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Balance, Passion and Easter Eggs in Sunderland

With the Easter holidays upon us it has been a funny couple of weeks squeezing all the work into one end of the week so I can spend the rest of the time with my family. The studio days have been jam-packed busy and the home days have been early morning edits followed by a gorgeous medley of making the most of the weather; walks, pottering in the garden, visits to the park and a spot of baking.

We snuck off to Sunderland for a little mini break these last couple of days and did a thoroughly wind swept tour of The Angel of the North, Penshaw Monument and Souter lighthouse. My children are very proud to claim that they smashed the lighthouse easter egg hunt and found all 65 of the hidden eggs.

Passionate Volunteers

The tour of Souter lighthouse gave a fascinating insight into how life must have been for the lighthouse workers and their families. And I was very impressed at how the knowledgeable national trust volunteers made sure all their listeners, both young and old were included in their talks. The climb up the top to the light was a sheer test of will for my daughter who found the ladder like stairs terrifying, but she was thrilled to be asked to guess how many prisms were in the light and be almost right. She guessed one thousand and there were just eight more.

Souter boasts being the first electric lighthouse, but we learnt that in the days when it was still light by oil, the workers would have spent each day tediously cleaning the oily grease off each of the prisms so they would shine again the next night. Interestingly the volunteer who spoke to us on the ground had a really rosy view of this old life, yet the woman who spoke to us up at the top painted a picture of a very tough life. Just shows you, it all depends on how you think about things.

For our evening meal we ventured into Sunderland city centre and found 2 Church Lane, a little independent pub and burger bar that reminded us of some of the great haunts we found out in New York – all worn urban brickwork and chunky wood.

We’ve been having city breaks with the children since they were very little, but the evenings have always been very tied to the hotel. I’ve been so looking forward to getting to this point where we can go out for an evening meal together and the kids wont be too tired to enjoy it. The kids and 2 Church Lane did not disappoint. Behaviour, burgers and customer service were all amazing and to top it all off the bar also did some pretty amazing cocktails for all of us.

Fantastic Customer Service

My children wanted milkshakes, but the bar was out of milk. Instead, the talented girl behind the bar offered to rustle up some iced smoothies. My children were thrilled to receive their beautifully adorned drinks piled high with strawberries, lemon and lime, and we were impressed to not be charged for them.

After dinner we took a stroll through the city centre and I realised why Sunderland seems so familiar to me right now; this was the first city to declare that they had voted to leave the European Union. I can’t help but wonder if the results would have been the same if voting had been mandatory and ALL the people had spoken rather than just 65%. But that rant is another blog post. Right now I’m revelling in Sunderland loveliness.

And a Breath of Fresh Air

For all the art and history, the grand finale and jewel in our visit has to be our walk along the breath-taking beach beyond the lighthouse. We had originally gone in search of rock pools, but the tide had climbed too high by the time we got there, and we had to make do with a stunning sandy beach and crashing waves. We climbed down the steps from the cliff face and as the sun momentarily peeped from behind a cloud, both my children forgot they were half frozen from being blown to bits most of the day and stripped their socks and shoes for a paddle in the unforgiving North Sea.

We had just enough time to wander a little way further and stroll between the cliff face and the towering Lots wife, one of the awesome stone pillars that guard this section of coastline. Then the tide began to lick at her feet and soon reclaimed the rest of the beach.

Finding My Balance

Now we are back home and warm with the memories of our little trip. I’m inspired to have met so many people so passionate and invested in what they are doing and I’ll be bringing some tweaks to PhotoBaby as a result. Our brief dust with nature has brought me a sense of calm that I think I should tap into a lot more often. A daily visit to a beach would probably do us all the world of good.

As I prepare to go back to work properly, my husband has just asked me if I think it’s all worth it, and the answer is one hundred percent yes! Every day I get to do something that I utterly love, I get to work on my art and my craft and see it improve. I meet so many wonderful people at the most precious time of their lives and I get to take time out to be with my gorgeous family whenever it suits us. Ok, so I did have to get up at 5am a couple of times in the last few weeks because all the work still has to be done, but this is a small price to pay when I’m getting so much fulfilment from what I am doing.

It will probably be a relief to run a normal diary again for the next few weeks, but I shall definitely be using this model to tackle the summer holidays this year and establish a balance between home and work without bringing in extra childcare.