Monthly Archives: December 2013

History and Nature of North America


Over the last few months we’ve watched loads of DVDs and read lots of books and articles about America and there are two DVDs I want to tell you about because they are simply brilliant.

The first, North America, is a nature programme about… You guessed it, North America. I’m going to make a statement about this program and I hope you can appreciate the gravity of it: I think this is the best nature program I have ever seen.

I am a BIG Attenborough fan and have watched a vast amount of other nature programmes by numerous producers from around the world and this one really is something special. You don’t have to have a particular interest in America to appreciate this programme. The filming is mind blowing, the narration is deliciously captivating and the whole experience is breath taking, thought provoking and enriching.

Since buying this back in August we have watched it over and over, when the disks are knackered I’ll buy another copy.

The second series is America: The Story of the US. We’ve only just finished this series and its not something we watched with the children, perhaps slightly older children would be okay, 10+ I’d say.

It’s concise and speedy but the history of America is not a long one so they have been able to cover a surprising amount in the 9 ¼ hours of this box set. From the first settlers to beyond the millennium this series provides an insight into the American people and culture which certainly Rob and I had been totally unaware of before…. It all makes sense now! The stereotypes, which lets face it are generally well earned are given clear and incredibly respectable roots! Indirectly it explains the American love of guns, apocalypse planning, obsession with freedom, fear of communism, reaction to terrorism, entrepreneurial culture, consumerism and disregard for global warming. And it makes all of those things look utterly reasonable!

The one element of American history not made to look in anyway reasonable is the racial division. This aspect of the programme at times makes for uncomfortable viewing and it was frequently paused for speculation and discussion. Neither of us have significant experience of racial division and honestly find the concept of racism hard to grasp in this day and age and I worry that I will not be able to sufficiently teach our children the importance of eliminating racism from the world. British parents and teachers can explain why Hitler was so evil and it’s easy because it wasn’t us… It was them. Slavery and segregation on the other hand are a little harder to approach… Why? Because it was us! In the same way they don’t do too much about the war in German schools and I doubt they teach about Pearl Harbour in Japan, white children across the globe are not being sufficiently taught about our previous atrocities.

This, brilliantly made, programme addresses it… And does it well. If you want a brief overview so you can teach your own children about acceptance and tolerance then this is a good place to start with an easy to digest overview of American history. It will challenge your own, (possibly sightly racist?) view of Americans people too and give you an insight into the world’s super power.



It’s a matter of weeks now until we go. Excitement is mixed with nerves. Ruthless clearing is mixed with emotion as my hoarding tendencies are tamed.

I’ve reduced my clothes to just a couple of draws and packed away photos, books and toys. The sheep are sold and we are getting on with selling our cars.

A big map of America now spans our largest plain wall and we have blobs of blue tac dotted across it marking our “must see” locations, which is increasing constantly the more we learn about the history and geology of America.

Christmas presents are all travel related with a focus on home education, photography and suitable clothing.

We’re getting essential dental work done, eye tests up to date and sorting out the death watch beetle infestation in the house….

It’s liberating to be getting it all sorted but it’s emotional too, and a little nerve racking… What if we don’t like it, what if something goes wrong or someone gets sick or injured, or we struggle to keep to our tight daily budget or the kids turn feral and we ruin their educational potential, or something at home goes wrong, a sick relative or a house fire, what if our marriage struggles without any space, what if we get really fat from junk food and no exercise or there’s an apocalypse while we are there…. What if, what if, what if?

Well, I guess any of those things we just wake up the next day and deal with…

Alfie’s Knife Safety Instructions


Bout yor lbaoz on yor neez.doant mes a rwond wiv a nighf.

Our five year old, Alfie, came home from school today and announced he needed to use the computer. After much confusion over what he wanted to do on it, on account of him not really having a clue what a computer does, we established that he wanted to type something. So I set him up on my laptop, showed him the space bar and delete button and then shut myself in another room with the younger two so he could get on with it.

He wanted to type up instructions on safe use of a bushcraft knife for other children.

Translated, the above screen shot reads “Put your elbows on your knees. Don’t mess around with a knife.”

He wanted to also add, “always have your first aid kit and hold the knife properly” but alas, what you see took him about an hour and fifteen minutes so he’ll have to add the rest over the weekend.

Excited? Just slightly!


We collected our passports complete with visa’s for 6 months in America today. We had to pick them up from a DX depot in Plymouth. The woman who returned our passports to us happened to have travelled extensively across America doing exactly the sorts of things we plan to do! She was so enthusiastic in her passion for the States and painted such an incredible picture of all the amazing experiences we will have that we were stood at her little window for quite some time. We listened to stories of up close encounters with killer whales on the West Coast and of bears in Yellow Stone, about how incredible witnessing Old Faithful will be for our children and how New York in winter is simply perfect. “Golden eagles are like starling there… simply everywhere!”. We left beaming and chattering excitedly about all she had said.

Plymouth beaconed for a bit of Christmas shopping which couldn’t be done online (and a trip to Yo Sushi without the kids of course). Our main ports of call were the various outdoor shops because, lets face it, our kids are getting travel related practical items almost exclusively this Christmas. Well the whole experience of buying head torches and base layers got us even more excited so to meet yet another America enthusiast was pushing us over the edge!

A sales chap in Cotswold Outdoor store happened to be from California and had a fairly full on passion for travel and adventure… he was soon describing the routes we should take to transverse the States to see all the things we want and must see. He was giving us tips on the local foods to try in various small towns we mustn’t miss and how much money we need to be allowing for entry to the various national parks. He went on with tips for crossing the Canadian border and making sure we have our itinerary planned well. He got out maps from books on sale in the store and showed us various options for fitting everything in… it was amazing!

On returning home in time for the school run we had it confirmed that we have a private buyer for our sheep – thus avoiding the horrific experience of a brutal livestock market again. And with Rob’s parents coming this weekend we can get some serious packing done.

It’s just 8 weeks until we leave Cornwall and boy are we excited!