My son already has a way with words. He’s only three years old. While I was recently recovering from the worst case of man flu, ever experienced by anyone on the entire planet, I told him off about some trifling matter. His little shoulders dropped immediately. After a pause, he said: “Daddy you’re not my best friend anymore.” “Oh, why not?” I replied. “Because you’re old.”
He must have been referring to my recent birthday. The one I’ve been putting off for forty years. As the date drew nearer I had to accept it was my turn. Anyone that says you don’t feel any different... is lying. I needed cheering up and warming up. Winter birthdays are no fun.
When I first started looking after my children it was the tail end of the summer. The weather was lovely and the days were long. We'd sit on the green messing about for hours. Those days passed so quickly I thought, looking after children is a doddle. Then winter arrived and spoilt everything. For winter childcare to be successful, you need a plan; actually that's wrong, you need several plans.
Luckily I had become a member of the National Trust and they had been great, until one Monday morning a few months ago. I showed up with two excited little bundles of coats and hats in the back of the car, only to see the sign, “closed for winter”. Resort to plan B; Claremont Gardens in Esher, they're always open. Nope. Even that is closed on a Monday in winter. My last resort was the library – guess what, closed on a Monday. It’s moments like this that test ones verbal restraint. I think my expletive thoughts might well have escaped without me realising. Note to self; make sure you have a thick piece of leather in the glove-box of the car to bite down on in future.
I needed to find somewhere I could take the children that gets them, and me, out of the house. Somewhere they could get some fresh air, without contracting double pneumonia from the Baltic temperatures. Thank God for these three letters: RHS. Luckily I’d joined the RHS at the same time as the National Trust (did I mention I’d turned 40 recently!)
The RHS garden at Wisley ticked all the boxes. They had a nice cafe that catered for my morning caffeine addiction, and lovely open spaces, but more importantly there was a huge heated greenhouse. The day we went was particularly cold, so as soon as we arrived, I made sure we were ready and out the car in record time (20minutes!) and I set off like one of those speed walkers. Yes, the wiggle and everything. I didn’t care; it was freezing. Opening that greenhouse door and being hit by the tropical temperature was bliss. They had even laid on some exotic butterflies especially for us. RHS Wisley is now firmly on my ‘to do’ list.