THE RED TENT


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I really love my friends.  They are funny, compassionate and most of all, they do not take themselves too seriously.

Our tight little group of 6 friends are all different ages, different home environments, different interests and completely different career paths.  But we gel and we have lots of fun.

We call ourselves the Bokkies, bit stupid isnt it?

Anyway ………. by some quirk of nature 4 of our group ended up at the annual Karoo 2 Coast cycle race.  Remember the one ………. 100 kays of hell from Uniondale to Knysna “not for the faint hearted!”.

1 of the Bokkies was actually entered into the race and the 3 lazy couch potatoes left were drivers and support for our husbands.  We each traveled with our siblings in tow.

To say the least finding accommodation in Uniondale the night before the race, is near but impossible unless you book a year in advance.  So to get us all in one place we decided to opt for the campsite on the local high school grounds.  It wasnt cheap, R250.00 per tent for the night and a tent is enough to fit a single mattrass in it and that is it!  You dont get bedding, just a tent and a bare mattress.  Each family books two tents, one for the adults and one for the kids ……. a squash but it was only for one night.  Oh …….. you also get the use of the outside school showers and loo’s – 2 showers and 6 loo’s.

We get there, unpack, check bikes, gps, go-pro’s and tents and all amble down to the showgrounds where 5000 odd other cyclists, families and friends are all converging.  We eat in the massive hall and then amble on back to tent-camp for a good nights sleep.

At about 6 pm we started getting the inkling that the night was going to be cold and I mean really cold …….. as in low single figures or minus figure cold.

Frans and I realise very quickly that it simply wasnt going to work having Jamie and Rosie share a single mattress in a tiny little red tent so we give our tent to Rosie and we pitch our own little tent next to our car – about a 100 meters from the red tents.  We have our last cup of coffee, say our goodnights to all our mates and snuggle in for the evening.

But boy did a lot happen after dark ……….. this is the story

Now (lets call her) Bokkie 1 has a complete aversion to public toilets and bathrooms.  They scar her.  She keeps an “emergency” kit in her handbag of hand sanitisers, toilet seat cleaning sanitisers (didnt know you got these!), wet wipes, tissue paper ……. the lot …… just in case she may have to use the public ablution system.  A school toilet in the middle of a rugby field is a nightmare for her.  Porta-potties are out of the question.  So in the middle of a sub-zero degree night when she wakes up and has an urge she knows she is in trouble.

She prods her hubby …….. “Honey please come to the toilet with me I’m scared” .  The bathrooms are quite far from the tents.

“Dont be scared”  He reassures her “Just scream if something goes wrong and I will be there in a flash!”

So off she goes, clips her headlamp on, and leaves the zip on the tent unzipped and goes to the loo.  She ran to the loos as if her life depended on it.  She forgets her “emergency bag”, but all she want to do is get back to her nice warm tent.

Now getting to the loos is a piece of cake,  returning to her tent was another story.  She dashes out of the toilets and looks at the sea of red tents with dismay.

“Which one is ours?”  She thinks “Oh!! thats right I left the zip open”.  She carries on running up and down, even listening for the heavy snorer who, as luck had it, was in the tent next to them.

Just as she was going to scream her hubbies name she spots the unzipped tent.  Opens the flap and sees that her hubby has wrapped their beige and white duvet completely around himself AND he has positioned himself in the middle of the mattress.

“Where am I supposed to lie now”, she says sarcastically.

So her hubbies feet, which are now his head, raised up and says “ya ya ya”, she quickly looks at his head, which should have been the feet and notices the face is not quite the same as her hubbies.   At this point she blinds the poor oke with her head torch.  “Can I help you” says the feet, head ……….. whatever!

“Oh Figtree”    Screeches Bokkie 1 and stumbles out of the tent that wasn”t quite hers.

Two tents down Bokkie 2 wakes up with the same urge.  Now she has a real problem, she is sleeping with her 5 year old little boy ……. and if she leaves and he wakes up, leaves the tent, gets lost in Uniondale ……….. .  Now what can she do?  She starts fumbling in the dark and feels or rathers smells something familiar ……… baby powder ………

“Ummm ……. this could work”.  After some amazing acrobatic and contortionist movements the deed is done.  But what to do with the bottle.  Under the mattress it goes.

Next to the car, I have refused to remove any item of clothing because it is so cold.  I am in the tent sleeping with all my clothes, even my tekkies, beenie, hoodie the lot.  Frans is mumbling that he has never slept next to a “Bergie” before.

At about 3 am there is some loud knocking on the tent.  I sit up scared to death …… The uniondale ghost?

The tent is like an igloo ……. it is totally covered with a sheet of ice.

“I’m cold” , Says the ghost

“No shit sherlock!”  I reply to ghostie who sounds remarkably like Rosie.

“ROSIE!!!!!”  I question

“Yes Mommy”,  She must be really cold to be calling me Mommy.

So I crack open the tent, and in my bergie clothes bundle her into the car.

The next morning we all wake up.  Jamie stretches as says …… “What a great nights sleep”

Bokkie 1 refuses to leave her tent.

Bokkie 2’s Hubby asks ……….. “Sweetheart …….. wheres the baby powder??????”

 

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SOUTH AFRICAN XCO CHAMPIONSHIPS


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As parents it is one of our prime jobs to keep our children as safe as possible.  If we had anything to do with anything when it came to kids, in retrospect,  we would have promoted chess or scrabble to be our kids primary sports activities.

I must admit we have ridden many races in which Jamie has participated and REALLY if I can do it, it has got to be safe because I am about as brave as a coat of red lipstick on a mouth so wrinkled that it doesnt even have a clear outline.

Against all safe judgement we pack up our tent, bike and family to support Jamie in his quest to be part of the South African XCO Championships.

I should have started to get worried when I asked Jamie if there what anything I should pack for him? ……..

“The medical aid box”

“OH!”

But ….. anyway …… here we are the day before the SA XCO, in Hayterdale, at the bottom of the Zuurberg Pass  – it is practice day and there are just bikes and more bikes all over the place.  We have arrived in cycling heaven.

First job is to set up the tent, and, I kid you not, what normally takes about an hour of fighting, arguing and stomping …….. took precisely 8,2 minutes ……. Jamie needed to get onto the track to practice.

Off he goes and we wander around.  There are posters of the race plastered here and there (see above) and we start getting an inkling that this race is not for the faint hearted and these “obstacles” don’t look what I would categorize as safe.

In XCO terms the race is described as exciting.

So ……. after a night of Loots camping (wait for the story), the big day arrives.  This weekend is all about Jamie and he is the star of the story.  We then do what all good parents do to a pre-race nervous child ……. we feed him and then take Rosie horseriding (wait for the story).

Jamies race is at 1.00 – there are split starts where the Elite Men, u/23 men, Junior men and Youth (his category) will all be battling it out on the same track.  Jamie will be riding at the same time with all his cycling hero’s – this alone was a huge drawcardd

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We say “good luck” and his last words to us were ……”Mom, DO NOT come onto the track, even if you see me lying in the rocks full of blood, DO NOT come and save me”

Oh well ……. this sounds interesting.

The starter starts the race ……. and, very basically, the 40 plus starters in his category must all dash from the start onto an uphill single track technical climb. Jamie and his friend are seeded right at the back.  At the single track you cannot overtake and if someone in front of you wipes out you are stuck behind them and will lose precious time …… the whole race is about time and not being lapped.  Add to this the Elite, U/23 and Junior men are all hacking it out at the same time and they are all bigger, faster and more experienced.  After the first climb you hit a 90 degree pebbly section and go straight into Robs Drop, this is then followed by a jeeptrack climbing section, then steep singletrack and a switchback climb.

Well the start is done and dusted and the next time we see Jamie is at Robs Drop.

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The second half of the course is generally downhill, starting with a fast section known as berm lane.  It’s a series of sharp bermed corners and dips as riders criss-cross a small gorge.  Berm Lane ends with a very intimidating Rock Garden, which many riders opt not to ride and rather take the easier, slower chicken run.

Here, however, Jamie opts for neither of the above ……….. he goes for the “Superman” approach where a rider must lose his bike at the top and go flying without his bike to the bottom – this is a move not sanctioned by Cycling South Africa.   He was lucky we were not there to see his unsanctioned move.

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After flying through the rock garden, a rider then hits a short jeep track, then the riders enter another gorge via a steep drop-off to the right.  Basically the riders are told to let go of their brakes and they must try hard to keep their line as they negotiate tight turns and drops through the gorge.

The gorge is then interuppted by a short climb …….. over two wooden bridges and the riders are back into a high-speed downhill for the last part of the gorge..

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If this isn’t enough the riders must then line themselves up for the most exciting feature ………. The Rabbit Hole, then for good measure the course designers packed into the last 500 meters of the race – Trevors surprise (I have met Trevor), Richards Steps and the Tree Drop before enering the final 200 meters open stretch to the finish line – The competitors in Jamies group must do this 5 Times.

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Getting lapped by the Super Stars (Marco Joubert comming in 2nd) in the 4th lap wasn’t the end of the world, Jamie still made it into top 20 at SA’s. Jamie came in 19th and his friend Nicholas 20th.  An achievement?  I reckon so.  A happy and Good Experience.

Even better was watching my son cheer on Marco Joubert our local hero.

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All in all a weekend of proud moments and new friends.  A special thank you to the Hayter family for opening their farm, and building the tracks for this event.  From Mountain Events to the “never stop talking”  Greg Ritz who made sitting round the campfire an event in itself, and everyone in-between.

Especially to Tyrone Kindness and Robbie from Merida Bikes who both motivated Jamie to even take part in an event like this.  To coach Leon Schepers  who managed not only to get Jamie to stick to a programme (a true miracle)  but gave him opportunities to train like a pro.

As for the safe bit …….. I think we got off lightly – the score still stands Rock Garden 1 – Jamie 0.

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OOPS………..WE FORGOT CHRISTMAS


I have just realised it is one week to Christmas. In the topsy turveyness that is our life at the moment – Christmas seems to have passed us by.

Normally by now there would be a great big tree in our home, under the tree would be stacks of prezzies – all of them opened “just a little bit” by quizzy Rosie. The real prezzies will be hidden at a secret location. Cupboards, fridges, bowls and tupperwares would be groaning with all sorts of Christmas goodies. Father Christmas would be floating in a canoe in front of our house with a fishing rod. Flashy lights will decorate the canal side of our house. Menus planned, bedrooms made up for family and the inevitable Boney M playing on the CD on and off – me on, Frans off.

But this year we are not at home, we have no tree, no gifts and we are living on a steady diet of tuna and salad. Chocolates are too expensive in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean.

Late last night – and it is hot, hot, hot here – the Salvation Army starts singing carols in the main street, and the whole of main street lights up with Christmas lights – every tree is decorated and the whole street is covered with festive cheer. All the shops have lights, all the homes have lights – Christmas has arrived. In our little home nothing, not a tree, not a light, not a present and not a chokkie.

What starts are a little rumble deep inside me, suddenly bursts into full Christmas mode – so here one week before Christmas Eve with no tree, no prezzies, no chokkies, no home and sitting in the middle of the South Atlantic we go into full Christmas mode.

The first thing I have to deal with is THAT Christmas talk, you know the one………. where you gather all the kids and talk about the REAL reason for Christmas, so I open the conversation ………

“Why do we have Christmas every year???”

Jamie has been around long enough to know whats coming and answers

“Cheers…………. I’m going to climb Jacobs Ladder.”

Now I know my annual Christmas talk must be a. Old Hat, b. Too much for a pre-teen or c. Downright boring. If he is prepared to climb the ladder which is, in a nutshell sheer hell 699 steps going straight up at a gradient of 89.9 degrees – boy my Christmas story cant be great.

Frans quickly ducks out of the house with him.

So poor Rosie is stuck alone with the talk………..

“So Rosie do you know the real reason for Christmas?”

“Yep ……. Jesus was born on Christmas day in a stable” – she has been listening to the Carols.

“What was Jesus Mom’s name”

“Mary………….”

“And what was the donkeys name”

Blank look – well tough I don’t know either.

“And Jesus Dads name………?”

“Ummmmmmmmm…….. I think he came from a single parent family …… maybe his parents were divorced ……. but its OK he turned out OK” She sweetly replies.

“Rosie, isn’t God Jesus Dad?” ……. Gywwwwwwwwk, gwwwwwwwwwwwwk I can actually hear the big can of worms being opened and there is nothing I can do about it.

“I suppose so.” I can see the cogs in her mind working overtime. “But ……. what ……. how????”

I cannot deal with the details of the Divine Conception right now……

The front door bursts open “Hey Mom”, its Jamie – bless his Christmas picking socks, “We have just seen Father Chistmas!”

Yeh right, “where Jamie?”

“At the top of Jacobs Ladder”

Frans comes staggering in … “We’ve just seen Father Christmas at the top of Jacobs Ladder” at least he speaks in full sentences.

Apparently they staggered to the top of the ladder (this is the only way to get there) and as they got to the top old SC himself comes trotting past – picture the scene – at the top of a hideously steep 699 step ladder – in the middle of a hot rock in the middle of the South Atlantic.

SC – “Ho Ho Ho – MERRY CHRISTMAS”

Frans – “Hallo SC – what you doing here???”

SC – “Ho Ho Ho (think he always says this before he talks) north pole too cold decided to move here …. have you been a good boy this year?”

Frans – “Yes SC”

At this point Jamie standing still (rare occurance) doing his best fish impression. “Hi”

SC – “Ho ho ho – bye bye boys see you on Christmas day” and off he goes down the ladder.

So now I now that the world as I know it is completely topsy turvey – no Christmas as we know it, Rosie beginning to ask THOSE questions and Santa living on St Helena Island. To all my friends MERRY CHRISTMAS from a Topsy Turvey Loots Mob.

Jamestown – Part One


I would love to tell you all the story of the great sailing adventure – but I cant, it isn’t my story to tell – it is Frans story and we will try to get him to write it and share it on a guest slot.

St Helena Island is a magical place. Literally in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, an isolated rock that has a history all of its own. We know Napoleon was locked up here in an amazing mansion high up on the hill, we know Mr Halley spotted his famous comet right here on this rock – but it is the people (a grand total of 4000 odd) that make this island so special and a place to come back to.

The first thing you have got to get over is that everyone, and I mean everyone speaks like a pirate:

“How ya doin me Daarlin – you well???”

And when they ask you How ya doin me Daarlin – you well???? They are actually asking you because they are interested, they want to know how you are, how are you doing and it is not just lips moving. The all call each other me Daarlin because you get the feeling they really dig each other and are one big happy family.

One of the most respected okes in town is Buffalo – what does he do for a living – he is the supervisor of the local swimming pool (and yes they have one – 33 meters long and 6 lanes), there is Mike the only person on St Helena without a passport, legend has it he is a wanted man in Sweden and in South Africa, so he came to St Helena and now they cant get rid of him, why – he has no passport. What does a man without a passport do – well, you open the local radio station – and a fine station it is too. I have also heard that he is sorta the local lawyer – he seems to have a lot of hands on experience here. There is Jane who owns Anne’s place – a yachty restaurant legend. There is also Hazel the owner of the beautiful Consulate Hotel. What do all these people have in common – they all work bloody hard and make good lives for themselves and their families – they are respected.

One of my favourite things about Jamestown is the Public amenities, right on the waters edge, and believe me Jamestown has limited waters edge, is the Public Swimming pool, the tennis court, and outdoor hall arrangement, a kiddies playground and loads and loads of wooden outdoor tables and chairs. In the evening everyone goes down to this area and plays tennis, then whoop the tennis court is turned into a volleyball court, then whoop the court is turned into a soccer field, everyone plays young and old. All around and in this area are little restaurants selling extremely well priced meals, cooldrinks, beers and icecreams. There are loads of public toilets, all spotless and respected. The prime spot in this town is there for the community, not the tourist, but, the tourist is more than welcome to come sit and enjoy the best part of Jamestown.

On Friday the town cooks, I went into the local Star (Spar) to get daily supplies and was immediately confused as to why there are loads of people walking around with trolley’s full of bread. I saw one trolley just standing there and thought it was a display, took and loaf out of the trolley and almost got whopped over the head by an irate customer. Bread is in high demand – no bread is baked at all on a Saturday or a Sunday (no questions asked) so people cue for their loaves and stock up for the weekend – no local questions this arrangement – they just deal with it.

The only way anything can get here is via the mailboat, and I mean ANYTHING, mail, food, car parts, gifts and cooldrinks and most of all people – the mailboat comes past every 2 weeks. Veggies are in high demand and are expensive, cokes are cheaper in St Helena than in South Africa, chocolates are very expensive.

The Governer drives his own car, and to get a drivers licence all you have to do is go to the local police station and tell them which car you are driving – it is the incident that gets you in big trouble not whether you have a licence or not. The governor carries his own groceries and boxes – there is no gravy train here.

On Sundays the whole town shuts down – everything – well almost, every pup is doing a roaring trade.

There is Jacobs ladder which I will get to later. Also there are no celphones here – will get to this later.

All in all a happy place and life is good.

BAGGAGE AND OTHER JUNK


On arrival at CT International Airport (note the word International because the airport is now worthy of this name) – my suitcase floated – well more like limped – out of those plastic shower thingies on the rotunda. It was destroyed – wheels missing, handles gone, bits of plastic still showering off. “Go and report it” said Funny (remember him), I keep choop quiet.

This suitcase was the heaviest thing I have every owned – it took two people to pick it up and airline trolleys even groaned under its weight.

“It looks like its been dropped out of something high”, helpful Funny doggedly continues.
Now I am absolutely sure if it had dropped off a pavement it would have disintegrated.
So merrily shopping I went for a new suitcase – and bought the most fabulous case I have ever seen – one problem – it was 1/2 the size of the old one – something (s, many, lots) had to go.
QUIZZ – WHY WOULD TANYA NEED THE FOLLOWING ON A TRIP.
1. A full set of linen.
2. Learn how to do card trick set
3. 8 Magasines all with “that one article I havent read yet”
4. Hiking boots (I never go hiking)
5. A teapot
6. 8 pairs of flippers and goggles – we are only 4
7. A lifejacket (my hubby is arriving on a boat)
8. 3 books on how to learn photoshop
9. A box of batteries
10 A BOX of torches
11. Groceries (no shops on the island?)
12. String
13. A Harmonica ????????????? – never ever played one
14. TWO computers
and ……… the jewel in the crown
15. TWO VUVUZELA’S
Now remember this is just the extra stuff that came out of this magical suitcase – these things have got to be left in the Cape or my suitcase is going to become cargo and not luggage.
Frans on the other hand did the packing of his boat down to the last teaspoon on Sugar. I kid you not – I get a shopping list and items such as 325 teaspoons sugar, 88 teaspoons coffee – Jamie and myself were not allowed to sail with them because – a weight issue – no more to say here.
We a both flying accross the ocean to the same place, we will both have clothes on our backs and food in our tummies, we will both have friends around us.
The freedom of unpacking that bloody great suitcase full of unusable items is a huge relief, today we will be mincing along to Duncan Dock with the essentials and believe me we have enough of them – we will not be weighed down with anything that is unessessary.
There is a lesson in here somewhere!

RACE DAY – IS HERE AT LAST


And finally it is here, months and months of hard work, frustrations, time, snafus and snags – and today is RACE DAY. The Loots family all up at 5.00 am (not getting away from this dam time am I?) all kitted out in black Banja/Pennypinchers branded gear and off to the club.

The Navy band (more like a mini orchestra is playing James Last classics and all sorts of BIG BRASS is wandering around, tears of joy and sadness, tea and sandwiches, last minute arguements driven by nerves – a speech – boat introduction – prayer for the safety of the boats – instruction for the spectators (we are all off on the navy tugs) and off to the start.

As part of the whole adventure Jamie sails the boat out of Simonstown harbour and to the start.
“Hows he going to get off the boat and what happens if you start with him on board?”
Quite a valid question for these rought shark infested waters in False Bay
“Oh… well ….. um….. we just chuck him off and a spectator boat will pick him up”
“WHATDOYOUMEANYOUAREGOINGTOCHUCKHIMOFFBLOODYBANJO”
“Well thats the way we do it in Simonstown – they’ve been doing like this for hundreds of years”
Now you must understand, my sailing knowledge is not that peachy – Im going to watch this space.

Rosie and myself are sheparded along with the rest of the spectators to the waiting tugs. Now I really have to take this opportunity is saying that as we approached the tugs there were 4 of the most addonis looking men getting changed on OUR tug – these were the Naval Divers – boy did we get a good draw in tugs.
To say the least the start of a major yacht race is just so exciting, sea, boats, tugs, motorboats, naval vessels, fishing boats and of course the competitors. It is big, it is well just so adventurous. There is something about it all that makes you think “I will sail the next one”, what is it about some people who do these wonderful things and the rest of us that sit on tugs and watch them do it – personally I do not (divers aside) want to be a tug sitter anymore.


For the next 10 odd days Jerry and Frans will have living quarters the size of a small bathroom. The will sail the blazes out of a home built boat and get to one of the most remote islands on our planet.
Sail safe, have fun – we applaud you.

THE ADVENTURE – DAY 1


The alarm clock buzzes on my Blackberry, its 5 a.m., I click it off and 1/2 get out of bed. “Say WHAT” – yep hanging around pre teens too long – not my room, yay, not a working day, yay, no responsibilities, no work, no exams, no tin shack, no cooking, no NOTHING – yay, yay and yay again – IM ON HOLIDAY, IM IN HEAVEN.

I am also waking up next to my husband for the first time in weeks, triple yay.

I stretch and snuggle back into pristene white linen which i havent washed or ironed, and, which I wont have to wash and iron in the foreseeable future – thanx to Anita – I snuggle up to my now 1/2 awake hubby:

“So sweetheart (right I have only been around him a couple of hours, sweetheart bit of sweetheart can change) what shall we do today?”

“Well I thought we could go and do the grocery provisions for the boat for my trip, then, you can make me four pre-cooked meals for the trip, I would like a pasta dish, a curry type something, something stewy and anything else you would like to make”.

SCREEEEEEEEEEEEECHHHHHHHHHHHH – bang, crash, rewind the record – there goes my first day of holiday – and – there goes the sweetheart bit of sweetheart.

So here I sit cooking, alone, and what do you do when you cook alone – think!!!! and what do I think about? – Right, Im a Mom – the kids.

Now I have three kids, all special in their own way, and I love them all equally but there is one thing that genuinely sets them apart – PACKING.

Lets take Ben out of this senario – he is staying in PE for the duration of the Adventure.

When it comes to packing Rosie has it waxed. She starts planning her wardrobe 3 weeks before the time. She is the expert of “what to pack”. She has carefully co-ordinated outfits that are mix and match heaven. She has costumes, toileries, hair accessories, towels, jewelry, hats and 5 selections of co-ordinated 3 shirt, 3 pants/skirt/shorts, 3 shoes. She has a dress in case we get invited out, she has two co-ordinated wheelie suitcases – she even has her outfit selected for the plane trip ironed and ready for the trip. In the weeks leading up to the trip – every evening she unpacks her suitcase to re-check that all is well with the outfits. On the night before the departure she is packed and the suitcases in the boot of the car – boy is she ready to go.

Jamie on the other hand is out – where – well I’m not sure because he constitutes leaving the house information as “bye Mom – I’ll see you later” and this is shouted as he is flying out of the driveway. On the night before we leave the whole house is tidy, packed and we are ready to go. Jamies cupboard on the other hand is full with, well boy type clothes – you know a hodge podge of dirty/clean, wearable/unwearable clothes. When he rocks up at 9.00 pm I say –

“Shouldn’t you pack?”

“Oh – I thought you had done it for me”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”

“Ok Mom” – and poof 3 1/2 minutes later he is back.

“I’m finished”

I go upstairs and all the little *(&*(& has done is empty his schoolbag, then balances the bag under his cupboard and literally scooped the entire contents (school uniform – ALLES!!!!) into his now empty school bag. There is clothes and shoes sticking out of every zip. There are underpants tied to the handles. According to him he is packed, he is happy.

What am I going to do – NOTHING – we are packed and ready.

When we arrive – Rosie carefully hangs all her outfits in the cupboard. Jamie well – the clothes are still sticking out of his school bag and he is no-where to be seen ………….