2018 | Typecast

School’s out – 1 in 2 Brits abroad willing to take their kids away in term time

School’s out – 1 in 2 Brits abroad willing to take their kids away in term time - Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

50% of UK holidaymakers are happy to take their children out of school during term time, a new survey has revealed.

The 1,500-people survey, released today by UK package travel retailer Holiday Hypermarket, highlighted the familiar clichés of Brits abroad, but it also showed that a growing number of UK holidaymakers – 49% of those surveyed – are willing to remove their children from school during term time, whether that is to save money or simply for convenience.

The full list of characteristics most associated with a Brit abroad can be seen below:

Terrible sunburn
Drinking before 12pm
Not learning the language
Searching for hours for English food
Having a fry-up abroad
Packing tea bags
Socks and sandals
Reserving sun loungers with towels
Talking about the weather at home
Constantly checking the weather
Novelty towels
Buying items from beach sellers
Not sure / other characteristic

Holiday Hypermarket representative Craig Duncan comments, “It’s interesting to see what people associate with the term ‘Brits abroad’, especially as this survey was carried out in the UK. I wonder how this would compare with what our European neighbours think?”

The survey explores a wide range of opinions relating to package holidays abroad and revealed a number of intriguing and, sometimes comical, insights.

In addition to those happy to pay to book a sunbed, one in four of those surveyed are also prepared to get up early to reserve their prime sunbed spot by the pool. And the pool is where we are happiest, with 38% of us preferring to hang out there, in comparison with 32% who prefer the beach (30% are unsure).

Overall, beach package holidays still rule the roost with 62% of us opting for this getaway type over others. As far as families are concerned, there are a number of debates that continue to cause a stir across social media and beyond.

49% of people think it’s OK for parents to take their kids out of school for holidays, with 26% against the idea and 25% on the fence.

And when we’re on holiday, 65% of people think it’s unacceptable for kids to use mobiles or tablets at the dinner table. This has risen from 56% in 2015. So are we dialling down our tech more than ever, in favour of connecting with our families when on holiday?

While this may be true, interestingly, over 40% of parents part company with their children while on holiday, using the very accommodating kids’ clubs. Another topic for debate.

Duncan continues, “There are many debates surrounding holidays but one thing’s for sure; singles, couples and families all need downtime and are willing to spend more for a better experience. At the same time, if there are savings to be made, people will take holidays at times that are more convenient, which is understandable given the wider financial pressures of life.”

The perception of Brits abroad continues to be a comical one of sunburn, fry-ups and morning drinking, but there are more serious issues, too, and the debate on whether children should be allowed to go on holiday with their parents during term time is one that continues to divide opinion.


REVIEW : ZeroWater - Getting More Out Of Your Water

REVIEW : ZeroWater - Getting More Out Of Your Water

Back in January, my running club set a 12-month health and fitness challenge for 2018 and the first challenge was to drink a minimum of two litres of water per day.  It worked really well for me as I already drink buckets of the stuff (or so I thought) and it helped me to kick start my new diet too. At the beginning of the year, if you'd have told me that my most favourite kitchen gadget would end up being my water filter jug, I'd have laughed in your face.  There's nothing wrong with British tap water - in fact, we are extremely lucky to be able to drink "corporation pop" without having to treat it or rely on bottled water. 

But the ZeroWater filter jug is a bit of a game changer.

We all know that a lack of water intake can cause stress, lack of sleep, headaches and even muscle strain. According to their blurb, ZeroWater is the only gravity-fed filtration system to match the TDS* levels found in purified bottled water so the result is amazing tasting water straight from the tap. 

The ZeroWater jug has a unique filter technology system that combines five sophisticated technologies to remove virtually all dissolved solids from the tap water and these filters are also the only pour-through filters on the market that are certified by the NSF (The Public Health And Safety Organisation) to reduce lead. 

REVIEW : ZeroWater - Getting More Out Of Your Water

To filter your tap water, you just fill the "well" at the top of the jug and leave it for a few minutes to filter through into the jug. You have to do this twice to completely fill the 2 litre jug that I have.  And that is literally it!  And with the jug being the size it is, I know that I would need to drink the whole jug full to maintain my recommended daily intake but I've found that I'm drinking more. It also fits neatly in the fridge (although I had to move my shelves around a bit as I have the smallest fridge in the world) so you can have fresh, filtered, cold water whenever you want! 

The only thing you have to keep your eye on is the performance level of the filter and you're provided with a special test meter to do this.  You just dip it into a glass of filtered water and check the reading against the information provided and change the filter when reading reaches a certain figure.  Your filter should last around 2-3 months and replacement filters cost £20 (although buying in bulk reduces the cost per filter). 

There's loads of extra information on the Zerowater website including a FAQ section about filtered water and also an area where you can submit your water quality reading in return for a £5 discount voucher for your next replacement filter order. 

Shop here : ZeroWater.co.uk

(available in various sizes and prices from just £24.99)

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* "Dissolved solids" refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) comprise inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates) and some small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water.  Source

This review is a collaboration with ZeroWater. 
Please read my disclosure policy for more information


My Bikini Body... Revisited

A few months ago I found some old pictures of myself; a time when I didn't appreciate the body I had and didn't think twice about fitting into a swimsuit or bikini. 

My Bikini Body... Revisited

As time has gone on, I've become more body-conscious but have also realised that a lot of the pressure to have a 'perfect body' comes from my own perception of what is printed in the media. Almost four years ago to the day I wrote about this in a blog post - 'This Isn't The Body I Want But It's The Body I've Got' - where I sort of conclude with the thought that I wish I was as fat as I was when I first though I was fat... but it doesn't really matter because it's only really me and the Daily Mail that cares, isn't it?  Fast forward to 2018 and I'm finally on track with fitness and weight loss in a way that I'm happy about.

A few weeks ago, we went on holiday to Tenerife. I fancied some new 'sitting out in the sun and looking like a supermodel' type swimwear so I read loads of articles about how to find the right style of swimsuit for your body (or draw attention away from the most disliked parts of my body which has changed drastically over the years) and tried to work out how many different coloured bikinis I would need to have just the right amount of 'mix and match' outfits but then I gave myself a bit of a shake. 

My Bikini Body... Revisited - swimwear from Simply BeachMy Bikini Body... Revisited - swimwear from Simply Beach

I forced myself to not look at the size on the label and find something that would be comfortable enough to sit on a sun lounger whilst sipping a cold drink and reading my Kindle for a few hours a day. I had to take my own advice about not conforming to a particular size or shape, especially when age and lifestyle has a lot to answer for in the way my body looks at the moment.

But... after finding a style that suited me, for the first time in many years I felt a bit more confident about walking around the pool wearing a swimsuit and actually get a little colour on my skin. And, if we're being totally honest, no-one is really looking at me anyway - and I'm OK with that. 


The "hashtag not sponsored" section : I hate writing this paragraph but it's necessary. Occasionally I collaborate with companies to share a link that I'm happy to recommend - in this instance it was Simply Beach who sell the most amazing swimwear for all shapes and sizes.  Please see my disclosure policy for more details about why I partners with companies like this and why I'll only recommend products that I have tried and love. 


6 holiday tips for first time travellers to Mykonos

Mykonos is an island famous for its beautiful beaches, wild nightlife, and luxurious resorts. Greek is the official language and the winters are mild while the summers are hot and dry. There is a lot more to the island than just preening celebrities, dazzling sand and parties. Just start planning your trip and book a villa in Mykonos with a pool. Like every Greek island, Mykonos carries a certain charm that sets it apart from the rest. Wander the colourful streets and feel the vibrant energy of locals. Mykonos has something for everyone and read on to know some useful tips for the first time travellers.

6 holiday tips for first time travellers to Mykonos
Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

When to go

Whichever time you decide to visit, you are sure to fall in love with the breath-taking scenery, the food, and the atmosphere. The weather is perfect during spring, and this is the prime time to see Mykonos. June and September are the warmest months, and the water is perfect for swimming. Weather is still charming from May till October.

Where to stay

There is a wide range of options when it comes to staying in Mykonos. You can stay at a villa or at a resort near Mykonos. The island is packed with guesthouses, restaurants, and hotels near the waterfront. The town is bustling with restaurants and cafes. You have two options as to where to stay, first, near the beach areas of Mykonos and second, right in the middle of the town where most of the action happens. Book your hotel before you go.

What are the typical costs

The lodging expenses can start from 15 EUR per night for the cheap hostels, and the prices can go up to 30 EUR per night. A little pricier option can start for 50 EUR per night. While you can find cheap street food, eating can be expensive in Mykonos. Even a small dinner of just pasta can cost you 24 EUR! You can stick to local stretch food or cook your meals. As for the transport, you can rent a moped or scooter for 22 EUR. One can also travel by buses and hiring taxis can be expensive. Keep in mind that the holiday costs can go up during the summer. Also ensure you carry a small sized backpack as carry on luggage only. You don’t want to end up spending a lot on luggage costs if you are flying low cost airlines, your fare is almost double with a check-in bag. Check out some cool backpacks for Europe here and choose wisely. 

Where to eat

Mykonos is an ideal place to indulge your taste buds, and it is hard to keep away from the fresh fish and visions of tangy. The island will not disappoint you when it comes to food. Enjoy incredibly tasty and homemade pasta at Pasta Fresca Barkia. If you want to enjoy Greek lasagna- pastitsio, then La Casa is the perfect spot. Enjoy your extra buttery and delicious pastitsio and watch the life go by. There is a range of traditional Greek restaurants here where you can enjoy loukamades and delicious homemade ice cream. Try the fresh Greek yogurt in fresh strawberry flavor. Their Greek salad and tzatziki is simply delicious at Pepper.

Where to shop

Mykonos is lined with cute boutiques and is fun to go shopping. Buy gifts for friends and family at Anamnesia that sells designs from local Greek artists. The shopping streets here are lined with fashion boutiques, art stores, and touristy shops. Check out Mavrogenous street for Greek designers and if looking for casual fashion, head for Little Venice. Rarity Gallery and Art & Soul are some of the quirky art galleries.

What to do

Mykonos will keep you overwhelmed when it comes to fun-filled activities. It is the perfect blend of sea and sun, and there is plenty of swimming, sight-seeing, and dancing to keep you busy.

  • Both beginners and advanced divers can explore the walls, caves, and wrecks and the most reputable beaches are Lia and Kalafatis beaches where you will also find famous diving centers.
  • Visit the Unesco World Heritage site of sacred island of Delos which is a mythical birthplace of Aphrodite and Apollo. You can take the boat trips from the pier in Hora to reach the sacred island.
  • As Mykonos has a hilly interior, there are plenty of backcountry roads, deserted beaches and tranquil villages, where one can enjoy mountain biking. Look for mountain-biking tours based on your skill level.
  • Enjoy the fabulous free show on earth from prime spots for sunsets. Head for Agios Ioannis beach, Kato Mili or the bars of Little Venice in Hora. 
  • Mykonos doesn’t lack options when it comes to swimming, and one can take the plunge from infinity pools at leading resorts or explore the beautiful sandy beaches of the island.
  • Try your hand at activities such as wakeboarding, flyboarding, and wakeskating. There are lessons for the beginners and guidance for the experts.
  • Hire a boat to experience Mykonos from a distance. Discover hidden beaches and coves, and it is worth renting an ATV.
  • Another right spot to watch the sunset from the windmills. There are 16 windmills along the southern tip of Mykonos town. Just bring a blanket and get ready and cozy for the sunset.
  • There plenty of museums in Mykonos and one can visit Folklore Museum, The Archaeological Museum, Agricultural Museum, and Lena’s House Museum& Boni Mill.
  • If you are a diver, go for scuba diving around Mykonos. There are lots of fish, corals and even a few wrecks.
  • Explore the Elia Beach that happens to be the longest stretch of white sands. You will love the transparent waters, and enjoy great food and drinks at tavernas and bars.
6 holiday tips for first time travellers to Mykonos
Photo by Karsten Koehn on Unsplash

This is a collaborative post. For more details please view my disclosure policy

Finally Getting A New 10k Personal Best!

Finally Getting A New 10k Personal Best! The May Run Down (pic : pre race - Wesham Summer 10k)

Well folks, it's been a quiet but progressive two months.  Ironically, after being awarded "Runner of the Month" by my fellow running club members for March, I didn't do much pounding of the streets in April because we went on holiday to Tenerife.  I tried a couple of early morning runs there but it was just way too hot, even at 8am.  I found a lovely 2.5 mile route from the hotel to the town centre and back along the seafront. The scenery was gorgeous with mountains on one side, the sea on the other and a deceivingly steep hill to connect the two!

The May Run Down - Finally Getting A 10k Personal Best -  running in Tenerife

The May Run Down - Finally Getting A 10k Personal Best - I tried a couple of early morning runs there but it was just way too hot, even at 8am.  I found a lovely 2.5 mile route from the hotel to the town centre and back along the seafront and the scenery was gorgeous though with mountains on one side, the sea on the other and a deceivingly steep hill to connect the two!

Whilst on holiday I read the book, "Your Pace Or Mine" by Lisa Jackson.  It was bought for me as a present after completing the Darwen Half Marathon but gifted on the proviso that I lend it back after I'd finished it (this conditional gift giving could go far, trust me).  So I devoured it from cover to cover and highlighted inspirational passages and quotes that really hit home for when I gave it back to Lesley. I have to say that it's one of the best running books I've read and has provided me with even more positive ways of looking at my own running with a view to enjoying it better.  I'll be surprised if you've not already read it but, if you haven't then GO... NOW!! 

Also in April we had the Manchester Marathon and the London Marathon as the main focus races.  Our running club was well represented at both with thousands of pounds raised for various charities along the way and an enormous amount of personal achievements.  I am always in awe at the amount of time (and mileage) that goes into training for an event like this. It's a HUGE and selfish commitment with everyone around you having to be on board to support the amount of time you'd be spending away from the house in the final weeks of preparation. 

Apart from my close running buddies and fellow club members, of who I am immensely proud, one other runner stood out from the crowd for me and that was my blogging friend, Kirsty.  She's an inexperienced runner and trained, on her own, from couch to marathon for the London event, battling personal health issues along the way.  She's written about her journey here [Part 1 | Part 2] which, if you're a new runner with a big goal or if you're a slow runner who celebrates finish lines rather than finish times then you definitely should read both blog posts.

Next, local lad, Ben Fish's account on achieving 2:26:55 at the London Marathon is just jaw dropping when you consider the pace he was running at in the heat. Read the full blog post here but here's a mini-spoiler... 

My finishing position was 27th (including elite) and the eighth British man, which in fairness would usually require a sub 2hr 20 to manage in good conditions, so on reflection, my performance was better than I initially thought.

And finally, this forum thread about London Marathon cheaters is compelling reading.  I just don't understand the psyche behind cheating, especially when there are multiple timing mats but moreso after following the training and efforts of people like Kirsty and Ben mentioned above.

Something a bit different... do you remember Ben Smith? He was the guy that ran 401 marathons in 401 days to raise awareness of bullying and also to raise funds for two anti-bullying charities.  Have a watch of the video below: 

 Inspirational, yes?!  And I really love the ethos behind The 401 Foundation...

"We will support small grass root projects and individuals who build confidence and self esteem, tackle mental health and self development issues in local communities"

It's something very similar to a local, Big Lottery funded project I worked on about five years back so it's great to see someone carrying on that idea with the ability to be more prolific and hopefully create a national foundation to support communities far and wide.  Find out more at the 401 Foundation website.

To finish, I want to mention why I feel my change in attitude and the conscious effort to lose weight is a huge part of why my running is getting better.  I read an article on The Pool by Amy Jones which was about how fat people can run (IT'S TRUE - WE CAN!) but there's a lot less "inspo" posted on the usual social media channels.

When I looked online for fitness inspiration or running tips [..] all that were getting served to me was images of thin, strong (usually white and blonde) women, bodybuilders or “before and after” pics demonstrating the huge amounts of weight people had lost since they started training. These bodies seemed so far removed from my reality that there was no point even trying to aim for them – I’m like a different species and I feel simultaneously enormous and very, very small when I look at them.

Now, I'm not about to strip down to my bra and run through Witton Park *hears a collective sigh of relief from all Blackburn residents* but it really made me think about who I was six months ago compared to now.  I hardly ever share photos of me actually running but I saw these pictures from Hyndburn parkrun a couple of weeks ago and, whilst I could have chosen my outfit a little more carefully, the photos were a reminder of how far I've come in such a short space of time.

The May Run Down - Finally Getting A 10k Personal Best - Pictures from Hyndburn

I'm not the fastest runner - in fact, I regularly come last in my age category and I'm usually the last member of our club to cross the line at races - but I've learnt that this is OK.  I'm starting to see and feel the physical results of losing almost two stone (and counting) in weight as my stamina has improved massively and I'm looking forward to heading out of the door for each run. 

Personal bests for parkrun and 10k races - and maybe even another half marathon in the not too distant future - are already being worked on.  Last Wednesday I ran the Wesham Summer 10k organised by Wesham Road Runners as a trial for a summer mid-week event on their usual winter 10k course.  This was the fourth time I've run this course and it would be the first time I had run it completely alone so it was a test of my stamina and mettle more than anything else.  I'd already had excellent advice about not setting off too quickly and I'd fully prepared mentally to come last. What actually happened was nothing short of a miracle in the form of running almost 6k without having to have a little power walk and then achieving a 5k, a 10k and a course Personal Best in one fell swoop. That sub-1:10 feels very much within my reach now and that's my next goal but I'm definitely not going to put pressure on myself to achieve it. 

The May Run Down - Finally Getting A 10k Personal Best - Wesham Summer 10k with personal best times

So, for the time being, I've changed up the training sessions by putting in one mid distance run (5-6 mile), one trail run (3-4 mile) and one long distance run (10 miles) per week and I'm already seeing results.  

Whatever happens - I'm slowly learning to accept that I get out there, I try my best and I finish what I set out to do. It just takes me a little bit longer than everyone else!


PS... I'm often asked about my running gear so this month I've been wearing ACAI Activewear Compression Leggings from UK Lingerie,  USA Pro capri leggings from Sports Direct (seen in the both the pictures in this blog post), a Shock Absorber Ultimate Run sports bra from UK Lingerie which is one of the comfiest I've ever worn, Adidas Duramo 55 trainers (alternating two pairs) with Shwings from Amazon laced into them for a bit of fun!

PPS... My Instagram is becoming more about running with snippets of regular daily life thrown in.  If you like that sort of thing you can follow me here : www.instagram.com/nickieoharaAlso, if you follow people on Strava you can find me here : www.strava.com/athletes/18841012

PPPS... Don't forget about my running podcast - The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst.  You can find it on iTunes, on Podbean or just search for it in your podcast app. You can also like the Facebook page for little nuggets of news and inspirational stories we find. 

Finally Getting A New 10k Personal Best! - The First 10 Minutes Are The Worst podcast

I think that's it now... happy running! 


How Pendant Lighting Can Work for Every Room in the Home

How Pendant Lighting Can Work for Every Room in the Home - Pendant lighting hangs from the ceiling, making a statement and can work for every room in the home thanks to its versatility.

Lighting – it can be an afterthought when it comes to decorating your home, or perhaps you think that it can’t easily be changed. There’s a lot that you can do with lighting and we have witnessed a recent surge in interior designers focusing on it. One popular style in particular is pendant lighting. Pendant lighting hangs from the ceiling, making a statement and can work for every room in the home thanks to its versatility.

Living Room

Pendant lights are great for drawing the eye upwards so they are ideal if you have high ceilings in your living room. You could opt for one pendant light or a few to make a design statement. In terms of style – the choice is yours. You could choose a brushed or plated metal finish if you prefer a modern industrial style, or ceramics and glass for a more elegant feel.


In the bedroom, there are a couple of places to put pendant lights. You could swap your bedside table lamps for pendant lights which hang at either side of your bed. You could also use a pendant light over your bed – just make sure that it is high enough to avoid any accidents when you sit up! Some of the best pendant lighting styles for the bedroom are geometric shapes and chandeliers.


The best place for pendant lights in the kitchen is over your island or dining area. You may want to use a dimmer switch if you also use these areas to relax as pendant lights can provide a bright, focused task light. LED pendant lights are a good choice for the kitchen as they work well with dimmer switches. A popular interior design trick for pendant lights in kitchens is the rule of three – place three pendant lights over your island or eating area. Metal pendant lights look great in the kitchen as they will co-ordinate with cabinet handles.


Pendant lights are brilliant for open spaces such as the hallway. They generally look quite artistic, so they are great to use as artwork. Think geometric style or even a large drum shape – don’t be afraid to make a statement. Your hallway isn’t always an area that you can decorate very easily, so make the most of the light!

How Pendant Lighting Can Work for Every Room in the Home - Pendant lighting hangs from the ceiling, making a statement and can work for every room in the home thanks to its versatility.

Why Choose Pendant Lights?

Pendant lighting is a great choice of lighting for the home as it comes in so many different shapes and styles. You can choose a lighting to suit your decor style whether that’s an exposed bulb for an industrial look or a drum-shaped pendant for a contemporary room. Pendant lights can assist in reducing clutter in your home as they reduce your need for lamps.

Pendant Lighting Ideas and Tips:

  • Choose a shade with cut-out pieces and it will cast beautiful shadows in the room.Use your pendant lights as a colour contrast – yellow in a monochrome room, for example.
  • If you want to hang pendant lights in your bedroom but you’re worried about bumping your head, hang it at the end of the bed.
  • If you’re hanging a pendant light over your staircase, make sure its high enough!
  • If you’re using pendant lights in the kitchen, choose a finish which is easy to clean – think about how greasy and steamy your kitchen can be!
  • Odd numbers of pendant lights look better than even numbers.
  • A pendant light should be hung around 28-32 inches above a table and 72 inches off the floor.


How We Use Our Whiteboard

I used to have a whiteboard on the wall in my home office. That was, until the grandchildren discovered the joy of being able to draw on it, using my multi-coloured pens. Gone was the space I had for my scheduling and instead were cute little drawings and notes from the girls. A joy to read but not so great for my productivity.

Whiteboards have always fitted into the corporate world for me. I used them to display notes and prompts when delivering courses a few years ago, and with my new career in advertising, my professional life now revolves around the sales figures on the whiteboard. Back at home, it was fascinating to see how productive and interactive the girls where when given a dry erase whiteboard as oppose to the usual pens and paper. 
How We Use Our Whiteboard - Wedge Whiteboards are manufactured in the UK, come in a wide range of orientations / sizes and are available to buy on Amazon.  I would not hesitate to recommend Wedge Whiteboards and I would also love to hear your suggestions on how you would use a whiteboard in your home or office.

I needed a whiteboard at home for my scheduling, however I also needed a dry wipe whiteboard for my grandchildren to use when they came around to visit. The solution? The A2 Wedge Whiteboard from Wedge Whiteboards. This triangular prism sits perfectly on our table and the fact that it is double sided means that there are no arguments about who has more space to draw on. We have been able to revisit some ‘old-fashioned’ games such as battleships, nought and crosses and hangman. We also use the whiteboard for homework task without wasting reams of paper. It is also encouraging to see ‘analogue interaction’ from the grandchildren rather than them bent over a tablet or a mobile phone. 

There are four pens and two erasers provided with the board, but we have also been using our Chalkola markers on it too. As a huge bonus, Wedge Whiteboards are also magnetic, so my youngest grandchild who is only 19 months old can also play with some magnetic shapes and interact with his siblings.

When the grandchildren are not here, the A2 Wedge Whiteboard does not sit around unused and unloved. On the contrary, I use it every day to leave little notes for my husband, mainly reminders like ‘put the bins out’ or ‘please pick up a pint of milk’. When we went on holiday, it was the perfect way to leave a checklist of tasks and reminders for my sons who were house-and-dog-sitting.

Wedge Whiteboards are manufactured in the UK, come in a wide range of orientations / sizes and are available to buy on Amazon.

I would not hesitate to recommend Wedge Whiteboards and I would also love to hear your suggestions on how you would use a whiteboard in your home or office.

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REVIEW : Looking4Parking - Meet and Greet Airport Parking Service

REVIEW : Looking4Parking - Meet and Greet Airport Parking Service - We've used "park and ride" services on a number of occasions, both from Manchester Airport and from Leeds Bradford Airport and cannot fault them. There's always a shuttle bus just a couple of minutes away and the cars are stored in secure parking lots so I was interested to see what the extra £20-£30 would buy me.

We've recently been away to Tenerife, flying from Manchester Airport, and used the "Meet and Greet" service from Looking4Parking

We've used "park and ride" services on a number of occasions, both from Manchester Airport and from Leeds Bradford Airport and cannot fault them. There's always a shuttle bus just a couple of minutes away and the cars are stored in secure parking lots so I was interested to see what the extra £20-£30 would buy me.

Arriving At The Airport

We were provided with clear instructions on how to approach our terminal at the airport and we were asked to ring ahead 20 minutes before we arrived.  We were directed straight to the drop-off point at the front of the terminal, guided into designated parking bays for this service and met by our chauffeur.

The usual exterior checks were done for any existing external damage to the car (bumps, scratches, etc) and the mileage recorded. Then we were given a card with contact details and asked to ring a telephone number on our return after we'd cleared passport control, baggage collection and customs and then pointed in the direction of the check-in desks (literally across the road).

We checked in smoothly and headed off for our holiday.

Coming Home

Our flight out of Tenerife landed early but the baggage took over and hour and a half to arrive on the belt.  I rang the number provided to explain about the delay and was asked to ring back once we had cleared customs.  It was explained that the chauffeurs weren't allowed to hang around in the drop-off point if there were any further delays which is totally understandable. A short while later, we were clear so I rang back and we were directed to a specific meeting point outside the airport building - but in a designated pick-up area - for our chauffeur to bring our car back.

It was 1.00am and we waited around 10 minutes for our car to be returned. We were handed our car keys but we were stood in the middle of the collection area at Manchester Airport. There wasn't a real chance to check over the car, plus there was just street/car park lighting available. We were also informed that we were responsible for the (recently installed) £4 exit fee from the car park.  Luckily I had change available but we were totally unaware of this charge. Having looked back on my paperwork when the service was booked, it is mentioned on there but it's worth noting.  You will be given the exit token by your chauffeur and there is a payment meter just by the waiting area.

The above comments are all advisories and do not deter from the fact that the service was speedy and professional.  It's always a worry to hand over your car to someone else to drive away and store for a couple of weeks but it's such an easy and reasonably price service that I can't fault it. Our two drivers were pleasant and gave us ample instructions at drop-off and collection.  Not having to queue up for a shuttle bus and travel 5 miles or so to and from the airport was definitely a bonus.


Frequently Asked Questions (prompted by friends who were interested in this review)

Is there an easy option for wheelchair users?

The "Meet and Greet" service is as close as you can get to the door of the terminal and check-in area. From my experience at Manchester Airport, the drop-off area is flat, there is a zebra crossing across to the terminal and then you are straight into the airport.  There will be other similar facilities in other Terminals and airports but it would be best to check before booking.

Where is the car stored for the duration of the holiday?

Again, in my experience storage areas are manned 24 hours a day.  The secure car parks are usually around 5 miles away from the airport and located on industrial estates.  When we flew from Leeds Bradford last year, the secure car park was literally across the road from the airport and the shuttle service took 2 minutes, door-to-door.

How is the car moved?

The chauffeur drives it. The company will be fully insured for this service.

What happens if the car is damaged?

You should be offered the opportunity to inspect your car fully before accepting it back.  As noted above, when our car was returned this proved very difficult in the dark car park. I would imagine that if there was any notable damage to your car, your chauffeur would be expected to point it out to you and offer you an option to rectify the situation

Are there any other options?

Looking4Parking offer a variety of parking options including off-site parking (the Meet and Greet service and Park & Ride), on-site parking and business parking.  On their website you fill in a short form to be offered the costings for each option.

What is the cost?

This varies throughout the year.  We travelled in April and the car was parked for two weeks. Our Meet and Greet service would have cost £70 compared to £45 for the shuttle Park and Ride service. In high season this cost is definitely elevated.  


I understand the service providers need to know when you are turning up with your car however I'm not sure how I would have been able to phone ahead had I been a lone traveller as my phone is always safely stored away whilst driving.

I zeroed my milometer when we got to the airport.  Firstly, I've seen Ferris Bueller... but also I was interested in exactly how far away the storage car park was.  Just a few miles were clocked when the car was returned to us. 

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Must see Malaysia – 12 places to visit

Must see Malaysia – 12 places to visit

In such a diverse a country as Malaysia, the top places to visit cover everything from striking cities to tropical islands. 

The country also has four UNESCO sites, all of which are covered below, and some of the biggest and tallest natural attractions in the world. Here’s an insight into the best of Malaysia’s caves, mountains, theme parks, wildlife hotspots, historical sights and more.

Cameron Highlands

Malaysia’s largest hill resort and biggest tea growing region, the Cameron Highlands lie around 20 kilometres east of Ipoh. The altitude here provides a cooler climate in which to explore attractions like the rose gardens, a Chinese temple and cactus valley. You can combine a visit to the BOH tea plantation with the Mossy Forest, otherwise known as the Cloud Forest due to its surreal, misty nature.

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary

This well-respected sanctuary has been working hard for over 60 years to rehabilitate orangutans back into the wild. Around 75 orangutans live in the reserve and you can take pictures of them at feeding time – 1am and 3pm daily – and learn about the good work they do here.

Mount Kinabalu

For those of you who like a challenge there are few greater than Malaysia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, at 4095 metres high. It sits in Kinabalu Park, which was the first place in Malaysia to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its biodiversity. It’s best to consult a guide before you undertake the two-day hike, but the views are certainly worth it.

Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) Marine Park

From high up a mountain to deep below the seas, one of the finest spots for diving and snorkelling in all of Malaysia is TAR Marine Park. It’s a cluster of five islands surrounded by beautiful corals, particularly near the largest, Gaya Island. One of the best parts is that this underwater world is only 20 minutes’ boat ride from Kota Kinabalu on the mainland.

Mulu National Park

A vast park in Sarawak, Mulu National Park is best known for its caves, one of which has the accolade of being the largest chamber in the world, and another the longest at a staggering 100 kilometres. If you don’t want to go inside, visit at between 5-6.30pm to see flocks of bats swarm out of the caves, and the occasional hawk catching one for its dinner. The park also has interesting limestone shard-like features at Mount Api.

Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia’s capital has so much going on – for a start there are nine shopping malls, as well as the National Zoo, with big cats, giraffes, pandas, elephants and more. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Jalan Alor for street food and take it to eat in the blissful lake gardens.

Kuala Lumpur - Must see Malaysia – 12 places to visit

Langkawi Island

This 500-million-year-old island off the coast of Kedah is a UNESCO Global Geopark, which shows off its amazing geology at sights like Temurun and Seven Wells Waterfalls. You can have a go at pretty much any kind of watersport you fancy here, or visit Underwater World to see marine life without diving in the ocean. Another popular pastimes in Langkawi is taking the cable car up to Gunung Mat Chincang.


The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Malacca is rich in colonial history with a maritime heritage that sings out. Its history is displayed in numerous museums throughout the town and eastern influences can be seen at places like Cheng Hoon Teng, Malaysia’s oldest Chinese temple. In contrast, Porta de Santiago gives a flavour of Portuguese influences.


Penang Island houses another of Malaysia’s UNESCO World Heritage Site – its Georgetown historic quarter, which contains important historic buildings such as Fort Cornwallis and City Hall. From here you can hop on a trishaw and travel to the Clan Jetties Floating Village. As the foodie capital of Malaysia, you won’t go short of something to eat either.

Penang - Must see Malaysia – 12 places to visit

Batu Caves

Close to Kuala Lumpur, Batu caves might not be as big as those in Sarawak, however the splendid Hindi temple and shrine at the cave entrance are what visitors come for. In fact throngs of Hindus descend here for the Thaipusam festival. The golden Hindu God statue at the entrance and resident monkeys make for good photos.

Genting Highlands

Looming on Ulu Kali Mountain above Kuala Lumpur, Genting Highlands has always been a playground of fair rides and casinos, but as of late 2018 it’s set to reopen as Twentieth Century Fox Theme Park. The much anticipated movie-themed attraction will include 25 rides across different film genres.

Sunway Lagoon Theme Park

If you can’t wait for Twentieth Century Fox Theme Park to open, Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, in Bandar Sunway, is Malaysia’s shining star of rollercoasters and waterparks all in one. It has zones from Wild West to African Waters so you can don your swimming gear or stay dry on thrilling rides.

These are my top places to visit in Malaysia; where do you want to go? Let me know if you’ve been to any of these Malaysian highlights yourself.


To Work From Home, Your Home Must Work For You

To Work From Home, Your Home Must Work For You
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It is of little surprise that so many people are making the move to working from home today. However, while there are many benefits associated with working from home, there are also a number of unique challenges too. Motivation can be a real problem for a lot of people, and finding a good work/home balance becomes a challenge too, as your place of work and your home are now the same. So, how do you making working from home a success? It is all about making your home work for you, and here’s how…

Make sure you have a separate place to work – A lot of people think that the main benefit of working from home is that they can work from their bed or the sofa. While this may be the case, it is not advised. If you work from bed, you are more likely to fall asleep than complete your tasks. If you work from the sofa, you will end up watching television. Although your home is now your place of work, you need to do everything in your power to make sure the lines between home life and work life do not get blurred. This is why having a separate work area, i.e. an office, is a necessity. If you don’t have a spare room in your house, why not look into a garden office?

Get rid of clutter – Clutter is bad news because it stops you from thinking clearly, and it causes irritation and stress. If you have too many things in your home that you do not want to get rid of, look online to find storage near me. Keeping your house in good condition is important because it enables you to focus on your work, rather than worrying about when you are going to be able to clean and organise your home.

Consider colours with care – Another thing you will soon learn when working from home is how your environment affects your ability to think and be productive. This does not only relate to clutter, but it relates to the way in which your office is decorated. The colours you choose will have a big impact on how you feel. It is a good idea to go for something neutral that allows your mind to be free and clear. Blue has always been a good choice for a professional environment. Nevertheless, if you have a creative job, a colour like yellow can be helpful.

Invest in ergonomic furniture – Last but not least, ergonomic furniture is a necessity. This is furniture that has been especially designed to ensure that you maintain the correct posture throughout the day. These desks and chairs have been designed while considering the interaction with you – the user. This ensures you can work productively and that your health and well being are cared for.

So there you have it: some useful tips on making your home work for you. If you follow the advice that has been provided, you can create an environment that helps you to work effectively. You can ensure that your mind is clear, your motivation levels are high, and that you can distinguish your work life from your home life effectively.

The March Run Down

I write about running on a regular basis. I talk about it on Facebook A LOT and I even have a podcast which is all about running. I have gone through every emotion you can think of before, during and after a run but I still find it hard to believe that I now actually run distance for pleasure and fitness rather than to win races as I used to when I was a sprinter in my teens. And whilst I have some blog posts specifically dedicated to certain points in my running journey, I also like to do an occasional round-up style piece dedicated to general musings and running or fitness links I find on my travels around the interwebs. So here is one of those... this is The March Run Down!

First and foremost... just in case you didn't know... I ran a half marathon. There's a whole long story behind it but the premise is that I was pissed off after being snowed in on the day of the 10 mile race that I'd be training for so, on a whim, I booked one of the final 19 places in the Darwen Heritage Half Marathon (official promo video above) - probably the toughest in the local area. You can read all about it here.

Leading on from this, a huge boost for me at the end of March was being named as Runner of the Month by members our running club. All club members are invited to email their nominations in and then these are shared publicly at the end of each month. I was totally overwhelmed reading what people had to say about my recent improvements and gave me a bit of a kick up the arse with regards to just Getting On With It. Oh, and I got a trophy to add to my collection of bling!

Next, I want to address something that I see talked about on a number of occasions; runners who are all shapes and sizes and different paces. There are a whole load of reasons that I'm passionate about this but mainly because I've been lots of shapes and sizes and because I've seen people progress from our local 'couch to 5k' group running plan to achieve amazing things.

Because here's the thing: There are no pace requirements for toeing a start line—or crossing a finish line. You are not too slow to chug water from a tiny paper cup and press on. Or to stop your RunKeeper or Strava or Garmin or whatever tracking toy you prefer and look at your effort and say, "I'm proud of what I did today."

This extract is from an open letter to any runner who thinks she's too slowwritten by Kara Cutruzzula.  I struggled for a long time with my pace and feeling that I wasn't good enough to be a runner even though I was volunteering and mentoring people to run up to, and beyond, 10k.  But changing my own focus and joining a running club made a massive difference. I always tell my newbie runners to take each run as it comes and every step is an achievement - this article helped me to take my own advice.

People often said they were surprised I could run so well for being "bigger." Or they'd note that I was "strong," a notoriously condescending word in running culture.

After getting my own head around my pace, I started to think about my weight and I'm now working on controlling that too.  I've not been talking about it too much as I'm doing it for personal reasons but I have noticed that my running is improving now that my weight is coming down.  I'll never have the same physique that I did when I was a sprinter - I mean, I'm 30 years older and have had three children - but it would be nice to shed a fair few pounds, tone up and generally be healthier.  This second quote is from an article by Allie Kieffer where she says that her weight has nothing to do with how good a runner she is and she talks about the criticism she received from peers and coaches which lead to what could be considered a possible eating disorder and some directly related injuries.

Off the track, I didn’t feel "big." Actually, I felt beautiful. I filled out the curves in a dress and cups in a bra. I knew, intellectually, that to people outside of the running community I was on the smaller side—and that in all other areas of life I benefited from the privileges that society bestows upon people who fit into straight-size clothing. But on the track, I felt different—uncomfortable and inadequate.

And this is the important take-away from the article.  A runner's body is completely different to a non-runner's body and it's all about how see ourselves.  We need to see the strong, confident person we are when we are smashing those miles and celebrate our achievements. In fact, Mirna says it best in this video that I found on Facebook...

Phew... something a bit more lighthearted now.  Do you parkrun? I love joining in when I can and we have a few great local courses. I've recently knocked 10 minutes off my course record at Hyndburn (my favourite course round here) but I only ever treat it as a personal challenge.  If I ever do a bit of parkrun tourism, I like to know how 'lumpy' it's going to be in advance so this parkrun Elevation website is a huge help. Just type in the name of the parkrun you're looking for and the elevation (according to data from GPS devices operating with barometric altimeters) is laid out for you. 

And finally... the main Marathon season is creeping up on us.  I have many runner friends across the country participating in various marathons this year - some for charity, some for personal achievement - all way more committed to the cause than I am.  Putting the extra hours in to train for a 10 miler and a half marathon alongside my volunteering commitments almost broke me so I can't even begin to understand how time is allocated to train for a marathon - it completely takes over your life!  But if you ever wondered what it was like to run the London Marathon then spend the next five minutes watching this video which take you round the course from start to finish.

Please do let me know what your running achievements have been recently. I'd love to hear about them! 

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