Holiday preparations are going splendidly here at Annagram Towers.
I am just sooooo relaxed!
In no way am I overwhelmed by the mountain of tasks which must be completed before exiting the house at 4am tomorrow morning which is a time of day when we are all at our absolute best.
I am also entirely unphased by my fake-tanning session yesterday where I used a new application mit and did not realise until every inch of my fine physique was plastered in thick black liquid that the mit was shit. The mit was POROUS. My body has been sunkissed in Spain. My palms have been to Barbados for a month.
Nor am I in any way increasingly anxious about the imminent experience of interfacing with Easyjet staff and service. Considering their actual business is to provide flights, they are ever so good at failing to provide your flight whilst generally making you feel like you’ve actively chosen to spend 48hrs in an airport because you naively expected to just turn up and, you know, get on a plane.
I am once again reminded of my greatest failure in life: not being rich enough to own a private jet.
Whenever I go on holiday, I’m reminded of the two most significant women in my life; my mother and my older sister.
Every year we’d embark on a pilgrimage down to Pevensey Bay on the south coast. We’d always leave at what felt like the dead of night with the car rammed, the attached trailer groaning with tinned food, books and bikes, my sister and I dosed-up on anti-sickness medication. Mum would smoke her head off for seven hours (hence the anti-vom pills) while we bellowed along to The Carpenters and Barry Manilow and lolled about on the back seat, free to roam without seatbelts.
Arriving at our beach-side cottage, my sis and I immediately got to work on our holiday projects. Mum would have spent weeks carefully creating a hard-back writing book for each of us, with a different task on every few pages:
There’s nothing quite like seeing your Mum’s handwriting to take you back in time.
The only project I’ve held on to for all these years is from 1982 when I was eight years old. I am extremely impressed by my map of Newhaven:
And also my sea-life drawings:
And look at that indexy thing she created down the side…so clever, it must have taken her forever.
I have only good memories of these holidays. That’s why my sis and I try to get down there ourselves once a year. We want to remember how good things were there, to believe our real childhood took place on those pebbly beaches, collecting drift-wood and shells. When we’re back there together, we can forget all the grim stuff that happened for most of the other eleven months of the year.
This innocence and happiness were exclusive to Pevensey Bay. When we went to Spain one year, Mum spent most of the fortnight in bed with crippling anxiety. A week in France ended with her being carted off the ferry in Portsmouth by ambulance…
After she died I was determined to be a good, solid traveller. Unafraid to walk on the hot sands of Africa, or climb the mountains of Peru. I did do a bit of travelling, but it turned out I had caught her travel-anxiety. I always found it terrifying, as if the strange currency in my purse had unzipped my true, unable self, as if my face in a foreign mirror couldn’t possibly be me.
Since the kids, it’s been even worse; tragedy, illness or death seeming unbearably likely. For years, even a weekend away would make me sick with fear.
Not so my sister. With two kids and a 6am flight, she’ll just get up at 4, throw a few bits in a bag, have a quick fag and rock off. She’s done India, Thailand and honestly I can’t remember where else. She moves through the world, through her whole life, with excitement and determination. It is not always easy, but enjoying everything is paramount for her. She’s amazing.
For as long as I can remember, when faced with any dilemma, I have asked myself: what would my sister do? Sometimes it’s the opposite of useful coz what she’d do is bloody mental, but mostly, it regenerates me and reminds me that I can do things, I can be happy, I can be free.
This holiday, I plan to pack a bit of my mum. My kids will not be provided with wonderful home-made projects to inspire them (they have ipads for that) but hopefully they will have a relaxed and happy mother. And that’ll be because I also packed a bit of my sister.