A few weeks ago, Chelle, one of the absolute nicest bloggers I know, messaged me to ask whether we fancied catsitting for her in Brighton over the bank holiday weekend. We’re no strangers to Brighton as my grandparents used to take my sister and I quite often when we were small, and I was lucky enough to introduce Kirsty to Brighton on a day trip earlier this year, and we absolutely love the city so we were super excited to accept.
Public transport with four aged two and under is always a daunting prospect but Brighton is only two hours from home, and – distracted by a picnic, the laptop, and approximately thirty million games of Row, Row, Row Your Boat – the children were fantastic on the outbound train. We shan’t talk about the return journey because frankly, I’d like to pretend that my toddler had never somersaulted off of a train seat, almost landing on a fellow passenger, thanks to his hyperactive bouncing whilst we tried to convince him to sit the flipping flip down! It was such fun to watch the urban greys and browns transform into fields and woods, and the boys were so excited to see airplanes parked like cars as we sped past Gatwick.
I think that housesitting is my new favourite way to vacation; it was so nice to walk in to a proper family home, and all of the children had simply the best time playing with Chelle’s little boys’ toys. In fact, on the first day, they were so engrossed in their games that they were reluctant to head to the beach! We gave them a few hours to settle in whilst we collapsed across the sofa and then, as it was the most gorgeous day, persuaded them out with the promise of an ice cream.
Our first destination was Brighton Pier; we hadn’t visited last time as the bearded lady, Josephine-Dog, had been with us, and I knew that the boys would adore it because they are mad about fairground rides. At 0.9 metres – just – there was only about four rides that they were allowed to ride, but for £10 each we purchased a pass that gave them unlimited access to those rides and they spent a merry hour spinning, twisting and carouselling before we headed back off of the pier and down to the beach. £20 for an hour’s entertainment did feel a little steep but as we were on holiday, and our accommodation was free, I didn’t mind indulging. Truth be told, we spent far less money on this holiday than I thought we would, not least because it is virtually impossible to shop and eat out with four toddlers, so we spent the vast majority of our time eating at the apartment and enjoying the free beaches and parks.
Brighton Pier: We found the railings to be quite flimsy and I was a little worried that one or both of the boys would climb right over and plummet into the water, but they are quite sensible really and kept their distance aside from to peer cautiously over the top.
These photos make me laugh; I wanted a nice picture of me and them so much, but they were so excited by everything that they were just skipping and dancing about and simply couldn’t stand with me. This is Balthazar’s ‘serious’ face after I told him that if they stood still, we would have a doughnut. Lysander wanted to head in the direction of the doughnuts there and then, hence he’s barely in the picture at all! Then I bent down to hug them and they both pushed me over! Little toads.
It was the most perfect day and I wished with all of my heart that we had dressed them in slightly cooler clothing and packed swimsuits, but somewhat pessimistically I had convinced myself that it would rain all weekend and packed for autumn! I couldn’t be too sad about it though, as it was another excuse to justify plenty of dips in the water and an extra ice cream or two. The boys in particular were hilarious; they are such tiny nudists and after this first swim, they were only too happy to whip off their nappies and plunge in completely naked! For obvious reasons I shan’t be putting those pictures on the internet, though they might make an appearance at their wedding.
Whilst we were in Brighton, we got into the habit of letting them stay up a little later so as to make the most of the golden evening light and the slightly cooler weather – and also because they desperately needed an hour or so of relative ‘downtime’ during the day, so we would take them out in the morning, head back home for early afternoon and then at four o’ clock or so venture back out again. Sometimes we would go out as a family, but on one occasion I took the boys out by myself to meet my friends Lyndsay and Lauren, and we enjoyed the most magical ice cream at Marocco’s followed by a golden hour dip in the sea. They were so good, and I felt so proud of them as they conversed politely over their strawberry cones, splashed happily with me and then trotted alongside me back to the bus. I felt like a ‘real mum’ – and I know that I am a real mum, but they have another mum, a very good one, and sometimes I feel a little inadequate compared to Kirsty. But on that occasion, it felt like a true partnership – me and my boys. We laughed so much; we were running a little late so I made a game of chasing Lysander, and when I scooped Balthazar up and ran with him, he wrapped his arms around my neck and kissed me so vigorously that I almost ran into a bush.
We did make a tiny DITL of one of the days; we’re finding it a little tricky to vlog when our attention really needs to be on the munchkins escaping in every direction, but I wanted to record some memories the way that my grandparents used to document them for me. I’ll embed it below so that you can have a watch if you’re the YouTube type!
I think that if my boys were writing this, they would tell you to visit the parks. They had simply the best of times splashing in the fountains at The Level, which has the most incredible playground as well, in the paddling pools at Hove Lagoon (take change for the miniature train and the bouncy castle), and at Queen’s Park which has a gorgeous and very instagrammable row of colourful houses just outside of it.
Monday morning dawned far too soon, and with it came our last day. Kirsty tidied the house whilst I took our little ones to the park and then to buy a picnic for the train, and then we spent another couple of happy hours at The Level before catching the bus back to the train station.
It was perfect. We have had the most glorious summer even though we haven’t actually left the country – or even South-East England – and spent so much time together, taking little adventures such as this one. I know that it doesn’t sound like much, and of course I’d like to take them abroad in time, but this little summer of ours has been precisely the summer that we have needed and I feel so grateful.
What did you get up to this summer?