For a lot of people, grandparents form an important part of family life - whether they are the go-to for biscuits, advice or just some respite from parental nagging. They can also be a crucial source of childcare.
With the summer holidays in full swing, we took a trip down memory lane and chatted to people all over the country about what summer holidays spent with their grandparents meant to them.
“My brother and I used to have wonderful summers with our grandparents in Wallasey, Merseyside,” says Jasmine Birtles, 46, who lives in London.
“I think we first started going up when I was about seven and my brother was five. We spent most of the time on the sandy beach with Kim (the dog from next door), grandma’s picnics (pink cake, white cake, meat paste sandwiches and orange squash) and grandpa’s games in the sand.”
Every Tuesday the foursome would travel to New Brighton and play crazy golf, have a picnic and then go to the nearby Floral Pavilion to see a show.
“It was all very simple - nothing glamorous at all - but it was wonderful to us,“ she continues. “I wish I had realised at the time just how much my brother and I were gaining from this simple and comfortable time.”
It seems seaside holidays were much-anticipated for kids with grandparents living by the coast. Alexa Cobbold, 29, from York, spent every summer visiting her grandmother June who lived by the sea in Cleethorpes: “It was your traditional, tacky British seaside town, but my god did I love it growing up – I still love visiting the place even though she’s no longer alive, it holds such lovely memories.”
I wish I had realised at the time just how much my brother and I were gaining from this simple and comfortable time.”
Alexa, her brother and their grandmother would go for walks along the promenade with her rescue dogs. “The whole place was very still and peaceful when you think about how busy it can get at that time of year, and she even let my brother and I buy treats of rock and tacky seaside souvenirs (yes at 6am) from the seafront vendors, much to my mother’s horror.”
There were cooked lunches every day – with potatoes out of a can, which Alexa still secretly loves to this day – and they would spend their time on the beach, playing on the 2p machine in the arcade and paddling in the local lido.
“It was beautiful and that week always seemed to go on and on,” she recalls, adding: “She was wonderful and I will never forget those summers.”
Rachel Avery, 26, from Bristol, says she would often spend the day at Bristol Harbourside with her grandparents: “We would pay a visit to the Transport Museum on the dockside before my grandad whisked us off for a boat ride – my nan walking to meet us at the end of the journey as she ‘didn’t bring her sea legs’. Every trip would be topped off with an ice cream or doughnut, sat near the water enjoying the summer sunshine.”
She recognises that her parents needed her grandparents’ help as financially they didn’t have the option for paid childcare. “But this turned out to be a win-win situation, as my brother and I were able to spend extra time with our nan and grandad,” Rachel explains. “My mum and dad would always be so grateful for the helping hand that my grandparents gave – often offering up some decorating or gardening help at a later date as a way of repayment. Without the extra help, I’m not sure how my parents would have coped.”
Nicole Barbosa, 33, lives in Hertfordshire. She would often spend summer with her maternal grandparents Meme and Papa, who lived in the US. “I was very close to Meme. She died in 2013 and I still miss her terribly. As the first grandchild on that side, we had a special bond,” says Nicole.
One summer that sticks in Nicole’s memory took place after her grandparents divorced. She was ten years old and had flown alone for the first time to stay with her grandmother. “We sat on her front porch, drinking sweet tea and listening to Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson and Celine Dion,” she recalls.
Rachel Kerr, 25, who lives in Brighton, was lucky enough to be able to spend her summers in New Zealand. ”My grandparents were dairy farmers all their lives, just like every generation before them,” she explains. “I spent my summer holidays in a farmhouse that had been standing for decades before I’d even been born.”
Her summer holiday experience wasn’t typical. “Every summer my grandparents Kris and Allen would let my sisters and I swim in the giant water tank, fly our kites in the fields, and help herd the cows into the corrugated sheds for milking,” she recalls. “But what I remember most was how impossibly dark it got at night when all the lights were off and we had been tucked into bed.
“It taught me to slow down and appreciate the small things, because one day trips to the remote New Zealand countryside would stop and the farmhouse evenings would only be found in memories and old faded photographs.”