The first day back after a school holiday is a funny thing. I don’t know about you but today I feel a curious mixture of relief that we are back into our routine and I can get back to the relative calm and quiet of the office for some adult head space, and regret that the fun is over and we are back to getting out of the house by 8am to do the nursery and school run.
We had a packed week. It started, happily, with me and DH having a night away in Bristol to let our hair down and be by ourselves for the first since I was diagnosed (not counting me recovering from chemo or surgery). Actually, we hadn’t had a night away since our 10th wedding anniversary last August, where my lovely parents took pity on our impoverished state at the time and booked us a very romantic night at Howard’s House in Wiltshire. This time, we stayed at the Bristol Hotel on the waterfront and retraced my old uni haunts, including lunch at Brown’s, where I had my graduation lunch. We saw a Banksy, and had some retail therapy (I am now totally down with the kids in my lime green Hollister t-shirt, although I was stunned that the shop was dark and I kept tripping over whippet-thin 13-year-olds in denim hotpants who were probably wondering what a sad middle aged woman was doing squinting in their midst).
We then had a very boozy dinner at Graze, a brasserie run by Bath Ales (River Exe clams, local lamb, pork belly, that sort of thing, with rather better wine than student days). And all weekend, we talked and talked and talked. We had long, honest, tearful conversations about what the past eight months have been like for us both and how we are feeling now and about the future. It was a very important 24hrs, much needed, and lovely to know we could relax with the children having fun with their grandparents.
Then, it was over to the kids. On Monday, we were at a rather brilliant birthday party for one of DD’s best friends, during which a ‘fairy ballerina’ kept 22 small girls and two boys entirely mesmerised with games and stuff for two hours. That’s some talent. Even DS was doing ‘ballet toes’ in his Spiderman outfit by the end. The mums loved her because it made the party almost effortless, and the dads just loved her.
On Wednesday, I took DD and DS to Peppa Pig World at Paulton’s Park near Southampton, where we met their cousin, auntie and grandma. It was pricey – a flat rate of £19.50 each if you book online, for everyone over 1m tall (luckily DS is still only 96cm…) – but worth it. The theming of the park is just perfect – the colours, the look and feel, the subtle use of the show’s music were all spot on – and the smalls loved it. Some of the queues were a bit tedious, but the seven main rides were lovely and all intended for adults to go on with younger children. Plus there was an outdoor play area and indoor soft play. DD was an enchanted angel, and DS only had four minor melt-downs during the day, which wasn’t bad for a two year old without a buggy in his first theme park, for more than five hours. I wouldn’t go in the school holidays unless you had no choice, but I thoroughly recommend it.
On Thursday, me and DD dispatched DS to nursery and headed up to London on the train. We went on the carousel on the South Bank, as always, then walked over the bridge to visit grandma’s office at the College of Optometrists , a beautiful four-storey building in Craven Street. DD was a little in awe of seeing my mummy being the boss, but asked for a tour, and was introduced to all the staff, many of whom have been extremely generous in donating to Team Pinchy’s Pink Ribbon Walk this Saturday. Then the three of us went to a little Italian place in Villiers Street before me and DD headed home.
On Friday, it was time for another day out down the M3, for my wonderful mother-in-law’s coffee morning to raise more funds for Breast Cancer Care. She had rallied all her friends and former nursing colleagues, and during a lovely morning of homemade cakes in the sunshine, she managed to raise an astonishing £315. I’ve just checked our totaliser, and am delighted to report that even without this being paid in and other promised donations, we are at exactly £2,000! Whoop whoop! I thought that was a really ambitious target, so I’m chuffed to bits – thanks so much to everyone for being incredibly generous.
On Saturday, DD was invited to her first ‘pamper party’ by a school friend. She is four. Gulp. (And in the same week that the Mothers’ Union launched its campaign against the sexualisation of children). I went along as chaperone, needless to say, especially since the whole idea of little girls being ‘pageanted up’ contradicts what I said last year. It was at a really cool kids’ hair salon in Farnham called Spikes and Curls, where every chair (including some shaped like fire engines and planes for wriggly boys) was in front of a flat screen telly with CBeebies on.
The five girls had their hair curled, French-plaited and glittered. Fine. Then their nails done. OK, I let DD have painted nails for school holidays anyway. Then they were made up. Eeek. (Naturally they all chose pink eyeshadow.) I was quite struck that as the layers of blusher, mascara and lip gloss went on, my beautiful baby girl actually looked less and less pretty. Her giraffe lashes, freckly cheeks and grey-blue eyes just don’t require cover up or diversion. It was scarily close to the general effect of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. The girls loved it, of course, but it made me feel a bit queasy. The brilliant Linda Jones has written a great post, Why Are Our Daughters Growing Up Too Quickly, which struck a real chord with me.
Our last half term hurrah was a trip to the Thames Ditton Miniature Railway, down the road from my sis and her family. We had a marvellous afternoon going round and round on the pimped Hornby trains in the drizzle before the kiddies collapsed into bed, tired and happy. Me and DH finished our busy week with a bottle of red from the brilliant Naked Wines, plus The King’s Speech on box office, equally whacked out and content.
Because do you know what the best thing about this half term was? For the first time since DD started school last year, I felt like a normal, healthy mummy doing normal, fun holiday stuff. She’d barely started school when I was diagnosed, and the half terms, Christmas and Easter holidays since have basically been about me having scans, treatment, and hospital appointments, and recovering from chemo and surgery, rather than having fun with my kiddies.
I can’t say I was Mary Poppins all week and didn’t snap or feel tired, and I can’t say I didn’t enjoy stepping into my garden office this morning to the sound of the birds and nothing else. But I can say that I didn’t take a single moment for granted. It really was a precious week, and now I can’t wait to get radiotherapy out of the way (I’m seeing the radiology consultant tomorrow for the first time) so I can enjoy the summer holidays.