Half Term Happenings
I’m in my fourth year of teaching and decided that this year, I’m going to enjoy my holidays. Everyone knows that teachers have long holidays, but for good reason; we are workaholics, and need a bit of time to wind down before we get back to planning and tracking. Everyone needs a couple of days off, so since it’s nearly the October half term, here are the things I’ll be thinking of doing in and around London.
Bottomless Brunch with your buddies
All cities have bars that offer bottomless brunch deals, where you pay a set price for a couple of hours of all you can eat or drink. You’ve worked hard and need to wind down with the people who can help you de-stress and have a laugh. Pair it with a quirky venue like The Piano Works, The Bootlegger or Fight Club in London, and you have an afternoon (and evening) of laughs. If you want something a little more quiet, Groupon and Wowcher offer hundreds of deals for afternoon tea that I have taken advantage of multiple times.
Have some indoor fun
No, not that kind! In the past few years, trampoline parks have surged in popularity, offering an hour of acting like a kid again for around £10 each. If working up a sweat (which definitely happens) doesn’t appeal to you, look for a non-brand bowling alley to spend some time in. I always prefer to hit the Kuursal in Southend-on-Sea than Hollywood Bowl for the dingier, quieter atmosphere. There’s also laser tag and glow golf, but if you want something a bit more exciting, book a ticket to Backyard Cinema in Newington, London. You get to watch a great movie, while hanging out in a themed theatre. Snow Kingdom opens 25th October, and the tickets are selling fast!
Enjoy the autumn
If you are a bit outdoorsy like I am, the south of England in autumn is stunning. London’s parks start to turn to shades of umber and auburn, and the occasional blanket of mist sets in. It’s still a good time to go to farms and zoos, and chances are, castles haven’t yet started to close parts of their grounds for the winter. Kew Gardens is hosting an exhibit named Artful Autumn until 29th October, and if that doesn’t say exactly what is on the tin, I don’t know what will!
If culture is not your thing, I get it, but I can’t not promote a day exploring a castle or a museum. For a start, the UK is probably the best country to find such an array of ruined castles, display castles and stately homes.
In London alone you could spend the day wandering around the Tower of London, gawping at the actual crown jewels and the spot where two English queens had their heads chopped off. Or there’s Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace. Obviously, the castles have an entry price, so you could save your pennies (and pounds) and pop into one of London’s free museums. My favourite will always be the British Museum, where you can find collections of stuff British people stole from other countries, but there is also the Science Museum, National Gallery, Tate Galleries, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Natural History Museum, which has had a bit of a makeover recently.
If London is a bit too far away, don’t panic. Some of the most stunning castles are miles from the city. Bolton Castle (where Mary Queen of Scots once stayed) and Middleham Castle (King Richard the Third’s childhood home) are completely different and only a 20 minute drive from each other in The Yorkshire Dales National Park. You could check out Longleat to wander through Lord Bath’s stately home and drive gingerly though his incredible safari park. In Kent, you’ll find Hever Castle, home of Ann Boleyn, and Leeds Castle. There’s Dover Castle and Newhaven Fort, where Britain based defences during war periods, or if you’ve got kids to entertain, Warwick Castle.
Spend time in another city
I live only 30 minutes from London, but sometimes, I like to up and leave for a day or a weekend and see somewhere new. It’s ridiculously easy to take the train from city to city, as long as you are prepared to get up early, so why not take a day trip. Brighton is fantastic, even in cold weather. Alongside a plethora of shops and markets is my favourite ever bar The Mesmerist, and Komedia, a faultless comedy club which can keep you going all the way to tomorrow. Sheffield is another lively night out. For more culture, visit Canterbury Cathedral or see the Gothic architecture of Cambridge. In Bath you’ll find beautiful buildings and the famous Roman Baths, and you can have lunch and coffee in The Cosy Club.
York is the next city on my list!
If you add up all the suggestions, I appreciate it will probably cost you a pretty penny. At the moment, I’m saving to buy a house and in the current climate, unfortunately we don’t have buckets of disposable income.
At home with family, your partner or roommates? Forget Netflix and Chill, Console and Snacks is the way forward. Take it in turns to play free games like Fortnite, or challenge each other to multiplayer classics like Modern Warfare Zombies, Forza, Resident Evil. With kids, team up and play Mario Kart or Rocket League for a less bloodthirsty style of gaming. No console? Go for a classic board game (not Monopoly though, we all know how that ends), and even if you have to buy one, they’re timeless: dig them out again at Christmas. My personal favourite is Cards Against Humanity – not suitable for kids, but really worth the purchase!
If you’re on your own, turn the lights off, shut the curtains, forget about the Hoover and immerse yourself in something you love. I’m a gamer, so I’d be exploring the Commonwealth Wasteland in Fallout 4, or fighting my way through something like Dishonoured, but if I don’t fancy killing, I love a good jigsaw. Borrow one from your friend, or your gran, or hit the local charity shop and be prepared to be occupied for hours. You do you boo boo. If it means bingewatching the entire series of Celebs Go Dating or mindlessly watching Judge Rinder, turn that TV up and snuggle into that blanket.
I always like to spend one day simply treating myself: a haircut, long bath, exfoliation, pedicure, and maybe even a massage. It helps me wind down from six to eight weeks of relentless mental pressure of employment.
Remember, most of us are time strapped. A week isn’t a long time, so make the most of what you have.