ETCETERA / Home Thoughts

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The Independent Culture
WE'RE NOT going away on holiday this summer, partly because every penny we earn immediately vanishes in an unearthly way. (All right, I know a lot of it goes on the mortgage, and then there's nappies and chocolate to buy in bulk - but even so.) Apart from the money problem, my disorganisation is also to blame. When I was nine months pregnant, and bored witless, I sent off for lots of desirable holiday brochures and put ticks next to various chocolate-box cottages by the sea. Two weeks later I had a baby, and forgot all about the ticks, and by the time I remembered all the cottages had gone.

But I'm not going to start wallowing in self-pity because, to be honest, staying at home is often a lot more restful than going on holiday with a baby. I was reminded of this last week, when we went to the Isle of Sheppey for the day. Jamie was blissfully happy searching for crabs and paddling in the muddy sea, but Tom did not want to sit in his push-chair and watch. Then I thought that Tom might like to lie on the beach, but there was no shade and the sand got in his mouth. He was thoroughly disgruntled by the time we left, and our visit to a nearby steam railway was no better. Jamie loved the trains; Tom just shrieked when the driver tooted the horn.

In fact, going on holiday with small children demands a certain adjustment in one's concept of relaxation. You cannot stay in bed all morning, and you certainly cannot spend the afternoon dozing on the beach. There are different pleasures, of course: lots of visits to the ice-cream kiosk; building sandcastles; and other things, too, which I can't actually remember now.

Unfortunately, last summer's family holiday didn't go quite as planned. I had arranged a trip to Herm, in the Channel Islands, which involved lots of complicated arrangements about boats and planes; but on the morning of our departure Jamie woke up covered in a bright red rash, and with a raging temperature. I didn't want to be responsible for importing some hideous disease to the peaceful inhabitants of Herm, so the holiday was cancelled, and Jamie spent the next 10 days recuperating on the sofa.

There have been other mishaps (our weekend in a romantic hotel when Jamie ended up sharing the four-poster bed with us, for example), but I still remain hopeful about future holiday possibilities. I always stop at the local travel agents and peer through the window at last minute bargains. (Yes] Fourteen nights in St Lucia, leaving from Glasgow airport this afternoon, pounds 399 each] We could do that . . . next month, maybe.) And I'm still convinced that I'm going to win a luxury Caribbean holiday for four by entering the prize draws that are advertised in all the junk mail that comes through the door. ('Send away for your free catalogue now, and you, yes you, Ms Picardie, could be winging your way to a sunny Caribbean paradise.') But until then, I'm going to be spending August in Crouch End, with trips to the local Lido for a bit of added excitement. St Lucia is more glamorous, I know, but it's probably raining there anyway.-