26 May, 2012

Kids and car sickness

I love being on holiday and particularly so with my kids. They’re seasoned travellers, well used to flying and to staying in unfamiliar places. They also have a genuine interest in seeing other places and different things. They enjoy looking at old churches and archaeological sites as well as seeing how people in other cultures live—as long as there’s a good measure of ice cream and playing by the pool thrown in, of course!

The one thing they find difficult, particularly in the summer heat in Southern Europe, is travelling by car. This came to a head last year when my youngest got so sick that she dreaded even the thought of going in the car. In the end, we gave up and spent much more time by the pool than we usually would. And this year we’re opting for a holiday during half term, in the hope that less heat will equal less sickness. I’ll keep you posted!

On another note, the only thing that I’ve found to be effective in removing the smell of sick from cars is good old-fashioned bicarbonate of soda... Rather a useful tip, I think!

19 May, 2012

And even better flights

OK, so in my last post I talked about the budget airlines. But my holiday search has progressed further now and I've managed to book some flights with BA -- even cheaper than the budget airline equivalents. Don't ask me how.

The thing is that I now remember what the non-budget airlines offer or, more importantly, what the budget airlines don't. So, with BA we get:
  • allocated seating (no more rushing on board in order to nab four seats together)
  • generous weight allowance for hold baggage (no more skimping on items that we really, really need to take with us)
  • kids allowed to take their car seats into the cabin in addition to a piece of hand luggage (no more paying exorbitant prices for the raggedy kids' seats provided by the car hire companies)
  • a complimentary on-board meal (no more paying exorbitant prices -- again -- for rubbish food, because the rubbish food is free!)
I'm going to find it very hard to fly budget again after this luxury experience... Although fifteen years or so ago (pre-budget airlines) we wouldn't have considered this luxury -- just normal. Ho hum.

12 May, 2012

Cheap flights

Continuing in the holiday vein, I've also got a few words to say about budget airlines...

Actually, it's not all bad. We've regularly flown with easyJet in the past and had positive experiences most of the time. Flights on time. Friendly staff. No one trying to charge you extra at every possible opportunity. And, of course, cheap flights.

However, I do have one beef -- and that's with the speedy boarding service. Having children, we always pay for this service because it means we can get on the plane first and actually finds seats together. Two problems, though.

First up: it's nearly always a scrummage. It's rarely clear where you need to stand for the speedy boarding queue, which means that you really have to assert yourself to make sure that you're in it. Not good for the British personality.

And second: there are some unscrupulous individuals who swing this scrummage to their advantage. I've actually seen someone trying to tag along behind a family, in the hope of boarding the plane first -- even though they hadn't paid for the privilege. Luckily, a member of the ground crew caught them.

As for the 'other' cheap airline, try listening to Fascinating Aida's wonderful song, 'Cheap Flights'. Need I say more?

05 May, 2012

A Matter of Degree now 77 pence

My novel, "A Matter of Degree", is now available on Amazon for just 77 pence (99 cents in the US) for a limited period only. So buy it at this price while you can!

It's a fun, light story, ideal for reading on holiday or on the beach.

Here's the blurb... Enjoy!


Like a bit of romance? Like a bit of mystery? Then "A Matter of Degree" is for you!

When Katherine Valletta starts her new job at Deerhampton University, it’s clear that this is no normal workplace. Why has someone left an anonymous letter on her desk? Who is the arrogant woman who almost runs her down in that flashy sports car? And, most importantly, what is the story behind the handsome man whose arms she falls into on her way home?

As Katherine attempts to unravel these puzzles, her confidence and her self-knowledge grow, along with her relationships. She builds an unlikely friendship with Diana Woolf, Deerhampton’s tough new Professor of History. Fred Morris, the Admissions Tutor with a penchant for gaudy ties and knitted tank tops, seems like a useful ally. While in the midst of all the mayhem, Maddie Rose is a voice of reason, supporting her colleague Katherine all the way.

And in the background hovers sultry Biology Lecturer Chris Burberry. The more Katherine sees him, the more she likes him. But what does he want? What’s in his past? In fact, what does Katherine really know about him at all?

This witty, light-hearted novel is a great holiday read. Written in bite-sized chunks, it is also ideal for devouring on the move—while travelling to work, or when waiting for your kids to finish their swimming/piano/karate lessons, for example...

Holidays and the internet

Continuing the theme of my last post—I’ve been doing more looking into family holidays and realised that there are actually far more factors at play than those my kids generate. The internet, for example, is a great enabler but also a great inhibitor.

So, I’ve found some holiday apartments that actually fit our requirements—more or less—in terms of price, location, swimming possibilities, etc. The next stage is to check out the guest reviews, which usually involves going to TripAdvisor, and therein lies another problem. These days there is just so much information out there. So many reviews—often conflicting. So many candid photos—nowhere looks great one hundred per cent of the time, does it?
And once again I’m left scratching my head in despair. How can I be sure of making the right choice when faced with so much detail and so many opinions?

In the bad old pre-internet days we faced no such dilemma, of course. We picked our accommodation from the glossy brochures in total ignorance. There were no guest reviews and the photos bore no resemblance to reality—they were air brushed to perfection.

But there was some comfort in being at the mercy of the travel companies in this way. We set our expectations far lower, for a start. And it was so much easier (and quicker) to make a decision. After that, we simply crossed our fingers and hoped.
On reflection, perhaps those were the good old days...