Just had a night away with the children, my sister and her girls! Stratford Upon Avon was our destination – ‘Avon’s the river, Stratford is upon the river – so that makes Stratford Upon Avon!’ ‘OK OK Mum, calm down’. We would not only see the outside of William Shakespeare’s house, but also the town’s beautiful river - they were all ears I can tell you. I’d even borrowed simple versions of Shakespeare’s plays from the library to get us in the mood; Julius Caesar went well, but alas when it came to The Tempest, we were in such a knot with Sycorax, Trinculo, Caliban and the rest, the Shakespeare programme died a dry death and the remainder went back to the library unread.
‘This is a great chance to tick off a few jobs!’ I said to Alan, smiling widely and and placing the drill on top of the Sports page; if I was taking three children and one psychopathic sergeant major out of the vicinity – a change rather than a break – naturally he’d want to grab the opportunity to fix all the hooks and rails I’d assembled for his convenience back onto the walls for a bit until they crumbled off again.
At the service station Bonnie realised with a jolt that she’d behaved for thirty minutes, so demanded I buy her a large soft monkey. When I said 'no', she beat me at length about my person with the monkey she had in mind, shaming me in public. I used my various unsuccessful parenting techniques: ‘You really like this monkey don’t you? Maybe you could ask Father Christmas…’; I had a go at laughing it off (ow!); and finally I drew her to one side (‘You’re a thug!’) and wondered if I could send her home by courier. Alfie suggested she save up but it was fingers in ears ‘I’m not listening I’m not listening’ and there was violence. We all silently thought ‘Good!’ while she howled, waiting for me to tell Alfie off, but I said ‘You need to think about your behaviour Bonnie’. ‘No’ she said ‘you need to think about yours’ !!!!!!, which three junctions later, I found myself doing, damn it. I should have bought her the monkey. No I shouldn’t. Yes I should. It was beginning to feel like a holiday.
We followed my sister off the motorway, noting with wonder her uncanny ability simultaneously to map-read, remember how many right angles she had turned her car, and maintain a non-life-threatening in-car environment without resorting to hydrogenated vegetable oil snacking or walloping. We drew up at the suitable lunch spot she had identified, signalled by the rumble of a cattle grid (wehey!) which put the children on red-alert of a walk, but fear not, it was pouring with rain, so we were allowed to eat lunch inside the steamed up cars. There was a heart-stopping moment when Maddy tried to reveal the allegedly stunning view by wiping the condensation off the windscreen with her hand! – ‘STOP!!’ we all screamed, united in adversity: ‘DADDY WILL HAVE TO USE THE CLEAN-EAZIES!!’ He gets very upset about fingerprints.
Onwards for a pretty but soggy walk along the river in Stratford ('I’m not moaning but how long is this walk? About fifty metres. What??!! How long is fifty metres anyway?') Through the town and into the Shakespeare shop where Bonnie, fingering the Shakespeare Fudge, had the brainwave that she needed something to show and tell at school so how’s about it? I came over all generous and purchased a book of Shakespeare Plays in comic-strip style for poor Bonnie who had therefore to be grateful in a pissed off kind of way. ‘You see I do buy you things’ I said.
Finally we were wet and fed up enough to check in to our Youth Hostel accommodation, described as a mansion in the brochure – white pillars and all! The children knew it couldn’t possibly be luxurious if we were staying there, but when we let slip that breakfast was included (compulsory obviously) they could barely contain their excitement; this was the big time...
We played the usual jolly games all night, levelled after a few rounds to allow for age and ability (let’s just say I wasn’t in the top group..) - and we still had the highlight to come – free breakfast, I mean Warwick Castle! The next morning, replete with double hash browns, sausage and egg, we powered up the castle’s towers, round the turrets, along the battlements, and down to the dungeons - bulging paunches befitting a Tudor monarch in fact - and home again to dear Mr DIY and his Tales of Unforeseen Drilling Challenges Mightily Overcome.