Holidays

Plans are afoot. I daren’t say too much in case it doesn’t happen and because it’s subject to change: but Pip has a big birthday later this year, and he’s plotting something justifiably grand!

It’s now over a year since we last holidayed. Australia was the trip of a lifetime and I loved seeing two major cities and their countryside environs, as well as being there for dear friends’ wedding. It was even worth the return flight home during which I was desperately ill and certain (in my melodramatic way) that I was dying! In our eight and a half years together we’ve also been to the Norfolk Broads, the Lake District, Tuscany and Vienna. I’ve adored all of them, and even though I’m still paying off Australia I can’t help but think travelling is money well-spent. The memories they lay down can become life-forming and precious.

My parents returned from Lanzarote on Thursday. It’s been a difficult few years for them and for one reason or another it’s been their first trip away for three years. Two days into their stay my mother’s purse was stolen and they lost all their cash. It could have been worse, as the purse was lifted from their apartment by an intruder whilst my mum was under the shower and my dad sunbathing outside. Obviously an opportunist thief, but what would have happened if either of my parents had confronted him?

They felt understandably violated, and very vulnerable in the apartment for the rest of the week. What should have been a relaxing time was anything but. My dad is old and no longer physically strong, and wouldn’t have coped with aggression. For the rest of the week they had to spend their remaining money carefully after saving up for the holiday. Their trip home was uncertain and stressful owing to a strike amongst Spanish workers.

I spoke to them over the phone during their stay and I could hear the false bravado in my dad’s voice and the upset and vulnerability in my mum’s.

I’ve not had the best week myself, as I’ve had to handle three upsetting turns of events in quick succession. These are too personal to relate here, but my thoughts have often returned to my parents.

Something my dad said replayed in my mind. “It’s the first time anything like this has happened to us on holiday.”

I suppose that’s something. They’ve been going away together for thirty-five years. Though it’s no surprise: my mum’s usually so careful. She instilled in me a security-consciousness that runs almost as deep as an OCD. It’s not like her to relax her guard, even for a moment. But the holidays we had together when I was a boy weren’t spent fretting about possible thefts or on constant guard against rip-off merchants. At least, if they were I didn’t notice because they were at a time when my parents did the worrying and I was in the privileged position of not being responsible for anything. (This is the single most important thing I wish I could convey to children: enjoy it whilst it lasts if you have an adult or adults to shoulder the burden of responsibility – but of course this is only something that one can understand in retrospect when life begins to weigh heavily and decisions have to be made.)

My parents took me all over Britain and Europe in the 1980s and early 1990s. I recall a fortnight in Portugal, another in Ibiza, a week in Lanzarote (which was up until this week their favourite destination); with trips to France and mainland Spain. In 1995 I even crossed the Atlantic with my mum for a trip around the East Coast of the US and Canada.

My favourite holidays, and the ones I think about the most, have been to the Lake District, a beautiful part of the country only an hour’s drive from my parents’ house. The reason was very simple: we could take the dog with us. Life is incomplete without a dog, and unless you’re a dogman or woman you’ll think I’m mad – but I always wanted the canine contingent of our family to be involved in our holidays.

When I turned thirty I spent a long weekend in the Lake District with Pip and Saffy. This was a few years after we’d joined my parents and Saffy there for a whole joyous week. Those precious few days of my life I revisit over and over again in mind and are amongst my most treasured memories. It’s a wonderful part of the country, where dogs are welcome in many shops and pubs, the scenery is stunning and the air is clear and clean. Saffy loved the Lake District too. She always threw herself into the spirit of holidays and would wake Pip and me up in the early hours, enthusiastic to start each new day. What a privilege!

I haven’t seen the Lake District since Saffy died, and I’m sure it will be difficult to revisit the places I so strongly associate with her. But I hope it will always be a place I return to for holidays in the future. It’s a place I’ve loved since early childhood.

It won’t be this year, but I wonder if one year Pip and I return for a stay in the Lakes with a short four-legged family member by our sides? Even if not, I’m grateful for every holiday I’ve had, as they’ve all broadened my horizons. It hurts me deeply that anyone is capable of denying an old couple a week away to unwind and to forget. What that man did is so much worse than simply take money that didn’t belong to him. I just hope the experience doesn’t shatter my parents’ confidence in going away together again. It would be too unfair for it to have been their last holiday.