It’s an early start today, breakfast down the hatch (es) and then everyone is bundled into the car for the one-hour-or-so trip to Skipton, Yorkshire. It’s a leafy town set amidst rolling hills, with some quite breathtaking scenery. I’m not taking the kids just to admire the view though, oh no. As well as lovely scenery, Skipton is also home to two other items of particular interest: the kids’ godparents.
We roll up outside said godparents’ house and, before we even knock on the door, we are greeted by the godmother. We are quite lucky in our choice of godparents, particularly when it comes to school holidays. Godmother is a teacher, so it means you are guaranteed to be able to see her when school’s out. The godfather works in a cafe in the train station, and his hours are such that by just after dinnertime he is finished for the day.
This is great for me, as it means I get to ‘share the load’ and have help with the kids. We nip into chez godparents for a quick toilet break and then it’s off to the park.
My daughter, who I am primary care-giver to, soon switches her allegiances, and waves me away when I attempt to help her onto the swings. She points an imperious finger at godmother, and indicates that she would prefer her help getting onto the swings.
Godfather rings me up from the cafe while my traitorous daughter is swung merrily, and my son smears mud on the slide as he climbs up it the wrong way.
‘Where are you? I’m nearly finished at the cafe’ he says to me.
‘We’re in the park’ I tell him.
‘Great, I’ll be there in five minutes. I’m wearing a red coat’
I ponder this for a moment.
‘This isn’t a blind date’ I tell him ‘I do know what you look like’
But he’s hung up already.
He arrives shortly after, wearing a gloriously red coat, and we continue entertaining the kids for a while. Godmother takes her leave of us, and we arrange to meet back at basecamp. The sky turns gloomy so we decide to head into town. Skipton is a town with an abundance of affluent, elderly people and this has, for some reason, given rise to a surfeit of my drug of choice: charity shops.
They’re everywhere, and I take great pleasure in trailing our little convoy around them. They are staffed by well-to-do volunteers, who probably still pay more a year in taxes than the average person earns per year. They react poorly to the arrival of a child, a parent, a godfather and a child in a pram. They don’t know the first thing about ensuring their shops are pram friendly, my daughter exploits this fact to the full. Every shop we go in her little hands eagerly grab articles of clothing, hoping to take these age-inappropriate items back to her lair. She’d have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t have been for these pesky (god) parents.
It’s heading towards dinner time, so we head back to chez godparents. They have a lovely clean house, on three floors. It doesn’t stay clean for long. There’s soon cleaning up to be done on all but the highest floor, and daddy leaves a present in the toilet on that one that the godparents will enjoy later.
Godmother has brought provisions, and after a slap up lunch, she takes the kids outside to help her with a spot of gardening. The godfather and I recline upstairs in the lounge, supping coffee. We discuss the quality of the new James Bond theme (it’s poor), and put forward the hypothesis that sago is actually rice pudding’s evil brother. We ramble on like this for some time, just enjoying each other’s company. I enjoy the blissful lack of kids.
This brief nirvana doesn’t last and, realising I shouldn’t put too much strain on the parent-godparent relationship I venture outside. In scenes somewhat reminiscent of what I imagine a sweat-shop would be, I find godmother ruling over my two industriously working children. Leaves are being shovelled up, collected, and then tidied away, with disconcerting efficiency. The advantages of being a teacher, if not clear to me before, are crystal clear now.
We call it a day, the night is approaching and the kids, filthy, tired but happy are on their last legs. I shake hands with godfather and we agree to meet up again to catch SPECTRE at the cinema. Godmother apologises for the state of the kids, and gives me such a hug that I am left in no doubt that she, possibly more than the kids, has had a very good day.
There’s lots of babbling from the back of the car on the way home but it doesn’t last. Twenty miles into the journey and it’s just me and my thoughts. Oh, and Sam Smith on the radio, warbling about the writing on the wall. It really is a very bland song…