23 September 2012

a scilly end

These two weeks in mid August began with mixed emotions. This was the family holiday that I'd heard so much about, in particular the helicopter flight there, all through out the year I worked for this family. I was looking forward to it; to riding in the helicopter, seeing the places I'd heard about and joining in the general holiday relaxing (even though I would be working). It was also sad. A bitter sweet sadness. These were my last two weeks with this family. But I tell you, it was a truly wonderful way to wrap it all up.

The mum, myself and the boys drove most of the day all the way down to Penzance on the south west end of England. The journey went quite smoothly. We stopped for a snack and run around and then the boy got to watch the movie, Cars. The baby pretty much slept the whole way as the drive was scheduled that way. We had to wait around at the heliport as we made such good time we got there fairly early. The boy had fun playing about, watching some Olympics on tv and most of all watching the helicopters land and take off. Eventually it was our turn.

The boys were troubled by the flight. For all his love of helicopters, the boy was scared of the noise. It really was quite noisy up close and for the whole flight. The boy was quite upset getting on and the baby, well it was his first time so it must have freaked him out too. But I enjoyed it. I think it was my first helicopter flight and it was a beautiful day and the scenery was great. The mum pointed out Land's End to me and then it was sea, sea and more sea until a nice, speckled array of land appeared. The Scilly Isles. St Mary's is the main isle which I think has about 1700 residents. We went to Tresco with inhabitants of about 150 excluding all the coming and going holiday makers.
The above photos are Tresco central which was the main hubbub of the isle. Pictured in its entirety. It had a small grocery store with post office, the Tresco office, indoor pool and day spa and the Flying Boat Club (restaurant). But really you can just see some of the holiday houses in front of all that. The pic of me is from the field just behind our house. It was a great view. For the first few days it was just us two and the boys until the dad arrived after being away for a study week. We spent most days first in the indoor swimming pool after breakfast. I usually swam around with the boy. There was only one day I think where I didn't get in and let the dad do it all. We would then go to the Flying Boat Club for a cuppa before heading back to the house for lunch. The boys would rest and the rest of us all had some kind of down time. I found reruns of Burn Notice on tv which conveniently ran in time with the boys nap. Then in the afternoon we usually went to one of the beaches to play about in the sand and seaweed and surf. Not that there was much surf. They were calm beaches. We'd then come home for tea and the whole bedtime routine with a bit of inside toy play involved there somewhere. Once the boys were down the adults had tea together. It was all wonderfully relaxed and easy going. Tresco is really quite nice. Semi-tropical but in a more rough and tumble barren sort of way. Hills and rocks and heather and bracken, a bit like the north end of Scotland but with more trees. Not the typical rainforest, tropical island images that usually pop into mind. There was a lot of tropical plants put in the Abbey Gardens but I'll talk more about that later. It was a wonderfully nature-surrounded holiday place though not with the lovely tropical warmth. The average temperature for our two weeks there was about 17-19 degrees.
There are practically no cars on Tresco.  Only the trucks and tractor/trailers to deal with passenger transportation to and from the heliport and garbage collection.  There are golf buggies for those with hindering bodies but the rest walk or ride bikes.  I rode frequently with the boy in a baby seat on the back of the bike.  It's really odd to ride a bike and have someone else effect the balance but I managed fine.  It was really lovely scenery to ride around in.  Lots of nature.  I had two days off during my two weeks there.  I mostly slept in, dawdled about, went to the club or the pub with the laptop (no internet or barely mobile service at the house), or wandered about.  I had lunch and tea with the family still.

The first day off, in the evening before tea I went for a bike ride around Tresco.  I went out to the carn on the point below the heliport.  I trekked through the waist-high bracken along a partly hidden path and climbed the rocks.  It was a nice view on a lovely day.  I could see lots of the other isles around and it was peaceful and relaxing.  The second day off I slotted in a pedicure which was another first and had my toenails painted dark blue.
A few days in my boss' parents arrived.  They stayed with us a few nights before beginning their time at their own holiday house near the hubbub of Tresco.  I find it amusing watching the family interact.  It's really quite different from my own.  Different personalities really.  The grandma is french and can't keep still.  She's always busy--cooking, planning, entertaining, organising.  And she'd tried to calm herself and not do too much coz this was a holiday. He he. And she's more proper and formal where as the rest of the family is more relaxed. My boss sometimes got a little frustrated with her and sighed at her providing an abundance of unnecessary stuff though she acknowledged her thoughtful kindness and thanked her.  Just a few days earlier we'd been unpacking boxes of personal stuff they have stored away all year until they come and my boss had commented on it as we sorted out all the things her mum had bothered to give them for their storeboxes.  I glanced at my boss and giggled when the grandparents arrived and the grandma pulled out about 8 large bottles of creams and soap to stock them up.  She brought me a little travel pack too which was very thoughtful.  They really are very nice and generous--she later bought me a map of Tresco too--but they have their quirks which I lovingly laugh about.  It was so nice to be a part of this family and the extended family and witness their interacting not just on this holiday but on all the various times I've been around them.  They can be frustrated and rude and abrupt and annoyed with each other and sometimes argue and I've even witnessed a bit of role reversal with my boss telling her mum off but they are family and clearly love and value each other.  I think I find it amusing, even entertaining, because they love each other like my family does but our interactions are so different.  It was lovely to witness this on holidays with them too as it's a different, more relaxed atmosphere.  It was particularly enjoyable seeing my boss and her husband more playful and laughing together.

Once the grandparents moved to their own holiday house, friends arrived to stay with us.  A couple and their 1yo son.  Nothing much changed when they arrived. More people around but the same general routine--breakfast, pool, lunch, naptime, beach, tea, bath and bed for the boys, tea for the adults.  They were a lovely little family and it was nice having them around as well.  Sometimes they went out and left me with the baby.  It was lovely to have the baby all to myself for a while and relish in his cuteness and cuddle opportunities.  I soaked up time with him and his big brother and even the parents as I knew this was end of my time with them.  I strapped on sling with the baby one day and went walking while he fell asleep.  I fed him, bathed him, let him nap on me.  There's something so sweet about a baby sleeping on you.  He loves talking to people in his gurgling way and his smiles are precious.  I couldn't quite get him to laugh though.  He'd only manage the first hiccupy sound and not follow through.  I really enjoyed being more involved with the 14wk old as well since the maternity nurse help was finished.

On one of the afternoons I took the boy to the Abbey Gardens.  He's into plants, which I think is Grandpa-influenced, and when I asked he told me his favourite was the agapanthus.  But maybe because he knew the name and look of that one best.  He said a few other names as he looked at plants to which I said to myself, "Probably right."  He knew more than I did.  We enjoyed wandering through the gardens and wandering the paths with it's many tropical and exotic plants. The boy enjoyed using my camera for random shots.  Some very random; others are quite good.  There were even some Australian Eucalypts in one corner.  It made me smile to be somewhere that looked like the familiar Aussie bush.  The intriguing part though was the popping bush.  I don't what kind of plant it was but it was covered in small black balls (seed pods) and because of the timing and the sunny day they were bursting all over the plant.  It took me a little while to realise what was making the noise but it was quite fascinating.  I've never seen anything like it and enjoyed just listening to it and watching the bush shake and bits of seed pods flung everywhere.  We then joined the others on the beach nearby.

The beaches were great.  Real beaches, not that stone-filled shore the funny Brits still call a 'beach'.  The water was on the cool side and I never went in much more than knee height.  Maybe if the weather was warmer I would have.  The boy got brave in the first couple of days and touched the seaweed with me.  We found popping seaweed which was a bit of fun.  Not quite like popping bubblewrap but similar.  By the end of our holiday he was happily playing with all kinds of seaweed, picking it up, dragging it around, playing with the long string-like one as a rescue rope and putting some on his head just to be silly.  We drew a line all over the sand, weaving and twisting about and then followed it from beginning to end.  We wandered along the beach exploring, finding shells and bits of crab we collected like puzzle pieces.  There were quite a few entire dead crabs found actually throughout the holiday.  He went splashing about in the water while I skimmed shells or sometimes half threw him in while we chattered about a variety of things.  My favourite beach part was sitting on the beach together while he ate his picnic tea, the other's having headed back home already.  We were watching some of the boats when the boy started up this story about a girl who had apparently just kissed me on the cheek.  When I exclaimed "Oo" with surprise, he smiled and went on to explain that she was in the boat and had seen me and thought I was her nanny.  She jumped overboard and swam ashore but then she was sad coz she realised I wasn't her nanny but then she decided she liked me anyway.  I'm a little hazy on the details now but I think she sat down with the boy and ate a picnic tea too and was sad coz she lost her mummy and at some point had left.  He said a few other things about her too and I offered that if we spotted her on the way home we could pick her up and invite her to come and stay with us for a while.  He did spot her on the way back so I stopped the bike and we asked if she'd like to come with us.  She did.  So she sat on the boy's lap and he held her tight so she wouldn't fall off.  She was 3 as well apparently but she didn't have a name.  I offered a couple names we could call her and the boy chose Pebbles.  He carried on with random mentioning of Pebbles throughout the holiday and answering with extended information different questions we asked about her.  I was quite impressed with his imagination and how it has taken off.  It's delightful to see.  And to share in.
The last few days before we left there was a lot of family and friends around and we made some trips to some of the other isles.  The first day we went to Samson.  We readied ourselves and the boys and went to the quay where we were to be picked up.  They had a small sail boat and a powered catamaran at their usage.  They brought the catamaran over to collect us and then we passed over my boss and the boy to the sail boat and then went looking for the rest to pick up from shore.  And went looking at the quay.  And went back to the sail boat.  And looking at the shore again.  Ha ha.  Took us a while to find them as they weren't out waiting on the shore or in the house as assumed they'd be.  During this time it rained on us too and I wondered what the day would be like.  By the time we were finally on our way skirting between the sandbars and heading toward Samson the sun came out again and it ended up being quite a warm day.  Samson was nice and it was a real day at the beach a bit like an island holiday.  Not a touristy one though.  Samson was inhabited until 1855 when the families were removed due to lack of fresh water and good food or something.  Then the governor built a deer park on the island but all the deer escaped. There were jokes about how that happened.  The grandma brought along a great lunch for us all with the german salad I've grown quite fond of and must remember to ask for the recipe for.  During 'naptime' I went walking with some others to the top of the hill where ruins remain of Samson's civilisation.  Then I played in the water and along the shore with the boy and we floated crabshell and seaweed boats down the river-like trickles that ran from the rocks down to the low tide sea.  When the tide was up again we sailed back to Tresco.

The next day we were at it again but this time we went further.  After the change of plans, which apparently is a typical family activity, we headed off to St Agnes with a population of 70ish.  I sailed in the catamaran everytime which I was glad about.  I don't always fare well with motion but I was fine on the catamaran.  The boy's tummy was a bit 'wobbly' after sailing to St Agnes as we crossed a bit more of open sea which was rougher.  We sat at the tables high on the shore and chatted.  I had a lovely time with the boy as he sat on my lap talking with me while his tummy settled.  We ordered what was proclaimed to be the best cornish pasties in the UK.  They were pretty good.  They had chunks of meat, not like the our pasties back home.  Though tasty, I was a little disappointed with the lack of tang in my lemon tart.  The meal on the whole was rather pleasurable though the company was the most enjoyable part.  I sat next to the boy and he can be rather entertaining at times.  He came out with some classic child oneliners I can't now recall and I still love that child perspective.  Across from me sat the dad and the uncle who were also entertaining as they were rather playful and joking and laughing together which was wonderful to see.  One even fed the other with leftovers from the boy's plate. Ha ha ha.  Neither really acted their age but I think that's a good thing in this case.  That's actually all we did on St Agnes.  Sat and had lunch together.  It was lovely time though.
The family and I and the uncle headed back on the catamaran.  We were heading for somewhere on Tresco's edge to go shrimping.  Our spot was chosen by the low tide and not making it through were we tried to go.  While we waited for the tide to rise again the boys, bar the baby, waded out to the shrimping grounds.  The boy was delighted to go and floated around in the dingy that was roped to the uncle.  He had his own little net and had fun dipping it in the water or holding it out for the uncle or the dad to put a shrimp in for him.  When I finished feeding the baby the mum took him and I waded out to the action.  I've never been shrimping before.  I'm not much into seafood things but I wanted to go see.  They just dig the nets quickly into the water around the seaweed and see if they snagged any unsuspecting shrimps.  The boy was either scooping up and playing with seaweed or transporting any shrimp placed in his net to the bucket in the dingy either by tipping them in or using his fingers.  I hate touching living moving sea creatures.  Heck, I even irked at scanning wrapped lobsters back in my supermarket days.  I was watching where I put my bare feet and trying to keep them in the open water away from the seaweed.  The uncle moved suddenly exclaiming something nearly nipped his toes and shortly after I quickly and anxiously stepped aside with a muffled exclamation. A not-so-small crab was scooting on by.  Not too close thankfully but still had me feeling uncomfortable.  The uncle scooped him up with his net when I pointed him out and showed the boy.  His body was good fist-sized.  Then he put him down again closer than I was happy with.  I was a little on edge after that jumping with a bit of brush from anything.  Though one of those brushes I jerked from saw a little crab scamper off.  That caused a more audible shout from me and earned an "Are you alright?" after explaining it was a crab and doing more frequent checks.  I did consider getting in the dingy with boy briefly.  I spotted a couple of little starfish while keeping watch over my feet.  The second one I picked up was quite active for a starfish.  It was ticklish as he put his suckers out and crawled his way from the palm of my hand to the back.  I've never seen them move before.

Once the tide was on it's way up again we got back in the boat and tried to go a little further by man-power.  Another catamaran joked about bringing slaves (their teenage children who were pulling them through the shallow water).  I giggled again at noticing the mum biting her tongue as the uncle decided to head in one direction after she offered her advice to do otherwise.  After changing his mind a few times about what he was doing the uncle ended up steering us back the way we'd come a little and round a sandbar.  Something like the mum had suggested. He he.  So many funny moments.
The tides at this time of year were phenomenally significant. The photos above are taken of the same beach, though not quite the same position, at roughly each extreme.  Most days here were sunny except for 2-3 days near the beginning which were rather wet and very windy.  Even very windy by Ballarat standards.  The whole holiday was splendid.  I really enjoyed it.  It was a terrific final two weeks to spend with the family and it was sad leaving knowing that the following week while they were away in Scotland I needed to pack up and move out.  I've so enjoyed working for this family.  Truly one of my favourites.  It's a pity my visa interfered.  All that said, it doesn't really express my fondness and gratitude and appreciation for the family.  Still, I have loads of wonderful memories from a great experience. I really enjoyed being a part of this family and even now still feel a bit like an aunty to the boys.

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