With soaring costs for the family summer holiday more and more people are opting to stay home or stay in the country. This year we went to Southport Flowershow on a bus man's holiday.
Holidaying by the British seaside is often accompanied by sniggers. I spent most of my childhood at some British resort from Blackpool to Fleetwood; I remember a brief flourish with Scarborough were there was a wonderful ice cream parlour and were I was scared witless by Darth Vader. It wasn't the real Darth but a man dressed to promote 'Return of the Jedi'. He apologised to my Mum as I disappeared into a screaming dot in the distance pursued by my Dad shouting after me, 'Calm down, it's only a mask'. Cue more screaming. The force was powerful in me as a child, in one weekend I stuck a stone up my nose, dangled out a window watching my sister's Barbies crash to earth, flattened my sister's nose and been tied to a lamppost, I was only five. Things didn't get better as got older. I vaguely remember a wedding I ruined by doing my own speech but that is another story and we don't see those family members anymore.
Therefore, I know that the force is powerful in Little D. I was aware of this when I agreed to go on holiday. I had images that Little D would indeed end up screaming on the beach running from the Smurfs promoting their latest 3D adventure, 'Smurfs Poke With Sticks'. The truth was far worse, at the show Little D stripped off all his clothes and screamed at the locals from the side of a marquee. 'Belligerent baby holding a banana is running riot in the rural crafts marquee' is not what you expect to hear over a public address system.
Little D spent most of the time at the show screeching at gladiolli. I imagine Little D's nemesis would be Morrissey in 'This Charming Man' video.
The problem with going away isn't Morrissey or Darth Vader but the lack of self-catering places that understand children. I know this from being a child myself. Back in the 80s, a child friendly self-catering cottage meant the owner had sifted the dog poo out of the sand pit and the swimming pool. They were grimy places, they smelt of melted plastic and the children's rooms were always bunk beds with rusted nails in the ladders. The mattresses were always damp, smelling of urine and plastic. Things have moved on along with Darth Vader and Morrissey.
We had a great time at the flowershow but it wouldn't have been so great without Stan and Lin at Cross Farm Cottages. This is a hidden gem in the Southport area and should be booked everyday of the year. It's in a great location, just outside of Southport and in reach of Formby. More importantly this couple are child friendly, they love kids, they love people, and they love what they do. Their old pig sties, and yes the irony wasn't lost on us at Pig Row, have become great holiday cottages. They have not simply moved the pigs out and brushed down the floor, which reminds me of a hotel in Wales I once stayed in as a teenager. Stan and Lin have built several luxury holiday cottages. It is no surprise that some of the other people who were also staying there kept coming back. One of the guests had been there for six weeks. That says it all. The guest book said it all too. People just didn't use it as holiday accommodation, they made Cross Farm their home and Stan and Lin treated them like family. It's rare in this day and age to find people who genuinely like having holiday cottages. They are always an extension of another business or away to put land to use. Stan and Lin though have done it because they like people and people like them.
Lin welcomed us with open arms, offered to bake our bread in her farmhouse stove and Stan brought round milk when we ran out of it. The great thing was that in front of our cottage was a huge lawn, bordering on a field, that we could let Little D out onto. Stan and Lin didn't miss this opportunity to bring out the toys from their now grown up sons, which they told us all about and their stories were full of pride and happiness (Stan and Lin don't do negatives like most landladies and landlords). Thanks to Stan and Lin's box of toys and their sons love of Tonka that I got to share a blissful hour with Little D during which I pinned him down and showed him Tonka trucks. I'd like to say that he understood every word I said, or even enjoyed the Tonka trucks, but I doubt it. He was more excited by the field, the bonfire circle, the camper van and the laminate flooring. Either way, Cross Farm Cottages are a great place to stay and we'll be back the next time we cover the flowershow. It is isn't just family friendly, it is people friendly.