Living the dream #1

You know that moment in Shirley Valentine, when you see the house on the beach by the sea? That.


Ever since I saw the film, I’ve dreamed about it. And, as I sat on the decking at our little seaside getaway the other day, eating my breakfast, I realised this is as close as I’ll get to it. Not quite on the beach, but as close as can be.


The knitting ladies came

The next morning, I unpacked the chairs and assembled the table. Just in time as some of the ladies from Brockley Knits came for the day. We were able to have lunch sitting on the new decking, on the new chairs, at the new table.


Just popping out for a few things

I went to number eighteen by myself for the first time. Inevitably excitement was mixed with trepidation – how would I manage without the rest of the family? The new decking at the rear of the chalet was finished and it was time to get the furniture to go on it. “I’ll just pop into Tesco first,” I thought, “and then I’ll go to B&Q. Shouldn’t be long.”

I arrived at B&Q and went to collect the garden furniture I had seen on line. It wasn’t there! I asked at the desk, was told I could order it for collection later and was referred to Kristie. Kristie deserves a special mention. She went way beyond the call of duty in getting me sorted out.

What I thought I wanted was either out of stock or discontinued. We discussed looking round other stores to see if Kristie could assemble the six chairs and table I wanted. We quickly realised it was a lost cause. Kristie helped me choose another range. The chairs were cheaper but the table was bigger and more expensive, a lot more expensive.

The table and three of the chairs were in stock. Then it was a question of locating the other three chairs. Kristie found them in Ashford and asked them to put the chairs aside for me to collect later in the day.

A trolley was loaded with the remaining chairs and the table. To my surprise, it was really heavy. I hadn’t appreciated that the top was tempered glass. We loaded the table into the car but there was no room for the chairs. I had been a bit optimistic about what would fit in my car. So the chairs went back to the warehouse while I drove the table back to number eighteen. Trip one completed.

After a cup of tea, I made my second trip, back to the warehouse to collect the first three chairs. I contemplated going on to Ashford for the other three chairs, but was not sure they would all fit in. So back to number eighteen with the first three chairs.

After supper, I set out on trip three to collect the other three chairs from Ashford. I got to where I thought the warehouse was. I couldn’t see it. I drove further down the road. I asked at a garage, but the instructions weren’t very clear, although it was definitely near where I thought it should be. So I drove back up the road the other way, still couldn’t see it and turned round again. You’d think I’d find a big orange warehouse, wouldn’t you?

Eventually I found it, where it should be, but on the other side of the road and set back a bit. I walked in; and there were the chairs waiting for me! I paid for the chairs, loaded then into the car and set off again. I got back before bedtime, some five hours after I first set out.

The neighbours next door had watched the saga unfold. I was very glad they were there and slept soundly that night, comforted by the knowledge of their presence.


Reciprocating dad’s love

@HaslamGreg: GREAT FATHERS (3) It takes a moment to make a child, a life-time to become a Father who’s a great teacher,good provider,discipler,protector.

Yesterday was Fathers’ Day. Over the years we seem to have moved from the image of dad as a cigarette smoking, beer swilling numpty to some one who is placed high in our affections and valued as a parent.

For some, fathers’ day is not a happy time. This year has seen a lot of (adult) children mourning the loss of their fathers on Facebook and Twitter and recalling memories of happy times.

On the other hand, many kids got really excited about making gifts and cards for their dads, eagerly anticipating the moment of presentation, when they could express their love for their dads.

I have to tell you that the love is reciprocated. On the bus the other day, I saw a little girl, maybe not yet two, sitting in her buggy, eyes fixed on her dad while he tenderly sang to her – in public, on a bus! It was a lovely moment. And I saw it again yesterday, when a dad cradled his recently born daughter in his arms. His eyes never left her face.

From the moment of conception, dads are responsible for their kids. But for those who take the trouble to hone the skills of fatherhood, there is the blessing of having children who absolutely adore them.

The art of packing and making friends

Granny has a list in her head of what the grandkids need to bring with them to our little seaside getaway. It goes something like this: waterproof coat, hoody, long sleeve t shirt, short sleeve t shirt, clean pants and socks, pyjamas, wash bag, complete with toothbrush and toothpaste, swimming things, sleeping bag or duvet set, something to cuddle in bed, hairbrush and anything else they especially want.

We quickly found out that there wasn’t a lot of room for luggage in the car. Granny always has so much stuff, like food, to take. So grandkids were limited to a back pack each. Bedding is left at the chalet. But we still manage to leave things behind.

This time, grandson forgot his swimming trunks, hoody and toothbrush. Younger grandson had no jeans. He spent the day shivering in his football strip. Granddaughter forgot her hairbrush, very important if you have long hair, and hoody. She didn’t want to put her warmer clothes on because, she said, they were ugly. So she shivered as well.

But we weren’t completely miserable. After supper, we wrapped up and went down to the beach. We had face time with grandkids’ parents before we set out and grandkids had been challenged to find interesting things. Stones with holes in, a piece of netting with a jelly fish (?) entangled in it and a collection of enough stones to fill a pocket.

On the way back, We noted that there was a site of special scientific interest and we talked about what that meant: that you had to keep to the paths and not damage the plants. Also, we said you can’t play on other people’s beached boats or mess with their chains. Truly the beach is a great playground, but you have to have respect for it as well.

When we arrived, granny waved to a couple sitting outside their chalet. Then she realised it wasn’t who she thought it was. Oops! So she went over and introduced herself to the woman and explained her mistake. But what a good way to make a new friend. Soon she and the woman were chatting away.

The next day, after breakfast, we went down to the village, greeting everyone as we went. After all, this is our village now too. First stop was the post office with its jars of penny sweets. While the grandkids chose their sweets, the grown ups chatted. Saturday sweets definitely should become a new tradition.

Then on to the butchers with its photographs of the farms that supply the meat the shop sells. The butcher was on the phone. His card machine was broken and, to his amazement, it was fixed by remote access. “How did she do that?” he asked, “she was only a young girl!” The wonders of modern technology. We bought freshly baked bread and cheese for lunch and resisted the temptation to buy lots of other goodies as well.

There’s something nice about being part of the local village and not rushing off to the nearest supermarket for supplies. Next time, maybe granny won’t bring so much stuff.

We went back to the chalet to await the arrival of granny’s friends. Two of the grandkids were so cold, they wrapped themselves up in blankets and lay on the sofas. Older grandson made a longbow out of some wood he had found. Granny turned the oven on and baked. While the sausage rolls were cooking, she pushed granddaughter on the swings.

Our friends arrived and we had lunch. Grandkids hadn’t met them before, so it was introductions all round. Everyone was hungry after what had proved to be a long morning. We sat outside in a row on the edge of the veranda like a flock of birds on a telegraph wire, munching away.

After lunch, we went swimming. Friend’s daughter managed to persuade grandson to go swimming in his pyjama shorts. It was worth the embarrassment. Soon they were splashing around having lots of fun. The other grandson and granddaughter both managed new achievements by swimming widths with armbands on.

Not only had granny brought stuff, visiting friends had too. Hungry after swimming, we shared and enjoyed the feast. There was loads to eat. Afterwards, we took spare cake to the chalet next door and even had some over to take home and eat while we watched the final of Britain’s Got Talent.

Next time, make sure you have everything in your bag but don’t bring too much stuff. Look out for opportunities to make new friends. You never know what the outcome might be.

Insect day: making friends

It was insect day – Inservice Training Day for teachers, or as some one said, a Baker day, and the schools were shut. What better way to spend it than to run away to our little seaside getaway? So we did.

By 9 am we were up and raring to go. The guys opened the swimming pool up for us. This was the first time granny had taken the grandkids swimming on her own. The boys had to negotiate the changing room by themselves and were allowed to stay in long after the girls had got out. Oldest grandson attempted a feat he had not achieved before and nearly nailed it – just needs a bit more practice before he can show off to mum and dad.

We went into the village for ice cream. On the way we met Kathy, the vicar. We stood in the sunshine catching up on each other’s news. Then off to the shop.

Girls were having a bad hair day. Neither of us had brought a hairbrush, so we bought a comb. (In fact Granny’s hair was so bad that, at grandson’s suggestion, she wore a hat for the rest of the day.) Licking our ice creams, we went on to visit the post office. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of old fashioned sweets! We looked in the butcher’s. Between them, the village shops seem to have everything you could want.

On the way back, we met some of the men who repair and renovate the chalets. Granny arranged to meet one later to see what could be done for ours.

While lunch was cooking, the kids played in the playground, and there was lots of swing pushing. Granny went to check on lunch. As she was going back to the playground, Linda came over. They were leaving and she wondered if we would like some left over chocolate ice cream. Would we?! It turned out that Linda and Frank live quite near Granny and have two granddaughters roughly the same ages as the youngest two grandkids. We are looking forward to meeting them.

After lunch, we played tennis. We made friends with Donna at Guest Services and she lent us some balls and racquets. We tried to play tennis properly, but we weren’t very good at it and one by one, two of the grandkids dropped out and went back to the playground. But grandson proved to be quite good at it and gave granny a run for her money.

We went back to the chalet for drinks and cake. We had some cake left over. Earlier in the day, grandson had retrieved a lost ball for the people staying next door. “Let’s give them the cake!” He said. So we washed up a box and filled it with the left over cake. Grandson wrote a note and taped it to the box. Then he took it next door and left it in the shade, where they would find it. They came back before we left. “I think they were pleased”, he said.

That was the end of our insect day. We set off for home, feeling especially happy because we had been blessed by other people and because we had been able to pass the blessing on.


Manners at the skatepark

It was a warm sunny day, just right for a trip to the skatepark. So far the grandkids have loved watching the skaters at Southbank in London, but have had few opportunities to try out skateparks for themselves.

There are kids younger than them there. A three year old insists in shouting “excuse me”, every time, from the top of the ramp to make sure the coast is clear for his run down the gentle slope. They set off to explore the skatepark and its obstacles.

Soon one of them come back. “They are swearing,” he tells me, “make them stop.” I explain that it is a public park and that anyone can use it – and swear. They just have to put up with it. I say that if their friends were playing with them at home, I would ask them to use more appropriate language.

Granddaughter wants to whisper something. “See that boy over there?” She points to one of the cool teenagers. “I saw his pants!” She pauses. “They were blue and white stripes!” She tells me with gusto.

Life with the skaters is definitely different.

On the way back to the car, we reflect on our experiences. “If you don’t swear,” I say, “you will get known for not swearing and people around you won’t swear. Remembering my offers of first aid on another occasion, I continue, “if you are kind to other people, they will appreciate your kindness”. And remind them of the lady in the park who provides chalks for the kids to draw with and the mother who lets them use her son’s bike and football. Grandson agrees. He helped people when they came off their bikes. We’ve come to a place of understanding.

We celebrate the end of a perfect afternoon with ice creams all round.