Half term hell: the end is nigh

Half term is bliss really – two weekends and five days of juggling children and work, over-loading on treats (some very small) and excusing late bedtimes are a whisper away from being over. Next up six weeks of early mornings, racing to school on time and keeping everyone’s diary sane. Argh!

Lola, Nell and I have met several of my friends this half-term in London (Annie and George plus two kids from Wales; Sally plus two teenage boys from Exeter for a Tate Modern outing) but we wound up the week with a whistlestop trip to Cardiff so I could run a fringe workshop, meet up with friends at a pop-up restaurant run by the super-talented Deri Reed, better known as Ethical Chef.. . (who makes the best Jerusalem artichoke soup, you’ve got to try it – and from March 12 you can as he’s launching a vegetarian supper club at Wyndham Street Community Centre, Riverside, see booking info here). Plus a trip to Wales gave me some time to spend with my children in our traditional family manner – sitting elbow to elbow on an inter-city train.

Welsh beasties
Because the girls had been willing to help me on Saturday at the Green Party conference (which had an excellent creche, if only more political parties could offer this service) I treated us all to Sunday morning in Cardiff castle a few minutes from the massive Millennium Stadium (v similar to our own Emirates). This is animal magic – all sorts of animals are carved in wood and stone, painted and celebrated at the amazing gothic house within the castle walls. If you’ve been to Cardiff you may have seen them climbing out of the castle walls!  Inside the main site there’s also a Norman castle with moat. And wartime tunnels. And fabulous food possibilities at the cafe – laverbread (seaweed), cheddar cheeses, Welsh cakes, traditional rarebit and local ice cream. The gift shop has wooden carved love spoons, tapestry purses, wool and recycled wood rugs and other Welsh crafts too. but, best of all are the castle ground’s hide and seek possibilities.

Back home on the same train as Caroline Lucas – real Greens walk the talk with no problem – and then it’s lights out and the sudden realisation that there’s no more easy time together for nearly two months. I guess if I just take that lovely feeling of playing, exploring and eating on a perfect spring half term day and try to turn the next few weeks of term into a game – there is sure to be a chance to seek lost uniform/books/keys – I won’t feel quite so hellish sad about locking us all back into the school routine.

Some green ideas for minibreaks:

  • Take your own lunch for the train, and a tupperware container for what’s left over (and so you can snack on the way back too).
  • Stay at a YHA (you need to be a member), or with a friend, or as I did house sit
  • Borrow a map, store it somewhere sensibly and then take it with you  – let your eldest child do the navigating
  • Try out locally-produced food
  • If you forget clothes shop at secondhand stores
  • From as early an age as they can, get your children to carry and be in charge of their own stuff
  • Train travel is cheaper with a Family & Friends Railcard, and it helps to book your ticket in advance if you want the lowest fare. Avoid a walk-on fare unless someone else is paying…

There are lots more ideas in my book Homemade Kids: thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children.

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