The Midland Hotel, Morecambe

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I live in Harrogate – pretty much a 1.5 drive either east or west to our nearest beach. I was watching the weather forecast on a dreary Bank Holiday, and my husband noticed a patch of clear sky over the far North West. Like the a bizarre reverse version of Storm Chasers We found ourselves parking up for our first ever trip to Morecambe just over two hours later.

The first thing we noticed (apart from a dazzling blue sky – hurrah!) was something that looked like a giant tube of Polo Mints, stood at the side of the road. It had a real macabre, Willy Wonka-meets-Soviet thing going on about it, quite unsettling really. We noticed too the remnants of rickety fairground rides, literally rotting away in the middle of the road.

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We learn that what we are looking at, are the bones of Frontierland, a theme park that closed down in 2000. The giant ‘Polo Tower’ is part of an old ride, but it has a communication mast on top of it and so has to stay. Locals say that it creaks and whistles in the night; the stuff of nightmares!

Strolling along the promenade from south to north, we pass bedsits, B&Bs, council parks and beautiful yet abandoned Victorian detail. The sea air felt weighty with neglect, a familiar feeling experienced at many English seaside holiday towns.

“Daddy. You said we are at the seaside” Asher states, wrinkling his nose. Andrew looks down and nods enthusiastically.

“Well where is the sea?”

At low tide, the sea goes out beyond a visible point, leaving the silty plains that once tragically claimed a number of Chinese cockle pickers. Andrew muttered something about the sea going out for its lunch and we continued to wander along.

A good friend and fellow blogger recommended that we check out The Midland hotel on Morecambe seafront. This original Art Deco building has been restored to full glory and given a cool, modern twist. It looks incongruous with its dilapidated surroundings, as though it’s been dumped by a time machine in completely the wrong time and place.

Rumour has it that afternoon tea is fantastic here, but with a rowdy three year old, we just didn’t want to ruin people’s gentile experiences. Instead, we visited the hotel’s Ravilious Rotunda bar – a flamboyant and quirky annexe.

I felt my shoulders loosen as I sunk into berry-coloured booth — much to Asher’s horror, who decided it was too much like The Mouth entrance at The Forbidden Corner. After much cajoling and the luxury biscuit from my pot of tea, we convinced him to sit down.

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The menu highlight looked to be the range of Lancashire Tapas. Andrew ordered the fish board, featuring Port of Lancaster smoked salmon, local shrimp, cockles and a mackerel pâté. It was tasty but a little sparse, In comparison to my monstrous gourmet burger (ask for it with Garstang Blue cheese for a knockout twist).

By the time we’d summoned the willpower to leave our nest, the sun was setting and we realised we had a long drive home. We returned back down the prom, knowing we’d skipped some of Morecambe’s prettier areas and of course, the famous Eric statue. Maybe next time there’s a freak heatwave along the west coast we’ll come back to see it all, but for the time being we prepared to head back into the rain.

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A Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell (and why I love Scandinavia a little bit more each year)

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Over the last ten years or so, I’ve become a mild Scandophile. A chance meeting with a wonderfully upbeat and hilarious group of Danes at a music festival in Spain set me off on my northern trajectory, followed later on that year by a few days in Reykjavik, Iceland’s intriguing capital. Then one of my friends from the hottest part of Spain moved to be a rock musician in Helsinki. I hope he packed a jumper.

I went to Helsinki once, on a day trip from Tallinn. After almost losing my innards on the choppiest ferry across the Gulf of Finland (“only mild chance of iceberg today”, the stewardess said cheerily, ripping bin liners off a roll to give to the green-looking passengers). It was too cold to really appreciate the full beauty of the city, but I did enjoy a slick coffee shop run by women with beautiful alabaster hair. There’s also the most comprehensive tram system that ran through most of the main tourist sights. I remember that me and my Mum didn’t know how to pay, and so we didn’t. Sorry, Finnish Gov.

Despite my visit to Reykjavik being in the middle of November, limiting daylight to perhaps 3 hours per day (another budget deal compromise), I was fascinated by the Icelandic people and their laconic, creative culture. How do these people have such an awesome outlook, when their sunlight rations are so insanely skewed throughout the year?

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A proper Geysir I met in Iceland (dormant here, but when he blew up, he had a right attitude)

Scandinavia has produced brilliant things, like the concept of Smörgåsbord, Ace of Base, saunas, Robyn, very healthy tall people and Alphabeat (you’re welcome). What’s not to love?

Helen Russell’s story of her first year living ‘Danishly’ resonated with me on a couple of levels. Like myself, Helen quit her media-darling job so that her partner could flourish in a career that he had wanted since boyhood. Whilst my location was ever-so-slightly milder, being just 90 miles from ‘home’ and to a charming semi-rural location, Russell really went the whole hog. She moved to rural Jutland in Denmark to allow her husband (AKA Lego Man), to fulfil a years’ contract working at Lego HQ.

‘A Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country’ is a full 12-month account of Russell’s first year. She frankly captures her thoughts and feelings towards leaving her hectic life behind and the couple’s (then) struggle with starting a family amidst professional chaos.

There are snegles and other delightful types of Danish pastries, chance encounters upon ‘couples night’ at the local swimming baths (big, awkward yes to heavy petting in the deep end) and making the first tentative steps towards friendships – all in a remote and fairly bleak area that is definitely not Copenhagen.

I really enjoyed learning about the Danish concept of hygge – or ‘cosy domestic contentment’. It’s kind of like nesting during pregnancy, but throughout every incredibly long, Danish winter.

Image credit: 'ScandiBitch' @tine_weis
Image credit: ‘ScandiBitch’ @tine_weis

I realised that I tend to hygge it up a bit in winter, craving scatter cushions, chunky knit scarves, making endless batches of stew and soup and stomping around in heavy-duty farm boots. It’s a single word that encapsulates so much about what life should be, especially if you live half your life in darkness and the other half in near-endless sunlight.

So did Denmark become a permanent home for fast-paced city girl? Did she and Lego Man start a family? Read the book, get hygge with it and try to turn a blind eye to the old men gardening in their socks and pants.

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Walking at Thruscross Reservoir

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It’s springtime at last, and so I decided that as it’s Mother’s Day and I can be really demanding and diva-ish… that we go for a long-ish walk and get some exercise.

We love Fewston, which is not too far from our house. We have however tried on a number of occasions to get over to Thruscross, out past Pateley Bridge, only to be thwarted by lots of rain or random snow blizzards.

Walking Britain cites Thruscross as ‘easy’, but to a family carrying a winter of flubber and a toddler, I have to say it was pretty tough going! Tough but worth it – it’s such a varied walk with striking scenery – even on a cold and hazy day like today.

I’m no wizard with my camera, so photography pedants out there don’t shout at me, but below is a selection of images from today’s little adventure:

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