brave enough to start

family of five who can, should and definitely will, see more of the world


Our Inspiration

When I originally set up this blog I used the “Who, What, When, Where, Why?” headings as the main menu but I thought it might be time now to say something about the “How?”  How did we go from being a conventional nine to five kind of a family to one that has decided to try something a bit different, instead of just dreaming about it?

I can trace the light bulb moment back to that original conversation Teddy and I had in 2013 (which is described in the opening entry to this blog) but there were at least 3 outside influences that, with hindsight, I can now see were key in taking that conversation from a dream to a reality, and I share them with you now:

Anne and Tom Andrus may not have been the first couple to travel the world with their children but, for many people, theirs is the original family year out blog.  The Andrus family took their daughter and three sons travelling in August 2006 and their blog chronicles their preparation, adventures and post trip thoughts and experiences.  They shared their goals for the trip, how they went about educating 4 kids all at different ages and how the trip changed them all and tightened their bonds as a family. When they returned they continued to grow and share the lessons they learned through travel and then, tragically, in 2010 Anne was diagnosed with cancer and very sadly passed away in 2012. Naturally her family were bereft and, understandably kept their grief private for the most part, but what they did share was how enormously thankful they were for making the most of the time they had with Anne – for taking that trip of a lifetime and seizing every possible opportunity whilst they could. Tom also noted how comforting it was to have her blog to look back at; to be able to read Anne’s story through her own words.  For me, although sad, their story is uplifting – none of us knows how long we have got, so let’s live whilst we have the chance.

Next, the Sullivan family – I have known Tania since I was pregnant with John and watched as she and her husband Mike have raised their children, grown their business and made the most of the opportunities that life has presented.  In April 2013 Tania and Mike set off, with ten of their children, on a nine week tour of Europe. What I love about Tania’s blog is that it doesn’t present a rose tinted version of family life; there were times when things did not go as anticipated and when it seemed that disaster was around the corner, but that didn’t stop them! Real life is like that – things don’t always go to plan, no matter how carefully we prepare and being able to overcome those unexpected challenges brings enormous rewards.  You can read about their adventures here.

Finally, Vashti Whitfield, the widow of the great Spartacus actor Andy Whitfield, is another inspirational writer. Her blog, Maybe McQueen, began as an homage to her husband as she learned to live with her grief and find her way in the world again.  At times, her posts are heartbreakingly honest and yet her willingness to be so open about her experience has led to the creation of an amazing worldwide community of people looking to make the most of the opportunities before them.  Vashti is a life coach and has a gift for helping others to really look at what they want from life and find ways to make those dreams a reality. Her website is offline while being upgraded at the time of writing but is well worth a visit once the upgrade is complete.  Eventually you will find her at

There are inspirational people everywhere; people who seem to be able to connect with us in a way that helps us see what we want for our own journeys.  Those quoted above are not celebrities or millionaires – they are ordinary people like you or I; ordinary people who have decided to live life fully and in doing so they have inspired my family to do the same.  If you have time to read their blogs, maybe they will do the same for you!

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Rules or guidelines?

Yesterday I finally got around to organising new passport photographs for John.  I’ve been putting it off for various reasons, the main one being that the rules around what is and isn’t acceptable in a child’s passport photograph are beyond exasperating.  I’m instinctively suspicious of rules, particularly if I think the rules are stupid and these ones strike me as the very definition of asinine.  The picture we used for John’s first passport, 10 years ago was taken when he was a couple of hours old.  That same picture would probably be rejected today because a small amount of blanket is covering his cheek.  I just can’t, on any level, get my head around that.  I mean, look at it – I’m his mother and I couldn’t swear to that picture being the same child as the one in his passport five years later!  To be brutally honest, I doubt it would be obvious to most people looking at it that the baby in the first picture is definitely a boy.  He travelled extensively between the ages of 1 and 5, all the time with that picture on his passport. And we are worried about the blanket.

Britain is not alone in this madness, I checked a few other passport agencies and many other countries have similar requirements.  Some go even further requiring that newborns have their eyes open for example, for passports in Australia or New Zealand.  Why?  All three of my kids have different colour eyes today than the colour they were born with, so why is it essential for the passport officer to be able to see the eyes of the baby in their passport photograph – is it to prove that they have eyes?!

By the time John’s first passport needed renewing, the rules about a neutral expression had come into being.  You try telling a five year old not to smile right before they have their picture taken and this is what happens – far from a natural or even neutral expression, what you get looks more like a boy in the throws of a stroke as the muscles on one half of his face conform to the rules better than those on the other!

So off we went yesterday to get the new mugshots, except ironically you can actually smile for a criminal mugshot if you so choose, it’s just the passport agency that requires you to look miserable.  Apparently, it is because the facial recognition software used in keeping us all secure in the airports works better if you are not smiling in your photograph. Seriously. So to clarify that, we must show our eyes but we must not show our teeth.

You couldn’t make it up.


Marching on.

Rather unexpectedly I find myself in the middle of my first week off since Christmas, although to call it a “week off” is probably a bit strong; I mean I’m hardly sat on a beach with a Martini am I?  I’m still running round like the proverbial decapitated domestic fowl, I’m just not out teaching every evening, for a change.  It wasn’t planned that way, but all 4 antenatal sessions that I had pencilled in for this week have strangely been cancelled and apparently there has been some unexpected dip in the number of pregnancies conceived last Summer. So perhaps we can blame (or thank, depending upon how you look at it) Wayne Rooney and his colleagues for the unexpected hiatus? I guess if England had progressed a little further in the tournament I might be rushed off my feet now.  Not to worry, we are assured that the birthrate will peak at the end of the year following the film adaptation of EL James’ literary efforts.

Actually, the timing has been great – Spring seems to be doing its thing; the evenings are lighter and the sun has even made the odd appearance, so Alex and I headed off to the farm last week and were treated to the one day old lambs. Obviously I mean to look at, not to eat!  The boys have been able to go out and enjoy their bikes again and we even squeezed in a visit to Stonehenge at the weekend, to celebrate the passing of another year. It had been more than 30 years since my last visit and a lot has changed since then.

The new visitor centre includes a series of neolithic houses, staffed by English Heritage volunteers who chatted to the boys about how people might have lived in similar dwellings four and a half thousand years ago.  There is also a giant replica sarsen stone set up on a wooden trailer that can be pulled to give you an idea of the effort required to move the stones.  One theory is that the stones were moved by human effort, some from as far as Pembrokeshire, so this hands on exhibit gave the kids a real understanding of just what an immense job that must have been.

A bus now takes tourists from the visitor centre to the stones themselves and an audio guide is available to help explain what you are looking at.  I opted for the kids’ version and the three boys and I listened to tales of bloodshed and human endeavour, although John complained pretty quickly that the kids’ version was much too babyish for him.  All in all it was a fascinating couple of hours though and, mercifully, the rain held off until we were on our way out.

Looking forward, we are finalising details of a road trip to Germany at the end of May to see some friends we try to meet up with every Spring.  The idea is that it will be a good test of how the kids cope with long drives and how we, their parents, cope with the inevitable arguing and boredom in the car.  If there are no posts after May this year, you’ll know the outcome was not what we hoped!

As we approach the middle of March, and the halfway point of our planning, I’m trying not to feel overwhelmed with everything that is still to be done but instead to take one step at a time. I’m hoping that over the next 6 months I’ll find the time to be a bit more dedicated to the blog and with just 15 posts over the last 6 months, I don’t think I’m being wildly ambitious!

We’ll see.