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Is London too expensive for a family day out?

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LondonThis morning, I took part in a discussion about the cost of going on a family day out to London on the BBC Radio Wales show Good Morning Wales. Recent figures show that visitor numbers have fallen at several of the city’s main tourist attractions have fallen, and the costs of getting to London have been cited as a potential factor.

As a parent of two children under five, I do in some ways like the idea of going a day trip to London but at the moment it isn’t really something that I see as realistic due to both the cost and the time it takes to get to London from North Wales. We’re lucky to have a three hour direct train service to London from Bangor, but a return ticket for my wife and I would be likely to cost £90-£100 each. This is a lot of money to pay before having purchased any food or paid to visit any attractions.

As a grandmother from South Wales who was also interviewed in this morning’s discussion on Radio Wales pointed out, there are ways of saving money once you’re in London and there are attractions such as major museums that are free. I think it’s absolutely fantastic that the state funds free entry to many major museums in this country. Indeed, I’m much more happy to see some of the money we all pay via taxes go towards making culture and the arts rather than helping to fund a royal wedding.

Although the interviewee from Cardiff mentioned being able to travel to London for as little as £5 return on the discount bus operator Megabus, this simply isn’t an option in North Wales. Megabus don’t travel from Bangor and the nearest city they serve is Chester (over 50 miles away), and they don’t run a Chester to London service. Although we could travel from Bangor to London by coach on National Express, the journey would be likely to take over nine hours and cost at least £35 per adult. This is significantly cheaper than rail travel but the journey time alone means that a day trip, or even a weekend break, is out of the question. Even when our kids are older – they’re currently almost five years old and eighteen months old – this hardly sounds like a fun excursion.

In North Wales, we are lucky that we can much more cheaply and easily go on day trips to a city such a Chester that is little more than an hour away by car or rail. It is also a much smaller city than London, and much more easy to get around by foot. Although London is full of tourist attractions, it is a massive city and I can’t say that I relish the idea of negotiating our way round the London Underground with two under fives.

In general, we have tended to avoid going on city breaks when we’ve gone away on holiday with our kids so far as we feel it’d be likely to be a bit stressful and not necessarily something that they would enjoy as much as other activities. When we went on our first family holiday, we deliberately decided to stay at a rural campsite in France and take things easier. As I’ve mentioned in another blog post, we’ve enjoyed camping with our kids from quite a young age.

At the moment, I’m just not sure that our kids are old enough to fully appreciate going on a trip to London. We’re fortunate that they seem to travel fairly well when we go on family holidays or head up to visit my parents in Scotland. However, for the time being they seem perfectly happy going on smaller scale excursions in our local area. As you can see from this blog post from a couple of years ago, we’re really fortunate to have some pretty scenic locations nearby!

What do you think of London as a destination for a family day out or weekend away? Do you have any favourite places to visit? What do you think are the best ways to save money when visiting a city like London? Feel free to let me know by commenting below. Please remember that you can ‘like’ this blog’s page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter to keep up-to-date with my chronicles of family life.

 

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Springtime family fun in North Wales

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Here are some of the places here in North Wales that I’ve most enjoyed visiting in 2016. I’ve got a few more blog posts that I’m planning to write in the coming weeks, and I’m looking forward to sharing more examples of local scenery here in North Wales.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

This village is only a few miles from where we live, and we visited it earlier this year as a big steam train was visiting. I keep meaning to drive through it with our sat nav on to see how the electronic device copes with the pronunciation.

Llangollen

This three hour round trip at one stage looked like it wouldn’t go well. Our son was very excited to see and hear Tomos in the distance when we arrived at the car park, but decided the blue train was a bit too noisy and actually wanted to go home again a few minutes after we arrived at the station. Thankfully he changed his mind after we went to do some art and craft activities.

Bangor

Our local museum recently had a night of bug themed events for kids, that included a ‘bush tucker trial’ that involved eating this. Thankfully it all tasted a lot nicer than it looked!

Cable Bay, Anglesey

We’re really lucky to have so many attractive beaches within easy reach of where we live, including this one on the island of Anglesey.

What are your favourite places to visit as a family? Please feel free to share your views on this post in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ page on Facebook.

10 things I’ve learned about parenting this month

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10 things

1. Brushing a two year old’s teeth takes a lot longer when they insist on you also brushing the teeth of their three imaginary friends.

2. I was delighted to hear our two year old son was recently “being a comedian” in creche. I like to think he’s inherited my sense of humour.

3. I recently had my hair brushed by our two year old son. Apparently he thinks that the look below is “really good”.

2016-02-15 18.28.56

 

4. Our son has decided that he no longer likes vegetarian haggis

5. …however, my Scottish dad pride has been restored by his love of baking shortbread biscuits (see below).

2016-02-06 17.28.45

 

6. Our son ate several chilli and tomato oatcakes yesterday. I’m hoping this means he’s on his way to becoming a fan of curry (…a topic I’ve discussed here before).

7. Our two year old son still can’t quite pronounce the names of some local villages, especially the one whose train station is pictured below.

2016-02-06 15.32.39

 

8. According to a colleague, the arrival of a second child is like the transition from walking a dog to owning a zoo.

9. Our son has decided he’s friends with 25 of the letters of the alphabet. He doesn’t know Y.

10. Even if a toddler looks tired and sounds tired, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re tired: “I’m not tired, it’s just a yawn”.

 

What have you learned about parenting recently? What do you remember about being the parent of a toddler? Please feel free to share your views on this post in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ page on Facebook

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it.

 

 

Family’s win for football fans affected by autism

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IMAG0152As a big fan of football, I look forward to sharing my passion for this sport with my son as he grows older. Despite not yet having reached his third birthday, he has already been to two football matches. Admittedly he slept through most of the first and didn’t seem too bothered about the second one.

Given my love of the sport often referred to as ‘the beautiful game’, I was recently quite moved to hear about a family here in the UK who have faced quite a few challenges when taking their children to football matches. About ten days ago, I heard about the story of Peter and Kate Shippey. All three of their children are affected by autism.

Reading about the Shippey family’s experience of taking their eldest son to see their local team Sunderland play really opened my eyes to a series of issues that I hadn’t thought about much before. As they explain on their blog, their oldest son was really excited about going to see his team play at their stadium but found the experience hard to cope with and had to leave the game only a few minutes after it started.

The very thought of seeing a child so keen to go to see their team play but end up having to leave the stadium almost brought a tear to my eye. To love a sport but be unable to enjoy it in the same way as many other people seemed such a shame.

However, as this video shows, the story has had a happy end. As has been reported in the press, Sunderland have become the first football team in the UK (and possibly the world) to install a ‘sensory room’ that is designed to make it easier for fans affected by autism to enjoy attending a football match. The facility makes it possible for fans to enjoy matches in a room that shelters them from the noise levels that some find hard to endure.

The fact that such a facility now exists owes much to the efforts of the Shippey family to persuade Sunderland FC to create a facility that makes their stadium more accessible and inclusive. The sensory room is apparently in great demand, and has also been made available to fans of visiting teams.

However, the story doesn’t stop here. Peter and Kate Shippey have set up The Shippey Campaign in order to encourage other sports teams in the UK to follow Sunderland’s example. They are encouraging sports clubs and supporters interested in learning more about to get in touch via e-mail (theshippeycampaign@gmail.com), and urging supporters to call on their teams to make their stadium more suitable for fans affected by autism. I’d like to wish them the best of luck in their efforts, which I hope will bring benefits for many other families.

For more information about the Shippey Campaign, see their blog, their Facebook page and their feed on Twitter

Our son doesn’t like haggis any more

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no more haggisTwo years ago, I asked an important question on this blog: will our son like haggis? Haggis is traditionally eaten on 25th January as part of Burns Night to celebrate the life and work of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet. Rather than serving up the traditional version of the dish that is composed of sheep’s innards cooked in a sheep’s stomach, I fed him a homemade vegetarian version that he enthusiastically (…and messily) consumed.

This year, we again ate vegetarian haggis to mark Burns Night but our son (who’ll be three in a few months’ time) wasn’t interested. I’d like to think that it was because we offered him a shop-produced form of vegetarian haggis rather than a homemade version, but I fear that that this may not be the case. Over the last year, our son has become a bit more fussy about what he eats. He still enjoys going out to a local tapas restaurant and sampling lots of different fruit, vegetables and cheeses but it can be a different story at home.

Last summer, I thought that his love of all sorts of different fresh fruit and vegetables was set to continue when he insisted on holding some broccoli while we went round the supermarket rather than putting it in the trolley (what folks here in the UK call a ‘shopping cart’). Despite the fact that he nibbled on the broccoli while we went round the store, he wasn’t interested in eating in at home once we’d cooked it.

If I took things to extremes, I could take our son’s refusal to eat haggis as a rejection of his Scottish roots. However, that would be going a bit too far. It’s inevitable that our son is going to have a different relationship with Scotland to me. I was born in Scotland and lived there until the age of 18, whereas he was born here in Wales.

By virtue of my wife being from England and my grandparents from different parts of Ireland, our son would technically be eligible to represent five different countries at sports such as football: Wales, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. I’d only be eligible to represent Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland at football, but having lived in Wales since 2007 would seem to – theoretically – make me eligible to represent Wales at rugby. They’re unlikely to call on my services as the Welsh rugby team is pretty decent at the moment, but things might have been different in the 1980s despite the fact that I have played very little rugby.

Our son may no longer have the same interest in vegetarian haggis as he once had, but I’m pleased to report that he does like shortbread biscuits. Rather than just eating this Scottish delicacy, a few months ago he actually helped me to make some of these. As he grows up, it’s fun finding new things to bond over as he asks ever more questions about the world around him.

 

What did you think of this blog post? What traditions and foods do you like to eat or cook with your friends and family? Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ page on Facebook.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it.

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Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

 

Feel free to name a monkey after our son

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Feel free to name a monkey after our sonIf you were famous, would you be bothered if a zoo decided to name a monkey after your newborn son or daughter? Personally, I wouldn’t be bothered. In fact, I’d be kind of flattered by this sort of honour. However, not everyone seems to agree.

In the week that followed the birth of a daughter named Charlotte to the UK Royal Family’s William and Kate, a Japanese zoo was widely reported to have committed a diplomatic faux pas by naming a baby monkey Charlotte. In a public vote organised by the zoo, Charlotte was the most popular name. The zoo was forced to apologize following criticism from people who thought that the decision to call its new macaque Charlotte was not appropriate.

I may not be the sort person who purchases royal wedding commemorative crockery sets, but I really don’t see the problem with naming a monkey after a princess or a prince. After all, lots of parents playfully refer to their offspring as cheeky monkeys when they are young. Indeed, I am aware of several fellow parent bloggers who include ‘monkey’ in the name of their website. These include All Done Monkey, The Monkeys All Say Boo, You Clever Monkey, Schooling a Monkey and One Smiley Monkey.

Perhaps some would argue that deference to royalty should dictate that naming a monkey after a royal baby is not appropriate. However, I am inclined to disagree. I’d imagine it’s reasonable to assume that being born into a life of wealth and privilege does not preclude royal babies from displaying monkey-like characteristics or being branded ‘cheeky little monkeys’ by their own family and friends.

Now it may be that a Japanese zoo naming a monkey after a member of a foreign royal family is considered by some to be undiplomatic. That said, diplomacy is not always a trait displayed by members of royal families. An uncle of newly-born Princess Charlotte caused controversy ten years ago by turning up at a ‘colonials and natives’ fancy dress party wearing what was reported to be a Nazi costume. Charlotte’s great grandfather’s undiplomatic remarks have been the subject of several books and indeed a list of Ninety gaffes to mark ninety years that was drawn up by the UK newspaper The Independent.

There is another important question that needs to be asked about the topic of monkeys. What is it about monkeys that means that it’s potentially offensive to name one after a member of the UK royal family? After all, humans ‘share a common ape ancestor with chimpanzees‘ according to the Smithsonian Museum of National History. Given that some sorts of monkeys are apparently capable of using computers (see number 2 on the list), I’d love to offer one the opportunity to write a guest post on this blog sometime in the near future.

Given the fact that monkeys are often perceived to be comical and fun animals, it seems strange for it to be seen as potentially controversial to name one after a member of a royal family. Indeed, I certainly see it as no reason for going bananas.

What do you think about the Japanese’s zoo’s decision to name its newborn monkey after a newly born princess? Was it a mistake on their part or were the critics over-reacting? Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it.

I’ve added this post to the following parent blogger link-ups:

21 thoughts from my 21st month as a parent

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21 thoughts Food, football and France. Read about these and more in my latest monthly collection of thoughts about being a parent…

1. Our son has got increasingly polite and sociable recently. Only last week, he helped to put out some rubbish and then said ‘bye bye wheelie bin, see you later!’.

2. The best thing about borrowing CDs of kids’ songs from the library to play in the car is that it’s usually time to return them just when they start getting irritating.

3. I think our son has inherited my dress sense. Here we are wearing matching outfits:

2015-01-10 10.22.27 4. Within the last month, I’ve had a very proud moment as our son said ‘pêl-droed’ (football) for the first time.

5. Our son is still learning to play football, which probably explains why I won 15-0 in a recent game in our back garden. He is improving though, it was 28-0 to me the previous week.

6. Talking of football, one of my favourite things about being a dad is that it’s now a lot more acceptable to play football in the living room than it used to be.

7. Our son can make a bit of a mess at times, but is also very interested in using our hoover. IMG_20150120_173334862 8. It’s sometimes hard to know when our son’s saying ‘mamma’ and when he’s saying ‘banana’. I hope he doesn’t end up sending a Mother’s Day card to a piece of fruit.

9. However, our son has managed to recently say both ‘granny’ and ‘grandad’ on Skype.

10. Our son has been introduced to some elementary human biology in one of the books he’s been reading recently (see below). IMG_20150126_194318016 11. Our son is getting very enthusiastic about helping out with our two chickens. We’ll need to stop taking him out too early in the morning as he often ends up walking back across the garden towards the house shouting ‘look, eggs!’.

12. He is getting a bit more aware of noise though. When he comes back to bed after getting up during the night, he often shouts ‘QUIET’ just after coming back into the bedroom.

13. Not so long ago, I was somewhat disappointed that our son hadn’t really experienced playing in proper snow that I decided to make him a snowman out of play dough.

IMG_20150111_131152161 14. Thankfully, we did get some proper snow not long after I made the play dough snowman (…maybe there’s a link?).

IMG_20150202_074804849 15. As someone who teaches students French for a living, I was pleased to hear our son recently say his first French word. it was ‘voila’.

16. As our son is showing an interest in France at the moment, I’ve been telling him about how Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep a vineyard he owned in the south of France. It’s quite well known that he’d herd it through the grapevine.

17. Our son may not be two yet, but he’s already decided that it’s time he has his own house (see below).

IMG_20150119_214152745 18. Our son recently told me off for lining up all his toy animals in order of size. Apparently it’s because he doesn’t like me critter sizing.

19. I’m glad to see our son showing an interest in healthy eating. When I got home from work recently he was taking this to a new level by trying to feed grapes to his toy giraffe.

20. Due to his interest in animals such as giraffes, we recently decided to make our bathroom look a bit like a jungle (see below). IMG_20150204_081419011 21. Coming up with over 20 thoughts about parenting per month is getting quite challenging. I’m going to keep this feature going until our son turns two and will then be replacing it with a new format. Watch this space!

What do you think of this post and what do you remember from your first year and a half as a parent? Please feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+. Remember that you can also subscribe to this blog by entering your e-mail address in the box on the right of the screen and also follow this blog via BlogLovin. There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it.

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