Interview with Northern Mum Jane

Many Brits are choosing to holiday in the UK instead of going abroad, hoping to save money on fares and, for many, revisit some childhood memories. Britain is blessed with a beautiful, diverse coastline and stunning inland regions like the Peaks and Lake District. What’s more, our country is compact and relatively easy to explore by car. But are those savings really worth the risk of rain?

Clutching our hazy nostalgia for dribbly ice-cream cones and losing our jelly sandals in the sea, we asked Jane - award-winning family blogger and Northern Mum of three boisterous kids - for her take on the classic British holiday.

CHM: You go on long drives through Britain 3-4 times a year with your husband and three kids - both on family holidays and to visit the grandparents. You must quite enjoy road trips, or you wouldn’t go on so many! But do you still anticipate them with the excitement you felt as a kid, about to go on holiday? Or have they turned into more of a “next tick off my to-do list” practicality?

Jane: I love getting away; even a stay at a friend’s house counts as a holiday for me. The car journey can be stressful with three children, but it makes the break feel even more needed. I do tend to dread the trip home though.

CHM: You’ve done a lot of family holidays in Britain, ever since you were a kid. Do British holidays hold a certain geeky charm, for you, or is it more about convenience?

Jane: I remember my first UK holidays when I stayed in a caravan in Skegness with my mum, my aunt and my cousins. My brothers stayed home with Dad and we had a fabulous time - I even won “Best Fresh Talent” in 1984 for my beautiful singing voice... If only X Factor had been around then.

I have continued these holidays with my children; we vary it up from holiday camps to remote campsites, to short breaks in a B&B. When we are away from home we all de-stress from the manic lifestyle we lead, and it gives us all an opportunity to chill out and really enjoy family life – without the airplane worries!

CHM: Did you ever stay in a caravan?

Jane: See above – but we do at least one caravan stay monthly!

CHM: What about a picnic by the roadside? Cheese sandwiches in clingfilm and Robinson’s lemon squash in a tupperware beaker? Penguin bars and dented Dairylea triangles?

Jane: My mother is amazed at my ability to ‘pack-up’ for any occasion. The last time we stopped in a motorway cafe for five of us to grab a quick bite it cost over £50; the phrase “once bitten, twice shy” really applies here! So yes, we take a picnic everywhere. If it rains we eat in the car, if it shines we find a beauty spot. I wrap everything in tinfoil, so it can be a mystery as to who gets what. My son always shrieks if he opens the tuna wrap intended for my daughter – he has fish fear.....

Jane & family enjoying the English sunshine, her other daughter acting as photographer

CHM: There’s a certain nostalgia to revisiting places you went on holiday as a kid. Do you go back to particular favourites or do you try out new places?

Jane: I was brought up in the north and consequently went to Skegness, Cleethorpes, Whitby, Blackpool and Robin Hood’s Bay. Now I live in the South and tend to visit places a little closer to home; the New Forest is a family favourite, we have friends on the coast in Bournemouth, and we do like to visit the green of Somerset and the sand in Cornwall.

However my parents have upheld tradition and take my three to Cleethorpes for day trips and an annual holiday to Blackpool!

CHM: Where do you absolutely love to visit in the UK? Those places that make you feel relaxed, and at home. What makes these places special? Is it the scenery and ambience, or more the memories you have attached to them?

Jane: Cornwall. I think I leave a bit of my heart there every time I visit. Peacefulness seems to ebb from that county. I can sit on the beach and listen to the waves crashing for hours and forget all my worries. Very few places have that effect on me. Plus the kids adore it.

CHM: You’ve already given us your top tips for keeping the kids happy while you’re driving - what about the grown-ups? How do you and your husband make yourselves at home in the car?

Jane: I take gin.....

Kidding – I tend to read until I feel ill and then fall asleep; my other half doesn’t trust my driving so he takes full responsibility. He prefers to drive in silence, so my reading and the kids playing video games all works out well for him.

CHM: Are there biscuit wrappers in your footwell, or are you a tidy passenger?

Jane: We are horrendous, we have raisins everywhere (curse of the toddler), wrappers shoved in the door holders, and empty coffee cups. My car is my ‘messy’ space.

CHM: Your blog suggests that you approach family life with a dry sense of humour that is crucial for handling the ups and downs. Do you think your kids' messes and tiffs are funny when they're actually happening, or just in retrospect? Can you remember an instance where your sense of humour failed you on the road?

Jane: If I manage to break away from the moment and think ‘this will make a great blog’ then yes, I can just about find the humour. But normally it is all after the event that I look back with a wry smile, or when I’m sharing the story later and find myself spluttering with laughter. When my son had a tummy bug and we were on a motorway with no hard shoulder and he vomited everywhere? I lost my sense of humour for about a day. The car still smells......

CHM: We’ve noticed more and more people staying in Britain for their holidays instead of going abroad, probably because of the economic climate. Do you think it’s important to get the most out of your own country, your own neighbourhood? What about some sunshine sometimes?

Jane: I like to go abroad for some sunshine, but Britain has some beautiful places to visit where hot temperatures aren’t always important. I think showing your children different cultures is fantastic, but I also want them to know about their background, their own country and the pretty landscapes they can find on their doorstep.

CHM: How do you feel about the infamous British weather?

Jane: Hmmm, we have just had one day of sun and as I look outside it is snowing again.

I can say one thing; it certainly keeps us on our toes.

CHM: If a non-Brit was on the fence about visiting Britain because they were worried about the weather, what would you say to them?

Jane: Britain holds so much more to do than just sit on a beach; we have a landscape crammed with history, with castles and coalmines and battlefields. Cities enriched with culture, and bursting with nightlife. I would say, pack your brolly, bring some wellies and jump in the puddles as you pass them by!

Our thanks to Jane, who will no doubt be visiting a caravan near you sometime in 2013.