Monday, 29 September 2008

An autumn holiday

This was our autumn holiday.

Think mists, think mellow fruitfulness, think SUN!

Think swimming in an outdoor pool, the warm water steaming in the chill of the autumn air, think cycling through leafy glades, leaves drifting down from the canopy above, think SUN!

Think hot chocolate on a misty morning while a doe tiptoes daintily past, think goldcrests, robins and great tits flitting through the branches above, think SUN!

Think tall giraffes, stripy zebras and playful lions, think grumpy tigers, frisky wolves and slightly too close for comfort rhinoceroses, think SUN!

Think beautiful gardens turning golden in the rays, think peaceful river turning into wild water rapids, think happy feet skipping across big flat rocks over a river, think SUN!

Think big glass of Guinness with a thick creamy head sitting in the garden of a pub, think bacon, brie and cranberry stuffed into a warm ciabatta roll, think sitting under an oak tree for shade, think SUN!

Think fragrant apples, russety and rosy, ripening in heavy armfuls, think barbecuing juicy steak in in the dusk as deer rut not three fields away, think hot air balloon rising secretively through mist into the azure sky, think SUN!

Cycling at Center Parcs Longleat

The giraffes 'next door'

Stourhead gardens

The lake at Stourhead

Woods near Tarr Steps, Dulverton, Exmoor

River Barle

Apples (variety unknown) at Petton Cross, Devon

The road home: Hot air balloon in the mist above the Wivesliscombe to Taunton road

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The last week

Well I was a Determined Woman. The weather wasn’t going to spoil the last week of the summer holidays. No way. I think I scared the rain away. For a whole week it only rained at night or while we were in the car.

Our week started on the Sunday morning at about 7am when Much Maligned Husband woke up, peeled open an eyelid and said: “I can’t face the kitchen today. Where shall we go?”

“Cotswold Farm Park,” I replied, thinking nostalgically of my own childhood visits there.

So off we went. We stayed the night at the Express Holiday Inn just south of Gloucester, which for Hannah and Rosie was an adventure in itself, dined on Sunday evening at Gloucester Frankie and Benny’s then spent August Bank Holiday Monday at Cotswold Farm Park. It was almost as I remembered it, save for a new big barn by the entrance. There were lots of nice soft-lipped goats to feed and squeaky piglets to tickle. We bounced on the bouncy pillow and managed to lose one tooth (H6) and sustain a bruised cheek (R4), but only because M41 was “bouncing too high” to quote the injured.

We went home via Waitrose at Abergavenny which is a treat in itself being Not Tesco and Full of Nice Things (such as Tiffin, eaten on the hoof in the car park).

Tuesday saw Bri back at work and me, H6 and R4 round at a friend’s house for lunch. H6 and R4 played happily with E4 and F1.5 while us two mums discussed how nearly six weeks of dawn till dusk rain had us contemplating Thelma and Louise-style driving.

Then on Thursday M41 (ie me) became M42 (which is quite appropriate, really, considering I was born within earshot of the darn thing - or would have been had it been built in 1966). Anyway I had to have breakfast in bed, and then soak all morning in the bath reading a book. It’s a tough life.

Lunchtime found us at the best deli in the world: Ultracomida in Narberth. No chance of a table for tapas in its teeny restaurant, so instead we made do with its superb sandwiches. Freshly made on ciabatta with olive oil not butter if you prefer (I do) and fabulous deli fillings. I had blue cheese and honey with salad, the others had Serrano ham and salad. We devoured them overlooking Carew Castle (another childhood haunt, although it’s been ‘touristed’ now and you can’t climb the walls). Then we walked the block around the castle and its tidal mill, which is a lovely gentle stroll.

We drove on from there to Lawrenny, a village on the Cleddau estuary where we used to moor our boat when I was a kid. We had a wander around the beach, collecting shells and stones.

Friday arrived and I was assured by the two smallest people that I had promised to take them to Folly Farm. I don’t remember promising, but hey ho. So, armed with a fistful of Tesco vouchers, off we went. Folly Farm is THE BEST family attraction, ever. It even beats Cotswold Farm Park. The ‘farm’ part is a small clue – there are farm bits, such as animals to pat, goat kids to bottle feed, piglets, ponies etc, but it also has a zoo with cute ring-tailed lemurs – actually three different types of lemur, including babies. (Lemur babies are possibly the cutest of all babies.) There are also zebra, an ostrich, zebu, oryx… the list goes on.

But then there are the outdoor play areas. Three of them. From little nautical and dragon themed climbing and sliding things, to three ‘wrecked’ pirate ships and a thing made of thick logs and tyres, so beloved by orang utans and children.

But then there are the indoor things – the Jolly Barn full of goat kids, donkeys and piglets, a pet cuddling barn, and whopping indoor play area, floor to roof in slides, ropes and bridges, and an old fashioned fair, complete with carousel. We LOVE Folly Farm.

Saturday found us in birthday mode again. This time for my Dad’s 68th. I spent the day making the cake, roasting a chicken alongside various garden produce, and then drinking Pimms, followed by pink Cava, before scoffing the aforementioned cake.

Sunday was a cooked breakfast, followed by a quick examination of the progress of the sloes, bullaces and blackberries. Not much of any of them yet. Then I did my Long Run followed by equally Long Bath and hid under the Observer for the rest of the day.

Monday was the last day of the holidays and we had decided to go to the beach No Matter What. It was raining, so we stuffed the car with clothes for wet, dry and swimming, kites, picnic, wellies and more dry clothes. We arrived just as the tide was heading out in the general direction of Ireland and the sun was winning its battle with the clouds. The beach was at its most beautiful and was almost entirely deserted.

We climbed all over the rocks, dabbled in rock pools, picked over the pebbles and shells and explored the many little caves, then we paddled and jumped in the sea (which as the tide was going was ridiculously warm. Once it turns it comes in cold.) Then we flew kites, built sand castles and fell sleepily back into the car after a fabulous day out.

At bedtime H6 threw her arms around my neck and said: “Thank you mummy for making the last day of the holidays so nice.”

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Last day of the school holidays...

It really was a gorgeous day.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Summer at last...

... the sun finally came out.