Saturday, 31 May 2014

Three go mad in Devon*

(*and a bit of Dorset)

I've just returned from four days away with my boys. Four days. Not a significant amount of time. But I feel so tired, in a headachey way, that if you got any closer to me, I could quite happily vomit on your shoes.

When somebody asks, I shall say we all had a fabulous time. That the weather was not as bad as predicted; that we swam every day; that we slept really well. That the hotel was super, it was wonderful to see my family; that we would go back at the drop of a hat.

In reality, we did have quite a good time. My lovely Dad had invited us to join him, his partner, and my uncle in a wonderful Fawlty Towers style hotel down in South Devon. The average age of the clientèle there was around 85, so we stuck out like a sore thumb - but it also meant that the outside pool wasn't being used (despite it being heated). We spent an awful lot of time splashing around in it. In the rain.

Occasionally, an old person would come along and smile and make a good natured 'BRRRR!' face, and we would wave and smile back with our blue lips. Teeth chattering.

We also did a lot of this. Reading. This is Tween, by the way. One of the awkward things about having an anonymous blog is that I can't show you my family. His socks will have to do.

So I'm sure you're getting the idea by now. It rained a lot. And sadly, it wasn't that lovely heavy downpour followed by sparkling sunshine kind of rain. More like leaden skies and sour-faced holiday makers.

This sums up our feelings on our second day.

But rain we can cope with. You just put a coat on, and you're away! It's pretty warm at this time of year, and after a good, wet walk up a hill, you can reward yourselves with a cup of tea, a piece of cake, and a hot shower.

That's my favourite bit of a British holiday. The reward you allow yourself for getting through a shit day.

Anyway, it wasn't the weather that dampened our spirits (ho ho). It was sleeping in the same room.

We had a double bed and a single. I bagged the single, as I am old. So that left Teen and Tween to share a double which, in olden times, would have been fine. Now that, sadly, they are adult-shaped, it wasn't.

They fought. They fidgeted. They moaned. They went to sleep late, and woke up early. Tween talked in his sleep and took all the covers. Teen got a permanent headache.

The room was hot.

Yes, night times were hard work. And all parents know the rule of a crap night's sleep: One crap night = slight mardiness the next day. Two crap nights = potential meltdown plus headaches. Three crap nights = complete inability to use logic, aching bones and a potent wish to lie in your own bed for up to a week.

So by day two, we were snappier than a box of crackers. In an attempt to cheer the boys up, I said that they could each have a day when they chose what they wanted to do.

Tween chose a cliff walk. I was amazed when he said the work 'walk', thinking I must have misheard. But he had overhead someone talking about the number of cliff falls at this time of year and was hoping to witness one, I think. I did try to explain that, if you see one, and are on the cliff at the time, then you are likely to be an active participant in it - but this didn't seem to put him off.

So a walk it was and BY GUM! It turned out to be lovely. We strolled along the coast to Ladram Bay, the most enormous holiday village you have ever seen. That sort of thing is not really my bag (although the kids were slathering at it) but Ladram Bay itself is fabulous.
It's full of these red pillars of Otter Sandstone (more info if you like geology here). And the rockpools are glorious.

Here's the view from the top:
There's a great football pitch up here (bit worried about the goalie falling into the sea, mind you). On a clear day, the view must be spectacular; even on a grisly day, it was pretty gorgeous.

The next day, Teen picked a day out with steam trains. I knew he would do it, and still, when he said it, my heart dropped.

Teen is obsessed with trains. I thought he would grow out of it at, say, five years old - but no. He loves everything about them. How they're put together, how they work, the noise they make, the smell, the motion. He loves talking about the different gauges. The different lines. The different locos.

Believe me, you think you'd love a nice trip on a steam train until you realise you've got to spend it in the company of my thirteen year old.

Actually, we did sit with a rather charming gentleman who spoke like Terry Pratchett, and told us all about the pros and cons of UK steam trains. In a former life he had designed track layouts, and he'd come down from Bristol just to ride up and down the line a few times before lunch.

He had a fine beard and was actually rather handsome.

Sadly, I can't show you any photos of the trains because they all have a geeky Teen in them, grinning from ear to ear. But next to Buckfastleigh station there's a butterfly farm, which is always good value. And here's a pic of hanging cocoons and a hatching butterfly.

So. The final day was my day and I chose a trip to Lyme Regis. Having read The French Lieutenant's Woman aeons ago, and having a slight obsession for women in cloaks, I've always wanted to walk down the cobb and pretend to chuck myself into the sea. And it IS really romantic.  
The cobb - a harbour wall, I suppose - sweeps its way into the sea and finishes with a tumble of stones right at the end. When you're on the top, there's refreshingly no guard rail to stop you falling in, and rather alarmingly the floor drops away slightly so you're always tantalisingly off balance.

It's great, and a wonderful two finger salute to the Health and Safety brigade.

I was really enjoying myself, but the boys were reaching 8 on the moaning scale. I had a choice between pushing them off the cob (tempting) or paying for them to go into the tiny aquarium at the end. The nice man in the kiosk asked if I wanted to pay extra so that they could feed the grey mullet. Yes yes, I said - please, just take them away from me for ten minutes, or I will not be held responsible for my actions.

And, as it turned out, this little aquarium was a gem. The boys (11 and 13 remember, not tiny tots) came out with smiles as big as the cobb itself. "We loved it!" they cried, simultaneously. "We got kissed by the grey mullet!"

Feeding time at the aquarium was, it seems, a hit all round. A hit with the boys because it gave them an experience with kissing fish that they will never forget, and with me, because it brought everyone into a much happier mood. Marvellous.

Lyme is a cracking place. Even in the mizzle, families were building sandcastles and paddling on the town beach. The beach huts are gloriously bright and there are lots of happy faces, old and young. It's a cracking place to take photos and, I imagine when the sun's out, you'd be hard pressed to find a more gorgeous British seaside town.

The trip home was long. We were stuck behind hay lorries and tractors. Everyone was trying to get home, and getting cross about it.

Since that last paragraph, we've all been to bed early and slept in this morning. Now that we're replenished, we agree that it was a great holiday, despite the rain. Although it's hard to take your kids away as a single parent (and expensive too), it's definitely worth it. Memories like these will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

So if you think you can get away without killing each other, just do it.*

*Not sponsored by Nike.

(All photos taken by me. If you'd like to use them, please do, and I'd be really grateful if you could acknowledge me as photographer and link back to this blog. Thanks!)


  1. spite of it all, that does look like a lot of fun!

    I hear you though on the anon blogging. A bit of a pain when you want to share holiday pics with your fans!!

    1. I live in hope of having some fans, Liv. One day! xxx

    2. I'm you number one fan then! There will be more. You're a wonderful writer!

  2. I really enjoyed reading this and love your honesty. My post today was full of positivity about our holiday but the bare facts of the matter are that life with tweens and teens is the same wherever you go: moaning, bickering, fighting and mardiness! I shall follow up on my holiday with the truth a little later in the week ;) I am so pleased that in spite of everything, you still had a good time. I bet you were glad to get back to your bed though!


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