Cotswold Mother: Bring me sunshine
PUBLISHED: 17:21 31 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:27 31 March 2014
Head off to Portugal in early June and you can grab a bargain, but a fortnight later you’ll have to hock your own grandmother to afford the flights - as Clare Mackintosh found out first-hand...
My calendar might say it’s spring, but the weather seems intent on hanging onto winter for as long as possible, and frankly I’m finding it all a little bleak. The children are so pale they could pass for miniature zombies, and everywhere you look there is nothing but grey.
I popped to the shops the other day and saw a stream of people scurrying out of the travel agents’ clutching brightly coloured brochures beneath their umbrellas. The mere promise of sunshine was putting a spring in their step, and I couldn’t help but feel they were onto something: booking a holiday was just what we needed. We could find somewhere beautiful and hot for the summer break, and although it would be months away, it would give us a sunny spot in the diary to which we could all look forward.
For years the children have been begging to go on an aeroplane, and I could almost feel the sun on my back as I threw brochures into my shopping bag. I went home with the intention of spending a happy evening browsing for package holidays to Spain, but the first few pages brought me up with a jolt. How much? For a holiday? Enticing bargains gave way to eye-watering prices which surely had too many noughts to be real. It’s all down to the school term dates, of course: head off to Portugal in early July and you can grab a bargain, but a fortnight later you’ll have to hock your own grandmother to afford the flights. The price of being a parent just got higher.
There is an obvious solution, and you might expect me to whip my three out of school faster than you can say bon voyage, but in fact I am vehemently opposed to parent-led truanting. It’s very easy to pass off the colouring and model-making which fill the early years at school as nothing but play, but kids soak up schooling practically by osmosis, and even a few days away can cause them to miss out. I distinctly remember being ill the day we did long division at school, and to this day I can’t split a restaurant bill without a calculator. Besides, how can I tell my children that rules need to be kept, if I cheerfully flaunt them every time I fancy a cheap trip away?
Despite the newly introduced government fines for absenteeism, it seems I am in the minority: dozens of my friends will happily whisk their kids away for a week here, and a week there, trotting out the argument that ‘a family holiday can be just as educational as school.’ Well yes, it certainly can be, if you’re crossing Tanzania, visiting French war memorials or teaching your children about new cultures, but a mid-week bargain break at Centerparcs? Rather less educational. I’m just not convinced that a fortnight in Marbella or a week’s ski-ing holiday is more important than school.
When did it become someone’s right to have a foreign holiday? We never went abroad when I was a child, and my own three are just as happy camping in Cornwall, or in a leaky static caravan on the Welsh coast. Oddly, my youngest daughter is convinced we’ve been to France, when the closest they’ve ever been to the continent is a freshly baked baguette from Tesco’s. Kids don’t care: it’s the parents who are up in arms about it all.
The bottom line is that we made a choice to have children, and that means taking the rough with the smooth: sleepless nights; unreliable pelvic floors; inflexible and expensive package holidays. Why shouldn’t holiday companies charge more in the school holidays? They’re businesses, not charities, and they work on the basis of supply and demand, like any other profit-making organisation.
So this summer we’ll be driving up to Scotland to squeeze into a two-bedroomed flat we’ve borrowed for a fortnight. We’ll catch crabs, play crazy golf, eat ice-cream and argue over Scrabble words. For the rest of the year we’ll be at home, making the most of half-term holidays with ‘staycations’ packed full of fun. There’s so much on our doorstep in the Cotswolds, it’s no real hardship to stay home, and it’s a darn sight cheaper.
This article by Clare Mackintosh is from the April 2014 issue of Cotswold Life
For more from Clare, visit: www.claremackintosh.co.uk
Or follow her on Twitter: @claremackint0sh