This week, and most of last week, I’ve been on holiday. Ideally, I like to have three weeks off in a row, as it’s only then that I find I can truly unwind. However, given I’m now (by choice) no longer employed, holidays have the double hit of both costing money and getting in the way of me making more. As the main earner in our family, the responsible thing to do is to only take much as I need.
Usually when we go to Devon, we stop off at a hotel to prevent it being a full day of driving. The pandemic, though, means that not only do we want to avoid hotels, but there’s less traffic on the roads, making our journey quicker. That means we got to my wife’s parents’ house by mid-afternoon.
We stayed in a place we’ve been before, a hand-built holiday cottage constructed by by friends of my in-laws. They bought a smallholding 25 years ago when they were about my age. They’ve turned it into such a welcoming and restful place that I was able to relax immediately.
We spent our time in Devon visiting family, going on walks, and generally relaxing. I had prepared for the trip by uninstalling or disabling every work-related app on my phone. The only screens we took for the kids were on their e-readers and MP3 players. For it to a be a qualitatively different experience to the last few months at home it was important not to just take the same screens with us.
On the way back from Devon, we stopped off for a couple of nights in Shropshire at a self-catering cottage we’d booked. It’s not a county I’ve spent much time in, so we visited Ironbridge, which is somewhere I only know about due to teaching it as part of the Industrial Revolution. While we were there we had our first meal out for months thanks to the government’s Eat Out To Help Out scheme, dining on outside tables.
The accommodation we stayed at in Shropshire wasn’t the best. In fact, for only the second time ever, I left a negative review on Booking.com. I feel a bit bad for doing so, but the place wasn’t as clean as it should have been, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Also, the photos of the property managed to skilfully omit the huge power lines right overhead.
Since we’ve been back, we’ve inevitably been talking about what would happen if we bought a smallholding. Our circumstances are different, though. Unlike our hosts in Devon, we’ve got children, houses and land is no longer so cheap, and there’s the small matter of the pandemic. The sensible thing to do is to try and pay off our mortgage in the next decade or so…
Despite that disappointment, we did manage to have a good walk up The Wrekin, which I think technically qualifies as a mountain. There was an Iron Age hill fort on the site, but there’s not much evidence of that now. Still, the panoramic views were superb and our children will climb and jump off any and all rocks.
Next week, I’m back to work. I genuinely have not looked at my inbox or calendar since turning on my out-of-office before going away. So I guess my Monday morning is going to be spent wading through messages before getting started with anything more productive!
Photo of Ironbridge run through the Game Boy camera filter of the Retroboy Android app, reducing it to 59.39kb. The Roy Lichtenstein filter looked slightly better, but resulted in a filesize 2.5x larger!