Anatomy Of A Staycation

I’m not going to bore you with the whys and the wherefores, only that this is the case, and that is that. It’s something which we have been considering for a while now, but which we have never ever really had the courage plucked up for. That sounds passive, but this was an active choice: we have chosen to forego one of our myriad holidays and stay at home instead. We’ll have a few days out.

We chose a day at the local wetlands centre. I hadn’t been there since I was a small child, and I could only remember some of it. Even then dimly. I could remember bags of corn. When I remembered the flamingos I was overjoyed. We spent the day exploring riverside hides and watching the birds feed. We played “What am I talking about?” and got back indoors before the rain got going.

The child had to have a day where she chose the activities, not her boring parents. As such she had already spent a day with her grandmother and one of her school friends. That was fine. We had had to persuade her that she didn’t want to spend the day indoors again, so what did she do? She had to choose the park. Swings and slides and swings and slides and crying and swings and slides and home.

We’ll have a few days out, we tell ourselves, and there is a hint of truth in that. More than a hint, if I’m being honest. In a foreign flat, the last thing we want to do is sit around in our pyjamas and watch television or eat cereal. In our own home, with our dogs at our feet that seems like the best use of our time possible. We know that the English Heritage site will be blowing a hooley today.

We wrap up warm against the winds and the rain, but it is always better than we had expected out there. It’s an English need to cacophemise the forthcoming weather, so that we may experience a far brighter day than we had been expecting. The Scottish and the Irish already understand that the weather is going to be cack; the English feel the need to brace ourselves for such eventualities.

We forget that on a foreign holiday we would be just going out on day trips, essentially. That that is what a holiday is, not the horrors and the perils of air travel and airport security. Not the thousands of pounds spent on a flat somewhere you don’t want to spend any time in, but which you spend a thousand hours deliberating. Enjoy your local area and spend the change on a bag of chips for once.

Such is the nature of day trips that the weather in any of the places we choose to go will mirror pretty closely the the weather outside of our front window, and that does not look good. The clouds may part, the sky may crack open, but there will be no sunshine reaching its arm through, just to pull us out of this comfortable existence. We can eat the picnic we made last night on the sofa together.

All our eldest can think about, as soon as we have leapt out of the car, is the picnic. I know I must have been like this when I was her age, and that is a great part of the reason why I am so annoyed at her behaviour. Another part is that I am starting to sound like and identify with my own parents, and that is never a good thing. I’m hungry too, but we can’t eat our picnic before seeing the Flamingos.

The queue was horrendous; we had suspected it would be, based on social media posts and our natural tendency towards pessimism. The problem with being faced with a queue like this a few dozen miles from home is that turning around and going home is a real possibility. As is just going to the beach, and forgetting expensive tourist experiences. We chose to persevere with the experience.

Making the picnic the night before is such a key part of all of this, at least for me. Yes, there are a few sandwiches, hopefully a bag of crisps, and definitely a Kit-Kat each, but there is also a pot of leftovers from our dinner last night. Either rammed in a food flask or cold in a sandwich tub, we take turns burying our forks in to the family pot and bringing out something we had oddly forgotten.

Our favourite open air museum was always going to be a mistake on a warm half-term holiday. We much prefer this place when it is almost deserted, as it was on New Year’s Eve. Today, everywhere was packed with hordes of tourists, seemingly from every part of the country. We eventually sat on a pile of railway sleepers, eating egg sandwiches and wondering how long before we could go home.

The drive is inevitably the worst part. I do not know where small children hear the trope “Are we nearly there yet?” but it seems so ingrained as to be written in to human DNA. Or it’s written inside the car somewhere and I haven’t found it yet. Either way, it starts almost as soon as we are out of our street, and continues until we are through the door of our destination. My mind burns white.

For once we took the dog, but only one of them. One of our dogs loves the great outdoors, can be trusted off the lead, and is very friendly with other dogs. He is a joy. The other dog is a Tasmanian devil, simultaneously terrified of and consequently angry with the entire world. He will attempt to attack other dogs, but has no idea how to. He’s better off in bed, while the other one plays out.

On any good staycation, there always has to be a pyjama day scheduled in. A lazy morning, an even lazier brunch, followed by the laziest of afternoons in front of a film. Then comes the panic of the evening, and the thought that we should have been making better use of our dwindling time, even though we had planned to spend the day watching animated yellow blobs blowing stuff up.

The round hut was entirely deserted, and it was magical. If only we had known, we could have sat here and had our picnic, the river flowing gloomily in front of us. It would have been better than that bench on the path, with no views except of further up the path. Here there were bird books and a sense of a place we could stay forever. It was our kind of building, and we never wanted to share it.