Tag Archives: half term

(Too) great expectations

20 Feb

the-view-from-dover-castleLast week was half term but this made little difference to my economic circumstances, so through a cunning (and winning) combination of kind friends, family, childcare and a 12-yr-old fired up to find her own entertainment, I managed to fit five days into four and take Friday off.

We would, I decided, have a proper day out, something which weekend commitments and work often put paid to.

I was really excited about it. I love hanging with my kids and in an ideal world – one where people funded me just to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do’, and one where school-years education was absorbed by osmosis rather than in-school attendance, that kind of ideal world – I would do it all the time. We had never been to Dover Castle and Friday, I decided, represented the moment all that would change.

However, lurking darkly in the back of my mind is the knowledge that the optimism generated from anticipation prior to a day’s adventure is rarely matched by the actual experience. Someone – usually more than one someone – is not in the right frame of mind to enjoy, and I am left trying to work out why actuality doesn’t always reach the heights of expectation. 

I think that word, ‘expectation’, turns out to be to blame. I want it to be great, not just Facebook-photo great, but actually in-real-life great. And because we’re all in the same boat, looking forward to being in the same place at the same time with no other demands, we all have the same aspirations.

No surprises, it’s impossible to match reality to these over-high expectations. It’s why in our household the impromptu (which I am absolutely rubbish at) tends to be the most successful, because no-one has anything to anticipate; but being impromptu when any attempt at it needs to be scheduled to the n-th degree, to fit in with everything else, contradicts the term and as a result doesn’t work.

Looking at it rationally, with sky-high expectations filed firmly under ‘give yourself a break’, it was a great day, when viewed upon a normal plane of greatness. We saw some fascinating exhibits – the Dover Castle War Tunnels and hospital are highly recommended – and spent the day together mostly out in the almost-sunshine without interruption. Yes, L2 became hangry on the way home, and had a ‘moment’; yes, L1 was overtired and started the very early morning off with a little bit of weeping, but why should it be those incidents that I allow to loom large in my memory when the rest of the day was what long-term memories are made of?

A perfect day is one in which we are together, and one where we can be honest and genuine with each other, without any grudges or long-term repercussions; we take the rough with the smooth because there’s no need to paper over the cracks with family.

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A Stateside All Hallows Eve

1 Nov

We are currently in San Francisco,  prevailing upon the hospitality of great friends for a truly unique half term break. One of the reasons the kids – the Ls, and my gorgeous god daughters – were so excited we were coming this week was the presence of Halloween slap bang in the middle of our break.  We were clearly instructed to get costumes so spent a fruitful visit in Wilkinsons selecting those most appropriate to our idioms. By my interpretation, this meant for adults as well as kids, so costumes and wigs were duly purchased.

I have never experienced such an itchy hairline, but one must suffer both for your art and the humiliation of your children, so the wig was tolerated in all its glory.

Halloween itself dawned appropriately grey and murky. You could almost envisage the dead roaming the streets of Morgan, an impression reinforced by the amount of effort people had gone to bed to spookify their houses. Half-buried skeletons fought their way from garden graves, howling echoed through the night air, ghouls were pinned to trees, and bowls in porches were overflowing with candy goodies. So generous were people, in fact, that I don’t fancy our chances of getting that amount of goodies through Heathrow Customs, at least, this is the message I am attempting to communicate, to give me an excuse to snaffle a few Reeces Cups (crack cocaine for the peanut butter addict).

It wasn’t the generosity of the sweets that made it such a great night, however. It was the community spirit demonstrated. The spookiness was just enough to make little ghouls feels a frisson of fear, while the safe environment and parents out in force enabled slightly older monsters to roam freely without fear, which is ironic, but good.

With Halloween becoming more prevalent in the UK and also in our village, where for the last couple of years it has engendered a similar sense of community event, it is worth thinking about some of the codes of best practice they have over to make it fun not irritating,  ensuring that those with no interest in participating don’t get dragged in. That’s got to be key. It seems to work here via a lights on or off rule; sounds sensible to me.

But now we have an entire Ghiardellis of candy to ship back and the contents of some of my more, um, interesting cakes secured for months to come. That’s epic, as I now say (new Stateside word).