Daytripping to Amberley (published by BrightonMums)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’m done with Brighton. I know, I really shouldn’t be admitting that on this my very first post for Brighton Mums, and obviously Brighton and I, most of the time, we’re dandy. This is where I’m from and where my daughter is growing up. This winter though combined seemingly never ending rain with a nausea filled first trimester of my pregnancy number two. Now, at the almost 20 week mark and feeling slightly better, each familiar street I walk down still seems to remind me of that icky, sicky feeling of those first months this year. I need a change of scene.

We are car-free for now so travelling for us is all about places to go on the train, but as my toddler is a train fanatic, the journey is also part of the fun. We watch out the window for diesels down sidings, old British Rail carriages and perhaps a rare steamy too.  These days, I have an extensive train vocabulary, courtesy of the wee one and that unmentionable heavily marketed blue engine of course. You want to talk about buffers? Hey, I can do that. A spot of conversation about the merits of diesel versus steam? I’m good to go. So in the quest for greater knowledge and more extensive transport experience for all, we headed to Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre, for a family day out.

An Amberley shopping experience

This former chalk-pit makes for a huge area to explore, with plenty of green space to roam free. On arrival we spied functioning water pumps which little and big kids alike were taking great delight in swinging off. There are also plenty of original buildings one housing a functioning blacksmith, one a selling handmade cards and many many exhibition spaces on themes such as telephones, trains, the fire service, radio and television and oh so much more.

Plenty of buttons to press!

We enjoyed a trip to a traditional printing press. Here we bought tiny cards beautifully printed up with images of a train, boats and animals for a mere 25p, hooray to anything other than penny sweets being fully purchasable for this price, let alone something hand-made and lovely. Then our 3 year old got to turn her own hand at printing, with a kind volunteer from the workshop helping her to print out her name in glorious red ink alongside an otter.

We also rode (obviously) the narrow gauge train round the site. Alas people, the steamy wasn’t in operation on the day we went, but the electric still did the job and allowed us to view the entrance to the old pits, which was also (and here’s some fun trivia for you) used in the 1985 James Bond film, A View to a Kill, or as our driver grunted out ‘The Film’. Hoorah then for boyfriend’s encyclopaedic knowledge of Bond to correctly identify the film, actor and approximate year of said film, without even a need to dive towards the iphone.

Elsewhere we enjoyed the history of the telephone, in particular standing two feet apart and calling each other on those old dial the number all the way round phones I used as a child. I should add you can watch the phone lines connecting on the operator board in front of you, although mostly I think the fun is really in the dialling. Maybe Apple have missed a trick on this one?

The enticing bus garage

We saw some grand old buses and a fire station stuffed with old fashioned fire engines and kit. And if you like you can also ride an old bus (sorry, less knowledge on the particulars of this method of transport) round the site, but we didn’t have a go, as boyfriend and I both felt we’d been on a bus of remarkable similarity on a recent rail replacement route from Three Bridges.

Oh and there more, which alas I cannot in time do justice to, including a playground. My only word of warning is to take a picnic as whilst there is an ample sized café the food all looked a bit sad, small bits of cake wrapped up in individual cling-filmed portions and a coffee from a machine where you press the ‘cappuccino’ button is never going to impress a Brightonian unfortunately. So this was the time to head back, back from the countryside, from West Sussex, and our industrial past and back home to wedges of organic vegetable based cakes with barista coffee, phew, it’s good to be in Brighton.

Travels across my living room

The new answer to all that ails me

The new answer to all that ails me

We have not been far. I have been mostly lying on the sofa, lying on the floor and occasionally tucking myself into E’s bed to play at being a sleeping lion. Sometimes she has initiated our game and played horsey on my back whilst I retched over the toilet bowl. Oh life is very miserable when you have morning sickness and a toddler.

I remember once when a friend and I stayed up all night for the first time. We were 16 and lay awake in a field, sharing a sleeping bag with a blanket pulled over us, shivering and thrilled. It was the Wimbledon final and the next day we secured our tickets and feel asleep for the first set. On the way home I dribbled open-mouthed, head resting against the train window. I remember thinking I had never been so tired. Ha, ha.

This year I have existed in tiredness, swaying round the house eyes drooped, wondering how I ever managed to wash-up the dishes or ever sweep the floor…oh that old piece of old pasta with its friend shrivelled pea can just stay where it is my weary arms cannot cope.

I’ve craved bread, endless bread, and occasionally pies. I have yelled ‘Don’t even say the word C-U-R-R-Y’, my churning mind could not retain this word and all the bread besides.

Still the sun is here this week and finally when I look in the mirror there are now red splotches against the pale, from sitting propped up in the garden and trying to heal. I also ate a curry last week and enjoyed it. This week, bread has been replaced (finally) by kiwis…I cannot get enough. Fingers crossed this is the beginning of the Spring in every way.

(Kiwi as captured by André Karwath)

Gatwick Airport…a destination in itself?

To tell you a secret, I like airports. I like the anxious checking of the departure board, yes I’m still three hours early and yes my flight exists. I like the clichéd Did you pack your own bag today Miss? I even like the slow trawl round the shops killing time; when else do you get to smell like three different perfumes at once?

But, is the airport just as good when it’s the destination itself? Well, obviously, it’s not. The checking, the re-checking is all just an exciting prelude to the real deal. The holiday. The big trip. It’s ok to be wasting a few hours, when you know you’ll soon be in the sun.

Here I am though with my two and a half year old at the airport. I thought rather than screech ‘Planes’ every time our train wheeshes through Gatwick at speed to London, and she cranes her neck to see a couple of lights blur from the runway, that we’d actually take a proper trip. We’d visit ‘The Planes’.

And we did, sort of. Although the best way to actually see them is on the mono-rail, which takes you from the South Terminal to North, and back again, oh and back again and back again. Four times we went, and as before I screeched ‘Planes’ as we went back and forth, and she shouted ‘Mono-rail’ in reply as we sat ‘driving’ at the front of the carriage.


View from the monorail. Blink and you’ll miss the planes.

Apart from these glimpses of the runway with waiting planes, we also went in a super-sized lift and ran dangerously down the travelator pretending to be Octonauts on a mission to save the colossal squid. It was fun, it was going great and then I realised we had been there only 45 minutes and could the £10 ticket be justified for this?

So, we tried out the lounging chairs until E’s lion roars began to distract the waiting passengers from their magazines. Then, I bought us an extravagant lunch of chips, a salad in a bowl as big as a football and apple juices all round.

Killing time with chips.

Killing time with chips.

Then we were done. We boarded the train home. The airport was ok, but only in a killing time type of way it turns out; I think this little romance is over.

Next time: A real trip!

New year, new blogging adventures

So blogging, eh? Turns out it’s pretty tricky to keep up. I have had various blogging bouts since this April, but I have now sooo much respect for those peeps who do manage to blog every couple of days, or even every week. Wow!

Writing with a rainy view today.

Writing with a rainy view today.

But New Year, new start. It may be raining outside in Brighton, but I’m full of ambition here. Soon the sun will shine and I will be writing regularly on things to see and do in Brighton and beyond.

I been missing travelling, exploring and just those adventures beyond my walk into town. So, I am shifting the focus of this blog to follow and create some adventures. Onward into the sunshine….

We can but hope...

We can but hope…

Shoreham Harbour

Late one Saturday morning, one very windy day, we took the train along the coast to Southwick. Packed with families travelling to see more family and people trying to read the newspaper whilst other people’s kids kicked each other beneath the table, we watched the sea grow closer on the train from Brighton.


We stopped at the harbour and walked across the interlocking metal bridges and waited whilst a lock filled up with water, one lone fishing boat floating on the rising water. Around us gulls lined up like children going into school, all jostling disorder. We waited for the boat to pass.

On the empty beach we throw stones at the sea and climb on top of the groynes to see back across the sea to Brighton.


It’s a funny thing this Saturday, this whole day off together. I’ve worked every weekend since E turned one, so time with my family has been for a few hours in the morning or afternoon, never one whole day. Now it’s here, it’s difficult to let go. Why aren’t we earning or cleaning or learning or catching up with someone or something? Instead, we are just out for one whole day and I’m trying to let go.

Eventually I find that if we just walk and walk, pushing E to sleep in the buggy, and until we arrive back into Brighton, exhausted and wind-blown then I can just about outstep that gnawing feeling and just about be right here. Almost.

The Stick Age

Two and almost a half is an age of sticks. Each journey home, a long drudge up the steep tree-lined hill, we find a new one. Chewed up and spat out by dogs, the bite-marked ones are quickly thrown across the street, but the tiny, newly snapped and fallen twigs are for keeps.

E will tuck them up like children into MummyDaddy bed, pulling the duvet up close to their knobbly chins.  Or, they are held aloft in one hand, and like a circus performer she tries to balance impossible items on its spindly form. A fluffy rabbit? Immediate no. A dye-cast racing green car? No again. How about an upside down beaker?

“A bell, a bell” She shrieks running into each room in turn to ring the stick, clacking the beaker back and forth in noisy joy.

For me and my brothers a stick was a sword to clash or a spear to poke at another’s t-shirt, until an adult came to tell you not to.

Or, it was a walking stick to huddle over and pretend that you were elderly and frail. We would sometimes break off tiny twigs to use, a grand stoop over so as to make each other laugh.

Or, sometimes it was a totem to stand imposingly alongside, which we all would clamour to hold, wrenched out of my tightest grip to be given to another for a turn.

The other sticks, the not for keeps sticks, were thrown overboard. Off bridges in any streams or running water we could find on those too long family walks.

“1-2-3” a grown-up would shout and all at once those sticks would drop into the stream and be pulled away by the current. Each would twist and turn, get stuck on a rock or the bank, some to stay there in frustration or others to be freed and to drop away under the bridge. To disappear for a moment as we raced over to the other side, only to appear again to win or to lose the race, and then to float on and on.

Morning at The Level

Morning at The Level

In sickness

“Urgh, urgh!”

Disoriented, I trip out of bed and fall onto my hands and knees. I pull open our door and cross the landing to E’s room, where I bang one foot against the wooden garage and a toe on the other foot against the wheel of her doll’s buggy.

“F-ing hell” I shout.

E’s room is hot and stinks of garlic. I switch the light on.

“Mummy, mummy, mummy” E starts to cry. She is lying on her back and covered in little clumps of this evening’s dinner. I can see chunks of potato, tomato and tiny pieces of green olive surrounding her.

Pulling her up I tug her sodden vest over her head. I cautiously hug her, wary of where else the sick might be and I tell her it’s ok. My hands find her wet hair, and the little clumps of food still there and I try to pull them out with the wet wipe, whilst she tries to shake me off and goes on crying.

Then E makes a funny noise and vomits over my pyjama leg and onto a panda bear and three books that are lying by my foot. Why didn’t we tidy up before we put her to bed I think and feeling suddenly cross I try to remember it being J putting her to sleep, and therefore leaving books out to be vomited on.

I carry her into the bathroom and try to wash her off; she buries her head in my shoulder as I pull the light cord and cries again. As she pulls away I find I have potato stuck to my pyjama top. In the mirror I see myself haggard after only an hour’s sleep and simply filthy from E’s sickness.

We clean her up, all change our clothes, load the washing machine and bring her into our bed. She rolls around for half an hour and then vomits directly into J’s face. It’s almost funny, if it wasn’t so disgusting and if I wasn’t so tired.

He cleans up. We strip the bed again, wipe her down and all lie on the bare mattress. Then I lie awake trying to hear her breathe and running a list of her symptoms through my head checking them against illnesses I can remember. I feel wired. Also the whole house now smells of garlic and I’m finding it distracting.

The next day she wakes up early, and I feel nauseous with the lack of sleep. One day has passed into another without even a comma to separate my thoughts. I stumble whilst making coffee and spray granules across the floor, over the counter and the cooker top where they dissolve into the garlicky oil still sitting on the cooker top waiting to be washed.

The house is a mess, even more than normal.

Over the day, E is sick in the living room, in the kitchen and her bedroom. We wash clothes, towels, ourselves all day to rid ourselves of the sick.

We stumble around like zombies, falling into sofas and each other, bristling with our unmet need for sleep.

In the afternoon, she lies next to me in bed just staring at the wall, without calling once for me to get up, wake up, come play. Facing her, she looks into my eyes and then smiles weakly “Me there” she says “Me in your eye”. I look back and see a tiny version of my face in her pupil, she is looking at herself in mine. I almost cry. She strokes my hair and we fall asleep on the unmade bed.

Memories and oranges

Biting into a nectarine, I pull out its knobbled stone, and with juice running down my chin I pass my daughter the flesh to eat.

I think of Dad, ripping the dimpled peel of an orange off with his incisors, just to make me and my brothers wince at the thought of that bitter skin.

Thwoh! Peel dropping, as he spat the pith onto the plate.

From the bite marked hole he would then tear the orange open with his hands, ripping into its segments to hand us juicy chunks.

Then once, when I was home from school because I was sick, I lay in the darkened living room, thick blanket up to my neck watching Sesame Street in the middle of the day. Big Bird and the little American kids were sitting on the front stoop of a house on the set and it must have been ‘O’ for orange that day because they were eating oranges, in delicious cross-section slices of the fruit. Each time they came to eat a piece, they would carefully tear and pull the peel away in a perfect circle.

I called my Dad in to show him what they were doing, and he went away and came back with an orange for me, cut up into these perfect rounds, just like that.  I smiled and pulled each piece of peel away, to bite the fruit.

Not all moments of childhood, mine or E’s I think, are like being passed that circle of orange. They are not all close up faces, soapy bubbles blown into the sky, and the feeling of holding your Dad’s hand as you learn to walk.

Sometimes, I am impatient, sometimes I cannot stand to wait for one moment longer on the front step, with the shopping, and the buggy to fold, and I need a wee and a glass of water and to call someone back. Sometimes, I cannot bear to wait for E to take her time climbing the stairs one by one in between pausing to think and pick up some tiny bit of fluff from the carpet.

Sometimes, all I want to do is close my eyes, or drink my tea or ring my friend, and no I do not want to play trains again.

But some afternoons we are in the garden, staring at the sandpit and wondering what to do, I suddenly remember being at the beach in Cornwall with my brothers and how we would take it turns to cover my Dad in sand. I bury my feet under the sand, she stares at the mound at the end of my legs and then I wriggle my sandy toes free.  Then she calls for “More, more”, and we begin the whole thing all over again.

Trying to be heard

I caught a bus from the seafront and we drove off along the coast and out east of Brighton. We peered down from the Cliffs to see white triangle sailing boats against the navy sea. Next to the road, the cliffs are fenced off and as cars speed in and out of the city a sign reads ‘If you are feeling sad, it can help to speak to someone’.

We are going to see my friend A.

Just before the bus leaves the city for good, someone rings the bell from upstairs and shouts “Next stop”. The bus comes to a halt, and we wait for almost 10 whole minutes whilst sixty foreign language students, fifty-one from the upper deck (I count) and nine from downstairs, disembark. Each one stops awkwardly to sound out “Thank you” to the driver.

Along we speed to Ovingdean and then I push E in her green buggy down from the bus. A young woman gets off after us, but carrying only a mobile phone in one hand she speeds ahead. She is wearing only a striped summer dress and flip-flops. She strikes out into the grassy field on our right and pushes open a metal gate, leaving it to clang back unlocked behind her. With her loose, golden hair thrown behind her by the wind she races uphill.

I am pushing the buggy; underneath it has a bag full of Tupperware boxes containing individual grapes, a nectarine, a packet of oatcakes, a piece of banana bread and a pitta sandwich. Another bag is slung over the back of the buggy with a collection of little toys, sun cream, two bottle of water, nappies, wipes, a jumper in case the weather turns, my purse, my phone and our keys. As we mount the corner towards my friend’s house I am already sweating in the airless 10 o’clock heat.

A row of detached 1950s houses line the road on one side. The gardens have short cut grass, bright flowers and a curved gravel or concrete path to the front step. Most have estate cars parked on their driveways, behind waist-height curled metal gates. We pass 45 houses, and see only two men talking together. One has a 1980s white, laminate bedside cupboard with brass coloured handles on his driveway with a hand-written sign reading ‘For Sale. £10’.

All the way, I am thinking about what I want to tell my friend. I will describe the bus journey and how it takes only 10 minutes, but feels like years from Brighton. I will ask whether she has seen the foreign language students too. How is she finding the heat and what has she been doing on her maternity leave so far.

She is a writer, so perhaps I will describe to her how E has been speaking in similes. How she compared the overhanging tress of Stanmer Park to a train tunnel and the hole in a macaroni tube to hole in the taxi that you lean into to speak to the driver.

I will ask her how it all has been going, how is work, how does it feel to be pregnant and just about to give birth. I will tell her about having a two-year old, the frustrations, the wanting to work more and the wanting to never, ever leave her.

We reach her house. Her long front garden is half a sloping bank of grass and flowers, half purple slate slabs. I push the buggy half way up the slope and then get E out and hold her arm with one hand and pull the buggy behind us with the other. I am hot and tired. E is jumping up and down on the spot.

A arrives at the door with a round baseball of a belly. She looks lovely, slightly brown from the sunshine, and behind her the house is cool and still.

E wanders round the living room, brushes one hand over the books on the shelf, climbs up onto the sofa and then clambers down to cross over the room and try a chair. I am watching, judging the distance from the chair to the floor, will she be able to manage it? Watching as she picks up a tiny bottle of contact lens solution, which I then prise from her in exchange for one of the toys we brought with us instead.

E calls for snacks, for water and then for tea towels to wipe up the juice and torn little pieces of nectarine skin she’s created and the water she has spilt on the table.

A makes me coffee, water and cuts up the croissant I brought from town. Whilst E gets up, and starts to pull open the cupboard doors to peer inside. She picks out a bottle of sunflower oil and then strokes a glass bottle of ketchup, before I close the door of the cupboard.

I forgot what I wanted to say, I start a sentence only to leave it hanging whilst I respond to “Mummy, mummy, mummy” and then to her questioning, I reassure her that her hat is only in the buggy and has not disappeared.

I love to look at people’s faces when they talk, to interpret what they really mean when they speak. I love to listen and to think, to make a joke, to ask a good question. At other times I like to debate.

Today I rush through detail, I need a point. Are you fine or not fine? Is your experience good or bad? There is no space for grey with a child, only black and white, for cold coffee and snatched pieces of information, the too and fro of conversation is over and over halted, cut off and then forgotten.

When we come to leave, a trail of misplaced objects and thoughts unsaid, lie behind us.