“Visiting grandparents is a journey into an everexpanding shared history”
OUR FIRST JOURNEY AS A FAMILY TO LEIGH-ON-SEA IN SOUTH EAST ENGLAND WAS SPECIAL AS IT HELPED US RELIVE MY ENGLISH HUSBAND’S CHILDHOOD
Being married to a very active Englishman (Matthew Spacie, founder of Magic Bus and a cofounder of Cleartrip.com) means that our holidays have always been… well, active. Matthew’s father is an ex-paratrooper, so even visits to my in-laws involve at least three outdoor activities daily, including cycling, hill walking and an activity of my choice which usually involves sitting on the grass and eating food, much to the horror of my in-laws. It is not a complaint, but I thought it might become a consideration for us once we had three children in three years. I was wrong.
Last summer we took our not yet one-year-old, our two-year-old and our three-year-old to visit their grandparents in Leigh-on-Sea, in the South East of England for a month. It was the first time we were all travelling out of India together, and I was excited for them to experience where and how their father grew up.
UNDER THE BLUE SKIES
Leigh-on-Sea is just 40 minutes from London, and is a historic, charming and small fishing town with pebbled streets, a cockleshed row and a beach that stretches for seven miles, linking several traditional English seaside towns. It is where the Thames meets the sea— murky brown; and a walk on the beach can turn into a trudge in the mud. But this is where my motherin-law has swum everyday (except when it snows) for almost 50 years; it is where my father-in-law would attract crowds when he became one of the first windsurfers the town had seen; and it is where my husband would run to straight from school to join his father on the water.
Three miles down from the genteel Leigh is the bigger and louder Southend-on-Sea. There is a palpable snobbery towards the latter, but being from Mumbai I enjoy the cotton candy eating crowds. Southend is also home to the world’s longest pier, and my husband never lets anyone forget that he once won the annual pier race as a child. From his tone as we strolled along the 2.8-km pier it was clear he expected the same from at least one of our children.
Summer meant long sunny days, with walks to Hadleigh Castle, built in the 12th century and surrounded by parkland which now includes an Olympic Mountain Bike course built for the 2012 London Games, and a visit to the rare breeds centre where we met Misty, May and Mary, the Bagot goats, as well as Beyonce and Bronwen, the Middle White pigs. It did leave me wondering if the Left White pig and the Right White pig were even rarer breeds that were kept elsewhere.
We played at the park, and on the beach, and punctuated our days with ice-cream runs. When the tide was low and the mudflats were exposed, it was time for an adventure at ‘crab creek’. These adventures, were the ones that my husband had with his parents so he was ensuring their legacy.
The beauty of visiting grandparents is that each visit becomes a journey into an ever-expanding shared history. As the children grow older there will be newer discoveries made, interests shared, secrets revealed, and as to be expected— activities planned. Every trip back will be a first journey, because their age will allow them more access to these experiences. At 14 my husband got a summer job at the Leigh beach as a deck chair attendant. To date he says it was his best job ever, and I know he hopes our children will also experience summers this way—in the outdoors, under the blue skies, being active.
Every trip back will be a first journey, because their age will allow them greater access to these experiences.
FAMILY BONDS Ashima Narain with her children at the beach
ON THE GO Hadleigh Castle was the ideal spot for long walks and cycling trips with the family