Anyone who reads my books knows that children frequently feature, usually as background or secondary characters, but occasionally battling for prime place with the hero and heroine as in Double Fault and Kissing Maggie Silver, so it stands to reason that I like them.
Sometimes this liking leads me down unexpected paths. For example, when I was younger I never thought I would spend months in Australia helping to care for my youngest grandchild, nor that I would attend school sex education meetings for my middle grandchild when neither of her parents were available because of work commitments. Then there are the concerts and the prize givings, the birthday parties, collecting grandchildren, and sometimes their friends as well, from school, and the sleep-overs... the list goes on and on, as any grandparent knows.
This week, however, could have been a real challenge. 3 children aged 15,10 and 3, 2 dogs and a husband all staying together in a cottage on a working farm in very rural Wales. How easy was it going to be to keep children of such disparate ages interested and happy. The older ones brought their technology of course, but the Internet in such a remote place is unreliable to say the least. So is the weather!
I need not have worried. The resident donkeys and goats arrived at the kitchen window for breakfast each day and for the price of a few bags of the cheapest carrots and apples kept all 3 children occupied for hours. The younger ones also learned how to chop the food and how to keep their fingers safe as they fed their new friends. Then there were the alpacas in the next field, and poor old Sunny, the one male alpaca who had been banished to live with the donkeys while his babies were growing up, much to his disgust.
There were the ducks too, and the ducklings, and the chickens and newly laid eggs. And a field of swishy grass behind the duck pond that was exactly like the grass in one of the 3-year-old's story books, which made the whole holiday just that bit more exciting.
Then there was hide n'seek. Bales and bales of newly cut silage waiting to be bagged provided hours of fun, as well as comfortable places to stretch out in the sun. And for the little one, the sight of the tractor moving the bales a few days later made it even more interesting.
Then, on the sunny days, there was the local sandy beach. Fortunately it wasn't just any old beach. It had a freshwater river running into it, with small fish darting through the weed. So a couple of 99p fishing nets later everyone was happily engaged. And when they were all fished out there was the river to splash in, or jump over, or sit in.
A barbecue was another hit, especially as it was in a wooden Hobbit House that was complete with benches covered in furs, and lit by fairy lights, just like the one Bilbo Baggins lived in in The Hobbit. This came courtesy of the farm and provided high excitement both before, during and after the event.
Nobody was bored, nobody wanted to go anywhere 'exciting', and everybody loved being muddy and dusty and not having to care what they looked like, and that included the adults! Even a walk in the rain offered excitement, what with the muddy puddles and dripping hoods.
All it took was a few bags of carrots and apples, 2 fishing nets, a hay field and a whole lot of friendly animals. Now I need to see where I can add that to the mix in my next book!