“The past is a cupboard full of light and all you have to do is find the key that opens the door.” from “Behind The Scenes At The Museum” by Kate Atkinson

It’s a unique and lovely occasion when you get to spend some holiday time with your two children, re-living those wonderful times when they were young. The hurly burly of a hectic work life in the late 80s and 1990s combined with single parenthood meant the rollercoaster of daily life when they were young was always hectic, unpredictable, certainly tiring but rewarding in equal measure and a bit unrelenting. When it came to the summer holidays I needed time to switch off and take stock so I took the majority of my holiday in August often having a 3 or 4 week stretch both to disengage from work and to spend loads of time with H and J. Mostly we went to Dorset and would camp near Chesil Beach at a little place called Fleet just past Weymouth. 

H would always find friends and J would join in. I would relax, read novels (the only time in the year I had the time), forget work and unwind. Each day we took it in turns to choose where we went having the extent of a coastline which stretched from Swanage on the east to Lyme Regis in the west. We each had our favourites but Durdle Door was a collective hit. Studland, Lulworth Cove, the lost village of Tyneham and Warbarrow Bay, Weymouth of course, West Bay, and my personal favourite Lyme Regis were frequently visited. We must have done this for 8 or 9 years and it remains such a good memory. We did lots of other shorter holidays elsewhere but this was our core summer respite.

Fast forward to May Day Bank holiday 2012 when I was whisked off by H and J to a mystery pre-birthday destination. The long weekend was organised, funded and planned by them and I was just the hapless passenger. In May 2012 I was suffering from a UTI which had hospitalised me in Hong Kong and would do so again on my actual birthday (11th May) when I would be in there for three weeks and lose more weight than on any other diet plan! Friends had suggested I was not well enough to travel but H and J had booked it all and I did not want to disappoint them. 

Despite this concern we had set off on what proved to be a six hour plus drive which involved stops every 20 minutes. I got to within 20 miles of Weymouth before I realised the destination. This showed how ill I was as this was the prime holiday destination for us when they were young as described above. It set the tone for subsequent years though only a few photos remain from this first trip. They repeated Weymouth the following year with me back to reasonable health. Wonderful memories re-kindled by these two visits and new memories made. Old haunts visited though I had to let them explore Durdle Door on their own as I could no longer walk down the steep hill and steps see collage below.

Each year they have kept the destination secret as I seek endlessly to catch them out, though my guessing is usually not far off the mark. All the holidays mark a significant occasion or occasions when the place was visited by the three of us. It becomes a renewal of those memories whilst exploring them afresh with older eyes. I love the conversations, the meals, the places visited and the accommodations. All carefully sourced by H and J.

In 2014 Whitby was the destination, one of my all-time favourite places. I love this place and have experienced it as a child myself, when courting as a young man, brought H and J here many times, been there with family and friends. I like it out of season on a cold, clear crisp winter’s day when the seascapes, the iconic abbey and the houses on the hill plus the harbour provide a lovely backdrop and the Magpie cafe the perfect fish and chip venue.

2015 saw the destination as Gunnerside in Swaledale, which had been our favourite winter destination with friends from Liverpool throughout their childhood. We used to stay in cottages in many parts of the Dales, and in cold sometimes snowy weather take them on long walks and then enjoy some hearty food and ghost stories. Many many happy memories in the Dales. I had guessed Swaledale on departure but they were upping the stakes and produced an extra surprise when we were joined by my close friends, J and R, for dinner, a most wonderful occasion, lamb shanks in red wine, cooked by H and J. 

Last year we went to The Hague in Holland staying at a lovely airBnB place and enjoying BFC’s promotion to the championship at a local pub. I had taken H and J on trips to Holland when they were young using the overnight North Sea ferry from Hull to Rotterdam. This became part of the trip and they loved having the run of the ferry. We camped in Gouda, we stayed in The Hague and visited Amsterdam and it helped H develop her lifelong love of Holland which was further enhanced with a student exchange to The Hague during her photography degree. It was a lovely weekend and we were joined by H’s friend, Y, for a lovely Greek meal on the first evening. Another success.

So this weekend has been and at the time of writing the 2017 trip. Can’t believe we are on our sixth annual nostalgia trip. This represents the length of my survival with few signs of it not lasting a year or two yet. H and J will be running out of ideas! As always I had no idea of the destination which my kids know I really hate not to know but all sorts of interrogation failed to reveal it. I had my suspicions of Pembrokeshire as we had camped a couple of times in Little Haven in 1988 and 1989. In 1989 just a week after we left the campsite there was a double murder on the pathway near the site. Rumours abounded this was part of an IRA plot but in the end many many years later it was resolved and unconnected. It made it a memorable visit.

Anyway in a wonderful double bluff I was wrong-footed again. Well the secret was resolved in clever fashion. My son had driven me down the country and my betting was still on Pembrokeshire. He said we were early so why don’t we go via Worcester, where he was at university. I am going to watch cricket in Worcester this coming Friday so J suggested I booked the Premier Inn which overlooks the ground. So I do that and suggest we pop in to check car parking. J agrees. He then has a smug look on his face as we get out the car and he suggests taking our bags in. This turns out to be our destination. My room, as the picture below shows, overlooks the ground. Great area to explore and a wonderful surprise.

From my bedroom window
A Mexican meal

But each year the surprises get more intricate and so this year proves. The twists and turns of this weekend continued. We are out eating at a wonderful Mexican restaurant which I last visited with J the night before his graduation and where the selfie below was taken. They play the double bluff and announce that tomorrow we are leaving Worcester to drive to a cottage in Little Haven, Pembrokeshire. My original guess as the destination. So they have defeated my detective work yet again. Be great down there no doubt. And so we are about to explore the Pembroke coast unfortunately in the rain which was a pity but would not stop us exploring. We had an early lunch booked at The Swan in Little Haven. (See collage below). Then we drove down passed Broad Haven, Nolton Haven, Newgate and finally St David’s and its magnificent cathedral come into view. A few pics to wet your appetite.

Leisurely we will spend our final evening here before returning to Worcester tomorrow to drop H off then home. Lovely weekend, lovely memories.

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