I can no longer fight. This is the 'tiny piece', which inevitably turns into four tiny pieces, a "tidying up" slice of sponge and the last 4 "it seems a shame to waste them" fondant fancies.
The holidays were excellent. We slogged our way across inhospitable bogs and up unrewarding hills and down poorly remembered paths that I turned out to be tackling backwards. I brandished a map ineffectually and took lots of pictures of children launching themselves into cold expanses of Yorkshire water. When we were not sinking up to our shins in peat bog, we were in the pub, eating crisps. Sometimes the sun shone and I sat on the warm stone wall outside the house with a book (perhaps a holiday reading post to follow?) and a cup of tea and was perfectly happy. We also enjoyed to various degrees: (i) hitting fish over the head with a wooden stick called a bishop? Is that it? I have bishop in mind. I did not do any hitting and did not enjoy it as a spectator sport either. Nul points, "fun fishing". (ii) Going to visit the herd of ferocious mini-ponies down the road (the tiny stallion in particular was amazingly good value, it neighed like a dog's squeaky toy, kicked up its diminutive heels and bit other equines on the bum, like a hooved Benny Hill). (iii) Riding stolid Highland ponies verrrry verrrrry slowly. (iv) Watching the deathless spectacle of a fox riding a donkey (this, along with L GETTING A BLUE PETER BADGE is universally agreed to have been the highlight of the holidays). All good clean rural fun, but you don't come here for that kind of bollocks, do you?
The dark side of the holidays:
Knowing there is absolutely no risk you will be required to wear a swimming costume makes pre-holiday 'preparation' a breeze. I then spent two weeks in grubby forgiving trousers on a diet of gin and tonic, crisps and Campbells Leyburn minimart sponge cakes. The results are less than stunning. I look fat and seedy, with a freckled farmer's tan around the neck and cleavage, and a very red nose. I was hoping for better after such wholesome Swallows and Amazons style activities. Did any of them have a double chin covered in pimples? No, no they did not.
Other fact about the countryside that I had suppressed or veiled in the rosy glow of nostalgia: the sheer volume of DEATH that goes on there. The roads are littered with the corpses of small mammals, the smell of rotting flesh drifts towards you as you stride across idyllic landscapes. The lane that leads to the house had a very fresh dead rabbit whose decomposition the children followed with interest for some days, only to be thwarted by the next door neighbour disposing of the corpse just as it started to get really interesting. Barely a walk went by without us happening on a cadaver or two: rabbits, birds, the occasional sheep that had drowned in 3 cm of water, or simply forgotten to breathe. Not to mention the near-death miximatotic (sp?) rabbits, shivering and disorientated. The country - nature - is a right bastard. With vastly delayed hindsight, I wonder whether part of my deep unease at being in the country as a child and teenager may have had something to do with this STINKING CARNIVAL OF MORTALITY.
3. The return
This bit never gets any more fun, does it? Your house smells of something indefinably nasty you cannot locate, your mobile telephony provider welcomes you lovingly with a €200 bill, your clothes are all dirty and inexplicably too small, all the work that you hoped would just considerately FUCK OFF during your absence hasn't and the brain clouding effects of the holiday mean you are x million euros overdrawn and incapable of forming a coherent thought.
Nevertheless, return one must, so I am back to my usual routine of twitching in front of a screen to the melodic accompaniment of endless Tracey Beaker repeats. I have one child at home, the eldest and least demanding. The youngest has been despatched to a ten day rural Science Gulag since he has more energy than the rest of the family put together and finds us all insufferably boring. We delivered him to a remote location on the Luxembourg frontier some 8 days ago and have heard nothing since. I have, however, just received a link to some photographs. In several of them he is getting a piggy back from a girl with voluminous white dreads (I am sure this was not on my parental consent form) and in several more he is wearing surgical gloves and beaming with pride as he holds up a dissected mouse. I am really not sure what to make of any of it.
I must go back down the copywriting salt mines. I will return with tales of the 360 person family gathering I attended in rural Normandy. In the meantime, a very small selection of holiday snaps, because, well, JUST BECAUSE.
1. Reluctant Owl is reluctant.
That sequence still makes me laugh, 6 weeks later.
2. L has inherited the Beddington family 'looking dejected on a rock' gene.
3. Weepette found the whole experience electrifying and ran himself into a state of psychotic collapse, daily.
He sort of got the hang of running after rabbits, but when he reached them he would stop, and just look a bit embarrassed. Here he is yawning in some bracken.
4. Benny Hill Horse
Have you been on your holidays? Was it lovely? How unspeakable is it to be back? Tell me all.
**Cake is on my mind. I have been trying to eat healthily for the last week or so due to the fat greasy post-holiday aesthetics and it is atrocious, I am perpetually angry and have perfect recall of individual items of confectionery and baked goods I ate in 2001).