Grenfell One Year On.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the tragic Grenfell Tower Fire. Think about what you and your families have done in this past year… celebrated birthdays, watched your baby do their first steps, family holidays, first day at school, new jobs, new house. Sadly for the families who lost loved ones in the early hours of June 14th 2017, their lives have never quite been the same again.
We woke up about 6am that day because the noise of helicopters which had been circling in the sky for hours during the night, had woken us up prematurely. I woke to find our roof hatch open, so I climbed up the ladder to find Tye standing on the roof. “What’s going on? What’s with the helicopters?” Tye waved at me to come and look.. “it’s been on fire all night”. Oh. My. God. This sky high tower block had thick black smoke billowing from it and was filling the sky, a sight this we will always remember so so clearly. I covered my mouth in disbelief and shock. Those poor poor people, families, STILL inside the building at 6am, STILL in a blazing fire, roaring through their homes causing devastation. “It’s called Grenfell Tower on Latimer Road and its been on fire ALL NIGHT” Tye told me. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. I felt sick to my stomach. Even from this distance, we could see visible orange flames through charred windows. Harrowing scenes. “Where are the helicopters spraying water down onto it? Why aren’t there Planes soaking it in water?” I couldn’t believe it. Tye didn’t have the answers to my many questions. We watched on utterly helpless for a good half an hour.
We discussed straight away that we were going to go down there to see if we could help in any way. Tye took harry to school as normal and we arranged that I would meet him down there somewhere. Grabbing a black bin liner, Stanley and I threw a load of teddies into it because all I kept thinking was THE CHILDREN. They’ll find comfort in these teddies, they’ll need something because they would have lost everything. Loading the full bin liner onto our buggy and stan on a scooter, we briskly walked towards Latimer Road (which is approximately an 8 minute walk). The streets of notting hill were EMPTY. Portobello road (usually bustling) was eerily quiet. As we got closer, roads had been closed off, Ladbroke Grove had a convoy of about 9 fire engines parked up, with police visible on every street corner. This was like a scene from a movie. As we headed in the direction of the tower, the air became thicker and heavier. Small bits of ash were floating all around us. The gutters had debris laying in it. We made it as close as we could and followed the tens of people that had the same idea as us- bags of donations, buggy’s loaded with items and carrier bags. Maxilla Social club, a stones throw from the Grenfell Tower were taking donations. Volunteers were speedily organising goods into categories across long tables. Mens clothes in one corner, bed linen, a toy table, children’s clothes in age groups etc. People had even prepared FOOD which had been laid out as a massive spread. We were all clearly thinking the same- These residents of the tower will NEED things. They’ve got no homes to go back to.
With the world’s press everywhere you turned and the surrounding streets filling up with emotional and horrified locals, the community spirit was INCREDIBLE. All barriers were down. Strangers were hugging strangers. Shoulders were being used to shed tears on. But one question we all kept asking was WHERE ARE THE SURVIVORS? Where was everyone from Grenfell? Over the next few hours, it became apparent. ANYONE that made it out of the building safely was sent straight to hospital. When I say safely I mean, those that were fortunate enough to escape the inferno by making it down the many stairs and those that survived the fall from their windows when they risked their lives by jumping. Many to their death.
While the hundreds, soon to be thousands, soon to be millions of donations came flooding into West London filling up local Churches, Mosques, Pubs, Schools, Community Centres etc, the fire was still engulfing the entire tower. How anyone else was to make it out alive hours after it began would have been an absolute miracle. Temporary beds were set up in our local sports centre, volunteers were turning up from all over London. Counsellors, professional practitioners, priests, doctors. The sadness in the air was raw. The heat from the fire was INTENSE. The roads and pavements were littered with CHUNKS of cladding from the building. Ash made it uncomfortable to breath. I bumped into a neighbour of my sisters who lives a couple of streets away from us. Her and her granddaughter had walked in to our local builders merchants and got kindly given hundreds of dust masks, so they took it upon themselves to hand out down at the site. People were turning up with trolleys of water, toothbrushes, toiletries. But still WHERE WERE THE GRENFELL RESIDENTS?
It wasn’t long before everyone knew in their hearts that there were very little survivors. YouTube videos and phone message extracts were slowly being leaked and the reality of the events of that dark night started to unravel. Families told to remain in their homes until the firefighters reached them. Children huddled in bathrooms with towels being used as draft excluders. Desperate parents throwing their children out of windows in the hope of survival. Totally heartbreaking.
The days following the tragedy, we regularly went down to light candles, say prayers and unite with the community. The atmosphere for weeks was spooky, it’s so hard to explain. Until you go through such a trauma on this scale, you really can’t understand. ‘Missing’ posters were plastered everywhere, people holding all their hope on finding their loved ones- that they may turn up. Unfortunately they never did. Although it is publicly recorded that approx 70 people died from the Grenfell Tower Fire, it is a FACT that there were hundreds more. Bodies were being removed in body bags for weeks after.
Having covered the aftermath and local news on my social media, from the very beginning, my followers were quick to offer their services and help as volunteers. Everybody wanted to show their support and help in any which way they could. Money was being raised left right and centre, so it was only a matter of time before I jumped on board. I was approached by a friend Carly, via Instagram, who wanted to put on a Fundraising event and she said that her and another friend thought the 3 of us would make a good team. The plan was to turn around Event plans within 6 weeks…the sooner the better, when we knew people had the enthusiasm to want to do something/ anything. With Carly’s expertise in Charity fundraisers and Donna’s black book of Brand contacts, our brainstorming meetings pulled off and we managed to organise a night of entertainment with those involved offering their services for FREE. We secured the Cuckoo Club in Mayfair, alcohol sponsors, food, decor, a fantastic line up of comedians: The Scummy Mummies and Dara O’brain, live music from Wilford Social and a line up of top KISS radio DJ’s. We had an insanely incredible collection of raffle prizes to be won and tickets for the night were only £30. We raised just shy of £6000, which ALL went to a local charity made up of a small team of outreach workers called ‘The Real Community’ who were working alongside survivors and families affected for the Fire at Grenfell. What an achievement. What a night.
For us, we get on with our lives, never forgetting, hoping for justice of some sort, helping to re-build our torn community. The people that lost their lives on June 14th are our neighbours. Members of our society who go to school with our children, who shop in our local grocery shops, attend our local youth centres, drink coffee in our coffee shops. Upstanding residents who pay their council tax, who petitioned for YEARS for safe housing, for regulations to be met. All of which could well have saved their lives on that fateful night. Friends, families, firefighters, ambulance crew…so many scarred with the memory of the terror. Struggling to ‘move forward’ until Justice is done.
When you tuck your children into bed tonight, please remember those innocent victims who ONE YEAR AGO today, were tragically woken by their senses and subsequently died a horrific death grasping at their world and their everything for what was to be their final hours.
We will never forget you. Rest in Peace Angels.
by Laura xx
Below are a selection of photographs from our Fundraiser in July 2017.
We’ve just returned from a wonderful two week, all-inclusive holiday to Turkey which we booked through First Choice. This was our first family package holiday we’ve ever had just the 4 of us, so it was to be a very special one. Not only for that reason but also because we had planned to see Tye’s dad, who we invited from his home in Istanbul to Antalya and have a long weekend at our hotel. It’s been an incredible 7 years since we last saw him, so this vacation meant so much to us all.
We booked to stay at the 5* resort in Antalya ‘Liberty Lara Hotel’. Having spent the weeks running up to it prepping, showing the boys the photo’s on the website and building all the excitement, we couldn’t WAIT to get there.
As always the holiday began as soon as we set off for the Airport!!! Our TUI flight was BRILLIANT: Three rows of seats and televisions on the back of each headrest…the boys were in their element! The whole aeroplane was filled with families and the atmosphere was buzzing with everyone’s spirits high for their half term break. Upon arrival we had a private taxi booked to transport us to the hotel. When we arrived at Liberty Lara, Stanley’s face was PRICELESS! It was like walking into some kind of palace, with magical lights, vast open space and champagne on arrival! This was only our first day/ our travel day and there was so much more to come!
First Choice Holiday’s have exclusivity of this hotel and it was brimming with families. The facilities were second to none. Outside was a generous sized children’s pool, a larger deeper pool, water slides, an adults only pool with jacuzzi, beautiful landscaped gardens, tennis courts, football pitch, children’s playground, 2x pool restaurants and bars, a pizza cabana, a waffle and ice-cream hut, a stunning outdoor amphitheatre, beach shop, kids club house, giant chess board and long footbridge covering the span of the pool area. Palm trees everywhere you look and pretty open grass banks provide a barrier between the resort and Antalya’s sandy Lara Beach. On the beach there are a large number of sun loungers under a canopy and the piece de resistance has to be the stunning Pavillion Pier heading directly out to sea and home to 8 pretty VIP cabanas for hire.
Inside of the Liberty Lara Hotel there are a number of restaurants catering for EVERYONE’s culinary preferences with tons of variety, including plenty of children’s food options. Cuisines on offer range from Turkish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, English, Middle Eastern and many more. There is a Spa with indoor swimming pool, hair salon, shops, adult nightclub and games room. The vast lobby is home to the reception and cashier desks as well as the 3 impressive dome glassed lifts with awesome views!
Being all-inclusive quite literally means you don’t need to spend a penny! Tye and I once went on an all-inclusive holiday when Harry was a toddler and we vowed to never turn back. We’ve always found that when you have children, it’s never a guarantee that they will finish their food at mealtimes and subsequently get peckish between meals, so having the additional options available at various times of the day to get snacks and drinks is essential! All meals, beverages, snacks, pool towels, room mini bar, the Hammam (traditional Turkish bath), sauna, fitness centre and daytime and evening entertainment is included. The beach cabanas are for hire so we did treat ourselves and hire one for the day just to experience the luxury!
We spent most days relaxing by the pools, soaking up the glorious Turkish weather, absorbing the atmosphere and enjoying the pool time activities hosted by the enthusiastic entertainment team. The children’s pool was a PERFECT size for little swimmers like Stanley. Having done a lot of holiday resort research before finding this hotel, it was apparent that ‘good sized’ kids pools were hard to come by, so this one served it’s purpose 100%. The depth of the water, the small play slides and the overall size provide a relaxing and safe environment for the youngest holiday makers. Stan LOVED this pool and by the end of the holiday had gained so much confidence in the water and was independently accessing it under our watch.
After long sun drenched days together, hot, sweaty and flagging, we had a routine of heading back up to our family room, giant inflatables under arms, for showers and lazy chill out time with the air-con for a couple of hours before dinner. Every night there was an entertainment itinerary offering something for everyone; live music, family shows, outdoor movie screenings and large themed parties. Plenty of FUN to enjoy!
Our experience at Liberty Lara was thoroughly enjoyable and the service we received from every member of staff was impeccable. There was nothing we could want for. One thing Tye and I would regularly comment on was that there was always someone around and available for you if ever you needed anything. Customer service was PARAMOUNT and we certainly felt it. It was visibly apparent how hard the staff were working around the clock, day in and day out, night in and night out- whether they were catering, housekeeping, maintenance, entertainment, front of house etc. We particularly loved seeing the head chef’s making themselves available at meal times, mingling with guests and likewise the senior hotel staff who would occasionally stroll around meeting and greeting. Each of us felt cared for and looked after, so much so that it has certainly set the standard going forward for our future family holidays.
Have a look for yourself at this First Choice holiday via the link HERE.
by Laura xx
This is a drive we’ve done many times (I say ‘we’ but actually Tye does all he driving!)..in our previous cars, a Volvo estate, a Jeep and more recently in our current car a Land Rover. In the past we’ve set off in the evening and driven through the night, however this time round we set off at 4am on Good Friday to get ahead of traffic. We make sure we have pillows and plenty of snacks and refreshments- basically half of Sainsbury’s!!!!
The Vauxhall GrandlandX is a superb family car, in which the kids have had ample space in the back despite being surrounded by plenty of luggage. The car boot is a decent size and we managed to successfully pack in everything we needed despite being used to our giant Land Rover boot and packing it to the rafters! It’s a very comfortable drive, so smooth and has some excellent safety features such as sensors if you’re driving too close to another vehicle. The in-built WIFI system and Sat Nav are excellent necessities and very easy to navigate. Our favourite feature on the car has to be the automatic ‘hands free’ boot door- which opens when you swish your foot under the bumper! Perfect for when your arms are full of the whole family’s clobber 😉
We’ve had the pleasure of driving our Vauxhall GrandlandX for 6 day’s from London down to the Cornwall Coast, then back to London via the picturesque Cheddar Gorge in Somerset. It has served us very well and we’ll definitely miss the effortless smooth travel experience! When we’re bumping around in our current family car (which sounds like a tractor when we reach the national speed limit), we’ll look back on our Vauxhall road trip and remember what a luxury it was to test drive the GrandlandX.
Thank you Vauxhall and apologies for bringing home half of the beach with us!
by Laura x
The boys and I made some Easter Gardens last week as a little rainy day activity and they loved it. When I say easter gardens, what I mean is actually a load of compost and some cress seeds, but it’s an activity none the less AND everything we used was from our local Poundland, so very inexpensive. This is something the whole family can enjoy producing…and getting as creative as you can.
The great thing about Cress is that it sprouts pretty rapidly, so within a couple of days the children will notice growth. Unlike planting flower seeds/ bulbs which take much longer! The boys have been in charge of watering them, so as you will see, their chicks look somewhat ragged-out and dishevelled (poor guys!).
What you will need;
- Easter Baskets
- Hanging Basket liners
- Cress Seeds
- Easter chicks for decoration
- Water sprays
To start, you will need to line your basket with one of the hanging basket liners, so as to contain the soil. I have a staple gun, so I actually cheated and stapled mine around the inside of the baskets, however if you have some super glue, or PVA this would work equally just as well. Once they are lined, fill with some compost. As you can see, we bought ours from Poundland so it comes as a solid block. The boys soaked it in the bag which it comes in and using their hands, gently ‘fluffed’ it up before spooning it into their baskets.
Decorate your garden how you wish. My boys LOVE those little yellow chicks (as do I!), but I would imagine little rabbits, maybe some pebbles around the edges, butterflies on the basket etc would look wonderful. All of the supermarkets and shops have small Easter craft bits out right now, so you could go to town!
Personalise your garden with little signs, so you know who’s is who’s. The boys used a felt tip (maybe use a biro or permanent marker instead…..you’ll see why in a minute!) and stick mini pieces of card onto a couple of craft lolly sticks we had. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but children love to take ownership of something and it’s good for them to recognise their efforts.
Place your baskets on a windowsill so they get plenty of natural light, and get the children to spray them with water once a day. It’s because of the water spray that you can no longer read their garden signs!…however their cress has grown and they’re still looking FAB. It’s the chicks I feel sorry for hahahahaha!
by Laura x