Of the 183 days of Grace’s time in the world, only two have been spent away from home, and these were with the in-laws, and at a stage when Grace did little more than eat and sleep. Not that her repetoire has increased massively since then it has to be said. I don’t think there was any specific reason for this…we often used to go away BG (before Grace), and we had bought a travel cot for just such an eventuality but we just hadn’t got round to sorting anything out. As an aside, don’t do as I did, and, thinking of Travel Scrabble, or Travel Iron (no, no idea really) equate travel with ease of mobility! The Travel cot is a beast that immediately fills a substantial part of your boot…a subject to which we shall shortly return.
We’d had a long weekend in the diary for a couple of months, but it wasn’t until a week and half beforehand we’d finally decided to actually leave the safe environs of home and venture further afield. When it was unseasonably warm, and the thoughts were of walking through cool, shady forest pathways, picnicking on sunlit meadows, and dipping toes into refreshing, babbling brooks. The typical British hope over experience when it comes to weather, obviously. Though given it is still March, it was less hope and more insane ignorance, and less experience and more flying in the face of meteorological science. Still, we booked ourselves into CenterParcs at Longleat and checked the weather app daily with increasing despair.
Packing is never a last minute and unplanned activity in this household. At least as long as I have nothing to do with it that is. Lists start being made weeks in advance, and get added to and amended with increasing frequency and in smaller and smaller handwriting so as to fit more on a single page, until the day we depart. At which point everything is either ticked, ringed or underlined in red ink. These latter ones have something to do with me I think. Grace and I are similar in that we have limited wardrobe options, so packing actually boils down to stuffing most of the clothes we own into a bag that can then be squashed into a convenient space in the car. The pram, travel cot, changing bag, toys and food account for the rest of the space. By the time packing was completed, the car was full. And I mean FULL. Who knew an Astra would only just about be big enough for a family of 3. Or two and a little bit. I used to laugh at people and their need to buy ever bigger 4×4’s, but know I’m just jealous. What I’m less sure of though, is when it changed. When did a small Ford Cortina cease to be big enough to get a family of four down to Cornwall and back, when driving to Cornwall still involved an overnight stay in a lay-by along the way, there being only mud tracks west of Exeter?
And so we made it to CenterParcs. For those who have never been, I imagine it’s a bit like Butlins with less knobbly knees and more big German cars. It’s very nicely done in amongst the forests of Longleat, and I also imagine it’s great in the warm dappled sunlight. I’ll never know. Still, we had a very nicely presented lodge, and luckily for potential neighbours, only connected to one other. The travel cot, having been lugged to the nearest room (which was fortunately the bedroom) like some missing monolith from Stonehenge which we’d passed only hours earlier, was then expertly put together like so much giant iron and cloth origami. Problem was that the only available expertise was in spreadsheets. Always good for a bit of bonding, these sort of exercises….
By the time we were settled, it was past Grace’s usual bedtime (around 7pm), but hey…we’re on holiday, let’s go and have a quick wander, and besides, the fresh air will do Grace good. In hindsight, all I can say is they’re not mistakes if you learn from them. And at 3am we were learning well. The break in routine may have been a factor, but to be honest, Grace’s ongoing battle with her alien teeth were the main cause. That and the related nappy filling (don’t ask me how, but there is an incontrovertible link…according to Google at least) .
Think we got through four or five nappies in the darkest hours before dawn that Saturday morning. From that point on we never really recovered, and the rest of the weekend was spent trying to time painkillers, teething gel, sleeps and eats in such a way as to minimise poor Gracie’s discomfort. We did manage to get out and about, and even made the Sub Tropical Paradise (a greater emphasis on the word Sub than I had expected…) a couple of times.
But all the time Grace was either moaning, filling her nappy, or just generally not being herself. It was good to get away for a few days and escape our own little routines built around Grace and work, but still, come Monday afternoon we were back in Castlethorpe, feet up, drinking tea, and breathing a sigh of relief. Home…no place like it.