Sunday, 26 June 2016

Week 247- REVIEW. Bosinver self-catering cottages, Cornwall.

Before we went to stay at Bosinver, I did a bit of a straw poll of parents to see what they’d ideally want to find at a family-friendly cottage to make life easier.

As we know, packing for a family of four is a nightmare, you might as well hire a removals van. So unsurprisingly the response had been the bulky stuff like a travel cot, or towels.

Luckily, Bosinver had thought of everything.

We’d had a totally awful drive down taking over nine hours; standstill traffic and carsick children do not a good journey maketh. Luckily, we are now so experienced at dealing with puking kids that the moment someone even suggests they feel unwell, we’re there with a carrier bag under their chin.

By the time we reached Bosniver, which is nestled in the valley between St Austell and Mevagissey in Cornwall, I was slowly losing the will to live.

But this place is beautiful, like picture-postcard beautiful. With horses in fields, and chickens and ducks wandering around kind of beautiful, and I could feel myself almost decompressing the moment I got out the car.

There are twenty cottages of varying sizes but the two-bedroom one we stayed in, called Rose, was so tastefully decorated it was like walking into my real-life Pintrest board.

Nanny Pat and Farmer Dave, as they are affectionately known, run Bosinver with a thoughtfulness that only comes from being grandparents themselves. Having lovingly used their grandchildren as their test case, they were able to see, first-hand, what a family with young children needs to have a relaxing break.

It’s not just that there are toys for the kids in the cottage, or plastic cutlery and plates for them in the cupboard; the entire ethos of the complex is built around adventure and play, encouraging parents to let go a little bit and children to play and explore a bit more.

After breakfast on the first day, we joined Farmer Dave to feed the animals. He opened the doors to the coup and about thirty hens flew out, followed by a domineering cockerel that, as if pre-rehearsed, took pride of place on the fence and crowed, much to the delight of the children.

Armed with handfuls of seed, the kids fed chickens, ducks, sheep and goats. And then picked an egg each for us to take back to cook for breakfast. (Well one of them made it that far; I think I’d over estimated the dexterousness of an over-excited two-year-old boy!)

There is a super-warm swimming pool, kitted out with all the floats for children, and bumbo in the changing room. It’s the perfect way for children to burn off some energy, and if that’s not enough, there’s a swing park and trampoline, as well as a games room fully-equipped with a soft play area.

We didn’t leave Bosinver on the first day- why would you? The kids thought it was the best place EVER and, brilliantly, they were so knackered by the evening that the pair of them went straight to sleep without complaint and we were able to sit outside and have a glass of wine with just the sounds of the Cornish wildlife for company.

It feels like they’ve taken the hard work out of going away with children there. I met a family there who return every year, and, this year, having just had their second child, had decided to stay for two weeks and get the grandparents to join them for some of that time to entertain their eldest so they could have a break with their newborn baby.

And I thought, of course, this is the ideal place to come on maternity leave. That first trip away with a new baby is terrifying. You don’t know what you need to bring so you just bring everything. 

It’s more of an endurance test than an enjoyment.

Something to tick off the jobs list to say, right, we’ve survived it, we’ve been away with our baby, we don’t need ever go away again now if we don’t want to. WELL DONE US.

So imagine going somewhere where you could genuinely relax and they take the stress out of the whole experience by providing everything you need. And if you have older children, they can go on the Gruffalo trail or brave the zip wire. The place is totally kitted out for babies up to big kids, both in age and spirit.

For us it was a long journey, but completely worth it for this look on our four-year-olds face in the morning when realising where she'd woken up!

*I am not getting paid for this review, but we stayed in the cottage for three nights free of charge. We knew the owners of Bosinver prior to our stay, but the review is an honest and fair account of our experience there.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Week 246- sumo wrestlers, bear hugs and headlocks, and rolling with the punches...

If family life was personified, I imagine it would look like a sumo wrestler, tensed and ready to get you into a headlock in the clammiest bit of his armpit, and at the point that you are about to tap out, he would release his grip and give you the mother of all bear hugs.

Oh, and while you are trying to tackle/ hug him you are also juggling about ten plates, literally and metaphorically.

Our car has died. (The headlock.)

We only bought it for three hundred quid from my brother so I wasn’t really expecting it to last three weeks, let alone three years.

But, after recent family holidays, where the soundtrack was a panicked, ‘is that our car making that noise?’

‘Can anyone else smell that smell? Is it an engine smell?’

‘Is that light on the dashboard important?’

We have now had to admit defeat, but, and timing is everything, it dies days before we have two weekend trips away that rely entirely on driving the car.

One of our best mates lent us his car. (The bear hug.)

It’s posher than anything I’ve ever driven before. It’s so quiet I’m unsure that I’ve actually turned it on. And the children sleep for the best part of five hours at a time as it’s so comfortable.

We’re away for a weekend but Ben has so much work to do that he’s had to bring it all with him and lock himself away in a room to see if he can make some headway. (The headlock.)

But the cottage is the most incredible place to stay with children, with a swimming pool, a Gruffalo trail, animal feeding and a soft play area, so the children are beyond happy, so knackered at the end of the day that they fall into bed and stay there. And I get the holiday gin out. (The bear hug.)

I’ve realised, probably a bit late to the party, but that I need to learn to roll with the punches a bit more. 

To not expect everything to go the way I want it to. 

To be pleasantly surprised when it does, but to not go crackers when it doesn’t. 

To deal with the headlock and give as good a bear hug as I get.
I’ve realised that I need to be a bit more like my two year old.

Not all the time.

Of course.

I don’t think I’d last long in my job if I went fucking mental if someone moved my coat or if I didn’t want to put my shoes on.

But more like him in taking real pleasure in the good stuff.

This is my son.

He’s delighted because I've just told him we are going swimming.

I want to be that guy.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Week 245- packed cars, squashed kids and family-friendly cottages...

OK, so we’re going away as a family next weekend to Cornwall. This is properly going away, staying in a cottage, with a roof. Not another bloody tent.

There are animals there, and a swimming pool. In fact, it sounds like Bosinver is pretty much kitted out with everything you need for a trip away with kids.

So, my question is, if you have small children, what do you need to have already waiting for you so that you don’t need to bring a car/ trailer/ one of those roof things that looks like a small boat, full of stuff?

Packing for a family holiday...

For me it was always the travel cot, it would take up three quarters of the boot and then no child in their right mind ever wants to sleep in it anyway, so you all end up squashed in a queen-sized bed, but you have to bring it every single time you go away JUST INCASE.

When Nancy was a little baby, I used to pack the bloody steriliser too. It’s the size of a breadmaker and almost always had about half a cup of rank water sloshing around in the bottom ready to drip all over you when you were two minutes into a four hour journey. So there’s that too.

And another...

In fact I could probably do without bringing most of the shit I drag along with us.

If truth be told I dream of the day when I can fit all out stuff, including my straighteners into one of those pully suitcase things.

So, what would you want to see in a cottage that was specifically marketed as family-friendly?

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Week 244- camping, drinking and sitting in boiling hot cars...

Sometimes you need a post-holiday holiday after going away with kids.

Even just a weekend can make you feel like you’re about eighty.

So, once you accept that you are not going to feel well rested you might as well just suck it up and go fucking camping.

With eight other families.

And a combined total of thirteen children.

It will mean bringing more stuff that you think you actually own, with everyone being packed in the car so tightly that it’s impossible to even move your arms let alone turn around to see if anyone is suffocating on a disposable barbeque.

It will mean spending three hours on the first day unpacking and putting the tent up and three hours two days later trying to work out how the massive tent fits into the postage size bag.

It will mean your hair still smelling like a bonfire for anything up to two weeks later.

But, if you can get past all that, then what it really means is you get to have two consecutive nights out with a group of mates, where no-one has to sort out a babysitter.

The pressure on it being the best night ever isn’t there, because you all know what to expect- you’re getting pissed round a fire.

End of.

And the kids- I’d like to say they get to connect with the great outdoors.

Explore nature.

Get back to basics.

Learn to identify different birds’ songs.

Follow animal tracks.

But no.

Actually what children want to do is ming around in their pyjamas eating peanut butter out of the jar.

Or all pile into an estate car on the hottest day of the year so far, that belonging to someone we don’t know and has leather interiors.

They want to shut the door for maximum heat.

And pretend to drive.

All thirteen of them.

But did you hear what I said?

You get to get pissed with your mates around a fire!

So that’s the future.

Communal camping / parenting/ drinking.

And if the owner of the brand new black Volvo would also like to come and lend his car to amuse the kids for two days, that would also be great.