Growing up, my siblings and I had our own friends, our own hobbies, our own bedrooms. Like most families, we rarely hung out together- when you’re young, two years seems like a huge age difference! However the one time of the year when we played with each other every day, the one time we all enjoyed each others company, the one time when we viewed each other as friends instead of siblings… was on a family holiday! Fast forward many years, our family has grown with the addition of spouses, children and dog, but family holidays still hold the same appeal; a great opportunity to just spend quality time with your family and enjoy their company. Last year we spent an amazing week in France together; we ate croissants, played on the beach.. and unbelievably only had one argument! This year, due to my illness, we decided to go for two weekend holidays instead (so as not to be too tiring) and opted for a UK trip. We were treating my Mum to both breaks as part of the many celebrations for her 60th birthday earlier in the year.
It was a fabulous holiday. We stayed at a small holiday park in the Forest of Dean, a location we’d never heard of until we attended a wedding there only a few weeks ago! It is a beautiful part of the country; miles of tree covered hills, interspersed with tracks for walking and biking. We’d booked two wooden chalets next door to each other; strategically the noisy and energetic nephews were in the other one, so we weren’t woken by them at some ridiculously early hour! However we all spent most of the time in my chalet, which was great as meant I didn’t need to walk between them. I’d been feeling quite exhausted and more breathless these past few weeks due to the hecticness of June, so was concerned how much I’d be able to join in on the trip. However happily I was able to cope with the intensity of people being around all of the time; I just needed to rest and recharge in my bedroom at points. On the first day we spent hours catching up; drinking tea and chatting in our pjs on the veranda overlooking the small lake, whilst squirrels searched for dropped food around us. Luca brought his entire superhero wardrobe; metamorphosing in to all of his favourites, changing costume repeatedly, and trying to kill us with his latest invented weapon! Jacob kept collecting pine cones and leaves from the forest, and then laying them all over the chalet floor (we stopped him when he started bringing in caterpillars and beetles to live with us!). It was fabulous hanging out with my hilarious and adventurous nephews, they are complete hurricanes of energy! Luckily they also love reading, so whenever we needed some peace Phil would gather them around to read their superhero story books! I even got the oldest to read me some of his school reading book for the first time- he’s just at the stage of reading that I used to teach! I was really proud of how much progress he has made in the year, but also slightly sad as I remembered how much I used to love teaching.
The park had a super big playground which the boys loved. The weather on the Saturday was amusing: one minute we were playing on the playground in beautiful sunshine, the next we were running back to the chalet for cover from a quick torrential downpour, before five minutes later returning to the park as the sun immediately returned to dry up the rain! Repeat this weather all afternoon! During one quick downpour, we introduced the nephews to air hockey and arcade games! Jacob was very excited when he managed to ‘win’ some sweets from the huge grabber game!
One little incident reminded me of how tricky it is to be a babysitter when you’re on a scooter! I took five year old Jacob and Lottie the dog on a walk through the woods. Suddenly my train-mad nephew heard a steam train and ran off along the forest track in the direction of it; his excitement blinkering my shouts to stop and come back! Lottie decided to tangle her lead around a tree at that very point, and was waiting nervously for me to free her! So as quick as I could… oxygen on, untangle Lottie, grab Jacob’s abandoned scooter and balance it on my knee… and give chase! However my 4 mph scooter was no competition for his sprightly speed! Luckily Phil heard my shouts and ran after the monkey! And yes Phil did take him to find the train afterwards!
In the evening we all donned our Batman gear again, and had another party. Phil’s costume hadn’t turned up in time, so he squeezed in to my Mum’s top, as she turned in to CatWoman! We chanced a secret “pot luck supper”, each of us bringing a different random dish. Surprisingly all of the food kind of complimented each other, although we did end up with lots of prawn based dishes and far too much of everything! Phil also provided his infamous enormous cheese board, which we managed to plough through quite impressively! Gary brought some old computer games from our childhood, so the men enjoyed teaching Jacob and Luca how to play them. We did a couple of fun quizzes: it turns out my Mum knows more about Batman than my nephews, so won the much coveted chocolate orange, much to their disappointment! Much alcohol was consumed by the rest of the family, but I stuck to my homemade sparkling elderflower drink! I was impressed that Adam stayed up until 5am debating with the men, and then was able to get up two hours later with the energetic little ones!
The next day was glorious weather; beautiful blue sky and hot sun. Unfortunately I’d woken up feeling exhausted, weak and breathless, after such a busy day the day before. Therefore I spent the whole morning in bed, whilst everyone else was playing in the swimming pool. The family was keen to leave the park and explore the local area, as was I, so despite feeling poorly, I forced myself to join them. Luckily the sun on my face helped me feel a lot better, and I was able to be out with them exploring for a few hours. We ventured to a lovely little lake nearby (Mallards Pike) and enjoyed scootering around the tracks, taking in the magnificent views. Lottie was in her element! It felt wonderful to be out in the outdoors again, something I really miss doing regularly since being ill. Phil climbed some trees, Jacob went on a bug hunt in the woodland, and Luca repeatedly beat me in scooter races! We drove home later that night along the scenic route through the Cotswolds, just as the sun was setting. It was a perfect end to a fabulous weekend ..and we beat last years record and didn’t have one argument!
Logistically, family holidays can be quite difficult to organise. Prior to this one there had been many a WhatsApp debate about where to go, what to do, what accommodation to stay in. At points, as the organiser I’d felt ready to abandon it all, trying to meet all of the requirements! But realistically those details don’t matter too much. Although it was lovely to be staying in the Forest of Dean, the real reason we were there was to spend quality time together. That can be done in a caravan or a tent, at the seaside or in the hills. I’m saying all of this, as I’ve just booked the second family holiday next month.. we’re going to a back-to-basics campsite! Surely we don’t need real toilets.. it’s the being together that is important! 😉