Apart from one pre-scheduled post on Thursday (hope you liked it – if not give it a try now – it’s over at Urban Moo Cow), I’ve been ‘dark’ for a week, holidaying on a small island off the South Coast of England, where the internet (even when plugged into your computer) is sketchy at best, and I’ve been without any such plug. The WiFi available through my internet provider was sufficient to give me several tantalising views of my email inbox before repeatedly shutting me out, suggesting each time that it would ‘Try again in 20 seconds…43 seconds…59 seconds…’
This proved so much of a wind-up that I rapidly gave up on the idea, figuring that the best way to ‘experience my scottian side for ten minutes’ (yes, I had a Wakefield Doctrine assignment to complete throughout the week) was probably not to allow the red mist to descend and result in a hole punched through the laptop. My clark-side remained firmly in control, admonishing the rogerian part of me, sitting in a corner of my mind, rocking and crying about “so close!”
(These three personalities – we all have them in us, and I’m attempting to get better at intentionally accessing the different aspects)
Frustration aside, it’s been a marvellous holiday. I’ve missed my nightly, gluttonously indulgent internet usage, but in its place has come sleep, relaxation and a rather different and more connected pace of life. It’s been a week of hands, but more on that tomorrow (by which time I really WILL have consumed so much internet I’ll probably be comatose from Not Having Slept At All).
1. The very beginning of our holiday nearly got off to a Terrible Start. We were late, because Husby had to pick up some fresh meds from the hospital pharmacy (“They’ll be ready by 9 – you can just come and get them” – HA!) and I packed the car and waited and waited and waited and eventually a very hot, cross Husby turned up at the time we were meant to be meeting the family at the ferry. We drove (yes, within the speed limits – just) across town to the ferry terminal, where we became stuck in traffic. In view of the ferry. With five minutes to go before it left.
We resigned ourselves to watching it leave, at which point I realised that I’d forgotten the directions to get to the cottage we were staying at. Then we caught a lucky break in the traffic, turned in, explained to a chap in a high-vis vest that we were late for the boat now waiting to go, and he whooshed us through post-haste, radioing ahead to other staff members to get us on. We made it with two minutes to spare.
2. The cottage we stayed in was five minutes’ walk from a gorgeous sandy beach (one of my childhood favourites) and was much bigger than I’d expected from the descriptions I’d heard. Husby and I were in a spacious double room, Niece and Neff had a twin room to share, and Mum took the bottom bunk in the smallest room. The back garden was MASSIVE, with ample space for Husby to begin teaching the children how to play cricket, trees for them to climb, and a large outdoor dining area where we enjoyed various meals. It was lovely to have so many rooms and so much space, because it meant that the three adults could tag-team to keep Niece and Neff occupied while the others had time out. I managed to read a whole book in the first two days alone!
3. Ten minutes down the road, along the promenade, was a golf course with a small pitch-and-putt, and a café – Brown’s. An unremarkable building opened out through a sepia-photograph-lined corridor into a wide, spacious dining area under a glass pavilion ceiling. White-painted chairs were arranged prettily around comfortable wooden tables and a line of double doors opened out one side of the pavilion onto the view of the golf course and the wooded hills in the distance. And whilst they served savoury food, their main trade was as an ice-cream sundae parlour. With free WiFi. Perfect! (Or so I thought initially, but alas, time ran short and I didn’t make it back – instead, Husby found the one spot on the property where the WiFi was 80% likely to work (instead of 95% likely not to) – tucked under a hedge in the back garden! Thank goodness for warm evenings!)
4. After a rainy start, the sun came out and shone brightly most of the time. I was able to brave the occasional cloud and the wind which seemed not to relent, and show some skin, enjoying the moments when the air stilled and I could feel the heat, like a solid thing, lowering gently over me, enveloping me. My absolute favourite weather (in those moments) interspersed with a goosebumped cold, long remembered from childhood, when a cloud scudded in front of the sun, leaving a bright sky and a cool ground. The evenings tended to be warm until late, with gorgeous sunsets, and from the Holiday House, we could hear the tigers sending their evening calls echoing around the still air – a low, gentle “Aroom, aroom, aroom” which reminded us inescapably that we were away from all our norms.
5. SO MANY ATTRACTIONS! For a relatively small island, there was so much to do. My favourite was a wildlife park which we went to one afternoon and returned to another day. They had close-up encounters with some of the gentler animals and birds, and boasted a huge array of (mostly fowl) beautiful creatures from all corners of the globe. My second favourite was a visit with Husby to The Needles Old Battery, where we spent a gorgeous afternoon alone, absorbing the views from the clifftop.
6. The beaches! Oh my days, the beaches. Beaches first thing in the morning with be-speedo’ed, portly men going for a constitutional swim. Beaches thronged with crowds of sunseekers, swimmers and picnickers. Beaches of small, brightly coloured pebbles under towering sandy cliffs. Beaches with ribbons of sparkling foam drawing back, wreathing the pebbles in bubbled scarves as the sea breathed. Beaches with flat sands that stretched out a mile before the water began. Beaches where the suck and splash of surf was right next to the promenade. Beaches with rock pools and tendrils of seaweed strewn merrily everywhere. Beaches which stretched on and on, ending mysteriously in a headland too jutting to see around. Beaches which glowed golden and multi-coloured and sparkled as the white horses chased one another in blue races to the shore.
7. I really appreciated the chance to take Niece and Neff to see my Dad, as their confidence with him and their understanding of his role in their lives as ‘Grandad’ builds each time they spend time with him. He arranged the most fabulous outing in the afternoon, taking us to a local castle, where we saw a re-enacted medieval fayre (complete with wood turning, a surgeon’s tent, medieval foods and a mock-medieval toilet and midden!), a display of falconry and (the best part) a real jousting match, with the best seats in the house (at the top of a hill inside the castle walls), an introduction to the knights as they prepared at their tents, and flags to wave to cheer on their chosen knight (Neff’s choice – the blue knight – was the champion). The armour gleamed, the standards were worn proudly, and the ponies were specially trained polo-ponies, who were possibly a little skittish for jousting (in one case in particular) but did a marvellous job. I can quite see why ‘tilting’ was such a fun spectator sport.
8. Mum kindly arranged a day where she looked after the children herself, so that Husby and I could have a day off. After we’d given her a lie-in, taking them to a local park early in the morning, we were able to retire for an Epic Naptime before a relaxed lunch and a visit to a local landmark. We climbed up cliffs in the sparkling sunshine and visited an old battery – a gunpost from WWI, with amazing views over the Needles and the lighthouse. We had a delicious afternoon tea (yes, sometimes it pays to be terribly, terribly English) overlooking the view, then caught a lazy bus back in time to spend lots of money on traditional sticks of rock for our friends as the best kind of souvenirs (edible, sugary ones). We had a thorough look around a shop of the tackiest, most-incredibly-overpriced, most-mass-produced tat you ever did see, and fortunately neither of us was tempted.
9. I’ve been massively thankful that Mum was thoughtful enough to bring a map of the island, because although I’m familiar(ish) with it, I’m still pretty much of a mind that at only 28 by 26 miles, it’s small enough to (if lost) just keep driving until I hit a place I know. And Husby is the self-confessed World’s Worst Navigator (where’s David when you need him? (Huge numbers of Awesome Points for you if you catch the reference)) and indeed spoke the deathless words “I suppose I just wasn’t paying attention.” The map, once we’d pulled over to the side of a road and I’d taken a peek, made perfect sense and we found our way around without mishap.
10. I’m so glad for my camera (Husby’s old one) with its amazing 10x zoom and its ability to be hooked up to my laptop each evening, so I could download the photos from the day and begin afresh in the morning. I’ve loved being able to show Niece and Neff slideshows of the days as we’ve gone along, and I love having such an instant record of our holiday together. Some great memories have been created, and thanks to the photos, will be remembered well for a long time.
(ecret number 11 Thing - later today I'll be BACK HOME and fully intend on mainlining the internet until I collapse (well, perhaps not *quite* that long - we'll see) and will try to catch up with everyone from last week. Of COURSE I'm going to unpack and make sure the house is tidy and put a wash on first...)
A Fly on our (Chicken Coop) Wall, Considerings, Finding Ninee, I can say mama, I Want Backsies, Steps into Parenthood, Thankful Me, The Wakefield Doctrine