Travel games…

I may not have left the UK in a few years, but I have managed to do a fair bit of travelling in my life. And I know that you all have your iPods, Nintendo DS and fancy phones, but sometimes the batteries run out. Sometimes, it’s illegal to use them because you’re the one driving. Sometimes it just seems boring AND anti-social. What happens when you get delayed in an airport, stuck in a traffic jam or the kids get bored?

Well, I got crowned the Queen of car games last weekend, and I’m hear to share my faves with you!

1. Squares

All you need for this is one writing implement and a bit of paper. You  do rows of dots. Each person draws a line between two dots horizontally or vertically on each turn. If you make a square, you get your initials, and another turn. You want to make sure your opponents can’t make a square (or chains of squares) on their turn. We played it lots on the trains to and from London back in April, and it’s one we did a lot in airports and on planes when I was a kiddle!

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taken by friend Vicky!

2. Noughts and Crosses

easy to do in small patches of the blank paper around your ‘squares’!

3. The Radio Game

This is one we played as it got later and we got tireder on our road trip back from Cornwall. The idea is that you ask the radio a question, hit ‘search’ for stations on the radio, and whatever music or waffle comes out the first station it lands on is your answer.

My friend Althea asked the Radio what they’d discussed at the G8 summit while we’d been away, and the answer from the radio?  Timbaland singing “You tell me that you need me / Then you go and cut me down, but wait / You tell me that you’re sorry / Didn’t think I’d turn around and say / That it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late / I said it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late“. And no, I’m not making that up. The radio said I’d meet an Australian husband while being deported from Spain and Portugal. We also asked the radio how we should greet our friend’s mother when she answered the door to us on arrival at her home. The radio started playing a Jazz band. We obliged with our imaginary piano, double bass, saxophone and drumkit. :)

This also works well if you put your iPod songs on shuffle!

4. Etch-a-Sketch pictionary

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Waiting for a flight to Johannesburg…

One of my friends got me pocket etch-a-sketch before I went to South Africa so we had something to do on the 12 hour plane ride.

God bless them. I confess that because my friends slept on the plane (it was an overnight flight) we didn’t use it, but we DID try it out while delayed due to thunderstorms at London Heathrow.

This etch-a-sketch also went with my friends to India, and also kept us entertained on our Cornish road trip adventure. The game we played was that one person in the backseat told the other person in the backseat what to draw, and the people in the front had to guess what it was meant to be and vice versa.

We had a cow pat, a canoe, a puddle of pee, a castle, a chocolate bar, a dragon…the possibilities are endless!

5. Silly pictures

Sometimes when your friends can’t be there in person you bring a laminated version of them on sticks and they can get up to all sorts of mischief on the road…

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6. The Alphabet Game

What do you do when you don’t have paper, a pen and that train ride seems to be taking forever or you get stuck in a traffic jam? Well, you do the alphabet game!

It goes something like this ‘A’ my name is ………. and my husband/wife’s name is…………….., we live in ………. and we like to eat ……………. (next person could say B my name is Bertha and my husband’s name is Bob. We live in Blackpool and we like to eat burgers).

If you do that a few times and you’re still in a traffic jam, you can change it up by doing something like ‘A’ my name is Althea, my husband’s name is Bert. We live in Cairo and we like to eat Dates. And if you’re still not moving you can change it up by saying your name, where you live, what you do for a job and what you like to sell. (C my name is Caroline, I live in Cumbernauld, I’m a carpenter and I like to sell coffins).

And if all else fails….

7. I spy.

I’ve discovered it’s fun to pick something really obvious you can see everywhere. Like ‘branches’ when the road is lined with trees. It took them FOREVER to get that one. Tee hee. ;)

And so friends, there you are. My main travel games. Of course, really when all else fails, I bring out the campfire songs. Mini Kahuna has gotten really good at some of them thanks to me travelling with them to church on Sundays over the last few months.

Plus my friends are now cottoned on to the fact that most Eddie Stobart trucks have been christened with names printed on their driver doors. 3 more people trying not to crash the car as they check out that truck’s name as they overtake on the motorway…

Reflections on meeting friends ‘in-real-life’…

10 days. 1250 miles. One car. One broken TomTom. One wee lassie fae Leith driving…

And really it all began 18 months ago when I wrote a post about something I dreamed of doing – meeting the people whose blogs I have read.

Since then, some of the people I mentioned back then stopped blogging (as far as I know at least) and discovered many other people online I’d like to call ‘friend’. In the last 2 years I’ve very briefly met Alastair, had ice cream meet up with Connor, finally found Lindsay & Ruth at a women’s conference, my friends met Marla at Q and managed to find Mike Foster so he could pass on a Scottish package to Lori, I became the Payne Family’s tour guide and Ruth has connected with Carolyn and even managed to have coffee with her in Cardiff a few weeks ago.

A mixture of nerves and excitement fuelled the plans as people offered me places to stay or said they’d like to meet up. Unfortunately I didn’t get to everybody, but as I look back over the last 10 days I’m amazed at all I managed to cram into that time.

I’m even more amazed that I didn’t get lost too much, especially after the demise of the Sat-Nav.

I feel so inspired from the people I met, the things I got to see, the stories I got to hear. I feel so privileged that to have had the opportunity to experience the last 10 days. It has been one of the best experiences of my life so far.

Really & truly.

The best part about the trip was how everyone just went with the flow, and that when I stayed with people…there seemed to be no pretences. They just let me take them as I found them, and vice versa. I was never stressed out, and I hope my visit didn’t cause stress for them either. And I loved that. I loved that we just sat exhausted on the sofa eating pizza. That I got to be part of their kids bedtime routine or they felt fine to leave me while they put their kids to bed (actually usually that gave me opportunity to blog) or they wanted to find the perfect stripey top or they had a chance to do some chores when I was struggling to keep my eyes open and was forced back to bed! I literally got to walk into people’s lives just as they are.

And I feel refreshed for it.

(ok, after driving lots and not sleeping brilliantly over the last few weeks from experiencing unusually warm humid weather for the UK, I’m a bit zonked out today…but still. Emotionally I feel inspired, encouraged, and therefore, refreshed in that way. My hair could also do with being washed – it didn’t take well to England’s hard water!)

So I just want to thank you… Flinderella, the Payne family, everyone at the pregnancy centre in Norwich, Karry from The Grove, the Beaton family, Nicola & Ben Hulks, Hannah Prittie, the Gill family and everyone else at i61 church !

You guys made the 100s of miles of driving so worth it. And I hope it won’t be too long until I see you again soon. :)

BK’s UK Tour: Days 9 & 10 – North Wales

Leaving the street party early, I headed back onto the M56 and an hour later was met with the sight of a dragon etched on the side of a hill…I had indeed cross the border from England to Cymru with many places with names I could neither spell or pronounce properly, and with roads signed in both Welsh and English.

I got a little lost trying to find the right street, but got there in the end, the funniest thing phoning the Gills and trying to find something close by to pronounce to explain where I was!!

A lovely dinner was had with mixed mexican and welsh cakes (both yummy), meeting the many pets (including the evil hamster whose works I’d seen on facebook), and then sharing some of our favourite comedy clips which started with a Coldplay spoof since Jeff remembered how much I hate, despise, would rather rip my ears off than listen to, absolutely cannot stand Coldplay tunage. :)

This morning we were all up early, as we had to (ok, Jeff & Christine had to) set up for church. I’ve wanted to visit the folks at i61 for ages. The church started in a pub, so I figured it had to be pretty rockin’ right?

Yes. That IS right.

I love a church that advertises using their own beermats!! Tee hee!

But in all seriousness, it was a wonderfully friendly, down to earth bunch of people I got to meet. They had rugs with instruments for kids to sit on during part of the service (all the service for the kids in years 6-8). The musical worship was great, and led very ably by a team of different people from church (great to see a lassie on the bass) Lots of people contributed. They prayed over a team of all ages about to head to Uganda this week (which includes Jeff & Christine’s eldest daughter). Jeff brought some of the people of their smallgroup called ‘Discovering Spiritual Maturity’ which had all ages (from 12 up to people in their 40s?) – so refreshing to see a church living out the things they say (age & maturity are not the same thing).

Oh. And Jeff as he began preaching decided to give me a shout out. Introducing me as someone he met on the internet.

Because that didn’t sound dodgy AT ALL! Lol

I also got to meet Lee & Sarah who I vaguely knew from Twitter (and who will be meeting the Paynes from Norfolk in real life later in the summer!!)

I was sad to leave, and did put it off for as long as I could…packed off with some of Christine’s homemade welsh cakes for the journey and hugs all round.

A big massive fail is that I didn’t get any pictures of the Gills or indeed, North Wales.

So clearly, I’m just going to have to go back to visit some time to rectify that!! ;)

BK’s UK Tour: Days 8 & 9 – Manchester

After battling many traffic jams, and some guesswork, I got to Hannah’s in Manchester.

We went out to a gig called ‘Hope for Kenya’. Lots of fabulous music, including a gospel choir singing some South African tunes (making my heart ache for Zulu soil). I forgot my camera so I have no pics…I wish I could have videoed some of it so you could hear…

Some hot chocolate and toast, and we were snug in our beds by 1 a.m.!

This morning, after my first good night sleep in days to be honest, I was exhausted. I fully confess I was a rubbish guest, I went back to bed at least twice throughout the morning, and then we headed to a street party in the area put on by the Resident’s Association called ‘The Greener Side of Moss Side’. I’ve now got so many eco-tips, which I’m sure some of my blog readers would be proud of!

Here are some pics…

The demise of Mrs TomTom

After a morning in Oxford, I returned to Cassie the Corsa, and was getting everything back in the right bags, my lunch sorted and what I’d need for the journey. I put Mrs TomTom on the drivers seat, and somehow she bounced off the seat (I think) and fell onto the pavement…

I picked her up to discover that the screen had totally cracked/smashed.

My mobile phone has fallen to the ground and landed in a big puddle with more force and nothing happened.

Of course, the screen totally doesn’t work, and that left me mapless and had to find my way out of Oxford to Manchester with no clue how to get there (luckily Hannah text me with some basic directions for when I got into the Greater Manchester area!)

Not happy.

Hoping that it’ll be covered by warranty.

BK’s UK Tour: Day 7 – Oxford

Arriving in Oxford in the afternoon, I had a few hours to kill before Nicola finished work. So having lots of suggestions from friends on Facebook of what to do and see in Oxford, I jumped on a bus that said ‘city centre’ and proceeded to wander around Oxford.

Turns out nothing in Oxford is free like things are in Edinburgh, I was baking hot in my jeans because I listened to the BBC weather forecast (cloudy with a chance of showers) and it was bright with lovely warm sunshine!

I also felt that this was a street (of sorts) you could only find in Oxford…

So if you are wondering what a Logic Lane looks like:

I was buying some cards, and wanted to get Nicola & Ben something to say thanks for letting me stay, and since Nicola has really got into flowerpot gardening (which you’ll know if you read her blog) I bought her a sunflower. As I’m standing in the queue, an elderly wise sounding man was behind me and commented ‘Oh, you know you’ll have to watch as they can go really tall you know‘. After a conversation about how I grew a sunflower 6ft tall when I was a wee girl in nursery school and have loved sunflowers ever since (they are such cheery flowers, don’t you think?), he informed me ‘well, yes Van Gogh liked sunflowers didn’t he?‘.

I agreed.

And then I was informed how Van Gogh’s brother bought him the wrong paint – chrome yellow. A lovely bright yellow, but unfortunately the paint turns brown after a few years. Now, what he should have used was xxxx yellow, and it would all have been fine.

I stand educated. Every day is a school day in Oxford. :)

Sitting on some steps I found, writing cards and knowing Nicola was going to finish work shortly, I searched in my bag for my copy of Plan B by Pete Wilson. And then realised I’d taken it out when swapping bags and failed to put it back in. Doh! What to do…well, I had some nail varnish…so I painted my nails.

Not realising I’m sitting on the steps of the Bodleian Library. You know….where some of the oldest books in the world are.

Luckily Nicola found me, and we found Ben and together with the sunflower we went to a Pub with a beer garden, sitting in the sunshine (and then with cover when it started to rain a tiny bit) drinking and eating some yummy spring rolls. Plus some free bags of crisps some random guy gave me at the bar?!

And they are such lovely, slightly crazy friends, they did not bat an eyelid when I walked back from the pub barefoot (my feet were cut & blistered from my shoes) carrying the sunflower in its flowerpot.
All in all, Oxford has been fantastic, finished off with pizza and garden salad with Ben & Nikki, a bit of E4 comedy and sharing with them the fabulous Central Christian Church video Listen To Your Lady. Thanks for letting me stay, and thank you Oxford for being so inspiring, sunshiney & generally lovely!

BK’s UK Tour: Days 5 & 6 – Hertfordshire

Well…yeah. This part was purely for work. All the partners of the national organisation I work for (I’ve just found out we’re not a charity ourselves, but part of a bigger charity….it’s complicated) met together at a Christian Conference Centre in Hertfordshire.

This was the initial reason for the trip.

For a few days I had a really icky feeling about the whole thing – possibly ever since I saw the itinerary for our time there.

It was a tough 36 hours. And in the end, I had to cut out early, as it came to the point where I had to just leave them or I would have exploded.

For obvious reasons I can’t say much, but suffice to say we all have some big decisions to make, and our organisation and partnerships are in danger of becoming fragmented. So any prayers for wisdom, patience, grace….all would be very appreciated!

And so 12 p.m. I headed back to the M25 and stopped at the first services….folks what service station has a Starbucks AND a Waitrose? (for non-UK folks, Waitrose is the poshest of all supermarkets!) I was glad for the Starbucks though…an Mango & Passionfruit ice blend was exactly what I needed to cool me off  - both metaphorically & literally :)

Now, I’m in Oxford. My friends are still at work, Cassie the Corsa has her 24hr parking permit and I’m using my privilege as a Starbucks Cardholder to use their free wi-fi while eating a Cinnamon Swirl, and then I might venture to see what sights I can find.

I’m so looking forward to seeing Nicola & Ben tonight….I think some time with my lovely friends is exactly what I need, and I’m so looking forward (though a little sad that I’m now halfway through the road trip) to be heading back north tomorrow to see friends in Manchester, Conwy & Chester over the next few days.

BK’s UK Tour: Day 4 – Bedford & Milton Keynes

So yesterday I got up early to head to Bedford. JT did a fabulous job of making sure I was awake, but then as I was leaving asked ‘Do you really have to go?’ and ‘I want you to stay forever‘… :(

…I wish I could have! It was sad to say goodbye to the Paynes!

But off I went, with a bit of a wild goose chase around Norwich as a road was closed (and Mrs TomTom was shouting at me to turn down the aforementioned street…) I got to Bedford at 10.29 – just in time to meet a woman who runs a pregnancy crisis centre there.

She treated me to ‘coffee’ (unfortunately Bedford does not have a Starbucks…boo!) and even got some mini Shortbread biscuits, because, ya know, I’m Scottish :)

It was great to spend time with her, share challenges and good things too. And then it was time to say goodbye and I headed to Milton Keynes where I went to stay at Chez Beaton!

The Beatons are very close friends of in-real-life (and blogging friends) TheStateThatIAmIn & BringOnTheJoy. I’ve met them while they’ve been visiting them in Edinburgh twice now, so I was really excited when they offered me a bed for the night on my road trip…free B&B, good company and all for the price of a few glass bottles of Irn Bru! It was lovely to spend time with them and their 1 year old daughter. Plus Mrs B is an amazing cook too (just an added bonus). It was totally chilled out catching up a bit, eating yummy food (Carolyn you’d be proud….we had Haagen-Dazs ice cream as part of our dessert!) and then watching the Netherlands beat Uruguay (yay!)

Apologies as I’ve not got many pics (and the couple I took I’ve not had a chance to upload yet) plus I forgot to get a picture of a Milton Keynes roundabout….and that’s what the town is most known for!

Thank you guys for your wonderous hospitality! Hope to see you soon!!

BK’s UK Tour: Day 3 – Norwich & Mundsley

Today’s been a good day.

It started out not so great – I slept in, but was cheered up by a lovely note from Emily and some homemade waffles that had been left for me. Not able to get my phone topped up on any of the local ATMs, I decided to head to the pregnancy centre in Norwich anyway.

Luckily, they were soooo welcoming. It was great to meet some of the Norfolk team, share our stories and see how they run things down here. Because Norfolk is quite rural and spaced out, they have a central helpline with satellite centres. I was impressed with the level of professionalism they ran their service – so I was so grateful they made time for me. They even showed me around Norwich city centre…I wish I’d had my camera on me to show you the market, the castle, the cathedral and the stone cobbled streets.

I returned in the late afternoon and by that time Emily & JT were back from work/school…and once Mark returned from work we headed for fish chips at the beach!

I hope you noticed they were wrapped in REAL newspaper (just the way it should be done).

I also loved the beach huts…

And now, we’re back…my last night at Chez Payne. We just all said Goodnight to JT and he asked ‘Can Laura stay here forever?’ :(

It’s going to be very sad to leave tomorrow, but it’ll be on to Bedford I go…

BK’s UK Tour – Day 2: York & Norfolk

After an interrupted sleep where I had a pretty disturbing dream (resulting in me waking up at 2.10 a.m. paranoid that someone was going to break into my room and try to kill me?!) I got up to a cloudy windy Durham morning, and set off South for York in search of Starbucks…

After finding and enjoying such lovely heavenly sustenance, I went on to walk around the city a bit – down the Shambles to York Minster.

And I loved this cake I saw in a shop window…

And then I went back to the car, only to discover a traffic warden poised to put a ticket on it. In Edinburgh single yellow lines are places where you can park on a Sunday…so I hadn’t realised that this street in York was not the same. Luckily I was blessed very lovely traffic warden, who accepted my very honest apology, and said he’d let me off since I had arrived back before he’d put the ticket on my car (what a star…if only the Edinburgh traffic wardens were nice like that!)

Off Cassie and I went following Mrs TomTom’s instructions to get to Norfolk. Oh boy, was that a mistake. She took us down the most HORRIBLE route. Shortest route it may have been, but it came at 4 hours of fields, no decent service stations (only McDonald’s and Little Chef)…so it was a food-deprived, achey, desperately needing the toilet, sticky backed Laura Anne that arrived in Norfolk.

Thankfully I will NOT be taking that route back out of here!

So now, I’m with the Payne family, and I have no idea what my Mum was worried about…we’re perfectly normal, sane people…

:)