Monthly Archives: November 2012

Let’s Just Do It

What’s that saying? It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

I don’t think it counts in the case of a single parent. I always think it must be easier to be alone from day one than to know what it’s like to have someone else around and then for them to be gone.

It took a long time for me to notice the gap, because it had always been there and it’s all I’ve ever known. I just sort of floated through my early twenties thinking phrases off naff fridge magnets such as “everything will be OK in the end and if it’s not OK yet it’s not the end yet.”

And then you get a bit older and it feels like ‘the end’ or the ‘happy ever after’ or whatever it is should actually be happening by now and you start to think in a not-wanting-to-sound-like-Bridget-Jones-but-it’s-inevitable-sort-of-way: shit.

Sometimes, increasingly more frequently,the gap makes itself known: when every (evil, impossible, expensive, high-up, halogen) light bulb in the house has gone, when I have had a good weekend surrounded by friends and then I am here at my desk, just like always, craving company, when I pluck up the courage to open a bill and imagine it halved. And most of all, when I need to make big decisions.

That’s the toughest bit of all: the decision-making, especially those that pertain to a child’s future. What if you get it wrong and your child is sad and there’s no one to blame but yourself? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to talk to someone else about it and hold hands and leap together?

For a long time I’ve not been happy where we live. It’s OK. I mean, there’s frequently dog turd on the doorstep and the street stinks of skunk (“Mummy, what is that smell?”) but it could be a lot worse. I want to live somewhere where there’s a bit more going on though, where I know more people and there’s a community.

I worried about it for ages. I went on about it on Twitter for years. Then I started to talk to Tom about it.

“All the good schools are full, so you might have to go in one that’s nowhere near as lovely or nearby as the one you go to now.”

“It’s fine Mum, honestly.”

“But won’t you miss your friends?”

“No, I mean I do like them, but I’d actually like to meet some new ones.”

“What if you have to go on a waiting list for swimming lessons?”

“That’s fine. I love swimming, but it is a bit of a pain having to walk home from the pool in the winter.”

“What if, what if, what if?”

“It’s fine Mum, getting stressed is not the way to do stuff. Just relax and it’s all OK.”

Good mantra for a fridge magnet, maybe?

“Honestly Mum, let’s just do it.”

So, we got to the stage where we were viewing houses and visiting lovely families we know who live nearby. Tom was very impressed by all the cats.

“Let’s just move here, it’s like Cat Land,” he said.

Then we found the one, the house, but the back yard was tiny.

“There’s no garden, what will you do in the summer?”

“I’ll sit outside and read a book, maybe make a picnic for my toys. It’s fine.”

And he says it all in the most grown-up, laid-back voice.

So we’re off, we’re doing it. It’s all go, go, go. We’re moving into our new house early next year.

I just wish I’d remembered to check whether the light bulbs were evil, impossible expensive, high-up, halogen.




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Chill Factor. E.

It’s one of the biggest mysteries in Manchester: Just what is the little e on the end of  Chill Factore for?

Tom and I wonder this every time we go past the massive building next to the motorway. Are they trying to say “Chill Factory”? Is it some sort of a mathematical formula? Is it silent? So preoccupied was I with the errant vowel that I never really thought about what happened inside. As far as I was concerned, Chill Factore (e?) was a place for people who could ski and snowboard – and I was not one of those.

So, when I got an invitation from Chill Factore to visit during Half Term, I accepted. It turns out you don’t have to be able to ski or snowboard to go there, so it looked like it could be a fun day out for Tom (and a chance for me to get on the inside and find out about the e.)

We set off first thing on Monday morning. I had a cold – not what you really want when you’re going to a ski slope, but I was sure it wouldn’t be that chilly inside. When we arrived, Tom was wrapped up in winter gear and I asked exactly how cold it was going to be. Zero degrees, apparently. Although I’d read somewhere that the snow was real, that hadn’t quite registered with me and I imagined some sort of plastic slope. I decided not to bother with the special gear – after all, I’d just stand at the side, shivering and taking photographs.

As soon as we walked out on to the slope, I knew what they’d meant about the snow being real. The air was fresh and cool and the stuff underfoot was the real crunchy, powdery deal. Tom had the chance to try sledging,  The Luge and tubing.

I’ll explain: sledging is obvious – the thing you dream of doing every winter when you’re a child but only actually get a chance to do approximately twice in your life (unless you live in the mountains). The Luge is a fast, toboggan-style slide, (inspired by the Cresta Run at San Moritz, if you know what that is). Tubing is where you sit in a massive inflatable ring and get launched down a hill with a mini half-pipe at the bottom.

“Err… are the grown-ups allowed a go?” I asked, as I watched Tom carry his sledge back to the top of the slope with a massive grin on his face.

Next thing, we were racing each other. It was the most fun I have had in ages.

The Luge looked frankly terrifying and I said I’d stand back and watch. But again, when I saw Tom’s face as he tore out of the thing, I wanted a go.

“Just think of Cool Runnings,” said the staff member at the top of the slide.

“Tha – ” and I was off, really fast, sweeping up the sides and racing the 60 metres to the bottom. Then doing it all over again.

Last up was the tubing.

“Don’t spin me,” I said on the first go, then “Actually, can you spin me?” on the second.

Watching Tom career down the slope in his mini tube was scary, but he loved it and jumped straight on the travelator to the to top. The tubing was Tom’s favourite as well mine. When I asked him which of the activities he enjoyed best, he said “definitely the doughnuts.”

What had started out as a way to fill a Half Term morning turned out to be one of the best days out we’d had in a long time. Tom keeps talking about it and I think the next time we go past, the discussion will be less about the e and more about when we can go again.

Oh and about the e – apparently, it stands for ‘extreme, exciting or whatever you want it to mean.’ Excellent.

My verdict: Manchester’s great at precipitation but usually fails on the snow front. This is a great way to have some magical, wintry fun without waiting until you’re 100 for the next proper snow day. It comes with a choice of places to eat, a pub and a viewing gallery for those not joining in with the action. As with many attactions, I’d like to see some single parent family prices, rather than the outdated ‘Family of Four’ package – but this is a widespread issue. Overall, the prices seem quite high, but money can’t buy snow and this is a top notch indoor day out. Go to  Chill Factore in the run-up to Christmas and you could see Santa, Peppa Pig or characters from Ice Age, beating the standard shopping centre grotto by miles. There’s also lots of other fun stuff to do there, including being launched down the slope in a massive transparent ball, snow play for toddlers and extreme sledging. We give it an e for enjoyable.

Find out more about children’s parties and Christmas fun here and the activities Tom and I enjoyed here.


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