Harrogate, Bath of the north, is little but lovely. In all my years with visiting our family I’d never actually been for a wander round and so when we idly suggested places we might go on some hypothetical day away from the children it came pretty high on my list. A town with a shop just for buttons and a Betty’s Tearooms really shouldn’t be missed. And so as the idea of our actually taking that step and taking time away from our little trio to remember what it was like to be just the two of us started to become less hypothetical and more an actual reality that we might actually do, Harrogate kept cropping up. It was far enough from the family to feel as if we’d gone away, and near enough that if it all went horribly wrong we could be home in an hour or so.
And so we went. We travelled up to Yorkshire on Friday, saw the children loaded up into the car on Saturday morning to start their day of adventure, and then we packed up and we left, for a whole 24 hours, starting with a gentle potter around a very pretty northern town.
H jokes that Harrogate is posh Yorkshire, to the point that he claims I’d be better understood with my southern accent than he would, but to me it sounded exactly as if we’d walked onto the set of Downton Abbey, in the best possible way. It felt so strange to be wandering around without the children; to go into shops that we know would present a serious challenge to the family “look with your eyes not your fingers” rule without constantly being watching and turning and trying to keep three little ones in one field of vision at any one time. Strange and lovely.
We found Duttons for Buttons which is a treasure trove of every sort of button under the sun, and I could easily have said “six of everything” and come home a happy woman. We found The Remnant House which is the closest I have ever come to encountering a Tardis, full of roll upon roll of beautiful fabric and all the trimmings you’d need to go with them, and somewhere where I may perhaps have had a little falling down and swiped the bank card as I tumbled. Suffice to say that the girls are going to have some awesome skirts this summer.
And then of course to Betty’s. Not to the tearooms themselves, with a queue snaking out of the door and around the side, which must have rather obliterated the nice view of the park for anyone with a window seat, but to the shop section for an extraordinary amount of cake, parcelled up as the very best sort of picnic.
And so it was, that in the last sliver of sunshine before the dark clouds returned to pelt us with rain, we sat in the park in the Montpellier quarter, taking in the tree carvings that celebrated the Tour de France’s Grand Depart (it seemed very fitting to have found the Eiffel Tour given we went to Paris for our first work anniversary!), and eating my very first Fat Rascal. It will not be my last; fat rascals are a sort of rock bun come scone filled with spices and cherry and topped with three almonds and two cherries to make a face – utterly delicious.
We stayed just north of York, at Aldwark Manor, a hotel that has possibly the best customer service that I’ve ever encountered, they genuinely couldn’t have been lovelier, and the food in the restaurant was amazing (I highly recommend the Rhubarb Meringue pudding!). But the biggest treat was to have the time to talk, even about silly inconsequential things, and to relax. I think when you’re in the thick of parenting the early years it’s easy to fail to realise that you’re not giving yourself a break. I know I can get to the point where I just have to have some time to myself to recharge and yet I don’t realise it fully until H kicks me out of the house and tells me to go and have a couple of hours at a coffee shop to just be me, and it’s the same for him; I’ve thrown him out of the house with his golf clubs and told him to go to the driving range for a bit of space even while he’s still telling me he’s fine. We can see it in each other and we try our best to recognise it and look after each other but it always needs the other to pick up the full weight of daily life for a bit so to be both taking time at the same time was a very special treat, even if we did have to turn the radio on when we first checked into our hotel because we’re just not used to it being that quiet!
But what of back home. We didn’t make contact while we were away, thinking that FaceTime would probably just remind the children that we weren’t there, and might just upset everyone, and I’ll admit there was a good part of me that was just telling myself that the worst case scenario was that my in-laws would be driving Pip around during the night and they’d be tired but OK. As it turned out they had a wonderful Saturday, playing and exploring and shopping and when it came to bedtime (or somewhat past bedtime according to my eldest daughter) Grandma and Grandad loaded everyone up in the car and one, two, three they duly passed out and were gently tucked up in bed together. And as for that middle of the night wake up where Pip will wail at each and every person that is not his Mama? He slept through it and woke up fresh as a daisy to start the day at 5am.
And so for all my worries and concerns it turned out that he barely noticed I was gone. Kitty was the only one who had a half hour of needing some extra cuddles from her Auntie, but in some ways I expected that; she’s really the only one old enough to grasp the concept of Mama and Daddy being away and she was happy enough pretty soon after.
I am incredibly thankful to my inlaws for looking after them and giving us such a treat. My mother in law said that the gift was to them in sharing our children, and whilst I can well imagine that, seeing her sat on a kitchen chair with a girl leaning up against each side, and Pip bouncing on her knee, I also have a sneaky suspicion that they might have had an early night the day we left!
In short though it was a definite success, and in another 10 years we might even go away again!