I had a vision for this one. I was going to take my brood to Brean Down, and have a lovely day out in nature, running on beaches, fishing in rock pools, taking photos, observing sea birds, picnicking in the dunes. How delightful.
Within seconds of being left alone with them, it all went massively awry.
I suggested the beach. Massive excitement. I mentioned an hour in the car to get there. Absolute mutiny and utter refusal. No one would go. They are all well aware that there is a fake beach 5 minutes up the road, and that is where they wanted to be. Nothing else would do. Everyone howled. My resolve weakened.
I wondered though. The downside of the local fake beach is the £10 entry fee, hence it involves spending money. But. What if we cycled in the back way, and thus avoided the car parking charge? That would be a triumph for frugality, and also create an adventure, because the beach is 2 miles from home, and the bikes are very small. I put the plan to the people in charge. They were mad for it! I stressed the need for unwavering sensible behaviour, as the ride would involve real roads. They assured me they were equal to it. No one would make a fuss about not being at the front. No one would cycle into someone else’s wheels and knock them sideways and giggle about it. No one would have a hissy fit because they couldn’t get up the hill. All would be serene, grown up, and responsible. I beamed at them proudly. What could go wrong?
I cycled at the back, to slow approaching traffic. That inevitably put someone at the front who held but a tenuous grasp on the concept of left and right, making directional control difficult. I stressed the need to stop wherever white lines were painted across the road. This led to multiple unnecessary stops, at any and every form of paintwork, but better too careful than the opposite. We got up the hill. We executed 2 junctions. We were on fire!
A mile and a half in though, morale was drooping. A head wind was not helping. The road was long. I called a halt in a layby, and dished out the chocolate.
I had thought this ride took 10 minutes, and we were already nearly an hour into it. We sat on some rocks. I delivered my most motivational of pep talks. 3 angry faces stared back at me, unmoved. I promised an icecream upon arrival at the beach. That did the trick. (Though it rather undermined the ‘spend no money’ bit.)
Back on our bikes and on we went. An hour and a half after leaving home, we had achieved the beach. A triumph!
Immediately upon arrival, all their clothes came off, with scant regard for propriety. We were at the beach after all, and would need our swim suits on. Never mind that it is mid-March, cloudy, and the red flag is flying over the water, a clear hint that swimming is discouraged. But the brood got togged up, and in a fit of ingenuity, took their buckets, began gathering water from the lake, and pouring it into a corner of the sandpit to create a pool big enough to splash in. Various other children were recruited to the project, including, thankfully, a family that we are very good friends with. It was already apparent that my cycling party would not be equal to making the journey home. Luckily I was able to leave the children with the friends while I shot home for the car. The eldest crashed off her bike while I was absent, landing in a bramble bush and soaking one side of herself in the lake. Many tears. We returned home somewhat chastened by the whole escapade! Mummy solo day care is not what it once was! I must be out of practice now they are all at school. But at least I only spent £6!
You got through it with no-one hospitalised – I call that a unrivalled success!
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