Some reminiscences from our recent holiday in Greece
We had a brief sojourn in Athens, visiting the Poet cum Sandalmaker-to-the-stars, a pootle round The Acropolis and rummage through the flea market. Then on to the lovely island of Hydra, to stay with an old friend of mine Matina. She lives on the mainland, but comes back to her childhood home island for the summer with her son and husband. Her parents still run the taverna in the town – each day they sent a food parcel of lunch via water taxi (no roads = no cars). Clearly they thought their daughter could not be trusted to cook properly for the guests. On our last night we ate at the taverna. At a neighbouring table was this bunch of bright young things. Matina told me they’re connected with an incredibly wealthy naval business family, the Ecclestones of the sea world. I’m glad the Douskous were the recipients of these folks’ unearned cash, but my socialist hackles were growling. Amongst the many things ordered were two lobster platters - cost of 100 Euros plus each. They sat there braying and haw-hawing away about who of their party they’d leave on a desert island. I know what my answer would be.
Leaving the hackles aside, we went then to Naxos. I love a journey. Mine, or someone else’s. I get overwhelmingly emotional at the movement of modes of transport. Trains, planes, not automobiles especially. Even in the now joyless experience of the airport, with its 100ml liquid limit/speedy boarding scrum/everyone cramming too-big bags into overhead lockers, I get a thrill at the taxi down the runway.
Boats though. That’s the big guns. It’s all I can do not to blub as the ferries come and go (and there you were thinking I had a heart of flint 😉). My boys don’t share this - I don’t know if that’s an age/gender/personality thing (I’ve always loved boat journeys) - or maybe just the age in which we live - ‘What were you doing out on deck all that time?’ they ask incredulously. They each stayed briefly to watch a departure and an arrival, but their hearts were not in it.
I was delighted that on our journey to Naxos we called in at Paros first so I could indulge myself in welling up at another coming in and going out, without the kerfuffle of having to get off.
I also like watching the officials, who have the harried, self-important air of head chefs as they scurry hither and thither, blowing their whistles with gay abandon.
What I like about camping you could fit on a pin head (discomfort, rain, noise, needing a wee in the night necessitating a major expedition) I’ve yarped on about it elsewhere. http://www.maggiegordon-walker.com/detail.aspx…
Anyway, the thing I DO like about camping is the challenge of cooking with minimal equipment in inclement conditions.
The same sense of excitement happens looking at the interestingly equipped kitchen in a holiday apartment, such as the one we had in Naxos - here we had a prodding fork thing but no decent knives (usually the case) - it’s a challenge , but a good one. The joy of empty cupboards to fill with new things rather than the fusty old quinoa you have at home festering at the back that you know you should eat instead of the pasta you actually want. LOOK though at the curious little contraption here! At first glance this looks like a grill and oven, but no. It’s THE TINIEST DISHWASHER IN THE WORLD....!
I’ve been feeling a bit jittery the last few weeks. Partly it’s been the heat, which has taken all us Little Britain-ers by surprise. Hot is all very well when you’re on the beach, or beside the pool, or in a hotel room or apartment geared towards hot weather. It is not the same when in a carpeted house with double glazed windows and an attic bedroom trying to continue to function. I hadn’t realised quite how poorly I’d been sleeping until the rains came back and I slept the whole night through. I’d spent many nights in the previous few weeks starting up in sweaty terror at 2am convinced I was, in fact, about to die from a parched mouth.
The summer holiday brings with it more expectations than the Christmas and Easter holidays, which can be summed up as mass consumerism and chocolate respectively. Everyone is away from normal duties then, but the long summer stretch of absentia belongs to families and those that work with children. The belief that becomes more insistent as July rolls around is that everyone will have a marvellous time, moving from one sun-dappled location to the next, getting on with each other beautifully.
Of course this cannot be. I am self-employed, so am lucky enough not to have to scrabble around frantically trying to find daycare for my offspring. In any case, they are now 13 and 10, so can be left alone for a while if I have to pop out for a meeting. I still must shoehorn bits of work in here and there, which seems much harder to do while they are in the house, even if it is at 9am and they won’t be awake for at least an hour because they’re not going to bed much before midnight. #badparentalert.
The problem lies in the gap between expectation and reality (mostly the case with any experience). I am tired. So are they. Part of me wants to be going on a picnic or country walk, another part of me wants to stay in bed and look at pictures of other people’s picnics and walks on social media. My boys also want to immerse themselves in screens. They will come out for the occasional picnic or swim, but I have to let them have their holiday the way they want it.
It takes some time for the jitters to subside, the negative voice in my head that I am not doing it right to be quieted. Even if I am not ‘working’, the ‘work’ of the household, especially as I am a sole parent, does not go away. I’m still schlepping round the supermarket, cooking and doing the washing. I have a fantasy of some (fully staffed) tropical island, where we can decamp to for six weeks, along with several of our friends. The super-rich do have this kind of lifestyle, but perhaps some of them long for home.
I've been reading one of Alan Bennett's diaries (very slowly. Not because I don't enjoy it, but because it's in the bathroom, reserved for my post-shower sit in towel to dry off). It made me realise I would LOVE my own 'What I've been up to this week!' type column in a paper/magazine. So would many thousands of others, I'd imagine. So, I've created my own additional section here. Less ranty, reflectiony or reviewy than the other bits.