Is there a good time to get a dog…

This is a question I’ve been asking myself for some time now. Since losing Reuben (our beloved German Shepherd cross) a year ago, we have been a dogless family. It’s been a little breather for us, especially me, whilst Monty travels and works away from home so regularly. To not constantly worry about the dog – whether it’s walked sufficiently or sat alone at home whilst I’m at playgroup has been a lovely respite.

However, we both feel the time has come to find a new dog (or dogs) to join us at Orchard View. Reubs was a rescue dog from Holly Hedge Rescue Centre in Bristol. He was huge, hairy, excitable but a gentle bear of a dog especially around little one’s. He was also incredibly handsome and strong – we all ran many miles together over the years.

We’d like to take on a rescue dog if possible, we all know that there are thousands of dogs in need of homes all throughout the country. But with small children, a cat, hens, ducks, sheep and the fact that we’re surrounded by farms with cattle and horses in most fields – this new dog has to be the right one. And you can never underestimate the time, energy and love a dog needs from you. It is like having another child to consider all the time so some serious thought has to be put in to owning a dog for sure.


Reubs & Isla

So we are supporting Holly Hedge this weekend, at their grand opening of a new kennel block, lovingly dedicated to Reuben. Here we can talk to the volunteers and staff about finding a suitable new member of the Halls household – once we’re back from our sojourns this summer. If you’re local to Bristol – please come and join the fun in Long Ashton – the Holly Hedge event is open to all –

Dogs are and always have been devoted companions of man and woman alike. The house was so deathly quiet without Reubs in it – it’s time to fill our home with barks and yelps, hair and muddy footprints. I’m sure Reubs would approve of our decision – but I can promise you, my lovely boy, you will never be forgotten.

If we all give one hour a week…

We could make a substantial difference to our schools. I’ve heard recently that our local primary school, which Isla and Molly attend, have had to drastically cut their budget for 2017/2018 by tens of thousands of pounds. This means losing additional support staff, our forest school teacher, and so much more. Our Government is not supporting our schools sufficiently – this is obvious, but do we as parents do enough?

In some cases, if parents have full time jobs, of course it is difficult to commit time to our schools. But those that have a little bit more flexibility could do so much to help enrich the environment our little one’s spend the majority of their time within. Be it painting the grey walls in the playground to running summer fetes.


Me supervising whilst drinking tea – I promise I did paint and not just drink tea..

When Isla began school last September I volunteered to join the Friends group, a small selection of Mums and Dads who organise fundraising events in aid of the school. I agreed to organise one event per year – feeling like I’m contributing to the collective effort but still retaining time for my work. Last month I became the Friend’s secretary and my friend, who I initially roped into organising our ‘one’ event a year, became the new Chair. We are now in the throws of organising a mini festival after our sports day taking place this Friday (please let the sun shine!).

I didn’t expect to get so involved with this little group of proactive and energetic parents, but I’m incredibly pleased I did – especially now. When our schools are at breaking point, we can not stand by and not step in. Friends groups, PTA’s and other fundraising committees need your help urgently. So don’t be shy, please put your hand up to join in. One hour a week could make a massive and lasting difference – I would thank you and think you rock, but your children would thank you even more. Not it’s over to you!

My pop up to Bristol & our local pop ups…

I’m in sunny Bristol today, we have an office here, and although it’s a trek from Dartmouth I really enjoy driving up and being with our lovely team (especially when Suze brings us crumble chocolate cakes from Lanzarote). However, this enjoyment is fleeting as our brilliant ‘nanny’ Hannah will be leaving us at the end of July.

She has been a god send, really, and I’m not sure what I will do without her. For one day a week she’d get the kids ready for school, take them in and collect them. She then feeds and entertains them until I returned for bedtime. It was only one day a week, but that day was my day. Now, it looks uncertain about what I’ll be able to juggle – realistically.

It’s a very common dilemma many parents face, mums and dads alike. Without local grandparents for additional childcare, or extremely early breakfast clubs and even later after school clubs the return to work can be so hard. I’d hope to find a childminder or nanny locally who can take on Hannah’s role but it’ll be tricky.


Me about to eat a chocolate crumble cake/at work…

However, last week I met some inspiring and talented ladies, who with young families, have established their own businesses, thus giving them flexibility to be a very present figure throughout their children’s lives. These women produce stunning silver jewellery, unique ceramics, beautiful watercolours, bespoke cushions & leather bags and source homewares from Africa – to mention just a few. Unfortunately I’m not so talented and can’t set myself up in this way due to my lack of creative skills or aptitude for building such imaginative businesses.

I imagine that the majority of us have local pop-up shops and stores so I urge you to seek them out – our current pop-up shop is taking place at Stokeley

I aim to visit on Thursday – to support small local businesses, especially working mums but also to be inspired, perhaps I need to relinquish my fears about starting something on my own and consider something new. My days in Bristol maybe numbered but perhaps something good will come of it.

Consolidating and looking back & to the future…

It’s a big day for the UK, it’s voting day and whilst I’d like to say that we aren’t a hugely divided political household, we’ve had some robust conversations about which party symbolises what we truly & realistically need in the future. I’m not going to comment online about who I’m voting for, it’s a personal choice – but I urge you all to use your right to vote. It’s a wonderful privilege, which we share with some of the world, but certainly not all of it, especially as women. So use it wisely. I wait with anticipation for the outcome…and I’ll be taking both my children with me to vote after school, so they can begin to fathom the way our political systems operate in the UK. And to witness that every single vote can and does matter.

Today has made me stop in my tracks. It’s the 8 June, we’ve already lived through half of 2017. I’m trying to use today to look back on how we’ve spent the previous 6 months. Fortunately my Freeprints arrived today, I try and print out photos rather than store them all on my laptop, and from the pile of pictures before me I can see we’ve managed to squeeze in quite a bit. We’ve had some highs, and a few lows. The country too has been through so much, especially within the last few months. Be it good or bad this is life.


Happy times

And, when I look at the photos I’ve chosen to print out they’re all of us as a family, spending time with friends and family, travelling and taking part in friend’s weddings, raising our ducklings, developing our home and exploring more places where we live and a little further a field. It’s what I imagine life should be, I know I’ve not taken photos of me hoovering the living room or cleaning out the muck from the goats house but it appears that we’re leading happy lives and that’s what matters. I feel very grateful, and very lucky. I hope that the next 6 months brings happiness and contentedness to us all…and perhaps, a new Government…!

No tele day…

It’s 08.45am and a record has been set. I’m not sure how proud I should be feeling about this, as it says quite a bit about how our mornings generally begin, but we have not put the TV on yet. 

I’ve checked my weather app (I’ve one optimistic and one that’s pessimistic so go for the average) and today is the last day for a whole week of sun and settled early summer weather. 

So the TV is staying resolutely off. We’ve already had the peacock Queen and Princess performing a song and dance routine. The saucepans, cake tins and bowls have been utilised as a uncomfortably loud drum kit. I’m constantly man managing and mediating between the girls as to how many turns each may have on the single hula hoop we own. 

It’s exhausting…I’m sitting in the garden trying to type this on my phone. However the girls are now arguing over the swing…one is slightly higher than the other and that one is obviously the better. But, after a few minutes peace resumes. I can hear the morning bird song, the babbling of a little stream which runs besides our garden. I can even hear our neighbour’s peacock call echoing down the valley. The squeaking of the swing set provides a constant rhythm…there’s no Paw Patrol theme tune and no guilt. 

As always our children need to discover their own ways and methods to entertain themselves. I may not get the cleanest kitchen I’d like but I’ve engaged more with my little ones. School will soon begin again and these times will become few and far between. So the television can stay off today…at least until it’s time to make tea. 

MCS’s Plastic Challenge

The Marine Conservation Society’s Plastic Challenge begins tomorrow. They want you and me to try and live without single use plastics for up to one month. This isn’t a simple challenge, it’s a mammoth battle – one of which I fear we are losing at a frightening rate. 

If you’re not sure about the devastating impact of plastics on our oceans and marine life please, please watch A Plastic Ocean:

Perhaps this will be the encouragement you need to take the challenge on and to try, in some capacity, to reduce the amount of plastics we send to landfill every second of every day. 

I’m going to start the challenge today – I’ve signed up here:

I’m using the opportunity of it being half term, and so I have a little more time, to go to our local food stores instead of Sainsbury’s. I’ll have a little more time to visit our farm shops that don’t wrap every piece of fruit and veg in single use plastic wrappings. And who sell refillable soap and washing detergent bottles. Their delicious breads aren’t wrapped in cellophane but paper. 

I’ll have a chance to look closely to what I can realistically do to stop using plastics. It won’t be easy but it’s absolutely necessary. 

Bristol – Geneva – Chamonix … hopefully

I’m sitting in Bristol airport waiting for my flight to Geneva in order to join the wedding celebrations of one of my oldest & dearest friends. But EasyJet has different plans and has delayed my flight by 5 long hours. 

I have a few options to play with. 

1. Sleep – catch up on the zzzzz’s I’ve missed over the past couple of weeks due to my littlest waking most nights. And my 4.30 am start this morning. Yawn. 

2. Drink – lots of passengers are already on the raz and it’s 7.30am. But I’m not sure I can handle a GnT so early in the day. 

3. Watch endless episodes of Offspring or flick mindlessly through my social media feeds whilst occasionally checking my BBC News app to convince myself I’m still in touch with the news of the day. 

4. Go to the Lancôme stand and have my face painted by a lovely lady who offered to do me a make over as I walked by earlier. She clearly saw my need for a massive amount of make up to disguise my ash grey circles and pasty complexion.

5. Do all of the above – get pissed, insist on a smokey eye, contouring session whilst posting endless selfies of me on Instagram and then pass out, miss my flight and end up spending another long day at Bristol airport….

Or shall I write a little blog about how frustrating it can be to wait and wait, to miss my bus connection up into the fantastic French Alps and to totally fail to be there for my best friend’s official marriage at the Marie. 

So thanks EasyJet for my £3 compensation you’ve so generously offered me but quite frankly it doesn’t even start to compensate for how your incompetence has impacted on what should have been a joyous day. 

But hey, I’ll get to the Mont Blanc Massif eventually and I’ll celebrate with a hugely special group of friends a beautiful union of two beautiful people. So when these frustrating and irritating (but unforeseeable and random) delays occur we must all try to remain pragmatic and calm… And to use our spare few hours wisely…now where’s my GnT? 

Our fearless fledglings…

It was with pride and trepidation that we released our ten Muscovy ducklings out into the big, wide world yesterday. We’ve housed them safely for two weeks and now it’s their time to stretch their little wings, to forage in the swampy grass and to take their first dip in the pond.

Our mother duck, Betty, keeps a very watchful eye over her brood but has become less anxious around us and seems comfortable in our presence. If only I could explain to her that we’re trying to protect her babies and help them on their way. But she is firmly in charge from now on.

Ducklings on their way

The girls release the ducklings

It is now up to her to shelter, nurture and care for her ducklings. We must now let nature take its course. I’m resolute (but with a heavy heart) that not all of these little creatures will survive and the girls understand and except the circle of life. It’s amazing that at such a young age, the girls can comprehend that we won’t see all of them live to maturity. It’s a very real way for Isla and Molly to start to understand that things, people and animals will all one day die.

When our young people die however, under such extreme and terrifying circumstances, I’m not sure we can ever really comes to terms with such a waste of life. Our thoughts are very much with the families of those who have tragically lost their loved ones in Manchester. These types of atrocities put all our worries and concerns into perspective, I can’t imagine how the parents of the children and teenagers who are now gone must feel. Every day, without fail as parents we do everything in our power to protect and defend our children. We always will. I hope one day their hearts will heal.

We will stand together and fight hate with love.


By clicking on this link you can donate to the Manchester bombing emergency fund – thank you.

Tucking the little ones in for the night…

Owning a modest, small-holding comes many responsibilities. The main objective is to nurture and develop the land we have and care for the animals we have living on it. We’re trying to make it a prosperous place and a centre of curiosity for Isla and Molly & along the way use the hen eggs, the Ditsum plums, and the wild water mint which grows beside our pond.

But, it’s really hard work. And, it’s very time consuming and it’s only now, that the girls are a little older that we can work in the paddock & allotment without Molly tumbling down the steep banks and landing in the pile of metre hire nettles which grow in earnest everywhere we look. We have grand plans but for now, we’re only just starting to get to grips with what’s required to manage this little piece of land.


Duckling possibly Cupcake, Love heart or Blueberry Muffin

For now, especially whilst Monty is overseas, all I can realistically do is keep everything alive. So, this evening I’ve tucked up the 10 remaining ducklings safely in our duck house. Fed the little black Ouessant sheep, given our wether pygmy goat Harris a scratch behind the ears and collected the last of the eggs laid by our ex-battery hens. We have so many good intentions but sometimes there is just not enough hours in the day to achieve them all. Plus, with small children I simply don’t have enough hands I need to control what could develop into a chaotic mess. So, I’m good with that, our time will come and for now that’s okay – keeping everything safe is enough.

The sun is slowly setting here, so good night little ones, sleep tight and see you again in the morning.

Finding motivation and brain engagement…

We, as a family, are hopefully travelling to a wild and fascinating place this summer. The location of which I can’t readily reveal but suffice to say it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for us.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to prepare as much as I can for this adventure. And, with this preparation comes the chance to engage my brain again. I’ve decided to learn basic Spanish. I’ve settled on an app, which should guide me through the basics, develop my vocabulary and improve my accent. I’ve completed the first online session and tested myself this morning to see whether I’ve actually digested and stored the information I’ve been taught. And, it’s still there! I’m delighted to say I can remember the phrases, the masculine and feminine nouns & the intonation of ‘j’s’ and ‘ll’s’. In a few months I’ll almost be fluent….

And, so came the motivation to move. After sitting for so long, focused on a screen, I knew I had to fit in a short jog to compensate for the sedentary morning I had just had. But it was raining again…finding motivation to move is hard. It’s especially so if your three year old has insisted in sleeping in your bed for the past four nights in a row, an insistence that strikes at three am. But I never regret putting on my trainers and pacing around the countryside we’re so lucky to call home. The endorphins flow, your energy (which was clearly lacking) comes to you in bounds and you feel alive – even if you’re soaked the skin and splattered with mud.

It’s something I need to reinforce in my own mind – remember you never regret moving come rain or shine – So Do It. Or in Spanish – Asi Que Hazlo!


Running in the rain