Once your children have left home, it is all too easy to remember their childhood as a time when all was perfect, days tinged with a rosy glow. Then you find an old diary entry…
We had a good holiday in North Wales in August, although it took Tim several days to unwind – not so good when you are only away for a week! As always, we had our usual share of mishaps, although both accommodation and weather were excellent. We set off on the 5 hour drive with our Autoroute directional plan which some kind soul (or was it sod?) had printed off their PC – this was our first big mistake. We took the plan as gospel, and hadn’t bothered to find out what it meant by ‘check exit’ on two occasions. This meant we found ourselves heading the wrong way down the motorway near Birmingham, with Tim getting very irate whenever I corrected us. He became increasingly irate as we travelled on, going faster and faster, and closer and closer to the car in front, with me an absolute nervous wreck in the passenger seat. At one point (when 18 month old Thomas had just taken 3 stressful hours to fall asleep) I realised I had sent us the wrong way. It took me ten minutes to pluck up the courage to tell my beloved, with the inevitable result – an explosion of expletives, waking Thomas with a jolt! When we finally got there, I downed a bottle of wine by myself within an hour …
Our cottage was of typical farmhouse style Welsh stone, with a very steep garden which meant you could literally climb out of the bedroom window onto the lawn, if you so wished! This did mean it wasn’t very toddler friendly, but once Thomas was in bed at 6.30 pm, it was lovely to clamour up our garden and have a barbecue whilst enjoying the views. Another big bonus was that we had our very own quarter acre field where Joe could play cricket to his heart’s content, in the shadow of the mountains and with an ever anxious audience of sheep. They were also useful as fielders – certainly more adept than mum!
Beautiful Snowdonia was half an hour’s drive away, and we made the fateful promise to Joe that we would go up the highest peak on a train. It took us an hour and a half to get there (with me misnavigating in the process – what a surprise) only to have disaster strike. Getting out of the car, Tim realised he had lost the one hundred pounds he had put in the pocket of his shorts. Result? One mega rage. He leapt back into the car, leaving me and two bemused children standing in the car park, screeched off towards the gates, hurled a bottle of water out of the window because its rattling was annoying him, and headed back towards the cottage where he had concluded the money had fallen. I stood there, stunned.
Pushing the buggy to the station for Snowdon, it was clear that people were already queuing 100 deep for a seat on the train, reserving in advance. Reasoning Tim would be gone for at least an hour, we joined the back of the line and queued with the rest for half an hour before spotting a sign stating how much the tickets cost … £15 per adult, £12 per child. Bearing in mind there was a distinct possibility that Tim had lost most of our spending money, was it a wise expenditure … also allowing for his mood had the worst happened? I started muttering to anyone foolish enough to listen ‘shall I buy the tickets or not? What do you think?’ Then my mother appeared on my shoulder (as mothers always do when there’s a crisis), saying ‘you can’t possibly disappoint Joe, you must go’, so I bandied my credit card in cavalier style.
Having signed my life away, we then headed back to the original car park (which, needless to say, was now full up) to await the return of the dreaded Tim. Due to his somewhat hasty departure, no meeting time or place had been agreed, so the boys and I had no choice other than to wait at the side of the road for another 45 minutes for his return – me with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach about the missing money and the extravagance of the train tickets. One hour before our train was due to depart, Tim finally returned – with the money, thank goodness! After grabbing a bite to eat (fortunately the long drive had cooled his temper), we caught the train for a pretty stressful two hour round trip to the summit. It was Thomas’s turn to have the tantrums this time (one day I’m gonna write a series of books called ‘Tim and Tom’s Tantrums’). That aside, the views were stunning, and Joe enjoyed the trip – especially as we witnessed at close hand a mountain rescue involving helicopter, cranked up stretcher, etc. The rest of the day passed quite pleasantly in a partnership mix that often set the style of the holiday – Tim and Joe taking a trip into the bowels of the mountains to see a hydro electricity plant, whilst Thomas and I enjoyed a leisurely cup of tea and a pleasant stroll round the shops and village.
We had other day trips (much more relaxing, I might add – Tim did mellow in the end!) into Snowdonia, paddling in the beautiful lakes and rivers, whilst picnicking on the shores. We also went to Anglesey twice, where Joe enjoyed a cricket school and quite stunned Tim with his potential, and we all enjoyed what is claimed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the UK, with the mountains of North Wales forming shifting shadows on the horizon. The one damp day was spent at a slate mine, which was quite fascinating – it is difficult to imagine just how hard life must have been for people spending 12 hours down a mine, 6 days a week, for an uncertain wage at the end of it. Suddenly the design industry doesn’t seem so bad!