Posts tagged ‘Isle of Wight’

August 21, 2012

Ventnor Botanic Garden: a moment of solitude

One of my favourite places on the Isle of Wight is the Ventnor Botanic Garden. The location of the garden means it is really well protected from the elements giving it a unique micro-climate. This means that they are able to grow many subtropical plants outdoors and on a sunny day it feels a million miles away from Great Britain. I never get the chance to see all of it in one visit, as my family are less enthralled by gardens than I am, so I have to prioritise the parts I want to see on any particular visit and make a beeline for them. One of the parts I’ve not made it to yet is the Hop Garden, where they grow the hops that will eventually become TropicAle, their own beer!

One of the truths about going on holiday with small children is that it’s not terribly relaxing. Although its lovely to spend time together, without the daily grind of school and work to think about, it’s generally not going to involve much lazing around in the sunshine reading a book. More like relentless noise and activity, and sometimes, to be honest, I find it a bit overwhelming.

On my flying visit to the Ventnor Botanic Garden this year, I decided to visit the New Zealand and Australia garden, one of my favourite parts. I love the Australian garden in particular as it is predominantly planted with Eucalyptus, the smell of which beings back memories of a wonderful trip across South Australia and Victoria, which I was stunned to realise the other day was ten years ago!

On my way back to the playground to meet up with my family (and what a great idea to have a playground, making it possible for me to be there at all!), I was distracted by the most beautiful flowering Eucalyptus I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately I forgot to make a note of the name, but I will try to track it down because I’ve fallen a bit in love with it. The peeling orange-red bark, the fine pointed silvery-green and pink  leaves, and the contrast between those and the white fluff of the flowers made for the most remarkable colour combination.

I stood for ages just gazing at it, when I noticed an older woman doing the same thing.

We chatted for a while about this amazing tree, then I confessed that I must go because I’d left my children and husband in the playground. On hearing this, she turned to me and said “Oh, but when you have small children, time spent alone is essential, my dear. Don’t ever feel bad about taking some time for yourself.” Then she smiled and went on her way.

So, I’m going to take her advice and make sure that I get a little time alone every so often and that my husband does too. He will probably be on a bike. I will probably be in a garden…

How do you like to find peace in a busy life? I’d love to hear about it. 

August 8, 2012

Roles and roller coasters.

When my daughter was born, she spent the first nine weeks of her life in hospital. On the blessed day she was allowed to come home she weighed the grand amount of five pounds and four ounces, and was a tiny and delicate porcelain doll baby with almost translucent skin and barely any hair. As you can imagine, her early birth and subsequent hospital stay was a traumatic time for us all. She was the first grandchild for both sides of our family and so, from the day of her arrival, was treated with such love from everyone it was almost overwhelming. We got cards and gifts from people we didn’t even know, who had heard about her early arrival and wanted to send their best wishes. I still have them all.

As a consequence of her tiny stature, I’ve always thought of her as being delicate and fragile, and I’ve been guilty of treating her in that way – as though she might break easily. But recently, that’s begun to change. Even though her end of year report talked of her being ‘gentle and quietly spoken’ she is beginning to surprise me in so many ways. She’s athletic, bold and brave. She’s one of the tallest children in her class, and even though she has a tiny hand-span waist (making clothes buying a nightmare), she also has a six pack of muscles!

Perhaps a lot of this is merely that she’s growing up, but I’m beginning to see that my ‘cotton-wool’ treatment of her was wrong. I’ve never really behaved the same way with her younger brother, (who I consider to be relentless in his pursuit of life, even when he’s clinging to me)  and so I do think that it’s a hangover from those days when I had to sit by her incubator, unable to do little more than watch her breathe.

This was highlighted to me hugely when we were on holiday last week. We went to the Isle of Wight (which I’ll write more about in another blog) and spent a day at Blackgang Chine. Now, if you went to Blackgang Chine when you were a child, you’ll know it’s a cliff-side theme park, and some of it really and truly remains the same as when I was a child – and the kids are still enjoying it so much. The place was packed full, and it was so great to see that in a time when we’re constantly told that kids don’t play outside, and as a consequence of too much TV have lost their imagination, that if you provide the right backdrop (a fairy castle, or a pirate ship that fires water, or a cowboy town) that imagination is alive and well. It was like being in the middle of an Enid Blyton novel, or perhaps ‘Just William’ might be more fitting!

Anyway, one of the new things at Blackgang Chine is a roller coaster. A proper, scary, roller coaster. It’s only short, but there were plenty of screams coming from it when my daughter announced that she wanted to try it. Now, that in itself was a surprise. However, she duly queued with her dad, having found out that she was just tall enough (at five) to go on it.

Here it is! – Well, part of it anyway…

Heart-in-mouth, I watched as they took their place on the ride. From what I could see from the ground (waiting with her younger brother) they seemed to be having fun, but at the end, I waited by the exit anxiously for them to appear. They didn’t come out and so I was imagining all kinds of horrific accidents, or perhaps just buckets of tears. But, and I bet you know what’s coming already, she loved it so much she stayed on for another go…and then two more. Followed by three times down a terrifying water shute, in the dark.

I think that we get assigned a role in a family, and that it can stick with you forever. In my family, I’ve been thought of as the ‘academic’ one (even though I went to agricultural college, not Oxbridge!) , and my brother as the ‘practical’ one. In fact, even to this day, if we have an argument his parting shot to me is often “oh, go and read a book…” so it’s clearly a label that has stuck. Little brother, if you’re reading this, you know I’m right! The problem with such a label is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – you think that you can only do certain things, or behave in a certain way, because that’s the role you’ve been assigned or the way people think of you. This clearly isn’t true. I could be practical and my brother could be academic, if we gave ourselves the permission to be different and worked at it. If you think about it, I bet you know what role you were assigned (often unwittingly) by your family or friends, or even one you’ve given yourself.

So, I’m going to try really hard not to think of my kids as being the ‘delicate’ one and the ‘relentless’ one. I want them to carry on surprising me and to be the person they want to be, whoever that is.

June 13, 2012

Liz Earle skincare and Leeds store review

I recently went to the Liz Earle store in the Victoria Quarter in Leeds for the first time. In honesty, I went with a friend who had vouchers to spend, but I ended up shopping myself too! I’ve used Liz Earle products before, bought by mail order, and really liked them, so I’m not really sure why I’ve not been in store before. Anyway, suffice to say I’ll be going back.

The store is a large one, covering two floors in the prestigious and beautiful Victoria Quarter in Leeds and is a really light, calm and welcoming space, giving very positive first impressions. There are lots of products out on display, but the real joy of this store is their complete understanding that before we buy a product, most of us like to try it out. What does it smell like, feel like, look like? How do I apply it? How does my skin react? All those questions, and more, can be answered by testing (playing!) with the products at the many spaces around the store.

Upstairs are more sinks and mirrors for exactly that purpose, as well as giant sofas with magazines and books about natural ingredients to browse through. Staff are on hand to answer any questions you might have, and the three that I spoke to during my visit were all really friendly and knowledgeable about the product without being pushy about making sales. Perfect. The icing on the customer service cake is literally, cake. Every Friday afternoon the store gives out cake to customers. That’s right, you heard me! CAKE FRIDAY! How well they know me…

Recently has seen the opening of a treatment room in store. This restful space will be used for providing facials using the Liz Earle range, which would be such a treat. I want to be the the woman having the facial in this photo! The Signature Facial was the highest rated in a Vogue magazine review of ‘wonder facials’.

As for the products themselves, I think they are brilliant. I bought the multi award-winning Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth cleanser, which is applied to the face and then washed off using the accompanying muslin cloth, therefore it acts as a gentle exfoliator too. I’ve been using this for a while now and my skin loves it. Alongside the cleanser, I bought a sample sized Skin Repair Moisturiser, which has also been lovely to use. Because I’d bought these two, I got another sample sized product free, so I chose the Superskin Concentrate which I’ve used at night. It smells glorious and feels very nourishing.

This is a long term offer and one that I think is another great example of excellent customer service, giving the opportunity to try new products at a reduced cost, or perhaps use the smaller sized versions for holiday. The other thing I love is their range of ‘Try Me’ kits – also great for holidays or just trying smaller sizes out before you commit to a more expensive purchase. Alongside the facial products is a full range of body products, sun protection and aftercare and men’s skincare too. I have friends with really sensitive skin who say that the Liz Earle sun protection cream is the only one that their skin doesn’t react to. They’ve recently launched a range of make up, which I’ve not tested yet, but it’s on the to-do list!

If I haven’t convinced you enough, what with the ace products, cake and great offers, I’ll tell you that they’re BUAV approved and British, with a headquarters on the wonderful Isle of Wight, where one half of my family are from. Excellent.