Parental Leave: Week 6

Fmily Holiday SelfieOur week started with a bit of a panic, Jen left for work and the power steering failed on her car. Fortunately I had decided to drive the MR2 this week and had already moved the car seat over, so she was able to take the BMW. As my friend Richard pointed out on Facebook – there always seems to be something wrong with one of our cars! It must have just been dodgy Italian electrics, as the car was fine when I tested it later in the day. Owen and I enjoyed being back out in the MR2, he had been really sleepy during his breakfast, so I bundled him straight into the MR2 to drive to my Mum and Dad’s house. Being in the MR2 perked him up and I had lots of smiles and giggles from the passenger seat, until he eventually drifted off to sleep. We had a lovely time with my Mum and Dad, Owen seems to have learned some new skills too – waving and drinking from his cup without any help!

On Tuesday Owen had some more firsts – I needed to do some more DIY, so Jen’s Mum came to look after Owen. They went for a walk to the park, where Owen enjoyed the playground, incuding trying the slide for the first time, then they came home on the bus – Owen’s first bus trip! When he got back Owen seemed content watching me paint – finding it funny when I was up the ladder waving down at him.

This is sounding a lot like my parental leave is just handing Owen over to grandparents to be looked after, whilst I crack on with something else – which isn’t the case. I guess the routine stuff, like battling with him eat his breakfast, changing nappies and playing peekaboo just seem normal to me now, so tend not to mention them. It isn’t all bad, as Owen does love hanging out with both his Grandma and Nanny. He always has huge smiles for them when they walk in the door and I’m sure he’s on his best behaviour when they are in charge!

Wednesday was a Daddy and Owen day, we mostly hung out at home, our only trip out was to the supermarket, taking the long way home, as it was a nice day and we were in the MR2. I still find it funny how small the MR2 looks, parked next to all the SUVs and people carriers in the parent and child spaces. On Thursday we were out in the MR2 again, to go swimming – this week we even made it on time! Owen did a lot of splashing when we got into the pool, he splashed himself, the other babies and parents, the teacher, but mostly he splashed me. After his initial excitement, he didn’t seem to enjoy the lesson as much as usual. I think that he was tired, as he didn’t have a pre-swim nap – probably why we made it to the lesson on time. He went straight to sleep when we got home, allowing me to get some jobs done, then have an uninterupted lunch with Jen! In the afternoon Jen took Owen to buggy workout, leaving me free to get out on my bike. With all the veranda painting it felt like I hadn’t had a proper ride in ages, so it was good to be out again, even if I had to do some more painting when I got home.

Whilst I was painting Jen took a phonecall that would slightly change our plans for the rest of the week – our holiday rental in Croyde would be ready for us on the Friday, rather than the Saturday. Naturally we jumped at the opportunity to have an extra night in our favourite place. Friday morning was spent packing, whilst waiting for the health visitor to come for Owen’s twelve month development check – of course Owen fell asleep just before she arrived and had to be woken up to be measure and weighed. He apears to be doing fine though, he is above the 75th centile for weight and 90th centile for length, when corrected for being born 6 weeks early. We had a few final errands to run before we could hit the road – Owen even cooperated and fell asleep in the car for the exact amount of time it took me to remove the bike carriers.

We set off at 17:30, half an hour later than planned, mostly due to Owen being fussy about eating his dinner. Jen drove the first stint through the Friday rush hour traffic on the M42 to Glocester services, where we stopped for dinner/milk and a crawl round the play area. I took over for a long second stint all the way to Croyde, by this time the traffic had cleared and we made good progress. The downside to the late arrival was missing the view across Croyde Bay when driving round Down End Point, one of my favourite views anywhere in the world. We could just about tell that the tide was in, but couldn’t see much else. We found our chalet, complete with cot already set up for Owen, so all we had to do was transfer him from his car seat to the cot. It didn’t quite go to plan though, Owen woke up, and was keen to explore his new surroundings. He slept well when he drifted back off to sleep, and had a bit of a lie in.

The fun really started when he’d had his morning milk and realised that he had the full run of the chalet – heated laminate floors and no stairs must be perfect for crawling around, as Owen looked to be enjoying himself immensly. He then found the springy door stoppers, hours of noisy fun for a little boy! Due to getting to Croyde a day early, and our early morning wake up call, Jen decided to do Parkrun in Barnstaple. It was a lovely morning, so Owen and I expolored the park whilst Jen ran. The plan had been to stop off for breakfast in Braunton on the way home, but Owen fell asleep in the car on the way, so we carried on back to Croyde and went to Blue Groove instead. This was no hardship as it is one of our favourite places to eat anywhere  in the world. We spent the afternoon walking around Croyde and seeing what had changed since our last visit, then chilling at the chalet during nap time. We visited Squires fish and chip shop in Braunton, another of our favourite haunts, for dinner and Owen had his first taste of fish and chips. He didn’t quite get the concept, as he only seemed to want the chips.

Sunday started with another lie in (we now class 7:00 as a lie in), but as this was forecast to be the last sunny day of our trip we wanted to make the most of it. We started off with a walk to the National Trust tea room at Sandleigh, which after extensive testing Jen and I have declared to do the best cream tea Devon. Pete and Gill (Owen’s Nanny and Granddad) joined us for the walk, and we had a lovely morning. After Owen’s lunch we took him down to the beach – this was his first chance to play in the sand, as last time he was only a few months old! Rather than taking the pushchair to the beach we used the baby carrier, which hadn’t been used since last summer, when Owen was a lot smaller. He went on my back and seemed to enjoy the walk down to the beach. We set up a tent to shelter us all from the wind and sun. Owen was happy to stay in the tent to start with, so I took a stroll to the sea, and by the time I got back (it was long way due to it being low tide) he had ventured out and was fearlessly crawling over the sand. I built some sandcastles, but Owen was destroying them quicker than I could build them, maybe my Dad is correct in thinking that Owen wants to become a demolition engineer…

Owen seemed to enjoy the beach and did really well with not eating sand until just as we were packed up and about to leave, when he somehow ended up with a big face full of sand and cried most of the walk back – I’ve never had such a noisy rucksack! After desanding ourselves we all went for Sunday lunch at the Manor House Inn, followed by an ice cream from the little ice cream shop, introducing Owen to more of our Croyde traditions. After Owen had gone to sleep I went back out with my camera, planning to take a photo of the sunset, however it wasn’t to be, the sun dipped below the horizon, but there wasn’t even the faintest glow of orange in the sky. It was still good to get out with my camera, as I haven’t had much of a chance to do landscape photography recently.

We have got more of the same planned for next week, although the weather forecast doesn’t look as nice. Whatever we get up to it is nice to spend a decent amount of time together as a family and hopefully Owen will benefit from it.

Croyde Day 3: Cornwall

Day three started off with a pre-breakfast walk to the beach, the crowds (and waves) from the weekend had gone and the beach was really peaceful. A great start to the morning.

After a full English breakfast back at The Thatch, we set off to see Jen’s friend in Penryn, near Falmouth. Rather than going straight down the A30 dual carriageway, I decided to take a more scenic route, from Bideford to Tavistock on the A386, then the A390 to Truro. The drive to Penryn ended up taking three and a half hours, a bit longer than I had been expecting – Devon is next door to Cornwall, so it couldn’t be too far! The A386 started off twisty, with tree tunnels to give us a break from the sun, then as we got alongside Dartmoor the road opened out and we got done amazing views. Turning west onto the A390 took us into Cornwall, although none of the Cornish towns were signposted until we crossed the border. I’d only ever been to the Cornish coast, so was pleased to see that the middle of the county was really pretty, with great driving roads too.

After a long, but enjoyable drive, we got to Katy’s house in Penryn. Like our house, it is an ongoing renovation project, but with a much better view! We spent a lovely afternoon catching up, meeting Katy’s six month old son and seeing the sights of Penryn/Falmouth.

We decided to take a slightly more direct route back, straight up the A39, with a detour into Padstow for fish and chips. Rather than joining the queue for Rick Stein’s chip shop, we found a less glamorous place next to the harbour. The food probably wasn’t as good, but there wasn’t a queue and sitting next to a pretty harbour eating fish and chips was perfect.

From Padstow we continued up the A39, with a quick detour into Bude, as neither of us had been there before. Driving up the A39 we experienced the full spectrum of A roads, from fast dual carriageway, to barely enough room for two lanes of traffic, which kept the journey interesting. Nearing Bideford, I had to pull over for Jen to drive as some sun cream had run into my eye and under my contact lens, making my eyes sting. As that wouldn’t have the best way to end what had otherwise been a great day, we stopped of at The Thatch for an ice cold pint of cider.

Mileage so far: 425

Croyde Day 2: More Surfing

The main plan for day two was more surfing! After breakfast we got back into our still damp wetsuits and began the long walk down to the sea. We hit the beach just before low tide, so the waves weren’t quite as good as the previous day, but we still had fun and Jen made good progress.

We spent the afternoon wandering around town and back down to the sea. It was nice spending time walking along the edge of the sea and paddling in rock pools – Croyde beach really is a wonderful place.

After our walk we stopped at Billy Budd’s pub to catch the tennis – well done Andy Murray! We finished the day with a drink at Blue Groove, then dinner at Hobb’s Bistro, possibly the only restaurant in Croyde I hadn’t been to. It was a bit posher than I would normally go for, but the food was good.

Mileage so far: 190

Croyde Day 1: Surfing

Another weekend, another roadtrip! Croyde in North Devon is possibly my favourite place in the world, and this is the fifth year in a row I’ve been there.

The drive down started a bit later than intended, due to a lie in and needing to wait for the post office to open – I had to send some paperwork back to the lease company as the MX-5 goes back in less than 2 months.

Jen drove the first stint, until just before the roadworks on the M5, where I took over. I got really frustrated at the poor driving, you could tell that it was mainly people who drive a few miles to work every day, then once a year head down to the south west, on the road. Every couple of miles there was a car broken down on the hard shoulder (remember your pre journey checks people – oil, coolant, tyres etc) and no one seemed to be using the inside lane of the motorway, they were all bumper to bumper at 60mph on the outside lane – argh! Even with all the numpties on the M5, we made it to Braunton for lunch in four hours, and after a bit of shopping it was only five minutes round the coast to Croyde.

After checking in the first job was to get a white chocolate milkshake from Blue Groove and book our table there for dinner. On the way back Jen bought a wetsuit – then we went for a surf! The waves were small, but clean – perfect for us, as we hadn’t surfed since Costa Rica last year. I surprised myself by catching a really good wave first time out, possibly my best of the day and Jen seemed to make good progress through the afternoon. The only bad bit about surfing, was the long walk to/from the village, barefoot and carrying the boards. Being able to ride a smaller board is certainly an incentive to get better at surfing.

For dinner we went back to Blue Groove, I had beef enchilada followed by Belgian chocolate waffle and Jen had Tuscan pork stew followed by some Spanish almond and cirrus tart, all of which were very tasty. After all the walking/surfing we felt like we’d earned our dinner, but still went for a stroll to burn it off. We took a different route to the beach, checking out all the new houses being built, then sat at the foot of the dunes watching the sun dip behind the horizon. A perfect end to a great day!

Mileage so far: 190