Not a Notting Hill Mum abroad

Removing the hair braids from Amelie’s hair … a very visual ending of the carefree seven week Summer holidays. When I say “carefree seven week holidays” obviously I mean carefree for the kids. Not their poor mother (that’s me!) .

My holiday of choice was driving hundreds ( thousands?) of miles over a month: to central France, to Cornwall, to Suffolk. When I say “we” I actually mean “I”. The children learned to map read – by necessity. Thank the Lord for sat nav, but you know if I’m at the roundabout I need to know NOW,  not when the signal comes back into play. And there is more than one way from Calais to Orleans –  ( e.g you don’t have to go via Paris you can you via Rouen). You have to admire the thing’s persistence, but really telling me to “turn around where possible” for 50 km was not helpful. I pulled the plug after a bit but when reconnected it still wanted me back on the motorway! Being a luddite I still buy Map books and they came into their own… apart from helping us catch the ferry on time,   the children now have some sense of where they actually were during the Summer.

Looking back of course we had a great time in between the long drives. A stopover in Paris and a trip on the batobus taking in Musee Dorsee, the Eiffel Tower ( and the armed police and military),  Notre Dame and the  Seine. Two days later, in the very untouristy Auvergne we were swimming in lakes; walking; picking fruits and digging up vegetables for lunch in our friends’ garden;  (spending £50 on mosquito repellents and creams) buying scented candles and soaps and all the time practising our very rusty French.  On the journey home we saw the lovely Orleans,  visiting a chateau, cathedrals and discovering a lovely brasserie. Now a huge fan of Airbnb, where I found a great place to stay right in the centre with a fabulous hostess, Elizabeth, on hand for advice and recommendations of the best places in town.

In Cornwall, we kayaked and body boarded (when I say we I mean they); ate fish and chips; visited the totally fascinating East Levant tin mine ..and I restored some wrought iron furniture and did some grouting (in return for friends cottage)

In all our weeks  in many locations we never had the best of the weather, but neither did we have the worst. The hottest days always seemed to be those earmarked for long journeys. And boy did we travel.

The long holiday ended with the inevitable hell of buying shoes, stationary and new uniform. I laughed aloud as I heard other mothers voice the frustration I was feeling. To one snivelling boy:  “No. You cannot have a treat while we are here. Why on earth do you think you deserve a treat. It’s me that needs the treat.”    Or ” Where has you sister disappeared to now?”. Quite. Thanks Peter Jones for putting the toy department right next to shoes and uniform and still expecting kids to be ready to take their turn whe n their number finally comes up !  Everyone leaves it to the last minute,  cos the kids grow like Topsy with all that water and sunlight over the summer .   The downside is most of the sizes and styles have sold out. The opposite of that old Yellow Pages advert boasting “all of the colours in all of the sizes.”

Anyway on the very last day I found I would be deprived of my son’s company, as he went back a day earlier than his sister. So I said to my Teenager-at-twelve – “So darling, we can spend a lovely relaxing day together. Some reading,  some music practice and perhaps a trip to an exhibition. Shall I see what’s on at the V and A or we could do one of those one hour museum tours?”

Alexander (Teenager-at-ten) replied swiftly

” No offence mum. But I’m so glad I’m going to be at school.”

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