On one of the many three-day weekends we had this year (with the royal wedding and all) we went to visit my husband’s family in the place where he grew up and the rest of them still live. The Wye is a beautiful wooded river valley that snakes back and forth across the border between England and Wales. We were enjoying our visit but I wasn’t very pleased when my husband told me his brother, who works shifts, was only free to see us on the Monday afternoon. As always, I was itching to get back to London, but naturally we stayed and later went with them to a summer fair at the primary school my husband and his sister attended, and where our 3 year old niece will start next September.
Now, as a mother and PTA committee member of my younger son’s school, I know a thing or two about school fairs and this was a good one. It was a gorgeous day, and the event had an old-fashioned, rural feel to it that reminded me more of my own childhood than my sons’. There was a superb home-baked cake stall, and properly brewed tea served from china teapots into flowery porcelaine cups lent by the villagers. The atmosphere was delightful. But best of all, for my sons aged 13 and 9, there was a ‘Hit the Crossbar’ football challenge using a small goalpost. A lot of kids struggled to hit the bar even once and after a while it was quite embarrassing that my cocky London kids could seem to do it on demand. Anyone who managed 3 in a row went into a draw to win a 3 night activity camp for 2 children (worth a lot of money) and both boys had their names in the hat. Once they’d established they couldn’t increase their chances of winning by having any more turns, it wasn’t too hard to persuade them to leave for the 3 hour drive home, and we thought no more of it.
A couple of weeks later, you’ve guessed it, we received a call to say our younger son had scooped the big prize ! His brother had already been on one of these holidays with school, where they do high-ropes, abseiling, canoeing and many other things you’d never catch us doing. The kids were very excited. It wasn’t until later that evening when my husband returned from work that we realised there was a hidden half to this prize. We would get three days to ourselves which is almost unheard of in our family set-up. We have never had relatives nearby and have had only a handful of weekends away since becoming parents nearly 14 years ago, the last one nearly two years ago when friends generously took the boys so we could go to Paris for our 15th wedding anniversary.
So this Saturday we head to Dorset, where the boys are having their big adventure. We worked out that for the price of three nights in a decent hotel we could rent a cottage with a sea view for the whole half term week, so the two of us will spend our precious time in Lyme Regis on the fabulously named Jurassic Coast (if you haven’t read Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, you must) before spending the rest of the week all together.
Sometimes everybody wins!