Saturday, 7 June 2008

Creche and burn

The grass is long on the Common; the smell of suncream and icecream pervades the local playgrounds. The Yummy Mummies are displaying their pedicures in pretty sandals, and the rest of us have unearthed our flipflops. It must be summer.

Across Nappy Valley, families are busy discussing their holidays. Local cafes are abuzz with the same questions: which Mark Warner has the best childcare; which part of Cornwall is in vogue, and, should the summer be a washout like last year, which Centreparcs is easiest to drive to?

Nearly everyone I know round here has been to either Mark Warner or Centreparcs (it must get very dull for the local hairdressers). All of these people are insistent that, much as they were loathed to follow the crowd, it was actually ‘marvellous’ – tonnes for the kids to do, fantastic facilities and, most importantly, the opportunity for the children to be looked after by someone else.

Except for us. We have never done either. Nor do we frequent Cornish beaches or spend long weekends in country house hotels with crèches – other staples of Nappy Valley vacationing.

Instead, I think we are viewed as somewhat eccentric. Usually opting for a self-catering place somewhere in Europe, we then, to the incredulity of most other people with small children, embark on an epic drive down the French motorways with a car stuffed full of travel cots, buggies and other baby paraphernalia. (Luckily, one thing that can be said for the Littleboys is that they are little angels in the car).

Once there, we’ll usually combine lazing round the pool with a lot of furious driving about: involving not just sightseeing, but lengthy expeditions to all the local hypermarkets – well, you’ve got to suss out which one’s the best before you go home again - plus nail-biting, hairpin-bend drives in national parks that make the Littleboys throw up, or forays to find a particular blend of olive oil or a place we think we once stayed at in 1983. The Doctor cooks elaborate meals with the local produce, and, exhausted, we both drink too much wine once the Littleboys are in bed.

The Doctor in particular is scathing of resort-style holidays. Why would we want to go somewhere stuffed full of other middle class couples - basically, Nappy Valley on the Med? Middle-class Butlins, with bland, international food and no opportunity to go out and see anything – that’s his verdict (having spent his formative years on French campsites).

I have a slightly different view, having been raised in the Far East and holidayed at some five star, inclusive-type resorts as a child. I love our holidays, and I feel guilty about dragging the Littleboys half away across Europe only to dump them at a creche. And yes, what is the point of going to another country to find the same old crowd but with better weather?

But at the same time I do secretly hanker after a game of tennis, a massage and a break from endless childcare, (ie, every day spent longing for that couple of hours after lunch when they are asleep and I can read my novel.)

So I venture to suggest that this year, we might try a Mark Warner. Just for a week. A look of horror comes across the Doctor’s face. And then, to my utter surprise, he says ‘maybe’. (Well, permits me to look at the website, anyway).

But can I really bring myself to do it? And if we allow ourselves to go on one of these holidays, will there be no going back?


Nota Bene said...

But surely, Butlins is the place to go for that post-modern ironic comment on the state of the middle class vacationing?

valley girl said...

You are of course right, but not sure I want a postmodern holiday....

Mum on Top said...

Once you have tried Center Parcs there will be no return. Our boys love it but I have still not, even after nine years been to the Aqua Sana. I have not been able to lure them into the creche and am now past trying!