Tuesday, 28 August 2012


I'm strictly a "Today" programme kind of gal first thing in the morning. It's a habit that I've inherited from my parents - Radio 4 in the kitchen. I find there's nothing more likely to wake me up properly (other than a decent cup of coffee) than huffing along with John Humphries et al to the latest guff some politician is making up.

I therefore hadn't heard of Carfest, the festival thought up by Chris Evans in aid of Children In Need, until a friend mentioned it to me. The idea, apparently, was simple - a festival for families, combining his favourite things; cars, food and music. It appealed immediately - my husband is a car fan, I like food, and who doesn't like music? As it also meant giving the newly purchased tent another outing, it seemed like a good idea all round.

So, one April morning saw my friend and myself simultaneously on the phone to each other and waiting for the ticket website to go online, and we managed to garner a much-sought after weekend camping pass for the two families.

Last Friday, therefore, we ventured into deepest Hampshire, queued with several thousand others, and jostled for space to pitch our tents. It turned out to be a weekend of many firsts, not only the first festival I had been to since Glastonbury in (eek) 1995(!), but also the first festival for my children, and I think it was probably the perfect introduction for them - not too large for it to all be a bit overwhelming, but also plenty of entertainment (best bit? "The dancing diggers", apparently). Other firsts included my first experience of a "shewee" - something which impressed my daughters so much I don't think they will ever want to go to the loo sitting down again!

It was all a bit more civilised than I remembered my last festival experience to be - the atmosphere was lovely and friendly, the food was varied and extremely delicious, and you knew you were at a middle-class festival when Ocado were delivering to site. Between our party of seven, we managed to sample burgers, sausages, noodles, paella, burritos, smoothies, whitebait and pancakes, and make our own buffalo milk ice cream. It's also fair to say that the "Best of British" tent full of small food producers giving out samples also got a good going over.

We danced to "Rockaoke", this guy here, The Bootleg Beatles, Razorlight, Texas, and many more. We got soaked on Saturday and fried on Sunday, and I think my eldest daughter won prize for most authentic festival "look" with her shorts, fleece, wellies and sunglasses combo. All in all, however, I think I knew the first family festival was a success when we got in the car to go home and my youngest daughter burst into tears because she didn't want to leave...

Monday, 20 August 2012

How To Holiday Like A Spaniard

The Tin family have been off on their jollydays, and we've all come back rested, refreshed, and raring to go again with life. We took the ferry to Santander in Northern Spain, and hired a little cottage around forty-five minutes up the coast near the resort of San Vicente de la Barquera and had a lovely time. Definitely highly recommended! Two weeks on the Spanish "green coast" relatively little frequented by foreign tourists  (a sprinkling of French, some fellow Brits, and the ubiquitous Dutch - seriously, how do they get everywhere in Europe by car?!) meant that I was able to observe the native Spaniards enjoying their R&R. Here, then, is my advice should you want to try and emulate them:

1) The obvious one - if you really want to holiday like a true Spaniard, stay in Spain. After all - why would you go anywhere else when you have fabulous weather, beautiful countryside, a myriad of activities, great food AND people that speak (little other than) your language? It's a no-brainer, right? If you are wise, you will flock to the Northern coasts of Asturias and Cantabria where the heatwave engulfing Spain brings the temperatures to a pleasant 30 degrees C, rather than those of the mid-40s affecting the rest of the country.

Pechon, Cantabria
"Our" beach nr Pechon, Cantabria
2) Whatever you do, take a lunch break at around 2pm. This way you leave all car parks, tourist attractions and beaches free for the crazy foreign tourists who don't know about decent lunch breaks and siestas. Instead, clog up all the terraces of local restaurants eating all manner of delicious seafood and smoking wildly to your heart's content.

3) Be ridiculously bronzed on the beach. Easy! - you're Spanish - even at your pastiest you still resemble a delicate biscuit colour that an average Northern European can only hope to emulate after slathering themselves in fake tan for the entire two weeks (No, not me, noooo - my tan is ENTIRELY natural. Ahem.) After all, Pastiest Person on the Beach(TM) is always guaranteed to be a rare foreigner anyway.

Oh, and 3a) Go topless ONLY if you are very young and very skinny, or old enough not to care what people think. (*shudder*)

4) Should you fail at 3), for whatever reason, demonstrate to everyone that this is because you are a Very Important Executive that spends a lot of their time in an office doing Very Important Things, and has no time for silly beach games, by pacing the sand non-stop with a mobile phone glued to your ear and a furrowed brow, gesticulating wildly with your spare hand.

5) Choose your tourist attractions wisely. Ignore the major internationally known hotspots of the Northern coast like the Guggenheim in Bilbao. It is full of French tourists from across the border, on whom the fantastic David Hockney paintings are somewhat lost, as demonstrated by the whispers of "bof, je connais pas, hein", accompanied by trademark Gallic shrugging.
Instead, flock to the picturesque town of Comillas, where you will throng like over-enthusiastic paparazzi to one of Antoni Gaudi's earliest works, and one of the few outside Catalonia, El Capricho.

6) If beaches are not your thing, make those unfit types listed in 4) green with envy by nonchalantly climbing the foothills of the Picos de Europa mountain range either on foot or by mountain bike without so much as breaking a sweat in 30 degree heat. Kudos.

7) Refuse to speak anything other than Spanish, thus making even vaguely linguistically-minded foreign types, one of whose seven languages does NOT happen to be Spanish, feel painfully inadequate, uncultured, and rushing for the Michel Thomas at the first opportunity. *Sigh*

8) If all of the above fail, just ignore them and have a ruddy marvellous time.


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