|Lotta rolling in delight|
Time away from home is always different. It moves more slowly and is full of new experiences which renew and restore us as individuals and as a family. We were lucky to spend this trip with our extended French family - grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins. For the children these kind of trips are magical. These are the halcyon days of childhood they will look back on throughout their lives with fondness and that sense of well being those of us lucky enough to have had a happy childhood carry everywhere with us. They made forts out of sticks, bows and arrows, paper hats and went in the swimming pool three times a day. There were horses and donkeys to befriend as well as getting reacquainted with the family. They were surrounded by happy, loving adults, ate well, played well and fell asleep exhausted as the sun set each day. Noah even fulfilled a lifelong dream to ride in a tractor thanks to the friendly neighbouring farmer.
|Baling the hay - Noah gets a longed for tractor ride|
|Maya loving up the donkey|
There is something about the carefreeness of childhood that most people consider sacred. We want our children to be free of worry, to live in the moment and enjoy these years because we know the burden of adulthood. We know what lies the other side of innocence in its most widest sense, the weight of carrying our problems on our own shoulders and also of the knowledge of all the bigger problems surrounding us. Of course children have their own concerns and problems, the business of growing up is a preoccupying and at times frighteningly difficult one. And few children live in a bubble outside of what's going on in the world around them. I did however take the choice during our trip not to share the news about Manchester and London with them. For me it cast a shadow over our holiday, over its lightness giving it a sense of other worldliness almost. I wanted my children to enjoy it unfettered. It doesn't mean I haven't talked to them about this now we're all back home, nor that in general I don't talk to them about current affairs.
|Noah using his bow|
|Louna and her arrows|
Sometimes I think that in this world of suffering and pain, of terrorist attacks and insecurity it is even more important to ensure our children have a childhood, are allowed this magical time of play and lightheartedness. Why? Because it is these moments, these memories that will sustain them through any darkness and suffering they face. You know that memory, the one you can close your eyes and think of when times are very hard, when sad things happen, when the world seems such a terrible place? For me it's running through an arc of water, my friend Paul's hand in mine laughing and laughing and squealing with delight as my sister sprayed us with the hosepipe. Or the feeling of being snuggled into the belly of my Grandad's border collie Nellie her scratchy tongue licking my cheek. It's the memory of walking for hours round the garden of the house we now live in with my best friend Catherine talking and laughing about all the things we were going to do when we were very soon grown up.
These are the kinds of memories I'm interested in creating for my children as much as is humanly possible. Not just because I love them and I want them to have a happy childhood but because I also really believe, that a foundation of joy is the key to our most humane humanity. That it is from that full fountain we can give our best selves to the world, all our love and compassion, all our joy.