And… We survived another night… our final night to be exact!

And when we opened our eyes that morning, it was really sunny… frustratingly so! But, a lot can be said for some sunshine on such little time.

I woke up first and again looked upon my sleeping cherubs. They are so peaceful when they’re sleeping and so very beautiful…well, always really!

Not long after we woke up, all kinds of chaos was going on. With an exit time of 10am (otherwise known as ‘Early O’Clock’), we got ourselves ready and started throwing things in to the back of the car. Once again the beast was rammed of way too many things, although I have to say…not everything made it back home. R.I.P to our gazebo and tents. As much as they homed us in the storms and did an okay job (not the gazebo, that was totally rubbish)…they were incredibly battered by the end of it and honestly, they were NEVER going to see another camping trip again.

With 10am fast approaching, my sister checked our booking sheet to find that we were in fact running two hours early and didn’t really need to leave until 12pm… Nice One! Thankfully looks can’t kill and laughter fixes most things. On the bright side, we were ready, up and early to spend some more quality time with the family before we embarked on our looooong drive home.

So we said our ‘Be Back Soon’s’ to Longthorns Farm, the horse who eats elbows, the alpacas and the honesty shop… and made our way to my sisters lovely, big house again for yet more brews and to start…or attempt to start our goodbyes.

That didn’t last long until we thought ‘Sod it!’ and we made our way to Lulworth Cove instead, with my Nephew, Zack in tow.

It didn’t feel right to give kisses goodbye just yet. Our camping trip was drawing to an end too soon and a void was growing in the pit of my stomach. I’m lucky to live in the same town as the majority of my family and for that reason, it will never feel okay that some are missing and I can’t pop to their house to borrow a DVD, raid the biggest sisters wardrobe, tell her happy news to her face and let her supply me with wine, hugs and advice when I feel lost. I know that I miss something that I have never had. But, I miss it all the same… and I didn’t want to leave her there and drive away.

Anyway… Lulworth Cove!

Looking a little dishevelled but feeling zen

Lulworth Cove was kind of magnificent.

As we drove along the country roads, I was expecting a pretty, little bay where we could collect seashells (which we would later paint and put in mason jars!). As we came to the end of the windy country lanes and the road opened up to our destination… my jaw dropped and I felt a little in awe of this place. Actually, I felt just ‘little’ really! We parked our cars in a field that was overlooked by cliff tops and when I say it was breathtaking… I feel upset with myself that I can’t find a better word. The people walking to the top were tiny like ants and they followed each other in perfect formation. They were so high up, it was like looking at another world.

Lulworth Cove is incredibly quaint and pretty. There were lots of places to buy ice-creams and buckets and spades. There were idyllic little gardens along the way, lots of foliage and plenty of cute little windmills that caught my eye as well as the breeze.

I felt like I should be walking around barefoot, playing the banjo and singing songs to the passers by. I have always wished that I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair. Maybe I belong there?!

As we all walked the paths together and the sunshine hit our faces, the salty sea air washed over us and we knew that we were close to something special. We could hear the water hit the shore. There was a calmness in the air and I suddenly realised that nobody was saying a single word to each other. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard ‘Voice’. I think we were all enjoying the peace…the silence… this new place that had welcomed us with open arms.

The word ‘beach’ doesn’t fit the rugged shores of Lulworth Cove. It felt like the immense, white hills and cliffs with their blankets of green, were protecting a precious secret. I don’t want to describe it as the same paradise as you probably would the picturesque beaches of The Caribbean. It would be an unnecessary comparison. It is up on a pedestal for every reason that The Caribbean isn’t. It is jagged and rough, untouched and un maintained but completely beautiful all the same and truly unique.

We walked along, looking for a place to stop and breathe. We practically climbed over the edges of rock and pebbles…and the wind blew us. we dispersed from each other. Some of us sat, closed our eyes and allowed the world to carry on elsewhere…without us for a while.

My Beautiful Free-Spirited Big Sister

The men amongst us threw stones… obviously! They had a pretty smashing time too.

The Fellow

My Gorgeous Nephew

I shimmied around, taking photographs of some of my nearest and dearest in such a stunning setting…making sure to document our beautiful memories.

My Beautiful Son

And every now and again, I would make sure that I was in some of them, ensuring that I too would be a part of this day.

My Boy & Me

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Sisters

It’s a rarity to get a photograph of this young man with a smile on his face. Okay, so we may have had to tickle one out of him but it’s so nice to see anyway. And that is what Auntie’s are for, right? Even though we are all looking a little dishevelled…this perfectly imperfect picture is going in a frame. I adore it.

Perfectly Imperfect

The children explored and did what little children do best…got extremely muddy and soggy. They wore smiles on their faces and danced with freedom. They don’t need much, children. Other than your time and love… pop them on a beach to roam and exercise their imaginations and they still wouldn’t want to leave at the end of the day.

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This just felt like such a happy day and one I think that we will all remember for a long, long time.

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Alas, our time in lovely Dorset had come to an end. We took a slow walk back to the car, making sure we absorbed everything that we could from this trip. I know that I stole a few glances at my Nephew, hoping to myself that he wouldn’t grow anymore and feeling proud of the person that he has become. Cheering him on in his life decisions and feeling excited for all of the adventures ahead of him. Knowing that it will be hard to leave because I will always wish that I didn’t have to. My little (actually not so little anymore) Zacky… I hope over the next bunch of years, we get to have more days like that one.

We drove Zack home to do the goodbye thing. The egg in my throat. The tears hiding behind my eyes. The hard bit. I bloody hate goodbyes.

When we got there, I sat on the front lawn with my niece, discussing her plans. I watched her talk about her dreams and I watched her smile and I saw the girl under the fabulous, crazy hair and bold lipstick. That girls doesn’t know how beautiful she is. She will. And when she does… she may even conquer the world. I’m excited to see her dreams unfold.

I suggested that maybe we shove the biggest sister in the boot of the car and take her back home… I was only half joking!

A point came I think, that it was now or never so we did the hugging thing and the goodbye kisses and it was hard and it hurt a bit.

And…then we hit the road.

And somewhere between Dorset and home, I realised… we didn’t collect a single shell (that we would later paint and put in mason jars!)

xoxo

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We won!

Sometime before 7am the following morning, I woke up. My eyes were squinting and I was unsure whether I wanted to look around or not. I’m not going to lie, I was a little afraid of the damage. Before I fully commited to opening my eyes, I was already dreading the hassle of finding a B&B or locating a new tent, one that would hold up against the wind and rain, one that would keep us dry and from sleeping on the grass with the stars shining down on us through the night sky.

Still squinting, I touched my pyjama top, sleeping bag and blankets to ease myself in to the damage. I was expecting little puddles of rain or at least some heavy morning dew. I reached out, expecting to feel the cool morning air, result of our tent ripping in the night and leaving us exposed…but…well, nothing!.

I pinged my eyes open to find the tent exactly as I had left it when my eyes eventually closed the night before from pure fatigue… or should I say, at some point in the early hours of the morning. I couldn’t tell you the exact time that I fell asleep, I was quite delirious by that point.

Glorious!

I looked around at my sleeping babes, looking so peaceful! I snuggled back down in to the covers and watched the wind soar through the over sheet and I flinched as the sharp glimpses of the morning sun burned through the mesh, in to my sleepy, fragile eyes. Aside from the sound of the wind, it was so quiet. I could really hear myself think…which is something that rarely happens. I’m not going to say that the night was easy, it was really loud and I’m pretty sure I only half slept. Especially as when I finally got to a place where I could dream, I dreamt of the tent flying all around the field with all of us in it. That dream was short and then I spent, what felt like the rest of the darkness checking the children to make sure they were okay. They were. They didn’t hear a single breeze. Oh, to be a kid again!

Before long, we were springing up like daisies and eager to start our day. I love the atmosphere when camping, especially in the morning. Everybody walks around in their pyjamas, fresh faced with content smiles. Everybody sys ‘Hello’ and ‘Good Morning’ and it makes me happy. The smell of fried breakfasts and coffee fills the air and you see families scurrying around with wash bags to cleanse themselves of sleeping on the ground, it doesn’t leave you feeling so fresh when you wake up, that’s for sure! The sound of children laughing and playing drifts over the fields and on the coolest morning, it warms you up inside.

On this particular morning, not long after 7am, I peeled myself from the tent. I inspected the tent which had significantly lost its shape in the night…but, it really could have been worse. My sister’s tent had completely collapsed at the front and even she felt grateful of that being the only damage. These little hiccups weren’t going to ruin our day… and neither was the incredibly gloomy cloud that was situated right above us.

I was on beans duty.

Pans bashed around and breakfast was served. We pretty much ate like savages with plates on our laps or leaning in to our hips whilst standing and holding a plate in one hand. The children ran around and kept popping back to camp for berries and sips of their smoothies. Is is okay that I could live like that? I would go as far to say that I would want to live like that…Except for maybe in winter… I hate feeling cold!

Anyway, we eventually pulled ourselves together and headed out. Our campsite was located right next to Monkey World so it would have been so very rude not to go in and look at the monkeys. We met up with the biggest sister and her bunch and went in for a few hours.

Nicola, Gems and Me x

The Biggest Sister

The O'Briens

It was fab! Honestly such a great day…busy but great! There was so many monkeys to stare at (for way longer than socially acceptable really!) and a fair few play parks dotted around for the little ones to burn off some energy. The sunshine came out on a fair few occasions too and we felt quite lucky.

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Nicola & Ellenah xoxo

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Family Camping Fun

Els xoxo

The Men xoxo

My Noah xoxo

After a late lunch in one of the cafes, We all took a stroll back to camp. I immediately changed in to my camping gear, warm and cosy and we warmed up some water for a brew. I have to mention the cute little shop on site which my sisters and I hit to get an abundance of cake and biscuits for everyone #campingessentials

And, I have to mention the honesty shop that is available when the shop is closed. It is a little wooden cart with some essentials- butter, shampoo…cake, that kind of thing. There are prices attached and little pots for people to pop their pennies in to so that they don’t get stuck. Just how lovely is that? If only the normal world could be a little more like that! Proud of community, trusting and honest. I was perfectly happy to add my pennies to the pot when we ran out of water and butter that night. It made my heart feel good.

So, after a few giggles, conversations and a random exercise session around camp, we said our ‘See You Tomorrow’s!’ again and the biggest sister set off.

We pulled together to whip up an evening meal- quinoa, vegetables, prawns, mackerel, sausages…It was all going on! There was something for everyone to eat! We filled our tummies, this time in a more civilised manner than the carnage of breakfast time. Then we marched our way across the field to meet up with two lovely girls who worked the farm and we went for a little walk with a little group of alpacas… (p.s. I sadly didn’t get any photographs of this but to see the little cuties in action, check out my YouTube Vlog of our trip HERE!) Mine was called Barny. Barny liked to race the others. Barny was quite strong. Barny liked to nudge me when he wasn’t getting his own way and Barny seemed to have enough of walking up and down the same road every day. I could sense that Barny had a zest for adventure. I can’t lie, I think Barny may have looked down on me a little for calling him ‘Bernie’ for the whole walk until I was corrected at the end of it. Noah had one called Elvis and my Sister’s one only like to eat from a certain patch of grass. Alpacas sure are funny little things but I really enjoyed spending some time with them. It was such a nice little touch to our camping experience.

And the rest of our night went something like this…

Fires, blankets, stars, tired eyes, conversation, peace, family, wondering what tonight would throw at us and tomorrow would bring… goodnights and sleep tights.

To Be Continued…

xoxo

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Originally Written On 10/09/2015

It would be only too easy to stalk the weather forecast for days before a camping trip and at the slightest chance of wind and rain, to cancel. Hide indoors, warm and surrounded by all of your home comforts. Boil the kettle which runs from electricity, sip a peppermint and nettle tea with your nose stuck in a book…and every so often, you might look upon the raindrops lashing against your window and you would probably feel quite smug that you had in fact won. You didn’t risk it like a chocolate biscuit! You didn’t pack extra mounds of clothes for everyone into the already overpacked boot of the car, in case you got a little damp and soggy and you didn’t spend the majority of the night worrying about leaks and the whole tent falling down around you. You would happily trot off to bed each night, being all dry and snug…ready for a blissful nights sleep.

Well, suffice to say… when July the 25th rolled around and we saw the predicted weather forecast for our camping trip, we obviously weren’t feeling that clever or in any way that sensible. My sister, our families and I, decided that it didn’t matter. We decided to pack everything except from the kitchen sink into the boot of our car the following morning and we decided that rather than taking our luxury, sturdy…fabulous tent with carpet, we would take our tiny, hastily made ‘pop up’ tents to home us in the heavy rain and gail force winds.

And so, at some point between 10am and 10.30, we left our little market town in Kent…with hopeful smiles.

At some point on the motorway, when the traffic was creeping and we couldn’t see through the rain against our windscreen, we pondered if maybe we had made an error in judgement.

We finally arrived in Dorset at…I can’t really remember what time! All I know was that it was still raining, hard! So before we went to our campsite…yes we were delaying the inevitable of attempting to put up our ridiculous tents in particularly hideous weather… we took a little detour!

Our main reason for the visit was to our family. My biggest sister and her troupe to be exact. My big sister is an army wife and has recently moved back to England from Germany. It has been so long (too long!) since we have been able to go and visit her and we just really wanted to see where she lived. To see her and her bunch in their home. Her lovely, big home may I add and one that is surrounded by countryside and plenty of beautiful, peaceful walks. Mainly to spend a little time with them all though, making some long overdue memories.

It was surreal and very emotional. When we arrived, I was afraid to look her in the eye because I could see her tears building and my eyes were pretty glassy. But, it wasn’t a sad day and after a few brews, we picked up where we left off. Talking about life and just ‘being’ for a while. The house was rammed. There were hugs, lots of laughter and much excitement. And while I sat on the floor looking on everyone chatting and listening to the children running and exploring, like whirlwinds through every room… I remembered that it had been a long time since little feet had jumped off of the beds and pretended that they were surrounded by scalding lava. They brought a special noise to the house and I could tell just how much it meant to my big sister. My big sister who had planned ahead with bags of sweeties and homemade cakes… Someone has been bumped up to ‘Awesome Auntie’ that’s for sure.

And you know what, as if by magic, on our arrival the rain stopped and a little sunshine came out.

We decided to head out for a walk after a little while, determined not to waste our unexpected sunshine. We walked and talked and the children ran. They were muddy and happy. We all were, happy that is…so very happy to be together. We weaved through a thicket of tall tress. I remember feeling like I could really breathe. I felt weightless almost. I felt like I could have walked for hours.

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Eventually we came across a park for the children to play in for a while. Parks freak me out but even I had a go on the swings. It was exhilarating getting in touch with my inner child and I quickly remembered the feeling in the pit of your stomach as the swing gets higher and higher and the feel of the wind in your face as your body cuts through the air. The children enjoyed the roundabout and the particularly muddy slide.

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We had a little shimmy by the tank museum for a couple of photographs and it was there that little legs started to get tired and eyes started to look a little droopy. So we went back for the car. The rain clouds had returned and the wind was picking back up, stronger than before so that was our cue to try and beat the weather and get our tents up for the night.

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We said our ‘See you tomorrows!’ and hit the road…again!

We crawled up to Longthorns Farm hoping to get a good spot, preferably shielded by trees but the good spots were taken. It was then that we realised that it was us against whatever nature was throwing at us. We ‘popped up’ our tents and a gazebo and started to make dinner together. My sister and I prepared the food while the husbands spent their time taking the gazebo back down because in about two minutes, it had broken in the wind…. Epic!

The children? They were completely oblivious to our woes and made full use of the gigantic field surrounding us and they spent a fair bit of time staring at the alpacas and a very grumpy horse who actually tried to eat my elbow the next day…cheeky sod! He wasn’t shy in company either, i’ve seen enough horse penis to last me a lifetime now.

The wind was tough to contend with but we still managed to light a fire for warmth, we gathered around wrapped in blankets and let the smoke envelop us and sting our eyes. Eventually, the children shut their eyes and we all decided to face the night ahead. Hoping that come the morning we would still be surrounded by tents and be somewhat dry…

Hoping that come the morning, we would be feeling a little smug because we had in fact won!

To be continued…

xoxo

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Originally Written on 31/08/2015