Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Easter Activities Away from CBeebies

I'm back! Oh, you lucky bloggers who have been able to write during the Easter holidays. You plainly have a lot more energy. Or you don't have a daughter who is currently unable to fall asleep by herself and likes to take hours doing so, plainly sensing I have somewhere I would rather be. Or you don't have a husband who spends the evening hogging the laptop to read football scores work.

But anyway, pre-school is back, and so are my two hours a day of me-time. Never mind the fact that I can't currently see my house owing to piles of beads, wool, shredded tissue paper, buttons, coins, pebbles, Lego, sequins, glitter, chocolate and fluffy yellow chicks (not live ones, or ever live ones). It's a frigging mess. That's school holidays for you. The only thing I seem particularly skilled at tidying away is the chocolate, mostly because there is no available shelf-space for it, and well, it's been a long fortnight.

Did you think for a moment from my description of the mess that we might have spent the whole holiday doing Easter craft activities? Ha ha. How little you know us. I assure you we didn't. My daughter just likes spreading bite-sized crap everywhere. Which is why I tried to spend as little of the holiday as possible at home. My daughter had assigned herself a tight CBeebies viewing schedule as a backdrop to spreading her bite-sized crap around, which I was determined to thwart. Every day I had to drag her screaming away from Bing or Mister Maker so that we could do something "fun" or "educational" and not end up with me being goaded to do one of Mister Maker's sodding Minute Makes, since the items required for it were currently thinly spread all over the carpet. "You'll thank me when you're older," I roared like my mother before me, even though I know she won't.

So where we did we go? We live in York, Yorkshire, and shouldn't be short of options. We aren't. Although the crowds and the weather can prove both limiting and irritating. Anyway, here is my top ten suggestions for escaping CBeebies in our neck of the woods:

1. Go on a play date.

Where you end up with so much squabbling you end up turning on CBeebies. Hm. Back to square one.

2. Go on a country walk.

Last time
Better! We did the Farndale daffodils walk, since this is the only time of year you can do it. I have happy memories of this walk a couple of years ago on a glorious spring day, our daughter in a pushchair, the sun beating down on us, the daffodils at their peak along the river banks, and scores of old ladies serving me tea and buns in a barn at the far end.

Unfortunately when we arrived this time, this happened:

And it turns out that my husband, despite being raised in Cumbria (or maybe because he was raised in Cumbria), doesn't do rain with good cheer.

And it turns out that the daffodils that far north aren't as advanced as the daffodils in York, but there were a few just starting to come out...

And it turns out that a three mile walk is still pushing a four year old a bit too far.

I will admit that a picnic on a rain-soaked bog was a bit of a stupid idea.

But hey, there are still old ladies serving cakes in barns at either end of the walk, so that has to count for something, right?

Mummy had a lovely time. But nobody else did.

3. Go to the cinema.

I know that technically that this is escaping CBeebies only to go and stare at another screen. But I took my daughter to see Cinderella, and coupled with the Frozen Fever short beforehand, the whole thing was such a magical experience it brought a tear to my eye. I once directed and starred in my own production of Cinderella. We may not necessarily be talking quite the same scale as Kenneth Branagh here. I may have been aged eight, and in my lounge, with a Clarks clodhopper playing the role of glass slipper. But whatever, it's a story with a special resonance for my inner girl, and this film was -as a result - a delight. And my daughter was so transfixed throughout that she insisted Daddy take her to see it again the following week. Sorry, Daddy.

4. Go to a museum

Museums in York - invariably heaving in school holidays. So we met some friends at the World Of James Herriot In Thirsk. This museum is so brilliant that is going to merit its own blog post in the very near future. It was hailing outside, but dead quiet inside. Not so good for the museum possibly, but just right for us. We spent nearly two hours exploring all that it has to offer. Things like this:

 And this:

And this:

Go on, admit you're more than a little curious, even if only to find out what those ghastly looking tools are for. And it may be as bad as you think. More soon...

5. Visit relatives.

Only sometimes the relatives you want to visit are on the elderly side and live in a residential home that doesn't come well equipped for young children. This means offering a bribe as an incentive to make your child not disgrace herself. In our case the bribe was a trip to Tropical World in Roundhay Park. It was a sunny day. Unlike our country walk, at last a chance for a picnic in appropriate weather. We ate our sandwiches. And only then did I notice the queue for Tropical World. Given that it was so warm, I figured, how many people in Leeds would want to spend the afternoon inside a giant hothouse? It turns out - all of them. A rare hats off to our girl, who insisted she would wait patiently for an hour to go in and see her beloved fruit bats. It's a shame she won't apply the same behaviour at a supermarket check-out or when Mummy stops to have a chat with somebody in the street. And yes, that did say fruit bats. The butterflies, the meerkats, the monkeys? A mere flicker of attention. The yellow python? Fairly interesting (while Mummy hyperventilates). But the fruit bats? Just wow. Apparently.

6. Go on holiday.

Lucky those who can afford a proper holiday in school holidays. We have to make do with visiting Grandpa. Thankfully Grandpa lives in Grasmere. And this year, the sun was shining. And the local farmer, who has been known to spray liquid manure over the field in front of the house on a Bank Holiday weekend, had this year deposited a load of newborn lambs there instead. Instant, free and very special entertainment. Until my dad served up what he termed a "lump of lamb" on the Monday.

7. Go on an Easter egg hunt.

Misty morning, Grasmere

These are so much fun, it may turn out that you have to do it all over again. And again. Until you hide that last egg a bit too well and can't remember where you put it. Then it's back to tears. Only consoled by CBeebies.

8. Join the National Trust.

Then you can have lots of free days out, or free before ice cream, gift shop harassment (by your child, not the staff, I hasten to add) and more (Cadbury's sponsored) Easter egg hunts. A bit of history and art for grown-ups, a giant play area for children. Cake for all. This Easter we went to Goddards and Beningborough Hall in York, Nostell Priory near Wakefield, and finally Allan Bank in Grasmere no less than four times, because it's just up the hill from my dad's house.
Swing after hail, Beningborough

Nostell Priory

The wobbly play bridge at Nostell Priory

Swing in the sun, Allan Bank

9. Go to the seaside.

Unless it's still hailing, you may find that a few other people have the same idea as you. Fortunately for us this meant a very crowded train to Scarborough rather than a traffic jam on the A64, because at least the train was actually going somewhere. The sea front resembled Benidorm in high season and we were surrounded by little girls called Britney and Tegan eating Quavers and drinking Fruit Shoots and throwing sand in each other's faces, but we still found a patch of beach that was ours. Even if my daughter only informed me she had left the spade at the bottom of the hole she had dug when we had walked about a mile away from it. Fish and chips for lunch, a Twister lolly for pudding, and an 80p ride on a funicular railway on our way back to the station.

10. Make a spring collage to use up the bite-sized crap spread around your carpet.

Easter craft activities at last. Don't get too proud of us though - she claims she got the idea from The Tweenies.

Thus the two weeks are done, and they went a lot better than I expected, mostly thanks to the hail giving way to sun. I only bought myself one bottle of gin, for example. My daughter, on the other hand, is still complaining about me making her miss Bing.

(In denial that I am going to have seven weeks of this in the not so distant future.)

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