My friend Jo of Slummy single mummy fame has recently written a lovely blog entitled ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday‘ about the beginning of the school holidays, finding things to entertain her two girls and the challenges of juggling work and childcare during the long break in her first full year of self-employment. Looking at it last week I was suddenly filled with something a little like envy. Why? Because for the first time since our honeymoon my husband Peter and and I will be holidaying by ourselves this summer, whether we like it or not.
For our two week family holiday in August we organised a free house swap with my brother and sister-in-law who live in a village in Suffolk. They will be bringing our three small nieces and nephew aged between 5 and 10 to stay in our little terraced 3 bed, and Peter and I will, it turns out, be rattling around on our own in their five bedroomed house. Well, not quite on our own. We are taking the dog.
James is off to University in September and is working, ostensibly (ha ha) to save every penny possible before he leaves, so I appreciate he doesn’t want to come with us. But Evie? She has grown up so quickly that her response to the suggestion that she might like to bring a friend with her took me by surprise. ‘God, what would we do! I’m not coming, I’ll stay with Auntie Jane.’ That was that. No amount of persuasion (and certainly not the Benjamin Britten House and beautiful nature reserves) could change her mind. When she was invited to go to Dawlish with one friend, and the Beautiful Days Festival with another, there was no competition.
Now like Jo I have never really been into the potato printing or papier-mache but to be honest my two grew out of that a while ago. We did until quite recently still enjoy the odd trip to Crealy Adventure Park, or to various seaside towns, where as teens they gravitated away from buckets and spades to (horrible) amusement arcades and (boring) miniature golf courses. In homage to countless days out in my youth, we would occasionally drag the children round a cathedral or church (inevitably half covered in scaffolding and green tarpaulin) until James said, aged 11, ‘Oh no! Not another religious establishment!’
We did really enjoy doing Treasure Trails, a great idea where you walk around nice tourist towns having a good old nose in bits you wouldn’t generally bother with whilst all the time your children are finding clues to solve a murder or catch a spy (not a real one unfortunately, that would be fun). This year it is quite clear Evie won’t be following signs and crawling around old buildings and monuments trying to find a murder weapon, but I heartily recommend it to anyone with children who aren’t miserable spoilsports. (Can you sense the disappointment coming off the page? Do you think anyone would notice if I went round Sidmouth by myself muttering about Rob with a revolver or Archie with an axe?)
Of course, I will now have lots of time to write, read, draw, drink wine, go for long walks or just mooch about, go in second hand bookshops, museums and art galleries. Peter and I can be as quiet or as noisy as we like (the noisy bit will be good…). We can go in cafes where they don’t sell chips or lean against pub bars and we can sit in coffee shops reading the paper and putting the world to rights. The National Trust may find us walking round one of their country houses and beautiful gardens and catch us for lots of money in the gift shop. Is this beginning to sound really nice? What am I moaning about? Anyone with children under five, and/or a full-time day job is probably fuming by now at the injustice of it all – ‘Shut up woman, just one day to do some of that would be fantastic let alone a fortnight’.
But I feel sad, unprepared, a bit cheated and as I said, a tiny bit envious, tempted to secrete myself somewhere in my own home and go on day trips with my nieces and nephew. All those summers flew by, and life is beginning to feel like autumn.
Photo credit David Barry