What does one get a family member who has everything? More to the point, what does one get a family member when one has no money, no time and has a terrible habit of writing in the ‘one’ tense? That’s right, she makes a truly amazing video featuring Phil Collins (obviously).
It seemed such a good idea to make a video for lil bub Bennett’s birthday, but then in truth I think I may have really just wanted to pay tribute to Phil Collins and feed my middle age condition (the one where people are born liking The Archers and consider staying up to watch the BBC News at 10 to be a ‘crazy’ one. Yeah, that one.) Anyway, I thought the video would be a nice thing to do for her.
20 hours later…
Brain dead, caffeine overdosed and fed up of seeing my sister’s face more than my own, I finally created a masterpiece. “She better love this” I thought, before dashing into Lush the next day to buy a back up present. Safe thing too, when I first presented her with the gift she seemed less than amused at the offering.
“Right. Ok, well that’s a very nice memory stick Ali, thank you.”
“No you donut, it’s what’s on the stick.”
“Did you seriously think I’d give you a cheap USB stick for your birthday?”
“Just play the video.”
Luckily, she loved it. And now, for your viewing pleasure, I have added that same video here. Enjoy! (Well as much as you can given you know nothing of my family and it’s in-jokes…if nothing else watch it for Phil.)
Written in response to the WordPress prompt Dancing
If you have too much time on your hands it could even mean this…
But for my sister and I the spirit of Halloween is more than just over the top costumes and expensive decorations. We see beyond the sugar coated antics of our peers, looking much further ahead, past the day itself. For after every Halloween comes the bit that really gets me excited – reduced pumpkins.
“Ah.” “What?” “I don’t think I’ve packed the extra pair of long trousers.” “I left everyone in charge of their own packing, if you’ve forgotten anything you’ll have to buy it out there.” “Can I pull over and check?” “We can’t turn back now.” “Please, it’s starting to play on my mind. I’m not sure if I packed them or not.” “No.” “Mum, just let him pull over. I can’t take the suspense at 2am.” “I’m pulling over.” “Fine.”
The Bennett holiday had begun.
This time the choice location was the Greek Island of Zante, located in the Ionian Sea (fun fact – in Greek the island is actually called Zakynthos. Who’d have thought, another culture manipulating foreign words just to suit themselves?)
Ah Greece, the land of fine olives, ancient culture, traditional music and, most importantly, free alcohol:
(Greece were robbed of their victory in the 2013 Eurovision, robbed.)
Because we were staying at an all inclusive the alcohol actually was free, free by the bottles of gallons (I wasn’t in the slightest bit smug about this). I was literally drinking wine by the pint.
In fact I wondered if Greece had the whole drinking culture nailed more than us Brits. I mean, why have one glass bottle of 750ml when you could have plastic bottles of 1.5 litres for half the price?
It might also explain the tombstone craftsmanship.
Anyway, back to the hotel. It had an awesome infinity pool, WITH NO CHILDREN!
And some stunning sunrise and sunset views.
Don’t ask me to explain the yellow dot on the left. Just tell yourself it’s God. And yeah, that silhouette is mainland Greece.
The hotel’s entertainment was funny but not in the intended way. The Bennett clan being very British and dry in humourous outlook, we found the various failed attempts of the hotel’s animation team hilarious. One example was ‘botched Bingo’. Having done it outside for an entire season, two members of the team struggled to set up the Bingo projector inside, constantly trying and failing to prop up the canvas on a table, followed by difficulties putting a projector into focus. It was the apparent simplicity of the task which made it comic gold. Having sat down after a 18 hour day travelling and fuelled by a couple of cocktails we were howling at the two men. Later in the week the Greek Gods would reap their revenge on us via the kids club.
“The clown and donkey are heading towards us.”
But, saying that, the place wasn’t too shabby as a whole. I had muchos Greek yoghurt and hummus every day. Even the ants wanted in on the local cuisine.
The resort’s local town was a short walk away (but then holiday reps call anything under an hour ‘short’). It contained a suitable amount of tourist tat shops, bars, restaurants and had a lovely coastal strip. It passed the ‘makes Alice look sophisticated’ qualification so all was good there.
Particular highlights of the holiday included a visit to the island’s capital town which funnily enough was called Zakynthos. There we learnt you could purchase a range of goods including turd toys and spend money in a store called Euro Shop where nothing is a Euro.
(Brexit strikes again if you ask me.)
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that Zakynthos is NOT the place to go if you have a phobia of Turtles. It’s basically the island’s spirit animal. There are frequent excursion trips to a see them swimming about so the only logical argument we could devise is that the turtle toy reps invaded sometime around five years ago.
No turtle is too weird or creepy looking to be on a shop rack somewhere.
If you don’t buy a piece of turtle merchandise you’re basically damaging the local economy and may be arrested on the plane. I luckily purchased a pair of tasteful turtle earrings thereby avoiding a fate of becoming turtle food.
Jokes aside (and I won’t dwell on it too much), but outside of the shiny streets and away from the club strips and bars that get featured on all those awful 18-30 Channel Four documentaries, behind all that is actually a tourist island that is barely surviving on their limited tourist season. For every one nicely done-up street there are at least ten falling apart in the local resident districts. It makes you wonder, if this island can only just hold it together then how is the mainland coping? These people were hardly living a life of luxury. But, like I said, that is a debate for politicians and scholars to have. When they pay me to impart my pearls of wisdom I’ll spend more time writing, less time taking random photos.
The island as a whole still remembers and suffers from the massive damage caused by an earthquake that hit the island in 1953. As well as the loss of most of the island’s historic buildings, the long term damage included mass emigration, with a high proportion of residents emigrating to the USA, UK and Canada following on from the natural disaster. This royally buggered up the economies of Zakynthos and neighbouring island Kefalonia.
In an attempt to remind people of what existed in the past and preserve it for the future, Zakynthos’ art gallery holds a collection of religious art and frescos taken from ruined churches and monasteries across the island.
That said, Mary doesn’t half look scary when she covers for God on his holidays:
And I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but why is there a cow here?
Another highlight of the holiday was a general trip around the island which took in all the cultural highlights Zakynthos had to offer. This included visiting the monastery of the island’s Saint, taking in some breath taking views out to sea (i.e. of a tourist-ified ship wreck) and a tour around the famous blue caves
We choose to not dwell on the boat only having a couple of foam noodles in case of a emergency and the bus parking strategy.
India and I may have also had a few too many of the free sweets and samples of the commonplace unbranded liqueur…
Which, combined with a hot bus, resulted in this:
You may well laugh, but we’re presently being considered to represent Greece at the 2018 Eurovision.
I used this holiday and trip out as a chance to get a selfie of the whole family – something which had only been done in the past with limited success. The difficulty was convincing Mumma Bennett round to the idea. To her the selfie stick resembled the work of dark magic.
Other than that, not a lot to report. A week of predictable sun (there’s something to be said about walking along the beach in a thin dress on October 1st), bottomless food/cocktails and the odd random conversation along the way (“do they prevent all male and female parties at Centre Parcs because they’re worried they’ll get murdered in the woods?” “…What?”)
I suppose a good gage of how well a holiday went is linked to how Papa Bennett adapts to the environment. As a comparison, he looks at lot better in Zakynthos than he did waiting for a plane at Birmingham International Airport.
And if that’s not the sign of a good holiday I don’t know what is. Well it helps if you don’t contract Swine Flu…
…And it’s also nice to get, after 500 million attempts, a decent family selfie by the sea. That too.
Topsham is an attractive town on the Exe estuary, Devon, in England’s Westcountry. Now part of Exeter, it nevertheless maintains a distinctive identity. Loved by its locals, and savoured by those who visit, Topsham offers river walks; wildlife; a Saturday morning market; many characterful shops, restaurants and inns; and quiet space to sit and watch the sailing boats go by.
A former town now Exeter suburb, Topsham is a quaint little place to visit. Boasting independent retailers and several side streets, you are never more than a few steps away from undisturbed views of the quay. Be prepared to spend £15+ a head if you’re planning to stay for ‘proper’ food and arrive early to secure car parking in high season. Small, pretty and close to the buzz of Exeter city life, there’s a reason why it’s one of the more expensive places to buy/rent in the region.
If you’re a typical tourist looking to cover the main elements of the town in a short space of time plan your visit well in advance. Although the town has several car parks Topsham is notorious for its summer crowds as visitors flock to see a ‘quaint Devonshire community’. Even if you plan to visit outside of school summer holidays, then aim to visit on a weekday and early-ish in the morning to secure the best parking. It’s also best advised if you want the luxury of being able to stroll up the relatively car-free one way high street.
As a small town things to do are limited, but a must are the shops. Most of these are independently run and stocking a range of pretty items from interiors to clothing, wine to flowers. Just don’t expect to walk in and find a multitude of pocket buys. These traders operate in a well-established town with the clientele to boot. You won’t find sniff of a Poundland or Card Factory here.
If you’re like me however then you’ll find great joy rummaging through the multiple charity shops dotted up the high street. The wealthy resident effect, the keen eyed bargain hunter can pick up a number of star buys from high-value items donated by former owners. On this visitation alone I bought a beautiful 1960s retro tea pot to compliment my own property and a pair of mint condition retro curtains to be either reused or turned into cushions (I’ve yet to decide). Total spend: £7. My sister, a devil for vintage books, made a couple of sound purchases also alongside my cheeky purchase of a 1949 Ladybird book, all for £1 a pop. I’ve seen similar books retail for eye wateringly high prices. The money also goes to charity which is never a bad thing.
Also worth a look in is the Topsham Quay Antiques Centre, located right on the quayside at the far end of the town. Three floors of antiques, vintage and retro memorabilia gives much for the curious collector to look at and if nothing else is great for starting conversation. “What was this used for?”, “Did people find that fashionable back then?”, “Where could we put this?”, “Can you even legally display that nowadays?” etc.
Walk up the side streets to be filled with envy at the delightful houses of various periods before grabbing the chance to take in visually (and photographically) the quayside. This part of the river Exe is dotted with sailing boats yet has remained undeveloped on the opposite side, giving a pleasing vision out across the landscape whilst sitting down with a pint on a pub bench.
A Note on Food
It’s not the cheapest place to eat. If you want coffee and a piece of cake then the choice is endless, however if you’re looking for a light lunch the cheapest you’ll be looking to spend is around £12 and upwards. This is based on looking at a range of menu boards placed outside various eateries in the town. As a result we unfortunately found ourselves looking elsewhere to satisfy our rumbling stomachs. That said, I am aware that for some people this might not be an issue and for others the price tag marks the sign of a carefully and well made meal, but when there are four mouths to feed it may be something to take into account.
A hidden gem: Situated within Dartmoor National Park in the heart of Devon’s Teign Valley, natural and manmade waterfalls tumble down ancient rock formations to meet the tranquil lakes below, offering some of the most spectacular waterfall and woodland scenery in Devon.
A very tall waterfall, featuring a lot of climbing and (on occasion) some surreal looking wooden men. Nice views at the top as long as you don’t freak Mumma Bennett out by leaning over the edge. Plenty of old school Victorian folly lols. Not suitable for wheelchair users or those suffering with aquaphobia.
I like a sign me, especially if it’s one that covers the three important bases: 1) why am I here? 2) What are the things to keep me here? And 3) where can I go if the excitement of points one and two get to be too much.
The estate is comprised of multiple lakes and two waterfalls; one natural, one man made and although the park is named Canonteign Falls, the star feature is the 70m drop Lady Exmouth waterfall which was built in 1890. The result is a very pretty cultivated area of land that would otherwise have been overlooked.
And the views from the top are stunning:
Here’s an India scale to show the enormity of view-to-human at the top of the waterfall:
Looking for a bit of hands on History? Well look no further than a merry little climb of the original 90 rock steps constructed by the Victorian creators over a hundred years ago. Just be aware that they will kill either your soul or your knee joints, just a little.
In short, it’s a rather nice Victorian folly (something created for no purpose other than to show off to your mates and say “oh how romantic!”) Lady Ex also used unemployed miners to create the Fall, so in many ways she was a real life Ross Poldark/goody two-shoes.
What Else is There?
As well as the tumbling cascades of water, Canonteign Falls also has a couple of other quaint features. For one it makes a real point of reaching out to far-right groups who have been feeling left out since Brexit. It is nice to see a tourist attraction throwing them a bone.
There are also these funny little wooden people dotted about the site. A fair bit of thought has gone into these and their positioning, this one being a personal fave:
A couple of others are a little more amusing to any grown up kids. E.g. there is the sad/possible suicidal figure about to jump into the mini waterfall with her wilted roses.
And lets spare a thought for Hobo Harry…
The guy has it tough (especially when people come along and take his booze)
If wooden men aren’t your boat then there’s a great children’s play area full of lots of outdoor climbing frames. Not that India and I stuck to the rules, we had a go on all the cool stuff. It makes for a great thirty minutes, even if Mumma Bennett does cut off your head in every seesaw shot.
Reminds me of something…
There’s also a Victorian fern garden. I unfortunately took no photos of this so use this clip art image and your imagination.
“…Right, so how are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers out of the country?”
“Well you’ll have made friends with a gigolo in the airport flying out.”
“When would you do that?”
“At check in. You get talking to her and strike up a friendship at that point. Then you find a way to damage her case at the airport on the other side, you apologise and offer to replace the damaged case. She accepts and then you supply her with a case with the goods stitched in on the inside.”
“You got a Roman chariot style attack planned? You’re going to attach spikes to the wheels of your case? And when are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers sewn in?”
“Alice, you know Jammy Dodgers is a euphemism for something else? We’re not talking about smuggling biscuits into Britain.”
“Is Lanzarote even the best place for smuggling drugs? I’d have gone for Latin America.”
“No, other than Alice’s smuggling of apricots I don’t think this island has much going for it. You’d do this in Mexico or the like.”
“What if the woman you befriend has a bright pink case? She’s not going to accept your scrotty old substitute.”
“Come to think about it, how are you planning on making friends in check-in? ‘Hello, nice case. You could stuff a lot of Jammy Dodgers in there’? No offense Dad, but I would hardly rush to exchange numbers if you randomly approached me with that opener.”
“I have a better idea. Why don’t you just pay her to bring the drugs in whilst you’re abroad and then murder her in the car park?”
“Well yes, but in doing so you’ve committed a worse crime than the one you were trying to cover up.”
“Remind me again how we ended up on this topic?”
“Pull over here! I need to post something!”
“You’re not posting your local election ballot are you?”
It was 3:30am, the car was filled with baggage and the village post box was one letter fuller. I hopped back into the Volvo and we sped on towards the airport.
The Bennett holiday had begun.
This Easter the destination of choice was the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Spanish by nationality but located just off the coast of the African continent, the Canary Islands are uniquely blessed to have pleasantly hot temperatures early in the year while maintaining a laid-back Mediterranean culture. The warm climate was far from an automatic pleaser for everyone. As we stood waiting for our bags at Arrecife airport, a fellow passenger could be heard complaining down the phone over the amount of cloud cover outside. Trust a British tourist to moan about the weather thirty minutes after landing.
This wasn’t the first bemusing thing to happen on the holiday. That award would go to the poor directional signage that resulted in the entire plane accidently bypassing Spanish boarder control. As we walked down the ramp parallel to the booths, the border guards watched the heard of pale faced Brits with a mixture of confusion and disinterest.
“I wonder if they’ll be so lax once we’re out of the EU.” I muttered to India.
Bags collected, the reps verbally directed us to the buses. We hopped onto our coach and listened to the mumblings of a secondary rep (“what’s she saying?” “I don’t know, I think something about Pablo Paella’s Casa or the welcome meetings. To be honest I’m barely listening.”) The young lady leapt off, the coach doors closed and we departed.
This time around we were headed to the resort of Costa Teguise on the South-Western side of the island. Because we’re middle class this was to be the fourth time at the resort, although this time around the holiday planner (alias Mumma Bennett) had booked the hotel Teguise Grand Playa which was considerably closer to the pretty town of Teguise compared to the one we’d been to four years ago. After the terrible sun burns of 2013 when we badly misinterpreted the strength of the UV rays, we learnt several valuable lessons. A) always pack sun cream b) remember the pastiness of one’s skin and c) town is never a “fifteen-minute walk away”.
Anyway, to get back on topic, the Costa Teguise Playa is a lovely hotel, situated right on the beach (it is quite literally a stone’s throw away). This location suited me very nicely. During the day the beach was a hubbub of activity in the form of sunbathers, scuba divers and swimmers, but at dawn the little piece of man-made coast was completely empty of all human-shaped life. Granted it took me about five days to get into the practice of early starts, but for those few mornings where I ventured down to the beach at 7am the views were wonderful. I could listen to the sea, yoga a little and relax.
Within the walls of the hotel I learnt a couple of new things. Firstly, this man has a very high voice:
And secondly I discovered that Leo Sayer is still as relevant a figure today as he’s ever been. At least four times Papa Bennett got mistaken for the 70s pop star/icon/legend. For anyone not in the know, here’s Sayer’s music/photo next to Papa Bennett’s…
Don’t get me wrong, at first it was utterly hilarious seeing drunk British tourists rush up to Papa Bennett and ask him to sing You make Me Feel Like Dancing, or say “my wife absolutely loves you!” But in time it got bit much. When you’re put on edge because someone stumbling towards you way want an autograph, or ask what it’s like being Leo Sayer’s daughter on tour you start to wish Leo Sayer had been a one-hit wonder.
As well a large consumption of sparkling Cava wine which was served from breakfast to midnight free of charge (this post’s title being a choice quote by yours truly), our merry quartet also partook on an island tour whilst visiting Lanzarote. We’d already done the volcano tours some years ago, so this time around we went on a voyage of discovery to learn about the famous contemporary artist César Manrique who lived on the island. The tour stopped off at a number of the sculptures, paintings and buildings Manrique designed. Here is a summary of that tour in the form of a collage:
We saw some really beautiful things and all took away something different from the trip. Mumma Bennett was overwhelmed by art:
I meanwhile struggled to comprehend why anyone would have a semi-transparent (external) bathroom wall.
India on the other hand had her perceptions on nature and art transformed by a Cactus Garden, from this…
(Coming soon to MHAM, a post dedicated to the Jardin de Cactus. The transformation will be explained!)
And as for Papa Bennett, well he felt compelled to do this:
(And we still don’t know why.)
Other than that we all took pleasure in having a very laid back holiday. In the daytime we’d explore the local area and sit on the beach/by the pool and at night we’d drink cocktails and sip on spirits and chat away the hours. Some would probably look at this as mundane and very predictable but in fact it was anything but. Only after a few rounds of seemingly harmless drinks would the most random conversations come up. The opening of this post is one such example, another was a theoretical debate over how one would go about committing suicide with a Christmas Tree. Admittedly these were not conversations which one walks into at 10am on a Monday, nor are they discussions which anyone walking past, English or not, would be able to jump straight into. They are odd, random and sometimes a bit wrong but they are so the conversational glue of the Bennett family unit.
The local shops near to the hotel were filled with the standard tourist tat and other random items including mug clocks and washing machine covers.
I also think it says a lot about us as a family when we gather as one to admire this:
As we got to the end of the holiday I felt it was time to leave Lanzarote and return to normal life in the UK. I had obtained my fill of sun, sea and endless sangria and was ready for a cup of tea and a bowl of Weetabix. I’d also a) taken a good couple of kilos of apricots and tea from the hotel to bring back home and b) broken our tour operator’s information board.
To stay any longer would be putting me, my family and Brexit negotiations in danger.
Overall, it was a great holiday in a fabulous location (as per usual, thanks to Mumma Bennett). And it shall always be remembered as the Lanzarote holiday where three of us worshipped the sun and art while Leo Sayer worshipped the sparkling wine.
Some of you guys might be getting a little fed up of Alice posting “about me holidays”. Well, with the help of Simon Pegg, I’ve only got one thing to say to you people:
Haters gonna hate.
In true white, middle class style I’ve just got back from a break spent at the family’s holiday cottage (South Devon). The little village of Stoke Gabriel on the River Dart has, for many years, been a destination for the Bennett clan. It’s a location close to my heart, a little chocolate box of a village with plenty of charm and boats.
It’s pretty nice, huh? Well, as someone that’s been holidaying there for cracking on fifteen years I can certainly vouch that Stoke Gabriel is a village that keeps giving year after year.
Before we could reach our holiday cottage though we had to make a stop off in the local, equally pretty, town of Totnes. Not that Totnes isn’t a nice place to go:
In fact it prides itself on being a very welcoming place:
They even were very supportive and welcoming of national coffee shop chain Costa Coffee.
So much that Costa went “you guys are so nice that we just can’t build our coffee shop in your town, you guys use it for a charity shop instead.”)
It’s a nice enough place but it was just that, due to our desire to not spend Saturday parked up on the M5 near Bristol, we’d left the Cotswolds early enough to arrive in Totnes at 8:45am, six hours too early to get into the cottage. Morning spent doing the traditional Bennett activities of “Spotting The New Shops And Working Out If They’ll Last the Year”, losing Papa Bennett to the cheese stand in the farmers’ market, and Mumma Bennett going to Totnes Castle (owned by English Heritage). Not to visit the Norman castle, but purely to raid the English Heritage gift shop of raspberry curd.
Here is a helpful diagram to explain:
Top Paint/design skills there.
Once we’d spent a sufficient amount of time and money on cheese, jam and pies (courtesy of Morrisons’ reduced aisle and the effects on Papa Bennett), we headed back to the cottage to unpack and unwind. Well, three of us unpacked. I took to throwing India’s clothes across the room in a political statement-come-demonstration in a bid to force her to put her socks and swimsuit in a less in-you-face location.
Sunday we went to Kents Cavern, an extensive series of underground caves and tunnels. Much to my surprise, despite the poor lighting my new iPhone (I have an iPhone now, don’t you know?) took half decent pics.
However, don’t be fooled, the caves were dark at points and even had spooky faces in the walls.
Because India studies Human Geography she didn’t know what to make of it all. She felt very lost and confused in the cave systems.
“India! Don’t go down there!”
At the end of the caves there was an exhibition, including a reconstruction of human settlers using the caves for protection. I didn’t really understand what the curators were trying to portray – all of my hungover mornings with friends look like this?
Bacon, mindless staring into the abyss, a random baby showing up, what’s new there?
I found this guy very relatable:
Following on from the beauty of the caves, we progressed onto another natural feature: the tourist gift shop.
(David Tennant would have been very happy.)
Outside, India found a new outfit and posed for an attractive series of photos.
Another day we went to the up and coming town of Brixham:
As long as you’re not OCD on your hygiene it has a great sweet shop:
And if you’re not OCD on quality, there’s many shops stocking a wide range of products:
On the holiday there was also a family outing to the county capital of Exeter city. During our day out we went on a delightful free tour of the city which took us from the city centre right down to the historic quayside. Whilst we learnt a great deal of many facts and history about the city, highlights for me were posing with this cannon:
And this ferry sign:
Who said I wasn’t easy to please?
Speaking of education, I also got chance to visit a delightful little zoo in the village of Shaldon and learn all about a range of small animals, notably of the primate variety.
I even learnt a new language:
“Ah! So that’s why I’m still single! I need to up m seductive face…”
“…and learn how to get other females off my man whilst keeping his attention.”
Shaldon also had some other charming features, such as the local custom of leaving labels on beverage fruits…
…A large mermaid (one which puts my housemate to shame)…
…and a very large passive-aggressive sign targeted at dog fouling:
It truly is a very wonderful place.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Devonshire holiday without a few technical issues and scraps in the cottage, the main one of this holiday being the internet. The broadband, for whatever reason, decided to be rather temperamental for most of the week. At the lowest point we had two laptops and my mobile phone all desperately trying to look up website information, with no one having any success whatsoever. Amongst the shouting “I’M TRYING TO LOG ONTO THE SITE!” and “try turning it off and on again” and even the classic “oh just give it here! You’re doing it wrong! Huh, it’s not working” I was sat in the middle just laughing. “Great family holiday this is, I come for some relaxation and get lumbered with a geriatric broadband connection! Get the leaflet drawer out, we’d have found out about the Red Coat guides half an hour ago if we’d gone there first.” Inadvertently the broadband issue turned into a family competition every time it went down. Never has Googling cinema times of Jason Bourne been so exciting!
Overall, aided hugely by good (well, half-decent) weather we all had a great time once again in Devon. Now that it’s SEPTEMBER…
(Sorry, not sorry)
…it’s all a go-go on Autumn/Halloween/Christmas. The day we got back from Devon the weather changed instantly. Seems God wants to start buying his tinsel early this year.
But if you think that’s miserable enough, just take a look at this pointlessly long sign for sale in a gift shop n Totnes: