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a new kind of mini-break

April 22, 2016


























Write. Before you drive away and forget it all — the goats with their alien eyes and wizard-like beards, the three shy sheep and two blind pigs, the hens, the ducks in the pond, the rooster named John, which you assume was named after John Wayne for the way he walks legs wide apart, a broad swaggering gait, to stop his spurs from cutting into his shanks.

Write while the sun is still shining, while your croissant with the homemade jam is toasting on the wood stove, while your campfire coffee is still hot, while Wren is busy crawling in the tall grasses.

Write before you romanticise it all. While the idea of goats roaming around your shepherd’s hut is romantic, the reality isn’t so nice when you are desperately trying to get your baby to sleep and it’s nearly 9pm and they are scratching their horns on the underside of the hut and the dog is barking at the sunset and all you want to do is sip your cider under the stars — all I want is to drink a bottle of cider by the fire and eat a freaking sausage off a fork, is that too much to ask? — because you refuse to believe that you can’t simply do things the way you used to before you had a baby.

Write, quickly, while you have a few minutes to spare because time is fleeting.

You foolishly thought you would have so much time — to finish that Virginia Woolf book and write a couple of blog posts and organise all your photos and shoot an entire roll of film and make a few videos for Instagram. Oh! How idealistic. In your magical musings of life in a shepherd’s hut, you hadn’t factored in the child, who clearly had her own agenda. Those two hours at night when you had planned to do all those lovely things? Vanished. Quickly eaten up by a hyperactive and over-tired kid who refused to go to sleep. And when she finally did fall asleep, you followed suit, exhausted from having all three been tucked into a twin bed the previous night, top and tail “sleeping”, plugging any air gaps with the duvet because the fire died down around midnight and the wind kept blowing through the cracks in the window sills.

You both used to love that shit. You still do. At least, you still desperately want to. But your bones aren’t those of a 20-year-old anymore and your hips need a bit more cushioning than they used to and all those small comforts are compromised when you have a little break dancer kicking your face in the night.

You can see, in that moment, how easy it would be to just stay at home all the time rather than packing what feels like the entire contents of your house into one car for a mini-break, which, by the way, is a misnomer when you have kids.

No, you certainly don’t do it because it’s easy or relaxing. You do it for something else now. You do it because if you don’t, you risk becoming lazy. You do it to share new experiences with her. You do it to watch her pet the goat in this weird state of fear and fascination, a quick yank of the ear that surprises both her and the poor goat. You do it so that she will, hopefully, grow up to appreciate nature and be adventurous too. You lead by example. You do it precisely because you are forty, dammit. And because you don’t want to be an old parent (on the inside, at least). And because if you are curious and open enough, she can be your doorway to wonder.

You do it even though there are no guarantees. No matter your best efforts she may still end up wearing the princess dress, begging for a Barbie, frightened of bugs, completely uninterested in mountains and rivers or anything to do with the out-of-doors. But you do it anyways because you believe that if you sow the seeds and fertilize them enough, she’ll make her way back there someday, even if only as an adult with fond memories and a willingness to do the same for her own children. You do it because if you wrap her in a fleece blanket and head into the sunset, the pink, the orange and the purple will swirl and dance around in her head and when she is older, watching the sun go down, wherever she is in the world, she’ll get a warm feeling inside and she won’t be able to pinpoint what it is but it will be love. And you keep doing this. You keep leading the way until she’s ready to forge her own path.

And the same goes for you. You’ll learn to pack less and MacGyver more — nothing like your period starting unexpectedly on a long walk in the middle of nowhere to transform a nappy into an emergency pad. You’ll learn that you can’t be rigid on holiday, you have to show a modicum of flexibility. And it’s not the end of the world if she eats cheese toasties made with cheap white bread or if she goes to bed hours after her bedtime. Sometimes you need to relinquish control. It gets easier each time you set off on a new adventure and harder the less you do it, like most things in life.

And in the end, it’s worth it just to catch a glimpse of the look on her face when she sees all the animals from her bedtime stories come to life. She now has a whole new set of experiences under her belt: she watched her dad build a fire, ate dinner with a massive pig grunting at her feet, heard ocean waves for the very first time, felt the salty air on her skin, tasted citrusy sorrel hearts, sat in a patch of bluebells, saw tadpoles swimming in a puddle, devoured her first pudding — Apple Charlotte — patted a dog named Red, heard cows moo, walked Cheddar Gorge. All those things in life that we take for granted are things that turn her eyes to the size of two-pound coins, inciting squeals of delight. Everything is SO AMAZING when you are nine months old.

We are heading home today a bit more tired than when we first arrived. But it’s the good kind of tired. It’s the kind of tired that comes from full days spent outside, camping, slow living — long walks, drowsy mornings, cold cheeks, warm hearts, little sleep, lots of tea. The smell of campfire still clings to our sweaters and our heads are filled with just enough romantic notions to plan the next mini-break.


15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2016 2:18 pm

    O! Jeanine, this is AMAZING, too. What beautiful writing to accompany those memories and photos.

  2. saspetherick permalink
    April 23, 2016 5:44 pm

    You do it because if you wrap her in a fleece blanket and head into the sunset, the pink, the orange and the purple will swirl and dance around in her head and when she is older, watching the sun go down, wherever she is in the world, she’ll get a warm feeling inside and she won’t be able to pinpoint what it is but it will be love.

    Jesus. I have something in my eye and its totally making my face leak.

  3. elizabethlehman permalink
    April 23, 2016 10:08 pm

    so beautifully written and all so wonderfully true. you do it because you can’t not do it… and sometimes it’s wonderful and beautiful and sometimes it stinks. just like life. i have all these feelings every time we camp with our kids.

  4. Karin permalink
    April 24, 2016 4:34 am

    I am gobsmacked. Isn’t that what the Brits say? Speechless, is what I am. This is so unbelievably wonderful. I want to say a whole bunch of words, but I can’t seem to find any, other than to say that your mom must be so proud. I’m so glad there are people like you in the world.

  5. Naomi Woddis permalink
    April 24, 2016 11:31 am

    Your writing is an absolute gem ! I’m a fan from this moment on xx

  6. Naomi Woddis permalink
    April 24, 2016 11:32 am

    Incredible amazing brilliant !

  7. April 25, 2016 3:43 am

    write. yes, write. through all of it, through the beautiful parts, the ugly parts, as much as you can, whenever you can. love this, friend. love this so much. xo

  8. Pen permalink
    April 25, 2016 5:03 pm

    The way you capture words and weave them into the most beautiful stories never fails to inspire me. It made me laugh and my made my heart swell for Wren and the amazing World she is gets to experience because of you xx

  9. April 26, 2016 3:28 am

    I agree with all those above. You . Are. Amazing. And…….crazy……in a good way! 🙂 Wren is so lucky to have you as her mama. And, I, too know what it feels like to get done with a vacation more tired than when the vacation began. Lovely photos, and absolutely beautiful words. xoxoxo

  10. Alison permalink
    April 26, 2016 12:11 pm

    I’m still trying to think of what to comment. I love all of this from top to tail. This is a beautiful gift that you two have given Wren and in return she has allowed you to see it all anew through her big beautiful blue eyes. And yes so much more difficult with a child than as a carefree couple but what an endurance test. And you passed.. Parents always wonder if they can still lead an adventurous life with a little one and I think that question has been happily answered by you two. Yes. And that sunset with Wren and the hope that it will remain in her memory. Your words are exquisite. I’ve read that paragraph over and over and it so enchants me. What you are instilling in Wren at this early age is something that will help to make her a lover of nature, and family and life. I admire you both for sharing this “mini vacation” with your daughter. As I’ve said before, she chose well.

  11. April 26, 2016 3:04 pm

    Oh Jeanine… this is exactly why I love you to write… these stories are beautiful… so true and emotional my eyes well up and such wonderful memories. I agree with Sas that quote about the sunset – pass me the tissues. Thank you for these weekly nuggets of goodness. xx

  12. swisssirja permalink
    May 2, 2016 7:48 pm

    One of your readers wrote a comment somewhere saying she wanted to curl up in your writing 🙂 that’s EXACTLY it! Your writing is amazing!

  13. May 3, 2016 9:10 pm

    “You do it because if you don’t, you risk becoming lazy.” loved this sentence. 🙂

  14. May 6, 2016 1:16 pm

    oh. i love love love this. i am so happy to have found your blog! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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