Summer Holibobs

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When your appetite for plane fares diminishes, as ours did this year with the prospect of hauling our oversized, expensive brood to the continent once again, go Old School.

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The lure of the British seaside was made all the more attractive by the idea that we would be saving thousands of pounds by not 'hiring the sunshine' for a fortnight, and made yet more tolerable with knowing that the kennels bill could also be eluded if we stayed in Blighty. 

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Two cars, two dogs, two suitcases, four body boards, one funeral, four kids and seven hours later (the earlier we gloss over the latter items, the better), North Devon was in our sights.

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Our locations didn't disappoint. Wetsuits went on quickly (and came off much more slowly), dogs drank sea water (yes, they ARE that dumb), sand got in knickers, the badminton kit stayed firmly in the boot, and the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme tune became a distant memory. Bliss.

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And whilst our tans were more due to the burn of the wind than the sun, I could feel my omnipresent tension beginning to subside as the days progressed. Nature had begun to provide her magical therapy and relaxation furtively slipped into our veins like a warm draft of whisky.

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The sound of wood on metal brought the idyl to an abrupt end. Let's just say I wasn't driving and leave it at that. Ahem. 

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Somehow these British based holibobs always stay more firmly in our memory banks than our more exotic ventures. The fondness with which I hold my own childhood rock-pooling, flip-flop filled days is irreplaceable. Nostalgia rocks.

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My family (and other animals) on holiday

The annual tribe-on-tour event has taken place. This year's destination - South Western France.

Failed full length selfie of the old couple. Failed as my tummy was unshowable and had to be cropped severely

A mercifully brief (but paradoxically expensive) flight to Toulouse was how it began. Land of sunflowers, mediaeval hilltop towns and above all else, apples. Apples everywhere. Hectare upon hectare of the bloody things. A veritable Scrumper's Paradise and I didn't even pack my cider press. This countryside provided us with a glorious vista from the comfort of our sunbeds, with the grape as our preferred fruit of choice on most evenings. Everyone admired the view.

Shot of the best friends admiring the apple-encrusted countryside view from the family's holiday home

I love my family holiday. I love my family, of course, and they are 50% of 'family holiday' after all, but the actual 'holiday' part where I get to read a book and not wash up is, without contest, a very close second.

The camera is never far from my side, and since this area of France has more mediaeval bastille towns than one can throw a stick at, it was easy enough to capture the atmosphere as the sun went down and the corks started popping.

Photographing a local gourmet night market as the sun went down was no hardship

I was struck by the sense of community here. A festival of light in Lauzerte required the co-operation of every single village resident to plunge themselves into darkness at dusk. If one stubborn ex-pat had refused to turn off Eastenders or close the fridge door, the whole event would have been a write-off. 

Mediaeval towns are ten-a-penny in this Labyrinth inspired part of France. Photographic manna from heaven

But what of the animals, I hear you cry? Well, our ever-present lifeguard came in canine form. This adorable but highly strung beauty was our constant companion. She was the seeker-out-of-food-scraps-that-she-was-allergic-to and saw her most important role as pool intervention - woe betide the child that attempted to effect a dive or jump in without her consent as she formed a canine shield with her large body between the offender and the pool.

Our family's adopted pet for the week. The canine lifeguard.

Tradition dictates that no vacation pass by without a visit to the local 'Accrobranche'. Our 6 adrenalin junkies can't get enough of the high ropes harness hell, and this year the added attraction of a nearby close-contact monkey sanctuary proved too much to resist. See? Animals! The hand-feeding of the monkeys, which roamed freely amongst the visitors, was very much encouraged. They will happily take popcorn from you without so much as a by-your-leave, but there was no sign of a Multiplex anywhere.

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Lest we forget that homosapiens are animals too, too many late nights will bring us back to earth....

Tired and emotional offspring will happily remind us that it's not only the furry animals that can be wild.