Country Dancing Becomes Dirty Dancing

I never thought my first country dancing experience as an adult would end like this!

I remember doing country dancing at school when I was a kid. I’ve got fond memories of do-si-doe-ing around the playground and practicing my promenade with my best friend, but it’s not an activity I’ve participated in for a very long time.

So when my five-year-old daughter came home excited to tell me they were having a country dancing show at their little village school I was looking forward to it. It all sounded so idyllic and when the day came round the sun was shining and all the children looked adorable in their spotty skirts, bells and big smiles.

But by the time we got to school it all began to unravel. Perhaps the first indication that it wasn’t going to go quite as planned was when my daughter’s school were all encouraged to remove the neat little scarves they had tied round their necks and told to put them on their heads. I tried to gently express my dismay at them looking like a bunch of pirates but my efforts were thwarted. It was the way they had always done it and as I’ve learned they don’t like change in these parts.

The dancing itself was sweet, although after I joined in with the parent child dancing, I was confronted by the concerned headmistress over my “scarily high” footwear. Fortunately I didn’t blurt out that I’d walked the lengths of Hollywood Boulevard in way higher than that. She may perhaps have got the wrong idea as scenes from ‘Pretty Woman’ flashed before her. 

somerset-blog-country-dancing-hargrave-photography-hollywoodwife2countrylife
It became a lot less wholesome than this!

Anyway, lets totter into the half time activities shall we.

In an attempt to involve ourselves in the village and school I help out with the PTA when I can. 

On this occasion though it was my hubby who somehow got the raw end of the deal and as I ran inside to help serve the refreshments he was already stood there wearing a pair of blue catering gloves and serving for the 50 person queue, by desperately trying to ram sausages in buns at a pace quicker than you’d see in the Playboy Mansion.

Like a lunchtime rush at McDonalds orders were being shouted as other parents poured teas, coffees, made ice creams and kept all the country dancing kids and their parents refreshed. 

While this was all going on I was also trying to keep an eye on both my children one of whom, at the grand age of three, believes he is an experienced rock climber and who I could just about see over the crowds scaling a climbing frame which to him might have looked like Everest. 

He’d have to wait, because at that moment one poor child grabbed my arm crying, begging me to follow him to the bathroom. As I did so, watching the tiny tyke waddle his way to the door he informed me he had pooped himself “just a little”.

He bravely disappeared inside the loo before coming out one minute later with his soiled pants in his hand. “I’d hold them by the elastic waistband if I were you” he ever so politely informed me before running off into the playground commando underneath his shorts.

What was I going to do with these now? The school is tiny, so the toilet was a stones throw from the chaos of the school hall where the closest bin just so happened to be. But could I really throw a pair of kid’s pants in with the paper plates and empty cans which I knew some poor devil was going to have to sort out for the recycling? The answer is no, I could not. 

So instead I make a beeline for my husband who saw the look of panic in my eyes and mouthed “what’s wrong?” I couldn’t yell out what I was holding or launch them his way, so I summoned for him to leave his station, blue gloves still on. I whispered quickly what had happened and then told him to quickly take off his glove and open it as wide as he could.

I think he wondered why on earth I was telling him to take the glove OFF! Surely dealing with a situation like this you’d want as much protection as you could get. But he did as I asked and quick as I could I threw the mucky undergarments into the glove. The problem was they were still sticking out the top and people were beginning to stare. I didn’t want to use my hands to prod them down into the empty finger pockets, so without thinking (clearly) I take off my new Ray Ban sunglasses and use the arm to poke the pants down until we could tie the top shut.

We said nothing. He just looked at me, shook his head, looked at my glasses, looked at me and put on a fresh pair of gloves to go sell off the remaining hot dogs.

We’ve said nothing more about it. I cleaned my glasses but still feel a little dirty wearing them, I returned the pants – still in the blue glove –  in hindsight without enough of an explanation to the parent to be honest.

I’ve literally wiped my hands of country dancing for a while which is a shame because I’m sure there are so many lovely and wholesome festivals in and around Somerset for us to attend. I’m just not quite sure I can stomach another one just yet!

Somerset Swap Meet – of a Different Kind

Whoever said Somerset was sleepy clearly hasn’t seen what is going on in the village down the road!

I’ve just seen an advert for a campsite nearby which looks nice – if it wasn’t for the fact it’s a swingers retreat! Nothing against anyone who is, but I’m just not that way inclined. I wonder what they’ve shortened that to? If glamorous camping is ‘Glamping’ perhaps partner swapping camping is ‘Swamping’? 

somerset-hollywood-nudity-blogger-countryside
Nudity! There’s no getting away from it even in the Somerset countryside

The ad wasn’t even at the back of the latest edition of ‘The Somerset Guide to Swinging’ – I made that up…..or did I? It was just there on the pages of a local newspaper and it got me to thinking about a holiday we had in America.

It must have been about eight years ago and my husband and I had gone to Palm Springs.

The hotel cost for the night was covered and we didn’t have kids at the time.

The first night day and night was lovely. We sipped cocktails by the pool, swam and slept. 

By night we got chatting to a friendly couple in the bar.

I’d commented on how we must have looked very antisocial since I was on my phone googling alongside my husband instead of engaging in conversation.

I explained we were looking for somewhere else to stay for an extra night, but everywhere was booked .

They quickly gave us the name of a ‘boutique’ hotel not far away and said it had a pool, big rooms and everyone was really friendly.

Even though I couldn’t find much about it online, I did see a couple of reviews and thought we could at least go and have a look at it before we booked the room. Surely the worst that could happen is we didn’t like it and we drove home instead. That wasn’t the worst that could happen.

The next day we enthusiastically packed our bag and headed off to have a look at his place. We pulled up to property and struggled to find the entrance. 

I noticed a large wooden door (no revolving door here) and knocked loudly. A little shutter opened up and a friendly face peered through at us before giving us a look up and down and letting us in. A bit odd, I know but since as she opened the door a gorgeous black lab puppy bounded out to great us and I figured that was the reason it was so secure. She shook our hands and said she’d take us to the reception to sit down while her husband, Tom, finished some paperwork and would come and give us a tour to see if we liked it. 

We couldn’t see anything of the hotel from the reception but it felt warm and inviting. “It’s a bit unusual but it seems nice here,” I whispered to my husband.

A few minutes later Sandra said Tom was ready and she lead us to a desk. Tom was stood behind it and to my surprise I saw he was shirtless. “Casual” for front desk I thought but didn’t think too much more about it since it was 40 degrees celsius. 

“Right, ready for the tour” he asked. It all seemed a little over the top but since they didn’t have a website I figured this was the intimate way they liked to deal with their guests. 

“Yep, ready, we echoed,” and the of the front desk lifted up and he walked towards us with his hand outstretched. He wasn’t shirtless, he was NUDE. Completely and utterly butt naked except for his white trainers. He turned to close said desk and I swiveled with horror to face my husband who was somehow managing to keep a very straight face. I desperately tried to get his attention but it was as if he was savoring just how awkward he knew I would be feeling. 

I was given what I can only imagine was one of the most in depth tours I have ever been given of a hotel as Tom introduced us to the guests around the pool.

How fortunate that Mr. and Mrs. I’ve Got No Tan Lines were from England and had loads to chat to us about, and Sir. Tallywacker couldn’t wait to shimmy to the end of his sun lounger so we could talk more about what made us move to LA.

My head was spinning not only because of the heat but because my attempts to avert my eyes at every given turn was making me dizzy.

They asked if I wanted a swim, but not only was there a nude couple playing volleyball, the puppy was in there too! That’s one swimming pool filter I would not like to clean out. 

After 20-gruelling minutes I couldn’t take it anymore and the only excuse I could come up with (no pun intended) was that I was hungry and I needed to go and get something to eat before we decided if this was the place for us. HUNGRY!!!!! I can tell you now after the sights I saw I didn’t eat for a week.

So thank you very much to the Queen Camel swingers’ campsite’s very kind advert invitation but I think I’ll give it a miss this time. 

Somehow our adventures in a static caravan suddenly seem that much more appealing.

Checking Out the Somerset Birds

I recently spent an evening doing something I’ve never really been sure I was into. My husband was more keen than I was, especially as he was told there might be a rare photo opportunity – but I felt a little uncomfortable about it.

We’d invited some friends to join us, but most of them looked at me like I was crazy when I asked them – or they just ignored my messages. I didn’t know if I was being weird or if they were being boring. Anyway, I went for it regardless.

In the end, I enjoyed a phenomenal performance. A bevvy of beautiful birds who were performing for a crowd of excited and very eager voyeurs who could not wait for the show to start. 

I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t really know what the etiquette was for these things. Should I talk to the man next to me? Should I pay? If so, where do I put the money? How long would it go on for? 

After urming and ahhing about the whole situation, I made eye contact with the gentleman to my right and asked if he’d been here before and if it was any good.

He said that they’d been doing the same routine night after night so they should be well rehearsed.

And so the murmuration began. (CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO)

For those of you who don’t know what a murmuration is, it’s not a show that happens at ‘The Body Shop’ strip club on Sunset Boulevard – google it. The birds aren’t women in thongs, they are actually birds. Starlings to be exact and I got to see them in all their glory looking for a place to roost, flying like a giant black shadow across the moorlands, and it was way better than the time I had to hunt down the stripper who was dating Michael Jackson’s doctor in LA.

What the Wassailing Was That?

Around this time two years ago I was lucky enough to walk the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards in California. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I dined on a three course Wolfgang Puck meal in the Beverly Hills Hilton and sipped (ok maybe glugged, since it was free) Moet alongside A-list celebrities and Hollywood big wigs – many of who are probably on some dodgy watch list now, but anyway.

Golden Globes
Red carpet at the Golden Globes – no big deal

This year it was my husband was the one invited. He got to mingle with the stars and get told by superstar DJ Mark Ronson to “please STOP dancing like that to my music”. (Doesn’t bode well for his tap classes does it.)

But where was I? Was I….

A.) Sat on the sofa watching the awards with my feet up by the fire? 

B.)Wrapped up like an eskimo, whacking the bejesus out of a saucepan with a wooden spoon, skipping around an old apple tree and chanting about three men trying to lift their sacks?

Well it would be a stretch even of my imagination to make the latter up.

I was celebrating Wassailing. Was..a.what? I hear you ask. I thought the same when it was suggested we throw this party in the apple orchard. 

My wise dad began to explain: “It’s an ancient PAGAN tradition,” at which point I tried desperately not to switch off. “It’s to awaken the CIDER apple trees and scare away the evil spirits to ensure a good harvest.” I heard cider and perked up. “There will be singing, dancing, gunfire, a bonfire and a lantern procession lead by the Wassail Queen.”

With this description it’s no wonder one of the 120 people invited to this bizarre shin dig ushered me into a corner at the children’s birthday party I was at just hours before the Wassail and whispered: “At this thing tonight, are we sacrificing anything?”

I looked around us to make sure no one could hear our covert conversation and nodded: “Yes. Why do you think the invite asked you to bring a saucepan? It’s to catch the blood.”

Wide eyed he asked: “Is it a pig? A chicken? Oh God, do we need to come in costume? Is your dad wearing a cloak and stuff?”

Turns out he’d been binge watching ‘Vikings’ and when I told him the saucepan was so we could hit it to make a noise and the only thing he might end up sacrificing was his dignity, I don’t know whether it was relief or disappointment I saw in his eyes.

Because while I am trying to eek out some trendy stuff to do in the countryside, it’s becoming ever more apparent that in quiet places like these, we often have to make our own entertainment and it can actually be – and pardon the pun – bloody brilliant.

I’m sure this is probably the first and only time someone has compared the Golden Globes with a Wassailing, but I like to be different.

We had a toast. Ok it was a piece of toast soaked in cider and hanging from a tree, rather than the glass of bubbles my husband was no doubting using to toast a celebrity win. 

Wassailing Toast
Not quite the toast I had in mind

We had security that came in the form of a bucket of water to throw on the bonfire and some fencing (we powered off the electric one, although that could have added a spark!) to stop the children falling on the flames.

Plus we had our three course meal. Cider punch, bratwurst and Danish pastry. A combo worthy of a Michelin star or two I’m sure.

So perhaps next year I should combine the two celebrations and throw a Golden Wassail. Who is in??

Ryan Gosling is Coming to the Countryside

You can take the man out of Hollywood, but you cannot take the Hollywood out of the man! That is something I discovered this week. My husband is the quiet one in our relationship, but he has a wicked sense of humour and much sharper wit than I have.  

So while he’s not particularly verbal he’s far from boring and on top of that he’s always willing to make a fool out of himself in the name of fun (hence he begrudgingly gave me a thumbs up to post this). Take the time he turned up at my mum’s 60th ’60’s’ themed birthday party dressed as a woman. He’d only met my parents a few times and never their friends! He slipped quietly – because that’s what he does – into the party in his orange mini dress, blonde wig and knee high, high heeled white boots and stood smiling as my dad tried to work out which one of his friends had brought a 6ft 3 date!

Or how about the fact HE was the one who wanted dance lessons before our wedding. But not just any dance classes. We had classes at ‘Third Street Dance’ where all the celebrities for ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (the American ‘Strictly Come Dancing) practiced their Cha-cha-cha and Foxtrot. But it doesn’t stop there. I was allowed to pick the style of dance so long as he could pick the music. I chose Disco (despite his insistence that he could pick up the funky art of Street Dance in just a few short weeks) and he got me back by picking the ‘YMCA’. We’d made a deal so I couldn’t back down and so we flipped, leapt and paraded across our marquee to the dulcet tones of ‘The Village People’.

Reading all of this back I’m now wondering why I’m surprised by the emails I sent for him today.

So here they are. In the midst of my hunt for hot yoga and cocktails I’m firing off emails like this – as I’m crying with laughter – on behalf of my 38-year-old husband; and yes, I know he should be writing his own correspondence but I think that’s the least of my worries right now.

EMAIL 1:

Hi,

My husband is interested in starting an adult beginners tap class and I wanted to enquire into the prices – and if he’d even be able to do it? – you can be honest.

He’s never done tap before (I’ll admit he does at least have rhythm), but he’s eager to try something new and this is what he’s chosen.

If you could let me know as soon as possible since he’s keen to get started in the New Year.

Thanks very much,

Hannah

EMAIL 2:

Hi,

My husband is interested in joining your choir, but he has a couple of questions for you. 

Firstly can he just turn up and get stuck in or does he need to audition? Also what sort of music do you sing? He’s way more Katy Perry than Jerusalem, if you know what I mean. No offense meant.

If you could let me know any other details I’d need – prices, times etc – that would be great.

Thanks very much,

Hannah

So there it is. We moved away from Los Angeles and now my husband wants to become the next Ryan Gosling creating ‘LA LA Land’ in the countryside by taking up singing and dancing! Fortunately in his spare time he chops wood….and sculpts it into teeny tiny cute little decorations.

tap dancing in the British countryside

No seriously he’s too busy Googling ‘size 12 adult tap shoes’ to do that! 

I’ll conclude by letting you concerned folk know that no husband’s feelings were harmed in the making of this blog post, although he did omit a very firm and deep ‘NO’ when I ‘tapped him up’ for some photo evidence to put online. I guess he does have his limits. 

Halloween in Hollywood Laid Bare

WARNING: This post contains partial nudity which may be disturbing.

I love fancy dress! I’ve always loved it. In Los Angeles where Halloween was often branded ‘Whore-O-Ween’ due to the slutty nature of so many of the costumes, I often revelled in wearing the biggest, ugliest, most ridiculous costume instead. If you’ve seen my Mrs. Potato Head kid’s party social media post, this probably won’t come as a surprise to you.

Halloween in Hollywood
Fortunately my friends in LA were as ridiculous as me

Boy did I see some costumes in my time there. Terms normally reserved for a Daily Mail article would best describe them “spilling out”, “busty display” “jaw-dropping cleavage”. You get the picture. But I’m still lost for words at a costume that has been forever been etched in my mind. 

One year I ventured to the famed West Hollywood Parade where apparently pretty much anything goes.

There he was, a regular looking man wearing a pair of glasses, his head just poking up out of the crowd. 

A simple ‘Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask rested on top of his balding head.  

But as the people parted to make way for him, I realized he was wearing the most terrifying outfit I’d ever seen.

He was naked, all except for a very small pouch that barely, and I mean barely covered his privates. This homemade banana hammock would have given Borat a serious run for his money.

As if in a bad dream, I stood unable to move or scream as he tapped his way towards me in…..wait for it….a pair of clogs.

Halloween in Hollywood
No denying this man had some balls to wear this!

The worst thing was yet to come though as my husband (boyfriend at the time) encouraged me to have a photo with him. 

“Go on, get in close, put your arm around him and give a smile,” he said. 

God, how I wish I’d had a pair of Marigolds at that moment – or a time machine.

My arm slipped behind his back, and I guess I was so stunned by the lack of outfit at the front, I hadn’t given enough thought to what was going on in the back.

My hand grazed across his bare bottom just as my husband yelled: “Cheese”.

Seconds later, after the camera had captured this moment, ‘Pouch Man’ only went and dropped his tiny man purse and guess where I was stood at this point? Right behind him. 

I could then confirm the pouch DID NOT cover everything!

I refuse to let this image (which if you need a bigger photo you can see here) taint my love of Halloween though. 

So even now as we live our life in this sleepy Somerset village, we brought a bit of Hollywood Halloween with us. Don’t worry, we didn’t fly ‘Pouch Man’ over.

But we did decorate our house to the nines and much to our surprise and my joy, so did lots of other families. 

The village was rife with carved pumpkins and a festive spirit.

The kids still went trick or treating and came home with a belly and a bucket full of sweets and best of all the only balls I had to contend with were chocolate eyeballs!

 

Crazy For Coffee

Coffee shops used to be about more than just a place to get my caffeine fix when I lived in Los Angeles. My local Starbucks was my office three days a week and the crazy clientele was as regular as my daily order – a tall Americano, chocolate covered salted almonds and a chicken, veg salad (not all together) in case you care. 

There was Moty the Israely man who approached me because I was “always typing” and asked me to help write about the hangover cure he was marketing in return for some free samples! Not sure how I should have taken that?

Mrs. McDonald – as I called her – who always hijacked the corner table as a sales booth where she chowed down on her chicken nuggets and fries and in between mouthfuls attempted to round up clients to buy the same pair of shoes – clearly stolen…..and worn – day in and day out.

Mad bike man who reveled in walking around the joint in his crash helmet shouting: “Breaking news everyone. I have just proposed to my girlfriend and she said yes. She’s a Christian. First time for me, second time for her! Congratulations to me. That’s it for now. Over and out goodbye.” 

But my personal favorite was the blind man who would tap his way up and down casually bumping into people –  nearly always females funnily enough – with his white cane. I’d watch and sigh when a kind hearted sole would pull out a chair next to them and help him sit down. I’d fallen for this once before too so I knew what was coming. He’d unzip his military drum – and no, that’s not code for something else, he really did have an oversized military drum with him – and proceed to give a demonstration which, if you didn’t just walk away, would last FOREVER. Once you were trapped with him, there was no escape. I used to feign different voices because if he heard me talking in my British accent he was there like a shot, reciting every line from the old English show ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ and blatantly ignoring me when I’d politely say “I’m so sorry but I’m actually working”. 

bow-wharf-langport-coffee
Bow Wharf in Langport won H over with it’s marshmallow hot chocolate!

I probably looked just as nuts as some of the other customers as I played musical chairs to try to avoid him. I know it sounds cruel, but this debacle happened every week for well over a year!

Amongst the unusual Starbucks frequenters was also a handful of regular celebrities. I’d marvel at how Rod Stewart always made time to not only buy the homeless man a coffee, but would sit and chat to him too and I’d look at ‘Sex and the City’s’ Mr. Big and wonder what Carrie would have to say about his slightly hungover, stubbly appearance.

So I was eager to find good coffee shops and cafes in South Somerset. I knew I wasn’t likely to stumble upon quite such an eclectic group of caffeine addicts in my local Caffe Nero but I have found some great places to sip on a decent roast or brew –  listed below! 

woodland-coffee-shop-somerset
The path to the coffee shop – mind the cars!

That being said I actually think my latest Somerset coffee experience trumps anything I came across in Holly’weird’. Because while sipping my coffee around a campfire – not a fire pit, an actually campfire with a giant black kettle alongside a tub of onions cooking – outside a woodland coffee shop, yep you heard me right – a lady approached me to tell me about proud she was that her ‘slightly psychotic’, sweet but once troubled son had just got this chainsaw license.

I gulped as she continued, envisaging a talented, all be it mildly troubled wood sculptor roaming the Somerset area wielding his rather dangerous work weapon.

But I could breathe a sigh of relief when she informed me that while they’re getting his meds sorted, he’s only using a chisel!!!

Phew.

HERE’S MY PICK OF PLACES SO FAR (Feel free to tell me about more!)

The Orchard Food and Coffee House

Provenda Deli 

Bean Shot Coffee Bar

Finca Coffee

Bow Wharf Cafe

 

 

Caravanning Anonymous

Hi, my name is Hannah and I went on holiday and stayed in a static caravan!

There, I’ve said it.

I’m aware it’s not a big deal, in fact some of my happiest holiday memories as a kid were from vacations to caravan parks, but as a new friend pointed out to me the other day: “I think perhaps you’ve been spoiled by your holidays in America”.

She’s right, a pool drenched trip to Palm Springs or a few days snowboarding in Mammoth were at our fingertips (because we lived so close and it was affordable) and it’s probably for that reason that, like some sort of unnecessarily embarrassed idiot I’d whisper details of my British based holiday to my friends across the pond for fear of being judged.

“I hear you’re going away next week, anywhere nice?” some friends in America asked.

“Yes, just a little trip to the coast,” I replied. “A place called Woolacombe Bay, it’s supposed to be beautiful.”

Then I’d gulp when they asked if we had a house there or if we were staying in a hotel before revealing: “Nope, I’m staying in a static caravan.”

caravan park at woolacombe bay holiday park devon
Juxtaposition? This isn’t my car by the way!

“Ohhhhh. Like a mobile home?” they’d enquire, and I was sure they were envisioning me kicking back in a downtrodden ‘trailer park’ chewing tobacco, with the kids running around half clothed and caked in dirt.

Why is it that I’d happily tell them I was going camping in a muddy field where I have to pee in a bush, but I was worried about saying the words ‘static caravan’.

I had butterflies – I”m not 100% sure because of what. Excitement? Trepidation? Terror? – as I pulled into Woolacombe Bay Holiday Park to begin our four-day trip with my husband, our two kids, a friend and his daughter too.

My first thought was that we’d be transported to the set of Dr. Who and we were staying in a Tardis – because for six of us to fit into one of those homes, I presumed that’s what it had to be.

After picking up my key from the VERY VERY VERY animated man at the front desk (I see the bright lights of Butlins in his future), I could see my 6ft 2 hubby almost breaking out in hives as he unlocked our front door and practically had to get down on his hands and knees to get inside.

Our friend (who is a seasoned static caravaner) strode in confidently admiring “the spacious living room” and marveling at the “ample amounts of seating.”

Both my husband and I were more concerned about the toilet situation considering our pal had joked before we got there that the movie tagline for our holiday could be “6 humans, one bog, no mercy”.

Also our daughter has taken to shouting “Roll up, roll up, who wants to wipe my bum?” after using the toilet and I didn’t want the neighbours thinking the circus had come to town.

woolacombe bay beach devon
Sunny, but chilly morning at Woolacombe Bay beach

So I was pleasantly surprised to discover we had two loos! I mean my husband says he had to straddle it to be able to shut the door and whoever decided crepe paper was a sufficient material to use for the interior walls of a caravan clearly wasn’t thinking straight.

But lets look on the bright side, no one wanted to waste time sat in there reading a book and you could turn the kettle on while taking a wee, if you got the angle right!

Did the kids notice any of these quirks though? Of course they didn’t. They had pools, playgrounds and beaches (almost sounded like I was back in LA there) on their doorstep.

sunset woolacombe bay devon

Plus you couldn’t help but smile when you heard them roar with laughter every time my better half hit his head on the door frame or they heard each other’s bedtime toots through the wafer thin walls.

 

It wasn’t just about the kid’s enjoyment either. We loved the daily woodland walks down to the incredible coastline and the sunsets were out of this world. I’m not saying we grew to love the caravan itself. Our names aren’t down on the waiting list for next year! But we did have a great holiday with a lot of laughs, many of which wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for our choice of accommodation!

Somerset Sushi – I’m on a Roll!

It’s happened! I can’t believe it, I finally have a decent sushi restaurant closer than 45 minutes from my house. I still have to drive there, but lets face it there’s not much I don’t have to drive to anymore.

It might not sound exciting to many country folk but for me it’s music to my ears because sushi was my go to food in LA and the grub I’ve missed most.

But when I was first informed about this so-called ‘Sushi’ restaurant opening up in the summer, I was dubious. The news came via my mum and while she’s a well travelled and intelligent lady with a love of foreign foods, raw fish has never really been her thing – unless they are Danish herrings.

sushi in the british countryside
‘Crazy’ excited for some sushi

Dad has always insisted on calling it ’Shh-shi’ and on the numerous times we took him to a Japanese restaurant when he was visiting he never once latched on to why we insisted on telling him to keep his voice down when he was ordering.

It was only when I saw with my own eyes that ‘Daniel Sushi’ was in fact a real place intending on serving up actual sushi that I began to get excited.

This wasn’t just some local fisherman dragging in a bottom feeding carp for us to dine on, the menu looked good and the chef was a professional.

The reviews were complimentary but I have to say the one that really stood out to me was this:

“I’m so happy there’s more than just supermarket sushi now, and even more glad that it’s really really good. I tried some of the beef that my dad ordered and it was out of this world.”

sushi in somerset
No, this isn’t a google image, this is the real deal

Once the laughing subsided off we trotted to ‘Bond Street’ – sadly not the posh one in London.

I nervously sipped on my chilled red wine – yep, they should probably do something about that – and wondered if in 24 hours I’d be doing an impression of the Exorcism of Emily Rose from both ends.

It’s true my Eastern European waitress wasn’t exactly up on her sushi lingo, but the meal was actually delicious and the only reason my tummy was rumbling was because I wanted more.

I went to bed on a salmon tartar and maki roll high. All I need now is for them to start delivering!

At the Car Wash

I thought I had stayed relatively British during my 15 year stint in Los Angeles. I Iost count of the number of times people commented that I hadn’t lost my English accent, I insisted on packing my bags at the supermarket and I still had a roast dinner, complete with Yorkshire puds on a Sunday. But on my return to the UK it became apparent that I had become a little ‘LA’ when living there.

I’m pretty sure the smartly dressed man outside the National Trust property didn’t appreciate me tossing my car keys at him when I mistook him for a valet and I’m convinced the owners of the local petrol station think I’m a complete idiot.

So much so I’m too embarrassed to go back there.

I’m used to driving a big car…but on big roads. I had a couple of prangs in Los Angeles but I still blame the fact I honestly couldn’t see over the steering wheel.

But for the majority of the time I could navigate the five lanes of heavy traffic on the 101 freeway – it just turns out I can’t navigate my way around a village petrol station – specifically I can’t drive my way through a car wash.

I was so excited about taking the kids through one – yeah, I know I said I was going to find fun and trendy things to do in the countryside, but I was having one of those days. Automatic car washes are far and few between in LA – mainly because when you valet your car you get the option for it to be washed too – so I figured it would be fun.

The problem was it had been a LONG time since I’d used one. I sat in the car and actually googled “how to go through a car wash”. Then to make doubly sure I did it right I went into the petrol station shop and spoke to the lady behind the counter.

I carefully explained – much to her amusement – that I was basically a foreigner and because I’d lived outside of the country for 15-years I wasn’t 100% sure on how to use a car wash.  It was my kid’s first time and I didn’t want to mess it up.

She kindly gave me instructions that basically amounted to “line your car up, turn off the engine and the machine will do the rest”.

I still managed to mess it up.

Five minutes later I was stuck inside a dark car wash, with a pair of petrified children. I couldn’t get out because my door was wedged up against the oversized brush I’d somehow managed to get way too close to and I had to make my exit via the passenger door. Sheepishly and covered in soap suds –  with the kids still screaming blue murder inside the car I might add – I had to go and explain myself to the woman.

She took one look outside the window, looked back at me and called her daughter in to take a look at what I’d done. “Look, look” she said pointing her finger at the disaster zone outside. “We haven’t had anyone mess up this badly in years!”

Oh how they laughed!

She then picked up the phone to call her husband!

“Why not call your mum too while you’re at it,” I said, because by this point I was not only red-faced but also painfully aware my children were still stuck out there.

Turns out she was only calling her mechanic hubby to come and help. I then had to stand there as they marvelled, along with a few rubberneckers, at “how the hell I’d managed that.”

After a lot of manoeuvring, tutting and shocked shaking of his head he broke my vehicle free of the brush that had got caught underneath the wheel arch of the front wheel.

I thanked him very, very, very much and went to jump into the car to make a speedy and shameful getaway, when they asked; “Don’t you want another go? Your car is only half clean.”

At first I was convinced they were only asking so they could catch another failed attempt on camera and flog it to ‘You’ve Been Framed’ for £250.  But then the husband thwarted his wife’s plans by leaping into the driver’s seat of my car and positively INSISTING he drive my car and crying kids through the car wash.

Had this been in LA they would have probably forced me to pay for someone to come and fix the car wash and then sued me for damages. In the countryside however, they not only gave me my second £3.50 wash for free, but they also threw in two chocolate bars for the kids.

Lucky for me the English rain has kept me from having to go back and show my face, and terrible driving skills, any time soon! I knew there was a reason to love this weather.