I have a weekend away to look forward to. My husband has booked us into a guest house in rural Somerset for a couple of nights; chosen off the internet, it will hopefully be as good as it looks and as the reviews suggest. We only decided to do this last week so it was a pretty spur of the moment decision. I am rather excited at the prospect.
Before our children were born we used to arrange such short trips away quite regularly. We always chose somewhere remote as we like to go on long walks, and enjoy peace and quiet more than hustle and bustle. We do not shop as a leisure activity but as a means to an end so would eschew towns and cities. Much as I enjoy admiring the architecture of historic settlements I dislike the inevitable traffic and crowds. I used to enjoy visiting cathedrals until they started to charge for entry. I resent being asked to pay to visit God’s house.
This weekend I will be enjoying the beauty and splendour of the Quantock Hills. We shall take our walking boots, maps and flask with the aim of exploring the woods and heathland over the course of a long day out. If we are lucky then the weather will be fine and we will be able to enjoy the extensive views from the hilltops. I camped in this area with my children a few years ago and remember the walks we did then as particularly enjoyable; no cliffs, cattle or tunnels to worry me!
One of the pleasures of a trip such as this is the prospect of someone else doing the cooking and clearing away. Cooking for the family can be a thankless task and is one that I enjoy less and less as time goes by. Although my children are not as fussy as they once were it is still hard to please everyone. It is also hard to think of new things to make that have a hope of being welcomed at the family table. Our rolling, fortnightly menu is boringly repetitive as I find it hard to summon the enthusiasm to try out new dishes when I can guess the negative response. I know that I should not be so defeatist.
Thus I anticipate being presented with a menu from which to choose a delicious dish that I would not make at home with pleasure. Being able to sit and sip on a glass of wine while someone else prepares a meal for me to enjoy is a true treat. We will eat at local pubs within walking distance of our guest house so have no idea what to expect in terms of quality. It feels as though we are embarking on an exciting adventure.
It is at times like this that I realise how far we have come with our children. For so many years I could not go out as lack of sleep left me with no energy and I did not feel comfortable leaving my babies with a babysitter. As the babies grew into small people, keeping to their regular, daily routine made life so much more pleasant for everyone, so I rarely risked upsetting this by going out. I also wondered if they would ever learn to sleep beyond 6.30am, a time that felt so early after the still regularly disrupted night’s sleep that late nights out did not seem worthwhile. Even when the children were old enough to cope with occasional interruptions to their routine there was no pleasure in taking them out to eat. They would grow bored waiting to be served and become restless and noisy. I would worry about upsetting other diners so avoided these situations when I could. It is only in very recent years that we have been able to enjoy eating out as a family, although finding a restaurant that serves food suitable for all our tastes can still be tricky.
This weekend, however, our fussier eaters are elsewhere; it was their planned trip away that prompted us to grab this opportunity for ourselves. When life is normally lived with a careful cautiousness, acting spontaneously in this way feels daring and decadent. My husband had better beware; who knows what sort of lifestyle changes encouraging such behaviour could lead to. Before he knows it I will be demanding an all inclusive, family holiday at a hotel on some sunny island abroad in lieu of a week on a British camp site with our tent. Actually, now I come to think of it, that sounds like a jolly fine idea.