Taking the Rough with the Smooth. Paradise Found.


Last Year in November I think I found a slice of Paradise. I have embarked on more than my fair share of backpacking/roughing it holidays, I have paid my dues and gone through the initiation rights to be called a traveller and not a tourist. Some of the tales of places we have stayed across the world could make your hair curl but this is not one of them. Our third and no means last visit to Thailand was on an altogether different scale. Roughing it? Oh no, we ‘Smoothed’ it big time and I liked it!

We stayed on two islands, firstly the very beautiful and famous Ko Phi Phi but we avoided the bustling backpacker town of Tonsai and continued on the ferry to go around the corner to a tranquil and azure blue water beach. Here we had a week of snorkelling and taking it easy. I have Scuba Dived many times in Thailand, the Red Sea and Spain (!)  and been slightly disappointed at times, in all those deeper dives I have never seen such an array of colorful and abundant marine life as I saw around these islands, here you need nothing more than a snorkel mask and fins (optional) We even managed to hit Maya Bay (The Beach) and virtually have it to ourselves, it really is a stunning location!

All perfectly idyllic but no, the slice of paradise I was talking about came in the second venue which was Ko Lanta and the Layana Hotel.

The Layana is a small scale boutique hotel that promises to make time stand still for just a moment and to create a harmonious and tranquil setting. It did not disappoint. The moment that you enter the tree-lined drive, magic starts to happen. The first day we lay by the smooth saline pool (its composition equivalent to human tears apparently) and I just drank it all in (not the pool I hasten to add) The beautiful palm fringed manicured gardens to the left, the infinity pool reaching out towards the beach and sea with a serene buddha statue keeping guard on the right. We truly thought we had found heaven. The staff were discrete and very hospitable, we lay in the glorious sunshine until suitably toasted then cooled off in the glassy aquamarine pool only to start the routine over again. We were treated to cold flannels by the passing waiters and constant top ups of iced water. As if that wasn’t enough they would re-appear with fresh chilled fruit from time to time.

Once night falls the restaurant and bar areas come alive, the beach side dining terrace lit by candles and fairy lights in the trees was pure romance. To eat amazing food in the balmy night air to the sound of the lapping waves was perfection.

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I have never wanted time to stand still so much as when we had 1 day left. I sat on our the balcony listening to the unfamiliar birds singing, watching a rare little cloud waft across the sky, Enjoying the  last moments of enveloping heat around me  and feeling a million miles away from the stresses of real life. I wished I could freeze the moment and remember every detail so that I could replay it back at any time.


But all good things must come to an end and this was no exception . I felt a definite tinge of sadness as the staff waved us off on our departure, it felt like leaving home but I did manage to capture those moments in my mind and writing this on a cold and dreary February day in the UK  has taken me back there to all the sounds, smells and sights I was lucky enough to experience in Thailand and at the Layana. Perhaps I have indeed managed to freeze a moment in time, I will recall it whenever I need to be transported away from reality and to a calming place.

I have learned and experienced so much from travelling and roughing it on many levels around the world, there is a rich, colourful and vibrant planet out there not to be missed. These days we are eager to tick off that bucket list as if there really is no tomorrow. we  ‘go’ and ‘do’ as much as possible, of course one day for all of us there won’t be a tomorrow but don’t forget to ‘see’, ‘feel’ and ‘soak in’ the small details no matter where you are. I found a rare peace, serenity and  ‘happy place’ in a sometimes frenetic life by ‘smoothing’ it just this once!


Moonlight at Castle Howard


Moonlight at Castle Howard

My second home!

Castle Howard is 10 minutes from where we live,  we visit regularly and have taken the children there since they were small. They are now adults and we visited at Christmas where I captured this shot at moonlight. It is beautiful  in every season.

Shut the Curtains Mummy. A Strange Tale…

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We live in an old 1900’s house full of character, creaks and no doubt past history but quite a few years ago something happened that I have never forgotten.

My youngest daughter was a bright 4 year old at the time. Every night we would have a well trodden routine of bathtime and stories before she went to sleep. On one occasion after her bath she stopped dead outside her bedroom door as if remembering something and with an apprehensive look  on her face said ‘Mummy, close the curtains!’ Dutifully I did so and she hopped enthusiastically into her bed ready for stories and drifted off into a deep sleep. The next night the same thing happened and the next. At first I thought it was because it was summer and it was still light outside therefore preventing her sleeping. However she seemed genuinely apprehensive every time she asked ‘Close the curtains Mummy?! and refused to enter the room until I had done so. After the third evening of this, puzzled, I asked,

‘Honey, why do you ask me to close the curtains before you come in, is the light bothering you? to which she replied with a very serious face,

‘No…..it’s the boy!’

‘What boy?’ I  questioned a little confused,

‘The boy in the garden,’ she explained, ‘he comes every night’

Intrigued and slightly perturbed I thought that perhaps a neighbours child was coming and playing in our garden in the evenings, so I asked, ‘Does the boy play in our garden?

‘No’ she replied, ‘He just stands there and stares up at my window and I don’t like it’

By now I begin to feel that this  sounds a little more sinister but without wanting to frighten or alarm her I gently question further….

‘What does this boy look like?’ I enquire,

Her reply chills me,

‘He wears funny clothes, they are all brown,  He wears a funny flat hat on his head and his trousers stop at the knee!!

My small four-year old daughter had not yet started school and although a bright child, as far as I knew, was not well read on turn of the century Edwardian fashion. None of the characters in our stories looked as she had so accurately described. From the flat cap to the Knickerbocker style trousers I stood aghast! How could she even dream those details? What had she seen in our garden, which was fully private with no immediate access to the road? It seemed unlikely that a passing boy in fancy dress would be in our garden and every night for the last 3! Not a great believer in ghostly happenings I tried to rack my brain for an explanation and came up with none.

I was unnerved and the next few nights I continued to close the curtains as she requested but could see nothing untoward outside.

The next night after her bath I was surprised to see my daughter bound into her room without hesitation and sit in her bed, story book at the ready.

Slightly confused I said, ‘Hey, you didn’t ask me to close the curtains tonight! How come?

‘Oh its ok now’, she replied, ‘he doesn’t come in the garden now,’

Relieved that this was simply a passing phase I smiled, ‘Oh good’, I said, ‘So you don’t see him in the garden anymore?’.

‘No’ she said with a small smile, ‘HE COMES IN MY ROOM NOW!!


My blood ran cold and I wondered if she could be playing very clever tricks on me, but she’s FOUR I kept telling myself, this is far too clever to be a wind up, and over several days.

After further questioning she told me that she wasn’t scared anymore because he  just stands in the corner…….. ‘Over there’

As I mentioned earlier I am not a great believer in ghost stories, I tend to look for a logical explanations in things. At that time and even now I cannot explain this account my daughter in her innocence told to me. Even then she did not come out with the tale, it came about through her responses to my questions.

I have never forgotten this incidence, it actually shook me which is why I remember all the details so vividly to this day. Maybe I do believe in ghosts after all.

My daughter is now at university and sometimes when it comes to mind I’ll say, ‘Do you remember seeing an Edwardian looking boy in the garden when you were little? Did you ever see him again?

To which she simply shakes her head, shrugs  and  replies  ‘No’