The Great Outdoors

It doesn’t matter how old you get, there is almost nothing better than getting your hands on a new toy. 

During our recent holiday to the south of France, Marley and I were super excited to crack open a brand new Nature Explorer kit we’d been sent by Anthisan*.

We got a magnifying glass, a small beaker with a magnifying lens for looking at any beasties we might find, a mini butterfly net and a lamp/torch for exploring in the dark. 

The region of France we were staying in (The Aude) is a place we’ve been to a few times before – we actually got married there in 2015. So we already had an idea of some of the creepy-crawlies we might see on our adventures; butterflies, crickets, beetles, some small lizards and possibly – even though I’m not allowed to look for them – the occasional snake. 

On this particular visit, we were a bit worried the only thing we might see would be the thousands of Boxtree moths that had invaded the area. They were everywhere!

But we set off on our adventure anyway. 

Marley – holding his little magnifying glass and net and looking incredibly cute  – picked up a couple of wild flowers (“that’s for mummy”) and chased a butterfly around….keeping his distance whenever catching it became a realistic possibility.  


We found an olive tree, some fresh figs, before he really started embracing his inner Attenborough.

He found us a jumping cricket, which we chased and captured. 

It’s hilarious to watch him as he gets really close and looks inside. But then leaps back as soon as it starts to move.

I was tempted to have a look under some of the larger stones on our route, just to see what might be lurking underneath. But I thought I might get in trouble if Marley returned from our nature hunt with a snake bite, so I resisted. 

We continued along the path. Marley was at a bit of an advantage, being so close to the ground. It’s OK, I’m not competitive about it.

And suddenly…

“Daddy, look!” 

I looked. There was nothing there.


I looked again. Still nothing.

“DADDY, THERE!!!” He pointed at the ground, where I still  couldn’t see anything.

Until….wait, what’s that??

A praying mantis! 

It was probably the most camouflaged creature imaginable, balancing on a tiny piece of grass the exact same colour as its body. I have no idea how he spotted it. But he ran back to the house to gleefully show it off to the rest of the family. 

After a closer inspection, he was happy to release the mantis back in to the wild for it to go back to……whatever they do. Praying, I suppose.

There is definite Attenorough potential there with Marley, a  very successful hunt. And not a bite in sight!




*Anthisan Bite & Sting Cream can provide symptomatic relief of skin irritation caused by insect stings, insect bites and nettle stings and has been used for over 50 years.

Anthisan Bite & Sting Cream is easy to use and contains the active ingredient Mepyramine Maleate (2%), a topical antihistamine which stops the histamine affecting your body’s cells by blocking receptor sites in your nerve endings, helping to reduce pain, swelling and skin irritation. Anthisan Bite & Sting Cream (20g) retails at £3.66 and is available from leading pharmacies and supermarkets. Suitable for the whole family including children from two years. Always read the label.

Testing the water

You might think a week long break in the south of France, followed by a couple of days off back home, would be the ideal recipe for some rest and relaxation for parent(s) and baby. 

We had a great break, but things were not quite that simple….

After a few initial days of grey skies, the sun came out in force on day three in France. We took the opportunity to do some sight-seeing with Marley; a walk up the hill to a chateau in a small town called Termes (worst lunch ever), a stroll in the picturesque Lagrasse (photo above) and then a bit of time chilling out by the pool. 

It was there that I had the idea that he might like to be dipped in freezing cold water. 

We had bought a mini wet suit and swimming nappy (and a cute hat) in advance, and after sitting out in 30C+ outdoor temperatures – Marley in the shade, of course – it felt like a good time to see if he liked water. I jumped in first, to see how it felt (refreshing…..for an adult). The pool thermometer read 22C. I really should have known better.

I tried just to dip his feet under at first. 

He hated it.

But you know, I thought it might just be an initial shock, maybe he’ll warm up once he is properly in. So I dipped him in again. Only this time, I plunged him deeper so the water came right up to his waist. 

He hated it. Even more than the first time.

At first, he just kind of gasped, and held his breath for a second. But then he started crying. Well, screaming really. Lots and lots of screaming. And then he went purple. 

I could hear the screaming coming from the house for about half an hour after that (yes, I’m ashamed to say I carried on swimming in the pool while my wife consoled him) but he did eventually stop. I think the guilt properly set in when someone told me later that a temperature of 32C would be more appropriate for a baby of his age. Poor little man. 

A couple of days later, once he had finally forgiven me, it was time for us to fly home. We boarded the plane without any fuss, and after take-off he was sitting on my knee really comfortably. The lady on the seat next to me, who had given birth to five (FIVE!) of her own, even commented on how well behaved he was. 

And then, without warning, something changed.

I don’t know what, or why, but it was as if someone had reminded him of being dipped in the frozen water all over again. The screaming started spontaneously, and didn’t stop until we were back in London around two hours later. 

Once we were back on British soil, he seemed to calm down again. Eventually. But his second trauma of the week was, unfortunately, not the last.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not a big fan of injections. And it turns out Marley takes after his dad in that respect. His second round of jabs today was like another flashback to Poolgate, and once again we were treated to the wild screaming and purple face.

Thankfully, he once again managed to get over the trauma and was a lot happier on the way home. But I imagine it’ll still be a while before we attempt another swimming lesson.

Marley’s first holiday

I’ve been travelling with work lately, which has meant I missed a week of being at home with Marley and my wife. 

My job occasionally requires me to play tour guide to international visitors for a week, and this time I was responsible for taking a group of visitors from Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Japan, Korea (South…) and Thailand on a journey from London to Dublin via Cambridge, Bournemouth & Bath.

It’s always great to get an international perspective and I learned a lot from them. For example, did you know that the full Thai name for Bangkok is actually: Krungthep maha nakorn amorn rattanakosin mahin tara ayutthaya mahadilok poph nopparat ratchanthani burirom udom ratchaniwet mahasathan amorn pimarn awatarnsatid sakka tattiya vitsanu kamprasit?

Oddly, there was something of a recurring theme of nudity throughout the week. None of our visitors were actually visibly naked at any stage (or if they were, I didn’t see it) but from Day One there were several naked moments. 

We saw bare swimmers in an outdoor lido in London. We witnessed a large group of nude male bathers getting rowdy at Bournemouth beach. 

And while out for dinner in Cambridge, we were discussing the TV show Friends when we were treated to our very own Ugly Naked Guy in the window across the road. This resulted in a great deal of hilarity and laughter, at which point the waiter came through and said: “you’ve seen the naked guy then?” 

This was obviously not the first time.

After the busy week of travel, we decided to take Marley on his first overseas holiday, a week in the south of France. He has had a great time so far, going on his first flight (he was very well behaved) and speaking to French people for the first time. Which is never the easiest.

He’s even been to his first wine tasting, although he was only allowed milk. Actually, while he was feeding in the main reception of the vineyard, one large Frenchman leant over, looked down at my wife’s chest and said: “It’s better than the wine”.

It was pretty creepy. 

Anyway, perhaps the best thing about Marley’s first holiday was that we got to take him to see the place where his parents got married last year. 

Later today, I’m going to take him for his first swim, which he is almost certain to hate. But at least I should have a good photo to use for my next post!