Tag Archives: Halfterm

Why comfort-loving city slickers are hopping on their bikes and heading to Center Parcs…

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Not too shabby!

Center Parcs is the perfect place for middle-class urbanites to go off road and embrace the great outdoors from the comfort of their state of the art, WiFi enabled log cabins. What’s not to love!

It’s our second visit to Woburn Forest since it first opened last Easter and we’ve even ended up booking the same cabin, much to my children’s delight. Having learnt firsthand how important bikes are for getting around the site, we’d invested in some hardcore bike racks for the trip. And by defying the laws of physics, we managed to strap five bikes and a roof box to our trusty Citroen C4 before braving the M25 to get here. I could tell Dave was nervous as he gingerly manoeuvred our beast of a vehicle into the slow lane of the motorway. The boys waited with baited breath, craning their necks to watch out of the window in case disaster struck. Admittedly something small and plastic did detach itself from our heavy load somewhere in Hertfordshire but after a quick inspection on the hard shoulder, it was deemed “unimportant” and we completed the rest of our Center Parcs pilgrimage without incident.

The convenience of advance online check-in means that you can drive onsite and straight to the door of your luxury lodge with the minimal amount of fuss. Once inside, those lovely CP peeps really have thought of everything. Flat screen TVs embedded into walls adorned with woodland murals come as standard. The quality of the accommodation is certainly ‘not too shabby’ and a world away from the Haven hellholes we’ve trudged to in the past. The clue is in the price tag, for sure! But care and cleanliness are evident any which way you look. The no-cars-on-site rule means that you can relax as the kids career about on their bikes and scooters. And the sense of detachment and escapism from the real world is indulgently addictive in the bubble that is Center Parcs World.

A holiday here is not without its challenges though. I’ve learnt that wearing make up at Center Parcs is pointless. We’re in and out of the pool so frequently that no sooner have I applied my mascara, I’m wiping it off again in preparation for another chlorine overload. Repeatedly riding the rapids with a bunch of over-excited thrill seekers means that you will invariably end up bum-bumping a hairy middle-aged man as you coast uncontrollably through the current. You also need to be prepared to suffer finger nail scratching and incessant elbowing when your 8 and 6 year olds realise they can only dunk and breathe, dunk and breathe for so long before needing to claw onto a parent for self-preservation purposes. Add hair straighteners, shoes with heals, jewellery and handbags to the list of ‘things that are surplus to requirement at Center Parcs’. I’ve been hopping on and off a bike and in and out of the pool ever since we got here. As a result, only a rucksack and trainers will do and I’ve been rocking the ‘post-swim, air-dried frizz do’ around the clock. And did I mention saddle soreness?! I’m really not used to pedalling to the supermarket to buy milk but that’s what you do here. Lots of little journeys can feel doable during the daytime but my inner thighs beg to differ after dinner. Waddling John Wayne-style becomes mandatory.

Don’t get me wrong though, I feel lucky to be here. The absolute delight on the faces of my children as the screeching monkey alarm alerts them to the fact that the wave machine is about to start is priceless! And the opportunity to watch them scale climbing walls and high ropes is brilliant, compared to our normal weekends on the monkey bars in the local park. Even going on an organised bear hunt with my 3 year old turned into an adventure of sorts; an expedition to Starbucks in search of Rupert struck me as both hilarious and embarrassingly bourgeoisie! In a place where the standard bar snacks menu includes hummus with crudités and you could easily pinch the communal hair-dryers as they’re not bolted to the wall (we didn’t!), I do feel a little spoilt. But as I hope our bank manager and my inner thighs will agree, you get what you pay for in this uber eco, gloriously green, pedal-pushing paradise. And we think it’s worth every penny.

 

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#100happydays – day 19

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It’s the first day of half term and it’s raining. But my brood surprised and delighted me with their collective enthusiasm for a dog walk in the woods. And as only a handful of other fools were out and about, we had free rein of the forest and plenty of time to make silly videos…All their own work, I was just giggling behind the camera. I found the emergency dash to the public toilets with Niamh, the uphill walk back to the car when Leo fell flat on his face and the muddy welly footprints all over my driver’s seat less amusing but a recovery cuppa back home went some way to restoring my happy mood.

My Half Term Headache

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Phew! My half term headache is beginning to abate, leaving only a nagging sense of guilt and defeat behind.

The week started well. The big ones were booked on to a two day multi-sports course that they were particularly keen to attend as the promotional leaflet promised each participating child a trophy. With the three year old indulging in messy play aplenty at nursery, I enjoyed a gentle start to the week with just a small baby and a backlog of TOWIE to keep me busy.

Wednesday morning heralded the start of an over-hyped Halloween, and in a bid to achieve top mummy marks I had four pumpkins ready to be carved and loot bags ready to decorate. Suffice to say, I was feeling smug. By lunchtime however, my nerves were frazzled. It turns out that you really can’t give a 5 year old his own knife and a license to be creative! So it was down to me to cut out each of my children’s intricate designs whilst they watched, instructed and generally grew bored from the safety of the sidelines. Their interest waned further when the smell of pumpkin was deemed “too stinky”. So by early-afternoon I was picking pumpkin seeds out of my hair, jigging a baby on my knee and attempting reconstructive facial surgery on a pumpkin with eyebrows that had merged and a nose that was severly sagging. Meanwhile the boys practised Kung fu and emptied the toy chest. Fun!

My ingenious spooky supper of worms with eyeballs (spaghetti with meatballs) got a lukewarm reception (“I-(sob)-don’t-(sob)-like-(sob)-eyeballs! I only-(sob)-want the-(sob)-meatball ones”) and frustratingly, Leo’s pre-bought Halloween themed costume was unceremoniously rejected in favour of the faded spiderman suit we’ve had for years. But thems the breaks when you’re dealing with a 3 year old artiste. If only I’d put as much thought into the logistics of trick or treating with an over-excited witch, a self-conscious Harry Potter, a disgruntled 6 month old and spiderman on a sugar rush….sigh!

By Thursday morning I was ready for a holiday…some place far, far away. But there was house work to do, a Tesco delivery to wait in for and (apparently) a lot more mess to make and arguments to have. By lunchtime, the house looked like we’d been burgled, the afternoon’s cinema trip had been revoked and my oven was minus its door owing to my meltdown moment. I appreciate how socially, ethically and morally incorrect it is to clobber one’s own children so my Beko took the brunt of my temper tantrum instead.

Maybe an injection of culture would help tame my unruly brood and stem their boredom-born bickering, I thought. But then I remembered the last time we braved a simple trip to the library; they spent 20 minutes arguing over which DS game to borrow despite my protests that we were there for the books. In fact, the very concept of a library is lost on the little ones who constantly ask “Can we buy this one?” and rarely make it past the DVD section.

We don’t fare much better at museums either, where the main attractions are the over-sized cookies in the cafe or the over-priced crap in the gift shop. And on those rare occasions when they are interested in the exhibits, it’s usually to use them as make shift climbing frames.

Realistically there are very few places where it is convenient, affordable and acceptable to take four children during the school holidays. I’m too outnumbered to take them swimming, too sane to take them to soft play and too terrified to take them into London. We do however usually frequent each of Enfield’s parks on a rotational basis. My personal favourite is the Town Park where I can buy a cup of tea to thaw my fingers as the boys run the wrong way up the slide and spin themselves senseless on the roundabout.

By Friday I’d caved and plonked them all in front of the telly; their bags of Halloween sweets gave me an excellent bargaining tool to negotiate good behaviour.

Should half term really be this hard? What are all the other mums doing with their kids to while the week away? (I’m still not on Facebook so I have no idea!) And should I really be counting down the days until school starts again when I could instead make effort to be patient, calm and carefree in the face of chaos and enjoy my time with the children?

With just seven short weeks until the Christmas holidays, I’ve decided I’m in training for my next ‘mummy marathon’. It’s all in the preparation… organised activities, pre-arranged playdates and a good stash of sedatives (for me that is, not them of course…ho ho ho!)

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