Friday, 31 October 2014

It's not over yet...

I'm surprised at how much warmth there is left in the sun; the garden is a mix of decaying matter and continued growth.  Some plants are just plain confused.  I'm still harvesting courgettes and snacking on tomatoes and raspberries, but the leaves on the trees are turning and falling fast (I've done a fair amount of raking).  It's one of my favourite times of year for walking and I caught a glimpse of the dreamy grandeur of Penns in the Rocks garden yesterday afternoon through the trees...

I'm joining in with Annie Spratt's How Does Your Garden Grow?


Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Exchange

If I talk to friends of a similar age they roll their eyes when they recall the French exchanges of their school days and remember awkward stilted conversations, feeling uncomfortable and homesick during their time abroad.  They are memorable experiences, nonetheless.  I’ve always envied bilingual friends being able to slip effortlessly from one language into the other.  Why didn’t I have a French mother and English father?  I didn’t and in order to learn to speak French and German I went on exchanges abroad through family connections.

Modern languages have been on the decline in the UK and there’s been a big push on to encourage pupils to take them on at school.  It’s not easy learning a language in this country.  You can learn classroom French, but there’s nothing like immersing yourself in French culture, living with a French family so that you have to communicate in the language.  Languages are of course about grammar, vocabulary, written style, but more importantly they are about speaking and that really is the fun bit once you get going.

My fifteen year old is taking French and Spanish GCSEs.  The school has arranged a Spanish exchange and he heads to Malaga shortly to stay with a family for a week.  The Spanish boy has been here; he’s confident and outgoing, has a Polish mother, Spanish father and speaks incredibly good colloquial English (as well as fluent Polish and Spanish).  The boys get on well, which is the key thing, but my concern is that they’ll end up speaking English, as it’ll be the easiest way to communicate (and fifteen year old boys can be plain lazy).

My German exchange in the 1970s was unforgettable.  Organised by my German aunt Doris, aged 14 I took my first ever flight abroad to Hamburg and was welcomed into an army family for two weeks.  I went on to do a degree in European Studies and used my languages in various jobs and still do on my travels.  I believe UK employers prefer to have language speakers, even though opportunities to use languages may be sporadic.  Learning a language means developing more than the written and spoken element, it’s about getting to know another country and way of life; the cliché broadening your horizons springs to mind.  In my experience, languages open doors.

I discovered that my German family were enthusiastic nudists on their holidays when they showed me their snaps of Corsica.  I learnt the meaning of FKK (Freiekorperkultur – literally free body culture) and the first summer managed to excuse myself from a trip to the island of Sylt in the campervan, taking the train to Denmark for a long weekend to visit a family friend while they were away doing their nudist thing.  However the following summer, I jumped in the VW and headed to windswept Sylt with them, keeping my bikini firmly on.  I didn’t want to strip off, but they were so laid back, they didn’t care what I wanted to do and there were as many people on the drafty dunes with their kit on as off.  Memories of my German exchange include her taste in music (Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and Al Stewart’s Year Of the Cat), her huge attic room, being an only child (I’m one of three), cycling into the wind along the flat cycle paths of Schleswig Holstein, reading Das Bild (we never had a tabloid newspaper at home) and eating hefty amounts of cake with whipped cream.

My son’s French exchange over the summer was sadly not as successful.  I don’t have the personal contacts, so resorted to using a company I found on the internet.  I couldn’t fault the service, but probably like internet dating it’s a bit hit and miss.  Or is it 15 year old boys and their communication skills that are the issue?  I usually curse it, but thank goodness for the Xbox, something they could do together, as the chemistry between the boys was non-existent.  During his stay in France, my son was taken to see a traditional Provencal procession in their home town outside Marseille; I took the boys down to Brighton for the day, unknowingly coinciding with the town’s annual Gay Pride procession.  When I asked him what he thought, the exchange said he found the people in Brighton strange, however, his eyes lit up when I suggested fish and chips on the pier.

Do you have memorable experiences of foreign exchanges past and present?
 Any advice?  I’m going to persevere, as I think a language A level is on the cards.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Business for sale - Yummycard

Fabulous established baking business for sale: greetings cakes that fit through a letterbox.  Do you know anyone who may be interested?  What's included in the sale?

*The Intellectual Property (IP) rights for Yummycard

*The domain names: and
*Yummycard website
*A presence in the Venture group on (This group is for Partners with a turnover in excess of £20,000 and up to £49,999 per year. Members of Venture are supported and advised by a dedicated account manager to encourage optimum growth and sales.)
*Customer lists for promotional emails (with email provider)
*Social media accounts (predominantly Facebook)
*Post Office Business account
*Stock of gift cards and coloured gift boxes boxes
*Supplier lists
*Startup help and support
We have also just been selected for the Corporate Gifts Category on for Christmas 2014.

Contact Karen Murdoch for more information.  e: or 01892 785235. (She is looking for in the region of £15,000).

Friday, 19 September 2014

Zinnias and scarecrows

My local farm shop Cherry Gardens Farm sells cut flowers and has two fabulous rows thick with zinnias.  Some of the flowers are fading, but there's still so much bold colour and texture.  The centres of the plants look like exotic gateaux.  I definitely need more zinnias in my life.

There's a scarecrow festival going on further up the lane: a darlek stands guard outside one house, a blow-up doll sits in a bath sipping champagne outside another and Dolly Parton pumps out her songs to entertain them.  In the middle of it all is a scarecrow being carried off by a crow.  There's something slightly sinister about this one, or is it just me?

I'm joining in with this week's How Does Your Garden Grow?

Thursday, 11 September 2014



It's been over a month since I last joined in with How Does Your Garden Grow?  I hope everyone's had a good summer.  Life just seemed to accelerate through August, what with major exam results, teenagers' work and social lives to manage and a week in France thrown in at the end. September has grown on me over the years; I used to feel sad at the end of the summer, a sort of regret that it had all passed by too suddenly, but now I enjoy the September light, colours and changes (everything's more muted before the leaves really turn).

The little pumpkin plant I bought from The Walled Nursery produced its first offspring, a weighty thing that is curing in the corner of the house while several more are changing from green to orange in the vegetable patch.  I had a romantic notion of growing my own Halloween lanterns, but wasn't prepared for the growth that this little plant put on, suffocating my garlic plants, its vines climbing up the runner beans, fence and raspberries.  Otherwise in the garden it's a great time to be planning for next year, filling a few gaps, moving things around and eating grapes from the vine.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

High energy children's entertainer: Kazzamatazz

Kazzamatazz is a lively clown who will keep kids and grown-ups amused for a full two hours.  Parties are jam-packed full of fun, costumes, dance routines, magic, funny wigs, props, party games, comedy characters, pretend snowball throwing, balloon sword fights, face painting and much much more.  Enjoyment is guaranteed!

Here's the low-down on what to expect from Kazzamatazz:

"My parties start before the kids arrive: I set up some toys, a bubble machine and lots of beach balls for them to play with until everyone gets there.  When we are ready, I break the ice with about half an hour of energetic and silly dance routines.  I have props for this such as crazy cowboy hats, mad curly wigs, cheerleading pompoms, Hawaiian flower leis, Minion masks, a dance from Frozen - not forgetting to make a big fuss of the birthday girl or boy!

Then, when they need a sit-down, it's time for the magic show and a bit of laughter with Toto, my puppet dog, who helps with the magic tricks, but is very naughty.  I will have already blown up about 50 balloons and made them into swords, so now bring on the balloon battle - such fun!

After a couple of traditional party games, such as the hokey cokey, maybe egg and spoon or a limbo competition, it's time to eat.

While all the kids sit down at the table and tuck into their birthday tea, I'll nip off and change into various character costumes: Spiderman, Dora The Explorer, SpongeBob, Snow White, Shawn the Sheep.  I'll wander around the party table and shake hands with the children in my costumes while they eat.  If you have a particular character in mind, please let me know in advance and I'll see what I can do.  

In the last half hour, I'll bring out my silly ostrich called Nancy, who needs a bit of taming, as she keeps darting off in all directions.  She doesn't mind the kids chasing her.  Oh, and did I mention that a there may be a guest appearance from One Direction and Jedward (courtesy of one of the dads sitting around), and maybe even an alligator wrestling competition?

Back in my clown costume now, and it's time to get out a huge and colourful parachute for more circular party games.  I might have time for a quick pass the parcel, or if you prefer, I could do some sparkly hand tattoos or face painting at the end of the party.

Two full hours of FUN! FUN! FUN! Laughter guaranteed!"

(Phew, I feel exhausted just reading this.)

What will it cost?

£170 for a full-on two hour party, or £100 for a condensed version without costumes.

Please contact Karen on 0785 9015231 for availability. Karen also provides karaoke and disco parties for older children (eight to teens).

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Mega Blaster Arena Competition at The Hop Farm

The Mega Blaster Arena Competition: 

One Lucky Family will WIN a Half Day Pass for two adults & two children at The Mega Blaster Arena at The Hop Farm.   A 30 minute session for a family of four is worth £16.00 and this prize is for a half day pass giving the winning family three sessions each worth a total of £48.00!


The latest craze to hit the UK is a soft Dart Tag game better known as ‘Nerf’ and it has become as popular as Paintball was in the mid 1980s. Located at The Hop Farm in Paddock Wood the new attraction named ‘The Mega Blaster Arena’ opened at the end of  June.

The purpose built indoor arena provides a safe environment for children to play together. Suitable for adults and children of 5 and above (children aged 5 must be accompanied by an adult).

Darryl Curcher, who has set up the new venture, said “My idea was to make this ‘Nerf style’ arena an open play scenario using all the latest high tech 'Nerf' products. Our customers can choose to play however they want to and with whom they want to in a safe, well lit and colourful environment using their choice of Nerf Blaster."

Training on blaster use is given before every session and there are no shoes allowed in soft arena and goggles are mandatory in the arena at all times. We have more than 200 ‘Nerf’ blasters to choose from including smaller versions for younger children and experienced adults.

For children and adults who do not want to play in the arena we also have a ‘Nerf’ firing range where adults and children can shoot at targets to win prizes.

For more information and to pre-book your tickets for the Mega Blaster Arena visit: 

To enter Playground's competition, simply email your contact details to before the end of Wednesday 20th August 2014.

We advise booking in advance to avoid any disappointment or you can turn up on the day to play subject to availability.

If you have a party request please call 01892 616647. 

Mega Blaster Arena Opening Times:

 Saturday 10:00am - 5:00pm
 Sundays 10:00am - 5:00pm
 All other days by reservation, corporate or party bookings only

Event Address: 
 The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent TN12 6PY
 Tel: 01622 872068

Due to available space each visit can accommodate a maximum of 40 people: