The Doctor, for reasons too complicated to explain here (short version – changing jobs) has taken the whole of August off work. Well, not quite ‘off work’ – he has spent a good part of it glued to his computer, in an attempt to finish writing up his thesis – but not committed to going in to a job.
This has allowed us the opportunity to take the Littleboys on a grand tour of the country. Over the last few days, we have descended on three sets of friends in the West Country, all of whom also have two little boys each of their own.
In our pre-kids days, this kind of jaunt would have been fairly simple. Sling a few clothes in a rucksack, turn up, drink far too much over meal with friends, stay up chatting mindlessly till the early hours, then have a long lie in before staggering, hung-over, to a greasy spoon for breakfast with the papers.
No longer. These days, it consists of the following:
- Monumental pre-trip preparation, which involves rigorous packing (including the writing of many lists) and multiple visits to the supermarket (God forbid we should run out of nappies, hummus or petit filous in the wilds of
- A picnic en route. We have learnt from sore experience that the Littleboys are not the most welcome visitors at quiet country pubs, so this is the safest option. Luckily, this time we were travelling on one of the few dry days this August. We ended up in an odd, but strangely pleasant spot. Well, OK, we were on a beach overlooking a nuclear power station (I am trying not to think too hard about the shells Littleboy 2 picked up off the beach and put in his mouth) and it was so muddy that the car looked as if it had taken part in a rally, but it was eerily peaceful, with a stunning view of the Bristol Channel.
- Arrival chez friends in a maelstrom of luggage, screaming children etc. Littleboys then proceed to trash house by spreading friends’ children's toys throughout; we clog up friends’ fridge with random bits of food; Littleboy 1 refuses to eat his supper; they both make a huge mess, generating mountains of washing up; and become more and more manic as bedtime looms.
- After what seems like hours settling overexcited children (Littleboy 1 has now worked out how to climb out of a travel cot), they finally go to sleep. By this time we are all whacked. We snatch a couple of hours of peace – wine, food and chat – before everyone collapses to bed.
- Littleboys wake at about 6am and immediately want to go downstairs and have breakfast. Friends, looking shattered, are also up with their kids. Luckily, Olympics are on so we can all slump in front of TV as we try to load ourselves up with caffeine in preparation for the day ahead.
- Littleboys & Friends' Littleboys must be entertained, so some child-friendly activity must be laid on. And Friends come up trumps; in
Exmoor, with Friends A, we go on a steam train trip, then later on let them all run around a village green. In , with Friends B we have a country walk and then find them a playground. And in Somerset , with Friend C, we decamp to the zoo. None of these activities really seem to tire them out; with friends B, despite longish walk, the Littleboys run round and round the house pushing plastic lawnmowers until bedtime. Bristol
- Finally we depart from friends, leaving a trail of destruction in our wake; strewn toys, broken crockery and the rest. Littleboys recover from the excitement by sleeping in the car. We are just exhausted.