Capital to Country: Paradise Lost

PUBLISHED: 12:10 13 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:10 13 August 2014

Sybilla Hart

Sybilla Hart


Sybilla Hart reflects on motherhood and the Essex countryside

This time a year ago I was in Antigua on what I suppose you would describe as a holiday of a lifetime. I had managed to get the husband to agree to book this extravaganza, even though he detests expensive holidays (I guess he is with the male masses on this one). Upon arrival in paradise we immediately stripped bare and started what was to be a rather longer bask in the sun than we had originally planned. 5,000 miles away on a tropical beach, I was feeling rather pleased with myself for insisting on this rather large treat. However, though it was great to sit on a beach at 33°C and swim in a sea that was warm instead of freezing cold, I was rather perturbed when the husband casually remarked over dinner in the beach restaurant that he would be, ‘just as happy, if not more so, in Cornwall’. I tried to bat away this ridiculous comment with a retort along the lines of, everyone knows it rains cats and dogs in Cornwall. But every time a tropical storm broke, he put down his newspaper and raised his eyebrows at me to prove his point.

While our older two children rather begrudgingly accepted being deposited at kids club, the toddler refused to be left. As a result she spent rather a lot of time drawing on copious hotel notepaper in her high chair. Unfortunately the said toddler contracted gastroenteritis and the island doctor decreed one hour before we were due to leave the resort that we had to stay: she was too ill to fly. The naughty side of me was rather pleased we had to put up with more time at this five star resort, until it dawned on me that the holiday insurance I had booked was limited to Europe. I wondered why it was so cheap at the time. To add insult to injury, there were no flights in the foreseeable future and the hotel was costing north of $2,000 per night. Ouch. We did eventually manage to get home, but we had blown our holiday budget to smithereens for the next five years.

A year on, we are seated on some deck chairs in a concrete car park outside our rented house in Cornwall. The scenery on the North Cornish coast is arguably more beautiful, the accommodation not quite as good (think avocado bathroom) and the journey much less arduous. The only issue is that the sea isn’t the same temperature as a warm bath.

At 7am on the second morning of our holiday in Cornwall my seven-year-old son managed to break an ornament in the sitting room. He said it broke by itself while he was facing the other way – presumably he had just kicked his football in the ornament’s direction. A rather frantic internet search ensued. Yes, they still made the running hare, at a cost of £58. Though not exactly cheap, my mother and I were relieved to hear that it could be bought and that it wasn’t a priceless family heirloom which would have cost us the same amount as a Caribbean getaway. Our son also contracted another wretched gastro bug from a Cornish playground. The difference? We were able to drive home and go to the pediatric unit at our local hospital and get him sorted. There are at least some benefits to holidaying at home.

A close friend of mine with two children under the age of two recently went to the Caribbean en masse. She commented on her return that the holiday had been a change of scene, rather than a holiday. I think she described it as relocation, not a vacation. I wholeheartedly agree. So if you have under fives you may wish to take my advice and wait. Save your cash for a holiday that you can enjoy in the future. That way everyone can wipe their own derrieres, watch a film from start to finish on an aeroplane and go to kids club happily.

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