Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

Kerry McLean: Our extended family getaways are tradition and I can't wait to head up the M2 en masse again this Easter time

Kerry, husband Ralph and their children
Kerry, husband Ralph and their children

By Kerry McLean

I had to double check my calendar this week when I heard my kids discussing their intentions for the Easter break, arrangements which mostly involved long lie-ins and eating chocolate eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

They're a bit early sorting out their holiday itinerary, I thought. I've got a week or so to go before the holidays begin, haven't I? Sadly not!

The last few weeks have been hectic and somehow, in the maelstrom of work, school concerts, football matches, birthday parties and various exams for singing, violin and judo, I had lost several days worth of time.

I should have known not to doubt my children as they and every other school pupil can always be relied on to give you a countdown, to the hour, as to when they're being set free from the classroom. Ask a hard-working, worn-out teacher and they could probably give you the time remaining in seconds.

This is why the last few days have seen me switch to full-on panic mode, trying to get everything sorted and organised for our annual camping trip.

It's been a family tradition for years, that we all go away together for a week at Easter, living in the wilds, sleeping under the stars and getting back to nature.

That's the idea but given that we bring everything but the kitchen sink with us, it's definitely more of a Beverly Hills than a Bear Grylls adventure.

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Yes, we will forgo make-up for the week and our clothes may not quite be laundry fresh by the time Friday rolls around, but we'll stay somewhere where we have access to heat, hot water and wifi. You can take this back to basics routine too far, you know.

For the first time in many years, the mini-McLeans and I will be heading off without their daddy. My poor husband, up to his eyes in work, isn't able to come with us this time. But while he'll be missed, we certainly won't be left wanting for company because when I say it's a family tradition to go away, I mean the great, big, extended family - granny, cousins, aunties and uncles will all be moving down the M2 together.

This is how we've always holidayed in my family - en masse - since I was a little girl and my earliest memories are of trips away together to Dublin or the Isle of Man, three generations spending their precious time off work with each other. It wasn't until I was much older, well into my teens, that I realised not all families booked out entire B&Bs or campsites when they went away. I would tell friends about travelling with our clan and some would look horrified at the thought.

At that age they believed it was bad enough having to be in the company of your parents, never mind adding another 10 or more relations into the equation.

But as I, and other friends whose family holidays were similar to my own knew, you can get away with a lot more when you have a cool cousin speaking up on your behalf, or an overly adoring granny, who'll not hear a bad word against you and slips you a fiver now and then.

This week, one woman's story went viral when she revealed that her husband had rebooked their family holiday after discovering his mother-in law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law had booked to go to the same hotel at the same time.

His wife was understandably upset that he had changed the arrangements without asking her. His argument was that her family had booked to travel with them without him being consulted.

A story which made me realise that I've never actually asked my husband if he'd be happy to sign up to communal trips with my lot, I just took it as a given that he'd go. Luckily for me, he gets on very well with everyone.

But I can't help but wonder if this year, instead of work holding him at home, he's actually after a break from us all? I'll not ask just in case I don't like the answer...

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