the more of that settled-ness and decisiveness that there is – the more introspection there is too.

And this is when you realise, you’ll always be changing, becoming, falling apart, trying to be fixed, and adapting and learning all over again. As life happens around us, as we navigate it all and look back as well as forwards, we are of course going to change what we see, how it makes us feel, what it makes us do. How we might be or respond or hope or feel might be completely different from one week to the next.

Because, after all, we’re growing, learning, changing and still finding our way. I wouldn’t want it to be different really. There’s still so much to get my head round, there’s still so much to happen and make happen. I hope life as it goes does make me do things differently next time, see things differently, teach my children differently, be differently.

This process, at the moment, hurts a bit. But I’m taking comfort in knowing that there won’t be a goal or an end point or a resolution I either succeed at reaching or fail at attaining. There’s nowhere I need to get to. It’s not just me that’s the work in progress, it’s all that’s around me too. I’m going to take my time.

Excited for all that is ahead

Milin edit

When the letter landed on our doorstep, I knew it was something that mattered. The handwritten address had my married name on it, which I’ve only recently started using. It wasn’t junk mail or a circular. Someone had purposefully posted this.

It was a letter from Milin’s new school. The little primary up the road which had been our first choice and where he will start reception in September. Come for a meeting, the letter told us. Tuesday, 7pm.

And so we rushed home from work, got the kids bathed, scoffed a supermarket pizza, got Jasmin to sleep and Milin ready for books – and left them with my parents and made it up the hill and into the building with two minutes to spare.

I’d changed my trousers, touched up my make-up from the day’s smudges, and put on perfume. It felt like our first day. I wanted to look right, but I wasn’t sure what that was. I wanted people to like me, but I was too scared to talk to them.

We walked into the school hall and sat in the second row so I could see the overhead projector. I’d forgotten my glasses. I searched the faces of the parents while we sat in rows, waiting for the head teacher to begin her talk and hopefully reassure us: your children will be fine. Would these be the parents we made friends with over the years, who we helped out with drop-offs, who we organised summer fairs with, who we kept in contact with via text because we worked to different schedules and only did the school run on opposite days.

We were given an envelope each. It had details of our child’s class, the uniform, stay and play sessions, start times for breakfast clubs, information about school lunches. I wanted to cry.

I found out I was pregnant with Milin almost exactly five years ago. Tony and I had just got married and I was a successful and serious New Zealand newspaper journalist, life was fun – work hard, play hard, shop hard. Weekends were spent running in the bush, swimming in the sea and then drinking coffee while pouring over the papers and choosing what to cook or where to eat. I hadn’t thought I’d find myself sitting in a school hall in England so soon, raising my hand and asking how best to prepare my child for reception. But that’s where we are, because in that five years, we have been lucky enough to have Milin.

He’s changed us beyond recognition. And while in my daydreams he is still a tiny newborn with goggly eyes who seems feather-light and barely makes a sound – when I look at him really I see my child is on the verge of becoming a school boy. He runs fast, he speaks with confidence, he makes his own decisions. He doesn’t need me for everything. He can go most of the day without me. He still asks for me when he falls or is tired or feeling sad for some reason. But, really, he is quite content playing Lego, building dens, chasing friends, and playing out action adventures involving superheroes.

Teach them to dress themselves, to recognise their own shoes, to help themselves to water when they need it – it is time for them to become independent. That’s what we were told in our meeting. I wanted to cry, selfishly, because I don’t want Milin to need me, or want me, any less.

But then we talked about how, in reception, the children grow. They get quicker at putting their socks on after PE. They write their names, they read. They choose what they want for lunch. They run around the playground, they meet their friends at the gate after having to wait all weekend to see them, they discover writing and stories and wrap their heads around totally new concepts. Slowly, my sadness and worry (how would he cope? would he be scared? would he be able to dress himself after PE?) – that sadness and worry turned to excitement.

I hope that school is full of laughter and fun as well as learning. I hope reception is pretty much all about fun in fact – he will have plenty of time to learn. And actually, now I see it. Reception is going to be amazing. There will be days when he is sad or frightened or worried or scared or out of his depth or lonely. But there will also be so much, much more than his days hold now. Lessons, games, adventures, friends. Life.

My little four-year-old is going to school. He’s starting something new and he’s about to have his mind opened to a big wide world that he currently has so little idea of. I’m excited for him.Milin Paddington edit

“So never stop fighting”

The pain and trauma in the 12-page victim impact statement written by Brock Turner’s victim is harrowing. I implore you: read it all. Then read every word again and share it.

I hope you are moved to tears too. Not because you are triggered – although more than one in ten of us will be. But because you are angry and sad. And then because you are hopeful.

It is brave, and strong, and – almost inconceivably – cause for belief that our culture could change. Because every time we read it and share it and talk about it and amplify this courageous woman’s voice – we become braver and stronger.

Read it and you will be repulsed not only by what happened on what should have been just another Saturday night, but also by what followed. If you ever want a demonstration of the old boys’ club looking after its own, this is it. It is a disgusting example of what happens when you’re a wealthy, white middle class male who did something horrific. This is rape culture.

In America and the UK, much has been made of the rape crisis on campus. But this is more than a crisis. When a young man is given a six-month sentence for rape because it might otherwise have ‘a severe impact’ on him, when that man cannot acknowledge that what he did was wrong; when he tries to blame a woman, when he sees his mistake as having drunk too much, when he cannot see that he was never given consent, when he can still be portrayed as a man who shouldn’t have his ‘promise’ impeded, when his actions are excused by his father – this is rape culture.

In news reports following the attack, his sporting achievements were listed. He continues to be talked about as a promising athlete. Our media perpetuates a notion of disbelief. The promising college student. The rapist. Actually, they are the same thing. And for as long as society continues to separate them when talking or thinking of the Brock Turners, there is an enormous problem. For as long as the myth stands, that boys will be boys, but nice boys don’t rape – the problem is compounded and the culture continues to breed.

While Brock Turner was written about as having promise, the woman he raped was referred to as an ‘unconscious intoxicated woman’. The court wanted to know all about her past. Not her promise. Which Brock Turner treated with complete disdain at a time when she could not say yes.

I am in complete awe of her bravery. To stand in court and read her 35-minute statement to the face of her attacker, to fight for a year, to do this not just for herself but for the girls everywhere that she says she now stands with: this is courage. And it is by us reading her statement, sharing it, pressing it into the hands of our girlfriends and reading it aloud to our sons – it is in this way that we will perhaps find an inkling of hope. Because by being with her as she is with us, it is in this way that we could see change. We could reach a place where our daughters are never blamed for not being able to say yes or no.

 

 

Just one night

Novotel paddington central with kids

There’s something lovely about getting away for a mini break. I’m not sure if it’s the utter luxury of not having to make your own bed or cook dinner, or perhaps it’s something simpler – like watching a very large tv screen in a hotel room – but whatever it is, a short change of scene can sometimes go a long way to helping you reset and feel refreshed.

Tony and I have always been big fans of mini breaks. Before we had Milin and Jasmin we loved to head out of town at the weekend and book a rental home by the sea, indulge in a little luxury break, or even spend a night under the stars in our teeny tent. Getting away from home makes you switch off somehow, and whether we were exploring or relaxing, alone or away with friends, we always enjoyed having that time together away from the stresses of daily life.

Since having Milin and Jasmin, we’ve tended either to do full, long weekends away or short breaks further afield. This weekend though, the four of us spent a night at Novotel Paddington in London and Tony and I realised that we must be through the hardest baby years because we can suddenly go away again for just one night and it doesn’t feel like too much work. (This is very, very exciting for us!)

mini break Pink Lining black cabs holdallNovotel Paddington roof bar

We were treated to our amazing stay at Novotel and while it wasn’t a long way away from home (just a tube ride, in fact), it felt like we really were on holiday. Milin asked me this gem on the Picadilly line on the way there:

“Mummy, what language do they speak in Paddington?”

Which I guess summed up the trip for the children. To them, it was a holiday. It was an adventure. It didn’t matter that we were only an hour away from home. We packed a bag, got on the tube, and went somewhere new.

We arrived to a luxurious suite where treats awaited (the macarons were divine). Tony and I had coffees, the children ate chocolates, and we then had a dip in the pool. We had it all to ourselves, and Tony even found time for a sauna and steam. I felt so relaxed suddenly that it was hard to believe I’d only been rushing around the house sweeping up the kitchen floor only hours ago. When we went down for dinner, I turned off my phone and left it behind. Instant holiday.

Novotel paddington welcomeNovotel Paddington kids bedsNovotel Paddington swimming pol

Novotel Paddington restaurantNovotel Paddington kids restaurantNovotel Paddington Central bedNovotel Paddington central viewNovotel Paddington relax

I don’t think I’ve stayed in a Novotel before, but the little details were lovely. There were gifts for the children on arrival, the huge bath was amazing, the food in the restaurant was superb (prawn tacos were the highlight), and the view from our room on the eleventh floor was enough to keep the kids happy because they could simply watch the trains go in and out of Paddington for hours.

It’s funny how being in a part of town you wouldn’t normally be in can turn you into a tourist. We spent a morning walking along the canals of Little Venice, holding hands, being silly, and generally feeling happy.

Paddington bear statueLittle Venice Paddington canals walk

Back at the hotel, the children joined in with Novotel’s Superheroes day and loved every second. It was the perfect end to the weekend – cake-making, mask-making, general hero-stuff – they were very happy.

When we got home, Tony and I realised we’d not said a stern word over the whole duration of the break. We’d not taken Jasmin’s buggy and the children had done a fair amount of walking, but they’d been superstars. We’d not heard a grumble, they’d not played up – life certainly is getting easier as they’re getting older.

We came back rested. (Black out blinds are amazing – the kids slept in, in their own beds!) And we came back relaxed and refreshed. Life has been busy and stressful recently. It’s amazing how just one night away can help you recharge.

Novotel Paddington superheroes

 *Thank you to Novotel Paddington where we were treated to our stay.

Nurturing self belief (in stroppy toddlers)

two year old nurturing self belief

My two-year-old is nearly three, and her birthday is approaching with a noisy stamping of feet and swishing of princess dresses. She knows it is her “three birthday in July”, and she seems convinced that this milestone will make her as grown up as her (four-year-old) brother. Suddenly her words are full of conviction, her opinions are uttered with unwavering strength. She knows exactly what she wants and she won’t settle for anything less than getting it. Now.

And I love this.

Because at some point between three and 30, my daughter will learn to say sorry. Too often. She will learn that her opinions aren’t always as important as someone else’s. She will learn that what she wants isn’t necessarily hers to get. She will learn to settle.

Somehow, in the next two and a half decades, my feisty, strong-willed daughter will lose her complete belief in herself, her conviction will falter and the doubt will set in. Her confident foot stamp will disappear, her statements will become questions and her certainty will slowly be eroded. Her determination, her straightforward understanding of achievement, and her simple acceptance of her own success, will diminish.

This won’t happen because she is just growing up. It will happen because she will become a woman.

two year old nurturing self belief

And so this is my job – for now at least, and as a start at least – to stop this journey into the womanhood I know. Instead, there has to a be a path where she retains the self esteem and belief she has now.

In the next 30 years, I want my daughter to continue to be self-righteous and determined. I want her to keep her unfaltering self belief. I want her to shout about her opinions and not give up until she gets her way. I don’t want her to give in, I don’t want her to apologise, and I don’t want her to think that someone else is more deserving of something which she should have equal access to. I want her chances to be fair, but above that, I want her to believe in herself and her rights.

Somewhere, somehow, after we are two or three or eight or twelve or seventeen or twenty two, we start to see our place differently in the world. Instead of the world revolving around us, we become a spectator with a restricted view. As women, we apologise for getting in the way of the main act, we tiptoe around the edges while doing what we can to support the performance. Our subconscious assigns us these spaces over the years, after years spent quietly absorbing the facts around where/how/what we should be.

So no more.

My two-year-old who is nearly three but thinks she is all grown up, carries inside her a beautiful, angry, insistence on her place as centre stage. And so it shall remain. Because I will spend the next 30 years telling her that she has nothing to be sorry for, and she has as much entitlement to that spot as anyone else. Her voice should be heard, her dressing-up dress should be seen as she swishes it in a strop, and her self belief and confidence should remain with her for always.

This is my job. I have no idea how to do it.

two year old nurturing self belief

Days off…

I work four days a week. It’s a sometimes hard, sometimes easy, sometimes I wish I had more hours at work to get everything done, sometimes I wish I had more hours at home with my children. Actually, I always wish that last thing. But, four days it is. Monday through Thursday, we leave the house at 7am, I kiss the children goodbye at 8am, I’m at my desk at 8.30am, there til 5pm, and kissing the children hello again at 5.30pm. It is our rat-race. But it could be so much worse. I’m grateful for my short commute. I’m grateful that my employer lets me pick up what I can’t do before the run home at night when the world sleeps. And I’m grateful for three glorious days off in a row with my babies.

And then there’s bank holidays. An extra Monday off is blissful. It means four days in a row with Milin and Jasmin. It made up for me not taking any time off this half term. (Couldn’t logistically be away from work, didn’t have much leave owing, wasn’t needed at home as Tony is around, etc, etc).

And in our four days off in a row the children made a point of telling me repeatedly how much they loved it when I was home. “Never go back to work Mummy”, Jasmin said. “I love it when you don’t go to work Mummy” Milin said. I felt guilty and lucky and happy and said in that way that I never knew before motherhood tore me in all directions at the same time.

What did we do that made them so joyful? Simple things. We saw a superb theatre production of Little Red Riding Hood at the Arts Depot in north London – a venue that never fails to amaze me with its pick of shows for children. This one didn’t disappoint and the children loved it. (I felt a little bad afterwards in the bar, two drinks in with a friend, when Jasmin screamed her head off because at 6pm she really was ready to go home, but, it was my Friday too, right?)

Arts Depot Arts Depot

And we went to ballet and soft play and Milin and I talked about Star Wars over a gingerbread biscuit. We went on the commuter boat along the Thames from Vauxhall to Bankside and waved at people on the river cruise – and clapped when they waved back. We had our first barbecue in this home, we wandered round the Tate Modern and sighed at all the stairs and crowds, we had pizzas and coffee dates, we hung out with grandparents, we hung out with friends and while the kids played on the bouncy castle in the garden the grown ups drank too much wine, again, …. so we basically just did stuff. But that one extra day off – it made me feel very grateful of time with my children.

Pizza Express South Bank babycinno London River cruise Thames commuter boat barbecue Jasmin

(And on the nights they’re only going to sleep at 9pm because there is no nursery tomorrow, I must remember these peaceful and good times.)

We deserve to be safe here

Working mum on laptop with child sleeping

Reclaim the internet…

There’s a slow and horrible realisation that creeps up on you when you’re trolled. First, it’s the sensation of feeling a little bit dirty – as if you’ve been tainted by someone else’s filthy words. When you can shake that off, there’s the anger that comes with knowing that someone has been so cowardly they’ve targeted you anonymously. There’s also sadness and frustration, because it does hurt, no matter how many times it happens. And even though the perpetrators are usually anonymous, it’s deeply personal, because it’s an intrusion into the space you had made your own. It makes you question yourself, even though you know it shouldn’t.

The first abuse I received for my writing wasn’t online. As a young, female news reporter with brown skin I was always easy to find in newsrooms. There was the skinhead who came to the office of the first daily paper I worked at. He came to find me after I’d reported on the racist murder his brother had just received a life sentence for. And it wasn’t always about the colour of my skin. It didn’t matter that I’d won a national press award and been named environment reporter of the year – climate science, or the impact of dairying on waterways were apparently too complex for my brain. The smears and personal attacks came in the form of letters addressed to the editor, to me personally on the newsdesk, and then, of course, in forums and comments online.

The worst of it came after I wrote about feminism. Among the trolls was one who told me that he’d like to tie my tubes with barbed wire. He isn’t worth me remembering him. But I do. Because neither he, nor anyone else, will make me change my mind about how important it continues to be that we call this behaviour out and refuse to let it silence us.

As women, we are subjected to an onslaught of abuse online. New research by Demos and cited by Reclaim the Internet showed that in a three week period last month, 6,500 users received 10,000 misogynistic and abusive tweets, just in the UK. That’s phenomenal, and disgusting, and horrific. We are targets for harassment, purely because we are women. This harassment we have always seen has moved over to the web, and on this infinite cyber playing field, we cannot afford to lose this fight.

Figures like these show that we are not safe. They dispel completely the myth that online abuse is rare or confined to specific sites or areas. Still, we cannot allow any level of this abuse to be considered in any way acceptable. At its very, very least, it denotes a complete lack of empathy, it legitimises the denigration of women, it extends our treatment as objects, it builds on a cycle that presents us as targets. At its worst, it can have horrendous consequences on its victims. It can perpetuate the abusive behaviour it seeks to normalise.

We all have an equal right to the internet. We have the right to a space where we can make our voices heard, free from fear, free from abuse. We haven’t had the freedom to make our voices heard for too long. We have to ensure that it is ours to keep now. We have been marginalised and quietened and pushed in some ways into these corners of the internet where we are talking. But we have to keep using our voices, here in these corners for a start – because if we don’t won’t be heard outside them. And if we’re not heard, we’re not equal.

So how do we do it? We keep on talking. We keep on telling our stories. We keep on sharing our stories. We keep on calling out abuse. We keep on.

My children don’t know what the internet is yet. They’re adept at swiping their fingers on the iPad to watch another YouTube rendition of Let It Go, but their understanding of the web doesn’t go much further than that. In the next few years though, they will discover an entire virtual world at their fingertips. My two-year-old and four-year-old will in a few years time, I have no doubt, be using apps and social media platforms that I have never heard of and am unlikely to ever get my head around. I want my son and my daughter to use them without fear. I want them to live online, not in the edges, in the quiet corners, but in the spaces they choose and in the ways they choose. I want them to talk loudly, to share their views, to find a platform that is theirs, and that is free from abuse.

I want them to be safe here.

 

Motherhood: now I am lost

Milin and Jasmin

There were delays on the Northern Line when I found them. I’d shoved my arm into the depths of my handbag; I was in up to my elbow, and rummaging around for my headphones. But I pulled out Jasmin’s Finding Nemo knickers instead. And at that moment, which was the same moment that the tube pulled in and I realised I’d need to push my way on because of the delays, I also felt like I was in pieces.

There are no more nappies. Not stuffed into drawers in the hall, in the bathroom, in the bedrooms, in the lounge, in the emergency bag in the car, in the nappy bags, in the nursery spare clothes bags.

I should be glad, I know, that we can pass on the 200 or so size fives I’d bought and never needed. And, I imagine, I will be once I appreciate how much easier life is without a nappy bag to pack and carry around. For now though, these signs that show me how much my children are growing up have knocked me a little off balance.

Milin, without us noticing, has stopped taking his beloved bunny to bed. He’s not been able to put himself to sleep without it since he was eight months old. Until this week. What will we do with those seven, faded, threadbare, bunnies? I always put one in the washing machine each morning. But this week, there hasn’t been any need.

I can’t, at the moment, escape the big and little markers such as these. They are the objects and forms and events and actions which are tangible proof of life with a two and four year old. Jasmin is doing an extra session at nursery each week, Milin tells me about the rallies he and his friends can manage at tennis, they can both dress themselves. We’ve accepted a school place for Milin, Jasmin will move into the ‘big children’ class in September. They are not babies.

But it is these two big milestones that have thrown me. Saying goodbye to nappies and to bunnies has made me realise – I might not be new to this thing that is motherhood anymore, but I will still be shaken by it, every day, as life changes and we grow.

I’m still able to be left feeling bereft when they barely say goodbye at the nursery door. They’re too busy, ready to go and have fun. As I watch them feed and dress themselves I want to delight in their independence – but instead I’m alone. I wish I would celebrate that they are growing and becoming braver. But each new feat brings a longing for what we’d come to know.

It’s around five years since I found out that I was pregnant with Milin. In those five years, life has revolved around my children – it always will, but our positions are shifting. Soon, I’ll add on an extra half day at work, they’ll add on hours at school and nursery. They’ll become more of their own people. Without me. But this is not just about their independence. Because really, every day of the last five years has involved a crumbling of the pieces that hold things together.

Motherhood has left me grappling at what’s left (of me). As much as I embrace that I am a mother, as much as I know that my identity will forever be intertwined with the existence of my children – I am lost.

With Jasmin’s Finding Nemo knickers in my hand, I stood on the tube platform this morning wondering, searching. I couldn’t find the stable ground. I am a mother who misses her babies but is overjoyed at her growing up children. I am a woman who no longer has the drive or career that defined the decade before her pregnancy. I’ve come to fear mortality, worry about the future, stress about stability, question myself endlessly. I’ve lost confidence in what I know, what I can do, and what I am.

Five years ago, life was lived in a naive state of optimism, of excitement for future achievements. I had ambition, dreams – I still do – but the successes are harder, the battles are not mine alone. They feel beyond me, too big for me and far outside my reach.

Motherhood did this. I was just getting to know who I was when everything changed. Five years on, it’s still changing, and I’m just about keeping my head above water, grabbing at the strands that resemble the things I know. They’re moving though. Now, they always will.

Milin and Jasminhttps://www.facebook.com/mummysaysmusingsonmotherhood

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Our week in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

Corralejo beach main town

The Canary Islands have never featured on my ‘places I want to visit’ list. I’d never even considered them for a holiday, in fact, until a few months ago. But when I started looking for family-friendly holidays in Europe for a one-week break in April, they seemed like an obvious choice.

With Tony away for the whole of this month, I wanted to take the children somewhere to distract them a little from missing him. I wanted somewhere warm, easy to travel to, not too far away, and somewhere we could have a relaxing, stress-free break. It needed to be relatively inexpensive too.

I could have picked any of the islands really but Fuerteventura stood out because of it’s stunning sandy beaches. There are miles and miles of golden sand dunes, and calm shallow and clear waters as well as surf spots.

The island is only a four-hour flight away and there’s no time difference – this made things really easy for the children. The flight was long enough to be exciting, but not too long for them to get fed up. And being on the same time zone meant we had no jet lag (or early mornings!) to contend with.

I picked an all-inclusive resort because I wanted a real break – and cooking their meals and tidying up after them was exactly the kind of reality I wanted to escape. As neither are great eaters, all-inclusive hotels take some of the stress of dining out away. It’s funny how an all-inclusive break in Kos two years ago changed my perspective of this as a way to holiday. It’s still not my first choice, bur for now and possible the next couple of years, it does make life easier.

I was sad to miss out on the local bars and restaurants this time – but the break was about doing things the easy way, and this meant eating at the hotel mostly. It also meant more time for the children just to have fun. (I did, however, manage a little shopping trip without them one afternoon, and a decent walk to explore the town alone one morning. I also fitted in a good few hours of book-reading as the sea air and swimming tired them out each day.)

My parents came along (there’s no way I wanted to negotiate a trip on my own with Milin and Jasmin – I would have needed a holiday to recover!), and we had a perfect week in the sun. It wasn’t too hot – the temperature on Fuerteventura in April is surely the pick of Europe – between 22-25 most days, with mornings and evenings cool enough for me to wear trousers and a cardigan and nights cool enough for comfortable sleeps. Sea breezes kept us from getting to hot in the day too.

Milin and Jasmin made the most of the children’s pool and Jasmin showed me how she could swim with just a ring around her. I never take her swimming as she goes when I’m at work, so seeing this was amazing for me. Milin spent the entire week squirting people with a water pistol and running around the pool, in and out of the water, having adventures.

A beautiful lovely sandy playground at our resort was also a hit, and Milin loved the kids club and mini disco each night. I loved his moves – and will never forget his ‘chicken dance’. I blame Tony’s genes though for that! They made friends and basically spent the week being happy. They came home knowing how to count to three in Spanish too, as well as say a sprinkling of words. I wonder how long they’ll remember them for…

The sea was perfect swimming temperature for me, although to cold for the children. But the amazingly clear waters meant they could see fish swimming near the shore as they paddled – which they thought was brilliant. Most of our beach days were spent exploring rock pools and looking for treasure. They thought this was the most exciting thing. And, actually, it was fun, hanging out with them and being adventurers.

They managed to fit in the ice cream buffet almost every day, twice a day – and I figured that since we were on holiday, why not? We stayed at Corralejo – a pretty little fishing village with beautiful sandy beaches and rocky areas as well for exploring.

I felt so lucky by the end of the week that we’d been able to have such a relaxing week. I’d never have imagined, even a few months ago, we’d go to the Canary Islands for that – but actually it was almost perfect. We just wished Tony could have been there.

Corralejo town beach photo Corralejo town main beach photo Corralejo fishing boats photo Corralejo yellow houses photo Corralejo kids pool photo Corralejo rock pools photo Corralejo fishing village photo Corralejo family holiday photo Corralejo cactus photo Corralejo beach

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