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A week at the Beach


I’m just back from a holiday, which turned out to be incredibly fortunately timed to coincide with the UK’s recent heatwave. After losing count of the weeks spent at home just the three of us, I decided we had to get out of our home town for a bit. When the lockdown began to ease I booked a spontaneous staycation in Broadstairs, Kent, just two hours away from us, but with some key things we don’t have here: a sandy beach, a quaint little seaside town, Italian-grade ice cream and the sound of seagulls. It turned out to be one of my better knee-jerk decisions.

I feel very lucky that what was meant to be a simple break and change of scene turned out to be a truly amazing week of beautiful weather, playtime, swimming, fresh air, yummy food (with minimal cooking for me) and real rest and relaxation for all three of us. The kids are tired, tanned, and full of memories of carefree beach playtime and late nights watching movies and playing Nintendo until they passed out – no tortuous bedtime routine when we’re away. I’m also mildly astonished that I actually feel pretty great too. As other single parents – well, actually all parents – will know, there is an element of ‘same stuff, different location’ to holidays with young kids.

I’ll be honest, it was a bit of a milestone for me because this is the first time I’ve taken them away completely on my own (we’ve been away with friends and family groups, but never just the three of us) and I did wonder how it would go: would my patience last all week? Would I be able to manage all our bags, not just on the journeys to and from the flat but all the trips to the beach with the picnics and paraphernalia for all three of us? But the endless lockdown pushed me to make a decision that I was probably a bit afraid to, and I’m so glad I took that leap. I know I’m not exactly breaking any new ground with my little beach holiday but I’m documenting it here because it’s definitely on the ‘list’ of experiences I wanted to do, and thanks to Corona have actually ticked off sooner than I thought I would.

The gratitude I feel right now for our lovely trip also makes me reflect on how incredibly lucky I am in general. If it feels like a big deal for me to have completed a single-parent holiday, I’m also aware that that’s because I’m privileged enough not to have faced one of life’s worst challenges. Local social media sites have been alive with discussion of the fact that a hotel in our town is currently housing asylum seekers who were displaced by the lockdown measures during the pandemic. Knowing they’re so close makes me wonder what they went through to get here and why. We’re less than half a mile apart but divided by strokes of luck, circumstance, accidents of birth. If I’m congratulating myself on taking two kids to the beach for a week, how would I cope faced with war, persecution or political upheaval that meant I HAD to leave my home? How would I handle a journey without my car, the kids’ favourite toys, nappies, food, enough water? If I found lockdown hard in a house with a garden and a trampoline, how long would my sanity last living in one room in a hotel without an end-date in sight? The Choose Love charity is one I try to support regularly and I’ve made a donation today in solidarity with those unknown families sleeping so close to me right now and whose destiny is in someone else’s hands.

It feels hopeless to wish for a better future for them but I wish it anyway. And I’m going to try to manifest the renewed hope and energy I have from my British seaside holiday into the various voluntary work I do to help those who aren’t so lucky. Next up is a project I can’t write about in order to protect those involved but it’s always possible to shop well and donate to fab charities. So this tee is in my post-holiday laundry mountain. And my pride at having achieved a single-parent milestone is tempered by the knowledge of how blessed I am in comparison with those for whom travel is not a refreshing change of scene but a desperate search for sanctuary.

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