And the luggage box makes five

9th August 1996 at 01:00
Monday: At the beginning of the school holidays, I always make a list. During term time I look after a gaggle of teachers' toddlers so the summer is a chance for us all to have a change of scene.

My house is showing the strain. I need to wash windows and paintwork, shampoo carpets. I need help.

Unfortunately, my teacher husband has a list of his own of the things he can get on with in the absence of children, but all this involves going into school. We've agreed on half days of home and school jobs. My daughter too has a list - of books she should be reading for A-level English. She has made the happy discovery that you can claim to be working really hard while lying in the sun as long as you are reading Sophocles rather than the NME.

Tuesday: A poplar tree fell over in the garden during the night. We spend a couple of unscheduled hours chopping it up and clearing it off the lawn. I add it retrospectively to my list so I can tick something, and recruit temporarily my out-of-work student son to wash paintwork and strip the walls in my office. I thought I could safely redecorate this week having got my correspondence up to date, but three letters arrived this week in response to an article I wrote four months ago - one marked "very urgent." Other people are clearly using their holidays to catch up on back numbers of The TES.

I have a meeting with the head of the school where I am chair of governors to review the last term and plan for next year. We need to revise the prospectus and write an action plan in response to our parents' survey. I add it to my list.

Wednesday: One job we all agree is a priority is to buy a luggage box for the top of the car before we head for the seaside. Since my husband discovered Indian cookery, it is impossible for him to leave home without a couple of large boxes of spices and pulses, his spice grinder and half a shelf of recipe books.

Things got a little tense as we packed for our Easter holidays. At one stage it seemed we would have to jettison either one of the children or the woks. So today he bought what is in effect the world's largest and most expensive spice rack, cheaper than it might have been as he bought it in kit form rather than ready-assembled.

Thursday: The allotment is clamouring for attention before we go on holiday. It seems to be an immutable law of nature that whenever seeds are planted they will all require harvesting 24 hours before we leave. I have spent many a steamy Friday night before a Saturday departure podding and blanching a wheelbarrowful of peas. This time it is the blackcurrants that have suddenly ripened. An emergency working party of children picks 16lb of them for the freezer.

We arrange for a neighbour to feed the cat, to water the plants and to eat the raspberries in our absence. At 11pm, my husband decides to assemble the luggage box. At 2am he staggers to bed, hot and exhausted but triumphant.

Friday: The all-important trip to the library. The success of any holiday depends on the quality of books available for the beach. And I must just bake some bread and an apricot cake; my eldest son, his girlfriend and her mother are joining us, and the cake is a great favourite. All we have to do now is find space in the car for a large box of books, my baking, half a dozen lettuces, my daughters's extensive wardrobe, a late flush of courgettes, the rubber dingy, a bag of broad beans, bedding and towels for eight, the spices and the woks. Will the luggage box be big enough? Can a week in Devon possibly be worth all this effort? Of course it can!

Lindy Hardcastle lives in Groby, Leicester

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