I have a new catchphrase: "aim low, be happy". Last weekend we did just that - we had an utterly relaxed day with no expectations and we managed to have a fantastic time. We took in two parks, fed some fish, had a nice meal out and there was only one mild eruption of fury in the whole time - more of a spurt than an eruption really. We didn't have any goals and we seem to have achieved so much more than usual. The boy got to ride his bike, the feral one got to climb all of the things, the man got his new trousers and I achieved my 10,000 steps which made my Fitbit very happy.
We went to Gadebridge Park for the first time (though it's been on my list for 3 years) and it was great. The largest male went off in search of trousers and us three smaller ones had a lovely time together. There was a minor skirmish about an ice cream van but I threatened that we would not be going to the park at all for the entire summer if they nagged for ice cream now, which shut them up nicely. I am glad they are still gullible enough to fall for this - short of cryogenically freezing them, there would be no way to make it through the summer without parks; it was the emptiest of threats. Anyway, Gadebridge has a really nice selection of equipment, with some stuff I remember from my childhood all the way through to that hard plastic stuff that looks like set dressing from Mad Max. It's a palimpsest of a playground. It also has lovely smooth paths for cycling, excellent for my fledgling non-pedestrian. It's also beautiful; well landscaped with a great view of the old town. It's hard to believe you're in Hemel Hempstead.
When the betrousered one returned we went to Burston's Garden Centre and, thanks to the unexpected sunshine, we had a proper explore and discovered a whole new pond out the back with fish to feed. They clearly don't get fed as often as the fish in the front as they were crap at actually swallowing the food. This caused much excitement and hilarity. I like having children that are of an age where I only semi-worry that they are going to plunge themselves headfirst into murky, fishy waters. It was nice for the littlest one to actually be the expert here too. She knew what the animals were before the boy could read a label at her and she was able to pour scorn most effectively when he mistook the crickets for pets rather than food. It was nice to see the tables turned for once. The boy took it in good humour - I think the lingering threat that she may release a snake on him kept him in check. Also, the animals were all delightfully frisky this time, normally they lurk in their plastic burrows sullenly sleeping, but there they were all slithering and flicking tongues and climbing the walls of their tanks. Good stuff reptiles, well done. I try not to think too hard about the ethics of keeping you in captivity like this.*
We polished the day off at a Harvester and it was great. There was a minor hiccup as the husband, in a fit of madness, ordered starters to 'tide us over until the mains arrive', causing me to look at him owlishly and enquire exactly how long he thinks it takes to reheat processed food. Also, why he would order starters that both children took delight in turning their noses up at? Luckily the salad bar allowed them to have somewhat eclectic starters of their own. Raisins and red peppers anyone? When the bitching and whining did start we stayed true to the ethos of 'aim low' and whipped out the iPhones. Glorious silence until the food arrived. I really bloody enjoyed my ribs and judging by the plates everyone else enjoyed their food too. The only bad bit was when the other adult and I got a bit giddy with the weird drinks machine and drank far too much fizzy pop. Mind you, this came to a crunching halt when I excitedly poured myself a glass of what was allegedly apple tango with a hint of lime but which actually tasted exactly like the smell of pub toilet cleaner. You know, the smell you get if you go into a pub first thing in the morning**; the one that grabs the back of your throat and pulls it through your eye sockets. Yeah, I drank that smell.
The kids started to unravel a bit at this point so we cut our losses and headed for home. As we were passing, we stopped for a bit at Leavesden Country Park - but I won't go into that too much here as I'll probably cover this place in a Days Out post at some point. Suffice it to say there was swinging and cycling and the processing of much processed food. It left us all pleasantly exhausted and ready for a chilled out evening. The kids had ice lollies whilst watching endless episodes of Phineas and Ferb and we stared vacantly at our iPhones. It was ace.
Sometimes no plan is the best plan of all.
*Luckily there was a chameleon bimbling about and it was awesome enough to quash all of my vague moral qualms.
** Happy pre-kids days