Once I went backpacking round Vietnam on my own for a fortnight and went merrily abseiling down waterfalls in Dalat, a lush and verdant resort in the central highlands where the Vietnamese go to honeymoon. The following summer I jetted off to Madrid to learn Spanish- which proved harder than I’d anticipated, but perhaps that was because of my sangria-soaked brain. Both of these were pre-marriage, pre-children, and more significantly, pre-covid.
It was thus a shock to find myself almost deliriously happy last Friday morning, packing the car to go to The Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle. So excitable was I that I texted into Carolyn on U105’s Lunchtime Bistro. ‘The sun is bright, and my heart is light!’ I wrote. God almighty. That’s what it’s come to.
Arriving, I took the offspring to the pool where I’d booked a slot. Unfortunately, it was filled with other children, whose ear-piercing shrieks reverberated off the tiles, making my eardrums tremble and temples throb. I can’t cope with screaming, especially at a high pitch. Why don’t parents just say ‘stop that immediately, for it is painful on the ears?’ I will never understand this. (I know, just call me Mrs Kill-The-Craic). ‘I’m not cut out for these shenanigans,’ I thought. Meanwhile LSB had a snooze. He was hot, apparently, and very tired, after the 45 minute drive.
Head still pounding, we trotted into town. I had notions of going to boutique-y little fancy shops, but obviously they were all closed, because we weren’t in Spain, where establishments stay open until 10pm for happy holiday maker like ourselves.
Tragically though, a shop called ‘Around A Pound’ was very much open, and when the children spotted it, their eyes lit up. ‘Can we go in? Can we?’ they said, clutching their little purses. ‘We know you don’t like this sort of shop Mummy,’ said the smaller one. ‘You can go somewhere else.’
‘Three words,’ I said. ‘NO PLASTIC SHITE.’ The Older One winced. She takes a very dim view of vulgarity, unless it’s a fart joke, to which she is partial. Shortly afterwards they appeared. Sometimes I worry that my draconian parenting strategies may have caused some sort of imbalance in their brains. They weren’t clutching bubble gum or bright blue sticks of rock or even a stuffed toy. No. Instead they asked: ‘Please can we buy a stapler?’ ‘It would be so useful.’ ‘Obviously you can buy a stapler,’ I said, to which they looked at each other and said ‘YESSS’ as if they were Flander’s kids off the Simpsons.
On the way to the stationery section, I caught sight of a box containing ‘gutter mesh’. ‘Keeps your guttering clear of debris,’ said the box. I stood a moment and wondered if I should buy some. How ingenious I thought, my guttering is sadly lacking, and often filled with bits of twig. I then wondered how much I needed, and lamented not having the foresight to measure my guttering before leaving the house.
I shook myself out of my stupor. Here I was, on my first night away since September, considering the merits of gutter mesh. Is this my actual life now? I pondered. The Small Child pulled out three shiny pound coins from her purse and bought her stapler. She eschewed a bag and said no, she was happy to carry it. ‘Now I have everything I need,’ she said smiling beatifically. It was a bit like Father Jack and his brick.
The stapler came with us to the Amusements*; it came on the walk to the beach, and it came to dinner, where it sat on the table, pride of place. Back at the hotel, they opened the stapler, after finding some paper which they’d quickly folded to make a book, imaginatively titled ‘Holidays’. And the terrible disappointment on their faces when they discovered that THERE WERE NO STAPLES INCLUDED. And this is how it came to pass that at 11am the following morning, I found myself BACK in ‘Around A Pound’ looking for the appropriately size of staples for the children’s stapler. They didn’t have any. There’s another pound shop up the street said the shopkeeper. ‘You’re alright,’ I said. ‘It’ll do til another day.’
Please feel free to let me know if any of your holiday experiences have been equally uninspiring and made you re-evaluate life choices. Obviously if you’ve had an amazing holiday, just keep it to yourself. Can’t bear to think of everyone else enjoying themselves. Oh, and just to add to it, while LSB took himself off to do Castlewellan park run, I made the children do a litter pick with me, after begging bags and some gloves for the hotel staff. Up and down the Castlewellan Road we went, lifting bottles and cans and crisp packets. I thoroughly enjoyed myself actually, which I suppose says a lot about what I consider fun these days.
*needless to say I LOATHE these arcades with a passion but the Small Child gets wildly excited about them and I struggle to say no to that wee face sometimes.