Since we retired to Spain we have developed a very quiet and selfish life style. We live outside a small village with extensive mountain views. It is very quiet and peaceful. We have a very regular routine, which is largely hill walking and wargaming - our joint favourite hobbies.
During the summer this all comes to an abrupt end when my son and his family join us for their annual holiday. The arrival of two adults and three children (aged 3, 7 and 11) is eagerly awaited and dreaded in equal parts. They normally spend two weeks with us, last year it was three and this year almost four. They love the area and the children love the swimming pool. We love having them but must accept the loss of our house and routine.
It all starts two days before they arrive. The house has to be rearranged, cleaned and dusted. Under Jan’s direction I do the lifting and carrying, and fit child guards for the stairs. Like most Spanish houses the floors are tiled and there are lots of sharp edges. For their first visit we tried to cushion most of them, but that was really impractical and soon abandoned. We had forgotten how much more practical parents are than grandparents.
Fortunately we have never been fussy, and do not have too many breakables around the house. But those we have are removed the day before they arrive and stored in my office. This becomes my “man cave” and sanctuary for the duration of their stay. Everyone is banned from the office, though not everyone holds to the ban. Usually after a couple of days the children want to see what granddad has behind the closed door. Fortunately it is pretty boring, and they soon lose interest.
In the office I have my computer, and I can play with the campaign and update maps. Order of battle can be revised and new campaigns planned. So I can keep reasonably busy, but concentrating is very difficult. Jan is not so lucky. Normally the kitchen is her area, which I avoid except to wash up after meals. It now becomes part of the play area which includes the rest of the house, except for our bedroom and the wargames room.
We have introduced each of the children in turn to the wargames room. They accept it as a natural part of our house, and are only mildly interested in what it is all about. We always have a game set up, and continue to do so when they are here as well. I have never known any of them to move any of the figures. Perhaps they have had dire warnings from their parents.
We fit in our routine around the visitors. They have the pool all day, except for an hour in the afternoon when it is ours. We avoid the sitting and dining room, and don’t expect to be able to watch any TV for the duration. We have our meals together and then retire to our own areas. Jan has an hour siesta after lunch to recover from the constant noise and movement.
It sounds pretty terrible, but we love it and really look forward to their visit. It disrupts our routine, which is a good thing. We all spend quality time together, but we all respect the other’s needs for personal space. When they leave at the end of the holiday the house is very quiet and we miss them greatly. It takes us about a week to get back into our familiar and much loved routine.
It also makes us realise how lucky we are that they actually want to spend their precious few weeks holiday with us. The parents can have as many nights out eating and drinking as they wish, we are regular baby sitters. The children love the freedom of being here and being spoiled by their grandparents. The Spanish love children, so we can all go out for a meal together whenever we want to. Though the children would prefer an evening on the beach when it cools down a little.
They don’t arrive until tomorrow, but already they have driven all thoughts of wargaming out of my mind. Hence this unusual blog post. Hopefully normal service will be resumed in about four weeks.