A surprisingly rural picnic lunch at a motorway services. A large family tends to necessitate self-catering, so its a good thing we love picnics and the weather was kind to us.
Mark's Great Auntie Nan was celebrating her 90th birthday last Saturday and in order to celebrate this wonderful milestone she invited all her friends and family to an open house at her home in Battle, Sussex. I had only met Auntie Nan once before, at Mark's grandfather's funeral eleven years ago, but I was struck with what a remarkable and interesting lady she was. Mark and I were both keen to join in her celebrations and to introduce her to the Podlings, none of whom existed the last time we met her.
We were slightly wary as to how travelling with a three month old baby was going to go. We have recently discovered that Alex is perfectly happy to travel in the car as long as I sit with him. If I try sitting in the front, he just screams blue murder! I knew that the journey should be fine as long as I sat with the baby, but we weren't sure how the sleeping away from home was going to go. We have such a vast brood now that it takes two rooms to accommodate us, but thankfully Mark's mum and dad were also with us, so we knew we could split the children between our two rooms. Funnily enough, I was less daunted by travelling with four children, including a new baby, than I was when we went on our first holiday with just Tom. Experience gives you confidence I suppose!
The traffic was horrendous on Saturday and it took us seven hours to do a journey that should have taken four. We stopped once on the way for a picnic lunch, but other than that it was a very long time in the car. The Podlings were all brilliant and the seven hour drive was not as horrendous as it could have been.
We enjoyed a lovely visit with Auntie Nan, who seemed very pleased that we have chosen to call our youngest son Alexander (it is a family name on Mark's maternal side and was chosen partly for that reason). Auntie Nan's 94 year old sister was incredibly taken with little Alex and all the Podlings seemed to make a good impression. Mark's brother and sister-in-law also came down to Sussex, so it was lovely to spend time with them too. All in all it was just a really nice time spent with some very special people.
After we left Auntie Nan's lovely home in Battle, we drove to Eastbourne for fish and chips. Mark and I both grew up in coastal towns where we were used to being able to get a choice of fish in the fish and chip shop. We are both very keen on Huss, which we can't seem to get where we live now. We were very keen to partake of its deep-fried loveliness whilst we were in Sussex and returned to the fish restaurant we discovered when we came to Eastbourne a few years ago. It was so sad to see the burnt out pier after the terrible fire a couple of weeks ago. The Podlings were all very sad about it.
After our lovely Huss, we drove to our Travelodge 45 minutes away. I passed the time by reading 'The Wizard of Oz' to the Podlings, which worked a treat at getting Alex to go to sleep! Quick nod to the Kindle Paperwhite, which allows me to read in the dark...love it!
The girls slept in with their grandparents and we took the boys in with us. Bedtime went remarkably well. I cuddled Alex to sleep and popped him in the spare Moses basket we brought with us. While Mark and I washed and sterilised bottles and otherwise made preparations, Tom made use of the 30 minutes free Wi-Fi by watching videos on my tablet in the bath!
We breakfasted like kings the following morning and then went our separate ways as the others were going to Brighton and Mark and I were keen to take the children to one of the many National Trust properties in Sussex.
We had a wonderful visit to Petworth House (separate post to follow) and finished off a wonderful weekend by taking the Podlings to a little play park in Petworth itself. We took a slight detour on the way home to try to see Highclere Castle (or Downton Abbey if you will!), but it was closed by the time we got there and you couldn't see the house from the road. We did get the slight thrill of seeing a Rolls Royce leaving the grounds as we pulled up though.
The journey home was thankfully much quicker than the journey down. We stopped for a picnic tea at a motorway services, where the Podlings made friends with a delightful one year old boy named Samuel. We got home at about half twelve and deposited four sleepy Podlings in various beds before retiring ourselves. It was a wonderful, wonderful weekend in our favourite part of the country. It felt just as though we had been on a little holiday, it is just a shame we couldn't have stayed longer.
Tom taking advantage of the 30 minutes free Wi-Fi!
Alexander's first night away from home
Sleeping like a baby
The older Podlings loved the beautifully maintained play park in Petworth