Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The new New Year

Ah, the balmy days of summer. All that time, stretched out, to fill with laughter, lazy picnics, and days and days of idle dreaming.

What on God's green earth happened there? Did we actually have six weeks of it? Where did it go?

It's been a summer of juggling, of workdays and childcare days and 'you do Wednesday afternoon and I'll do Tuesday'-style arrangements. It's been the very first Craft-free Coffee House Summer.

No puppet theatres. No peaceful colouring. We've made no attempt at a scrapbook. There were still schedules to run and lunches to pack and, for a while there, I thought the summer feeling would never come.

In the end, all we needed was to put the tent in the car. Nowhere tropical. Yorkshire; Carlisle; a bit of Northumberland. We're big fans of our own back yard.

We went back in time, scrambling over the Roman fort and settlement at Vindolanda and examining all the exciting bits and pieces that archaeologists have unearthed there. It's fascinating, and well worth a visit. The Vindolanda Tablets mean they even have enough letters - good grief, one is from a woman, which is historically unheard of - to build up a picture of who lived there, who wrote to whom, and what concerned them most. (Socks and pants, mainly, where the concerns of Roman people. Which, as I'm sure you'll appreciate, is just the kind of detail that an eight-year-old wants to hear.)

We joined the Roman army. We had tattoos. (They washed off, don't worry. And for those of you who remember that Eldest's hair was dyed purple at the beginning of the summer: that didn't wash off. Despite what it said on the box. The solution, oddly, was Vitamin C and a shower cap. No. Really.)

About 10 years ago, Mr Coffee had a friend who lived in Carlisle. He was not a great advocate of the place. Once, he said, he and his brother had become very excited because the Asda had started to stay open for 24 hours.

It's a good job he didn't put us off. Though in truth, the Asda nearly broke us. It was like a supermarket from an anxiety dream.

Unlike the campsite, which was 10 minutes walk from this.

To round off the holiday, we met up with two sets of friends - people the children have started calling "Mummy's friends" rather than "Mummy's blogging friends". It's a small, but very happy, difference.

Just a little break - it's all that's needed to refocus; to help you reshuffle your parenting and your priorities and remember what's important. (I'll forget again, soon enough.) Gretchen Rubin writes that September is the new New Year. Do I get two goes at New Year? I'll take them.

Happy New Year, everybody.


  1. Wow I'd take the view over Asda any day. Beautiful and most excellent tattoos - getting quite envious of them.

    1. I think there were about a quid for five. Perhaps they do mail order?

  2. Happy New Year to you too.

    And no, we didn't get six weeks. I refuse to believe it.

  3. They washed off, you mean you didn't carve them off with a sharpened stone like Russell Crowe? You make me want to read The Eagle of the Ninth again.

    1. It's funny you should mention that - that book was everywhere in the Vindolanda giftshops, and I'd never seen it before. I managed to pick it up at Barter Books in Alnwick later in the holiday when I had taken some books to trade. I am very excited. Tell me, should I read it aloud to the kids when we have finished Over Sea, Under Stone, or should I keep it for myself?

    2. Oh both. The two that follow -The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers are excellent too. Rosemary Sutcliff is a wonderful writer. She wrote a couple about Arthur.

  4. Happy New Year...hope it's a good one for you...forget the resolutions, just have fun

    (Got engaged in Carlisle...but we told everyone it was Hadrian's Wall...bit more romantic than a Travel Lodge !)

    1. It's a fine place to become engaged. You didn't feel like driving the extra 10 or so miles to Gretna and just finishing the job off, then?

  5. The Roman Ruin looks like glorious fun. My kids would adore that adventure.

  6. An idyllic summer for a change? It has certainly been that here.

    I heard about Vindolanda some years ago via Radio 4, fascinating stuff.

    Happy new, new year to you all.

  7. I am wondering what else you tried before you happened upon Vitamin C and a shower cap! Glad you had such a lovely break.

  8. Summers are highly overrated. I was talking to my mother about this and she thinks we worry to much nowadays about kids getting bored... she's probably right. I do remember my childhood summer filled with boredom. Not in a sad way, it's just the way they were... but then again we had 3months off. That must have just about killed any parents.

    3 months. Scary.

  9. I am very happy about that difference.
    and you didn't just put a tent in the car, you put a liberty quilt in it too.

  10. September has always felt like the new year to me.
    We loved Carlisle. The Tullie House museum was great at getting the kids interested, so they didn't just drag us round as quickly as possible. That ASDA does home delivery to holiday properties in the middle of nowhere, so we didn't actually have to go in!

  11. Hello you :-) I had an odd summer last year - I think I blogged it I can't really remember. :gimmer:

    ( I've checked - I did and apparently it was you that inspired me to blog about it so there you go!) It's a whole year since I blogged.

    This year has been even odder - Em left for America, for 4 months. Never expected that to happen.


  12. A belated happy new year to you too! I think September is the perfect new start. We spent most of the summer camping as well - so much fun, I'm feeling a bit bereft that my weekend jollies are now over for the year.


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