A-Z activities

A-Z countries

What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Not refuge but sanctuary

Brain twister: She searches for sanctuary on the seashore.
This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post sees our family living it up at a Pacific party in the Holiday Inn, London (£15 a ticket, bargain for dinner, quiz and Pacific chat). Nell was allowed to give a garland to the Fijian high commissioner and won a raffle prize, so results all round.  But the take home message for our family was all about how to offer a safe home for those whose homes will be destroyed by climate change. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).  

Left to right: Chris and Agnes.
Words matter - everyone knows that. But at a fantastic Pacific Islands party at the end of September 2012 - run by Agnes Benson from Kiribati (via the Herts/Bucks co-ordinating committee) and Chris Luxton, who used to live in Papua New Guinea and is the leading light, well chairwoman, of Pacific Islands Society UK and Ireland (PISUKI) -  I found out just how much words matter.

The talk at our table turned to climate change and the impacts this will have on Pacific islanders who are in line to lose their homes. Those in Tuvalu and Kiribati are at the front line of sea level rise, but of course that's the drama. Earlier problems are changes to the water table - which makes drinking water harder to find and salinates the soil. If you can't grow food, or get water (other than from rainwater), you're starting to be on an island that's not fit for human habitation.

So what will happen to those nations?

The Pacific has some experience of resettlement. In 1946 the Banabans were forced off their island (in Kiribati) and resettled in Rabi island, Fiji (many also live near the airport at Nadi) so the phosphate could be strip-mined by the British (who only years later paid compensation for this piece of mineral terrorism).

Kiribati has enshrined in its constitution minority rights for Banabans. How long can that last if  more Kirbati people are obliged to upsticks? It is after all a very flat place, one where there is nowhere to go if the unthinkable happens. Ditto Tuvalu.

Can you imagine a generous country like New Zealand allowing a state within a state? Could part of Auckland be turned into Tuvalu, say? Will Tuvalu be allowed a UN vote (it only became a member in 2000)? Or an Olympic team (they first competed in 2008 at Beijing, and here is a video of their proud weightlifter at London 2012)? Will Tuvalu still be allowed a government? And what will those exiled Tuvalu people be known as, "climate refugees" perhaps?

Absolutely wrong word say several people at the event. The countries that have caused these problems, predominantly those that developed their industries the earliest, have to learn to offer "sanctuary". It is simply an accident of geography that the disastrous impacts of climate change on nations happens to them, rather than us.

Over to you
I'm going to be thinking about this for a while, sanctuary not refugee, but wondered what readers of this blog thought?

Monday, 17 September 2012

Glastonbury god and goddesses

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post finds a way to feel like a deity - and then gets a bit mixed up with rabbits and religion (in Melbourne).  Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).   

Glastonbury's presence has been even bigger than usual thanks to the amazing Olympic opening ceremony with the green hill far away brought to London (well a removable replica). By luck our family was visiting Somerset the next day and on the hunt for a picnic lunch ended up in Morrisons supermarket under the shadow of the Glastonbury tor. It felt all wrong.

A day or so later we're back at Glastonbury, this time to look around. The market - selling clothes you just don't see anywhere else, lots of hippy stock, tie dye and crystals - was on. Every lamp post was festooned with a yellow plastic bunch of sunflowers. At the meeting room there's a Goddess Conference - this theme's colour seemed to be yellow as all Goddesses were kitted out with something of that shade (they wore blue in 2011). I wanted to find three rubber two-headed dragons, but they didn't seem to be available despite a huge number of hard magic and priestess kit shops. Want a bird's wing, a dragon cup or a wand? Easy. Vegetables were also impossible to find.

At Glastonbury Abbey - which hogs one side of the main street behind a row of crystal, green man booklets and incense selling shops - a wonderful gentleman kitted out in black Tudor garb introduces himself as Robert Pollard. Glastonbury is billed as the earliest Christian sanctuary in Britain - possibly Jesus was brought here by Joseph of Arimathea... (I think this is rather a big possibly). It's still a place people like to make pilgrimages too - for god and goddesses.

But Pollard (see photo below) has a different story. He did the dodgy dirty work for Henry VIII and his adviser Thomas Cromwell to ensure that the abbey was closed. Obviously Henry wanted the cash, not sure what Cromwell's motivations were - power I suppose - but the result was the unfortunate Glastonbury Abbot, already in his 80s, was given a traitor's death. He was hung, drawn (your guts are slipped out and dipped in boiling oil), then quartered. It made nobody look good, but also made it clear that no one was to mess with Henry VIII.

Years later the ruins were included in businessman James Austin's garden  - which still has the most lovely views. Austin is infamous for introducing rabbits to Australia (he wanted better sport). He has another legacy - his Oz property was named Avalon (another Glastonbury link as the abbey grounds also boast the legend that King Arthur's bones were found there, see pic). Avalon is now part of Melbourne.

Over to you
What's a place you've visited that's offered a terrific tour?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

When you want a book

Swap a book on platform 2 at Bath Spa train station.
This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post locates a book swap at Bath Spa train station and then visits a library that looks like part of Stonehenge - in Colombia.  Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).   

One of the problems with travelling light is how to include books. Everyone in my family reads too fast which means we either stagger around with bags of books or have that uncomfortable feeling that we may not have brought enough reading matter.  Having a kindle has helped. But not as much as you might think - especially if a queue starts forming for whose turn it is.  My new phone has helped too - it came ready loaded with three classics so until Treasure Island, Alice in Wonderland and Three Musketeers are finished off I can at least guarantee to have a book for 11-year-old Nell.

Of course you can swap books at places (though not nearly enough places, and this is utterly no good if you've already read Dan Brown). It was a great thrill to be on Bath Spa station recently and find a coffee shop (Dashi Sushi) selling a few newspapers along with snacks; plus a bookshelf designed for readers to pass on what they'd read and pick up a new title. That's a fantastic idea.

Which made me think about libraries - many are hard to use if you are in a place for just a short time, and fair point as new users might not be good at returning books. Some libraries around the world - just look here if you want to see what I mean - are far more than just book stores. They are the coolest places to visit boasting fabulous architecture. There's even one on a hilltop in Medellin, Colombia that from a distance looks like three giant rocks (see pic above). Up close it's more obvious that it's a building. More about this building and how it hopes to help stop drug related crime here. Picture credit here.

Another option is book crossing, or plain old swapping. Just make sure you leave the book in a place that someone is likely to find it. Bus and coach stations are obvious. So are places travellers and tourists stay. It's not just generous of course, it's also a way to lighten your bags...

Over to you
Where's your favourite place to find a new-to-you read?