This is the first spring for a few years that we haven’t been abroad. In 2012 we went to Santa Margharita in the Italian Riviera. Anna was just three, and it was the first family holiday abroad that felt truly enjoyable as we were freed from the constraints of nappies and naps and highchairs. The weather was perfect, and we discovered Anna’s enduring passion for all forms of seafood. In 2013 we were meant to go to Copenhagen over Easter, but I was pregnant with a pregnancy we had been told was high risk, and I decided I couldn’t face travelling. Sadly I lost that baby, and a few weeks later we booked an impulsive last-minute long weekend in Amsterdam to try and give us something positive to focus on. It was a bittersweet holiday, but I absolutely loved the city and would love to go back at some point. In 2014 we went to Bruges, and it was while we were there that I started to wonder if my literally insatiable consumption of croquettes, combined with an uncomfortably tight bra, might mean that I was pregnant again – which turned out to be the case. In spring 2015 the result of that pregnancy was three months old, and we set off on one of our most memorable family adventures, inter-railing around Italy and Switzerland. Last year, with a toddler in tow, we had a lovely Easter break in Paris and Marseilles. This year, the combination of our income reducing drastically as husband starts his own business, Brexit price hikes, and a toddler who can be a challenge on the 15 minute train journey to town, let alone a long-distance train or plane journey, we have decided that 2017 will be a year in the UK.
Husband is super-busy at work as well, and so couldn’t take time off, other than the bank holiday weekend itself, so I had 18 days of two children and no school. When we kicked off the holidays by Sophia throwing up in her pram on the way home from the final school pick-up of term, I must admit to feelings of slight trepidation. Happily, things improved, and we ended up having a very relaxing couple of weeks thanks mainly to the following things:
We spent most of the first week of the holidays staying with my parents in Liverpool. Thanks to my mum and dad being wonderful, I felt that I had a real, true break – definitely by laziest period of time since Sophia was born. We weren’t at home, so I had no cleaning, tidying or laundry responsibilities, and my dad did all the cooking. I was also given a lie-in every morning, and had a long, relaxing shower by myself every day. Between them my parents read stories, played games, went for walks and pottered in the garden with the girls. The children had their fill of positive, loving adult attention, and I got to join in if I wanted, or relax with my book if I felt like that. They even babysat for an evening so I could go out for a meal with some of my friends who still live in Liverpool.
Back at home my mother-in-law contributed her bit by looking after both girls while I did some blogging, and then hosted an indoor picnic at her flat.
2. The National Trust
Three of the nicest days over the holidays were courtesy of the National Trust, two old favourites we were more than happy to revisit. and one new discovery. Speke Hall is, apparently, Anna’s “favourite place in Liverpool, apart from Nanna and Grandad’s house”, and I think she makes a good choice. Both children loved the Childe of Hale trail with its oversized books and musical instruments, not to mention a snoring giant. Sophia spent ages on the little playground while her big sister whizzed up and down on the zip wire. And we spotted the nests the swallows were making in the eaves.
After we got home, all four of us went off for a picnic in Morden Hall Park. Anna paddled in the River Wandle, the children both got filthy on the natural play area, and we saw two gorgeous families of ducklings on the wetlands board walk, before finishing the day at a city farm to see, amongst other things, some very sweet lambs.
On Easter Saturday Anna and I went to Fenton House to join in the National Trust/Cadbury’s Egg Hunt. The egg hunt which was ultra controversial this year because the word ‘Easter’ was dropped from it. Given that the word Easter comes from the pagan goddess of springtime and that, whatever your views on Christianity, surely no-one considers the true meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection to involve chocolate bunnies, this seemed like an odd thing for the Archbishop of York and the Prime Minister to get their knickers in a twist about. I would have thought that as a Christian Mrs May might have concerned herself more with the distressing news that 30% of British children are now living in poverty – the highest level since 2010. But what do I know?
Anyway, controversy aside, Anna and I had a lovely couple of hours searching for the Mad Hatter’s crockery in the beautiful Fenton House orchard and rose garden, before being rewarded with a chocolate bunny for our troubles.
There’s not many British Easters when you can get sunburnt, but my husband managed it this year! My moisturiser and make-up both contain SPF, and I make sure the children are protected with sunhat and t-shirts, but husband just didn’t think of using suncream in early April, and he ended up a literal (though thankfully not metaphorical) red-neck. Day after day of glorious blue skies and sunshine was so uplifting, and made the vivid green of the new leaves, and the yellow daffodils and clouds of pink and white blossom particularly beautiful.
4. Local friends
Right at the beginning of the holidays, my neighbour (who is also dad to one of Anna’s classmates) came to the rescue with baby wipes when Sophia was sick, and an offer to take Anna off to the park with his kids so I could concentrate on taking Sophia home and cleaning us both up. Anna has had a few playdates with local friends to break the week at home up (and give me an excuse to do some baking, as if I needed one!) and it seems like every time we step outside we bump into someone we know and have a little chat. On Good Friday we met up with old friends who aren’t exactly local, but more local than most as they live in North London. Between us we have children aged 8, 4, 2 and newborn, so it’s not massively easy to think of activities to suit everyone, but thanks to the lovely weather the fantastic playground and sandpit at Finsbury Park, followed by ice-creams all round (except for the new baby!) did the trick.
5. Seaside and extended family
We spent Easter Sunday with my aunt, uncle and cousin-by-marriage down in their home on the Sussex coast. Husband’s aunt is a superb cook, and we had one of those lazy and relaxed lunches with delicious lasagne and salad and a couple of glasses of wine which aren’t always easy to achieve with small children around but somehow worked perfectly this time. Maybe the girls were just in a stupor from over-consumption of chocolate!,Anyway, we were able to reward their forbearance later with a wonderful, blustery time on the beach. They (and my husband) jumped in the shingle and climbed on the breakwater and collected shells. I love my London life, and by and large wouldn’t change it for the world, but being by the sea does have a special lure for me.
Anyway, back to school and to routine now, but feeling totally refreshed, and not having missed (much!) our traditional trip to Europe. And there was only one day when I phoned my husband in tears at 5.30pm begging him to leave work early and buy wine on his way. Winning all round.