Relaxing our way, on Elba, Italy.

The next few days passed in a blissful blur, nights spent in the Mistral bar sipping on cocktails, eating pizza and playing cards and days spent indulging in relaxing our way. With no work, housework, school or other activities that fill our time at home, we were able to largely switch off and live in the here and now.

Each of us had our desires for the holiday and we aimed to accommodate everyone.

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Small cemetery on the outskirts of Cavo

With my grandfather having been born on this little island I felt duty-bound to locate the final resting places of some of my relatives; it felt in some way that I was spending time with my grandfather. You don’t appreciate the importance of some conversations at the time you’re having them. I’d never really paid much attention when my grandfather spoke about his childhood home but now it felt important.

Just outside town sits a small cemetery so before the day got too hot, we took the short walk to the small walled enclosure. we found a very small space, with few graves in the ground and most being in walls as is the style in Italy. We had soon covered it all but had not unearthed a lost relative of mine. We later learned that there was a much larger cemetery 8 kilometers away but with no car getting there was impossible. It would have been nice to have cast my eyes over the face of a great grandparent but it wasn’t to be.

The children were soon bored examining names and ages and it was back to town to fulfill a holiday desire of someone else and that someone was William: he wanted to fish.

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Patience is a virtue so they say.

Now, you have to relish in the god status thrust upon you by your children, in their eyes, you can do everything and anything and so William was fully expecting Mark to know how to do it.

Equipt with the best rod our pocket would allow and a hunk of stale bread we made our way down to the harbour for Mark to wow William with his fishing skills. Fearing this would take some time, me and Eva took a book and read in the sunshine while the boys did their best to convince the small fish that their little piece of bread was a Michelin star feast.

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The fish saw straight through this ruse and by the 4th attempted it was clear it wasn’t going to work. Then a man that did look like he knew what he was doing arrived with a bag of wriggling maggots, surely the fish would be much more interested now? He kindly allowed them to have as many maggots as it took and with renewed enthusiasm, they set out once again to lure the little critters. It’s harder to attract their attention than you’d think and after a good hour’s efforts they came up with nothing other than the pleasure of sitting quietly on the habour wall holding the rod.

Not one to give in easily, I think William would have persevered all night but it was looking very unlikely that he was going to have the enjoyment of hooking one and so we retreated crestfallen to the bar.

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As the snorkeling in the cove had ended so abprutly we felt it only fair the children got to immerse themselves in the experience. A spits throw from our apartment was a private beach, we paid our €20 to secure two loungers and an umbrella and hoped we’d have a relaxing time.

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All was going well, the children were relishing in their time in the life-sized aquarium, Mark divided his time between lounging and snorkeling and I indulged in my writing until…

A child’s screams caught my attention, a high pitched sound I didn’t for one second believe it was Eva or William, it sounded too young and too distressed.  Then I heard Mark shouting me and I knew something was wrong.

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Charging up the beach William had a pained face and tears streaming down his cheeks, I couldn’t fathom what could possibly have happened to have caused such a reaction: he’d been stung by a passing jellyfish. Unfortunately for William, they had both passed through the same space at the same time and he’d been caught by the very tip of one of the tentacles.

We’d been warned before we left that Elba was known for its jellyfish population. William’s sting was small in comparison to how big it could have been but it was extremely painful and the mark remained for weeks after, he went on to develop a strange rash a month later as a result of the sting. This certainly took the shine off the whole experience for him and getting him back in the water that day wasn’t easy.

We aren’t the best at sitting still for too long and so after two days of smooching around town, we loaded up ( much more prepared) and made for the hills again. This time with lunch in our bags and more water we aimed to be gone most of the day.

Taking a different route out of Cavo, we ambled along a higgled piggledy rocky path, the children enjoyed pulling themselves into trees and hunting out the gecko. By the time we happened across the mausoleum we all knew where we were, it’s funny how quickly you get used to a place- the questions of ‘are we there yet?’ or ‘how much longer?’ didn’t come, they just got on with it.

Our aim is always to ensure the children have memories that last, memories that make them take themselves and their own children on adventures when the time comes. How many children can say they scrambled down a hill clinging to trees and shrubbery to stumble upon a dragon’s nest (inside joke), eat their lunch perched on the edge of a cliff while shouting ‘hello’ to a deep-sea diver? Two- just two.

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Along the path we were walking we noticed the coastal walk was mapped by a rudimentary marking system: periodically, blue spray paint on the rocks led the way and we were taken right back to the secret cove before doubling back and taking the route we knew to town.

When we walk I realise what an opportunity it is to get to know our children, with nothing to do but walk and chat, we discuss: school, books, family, likes, dislikes, wants and desires and lots of other things. We learn their opinions with the chance to affect them- fascinating really.

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That evening we were treated to one of those little occasions that you just happen across by chance: a concert on the beach. We danced and clapped along to the beat of the music( despite the fact none of them could understand a word) and the lapping of the water across the pebbles on the beach with the locals.

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When the concert lost its appeal we retreated to the park and ice cream under the moon.

Then mark uttered those fatal words ‘Babe, shall we bail a day early and go to Rome!’

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