Our TV Debut (!)

I’ve never been one to shy away from the limelight – I quite enjoy talking in public and I find it more exciting than stressful. I also have a bit of an internal battle going on where on one hand I am very pleased with things I achieve or get the chance to do and then on the other I am very disappointed in myself for not being more clever, witty, thinner, nicer, etc. Complicated, eh? 

We were asked to appear on BBC Breakfast this week to talk about our experience of Scarlet Fever and I was very excited and a little regretful of all the biscuits and wine I eat and drink (and thus my dress size!). Joni and I went on a Big Adventure on the train and to Manchester. We had a great time.

Accomplished Commuter

Accomplished Commuter


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Jumping on the hotel bed

Outside Cbeebies HQ

Outside Cbeebies HQ

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photo 2 (4)

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Joni was a delight. She was perfectly behaved on the train, at the hotel and at the BBC studios. She was charming, hilarious and a healthy level of 3-Year-Old Mischievous. Oh and on watching it back I have realised that my voice is a lot more posh than I had originally thought. We also got to meet All Saints AND my lovely friend Rose whilst we were there – it was really lovely. 

Joni told me she that she 'doesn't even know who those ladies are'

Joni told me she that she ‘doesn’t even know who those ladies are’

I had a bit of an epiphany on the way home: whilst I’m always a little bit proud of things I do it’s my children who will bring me the most joy. I have been beaming ear to ear today – so, so proud of Joni. This little person we created is a force destined to be far more powerful than the sum of her parts. What a poppet. 

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Running around Media City in Salford

This post is no way* intended to just be a way of showing photos of us on the telly and meeting people from the ’90s, no siree.
*well, ok. It is. 
Posted in Childhood, Life, New Experiences | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Cantrell Holiday In A Day – Our Classic Day Out

In those days, that feel long ago, before we had children, Chris and I would often get in my little car and head off towards the south coast. I would pretend to him that it would take an hour to get there when in fact I knew it would take more like two; this served a dual purpose – he would only bring enough of his CDs for an hour or so of his music, which meant it wouldn’t be long before I could get the Power Women Ballads on – my very own mix cd of awesome empowering woman music(!) – and it also meant that he wouldn’t be too daunted by the prospect of hours in my tiny little car!

It really was a small car

It really was a small car

It was on one of these trips to Sandbanks and Shore Road beaches in Dorset – which are the beaches of my childhood – that we talked about the fact that we’d like to get married and I broke the apparently groundbreaking news to him that weddings (my wedding) would take a while to plan. He proposed a week or so later, seemingly shocked by the fact that one didn’t just propose and then get married by some sort of organisational magic a couple of weeks later. Oh, how little did he know!image


This part of the world holds so many memories for me, beach huts in the sunshine with our cousins with warm orange squash after we’d been in the sea as children and then romantic strolls with Chris as an adult. I also went there when my parents separated when I was 23 and sobbed to the ocean.

beach view

These days, with a tight budget, not much time away from work and a toddler who is very difficult to get to sleep anywhere apart from his own house, we don’t really have any holiday plans. So, this year we are planning some ‘Holidays In A Day’. Chris and I are pretty good at these. We love an early morning start and a stop en route for lattes. So here’s my latest idea for a Holiday In a Day …

We’d get up early (as if we ever do anything else) having made a picnic the day before and packed bags for the children. When going anywhere more than a few miles from home I always cater for every eventuality; I cannot stand being hindered by not being well prepared so we always have a mountain of food and drink, toys, books, pyjamas, changes of clothes and blankets and buggies and of course the iPad in case we get stuck in traffic (this has been a lifesaver on the M25 so many times).

Chris would have undoubtedly carefully selected some music for the journey with the intensely annoying purpose of ‘broadening my interest’. I like what I like, you know?! I also have the apparently annoying habit of wanting to listen to the same song hundreds of times until I know all the words. We would stop almost as soon as we’d started on the journey for take away coffees to enjoy in the car on the way. Then we’d nip down the motorway towards Sandbanks. It always takes longer than I think – when we get to Ferndown, where my Grandpa used to live, I always think we’re almost there buts its still a little while. I love driving this route, it takes me straight back to all the half terms and summer holidays we spent in this area.

We would aim to arrive at the beach early in the morning and would undoubtedly be very quickly instructed to make sandcastles by our very insistent 3 year old.

Best Beach Buddies - Winter doesn't stop us!

Best Beach Buddies – Winter doesn’t stop us!

A little Joni at the beach

A little Joni at the beach

This is where I come into my own, not necessarily the making sandcastles but the behaving like a big kid. I love the beach and the sun and the games and the playing. And the ice cream. If we really wanted to make a long day of it we would hire a beach hut as a refuge for Wilbur’s nap time and somewhere to serve the warm squash of my childhood (to my children who probably wouldn’t drink it). Every year, despite my best efforts, I manage to lose the flip flops from the previous year and have to buy new ones. When I came across these on the UGG Australia website I thought they were crazy enough to be perfect for the beach in the UK – definitely beach attire but perhaps slightly warming on the soles of the feet for the unpredictable British temperatures. Would like.

Delightfully strange flip flops from UGG Australia

Delightfully strange flip flops from UGG Australia – RRP £40

On that note, I’m pretty sure that Wilbur would have some sort of existential crisis about sand between his toys – so i’d love to pack a pair of these gorgeous little boy UGG shoe/slipper/boot hybrids for him to slip on before he screams so loud that the Isle of Wight rescue boat is deployed.

Spending the morning playing on the beach and paddling in the sea is my idea of perfection. Eating our picnic lunch on deck chairs outside our beach hut and then persuading Chris to let me beat him at crazy golf would also be an important part of our day.


Unbeaten at the Crazy Golf at Sandbanks – I challenge you!

The great thing about being well prepared is that we would aim to not leave for home until the children were ready for bed. If we were lucky this would mean that we could eat our dinner out at the lovely little cafe on Banks Road (which serves the best milkshakes) before retiring to our beach hut to get the children in their pyjamas and ready to go to sleep in the car on the way home.

chris milkshake


A perfect Classic Day Out – Cantrell style.

This post is an entry into the More Than Toast and Mammasaurus Blog competition to win a Classic Day Out – All the details are here … Although by writing this I have definitely persuaded myself that we are going on this day out ASAP! 

Posted in Childhood, Life | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Nobody Gets Everything – But What We Have Is A Lot


Sitting in our little play room (a once dining room that has now been overtaken with toys) on my third cup of a coffee on a grey Monday morning I watched a little girl excitedly get into another fancy dress costume – which she can proudly put on without any help – and a little boy play with cars on the play table that we made him for Christmas. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sat on the sofa because sometimes life can be overwhelming.

I know what I have – two beautiful, healthy (apart from doing their bit to ensure that they are ill for months on end over the winter), happy children who live in a safe and secure home – shielded from the worries their parents have about how to pay the bills and whether our landlord will serve us notice at any given time. I have a devoted husband and a close family. We have our health. We are alive.

I know I have taken a rare opportunity to start my own charity from my own idea. I know there are lots of people out there who would love to do the same and I am lucky to have been given the chance and had the confidence to take it. The evening job I have pays for the childcare needed to run the charity – but such is life and it won’t be forever.

There are people, some of whom read this blog, who don’t agree with what I’ve done with starting First Days and have made their feelings clear about the fact that we’ve had children before we’ve bought a house. I know that any tiredness or frustration I feel – according to them – should be sucked up: we’ve made our unkempt, whimsical, irresponsible bed and now we must lie in it.

That’s not really how life works though is it? Life to me is about living in community with other humans. It is about making the most of what we’ve all got and have to give. It’s something we can build and grow. It’s about sharing the times that overwhelm and frustrate and upset and in turn delighting in the happy times too. So I sat watching my children play – a rare moment of calm in the house – and reached out to my Facebook friends about how frustrated I felt about my children being ill for weeks and weeks meaning I am behind with work. Almost immediately my lovely friends reached back with the kindest words, true empathy and encouragement. I felt reassured and less lonely. Then two lovely friends turned up with coffee for me (oh how I love coffee) and chatted to me for hours (oh how I love chatting) and my Grandad came and took Joni out for cake and juice to give Wilbur a couple of peaceful hours at home. I know how lucky I am. That is what life is about for me – not about achievements or property or comparing ourselves to others (not easy) but about sharing the good and bad and average times together, as people who strive to be kind and to love one another.

I can’t have everything, that belief we are fed as children that if we get a good education and ‘do the right things’ then life will be ok is a blatant misrepresentation of the truth. The truth, however – that life can be messy, disappointing, brilliant, joyful, happy and sad all once – is far more beautiful and far more fulfilling.

I’m constantly reminded of my favourite quote of all time – that my husband had made into a picture for me (above) and I’m so thankful to the people who are in my community, to whom my life belongs.

So, even if my son pulls my laptop off a table and smashes it in a chicken pox and temperature fuelled rage (as has happened today) and I take to social media to moan/cry please know that I am reminding myself of this: ‘nobody has everything – but what we have is a lot’ and by doing so clawing my way out of my pity party for one.

Posted in Life, Parenting | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments