WE’VE JUST returned from a family holiday in Northumberland. A combination of tight finances and the memories of dealing with Boy Wonder’s bronchitis in France a few years ago mean we holiday in Britain and we’ll probably do so for a few years yet. Last year, we stayed on a great farm in Cornwall, having visited Pembrokeshire the year before. This time, we contained the mileage by staying in the north and Northumberland didn’t disappoint. We loved it so much, we’re already planning a long weekend there later in the year – and the Duchess even mentioned moving there for good!
Here are a few reflections:
TIME IS NOW: Increasingly, I work away during the week and the weekends often fly by in a haze of appointments, events and the routine of looking after two dependents. Last year, I read the research about how kids want time with their parents, not stuff, and yet I sometimes treat parenting as a production line, especially when the Duchess is working and I’m on my own: moving them from meal to meal, sleep to sleep, event to event. All the while sneaking looks at my email, messages, Twitter and news apps. We do lots of stuff, we have regular family days out or just trips to the local park, but my head is sometimes somewhere else – worrying about nonsense at work or in our bank account. In Northumberland, I forgot about work, left my iPhone in a drawer, hid the TV remote, got the toys out and played with the kids, together and in turn. We built epic towers of Lego, defended fortifications, turned muslins into superhero capes, chased and hid and tickled and danced and laughed. We laughed a lot. They loved it. I loved it. Sometimes, you just need to give your head a great big shake.
SIBLING LOVE: On the first morning after breakfast, I went to take Boy Wonder into the little yard at the back of our cottage to kick a ball about, concluding it was too damp for Little Buddha to join us. The Duchess shook her head and told me it was both or neither, how our little girl now wanted to do everything the same as her brother. It’s weird – or I’m just dumb, a true Daddyfool – as I hadn’t noticed this before but she was dead right. Little Buddha adores her big brother: if he sits on the floor, she drops on to her bottom in an instant; if he takes off his sweatshirt, then she strains to do the same; if he has a slice of bread with his tea, she demands similar fayre and not a crumb less. She follows him around, babbles at him with conviction and laughs at everything he does. Which is dangerous where he’s concerned but that’s another story…
IT’S ELEMENTAL: On our first day, we visited some glorious, mostly empty beaches, at Alnmouth and Druridge Bay Country Park. The kids were dressed for our Very British Summer, clad head to toe in waterproofs and sporting wellies. Little Buddha has been to beaches before but not since she learnt to walk, so she loved racing off in all directions, hitting the floor, bashing into her brother. I took her down to the shoreline and out a little so the tide washed over her feet. She yelped with pleasure and marvel, laughing uncontrollably as the tiny surf headed towards her every few minutes. It was like I’d showed her the Secrets of the Universe. She’d have stayed there all day, only Boy Wonder tumbled, got a full body soaking and displayed a less favourable opinion of this natural beauty. Still, his displeasure was only very temporary because alongside the beaches, Northumberland boasts improbable, glorious castles: we visited Warkworth, Alnwick (where Harry Potter was filmed, which they honour smartly rather than exploit) and Bamburgh, which sits on top of another fantastic beach. Boy Wonder got to dress as a knight – Sir Batman Wolfie, as he called himself – make a wand, climb the ramparts and generally run amok.
I’m a 40-year-old Dad, with two young children, so I’ve got several years of these holiday delights before they’re off with their friends or want to sit in a different part of the resort from their Boring Parents. I can’t wait.