24 November 2014

Is Integrity Dead?

The other day I was at my new favourite place of the moment, which is Tai Hair & Beaty in Hove, with my mind mulling over a couple of those problems which some might say are nice to have.

Both dilemmas were about loyalty and I was wondering if I'd done myself some sort of a disservice. In this instance - whether to have a massage and a facial with the voucher I'd been given or go for the haircut with a cut and colour option - it shouldn't really have been a biggie and keeping some obvious perspective required, it really wasn't.

But why did I choose to go for the beauty stuff when what I really wanted to go for was the hair stuff?  And why was I struggling with turning down an opportunity to attend an all expenses paid blogging event that others might have given their right arm for when I really didn't want to go?

Both of these issues came down to the same thing:  Integrity.

The lady who does my hair is funny and kind and comes to my home.  We have children the same age.  We drink tea and chat and she comforted me when my my Nana passed away.  I didn't want to offend her by going elsewhere for my treatment, but oh how I miss going to a salon, being made a cuppa, flicking through a magazine and instead of jumping up to get on with jobs whilst the dye is taking, just taking it easy instead, enjoying being somewhere bright and glamorous and generally being made a fuss of .

So I passed it up, convincing myself being indulged and pampered differently would be as much of a treat - and, naturally, it was.  They have their own revolutionary tea and coffee bar there anyhow and there are worse ways to spend a week-day morning.  All was obviously not lost and my conscience was clear, but when I mentioned it to her the next time I saw her, she told me I should have gone for what I really wanted.  Yet I never would have.

The other issue, the main one that comes to mind, was working with a big name brand to go to a massive event that I'd already decided not to attend.  Just because it was being paid for - ticket, hotel, travel - it didn't suddenly become more attractive to me when it didn't feel right in the first place.  I work with a couple of other companies in competition with this particular crew, but was feeling sort of obliged to accept the invitation because I knew so many others would have appreciated it. Yet I didn't.  And I kept it quiet.

What stunned me though, was that some of the people I confided in were really surprised that I should do that, saying how so many other people wouldn't do the same thing.

Call me old fashioned, but morals still matter to some of us and it's been bothering me a bit, making me wonder whether principles have become out of date.

Although recently, one of my very favourite films came on the telly and Bill Nighy ended up living his Happy Ever After at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India, having been awkwardly loyal for a very long time and I suddenly felt strangely vindicated!  (There's a sequel out next year which I am eagerly anticipating and hope it's as hilarious as the first one- do catch them if you can).

But I still wonder.... what would you do?  Do you think integrity is dead?








Disclosure: This is a collaborative post but all anxieties are my own obvs.

19 November 2014

Be Safe, Be Seen Campaign.

I don't know about you, but the words 'Children' and 'Funeralcare' in near enough the same sentence gives me the Heebie Jeebies - to the extent that they almost put me off writing this post.  But then I realised that's why it had to be done, because, thank the Lord, in this instance, it's for all the right reasons.




Now that the clocks have gone back The Co-operative Funeralcare have launched their national Be Safe, Be Seen campaign.  They work with primary schools all over the country, donating yellow high visibility reflective pin-badges designed to keep young children safe when the dark nights arrive.

This is what they say - “Over the past 5 years we have given out over 160,000 badges to 1,500 schools and youth groups. We also deliver school assemblies or lessons about road safety prepared by road safety charity Brake for children between the ages of 3 and 7 years.”

I'm always nagging my kids about being careful of driveways when they're running or scooting off and how careful and clever we have to be regarding traffic while we're out and about, so welcome any oppotunity to raise their awareness about road safety.  Experience has shown these activities with schools are successful and they've released this 'brilliant' (according to my boys) video which spells out great points in a language that has hopefully had an impact bigger than my unladylike bellowing at them.  




I don't know why they need to be convinced by computerised images, but, let's face it, most children respond to them and anything that reinforces how important it is to think more about how to be safe and be seen can only do good.  

Here are the some of the tips covered, but I really recommend roping the youngsters in for a watch which wasn't even wasted on my nine year old!     

  • Look out for and encourage your children to be aware of hidden entrances or driveways when crossing pavements.
  • Make sure your children walk on the side of pavements away from the traffic.
  • When crossing the road your child should always choose a safe place and time to cross. It’s always safer to cross at a pedestrian or patrolled crossing.
  • Avoid crossing between parked cars as drivers won’t be able to see children who do this very well.
  • It’s important to stop at the kerb, look both ways and listen to traffic before crossing. Pedestrian crossings can still be dangerous if care is not taken.
  • All pedestrians should wait on the pavement until all the traffic from both directions has stopped as this is the safest time to cross. Islands are often provided in the middle of the road, so children should treat each half as a separate crossing.
  • Children should avoid playing near busy roads as they can often forget their surroundings and become unaware of the dangers on the road.
You can read more about the Be Safe, Be Seen campaign and order free badges for your childrens' and other local schools on their site - HERE or, as we did, pop into your local  Co-op Funeralcare branch and organize them from there.  Plus, if you would like to add your support via @CoopFuneralcare and / or @TheCooperative, that would be appreciated.  

Let's keep the words 'Children' and 'Funeralcare' in near enough the same sentence for all the right reasons.  

Thank you. 

 
  This is a Netmum's sponsored review.To find out more click the button:

Official Disclosure - I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team to review products and brands on their behalf. I may have been paid expenses and have been supplied with a product sample for this review, but retain all editorial control. All my Netmums Reviews will display the Netmums logo within the post.

17 November 2014

A Conversation with my Five Year Old.

I love conversations with little children, especially those they have between them and when they're five years old, but this one was just my youngest and me when we were in my bed the other morning.


Him: 'Mummy, I want to grow a moustache.'

Me: 'Ah, that's lovely darling! What kind?'


Him: 'Not one like this' - he formed the shape of a Hitler style one across his upper lip.


Me: 'Phew. OK. Brilliant. What like then?'


He took two hands and elaborately drew, from the centre of his upper lip, an imaginary long and glorious moustache with big curls up at the end each side. 'Like this,' he said proudly.

Me: 'Wow! You should be able to manage that in about, er, ten years time..... but it looks great!'

Him: 'And then I want a beard.'

Me: 'Oooh, lovely. One like this?' Taking his two handed cue, I mimicked a very long, magnificent one.

Him: Horrified. 'Nooooo. I don't want one like Father Christmas! I want one of those little triangle ones.' And he showed me a very small, delicate little thing off the end of his chin.

Me: A goatee beard?

Him: 'Yes!'  

Me. Surprised (and a tad disappointed if I'm honest): 'Fabulous darling. Why do you want one of those?'

Him: 'Because they look awesome. And the Master has one in Power Rangers and they're really cool.'

Me:  'You dont' fancy a Gary Barlow type one? That's what I call a nice beard.'

Him:  'But he's about 50!'

A thoughtful pause.

Him:  'Mummy, I want a baby.'


What kind of convos do you have with your kids?

5 November 2014

The Best Loyalty Card Schemes Designed To Save You Pounds.

One of my friends uses one of her loyalty cards to amass points all the time and she has jetted off all over the world with it.  I'm not that organized.  Others swear by the discounts they get with theirs at shops they use regularly, so when NatWest Bank said they wanted to share information about their new cashback scheme with their contactless credit card, I figured it was time to start paying attention. 
Here, they give an impressive round up of the other loyalty schemes around too - some of which are more familiar than others - who does what, where and when and I hope you find it as useful as I have!
Guest Post:
If you’re trying to save your cold hard cash, then you’ve probably already started cutting back on eating out, stopped buying clothes (or at least those with the flashy brand markings), and started collecting money saving vouchers.
Another effective way of saving money is by using a loyalty card scheme. These reward customers for purchasing goods from their store, encouraging them to return, benefiting both the consumer and the retailer.
The increase in demand for loyalty schemes has meant that most British retailers now operate this system, and many of us find our wallets bulging with numerous unused loyalty cards. Millions of those who do carry loyalty cards around in their wallets often forget to claim their points and many don’t notice what the offers are.
If you’re looking to reduce the number of unused, plastic cards in your wallet, it’s important to think about which scheme(s) will benefit you the most. Be selective about which card(s) you choose to put in your wallet and be sure to marry up the right loyalty scheme with the kind of shopping you do. This will ensure you get something worthwhile back for your custom, and eradicate the temptation to overspend at the store just because you want to boost your points.
Here we take a look at some of the biggest loyalty schemes, which may help you decide which reward scheme is best for you.

Sainsburys – Nectar Card
One of the biggest loyalty card schemes in the country, Sainbury’s Nectar Card rewards consumers two points on every £1 you spend. These points can be collected from a wide range of everyday purchases as well as petrol, holidays and household bills including British Gas and eBay. By shopping online via Nectar e-shops, a customer can collect points for over 500 brands including Apple. Sometimes, Sainsburys will advertise offers where you can collect double points for specific items.

Tesco – ClubCard
With over 16 million users, Tesco’s ClubCard scheme is hugely popular with UK consumers, who can collect 1 point for every £1 they spend. Every three months, the points are added up and Clubcard vouchers are printed for the consumer. Each point is worth a penny, and can also be used for petrol at Esso petrol stations. Not only are you able to spend your points in any of the large Tesco or Esso stores, but the points can be used in one of Tesco’s many partner restaurants, pubs or attractions, including Ask and CafĂ© Rouge and cinema tickets.

Boots
Boots is one of the largest and most popular loyalty scheme provides in the UK, with almost 18 million active members. The scheme offers 4 points per £1 spent, as well as discount offers and extra points earned on specific items. The in-store kiosk provides the customer information on current offers which can be printed and used with their advantage card. Regular shoppers at boots can quickly earn a large sum of points which many choose to spend on gifts at Christmas.

NatWest – CashBack Plus Credit Card
The Cashback Plus scheme rewards customers for spending using their NatWest contactless credit card. Customers can earn 1% cashback on purchases made at participating retailers as well as on supermarket shopping and all contactless payments for a limited amount of time. So, if you spend £100, you will earn £1 cashback. There are three ways in which you can redeem your rewards which includes having the money transferred to your bank account, you can trade the rewards for gift cards or vouchers of a higher value at certain retailers, or you can donate it to a chosen charity.
Morrisons – Morrison Miles

Morrisons provide their loyal customers a Morrison Miles fuel card, which enables you to collect 10 points for every litre of fuel you buy from them. If the customer collects 5,000 points, they will receive a £5 discount voucher for in-store purchases. That’s 500 litres for each £5, which might sound like a lot, but you get through it in no time – especially if you’re a commuter.


Avios

Avios provides customers with a reward programs that lets you collect points from every day shopping such as buying groceries from Tesco or petrol at Shell, as well as via the Aviod eStore which includes over 200 online brands. These points can then be redeemed to spend on flights, hotels, day trips, car hire and even discounts on the Eurostar.
Other loyalty card schemes worth considering if they are shops you regularly spend at:

Debenhams Beauty Club - Earn 3 points for every £1 spent in store and online, and other rewards.

Costa - Earn 5 points per £1 with each point worth up to 1p to spend in Costa.

Holland & Barrett - Earn 4 points for every £1 you spend and get coupons to spend in store and online.

Superdrug Beauty Card - Earn 1 point for every £1 you spend. Each point is worth 1p. points are valid for two years only and can only be used with Superdrug.

Marks & Spencer – Provide their own-brand credit cards which give vouchers in return for spending (but they do not issue separate loyalty cards).

Disclosure - This is a collaborative post in association with NatWest Bank.

3 November 2014

Win Tickets to Mumsnet Blogfest.

I'm not going to Mumsnet Blogfest this year, but am delighted to be able to offer my lovely readers the chance to win a pair of tickets so you can!  

This giveaway is courtesy of Coca Cola and comes with an invitation to go along to their stand at the event to sample the new Coca-Cola Life.  It's their first lower-calorie cola sweetened from natural sources, made with a blend of sugar and stevia leaf extract, and contains a third less sugar and a third fewer calories than Coca‑Cola.

Also, their Director of Science, Fiona Angus, will be on hand to discuss Coca Cola's latest news including their commitment to provide choice, investment in innovation and encouraging active lifestyles, plus there's a chance to win some special prizes too.

But first, you have to get there!  Please enter the Rafflecopter competition below.  It's only on for a couple of days, seeing as the conference is this Saturday, 8th November, so you'd better get your skates on if you fancy a go.  The tickets will be emailed to the winner.  


a Rafflecopter giveaway

21 October 2014

The Pluses and Minuses of our Mark Warner Holiday in Lemnos.

The general consensus of Mark Warner Holidays is that they're hard to fault.  They're famous for their facilities, food and fun factor, whether waterskiing or windsurfing, sailing or skiing.  Not to mention their top quality, comprehensive childcare, enabling all parties to partake.

In my previous post I talked about travelling with them as a single parent and how they are making their holidays as inclusive as possible for us with their new Single Parent Weeks and waiving under occupancy wherever possible.  It's hard not to love them just for that and, having already been a fan of the company before having my children, it's easy to be a bit blase about their standards, but once you become a mum or dad, you look for different things.  So when we went to one of their summer resorts, Lemnos, recently I went in with new eyes and just taking a less specialised, more mainstream view, this is what we found:

THE PLUSES.

mark warner lemnos swimming pool1) Sports for All - OMG the pools are lush and the kids were in their element, but if you can tear yourselves away there's an enormous range of equipment to play on all for free - from small sail boats to a couple of Catamarans - Lasers, Picos, Kayaks, Hartleys and Bahias, plus windsurfers and supboards. You dont have to be qualified in anything or remotely experienced, as all the staff will willingly assist.  Tennis is also a main feature with several courts to use and all hire of them plus equipment is inlcuded in the cost of the holiday too. Social play is encouraged and the courts are floodlit in the evenings for those who find it too hot during the day.  Alternatively, there are guided mountain bike rides or hire of them for adults, a range of fitness classes inlcuding Zumba and daily Aqua Aerobics, table tennis tables, sunset walks, water polo and volleyball games, also all for absolutely free.  There were plenty of people simply sunbathing though!

2)  Kids Clubs / Indy Clubs. Children can be cared for from age four months to 17, payable up to age two years, but otherwise half a day is free up to age six, or all day for age seven plus.  Indy Clubs run for the teens and pre-booking is probably a must to be sure of places in each of them.  They are entertained with indoor and outdoor games and sports and each other for as long or as much or little as you (or they!) wish. The age ranges are narrow so they are with their peers.  The staff / child ratio is high and (outside of meal times) these clubs continue into the evenings until 11pm at no extra charge or you can pay for private babysitting according to availability.  Each day they get to try their hands at sailing, windsurfing or kayaking, with free teaching according to their ability and age and it's great to see them coming and going around the resort.

3)  Tuition. With prices from a fully inclusive £420pp for a week, you might accidentally find yourself on one of these holidays and not necessarily have a passion for sports.  You might not even go home with one, but there are introductory and improver courses within the cost of it, so it doesn't hurt to give them a go! All of the resorts also offer a full range of (payable) RYA (Royal Yachting Association) training and certifiable courses for the ambitious or more regular visitor and there is (payable) personal or group tennis coaching on site too.

mark warner lemnos sailing

4)  The Food.  Almost everything is locally sourced and it's all fresh and seasonal.  Apparently, you'll never see a Greek person eat something that isn't!  There are four meals catered each day, including a High Tea for children at 5.30pm, so they can be settled for their evening movies option.  A light red and white (also locally produced) wine is served with lunch and dinner and everything is presented sumptuously but buffet style. The variety is generous - traditional Greek, Italian pastas, European cakes and pastries, fruits, and cheeses, plus copious hot meat, fish and vegetable dishes - all great Hotel standard.  The coffee is good, dinner on the terrace overlooking the bay is hard to beat and a big bonus for those of us who are always driving is that while we're there we never, ever are, so we can truly relax!

mark warner lemnos food


5)  Safety and Security.  There is visible paramounce given to both these matters with a strict Flag and Tag system in practice on the beach and a safety boat is always out to sea with two others on stand by, a permanent 'Spotter' keeping check on all the action with binoculars and kit counts every few minutes.  Lemnos, is, after all, an island and the wind can be changeable.  The Kids Clubs employ their own personalised security systems and I had no qualms with leaving my children in either of them.

6)  The Staff.  These young and friendly experts in their fields go above and beyond the call of duty every day.  They seem to genuinely love what they do - whether it's on the beach or with the kids. They are / were managed by the extremely affable and gregarious George Virvilis who has been with Mark Warner for 18 years.  You can see him saying hello especially to you in the video below at the end of the post!

7) The Resort Itself.  This is a perfectly sized bay for what Mark Warner sets out to do.  It's safe and warm.  I met two families who said they were back for the second time in 2014 - which is pretty impressive seeing as they are only open for five months of the year!  Their general visitor return rate is exceptional - around 30% which speaks for itself.  The Hotel was recently refurbished and our suite, for one, (also featured on the video below) was beatfully set and spick and span - great to retreat to at the end of a busy day and with its own terrace to relax on too.

mark warner lemnos

  8)  Extras.  I learned to water-ski with Mark Warner years ago, when it was still incuded in the cost of the holiday, but there is now a charge of 21/17 Euros per adult/child for an individual go or a brilliantly priced 75/60 Euros for a development course of four.  This also applies to Wakeboarding and Kneeboarding if that's more your thing.  There are also taster sessions / certificable Scuba Diving (age 10+), Horse riding, Yoga and Pilates and family boat trips, like a Sunset Cruise. [There's also 'some of the best Kitesurfing in the world' in Keros, on the north of the island].

9)  The Entertainment.   There was a quiz one evening, a disco night and a live band at the end of the week. There are three (very reasonable) bars - the beach, the pool and the main one - where dinner is eaten each evening al fresco overlooking the sea.  60-70% visitors never leave the resort but I would recommend going off for a bit and exploring Minera, the capital - a traditional little village a short taxi ride away.  We enjoyed that but never got around to checking out the bar in a cave that the staff recommended.

10)  The Dress.  There are no swimsuits and sarongs at breakfast or lunch here (although if David Beckham wanted to turn up in one, no-one would mind ;) ).  It's not formal by any means, but respectful smart casual is the form.  Bare chests are rightly saved for the beach.  People tend to dress for dinner - discreetly, not blingy.     

11)  The Wi-Fi wasn't brilliant and I think this was a massive contributory factor in being able to totally switch off.

THE MINUSES

1) The Time Difference (two hours) makes getting up in time at the outset of the holiday to be at the important talks about what is avalable when and where a bit of a wrench and it's difficult to catch up. The late nights and early starts for the tuition in the Kids Clubs took their toll but allowing both the boys a couple of lie ins and let outs helped.  

2) The Pools - The big one is 1.4m throughout - too deep for the little one who couldn't really swim. He learned to get about  a lot better in it while we were there but, despite the presence of a lifeguard, I didn't dare leave his side for a second.  As much as he and his brother loved playing in the smaller pool, he would terrorise any timid toddlers in it, so we were a bit in limbo - he'd have to vacate that one but wasn't quite ready for the other one.

mark warner lemnos pool



3) Mountain Bikes are not available to hire for children.  Lots of us felt this was a shame.

4) The Kids Clubs - Both of my children were at the top end of their age range in their clubs and claimed to be a bit bored.  I think they just wanted to be in the pools or sea to be honest, but I also think that because we were there right at the end of the summer holidays, they were less well attended than they normally would have been.  The five year old didn't want to be with pre-schoolers.  The nine year old didn't want to be with six year olds. Another resident's two boys refused to go at all as they would have been separated by age.  There were mumblings about more flexibility being preferred but not allowed.

5)  Tennis Tuition even in groups for kids, has to be paid for and it's early again - 8.30 am. Private lessons can be arranged at a more civilzed hour!  All casual play is free although, for some, it's serious - the holiday is more about tennis than anything else and they bring their whites.

6) The Food - *Horror of horrors,* there was no Kleftiko on the menu.  When I asked the Manager where it was, he told me that it's not traditional in that part of Greece - much more so the chicken or lamb and veal chops we'd been served - but noting my devastation at this real #firstworldproblem, he arranged for it to be on before we left and it was lovely.  I've been telling my kids about this famous Greek specialty all of their lives so this was a marvellous touch and quite typical of the extra mile that I found all the staff went.  Aside from the canapes at the Welcome and the Solo Traveller Drinks and Dinner not being anywhere near the same standard as the meals, some people complained that the buffets were a 'bit samey,' but I didn't mind this at all, because it meant not having to have a mish mash of meals on the same plate in order to try out all the different dishes!  I found it best to pick a theme and stick to it and try another theme another time.

mark warner lemnos food


7) Sex on the Beach - I was really disappointed to see this as the Cocktail of the Day, displayed proudly on all the blackboards by all the bars on the second day we were there.  It meant another difficult conversation with my nine year old - one I felt was completely unnecessary.  There's simply no call for it at a nice, middle class family resort and it, perhaps, belongs elsewhere.  There are plenty of others to choose from.

8) The Entertainment didn't start until 10pm which meant I didn't get to dance.  Many might say that is a good thing but it made me sad.  My kids needed to be in bed and out of everyone's way by then, but even if they'd been at their (annoyingly but understandably age-related separate) film screenings, I would then have been without my dancing partners.

9) The Wi-fi - if you really need it, then it can be incredibly frustrating to be confined to the lobby next to all the teenagers who want to play on their phones, but those who run the show in Lemnos, appreciating that it's a present day standard expectation, are in the process of getting it sorted for 2015.

CONCLUSIONS.

It's true, Mark Warner Holidays are very hard to fault and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely.  The break from our Foreign Language students, school runs, cooking and chores was awesome, but that could be said of any ordinary holiday.  I think what makes theirs unique though is the professional childcare for every age combined with the number of opportunities - for every level of ability - from novice to expert.  It's no wonder there are so many devotees.

Top tips - It's an idea to get a bit fit before you go and, despite there being a laundry service and a selection of toiletries replenished daily, it's advisable to pack plenty of Travelwash and to invest in decent hair and sun care products because you're all in and out of the water more than you might imagine.

We came home on a new footing and the feeling has remained with us all.  This video was made mainly to capture memories forged and to show you what our holiday was really like, but, be warned, it might tempt you to try one too!  

(You can also read my post about my fears of feeling #awkward travelling as a single mum to a family resort on the Mark Warner blog HERE.  It's called The Old Me vs. the New Me).




Disclosure - We were invited on this holiday to work with Mark Warner on their new Single Parent Weeks initiative.  I wasn't required to write anything specifically for my blog, but such was the goodwill engendered it only seems fair to share.  As usual, all words, opinions and pictures are our own, obvs.  

A Mark Warner Holiday as a Single Parent.

I mentioned recently that we'd been away on a holiday or two - one to Jersey and another to the Greek island of Lemnos.  Travelling with children is never a breeze, let alone as a lone parent and, frankly, after the first one, I wasn't sure if I could stomach the strain of a second.

Also, seeing as I was being asked to review a family resort, it gave rise to a huge potential for feeling #awkward, again travelling on my own with the kids.  But no matter how tough a job it seemed, someone had to do it ;). 

The reason behind Mark Warner's invitation to visit their Lemnos resort was to experience one of their holidays from a single parent perspective and to share what I found on their blog (as well as my own if I so wished) and their website and magazine that goes out to past bookers.  This is because they have begun a Single Parent Weeks initiative, during which they waive any under-occupancy for their rooms and the whole time is geared towards social activities with group lunches and dinners, excursions etc. 


mark warner lemnos beach
The view from our Hotel suite.
The first took place (in their Levante resort) at the end of September, with an uptake of 90 guests.  It was considered a great success and there are plans afoot for some more, but, crucially, even outside of these, it is the general policy of their sales team to always try and offer the best solution with regards to accommodation so that they don’t penalise single parent travellers wherever possible. 

Here's the official line:- At Mark Warner we are passionate about family holidays and for us single/solo parent holidays are a vital part of that. Our famous childcare, huge range of activities and social atmosphere means that much of the stress can be taken out of travelling on your own with children. A Mark Warner holiday with your child or children can be a great chance to reconnect, share quality time and new experiences, and make new friends.

Mmm.  This is all very well in theory, but how does it work out in practice?  They wanted to know what I really thought, how we really felt and whether we can prove that people like me really can get a break on one of their holidays.

We were sent on a standard week at the end of the summer break - which would be full on family mode, I figured and this made me awfully nervous.  Despite having travelled a great deal alone before having my children - and even used this same holiday company several times previously when going away with friends - to pitch up in a situation like this, just the three of us, was a first.

The statistics speak for themselves though and, although it wouldn't be accurate to say that the one in four families in the UK now being headed up by single parents were proportionately represented, we could see, once we arrived, that we were by no means the only ones without a spouse around. It soon became apparent that I had to do what I always do - blag it be brave and just get on with it - so that we could all make the most of the opportunities afforded to us.

During the day, it was difficult to spot who was with whom anyhow, because most people were off doing their own thing at some point or another.  With free watersports galore, tennis and mountain biking, fitness classes, a spa and optional extras like sub-aqua diving, it certainly wasn't unusual to see someone on a lounger alone reading a book / Kindle, having been temporarily abandoned by their partner!

And it was impossible to work out who had how many kids because of all their comings and goings too - which brings me to one of Mark Warner's biggest selling points - their award winning Kids Clubs (or 'Indy Clubs' for the teenagers).  Full or part time childcare is included in the holiday price from age two - 17.  Although babies from four months and younger toddlers can also be cared for, there is a charge because their staff/child ratio is high.

mark warner lemnos kids club
The older ones aren't made to hold onto a lead like these younger ones are lol! Narrow age bands ensure suiable activities.
Children up to age six can be booked into mornings or afternoons for free and older ones can be kept entertained all day (or come and go as they please) at no extra charge.  It's possible to pay for sessions for the other half of the day for the little ones though and it's definitely advisable to pre-book.

Neither of mine were keen to join the separate ones relevant for their ages, but soon got into the swing of things. I told them that they had to for some of the time, not least, for the purposes of this review and we settled on just mornings for the older one too.  This worked for us all because none of us wanted to be apart all day!

So, it was possible, therefore, to get a proper break.  They made friends that meant our afternoons were much more sociable and both were given sailing, windsurfing, kayaking and tennis tuition they never would have received from me left to our own devices.  Plus they were also treated to time out of the heat, playing indoor games or other stuff outside, but in the shade.

windsurfing, mark warner lemnos
Putting into practice what he'd learned that morning!
I could indulge in some serious sunbathing for the first time since being pregnant with my eldest (which I *might* have mentioned to them more than once) and wave to them as they went about all their exciting business of being on a Mark Warner holiday, or take my own lessons in any of the watersports or tennis, go out on a guided mountain bike ride, or join in a fitness class, all of which are geared around the times of the Kids Clubs.  Or go to the spa for a proper pamper (with ELEMIS products, no less).  Or just enjoy some chit chat.  In the end, in between interviewing the fabulous manager (with the highest rate of client and staff return in the company) and as many of the other incredibly amenable workers as would allow it (told you it was a tough job!) I tried a bit of everything and generally *shock* pleased myself.

But there's more.  Every evening there are two different childrens' film viewings - one for the little ones at 7.30pm and an organized activity followed by another one at 8.30pmfor the older ones, where they will all be looked after until 11pm.  To this extent, some people complained that they didn't see as much of their children as they would like to!

I was stricter with mine, insiting that we ate our evening meals together, which seemed pretty much the norm at the outset of the week, but as it went on, there were less and less young ones at dinner as word got out at how brilliant this babysitting idea was for those who probably wanted to enjoy a peaceful meal with their other halves.  There are beds for the little ones where the movies were shown and some residents just carried their sleeping children home at the end of the night - something I couldn't manage on my own.  Plus, with it being such an active holiday, I wanted the boys more settled.

Not that it worked out like that.  We'd met people who were also on holiday in the resort without a partner at the 'Solo Traveller Drinks and Dinner' on the second night, something I would never have attended without a professional reason for doing so.  This takes place in every centre, every week and, to be honest, I took exception to the invitation to join it because I didn't consider myself to be travelling solo!  Neither, as is pointed out in my article now on the Mark Warner site, was I looking for company, I was looking for (and mostly managed to find, if you read it) me.

Anyway, despite dreading this social event, I was glad to have attended, because it meant friendly faces to engage with for the rest of the week.  We bumped into each other during the watersports or by the pool and shared many an enjoyable meal that meant far later nights than had been intended. Some said they had partners at home, some said they didn't.  Some were made redundant by the additional drinks and dinner alongside our own for 17-24 year olds, but all in all, it added a pleasing dimension to the trip.

And I've since recommended a name change to 'Solo Traveller and Lone Parent Drinks and Dinner,' which covers all bases and doesn't offend in quite the same way!

It would be interesting to see how the special Single Parent Weeks add to the possible social interaction for adults, something which can be sadly lacking with other tour operators, even to the extent of putting people off going away at all.  Plus, with the plethora of activites on offer, there's always a chance to meet like-minded people - even if you're the one avoiding all the action - and that applies to any standard week as well.

As it is, Mark Warner say that around 40% of their custom is made up of individuals, couples and groups of friends, and it's true to say that a very friendly atmosphere pervades.

mark warner lemnos pools and sailing

The food is fab and full board, more of which I've gone into on a second post with a general angle - The Pluses and Minuses of our Mark Warner Holiday.  Think sailing = good, Sex on the Beach = bad.

It still wasn't easy being away alone with two such young children.  I chose not to offload them 100% of the time, but definitely got some well-earned respite, met some lovely people and we all enjoyed messing about on the water and playing tennis.

I came home feeling like quite a different person, having been able to breathe and let go of all the stresses and strains of every day life, feeling assured the kids were in capable hands and having the times of their lives.  We all tried new things.  We bonded tighter and we made some wonderful memories.

It's unquestionably the sort of holiday - together with the kind and quality of catering included - that any single parent can be sure to be able to stomach!

sunset mark warner lemnos


Disclosure - We were invited on this holiday to work with Mark Warner on their new Single Parent Weeks initiative.  I wasn't required to write anything specifically for my blog, but such was the goodwill engendered it only seemed fair to share.  As usual, all words, opinions and pictures are our own, obvs.
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