After the journey from Hell, and travelling for almost fourteen hours, the only thing we really wanted to do when we finally got to the hotel was climb into bed and sleep. So it should have come as no surprise that the children were in no way whatsoever ready to sleep. Made worse by the fact that there simply wasn’t enough beds for the six of us, that, due to stretching the truth with the booking somewhat, Eva, Megan and Lewis had two tiny camp beds to share and Harry was wedged in between Gaz and I. Something told me that the Premier Inns “Good nights sleep promise” didn’t quite stretch to being kicked in the head by a two year old.
As we all got into bed and the lights went out, I told myself that after a good nights sleep, tomorrow would be a better day. And then it started….
“I’m going to poo on your head!” ~ Eva
“Mummmmmmy! Eva said she’s going to poo on my head!!” ~ Megan
“Eva stop saying you’re going to poo on Megans head!” ~ Me
“My names not Eva!” ~ Eva
“Mummmmmy! Eva says her name’s not Eva!” ~ Megan
“Eva, stop being so annoying!” ~ Lewis
“My names not Eva!”~ Eva
That. On repeat, for two whole hours. Two torturous hours that resulted in all three of the children crying, Lewis moaning that he was tired and the girls were ‘doing his head in’, me screeching that the people next door would be complaining about us any second and Gaz bellowing that the next person who spoke would have to go and sleep in the car, a threat which I think we all knew held no follow up…although by 1am, I was sorely tempted!
“Mummmmmy! Megan is touching my pillow!” ~ Eva
“Megan, give Eva some of the pillow!” ~ Me
“My name’s not Megan!” ~ Megan
Oh dear God. Kill me now…
By morning we were exhausted after just a few hours sleep, apart from Harry who had sprawled out side ways across our bed while Gaz and I cowered on both edges, too afraid to wake him. But as we opened the curtains we discovered that the sun was shining and, after an all you can eat buffet style breakfast down the road, we were on the final leg down to Exmouth.
As we pulled into Devon Cliff I finally felt my body relax, breathed in the fresh sea air, welcomed the sight of the beach in the distance and as we bounded into reception to collect our caravan keys, looking at those four angelic faces, I truly believed that this year, we would have the perfect holiday.
And yet as we stood in the queue, alongside families whose children sat patiently, stood holding their Mums hand or quietly playing a game on their Ipads, something happened to Eva, Megan and Harry, literally before our very eyes. It’s almost as though they had spent the last few weeks plotting their master plan, lain awake at night masterminding this whole venture – as soon as we get on holiday, let’s forget every single thing our parents have ever taught us, every ounce of common sense, every drop of good behaviour, and let’s become absolute, raging psychopaths!!
And so they did.
By the time we got to our caravan I was embarrassed, irritated, and sweating profusely and yet the excitement of the caravan merely added to their hysteria. As they jumped from one couch to the next, swung themselves from the kitchen units, hid inside wardrobes and clambered on the veranda, I realised that something terrible had happened, that somehow, perhaps fuelled by the over-inhalation of petrol fumes on the hard shoulder or intoxication from the sea air, we had lost control of our children.
And there is so much that I could tell you about our holiday, how unbelievably stressful it was, how every single day was a rigmarole just to leave the caravan, how the children cried and tantrummed and showed us up in every restaurant, at every meal, in every way possible. How there wasn’t a day, hell, even an hour, when somebody didn’t look at us, at the massacre of our dinner table or the children walloping each other round the head, and say, “Blimey! You’ve got your hands full!”.
I could tell you about the dramas of swimming, how every day would involve the military like operation of facing the changing rooms, five of us crammed into one tiny cubicle while Lewis lived it large next door. How the children repeatedly threw their dry clothes onto the wet floor and then had a full on melt down that their clothes were wet. How we spent the entire time screeching, “Stop running! You’re going to crack your head open!”, “Touch that door again and there’s big trouble!”, and dragging Harry out from other peoples cubicles by his feet. How we forgot to take the pound for the locker, every single time, and Lewis would have to trail back out to reception, sheepishly asking for a pound, standing there trying to make himself look invisible incase, god forbid, somebody saw him with this T shirt off. I could tell you how the pool was sub zero, how Harrys lips went blue and at one point I truly believed that I was having a fit I was shaking so much. How there was so much chlorine in the pool that it actually stripped off my nail varnish (which is some mean feat given it has been on there since September 2015), and I broke out in an itchy, red rash which then bled, scabbed over, making me look, and feel, like a leper.
I could tell you how the children out-right refused to sleep each night, how every evening became a game of bed hopping musical chairs, how Harry woke up screaming wild, frantic cries from constant night terrors, and the girls burst to life as soon as the sun came up. I could tell you about the morning when Lewis sat staring at me over breakfast, studying my face from different angles before declaring, “You look different!”. “Good different, or bad different?” I had asked, the tone of my voice clearly indicating what the correct answer should be. “I dunno,” he shrugged, before his face lit up, “I’ve got it!” he exclaimed, “It’s your eyes! You’ve got really big eye bags!!”.
Lovely. Absolutely, bloody lovely.
I could tell you about the saga, every single day, of going to the beach. How we had to round up all four children, carry six armbands, three lifejackets, the football, the soft ball, the Velcro bat and ball game, the kite, the bucket and spades, the picnic blanket, the towels for drying ourselves, the separate towels for wiping sand off ourselves, the sun cream, the sun hats, the windbreakers, the sandwiches, crisps, biscuits, the token banana that nobody would eat, the litres of water and a huge inflatable rubber dinghy, and navigate the path down the cliffs to the beach while Megan screamed every minute without fail, “Pick me up! I’m tired!”. I could tell you how as soon as we sat down, literally seconds later, Harry and Megan would have a face full of sand, in their mouths, up their nose, in their eyes, and Eva would be whinging that she was hungry, that she needed whatever it was that we hadn’t brought to eat, right that very moment. How, despite the many, many beach games we had, and all of the fun activities we suggested, the childrens favourite game was to spray each other with sun cream, and how when they got bored of that, they squirted me with factor fifty, in random splodgy patterns so that to top off my leper like chlorine rash, I looked as though I’d had a spray tan….in the dark!
I could share with you my own personal highlight of the holiday, how, one day at the beach, Harry discovered a collection of sticks and declared them “Dicks” and Lewis and I laughed ourselves stupid, fuelling my belief that I have the mentality of a twelve year old. And the more we laughed the more he said it, as though it was the funniest thing that a child has ever said. As he grabbed a handful of sticks and dropped one onto Lewis’s head, he suddenly announced, “Lewis! Dick head!!” and I swear to God, the three of us nearly died laughing, so much so that our sides ached and I slapped at the floor clutching for breath, a hysteria that didn’t go un-noticed by Megan who, wanting to get in on the action suddenly shouted, “Dick head!” as loudly as she possibly could. And through our laughter we begged her to stop, only fuelling her amusement at shouting it even louder, directing it at strangers as we passed them on the beach, causing stares of disbelief, embarrassment and outright shock! “Stick head!” I told her, “You mean stick head!” which in itself made no sense whatsoever and did nothing to correct the opinion of others that not only were our children feral, but they were foul mouthed too!!
I could tell you how, just a few days in, on a walk with Lewis to the shops, whilst wearing my new ‘Primarni’ gladiator sandals, the lack of grip (well what can you expect for £2.99?) sent me flying, dragging the top of my foot behind me and ending up, not for the first time this holiday, face down on the concrete. “Keep going, don’t make a fuss!” I hissed to Lewis as I jumped up, ignoring the snorts of laughter from the people behind us and the jeering faces from the car infront who had brazenly slowed down to see what was going on, and I half walked, half hobbled to the shop, hugely aware that my foot was pouring with blood. “It could have been worse,” Lewis had said as we purchased plasters and Savlon, “It could have been one of the kids!”…and boy did those words came back to haunt us!
I wish I didn’t have to tell you that on our last day in Devon, having silently congratulated ourselves that we had survived a week without a trip to A&E, Harry fell over in the caravan and split his head open on the coffee table, a huge big gash that I immediately knew couldn’t be fixed with a Mum rub and a plaster. Our holiday ended with a panicked dash to the hospital to have it stitched back together and the reality that, so soon after damaging his teeth, he would now have a scar on his forehead to deal with.
I could tell you how, on the way home we called at Alton Towers, and while Gaz took Lewis on the rollercoasters I was left with the three youngest who were just a little bit excited at the prospect of Cbeebies land!!
And despite the rain, we queued for the first ride, for the longest thirty minutes of my life, before finally getting to the front. Just as we were about to climb into the car, the jobsworth ride operator grabbed me back and smugly informed me that it was one adult to two children on each ride and we wouldn’t be allowed on afterall, to which Eva and Megan threw back their heads and screamed blue murder while I fought back the urge to throttle her and call her a Stick Head! And the only ride that I could take them on, before Lewis and Gaz came and rescued me later on, was the cable cars, which meant facing my fear of heights or, in my case, sitting there crying as the kids rocked the car with such force that I was permanently sat in “brace position”.
After bribing them with hot dogs, cake and ice cream, I was relieved to discover the Sea Life centre at Pirate Bay, a nice quiet attraction to keep them entertained. And yet I soon realised that nothing was straightforward with the three of them, more so when it was a busy attraction, pitch black inside and all three scarpered in three different directions as soon as we stepped foot inside. When I finally managed to round them up, feeling as though I should have a collar round my neck, I ushered them over to the open topped “touch and feel” pool, where Megan froze in horror at anything that moved. And I was so intent on taking a photo of Eva stroking one of the star fish that I didn’t notice Harry sneaking away, creeping up at the opposite end of the pool, plunging in his hand, and lifting the other star fish right out of the water and waving it about in front of his face singing, “Twinkle twinkle little star!”. After a huge panic when the “Superviser” snatched it from him as though he was a cold blooded killer, I quickly bundled them out of there wondering what kind of fools have an open topped pool for kids to poke around in anyway? Fools who haven’t met my children, that’s for sure!!
And as much as I could tell you about how hard work it was, how there were times when I felt like crying or despaired of the childrens behaviour, how I lay in bed at night wondering what tomorrow would bring, whether we could make it through a day without tears and tantrums, mine and theirs, I could also tell you so much more.
I could tell you how Lewis had the time of his life, how he went on the Segways, did target shooting, kayaking in the sea, aqua jets in the pool, played football every day and the aerial adventure assault course. How the girls stood, thirty feet below him chanting, “Lewis, Lewis!” as he manoeuvred his way across each obstacle, and how Megan shouted, “Lewis! You’re so brave! You look so cool!” which made us all laugh, including everyone around us, and my heart burst with pride at how adorable she can be.
I could tell you how we played on the beach, dug holes as deep as you could get, built sandcastles, buried each other in the sand right up to our necks, made mermaid tails, collected shells and ate gritty sandwiches with the sun on our faces. How Eva declared that this was the “best day ever!” and Harry told us he was having “Much fun!” as we pulled them along in the sea on the rubber dinghy, the sound of their laughter on the wind as they huddled together, best friends forever.
I could tell you how the children splashed and swam in the pool like little mermaids, how they threw themselves head first down the slides and squealed with delight under the water fountains. How Megan danced with her Daddy at the tots disco, spinning around the dance floor with such uncharacteristic confidence. How they sat, all four of them, mesmerised by the shows each night, watching, open mouthed, at the magicians, the dancers, the circus show, and afterwards telling us, “That was my favourite day!”, and even though we had wanted to gouge our own eyes out at the most of them, it didn’t matter one bit.
I could tell you about the look on Megan’s face on the Tree Tops ride at Cbeebies land, the flush of Lewis’s cheeks as he rushed towards me off the rollercoasters, his eyes shining, his hair swept back and how Harry craned his neck to look out of the cable cars shouting, “Me up high!”.
How Lewis held my hand when nobody was looking, cuddled up beside me during our round of the musical chairs bed hop and told me how much fun he was having, how much he loved us, how glad he was that we had gone on holiday.
How the children ate ice creams and cookie shakes and bags of chips until they came out of their ears, savouring every single drop, every single bite. How Harry was never happier than with a spade in his hand, Lewis with his football and the girls with their bean bag teddies, something which they had stood and deliberated over for forty long minutes in Claire’s Accessories when Eva had begged to buy “Something beautiful”. And the smiles on their faces were worth it, every penny, every moment of stress and frustration, those smiles were absolutely priceless.
I could tell you how at night we pulled on our hoodies and trailed down to the beach, armed with our fishing nets and plastic buckets, and hunted for crabs and tiny fish. How we laughed with amusement as Meggy had a meltdown every time the seaweed touched her feet or how Eva slipped over and got soaked from the head down. How Lewis looked over at me, his face flushed with the sea breeze, and announced that he had caught a fish, and the girls flocked to him in complete admiration. How we flew a kite, watching it soar up into the sky, beaming with delight as the children ran up and down the beach making it flip and turn, and crowded together as the sun set, making our way back home to bed, tired, exhausted but happy. Truly happy.
And in all honesty, both accounts would be true. The good, the bad and the outright disastrous. Because holidays are hard work, and I think that anyone who says otherwise has children far better behaved than mine. We have laughed, cried, screamed and shouted and yet what a time we have had, making memories that will absolutely last forever.
Will we be going away again next year? Absolutely, because although it was far from relaxing for us grown ups, if you ask my children if they enjoyed their holiday they will tell you they had the best time ever. And that, for the next ten years at least, is what it’s all about.
Well that, and copious amounts of alcohol….