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.
Instead, 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.
Holidays 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 dusty 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!