Big family birthdays require big blue skies to celebrate under. Just like this one.
This was the view from where I sat, a little dehydrated and a lot tired, after spending the day with the lovely Hyde family. They’d gathered everyone together, found the most beautiful spot in Devon to stay for a holiday and invited me down to capture it for them.
It’s so rare to be able to get the whole family together – children move away, grow up, have children of their own, lives become overwhelmed with general busyness, it’s nearly impossible to find the time. But it is so important to, don’t you think?
They found their pocket of time, a holiday home for the week and the perfect excuse to make the journey – Grandpa turning 75! So before we did anything else, I made sure that the photograph they really wanted to treasure, all of them together, was safely tucked away in camera.
And then time for the smaller family groups – including a very proud father and his 4 wonderful children.
As soon as I walked into the house you could sense the happy energy and general chaos of 5 grandchildren. Whizzing around, laughing, playing, delighted to be by the sea. It was very kind of the youngest member of the family to help me round everyone up with a fishing net.
When he worked out what stone animal he was riding on, he decided to let out a roar. He made an excellent lion.
His sister proved to be an excellent little monkey.
Firecrackers. It’s the only way to describe the 3 youngest. Brilliant, bubbly, fun little characters. On a hot day, in the baking sun, it didn’t ever slow them down. So you have to get inventive when you are a bit older, a bit slower, a lot lazier than them. Luckily I’ve never met siblings that didn’t love a race – so I designated myself race official, sat on the grass, started the countdown…
When I count to 3, you go. Ok?
Nobody answers because they are concentrating. Hard. Olympic potential and focus from a very young age. Thing is, I never really get to 3. It sends them crazy.
Ok. Ready? 1. 2. BANANAS.
They laugh and scream at me. How could I not know that 3 comes after 2?! Bananas isn’t even a number!
So I catch them out and whisper 3 whilst they are mid jump.
The races always do the trick. A little bit more tired. A touch more stationary. Fantastic to photograph.
Someone shouts, TIME FOR THE BEACH!
Swimming cap? Check.
Matching yellow goggles? Most definitely.
A short walk down the garden, across the cliff, down the sandy hill and we hit the beach. It is stunning. And practically empty. So we fill it with family and birthday celebrations.
We find the birthday boy of honour a washed up wicker chair and give him the best view on the beach. Looks peaceful, doesn’t it? Not for long.
Because along come the grandchildren. And for some of them showing love means a swift poke in the eye and a pinch on the nose.
It is hot. So hot. I wish I had a waterproof camera. I’m close to not caring that my camera isn’t waterproof. It would have been delicious to wonder into the sea and cool off.
Instead I manage to keep the envy in check and photograph the children racing through the water, splashing up surf. This is how I remember childhood holidays. The sun always shines. The beach is always yours. Everything is explorable.
And then there is a moment that slows everything down. It makes you smile a little sadly, because you remember the feeling EXACTLY. Not quite big enough to do what your older cousins do. Not yet master of the waves.
You’re stuck on sand and going nowhere fast.
Until someone else steps in and helps you sail away.
And before you know it the wind cools, the sun dips down and it’s time to pack up and head home. Rich in memories and sand between your toes.
If you’re planning a special family get together this year, I’d love to hear from you. Maybe you’ve booked your holiday on the coast, in the woods, up at the Lakes and this time, just this once, you want to be in the family pictures too.
Because I promise that your kids want to see Mum and Dad in the pictures. For them, it’s not complete unless you are all there, sharing the experience and the frame together.
Let me hold the camera and capture the photographs for you. Concentrate on what you’ve waited all year for – the family holiday together. I’d love to make those memories last for you.
I’ll pack some flip flops and sun cream. You bring the kids.