Spending last night in a freezing cold caravan with a chemical toilet somewhere south of Bury St Edmunds is symptomatic of home education. Because with home education, we are always in pursuit of something - an English storytelling in a rain lashed field; a feeling for geography in the middle of nowhere clutching a grubby, crumpled, tear-stained map; mathematical knowledge while calculating the cost of twenty pineapples in Tesco on our fingers (and toes), and an insight into scientific methodology while scrubbing away at a charcoal singed kitchen table.
And today I am in pursuit of history and the Roman empire, which naturally involves a drive to Colchester.
Did you know that Colchester was once the capital of Britain? In fact it was so important, Boudica burned the entire place down just to piss off the Romans. After that, the Romans decided they made a sad mistake with Colchester, and opted to make London the centre of happenings instead.
In fact Colchester has probably never fully recovered from that decision. The high street today is dominated by the Victorian splendour of the town hall, but the remaining centre is mostly a sad line of disappointment, with cheap, unimaginative grey buildings. Really, there are some moments when I want to grab council planners by the scruff of the neck, march them up and down their historic centres and shout Why? Why have you let this be done? Why did you allow these buildings of such utter trashy crap be built in one of the most historic sites of England?
Well, we can all be grateful to the mad and wealthy for the preservation of the castle, which having failed to blow up or fall down, is now one of the finest Norman castles to be seen, so make a detour when you're passing.
We're here today to find out all about the Romans, and the Normans, and for the castle tour, which is conducted with great eloquence and authority by an elderly man who might have lived in Colchester all his life. He certainly gives the impression of having done so, and I can only believe the town has hidden glories that induce people to stay. Indeed, this old man helps me to feel so well disposed to Colchester even when their ugly and characterless buildings make me want to hot foot back to the car, that I come over all making-the best-of-a-bad-job and promise pizzas all round at Pizza Express when the museum throws us out.
I have never understood this, but I like it very much. My little gritlets can spend hours in museums, and not only that. They start kicking up a fuss and threatening to scream and squeal when they are ejected out on the street by the security staff who have been pleading with us over the tannoy for the last thirty minutes to come out from behind the medieval hat stand and vacate the building so they can go home. We have so often been shooed out by a harassed looking man in a crumpled uniform jangling the keys that the gritlets probably now think this is the normal way of departing any public building. It will probably stand us good stead in the future.
Our pursuit today then was largely successful. We found the castle, the Romans, some Normans, and the Pizza Express, even though it involved a dreary walk through the endless misery of the high street, and the gritlets were able to answer the test questions at the end of the day in between mouthfuls of mozzarella and toffee chunks.
And for all this knowledge and education, the only sacrifice we have yet to make is a second night in a freezing cold tin box.