The most expensive Paella Pan in Europe. [Happy Easter.]

Once upon a time, we ran a childrenswear business. It was called Little Sunflowers. We ran it for 14 years, from 2004 until 2018. Many of our customers have remained with us throughout our family business(es) journey. In fact some of them still call us Little Sunflowers, and we don't mind that at all. In fact we sort of kept the name, as well as our new one, because we can't quite bear to part with it.

Back in 2011 it was just the two of us running the children's clothing business with our part-timer, Bridie, coming in a couple of afternoons a week. With two National Holidays either side of the weekend, Easter was, and remains, the only time we can go away as a family for 4 days without affecting the business.

Hence we've been away every Easter for the past 15 years. Until this one. As I write this, we are in the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020 and so, of course, we will be staying at home this year.

Easter 2011 - Heatwave

If you were in the UK in 2011, you may recall it was the hottest Easter ever. Easter 2011 also happened to be the year we decided to push the boat out. We took the boys to the Costa del Sol, only the second time we had taken them abroad. Our youngest son was 4 years old, our eldest son was 8.

Unfortunately that particular part of sunny Spain was enjoying the wettest run-up to Easter that anyone could remember.

After months of planning and dreaming about our perfect mini break, we arrived under dark, ominous cloud-cover.

The English lady checking us in to our apartment looked at us sympathetically, said “forecast’s not too good is it? Oh well just nice to get away…” and quickly left.

Our youngest's mantra switched from “are we nearly there yet?” to “can we go home now?” in a heartbeat.

It rained for the rest of the day, all night and all the next day.

In the old days, when it was just the grown-ups, we’d have made the best of things. After all, it was a lovely apartment in a pretty town on the beautiful Spanish coastline.

It just rained non-stop.


The boys became increasingly fed up. They’d planned sand castle making, swimming and pretty much nothing else. We tried that in the rain. Nope.

No CBeebies. No toy trains or track. No Wii game. No playing outside. We couldn't even let them on the beautiful balcony because the tiles, when wet, were like an ice rink.

Still raining. It was like we were torturing them.

Andy quietly fumed. He had looked forward to this for months.

I’d pictured the perfect family holiday and this wasn’t it. In front of the boys, I was Mary Poppins with bells on. “Come along, let’s make the best of things. Who’d like an ice cream?”

Inside I bawled. At one point I hid in the beautiful apartment bathroom because I knew I was actually going to cry. Ridiculous. Why was a little thing like rain affecting me like this?

I kept checking Facebook knowing it would make matters worse reading update after update about how stunning things were back home. Yet still I kept checking.

We also kept looking at weather forecast websites. There would be rain in Spain falling mainly on our apartment for the entire trip.

At our house in East Sussex it would be glorious.

So I did one of the maddest things I’ve ever done. I rang British Airways less than 48 hours after we’d landed. Yes we could change our flights home, we could leave that night in fact.

Quick family conference. Who wants to go home? Four hands went straight up.

And so it was that a reasonably priced 5 day mini break in Spain became the most expensive 2 day mini break ever.

Paella Pan

We popped the keys through the apartment letter box, texted the lady and returned the car to the bewildered airport hire car company. “You understand lady, you book for 5 days, no refunds?” “Yes” I beamed insanely. I understood.

We skipped through the airport like excited children on the last day of term as more expectant British holidaymakers continued to arrive.

A Pan for Paella

To use up our Spanish currency I bought a rather unattractive paella pan at the airport. I tried very hard to convince myself that it would grow on me, as it was the only paella pan they had. That never works, does it. Convincing yourself that a "dodgy buy" was ever anything but a "dodgy buy", I mean.

We arrived that evening to a balmy Gatwick Airport which felt more continental than it had felt on the continent. Everyone was smiling. It was surreal.

We found fish in the freezer, made Paella and Sangria for Easter lunch, and recreated Spain in our tiny back garden. Kind of.

We were back in (seemingly) the sun trap of Europe. We basked in the heat, laughed our heads off like loons. The boys had an Easter egg hunt, built their train track in the garden and splashed in the paddling pool.

I’ve never used that pan again, not least of all because everything stuck to it and it was impossible to clean. Come to think of it, I’ve no idea what happened to it. How do you lose a paella pan?

Easter 2020 - COVID-19 lockdown

We are one of the lucky businesses in this lockdown period as we have, so far, been able to keep selling. Homebrew beer and wine kits are in in great demand, so much so that we have struggled to keep up with it. Yet we're surrounded by people whose relatives are very ill (or worse), and/or are ill themselves. And so many small businesses, just like ours, are struggling.

It is pure luck that we now sell products that people might like to have in a global pandemic when they're in lockdown. This most certainly wouldn't have been the situation a few short years ago. We are very thankful for that.

This afternoon we've been charging around, trying to get the home brew orders in the post tonight before the long weekend. Meanwhile most people around us aren't even sure what day it is. We feel very, very fortunate. Guilty, in fact. That we are currently ok, when nobody else is. And since we have no idea what the future will bring, we just keep on keeping on.

We've sourced the ingredients for our traditional (to us) Easter Paella from our local Fishmonger, and we have the ingredients for Sangria. The weather is going to be fine. Not unlike that Easter back in 2011, in fact. And we'll be making our Paella in a frying pan.

Makes you think, all this. Doesn't it.

How surreal it all is.

Happy Easter, from our family to yours.

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