Festival fun with kids- a Wheeler Guide.

We are about to embark on our first festival of the season- I am so excited about making plans. I’m not the only one who loves to make these lists, surely?!

When it comes to getting our camping kit together, happy memories leap off the tin plates and who doesn’t love a gadget? The kit to me is all part of the fun.

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Also, these days we want to be comfortable- once upon a time we probably just used our tent as a place to collapse into slumber.

Times and expectations have changed.  Seeing every band isn’t going to happen- trying to do too much can result in meltdown central so we pick our favourites and are prepared to make compromises. Take turns doing what each person in the family wants or tag team childcare with a partner/ friend is a good idea if you can. We can still do this, just in a different way. 

There might be times when you take the kids out into the fresh, night air- an evening of magic lying ahead of you.

Then the kids might vomit/ wee everywhere/ jump in a massive puddle which is actually cow poo- and you have to retreat back to your tent wondering why you bothered to try to have fun in the first place? All is not lost- put on your big girl pants and claw it back. If I can, you can. 

Festivals with children ARE different beasts, but being organised helps and flouting normal routines catapults everyone into holiday mode. Relax, let everyone get filthy and explore whilst staying safe: you will find that the magic can still happen as you see the place unfold through their eyes.

 

Safety and security:

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Losing a child is every parents’ worst nightmare. It probably won't happen though- and if it does there’s a few things you can do to help.

Firstly, introduce your child to a steward- show them what a high-vis looks like and tell them to find one of these kind people if they get lost. OR find another Mummy who will help. Either is good.

I take a permanent marker with me, and write both parents numbers on their arm- in case one phone is out of reception/ battery has died. In truth I have never needed to use this, as the one time I DID lose a child, the security/ steward team radioed their colleagues ahead and found the youngest in just a few terrifying minutes. Yes, it felt like hours.

Valuables: just be sensible. Don’t flash your ipad in the door of your tent etc. Pop it into the lock up if you have to bring it.

Ear defenders for the children are ESSENTIAL. Keep them in the wagon- you never know when a marching band/ banging Jungle set might kick off around you. If this does happen, you’ll shock yourself at how fast you can move…

Next is my favourite subject: KIT. What to bring?! kicking off my list, I am starting with the essentials:

Tent:

If you can get a tent you can stand up in, it makes things so much more comfortable- when was the last time you tried to put on jeans on one leg whilst wobbling on an air bed?

Our tent is canvas, which is heavy, but means it doesn’t get overly hot in the morning sun and it stays stable in wind.

You could always opt for a caravan or campervan- though as these fields tend to be further away we often opt for the tent. 

 

Children’s transport:

Whatever you choose to save those little legs, make sure it is all terrain as small wheels get clogged up easily.

 The year our mountain buggy broke: good friends acquied this wheelbarrow and built a shade for our eldest baby. He LOVED it and everyone wanted to meet the baby in a barrow....

The year our mountain buggy broke: good friends acquied this wheelbarrow and built a shade for our eldest baby. He LOVED it and everyone wanted to meet the baby in a barrow....

 The year of the red waggon. It looked great, but kept tipping over on uneven ground. Eek. 

The year of the red waggon. It looked great, but kept tipping over on uneven ground. Eek. 

We have used just about everything in our time- wheel barrow (Back breaking,) red waggon (for us this resulted in an emergency trip to the chiropractor on our return…)  mountain buggy (great) and cycle trailer (even better as the rain cover made it like a little wendy house)

 

All the above help you carry your kit and give your children a portable chill-out space. I used to fill the side pockets with sticker books and torches for the children to play with when they got bored between bands in the evenings.

 

If your child is young, slings are best in crowds- but if you do take a buggy out at night remember to decorate it with fairy lights and flags. People tend to crowd into a space if they don’t see something at head height! Make your buggy stand out so it doesn’t get fallen on. It happened to us several times before we embraced the bling.

 

Bedding:

Self inflating mattresses are essential in my book. Less trampoline- like so last well beyond the first night.  

Our children love their sleeping bags- us adults like a light duvet.

Don’t forget your pillows and blankets for cosying up around the campfire.

 

Clothes:

Wellies, over trousers and anoraks are essential for the whole family.

Bring layers to wear for the evening and clean clothes for each day. You’d be surprised how mucky you get having fun- face paints, sun screen, ice cream, and if it is a wet year, putting on muddy trousers  from the day before is really really horrible…

 

Kitchen stuff:

Gas stove- ours is in a carry case, which works great as we try to cook 1 pot meals anyway.

Cool box to keep food cool- beyond the first day everything will be thawed out.. so we use it to store open food away from ants and rodents.

Saucepan,

Frying pan

Kettle,

 Some of our festival food. (The cider is in the fridge btw)

Some of our festival food. (The cider is in the fridge btw)

Camping plates,

Mugs

Cutlery

1 sharp knife, tongs and spatula.

Kitchen towels

Washing up sponge & liquid

Black bin liner

Water carrier

Bucket/ washing up bowl

 The multiple uses of a bucket. BATHTIME!

The multiple uses of a bucket. BATHTIME!

Food:

Festival food can be expensive and unhealthy. We try to get as much fruit and veg into the kids as we can before letting them loose at the pizza van.

 

Jars of hot dog sausages

Bread rolls or tortilla wraps

Ketchup

Pasta & pesto

Tinned sweetcorn and peas

Oil

Eggs for scrambling

Baked beans

Cereal

UHT or powdered milk

Coffee for adults! (it’s a festival- you could pop a slug of brandy on there if you wanted. Go on, treat yourself.)

Fruit (nothing too fragile- apples and bananas are always a favourite)

Boxes of raisins and dried fruit

Fruit juice cartons- freeze these ahead of the event to use as ice packs in your cool box.

Breadsticks

Jerky

Flapjacks/ cereal bars

 A muddy Glastonbury; a happy boy. 

A muddy Glastonbury; a happy boy. 

Posh Crisps (for when the kids go to sleep…)

 

Other stuff

Torches (one each is easiest)

Pen knife

String/ cable ties/ Gaffer tape

Ear plugs for adults- ear defenders for children, see above.

Chairs

Picnic blanket

Permanent marker (for writing your phone number on your childrens’ arms. If you don’t like doing this, you can write with biro and paint over the top with a liquid/ spray plaster)

Fully charged power bank- you’ll be gutted if you can’t take pictures of all the fun you’re having.

 

Toiletries:

Sunscreen

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, flannel, soap, towel

Wet wipes- though we are trying to do without these this year after learning about their negative impact on the environment… wish us luck.

Hair brush

Hand sanitiser

Toilet roll

POTTY. Ok, a bucket with a lid on.….. it’s not just for the kids either- I don’t like a long walk in the middle of the night or getting up early to take the boys for their first wee of the day. Once I got over the embarrassment of taking my bucket to the loo in the morning, I never looked back. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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First aid kit; plasters, antiseptic wipes, calpol, piriton, dioralyte, paracetamol (for adult headaches just in case you get one)

 

FUN STUFF:

Now you’ve got the practicalities sorted, its time for the fun bits- none of which is STRICTLY essential, but may give you some fun ideas.

Fancy dress/ dressing up gear

Face paints

Temporary tattoos

Flag and telescopic flag pole. Put this by your tent so you/ the kids can find it easily in the crowded campsite.

Solar fairy lights- for the same reason.

Fake flowers/ bunting for decorating the camp/ buggy/ yourself.

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Glow sticks (for night times)

 

And last but by no means least, don’t forget the quiet games/ activities.  However much fun you are having, it can get overwhelming. Sensory overload IS A THING, so make sure you have a few activities for the tent. Drawing stuff, Uno, activity books and a few bits of lego usually does it for us. Also if you have space take a football. Last Nozstock, the children of the family field had a massive football match whilst the adults all kicked back with a nice (warm!?) beer… it was sweet joy to behold.

 

So now you’re set.  Remember though, whatever you forget someone onsite will probably be selling it, so don’t get too stressed out or bogged down by the ‘stuff’. Most of what you need is normal everyday things- don’t let the fact it is a ‘festival’ send you into a panic.

 

Hopefully with this list though, you should be all set. All you need now is to throw off the shackles of daily life, grab your dancing shoes and you’re good to go.

 

See you in a field somewhere, we’ll be to the right of the mixing desk, yeah?

 

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Nozstock 2018, we're coming for you.

After an 'extreme' Winter, we deserve this Summer... a butterfly of excitement emerges in our tummies and we realise that festival season is upon us. 

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I am lucky enough to be asked to be guest blogger this year at our favourite small festival: Nozstock, based in Herefordshire countryside and this year celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Nozstock has organically evolved into a thing of beauty and started out in the same way as all of the best ones. As a small party for friends and family that grew and grew….

Why do we love it?

Firstly it is small which is great if you are a family. You don't have to lug all your kit for miles across the site to set up camp and once done, you can go from family field ‘chill out’ to ‘action central’ in less than ten minutes. Due to the size and the ethos of the place- it is also incredibly friendly.

There is a wide mixture of people who come- teenage ravers to old(er) hippies and families- all of whom will become friends after a few days of dancing and getting covered in mud and glitter together. 

 Making clay pots in the craft tent. (Not sure they made it home though... ssh) 

Making clay pots in the craft tent. (Not sure they made it home though... ssh) 

Staying true to it's roots, Nozstock has an obvious lack of corporate advertising and bubbles of creativity burst all around the site, from the signage and décor to the street theatre.

Watch out for the band waiting in the bushes to sing you a song about your subject of choice.

Remember to go to town with fancy dress: after all, having fun is a business not to be taken lightly and the more you put in, the more you get out of it.

 Watching the main 'Orchard' stage

Watching the main 'Orchard' stage

The Kids area has a host of activities for families of all ages so there is always something to do in the daytime. This year, crafts and activity workshops are run by 'Spare Room Arts' so kids can make some special festival outfits, make kites, do a dance workshop or take part in storytelling. Alongside this, pop up poetry, British Sign Language lessons, circus skills and Yoga for all the family as well as a soft play and chill out area for when it all gets a bit much. But don't forget the music- this year the line up is as eclectic as ever.

I am looking forward to finally witnessing the whirling epic tunes of Goldfrapp, having a family skank to ska outfit The Selector and a good dance to Electric Swing Circus. Not to mention our family's favourite Chase & Status. We really do love a bit of Drum and Bass in our house so that's going to be our highlight for sure...

Which brings me to what I am MOST excited about: the things aren't on the programme.

At our last Noz, my eldest (who was 7) wanted to see the UV insects that were strung up in the trees in the Coppice at night. I wasn't averse to a bit of techno either so it was no hardship to take a walk there one evening.

At dusk it looked magical and as we wound our way through the small crowd we were gently ushered in to a place that was safest from anyone falling over him. After all, it was dark and he was short! Festival note: If people see a 'space' at head height they may try to push into it- another reason we always used to attach fairy lights to the buggy. 

 The coppice in the daytime was great for tree climbing amongst the wonderful insects. 

The coppice in the daytime was great for tree climbing amongst the wonderful insects. 

Once amongst the crowd, Archie cautiously watched others around him, how they moved was different to how he usually dances at home. He mimicked the others and smiles of encouragement reassured him as he felt himself drawn into the beat, keeping one eye on the luminous decor in wonder.

It felt cyclical, bringing my son to this mini rave, reconnecting with something I used to do before he came into the world. Archie felt that he was involved in some magical grown up world made up of warm smiles, UV insects and dancing to repetitive beats in the illicit Night Time. 

 Chicken Shit Bingo is as funny as it sounds. 

Chicken Shit Bingo is as funny as it sounds. 

Winding our way back again we stopped at the Garden Stage to hear a bit of Drum & Bass. Archie was a bit overwhelmed as people high-fived him: this small human was treated as a celebrity as he joined in gleefully with the collective stomp.  Soon though, it was time to collapse into bed- satisfied that he had a WHOLE story of adventure to tell his little brother when he (eventually) woke up the next day.

Can we always do that Mummy, every time we come to Nozstock? 
Course we can, love. It can be our 'thing.'

It's these unexpected treasures that make Nozstock so good: and it is full of surprises.

Like watching a man dressed as a rabbit, sing popular songs in the style of Chaz & Dave whilst rewarding participants with carrots. (Check out the 'Cabinet of Lost Secrets' for this beauty.)

Another thing to watch out for is 'Chicken Shit Bingo' where you pay for a number on a grid and if the chicken poos on your square you win FIFTY ENGLISH POUNDS. The atmosphere is electric- and it really is hysterical being amongst a group of people all cheering on a chicken to have a poo. 

 The children on the stage at a party in the Sunken Yard- after the paint fight. Can you tell? 

The children on the stage at a party in the Sunken Yard- after the paint fight. Can you tell? 

Finally, get involved in the paint fight and party at the sunken yard. You won't regret it. Unless you get covered in paint and forget to wash it off before the next morning of course.

We've seen a lot in our travels, but nothing beats stepping out of your everyday, throwing on your best festival clobber and dancing in a field with your family.

Nozstock we are SO ready for you. Maybe we’ll see you there  

 

 

 watching an acrobat in the silks one evening. 

watching an acrobat in the silks one evening. 

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Our first Winter in the yurt.

 icicles on the yurt.

icicles on the yurt.

So, it looks like we actually made it.

According to locals, it was the harshest winter in years - and we decided to make a move onto a mountain at the very start of it. Why did we do it? Well we wanted to live in a yurt and winter be damned, we needed somewhere to live. 

Was Winter hard?

Yes, yes it was; but not the bits you'd expect. 

Moving in with no running water, toilet, drainage or idea what we were doing was the hardest bit - especially as our canvas was bedding in so our roof leaked in various places. Waking up with a drip in your face was annoying, but in all honesty we loved the challenge and totally rose to it. What they say is true; if you treat something as a game, it will be fun. 

 Frozen tap.  

Frozen tap.  

The hardest bit was coming to terms with the fact that you needed to wear three pairs of socks each day and that the children would ALWAYS get muddy and wet and you'd be expected to find dry clothes every time. Even if you didn't actually have any. 

There was one time. our boiler burst for the second time and we couldn't get the yurt above 15 degrees, despite constantly stoking the fire. It was our sixth snow storm- but this time, along with the snow came 80 mile an hour swirling winds which worked itself into every crack. We decamped to our friends house for the first and only time to return in the morning to snowdrifts in our home. 

 That fateful night we abandoned ship and came home to this.  

That fateful night we abandoned ship and came home to this.  

Now, I know there is no point being angry with nature - it's charm is that it is so completely unbendable and fierce in its disregard for what us humans want. Yet right then, I don't mind admitting that I told the snow through stifled sobs to FUCK RIGHT OFF. It didn't do any good, in case you were wondering. 

Despite our complex relationship with the elements, we did actually enjoy Winter. There were comedy moments of children falling through snowdrifts into the bog. Sledging and board games, cheese, hot chocolates and movie marathons in bed. We basically treated each snowstorm like a bonus Christmas. 

We learned a lot, though.

We learned to never let the fire go out and to always keep big stores of wood, kindling, coal and lighters.

We learned that mice want to take sanctuary in warm places that come with a source of food... and that three ultrasonic deterrents work really well. Peanut butter works on traps as a back up. 

 Emergency wood delivery making its way to our yurt mid snow storm.  

Emergency wood delivery making its way to our yurt mid snow storm.  

We learned to keep a supply of water inside, so if the pipes freeze (again) you can fill up the hot water bottles and have a cup of tea. 

We learned that without the help of local farmers, ploughing the roads and selling us emergency firewood, we would have been stuffed.

We learned that as snowfall increases, so does wine and cheese consumption.

We learned to have a weeks supply of food on board at all times during the Winter. 

We learned to insulate the propane regulator with bubble wrap or no one will be getting that cup of tea. 

We learned that the shower tray becomes a mini ice rink and the curtains stiffen and freeze to the windows.

We learned that two wheel drive cars are useless in the snow.

 Standard yurt breakfast of porridge and tea. 

Standard yurt breakfast of porridge and tea. 

We learned that it is better to go without a shower than have a cold one. If you wear enough layers no-one can smell you anyway, right? 

We learned that if you line the yurt crown with bubble wrap, condensation doesn't drip on your head quite so much.

We learned that if you have enough blankets the only part of you that will be cold is your nose.

We learned that our idea of 'warm' is flexible. Sometimes 16 degrees feels balmy. 

How have the children found it?

One disappointing feature of travelling was that we relied on the iPads for everything: books, documentaries, facetiming family, music, films, currency conversion, banking- you name it. We were tied to our iPads- so we wanted our new life to be different.

Yes, we still watch films on Netflix, but now the children have toys and honest to goodness, real life BOOKS, a mountain to roam and friends. They are outside and muddy all the time- in all weathers and it is just what we wanted for them.

 Icicle light sabre.

Icicle light sabre.

Winter itself hasn't been hard for the children, as they rarely seem to feel the cold! When it is stormy, the festival ear defenders come in handy to drown out the sound- and they sleep under a pile of blankets to keep warm. As you would expect, dealing with logistics for the yurt has fallen to the adults, though they do know to tuck their trousers into their wellies and not to walk past the woodpile empty handed... 

The real change for the boys has been that they sleep in the same bed every night and are attending welsh stream school after nearly two years away from formal education. They are completely loving it. 

It hasn't been plain sailing, of course. The years they missed have meant that playground politics is completely bemusing to them.  

 Finn under his mountain of blankets.  

Finn under his mountain of blankets.  

They travelled the world and found unending kindness - so why are people saying mean things at school? The boys felt as though no-one understood where they were coming from- after all, they'd just landed in a rural welsh speaking school after travelling. You couldn't get much more extreme, could you?  

Their dealing with these difficulties has been testimony to their resilience- and to the school in helping to reintegrate them. Thankfully our 'Worldschooling' approach (explained here) has worked and they aren't behind academically in their peer group- and they're catching up with playground etiquette nicely, too.

Despite my early worries on Worldschooling vs mainstream school, I concede that the boys completely love the structure that school has given them and are becoming the bilingual children that I hoped they might be.

I am asked if travelling has spoiled the children, and if they find the everyday boring now?

In fact I would say the opposite to be true.

After being transient for so long, the children can see the beauty in building friendships, planting seeds and putting down roots clearer than ever before. It's true, a day out at a local park might not hold their attention quite so well... but in every area that it matters, their awareness of what's important and their appreciation of the world has been heightened.  

Living in the yurt, we are so close to nature that watching the seasons change is fascinating. No matter what you have seen, how can hearing the first woodpecker be anything short of miraculous?

With Winter behind us and life springing up all around on our mountain, we are embracing the warmer months ahead. We're not being silly though. We are planning a few upgrades for the next cold snap.... but this time with the (intermittent) sun on our faces.

 Our yurt in the snow.

Our yurt in the snow.

 

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Build Day and beyond.

The day we moved our furniture into the yurt, there was a blizzard. I'd have called it apocalyptic because it was unlike anything i had seen. My (new) Welsh neighbours assure me that this can be expected every so often. 

It wasn't easy getting here.

We had been chasing the sun for 14 months and had forgotten how cold British Winters can actually be- let alone Welsh Winters on the side of a mountain. 

Up to now, our friends in Wales had done all the hard work, building the insulated yurt platform and plumbing in the water feed from the mountain spring. Mike started his new job in a week, so despite wanting to catch up with all our friends and family we missed whilst away, we had to crack on and build ourselves a home. 

The forecast, according to Nitsan our yurt builder was;  'The best we were going to get for the next 8 months or so' so we co-ordinated his arrival with this 'auspicious' day. He had experience of living in yurts in Powys and runs a company called Spirits Intent- you can visit their website here if you want to have a look)

Nitsan arrived the night before and made sure we all realised how much hard work we were in for... He slept in his van whilst we lay awake in our friends house- both feeling sick with dread, listening to the rain and wind battering the windows.

 Archie, the eldest on Build Day

Archie, the eldest on Build Day

Whoever forecast a calm and dry day was foolishly optimistic. 

We put on clothes that we thought were warm, but clearly we hadn't got a clue yet. Our legs were quickly numb with cold as the hailstorms battered us on the yurt platform that was perched on the side of the mountain. 

Nitsan encouraged the children to do sun dances, and directed us to do jobs every time we looked like rabbits in headlights. There was a lot to do and he was leaving at the end of the day, so we needed to get on with it. Frozen hands or not.

It was sweet relief when friends called us inside the house for a bowl of hot soup and the chance to apply extra layers. 

Every kind of weather joined us on the mountain that day- rainbows, sunshine but mainly snow and hail. The trellis went up easily, then the doors.

 It was all hands on deck to get the work done so we could move in.

It was all hands on deck to get the work done so we could move in.

The precious hand-crafted rafters looked so fragile as they tentatively slotted into place in the wheel..... and breathe.

Each rafter was tied on with a prayer that the hail would stop and the wind would die down in time for the roof to go on. 

With the tension band tied tightly to keep the rafters in place, we somehow carried the load of the felt on to the roof without dropping it in the mud or it getting blown away in the wind, like a massive kite. 

The walls of our yurt are higher than usual, as we wanted to build a mezzanine for the children. This made putting on the roof tricky, so we used batons to unfold the fabric over the rafters. Nitsan tied it in place.

If we thought the felt insulation was hard to carry, we were in for a shock: the canvas weighed a ton and were losing daylight- and energy.

With every ounce of strength that we had in us, we heaved the weight of it up. Higher! Shouted Nitsan from the ladder, but Mike and I just looked at each other and both had a sense the other's legs were about to give way. 

With Herculean effort (and a few tears) we shoved it on the roof and tied the skirt around the latticework with ropes. These ropes would be where we attached the felt and canvas walls. 

I have a vague memory of Nitsan trying to make a joke and not really understanding. I was suffering from a sense of humour failure and just needed to get it done. 

IMG_boy and yurt

Somehow, we had got the roof on without it blowing into the mud, and the sense of achievement carried us though. Now it was just the walls to do.

Thanks to years of crochet, I am confident with knots, so I went around the yurt, tying the ropes of the walls to the ropes hidden beneath the canvas skirt at the base of the roof.

Each knot was slow work, and I just couldn't get my body to do what I was telling it to. In addition to this I had only 30cm of platform to stand on whilst working. The effort was intense and the weather refused us a moment's kindness. 

When the final knot was tied and Nitsan showed us what finishing touches we needed to do, we headed indoors... then quickly, he waved goodbye to us.

It felt as though we were comrades in a war against the elements, and our troop was disbanding. His leaving felt emotional and we really didn't want him to go.

In spite of the fact that our bodies were aching and numb, we were pleased we had a beautiful tiny house we could call our own. 

The next few weeks were a buzz of sanding floors, installing the wood burner, getting the toilet/shed built and our priority: laying the path. The field was so muddy that it would be impossible to move any of our furniture in without slipping over. 

We moved into a nearby friends' yurt for a week, so i could work on our own yurt whilst Mike started his new job. We had missed the deadline but not by much.

The following weekend we hired a van and went back to Bristol to collect our furniture. We could barely get back as the snow fell and the journey back became treacherous.

 The day after we moved in, our gift from the weather gods were these beautiful icicles.  

The day after we moved in, our gift from the weather gods were these beautiful icicles.  

Still, we made it. We were home! Sure, the kitchen and bathroom would come later... for now, we were in. We had an electric cable running up from the house, a camping stove, woodburner and a bucket! What else could you need?

The snow- though beautiful proved to be a huge challenge. Having just moved in we weren't used to yurt life and certainly had no idea how to manage such extreme weather. I can tell you now, the secret is to 'double jumper' 'double sock' and keep the fire roaring at all times. If only I had known that then. 

 Move-in day!  (Note: child refusing to wear a coat even in the snow)

Move-in day!  (Note: child refusing to wear a coat even in the snow)

The children played tirelessly popping back every now and then, up to their thighs in muddy slush where the bog hadn't fully frozen and they had fallen through the snow.

Without running water and limited clothing, how was this going to work? 

For a brief moment, I wavered... my friend saw my face and like an angel, took the pile of brown, slushy clothes away in an Ikea bag, to the house to wash.

Apart from this brief moment, we were so happy to have our own home we didn't see anything as much of an obstacle. There is a lot to be said for embracing the challenge full on. 

Had we bitten off more than we could chew?

Nah. It was an adventure, and after all wasn't that what we wanted? 

After this baptism of fire everything else seems easy. 

When the snow thawed and we had a sink with water and actual DRAINAGE installed it felt like Christmas. When our cooker got hooked up to Propane we wanted to kiss it.

Every service that we gained and every practical issue we overcome feels like a big win. In fact, I'd say we are almost 'there,' wherever 'there' is. 

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17 Things that surprised me after 10 days of rural yurt life.

1. Keeping the damp and cold at bay is a full time job

2. Showers are overrated. If its cold and you're wrapped up in woolly jumpers, who really needs them anyway?

3. If you have natural fibre socks you can get a few days wear out of them. It's important to double jumper and double sock for maximum affect. Natural fibres ALWAYS for warmth and lack of stink. 

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4. It's perfectly normal to buy a car that doesn't lock, because you don’t need to lock cars here. Yes really.  

5. Long haired boys are often mistaken for girls.

6. Hate polystyrene? Me too. However, the creator of the polystyrene BOG seat deserves to win a prize for services to cold bottoms. Honestly, it feels WARM even when it's FREEZING outside. Mind. Blown. 

7. A river after the snow has thawed, sounds the same as a motorway.

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8. Mud is a way of life

9. Instant hot water in the middle of a field is nothing short of a miracle.

10. Mice like warm places too.

11. It is 25 minutes drive to the local shop and there are no take away delivery services here. It feels... ok. You get used to driving everywhere. 

12. When you shift a ton of gravel, it's your core muscles that ache the next day. Not your arms. 

13. There were 56 pupils in the local Primary school; now 58. Despite not being able to speak the language the children feel snug being amongst such a small number. I'm surprised how quickly they have felt at home there. 

14. I may never get bored of going to sleep to the sounds of the owls.

15. Snow is beautiful but means that keeping warm and dry is bloody hard work. 

16. Pub culture is alive and kicking.

17. Warmest welcomes await people who venture this far into the wilderness. I have never been invited to so many people's houses in my life. It is so, so lovely. 

Here is a little film, showing you around our new yurt. Not a bad start, I reckon?

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Anticlimax

I know, I’ve skipped a bit.

I haven’t written about the whirlwind and excitement of getting home, seeing family and friends and being swept away with all the reunions and 'welcome home' drinks.  

Nor have I talked about building our yurt (a post on this is coming soon, believe me, it deserves it)

I’ve gone straight to the moany bit because it's real and writing is therapy. Also, I was too busy having fun to stop and write about it (and our laptop needed a service...)  

Having been ‘home’ for two weeks the main questions are:

1. "What was your favourite country?"  

and

2. "What’s it like to be back?"  

Well, there is no concise answer to question number 1 and the answer to number 2 is complicated.

Welcome Home

Initially, being back was immense. Having just been us four for fourteen months, being metaphorically cuddled by a huge community of people was like lots of Christmases coming at once.

The warmth of our welcome was overwhelming- places we knew well seemed comforting and familiar. BUT we weren't stopping. We were just passing through before bounding onto our next adventure! Yay!

 Rams head at the corner of our field in Wales  

Rams head at the corner of our field in Wales  

As you can probably guess, those initial feelings have subsided.

The yurt is built but not not yet habitable.

Mike is in Wales, digging drainage trenches and sanding the floor- whilst friends are installing water, electricity and a composting toilet.  

I know I was overly optimistic to think that we’d have a home almost as soon as we got back. Of COURSE infrastructure takes time! I know that!  Things take longer than you think they will especially when you are building a home in a muddy field!

It's like my optimism has rendered my years of festival work useless.

We’ll get there, I know.  

For now though, I am with the children in my parents' warm and welcoming flat in a suburb of Bristol, trying not to think about where we were 3 weeks- or 3 months ago. The thought makes me feel sad, like the anniversary of a loved one that has passed away.

Simultaneously I am outraged that it slipped by so fast and racked with shame that I am in the thick of something that COULDN'T BE MORE of a First World Problem.

A travel hangover after a 14 month round the world trip with your family? Darling, It's a cross we must all bear. Like Bi-fold doors and babysitters being late. 

 Our yurt- erected after a satisfying hard days slog.  

Our yurt- erected after a satisfying hard days slog.  

We are safe and warm which is more than most people in this world. We have options, beautiful memories and shelter- we know we are lucky.

This new life we want to build for ourselves in Wales is like nectar though, magically subduing our wanderlust. Then I remember Finn's new allergy and the realisation that my gorgeous dog might not be able to join us. This tars the picture I had in my mind and feels like a kick in the guts. 

I am jealous of Mike grafting in Wales whilst I stay here, impotent and looking after the boys. I am crocheting baskets for the yurt in a bid to feel ‘useful’.

Between shouting at the boys to stop fighting/ jumping/ playing on their iPad and writing lists to occupy myself- I remind myself that they are missing their Daddy too and we all feel unsettled so should be kinder to each other.

Just have the Ipad, boys. 

IMG_3101.JPG

The children are bored.

I’m bored.

A walk to the local park seems pointless and laughable after the places we have been. It doesn’t even seem worth going when we know it won’t hold our interest.  

That's not the attitude though, is it?

Despite everyone telling me that coming home would feel shit, I was so excited about seeing our people and building our yurt, that I didn't believe them.

So I kick myself up the arse and take the boys out in the sunshine to cycle around the old airfield. Our yurt will be ready soon and if it isn't, I might accidentally book us all something on EasyJet. 

 

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What next?

We’re nearing the end of our round the world trip. We are sad, of course we are. But we are something else too.  

We are grateful for the incredible amount of time we have had, relishing our children’s childhoods and seeing the world through their eyes. We are proud too, that we have shown them that another way is possible to live. Actually an infinite number of ways are possible- Who knew?! 

 Sunrise on our field. Thanks to Nicky for taking these pictures for us! 

Sunrise on our field. Thanks to Nicky for taking these pictures for us! 

This part is coming to an end. The part where we live out of backpacks and have no responsibilities apart from to eachother.  

Mike starts work at the beginning of December. He was lucky and talented enough to be offered a job whilst we were in Guatemala. But not in Bristol- in Powys, Wales.   

Part of the reason that we sold everything when we left the UK was so we could re-evaluate our life and make decisions about how we want it to be.   

 The existing platform on our friends’ land, waiting for our yurt. 

The existing platform on our friends’ land, waiting for our yurt. 

Since hitting the road and living out of 2 (large!) backpacks, we have realised that we need much less stuff. We haven’t missed anything that we have kept in storage- so why bother trying to recreate our old life, buying a house just to fill it up with all that stuff we already got rid of? We want to live small and buy only what we need- our carbon footprint whilst travelling on this beautiful planet has been huge. We’re keen to address this by living a more environmentally conscious life. 

We love being outdoors and desperately want our children to have the sort of childhoods that we had. Childhoods where children were always grubby with grazed knees, where they are free to test their boundaries and explore the world pretty much as we did. 

 The frame of our wonderful yurt.

The frame of our wonderful yurt.

 Our finished yurt, waiting to be transported to our field in Wales.  

Our finished yurt, waiting to be transported to our field in Wales.  

An urban setting makes this hard, so we decided a few months ago try something completely different. We have friends with a patch of land with a yurt platform already on it in a secluded valley in mid Wales  

We ordered a yurt from Spirits Intent and they have crafted it with love, ready for our return. 

So how do we feel?  

Sad that we will no longer go where the wind takes us, but pleased to be able to nurture those relationships we have neglected for the past year.  

 Someone left a tree inside the yurt.  

Someone left a tree inside the yurt.  

Rural Wales is so completely different from our life in urban Bristol so it will be just another chapter and that makes it exciting. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty, learning new skills as we build our home.

As an added bonus, our rent will be low so we can save for our next foreign adventure. Everyone is a winner! 

I hope you stay with us as we embark on this next chapter.  

 

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