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Why my kids and lavender don’t mix

Four years ago we went along to what was then a bit of a local novelty, a lavender field open day. Back then it was quite a low key affair, you parked in the farmer’s yard and wandered down to the field at your leisure. Theo was nearly two at the time and famously did not think much of being lead into a field of flowers for a photo opportunity. One of the photos I took of him went on to appear in a Pinterest “taming tantrums” advert and has caused quite a bit of amusement in the years since.

Theo in the lavender fields

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Interviews with Stagecoach Theatre school parents

When Theo was asked to be a Stagecoach blogging ambassador last year, one of the things I was concerned about was that we may find ourselves surrounded by competitive showbiz parents. In fact six months down the line I’m surprised but I’ve not met any people who fit the stereotype of stage school parents.


In fact if anything I rather wish I’d had a chance to get to know the adults a little better, we all tend to run in and out at drop off and collection time and never get a chance to exchange more than a smile or a brief hello. It would be good to find some parents who are local to us so perhaps we could do some lift sharing. When Jim is away at weekends, I have to do the drop off during Alice’s lunchtime sleep which means I’ve had to call in a few favours from friends and neighbours to get them to sit in the house while I nip up the road.

But anyway, having not met many of the parents I was quite curious to talk to some of them on camera about their experience. I also had a chance to speak with one of the young teachers who started out as a pupil and confessed to me that she “still needs to work on her confidence”. When you see her on camera I think you’ll agree she is the model of modest confidence and a great advert for the school!

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Chalk Paint Workshop in Birdham

Chalk Paint Workshop in Birdham

by Clare Mansell

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to take part in a chalk paint workshop at Russells Garden Centre in Birdham. Russells is situated on the main road into West Wittering from the A27 and has a very distinct blue and white beach hut exterior. I’ve been past it many times and wanted to pop in, but never quite managed it, so as well as the obvious lure of time spent with chalk paint, I was also really curious to see what’s behind those beach huts!


The workshops are free and part of a charitable drive that Russells have set up to upcycle donated furniture and sell it to raise money for the Sussex Snowdrop Trust. It’s a simple, but brilliant idea.

People who are new to chalk paint and nervous about trying it out at home get a chance to experience using it by painting donated furniture which then helps raise money to provide nursing care at home for seriously ill local children. The paint used in the workshops (which is also sold by Russells) is Everlong chalk paint which unusually includes a wax in its makeup.

I was quite surprised at how little I was given to paint a medium size coffee table (half a plastic cup!) but amazed that it actually did the job of providing a first coat for the furniture. I don’t think this is because Everlong goes further than other chalk paint brands, but rather that I’ve probably been using too much paint from any brand in the past. The key is to just dip the very tip of your brush into the paint and apply that to the surface. It is very tempting to just slather it on!


The five of us doing the upcycling all used “Cricket Pitch” which is a pale green colour. I confess it’s not a shade I would have picked myself, but it did look undeniably good on the finished pieces of furniture.

Although I had to rush off quite promptly from the workshop (Alice’s lunchtime!) I did manage a whirlwind tour of the the centre and as well as the furniture outlet Russells have some really lovely pieces, including a whole section of coastal inspired interiors and some beautiful bits of colourful Indian furniture.

So if you live around Chichester and have yet to try out chalk paint, why not pop into Russells for one of their workshops and try it out for yourself. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for their next dates.

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Haslemere Classic Car Show & Tour

Last spring we bought a 1969 Morris Minor Traveller as our second car. As well as being exceptionally cheap to run and reliable, she’s also introduced us to the world of classic car tours and shows. Last summer we dipped our toe into the water with one show in Chichester and a day at the Goodwood Revival and this summer we’re intending to do a few more, the first of which was the Haslemere Classic Car show which took place this weekend.

dressed for the era for teh Haslemere Classic Car Show

The format for the day was to meet the other hundred odd cars taking part at 9am, then head off for a tour round the countryside (destination unknown till you collect the instructions on the day) including a pit stop for coffee, returning to the start for the car show in the afternoon.

In keeping with the classic style of motoring you have a passenger (me!) to play the role of navigator following the ‘Tulip’ style instructions for the route and clocking the miles along the way. In theory you are following the rest of the group, but you can’t rely on keeping them in sight at all times, in fact we managed to lose almost everyone on the way back!

Along the way you generally get a lovely reception from people who suddenly find they have a stream of classics passing their front door and the occasional bad tempered driver who finds he has a stream of classics all going one way past him down a country lane, fortunately the former normally outnumber the latter several times over!

hccs_7Robyns Nest Travelling Tea Shophccs_8hccs_20_1600hccs_16hccs_11haslemre classic car show and tourhccs_18

For Sunday’s trip we decided to dress era appropriate as we planned to enter the Best Dressed Driver and Car category, something we sadly didn’t manage as by the time we returned all the spaces were taken. Nonetheless we still had a great day, with a lovely stop for coffee in the sunshine at the Goodwood motor circuit and a chance to see a stunning selection of retro motors.

As I’m determined to make an effort to record more of our family days out, I also shot a vlog of the car tour which will give you a good idea of what it was like to take part, including being filmed by a drone and watching rollerskating on the Goodwood racetrack. It’s six minutes, but tightly edited so hopefully an enjoyable watch. If you like it please do subscribe to my youtube channel to see more videos when I upload them…

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handprinted screenprinting course in west sussex

Screenprinting workshop

by Clare Mansell

Screenprinting is one of those things I have wanted to learn to do for ages and when I say ages I literally mean years. But you know, life gets in the way and it seems hard to justify spending the money on doing something fun and just for yourself, so you keep putting it off… But at the beginning of this year I promised myself I would finally learn and dragged my sister along for the ride too.

Our course was held at Handprinted in Bognor Regis. It’s about half an hour’s drive from me, but not a part of the coast I’m at all familiar with. The classroom and shop is on an industrial estate just outside town which doesn’t sound terribly glamorous, but it does mean they have a big workspace upstairs and a large area downstairs for all the stock they carry.

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