The Halcyon Days of Summer

When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait for the school summer holidays: endless weeks of blissful peace and best of all, no school. I quite liked school, as it happens, but it was nice not to be there all the same. But as I write this, we’re over half way through the school summer holidays and perhaps you’ve pulled your hair out trying to entertain your brood or maybe you’re having the best time ever.

My kiddiewinks are only three and are off to nursery next month (Ed, I think there’s another article topic there…) so we haven’t had to deal with the summer holidays in the same way as those parents whose children are in school. Every day for MuMum is a school summer holiday day and for that I take my hat off to her and all the other stay at home mummies and daddies.

But back to my childhood summers… I heard earlier this week that you don’t remember anything before the age of four and that any memories you have before this time are either told to you, or you’ve been shown them from photographs or something like that and that’s how they become engrained in your psyche. From just before my fourth birthday until I was 18, I went with my family to Swanage in Dorset. Every year. Without fail. In the earlier years, the stay lasted for just a fortnight but as my sister and I got older, the fortnight turned into a few weeks, which tuned into five weeks so that essentially the whole summer holiday was spent by the sea.

Of all my memories growing up, these five weeks spent in Swanage provide my most favourite and overriding. Amongst other things, I experienced a lot of firsts: my first time under canvas (that’s right, we stayed in a tent for five weeks!), my first time windsurfing (a passion that’s still with me some 20 years later), my first taste of alcohol (Hooper’s Hooch, for the record) to name just a few. But my dad couldn’t be with us for the entire stay every year, someone had to work to pay for it I guess, although the coppers saved up through the year did pay for the beach hut rental. He did come to stay with us every weekend though and I can’t forget the excitement of going to collect him from the train station every Friday afternoon, running down the platform to throw my arms around him and the feeling of wholeness that came from having him with the rest of the family.

I think the reason we were able to spend so much time there every year was twofold: firstly, it was easy time for my mum. We were entertained all the time purely by virtue of being on the beach and having good friends around us all the time both at the beach and on the campsite (happy kids = a happy parent). It never rained in the summer back then, but on the rare day it did, a trip to the indoor waterpark kept us happy. Looking back, it’s a wonder that my toes aren’t webbed. Secondly, going back to the same campsite and having the same beach hut every year provided my mum with a good social structure and so the time passed well for her too.

My girls’ experience of summer holidays are going to be quite different from my childhood ones I think. For a start, I don’t think I could bear to be away from them (or MuMum) for entire weeks for more than a month. Secondly, we live near to the coast anyway so a mid-week trip to the beach isn’t unheard of (brief tangent: last week MuMum and I took the twinkles to the beach on a really calm day, the sea was flat and there was little tide running. Perfect conditions for the girls to have their first taste of windsurfing; they had a whale of a time being pushed back and forth between me and MuMum. They loved standing up on the board and even got their feet in the footstraps! I think it won’t be too long before they get their first wetsuits…). So I don’t know where my little family’s annual pilgrimage will be to. Maybe we won’t even make the pilgrimage to the same place every year. Anyway, there’s plenty of time to iron out the details…

However your summer is panning out so far, I hope you’re having a good one. Don’t forget that memories are being made that will last a life time!


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