Friday, 26 August 2011

Best of British

I am slouched, nay collapsed, in a near stupor on my sofa this evening. The television is a blur out of the corner of my eye and my husband forms an equally washed out figure slumped beside me. The reason for our exhaustion? We have just spent the last week on our family holiday.

Gone are the days when this might have meant we would be bronzed, relaxed and refreshed. Now breaks are more about endurance than R&R and we are always impressed if we make it through without actually suffering a nervous breakdown.

To be fair this year's summer break has to classed as our most successful so far, despite taking place in the initially unpromising location of northern England. For a start despite many bleak predictions it only rained once during the whole week and at the time we were all tucked up in bed, listening to the pounding raindrops on the velux windows as we snuggled under the comfort of a crisp white duvet.

Secondly the twins independence is coming on in leaps and bounds, which meant that we could snatch the odd moment to sit down and take a breath in between tending to their needs, something that was unthinkable this time last year. That said the children were careful to ensure that their slaves, oh sorry parents, shouldn't get too comfortable.

The moment either one of us looked like we might actually be enjoying a little time to ourselves a small voice would pipe up demanding juice, food, help with endlessly putting on and taking off shoes or the repair of the house train set that was unbelievably even more unreliable and prone to engineering problems than the real British railway network.

But the good thing about taking children on holiday is their huge capacity for enjoyment. While we may trudge, unimpressed, around yet another museum or castle, wondering quite how much more of this there is to go before we can return back to base and sink a lethally strong G&T or ten. The kids are wide eyed with awe no matter how unprepossessing said attraction may be. Throw in a dungeon or a display of weaponry and the boys are in heaven, revelling in imaginings of medieval torture or ancient warfare.

Though sometimes their blood lust does become a touch disturbing, like the time when my seven-year-old stood staring at some caged fowl and asked: "What do you think it would be like to kick a chicken?" with genuine interest. I simply crossed my fingers that this wasn't an early sign that I am breeding a psychopath and dragged him off to inspect a menacing threshing machine.

Though perhaps I should be worried as another highlight was a tour of Alnwick Castle's Poison Garden, where the boys were struck dumb by the guide's gruesomely detailed descriptions of plants that kill. They were still animatedly discussing one with sap that can inflict third degree burns days later. Sometimes I do long for daughters who I fondly imagine would be more diverted by pretty flowers than deadly nightshade.

The youngest though is still satisfied with the simpler pleasures in life as, urbanite that he is, he was most enthralled by all the fields of sheep we drove past on our way to visit the sights. Every flock we passed had him bouncing in his seat yelling "Hello sheeps", before launching into an uncannily accurate series of baas that kept him bleating till we inevitably passed another field of sheep.

All in all a good, if tiring, holiday was had by all. We were tempted by the idea of letting the boys have a TV in their room at home, because we got a lie in every morning as they ploughed through everything from Casablanca to Jumanji, with a lesson in modern history thrown in as they discovered what a video recorder is.

The twins found out how to climb out of their cots, with the tooth achingly sweet result that one morning I discovered them carefully unpacking the contents of Jonah's ever present toy bag in order to have a picnic in bed. Awww. Though the day they decided to attempt to change Zach themselves wasn't quite a pretty. From the mess they made with wipes alone I am just grateful they never actually managed to access the contents of the nappy itself.

As for us parents - assessing the number of empties there were in the recycling bin when we left, it was evident we had had a whale of a time once the kids were in bed.

The really good news though, is that the end of our holiday means there are only another two weeks left before school starts again and I can stop trailing around child friendly attractions and leave the task of keeping them entertained to the professionals again.

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