Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We haven’t had a holiday for over a year and both badly needed one, the news of “extreme weather” from north Cornwall didn’t really put us off. However, George throwing up in the car wasn’t so good and the GPS gave us the strangest detour I’ve ever had (we were directed onto 100 meters of road parallel to the road we were on and then back onto the original road – there seemed to be no reason for it).

By the time we got there, we were both very tired. I hadn’t done any of the driving, but I think I’d let the last year’s work catch up with me and was ready to collapse. So tired I wanted to burst into tears…
Instead, we watched King Kong – or at least the first hour of it (being an “epic” meant the film had to be 14 hours long). At the point where the girl and the monkey were sitting together looking out over the sunset, we decided things weren’t going to get any more cheerful if we watched the rest, so as far as I’m concerned, it was a fun action story with a happy ending.

Actually there are lots of films that are best off abandoned at bed time – I’ve got very fond memories of “the deer hunter” – after retiring just as the main characters enlistined in the army. To me, it’s a feelgood buddy movie.

The thing you can guarantee with all Hollywood movies is that if it’s going to be happy, it will need to be bloody miserable just before everything goes right, and if it’s going to be sad, there will be a moment of happiness somewhere near the end. That’s the optimum time to leave if you don’t need things to change. Try leaving a bond film just when the main villain walks out on Bond who’s about to be executed – that way you can be fairly sure the smug secret agent has been sawn in half and you don’t need to endure his absurd quips as he drifts off into the sunset.

Anyway, George wasn’t so keen on us having a peaceful night. He decided to scream until we took him into our bed and stayed awake all night with him…

The next morning we had a bit of a look around our accommodation – a sweet little cottage in a tiny village and directly opposite what appeared to be the only decent place to eat within 50 miles. The farmhouse around which all the holiday cottages were arranged also provided an indoor swimming pool and a lot of child friendly stuff….

Bude – the nearest “town” wasn’t impressive. It’s major feature was a castle – or at least it was called a castle, but it was made of red brick, positioned on a flat instead of a hill, and had large sashcord windows through which any attacking horde would have made an easy entry.

In the grounds, a brass band was playing “I want to break free” by Queen…

George got a good night’s sleep and we began to unwind. The next day we went to the Big Sheep – a sheep-related theme park created on the cheap by an enterprising farmer. It’s actually a great day out with tractor and train rides, sheep racing, lamb feeding and some slides and ball pits. It’s actually a lot more fun than it sounds and George had a great time (apart from throwing up at lunch – which he seems to be doing every day). I’d have sent a postcard, only I don’t. If there’s one thing I hate more than clearing up baby sick, it’s writing postcards. I mean I write every day at work. My days are an endless stream of articles and emails. Why would I spend my holiday telling people who aren’t on holiday how great it is? Postcards are such a rubbish idea. It’s like having homework – and it’s no better being on the receiving end. “wish you were here?” well clearly you don’t or you wouldn’t have left me at home.

When we got back from the pub, we ordered a take-away from the pub over the road. It arrived on china plates – which was a nice touch.

My unwinding stopped when I woke at 4am. I spent the next day feeling generally rubbish. Lisa was left looking after me and George and I barely made it from the bed to the sofa without feeling sick. Maybe I’d got a version of what put Sam in hospital the previous week – but whatever it was, the real reason was that despite the fact that George is an easy baby as babies go, I have been working hard trying to fit 5 days work (or 6) into four days, having a new baby isn’t easy and we have been 15 months without a break. We work hard to get time to ourselves, but there are still a lot of demands. It’s not that surprising I suppose that I should collapse at the first opportunity. The only real surprise is that Lisa hasn’t. Yet.

Despite not leaving the cottage, we somehow managed to spend £203 in Gabon – we got a call from the bank to say that someone had cloned our card. They spotted the error (you can’t spend money in Cornwall and Africa on the same day) and refused the payment, but it’s a hastle.

Funny – at least 3 other people in our road have also had their cards cloned, so we have to suspect one of the local businesses. Suspicion falls on Summerfield – but that might be just snobbery.

The new chip and pin system doesn’t seem from my reckoning to have reduced fraud. In fact I’ve heard of it happening more since the change than before. And I’m not surprised. Rather than revealing our pin number once a week or so, we now do it every day and rather than doing so in trusted locations (bank machines) we now do it everywhere we spend money – with no security what so ever. What’s more we now have to have so many pin numbers that the only way to manage them is to either write them down (which the banks tell you not to do) or to change them all to the same number (which the banks tell you not to do). In other works, chip and pin isn’t designed to make transactions safer. It’s designed to make the fraud our fault rather than the banks. It’s not about safety it’s about blame.

Of course, most of the fraud is done without any cards changing hands – it’s all on the bank side – but the banks don’t like to talk about that, they just take the hit and keep it secret. After all, it’s much better to blame their customers than to let anyone know that their security is the equivalent of writing your pin number on the back of your bank card and leaving it on the bus.

The first day George isn’t sick and I’m back to normal too. We decide to go to the Eden project. I was expecting it to be good, but it was not just a big greenhouse, it was actually a very intelligent, non-patronising, optimistic campaign. It’s really obvious when old hippies have created something – there’s this lack of limitations – this idea that you can think on a huge scale and be completely unashamed about wanting to change the world – and it’s infectious. All that’s needed is that attitude and you can create things of real value and real change… or so it seems.

George loved the place too – especially the rainforest – although he wouldn’t eat anything all day. We’d run out of home made food and bought a jar of baby food with us. He doesn’t seem to be at all interested in anything except home cooked food. However, that wasn’t all it was – he wouldn’t even eat Eden’s home cooked organic fair trade non biological nutritionally balanced gluten free unbleached free range pasta… he wasn’t interested in his tea either – until in desperation we tried making him a sandwich… it turned out all he really wanted was something he could eat for himself. He’s not being fussy – he just wants to do it himself.

We came out of the Eden project with a pile of eco friendly stuff – including a solar ipod charger (I’m not sure what my ipod’s footprint is, but it’s invaluable to me – not because it’s got music on it, but because I’ve rather sadly uploaded about half of the Doctor Who video back catalogue onto it – which is great for long train journeys).

I bought a book which I can highly recommend – “confessions of an eco sinner” by Fred Pearce. Basically he’s a journalist who decided to go around the world trying to work out where all his stuff came from – and what his environmental footprint really meant. He’s actually surprisingly like me in what he does and what he consumes, and as I’m trying to work out my footprint (not just carbon- but everything else too) it’ll be an interesting read.

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