Of all the things that happened this week, I think Aunty Duty was the most demanding, fortunately my nephew and niece had been decamped at my parents house on the South Coast. It meant that we had plenty of seaside destinations or sailing harbours within a short distance where we spend our time but with the weather like it is, my niece and nephew seemed to be destined to return to Berkshire with cracking tans.
My nephew and niece are now 7 years old and 8 years old respectively and I have to admit that they can be excellent fun but like all small folk of this age, they need to be kept busy during their school holidays. My nephew announced the other day that 'school holidays should only be 6 weeks long, as 9 weeks just gets boring'. One thing I can vouch for which I have learnt through Auntyhood, and that is little boys are just like dogs, they need to be run three times a day and feed twice a day to keep them happy.
Said nephew and niece were already at the South Coast with my parents standing by eagerly by to hand over the 'day-care' baton. I arrived to lots of squeals, general requests to do something and basically two huge balls of energy that seemed to have no intention of going to sleep - even though it was long gone 20.30. I love Summer, the long days, sitting in the garden with a G&T and relaxing but lordy, of late have I noticed how disruptive summer nights and the heat are to the children's basic routine.
After squeals had subsided, I suggested bed as I pulled down the blackout blind in their room. On getting downstairs and mooting to my parents that both nephew and niece didn't seem to have any intention of sleeping, my mother tasked me with 'burning them out for one day', which lead me to firing up the computer and having a look at what could be done within easy walking or car vicinity as I had no intention of driving to HMS Victory or further afield.
I felt that the day should have plenty of high notes with some quieter times, for me to get on with some administrative work, like calling suppliers and booking the relevant ingredient deliveries etc. But what to-do? Dinghy Sailing? Paddling? Swimming? Beaching? Riding on the Beach? Butlins? ... I kid you not, my parents have looked into 'day-passes' as although a little naïf, they are pretty brilliant and keeping children of all ages occupied by the sounds of their programmes.
The next morning, I had a long list of ideas to run past the kiddiewinkles over breakfast. Of course the beauty about being on Aunty Duty is that all usual rules no longer apply, as long as they are well behaved, I have no issue with the order of what we do and these two minxes are well aware of this.
So it was decided that our action packed day would begin with an outing to Bognor Regis, as they wanted to go to the beach but also to play Crazy Golf. I found a great 18 hole seafront course so that we could stay cool from the sea breeze in the baking sunshine. During the course I realised that perhaps I was becoming a little of a 'pushy parent' as when we arrived we were the only people playing. However, by the time we finished, we had a build up of other players behind us, as I spent tireless minutes getting both kiddiewinkles to stand properly, aim and of course practice before the 'real shot' was taken and the score tallied. My nephew wasn't pleased when his 'hole-in-one' couldn't be counted on the Windmill Hole, as he'd announced that it was his practice round.
Getting either of them to drink water during the day was more exhausting than the actual games we were playing. In order to get 500ml down their throats, I had to promise an ice-cream (before lunch) and some beach paddling. You really can only take a camel to water I guess ..! After 2 hours on the Crazy Golf course (yes, 2 whole hours), we decamped to enjoy the sunshine and cool waters of Bognor beach for another hour or so before jumping in the car and heading home to create serious Scoobie Snacks for lunch.
After lunch (and some downtime ordering), we took the scooters (I was on a bike) and the dog out for a run and swim in the sea. Honestly, who'd have thought that it could be so difficult to juggle dog walking with two scooting kiddiewinkles. Perhaps I'm just not experienced enough but I lost one child, and after finding them, I swiftly lost the dog who went hurtling after a fox that had popped out form hiding. But we managed to make it to the beach in the end as one team. The dog hurtled off to the waterfront whilst we decamped, de-robed and got ready for the sea. My nephew was the first in, followed by me and then my niece who wasn't too keen on getting wet - 'Aunty Bee, if I swim, please can I have a hair-washing night?!'
We played in the sea for a couple of hours, exhausting the dog, who attempted to swim to the Isle of White whilst we all swam after her. Occasionally there was some serious dunking of Aunty Bee, throwing of small children and general antics. At about 16:00, knowing that somehow I needed to have greater control of kiddiewinkles and dog on the return (as we were all pretty tired), we picked up scooters and bike for the journey home. Having foolishly promised a cupcake making session my nephew and niece were keen to get back for some serious sugar intake and baking. We got home and by now, I was on flaking point, I handed over two energy balls to my mother whilst I set off to purchase a few extra ingredients.
On return, my eager apprentices had already set up the mixer and had everything lined up; with my mother's help of course. There simply is no rest for the wicked! We set too making the cupcakes, and easy activity except when your two apprentices spent a huge amount of time 'taste testing' the sugar, the batter, putting most of the ice sugar they were supposed to be sieving over every counter in the kitchen and then of course the pre-requisite disinterest whilst they sat consuming licky-hungries of the whisk and mixing bowl on the sofa. My niece announced that she wanted to do the icing in red, yellow, green and blue, a thought that almost brought me to my knees. Apparently only girls can eat girl colours ... I think it was about being able to ensure they had equal numbers of cupcakes to eat/take home.
I hate to say it but I think King George V was completely wrong when he said 'Bugger Bognor' on his deathbed. The little town is so overlooked now as a seaside destination that actually it was a joy compared to our usual trip to The Witterings which is equidistance from my parents home. I love The Witterings but in the Summer, when there is really good weather, I think I might find myself heading to Bognor in the future. Okay, it's not so glamourous and it is a pebble beach but some of the old charm is raising it's head and there are a lot less people around, particularly as half of London doesn't decamp there throughout the Summer. I may even look into the Butlins Day Pass next time I'm on Aunty Duty, simply because I won't be half as exhausted as I was this time!