Christmas was going to be different this year. The first Christmas morning in many that my partner Christine and I would be without our children. When we decided, almost two years ago, to build our life together we’d knew there’d be days like this. With five girls from our previous relationships at the centre of our decisions, parenting is complex and difficult; full of negotiation and compromise. And one compromise, this year, was that the kids would be with their other parents on The Big Day. The thought of waking up to an empty house, quietly opening gifts seemed far more scary than the alternative- a microadventure.
For the uninitiated, a microadventure is simply an adventure which slots into the rhythm of daily life. Local, accessible fun for anyone with the imagination to try. I like to make a habit of it. It’s as simple as sleeping on a hill and returning for breakfast. Or Christmas lunch. The idea is curated beautifully on the web by Alastair Humphries. Like many of us, he sometimes does bigger adventures.
So we rose on Christmas morning with the excitement normally reserved for the much, much younger. Alarms were set but not needed. Sleep past 5am was made impossible by adrenaline. We ate an adventurer’s breakfast so familiar to me during my cycle trip last year; sweetest porridge and hottest tea. A quick check had pre-empted the perfect plan. On Christmas morning high tide and sunrise coincided perfectly. A dawn dip it would be.
We made haste in darkness to Marsden Bay, whose cliffs and rocks were to protect our modesty. This was not a far-flung beach- Christine had finished this year’s Great North Run not a mile from where we bathed. Thousands slept unknowingly in the streets above. But we were alone in the still, cold twilight, nervously setting out the tiny tent, dressing gowns and towels with which to chase away the chill. Then in an instant, naked, giggling and running into the foam. I was surprised how comfortable the water was on my skin. It was simply too much fun to feel cold. But hypothermia is no fun, so as quickly as we ran in and splashed about, we bounded out and into our little beachside resort.
With the dawn came the dog walkers and some peculiar (envious?) looks. A couple in dressing gowns wandering the beach with smiles as wide as the mouth of the Tyne!? And what a dawn it was. I’d expected on the east coast to see the sun rise over the sea, but sadly, this far north in December the sun rises in the south and sets in the south. So as the warm sun chased the haze we were treated to the sandstone shadows of the cliffs retreating into melted caramel sunshine and the best winter illuminations I’d seen. And I’ve been to Blackpool.
The inescapable flask of tea consumed we headed back up the steps and away to see our children. Our adventure was over in a few short hours. It will live in our memory, an our family’s little fokelore, forever.
It was this Christmas I discovered that the phrase “Jumping for Joy” has meaning beyond metaphor. I wonder how many of us, as adults, have jumped for joy. Building a new family life has been tough at times. But so, so worth it. Moments like these are priceless. So, I beg you, this New Year. You don’t need to be naked, or freezing, or in a far-off land. Do it. Jump for joy.
(Borderline NSFW warning. It’s just bums.)