The warmest Summer of hard work

Now, at the start of September with schools starting again, I am reflecting on the warmest Summer I can remember ever experiencing since I moved here from the Netherlands in 1992. How was your Summer? Mine was markedly different, and not just because of the gloriously long spell of warm days.

In the past number of years, we would escape the often disappointing non-Summer weather of the South of England by taking the kids abroad. Most often to go camping in the South of France. Our zeal to take the kids cycling gradually waned and the last year or 2 of our camping trips we only took our 2 bikes and fitted a daily ride around the rhythm of our little tribe. In other words: we'd ride before they'd wake up and by the time they did, we were back with fresh bread and cheese for a leisurely brunch under the trees.

Then 2 years ago we broke with tradition when the kids requested a non-camping holiday and expressed an interest to "go see the Highlands". We travelled to Edinburgh by car, spent some time there and then drove on to Skye, where we had rented the holiday pad of our dreams for a week. On the way back we swung by Glasgow. While on Skye, the weather was fierce. Plenty of rain and 2 days of veritable storms had us indoors more than we'd ever been during a holiday. With a wood-burning stove, a huge corner sofa and the best view on the island, we talked, lounged, played, ate and drank and properly relaxed together. Peter and I still got some of our early morning cycling fixes on the days the wind didn't discourage us. To date it is hands-down the kids' favourite holiday week ever.

Last year we opted to go to Split, Croatia for 10 days in pursuit of Summer weather. We found another great place to stay (thanks to AirBnB) and fell into our family-on-holiday-groove with ease. Our pre-breakfast bike rides were replaced with daily food-foraging at the outdoor fish- and vegetable market followed by coffee on a tucked-away terrace before heading back with fresh bread for our standard family brunch. We'd head out to a beach mid-afternoon when the hottest part of the day would be over and rented a big car for a couple of days to do some exploring further afield. It wasn't until the end of our stay that we learnt we'd been there for the 10 hottest Summer days Croatia had ever recorded. Our air-conditioned place, together with our daily rhythm had resulted in being indoors for the hottest hours of the day. Peter and I loved our time there. The kids were in favour of rather less soaring temperatures.

This Summer was going to be special. One Bachelor's degree and 2 sets of GCSE's meant that all 3 are starting new studies this Autumn. We wanted this Summer to feel memorable. When we consulted them this Spring, it took some time to tease out of them that they'd be happiest at home; as long as we promised them not to work through the Summer, so there would be plenty of time for all of us to spend together! That sounded great, so we happily complied and came up with the idea of swapping 5 days of work and 2 days of weekend, i.e. we'd work Tuesday/Wednesday and then have a 5 day stretch of days off, from Thursday to Monday. We could fit 4 of those extended weekends in the course of August and anticipated that it would feel as if we had the whole month of August off work! Hmmm, the reality felt rather different. Going "back to work", if only for 2 days a week, stops you from disconnecting completely during the 5 days "off". And unforeseen circumstances (a flash-flood that flooded the garage and utility room one Friday, and a sick child the following Thursday) completely derailed plans of 2 of our 4 "breaks" as well as created days of relentless cleaning, scrubbing, sorting out and re-arranging that we hadn't anticipated. Together with our plan to redecorate 2 of their 3 bedrooms and a room-swap for 2 of them before they all start new studies, a fair number of days off were filled with hard work (painting, building, making and moving) rather than R&R. The glorious weather that lasted into the first half of August definitely made up for some of it, but both Peter and I came away feeling that we didn't have a sense of holiday at all this year.... I haven't asked the kids yet what they made of it. Maybe I'm scared they give it a big thumbs up. Which on the one hand is great since of course I love the idea that they look back on a wonderful Summer, but on the other hand would be bad news as I don't want to repeat this formula again!

Today, Peter's on the other side of the world again for work, one son is at his first day of College, our Bachelor graduate is leaving for the start of her Master's Degree in Prague on Thursday and the third one starts College on Friday. And I'm interrupting my preparations for what will hopefully be my first session of podcast filming tomorrow with this sudden bout of reflective writing. Realising that the most pleasurable part of my Summer was the time I spent in July looking forward to how I imagined August to be; hitting our perfect family groove of active mornings followed by relaxed brunches and leisurely afternoons and evenings.

Having just written that last sentence I have finally figured out what it is that embodies the feeling of holiday for me - which is what was missing this year, probably in no small part due to the fact that we were at home. The next time we will all be together again with some time off will be at Christmas. I will be sure to remember this reflection and the insight it's given me so I can recreate at least a handful of days in holiday-groove. Until then, I have a podcast to launch and hopefully, a new website. Luckily, both of those tap directly into my most passionate drive to build my tiny business and introduce more people to the ideas that fuel it. And I never seem to run  out of energy to do that.


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