Tuesday, 21 August 2007


Another leave, another summer. As hubby packs his grip and polishes his shoes, neck bent revealing a white bit under his hairline where the barber shaved away his holiday hair, I am not as despondent as I usually am after a leave period because Hubby’s new job is bringing him back to Plymouth in October. Thus long stretches of not seeing each other during the week will be a thing of the past, well until the next appointment at least.
“There are still a number of outstanding jobs to do around the house you know”, I said, not really trying for a fight but going down that slippery route nonetheless.
“What have I failed to do in my spousal duties now?” he asked, spitting on his toe cap.
“Well you never finished painting the kitchen”.
“Alice, I brandished a paint brush on the first day of leave and did a few walls before you wanted my attention for something else”.
“Well the bath was blocked”, I added indignantly. More indignantly he replied,
“And the basement needed emptying and, let’s not forget, as you gallivanted around Devon and Cornwall’s tourist attractions with your American friend, I looked after the kids”, he was on a roll, “oh and then, just when I thought I might slow down and take a break of two marching paces you invite various family members to stay”.
“But they were your family members”.
“Don’t remind me”. We reached an impasse, before he added,
“Besides the piece de resistance was our camping trip and let’s face it Alice, you are most definitely not much of a camper”.
Ah, our camping trip, not so much an unprecedented success as a three day trial in family relations and boy our relations are as strained as those between Bush and Putin.
“Well I didn’t expect it to be so busy”.
“It’s August for God’s sake Alice. Did you expect to be in a field on your own?”
“Well I didn’t expect to share my frozen breath with fifteen hundred other breaths all clearing their throats, burping and snoring all night long”.
“You’re no Sleeping Beauty yourself love”. Another impasse.
“Anyway, it was too hard keeping an eye on all the children”. Truly, if you want to lose your family, go to Polzeath beach, sit on a mat and wait and, I can guarantee that within five minutes, your youngest child will be lost. Luckily, the authorities must know that this goes with the territory at Polzeath because whilst I was running around like a headless chicken, sobbing and awailing, the Life Guards were doing a better and calmer job of finding her. Which indeed they did, quickly. We tried to stick it out on that beach a while longer but it was futile. Not only were there literally thousands of people on or in various beach shelters and towels but the water’s edge is a good two hour walk away and if, like me, you have an aversion to walking in a bathing suit for more than a few feet before hiding under the sea, then the feeling of self consciousness of traipsing miles across sand as ones thighs and tummy wobbles under straining Lycra, is overwhelming and by the time I actually reached the water I was so mortified that I wanted to bury my head in the sand not sit on it. Unfortunately as the surf contained over two hundred body boarders coming at me at any given moment, I couldn’t even dive under the waves for fear of being mown down by a garish, nylon covered board of polystyrene.
After a picnic of rolls and crisps and grasping the two, soon to be three year old by the wrist lest she do a runner again, we gave up and found that afternoon, to our delight and relief the perfect beach of Daymer Bay. No nutters on boards, no waves, shallow waters, few people. Glorious.
Our son and heir and his equally ‘cool’ buddy, spent three days in their ‘shades’ and tight skinny jeans, t-shirts, socks and boots, without ever even visiting the beach, preferring instead to hang out outside the tent and strum their guitars for hours, in sweltering heat.
How a hot afternoon can turn into a freezing cold night beats me but believe me, I thought rigormortis would claim me before the hundred or so rooks woke the camp ground at five am. For those two nights I crawled under my duvet wearing my fleece and Hubby’s socks and onto my so called blow up bed which proceeded to deflate through the night and which found me at 4am wedged under Hubby’s inflatable bed, the cold earth penetrating my bones. The Red-Head was a peculiar shade of blue when she eventually rose and the eleven year old - twelve years old today, stormed out of her part of the tent both mornings livid with Mother Nature and her liberties at playing games with the temperature and the morning chorus. Only she didn’t blame Mother Nature but her own mother instead and my insistence that I couldn’t regulate the natural world did little to appease her. An overnight trip to London could and will though, so as Hubby spends another day of ‘quality time’ with his youngest daughters while attempting to complete the things on my to-do list, the birthday girl and I are making the most of him being at home to escape for a little razzmatazz. A cheap rail fare, the kind offering of a friend’s pied a terre and the contacts – ie a gay friend from school who works in the theatre and who knows ‘everyone worth knowing darling’, has thus provided us with travel, accommodation and the best seats in the house for Joseph and undoubtedly, his amazing technicoloured dreamcoat.


Yvonne said...

The camping trip sounded interesting! perhaps the barge last year wasn't such a bad option after all. You will have to come to visit good old Surrey - no buckets I promise.

Alice Band said...

Yvonne - I hope you understood what was implied in this post regarding 'your family'!! Present company not included of course..

Lisa said...

Camping trips are usually all about the same, aren't they?
Hope you have a great trip to London, though not quite France, still sounds very exotic to me!

enidd said...

Gah, Enidd misses those camping trips from her childhood so much. No, honestly. Really.

OK, she doesn't miss them at all.

Broker said...

I hope you are counting the days til October.

Alice Band said...

Lisa - not exotic but a nice change!
enidd - it has been pissing down over here again, my friends had to leave their tent at the campsite as their shoes were literally floating in the tent.
Broker - what's happening in October?

Mary Alice said...

It's always easier to see the hubby go if you have a good tiff. A common coping mechanism for military families – ourselves included!
Aren’t there any places to camp in Europe that are not so flippin' crowded? I like camping, but not in a crowded campground. Here you can escape into the wilderness and not see another soul for days.

Yvonne said...

Alice - I was looking forward to more about the family visit!! thought it would make good reading. Enjoy yourselves with the present company hope she is not too much trouble - the 13 year old that is!

Mopsa said...

Joseph was wondrous when I was twelve, but that was more than thirty years ago and the only wondrous thing about it now is that eternal new generations of 12 year olds still find it so. Have fun!

Sally Lomax said...

Losing a child on the beach in Cornwall............. now that brought back memories close to the heart...
Have a good time at Joseph! Lucky you.

The Heir (alice's son) said...

Mum I quite enjoyed the camping trip, the fact that I managed to remain suave while you lot got mired in despair at the moods of the eldest girl and just the plain crapyness of it all, I quite liked it, me and "the friend" had a laugh. btw hi Yvonne x

Mary Alice said...

Alice - I can't locate your e-mail on here...is it published? Anyway e-mail me at the following address: wed2mil at yahoo dot com. Looking forward to discussing bloody effing teenagers. I assume that is the bad F word - not feck, but the one with a U?! ....did you ever watch much Father Ted?