How to plan a holiday!


For the past 15 years I have not had an actual ‘ holiday’ any trip we have made has been around commitments to my partner creating reviews for   and with the major stopping points organised all I had to do was book a few odd nights to and from the eventual destinations. Sometimes we found an independent gem and ended up writing about that too, other times we used Accor or Hiltons or suchlike as we drove the Autobahns and major roads of Europe and beyond.

This summer we are finally free to do what we what to do. How will we decide where to go I was asked? Oh that’s easy I replied we will head for Aquileia near the Italian coast as I saw an exhibition about these little known Roman ruins at The Royal Geographical Society in London earlier this year. We will book an hotel near there and some stops along the way like I used to do with my dad in the 1990s.


Back in the 90s it was so simple, initially there was no internet and I had to write letters or telephone in response to tourist board brochures or those hotel listings brochures from Logis de France, Ibis, Novotel and Campanile. Dad and I only tended to do that for the first and last nights plus a 5 day break in the middle. That way (with the obligatory pillows under our arms and travel kettle of course)  we explored from France to the edge of the old West Germany, Austria and Switzerland , across the North and to the foot of Italy, through the Spanish plains down into Portugal and stopping at 3pm each day to find a local hotel. We had some hilarious rooms in France with WC in the bedroom and carpet on the walls. We loved some experiences in Italy eating at the Residencia we had found that night or an Agriturismo and sometimes not knowing what we were being given. We rarely had problems finding a room and never had to sleep in the car. We carried a camping gaz ring and pots and pans to make tea up in the Alps and baked beans or soup if we were miles from anywhere.


Fast forward 15 years and no way could we risk pot luck, as there are so many people on the road. The Booking agencies and Trip advisor recommendations hold sway, so popular hotels and B and B’s are full even in September. So I have spent the last 2 weeks researching, planning a route and booking a 3 week trip using the Web to help me. There still seem to be some eclectic places to stay out there and I am looking forward to enjoying them without my OH having to take photos of their design and function and spending hours writing it up for publication when we get home.

And so a new period of exploration and adventure begins minus the 5 star hotels although I expect I could be persuaded to visit the odd one from time to time! However I will be once again taking my pillow and travel kettle!

Standing up to save The Buckle !

I am East Sussex born and bred  and traced my family back 300 years before records ran out, but there were Bretts  documented in the  County before that and I believe my name came here with my ancestors in 1066!

After a lifetime teaching in secondary schools in London and elsewhere, I wanted to return to my roots in the beautiful South Downs countryside and be close to my childhood haunts and memories.

I  had a weekend job in a Seaford Coffee shop in the 1960s and friends who lived here (wonder where they all are now?) so choosing to move here less than 2 years ago  to the sea and the big skies with their stunning cloudscapes was not difficult. It has taken me a while to find my feet and work out what is going on here but people are friendly and chat everywhere you go.

I have learned so much about the sad state of local politics in the last month and this week have begun to attend meetings in the town to find out more about what goes on and why so many people are dissatisfied with the work of Seaford Town Council.  I attended a Planning Committee meeting where I was taken aback by the lack lustre response of the members to challenge anything the District Council might then reject, and asked for information as to how our Neighbourhood  Plan is progressing as we desperately need one and it is quite a long and involved process.

This lack is now highlighted as recently Lewes District council published its plans for building more homes in the area. Like many other residents I was concerned as we do not have a good infrastructure here to support more residents, especially as regards NHS provision. However when I heard about the plan so sell off  The Buckle car park for an ‘iconic boutique  apartment development’ and use the money to provide housing (some ‘affordable’ allegedly )…elsewhere in the district- I was  not impressed. This car park is the only one at the far end of the seafront where fisherman, surfers, canoeists, walkers, cyclists and users of the nearby Bishopstone railway station can park. It also has a recycling area and a public toilet used by tourists and residents alike

IFS began a petition to try to stop this  and with the paper petitions I and others have been circulating in the town this week we now have over 1000 signatures from all sectors of the Community.

There are so many other questions about what is going on here and I plan to attend the first full council meeting of my life on Thursday, but not until I have done my stint at the polling station and hoping all four candidates from Independents for Seaford will be elected.  Then we will see some local Councillors who will not sit back and let the town I have already come to love and enjoy be destroyed.

I’m for Seaford!                               Read more here:    twitter @ifseaford

Walking with renewed purpose

On May 8th I woke up to find that not only did we have a Tory landslide and my local  Lib Dem MP Norman Baker had lost his seat, but as people had voted on national party lines so had my hard working Independent  local Town Councillor Sylvia Dunn. I wrote to Sylvia expressing my dismay and a few days later found myself in a  pub with Sylvia, Sarah McStravick another ex Independent  councillor from a different ward and a bunch of other locals who no longer thought national party politics should be running our Town Council. It seems we were not alone and as the week went on we discovered Frome in Somerset had completely taken over theirs in a few short years and  we read their book on Flatpack Democracy . As the week went on we discovered similar movements as far apart as Liskeard, Cornwall and Alderly Edge in Cheshire.

As a local by election would shortly take place owing to the death of a ward  candidate on the eve of the election, we had no time to lose. Within a few days Independents for Seaford was born as a minor political party and an amazing video produced along with election leaflets, posters, badges and key rings. All on a shoe string budget of donations of money but most importantly time and skills with the media needed by some very talented people.

We also had a website a twitter feed @ifseaford and facebook pages for local supporters

We now had 4 candidates all active in Seaford as there was 4 seats up for election this time.

Next of course the walking started for me ….Initially I went out with Sylvia , Sarah and other volunteers door knocking and talking to residents- very enlightening  and a  valuable experience though very time consuming.

The key thing  now was to get the leaflets out so that residents knew there was an alternative to the nationals.

So that is how I spent the next few days. Walking many miles with renewed purpose round the streets of Seaford in and out of little closes and fighting letter box draft excluders. I now have a new admiration for postal delivery staff…and then there are the dogs.

It is a  very long time since I was involved in any sort of politics so I have a lot more to learn about the workings of the Town Council. Watch this space as the next few months are going to be very interesting.

If we can do this is Seaford think what could be done nationally… have a look at our first press release if you are interested

My first Year with Fitbit

Last week  I received an email from Fitbit to tell me my stats for the past year.

My flexible friend was a Christmas Gift in 2013 and I knew I had walked over 1000 miles and worn out a pair of trainers but my stats were really quite surprising.

In 2014 I walked 1128 miles and 2552,528 steps.  Now when I was teaching I know I moved about 13,000 steps every school day and that would have been no surprise to me. Once I stopped that and life revolved around the home office and the garden I knew pretty soon I was in trouble. My stamina and endurance had gone and the pounds began to pile on. In late 2012 and all of 2013 I was trying to go for a walk every day and building extra walks into my daily life.

It’s true what they say about every little helping if you park the car at bottom of car park and get off the bus a stop early. I have even walked round the malls in Abu Dhabi to get my daily Fitbit fix (nice and cool in there). In fact the hotel manager was the first other person I saw wearing a Flex band!  I walked up and down the hill in my sister’s housing estate  in South Africa and along the pristine sand at Kersbosstrand.

Mostly though I just walk down the town and back via the beautiful seafront we are blessed with in Seaford or over the golf course into the South Downs National Park.  A trip to London or Brighton is a reason for a longer walk. Down to the station and back then London Park and city walks with a friend plus great conversation and coffee and lunch stops are my favourite easily clocking up over  6 miles in a day.

Tide Mills round walkstats

Tide Mills round walkstats

As a successful weight loss maintaining member of MyFitnessPal I was encouraged by  very active long term pal to join the monthly Move Your @ss Challenge  aka MYAC and over the year  have gradually increased my monthly goal (we only challenge ourselves so no major hassles there)

The Fitbit community itself was an eye opener. No sooner had I said hello in the over 60s section when I got loads of friend requests from people doing 20K plus steps a day. My 6k or 7k would leave me at the bottom of their chart and feeling superior so it seemed given they sent taunts! …so I soon knocked that on the head.

It seems there is a similar though younger element on UK Fitbit Fanatics on Facebook where up to 50K steps a day are being paraded by non runners. Sorry good for you, but I don’t find that very encouraging!  Another good thing though is there seems to be plenty of young mums pushing their buggies for miles.

I did discover a sensible shopping voucher earning system through that called and I have already earned £5 for doing what I do already. If you want to join use my code brett1102 to get a bonus and I will get one too. It connects to Runkeeper, MapMyWalk, Strava, Garmin  etc too and can be used in some gyms and strikes me as  a cost effective way to incentivise  and get the obese more active without costing the NHS more than the price of a Flex band. I mentioned this to the consultant at this week’s hospital appointment and she thought it was a great idea.

The Accuracy of all these smart devices has been called into question lately and yes there is a slight discrepancy between Mapmywalk and Fitbit with the former measuring distance as slightly longer; but my point is does it matter if it gets idle people like me moving?

Home made tomato sauce for pasta

I wasn’t going to blog about Eat well for Less again but  was so annoyed by the family they showed  and their profligate food spend that I am forced to reiterate what Gregg Wallace said to them about pasta sauces! There is no added sugar in this.

Every student I ever taught has learned to make it and add to it Bolognese or multiple chopped vegetables , put on pasta topping, serve over meatballs/koftas etc.

Tomato sauce ingredients less than 50p

Tomato sauce ingredients less than 50p

All you need is a carton of plain passata (31p from Lidl- came up as Cirio too when I scanned it for MFP) or use chopped tomatoes

1 onion

1 clove garlic

Tablespoon oil

Herbs and spices to taste

Simply heat oil gently, fry onion and garlic until soft, add tomatoes and seasoning then simmer at least 30 minutes.

That’s all

It freezes really well so make a big batch.

Simple and CHEAP and healthy. Kids love it

Why is orange juice so popular?

Last week I watched a TV programme called Eat Well for Less. I was really hoping it would focus on healthy eating as a way to get people to be more mindful of what they eat ie. cut out the junk and unnecessary extras, waste less food and also help people choose cheaper options without forgoing quality and nutrition. It succeeded to some extent on the last point.

oranges 2

I was staggered to see this apparently average family consume 4 litres of high sugar orange juice very week. Not sure if they rely on BOGOFs but it is a product you often see in these.

Since when did orange juice become such a staple? As a child growing up in the 50s and 60s (yes I have got he grumpy old woman badge) juice came in tiny 50 ml glasses in the B and B’s of annual holidays or as tiny bottles of very sweet Britvic served in pubs! At home we had squash well diluted or Adams ale. Later as a 1980s holiday maker in Greece I remember the reps warning us off drinking the large cartons in a day as it could lead to upset stomachs- due to the acid I presume?

These days in hotels the juice is on tap and people fill large  200 plus ml glasses with impunity. In Boston a few years ago we had to keep saying no to hotel waiters as it seemed they topped it up all the time over breakfast and with a newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic in tow, it was off limits. None of them seemed to have any awareness of the sugar content in even a small glass (6 teaspoons) no idea about diabesity then.

More recently the fashion for smoothies has increased sugar from juice intake and now I am told there is a new must have gadget called the Nutribullet which juices up fruit, vegetable, nuts, seeds etc to make an allegedly  more healthful drink. If you would not eat all this as a snack when whole, why do you need all its calories in one go?

Ask yourself do we really need all these new products?

What’s wrong with eating an actual orange  or satsuma instead? That way you get the fibre from the fruit as well as some vitamin C which actually counts towards your 5 a day and takes longer to digest as well as damaging teeth less.

Nothing wrong with eating a whole orange

Nothing wrong with eating a whole orange

Excess packaging goes mad in Sainsburys

For some years I have been buying packs of frozen berries from Sainsburys- great for desserts and more importantly putting into my morning porridge to make it more colourful and interesting as well as adding some vitamin C.

This week I was faced with a problem which made me really mad. The simple plastic bags are being replaced with …yes … a plastic box, a cellophane seal and a paperboard wrapper AND they take up twice the space in my freezer. So I cant stock up as no space. My initial complaint to @sainsburys resulted in a link to their packaging reduction policy #epicfail there twitter person so a spot of sarcasm resulted in an enquiry to the technical team.

It transpires that the new packaging is for quality control. What ? These berries are frozen they are not going to crush and if they did would taste just the same. Please don’t tell me customers have been asking for this??  If you have confess now please.

I have asked whether the same  boxes will be used for frozen peas but no response yet.

Plastic bag versus box and sleeve

Plastic bag versus box and sleeve

The cynic in me says wait for them to either  reduce the weight of the pack or increase the price to cover the cost of the excess packaging. In the meantime it is costing the earth and increasing the amount of plastic boxes going to landfill.