Sunday, 24 February 2013

I don't want to go home, Daddy

I was awoken at 7am this morning by the sound of crying coming from the children's bedroom. It was Ollie, he was crying and saying he didn't want to go home. The thing is, I almost felt like crying myself. He wanted to know why we had to go, and I did my best to explain that we have to go back for work and school and that this has just been a holiday, and we have been very lucky to have had it - but it is very hard to console a little boy who has just spent two weeks in paradise. I lay down beside him and gave him a comforting hug, the kind to make you better that only a parent can give. Growing up he may be but I am acutely aware just how much he needs his Daddy to be there for him. I know him so well, all his fears, all his worries, what makes him happy and what makes him sad. I hope we never grow out of the hugs. I know I will always be there for both of them whether they are 5 or 15, or even 50 if I last that long!

I think in past generations it was very much a case of "Mother Stands For Comfort" to use a Kate Bush song title. It wasn't the done thing for a father to show affection for his son. Thankfully the world is a different place now which is just as well. I believe there is no greater love that a man can have than that he has for his children and I will never feel awkward, ashamed or embarassed to openly show my affection for my sons.

Ollie is also clued up enough to realise that we are going back to winter back home and he cried that it would be cold. There's also a growing realisation that he isn't going to see Vanessa or Genevieve again - or Jason, Lucy, Craig or any of the other wonderful friends he's met here. But at least I was able to offer the comfort that spring is round the corner at home, we will keep in touch through facebook - much though I malign it, it's great for this sort of thing, and I have promised we will return.

Ollie with Daura at the kids club.

Two weeks is a long time in a little boy's life but it flies by so quickly. I think we all feel sad when holidays come to an end - you never really get used to it, but I have got to say, this is probably the saddest I have ever felt - this has been the first time the children have been old enough for this to be a real family holiday now that they are both out of the baby stage. Sometimes the happier that I am - and we are, the sharper the tinges of sadness that come with it, thinking that it can't last forever and wanting to savour every little moment - even just the kids running around in the square and all the silly little things we all do together.

Outside our apartment

We simply must come back - on another Thomas Cook holiday soon? Why Thomas Cook - well it is entirely down to the entertainment team - quite simply no-one else comes near. When it was time to go, Jason and Lucy came out to say a final goodbye to us - it was sad for them too, especially Jason who has really formed a fantastic bond with Jamie, and I think he too had a tear in the eye as we waved goodbye from the coach. I'll need to find at least 3 grand before this time next year if we are to do it all again - but you know me, I will find a way, no price is too great to create the kind of memories we have been creating here.
And now we are on the plane. Ollie is still sad, Jamie seems fine but doesn't really understand. It didn't take much to offload our remaining euros in the airport, thanks to the absolute scandal of the no liquids rule - basically using the threat of terrorism for massive profiteering on the other side of the gate. Particularly with the likes of us who then have to find drinks to get us through the next several hours - of course the most overpriced things through there are the drinks, 3.05 euros and upwards just for a coke or any soft drink. No squash or milk either just to make it as difficult as possible. Even shrewd Bicester Blogger who buys his pick and mix from Tesco's when he goes to the cinema and gets his drinks for the swimming pool for the Hiper Dino can't get around this one.

Jason, Lucy, and the boys

Got a few more photos to stick in with this blog - for some reason the blogger app I have been using on holiday only seems to let me post one photo at a time - probably me being dumb and not figuring it out, but still, I reckon I have done pretty well with my blogging while away. 15 blogs - almost enough to fill a small book.

Vanessa and the boys
There is a good reason why I want to record all this in great deal - because otherwise, we, and the kids will forget things. It is unrealistic to expect Jamie to remember this holiday, but Ollie is at the age now where long term memories are being laid down. I know because I have a few memories of my holiday in Tenby in August 1975 when I was exactly the age Ollie is now - but that is all they are - hazy memories. Any photos, if they exist are in a dusty old drawer somewhere in my parents house. Through my photos and my blog I have got a permanent record - and Ollie in a few years time can read back through these blogs, and these pictures and remember the fantastic holiday we had in Fuerteventura, when his Daddy was his hero and taught him to swim.

We did eventually make it home despite the car conking out on the motorway inexplicably about 3 times - ended up on the hard shoulder but after re-starting it would go again for a bit. It was acting as if it was out of fuel but the needle showed a quarter of a tank. Limped off the motorway near Staines, filled the tank full and drove slowly on A roads home through Staines, Slough, Windsor, Wycombe, Thame etc - a long and worrying crawl wondering if we were going to make it and to top it all it was snowing. Got home just after 2am - as you can appreciate rather knackered today! But loads to do, so on we go...

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

Friday, 22 February 2013

Last Day In Paradise

Well, time is nearly up here, after a fantastic two weeks we shall be heading back to old blighty and the wind and the rain and the cold. But what an amazing boost the two weeks here in the sun have given us after such a dismal year of weather back home.

Had another great sporting day, starting off by winning the French Boules tournament. I later got man of the match for football tennis, which I mastered quite well after a somewhat over enthusiastic start when I booted the ball so hard, it not only went out of the court but almost over the nearest apartment block! I just don't know my own strength! Water polo did not go so well, on the wrong team as usual but good fun had by all. And more good fun with Ollie in the pool - I hope his new found confidence will carry over into the next holiday.

This will be my last blog entry for some time - again if you've missed them, I've posted 14 blog entries in the last two days, so if you feel inclined to read them all in order you need to go right back to the beginning of February more or less.

To sum up this place - a pretty run of the mill hotel, rooms adequate but in need of a little updating, lousy restaurant but none of that matters because there's a great spirit around the place - friendly, happy people, I am on first name terms with dozens of people of all ages around the place, and being among such people has really made the holiday.

There is a really evil insect building a nest outside - I'm not sure if it is from the wasp or ant variety but it flies, is big, and looks almost like two wasps stuck together with a thin bit in the middle. It is making increasingly menacing moves towards me outside - I think whatever is in the nest may be about to emerge and there may be thousands of the things - hopefully not before we go though! The next people may be in for a shock though. We never saw any more cockroaches after that first one, though I still feel a little wary when I head for the bathroom.

Tonight a last walk down around the harbour before we head for the best value Chinese restaurant in the world! Well best one I have been to anyway. 3rd visit. And then a final hurrah at the kids disco with the boys.

Dear friends back home - I miss you all so much, but do forgive me if I say, I wish I didn't have to come home - in fact if I had the funds I'd buy myself a great big villa with a pool here and fly you all over! And kick your pale asses at water polo!

So it is now late evening, just putting the finishing touches to my final blog entry - we have been through all the "lasts" - last dip in the pool, last meal, last kids disco. Running out of cash too - I've been to the cash point twice in the past week and taken out 400 euros. Yes we have spent a fair bit, but everything is pretty good value here compared to other places I have been on holiday - providing you shop in the right places and eat in the right places. Overall I estimate we have spent about 1000 euros in the two weeks we have been here - but we've had a lot for that money - 1000 euros in 14 days between 4 people is not bad at all, and we have a fair few things to show for it too. We have met some lovely people, I could go on, but I'd probably be repeating myself - so all I can say is it's been great - I'm happy, Claire's happy, and the kids are happy. I am so glad we came.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Rumours of my demise...

...have been greatly exaggerated!

As you know I shut my facebook account down nearly two weeks ago - something that people do from time to time for various reasons. Mine for none other than being away on holiday.

However, judging by the emails and texts I have been receiving, it seems shutting down ones account can create worry back home. So just to re-assure everyone, I'm not depressed, dead, ill, or having a midlife crisis. I haven't run away to join the circus, and I'm not embroiled in some huge financial, sexual or any other sort of scandal. Hopefully not anyway!

Anyway, it's none of that - I've just been on holiday!

Anyway just to reassure readers I shall re-activate my account and post a link to this blog entry - however, I suggest that you stop reading at this point and go over to the menu on the left hand side, and go back 11 blog entries to the one entitled "Travelling with children" and then work your way upwards until you get back to this one - as otherwise the remainder of this one won't make much sense! All is good at home, Jane is taking a break from the boat and house sitting for a few days.

Another reason for re-activation, I also want to add a couple of new friends I have met on holiday.
The boys are really getting in with Vanessa and Genevieve next door - to the extent now that they are spending more time in their apartment than in ours. As always they've charmed the ladies - to the extent that they are eating food out of their fridge and all sorts. But our neighbours assure us that it isn't a problem! Last night I had to get Ollie out of there about 11:30pm - he'd sneaked around without me even knowing! 

Vanessa, who is 19, thinks he's adorable and has been taking him for little walks around the complex. It's so nice being next door to such lovely people. We've been told if we're ever in Dublin, we'd be most welcome.
Another glorious day, and more activities, culminating in another heated game of water polo - but this time I was on the losing side, 15-6 to be precise. Quite honestly we had no chance to be honest, the sides were grossly unfair, even so I did manage to score a goal! Not bad considering that there were two big beefy blokes blocking their goal - combined weight about 40 stone! Unfortunately being on the losing team meant we had to suffer the ritual humiliation dished out to the home team - i.e. we huddle together in a circle and are splashed within an inch of our lives by the victors - including of course Craig. Best bet is just to close your eyes and hope for the best.

Craig is one of three Thomas Cook entertainers here - and I have to say - yet again it has been proved that Thomas Cook entertainers are the best in the business. Wherever we have gone they have made our holidays. Despite obvious shortcomings of some of the hotels we have stayed in - if the sun's shining and the entertainers are giving us a good time - I can forgive a lot! Craig is actually engaged to one of the other entertainers, Lucy - and they are proudly expecting - she is 15 weeks pregnant. Which means their time here is coming to an end. Craig is 36 and has been an entertainer for 8 years - he's an absolute natural at it. It's very exciting for them embarking on their new adventure as parents and I wish them the best of luck - they finish here and return to the UK on March 2nd. Can't help thinking how much different it is going to be for them going back home - he is the absolute life and soul of this place. Still, an entertainer as good as him surely will be able to make a good living back home - after all I have been doing it myself now in the UK for 5 years and I couldn't even begin to pretend I am in the same league as this guy. I'll be interested to know how it all turns out for him, but I guess I'll never know, such is the nature of friendships forged abroad.
It's hard enough going back after 2 weeks - as I lay on my sunbed today gazing across the pool at the palm trees shimmering gently against a clear blue sky I thought how difficult it will be just for me to give this up - never mind 8 years. I can understand why people go on holiday and never go back - because I have toyed with the idea myself in the past - I'm sure we all have. But I can't complain at the life I have - I've fashioned my life into the way that I want it - and I am happy - can't ask for more than that.

So Craig and Lucy move on - leaving the 3rd entertainer, my namesake Jason, to take over as head entertainer, with two new recruits at the helm. It's promotion and a big challenge for him - and like he says, he's got some big shoes to fill, but he'll put his own mark on the Oasis Duna and be a success, I'm sure.
Tonight we went out for a meal with Vanessa and Genevieve - dinner for six - was fun. You could say it was almost like a first date for Ollie who seems smitten with Vanessa, he was telling her he loved her. The kids behaved very well, all things considered, sadly our evening was cut short as after we headed back to the hotel we discovered the kids disco was not on tonight. Never mind, an early night for the kids won't do them any harm, and Vanessa and Genevieve probably need a break!

Also Vanessa taught Ollie all about the Pinky Promise, I have never heard of this before, perhaps it is an Irish thing, I must ask Cathy when I get back.

Jason xx

An entire lifetime lived in two weeks

Quite a few of the people we knew went home today. The change over days here are Wednesday and Saturday which makes us the longest running residents in the hotel, more or less. It got me to thinking - how the life cycle of a 2 week holiday is like a mini-version of ones whole life.  

When you first arrive at a place, you emerge into it,blinking and wide-eyed like a new born in a new world. So much to learn - so much to see. The place is full of people already - who've been here much longer than you and give off that aura of confidence and experience that the worldly wise have. At the first day or night's entertainment, the entertainers seem to be great pals with some of the other guests - as if they have been old friends for years, but they welcome you warmly as you take your first tentative steps into their world.  

A few days pass, you get some experience, it is half way through the week and new guests arrive. Now you know your way around, you're nicely settled in and all excited - these are your teenage years, your whole life stretching out before you with the end so far away it seems like it will never come. You know where you are, what you want to do - the possibilities seem endless.  

The halfway point comes. It's like reaching your 40th birthday - suddenly some awareness that you have reached a milestone has arrived - yet from this point onwards you'll be counting down in your head the time you have left. Many more people have gone home and you are the life and soul now - great friends with all the entertainers, and watching all the new people coming in, was it really only a week ago we were that new to it all?   You're relaxed and happy with who you are and where you are. You know what you like, and you do it.

But the days fly by and soon you are in the middle of the second week. Most of the friends you have made have gone home now - feels like you've known the reps for years. You've had a great time but you know time's running out. The area around the pool is full of faces you don't recognise - there's just different people here now - not like the good old days. This is the time to enjoy some last rays of sunshine in the autumn of your years. Soon you will be gone, you may be remembered for a week or so by the friends you made in the second week, but soon, they too will be gone. Every week is a new generation - ever changing, and moving on.   But in a way - it's not all bad - you have had a good innings and you are maybe tiring of things - perhaps you will be happy to move on to the next life. In this case, home, because the good news is that you are not actually dead, you can regenerate like Doctor Who and do it all again next year - and the lovely people you met on holiday? Well there is always facebook.  

Very philisophical, huh?  

I pride myself on my technological skills and have overcome all sorts of hurdles with my various bits of electronic gadgetry on this holiday. I did wonder for a while if I had done the right thing using my old Samsung Camera - 6 years old now, for the photography - as I did not bring the USB cable with me which would enable me to connect it to the note - but then I realised I had it covered - my old camera has one of the old big SD cards in it - but thanks to my trusty 4 in 1 gadget I bought for the note I can put the pictures up on to here. Which is very handy. This is a little thing that plugs into the bottom of the Note and provides it with USB, mini USB, SDHC and SD slots - another little gadget that I bought for shirt buttons on ebay.  

I have been suffering for the past year from being unable to take any pictures on my HTC phone - this much maligned piece of gadgetry which I barely use - the odd text message and that is about it. The problem with this phone is that it has very little internal memory - yet can you believe even with a 4gb SD card inserted - not only is there no option to save photos on the card, there's also no way to transfer onto the card. Even worse the photos you take permanently take up space on the phone - even when you delete them - they are somehow still using the memory they took up. So take a few photos and you effectively cripple the phone - same with apps. Only way out - factory reset the phone. And before you think this is just me being thick - I am not - I always resolve such problems if resolveable and this one isn't - I know because I spent hours looking into it on the internet and it's a known fault. Basically this HTC phone is a waste of space - it was old when I got it - so it has been around at least 3 years now.  

Never mind it is nearly upgrade time - which either means a good phone - or no phone at all, as I remain unconvinced that I even need one now I have this Galaxy Note - as it seems almost unlimited in the things it can do. I am finding new apps and applications all the time - for free in most cases, pennies for others. Having this note with me on this holiday has really seen it come into its own - had it several months now and still discovering new things it can do on a daily basis.   I have been writing these entries on Polaris Office, but have now downloaded the blogger app which I have discovered you can use offline so I am busy pasting these blogs in to them and tidying it up. We only have a couple of days to go now so may start publishing them - one less job to do when I get back.

May also re-activate facebook before I go as well, so I can post some links up to them, might leave that to the last day though for reasons previously stated.  

The amazing chinese buffet again tonight, here's a piccy of what's on offer in the show cooking area.

Cockroach alert!

A sporting day for the Ayres family. Although it was a sunny day it was a little fresher and breezier so nice to be outside but not just lying in the sun. I am also at that stage I always reach in the second week of a foreign holiday where I suddenly undergo a change and all the sun and good living kicks in - and a new lean, tanned and energetic Jason replaces the white mound of blubber lying around on the sofa. So just like at the Sirenis two years suddenly water polo became my latest thing.  

A slightly less energetic start though with a good old game of French Boules on the Beach Volleyball court. There was an adult and a kids competition, sadly both Ollie and Jamie got knocked out in the first round, Ollie because he couldn't throw the ball far enough, and Jamie because he kept running off with the balls. I got to the semi finals including knocking out Craig the entertainer along the way which I was quite pleased with since he has been doing it every week for the past year and I haven't raised a boule in anger since I last holidayed in France in 1987.  

Later on it was water polo, which as ever was enormous fun. We had about 8 per side which ranged from big fat beery middle aged blokes down to young teens. I'm not quite sure what rules were being applied, as it became more like a rugby scrum at times - I certainly got into the spirit of things, throwing my weight around to good effect and wrestling people down to get the ball and get it upfield to my team mates to get the glory of the goals. Good solid defensive play, and we won 6-4. I was most chuffed to be awarded man of the match! Great fun, great exercise though I have got to admit I was absolutely knackered afterwards! Got to be good for me though right?  

Amazing how well and fit I feel - considering that I have been basically been surviving on a diet of meat and booze for nearly two weeks. Good living, good weather, no doctor can prescribe this. I'm going to go back to Bicester brimming more full of life and confidence than ever before. Life just gets better and better, I thought nothing could top 2011 and then 2012 was just amazing and 2013 is shaping up to be the best yet! There's no great secret to it all really - happy outlook, positive thinking, making your own luck. Anyone can do it. People like Craig - the head entertainer here at Oasis Duna are an absolute inspiration to me - absolutely full of life and genuine with it - they aren't all, believe me.  

Spent some time once again with Ollie today trying to help him learn to swim - tried a little bit of back stroke, though I still have to hold him. He will let go and go freely in the armbands on his own but he does not swim - just basically treads water and goes round and round in a circle, but the point of all of it is - he is gaining experience and time in the water and that is what is needed. Again, parents of children who were natural water babies and swimming at 3 - I had one rather superior mother telling me all this by the pool the other day. Well, that's fine by you - but every child is different, and Ollie is naturally frightened and fearful of new experiences - it doesn't make him any weaker than your child. What he needs is a supportive and loving father who will help him overcome his fears. And anyway - snooty mother, I bet he could kick your 7 year old's arse in a maths test.  

One of the major complaints about this place on Trip Advisor is about cockroaches - now I have been walking around this place for 10 days and have not seen a single one - until tonight that is. Got back to the room after the entertainment at the bar, went for a slash, and was mid flow, when suddenly one ran out from behind the toilet straight at my foot. To say this put me off my aim was something of an understatement. Fortunately Claire was on hand to squish it and chuck it outside. I have heard that squishing them is not a good idea as they spread eggs but I didn't see any, and anyway we will be gone in a few days so I'm not overly concerned.   To be honest I take it all with a pinch of salt - we are in a hot country - not to see the occasional bug is unrealistic - I'm cetainly not going to go on trip advisor moaning about it!

Jason xx

Fishy feet

A day of new experiences. We've had 10 consecutive days of sunny weather and today was the day that the weather broke - temporarily. It had said rain on the five day forecast all weekend for today so we were expecting it and with a return to hot sunshine tomorrow, I have to say, one bad day isn't a problem - in fact a break from the sun was quite welcome.   Even so, it wasn't even that bad. Even on a day with grey cloud overhead, the latitude of this place means it's still very bright - and the rain itself didn't amount to much - the odd short shower, however, as I sit late in the evening on the patio typing this, it is dry but lightning flashes can be seen in the distance.  

With the weather unbecoming to pool and beach activities, we decided it was time to do some souvenir and various other shopping so we took a nice stroll down the main street of Corralejo which is a good mix of touristy shops and a few designer boutiques. Just the right mix. I wanted to take a few little gifts back home for my closest friends - so difficult to know what to get, but I noticed many of the shops had large displays of fridge magnets of all shapes and sizes, beach shoes, lizards, windmills, even frogs - don't panic Jo Jo - when I saw it you came to mind but I'm far too nice to bring back anything like that - I also remembered that my Sunday night team mate Gema likes fridge magnets - so job done - fridge magnets all round.  

Now - on to new things. Claire has often fancied having her hair braided and there are a group of African ladies on the street who do it - I've seen the results and they are very good. The negotiation didn't go exactly as I'd planned - I had a set price in mind, it's all haggling here, but eventually we ended up paying 30 euros - I did say leave the talking to me - I drive a hard bargain. Reckon we could have got her down to 25 maybe even 20. Anyway this went very well and the end result was very good - hopefully I shall have a picture to accompany this blog entry by the time it is posted.  

Now for my new experience. As you know I have had a few foot problems and have tried certain ways of getting the hard skin off with mixed degrees of success. Anyway I have for some time been quite fascinated by these fish spas, since I saw them in the Clarendon Centre in Oxford. Anyway there are all over the place here and at 10 euros for 15 minutes I thought I would give it a try.   And very nice it was too - first I had my feet washed and dried by a nice young Spanish lady then the feet went in the tank. It was quite tickly and at first the fish seemed more interested in my legs than my feet - possibly as there's a fair bit of dryish tanned skin there, but they were soon buzzing around my feet too. I couldn't feel much around the heel area but then I can't at the best of times. Afterwards she dried and moisturised my feet and I have to say I am impressed with the results. Although I've still got plenty of hard skin on the heel it is much smoother and all the little dry patches on the edge of my feet and toes have virtually disappeared.

You'd have to say I enjoyed my first time and may have to go back for a second go before we go home - if we have any money left.   Which is a case in point - I had put a decent amount of cash in my current account before I came out but have twice visited the cashpoint to take out 200 quid since arrival despite bringing cash with me. We have dined out a lot and bought a few things though. I got both the boys a t shirt today and also went back to the dodgy electronic shop (If you know what an R4 card is you will know what I mean) to pick up an Ipod dock/ portable pair of speakers.   These things were advertised at 49.99 but by doing my usual thing I got him down to 10 - then once it was agreed he tried to get me to buy a "better" model for 20 - the only difference I could see was that it came with a charger. So I got a whole load of spiel about wasting money on batteries etc, but I wasn't going to be fooled. I knew the one I wanted had a USB cable with it to plug into the power slot which is all you need. Ever since I got my universal charger with USB slot in I can pretty much charge anything. So I've got this nifty little pair of speakers for 10 euros, (9 quid) and they are going to come in very handy around the house and garden - they are also very small which is ideal for travel. And they look very stylish too.  

On to the highlight of the evening - the Slow Boat - chinese buffet - slightly upmarket from the cheap one - 6.99 that we have used before - this one is 8.95 per head and 4.50 for kids. Though under 3s eat free so nothing for Jamie - which is just as well as he promptly fell asleep soon after arrival. Now over the years I have been to many " All you can eat" chinese buffets which haven't fitted the bill. Either they involve complicated rules - such as ordering off the menu, only 3 dishes at a time, 2 hour time limit, you pay for uneaten dishes etc etc - or, they are poor quality.   This place is amazing. For a start it's huge and the decor and lighting are lovely - it's clean, modern, there's a big pool with koi carp, etc. That's just the dressing. But the selection of food is amazing - and every single bit as far as I could tell was of the highest possible quality - absolutely gorgeous meats - ribs, chicken wings, pork, prawns - you name it - succulent, gorgeous, and so much to choose from. But it gets better. There's a whole separate area with raw meats - and I mean sirloin steak, lamb chops, chicken breast, fresh white fish, prawns, mushrooms, you name it - it's there - which you take up to the chef and he show cooks it in front of you - adding dashes of this and that - absolutely amazing, and some of the most gorgeous meat I have ever tasted. I am sure all of the veg was lovely too - it certainly looked amazingly fresh and tasty, however owing to my carnivorous nature my plate was mainly piled high with meats - not wanting to waste any stomach space.   OK so this sort of show cooking isn't exactly new - but in a restaurant where you are paying 8.95 euros per head? What a find. And so different to the horrible restaurant here in the hotel. We're low on funds but I've no aversion to eating out at these prices.

Lovely, beatiful Corralejo, can you ever get any better? Sorely tempted after so many bad experiences elsewhere to just say sod it, let's come here every year.

Pool vs Beach - which is best?

I should point out for the benefit of new readers that I really don't spend my holidays ogling women's breasts (honest) and that much of what you may read in my blog entries comes with a certain poetic licence in the interests of humour.

We went to the beach today as it was yet another gloriously hot sunny day. After a few early setbacks the children did enjoy themselves though it did entail a lot of chucking sand about much of which went over me.   We went to the town beach rather than the huge expanse that is the famous sand dunes. Now the town beach is perfectly adequate but not a patch on the dunes - however as is always the case, one must take into the practicalities of having young children in tow.  

It did get me thinking about the age old debate of beach vs pool - which is best. Hard to say, isn't it, so I thought I would use my famous Ayres analytical skills to look at it mathematically and come up with the definitive answer, based on marks out of 10 for a number of key categories. Now as always with this sort of thing, I hve written this purely from a personal perspective, so I make no apology if the categories I have covered don't entirely match up to what you think is important. Still, whose blog is this anyway, mine or yours? Exactly. Right then, off we go.

Catering Facilities  

Pool: Can't really complain on this front, the pool bar here has plenty of drinks and snacks on the go, you don't even have to go and get them, a waitress will bring them to you. Or if you are tight like me you can always nip back to the room to get a nice cold drink out of the fridge. [8/10]  

Beach: Generally you have to take your own food which usually spells disaster as sand will get into everything - that nice fresh can of coke you brought with you which is now warm, and gritty sandwiches. The added dimension of children will scupper any clever schemes you dream up to get around it. There's no getting away from it, you are better off having lunch before or after you go [3/10]  

Fun Factor:  

Pool: Depends where you go - paddling in the baby pool and maybe a bit of organised fun by the entertainers, e.g. Water polo - if the other holidaymakers can be bothered, which they usually can't. Swimming if you can brave the icy waters - though to be fair they have not been too bad lately. And if the choice of music is crap on the stereo there is always the iPod. [6/10].  

Beach: It has to be said, the beach edges it on this one, as it has one extra thing you can't get at the pool and that's sand. Whether it's sandcastles, writing in it, chucking it around, it's all there, plus there's waves and tides and rock pools and all the rest. [8/10]  

Health and Safety:  

The pool is a controlled environment and has a lifeguard so people are unlikely to get into trouble, though kids running around on the slippery edge of a pool can be a worry. Generally the water is pretty clean, though chlorine isn't everyone's cup of tea and there's always the risk of a nasty in the pool - we have always used swimming nappies for our kids but not everyone does. [8/10]  

Beach: Somewhat more unpredictable - you can never be entirely sure where that water pouring out of the pipes into the sea has come from e.g. Straight from the hotel toilets, then there's the risk of injury from various flora and fauna - I have heard some right horror stories on that front. Plus you've got the added risk that if your child floats off on a lilo they aren't just going over to the other side of the pool they could end up halfway to Africa. Plus there's the ever present danger of a tsunami if that volcano on Las Palmas erupts, though to be fair that would probably take out the entire island, beach and pool. [4/10].  

Toilet facilities:  

Pool: Plenty of toilets around for the use of hotel guests, failing that you can always nip back to the room. Very handy when the words " I need a poo, Daddy", enter the conversation. [9/10].  

Beach: Potentially a major problem - at the town beach your only option is to find a nearby cafe and that means having to buy a drink etc. If it's only a number one required then there is always the option of letting one go in the sea - let's face it we've all done it at some point, and no-one's going to know. It's not as if there are not millions of fish in there all doing it all day long. If it's a number two you could be in trouble. Years ago I was up at the dunes after a particularly heavy Sangria and cider session the previous evening and a rather suspect prawn cocktail when a pressing need to go gurgled it's way around down below. With only the two hotels up there available with nothing else for miles around I had no option but to make a mad dash for one of them - several hundred yards away. Of course being an all inclusive hotel everyone was wearing wristbands, and despite bluffing my way through the back gate that led between beach and pool, I knew they were on to me. I kept going past the pool but I could hear the guard on his radio alerting the others that there was an alien would be poo-er in the hotel - what followed was like a scene from the movie The Fugitive. Although I found a cubicle just before a major accident occurred in my swimming trunks, I was now trapped as the security forces raced up and down the corridoors outside , radios crackling, alarms sounding, guns at the ready. Suffice to say I was lucky to get out alive, and if it was not for my own ingenuity and cat like cunning I might not be here to tell the tale today [2/10].  


Pool: Despite the good weather there's not been many on display at all this year, and what there has been has not been pleasant viewing. Definitely more GILF than MILF around here, and most should come with some sort of health warning e.g. Best Before 1979. It's GILF but most definitely without the ILF! Also ogling is more risky at the hotel - if you get caught looking at the beach - well you probably won't see them again, wheras if you get caught here it will be all round the hotel by the evening - giving you a reputation as some sort of lecherous sex maniac which you definitely don't want. Even if it is true. [3/10].

Beach: A much more enjoyable location for budding ornothologists, a really fine display this year, and a real advert for the pro-Europeans, truly a multicultural joy, and just the thing to brighten up a rather drab and seaweed strewn beach. [9/10].  

So the five categories have been fought out and it is time to tot up the scores. And it's a resounding success for the pool with 34 points compared to just 26 for the beach. So it's pool all the way for me!

Jason xx

Birthday night out

My birthday. How time flies. But lovely spending it here. It's almost midnight and I am sat outside the apartment tonight on the patio but it is so hot tonight, outside is the way. Now when you have a birthday in summer like bestie Lynda you don't have to worry much about the weather but nobody wants to party in mid February.  

All good here though. The hottest day yet by the pool, and Claire surprised me when we got back with a cake, which she got from the Hiper Dino but then garnished in icing, maltesers, and various other lovelies. All ate well. I was going to offer some to our lovely Irish neighbours but unfortunately Ollie decided to lick the icing off the top of the remaining cake rendering it unsuitable for any further consumption by anyone else!  
We went out for the evening, really wanting to enjoy a lengthy stay in a nice restaurant - tricky plan with fractious little ones, especially Jamie, but by a stroke of luck he fell asleep along the strip and by the time we were dining it was a table for three, plus a sleeping one in a pushchair.   We rather pushed the boat out, 3 courses, wine and coffee. The bill was rather more than we are used to - 78 euros, but it is my birthday after all. Finished off with that old favourite, an Irish coffee, just as Jamie woke up so all good.  

Had a nice walk around the harbour area again tonight, but yet again I despair of the restaurant touts. Why can't you just browse around, look at the menus without some twat giving you his spiel. Yes - I can see you've got fish, steaks kids menu blah blah blah - so has everyone else, stop blathering in my ear. My experience on holiday suggests that the best restaurants are the ones that don't have people outside pestering - because they don't need to. If I am browsing a menu and get all that crap - I just walk off.  

Anyway, we had a nice meal, and headed back to the hotel in time for the quiz - which naturally we won - it was general knowledge this time, questions 1 to 10 with that many answers for each question - for example question 10 was name the 10 events of the decathlon - just the job for someone who spent 1984 bashing his Spectrum keyboard into rubber keyed oblivion.   And then karaoke - a couple of numbers from me, but then entertainer Jase took Jamie into the DJ booth for a solo rendition of Twinkle, twinkle, little star. My little man was amazing, sadly I did not have the camcorder - I must take it in with me and hope he will do it again - to order, sadly I fear he may not, we can only hope!  

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Mosquito Buffet

So, Jamie is a little better which means we are no longer chained to the apartment all day. Got him out to breakfast, where after a bit of toast he effectively once again emptied the entire vat of Strawberry yogurt. Today was an absolutely glorious sunny day and we certainly made the most of it as the temperature soared into the mid 20s.  

One of the things I love about this place, is that everyone is so friendly. It's not like at home where you walk past people with their heads bowed to the ground. Here everyone you walk past, every apartment, it's "good morning" and friendly smiles. Well I suppose we are on holiday. But really it is everyone, even the Germans! Am I still allowed to say that? Well, just did.  

I think I may have found the solution to the world's oil shortage. Simply rinse out the bacon in the "canteen" here in the morning. Quite amazing.  

Had a fab time at the pool today, had to keep Ollie under control a little as he has acquired a water pistol, and not everyone appreciates being sprayed. Told him the entertainment team are fair game though. He did a little more swimming again today and was very brave. So proud of him and in so many ways - all I've taught him - for example today, when we were walking up the street and he had a lolly and when it was finished, he went out of his way to look for a bin to put the stick in. That it what I call good parenting - if only all were the same.   We found a restaurant with a set menu for 12 euros, starter, main and drink. Wasn't the best place I have ever eaten - fancied some fish, they had Swordfish and Sole. Decided to order Swordfish but actually got Sole - no matter, I like Sole, so didn't make an issue of it. Complaining in restaurants isn't something I do, as you never know what the repercussions might be. And if you want to know what I mean by that, all I can say is that there is a certain steak house here which we will never visit again after what I witnessed the chef performing upon himself in the toilets on our last visit here four years ago. A pity as the steaks there were very nice. Best without sauce though, I think. Good job Michael Winner, rip, never visited.  
I have in recent years, found the perfect mosquito repellant. It's free and I haven't been bitten on holiday since 2005. What is this,I hear you ask? Well, it's my wife. You see, the little blighters absolutely love her. Let's put it this way. Imagine you are me in mosquito form. You fly in through the window and you are faced with two platters. The first is a tray of salad, vegetables, and various other healthy items. The second contains a fine selection of cooked meats, cheeses, a few bags of crisps, maybe a pork pie or two. Well basically I'm the salad and Claire's the decent stuff. The mozzies head for her and don't touch me. They know where the tastiest bits are too - straight for the breast. I suppose it is partly my fault for leaving the window open last night, not just because of the heat though, but Claire would never forgive me if I told you the real reason. You'll work it out though, clever readers.  

Quite late in getting my blog to pen and paper tonight as been having a good old chat with the lady next door. There is only a low patio between apartments so good for socialising. Her daughter, Vanessa was out with our neighbours on the other side, that's how good the community spirit is on our little row.   Looking forward to even more fun in the sun tomorrow as the temperature is set to soar even further.  

Valentine's table for one

Well a strange state of affairs. Here I am sitting outside a lovely restaurant just by the hotel, it is 10pm on a lovely warm evening, waiting for the waiter to take my order. Perfect Valentines scene - except I am on my own. How did this happen? Well we haven't had a row. Just a combination of events, mainly relating to the children.  

My plan for Valentines was to take Claire out to a really nice restaurant and treat her. Obviously with the boys in tow, which kind of takes the edge of the romance a bit - but even so. Unfortunately today has been difficult because Jamie has been very poorly. Just like he was in Ibiza, just like he was just after New Year. Unfortunately when he gets like this there is little that can be done. He gets  a temperature, is miserable, wants to sleep, doesn't want to eat, doesn't want to drink. We brought Calpol and all that with us, all we can do it ride it out. Ollie is fine so he wanted to play all day - I took him to the kids club and the pool while Claire looked after Jamie. Which basically meant sitting outside on the patio while he slept though she did get out for a walk with him. Ollie of course being fine was running around like a mad thing, full of beans. Until he fell over out with me and cut his arm, meaning I had to seek first aid. We also had a day long battle to find someone in the hotel who could give us some fresh sheets for Jamie's bed which he was sick on. Thought they weren't going to let me at one point - was reminded of Manuel in Fawlty Towers " It is not allowed". 
Eventually we get to 7pm and I've given Ollie a shower after which he falls asleep. Claire and Jamie also asleep so there is me sitting there all hungry wondering what to do. It's clear Jamie won't be well enough to go out. Fortunately we have these two free pizza vouchers we won at the quiz, so I think maybe I can use them. Claire wakes up, it's now dark, kids dead to the world. I don't want Pizza so offer to get her one and maybe I can grab something from the half board restaurant. Go up there, order Claire's pizza - look in the restaurant - tonight's fayre is dire - the worst yet - the show cooking seems to be some sort of spare ribs - those of the kind that consist entirely of gristle and bone. Decide to give it a miss, take Claire's pizza back and come back and order a hamburger and chips before it closes and sit outside and eat it. This plan also fails - as when I get back with the Pizza, Ollie has woken up and wants to go to the kids disco on site - which he loves. I can't refuse him just cause I am hungry so say I will take him but is it OK if I sit at the tables outside the bar in the restaurant to eat while he goes in - perfectly safe with all the entertainers who know him very well by now - but no, he cries and says he wants his Daddy with him. As you know, I always put the children first, so I agree, stomach rumbling and we head to the bar.  

I don't care how much I put myself out to be honest, any sacrifice is worth it for the look of sheer joy on your child's face when he is enjoying himself. When I was little, we never had holidays like this. Sore point I won't go into now, it is  story for another day, anyway all I care about it my boys happiness, I've had my fun in the sun (Ibiza '98 anyone? I was quite a naughty boy then, even by my standards - but we all have our moments).  
So after another magnificent rendition of Cartoon Heroes,, we return to the room, Ollie wants to play DS, I want food, so ask Claire if she minds me popping out for a bite - that's cool, we are pretty easy going around here, so I wander up the road to the restaurant on the corner, plonk myself down, order some red wine and a fillet steak and chips and chill out. As usual, the fillet steak is enormous and great - order a fillet in England and you get something about the size of a computer mouse. Order one here and it is table tennis bat. And I'm not lacking in company either, the two lovely Irish ladies from next door are a couple of tables away  come over and say hello, and in-between are a couple of Dutch guys in their 50s/60s, one of whom has been here six times since 1969 so plenty to talk about.  

Back home to the apartment where it is warm sultry night so sat out writing this on the patio listening to the crickets chirping, looking at the palm trees and cacti. Truly this is the most amazing place and still it remains almost undiscovered by the great unwashed. You can keep your Tenerife and Lanzarote, this is my place, and always will be.

20 years to collect

Had a little bet with Ollie. Now normally he is not exposed to any alcohol drinking - any wine that comes out in our house is normally long after the kids bedtime. It's not just that I don't approve of drinking in front of the kids - it's just that I have no desire to pour alcohol down my neck halfway through the day - acceptable back in the college days, but not now. I just never fancy a drink until well into the evening. Even on holiday - though there are plenty that do, propping up the bar all day. Even at weddings and social events that take place during the day, you'll never see me touch a drop before the evening.  

Anyway, on holiday, things are slightly different. The kids don't go to bed at 7pm, we don't have our tea at 5pm, dining is later, and can involve a drink - so a meal in a restaurant at 8pm may well involve sangria or red wine. So Ollie has picked up on this and noted that I've been drinking red wine, also that he considers it nasty - even though obviously he has never tried it. I responded with "well you say that now, but you will like it when you are grown up". But no - he was absolutely adamant that he'd never drink it. One of the things about being 5 is that you can't really picture yourself as an adult, liking adult things. So I thought I'd have a bit of fun with this and said, Ï bet you a pound, in 20 years time, you will like and drink wine". He was well up for this bet and we shook on it, and this blog is a record of that. Easiest pound I'll ever make. Except by then a pound will probably be worth about 10p in today's money. But I will remember and I will have the glory of victory!  

We decided to dine out tonight, but watching the pennies a bit so were looking for something mid range - and found a nice new steak house that's recently opened who were celebrating 20 years in business - that's other branches across the Canaries by offering 25% of everything. Amazing value - a job of sangria was only 5.95 - that's a litre, and our total bill which included a mixed grill for me, chicken and chips for Claire, kids meal for Ollie and nothing for Jamie as he's still off his food came to 25 euros including the Sangria. Can't complain. The mixed grill was nothing special - functional I would say, but it did the job.

Going to try and have a really big and nice meal out for my birthday on Saturday at one of the old favourites. Just hope the kids behave, eating out with them continues to be a bit of a trial. All part of the job and it's quite fun a lot of the time really, Ollie and  I really are as thick as thieves these days, he and I are so alike it's amazing.   Went for a drink at Big Al's old bar, now a sports bar. The bars were packed out tonight due to the Real Madrid vs Man Utd game but they soon emptied out when it finished. Football really packs them in here, presumably because the holidaymakers have to go to a bar if they want to watch it - no Sky Sports in the hotel rooms here. CNN if you're lucky - not that I am bothered as we have not had the telly on since we have been here.  

Very lucky to have very nice neighbours in the apartments - a young Irish girl from Dublin in her late teens/ early 20s and her mum to our right and a friendly family on the left. It's all good neighbours and chatting throughout the day. I've been chatting to the Irish pair a lot, they are really friendly and think the kids are fantastic - charming the girls as usual.  

Great chilling out here, writing blogs, reading books, playing on the DS and android games, plus all the family time. So different to home - where it's all chores and even the entertainment is different, TV or facebook or racing - a total change - and that's what holidays should be.

The King Of The Pancakes

Today looked like it would be the dodgiest day on the weather forecast and so it seemed first thing with a cloudy start. The breakfast was on a non bacon day plus Jamie seemed a little poorly - very red in the face which seemed odd, as we had smothered him in sun cream. So it was Calpol and rest for him while I took Ollie down to the kids club which he loves. There never seems to be about 3 or 4 children there and they have the absolute run of the place with limitless balloons, chalks, paper all the things that rate high in the currency values of little people.  

With Ollie safely ensconsed I was able to head off to the Hiper Dino for more bargains galore - they have the most lovely bakery, fresh, gorgeous french bread and also Pain Au Chocolat which are giant - and full of chocolate for a very reasonable sum and infinitely superior to anything sold in Tesco. Whom I happened to notice while inadvertanetly glancing at the newspaper rack seem to be in more trouble back home of the horseplay variety. I also noticed another headline suggesting some sort of snow storm back home. Sorry to all who were there but couldn't help feeling a bit smug - but let's face it - who on holiday doesn't? Your turn will come.  Other than that though I'm on a news blackout and blissfully unaware of anything going on back home. I've just got the paper I bought at the airport on Saturday and have pretty much read that cover to cover. I see that the latest thing on the diet front is this new 5:2 thing - where basically you eat what you like for five days and then practically starve for two. Probably a load of cobblers like all these other diets down the years, Atkins and all the rest of them which people make a fortune writing books about. Even though you could sum up the basic premise of all these diets on one page, even less probably. In fact I have developed my own proven formula which I too could be made into a bestselling book, but quite honestly I don't have the inclination, so I am going to give it to you, my loyal blog readers for free. It's called the ELPM diet and I can sum the entire thing up in four words. Here goes:   Eat Less, Poo More.

By lunchtime it was pretty sunny though on the cool side with a breeze so I went up to reception to check out the weather forecast on the free Wi-fi. Which made for pleasant reading indeed - although today was indeed the coolest day of the week listed as 19c and cloudy, the temperature will rise steadily throughout the week to a lovely 23c and sunny by the weekend. Remember these are shade temperatures - the temperature in the sunshine is much higher, especially at this latitude. We are off the west coast of Africa, opposite the Sahara to put it into perspective.  

We were going to eat out tonight, but with Jamie in a whingey mood and doing a lot terrible twos behaviour, we decided to check out what was happening on site at the restaurant and I am glad we did as they had a barbecue going outside and the food was much more up my street - sausages with a distinctly Spanish flavour, Burgers - meat unknown, but doesn't bother me, and chicken. Most acceptable and of course free. Jamie was in a bad mood throughout so probably eating out in a restaurant tonight wouldn't have been the best option. We went for a walk into town later, as pleasant as ever and then back to the hotel for the kids entertainment at 8:30 plus a spot of Bingo - well why not, and number obsessed Ollie enjoys it. In case you were wondering how we fitted all that in, well we ate at 6:30, essential when you have kids really.   In the past on holiday, in the years BK (Before Kids) dinner would be more like 9pm, after a leisurely stroll round the harbour and a few cocktails. It would also last longer, a nice romantic 3 courses taking ones time. But adjustments have to be made, and now it's best to get the whole business over with as quickly as possible. Getting children to sit still and behave for more than about half an hour is a major challenge.  

We continue to have battles at mealtimes over various fussiness and in a public place, sometimes it's just easier to give them what they want - if there is anything they want. Ollie is incredibly fussy over butter and will only eat Clover - anything else and he screams blue murder. We found some in a tourist supermarket and now we bring it along to the restaurant with us. For any self-righteous parents who are lucky enough to have children who will eat anything or even worse non parents who make comments such as " Oh if they were my children they would get what they are given, or go without", well if you really think it's that easy dealing with a fussy eater - you just haven't got a clue. I am much tougher at home but in this environment you've got to make compromises - and besides the boys reward me in other ways - like Ollie with his bravery in the swimming pool and when he does try new things for me. At the moment he's king of the pancakes they make at breakfast - he loves them and gets me to go and get them for him with requests for me to put numbers on in either chocolate or strawberry sauce. Why not indulge him - at least he is eating SOMETHING, and believe me, after 5 and a half years, that's good enough for me.   Appropriate too as today is Shrove Tuesday. But for every step forward with Ollie it's one back with Jamie - my lovely good natured baby boy seems to have been posessed by the monster that jumps into all two year olds. Ironically with each bout of bad behaviour we have a commentary from Ollie, "he's being naughty, Daddy", often followed with "But I'm being good". Even though most of the things Jamie is doing, Ollie did twice as badly. How quickly they forget.

Jason xx

Kids say the funniest things

You may be aware that in certain publications (crap ones mostly) there is a section called something along the lines of " Kids say the funniest things". If you are not familiar, these letters normally start off along the lines of "My 3 year old grandson comes out with the funniest things. The other day blah blah blah", usually ending with something that is utterly lame. To be honest I'm more familiar with the genre through the constant lampooning of it via the letters page in Viz.   Anyway, I guarantee that my son has come up with the ultimate one that can never be beaten. Allow me to elaborate.  

Over the years I have, like most people, visited many toilets. In homes, shops, offices, hotels, pubs etc let's face it, we've all sat on hundreds of them. More if you are a woman, unless you are one of those lazy blokes that likes to go for a sitting down wee. But we won't go into that.   Anyway, every now and then I encounter something in a bathroom that I find vaguely disconcerting. What I am talking about is when you sit down to do your business and find yourself face to face with...yourself. Yes, the dreaded mirror on the back of the toilet door.   Now I don't know how you feel about looking in mirrors at the best of times, but observing ones facial expressions while doing a plop is well, it's just not right. Though some people would probably enjoy it. Anyway, our bathroom in our hotel room takes this to a whole new level - it has wall to wall mirrors on both sides, which means you get one of those infinite regression reflections going back into infinity both in front and behind. So I can now see hundreds of myself in the bathroom.  

I was not the only one to pick up on this - Ollie quickly observed this on coming into the room, "There are hundreds of Daddies! He quickly noticed that everything anybody did was repeated in all the reflections. This continued to be remarked upon until this morning he came out with the ultimate - which has created much mirth and hilarity all day.   "Daddy - if you fart in the bathroom, do all the other Daddies fart as well?"  
In case you are wondering how I am finding time to write all this, there are windows of opportunity. Right now it is 6:10pm on Monday evening and I am sat out on the patio, in the pleasant early evening - it is still light here - another advantage of coming away at this time of year as it long since got dark at home. And the other three are all asleep, worn out by another lively day at the pool.  

Today we checked out the kids club - Ollie loves them. It runs for a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the afternoon. It is run by a lovely friendly Spanish girl and is free. A big open area with a sandpit,slides, etc and a huge play area where the walls are covered in black boards, white boards, there are chalks, crayons, paints, the lot. Only about other kids there, all about Ollie's age so he was quite happy to be left there for an hour or two. We had another few hours by the pool, did a bit of shopping and then chilled out in the room until now. Once they are all up and awake we are having dinner here tonight in the dreaded half board restaurant. Maybe it will be a bit better this time - breakfast this morning was better as they had some bacon this time - admittedly streaky and dripping with fat, but after last night's skinful it was most welcome. Plus some fried eggs and pancakes in the show cooking area - so we're not starving. However we did have to cut short our breakfast as Jamie decided to do a massive poo just as we were having our coffee - we knew he was doing it as he lifted one bottom cheek up off the chair and leaned over. Ollie clearly remembering past incidents decided to tell Jamie off with the classic line "Do not ever ever ever ever ever poo in a restaurant again", at which point we decided to vacate the premises as there was no way we could blame this one on the boiled eggs.  

We are staying on site tonight so it's the kids disco again and a jug of sangria to go with it no doubt. I am getting lots of good pictures too so hopefully will be able to upload those into these blog entries when I get home. In case anyone who is reading is thinking that we are being rather boring staying in resort and not going off hiring a car, exploring the island and all of that well two reasons really - firstly that I've explored this island from top to tail before. And secondly, all of that is not really practical with young kids -they want to play in the pool and the kids club and all of that and don't want to be dragged off up mountains or on coaches or any of that all day. Another example of how things change when you have children - but I don't mind a bit. I did plenty of that in the past and doubtless will do again in the future - this holiday and all the others we will be having in at least the next decade will be all about them.  

It's definitely a little chiller this evening, the famous Fuerteventura wind is getting up, it'll be dark in another half an hour (about 7pm) so I think I shall head inside and see if there is any sign of life from my exhausted troops. They need their energy - we've got a lot to work off later at the tots disco.   Have had no contact with home since my arrival - but haven't needed to. I'm really getting the usage out of my tablet now - writing this, reading books on the kindle app, playing games - downloaded a few from the Google store before I left. There is wi-fi here, not in the room, just reception and the bar, so am checking emails and weather once a day - emails just in case a job comes in or a client from later in the year wants to get hold of me, but that it. Oh plus the football results of course.  

It's later in the evening now, and we are just back from our evening out. The restaurant was a little better tonight, the show cooking area had roast pork and it was delicious. The chips were also most agreeable, of a McDonalds style, and not cold or soggy. Kids a little fractious but got through it, then we went to the bar for the kids entertainment. This was of the usual Thomas Cook fayre, a few games and some dancing. Ollie as always provided much entertainment, beginning with the musical statues, where he felt it necessary to instruct the entertainer, Craig, on the rules of the game. He then could not keep his head still and was blatantly fidgeting about, but when Craig asked him if he was moving he kept coming out with such humorous responses he let him stay in for the entertainment value - he was making the crowd laugh. For example after the first round Ollie claimed that it was OK that he had moved as he was feeling itchy. Eventually this blatant cheating could not go unpunished and he was told he was out to much upset - it seems Ollie wants to win every time, but I explained no-one can win at everything all the time - not even Daddy wins EVERY time, though I don't do too badly out of life, even if I do say so myself.  

Later they played a game of hide and seek where all the children had to go and hide around the room, and here Ollie played a blinder - whilst all the other kids ran off to the other end of the room, Ollie seemed a bit lost, so I just said, "quick, get under here" and shoved him under the Bingo Table right at the front of the room and covered by a cloth. Craig found all the others first bar one, and he did realise where Ollie was but little Mr popular still won as Craig turned a blind eye and looked for the other girl first. Ollie had so impressed himself on everyone, they wanted him to win. Another example of how you make your own luck.   As always the show rounded off with a dance to Cartoon Heroes, which Ollie is getting quite good at now after being somewhat bemused by it in the past. I don't think Jamie has quite grabbed the concept yet, but his time will come.  

We don't have a plug for our bath - they don't give them due to the scarcity of water on the island, they prefer people to have showers, but after a rather traumatic attempt to shower both kids together when we got back I think we are going to have to obtain one!

Big Al's Karaoke

First day dawned in Corralejo and what a fantastic morning. I've not always been lucky on holiday but it was clear blue skies and bright sunshine. This island has an amazing climate - because it's in the Atlantic and at almost tropical latitude, the sea keeps the island at a fairly steady temperature all year round - it's hardly ever too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer. The daily high ranges from low 20s in the winter to high 20s in the summer and it never drops below about 15c at night. In fact I believe the lowest temperature ever recorded here was 10c and the highest only in the 30s. Perfect. The only problem really this place has is it can be quite windy. But not on day one.  

Breakfast at the restaurant was pretty woeful, but we were able to fill up enough on what we needed - and there was a nice and free coffee machine. Bit of fruit and yogurt for the kids, toast, boiled eggs, sausages etc. But criminally - NO BACON, but apparently there is some days. We got what we needed though.   After breakfast we went into town and did some shopping. Everything is very good value here, providing you avoid the tourist shops and as an old hand, I know where to go. It seems that the famous Hiper-Dino has taken over here to the extent that Tesco has in England, but they are full of bargains - baguettes for 37c, cans of San Miguel, 6.20 for 12, that sort of thing. And of course local delicacies such as Serrano Ham are great value - a nice packet for 1 euro which they charge about 3 quid for back home. And knowing which things are more expensive here is useful too, so we brought our entire 2 weeks supply of nappies from home.  
The hotel complex is lovely, landscaped gardens full of pine trees, cacti, and various other flora, with paths winding pleasingly up and down and around the apartments, no nasty straight lines here. 3 massive swimming pools and a kiddies pool - sadly very cold though. I think I am going to have to make heated pools a pre-requisite of future jaunts.  

The weather can be a bit hit and miss at this time of year - temperatures stay pretty steady but you can get cloudy and windy days, even the odd rainy day, so we made full use of the first day to play by the pool. Kids had a whale of a time. We bought a few inflatables and watering cans and such like to play with. Also I took Ollie in the big pool with me in his armbands and he was very frightened about letting go of me, but together we conquered our fears and I was immensely proud to see him take his first few tentative kicking moves towards learning to swim.  

It was a hot sunny day, we all took our precautions, but Claire underestimated on her sun screen and used my factor 4, which left her pretty red in places. Kids with their factor 30 were fine.  

I've been having a lot of trouble with my sore feet recently, but have discovered that the best things to wear are my hideous old blue crocs which went out of fashion about 5 years ago but they are the perfect things for here. Ollie thinks so too as he decided he wanted some, so went in search of some in the town, and found the perfect pair - in yellow, with a picture of Spongebob Squarepants on them. He was very happy with them. Less so with the water squirter which he and Jamie insisted on fighting over pulling at it until it broke. One very upset Ollie, but lesson learned, one hopes.  

In the evening we walked into Corralejo, and I was pleased to see that despite some obvious changes in four years since our last visit, it was quitessentially the same, and a lot of our old favourites were still there. We waked down into the old town, looking around for somewhere nice to eat and found a new restaurant close to one of our old favourites. I was on a steak quest, and got exactly what I wanted whilst the kids filled up on chips and bread. 43euros for 2 big mains a bottle of red wine and all the kids bits and pieces, plus a few freebies was good by me.  

We went for a walk into the locals area of the old town, where like in other Spanish cities, the kids were playing happily even after dark with their parents in a lovely clean open park, no syringes under the swings or swearing going on here. And then decided to go and try and look up some old friends.  

Up at the top end of town are three bars that have been there at least 20 years, The Underground - a London themed bar complete with red phone box, Golden Years, a 50s/ 60s style bar and The Talk Of The Town complete with its own chip shop.   Many years ago these places were packed out everynight, however in recent years they have seemed to have gotten quieter and quieter. The same staff and entertainers though seemed to be here year after year and they became almost like old friends. On our last visit in 2009, Big Al, one of the entertainers who has worked across the 3 bars for years had taken over Golden Years along with his wife Deb. But they had their worries, the recession was biting and it was very quiet that winter. Another big problem not only here but elsewhere is that the ever growing trend towards all inclusive resorts by the travel operators means that people are less and less likely to venture out into the town - it is literally killing business.  

I was concerned for Big Al's chances back then but hoped he would make it as he is a great entertainer, he could do it all, so my heart sank to see today that Golden Years was gone, although the other two were still there. We walked past all 3 - there was new bar where Golden Years used to be, but what struck me was that by this time, gone 9pm, the bars were almost empty. It seemed in four years, things had fallen ever further. There was no sign of our old friend Dave Brown at the Talk Of The Town. Dave used to pack them in, even though he has basically been doing the same act with the same gags, play your cards right, quiz etc every night for what seems like decades. But it works. Or at least it used to. But he wasn't there. So we wandered back up and decided to quickly pop into the Underground as there were a few people (i.e.about 10 in there) and lo and behold there was Big Al, setting up his karaoke gear. We had a good chat and he explained they'd closed the bar two years ago, it didn't work out. Deb hadn't had a job for 2 years and he was still getting bits and pieces of work - including just these Sunday nights doing Karaoke at The Underground. I couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for Big Al, he was one of those who'd come out here to live the dream and was now it seems in hard times - he even hinted he was only paid for the night according to the takings. So we stayed for the evening and spent a good few euros over the bar, and along with a few other diehards made it a bit of a night. We had to leave by about 11:30 as the kids were exhausted but we promised we'd be back next Sunday. So on my first Sunday night off in a very long time, I found myself supporting an old friend on his - it's the least we entertainers can do for each other.  

Couldn't help thinking afterwards how we all moan back home about how Tesco etc are destroying small businesses, but what's happening over here with the tourism is really having far more of an impact. Every hotel that goes all inclusive effectively putting all the money into the cost of the holiday rather than providing spending money is ripping the heart out of the bars and restaurants and I can see first hand what impact it's having on the likes of Big Al. After we left, we noticed that the other two bars were already closed - this would have been unheard of a few years ago.   So if I wasn't before, I'm even more anti-All inclusive now - besides which, it's boring anyway being tied down to the same hotel. I can understand the point of it in some Caribbean resorts where it probably isn't safe to venture out but it's all wrong in a place like this.

Jason xx

Travelling with children

Today was a day long looked forward to in the Ayres household as it as the day that our long awaited holiday finally came around! Now you may wonder why you had not heard much about this up until now, well that was quite deliberate really. It never ceases to amaze me how many people go bragging about their trips all over the internet. 4 more sleeps, 3 more sleeps, then it's pictures showing off on the beach or pissed up with some cocktails.   You might as well plaster all over facebook, "Hi burglars, come and ransack my house". I would imagine insurance companies might even refuse to pay out in the future if they haven't done so already. So apart from a few close and trusted friends, no-one knew I was going away and in fact my internet footprint has vanished altogether as I have closed my facebook account for the duration. You see even in my absence someone could let it slip. It's my birthday on Saturday so all it takes is someone to write something on my wall that alludes to the fact I'm abroad and the cat's out of the bag  

So where are we? In Corralejo, in Fuerteventura, the most beautiful and unspoilt of the Canary Islands and the one that few other people go to. I've been coming here on and off for 18 years now and I love it. I've tried all the others e.g. Tenerife, Gran Canaria and invariably find them full of chavvy twats and lager louts. It is simply not like that here. And there are a few other things e.g. No McDonalds or Burger King here. It's very much locally run restaurants and bars, many of which have been here for decades and unlike anywhere else I have ever been, every time I come here, I feel like I am coming home.  

My aim is to write a daily diary and convert it into blog entries when I get home. I'm writing using the bluettooth keyboard on my Galaxy Note - which is a little rubber keypad similar to the old ZX Spectrum. It's not the easiest thing, I make a lot of small mistakes which have to be corrected, so forgive me for any I miss. Overall my typing speed is probably about half what it is at home, but still way faster than a touch screen.  
So the story of day one? Well we left home in a blizzard, which was nice to be getting away from. Not really much point in me boring you with all the ins and outs of our journey, we've all been on holiday enough times to know the procedure, so I'll just give you the notable points. Firstly if you are travelling with children, don't let yourself be conned by the travel agent into pre-booking your seats. I was being harassed via email for this in the weeks leading up to my departure, even to the extent that when I needed to go into the online booking to update some other details, it was even implied that it was compulsory. Small print analysis determined it wasn't. I know there was no way they were going to separate a 2 and 5 year old from their parents - can you imagine the chaos? A couple who had paid to pre-book their seats having a 2 year old screaming and filling its nappy with poo next to them, while the parents are 20 aisles away? Never going to happen. So I stood firm and when we got to check in the desk clerk said - " Oh I see you have pre-booked your seats". " Erm, no, I haven't", came my reply. " Oh well someone must have done it for you", she said. Job done.   The flight as you can imagine was hard work. We had 3 seats together and one across the aisle. With a four hour flight, I sat in-between the two kids for the first couple of hours and then swapped with Claire. Lots of treats and colouring books and crayons got us through, but there were various problems. Crayons falling on aircraft floors are not easily retrieved.But we made it and emerged blinking into the lovely evening sunshine around 5:30pm.  

I had read a number of horror stories about this hotel - mainly to do with the rooms, seems it is pot luck whether you get an old crumbling one or a nice new refurbished one. My heart initially sank when I saw the number we had been given - but thankfully, due to a mix up over the key and lightning fast reactions on my part I managed to get us swapped into A405, which my research had indicated was a good room to go for.   Now to me, this was perfectly acceptable holiday accomodation. I think some people go on holiday expecting the Ritz. The room was exactly what I've had on almost all visits to the Canaries - basic, functional, but clean and tidy, and with a kind of conservatory feel to it. Had clearly recently had a lick of paint, and the marble type floor looked reasonably new. If there was one room that was maybe not that great it was the bathroom but again I'm used to that. If I've got a fully functioning shower, sink, and toilet I can live with the odd bit of mildew or mould between the cracks in the tiles on the wall. It's no big deal to me. If I had paid 5 grand for this holiday then it might be an issue, but I didn't.  

By the time we were unpacked and settled it was dark, so we headed for the onsite restaurant. As I may have previously mentioned, we were booked half board. Not really intentionally, but due to a statistical quirk of the Thomas Cook website. This quirk was that when I played around with the options,my desire to book us a 2 bedroom apartment (essential with children in my view) added about 500 quid on to the booking. To upgrade from self catering to half board also added about 500 quid to the booking. But add the two on together and it only added about 400 on in totality - in other words if I wanted the 2 bed room, it was actually cheaper to book half board than self-catering.  

So effectively we had the food thrown in free. Which was just as well really, as quite honestly the restaurant was pretty dismal - very little choice, a salad area with just salads but no cold meats/ cheeses, a few curry type slop buckets, some very basic chips, bread rolls, pasta. Very cheap and cheerful. It was not a patch on what we experienced at say, the Sirenis in Ibiza. The only good bit was a show cooking area where a chef was frying up some pork loin steaks so I basically had some of those with chips and bread. The kids, who could quite happily live on chips and bread were more than happy. So we roughed it.   Afterwards we decided we'd alternate nights - go cheap and cheerful and free one night, and go into town for a proper meal on the others. We have a few favourite restaurants in Corralejo from past visits and they are not overly expensive.  

Afterwards we went to the bar, where the Thomas Cook team were providing the entertainment. Again it was on a much smaller scale than the Sirenis and there did not seem to be anyone much about but the three reps did their best. Usual sort of stuff you might expect, kids disco, bingo,quiz - basic stuff that you would not touch with a bargepole if you were child free but which suddenly becomes majorly attractive when you need some distractions from the little ones.

Luckily for us, we won the quiz. Well I say won, annihlated is more the word, it was a bits and pieces style pop music quiz, which was right up my street. Our crushing victory seemed to rather upset one rather rotund gentleman who had clealy been here for a while and used to winning the quiz. Think Johnny Vegas as the Oracle in Benidorm and you won't be far off. The reps seemed delighted though to have a new champion in the midst. As for the prize, well there's a Pizzeria on site and we had won 2 pizzas and 2 ice creams. Apparently the Pizzeria is way superior to the main restaurant, so that's another night's meal sorted.   So fuelled up on Sangria and Strongbow (no complaints about the bar) we headed off for a well deserved night's sleep ready to begin our holiday in earnest the next day.  

A quick stop press written on 20th February to say there are at least 12 more blogs to come and we are due home soon. I have downloaded the blogger app which means I can cut and paste all these entries across on to it and if I can get the wi-fi in reception to work, start posting them up on the internet - not sure about the pictures though - will have to see.

Jason xx