Exercise: mum style

You swim, cycle and climb everyday

At toddler pace. Which doesn’t really count.

‘Well done, darling!’ *wipes pool water out of eye*

It is scheduled.

You’re in competition with husband’s badminton and children’s swimming lessons but, by god, you will get to the 7.30 class through hell and high water.

You go at it with renewed vigour

You might’ve skived off cross country in high school, but now you will run through fields for fun. Mostly because you enjoy being on your own and unencumbered.

Exercise is your main expensive

New kit makes you quicker. Fact.

But most of your gym kit is from the supermarket.

And sometimes you wear your gym kit back to the supermarket for a post-workout food shop.

You live with your harshest critics

My children like to munch on their post-swim snack and critique my physique while I get changed: ‘She’s a bit wibbly’ ‘Yeah. And she got a big bum bum!’ Motivating. Thanks, lads.

But you know you’re as strong as all hell

Say it! Say Mummy wins!

The Rabbit Hole

This is how I spent two days at home delirious, hoarse and feverish.

48 hours of this:

YouTube videos about tiny houses.

Discovering I have Amazon Prime and therefore Prime Video and therefore This is Us which is lovely but makes time and will power evaporate

I’ll just watch the first ten minutes of the next one…

Reading this EXCELLENT book that’s set in a Georgian whorehouse. Beautifully written. Very funny. Gorgeous. Bit racy. And look at the cover!

Listening to this podcast

Reading this really helpful and brilliant website which has great ideas for games to play with the children. I read it and resolved to do an Allsopp and smash the iPads and reinvent myself as a good mother. Just as soon as my fever spikes…

Toy Planning Meeting: minutes


Edward. Michael. Tony. Ian. Steven. Brenda on tea and minutes.


All childless but two have nephews so therefore considered qualified to comment.


Tony: Right. Welcome all. Thanks for coming to this week’s brain-storming session.

Edward: I don’t think we can say ‘brain storming’ any more. I’d feel more comfortable if we called these meetings ‘Idea Crafting’.

Tony: Right. Very good. Don’t want the Guardian readers getting wind. Let’s Idea Craft, then chaps!

All eyes to Brenda who is vigorously note-making

And you, of course, Brenda!

Brenda keeps eyes on her notebook and tightens grip on her pencil.

Michael: Just to jump right in, I’ve been thinking we need something extra special now Christmas is coming round the corner: I’m thinking buttons, songs, movements, flashing lights….

Ian: Heck yeah! Something that comes in a huge box so they’ll see it under the tree and nag to open first!

Steven: Could it play some kind of a jingle or a tune…?

Met with general murmur of approval.

Steven: It could kind of be something repetitive. Catchy. Get all the kids singing it. Maybe we could make a YouTube video that’ll go with the toy. Make it go viral.

Edward: Yes, mate! My sister is always humming Baby Bum songs! She’ll love this!

Tony: We will need to audition singers. Brenda- can you write that as an action point? Make a note to either have nauseating American woman or out of tune English man singing. Ta, love.

Edward: Hold on- won’t all the singing and lights and flashing things mean this toy will get through a lot of batteries?

Murmur of agreement.

Michael: It’ll need at least eight in to work.

Steven: And they will have to held in by whatever type of screw you don’t have the screwdriver for. That’ll need some deep consumer research on.

Tony: Brenda- action point.

Edward: And I know my nephews always fight to play with the noisiest toy so the batteries will wear out really quickly.

Tony: This is excellent

Steven: I will phone Adrian at Duracell and make them aware of our commitment to the deal we made with them last Christmas.

Tony: Action point, Brenda


Tony: Please remove last minute, Brenda. We don’t want the partnership getting leaked.

General guffawing.

Tony: Any other ideas, chaps? We’ve got to keep ahead of those competitors over at Confusico Instructo- those gits are all over Smyth Toy Superstore.

Michael: Well, I’ve been blue sky thinking about this idea for a toy with lots and lots of small parts…

Great work, buddy!

Emotional Moments

Set the scene: it’s the first day back at school after an awesome six weeks of non-stop love and fun.

Me: William. I just want to say…

William: Hold on

M: I want you to know how much…

W: I’m just…

M: …how proud and…

W: Have you filled my water bottle?

M: Yes. (Continues talking despite child watching PJ Masks over shoulder) Now you may feel sad about going back because it’s the end of the holidays and a new chapter in your life is always frightening

W: (with scorn) Not really.

M: Right. But. You might feel sad. So what we can do is draw a heart on my hand and then…

W: Why would you do that? Your heart’s in your chest. Not your hand.

M: Right. But then you draw one on your hand. And we kiss them together. So. You know. You can look at it and know I love you.

W: (doubtfully). I draw it on my hand?

M: (looking deep in to his eyes which are trained on the TV) That’s right. So we know we are always with each other.

W: It’ll be on my hand? Where everyone can see it? (Scoffs. Loudly.) I’m not doing that.


I wipe a tear. He starts putting on his school shoes. I snivel. He puts his backpack on. His brother saunters in to view.

W: Y’know, mum?

M: (eyes alert, heart beating fast) Yes, darling boy?

W: I’m really going to miss Alex.


Ashbury: non-stop knackering fun

Ashbury is a sprawling complex of hotel, golf course, tennis pitches, ice rink, soft play, swimming pools, archery halls, dining rooms, glass etching workshops and gokart tracks. It’s the only place I’ve ever heard of where you can go ten pin bowling, do candle making and then have a massage before a buffet lunch. It’s extraordinary.

The hotel is in Devon and surrounded by glorious hills and fresh air. The building is a warren of corrugated walkways and pebbledash. It’s a monstrous maze but all very practical.

Day One

We arrived before check-in (3pm) but we could still use the facilities. You have to sign up for any activities you want to do and it’s first come first served which always puts us Olivers in a spin of FoMO. And when the sign up board resembles your brain on a Monday morning, it’s all a bit overwhelming.

There is an enormous number of things you can do. I can’t even list them. Films, bowling, ice skating, tennis, golf, picture framing, jewellery making and on and on. The facilities are spread over two site: Ashbury and Ashbury Manor. We were in the former and it was quieter and calmer and smaller.

We then spent the afternoon in the soft-play and the pool which had two excellent but safe little slides in. Boys were beside themselves.

Day Two

The Wig Wearer and his dad went off for golf and for once I wasn’t worried about how I was going to entertain the kids! Our day went like this: soft-play, swings, go karts, swimming, soft-play, swings.

After six weeks of hanging off the fridge door wondering what to cook for the kids, it was a relief to know that mealtimes were included. The food is buffet style and actually way better than I thought it would be. There weren’t masses of options but what there was was well-cooked and tasty. Jack pots, macaroni cheese, lasagne, salad bar, chips, curry. Standard buffet fare. Plus the bar was cheap. Whoop!

TWW came back in time to take William for his first every try at tennis. Our son is not a natural for coordination but he really gave it a go and it was so nice to have a whole court to run about on. And watching my handsome husband patiently teach William (‘That’s it. Now next time try and hit it’) whilst also chatting golf with his dad and balancing Alex on his hip- well, that made me a bit swoony.

Day Three

TWW sloped off for another round of golf and so MIL and I took the boys up to the other site at Manor.

What an extraordinary place. Just trying to find the loos we passed an ice rink, a hall for bowls, a basketball court and two tennis courts- all indoors. The soft-play was good here too and empty so my two could charge about whilst I ignored them and my MIL went for a massage.

The bigger boys came back and joined us for buffet lunch before MIL and I went and got our craft on. All craft activities are run at cost so my hour and a half of fabric painting was £7 and I got to keep my masterpiece

The swimming pool at Manor has huge tunnel slides and all sorts but out two armband reliant doggy paddlers didn’t fancy it so we went back to Ashbury for a session.

Our evenings were uneventful because a) we had to put the kids to bed and stay in the room with them, b) we were exhausted anyway and c) the communal spaces had all the atmosphere of a dentist waiting room so we weren’t missing out really.

Day Four

As we sat chewing our way through another buffet fried breakfast, we all agreed that three nights was enough.

The boys were wrung out and we were all ready for our own (less rock solid) beds. We figured we could squeeze in one more round of swings/karts/swim before we hit the road.

The in-laws also kindly took the boys so TWW and I could go for a massage each. It was £36 for an hour’s neck, back and shoulders massage. And it was emotional. Literally. I cried. It was heaven. It was TWW’s first ever massage and he came out of it a new man: ‘Do I look different? I feel different!’

Before we went to Asbury, my MIL had warned us: ‘Don’t expect luxury. It’s no beauty but it’s great fun and the kids will love it’ which would prove to be a helpful summation of Ashbury. There’s a lot of pebble dash and brown pleather and pub carpet and golfers but more noticeable is the helpful staff, the happy children, the generous food, the brilliant activities, the excellent facilities. And the sheer size of the place means you can’t help but admire it.

The Facts

Six of us went for three nights in the summer holidays. It cost £850 which included all the pools, sports, play areas and food. Craft activities and some sports like clay pigeon shooting have a small charge.

Rooms are basic but there’s still kettles and tellies etc. The mattresses were in need of replacing but rooms were warm and bright.