This has been an extraordinary week. Very recently we discovered my husband has a potentially life limiting health condition, Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis, and we have been left feeling a bit shell shocked.
Friends and family have rallied round and been amazing but it's hard to take time to think and talk about the potential ramifications with work and children and life interfering.
So when my son's partner messaged to see if we could possibly rescue their holiday in Cornwall by getting them there and back after their travel plans got complicated I took a split second to decide we could take them and take the opportunity for a very short notice mini break.
We couldn't afford the time or money to stay the whole week and of course with staycations all the range right now there wasn't an awful lot of accommodation available. We really did not want to do the ten hour round trip all in one day so we decided to stay Monday night and Thursday night.
We found a traditional B&B on AirBnB for Monday night. We got down to Riviere Towans, near Hayle where my son and his boyfriend Scott had booked a beautiful self contained annexe with a jaw dropping view a short walk from miles of golden sands, rock pools and even a mini waterfall.
The combination of sun, sea air and lovely company helped my jaw unclench. I adore the coast- it is most definitely my happy place and wandering picturesque streets and sitting watching the world go by with my husband was the tonic we both needed.
After a lovely day culminating in a wonderful dinner at Harbour Fish and Chips in St Ives followed by s spectacular sunset, we headed off to our B & B for a perfectly satisfactory night in a comfy bed. Our night was only slightly marred by my youngest autistic son having a full blown midnight meltdown which I had to manage over the phone - it's very hard to have any respite and his siblings are amazing with him but sometimes only mum will do. Luckily everyone calmed down but I didn't sleep for a few hours worrying and feeling guilty for leaving him even in safe familiar hands.
We enjoyed a gorgeous full English the next morning. We spent the day exploring Penzance and Marazion end enjoyed a walk across the causeway to St Michael's Mount. Admission to the island can be booked via English Heritage (free for members or a charge for non members) and you can book a boat back if the tide comes in while you are there.
While the boys explored St Michael's Mount we enjoyed a pasty on the beach until the boat dropped them back onto the mainland. We dropped them at their lovely accommodation and we headed home to Hertfordshire.
Wednesday was a work day and as soon as I got home from doing a restaurant review for TOLA n London I fell into bed very aware we had a 5am start planned so I had a 4.30am alarm to look forward to.
Thankfully the weather in the morning was beautiful and as we drove past Stonehenge I could feel myself relax even more than the first half of the week.
This time we were staying in a "pod" near Helston which online looked a lot like a tarted up garden shed. But it was available and only £45 - a bargain for July in Cornwall.
We spent the morning pottering round Helston enjoying a slightly bizarre but delicious and unbelievably good value lunch at dated but clean tucked away eatery, The Park Cafe, which featured literally dozens of pieces of paper on every available surface boasting specials of the day, meal deals and the like, supplementing the menu. It seemed that most of the food was homemade and the crowds of locals gave us the heads up that this was the place to go if you aren't set on a view or a plate to share on Instagram.
We enjoyed hand-battered fish and chips and an enormous portion of whole tail scampi and chips plus drinks for £11!
After a drink on a rooftop terrace at one of the nicest Wetherspoons I have ever set foot in, it was time to head to "The Wheelhouse" at Crasken Farm on the outskirts of Helston.
We were met by owner Duncan who can only be described as "a character.". During a quick tour of his stunning site (which is definitely begging to be bragged about on the 'gram) we heard a number of his fascinating theories on pretty much everything. Literally, *insert your favourite conspiracy theory here* and Duncan will have his own experiences to add.
He's incredibly well travelled and an evening listening to him sitting next to his giant fire pit circle with the fully licensed bar close by and live musicians playing (weekends only) would be a memorable life experience.
Sadly we only got the abridged version but we will be back - and here's why.
The pod was indeed a glorified shed but was so cute and comfortable and set in a beautiful orchard. We were lucky enough to be staying while the sun was shining. and the atmosphere was truly magical.
The site is "rustic" but well maintained and the showers and toilets were a massive surprise - they were by far and away the best Ive ever seen in a lifetime of camping and wouldn't have looked out of place in a boutique hotel.
The site is ancient and in an area where ley lines apparently create positive energy and the site exudes peace as along with the campers, those who want to live more off grid than most of us potter round busy maintaining the site and preparing for events like weddings, open mike nights and music events.
Whether you believe in all the ley line stuff or not, for us it felt like paradise. Sitting outside The Wheelhouse with a bottle of wine and the fire pit blazing as the sun set was a memory I will hold close forever. Yes, lung experts, I know people with IPF aren't meant to sit near open fires but while his breathing is OK we decided a one off was worth the risk.
Picking up the boys from their accommodation we walked to pick up ice creams (dairy free for me) and a steak pasty from Philps Pasties in Hayle. They do gluten free and vegan versions of the traditional Cornish delicacy and will even post them to you.
Then we went for lunch at the pub with one of the best names I've ever heard -The Bucket of Blood in Phillack, near Hayle. Yes, you can buy the T-shirt. The name comes from the legend that this ancient inn with a past clientele of sailors and smugglers and the like once had a dismembered body dumped into the well leaving the water bloody.
There's only a small lunch menu featuring burgers, ciabattas and pizzas including vegan choices. Even though I'm not one who would normally choose a burger I opted for the Bucket of Blood Burger and can say I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch. I'd love to go back for dinner or Sunday lunch one day wearing the T-shirt my lovely son and his BF bought for me.
Lunch over and we decided to meander home to Herts via Tintagel and Stonehenge, two areas of immense historic importance.
Tintagel is home to the famous castle which sits on an island linked to the peninsular via bridges. The legend of King Arthur is linked to the site and if you like shops selling dragons, crystals and swords you will love Tintagel!
You have to book tickets to go to the castle (free to English Heritage members with a charge for non members) which includes the walk across the amazing bridge.
We particularly loved the beach cove with its spectacular waterfall, rocky isle, caves and rock pools. Be warned - it's a steep walk down to the exhibition and cafe and steep steps and some clambering on rocks to get on and off the beach.
There are 4x4 shuttles to take you up and down from the exhibition area or just one way if you'd like. You can go all the way to and from the village or get on or off half way. We paid £2 each for a return journey and in our opinion it was money well spent.
After a quick drink in the King Arthur's Arms inn we piled into the car to head to Stonehenge (another English Heritage site) , reaching it just as the sun was setting. We took time for a quick stop for pics then got back on the road arriving home at about 11.30pm.
Being able to spend time with my husband without the usual distractions of work, school runs and all the other stuff which takes up so much of our attention was truly precious.
We are hoping he has the version of IPF which proceeds slowly and gives him a near as possible to normal life span - we will know more after more tests to see how fast the fibrosis is progressing.
But life limiting disease or not, this has reminded us that life is for living in abundance. Make the most of every day- the endless laundry, dusting and the lawn that needs mowing will be there long after you have gone.
We've got lots we want to do and we are going to work harder to make things happen. We want to visit friends in Germany and South Africa, I'd love to get him to watch the F1 live and we still hope to be able to retire to the seaside, preferably overseas.
But for now, an unexpected break in Cornwall has gone a long way to allow us to breathe and prepare for whatever the future throws at us.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING CORNWALL IN 2021
Invest in English Heritage membership - 6 children under 18 go free with each adult member. You can currently buy membership via the Tesco Clubcard Rewards scheme. The membership scheme can save you a fortune and there's lots across the country to explore.
Book ahead. The earlier you can book attractions and restaurants the easier your life will be. We had to queue 45 mins for a meal and booking when you get there may well be too late for popular venues.
If you are not a keen or fit walker pack sensible shoes and maybe even walking poles as much of Cornwall involves walking and down steep slopes.