Thursday, 30 June 2011

Memories are Made of This.

“It’s about making memories”, was how I sold it to Hubby, “The eldest ones will be leaving home soon”. I read the far away look in Hubby’s eyes to imply ‘in my dreams’, but I forged on, “It will be a lovely way to celebrate the end of their exams”.
And so, last Friday, having waved a fond adieu to the Lost Boys and the dog we drove to Center Parcs, Longleat. Now, as one who is oft disappointed by the shortcomings of others and other places I wasn’t sure what to expect, but from the customer service desk, to the bike hire chaps, to the waiters, pool attendants, checking in staff and housekeepers, every single one of them was not only courteous, helpful and knowledgeable but, ‘cheerful’. They must be trained by Americans because, having lived there and witnessed the culture of ‘anything is possible and we will make sure that we can help you’ attitude, my experience of that mind set is, that positivity engenders confidence and I knew the minute we unpacked in our Woodland lodge, whose kitchen was better equipped than ours, that we were going to have a wonderful time. Even the cleaner had left a cheery message on a blackboard wishing us a lovely time.
But if Hubby and I thought for one moment that we would take it easy then we were deluded. Not a moment passed without some activity or another. We rode bicycles for miles, swam and rode currents and flumes; wallowed in the hot water, outdoor pool for as long as we could get away with it before the children once again insisted we throw ourselves down the white water rapids with them. That first night and subsequent nights, Hubby and I slept like the dead.
The following morning dawned wet, soaking wet. Torrential rain was fleetingly interspersed by rainbows and a bashful sun. My son and I looked at each other and gave one another a friendly punch on the arm to signify, “It’ll be alright; I’ll be right behind you” and so, an hour later, the first of my many personal challenges was attempted as the climbing instructor fixed a harness to my thighs. Hubby and the girls came to watch, the eldest of whom wielded a camera.
“Ok then, are you ready?” By this point, my son and I had traversed slippery wet logs, walked along a high wire, climbed up poles to higher points, traversed further slippery logs, walked backwards, climbed higher still and walked another pole whilst attempting a silly dance and singing; this final challenge though was something else and we had already been briefed that, when the instructor called up ‘are you ready?’, we were in turn to shout out, commando style, “I was born ready”, kiss our biceps, make a grrr sound and then jump. Into the ether. My son had successfully completed the challenge and had been repelled safely to terra firma. It was my turn. To be honest, by the time I was asked if I was ready, it was a relief. I have never been called a scaredy-cat in my life and so throwing myself into the abyss wasn’t about to stymie my previous efforts but, boy oh boy that previous effort was a killer. Climbing the telegraph pole wasn’t so bad, but by this point I was fatigued and soaked to the skin, my hands were giving up their slippery, grip and my body was aching from head to toe, to get to the top of the pole then and have to haul myself onto no more than a tea tray which sat atop it, took Herculean effort. Looking at the pictures my daughter took, I resemble a knackered bear cub at the top of tree and not as I’d hoped, some Lara Croft type fantasy figure. As I landed safely on the ground, much to the cheer of my family and other onlookers, I felt, it must be said, for a fairly sedentary, middle-aged, middle-spread woman, justifiably proud.
There was no time to rest on my laurels though, in fact there was barely time to rest for a coffee. The next activity was booked. Hubby and son went quad biking; the girls and I, horse riding. Now, for the previous activity, all that I’d had to rely on was myself, oh and the quality of the ropes and safety harness, but apart from those essentials, I was in charge. The thing about horses is that they are bloody big beasts with minds of their own and it is not so much a question of who is in charge, but the fact that they may well just charge – off. I clung to the reins, gripped my thighs and prayed that mine wasn’t a temperamental and unpredictable equine beast, happy to fling me onto the unyielding, slippery stones beneath, rendering me a quadriplegic.
Togetherness is what family hols are all about though and, when confident enough, I looked behind me and the expressions on the girl’s faces were priceless. When we all reconvened in our warm and cosy lodge later, the boys too had had a blast. We hung our wet gear up, changed into our jammies, snuggled up on the sofa together, opened a family bag of crisps and watched a movie. A deer peered in through the French door.
Another day dawned. This one initially less strenuous. Hubby and I divvied up a day at the Aqua Sana Spa – our eldest daughter and me for the morning session, the boys in the afternoon. Bliss, bliss, bliss. Short-lived perhaps but, luxurious to the point of decadence. A breather before an afternoon of wall climbing, pedalo pushing and more white water rapids.
As we drove home the following day, the 9 year old said, “It was the best holiday, ever. When can we go again”. My son added, “Yeah, thanks guys, I’ll never, ever forget it”. Hubby caught my eye. It spoke volumes, namely, “See? I told you so”.

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