As it seems the government are trying to do everything in their power to penalise travelling with you child in school term time, still cherish the time you have with them.
I remember best friend Caroline coming into the room at the hospital and I had a one day old Tom cradled in my arms and her saying ‘baby Sarah, Sarah baby, does not compute’, because the person least likely to have children out of the group of the eight of us girls was me. I was too independent and all over the place to have children and there I was, with a baby in my arms.
And I remember the first day of nursery and the first day of infant school and junior school and public school. I remember every feeling and smell of those days. I have loved every moment of Tom. Every time I have travelled with him, be it for work or play, I’ve enjoyed his company, his conversation and his cuddles, and he has made my life richer and fuller and more meaningful than anything else in my life. I remained independent and all over the place. I’ve just been all over the place with him.
When he was four, we filmed for the BBC Holiday Programme in Mallorca, and New York and Thailand where he thought he had three extra daddies, one carrying a camera, one carrying a boom mic and one chain smoking and bossing the other two about all the time. In Thailand, Tom - a blue eyed blond little boy gave food to the monks in their orange robes and then proceeded to talk to camera telling everyone how wonderful the chipmunks were and how everyone should feed the the chipmunks when they come to Thailand. It made the final cut.
When he was five, we went along the garden route safari in South Africa where we were stuck in a van with another family who bickered all the time, and saw four of the Big Five and I forced Tom to write a safari diary (he hated doing it but its my most prized possession – his lion and elephant drawings are pure Damien Hurst). Tom was not impressed with the big four, instead fascinated by the tortoises crossing the road, because everything stopped for the tortoises, even the big four - and the dung beetles because they ate poo.
Six, seven and eight, we spent long family holidays in France with friends and did Eurodisney three times and the Peter Pan ride well over fifty times. We both loved the idea of flying in the stars on a flying pirate ship. I took him to St Andrews where he got a hole in one at six, but it was the junior course, and ran along the beach aka Chariots of Fire.
We did the rounds of the kids clubs in the European resorts, where I missed him more than he missed me, rode camels along a Tunisian beach and went to Canada more times than I am able to remember. I was asked to mystery shop nine theme parks in Europe for a company and take Tom with me, and I was for a short while that year, the best mum in the whole wide world. (Fantasialand in Germany came out top).
Christmases have usually been white, with skis and/or Santa Claus. Tom has met Father Christmas in Finland three times, although the first one was the best, as he had a real beard and Tom was so intimidated he couldn’t even say hello or ask for the Lego he wanted (he was only three).
Then at nine, there was the rail and road trip along the Gold coast of Australia and Brisbane and Tangalooma and Fraser Island, where he tried bush tucker and ate beetles, dune surfed, paddle boarded, and where Scooby Doo One was filmed – Tom told me.
When he was ten, we went to the Galapagos and Ecuador, walked round live volcanoes, played chicken with seals, gawped at the iguana, and gazed at Lonesome George before he passed away.
When he was eleven, he fractured his arm, the day before he was due to fly out to spend a week on a ranch with a horse whisperer, and take part in the Calgary Stampede and ride a horse. He managed to do it, as well as brand a calf – although he gave castrating the poor animals a miss.
We’ve been tiger trekking in India. I remember when he eyeballed a young male tiger on safari – a brave thing to do – he was twelve, and he was only about two hundred yards away and he looked at Tom and Tom looked at him, both curious - and I wanted to cry. Tom was born in the year of the Tiger and that year was the year of the Tiger and it seemed just right.
At thirteen Tom went sky diving in Mauritius (you are allowed to do it younger there), and as I stood on the ground looking up at my son jumping from a plane at 12000 feet with a complete stranger I realised I am a very irresponsible mother (although I'd done it there with this company the year before). At fourteen he went paragliding in Umbria, but this time I jumped at the same time with him.
When he was fourteen, we drove along the California coast in an open top and went touring the California loop and he gave me a new perspective on Las Vegas. “Do you realise how cool this is mum? A city of lights in the middle of a desert”. I put that line in the article. He tells me San Francisco is officially one of the coolest places in the world. I personally think its Buenos Ares.
At fifteen, I drove an RV sixteen hundred miles around the Yukon with him following in the footsteps of the goldrush stampeders, driving along the road at the top of the world. And did we see a bear? No we did not. Tom was gazing down mostly at his iphone so I would occasionally shout ‘bear’ to make sure he didn’t get neck strain. Of course, if we had run out of diesel we would have seen loads of bears. Tom has fished in the Bennett River (caught and eaten two trout), mined and found gold, and helped carve a genuine totem pole which is now stuck upright in the Yukon, although not quite sure where.
And when he was sixteen we went to Antarctica for Christmas. He went cold turkey as there was no internet, but instead saw the seals and whales and albatross and the icebergs gliding like mobile Henry Moore sculptures.
His written pieces in National Geographic Traveller and was featured on the front page of the Guardian Travel Section when he was three, his first time on skis, no sticks and his helmet almost covering his face.
We’ve been swimming with seals and dolphins and stingrays, although we gave the sharks a miss. He’s hugged and stroked a leopard, and cradled and wanted to adopt new born huskies (adorable but smelly) and eskimo-nosed a chimpanzee in Africa.
He’s met Norman Wisdom when he was three months old in his home in the Isle of Mann, and Roger Moore’s grand daughter in France, but he was a baby so he tells me that doesn’t count.
And this year we’re going to Madagascar. I must remember to book the malaria tablets.
And now he’s all grown up, and as I attended his last speech day at his school (Reeds), and the Jazz band starts playing, I’m so pleased its not Barbers Addagio in Strings. The Governor makes a good speech and not too long. The head makes a better longer speech and Tim Henman, an old boy, makes a good speech about him being much better at tennis than he was at economics. And then the boys go up for their prizes and Tom takes his bow and shakes hands and takes a cup and then he’s gone. So quick.
Then the head girl speaks and she’s funny and articulate and manages to keep it together. And then the head boy speaks, who’s warmer and not as funny but more sincere and nearly breaks down at the end and so does everyone in the marquee. And then it’s the end. And we go out and everyone mingles and we take photos of each other and I thank his geography and drama teachers, as I can’t find his English teacher. He’s hoping to do geography or international relations at University or be an actor. Hey, he can do both.
And then we went back to have lunch at the top of the road and that’s it. That’s Tom’s School Days and my travel days with him gone. Cherish them.