The school summer holidays haven’t really seemed to exist this year – whilst home-schooling stopped, not much really changed between one day and the next other than not having to battle to get at least a few pieces of work done each day.
However the relaxation of lockdown restrictions did mean that at least we (the children and I) could travel down to Somerset to see my parents, who, we realised, hadn’t seen their grandchildren for a year: for various reasons we hadn’t met at Christmas and my parents were going to come up to Cumbria ‘when the weather gets better’. Then, of course, as they were beginning to think about it, coronavirus hit.
We stopped off near Stafford en route south, to see a friend of mine. The kids were, of course, complaining bitterly about doing something that was not orientated around them: in the end Bella was keen to stop off on the way back as well as she had an enjoyable time playing piano duets!
We stayed in a hotel, which made life easier all round, and whilst we saw my parents at breakfast and dinner times, we didn’t spend all day, every day, with them. They’ve been shielding and hardly been out of their house and garden until the last few weeks – even now they are understandably hesitant. I’ve seen it with younger people as well: we all became used to keeping our distance and to not going out, to a greater or lesser extent, and starting to get back to a type of normality can feel strange at the least and scary at best. I’ve now been to shops a few times but I always feel more relaxed when the shops aren’t busy: I was relieved when we didn’t have to queue for school shoes for Edward the other day.
Somerset was, of course, busy: it’s a popular tourist area and along with the rest of the country seems to be getting increased numbers of visitors this year. Brexit started it with the poor exchange rate; coronavirus has now had an effect, and I think climate change/global warming has also made this country more attractive (the weather we had during lockdown in the spring was absolutely glorious, and I’m sure not a one-off).
The boys and I went – and took my Dad – to the Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare, which was not massively busy: they have the largest collection of helicopters in the world and for someone who knows little about helicopters it was quite an eye-opener. Some of them are so huge: and some of them terrifying, the way they bristle with guns and cannons and rockets (one Russian one in particular). It saddened me in a way as it was a reminder of a world at war: being keen on history though I’m too conscious that war and the movement of peoples is something which has always happened, and doubtless always will.
We also went to Wookey Hole caves: highly commercialised and probably the most intimidating place I’ve been recently in terms of having to queue and having people around you all the time, but some stunning rock formations inside, all atmospherically lit. Bella was keen to do a cave adventure walk type thing, which I wouldn’t mind doing sometime: but at £50 per head and with Edward not being able to do it, that will have to wait for another day (it includes abseiling, ladders over deep water, and via ferrata, and you get to see bits of the caves that the normal visitors don’t). Of course there was the usual shop on the way out, where I bought some cave-aged Cheddar cheese and some cherry mead.
Finally we met up with my sister and her partner, Ross, at Cleeve Abbey – somewhere I hadn’t been since going there with my grandmother when I was a teenager. It was such a contrast to many monastic ruins, which don’t really give you any idea of how the monks lived: often the church remains and possibly part of the cloisters, but nothing else. Here the dormitory area is still in existence but nothing other than a few stones remain of the church. There is also a stunning example of a coloured tiled pavement – the photo below doesn’t do it justice. It’s somewhere I’d highly recommend if you like that sort of history.
We had a lovely, relaxing few days and I was impressed by how considerate and helpful my older two in particular were towards my Mum and Dad. As for so many parents, it’s a delight to see your children developing into decent adults; into people of whom you are genuinely proud.