Last Christmas 2 things happened that had never happened before.
- We went away on a little family holiday over the Christmas period.
- Husband arranged all of it.
Sitting on the edge of the bed of the youngest Ankle biter I could feel myself bobbing. That lovely little slice of rapture just between being awake and being asleep. Until I was abruptly awoken by a booming voice coming from the direction of our bedroom. It was Husband. ’’Quick, quick, come quick!!’’
‘’What’s Happened? What’s going on?’’I demanded, dashing into the bedroom expecting to find a fire or something equally as dreadful.
‘’Quickly, put our details in here’’ He thrust the laptop at me ‘’Hurry up there’s 30 seconds left before it times out’’
Husband and technology didn’t get along. I was the one that did the vast majority of household admin and anything else that required laptop use, excluding ebay of course. Husband was an ebay evil genius. After tapping in our name, address, credit card number and a few other details I handed him back the laptop and enquired as to what I had just booked. He informed me that we had just secured 4 nights away to leave on Boxing Day. Apparently it had been on his mind for the last few weeks. He wanted to book and sort everything out himself as a surprise. Just a pity he had been pipped to the post at the last minute from completing his solo mission by the threat of a screen timeout. It still warmed my heart though. What a thoughtful idea. As a general rule Husband didn’t do things like this. And it was because of this that I would have accepted anything gratefully, even a night in a wheelie bin at the top of the street. Thankfully it was much better than that. Husband had booked a luxury cabin in the woods with a hot tub! He’d even booked a place for our Dog. Too old to go in the kennels, our handsome bully usually spent his holidays at mum’s house but not this time, he was coming along. Unsure of what was necessary and what was not, concerning upgrades and pre-booking, Husband had pre-booked and upgraded everything he could get his grubby little hands on.
- Pizza and ice cream delivery night
- The Sky Movies Premiere unlimited package
- Hand chopped kiln dried logs for the woodburner
- Breakfast Hamper
- A fancy fandangled insurance in case the dog ate the sofa or the carpet during the night.
Very comprehensive. Very impressive. VERY expensive. I was a little taken aback when I found out the price but it was Husbands surprise and nothing to do with me so I sucked it up and was safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t be winning any travel agent of the year awards anytime soon for his price promise capabilities.
3 months. That was how long I had to decide and prepare what to take with us. It would be left to me to plan ahead for every possible eventuality that may or may not occur to any of us including the dog during our 4 day stay. Over the weeks leading up to our little holiday I gathered mountains of essentials and made long professional lists, only crossing things off once they had been safely purchased and packed. I can’t ever remember being more excited about a holiday. Was it that it was only a drive away and we wouldn’t have to endure the ball ache of airport security, luggage check in and departure lounge monotony? Or was it the simple fact that this was the first family holiday in existence that I hadn’t had to book and therefore be responsible for? Yes. That was definitely it. As part of my housewife role the responsibility of trip planning was forced upon me. Finding the best deals. Booking them, all separately if necessary. Matching up flights, accommodation, booking return transfers. Getting the appropriate currency. Online check in, seat selection, keeping passports up to date. The list is always endless. If ever I go anywhere with my friends, or Husband and I go away with another couple I deliberately don’t get involved with any of the planning because in all honesty I’m not fussy about the details so long as I don’t have to organise or be in charge of anything. I’m nothing short of ecstatic when someone else offers to play mum, only too happy to let them. Seriously, just tell me where, when and how much. If you can choose my dress, pick me up from my house and be in charge of the kitty purse aswell all the better.
Four days worth of food, all the dog clobber, wellies, coats, waterproofs, gaming consoles, 2 suitcases, 2 Anklebiters, 1 Husband and 1 dog. That’s quite a lot to fit into a Mini. But we did it. Granted there was no room for manoeuvre and the poor dog barely had space to breathe but the drive was only an hour and we made good time even stopping on route for a hot chocolate and a bun from an exotic looking little deli near Dalby Forest.
On arrival we were greeted with a very full, very muddy car park. No one had been forward thinking enough to already have their wellies on, instead all appropriate footwear was crammed in the boot along with the poor dog. It was decided by unanimous vote that I’d be the one (obviously) to go to the front desk and check us in while everyone else stayed in the car, out of the cold and the darkness that had fallen. We had been advised that check in was from 4pm but told it was likely that cabins would be ready from 3pm. It was showing as 3.50 on the clock in my car so I was sure we’d be good to go. Waiting in the queue of people at reception, which also doubled as a gift shop, I couldn’t help but notice the array of bagged penny sweets that were far from costing pennies and a collection of snazzy looking bagged baked vegetable shards masquerading as crisps. All of which were near the thick end of a tenner. Bloody hell, I was glad we had packed up.
By the time I got to the front of the queue I was cross. Cross it was taking so long and cross I’d been nominated in the first place when the rest of my family were cosy in the car and nowhere near the hundreds of people that seemed to be sloping around. It was now 4.25. I’d been waiting there for over half an hour obsessively looking at the extremely overpriced junk food and slowly losing the will to live. At last my turn. I smiled my politest smile and waited for the very young very bored looking school girl to take my particulars. No warm welcome, no smile, just ‘’We’re running late with the cabins so it’ll be about another half an hour’’ She announced with the enthusiasm of a dead slug. Could I be any more peeved at this point? Probably not. I decided to brave the quagmire of a car park to update the troops and kill some time. I explained the situation briefly and immediately Husband and the Anklebiters seemed annoyed. Even our dog seemed annoyed. It was decided that we should park the car somewhere more permanent and Husband would take charge of dog walking while I went back to reception and attempted to get hold of a cabin key at all costs. Nearly an hour and no apology later we graced the entrance to our cabin. As we approached the doorway clutching bags and food and dogs a lady with a mop and bucket was just letting herself out.
Although steeped in luxury, there were no two ways about it, the cabin was dirty. Husband isn’t one for complaints and neither am I really unless I’m left with no other choice. In this situationI knew if I voiced my observations that Husband would see it as a personal attack having booked this holiday all by himself (well nearly.) The wooden floors were saturated when we entered but not clean. As if they’d been washed with filthy water. The toilet seat had pee on it and the bin in the kitchen and surrounding wall was covered in dried up food. Not ideal. Youngest Anklebiter then took this opportunity to declare that after a quick scout round he liked the upstairs bedroom. The double bed, ensuite room with the forest views, and that’s where he would be sleeping. Of course this was after he had jumped and scurried over the beds in the downstairs twin room with wet socks leaving behind crusty black footprints all over the white bed linen. In fact we all had wet socks from the irrigated wooden floor.
4 showers and 4 bowls of homemade soup and wedges of fresh crusty bread later we settled down to watch Aquaman courtesy of Husbands premiere unlimited sky movies package. 2 hours of Jason Mamoa in lycra leggings. Yes please. I may have had a ridiculous grin on my face for the whole of the film.
The following day arrived. After Bacon banjos we all got ready and decided that a lovely walk with the dog through the forest was on the cards. It was a smidge before lunchtime and I was certain that a brisk walk in the fresh air would blow the cobwebs off and give us an appetite for something delicious at the onsite bistro on our return. The views into the forest from our cabin were wonderful, if not a little unnerving after dark when anything or anyone could be hiding in there. Like zombies. I’ve never been partial to a horror movie. I don’t understand why you would deliberately subject yourself to the terror of your greatest fear? Generally not much scares me but zombies are a different kettle of fish. The mere thought of one (I know they’re fictional. Aren’t they?) standing quietly in the undergrowth of the forest silently heaving while watching our cabin made my neck prickle and had me checking the front door was locked more than once. I didn’t actually see any zombies however there was an assortment of wildlife including deer, hedgehogs and birds. This made it a hive of activity and during the daylight hours was fascinating.
Armed with a bottle of water and the dog’s lead we set off. At first there were a few people milling about with their families and respective dogs of all shapes and sizes. The more streams we walked through and the more shortcuts off the footpath we took the less people seemed to be around.
45 minutes in
The anklebiters were playing and chasing through the trees and seemed to be getting on great, I couldn’t believe it. We’d been out over half an hour and not one cross word or one falling out had materialised. Brilliant. It was about this time that Husband and I observed we hadn’t bumped into anyone for quite a while. Terrible at directions of any description, I questioned Husband as to how long he thought it would take us to get back and if we were heading in the right direction. He gave me a look that suggested he was in full control and that I shouldn’t doubt his navigational abilities. I hoped it wouldn’t take us long, I was thirsty and hadn’t been quick enough to cadge even a drop of the water before the anklebiters had engaged in a water fight 10 minutes into the walk and wasted the lot. This had earned them a stern talking to by Husband, a survival expert.
We came to a clearing of trees at one side of the first road. They had been felled and it looked as though it was the beginnings of another road under construction. Husband did a quick calculation and thought it might bring us out somewhere in the direction of our forest retreat. We took the plunge and began to walk up the hill on the new road. After what seemed like ages we came to a main road.
1hr 55 mins in
We were all flagging horribly by now. The anklebiters were starting to complain and the dog even looked pissed off. There was nothing on the long straight main road at all. No sign posts, no pavements, and also no signal on any of our phones it would appear. I had whipped out my mobile hoping the maps app or the sat nav would, if not guide us back, at least tell us which way down this bloody main road to walk. It was dawning on me by now that we were pretty much on our own. To the right I could see nothing at all but to the left, just out of focus was a tiny house at the side of the road with smoke coming out of its chimney. ‘’Let’s walk to that house and get directions’’ I suggested, pleased with my idea.
‘’How ridiculous! We don’t need directions and we definitely won’t be stopping to knock on anyone’s door’’ Huffed Husband noisily while stalking off ahead in the same direction as the house, at an unnaturally fast pace. We all tried to keep up the best we could, all doing the fast walk half run thing in single file so as not to be mowed down by any passing vehicles. As we approached the house I knew with certainty that Husband would not be stopping and under no circumstances would he be asking anybody for help. Husband NEVER asked for help. EVER. Not in an emergency situation, not in a life and death situation and come hell and high water absolutely not in a direction seeking situation. The likelihood was high that we would be found days later, laid out in a ditch at the side of the road, dehydrated and hungry with severe facial windburn, crazily chanting under our breath over and over ‘’Just ask at the house’’ ‘’Just ask at the house’’ ‘’Just ask at the house’’ and Husband would be laid next to us chanting ‘’No’’ ‘’No’’ ‘’No’’ ‘’No’’. Having mulled this over I made the decision not to end up half dead in a ditch and took it upon myself to pay the house a visit. After telling the little ones to stay near dad I yelled ‘’ I’m asking for directions, wait here’’ I immediately crossed the road before Bear Gryles could object and disappeared round the back of the house to find a small courtyard and lots of chopped firewood. I knocked on the door and waited. Almost instantly the door opened to reveal a small elderly lady with a welcoming smile. ‘’Hello are you lost?’’ She enquired. (Good god, was she a psychic?) I explained where our morning stroll had taken us and that we were in fact a little unsure of the way back. She then asked me which cabin retreat we were staying at? (I beg your pardon, what do you mean which one?) It turned out that there were actually two retreats 5 miles apart and it appeared from what she was telling me that we were smack bang in the middle of both .WTF Once it had been established which one we were at she explained that it was quite a long way to walk on foot. She suggested it would be shorter to walk back the way we came but the risk of us getting lost and being eaten alive by zombies come nightfall was quite high. Okay she never mentioned being eaten by zombies but the rest is true. She said in her opinion it would be simpler to stick to the main road and instructed us to continue walking up the steep hill until we reached the village and from there our site would be sign posted. I thanked her authentically and went to report back to the troops about the next leg of our adventure.
I disclosed what I had learned from the lady at the house. Husband pretended that he knew all along there was a village up ahead and that’s where he had been heading anyway. No skin off my nose, I felt better knowing for certain that we were walking in the right direction and would eventually stumble on civilization. The road was endless, it was also ridiculously steep. So steep we had to lean forward at a very obscure angle to keep our balance. It was hard work but other than the odd quiet sob our youngest anklebiter was doing brilliantly. Husband was doing a few quiet sobs himself. He had an ongoing problem with his knee, sometimes he was in so much pain that it made him wince. On a day to day basis he usually wore a knee brace but hadn’t bothered today because how taxing could a half an hour dog walk be. The incline on this road was doing him no favours. Deliberately ignoring him as this was the only way I could hold things together, all hope of finding anything except fields, sheep and the odd tractor was leaving me. My legs hurt, my back hurt and my ears hurt from the perpetual whining and complaining coming from the eldest anklebiter. A typical 12 year old she made a meal out of everything. Instead of conserving all energy to get up this fucking hill and and get home without keeling over, she chose to take on the personality of the Harry Enfield character ‘Kevin’. Grunting and gasping dramatically, with intermittent huge fake cries it would be a miracle if we made it much further without someone being told off. I attempted to explain as calmly as I could that none of us wanted to be lost and walking for 2 days straight with no drink but that was the reality we were facing unless we could get a shift on. I did not want to bring up the impending night time zombie situation. I gave my word that as soon as we reached the village we had been promised we could stop for a rest, and maybe even pop in at the pub that would hopefully be there. Every village had a pub didn’t it?
3 Hours in
Finally! Houses. A village green. A small oldy worldy shop that sold nothing except home made preserves. Probably. And a pub! Hooray Everyone’s spirits were immediately lifted. We all cheered and made our way towards the pub. We would have a drink and maybe get a very late lunch before completing the final leg of our journey. Crossing the road to the pub a brown signpost caught my eye. I could see Husband had also noticed it. It had a cabin symbol on it and an arrow. Underneath, it informed us how far away we were.
(FFS was this a joke? I wanted to kill myself. I hoped the pub sold cyanide.) I glared at Husband and he glared back. Time stood still. Then his face crumbled and he started to laugh. One of those laughs you do when there’s nothing else you can do. His laugh made me laugh. We were standing outside of a pub we now didn’t have time to go in, laughing like lunatics. The children looked confused but there was no way they could see the sign post, it would finish them off. Time was knocking on and it would get dark before we knew it. I worked out we had approximately an hour and a half to walk 4 miles before we would all be left in the dark, in the middle of nowhere and in the shit. Showcasing a selection of wellies and Ugg boots and no real professional walking footwear I was positive it would be a real struggle.
Rolling around, crying on the village green the anklebiters were truly beside themselves. We had just dropped the bombshell that we were skipping the pub lunch in favour of picking up the pace and power walking the rest of the way. The dog had even laid down and wasn’t very forthcoming about getting back up.
‘’Please dad, call an Uber. Please. Please I can’t go on’’ Pleaded our youngest, clearing having watched too much American TV.
‘’We don’t even have Uber here you idiot. I’m sick of your voice so just SHUT UP!!’’ Screeched the eldest. (Although Uber does exist in the UK there isn’t a presence where we are from and therefore would be only something seen on TV.)
‘’ Can you die from walking?’’ Asked the youngest.
I’d heard enough. ‘’STOP! No more arguing. We all need to have a positive mental attitude. If we think we can do it we’ll be able to. No more crying, come on WE CAN DO THIS!!’’ Had I been watching too much American TV? Finally we managed to remove the dog and the children from the village green. Following the country lane out of the village it led us past the last house and onto the longest, straightest tarmacked road I had ever seen in my whole life. The sort you see on films, set in the Australian outback where cars run out of full tanks of petrol between rest stops. Except of course it wasn’t baron. We were surrounded by thick greenery. Dense, zombie ridden greenery.
4hrs 15 mins in … 45 ish minutes to darkness
Trying to ignore the burn of my legs and the throb of my feet, the promise of a cup of tea and a soak in the hot tub kept me going.The threat of me giving another motivational speech kept the children going, limping towards the finish line. On reflection the Ankle biters had done exceptionally well. Dressed in terribly inappropriate footwear for a 5 hours trek, and with legs much shorter than ours they had kept up, even when Husband was on a mad march earlier on. Although determined to complete this fiasco, I could see the eldest was due an outburst. Quietly chuntering to herself angrily I couldn’t quite make out what she was saying. Husband made the school boy error of asking what she was fussing about, in a way only Husband could. Systematically rubbing her up the wrong way and causing an almighty row. (Pretending you cannot hear anything when it’s more than obvious is underrated and not used enough. I do it all the time.) A massive slanging match followed. The result of this was that Husband stormed off in front, never one to take the moral high ground. I turned around to make sure the eldest wasn’t heartbroken and crying into a bush somewhere only to catch her giving Husband the finger with both hands. I was in shock. But I also loved it. Not very good at having a poker face, as soon as our eyes met and she knew that I’d seen her, I laughed. Then she laughed, I think out of shock mostly for not being dragged across the coals. We quickly recovered and continued our journey.
4hrs 45 mins in … 15 minutes to total blackout
Daylight had started to elude us a while ago. We really were against the clock now. Husband kept saying absurd things to the children like ‘’Look for somewhere we can camp because we’re not going to make it’’ Very reassuring for the children as you can imagine. The youngest kept looking at me, asking with his eyes if dad was telling the truth. I kept shaking my head and he would look relieved. This was a common routine we went through on a day to day basis. Husband liked to tell tall stories to the children, thinking he was funny when in actual fact he was scaring the shit out of them. I was always the one to confirm or deny the truth for them via a head shake or a nod. The turn off was in sight and yet another little brown sign post confirmed this.
Not quite there yet but within our reach! On finishing our celebratory family Mexican wave a wild haired woman appeared out of nowhere dressed in pyjamas and spouting something about looking for her dog. I carefully gathered the children and continued our quest. She had clearly escaped from an asylum. So I thought anyway. Husband thought she was nice and had stopped to exchange pleasantries with her after the children and I had escaped.
It was dark now. The lights from the cabins were glowing in the distance creating a warm allure. When we had left this morning we had been jovial, and full of life. Smugly taking selfies and laughing and joking about all sorts. Now as we dragged our aching, beaton carcasses over the threshold to the retreat we had just enough left in us to take one more selfie. A victory selfie of us all together in the dark next to the WELCOME TO KELDY CABINS sign. Nothing about it was flattering and it is not one I shall be banding about freely, however it is a reminder that we worked together (kind of) and survived. For that reason it’s one I will be hanging onto for the family album.
The poor dog climbed straight into his basket once back at the cabin and never moved for 18 hours. Not to eat. Not to toilet. Not for anything. I was actually quite seriously worried that we’d killed him. I was relieved the next morning when I saw he was still with us.
The rest of the trip saw us eat tasty food, swim around in the hot tub with a snorkel (our youngest, not Husband), watch films and relax in general. We did brave another dog walk on the last day (once we managed to coax the dog from his bed) but we made the decision not to leave the premises. Just in case Husband tried to demonstrate any more expert survival skills.
By Eliza Jong . January 2020