Family & Education

Holiday blues? Fruitcake is the answer

Family holidays go better with cakes and cycles, says Judy Silkoff


I wrote the majority of this article in my head, while lying in a bubbling hot tub, looking over at a field of fluffy Somerset sheep, the beating sun overhead and an ice cold drink close to hand. So far, so fairy-tale. Indeed, the two weeks we are spending in this idyllic setting were meant to be a celebration of our silver wedding anniversary; just me, my husband, a luxury cottage, two bicycles and miles and miles of patchwork countryside – our idea of bliss.

Well, if man plans and God laughs, as they say, then coronavirus turns everything upside down on its head and rips it into tiny shreds. Thanks to the cancellation of sleepaway camps this summer, my current hot tub companion is not my husband, but my nearly-11-year-old daughter, who seems to think a jacuzzi is essentially a personal-sized swimming pool and keeps tripping over my legs as she bobs repeatedly from one side of it to the other.

Said husband is indoors, trying to figure out how to work the state-of-the-art telescope that came with the cottage, though sadly minus any comprehensible instructions. He and the daughter have plans to do some star-gazing later; not that she really needs any more encouragement to stay up unfeasibly late.

Despite the disappointment at our change of plans, we are, of course, supremely grateful to be getting a break at all. And after 25 years of holidaying with various ages, stages and combinations of our four children, this is not exactly our first gig. A quick mental calculation reveals that this is in fact our twentieth self-catering staycation, of which only two have been child-free.

In our collective memory, there are many moments we like to fondly recall – “the one where the baby screamed all the way up the mountain”, for example, “the one where the child fell off her bike and rolled down a hill into a thicket of gorse bushes”, and a personal favourite,  “the one where everyone got locked out on a balcony”. I’m not sure what the optimum age to take a child on a holiday like this one is, but judging by the current rate of ERPM (eye-rolls per minute), it’s not nearly-11. If it wasn’t for the Xbox and Smart TV, I fear she may have hitched a ride straight back to London.

I have learned a few tricks over the years though – inspired by my own memories of holidaying with my parents in kosher hotels in Bournemouth, where afternoon tea was everyone’s daily highlight,  I find that small bursts of activity followed by regular and copious snacks work well for fractious pre-teens and parents alike. Nothing says familial harmony like a large slab of buttered fruitcake.

And despite the unexpected expansion of our holiday party, for my quarter-of-century hubby and I (and, I’d venture to guess, our daughter, though she’d never admit it) it is shaping up to be a truly delightful vacation. In the first few days alone, we’ve cycled through a nature reserve, and along a picturesque canal, visited the majestic Cheddar Gorge, picked apples in a cider farm and drunk more bottles of local apple juice than the number of empties that can fit in the cottage’s recycling bin.

At Cheddar, I particularly enjoyed a game of ‘spot the fellow Jew’, spying a woman with hair so beautiful and straight that it could only be a sheitel; a hypothesis strongly supported by the knee-length denim skirt she was sporting. I excitedly elbowed my husband to alert him to our first sighting of the holiday. He scoffed at my detective skills, but was forced to concede when her husband appeared moments later, complete with black velvet kippah and flying tzitzit strings.

A few steps further into the gorge we came across another obviously Jewish family – we beamed at each other like members of some sort of secret society as we crossed paths, with a mumbled ‘shalom’ as the universal password.

Indeed, I’ve marvelled at the fact that I’ve had more face-to-face interactions with other people in the past 72 hours than in the entire preceding five months. Despite the fact that I didn’t really feel like I was lacking anything during the weeks spent hunkered down at home, I’ve revelled in every casual ‘hello’, ‘good morning’ and ‘hot weather today isn’t it’ comment shared with random passersby. Interestingly, the vivid dreams I’ve been having lately about being out and about with crowds of people have also dissipated – human beings, it transpires, are social creatures whether they like it or not.

So, with over half of our holiday still to come, while my daughter is fruitlessly trying to get us to promise not to shlep her on any more walks, I’m happily checking the weather forecast to work out how many more uses I can get out of the hot tub and how many more times we can get the bikes out to explore this beautiful corner of the UK. The other day, as we sat picnicking in the sunshine, a cheery cyclist called out “who needs to go abroad?!” as he hurtled by. I couldn’t agree more. And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for afternoon tea.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive