Growing up, me and my mum moved around quite a bit, but for the majority of my childhood we lived with my nan and grandad in a council flat in Islington, London. Our block was a three sided square with a concrete, sunk down football pitch and some small green spaces in the middle. It wasn’t pretty, but what I loved about it (and what I have not had in any other place I live) was the real sense of community.
Everyone knew everyone and lots of the residents (like my grandparents) had lived there for a really long time. We would have New Years Eve parties, hot nights would be spent chatting on balconies and it even seemed that most residents also had caravans at the same caravan park in Essex by the sea. It was those long summers spent at my Nan and Grandad’s caravan that moulded my childhood holiday memories.
Six weeks at a caravan site where you knew everyone and everyone knew you, was bliss. As kids we would come home only for meals, and the rest of the time we had the freedom you could only dream about in London! There are only good memories. And so, although we love going abroad and exploring new cultures, food and languages I also make a point of taking a caravan holiday at least once a year. Where you pack up the entirety of your house, squash in clothes for every possibility that the English weather could throw at you and traipse about an hour and a half away to embrace caravan life!
So, this summer, we went for it. Four children, four nights, one caravan and me…what could go wrong? In short, nothing.
My youngest knew the drill. He knew the week would consist of fish and chips, arcade games, sweets, beach days, movie nights and some questionable night time entertainment. And the week didn’t disappoint. For our new(ish) arrivals it was a revelation. I won’t leave out the fact the teenager moaned about getting up early and there were one or two strops due to tiredness but on the whole, it was a success – hard work, but a success.
What I have always loved about taking my children to a caravan park is that I get to watch them experience childhood things that I experienced (it would seem the formula for a successful caravan holiday doesn’t change over time). And that is what was great about this holiday. I gave these three children (who just over a year ago were complete strangers) an insight into my childhood, my background. It is something we now have in common. Something they share with us all as a family.
As the weeks, months and years go by we will continue to gain common ground, shared experiences which intertwine our lives with theirs, and my hope is that in some time to come, the moment they joined our family will become blurred and we won’t be starkly reminded of the period before they arrived, instead it will be something we know has happened but no longer defines us as a family.