Okay, so the weather could have been better, but it didn't really matter - just me and a friend; walking, talking, breathing it all in - no kids to worry about, no whinging to wear us down.
Free as a bird.
We were walking part of the Pembrokeshire coastal path, something that's been on the cards for ages. I'd been so looking forward to it: straight after school pick-up on Friday, I'd said 'Hi! Food's in the fridge! List's on the table! Bye!' to my husband, jumped in Al's car and headed for the lovely seaside town of Newport on the Welsh coast.
Al had booked us into a dorm at the Youth Hostel. Now it's been a very long time since I've stayed in a Youth Hostel…or slept in a bunk. There were only top ones left by the time we arrived - and that no longer fills me with the kind of joy it once did; well and truly snuffed out by the more pressing worry of getting out of the blinking thing if I'm ever caught short in the night.
I'd packed very quickly in my tearing rush to get out of the house, and only realised I'd forgotten a towel as I was handing over the kids - so, ended up with my son's damp Arsenal one from his swimming bag. Nice.
Brought my own pillow though. Creature comforts and all that.
No awkward night-time ladder manoeuvres needed - such a relief - and after a good old fry up and jostling with other guests around the large kitchen with no space (weirdest table layout ever), we set off. Al's first plan was to bus up to Poppit Sands and walk back, but then she thought that might be a bit ambitious for a pair of unfit, knackered mums, so we opted for the Fishguard bus instead. Still a good long walk. Waiting at the stop we got chatting to a fellow walker who was doing the whole 180 miles or so of the Pembrokeshire coastal path. He spent about 10 minutes talking us through his hiking equipment (yawn) before looking directly at me and saying, 'You walking too then?'
Not at all encouraging.
Maybe it was my trainers.
Or maybe the novelty backpack.
But I am a walker: I certainly was anyway. I used to walk miles; in the mountains, around lakes, through forests; and mostly on my own. It's what I did when I wasn't working, it was how I relaxed and sorted my head out. The thing is, for the last 12 years walking has been limited by how much food we bring; coaxing/bribing we can face doing, and moaning we can put up with, before the kids suck all the flipping joy out of it.
So good having no one else to think about for a bit. Just for a bit. Honestly, the week before the trip I felt like I was about 105 - tired, snappy, forgetful, slow. I really needed a break, and a blast of sea air to sharpen me up.
We walked about 10 miles altogether: around headlands; down steep steps to pebbly coves; puffed up stoney slopes, stinging red faces; the wind sometimes fighting us, sometimes giving us a welcome push. And there were bluebells everywhere, lining the path, or great swathes of them, zig-zagging down grassy gullies. So beautiful. May is such a good month for walks like this.
My legs were aching by the time we got back to Newport. It took us about 5 hours, give or take (with a rather long coffee stop).
We blew all the money we'd saved by staying at the Youth Hostel on a meal at Cnapan. We're both the same about our food - trumps accommodation any day; and sure, we deserved it! Al had always wanted to go there, and the restaurant's had a pile of great reviews. Easy to see why too - delicious food and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. I'll definitely be bringing my other half back here. No hope of getting him anywhere near the Youth Hostel though…
I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. I went home more content; looking forward to seeing everyone - and I got such a great welcome. Sometimes envy the fuss made over their dad when he gets back on a friday: the kids don't usually get a chance to miss me, and I think, once in a while, it does us all the power of good. Hit the refresh button. Everyone wins.
I'm clinging onto this new found sense of calm; but it's not going to last - I've two birthday parties to sort out this week and I can feel those weighty old blinkers coming down…