“Mum! Quick!” he’d bellow back in the day, as he flew through the ever-open front door, his clothes plastered to his drenched skin. “Fill the washing-up bowl. And a saucepan. I need to soak Billy from no. 15!”
But that was when he was small. And, with his younger brother, local cousins, and various other little people who flocked to visit us at our seaside idyll, he wanted to hang out with us there, for weeks on end. As a freelance journalist, I was able to decamp for the entire summer holidays while my husband would join us whenever he could escape. We’d spend our time crabbing in Steephill Cove, pretending to be cowboys in the Wild West bit of Blackgang Chine (an Isle of Wight institution, and the UK’s oldest amusement park), playing never-ending games of Monopoly when it rained, and trying a different flavour of ice cream each day.
August is birthday month for the eldest, so we’d always have a big extended family party, as they all lived on the island after migrating en masse ten years ago, while in London it was only us. Aunties, cousins, grandparents came to sit on the hillocks – we couldn’t all fit inside – and we’d laugh and eat homemade cake and beam as the sun shone on our faces. The kids would get crazy on sugar and the adults would go wild on Pinot. There was one year when my older brother, who’s 6ft, decided it would be a good idea to slide down the hill on a child’s body board. It wasn’t. But it was hilarious.