This one’s for you Izzy Cottrell

I remember the first time I met you Izzy Cottrell. You came bursting into my classroom, threw your bag onto the desk to stop anyone sitting down next to you, then proceeded to fling yourself onto the seat with a huge thump. You then listed all the reason we weren’t going to get on, all the things you had done to your previous teachers and basically all the things I shouldn’t do if I didn’t want to annoy you!

What a way to introduce yourself Izzy Cottrell. When I retold your grand entrance speech to one of my work mates she reckoned that you clearly had under estimated me if you thought I’d be put of by your list of does and don’ts.

You had underestimated my ability to see beyond your talk, your harshness and your demands. You had an openness and frankness that I admired. You liked being the only girl in a class full of car talking, bike crazy lads. You fitted right in with them and felt comfortable talking with them about engine sizes and driving. They were taken aback with your knowledge Izzy Cottrell, you surprised them.

You were really pleased with your first assessment in the class. You grew about 6 inches when I told you that you had the highest mark out of all my students. You asked if you could take the paper home to show your mum. When I could get you to stop talking, you worked hard on your maths. You had good skills. A few gaps from the times when you were excluded from school for being nasty to your maths teacher (I preferred not to ask) but huge potential to learn and succeed. A rough diamond, we got on just fine. Try as I might, I never could get you to modify your language for long although you did appease me and tone it down a notch. At least you tried to until you got into a heated discussion. Then you’d forget yourself. I picked my battles wisely.

Fast forward a few months and we had a new student in our class. Another girl called Kira. She’d been in a few other maths classes and hadn’t created a good impression. She was close to losing her place on her course if she didn’t start showing commitment and improving her attendance. I agreed she could join one of my classes as a favour to one of my colleagues who was tearing his hair out with her. You were not happy to have her in our class. You reminded me you didn’t like girls. It’s never easy when a new pupil joins an existing group and you two eyed each up carefully. For a moment I thought I may have made a mistake agreeing to the class change; I am always so quick to volunteer for unpopular tasks.

After a week or so, you two started to really get on well together. I think this was as much of a surprise to both of you as it was to me. You became firm friends. It was such a joy for me to see such a beautiful connection developing and growing. Always with your heads together, giggling, chatting, I can see you both now in my old class. Kira used to tell you off for smoking, for eating junk food, for not getting enough exercise. You used to tell her off for feeling sorry for herself, for not trying, for giving in too easy. You were a quite a pair! After class you both would stay behind for maths tutorial. I say maths tutorial – it was more like a proper good chat about what was going on with you two, your hopes, your dreams, your fears. I got to know you both as kind hearted, caring girls. We talked about your future – you were the top student in your class and you were going to university in September. Your mum was so proud as you would be the first one in the family to make the journey. You told me about some of the things that had happened to you. Matter of factly, you wouldn’t allow me or Kira to feel sorry for what you’d gone through. I’d read your file Izzy Cottrell, I knew why you were tough on the outside. I also got to see the real you, the girl behind the talk.

You asked me once why I always called you by your full name, Izzy Cottrell. I told you that ‘full naming’ was an honour reserved for special people! Always quick with a witty retort you asked if that’s because you were a pain in neck (probably not the word you used). Yes that’s usually why the double naming begins but rarely why is sticks.

I remember the last time I saw you Izzy Cottrell. It was a Friday morning after the GCSE exams were over. I was grabbing a coffee from the college shop when you saw me and came bounding over for a hug. You told me to have cheesy chips – it was 8.30 am in the morning. You were looking forward to going to the V festival with Kira. She’d booked tickets and sorted out a tent for you both. You couldn’t wait to tell me about a boy from our class and how he wanted to take you on a date. You weren’t convinced on him though. Friends was enough for you. That was the last conversation I had with you.

My boss took me to her office on Monday morning and told me you’d been killed in a car crash. We both cried and hugged at a beautiful life taken so very soon. As a parent, my heart ached for what your mum and family must be going through. So hard to imagine how their world must have been shattered that day.

I phoned up Kira later when I felt strong enough to talk. She was heartbroken as I knew she would be. She came to see me a few days later and we spent a while together just talking and remembering you Izzy Cottrell. She cried. I wiped her tears and sorted out her hair and make up. We thought you’d like that. I helped her with her college application – we knew you’d approve. When she left, me and our admin assistant cried for about twenty minutes. Kira will never forget you Izzy, I know that your friendship was something very special. I hope she finds another friend soon. She needs that.

I’ll never forget you Izzy Cottrell. I don’t think I taught you much maths but you taught me so much about looking under the surface of people, about giving everyone a chance. You showed me about the power and beauty of friendship, that it’s all there just waiting for a smile to be shared between two people.

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Ohh Vienna *sing it one more time Jess 😂

Alex and I planned a mini break to Vienna for just the two of us. We left the kids behind in the villa with a fridge full of food and drinks, a check list of things to do and not do including applying sunblock at regular intervals.

We left around 6.30 am while the kids were still in bed. I'm pretty sure it was a good few hours before they noticed we had gone. We drove to Salzburg banhof, jumped on the train and enjoyed the free wifi for a few hours. Arriving in Vienna mid morning we walked to our hotel, had a quick drink in the bar and set off exploring the city.

We spent the afternoon walking through the city, looking at the fabulous buildings and relaxing in the many parks. We stopped a few times for a chilled glass of wine and to watch the world go by. Would have been rude not to on such a sunny day 😎. We stumbled across many huge cathedrals, monuments and statues.

A very easy to walk in city, we spotted the famous Riding school, parliament buildings and lots of statues of Mozart. I thought Vienna architecturally was similar to Berlin

We very much enjoyed our walk around the city soaking up the cafe culture and being amazed by the buildings. I loved the arches below. The building was in a park and is used as an open air cinema in the summertime.

We finished the evening off with a lovely meal in a restaurant close to our hotel. We couldn't help but notice a very young couple obviously on a first date at quite an expensive restaurant. Both of them spend most of the evening on their phones. A sign of the times I suppose. A few drinks in the bar listening to the piano man play a bizarre mixture of songs and we were ready for bed.

After a leisurely breakfast, we made our way back to the station to catch the train back to Salzburg. Judging by the photos, the kids had a marvellous time without us.

Throughly enjoyed our mini break to Vienna. Would recommend a visit!

Salt mine and Salzburg

Yesterday we drove to a salt mine in Bad Berchtesgaden. Alex remembers visiting as a child and was keen to return. Alex together with Olivia, now known as the nav had planned the journey to include a detour – see below. They've been laughing about this for days. Alex Young is so mature 😂😂

The salt mine was great fun. We dressed up in boiler suits then went on a train into the mines. The best bit was two big slides down about 40 metres. I almost slide under the barrier before we were supposed to go 😂. Thankfully there are no photos of that 😁

We then around the mountainous region following a winding road up and road some stunning scenery. An amazing drive with stunning views at every twist and turn. I'm always amazed by the cyclist and the power, energy and sheer grit it must take to tackle these mountains, about 5000 feet at the top. We stopped a few times to take in the views, breathe in the fresh, take some photos and did Georgia to find something new to climb on and almost give me heart failure.

We made our way to Salzburg slowly meandering through the Sound of Music like scenery stopping for a late lunch on route.

Alex and Greg had both been to Salzburg before. Greg was keen to take Jess to Hotel Sacher so that she could try sacher torte from the place it was allegedly first created. Not sure Jess particularly enjoyed the cake but she said the champagne was delicious!

Georgia and Olivia decided to spend some time together exploring the streets and shops, watching the world go by.

Alex and I wandered round the town and as we always do, decided to walk up the big hill to see the castle and to get a better view! We spent a lovely few hours wandering around and enjoying the shade from the hot sun.

A very pretty town worth a visit.

Germany and Austria without wifi 😜

We have been without wifi pretty much since we arrived in Germany. I am writing all these blogs whilst on the train from Saltzburg to Vienna and using the wifi to upload my photos.

So here goes with the holiday blog. Sorry that you are getting so many posts all at once. It's like binge watching a Netflix series!

We arrived in Munich airport on Friday afternoon. Luckily enough as mine Georgia's flight was delayed, the four of us arrived at pretty much the same time. It only took a quick phone call to the driving party to find out where they were and we were soon in the car driving to Austria.

Our drive from Munich to Ach was through lovely countryside filled with rolling green fields and open spaces. Our charming villa is on the banks of the river Salzach in Austria. We can hear the relaxing sound of the wide river running in our villa. The church bells helpfully chime every 15 minutes waking Olivia up at 8 o'clock every morning!

The bridge is the border between Austria and Germany. We crossed the bridge to the lovely German village of Berghaussen for dinner on the first night. We enjoyed a traditional German meal of sausages, pork and schnitzel. Alex and Greg sampled the local beer while me and Jess enjoyed the local wine. We sat outside the villa chatting and enjoying the warm evening.

We spent most of the next day in Berghaussen relaxing in the villa, eating local food and walking in the village. Alex and I walked along the river for a while before exploring Berghaussen, a pretty little village full of history and interesting history. We enjoyed a late afternoon walk up the steep path to the longest castle in the world!!! We had amazing views on all sides with the added bonus of being able to see our villa. Standing on an arched bridge, we phoned the kids so that they could wave to us!

Munich in the rain

I don't think we really saw Munich at it's best as the weather was particularly hopeless. We have visited before when Alex bought us tickets for a Take That concert! I always tell the girls about buying a cone of cherries from a market stall and how delicious they tasted in the sunshine.

There was to be no cherries on this visit but we did find the restaurant where I think we had breakfast the last time we visited. This was in the square of the Dom, the vast main cathedral.

We also managed to find a traditional bier keller although the driver couldn't participate in the tasting. Admittedly, it wasn't too tricky to find and I am sure we will find another one in Vienna without too much trouble 🍺.

We cheered ourselves up with a some cakes. I think Munich is definately a place to return to. In the sunshine.

Austria and Germany without wifi 😜

We have been without wifi pretty much since we arrived in Germany. I am writing all these blogs whilst on the train from Saltzburg to Vienna and using the wifi to upload my photos.

So here goes with the holiday blog. Sorry that you are getting so many posts all at once. It's like binge watching a Netflix series!

We arrived in Munich airport on Friday afternoon. Luckily enough as mine Georgia's flight was delayed, the four of us arrived at pretty much the same time. It only took a quick phone call to the driving party to find out where they were and we were soon in the car driving to Austria.

Our drive from Munich to Ach was through lovely countryside filled with rolling green fields and open spaces. Our charming villa is on the banks of the river Salzach in Austria. We can hear the relaxing sound of the wide river running in our villa. The church bells helpfully chime every 15 minutes waking Olivia up at 8 o'clock every morning!

The bridge is the border between Austria and Germany. We crossed the bridge to the lovely German village of Berghaussen for dinner on the first night. We enjoyed a traditional German meal of sausages, pork and schnitzel. Alex and Greg sampled the local beer while me and Jess enjoyed the local wine. We sat outside the villa chatting and enjoying the warm evening.

We spent most of the next day in Berghaussen relaxing in the villa, eating local food and walking in the village. Alex and I walked along the river for a while before exploring Berghaussen, a pretty little village full of history and interesting history. We enjoyed a late afternoon walk up the steep path to the longest castle in the world!!! We had amazing views on all sides with the added bonus of being able to see our villa. Standing on an arched bridge, we phoned the kids so that they could wave to us!

Holiday o’clock

The family Young are on the road again! Alex and Olivia have driven all the way to Austria arriving in our villa last night. They've unpacked, sorted out the sleeping arrangements and filled the fridge with Reisling, German beer and maybe some food.

Me and Georgia decided that we didn't really need the 13 hour drive, the map reading or the overnight stop along the way. We left the 30 hour play list to the driving buddies and opted to take a very short flight from Stansted to Munich!

Jess and Greg similarly declined travelling by car and took the flight option too. They are taking a flight from Cardiff airport to Munich where we will all meet this afternoon. The driving duo will be there to meet us and take us to our villa. I'm kinda hoping they'll have a sign. I'm sure Alex will be wearing his holiday hat 😜.

Our luggage has gone in the car so we really are travelling very light this morning. I've done all the things on the list the very helpfully Alex left for me. Almost all the things. I'm still working on eating the chocolate biscuits and getting Georgia out of bed.

Looking forward to getting away, chilling out and kicking back a bit. Updates to follow! Apparently there's no wifi in the villa. That'll be interesting.