Family Holidays of Old

For the children, it’s the first glimpse of the sea.  They know when it will come, but fight even so to be the one to call it.  Then we all break into song Si si si si doloda, yaku sineladu banaha.  

However, for me, it’s the first entry into the flat that marks the start of the holiday.  We park in the space up by the road, unfold ourselves after hours listening to Just William cds, and carry our luggage (including last year’s wetsuits, piles of books and the contents of our home fridge) down 97 tiny, steep steps to the back of the property.  We notice on the way down that this plant or other has grown, and we marvel anew at the racket of seagulls.

We turn the key in the door, and immediately I feel my shoulders relax and my spirits soar.  From the threshold  I see so many windows, and beyond them a view I could never tire of.

Ever since the children were babies we have been lucky enough to holiday in a flat in Cornwall.  My mother’s partner bought a large dilapidated Edwardian villa, renovated it and converted it into appartments.  The one he kept is on the top floor and the views fill me with joy.  Looking straight ahead there is nothing but sea, punctuated perhaps by a liner on the horizon, or a small fishing boat in the bay.  Or look along the coastal path, at the impossibly picturesque cottages that line the way into Coverack.  Watch the occasional hiker, or a family returning from a day at the beach trailing buckets and spades, tired but laughing.  I could sit in my chair in the bay window all holiday without moving, and deem it a perfect break, just watching the sea and the sky.

Of course we do go out, even in foul weather.  On the first night we have dinner at the lifeboat house or the pub, and the next morning we place our paper order at Brenda’s.  We stand waiting as staff and customers chat about this and that: there is no sense of urgency.  By the till is a small dish full of coppers –drop them in if you get some in your change, and if you are a penny short, you can help yourself.  If Elizabeth’s blackboard is outside her thatched cottage on the way back, we ask her to make us some pasties for tomorrow.  We collect them on the way to the beach next day and eat them as soon as we find a spot in the sand, no matter how hard we try to wait for lunchtime.

We go on our favourite walks and visit our favourite beaches.  We used to try to do something new each trip; now we are hard pressed to fit in all the things we have been longing to do again since the last time we were there.  Chief amongst them for me of course is simply to sit by the window.


The above text found in an old email to myself – how these things do keep cropping up in my badly organised inbox, to delight or torment! I’m almost glad that my filing is so bad, though of course I also feel cross with myself for it.

Needless to say, these bucket and sand holidays are now just a fond memory.  I took the children a few times on my own, while my husband was on an extended business trip that marked the beginning of the end, and then after he bolted.  It was still beautiful.  One time we stopped en route at the Jurassic coast and went fossil hunting, which was great.  But the last time my eldest couldn’t join us, can’t remember why.  It was the summer my younger daughter, having had no contact with her dad for quite a while, went to stay with him for the first time.  From there she joined us on the holiday to Cornwall.  She sulked and stropped the whole time, and instead of coming home with us, went back to his pad in town, and never returned.  Now the flat in Cornwall is sold.  I can’t tell you how much I would love to go back.  With family or even all alone.  I would give almost anything to be sitting in that chair looking out at sea.



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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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