The Canavan family has just returned from a week in Northumberland.
We were there seven days, it rained for six of them.
This led to a little tension as when deciding where to go for our summer holiday, Mrs Canavan had begged to head to the Algarve or Italy or Greece, ‘somewhere where we’re guaranteed to get good weather,’ she whined.
I told her it was unnecessary to spend all that money going abroad when we have such wonderful places on our doorstep on this fine isle of ours.
“And besides, we’re going in August, the weather will be absolutely fine,” I confidently stated.
Mrs Canavan wasn’t slow to remind me of this remark on day four when we were sat inside our small rented cottage, with the rain lashing against the window, halfway through our 53rd game of Monopoly of the day.
“Look,” I said to her sternly at one point, tiring of her complaints, “there are young children born into poverty and malnourishment in Africa who would give anything for a week’s holiday in Northumberland.”
‘Are you sure?’ she said.
I pondered this and had to admit I wasn’t sure. I mean I’ve never once heard a small African child in one of those Comic Relief clips request a week in Seahouses.
No matter, I’d made my point.
The most depressing moment of the trip – though there are many to choose from - came when we woke one morning to find the weather absolutely gorgeous (well, heavily overcast and chilly, but in comparison with the other days it was fantastic).
We hurriedly made a pile of cheese and ham sandwiches, wrapped them in tinfoil and bunged them in a plastic bag along with some Walkers crisps and half a dozen apples slightly past their best – we sure know how to holiday in our family – and raced up the coast to Bamburgh (site of a fantastic castle, a lovely beach, and a shop selling dinosaur-patterned umbrellas that your two-year-old will have a 40-minute tantrum about if you refuse to stop and buy her one).
It cost £1.50 to park by the beach so naturally I decided this was too much and decided to push on, while Mrs Canavan chunnered about my tightness (Her: ‘It’s £2.50 for goodness sake, it’s hardly going to break the bank’. Me: “That’s not the point, there’s plenty of space on the road and we shouldn’t have to pay to park.” Her: ‘Good god almighty, I hate living with you and I want a divorce.’)
About 100 yards later we came across a layby by the side of the road with no parking restrictions. I pulled in and triumphantly turned to Mrs Canavan with a smile which implied, ‘look, I was right - we can park here for free, aren’t you fortunate to be married to such a smart and cunning individual’, but she was midway through texting. I caught a glimpse of her phone and saw the words, ‘Dave, please save me from this hell-hole of a marriage…’ but then she turned away so I’m not sure what the rest said, but I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.
We got the two children out of the car (Mrs Canavan carrying the baby Wilf, me holding two-year-old Mary, who was repeatedly screaming the words ‘I want a dinosaur umbrella’) and around 17 bags containing blankets, windbreaks, buckets, spades, badminton rackets, towels, swimming trunks, inflatable lilo, and suntan cream (optimistic), and headed in the direction of the sea.
Unfortunately whereas the car park 100 yards back had been right next to the beach, the road must have turned inland after that because it turned out the short stroll to the beach I’d envisaged was a half-mile trek across steep, energy-sapping sand dunes. It took us 35 minutes to reach the beach, by which point both children were sobbing uncontrollably and Mrs Canavan and I were shattered, bedraggled and looking like competitors in the final stages of an Ironman Endurance event.
We threw everything on the sand and, after we’d got our breath back, began to lay the blankets out. Without a word of a lie, it was at this exact moment the heaven’s opened and a torrential storm last witnessed around the time of Noah began. Given what we’d gone through to get this far we stayed put, grim determined look on our faces, like environmental protestors who’ve chained themselves to a tree and are refusing to budge.
This stance lasted two minutes, at which point Mary, with rain thudding against her sodden head, said, ‘daddy, I’m cold, can we go?’
“No, don’t be daft, we’ve only just got here,” I replied with desperate fake jolliness. “Come on, let’s build a sandcastle.”
Now she may be two but she isn’t a fool. ‘No. I’m wet and I want to go,’ she replied, which even I had to concede was hard to argue against.
I looked at Wilf. He can’t talk yet but he was staring straight at me with exactly the same look that I imagine the captain of the Titanic gave the first mate moments after he said, ‘nah, that’s definitely not an iceberg ahead’.
Mrs Canavan and I packed up all the gear we’d just put down, picked up the children and, three minutes after arriving on the beach, started the long depressing trek back to the car.
Along the way we passed several people. Despite being soaked to the bone and miserable as hell, in classic British stiff-upper-lip style we all politely nodded at each other and cheerily said things like, ‘good job I wore shorts’ and ‘it’s bound to ease off soon’.
Just as, exhausted, we reached the car, the rain stopped as if by magic and the sun began to shine.
Too soaked, demoralised and tired to return to the beach, we got in the car and drove back to our house, where we had another game of Monopoly.
A truly splendid holiday.