RECENTLY WE DID something that I swore I would never do, having been a constant victim of it as a child; we returned from holiday early.


I’ve got plenty of excuses to offer – it was raining, and I had a cold. So as we lay there, listening to the familiar sound of the rain drumming on the roof, I hesitantly suggested to hubby, M that we may like to consider calling it a day before it became necessary to use Sammy’s Lego to construct an ark. Hardly had the words even left my lips before he had leapt out of bed and, clad only in wellies and underpants, was gleefully un-pegging the awning. From the inside, obviously.


[tl:gallery size=460×306]There is never a good time for rain. But should you just sit it out?


The children of course were a different matter. The news had to be broken to them in the same tone of voice I used to explain why the goldfish was floating upside down in the tank, and how it came to pass that I accidentally ate their last Easter egg. Sensitivity is required; and possibly bribery. It did not go down well and the resultant howling gave the driving rain a run for its money. To children, the fact that no one has been able to see further than the jockey wheel for the past 24 hours is of little consequence.


And who, after all can blame them? My childhood caravanning holidays were always cut short by my parents. In fact, I’m surprised they didn’t just book for a week that had already passed and then we wouldn’t have had to bother with the yearly charade of loading up the aged Sprite only to realise that the car’s MOT was out of date and the left indicator light on the van didn’t work either.


We did seem to suffer badly with the weather on holiday I recall, what with my dad being a rain god and not realising it. Except on the first and last day. No matter where we stayed, we always travelled there amidst beautiful blue skies and a blazing sun which lifted our hopes and spirits and stuck our legs to the vinyl seats. Such a cruel trick as we were destined to spend the next five days heat-sealed in cagoules wandering round dusty folk museums and peering out through tea-room windows waiting for the monsoon to pass. It always did, on the seventh day, when we loaded the car up under the same jeering blue skies that we had so trustingly passed under the previous Saturday.


But even when the weather was kind, my parents still found some excuse to return home early. Like the dog dying, or my sister getting ketchup on the front dinette or the time my mum rolled down a cliff in Cornwall, we were always bitterly disappointed. Yet here I find myself offering up the same kind of lame excuse to my children with the same result. So later that evening, at home, when they were both in bed, worn out from crying and I was comfortably full of Indian take-away, I allowed myself the benefit of hindsight and wondered whether we’d done the right thing. Should rain ever stop play?


My sister-in-law has a caravan and five children and, come the deluge they simply don head-to-toe waterproof clothing and go out for a cheerful, muddy bike ride. I can almost picture M now clutching his chest and gasping for air as two small but filthy boys disembark from dirt-encrusted bikes and launch themselves onto the cream upholstery arguing over whether they should watch Cartoon Network or Boomerang.


Is it only me that gives in at the sight of rain, or as adults have we lost our sense of adventure? It certainly is more of a challenge keeping children occupied during persistently unfair holiday weather. In those far-away days of just the two of us, we could read the paper from cover to cover, pretend to go on a hike that just so happened to take in a pretty decent pub and spend the afternoon there with no regard as to whether it had a family room or served chicken nuggets.


Nowadays, we are more likely to be found looking for fossils on the beach, building dens in the wood or feeding the boys’ inheritance into slot machines, trying to keep warm in deserted amusement arcades.


I find myself adopting a tone brighter than a Marbella morning and shouting positive phrases such as “It’s only a passing  shower” and “Look, it’s getting brighter over there,” against the onslaught of hail. Sometimes you have to brave the elements and just stick it out because you’ve driven too far to get there, and besides, it’s summer and this might be the only holiday you get this year and some children don’t get a holiday at all and they’d be grateful for this so put your wellies and your scarf back on and go outside.


And when it’s just too bad, well, that’s what jigsaws were invented for. And Battleships and Guess Who. A friend recently suggested I might like to take some Play-Doh with me to keep the boys occupied. Yes of course, just as soon as they start selling it with defibrillators for when M sees it trodden into the carpets. In the meantime, there are always folk-museums, tea-rooms and the option of just calling it a day.


But wait, look over there, isn’t that a patch of blue sky I can see?