“So what did you enjoy most about your trip to Northumberland?” I asked the boys as we set off on the long journey home after our short break away.
“For me it was either meeting the blogging ladies or Alnwick Castle” said Idle Jack.
“I liked either the Castle or the purple ladies” interrupted Quiet Mousie, my youngest. “Thank you for taking us mummy, it was the best day of my life,” an uncharacteristic gush from him.
“Yes, thanks mum, it was brill” agreed Idle Jack, “When can we go again?”
Not a bad turn around for a sulky, petulant teenager who, 72 hours earlier had been huffing and puffing in the car next to me,
“Why do we have to go all this way to meet a bunch of strangers...it’s weird!”
Unusually for the little one, he jumped on side with his brother, “What if they’re horrid and they ruin our holiday?”
“Look boys, I wouldn’t be going to Northumberland if it wasn’t for these strangers.” I had reassured them. “I have heard so many wonderful things about what a great place it is from @theMill's blog. And you know what mummy’s like-I get nervous about meeting strangers myself, so I wouldn’t make us all go somewhere if I thought it was going to be horrid.”
They were clearly going to take some persuading.
“And anyway, whatever happens you will be going to the Harry Potter Castle.”
Silence. Those two magic words. Harry Potter. Bright eyes, eager looks.
JK Rowling has hypnotised every child in the land. And I had exploited this obsession to full effect in order to convince them that Northumberland was the place for a short visit this six weeks holiday.
We set off at 6am to try and avoid Manchester and rush hour traffic. By 10am our stomachs were already leaping into our mouths over the fair ride dips of the old Military road which runs adjacent to Hadrians Wall. First stop enticed us into the Roman Army Museum and next I sat drinking flask coffee as the boys battled, purchased swords in hand as Barbarians V Romans in the grounds of Vindolanda.
We were fortunate to stay in a luxurious hotel in Hexham. However I wished throughout the trip that we had opted for a B&B or @the Mills Spitalford Cottage for the duration so we may have been closer to the bloggers and the main attractions of our stay.
It was a significant trip. No-one realised, least of all the boys the significance. Two years ago me and the boys went by ourselves to York, the Yorkshire Dales and East Coast. On that trip I could barely drive at times for tears stinging my eyes as I tortured myself listening to Dido and Whitney Houston. Me and their dad were separated at the time. I wasn’t prepared to see another six weeks holiday ruined for them, so I mustered the courage to take them away by myself and try and give them the best holiday I could. In fact it was a thoroughly miserable holiday without their daddy...we all three spent much of it crying and cut it short in the end. Although I don't know why really because at that time all we had to go back to was an empty house...
This holiday, Daddy couldn’t get any more time off work. Or maybe he didn’t relish the prospect of meeting the bloggers quite as much as me...But in any event I decided weeks ago that it was time to push the boundaries of my courage and drive by myself with the boys to this place I had always wanted to visit. I had an incentive this time, meeting a bunch of strangers and hubby safely at home. And so I ignored the flashbacks along the journey to that dark time two years ago. Workaholic Hubby texted and rang us along our journey, following the adventure.
The trip was worth it for me-it proved my strength of character with the confidence and sense of achievement it gave me. It gave me a ‘peace’ and a closure on certain things especially with the timings...a kind of ‘Orange Man’ Blog meets Diary of a Country Bumpkin Blog. Those who have followed my story will understand what I am talking about. It was something I wondered if I could ever manage a few months ago when I felt so ‘lost.’
It was worth it to see the delight on the boys faces when they saw the majestic Alnwick Castle and followed the Battleaxe to Broomsticks Tour and Dragons Quest. Idle Jack now wants to start Archery classes after a short archery session and several shots on ‘bulls eye’ in the grounds. Quiet Mousie was mesmerised by a magician called Brian.
It was worth it to see the stunning countryside-a cross between the spectacle of the the South Shropshire Hills where I live, and the more rugged, wild landscape of the North Yorkshire Dales I used to frequent. At times the countryside took our breath away and the clouds and showering weather only served to accentuate the landscape and the colours of the hills.
It was worth it to see the bright, beaming face and twinkling eyes of @the Mills daughter as she greeted us at the door of their beautiful home. I didn’t see my boys much that afternoon-they went off with the daughter and the dogs, bouncing on trampolines and playing in the beautiful gardens. Then when it rained they re-inacted scenes from Harry Potter while watching Harry Potter Videos with the wands we had purchased from the Castle Shop. Because of the rain we never did get to the most beautiful beach in the world. We talked about it a lot over the two days but it still remains an enigma which I will have to follow up on next years trip to the Northumberland Coast....
It was worth it to see Crystal Jigsaws panoramic views and corner of Northumberland where she gets her ‘inner peace.’ It was worth it for the kiss and hug I got from Amy, Crystals daughter. She is as boisterous and lively as their little puppy, Sparky, and her smile lights up the room. All afternoon she called me ‘lady’ in between hijacking my boys who I only saw when they wanted food.
It was worth it for the ‘strange’ experience I encountered when I went into one of Crystals bedrooms and my heart started palpating. There was definitely ‘something’ I felt there and so did the others.
It was worth to see @theMill again and meet Exmoor Jane who both came to join us at Crystals for the afternoon.
And it was worth it to be welcomed home to the barn by the Workaholic Hubby who was standing in the courtyard in the rain to greet us and unload the car as we fell out of it, drunk with fatigue, late on Friday evening.
What about the bloggers, I hear you all ask. Well, I always knew they were going to be warm and bright and funny and interesting. I always knew I would feel safe, comfortable and at ease in the company of Crystal, @the Mill and Exmoorjane. My only real surprise was seeing @the Mill is as attractive as she is! I had built an impression of someone wise and somehow pictured her with a purple rinse- I couldn’t have been more wrong!
What made me smile the most as I drove home from Crystals is how far I have come in the short time since meeting the Welsh/Shropshire PurpleCooers just a couple of months ago when I was nervous but excited. I must be almost blase at meeting the purple coo blogging brigade-this time I didn’t have any butterflies or trepidation...It was just as if I was looking forward to seeing old friends....I could have stayed a week and we would still have been pushed for time with so much to talk about and so much in common...
So, as my band of friends and Christmas Card list gets even bigger I think how lucky I am and the only thing I wonder is...
...where shall I visit next?...
Until another day
Bye for now
Notable Chicago: 4/20–4/26
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