Archive for the ‘London’ Category
There seems to be a general consensus, in the UK at least, that people in London are cold and unfriendly and I was wondering what other people’s experiences are.
It has always been my dream to live in France, from a very young age I couldn’t imagine myself living anywhere else. When I lived in France I always said I would never move back to the UK, I couldn’t envisage myself living anywhere other than France. Yet I have been living in the UK for nearly 3 years now, and in London for over 2 and a half of those years.
When I was at school I had friends whose dream was to move to London. When I was at university, further friends aspired to living in the capital. London was never a dream of mine, I ended up here by accident I suppose, as Hubs really wanted to live here so I thought “let’s give it a shot”. I never in my craziest dreams would have imagined living in London, and raising my family here.
So let’s dispel some myths here. London is an amazing city. It’s a great place to raise kids and we have a far better quality of life as a family here than when we lived on the French Riviera.
I am constantly amazed by how friendly people are here, be it fellow parents at L’s school, neighbours, staff in our local shops, bars and restaurants, as well as those in central London, fellow commuters, whoever.
Today is a prime example. I had to take C into central London on my own today; when I got to our local tube station I had a set of stairs to navigate down with the pushchair, it was 9.15am so I was catching the tail-end of rush hour, I had barely started on the stairs when a woman rushed up to me, offering to help.
When I arrived at my destination station, a woman took ill in the lift, not really visibly, but she was wobbly, pale and not 100%. A stranger, standing next to her, noticed this and helped her out of the lift, grabbed a member of TfL staff as they came out of the lift and asked for a place for the ill woman to sit down. The member of staff couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful either.
All I could think while I witnessed this was “is this the cold, unfriendly place I hear so much about?”.
So, is it just me? Do I only see all the good acts and people or do you also come across friendly, helpful, nice people in London?
One thing I can say is despite wanting to live in France for most of my life, for now I’m more than happy with our life in London
There are no words to explain how amazing a sunny bank holiday weekend in the UK is, so I’m going to use pictures instead. Here’s our fab weekend en famille in the sun:
Saturday saw L and I heading to our local park for some long overdue one-on-one time. She hung upside down. I took photos. I don’t do swinging on climbing frames these days.
On Sunday Hubs, L, C and I were joined by Hubs’ twin brother and girlfriend for everyone’s first visit to Kew Gardens. They lived up to everyone’s expectations and we had a wonderful, if tiring, day out soaking up nature in the sun.
We even managed to get a rare shot of the Franglaise family, even if you can’t really see Baby C fast asleep in her carrier!
We ended our lovely long weekend with a family picnic on the Common at the end of our road (I LOVE the fact that London is littered with these amazing green spaces!). L was delighted to have all the time in the world to climb “her” tree, C drank it all in from the picnic blanket, Hubs and I chilled in the open air and even managed a bit of reading (a favourite pastime of ours).
All in all it was a simple, but perfect weekend. Amazing what a bit of sun can do.
I am linking up with the Sticky Fingers blog and The Gallery for today’s blog post, where the theme is The Weekend. If you want to see other posts about the weekend, hop on over.
Or in fact to anyone who does any solo parenting over any length of time.
Hubs was away with work for 3 days last week, and he is away again for a further 3 days this week. I don’t do solo parenting very well. I always get excited first of all at the idea of having the remote control to myself, of being able to hog the whole bed, of eating junk food in front of the TV and calling it dinner.
But then reality hits, and on top of the usual parenting malarkey, I realise that our gorgeous, yank-your-arm-out-of-its-socket-on-a-walk, dog will need taking out at least twice a day. And I’ll need to do it with a 6 year old and a 5 month old in tow.
Yesterday I couldn’t persuade L to get changed before the dog walk at 7pm, so if you saw a 6 year old, wearing a fairy dress, wings, a tiara and welly boots, pushing a 5 month old in pyjamas in a pushchair, accompanied by a stressed out, mad-eyed mummy, being dragged along by the afore-mentioned dog in south London, that would have been us.
24 hours and 2 dog walks to go until Hubs is back. And counting. Until then, pass me the remote and my crisp butty, I might as well make the most of my freedom.
This week’s The Gallery theme, over on the Sticky Fingers blog is Fitness. Now at 34 and a half weeks pregnant, my fitness regime has been toned down somewhat. Before getting pregnant I used to walk 35-40 minutes per day as part of my commute and I was known for getting up early to do the Zumba DVD a couple of times a week.
The commute walking carried on until about 6 months of pregnancy when I had to go on early maternity leave, but the Zumba got stopped fairly early on. I got a yoga pregnancy DVD which I’ve done sporadically and hasn’t been bad. But my biggest source of fitness now, without a shadow of a doubt, is man’s best friend:
He might not look like much here, but he is 25 kg of energy, so even a half hour walk is a good enough work-out for me in this state! Also at the moment we are following a training schedule with him, to try and stop him from running after every squirrel and fox in the district, and this is even more of a work-out than just a normal walk.
Our dog is French and is called “Courage” (pronounced Koo-rarj), and he’s fab because he has overcome almost being put down by the police when we adopted him after he’d been abandoned, and then being left in France by us for 6 months when we moved to the UK and had to wait for his rabies jabs to come into effect, then being transported over here in a crate on a plane. Not only that but he’s a huge softy and lets L and all her friends use him as a horse/toy etc.
When it’s raining or I’m snug in the warm there’s nothing I’d like more than to not walk him, but I’m glad that he does force me out of the house and gets me fit (ish).
You can see other Fitness related posts on The Gallery here.
I am now 32 weeks pregnant and it has been such an interesting journey, comparing my pregnancy in France to my pregnancy here in the UK, so I thought I would share my comparisons of the two pregnancies.
Pregnancy N°1: The French One
When: March – December 2006
Where: St Vallier de Thiey, a village on the French Riviera, inland above Grasse and Cannes
- Permanent nausea 24/7 for the first three months.
- Permanent exhaustion 24/7 for the first three months.
- No real cravings, except wanting red wine whenever I saw a glass.
- Very low blood pressure (signed off work for this twice, in the first and last trimester.)
- Anaemic for most of the pregnancy.
- Stressful pregnancy, counting down each day.
- Horrific cankles (what are cankles?) from about month 4 until the birth.
- Weight gain of 13Kg (about 29lb) from start to finish, and a teeny tiny bump (this is me at nearly 42 weeks – excuse the highly unattractive photo!):
- A baby that I thought moved quite a lot.
- 45 minute commute door to door: driving from our home in the hills above Grasse to the office in the coastal town of Antibes.
- No ante-natal visits with midwives, all done with my gynaecologist/obstetrician.
- Virtually no ante-natal preparation/classes etc.
- Monthly appointments with my gynaecologist/obstetrician, with full weigh-in, blood pressure check and examination “down below”.
- Monthly blood tests in a separate lab for toxoplasmosis (more information about toxoplasmosis).
- Test for diabetes despite not being at risk.
- Scans offered at every monthly check-up if I wanted them, with 3 obligatory ones.
- Strict instructions given from the gynaecologist/obstetrician on what to avoid eating and drinking: no alcohol, no smoking, no raw meats or fish, no cheese made from unpasteurised milk, no foie gras, no shellfish, all meat to be cooked all the way through, all fruit and veg to be washed thoroughly etc.
- No mention of breast-feeding at all.
- An induced and very quick labour with epidural (more about that here) with the end result being a healthy little girl:
Pregnancy N°2: The English One
When: February – November 2012
- Very little nausea, and what I had was very easy to control.
- More tired than usual, but again it was easy to control.
- No real cravings, except wanting to eat lots of fresh fruit and having more of a sweet tooth than usual.
- Normal blood pressure.
- No problem with anaemia.
- A mostly stress-free pregnancy (except for the usual stresses and strains of daily life), with no big rush to get through it. This one has certainly whizzed by a lot faster.
- Cankles only making occasional appearances, when the UK weather is hot and when we were on holiday in sunny climes
- Weight gain of 9kg (about 20lb) so far and a much bigger bump, here I am at just 30 weeks this time round:
- A baby that doesn’t stop dancing. Ever. This is one active baby! I thought that L was a mover and shaker but this one beats her hands down.
- 45 minute commute door to door: a 7 minute walk to the tube station, an 18 minute ride on the Northern Line where I usually get given a seat, then a 7 minute walk the other side.
- All ante-natal visits carried out by different midwives at the local hospital where I will have this baby.
- Refresher NCT classes start tomorrow and I’m also doing hypnobirthing this time round. I’ll have more to report on that later…
- Fewer appointments than with L, I have been weighed once at the very start, my blood pressure is checked each time and to my amazement no one has ever examined me “down below”! This is the biggest shocker after pregnancy in France!!
- No mention of toxoplasmosis at all, except when I asked about it I was told that if I didn’t work on a farm then I shouldn’t worry about it. They did however tell me to wear gloves for gardening and for cleaning cat litter and to wash all fruit and veg thoroughly.
- No mention of a diabetes test.
- 2 scans at 12 and 20 weeks, plus an additional scan planned for 36 weeks to check the size of the baby as L was so tiny.
- A vague mention made of what to eat/avoid eating etc. Although during the first midwife appointment we did discuss alcohol and smoking.
- Breast-feeding talked about and the advantages clearly explained during a recent midwife appointment, despite me stating that I’m a huge advocate and that I breastfed L for 1 year and exclusively for 6 months, and that I fully intended to do it again.
- Hopefully a natural birth this time in a midwife-led suite in the local hospital, which I promise to report back on.
It is hard to say how much of the differences are because it is a second pregnancy, so the medical staff and B and I are more relaxed about the whole thing. Also for my pregnancy with L I had previously had a miscarriage so I’m sure that added a lot of stress as I wondered about my ability to carry a baby to term.
The biggest shocks for me are the fact that no one mentions anything about toxoplasmosis here, which is HUGE in France, both at check-ups/blood tests and when talking to other mums (I was always getting asked, “Tu as eu la toxo?” whenever discussing pregnancy with other women). The other thing that still amazes me is that no one has ever asked to look between my legs! Now I’m not a huge fan of a stranger poking and prodding about down there, but after that being such a regular occurrence at every single check-up for 9 months it France, it still astounds me that not one single person has looked down there yet! According to my UK mum friends this is common and you’ll only get looked at “down there” if you are overdue and need a sweep.
Fortunately I realised fairly quickly that no one was interested in what was going on in my knickers after my first check-up so I’ve stopped getting naked now for my appointments!
How did your pregnancies compare? Was it a boy/girl thing? A country comparison? An age comparison? I’d love to hear if you had any surprises with later pregnancies.
When we first moved back to the UK from France we were staying with my parents who live quite close to Windsor, so I suggested to B that we take L to Legoland for the day. Fortunately we didn’t actually mention it to L because when I went online to look at prices I was shocked to see that it would cost us around £100 just to get in, we would then need to add travel costs, parking costs, lunch etc. We decided then and there that Legoland would just have to be a one-off very exceptional treat for a birthday in the future.
Shortly after, we moved to London, got jobs, got settled and started looking around for activities to do with L. I am delighted to say that in London you are so totally spoilt for choice when it comes to children’s activities, for all seasons and all budgets, but that will have to wait for another post another day. Because the one thing that I did discover through one of my local Twitter followers, and that has changed our family social life, is the Merlin Annual Pass.
Merlin Entertainment Group is the company behind many of the top attractions in London and the surrounding areas. What I found out is that if you go to one of these just for the day you can expect to pay around £100 (for our family of 3), however if you get the annual pass you can go an unlimited number of times* making it incredibly cost-effective.
So where can you visit with your pass?
Chessington World of Adventures, as we did yesterday to make the most of our lovely late summer’s day.
Legoland in Windsor.
Madame Tussaud’s in London.
The London Eye.
The Sea Life London Aquarium.
It also gets you in to the London Dungeon (which we did one weekend when we were child-free), Thorpe Park and for those wanting to go further afield there is also Alton Towers and more.
Like all these types of annual pass it is only economical if you are going to use it regularly, which we do. The current online price for a family of 3 is £315.90, however renewals are cheaper and we paid just £256 for the 3 of us for our second year. The added bonus for us is that Baby n°2 gets in free until he/she is 3 years old.
We used our pass 12 times in the first year, which worked out as £26 the day out. So far this second year we have used it once a month, and at the lower rate of £256 that means just £21 for a fab day out for the whole family. We tend to go to the same attractions as they are closest to us, but I find you can go time and again. For example I took L on the London Eye just the two of us one day when B was busy, then B and I went on it one evening after work at dusk before going out for dinner which was very romantic; we have been to Legoland 3 times now but still have at least a quarter of the park that we haven’t covered and we haven’t tried out Thorpe Park yet.
I don’t work for Merlin or have anything to do with them and they haven’t provided anything for me for free, but we use this so often and the whole family loves these days out that I just wanted to share. I’m so glad it was shared with me.
* There are some restrictions depending on what type of pass you go for. The above prices refer to the standard annual pass for a family of 3 which has some date limitations, for example it doesn’t work for a lot of attractions in August.