The God of Litter Picking

For a long time I’ve been taking part in mini beach cleans. By this, I mean collecting bits of plastic and other detritus whenever I am walking the pooches at a beach.

I came across the #2minute beach clean and that seemed to sum up my own philosophy. Except I can never only take 2 minutes – there’s always so much to pick up. You may think you’re walking along a clean beach, but if you really start looking, it won’t take you long to discover your first piece of plastic.

#2minute beach clean Widemouth Bay

As well as beach walks, I love walking in the woods. Any woods. Woods large, woods small. Forests, if I find one. But in the past few months I have noticed a depressing trend for littering. Sweet wrappers, discarded fag packets and just the other day I found a pristine can of Stella Artois. Sadly empty, but still shiny.

So I’ve started litter picking in the woods, filling my pockets with bits of rubbish and carrying anything large. Bringing home the empty can of Stella at 9am made me feel quite the lush (in fact it reminded me of my youth….).

At the weekends I like to get out for a longer walk with the dogs, at Woodbury Common, Blackborough Woods, or East Hill across to Fire Beacon Hill. Blows the cobwebs away, and sometimes a few brain cells, of which there are a diminishing number anyway.

So there I was, wandering through a quiet peace of woodland (already with a few bits of litter in my pocket) when I spotted something. A large piece of litter, stuck under a log. I started grumbling out loud about the stupidity of litter louts (the mad dog woman talking to herself again).

But when I came up to the litter, it wasn’t litter at all. It was a pristine, and I mean pristine, ten pound note. I looked around for cameras. I tentatively touched it, thinking it might be stuck down for a joke. But no, it was there for the taking! I picked it up, I put it in a pocket without litter in. I walked on.

I felt bad, I felt guilty. I thought about ringing the police station in case someone had reported losing a tenner. Then I realised that no-one at the police station would answer the phone, and if I took the tenner in… (insert your own thoughts here).

Then it struck me. Only someone concerned about litter would have found that tenner. My friends said it was Karma. But for me, it must have been the God or Goddess of Litter Picking. It must.

Suffice to say, I now feel obliged to pick up even more litter than I did before. But hey, I’ve been paid so what’s to worry about?

Progressively older – and not ashamed of it

I feel I can finally admit that I am a long-term fan of progressive (prog) rock. You know, that music that tells peculiar, intense stories using synthesisers and unlikely music breaks. With songs that go on and on. And on.

I blame my older siblings for my weakness; as a teenager, I sat in my tiny bedroom week after week trying to enjoy my Top of the Pops soundalike albums (worth listening to now if just for the shock value), whilst in the room next door my brothers blasted out Yes, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Deep Purple. I couldn’t ignore it.

I had always been entranced by harmonies and was an aspiring poet (if somewhat lacking in talent). Add to this my conviction that I was ‘deep’ and it comes as no surprise when something in that progressive music spoke to me. I started to ‘borrow’ their albums, casting TOTP to one side. I remember they had the most amazing covers… those 70s LPs and the stories contained within simply blew me away.

Of course, it is totally uncool to admit to liking prog rock when many of my friends like dance, trance, garage, dustbin (?) music, but who from a certain era hasn’t got a tiny snippet of Dark Side of the Moon playing somewhere in their head? And don’t shout punk rock at me. There are some that declare punk was the death of prog, but did you know that Genesis and Pink Floyd were amongst the biggest selling artists in the 80s and 90s? Up yours, Sex Pistols.

In the 1990s, a bottle or two of wine with a certain group of friends was often followed by dramatic dancing to Ripples, from Trick of the Tail. You know who you are, dramatic dancers. I blame my dance teacher at King Alf’s, who taught us the Laban technique, which seemed to involve lots of expressive arm movements and flailing around on the floor. Perfect for an erstwhile prog rocker, perfect for a drunken Genesis moment.

This week I’ve rediscovered an album that I haven’t really listened to since my ‘angst’ era way back when in the 1970s. And guess what? It still evokes the same feelings now as it did then.

Wind and Wuthering was released by Genesis in 1976. Exactly the time when my hormones were hurling themselves around and sealing me into my bedroom to sing (hah!) lyrics that described how I felt. Listening to it this week, a hundred memories flooded into my head. When Afterglow, the final song started, a hundred sensations flowed round my limbs. I knew all the words, 30 years after I listened to it for the last time (when I moved on to Squeeze and Elvis Costello, for my sins). I read on Wikipedia earlier that the melody of Afterglow is similar to Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I quite like that song too, in context.

Rather than dismissing my nostalgia for naff music, my talented musical teen is actually rather interested in the genre, which I’ve been playing to him in the car. He is very impressed that I can sing in harmony (still got it).

Maybe he’ll go on to revive prog rock, and bring it to a new audience. He might even make it cool again. However, maybe it still is? If you Google ‘prog rock bands’, after the usual suspects some unexpected more modern names appear; Supertramp, Radiohead – and Spock’s Beard. Must listen to them, after a bottle of wine and with a certain group of friends. Rock on!

 

Space in the fridge? Don’t panic!

Is it possible to avoid the stress of Christmas? This once jolly festivity has become an increasingly manic occasion that puts extraordinary levels of pressure on families. Do you know that the first Monday in January is known as Divorce Day in the legal community? There’s much discussion on whether Christmas is the final straw for many couples.

I have been listening to the radio this morning, to many conversations with families in cars travelling hundreds of miles to be with loved ones, with passengers laughing (hysterically) at the thought of the traffic queues ahead. I’m sort of glad that I am staying put in Devon.

I managed to quietly get on with organising the event this year. I’ve scaled down brusselsthe (naff) Christmas decorations so I didn’t get as grumpy as usual putting them up. I bought presents along the way rather than have to make a mad dash into the madness of late night, last minute Christmas shopping. I wandered into Tesco for a quick shop at the beginning of the week and managed to buy everything for Christmas dinner as all the ingredients I needed were dated 26th December. Except for the Brussels sprouts which should have been used by the 22nd. I’m sure we’ll cope if they don’t make it to the 25th.

tree-1489-x-990Even so, I haven’t been able to avoid the panic entirely. My Christmas tree went up much earlier than usual when I saw so many Facebook posts about decorating trees that I just had to (had to) go and get one.

I know I’ve bought more tat than I should have done. If I totted up the actual amount I have spent on stocking fillers and presents for the dogs, I would probably be able to book a holiday to the Bahamas.

I’m currently worried that my fridge isn’t as packed to the gunnels as it should be. With just two days to go to the ‘Big Day’ there is still space for more food. Panic! I must get to Tesco/Sainsburys/Waitrose and buy more, more, more. This morning I checked on chestnuts – yes, I’ve got them – and they’re in date! But no red cabbage. Disaster. Armageddon. Christmas is ruined.

Reminiscing for a moment, I can remember when Christmas was a cosy affair. When carol singers knocked on the door and we listened to musical renditions of Silent Night and gave them a penny or mince pie – until we were old enough to sing ourselves at which point Silent Night became anything but a silent affair.

We were so excited about our selection boxes, more chocolate than we’d seen all year! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPresents were Lego for the boys (not expensive sets, just red, yellow, blue or green bricks), and Tressy or Sindy for me. No stereotyping in our house. The Christmas stocking was filled with not a lot apart from a satsuma and a nut. I watched an Amazon advert this year featuring a small boy playing with a robotic dog that cost £160. £160. Good golly, Miss Molly.

However, it mustn’t be all bah humbug. At its heart, Christmas can still be an excuse for downtime, for family time, for eating, drinking and being merry. So – Merry Christmas and I’ll try not to be grumpy again until the New Year.

merry-christmas-4

 

 

 

Pheasant Plucker

When I was a student in Winchester, we had a pheasant in the grounds of our student accommodation. My friend Harry and I named him ‘Eric’. The name has stuck throughout the years, and my children now call male pheasants Eric, and female pheasants, Edwina. Pheasants have always made me smile – they are beautiful birds that seem ever so slightly dim.

Now to divide the pack.

It’s that time of year when carcasses start to litter the Devon roads as pheasants fly into the path of passing cars. Perhaps this is their vain attempt to flee to a place of safety, or maybe a suicide mission to avoid the worse fate of being winged by shot and left to die slowly in the undergrowth.

You may have guessed I am not a fan of pheasant shooting. I have never understood the pleasure someone can get from blasting these poor birds. It’s not a ‘sport’, it’s a massacre. There’s nothing clever about it. I believe shoots are referred to as ‘driven’ or ‘walked up’. How much more pleasant a ‘walked up’ shoot sounds, but at the end of the day to the terrified birds it doesn’t matter much what it’s called, it’s the ‘shoot’ bit that matters.

I have friends and acquaintances who raise pheasants, host shoots or even go on shoots themselves. I just don’t know what to say to them. Is there anything remotely ethical about this activity?

pheasant-1337901-639x958I’ve read that over 35 million pheasants are released each year in the UK. 35 million. Bewildered, befuddled, beautiful birds that don’t stand a chance. 35 million birds that aren’t, in fact, native to this country. How many of them actually get eaten (which I admit at least offers a reason for killing them)? Not 35 million, that’s for sure.

Who owns the pheasants that escape from the shooting area, and who is responsible for the accidents caused by soft-hearted drivers, like me, swerving to avoid birds in the road? I remember clearly the first occasion that I did this, on my way to Warwick on the A46 in the 1980s. Thank goodness there was no-one behind me as I did a first-class emergency brake. I was told later that I should have just carried on, that the bird’s life was worth less than mine. But it’s hard to fight instinct, and, for me personally, hard to contemplate killing any creature (see ‘Slugs & Snails‘).

I’ve seen on more than one occasion, a female pheasant that has managed to raise pheasant-and-chickschicks in the wild. Like any bird, they are protective of their young. I was walking my collie once, when a bird leapt into the path and made a fearful racket, taking an attacking stance that threw the pooch off entirely. It wasn’t until I got close that I noticed the tiny baby pheasants on the path. Suffice to say we took a wide berth and left the mum to care for her little ones.

But this raises another memory, of a friend whose partner rears pheasants for a local shoot. I remember her saying ‘He’s got to go and check on them, he takes such good care of them.” Really? I don’t call releasing thousands of young pheasants to be blown away by stupid, inept people taking ‘good care’.

Two years ago, I ran over a pheasant for the first time (and I hope, the last). It ran out into the road and straight under the wheels of my car. There was nothing I could do about it, and I was mortified. The only solace I could take was that at least death was instantaneous and the bird would never be blasted by incompetent idiots, possibly wounded and left to die in agony.

Slugs and snails…

Out of the front door I go, to take the rubbish out. And there it is. Crunch. It’s a snail, squashed underfoot. I feel bad, I feel guilt. When I see a snail or slug on the drive, I pick it up and deposit it in a safe place.

Life is all about karma. What you do to someone, the way you behave, will come back on you at some point in the future. And with me it’s not just about people, it’s also about all living creatures.

The other day I came into my office and spotted a small black ball caught in a spider’s web. I picked it out and discovered it was a woodlouse – slightly distressed but able to uncurl itself and scuttle away across the patio. I felt good karma.

I’ve rescued mice and rats (yes, rats), worms, beetles and many a spider. This morning, Ispider-1397870 filled a plastic bottle with water to pour on some plants, and inside was a spider. As it floated to the top, I put my finger into the bottle and rescued it – it let itself down from my finger on a thread, and off it went. More good karma.

If I’m ever on holiday in a villa with a pool, I spend the early part of the morning rescuing all the insects that have fallen into the water overnight. Even the nasty biting ones.

Killing doesn’t come naturally to me. There are insects I dislike, wasps in particular. But if there’s one buzzing around my house I’d still rather catch it and let it go free rather than squash it. If I see a flattened frog on the road, I feel bad for days, even though it wasn’t me that did the deed.

But every spring for years, we’ve had a plague of flies in one of the upstairs rooms. I don’t for the life of me know where they come from, but suddenly there they are, clustered around the window, fat and sluggish. Myfly-1391648 first instinct is to catch as many as possible and fling them out of the window. But when that doesn’t work and the flies keep coming, I have resorted to fly spray. And then I feel guilty for weeks. Bad karma. Death by fly spray can’t be nice.

I feel the same way about slug repellent, which I stopped using some years ago. Rat poison? No thank you.

I even hate spraying weedkiller on my patio weeds – what have they ever done to deserve it? Hence the natural jungle on the way to my front door. I tend to let things just grow. And I’ve been rewarded with violets, pansies, camomile and once a crocus, popping up through the cracks.   buddha-1307401-1920x2560

Perhaps I’m a Buddhist without knowing it. Although I can’t meditate for toffee (though I might for chocolate) and I suspect enlightenment is something well out of reach, as the older I get the more confused I become. Usually about where my glasses are.

So at the end, when my number’s up, I wonder if all those tiny creatures I’ve rescued will come to greet me at the Pearly Gates. Or will some very cross flies or squashed snails intercept me and wreak their revenge?

How wet is a wetsuit

Down in Cornwall for a late summer holiday, the sun came out and sea was sparkling. There was no holding me back, and on the first evening I donned my swimming cossie and threw myself into the surf with gay abandon.

To be fair, it was pretty chilly, but after the first few moments when I wondered briefly whether my heart had actually stopped beating and if I had turned as blue as an uncooked lobster, I was in seventh heaven.

But as I looked around me, all I could see were people, young and old, in wetsuits. Some of them looked faintly shocked at the sight of an aging provocateur splashing about in the waves revealing her glorious white bits.

When did wetsuits become de rigeur, I wonder? For surfing types and intrepid divers who swim into the depths I confess it makes a lot of sense to suit up. But for people skipping waves in the shallows?

Cornwall wetsuits (2)

Childhood memories

Most summer weekends of my childhood were spent on Highcliffe beach, which is just the wrong side of the Hampshire/Dorset border (I’m a Hampshire Hog, you understand). My brothers aRuched 2 (2)nd I would gambol in the sea all day long, wearing unfashionable swimsuits – well everybody did in those days. I have a horrible memory of ruched nylon in a nasty flowery pattern – and did we wear crocheted swimsuits – surely not! (I survived but if you have ever wondered why I have no fashion sense, wonder no more).

Protection from the cold of the English Channel was unheard of. We stayed in the sea or mucked about in rockpools until the sun went down, apart from coming out for the ubiquitous sand-filled picnic lunch. Boiled eggs and sweaty cheese.

I don’t remember moaning about the temperature of the sea, even as a skinny 8 year-old. Then again, we never went abroad for our hols, so we didn’t have anything to compare it with. Perhaps if we’d gone to Tenerife or Benidorm we would have complained.wetsuit all over (2)

“Children these days don’t know they’re born”, sayeth I. Wetsuits, boots and gloves, and sometimes even a balaclava-type head warmer. It’s madness I tell you.We need our children to toughen up!

The cockles of my heart were briefly warmed on our last outing to the beach in Cornwall, when a tiny child tottered past as naked as the day he was born. That’s how you do it! I thought. Then I noticed his parents, both suited up in the funkiest surfy gear, and the cockles went cold. I fear that as soon as they find a wetsuit small enough, the naked child will be swathed in neoprene from head to toe, never to come into contact with bracing English sea water again.

As for me, I will continue to brave the brine with my goosepimples. There’s nothing like it.

(Next year, Greece. Nobody wears wetsuits there).

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve never been any good at flouting authority, bending or breaking the rules. My moral backbone must be very straight, because while common-sense tells me that towing the line isn’t the only way, something transfixes me with a Paddington Cold Stare every time I consider ‘behaving badly’.

Goody two-shoes

I am aware that some of my friends find it amusing that, in many respects I’m a little goody two-shoes. Those are the ones that smoked behind the bike sheds at school, bike shedsstarting drinking age 12, wore the shortest skirts they could without being arrested, and those that were expelled. I worship their naughtiness. My worst crimes at school were once wearing a brown skirt rather than the standard navy, and going ‘on strike’ in the school hall to protest that girls should be able to wear trousers. At primary school one lunchtime I stayed inside with Vicky Manley – against the rules – to sew up costumes for the school play. Headmaster Mr Blatchford discovered us, called us guttersnipes and told us to go home. I still think that was rather over the top for two 10-year olds making bee outfits.

Tax dodgers

I have always been horrified by tales of tax avoidance schemes; the many, clever ways that big businesses and wealthy individuals find to wriggle out of paying tax through bright accountants who get paid a nice little earner to find loopholes. I wonder how it is they don’t have a conscience. Hey, I’ve declared just about every penny I’ve earned in my life. Even the £1 a day I earned as a decorator (after paying the child minder, that was all I had left). However, there’s a bit of me that now thinks differently about those cash-in-hand tax dodgers that I used to scorn. Now I’m more likely to think, why not? If a pop star skips pay tax on millions of pounds, why should the chap earning a couple of hundred quid painting some walls pay any either?  I’d dodge if I could. But then again, I probably wouldn’t.

On holiday

On a month-long trip to China it was a total surprise to me that we had to ‘follow the flag’. I’d never done anything like that before. I duly followed it to the best of my ability, until I was late back to a meeting point because my mate Julia had desperately needed the loo. We were made to feel like criminals, and almost frog-marched to catch up with the rest of the group. Publicly humiliated amongst the Terracotta Army in China, I felt cracks appear in my goody-two shoes persona.

In truth, the older I get, the more likely I am to transgress. This year I was asked to followFollow a flag in Sienna. I ran off up an alley, it was a moment when free will conquered. Hey, who knows, perhaps one day soon I’ll try and sneak on the train to Exeter without paying for a ticket. Or park in a disabled parking space and limp away from the car.

But I tell you, however hard I try, always at the back of my mind there will be the sense that I am the person holding together the tower of morality that keeps society from falling apart. It’s all down to me, for sure. So I won’t be sticking two fingers up at the taxman anytime soon. More’s the pity.

The Selfie Obsession

Selfie gorilla

I’ve been aware of the growth of the selfie for a number of years now. How could anyone possibly not be? It makes me think just how narcissistic we’ve become. Look on Instagram. How many of the most popular posts are selfies? It seems an extraordinarily vain thing to do, to take a photo of yourself pouting. I’ve seen far too many selfies of teenage girls in provocative poses. That really makes me uncomfortable. And don’t come back to me with ‘it’s actually a celebration of girl power’. It’s not.

So, when did the ‘selfie’ start?

The word became part of the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, but the birth of the selfie is much further back in 2002 (when I was but a young whippersnapper) when a drunk Australian took a photograph of an injury sustained at a party – his name was Hopey and he was looking for advice on stitches. From there as a race we made an amazing leap to using the selfie as way of flagging up publicly how perfect we are – how amazing our lives are.

The selfie is generally used by young women pouting, people partying, celebrities thinking we’re interested in knowing about the minutiae of their lives, or proof that we were somewhere / with someone that we really, really want people to know about. Why do we feel we have to do this? Because our friends are doing it, they have fabulous lives! Because if we don’t do it, we’ll look like losers.

What on earth did we do before the selfie? Take pictures of other people having a good time. Photograph lovely buildings, landscapes, flowers, pets, babies, clouds. Sometimes, we attempted to be in the photograph by wrestling with the timer mechanism. Is there anything lovelier than a photograph of a family or group of friends with heads cut off, or at a wonky angle? Ah, those were the days.

The acceptable benefit of the selfie must be for mums of new babies and young children. I have a boxful of old photos of my children growing up – I haven’t made it into many of them as I was always the one taking the photos. Similarly I don’t feature in holiday snaps – I wanted to have memories of my children having fun, not me. I hope I can remember having fun without having a photo to prove it (possible, as long as cider isn’t involved).

Silly selfie of monkeys

To be absolutely honest, silly selfies seem to be an okay thing. I won’t put them in Room 101. I have had my fair share of smiles from a selfie posted on social media by someone who doesn’t care that they look really, really daft. Somehow that’s not narcissistic. Although probably some clever psychology professor would disagree with me there.

I’ll fess up here. I very occasionally feel the need to take a selfie, I do. In fact, I took one just the other day. But always for a giggle, not because I think I look gorgeous. That doesn’t work for me anyway, given my age, my sagging neckline and my inability to pout without looking like an old trout or Leslie Ash. No, I don’t look great in a selfie, beautifier or no beautifier. In one, taken after two pints of cider in celebration of being at a rare Kate Bush concert, I look like I have an equally rare skin disease. Not a pretty sight.

Interestingly, having learnt about the origins of the selfie, it makes more sense that of the one I took after I injured my eye (an event I’ve written about in an earlier blog). I was in the middle of the woods, there was blood coming from my eye, and I took the photo to see what I’d done. That was just before I fell in the mud.

I hope the selfie obsession is all harmless, I really do. But in a culture that’s become so obsessed with how we are seen, rather than how we feel, I’m not convinced.

So put down those selfie sticks, go out and take a picture of a bee or a sausage roll. And don’t be tempted to stick your noggin in front of it!

Who needs an award anyway?

Trophies

When I was a kid, one hundred or so years ago, awards at school tended to be restricted to those who performed superlatively at sports.

Linda Moger, who could run a long distance race in the time it took me to get woman-jogging-blur-1429021-1599x2132to the fish and chip shop for scraps on a sneaky lunchtime leave of absence from school. (I just Googled Linda and there she is, still in Southampton, still running – now in Race for Life. All power, Linda).

Netball Sonia Richards, who was bustiest blonde netball GA ever in the whole universe. It’s true. Her beautifully poised shots had the whole team frozen in awe, let alone the opponents.

Karen Wilson whose javelin throwing took the school records to new heights (and lengths). I was a poor sequel to Karen when she left for sixth form, although I once achieved second place in Southampton School Athletics, mainly because only one other competitor turned up on the day.

Sports supremoes deserve awards. They are the rightful gods and goddesses of a school, in charge of the honour of the entire school against every other dastardly (and no doubt poor) educational establishment in the local area. Or at least, they were.

Now it seems there are awards for everything. How about the award for being the smiliest student that ever walked the planet? Or the award for being a pain in the arse and getting away with it. The award for managing to get to school every day, rain, snow, floods and scarlet fever notwithstanding. The award for never having missed the school bus. I know someone who was never going to win that one. Eh, daughter?

But of course, it doesn’t matter what the award is for. When the winner of the award is announced, it will be from a particular cohort of children. The shining ones, the blessed. I discovered recently that even the children who win awards have been heard to say “It’s always the same people….”.

Blessed onesI am delighted for the blessed. I know many of them at our local school and they are, without a doubt, deserving.

But the whole culture can create a have/have not scenario. As in those that have an award to pin to their corkboard or place on their bookshelf, and those that don’t. The award winners are the ones that will go on to do well (we know this because we have been told).

Is it just me, or does this not infer that those who never win awards, and there are many, are less likely to amount to anything?  Just me, then.

There may be a tiny chip on my shoulder here for the lack of trophies gained during my own school life. Though I did actually win an award at primary school, I’ll have you know. It was a Platinum Pen award for the best illustration of a poem. And indeed, I won a Platinum Pen (from the cheaper end of the range).

Did this award mean that I went on to do well?

One thing’s for sure, it was not as an illustrator.

 

Thoughts turning towards the annual migration

When Spring starts to spring, birds start to twitter and life in general becomes just a little sunnier, my thoughts always turn to the prospect of this year’s cottage holiday.

Holidaying in a cottage was part of my childhood. With five children and one salary coming in, it never crossed my parents’ minds to take us overseas. They reserved that pleasure for themselves, farming us out to their friends in Southampton whilst they jetted off to party in Jamaica or Jersey.

CottageInstead, our family annual migration was always to a draughty cottage in  rural idyll. More often than not a trip to the South West, though we also holidayed in Herefordshire, the Isle of Wight and Scotland.

There were always dogs of some description needing petting or walking. I always tried to find something equine – in Herefordshire I jammily got to ride a racehorse when we stayed in the grounds of a racing stables. Sadly, I couldn’t make it trot, let alone canter. I have a vague memory of borrowing a fat pony in the field next to our cottage one year, when we stayed on a farm. I remember diving into a freezing river in Scotland, somewhere near Stirling, the clearest river I’ve ever seen. And playing Scalextric on the floor of the Water Cottage in Devon with my brothers, my vehicle being Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce.

We always had an estate car, and there was usually a carrycot with a baby in it, dumped unceremoniously in the boot. There were sometimes young children dumped in there, too. I remember one moment captured in time when the car was curving round a bend and the passenger door swung open. We didn’t wear seat belts and I remember seeing the yawning gap, the road rushing towards me as I started to fall out, before being yanked back into my seat by a quick-witted brother. The roof rack was piled high with ancient suitcases, which on one occasion came loose from their bungee rope moorings and scattered across an ‘A’ road.

StrawberriesHolidays were full of discovery and gluttony. Beaches, the red sand at Holcombe Regis, the Parson and the Clerk. Fish and chips on as many nights as we could persuade mum and dad to buy them. Strawberries bought from the side of the road and clotted cream, only available in Devon. Cornish pasties likewise, only available in Cornwall.

Of course it wasn’t always idyllic, there were asthma attacks brought on by Adderdusty houses – I ended up at the local doctor’s surgery on more than one occasion. On one holiday at Golden Cap I almost stepped an adder. My brother slipped from rocks covered in seaweed at Holcombe Regis. Actually that was hilarious.

We were never bored, we never expected (or got) holidays in the sun, posh villas, annual ski trips. We had a fortnight in a cottage, and that was that, thank you very much.

Although my own children have been abroad a few times, I can’t help but carry on the tradition of the holiday home. For me it’s always Cornwall (I just can’t keep away), with extra children and sometimes extra adults – I like a big party. I love going to another house, I love exploring the countryside with the dog. I love the fact that even though I sometimes worry that they’re bored, after the holiday the children talk about how great that place was, how they loved the beach, river, wildlife. Okay, they have their electronic devices, which drives me a bit mad, but overall they get out and walk, and body board and swim. One summer at Watergate Bay, after a warm season it was a revelation to them to realise they could swim without wetsuits.

So now it’s a case of finding a cottage for the coming summer. I think I might avoid the owners’ website that gave me a great price, only for the owner to call me saying the site was wrong – to the tune of around £1500. Other than that, Cornwall, here we come!