On Friday night as soon as we’d washed up the supper things we popped Kitty and Elma into their pyjamas, loaded all three children into the car, tucked the girls up in their duvets and pointed the car at Devon. That’s pretty much the directions for my childhood home by the way, first you point at Devon, then when you get to the middle of Devon you turn left and then you drive until you almost hit the sea and you’re there. Simple. Well perhaps only if you know where you’re going anyway.
Dad was waiting up for us and the girls flung themselves at him, no chance of their staying asleep to be tucked gently into their beds, no, they’d been waiting to go to Grandpa’s house for a whole week and they weren’t prepared to miss a moment of it if they could possibly help it. We snuggled down in front of the fire, Kitty curled up with her Auntie, already raiding the box of stories sat ready, Pip stared at the room and the friendly faces and tried to make sense of it all, and Elma was full of beans and possibly awake enough to carry on until morning.
We finally persuaded all of our small people to bed and the morning dawned bright, sunny, ferociously windy and just about perfect to start a whole weekend of celebrating Dad’s milestone birthday.
(the balloons were a complete surprise – as you can probably tell by the reaction – we smuggled them down (inflated) in the back of our car and Dad never noticed, even when he helped me unload it! Though in fairness it was very dark and very late in the evening!)
And where else do you start but the beach.
It was so lovely to be by the sea again; H and Kitty threw stones into the water to make a giant plop, and Elma started to make a very delicate mound of shingle on top of more shingle while the adults huddled together ostensibly to provide a windbreak so that the children could play.
Pip huddled down into the sling and was probably the warmest of us all, while the girls and the tiny nephew giggled as they were whirled around in the air.
And I just couldn’t resist trying out the panorama app on my phone; when you see it like that it really brings home just how very beautiful a part of the world it is.
But after a little while it was just too cold and we headed on to the best fish and chips in the whole world for lunch at the Start Bay Inn.
And in the afternoon we went to Dartmouth in search of a little shelter from the wind, only to find the squalls roaring down the valley and whipping up the sea in the harbour.
It’s such a beautiful little town, especially in the winter when you can see past the hoards of tourists and the paraphernalia that goes with them. We watched the lower ferry turn the barges in the shelter of the embankment wall before heading across the estuary, and tried to explain to Kitty and Elma that this was a real life version of the little lego cannon they have in their Duplo box at home – unsuccessfully – before heading inland to wander back past the art galleries, the supermarket, the fruit and veg shop that’s now a trinket shop, and the deli that’s now Fat Face, and on home to tea and the first of two birthday cakes and an afternoon and early evening spent lazing in front of the fire, (and embracing the knowledge that I’m not the only one who goes back and buys a really beloved item of baby clothing in the next few sizes up!)
And on Sunday, I appear to have suffered from a rare case of camnesia, or perhaps we were all just having too much fun to stop for pictures. We took the second birthday cake to church where our family, clearly beautifully at home and relaxed in a church environment, seemed to provide an additional soundtrack to the service, especially when Elma decided that she really needed to sing “Away in a Manger” right now. We had lunch at the same hotel where H and I had our wedding reception, sat in state in an otherwise empty dining room and truly able to relax and enjoy ourselves and not worry about disturbing anyone else’s special meal if one end of the table happens to be saying “Tasty! Tasty! Tasty!”, the other is packing the melon starter into the dimple in the high chair tray that should hold a cup, and the middle keeps disappearing to the bathroom, complete with running commentary. It was awesome.
It seemed like we blinked and suddenly it was time to head for home but I know that we all had a brilliant weekend; Kitty was sobbing all the way to Dartmouth that she didn’t want to go home, and the rest of us rather wished we could have stayed a little while longer.
When we asked Dad whether there was anything special that he wanted for his 70th he never really came up with anything you could wrap. And while we did manage to find a few bits and bobs to be unwrapped at the appropriate moment, I think we did manage to give him the one thing he really wanted:
Two daughters, two sons-in-law, and four gorgeous grandchildren, all singing Happy Birthday in person. I wrote in my last Me and Mine post that nothing makes me as happy as being the five of us together. And it’s not a feeling that I can ever imagine changing, and I suspect it will be part and parcel of the journey of motherhood to learn to let them go and be their own selves and their own families, however much I want to hold them all close and know that they are happy and safe. If I feel like that after only four and a bit years of motherhood then I can’t imagine that my father feels anything lesser after thirty-four years. We were never going to have been anywhere else to celebrate such a special birthday.