Austria – Family Holiday Diary

Day One : Munich to Austria

Car arrived 5am. Everyone ready -unexpected -maybe some of them didn’t sleep. Flew Heathrow to Munich, all went smoothly, and everyone managed the automatic barriers. Eventually.

Collected minivan, and drove Munich to Salzburg. J made redundant from map reading due to rather efficient satnav.

Arrived at Sheraton at Fuschlsee, a lake near Salzburg. Staff at reception predominantly female, wearing national dress, which does make them very buxom. Impossible to avoid mainly noticing bosoms. H told M not to wear his glasses while we’re here.

Dinner in expensive hotel restaurant. Lots of antlers on walls, candles, flowers. Nice meal, but tired (me, not meal.)

  Everywhere here is SO pretty.

Day Two : Hallstatt

Nice breakfast, though I had problems with coffee machine and covered surrounding area with milky froth -rescued by very nice waiter who collected me a mug of coffee.

Drove to Hallstatt. Traffic terrible and nowhere to park, so we abandoned Husband and car, and walked into town. It was full of Chinese people, really full. Coach loads of them. All the signs were written in German and Mandarin, so clearly a regular occurrence. Also full of extremely expensive souvenir shops. Followed signs with a skull on them up a mountain (J in flip-flops, but still faster than people in hiking gear). Signs took us to a cemetery.

Found Husband and ate lovely homemade pizza for lunch. Read guidebook to try and find out significance of skulls and cemetery. Read that apparently, cemetery is very small – due to being half way up a mountain, so when it was full, someone had the good idea that they could dig up the old corpses and replace them with the new ones. Honestly, this was the solution they decided on! Did anyone object? Was there a committee involved? Anyway, this is what they did. While the bodies were waiting to be buried, they decomposed, and the bones were bleached by the sun. The skulls were separated from the other bones, and they are displayed in a side chapel. We HAD to go back and look. There they were, bones stacked neatly, skulls decorated with the name and patterns. Brilliant!

The rest of Hallstatt is also interesting. Lots of cute cottages clinging to the mountainside. Too many tourists and over-priced shops, but well worth a visit.


Walked around a mountain lake, Vorderer-Gosausee. So beautiful. Lake, trees, glacier, mountains.

Dinner in Fuschl. Parked in large town car park, returned after dark, and didn’t know how to pay. Husband set off in the dark to investigate, we sat in car, then decided to send S (largest male) to protect him. S detoured via barrier and tried to lift it manually. Worried he might break it, Husband would return with paid ticket but we’d still be trapped due to broken barriers. R worried there might be zombies (so glad she’s 25 and works in a bank – easy to forget that sometimes). D returned, barrier worked, all good.

Arrived safely back at hotel, despite best efforts of suicidal deer on dark road. Nice day. Tomorrow we plan to visit Salzburg (which is very exciting, as it’s where they filmed The Sound of Music – because it’s where the real family actually lived.)

Thank you for reading.

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  Today will be stressful – packing for the family holiday. If you’re a mother, you will know what I mean. If you’re male (not being sexist or anything), read on…

There is oceans of washing to do. It seems a bad idea to leave dirty clothes to fester in the laundry basket, plus there is all the bedding. I don’t like the idea of returning after two weeks away to sheets that have been slept/sweated/dribbled in for a week and then locked into a room to ferment. Obviously I cannot wash it all the day we leave, but it feels better if it’s washed the day before – so just one night of body fluids sweated into them.

Then there is the animal stuff. Dog and grumpy-cat taken to kennels, their bedding and towels left here. I can leave them – and be welcomed home by the thick odour a la dog, or I can wash them before I go. Thank goodness for washing machines and please can mine not break today. Of course, not everyone has this problem. I have known people (not female) who quite cheerfully shove dirty clothes into a bag before a holiday; and then return with the same bag of dirty clothes at the end. I am not entirely sure if they were worn, or washed, in between, because I didn’t like to ask.

I have to pack. Always stressful. You assemble everything you need, the case is full, and you haven’t even thought about clothes yet. There’s the stuff in case someone cuts themselves, or has a headache, or is sick. The shampoo you’ll never find abroad, the sun hat, sun lotion, sandals, plus hygiene stuff, a book, rechargers (because these magically disappear and people always need to borrow them) swimming goggles (which I never wear, but again, they disppear into the black hole of “I wasn’t the last person to have them…”), etc. And even supposing you find room for clothes, which ones do you take? Will the food be good and the weather lazy, so you need clothes you can expand into? Or will you spend the time enjoying the hotel gym and pool and eating salads, so you can pack the slightly-too-tight-but-fitted-last-year clothes? Then Husband weighs the case (why? Why do men do this? It can wait until check-in and be sorted out then if necessary) followed by ever so slightly tense conversation about the necessity of carrying certain items.

At least now I don’t have to pack for the children. That was always a nightmare. I had things sorted when we lived in the US, travelling back and forth with a 2, 4 and 6 year old, often on my own. Each child carried a small back-pack containing a complete set of their own clothes and an empty ice-cream container. You only ever carry a vomit covered child off a plane once before you plan things a bit better. Of course, sometimes it went wrong. Like the time Son 2 couldn’t decide what to pack and proudly tipped up his bag on holiday to empty out one of each piece of toy/puzzle/game that he owned. Just one piece. Or the year Son 1 packed his football. Just his football. And every year, although not having room for clothes, there does seem to be a disturbing number of inflatable animals in the pool with us. (They are all in their twenties now, and this is still true. Other families at the pool don’t do this. Just saying.)

Then there is the house. Sinks need to be bleached or they stink when you get home. But some oink always tips their unfinished coffee into the sink just before you leave. And surfaces need to be wiped and crockery washed and bins emptied. And always, after you have done that, someone will use something and make them all dirty again. And you can’t do it too early, because the family has to eat. They expect, amidst all this frenzy of cleaning, for a meal to appear. Which creates another whole lot of mess to be cleaned up. So you feel like you are stuck in a loop of cleaning, washing, wiping while everyone else is going round making it all dirty again. And no one cares, they cannot understand why it makes a difference to return home to a clean house, not a dirty stinky one, when within minutes of arriving it will get messed up again. But it does. If you are female you will know this – having a pristine house while no one is in it is extremely important. Otherwise burglars might think you are tardy.

I haven’t even started on the outside animals yet. Buying copious amounts of food so they can be fed in my absence, cleaning them out so kind pet-feeding person doesn’t think I’m slack for not keeping them properly clean. Clearing up all the stuff I ignore when I’m there, but looks unsightly when I notice it. Ensuring fences are secure and bedding has fresh hay. It all takes time.

So, I had better stop writing and make a start. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we’re flying to Munich tomorrow. Last summer the boys inter-railed around Europe, and were keen the family should repeat some of it this year. They travelled on a budget, and I’m thinking that a €6 per night including breakfast hostel is not going to suit me – so we’re staying in slightly different places. But the plan is to hire a car, drive through Austria, Slovenia, to Croatia, then fly home from Venice. There are seven of us going, I will let you know how we get on, but I’m sure it will be wonderful. I shall do nothing but follow round Husband-with-a-plan, while laughing at my family’s jokes and writing rude things about them on my blog.

Thanks for reading.
Take care,

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


So, have you watched ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’? As part of the whole, ‘family at home for Christmas so we ought to do something’ time, we went to the cinema. Afterwards we had dinner at Pizza Hut (even though I promised myself about ten years ago, that I would never have to eat in a Pizza Hut again.) It was actually a really fun evening. I’ll tell you about it (with a warning if you haven’t seen the film, this does contain spoilers.)

For those of you who don’t know (mainly you, Mum) ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is another film in the Harry Potter series – you know, the ones about the boy who is a wizard, who makes friends with the ginger-haired boy, and the girl who all the teenagers now fancy? Well, this film is supposed to be before all that took place, in the 1920’s, and is set in New York. I came away with very mixed feelings about it.

Firstly, it is excellent entertainment. I usually get bored in films aimed at a younger audience (the Harry Potter books and films didn’t quite do it for me if I’m honest.) This film however, I watched throughout without ever wondering how much longer before it ended. The plot was good enough, but the acting was excellent (perhaps J.K. Rowling decided experienced adult actors would make a better film and so wrote a book with only grown-ups in it. Or perhaps I am too cynical.) The special effects and scenery were all convincing, making for something of a visual treat. If you like a bit of make-believe, I expect you will love this film.

However, and this is quite a big however, there was something that left me feeling uneasy. It didn’t feel the same as the Harry Potter films, which I felt never really strayed from storybook witches and wizards. Now, I was not one of those Christians who refused to read her children ‘Hansel and Gretel’ or ‘Sleeping Beauty’ because they contained witches. I do believe there are spiritual forces that are evil, I do believe we shouldn’t mess with that stuff, and occult practices and ‘real’ witchcraft is dangerous. I just do not happen to put the witch in Sleeping Beauty into this category. It is a story, unrelated to real life, and the witches in it are not representations of people involved in the occult. I wasn’t so comfortable with this story. With Harry Potter, I felt the message of ‘good defeating evil’ was very clear. There were witches and magic, but it was all storybook stuff, and the baddies were easy to spot, and it was all far removed from reality.

In Fantastic Beasts we were presented with the New Salem Philanthropic Society. These were humans who were against witchcraft. It all felt a bit too much like things that happened in real life. Even the name is not exactly made up. And yes, I realise that people claiming to be Christian have done some pretty terrible things (in the past and present) and I know the ‘witch hunts’ in Salem were very bad. But why bring reality, even a touch of it, into a fantasy film? What is the point being made?

There was also an execution scene. It was, I felt, not really in keeping with a children’s film. Although what actually happened wasn’t gory or gruesome, the thought of someone walking towards a death sentence is not one I would want my 12 year old thinking about.

Not that I was with 12 year olds of course. I was with my family, who enjoyed the film. Their only comment was that when the characters gave instructions to their wands, it always worked, and when they do the same with their phone: “Hello Google, what is the time?” the phone always gets it wrong: “Certainly. Phoning Grandma.”

After the film, we went next door to Pizza Hut. We used to go to Pizza Hut a lot as students. We had no money, and it was a cheap place for a ‘special meal’ when we wanted to go out. I have moved on from those times. Husband hasn’t. He went excitedly to the salad bar, to show his sons how to extend the perimeter of the salad bowl with slices of cucumber, thus enabling extra salad to be heaped into the bowl. Sons were unimpressed and pointed out that unlike in the ‘olden days’, you could visit the salad bar as many times as you wanted. I actually, was unkeen on eating any salad at all, as on our way in we had passed a small child who appeared to be massaging the lettuce.

Actually, it wasn’t too bad. If you ignored the sticky menu (a variation on a ‘taster menu’) and the sticky seat and the sticky table, everything was fine. The waitress was friendly, the pizzas were nice, and the wine went down very well. The males in the family then made a comparison table of stats showing how the price per size of pizza compared to pizza express – but I don’t think this is an obligatory activity if you choose to go with different people.

Take care,
Anne x

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Thank you for reading.



Graduation Saga

Do events in your family always go to plan? Ours don’t…..


Hello, are you ready for Christmas? I’m not, but the end is in sight, and I am remembering to stop worrying whether or not things are wrapped and posted, and actually enjoy the moments spent with family and friends. Plus I really love everyone else’s Christmas decorations, even if mine are a bit tatty this year!

One special time with family was at son’s graduation. Yes, he did graduate a year ago, but this was his masters graduation. It did not go entirely to plan…

So, first challenge was how to get to the ceremony. Son had, in his wisdom, decided to attend Leeds University. We live a long, long, way from Leeds, about 5 hours in the car if the roads are clear. Husband and son discussed various options, but finally decided to go there and back on the day. This meant an early start, as we needed to allow for possible delays on the motorway. They told me we would be leaving the house at 5am. Yes, that’s right, 5am. Super.

I set the alarm for a 4 number. Animals gave me very strange looks when their breakfast arrived in the middle of the night. I showered, dressed, glanced in mirror….and decided my fringe was getting a bit long. Now, I have no idea why giving my fringe a quick trim when my eyes were still blurry seemed like a good idea. But it did. So I did.

5am arrived, we were all in the car, off we went.

At 9am we stopped for breakfast. We were nearly in Leeds, ready for a ceremony that started at 2pm, but I didn’t say anything. Felt slightly more awake after the coffee and used the washroom at the service station (always a delight.) As I was washing my hands, I glanced in the mirror. My hair was very short at the front, and not very straight. Looked almost as if I had cut it myself when half asleep, very early in the morning, with some nail scissors.

As we got back in to the car, I mentioned my hair to husband. I was hoping for some reassurance.
Me: I’m not sure cutting my fringe at 4am was such a good idea.
Husband: Oh, THAT’S what happened! I was wondering why you had gone for the Ugly Betty look.
Me: Silence. (Actually, I wasn’t silent. I laughed. My husband is an appalling person, but when he says outrageous things it always makes me laugh. Perhaps that’s why I married him.) Did not feel very reassured.

We arrived in Leeds (in very good time) and went to son’s house (which was very nice) and met his housemates (who are very nice) and then got changed ready for the ceremony. It was at this point that son realised his wallet, which contained all his ID, was missing. He needed his ID so he could register at the ceremony and collect his gown. He and husband had a thorough search of the car. No wallet.

We set off for the university. It was now pouring with rain, and we had no idea if they would let son take part in the ceremony as he had no proof of identity. All the graduands lined up, waiting to show their ID and receive the forms necessary to collect the gown and be told where to sit. Husband hovered nearby (he likes to help).

When son reached the front of the queue, he explained that actually, he had no ID, as he had lost his wallet. Husband helpfully added that he had his wallet and could prove who he was, and they would notice the surname was the same, hence proving he was son’s father. Plus he had baby photos. He then removed baby photos from wallet and showed them to person registering the graduands. She looked slightly surprised. Son looked slightly embarrassed. Registrar and son then had a conversation, she asked him for his date of birth, his student number, things like that. She then gave him the necessary forms so he could take part in the ceremony. But I’m sure the baby photos helped.

The rest of the day was without incident. I was very proud of son. It was nice to see all the family groups huddled in corners around the university, all honouring the person who had achieved the degree. I like to mark occasions, I guess it’s part of how we show people have value.

Before returning home, I suggested it might be worth checking the car again for the wallet. Ah. The wallet was, of course, lying where it had fallen. Another time I will help the males look myself. But I won’t cut my own hair early in the morning again…..


Thank you for reading.

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Postcards from the boys…


My boys arrived home from their tour of Europe. I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I was to see them! They had written me postcards while away – they didn’t actually get round to posting them, but they were fun to read when they emerged from the bottom of the dirty washing bag… I thought I would share them with you. Here they are, as written:


Greetings from Warsaw.
We are still alive.
Have eaten mostly Mcdonalds
and an indian bloke
keeps stealing our water.
Greetings from Krakow,
We are still alive!
Have eaten only £2 pasta
from a dodgy shop.
The entrance to our hostel
looks like a torture chamber
Love Sons! x
Hi Family,
Greetings from Budapest
We are still alive!
Have eaten only 55p pizza
– James keeps complaining.
We went to the ‘hot springs’
that turned out to be a wave pool
(we went to the wrong place)
Love Sons
We are in Bratislava
We are still alive!
We ate traditional Slovak food that
turned out to be sheep’s cheese porridge.
James has a small cold and is
claiming to be too ill to do
anything – wimp.
Son & ill son
Greetings from Prague!
We are still alive!
Did not get postcard from Austria
because James was (pretending to be) ill
and it would have cost £10.
We ate nothing but breadrolls
in Salzburg.
James has mostly stopped moaning.
See you soon
Love Sons x


Hope you enjoyed them as much as I did!

Fancy reading something different? Take a walk to the world that is just around the corner. Meet a family, who is just like your family, living in a familiar place with some huge changes. Prepared to be entertained, captivated and made to think, long after you have finished reading….
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Letter to a Sister – children, arms and cakes….

Hi, how was your week? I could’ve done with you here this week, I needed a bit of reassurance that I will see my boys again. They have left to travel around Europe. No money, no plans, way too much confidence. They left at 4am to get a coach from Gatwick to Stansted (because it was cheap) to fly to a forest near Warsaw (because it was cheap) and planned to stay in an establishment called (apparently) The Okey Dokey (because – yep, you guessed it – only £15 per night for two people including breakfast.)

So, please tell me that in two weeks time I will see them, unharmed, back in the UK. I did ask them to send me some sort of message each day, just so I know they’re alive. Yesterday I received a Facebook message from a Polish man claiming to have kidnapped them and asking for ransom (I replied it was way too high.) Today I was told they’d moved to a new hotel – which sounded eerily like the one in the Hostel film (if you haven’t seen it, don’t. It is awful, I only saw it by mistake and I still cannot lose the horrible images.) I am assuming all this means they are safe and well. And I know they will look after each other and have an amazing time and create some wonderful memories. But I will be SO happy to see them when they get home!

Mum also left this week. She had booked a cottage in Norfolk and set off with a suitcase as light as she could make it (she even removed photographs she was taking from the envelopes to save weight.) I took her up to Liverpool Street Station and put her on the train. She had been worrying about this – had even practised the week before so she knew where to go, so it was nice to be able to take her. It sounds like she is having a great time, lots of family are there too and she has friends there (she has friends everywhere). Even the weather is being kind for her.

I however, am quite content to be at home. Especially as I have hurt my arm. Very annoying. I fell over ages ago (was overtired and tend to get a bit unsteady, tired brain and all that.) I thought I would have a huge bruise, but nothing came up, and my fingers seemed to work okay, so I figured nothing was broken and carried on, as you do. Then while we were in Cyprus, it started to hurt a bit, and has been getting gradually worse. I can hardly use it at all now, even unscrewing a jar is impossible.

So, I was trying to ice a cake (for Bill, who is 98) and I couldn’t roll out the fondant icing. I have never used that before, so I watched a youtube clip, and it looked really easy, thought I would give it a go. Anyway, all was fine until I came to the rolling out bit. I was nervous about making a large cake (it needed to be shared with 40 people), I knew it would end up like a brick with a dip, so I used some bread tins and made 6 smaller cakes, then sandwiched them together with butter icing. I put it in the fridge for half an hour, like the woman on youtube did (though her cake had less crumbs on the surface than mine. And was smoother) then tried to roll the fondant icing. Impossible with one arm. I couldn’t apply enough pressure. So I called Nargis, who was in the house. (We pretend she’s my cleaner, but actually she is one of my best friends and practically family.) She came to help, and asked why I hadn’t had the arm checked.

I explained that I have no time. She asked what I was doing this afternoon, and I told her I had a dentist appointment. She asked if I had a problem with my teeth. I said no, it was just a check up. She pointed out that I had time to check my teeth, which are fine, but not my arm, which might be broken. It was a good point. I went to the local hospital. They were very nice, and agreed with my diagnosis, that it’s probably not broken, just a strained tendon but is not healing because I keep using it. They suggested physio. Absolutely no time for that!

The thing is, I’m sure the doctor who saw me is our postman. It looked exactly like him, even spoke the same. I kept wondering how I could ask, “Are you our postman?” But there was never the right moment. Very strange.

Hope all is well with you. My journey into authorship continues – the books are selling really well and are gradually being accepted into more bookshops. I will give you a full update next week.

Take care,
Anne x


Thank you for reading.

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Cyprus 4

Family Holiday Diary 2016


Pathos has a beach front full of shops and restaurants designed for tourists. Most of them seem to be English. We ate in Bacchus, a Bistro overlooking the sea. They were very friendly (the old man who enticed us in gave us his home-grown cucumbers to try). Food was a bit rough.

Drank cocktails in bar.


Breakfast at 9. Everyone surprisingly awake. Apparently, if you have a room overlooking the restaurant, it gets noisy from 7am. Breakfast was busy, but had a huge variety of food to choose from.

M worked (beware, gentle reader, if one does a Masters course for one year from September, it can somewhat eat into your holiday.) Rest of us considered sitting in silence to support him, then swam/read/sunbathed instead.

Nice lunch in cafe opposite hotel (a fraction of hotel prices.)

Swam in sea, which was cold and had big rocks near the surface, so you had to be careful. Played ‘netball’ in the pool and didn’t get shouted at by attendant (we sometimes have rather unhappy relationships with pool attendants on holiday.) S swam a length underwater. H didn’t, which was tactful of her.

Chinese for dinner. Very nice, though slightly strange being in a Chinese restaurant where no one at all was Chinese. Perhaps the cooks were.


Breakfast a bit ‘old’ – had been there a while I fear. Not everyone made it to breakfast due to extensive clubbing the night before (will remain nameless, but they know who they are…)

Swam/read on balcony. Pleasant.

Lunch at La Place Royal opposite hotel again. M dropped a chip and a whole deluge of ants arrived (waitress swept them away with a broom.) Big telly was showing Olympics.

D and S played table tennis (obviously inspired by Olympics.)

Drove to Pathos old town. Guide book showed bustling markets, interesting churches and mosques, historical sites. Hmm, not what we saw. Firstly, we got lost trying to leave town, as there were random one-way streets and closed roads not marked on the map (apparently – J was map reading.) Found some ruins, with St Paul’s pillar, by chance. This was where St Paul was tied when he was whipped (I have to say, this story does not appear in my Bible, where his trip to Pathos was relatively smooth, but perhaps I missed it. There was a pillar, clearly labelled, so who am I to doubt its authenticity?)

Finally made it to old Pathos. A large sign directed us to parking, but we realised just in time that it was pointing to a steep flight of steps, so didn’t drive down there. No other cars in carpark (which perhaps should have been a clue.) Wandered around. It was very hot. Everywhere was deserted. There was a gun on the floor, and sounds of chanting from the church. The shops had mannequins straight from a horror movie, all the roads had been dug up, cafes and market were all deserted. A few isolated cars and bikes passed us – we began to think they were all driven by the same few people. It was very weird. It also made for a perfect story, so I wrote one (I didn’t have to use much imagination!):

IMG_4973 IMG_4971 image IMG_4978

Decided we would visit again another day. Returned to the seafront. Arrived back at Annabel hotel. D drove up to the barrier and spoke into the intercom.
D: Hello – Guest-e-o (why??)
Reply: Hello, welcome.
D: Welcome (why?? Why repeat welcome?)
Reply: Are you a guest?

We all refused to walk in with him.

J informed me that, “Physics is all the interesting parts of maths.” So much I do not understand in that statement.

Went to Democritos, which promised to be a traditional Greek restaurant with music and dancing. There was a good menu, a pretty atmosphere, and live music by some talented musicians. Had a very nice selection of starters to share. And then the dancing began… I have to say, Greek dancing is somewhat repetitive by the time it is in its fiftieth loop of repeated steps. A man came and balanced glasses on his head. Lots of them. He wore a badge declaring he was a Guinness World Record holder – was tempted to ask him what for. He asked for volunteers to add glasses and then put his hand up their skirts. M and J decided he was a pervert. It was a very long evening. I think perhaps Greek restaurants are something you only need to experience once in your lifetime. It has been much discussed since. At the time, I was just bored – I now realise how lucky I am that M and J didn’t get up and punch the glass balancing man (I much prefer the bored option.)


Thank you for reading. Tomorrow I will tell you about our villa in Coral Bay (and how we saw the glasses balancing man again…)


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