As I sit here and swelter in our (bit late really) humid summer, amongst the unpacked bags and mountain of sand sodden holiday clothes, I actually feel relaxed following a fab holiday away with my family.
Over the last few weeks, hubby has been stuck in his never-ending Olympic shifts and the rain has ensured that days out with the kids have needed inventive planning to save on costs, deter whingeing and conquer boredom. I have managed to cover my quota of soggy country park picnics, messy and bizarre make-a-craft events, swimming with the masses, overdraft busting cinema trips and the time consuming (but will be good for them) summer library reading challenge.
Early August culminated in the twins 5th Birthday party, 30 children, 3 bouncy castles, thankfully taking place at a playcentre and not in my house! We came to this decision following the twins 4th Birthday party, when we removed a fence panel between ours and our neighbours gardens to create a bigger space for our bouncy castle party with special guest Roger the Magician. Until it rained that is and we all ended up crammed under a gazebo with Roger the Magician and a few hardcore kids braving a dangerously slippery bouncy castle.
While organising this party of the century (according to my kids), my parents mentioned they were looking to book a week away and would I and the kids like to join them to alleviate my 6 weeks with lack of hubby? After I shouted Yes a bit too loudly in response to their kind offer we set about finding somewhere suitable. We quite often holiday on the Kent coast as it is only an hour’s drive, has some gorgeous sandy beaches and now in light of our new family member, a long stretch of dog friendly beach to use during the summer months. Me and Mum trawled through numerous holiday websites looking for dog friendly/child friendly cottages, feeling like J.R. Hartley after constantly being turned down once they knew we were bringing our beloved Lab.
Finally, we happened upon a place called Dune House, slap bang on the Greatstone seafront, dog friendly, spacious and available! We motored down last Sunday with hubby planning to join us on the Tuesday once he had begged some leave to tag onto his allocated days off. When we arrived, we were not disappointed. I reckon Terence Conran would even be up for a week away at this place with its white washed walls, wooden flooring and decked garden backing onto the sand dunes of Greatstone beach. And with 6 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms it was a far cry from our pig chalet experience in March! The backing onto the beach bit was a massive highlight for all of us, especially Chester our dog who was being treated to a pre and post breakfast walk, a day on the beach followed by a pre and post dinner walk. By the end of the week we managed to make our 8 month old Lab look like an arthritic old dog with his stiffened legs! The beach was thankfully sandy and the sea was clean, however, the tide was often out and in its place was a deep clay type sand. Pretty much every day, the children wanted to ‘walk to the sea’ when the tide was out, which meant wading through sludgy sand praying not to find some crab claw or washed up jelly fish or worse! And this isn’t for the faint-hearted walking, as you couldn’t stop and stand still, for as soon as you did and the sand took hold and were left looking like a weeble with arms flailing around trying to pull your foot back out as the rest of us went into fits of giggles and ended up stuck as well. One particular evening it was such a trek on our ‘walk to the sea’ that my Dad said he could hear the faint sounds of accordion playing drifting over the Channel from France! Then after reaching the water and the kids agreeing that we had ‘reached the sea’ we had to trek back through the sludge and one of us had to tiptoe to the sink, fill up the bucket with soapy water to wash our ‘mud socks’ off before entering the cottage.
Throughout the week, we didn’t venture far from the cottage and our back garden beach, as the kids and dog were happy with our lazy beach days. However, one day we made the short trip to Dungeness to visit the Lighthouse and miniature steam train ride. And for those of you that haven’t been to Dungeness, the word barren would be an understatement. It is a bizarre area, a nature reserve full of wild flowers, but mainly covered in shingle with every house resembling a shack from the 19th Century. It has a desolate quality with its provinicial shed type houses and sparse distances between each property. I fully expected to see a blue boiler suit and mask hanging from one of the washing lines with a chainsaw propped up against one of the shacks. However, it does house a lot of artists and is a fascinating place to visit, though wouldn’t fancy it at night, not for fear of safety but more for feeling like an extra from The Woman In Black!
We cooked most nights, but on our last night we decided to look for a nice place to eat. I fired up my laptop to look for our usual criteria of ‘dog friendly/child friendly’ venues and stumbled upon an old pub called The Shepherd and Crook in the neighbouring village of Burmarsh. We deliberated whether we would be welcome as it would probably be a locals pub and they might not appreciate our over-excited Lab and twins incessantly asking questions about everything, ‘Mum, what is a pub? will I like the pub? will the pub like me? can we live in pub?’. However, we were very much welcomed by the staff and found a corner we could stow Chester and could steer the kids questioning to the random wall hangings, ‘Mum, is that a real gun on the pub wall? can I hold the gun in the pub? why is there a gun in a pub? does the farmer come to the pub? will he shoot me in the pub?’. After getting a word in edgeways we were pleasantly surprised by the menu, a rare sighting of vegetables on the kids menu and a choice of vegetarian dishes other than pasta bake.
We arrived home today majorly feeling the holiday blues. Chester keeps heading to our back gate looking for the sea, the kids keep asking when we can go back and if we can buy Dune House as they have £47 between them – bless. Hubby is heading back to work in a few days and I am back on the circuit of local kids events for the last 2 weeks of the school holidays. But we have happy memories of simple holiday pleasures and with Britain finally getting a bit of sunshine, Kent definitely delivered.