It takes ingenuity to enjoy the British summer !

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Having just spent the last few hours watching my great friend Nicky’s cine camera’s childhood put onto a DVD for her parents 56th Wedding Anniversary I read this article in today’s Daily Telegraph with a wry smile as this encapsulates her childhood of growing up in Hove with her 6 other brothers and sisters. They played for hours on the swings, built tents in the garden and collected shells in Scotland in a wind swept inlet wearing plastic macs !

Here’s Judith Wood’s amusing article.

“I am fresh from a glorious, gusty holiday in Ross-shire, northeast Scotland, a desperately needed-verging-on-medically-imperative break. Desperate, because when I arrived at Inverness airport I discovered, with an all too familiar sinking feeling, that I had lost all my bank cards – for the second time in a week – and forgotten to bring the address of the place we were staying at. Oh, and I’d booked two hire cars.

But stepping back in time to the gentle rhythms of collecting wild raspberries, rockpooling until dusk and then lounging around the wood burning stove was balm to my soul and salve to my frazzled brain. The weather always seems better on a beach, the exfoliation is cheaper than a chemical peel and – a stroke of genius, this – There Was No Telly in the cottage.

Once I’d given the hysterically hyperventilating nine-year-old a paper bag to breathe into, followed by a spot of grief counselling, she came to terms with the Terrible Loss. And in the chasm normally filled by The Simpsons or Cops with Cameras, an air of mild ennui descended, blanketed the room and indeed threatened to suffocate us until there was no alternative but – wait for it – recourse to the Printed Word.

The slightly unlikely chairman of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction, ex-MI5 boss Dame Stella Rimington, has expressed her concern that tweeting and texting are preventing children from reading. I should have thought concealing a Glock 17 pistol, an exploding wine bottle and an encrypted map of the Kazakhstan oilfields inside a hollowed-out copy of the latest Julian Barnes would be a far greater impediment, but who am I to argue with Britain’s top spy?

Her belief is that teachers need to “find ways to instil a love of fiction in children” (at the risk of sounding childish, shouldn’t that be Find Vays of Making Zem…?). Sorry. Anyway, she suggests the tactical deployment of Kindles and other iBooks to ensnare them. I would respectfully beg to disagree. Boredom, that’s what they need!

Leave the budget airlines to gangs on criminal day trips, disconnect Virgin Media, batten down the hatches for a tedious staycation and after three rounds of In My Suitcase, watch the little beggars scrap like Fagin’s urchins over the first two volumes of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu!

The gentle highlight of our bracing bucket and spade sojourn – apart from my derm-abrased cheeks and the two-year-old being licked by a Highland Cow at the Dornoch Show – was when my elder daughter, a Harry Potter apostate who dared to find the boy wizard a bit unconvincing, actually, came across her first Famous Five and within a page was hooked on its heartiness.

“Why didn’t you tell me about these sooner!” she shrieked as Julian, Dick and Anne sallied forth to Kirrin Island, armed only with lashings of ginger beer, class prejudice and a barley sugar twist of casual racism. “This is just like real life, only better. Mummy, what’s a golliwog?”

Ah yes, I’d forgotten about that. But old-fashioned books, like old-fashioned holidays engage us on a cellular level. Much as I crave heady Costa sunshine and de trop cocktails with enough sparklers to reopen the Beijing Olympics, nothing beats the meditative concentration of scouring the water’s edge for seashells or the look of triumph on a child’s face when they race up the sand, holding aloft a tiny starfish.

On a Greek beach I have a selfishly unreasonable expectation that my offspring will somehow amuse themselves while I baste in Ambre Solaire fumes and so feel uncharitably put out when they will insist on being suncreamed or fed or tiresomely rescued from treacherous undercurrents.

On a Devon beach it’s an altogether more communal experience, and not just because we’re huddled together for warmth; there’s tussocky grass to be explored, a campfire to be lit and a general demand for resourcefulness that is, curiously, energising rather than enervating.

In truth, Celts and Anglo Saxons are hardwired for such challenges. Scientists at Oxford University have just revealed that grim-up Northerners have bigger brains than Mediterranean types, who may be healthier, browner and more attractive in swimwear but are sorely lacking in the grey matter department.

The researchers insist this is nothing to do with superior intelligence, but of course we know that’s not true. Anyone can lie in the sun and relax; it takes real ingenuity and strength of purpose to have a good time in a British summer. Just ask the Famous Five.”

What are your childhood stories of memorable holidays?





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