Kerry McLean: We've spent a fortune on solar lights... all for a dull glow in the evening for a few hours when it's actually too cold to sit outside
The Easter holidays were an expensive time in many households this year, my own included. It's not that we frittered our hard-earned cash away on dozens of chocolate eggs for the children. In fact, I've started buying more long-lasting items for their Easter treat, something they've been after for a while, like a game or a hoodie.
The child in me is horrified that I've become so sensible and boring but it's a decision made partly because, thanks to all our generous relations, my kids receive more sweet treats at Easter than they can eat, even with my husband and I helping them munch their way through their surplus chocolate mountain. Every time I think the final one has been consumed, my youngest seems to magically produce another one and has half of it gobbled up by the time I wrestle it off her. An already hyperactive three-year-old and large doses of sugar do not mix well…
It's not the Easter eggs which have emptied my purse, it's not even the normal expense of having the kids off school, when every activity like a trip to the cinema or even a day at the seaside seem to take their toll on your bank balance. I'm laying the blame for my lack of funds firmly at the feet of the weather.
Over the last week we've had some truly glorious days of sunshine, a very rare thing to have so many beautiful days stretch over a bank holiday and into the week beyond and you can't half tell when you glance into people's gardens. It's when we get this first burst of sun-filled spring that we're all reminded how lovely it is to get out of our houses and step foot onto the grass. It's also when we cast our eyes round our back yards and realise how dishevelled and messy they've become since the previous summer.
Most mornings over the last week, I've woken to the drowsy hum of my neighbour's lawnmowers floating in through my bedroom window. That combined with some wonderful, harmonious birdsong has appeared to have some sort of hypnotic effect on my husband and I. Over the last few days we have morphed into worker bees, but instead of making trips from the hive, out to the flowers and back again, our repeat travels have taken us from our back garden to our local DIY store and given the crowds of people there, we're certainly not the only people to be hit with an expensive, weather-induced gardening bug.
We've picked up paint for the fence, wood stain for the garden benches and new plants and flowers to add a bit of colour and life, despite the fact that we both know we'll have the poor things dead within weeks as neither of us has a clue what we're doing. We've spent more on solar lights for our back garden than we spent on the wiring of our entire house inside. All for a dull glow for a few hours in the evening, a time when it's actually too cold to sit outside, so we stand by the kitchen window looking out to see how pretty the garden looks when lit up.
And even when you're in the garden and you've finished all the seasonal renovations, the weather means you're still not safe from money flying out of your pocket like a toupee in a hurricane. As soon as I hear the off-key notes of a nursery rhyme tune floating over the fence, I know that I can kiss goodbye to my money. By the time my three and their pals excitedly return from a visit to the ice-cream van and get their fill of 99s, screwballs and some madly florescent drinks, there's not much left out of £20.
But this run on my resources is nearly at an end. Monday sees a return to normality. It's back to school for all the children and work for everyone who's been lucky enough to have a bit of time off. And while it's no bad thing, to allow our bank accounts a bit of time to recover, I can't help but start to count down the days until the summer holidays and another chance to spend a full week in my now wonderful garden.