I have just returned from the first family holiday we've had in three years. It lasted for two days, which was quite enough for everyone. It seems extraordinary that my childhood holidays were always a fortnight long.
One of my earliest memories is of a disastrous stay in rural Wales, where my parents had booked bed and breakfast on a remote farm. It rained for the entire two weeks and the holiday felt more like penal servitude.
The farm's owners rarely spoke English and regarded our presence as a necessary evil, although when the weather was particularly bad, we were once invited to watch an episode of 'The Virginian' with them.
We never went back. The following year, we began the first of many successful holidays at a caravan site in Devon, where I befriended two girls and their younger brother. We got along so well, our parents decided to synchronise their holidays. I have many happy memories of Enid Blyton-style adventures involving deserted cottages, poachers and secret dens.
When the holiday began, the two weeks ahead felt like an eternity and we gladly turned our backs on the dreary, monochrome existence of our real lives. Local landmarks became old friends: a telephone box, a garage with a blue door, a wonky road sign and prehistoric tumulus in the distance. As we approached the caravan site after a day out, my mother would say "We're home."
The long summer holiday was a gift I wanted to give to my children. It never occured to me that the prospect of spending two weeks in an idyllic setting, exploring the countryside and beaches, would be anyone's idea of hell. However, children on the autistic spectrum hate a break in their routine.
When I broached the subject of a holiday with my son, I felt as if I was brokering a deal as challenging as the Greek debt repayment. In the end, we agreed that two nights would be acceptable as long as the hotel had wifi and wasn't further than 120 miles away.
It was a plus point that we were returning to Dorset, as my son would know what to expect. I didn't mention that the hotel was 800-years-old, as that would probably be a bad thing in his book.
Golden Cap, the second highest point on the south coast of England
Dorset was as pretty as I remembered it, but many of the traditional family-run shops have been replaced with chi chi cafes, artisan bakeries and places selling rather poorly-executed paintings. It looks as if the London diaspora has reached Dorset and the rhotic r has been replaced by the 'flat white'.
If I had my way, I'd reintroduce smocks and pitchforks, with penalties for anyone who didn't say their rrrs and oiz properly.
Lyme Regis harbour
Overall, the holiday was a success. There were a few wobbles and I felt sorry for my younger son when a fossiling trip came to an abrupt end, but most of the time we managed to achieve something that faintly resembled a normal family holiday. When we returned home, our older son said that he would like to do it again.
P.S. I've become a big fan of Instagram recently, so here are a few pictures from the trip: