I am the luckiest dad around. Every year I'm able take the summer off and spend quality time with my son, but thanks to the unusually glorious, hot and sunny English weather, this year was extra special. At the start of the holidays we made a list of all the places he wanted to go, all the things he wanted to do and all the people he wanted to see. We did the lot and more. It was very special. But, for me, the most special aspect is the bond created by spending so much time together. Laughing and chatting in the car, restaurants, attraction queues and various other places is simply brilliant. I realise not many dads have the opportunity to spend so much time with their kids (I did say I'm the luckiest dad around), but I would encourage all dads to spend some time doing this kind of stuff. There is nothing more rewarding, for you and your kids.
It may not be top of everyones' places to go list, and it wasn't ours, but we've just had a fabulous day at Hampton Court Palace and Bushy Park. We had been before. Around six years ago and I wondered how my son James (who is eight) would react to spending the day walking around a park and a historical royal palace. I was reassured that we would have a good laugh in the maze and enjoy watching the deer but I had no idea just how good the day would be. We left the car in Bushy Park's free car park, wondered around the deer, played in the kids area and ate ice cream before heading across the road into the palace. After collecting our tickets we headed in and toured the Young Henry exhibition. James was surprised by Henry's younger days, his athletic build and ability at sport coming as a complete surprise to someone who only knows perhaps our most famous King by the infamous 'fat Henry' painting depicting his later years. We headed out to the Maze, where we did indeed laugh a lot, before heading back inside where we happened to come across a troupe of actors giving a performance of 'Power Play', which depicts Henry, Thomas Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey plotting the annulment of his marriage to first wife Catherine. It lasted 1 hour, but my son and all of the other children watching were enthralled as the actors went from room to room playing out the scenes in the very places in which they actually ocurred so many years ago. It was brilliant! Whilst eating lunch we spotted what looked like a huge play area peaking over the top of the bushes. Feeling properly refreshed we headed off and my son played and played and played in the Magic Garden, a sizeable area with sandpits, water, climbing frames and dragons. I eventually had to drag him away after an hour and a half! We headed back into the palace to explore all the rooms and see Henry's crown before walking around the gardens and eventually returning to Bushy Park to collect the car and say goodbye to the deer. All in all it was the most surprising and entertaining day and, if you're near by, I thoroughly recommend it.
We're half way through the first week of the summer holidays and, even if i do say it myself, it's been a pretty good start. After winding down work related activities I've been able to focus all of my attention on my son James and, as a result, we've both been thoroughly entertained. We've been to cricket training camps (where I also get involved), spent a thrilling day at Chessington World of Adventures, built dens whilst walking the dogs in the woods and played traditional card games during rainy afternoons. He also diligently took me through all the school work he brought home at the end of the school year. James is keeping a diary of all the stuff we've done, so he'll have a record to consult in the future and remember the great times we've had, laughs we've shared and experiences we've enjoyed, together. It's a great way of keeping his mind active and developing his writing skills during the long summer break. It also challenges me to make the holidays as rich and engaging as possible. No pressure!