Family travel with flair

Gwithian: A great place to surf in Cornwall

TweetI’ve always thought there was something sweet and a little deluded about British surfers. Sure, this is an island and there are loads of nice beaches. But when it comes to waves, it’s not as if we have the big surf of Hawaii or the iconic breaks of Australia. And yet, surf aficionados like me can find some very nice beaches for learning. I’ve tried several spots with varying success, but I’ve just returned from Gwithian, and it’s gone straight to the top of my list. Gwithian is in Cornwall, outside of St. Ives, just by Godrevy beach. We took lessons with some nice guys at Gwithian Surf Academy (GAS). My friend G found the academy, which not only offers package deals of lessons and rentals (board, wetsuit & booties) but also self-catering accommodation via Gwithian Holidays. For £200 per person we had 3 nights’ accommodation plus 3 lessons with rentals. First impressions of the accommodation: “It’s nice! I thought it would be skanky,” mused G after the owner showed us around the small apartment building. (It’s a family affair, the father owns the apartment and the son runs the surf academy.) “I thought it would be, you know, for surfers…that level of quality,” she said. Take heed, surfers with high standards, you have come home. The apartment gives the impression of having been outfitted and decorated with care. In the living area, a leather-look loveseat with mushroom-coloured throw sits opposite a TV with DVD player. In the corner of the room, just beside a table that seats 3 is a small but modern kitchen. The bedroom has a double and a single bed and a very modern shower room (the vanity mirror has tiny embedded lights you turned on and off by waving your hand underneath). Comfortable beds – tick. Hot shower with good water pressure – tick. Free wifi – tick! To be honest, I was excited/dreading surfing for two hours in cold Cornwall water in April. In actuality, the midweight wetsuits supplied by the school meant that I couldn’t even feel the cold while wading in. (A quick note about wetsuits – just forget your dignity when putting one on. Imagine wrestling a seal in a black bin bag, while grunting and puffing. And while wetsuits make buff male instructors look like sea gods, they somehow flatten breasts and highlight rounded tummies in women. Sara Blakely, where are you when we need you?) The beach just beside Gwithian is Godrevy beach. It gets an Atlantic swell...

The problem with 'Me time'

TweetAround the corner from my house is a beauty salon that does great bikini waxes and naturalistic spray tans but has the ickiest name: Me Time, a phrase that sets my teeth on edge. “Me time” is something mothers talk about a lot and frankly, we need it, but that phrase and that idea has taken over parents’ free time the way “your big day” has taken over weddings. The wedding industrial complex uses a perfectly natural impulse – to make one’s wedding day a special rite – and bastardizes it into an excuse to overspend on canapes and napkin rings. Now parental downtime has fallen victim to the same thing. “You need more ‘me time’,” we’re constantly told in ads and magazines. TV advertisements trumpet the benefits of me time. I wouldn’t be so against it except their suggestions aim so low. Get more “me time” – have a bath with foamy soap Get more “me time” – drink a premium coffee with 100,000,000 calories Get more “me time” – go to the bathroom on your own Now that’s living! Since when did enjoying perfectly normal adult pursuits such as reading a book, washing yourself or talking on the phone to a friend become specialised activities that you can only do when the kids aren’t around? I fall victim to this thinking myself. I tend to read books at night in bed instead of my preferred time on Sunday afternoons, a perfectly good moment to bring out a book since we’re all lazing around doing this and that anyway. It’s beneficial for children to see their parents do grown-up activities (within reason) and also to come to terms that mum and dad aren’t available to them every single second to fetch some juice or play Frustration. To be sure, when children are babies, we do need to be at their beck and call, watching out for sharp corners and feeding times. But once they hit a certain age – I’d put it at 4 years, if not before – they can learn that “Mummy is reading her book/doing her nails/in the loo now. She can play in 15 minutes” is part of life. In those circumstances, they must entertain themselves for short periods, which is something so many of us want to give back to our kids anyway: the opportunity to be bored then discover something on their own. And while we’re at it, let’s expand our own definition of “me time” beyond activities we do in a few snatched moments at home. Last week I went...

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