Tag Archives: Parenting

Rites of Passage and Being a Proud Parent

This weekend Third Party had a new rite of passage and I had a really proud parent moment…the two were seperate but not disconnected.

Rite of passage was that she could go to the video shop and get out a cert 15 DVD on her own. Know it sounds silly, but to me this was really significant…it only seems 2 minutes since she was 6 months old and I was getting her first denim jacket from Adams or that around the age of three she was getting her first pair of navy DM’s. (You have to appreciate as I missed the whole first words and first steps thing these other firsts were significant for me).

Anyway amongst the DVD’s she got out for us to chill to this weekend was Cadillac Records. Now I can’t tell you much about this as I was DVD’d out after Hannah Montana and The Boat that Rocked. The film buff however loves the fact that Blockbuster has this mad deal going on that mean she can get four out for little more than the cost of one or two rentals and keep them several nights longer. (For the record Changeling was the other one she immersed herself in this weekend…again something I half watched whilst getting on with life). Anyway, getting back to Cadillac Records, this led on to the proud parent moment.

Third Party loved this film, and particularly got hooked on Etta James’ music in it. Net result was that I was dragged down to the local record store with her and her allowance, (so she could use me to get the student discount). Upon entering she noted with some relish that The Best of Vera Lynn was on display. I have been mocking her for some months about finding a couple of Vera Lynn songs downloaded onto my computer…..turns out that my daughter knew was right and Vera Lynn is class. I await the renaissence of Doris Day, who has also been discovered by Third Party. Anyway….getting back to the praise moment, she decided not to be diverted by the Vera Lynn CD and eventually found The Best of Etta James. Off we headed to the till where upon the salesman turns to me and says, “this for you?”, to which I reply (pointing at Third Party), “no, it’s hers” to which he says, “good choice, that’s class”.

Now having read far too much Nick Hornby and Mike Gayle aswell as being a total Brat Pack freak (particularly Pretty in Pink) you have to understand this is the sort of moment which made me glow with pride as a parent. My ickle girl was getting complimented upon what she was spending her allowance on in a record shop by the guy at the counter.

Summer Holiday Tips….For the Brave and Not So Brave

For the brave I direct you to Tim Dowling’s article in the Guardian today about What are you going to do with your children this summer? I say this is for the brave because whilst some of it is stuff we could all do to carry some of it through you would really need nerves of steel….or a large house where you could easily escape to a different wing whilst the impact was being felt. At the very least a pair of ear plugs would be required to enable you to deal with the “I’m bored”, “I’m hungry” and “I’m bored and skint” comments that would have to be dealt with. That said, if you do have the bottle to follow them through they actually look like a good set of tips.

For the less brave I give my alternative version of how to deal with the summer holidays and a teenager.
1) Find wholesome but cheap activities to volunteer your child for. In Third Party’s case she is being shipped off daily on a bus to help with a holiday club in a nearby town, for one week.

2) Plan your summer ahead. Work out when you are going to be spending “quality time” together and when you need to avoid each other. Work out how you are going to do this…note quality time may be spent indoors, but works best with an “outing”. With Third Party and myself the avoiding each other takes the form of her going off to see friends in different parts of the country or me going to work in the post-grad room, rather than attempting to work from home. The quality time will involve a series of outings to (i) Shipmeets, (ii) festivals, (iii) see friends for a couple of days. There might also be the odd excursion to nearby towns to do something fun but within budget. You will see our adventures tend to take us to places where others are. Thus during a summer spent together in a confined space, remembering evening activities also tend to stop for the summer, we ensure that we get to mix with others as much as possible. Also planning these things in advance means you can buy the cheaper train tickets…enabling you to stretch your budget further. However, tip with this….if you are going to Leeds do not, I repeat, do not buy tickets to Sheffield because you just have a large town in Yorkshire which isn’t York stuck in your head…and the earlier bit of an internet thread has been the bit to enter your consciousness. This increases your costs when the tickets to Sheffield are non-refundable. It also gives your family and friends way too much amunition to take the mickey out of you with.

3) Stock up on milk and cereal. This is the ultimate snack food. Compared to the other junk they could be working there way through bowls of cereal are good value and relatively healthy. If they are hungry they can go get another bowl. Also during the summer you can vary what they are offered.

4) Encourage your child to spend their own money on the cheap DVD’s they want from HMV. If they buy with their own money what they want to see it is likely to get atleast a couple of viewings over the summer..thus being more time without the wail of “I’m bored”. Also if they have friends who do likewise they might be able to start their own video lending service, swapping titles with each other. This saves you money because you don’t have to go and rent it if they borrow it.

5) If you are going to drag them around somewhere they will find boring try to make it somewhere they can wander around and take photos in. It gives them something different to do with the mobile phone.

6) Make sure their mobile is fully charged at all times. If you are going to drag them around somewhere you want / need to go they will be much quieter if they are getting RSI of the thumb…or using it as a MP3 player.

7) Always make sure you have a good light hearted novel ready. When it gets too much rather than engaging in the argument walk away and read a chapter of the novel before returning.

Budget Britain

The Guardian has an article about Bargain London. It’s an article more useful for its links than it’s actual content, particulary the one to “The Artful Ticket-Dodger”.

Whilst these articles both focus on London they are based around the idea that you don’t have to pay a fortune to enjoy a bit of culture. Having lived on a relatively tight budget fairly consistently I have picked up the odd idea on how to do this.
So here are a few ideas, some of which were included within the article and some of which weren’t:

1) Spend a little time thinking through what you might be doing in the year ahead.

If you know that you are likely to visit a number of heritage sites than it is worth investing in either an English Heritage or National Trust membership. In order to work out what is going to be the best value for you think about which parts of the country you are going to visit when and then check what kind of attractions has in each area and whether they are open to the public when you want to visit. Personally I have found EH the better deal out of the two and so have renewed this on a more regular basis.

If you regularly visit a particular city and like art check what exhibitions are coming up. If there are more than a couple you want to see then think about becoming a member. Membership of the Tate, for example, gave me free access to all the exhibitions at the Britain and the Modern. It also gave 10% off in the shop aswell as access to the members cafes. If you don’t want the exhibition entry alot of these places are free to go and wander around.

Decide if you are a coach or a train person, but be ready to change for long haul if required. Personally, whilst I will do coach travel if cost dictates I am much more of a train person. This means I invest in rail cards. With both options if you know when you need to be travelling major discounts can be found by travelling in advance. National Express has some great deals if you are travelling by coach between major cities.

Accomodation wise the Youth Hostel Association is worth thinking about. They now do family rooms and it’s good clean accomodation at a reasonable price.

Works out best for budgeting if you spread the purchase of these cards through the year and perhaps put things like heritage / gallery memberships on your Christmas / birthday lists. Oh and if you are a UK tax payer and getting membership don’t forget to gift aid.

2) Remember that restricted view often means just a slightly less good one.

For sporting and theatre events I have gone for restricted view tickets in the past and had no problem. What I would suggest though is checking that it isn’t straight behind a pillar, but slightly to one side. My best restricted view ticket was at the Globe one day when I decided I wanted a seat. The groundling tickets are great value, but more suitable for some performances than others, (think about the length of the play and the weather forecast).

3) Britain has a lot of free stuff that happens on a regular basis. Most towns have carnivals, fireworks or music festivals which happen on an annual basis. A couple of famous examples include: Durham Miners Gala happening this Saturday, (and which I will unfortunately be missing), Nottinghill Carnival and Whistable Oyster Festival, which has cool fireworks on the sea front. These are just a few examples but events happen all over the summer all over the country.

4) Most galleries and museums have space for you to sit and eat a packed lunch if you take one. If you don’t want to lug one about remember that Boots, M&S and Sainsbury’s all do meal deals and are now located in most central stations or nearby. If you shop wisely you can save alot of money this way.

5) Discount coupons abound in newspapers, shopping receipts, stations and elsewhere. If you are going to a major attraction with friends or family these can save you lots of money.

6) Always look at the concessionary information and check if they apply to any of your group.