Friday, May 8, 2009

Five go mad in Devon

It was my birthday recently, not one of the big numbers like 40, 50, or 60. Not even one of the ones that has a comment attached to it like 29 “It’s all downhill from here (male) your biological clock is ticking (female)”, or 39, “Ohh 40 next year, nearly time for a crisis.” I am a plain boring old 38. See you can’t even think of a single comment, funny or otherwise to make, it is a truly dull age to be.

My darling Wife, perhaps sensing the impending mood of prevalent doom, decided to surprise me with a weekend away to my spiritual Zanadu in Devon. I had spent the previous night with a couple of old friends having a near-middle-aged-indoors-because-I-have-to-babysit-drink-up, and was feeling slightly the worse for wear when I received this news. I showed as much enthusiasm as my, now boringly aged, body would let me, cancelled my plans of getting drunk in the garden, and started to make a mental check list of required luggage. Favourite pants in case I got lucky, favourite book in case I didn’t.

My booze addled brain then started to wonder who was having the kids during this weekend getaway. In my head various suspects were proposed and ignored. My brother-too busy, my sister-never changed a nappy, Oma-moving on swiftly, my parents-already in Devon, brother in law-too single, sister in law-too organised. I just could not figure out who was having the kids.

All of a sudden a thought, so terrifying it caused a sumo-like retraction in my nether regions, occurred to me. There was only one couple I knew, that would be stupid enough to look after the kids for the weekend, and in the next sentence my Wife confirmed it. “The children are so looking forward to going to the beach.”

So off we went one big happy family on a 200 mile, 5 hour car trip to insanity, via the A303. In fairness to the kids, they were not that bad on the outbound trip, not that good, but not that bad. I had read somewhere that the word “posh” was an acronym derived from an old term they used on the cruise liners, “Port Outbound, Starboard Home”. On that basis, there was “Plentifully Angry Infant Noise” from the “Getting In The Sea”, and our vehicle was “Flippin Useless Car Knows Every Diversion”.

We eventually reached our destination at 10.45pm. The kids had stayed awake for the whole journey, only to fall asleep at 10.15pm, just in time for us to wake them up to take them to the hotel room. You could tell the Receptionist was impressed, by the way her perma-pencilled eyebrow arched. I don’t know what her problem was, she was hardly likely to be staying in the room below us. The people who walked in behind us got that particular room. They were the ones with every right to be worried. Although on the basis that he seemed to be fifty with a few quid, and she was 25, orange and was wearing a belt for a skirt, it looked like they might be keeping us up.

Upon entering our “Family Room”, I got my next birthday surprise. I had imagined a double bed with room for a cot at the bottom, and an adjoining room with a couple of single beds for the other two. What I was actually faced with was one room with a double bed, and a pull out sofa bed. Joy of joys, any idea of any naughtiness or relaxation, was now completely out of the window.

We unpacked and settled everyone into their beds. Luckily for me, my Wife had had the foresight to bring a travel-bottle of Jack Daniels for me, to go with the bottle of Coke purchased from the service station. I drank it “alcoholic private eye style”, straight from a coffee cup. All that was missing was some Pepto Bismol and a gun, and I could have been Phillip Marlowe. So there we were, my own little “Partridge Family”, except as we were in a Travelodge it was more like an “Alan Partridge Family”.

It was quite unsettling to realise how alike me and the kids are, judging by the amount of giggles going on each time one of us broke wind, anyway. The only one not amused was the wife, in fact she was starting to remind me of the boss cowboy in Blazing Saddles, “I think you’ve had enough beans, boys!”, except he didn’t have a moustache and an attitude.

The rest of the night went a lot more smoothly than expected, and the usual morning chaos that is feeding and cleaning, also went well. “Strength in Adversity” will now become our new family motto, which is good because our previous motto “Why does it always happen to us”, lacks a certain punch.

We met up with my parents, Aunt Joan, Cousin Jon and wife, and Cousin Neil and family. 11am was too early to start drinking, so we headed on down to the beach. Budleigh Salterton has a beautiful beach, made up entirely of smooth round stones. Sand always sounds like more fun, but as sand ends up everywhere, and I have an aversion to wearing sandpaper pants, this type of beach suits me just fine. Plus it gave me and my cousins another chance to play our infamous “Throw like a girl” game. Rules are fairly simple, pick up a stone in your wrong hand, take a run-up, throw it as far as you can, fall on the floor crying with laughter as you are mocked for how stupid you look. If you don’t believe me try it, it is singularly the funniest thing you can do for free.

It is amazing how much fun doing nothing is. The rest of the weekend was full of walking, drinking, eating, oh, and buying a load of herb plants from the village hall. Village life rocks, in the can you turn the radio down a bit, type of way. Before we knew it, it was time for the journey home.

Mate actually fell asleep an hour into the journey, which is unheard of. Katy chose that moment to start getting loud and whingey, and would only be quietened down by a sweet. The obvious noise reconvened as soon as said sweet was finished, and after various telling’s off, the cunning little madam offered this piece of advice, “I can’t talk when I am eating sweeties, so more sweeties would make me quiet”. How can you argue with logic like that? Sweets were duly dished out every 10 minutes or so, until I spied Mate starting to wake up. “Daddy, can I have another quiet sweetie please?” “That’s OK darling, your brother is awake now, so the quiet sweets can go away.” Advantage Daddy, huh, take that little girl, I win you lose. Except now the sugar rush had kicked in, so we were forced to listen to the Ting Ting CD (her favourite), to channel all her excess noise.

The only other thing of note to occur that weekend happened near Stonehenge. There is a huge natural pig farm almost opposite the site, so whilst I was trying to direct everyone’s gaze to, in my humble opinion, one of the most amazing monuments England has to offer, Katy had spotted something far more interesting. “Daddy what is the birdie doing?” I looked over to where she was pointing, only to see something that had never been covered by any David Attenborough documentary I had ever watched. Standing on the back of one of the pigs, was a huge crow, pecking God knows what, out of the pigs butt. All I was certain of though, was that it was not going to find the cure for Swine flu there, and that there was no way was Mrs Crow going to give him a welcome home kiss tonight.

I have always felt that Easter holidays are the mock exams to the summer holidays GCSE’s. That therefore, must make Bank holiday trips the last minute revision on how not to relax.


Russ said...

Happy belated B-day Gooner! You have Jack over there? I guess it is just another ubiquitous American brands. Oh, and don't worry about drinking at 11am. Just remember that it is 5pm somewhere! (or noon, if you like to get started early.)

Anonymous said...

Family rooms - never a good way to travel!!!

Elizabeth said...

I love this ... what a great way with words you have and an even better way with children :0)