Archive for the ‘holiday’ Category

The long summer

Gabe

Gabe was rigorous and determined in his commitment to doing nothing from mid-June, the end of his exams, and mid-October, the start of college. But connecting those two points was a third: exam results and the decision over his immediate future.

L & I had, with some difficulty, tried to discuss with him some options prior to results day, including deferring university for a year. As adamant as he was that he would do nothing during the long summer of 2019, Gabe was similarly fixed on either going to his 1st choice or taking a year off.

The morning came. The results were to be handed over later at school, but university admissions were confirmed first. Gabe walked into the kitchen, in his dressing gown, I think trembling. On his iPhone, the confirmation that he had his place at college. Later that morning: 3 A*s.

For the rest of the summer: he worked his way through the pre-term reading list sent by his tutors, but otherwise carried on doggedly doing nothing.

Eliza

Eliza received an offer of a holiday in Crete with the family of a friend. Initial misgivings about her running unchecked through Med club nights were allayed when we met the family and were shown the villa, located remotely on the island’s north coast.

Away she went for a week of beautiful warm weather, on beaches, beside lakes and the villa’s pool. She dove-tailed into her friend’s family, filling the gap left by an older brother who opted to stay at home. They returned, full of fondness and compliments for Eliza, who was equally grateful for the invitation.

Robin

With two European trips under his belt already in 2019, Robin had least to lose from a summer shorn of a family holiday. By mid-August, he was contemplating going back to school, without complaint.

While Eliza was in Crete, he and I took a day-trip to the North Wales coast. The clouds rolled back mid-morning as we finished a game of beach cricket. A lunch of fish and chips on a pub terrace, before we headed to another part of the beach for frisbee. Then, into the sea – Robin more willingly than me. Eventually, though we swam together in UK waters, perhaps for the first time. As evening approached, a game of crazy golf and a Mexican meal to round-off the trip.

Staycation

With L unable to travel, the kids have settled into a summer holiday at home.

Gabe got off to an early start, with his exams finishing in mid-June. He has occupied himself with reading, watching cricket (World Cup and Ashes), pub quiz trips with friends and organising book collections. He started with our own and the floor was strewn with paperbacks for a couple of weeks while he laboriously logged our library on a spreadsheet, before returning it to the shelves, categorised and neater than before. J, our friend’s retired mother, has engaged Gabe to do the same for her.

Since the end of school term, Gabe has also been socialising with Robin, reforging a fraternal relationship that had been distant. They have played table tennis, tennis, indoor and outdoor cricket, X-box and watched sports together on TV.

Eliza, of course, is the most active and industrious. She has worked ten of the first twelve days of the holiday, running gymnastics holiday club and parties. On the way there or back, she has met up with Joe, or visited other friends. “Where’s Eliza?” I ask when back from work. “Out,” I’m told with conviction but not precision.

Silver Coast and Lisbon

While Britain roasted, the four of us who travelled to Portugal found mostly sunny, temperate weather, which kept us active and outdoors more than had it been very hot. Robin was attracted to water, spending the most time in our villa’s pool and was the first in the sea or lagoon at each beach we visited.

Robin was insulated against the cold of the water. I joined him on an inflatable assault course that we had to swim to in the bay of a local resort. It was a cloudy late afternoon and clambering around, splashing in and out of the sea, I soon felt the chill. Eventually, taking pity on me, he agreed we should swim back, where I needed layers of clothes and tea to recover.

Robin and Eliza had two long surf lessons, the second of which took place amongst waves taller than them. Both progressed from their first lesson in France last year and quickly managed to stand as the wave swept them towards the beach. It thrilled them and left them exhausted.

Sight-seeing trips were much better-humoured than last year’s, with Robin sticking tightly to L or I. Eliza only protested at a march around the ramparts of Sintra’s hill-top Moorish fort and sat alone listening, I assume, to music. But a similar trip to Obidos, walking the medieval wall of the the village was approached enthusiastically by all.

A thread of anxiety ran through Robin’s holiday: the flight and difficulty sleeping. In Lisbon, over the final two days of the holiday, he worried about earthquakes. But we found the city benign, albeit noisy at night around our apartment in the traditional Alfama district. He added Benfica’s Stadium of Light to the list of major stadia he has visited. Eliza left with an attachment to nata, the Portuguese custard tart.

Flying to Portugal (or not)

Fear of flying (Gabe’s and Robin’s) meant that the holiday was put out for consultation with the kids at the turn of the year. “We will go somewhere we can reach by train, if you prefer,” they were reassured. Portugal got the go ahead.

In the weeks running up to our departure (the first day after schools broke up for summer), Gabe began to raise objections, in an ‘on and off’ fashion. L and I had a ‘final’ discussion with him on Thursday evening, two days before departure: “tell us now, or never.” He reluctantly agreed. But the agonised discussion recurred the following evening and eventually Gabe opted not to come – if he could stay with his Grandpa, which kindly, at barely two days’ notice, he agreed.

Four of us left on Saturday afternoon for the airport, with Gabe at home awaiting the return from holiday of Auntie S and family, who then took him back to Scotland with them on Monday.

Robin coped with the flight, but was highly anxious before the plane took off, settling once we were airborne and needing to grip L’s hand throughout.

Up in Scotland, Gabe studied and seemed to find a daily rhythm that complemented his Grandpa’s routine. He also had time with Auntie S and family as well as Alistair and Emily. He returned home a day before us, travelling from Scotland alone. The fraught decision to forego his holiday seemed to deliver a timely experience of independence.

Bordeaux week 2 – surf dudes and card sharks

Four of us left early(-ish) one morning to head for the Atlantic coast. Gabe, beach unfriendly, stayed at the gite. 75 minutes drive later, we parked, walked through a pine wood and dunes onto a long, wide beach. I discussed the possibility of a surfing lesson in French and then in English with Vincent, a lean, tanned surfer. Eliza and Robin were given clammy wet suits and waited for the rest of Vincent’s class. Eventually, he said they could start. 

For the next 90 minutes, as the tide swelled inwards, Robin and Eliza went from lying on the board to picking themselves up and standing, if only for a few seconds, as waves swept them towards the beach. “The best thing of my 13 years” said Eliza. Robin was just as enthusiastic.

Every night, we settled around the table to play cards. Whist, contract whist, black two, hearts, etc. Gabe had a lordly air, playing to win and controlling the music. We were each asked for a track, which he might censor, before calling up on Spotify and certainly criticise once it was playing. The cards games were keenly competitive, verging on the unfriendly. Robin, tired and less adept, was heckled for holding up play or teased for poor judgement. The edge to the evening was broken when we wrapped up the game and headed to bed.

Bordeaux week 1 – sleep, eat, rest

Gabe flew with us. For two days in the run-up to the holiday he had called L and my bluff and said he’d prefer to spend two weeks with his Grandpa than fly. As L and I made ready with compromises, he backed down. His aspiration for the holiday: sleep, eat, rest.

Mornings in the gite passed quickly. The kids rose late and lazed around the lounge with headphones and devices. To those activities they would return directly from finishing lunch. But some days we enforced trips: to Saintes, Bordeaux, Royan, the beach at St-Palais-sur-mer. These risked, and usually resulted in bad tempers, with frequency related to increasing age of child. The tempers could be assuaged with pizza lunch, or ice cream.

We went kayaking up a river that flowed gently into the Gironde. Robin and I had just established a good rhythm when a kayak occupied by two grey-haired men and a young woman capsized. Hampered by language and them being too heavy to haul onto our kayak, they spent ten minutes in the water holding onto their upturned vessel before they maneuvered to the bank, tipped the water out of their kayak, climbed back in and continued their trip.

Back at the gite, the pool and table-tennis prompted the most activity, particularly from Robin. We borrowed bikes and cycled on the narrow roads bordered with vines and sunflower fields. A couple of evenings, they joined in the rounders match run by the hosts’ children, involving the kids of the other gite and the French children staying with the owner.

Sights of Tuscany

The children might have settled for two whole weeks at the villa, but L & I led us away every second or third day to a Tuscan sight.

In Pisa and Florence we scaled tall buildings: the leaning tower and the domo. Robin was enthralled by the climbs and the sense of height. Eliza was anxious and needed a hand to be held (almost as much as I did) as we walked around the summit of both climbs. Gabe made it to the top of the Leaning Tower, briefly, but pulled out of the ascent of the domo before the section that took you up stairs cut into the arc of the lower level of the dome.

The children were more reluctant to appreciate the architecture from street-level – apart from in Pisa where the tower offered photographic opportunities. We managed an hour and a half in the Uffizi: Eliza most focused on the art; Gabe on historical and cultural facts; Robin under intense strain.

More popular was a day at a crowded water park. As a threesome, they queued for trips down slides, not demanding L or I participate.

But every trip out was tolerated knowing that it would bring a reward in the form of ice cream, coke and pizza.