Right here, right now – we are astonished! We’ve had an amazing couple of weeks, most astonishing in that some of Britain’s greatest achievers made time to see us and pass on some lessons and their positivity.But first off we saw some of nature’s astounding achievements in all their sunshine glory, starting with Dorset’s Chesil Beach – a pebble beach 18 miles long that for much of its length is separated from the mainland by the Fleet Lagoon.We parked up here and practised some counting with the pebbles, running out of steam somewhere around a trillion billion zillion…
A couple of hours later we went back to our lovely Swift Escape motorhome to see the cows in the adjoining field hadn’t moved a bit – and that we consider is the kind of lackadaisical laidback way to be when the sun shines on England.From here, we discovered a new campsite for us, at Charmouth, and one of our favourites so far as it had loads of green space and two spacious play areas for our little boys to play, play and play! We received a really friendly warm welcome from Joanna and Janet and the whole team – and that makes all the difference too.Plus we met a very lovely family travelling from Barcelona, so as us parents shared a cup of café con leche the children ran around while practising their English and Spanish with each other. Making new friends like this is definitely one of the greatest joys of travelling.From here it was to the coast where we found a fossil museum, shop and saw some crazy guy flying high above our heads… When we headed back to the campsite, Daniel created his own fossil shop (one was up for sale for a million quid I tell ya!), then added to his beloved scrapbook of our 17,000-mile travels (so far…).
Then it was to beautiful Brighton! If you’ve never been to Brighton, you have to – it’s a must-see in life. A funky seaside town with myriad fascinating, beautiful and quirky people, places and things to see.For us, after driving past the iconic and eccentric Royal Pavilion, it was a beeline to one of our best mates Ray to carry on some of our Face2fb project that started all this – when we visited as many of our Facebook friends as possible and grabbed a nose2nose pic with them and then donated to a cancer charity.From hugs with Ray it was to this amazing beachfront house, the smiley artwork on its roof giving a clue to one of its residents… the home of musician Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) and TV/radio presenter Zoë Ball.There we hugged too and chatted music plus almost straight-off went into ardent heart-to-hearts about being parents and doing the very best we can for our children. Our welcome was with the warmest of hearts too, and we got to meet one of their children, delightful Nelly who’s five like our Daniel – and that pair hit it off, even taking themselves down to the beach to watch the waves roll in under the warmth of the afternoon sunshine… 💕 So beautiful.Alas we didn’t get to meet Zoë & Norman’s 14-year-old son Woody as he was away with mates, but maybe at another moment. There was also time for some music, naturally, and if this wasn’t a Musical Education By Astonishment, we don’t know what is! We’d shown our boys Daniel & Darley some footage of Norman doing his awesome stuff (they already knew Zoë from being fans of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing! – and yes, we should have asked for some Dance Education By Astonishment lessons cos Zoë’s got the moves!). They were mightily impressed with all Norman’s lights and entertaining, firing the crowds at his shows into ever increasing fervour, plus we’d explained what having more than one Number One in the charts meant.A few hours later, before heading off we got the boys’ instruments signed to give them even greater inspiration to make music.(Darley is an old English name meaning “dear valley”.)“Remember you can do whatever you want!” which came about from our chats on how with some talent and plenty of dedication we can all achieve great things. (It’s an essential message.)Then we headed off, our hearts warmed by this lovely family, to show Norman and Nelly our motorhome, as they’re interested in what we’re doing as a family. We of course offered there and then to swap our amazing motorhome for their amazing house (but only for a few days as we have many more awesome plans of Swift Escape travels ahead!).
In the meantime Norman, this is what it could be like, you stepping out after another epic family motorhome roam – go on, live the dream! 😊😊😊😊🚐💨💨💨💨 “Eat, Sleep, Roam, Repeat!”Just 20 minutes from Brighton and we arrived at this floral fiesta and to be greeted with welcoming smiles from the lovely David & Michelle who helped us pitch up at Southdown Way campsite. We got out our comfy Outwell chairs and children’s table to watch the sun set, then a stunning full moon rise.The campsite is raising money to build a rehab centre for the Sussex Lantern charity, which helps blind, partially sighted and disabled people. A handy base for Brighton it was also close to our next visit – to the impressive house of No1 international bestselling author Peter James – a really fabulous chap who I’ve been lucky enough to know for a number of years.Peter’s captivating stories have been translated into an astonishing 36 languages, sold 16 million copies, go to Number One in the bestsellers charts within days of being published – and yet still, despite travelling for half the year, Peter tirelessly encourages people to write and read more, and is an inspiration all round not least on how to be a kind and caring especially amazing person. So we knew he was the best for a lesson in English & storytelling to our boys (of course, Debs and I were really excited to learn from Peter too!). The first thing was, after being introduced to his lovely fiancée Lara and his fantastic team, we all marvelled at Peter’s magnificent house. There was a tiger, a police officer model and of course books galore. Then there was the garage where Peter gave the boys a look at his car collection, including sitting them in his Aston Martin while he gave it some terrifically noisy revs! It sounded as if it could break the sound barrier…Then we headed into the garden with Peter and Lara where the boys fed the fish in the lake and checked for eggs in the hencoop. After a delicious lunch during which we chatted about writing and storytelling among many other subjects, the boys were happy to munch on their Peter James’ Brighton-esque rock.
Daniel and Peter even started a story together, Daniel seeing what line Peter would follow to the opening sentence he penned on his very own. Peter came back instantly with the follow-up line. So the first two sentences go like this (and we’re sure you’d have to read on as with all the best stories): “It was all quiet on Kay Street when suddenly two noisy racing cars driven by Norman and Peter zoomed into sight. Followed by a police car with blue lights flashing and sirens blazing.” We definitely have the start of another international bestseller here… Over to you Peter and Daniel!Then Peter and Lara checked out our own vehicle, with Peter commenting that he’s interested in a racing version of the Swift Escape – “then I could be in my office whilst racing”. We don’t put it past Peter that he could write an amazing story while also driving at 100 mph! And so the next morning back to sunny Brighton, for a walk on the pier, and a few goes on the slot machines.
Then to the extraordinary Royal Pavilion, built in three stages, starting in 1787, as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales. We paused for a listen to a fantastic guitarist, who also passed on some advice to our boys that they need to be dedicated and keep self-belief to get great at something. Then we admired the Pavilion’s exterior before going inside – and if you think it’s eccentrically wonderful from the outside, then you also have to see the inside! After waving farewell to the vibrancy of Brighton, we motored on to the tranquility of the New Forest, where we always explain to our boys that really now it should be called the Old Forest as it was first recorded as “Nova Foresta” in the Domesday Book in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. Everything new becomes old…Here we pitched up at one of the Camping In The Forest campsites at Holmsley, and it was absolutely thriving with families camping for the weekend.The boys soon made friends and played on the play area – before Daniel took to playing some new tunes of his, including one he titled “Fish Disco” that he sang to his marine-loving brother. It was all about dolphins and whales and jellyfish, and it made our hearts melt and swell at the same time. He actually has a great knack at playing his ukulele to go with his passion now. Darley showed Daniel a toy dolphin as he played, and they make a fantastic duo.We’ll be offering the song to Fatboy Slim to sample in due course… 😊 Next morning we arrived at nearby Beaulieu National Motor Museum, with its first-rate collection of all things to do with engines and wheels. Congrats and thank you to Beaulieu for having a dedicated parking area for motorhomes, it all adds to having an enjoyable day out (as in not having to drive around for an hour and then walking 30 minutes with two little boys who are then getting tired by the time you arrive at the place to visit…).Then the place itself is excellent. The real motor fan in our family is Daniel, but we all loved our visit. Friendly and helpful staff, and an amazing History lesson is all here, not only with the cars and the recreation of a 1930s British garage and street, but in the house that can also be visited. There’s also a great cafe and play area. Then there’s some informative interactive stuff, the ride through the history of motoring, the famous cars collection including Del Boy’s and Rodney’s yellow three-wheeler from Only Fools & Horses (gotta love the box containing Trevor Francis tracksuits!).Next day it was time for a few days at our house preparing for some more Education By Astonishment adventures. On the way back we visited Exeter, Devon’s capital city, for some more History lessons. It’s a great city with many historical buildings made from the giant red bricks. There’s also the fact that JK Rowling lived in the city for a few years and Diagon Alley in her Harry Potter stories (you may have heard of them…) was inspired by Exeter’s Gandy Street.
We looked for wands, then once back at our househome made our donations to UNICEF for every astonishing person, place and thing we’d visited, with Daniel as ever hitting the “Donate” button – and so reminding ourselves that although we’re so fortunate to be able to do this as a family together, many others aren’t around the world. We also want to teach our boys the wonderful gift of giving, and that people do care about each other, that we’re all absolutely amazing in our own way.
So we praise you like we should! We hope this all inspires you to get out there and live to the max – none of us is getting out of here alive, so be the person you’re supposed to be, fulfil all your amazing potential – and be happy. 😊 See just what you can do if you set your mind to it, and don’t wait around for the perfect moment: now is that moment! See how amazing you are. The universe knows it, or you wouldn’t be here.
Be astonished – right here, right now.