On Friday 1st August at about 10.45am, a black Ford Galaxy pulled up outside my house. Out jumped my mum, dad, sister, brother in law and nieces to help me load up my own car with the million little things that you take on holiday with you when you have small children (everything from EJ’s new circus tent ‘for the beach’, to half a wooden railway, card games, sticker books, plastic racquets, picture books, wellies, sandals, splash suits, suncream, oh, and a few clothes!).
Unfortunately the hubster was not able to join us due to work commitments – even the days he was planning to join us were cancelled out by last minute training courses.
We knew that it would be a long slog down the A303 across Salisbury Plain – particularly the Stone Henge stretch, on a Friday, at the height of summer! In the event the journey took us about 6 hours from North East Hampshire to Torquay on Devon’s ‘Riviera’ coastline. I have to say that the kids were remarkably well behaved – all despite the Stone Henge blip when JJ started up the ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ interrogation, EJ flew off the handle when we pulled into a layby for JJ to do a quick wee and my mum was obliged to sit between the boys for the rest of the journey!
We had been sorely disappointed by the week’s weather forecast, and it was indeed bucketing with rain on our arrival, but, I’m happy to report that, for the most part, the weather people were wrong and we had glorious sunshine for the majority of the week.
On day one were were serenaded at breakfast by my 15 year old niece on the ukelele. No, not ‘when I’m cleaning windows’, she actually does a beautiful, melancholy version of ‘Sugar Man’ by American folk musician Sixto Rodriguez and Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. Apparently the uke is really coming into it’s own with the younger generation, so when we heard that there was a ukelele festival down on Oddicombe beach that very day, there seemed little alternative but to head off along the clifftops to see what was going on.
Oddicombe is just along the coast from Babbacombe which was very close to where we were staying. The small, pebbly beach sits in a little cove at the foot of steep cliffs which can only really be reached by taking a funicular train directly down the cliffside. So far so good – trains of any description tick the box for JJ!
The music that greeted us when we reached the ‘festival’ was not really what my niece had been hoping for though. The players, and indeed the audience, were well into their 50s and 60s and ‘old time’ music hall was more the order of the day than anything more modern or experimental, although they did cover some hits of yesteryear – a couple of Stones and Beatles classics, but the children got to have their paddle, the girls hired a peddalo and gave everyone a bit of a heart attack by appearing to set sail across the channel, before returning completely oblivious to their poor mother’s frantic waving, and a thief was born as EJ suddenly produced a postcard he had apparently filched from a low shelf!
That day we also visited Kents Caverns, a short walk from our hotel, with one of those amazing, billion year old cave complexes full of stalagtites, stalagmites and funny anecdotes about explorers who had to strip down naked, grease up with goose fat and squeeze themselves through small crevices, so that one day we could call for a swift escort out through the dark tunnels with a bored two year old (fully clothed!).
Back in the gift shop/cafe, EJ appeared with a plastic scoopful of pick and mix which obliged me to shovel £2.40 worth of sugary evil into a paper bag to make up for this little procurement – but now I say never again! If cynical shop keepers are wiley enough to make that stuff accessible to little fingers, then they can take the loss – I can live without the extended sugar meltdown thanks!
Tune in for further installments to find out:
- How much chocolate ice cream it takes to paint a toddler
- The wonders of Teignmouth
- All about pancakes, bacon and Eggs Benedict at Totnes’s Barrel House
- How I survived yet another flippin’ steam railway journey 🙂 !
- And some close encounters of the seal kind at Torquay’s Living Coasts
*No photos in Part 1 as I went on holiday with an *uncharged camera* (!!!) #poorplanning