Barcelona – travel with kids

I have shared a few pictures of our recent trip to Barcelona with the kids. The pictures show – as pictures tend to do – happy kids in a beautiful European city. I’ve always tried to be authentic in writing about travel with babies and travel with kids. I’ve recently added to my social media presence by joining  instagram– lots of fun so far, but it has reminded me again about the importance of authenticity online.

Barcelona – authentic notes on a city break with kids

Who: me: mum: Sandy the carrier of Finn.

Jon: Dad: husband: aka the carrier of bags.

Rafa: the five year old who can not stand still.

Finn: the three year old who is still not very well toilet trained.

When: Three nights during the October half term 2018

The Cheat sheet:

We are not very good with 24hr clocks.

Time at the airport is always longer and more stressful than you think it will be.

Kids are basically happy to be taken to familiar places: playgrounds and the beach were their highlights.

Cultural attractions can be bribed with ice-cream.

I carried Finn in the harness at various points, this allowed us to do big touristy days out with a three year old, who can walk quite a long way, but would have struggled to keep up otherwise.

Picnics are winners.

Tapas Bars are winners the most.

Three days is a great amount of time in which to see the main city attractions.

A city break is far too busy to come back relaxed – I came back with a cold.

Top Tip: Short city breaks with kids are great family time. Families are loud, exhausting, funny, stressful, grubby and very rarely perfect.

The truth behind the insta perfect moment:

img_3070
my insta perfect moment

I love this picture, it was taken by my husband just as we were heading off for our ramble in the Gothic Quarter. We had checked out of our accommodation and had all our luggage with us. Within two hours of the picture being taken Finn’s legs were tired and I put him in the harness. Jon took my bag along with his own and Rafas. Finn had a huge wee in the harness, soaking through his clothes, the padded seat of the harness, and my dress. Thank goodness for dark colours.

For more authentic travel with kids and babies check out You Won’t Remember This- travel with babies

The long version of our family trip to Barcelona:

Departure:

We had an evening flight on the Tuesday. Not ideal for the kids, but the most affordable option. All the packing got done after lunch. We just did carry on bags so we could get away from the airport quickly. We were packed, had an early dinner and were about to settle into killing time before going to the airport, when Jon got a text reminder about our departure time from the airline – which was two hours earlier than the departure time I had in my head. We scurried about got shoes on, double checked passports, had a final wee and headed off to the airport tram in a far less relaxed state of mind than we had planned.

I reminded Jon that I should never be trusted with 24 hour time – but we were on our way. Yippee.

At the airport:

Check in was straightforward as we had no bags to check and we got there early enough for there to be no queues. We got through security etc. with no more hassle than the usual stressed parent trying to keep two small children in a straight line while juggling passports, our bags, kids bags, toys, jackets and jumpers. And then we were back to killing time. It was at this point of the trip that I came up with a new family rule: superglue – which meant hold my hand and don’t let go… or it was supposed to… now it means walk sort of near me… or it was supposed to.

There were two play areas: one near gate nineteen, one near gate two. Our flight did not have a gate yet. We took a punt and headed to the play area near gate nineteen. It was relatively quiet and the boys played noisily, and mostly entertained themselves. I watched for the gate to come up on the departures screen. Jon caught up on work on the airport wifi.

The gate got announced. It was two. We gathered up all the boys toys, our bags and other debris. I put Finn into the harness on my back. We hiked to the other end of the airport, and waited again.

The Flight:

Direct from Edinburgh to Barcelona. I was seated in front of Jon and the boys. Finn had reached his tired threshold and cried and cried and cried very noisily to sit next to me. The staff found other seats to move the two people next to me and moved Finn. He was happy, and after take off he went to sleep. Before we landed I had to move him so that the armrests could go down. He cried and cried and cried.

When we got off the plane I put Finn into the harness again – on my front this time. He went back to sleep.

Our Accommodation:

In the Gothic Quarter. We looked at various options but decided central was a good plan for such a short trip. We arranged a late check in with our accommodation. When the taxi dropped us off we had to search around a little bit to find the late arrival instructions. We were let in through the stunning foyer by a very kind man and shown to our room. Basic, clean, shared facilities and with windows out over a laneway with a very noisy bar.

Eventually everyone went to sleep. Then the garbage trucks came. Then we went to sleep again.

Day one:

I woke up rather groggily. Jon found peppermint tea. It helped. The boys were very excitable. The slight change in time zones helped us out a bit – it was not as super early in Barcelona as it would have been in Edinburgh, but I was still very aware that everybody else in our accommodation was going to hear all their carry on. We went out in search of breakfast and coffee and found a cafe across the street. Fresh juice, pastries, coffee and more coffee for me set us up for the day. We made this our regular breakfast place for the whole trip.

Kids in the traditional entryway to a building in the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona.
Grand entry to our accommodation. Gothic Quarter, Barcelona

We tried to plot our day over coffee. The weather report said this was going to be the sunniest day, so we went for beach, and cable car. We went back to our room. Packed everything for a day into one backpack and headed out. Got a block away and I realised I was going to need my hat. Jon went back for it. We headed off again. We realised that Rafa and I had hats, but Finn and Jon did not. We bought hats from a street seller and wandered on. We could see the cable car in the distance, but managed to walk the wrong way to get there. We looked at a lot of very expensive boats. Finn got tired and I put him in the harness on my back and carried him.

We found the Cable car. Win- both kids were free! I suspect that there would be times of the year when the queue for this attraction would be very long. Even in October it was not quick. There is a queue to buy the tickets. A queue to get into the lift and a queue once you are up the top of the cable car tower thing. There are also great views of the city and clean toilets to use while you wait. There was quite a lot of ‘why is it taking so long’ type complaining. Finn had a wee in the toilet – win.

We all loved being in the cable car, seeing the city far far down below.

There had been a lot of ‘I need an Ice cream’ type complaining through the morning. Ice cream was promised when we got to the top. Ice cream was delivered. And fries. And more coffee. This was our most touristy eating destination for the whole trip. Good views though.

Travel with small kids really needs to be timed around when they need feeding. Eating in Spain (according to the guidebooks) needs to be timed around siesta. With an eye on the clock we explored a bit, tried to keep the kids out of the fountain, tried to keep the kids out of the dirt, and then decided to head down to find some proper lunch near the beach.

More queues. More complaining. Lots of ‘I don’t want lunch I want to go to the beach.’

We decided on a picnic lunch via a beachside supermarket rather than risk the disquiet of a sit down meal. Bread, samami, cheese, a cold drink. As soon as we hit the sand Finn sat down and started digging. Rafa ran off towards the water. We found a bare patch of sand. We gathered up the boys and attmpted to feed and sun cream them. Attempted to get them to stay out of the water until we had something to eat. Attempted to keep the sand out of the food. Attempted to get the massage ladies, sarrong salesman, beer salesman, mojito salesman to leave us alone. We failed.

We had fun.

 

Later on we scraped as much sand as possible off ourselves and wandered through a new neighbourhood. We found a coffee place next to a local playground. The boys played, we revived. It was tempting to stop and eat again, but it was decided (by me) that it was not quite warm enough any more to sit outside. There was much complaining about leaving the playground.

We found a tapas place with friendly staff. We ate lots of tasty food. I had a cava. It was a perfect meal. Unfortunately we can never go back. Prior to departure Rafa stole Finns chocolate cake and destroyed it under the table, then Finn had a wee on the floor. We paid. I realised we had no more dry clothes for Finn. He went into the harness with wet jeans. We walked home just as most of the city was heading out for the night.

Day 2.

This was our sight seeing day. I wanted to see Sagrada Familia and Park Güell aka lots of Gaudi. We decided on the hop on hop off bus as best for little legs and seeing as much as possible of the city. On one of our hop on hop off moments we crossed Catalonia Square and the boys encountered a mob of pigeons. Then the rain came. We dashed to the bus and clambered, avoiding the downpour: or so we thought. The open rooftop of the first part of our journey had been replaced with a canvas roof… with many holes, and the windows were still open. We drove through Barcelona spotting notable sights, avoiding drips, and being soaked with dumps of water everytime we went around a corner.

I loved it.

At Sagrada Familia we had our first proper taste of big tour groups and crowds. We decided not go inside, but ogled the building from outside.

When we had had our fill of the spires and cranes we wandered back towards the bus, and sheltered under some trees. It was a good day for umbrella and rain coat salesmen, though presumably they find plenty of other things to sell on sunny days. Finn chose that moment to have a wee in his shorts. We decided that since he was already soaking wet from the rain we would leave him as he was.

The rain continued when we got back on the bus and the decision to sit in the relative dry of the downstairs of the bus was unanimous. The drop off point for Park Güell was actually nowhere near the park. This did mean we were able to find a local place to have lunch. It also meant a rather steep walk on tired legs. The rain had stopped and we kept them going up the hill with the promise of a playground.

There is part of Park Güell which is paid, and part of it which is open to the public to wander about in. Jon stayed with the boys while they played in the playground – which was in a foresty sort of spot but really could have been anywhere. I considered going into the paying section, but the timed entry meant it would have been about an hour until I could go in and I was conscious of the kids energy levels. I opted instead for walking about the curved, sculptural paths that wound up and up and up.

It was great to get a feel for this amazing park at my own pace, see the views out over the city and glimpse the famous mosaics. When I got back the boys were nowhere to be seen.

They eventually returned from a bathroom visit: clean trousers were required this time.

By the time we got back on the bus energy was low. We watched destinations and neighbourhoods slip by, read about their highlights in our guidebook, but even the football stadium got only a murmur of interest. We were done.

Back in the Gothic Quarter we glimpsed La Rambla but managed to find smaller, quieter streets to wander down. We were too early, or late for one or two food places, but we found a tapas bar open, got good chat from the staff and demolished a lot of meats, breads, cheese and tortilla. We managed to persuade the boys to have an after dinner meander with the promise of icecream and got a look at the promenading locals.

We headed back to our room about when everyone else was heading out.

Day three:

I think after a few nights in unfamiliar beds we all slept best on the last night- an unavoidable issue of the short city break. By the time you have adapted to your new surroundings it is time to go. Without particularly planning it our last day was also our earliest start, so we were up, breakfasted, packed and out the door in record time. With a late afternoon flight we decided to take all of our luggage with us for the day rather than backtracking.

We kept it local and explored the sights of the Gothic Quarter. I was impressed with the boys behaviour in the Barcelona Cathedral. Rafa was in awe of the statue of Jesus on the cross and Finn wanted me to find mothers and babies for him to look at. They were actually scared of the geese – a famed highlight for children in the cathedral. After some more Gothic sight seeing all the boys really wanted to do was to find somewhere to stop and play with their toys.

I carried Finn again and we made our way though the Gothic maze to the Plaza Real getting tangled up in tour groups as we meandered around looking for sights listed in our guide book, and spotting other things. Finn had a huge wee down my back. Nice.

We camped out at Plaze Real by the fountain, putting dry clothes on Finn, people watching, soaking up the atmosphere and for those who needed it drying out our clothes in the sunshine. The small boys were delighted to get into their superhero game and oblivious to the selfies they bombed. The square is lined with outdoor eating possibilities. Being close to La Rambla made us dubious about committing to eating there, but eventually those of us who do not wee in our own pants made the decision to have an eating and bathroom stop.

We continued with our attempt to eat as much Patatas Bravas as possible and tried to get some calories into the children who were in a run around, be loud and complain sort of mood.

The thing that made this meal a winner was the street performers. I am not keen on street performers in general but this group of young, fit men did a very inspiring street acrobatic performance. T he boys actually sat still and watched it. I am ashamed to say we had no local currency on us having donated the last of our Euros at the cathedral, so these admirable performers got shrapnel which was a mixture of British and Australian currency.

Train to the airport:

After lunch we meandered towards the train station. Finn ended up back in the harness, with the promise that ‘I won’t wee on you any-more mummy.’ He was asleep on my back before we entered the underground. The staff at Catalonia Square told us exactly where to change trains and mid afternoon on the Friday it was not overcrowded. The train to airport option was a good one. Like going into the underground in London there were a few long tunnels and perhaps the longest, deepest escalators I’ve ever been on. Finn woke up on the second part of the journey and went into play mode with Rafa. We were just congratulating ourselves on a drama free airport journey when Finn had another huge wee, flooding the floor of the train. It was amusing to see how quickly everyone evacuated that end of the train. We pulled out our travel towels and mopped down the area and changed Finn again. I decided that at this point he could go into a pull up.

The return journey.

With non of the exhilarating ‘we are going on a holiday’ vibes the return journey was not much fun. We were all out of energy, the plane was delayed which made our quite good on paper arrival time really rather late. Jon found a power point at the airport and the boys watched a movie on his laptop- first screen time for the whole trip. The flight was pretty painless. This time it was Rafas turn to fall asleep. Finn chatted the whole way.

Back home we were thankfull again that we did not have to wait for bags to come out, but the customs arrival hall was as tiresome as ever. I was again pleased to have the harness to put Finn into. He fell asleep on the tram home.

barcelona_travel_with_kids
If you love it Pin It. ta.

In conclusion, a reminder: Short city breaks with kids are great family time. Families are loud, exhausting, funny, stressful, grubby and very rarely perfect.

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How to Act like a Traveller at Home

Host travellers via Airbnb- If you have the space spruce up your spare room and create a hosting profile on airbnb – it is a great way to bring the travel vibe into your home. You can sit down to breakfast with travellers from all over the world – just like being at a backpackers – at home. And it can help you make some extra money to go towards your next holiday.
 

Travel Insider Tip: I love picking up little independent travel guides for my home city that are based on interviews with locals – always makes you discover new corners of your hometown!

Kathi Kamleitner – WatchMeSee

Turn off the Data on your phone – Chances are when you travel you pare your expenses down as much as possible – and paying for roaming data overseas is not cheap. Your travel self relies on wifi, paper maps, talking to your spouse over breakfast and looking out the window of the train. Give it a go at home (occasionally) and see how it feels. You will probably be a bit jittery at first – but perhaps the unconnected lifestyle will grow on you and you might just make some connections and memories offline. All the better to share on the social media of your choice later on.
 

Travel Insider Tip: Geocaching! Helps you discover so many hidden gems on your doorstep.

Claire Jessiman – Foodie Quine

Back up your computer, and your phone – This is a boring one, but practical.The life of a traveller is considerable less secure than your home life, and because of this travellers are better at remembering to back up their preccious memories, weather this is saving things to the cloud or a portable device no true-blue traveller would let their photo’s, diaries and work be vulnerable to theft and corruption by just being saved in one location – and while you are at it check up on your anti-virus software as well.

Travel Insider Tip: Keep an eye on cheap accommodation offers and book something nice in a different part of town for a night.

 Sonja Bolger – Migrating Miss

Join a travel network- If you work in a travel industry- but don’t get to travel as much as you would like join a group like Travel Massive – there are chapters all over the world and they are a great way to stay in touch with travel insiders, hear what is going on around you and sit down for a drink with some like minded travel addicts and talk about past and future travel escapades.

Travel Insider Tip: I’ve been doing a lot of exploring in my home city right now. Always fun to play tourist at home or to dig a little deeper and find hidden gems.Kirstin McEwan – The Tinberry Travels
Go somewhere new that is local to you – Chances are there are plenty of amazing things to discover not far from your front door. Why not: Visit a small gallery. Stand in a forest for 10 minutes and just listen. Walk down a different street when you are coming home from work. Eat out somewhere you’ve never eaten before.
 

Travel Insider Tip: Take a walking tours, actually find out what the buildings stand for that you walk past every day!Gemma Armit – TwoScots Abroad 

 

Try out minimalism- Reduce your wardrobe, remember how much simpler life is when you travel. Why not try pairing your wardrobe down to something closer to the contents of your suitcase. Sort out a seasonally appropriate wardrobe that can be mixed and matched to get you through your everyday- and put the rest into storage until the seasons change. Or try reducing other ‘stuff’ you keep at home – 

Travel Insider Tip: I spend most of my time in the same area, so during the weekends I like to head to a complete opposite side of town. Then I just stroll around, discover the area, find a good pub etc. I like seeing new sides of the city I live in.Christina Sunneklep – Cava for Lunch 

 

Know Your Passport: When you are travelling you always make it a priority to know where your passport is, and when the expiry date is. If you make this a priority in your at home life as well you won’t be sorry. Trust me you don’t have to go far to find a story about a lost or expired passport and a ruined trip. Don’t be the story.

Travel Insider Tip: Find your nearest hotel concierge and chat to them to find out what they recommend in the city for tourists – it’ll likely be things you’ve never considered, and they know all the best tips on how to get cheap/good tickets for things, and local events that are happening.

Julia MacGregor – Fizz and Pheasant

 

If you have kids or babies why not try out these tips to get that travel feeling: 

Throw out your routine – I know it is a scary idea. Dinner, bath, bed is my life raft, but when you are travelling with kids you have to accommodate all sorts of changes to routine, and everyone survives, and sometimes we even have fun. So at home why not: Go for a walk after dinner, eat out, sleep on a camp bed in the lounge room – who knows some of it might get incorporated into a new routine.

 Regular traveller Anne Hamilton told me how she and her son keep bed time from getting boring by bringing travel home. 

 

Travel Insider Tip: Every few weeks or so when bedtime gets boring and we’ve no real trips planned, we ‘camp out’ overnight in the sitting room. The 6 yr old chooses the country, and we spend the night under a selection of bedding on the sofas. Most recently, Antarctica was the ‘in’ place, so we put together a pick-up tea (a picnic by any other name) of tuna, prawns and ice cream – yep, we interpret local foods very widely -and ate it in our camp with March of the Penguins as background. If you left the room, you donned your hat and scarf and waterproofs (imaginary wellies out of deference to the lady in the flat below!) and braved the polar bears (played by a giant papier mache cat and Clifford the Big Red Dog)… Next time, apparently, we’re going to Denmark, but given LEGOLAND appears to be the real draw, that’ll be doubly interesting! 

 

Anne Hamilton – writeright editing

Again try minimalism – Get radical with how many clothes your children have – do they need that many t-shirts –are there things they never wear? Would you take that much stuff if you were travelling. The other kid area you could try to downsize is the toys – encourage the kids to help, make a pile to donate to a local charity.


Do you have any tipe to share?

Easter – remembering and looking forward

For me Easter will always be a special holiday. It is a holiday which smells, not like chocolate, but like boat fuel mixed with salt water. It feels like crisp mornings which will turn into sunny days.
For most of my life Easter was spent camping in Mallacoota. A seaside town on the very edge of Victoria, in Australia.
Mallacoota, Australia. With a dog.*
In her poem Blue Sarong, in You Won’t Remember This, my mother writes about:
the Mallacoota camping photo’s
that began when you were in a bassinet
and continued ’til you left home.

She asks what I remember, and my strongest impression is this olfactory one – the boat fuel – contained within that there are many layers of memory. One of the things I love about our Easter tradition of camping in Mallacoota is that I know so many others share them with me. They know the experience of driving slowly through the camp park on the waters edge looking out for a camp site and seeing that sparkling water for the first time since the last visit. If you are a boat owner you will have gotten in early and secured a camp sight adjacent to the moat moorings. We did not have those campsites, we simply drove past them slowly; and the smell – which might sound unpleasant to you, but is magic to me because it is the start of Easter.

I am being sentimental. This Easter is a shambolic one. I am working on Thursday, Sunday and Monday. Thursday night my eldest son Rafa and I are taking a train to stay with friends in Newcastle. I will get to do some chocolate distribution on Sunday morning before I go to work, but chances are that will be the only time the four of us will spend together. Added to this, as we host Airbnb we will have guests arriving and leaving all though Easter.
I am sentimental as well because last Easter we were in Australia. We were not in Mallacoota, we were at my mum’s and we were close to our departure date to return to the UK. But our Easter Sunday was special. My brother was visiting and we put up a tent on the riverbank and lit a fire, so at least some of Rafa and Finn’s Easter memories might smell of woodsmoke. The little boys ate more chocolate than they ever had in their lives, and were given special eggs to keep – I will need to find them!
Rover riverbank memories, with wood smoke – Nowa Nowa, Australia
This week on they way to nursery we saw a woman with a wheely suitcase. Rafa said ‘Maybe she is going to the airport, like we will so we can go to Nanna Helen’s to get Easter Egg’s.’
We will not be at Nanna Helen’s this Easter, nor will we be in Mallacoota – but I am working on some new Easter memories. Our Newcastle trip is a chance for Rafa and I to have some quality time together. To form memories that will last, that we can talk about in the years to come. I don’t know what shape these memories will take, but I suspect they won’t smell like boat fuel.
What do your Easter memories smell like? 
 
What traditions are you carrying forward? 
 
 
*When I was first posting this blog I struggled to find a picture of Mallacoota on my computer, and used one of my husband and I at Nowa Nowa. Then over Easter my brother and his girlfriend went to Mallacoota and posted some great pictures on Facebook. So I borrowed one with their dog Argie. Good to see the family tradition of going to Coota continues. 

The Sleep Series – Part two. The Bermuda Triangle

I am committed to writing positive sleep stories, and I will get there, but first I need to write out the Bermuda triangle of bad bed times we experienced this week – and then I will get to something positive!

Just now I am nostalgic for good bedtimes. It has been a bad week for sleep in our house. Or perhaps I should say it has been a bad week for bed times. Because we always look for explanations when things go off the rails here are the changes to our routine from which I understand the tri-parte badness to have come.

ONE: The clocks have changed – this one needs no explanation – although I admit to having gone into this change with unwarranted bravado – my husband was reading something online about managing the change and I scoffed a little and said something about winging it.

TWO: We got Rafa a new bed. The single bed Rafa sleeps in has been broken for quite awhile. Recently it became a bit more broken and we finally acknowledged that it needed to go. A skinny three year old can cope pretty well on a broken bed. But when his father or I take a shift on the single bed the brokenness becomes problematic. The only bit of the broken bed that seemed salvageable was the drawers underneath. Retaining this storage space seemed invaluable, so we looked for a bed that had the same height. Then I had a brain wave. Perhaps rather than a single bed we should get a double? Just a small double that could run wall to wall under the window? Wouldn’t that make all our bed swapping more endurable? The room the boys share is small, but we measured it out and thought it could work. In the end we found a bed second hand from the British Heart Foundation. On Sunday my husband set about pulling the broken bed apart and putting up the new one.

These things always take longer than you think they will, but eventually Jon got the new bed almost put together – then we realised the problem. Yes the bed could theoretically run wall to wall – but in order to get the very long screws in it needed to be constructed the other way around, and then moved into place. At this point my very spatially aware friend B was over with her son. While the kids ate a snack the three adults stood in the bedroom and pondered the bed problem. (This is known as a social occasion when you are a parent) B visualised and Jon and I moved the bed. In theory it should have fitted. In reality it did not. We had a lovely new bed. But it took up half the room. The remaining space somehow had to accommodate a chest of drawers, a book case and Finn’s cot.

B departed while we pondered. The good news was the drawers fitted under the bed. The bad news was Finn’s bed was not going to fit – so we decided he could share the big new bed with his brother.

So that’s the first two Sunday two changes/ challenges- clocks changing and first night with two boys in the new bed.

THREE: ‘Baby’. We have a baby staying with us. A lovely eight month old girl. Finn spends long periods of time entertaining her, she is a happy, contented girl – who has a very different sleep patterns to my sons. This baby and her mum and dad are staying with us for nine days having rented our spare room on airbnb, and although the house is full we are all managing well- in part because we use the communal parts of the house at different times. Except that just at the time when the boys are settling down for the evening the baby is having her dinner in the next room. ‘Baby’ Finn cries suddenly all alert and up he jumps to go and entertain her some more.

Rafa playing at bedtime.
Rafa pretending to be asleep.

 

It has been a bad week of bedtimes. Long drawn out. Grumpy mummy who is all to aware of her evenings being snatched away as the kids wriggle, fidget, need one more drink of water, one more visit to the toilet (Rafa) one more nappy change (Finn) one more lap around the house, one more chat to the baby, one more look out the window to check if it is morning yet. Finn has not settled down before eight all week – and I deem six pm to be bedtime.
Here is the bit I am nostalgic for. We are a snuggle to sleep family. When there are two adults home we divide the boys up and each lie down to settle the boys. There are certain routines that play out as we move towards sleep, certain fidgets of the day that need to be gotten out, but normally as these routines play out the boys move towards sleep. I have found that time, in bed beside Rafa or Finn when they slowly wind down can be amazingly productive to me. Sometimes (like this week the extended bed times are torture) but on a good night that forced quiet time, when I am concentrating on quieting my body and my breath so that the boys will do likewise, is when my thoughts collect for the day. Just like going for a run, when the busyness subsides and ideas that have been brewing pop into being. In the intro to You Won’t Remember This I wrote about how the whole idea to the book came about during that quiet time. Sometimes it’s not artistic, sometimes it is just practical day to day stuff that can get lost in the chaos of the day. I have great ideas at baby bedtime.
Sometimes they get lost. Things go on a bit too long. I move from energised to strung out, or sleepy. Or I get up from the sleeping child and go straight into ‘chore mode’ and the zen gets lost.

 

But sometimes, just sometimes, there is magic in the stillness.

Do you have a sleep story you want to tell? Get in touch and add to the sleep series.

About the Sleep Series: It is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever two or more parents of young babies and children meet they will have a conversation about sleep. The Flamingo Rover sleep series is not intended to provide expert advice – more to tell sleep stories in an attempt to reassure parents that there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ nights sleep, and there is no such thing as a parent who is doing the ‘wrong’ thing.


Please please please –  If you’ve had a bad night’s sleep – or a bad week or a bad month do make sure you tell your friends about it.  Your welcome to tell me about it if you like. If you still don’t feel like yourself tell your GP and your midwife and your Health Visitor. Find a sleep clinic and talk it through. Try to take a nap.  
Look out for your sisters – If you see someone with a baby who looks like they have had a bad night’s sleep – or a bad week or a bad month go and chat to them. 

 

Cover Art

So much of my communication with the world these days takes place on a screen. Big screens, small screens, in the case of my phone: a repeatedly smashed, repaired, smashed and dropped in the toilet screen. And I am not complaining; computers and phones help me stay in touch with my family and friends in Australia, they help me see the journey of a dear friend as she battles major illness and they help me stay in touch with fellow mummies down the road.
I have recently managed a few non screen based communications. I wrote a letter to my friend Helen in Australia, and received a lovely card and vintage sewing paraphernalia through the post in return.
an Alice Retrocard in the post from Australia

I also got a great card from my mum to congratulate me for being a ‘paperback writer’. The other non-screen communication is of course the book. Ok yes you can access it via a screen, but it is also an object that you can hold in your hands – and the first moment this book – or any book communicates is via the cover. Cover Art is a big deal- No matter what they say, people do judge a book by it’s cover – nowhere more so I think than in the world of self/ independent publishing.

For the cover of You Won’t Remember This I started out pondering photographs, I spoke to contributor Meghan about using some photography by her husband, I trawled my own travel photo archives (lots of good memories- but never quite the right thing), I got in touch with another photography/mummy friend Amelia Shepherd  who sent me some lovely options, but still I pondered. As the book progressed and I looked about at other travel books I realised that this book was not a ‘traditional’ travel book. I had poetry, very creative non-fiction and most of all unlike much traditional travel writing, the people were at the forefront of every story, rather than the places. A cover needed to communicate this and I eventually realised that a photo based cover was not going to work.
I (literally) bailed up the artist who painted the beautiful ‘You and your boy’ cover artwork. The wee boy’s and I were at my mum’s in Australia in early 2016 and Gary Yelen (who is a man of many talents; a story in the book, cover artist – and was many years back the sounding board for my blog name before I headed off on my travels) had dropped in having given himself a minor injury doing some renovations to an unequipped house across the road. I gave him access to a sink and some rags to clean himself up, and while he bled into the sink I asked him what he thought about having a go at an image for the cover of the book.
I sent him a photo I thought could be a jumping off point (you can see it on the books facebook page. and some vignettes of stories from the collection, and I went back to my editing and parenting (a lot of toilet training that summer if truth be told). Not long afterwards Gary sent me the beginnings of an image that was to become the cover. As is often the way with screen communications – I sent back an affirmative reply, he did not get it. Eventually in a chat to his wife I repeated that affirmative, it got passed on to him and we went forwards.
It was not until Gary was back at his French life working at his gallery frukt and I was back at my Edinburgh life that I got to see the finished painting off screen – I was delighted – I had an image – but not yet a cover.
With my foray into publishing I had also decided that the timing was right to ‘brand’ myself. If my Flamingo Rover blogger identity was to move forward in the world it needed to do so with style. As with so much of this project branding and book design was entirely new to me. With the screen of my computer bringing a plethora of design options to my feet I went with (as we often do) someone I was familiar with. I love my husbands logo, it was designed by a friend of his 15 years ago – and as far as I was concerned it did not look dated – a key element to a logo. And as luck would have it she still worked in design and had an office space that opened onto a kid friendly cafe. On a hot Edinburgh day I took the small boys on the bus down to Leith to visit Jenny Proudfoot at the Drill Hall to discuss logo’s and cover design.

The meeting itself was mayhem. Rafa demanded all my attention, Finn was grotty and grizzly, but we managed the beginnings of a conversation which continued back and forth – sometimes on screen and sometimes in person until I had both a cover design and a logo.

One of the new Flamingo Rover logo’s!
One of the things Jenny and I discussed was the way the colours of the book would communicate. Now I do love my pink, but I wanted the book to appeal to more than just mummies, ie- not to look like chic lit (which I love by the way). In a happy compromise I got to keep pink with my logo and (I think) I have ended up with a beautiful book cover which perfectly suits Gary’s painting.
With the book in hand, and baby Finn in the pram, I trekked about to some landmark Edinburgh bookstores. It was an educative experience. By the end of the morning I had come to realise that there is a universal horror of self publishing. An almost identical quiver of horror ran through each and every bookseller I approached – until they saw the book, at which point there was a little sigh of relief.

Cover Art win. (Ok yes having a nicely bound book with an ISBN also helped)

You Won’t Remember This – travel with babies

Thanks (at least in part) to the attractive book cover you can now buy the book from an actual bookstore – Word Power Books, and in a nice bit of synchronicity, our second retail outlet is also on Nicholson street. Word Power is in Edinburgh, UK and Foundry is in Bairnsdale, Victoria Australia- but both Nicholson Street.

 

You Won’t Remember This- travel with babies -Published

In the underrated film Sex and the City II Carrie announces ‘I’ve been cheating on fashion with furniture.’ I have a similar confession to make, I’ve been cheating on blogging with editing/publishing.

Twenty writers from around the world (OK 19, plus me!) have trusted me with their stories of travel with babies, they have waited patiently while I edited, had a baby, looked after it,  landed in hospital with mastitis, bought a house, stripped wallpaper, painted, moved furniture about, wished my boys would have a nap at the same time, travelled to Australia, edited a bit more, attempted to learn about typesetting, realised it was beyond the scope of my abilities at this juncture. They waited while I fiddled about with my introduction, pondered various options for cover art, contemplated book dimensions… made decisions, lost the bits of paper I had made the decisions on, started all over again, had my computer re-booted, went back to work at my day job and picked up every single possession off the floor every day, only to find it had been thrown on the floor again twenty minutes after my boys got up in the morning. Non of this is in any particular order, but it was all going on throughout the books gestation.

Finn cooling down at Lake Tyres, Australia 2016
It is a scary thing to take on something you are not very good at (editing) and something you know nothing about (publishing) and work at it and work at it and work at it. Sometimes I wondered if I was taking so long because I was hesitant about putting it out into the real world; but mostly I was just super excited about sharing it, and frustrated by my incapacity to move forward as quickly as I would have liked.

BUT… the project I began long long ago, and blogged about here and there has finally finished its gestation and been birthed into the world. There are real books, with pages you can turn and dog ear, a cover you can pat, stories you can read and re-read and even scribble on if you wish.

I know everyone says this about their book, but my book is a true beauty: from its cover art by Gary Yelen, its cover design (and my lovely new logo) by Jenny Proudfoot, its splendid typesetting by Hewer Text, and most especially the stories collected inside and I can’t wait to send the book out into the world.

You-Wont-Remember-This-Travel-Babies
You Won’t Remember This – travel with babies cover design

Any Day Adventure

A day can take you a lot of places, even when you don’t really go anywhere at all.

Today at the bus stop I was reading a library book my husband picked out for me. Love with a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche is a memoir about an adventursome couple who sailed from the USA to Australia via all sorts of Pacific Islands. I am still at the sea-sick stages of their journey (hers not his), but even with the graphic descriptions of ocean going illness, reading sun kissed tales of sailing off of Mexico whilst standing at a frosty Edinburgh bus stop with your feet freezing to the ground does make the other life tempting.

Cover for Love with a Chance of Drowning, Torre DeRoche
My reading was interrupted by the arrival of a little mittened girl with her grandmother. We chatted about the neighborhood – how great the park is, how annoying the overflowing bins are, how great the nearby library is and how little parking there is for locals. I told the little girl I was impressed at her wearing her hat. My son I told her throws his off immediately. She told me Jack Frost was here and pulled her mittens on securely.
The grandmother asked me my sons name and when I told her she said: ‘Raphael, we know Raphael don’t we Katie.’
Katie nodded enthusiastically and the penny dropped. This was the Katie and her grandmother my husband reported regular play times and chats with at the playground. Katie told me how Rafa likes the shute (slide) and often has dirty knees. Katies mother does not like dirty knees, but Rafa’s mum and dad don’t mind. I recalled being told that some days Rafa plays enthusiastically with Katie, other days he ignores her in favor of boys kicking balls. Boys will be boys. I was delighted to get this little glimpse of my boys out and about in the world and to meet some of their new friends.
The grandma and I smiled over the coincidence of meeting in this way and agreed that we do indeed live in a village.
My bus ride takes me out to the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary. I don’t have an appointment today, just an errand to run. In the week before Christmas I was struck by a big case of baby brain. I organised the baby, my husband and some friends to attend Christmas carols only to turn up a day late, I got my work schedule tangled up and got a call from my manager ‘checking in’ due to my no show and I caught the wrong bus home and had to walk a good distance with pre-Christmas groceries.
This was all topped on Christmas Eve when I attended my 20 week ultrasound out at the Royal. With my husband running a little behind, I left my phone out when the scan began. The baby measured up against whatever measures are important for a 20 week old bun in the oven and Jon and Rafa arrived in time to get a glimpse of the new family member.
After the scan we headed off to do some Christmas Eve grocery shopping and it was not until we loaded ourselves back in the car that my brain pinged that something was wrong. I searched through my backpack in the dark of the car for my phone, but came up empty handed, but I reasoned, I could easily have missed it in the miasma of my bag.
I told my husband about my suspicions when we parked at home. He called my phone from his and we listened to the ominous silence. Upstairs I upended the bag and found nothing. I recalled clearly setting my phone on top of the bag on the chair next to the scan bed in case Jon rang. Jon and Rafa had come into the semi dark room, moved the bag to sit without seeing the phone, which had no doubt toppled quietly to the floor. My focus was on saying hello to Rafa and on watching the new bub bob about on the black and white screen.
When we rang the hospital someone went on a search for us with the aid of a cleaners keys. The phone was not in the room. It might be in the office, but it was after five on Christmas Eve, (Wednesday) and nobody would be back until Monday. My stupidity clanged in my head. This was my first ever grown up phone, I had no insurance and while it was probably locked safe in a drawer, it could be anywhere! And I could do nothing about finding it or replacing it for four days.
Rover and Rafa on Christmas Day, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, 2014
This morning (Monday) I woke up with a mission, go out to the Royal and seek out my phone. When I laboriously checked my emails (on my computer rather than on my phone as I am used to doing) I made a happy discovery. Along with the fifteen junk emails from Amazon there was a note from my radiographer to say she thought I had left my phone! I blessed her from my bed, she needn’t have tracked down my email and sent me word of my phones safety, but she did.
My mission was successful. The world would soon be at my fingertips once more. All I needed was a power point to recharge the sad inanimate lump.
Returning from my late morning outing to the hospital the bus passed though some streets still cloaked in frost. I mused that no matter how nice the houses, living in the shadow of Blackford Hill would not be a pleasant thing in December. I could see the sun tinting other houses golden just over the way, but here Jack Frost was most certainly at work.
After a bowl of soup in Morningside I took myself to the library to catch up on my emailing and reading for the You Won’t Remember This project. I had the work of two poets (Australian and Scottish) to read and some correspondence with writers from India and Canada.
Spending time with the writing of adventuresome parents tugged at me just as the sailing memoir had at the bus stop. My life just now is exciting, but it is the suburban parent excitement of watching Raphael get his knees dirty at the park and of a new life growing in my belly. Life is about catching the right bus home so I can splash with Rafa in the bath and chat with my husband about their day, and find out if Rafa was nice to Katie.
It is good to have those adventures tugging at me, keeping me pondering where we will spend next Christmas.