She lives in a gorgeous little cottage in a picturesque village outside Harrogate. It is charming and packed with character but with 4 extra bodies to accommodate, we tested its capacity to the limit. 3 adults, 5 children and a cat in a confined space for four days? Let’s just say, it’s a good job we’re very good friends and have known each other a long time.
El’s husband sussed the situation early on and declared himself, “very busy at work”, which left El and I to manage the troops between us.
Day 1 passed without any major incident. We walked to the local park where the toddlers ignored the vast manicured cricket lawn and instead insisted on wobbling their way towards the stinging nettles. Miraculously, only the 6-year-old got stung. I reckon one of the twins must have pushed him but we busied them in our search for dock leaves to avoid any recriminatory attacks.
On Day 2 we braved the National Railway Museum in York. It was a rainy day and the first week of the school holidays so naturally everyone north of Watford had decided to pay a visit. The fact we came home with 5 children, and that they were the same 5 we had started the day with, was something of a miracle.
We saw diesels, expresses, coaches and carriages of every size, shape and colour imaginable. We’d sensibly taken along ‘Grandpa’ who was able to explain the virtues of all the above to my son. Poor Nancy, El’s eldest, was mostly underwhelmed and managed all of 8 minutes before asking if we could go home. A ride on the carousel outside provided the required distraction to get her through the rest of the day without complaint. That, and a rather large chocolate chip shortbread.
The 3 toddlers were utterly unimpressed with any of the exhibits and between them, consumed a few hundred weight in Organix snacks as we battled to keep their howls of boredom to a dull roar. Shortly after lunch we admitted defeat and piled them all back in the car and headed for home where a paddling pool and coloured stones fared much better in the entertainment stakes.
By Day 3 we were feeling confident in our abilities and ventured to a farm for the day. We packed a picnic as neither of us could face another meal in a public café. I fear they will be wiping egg mayonnaise off the Royal Train in York for some weeks to come. We also discovered that fruit jelly and fromage frais mixed together combine to create an edible concrete mix, utterly resilient to wet wipes. And let’s face it. I’ve yet to discover many substances that wet wipes can’t conquer.
We saw goats and sheep, alpacas and wallabies, guinea pigs and cows. My girls shouted “cat” or “bear” at every single creature they saw and delighted in the al fresco lunch. For twin 1, this meant wandering off at every opportunity to study the food on offer at the next picnic table. Satisfied that our neighbours had brought an inferior picnic, she condescended to eat half a ham sandwich and a fistful of raisins. Twin 2 was thoroughly confused by the lack of high chair and clung to the leg of the picnic table for dear life; as if it may up and leave her at any moment. She really needs to relax a little.
The highlight of the afternoon was the giant sandpit. My son spent a full hour constructing a starship of monstrous proportions whilst twin 2 found the mid-afternoon snack she’d been lacking in the form of sand compacted with water from her cup.
And twin 1? Well having been born in the Middle East and spent her life to date in a desert state, did what any native would do faced with vast quantities of sand.
It turns out, she doesn’t really like sand much.
Come to think of it. Neither do I.