We 'summer' in Carnforth. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration. Every year we meet up as a family and have two lakeside chalets in the south lakes... it is lush. It has become more stressful as the kids have come along and it takes hours to pack but well worth it especially with Steve down in London and Becky in Dundee.
This year Sally has been unwell and wasn't fit to travel but Steve and the kids took one chalet, Mum and Dad were in a caravan just down the road, the Chambers's were in the other chalet and Becky came and crashed on the sofa.
We also smuggled the dog, badly I might add. The Pinelake resort is a few hundred cabins surrounding one central lake. We arrived in the car and waited for the coast to be clear, with no sign of any golf buggies carrying employees about, we shoved her in through the french doors. Unfortunately, Moomin ran out through the kitchen door barking and chasing the swans that started honking. She proceeded to launch herself into the lake opposite reception still yelling. All I could do was stand on the shore dying of embarrassment, calling her name through gritted teeth and loudly mentioning that it was time to go home with 'her owners'. Bitch. We waited to get removed from the site but nothing happened and she behaved like the little peach that she is for the rest of the holiday.
After the 'swangate' dust had settled, we settled down for a beer in the sunshine in our perfect little corner.
Our first day began with a walk along the canal. We took a fishing net and specimen jar with us (optimistically). It was a lovely easy walk, Moomin got to stretch her legs and the kids got to have a nosy at the narrow boats. Aimee played a blinder by saying 'why do they live on boats, is it because they are poor?' right next to the open hatch of an occupied boat... I babbled something about them just being very lucky, loudly and ushered her on.
We didn't see any fish but decided to grab some canal water to examine anyway. We discovered that the fancy magnifying lid didn't screw on properly when Cameron picked it up and it hit the deck covering him in green water to the whoops of our merry band.
Whatever the day's activities and whatever evening meal we scratch together it always ends up with a few bottles of vino on the verandah overlooking the lake.
We bummed around the site for the next day because we were awaiting Becky's arrival. We checked out the crazy golf on the site which was set out as a jumble of letters, we stood there for a frustrating five minutes trying to work out what the letters spelled out. I suggested writing them down and we go back to the chalet and doing a countdown kind of challenge. Craig was shaking his head in the background muttering 'it says pine lake' for five minutes before I twigged.
We also did a mushroom hunt. We have seen massive puffballs on the site in the past so we set out with Craig's beloved mini mushroom book. All we found were these shiny little suckers, don't think we agreed on what they were though.
We had a great plot this year with a nice patch of grass next to the lake which caught the sun into the evening. Craig had bought a tent for the kids to play in which we pitched on the grass. Freya stood in it and said "I am so happy" and Edie loved crawling under the side. Becky got some great photos of Edie emerging.
Our Becky arrived in a cloud of lovely perfume and swish of fantastic clothes, looking fabulous after a few months of her personal trainer Kevin thrashing her in the gym.
The promise of one sunny day had us packing a picnic and heading down to the beach. It is not the Seychelles but it is amazing how much fun you can have with children on a beach. Craig managed to get the kids excited about building sandacastles, I think Cameron was a bit sceptical at first but soon found his 'inner child' again. We cracked out the picnic basket and it all felt spiffingly british. Freya even had a paddle in the sea.
We suddenly noticed the alarming rate that the water was advancing up the beach. Coming from the east coast Craig has always banged on about the sea coming in 'faster than a man can run', I have always teased him about this especially when he has stood on Southport beach demanding that I get out with no evidence of apparent danger. However, you couldn't turn your back on it to pack your bag without it sneaking up another few inches. I hurried to take a picture of the sandcastle before the beach disappeared.
We grabbed our stuff and carried the kids up onto the safety of the grass before we put on their extra layers. I wish I had brought talc, I have seen it on a lot of blogs this summer, it dries all the wet sticky sand and you just brush it all off and you can put your shoes back on... genius. I have only learned this at the age of 34, you can tell I have always lived inland.
This year, we decided to do a photography challenge. I had seen this picture on pinterest and knowing how fabulous Becky and Craig's photos are, I thought it would encourage some happy snapping. Steve also used to have an interest in photography, going a bit further with developing pictures and using an SLR but doesn't travel with a camera these days. We did a lot of good photo taking but still never got round to the competition. At least we all learned what 'bokeh' is.
One of our days was spent in Kirby Lonsdale, a nearby market town. They have a great little cheese shop which has the greatest range of cheese, not cheap but fantastic nosh. We walked out of there a few pennies lighter but laden with goodies.
On our journey we passed the pet shop where a life sized stuffed dog modelling a life jacket spooked poor Mooms.
After a swift afternoon tea we headed to the park which was actually really good fun for adults and children alike. I thought Craig was going to pass out from peddling the kids merry-go-round. Steve impressed us all with pull ups demonstrated on the adventure playground. We managed to squash all the cousins together on the 'bird's nest' for photos. The photos and behaviour deteriorate throughout the shoot, so here's the best one.
One of the best things a bit these little towns is the crazily expensive but cute shops. I managed to bag some wonderful soap and a couple of beautiful cards. The soap was a real treat to use everyday.
We had forgotten our fishing net but managed to grab one in Kirby Lonsdale and nanny had bought Cameron the wonderful 'viewing jar' (When I was young we had to make do with an ice cream tub), so a bit of fishing was in order.
I was wonderfully surprised when Steve actually caught a fish after ten heroic minutes searching. The kids were unimpressed with 'fishy' but I thought it was cool. I think he survived less than a day and we gave him a 'burial at lake' swiftly, while the kids weren't looking.
A surprise guest came in the form of cousin Martin. He had had a fight with his partner Lisa and jumped in his van and drove up from Newark. More food and wine lead to a very pleasant evening sharing music on various phones and ipods and Becky's little portable speaker. Another late night.
This year we discovered the children's club, Aimee was such a great little dancer and Cameron got friendly with a bunch of lads and had girls fawning over him. It was funny to hear Aimee teasing him about having a 'girlfriend'. Despite the over-enthusiastic and creepy children's entertainer, It seemed like great fun for the kids and nanny and Steve got to have a couple of lagers while chaperoning them.
Sadly, it came the day when Becky had to go home. Craig took her to the station with Freya while I stayed with the sleeping Edie. Freya seemed happy train spotting until aunty Becky's train arrived at which point a look of panic spread across her tiny face, with wide eyes she said "please aunty Becky don't go". Parting is usually a miserable event but Freya excelled herself in making aunty Becky cry all the way home to Scotland.
Steve and the kids left a day early, think the kids were missing mum and they were fast running out of clothes- shame they missed the last disco though. Steve managed to cheer Freya up by promising her a ride in his convertible next time he came to visit.
The Chamberses decided to take a trip out to Aysgarth Falls to walk the dog and managed to persuade Martin to join us. It is a beautiful place, I have only seen it when it is roaring but it was actually used in Robin Hood prince of thieves for the scene where Robin fights little John in the ford.
We had a picnic then took a small walk round before we said our goodbyes to Martin.
I am always horrendously sad when everyone leaves. I had a little cry, a cuddle from Craig and went to dip my feet in the lake, enjoy a beer and read my new vintage copy of 'The Wind in the Willows' (my favourite children's book bought from the most amazing second hand book shop in Morecombe).
Then we sat down on the grass to enjoy some pasta and beer in the fading sunshine before starting the mammoth packing session.
Ah... back to reality.