When I was little we didn’t actually go on holiday in the modern sense. In the summer we went up to Scotland to stay with my Aunt and my cousins for a couple of weeks and twice we went to Brighton to stay with my Uncle. The other school holidays were spent at home, going to the park or playing out with my friends from the same building as me. Yes, believe it or not small children played hopscotch unsupervised on the streets of Ladbroke Grove! We used to play with the children in the next street too and came home when we could hear our mums shouting our names out the windows. My mum was a cleaner and worked odd hours so then my grandma would look after me. In those days the holiday abroad was rare among the people I knew, we didn’t have much money and a holiday was seen as luxury not a necessity. I still have that mentality today, I love going on holiday but I don’t expect it, if I can save enough then great, if not then the park and swimming it is. My mum took me abroad once when I was seven, to Malaga, it was amazing! the sea, the beach, the food, it felt incredibly exotic.
From the age of eight my mum used to make me go and stay with my father abroad, where he lived, for two weeks in the summer and it was absolutely awful. I didn’t know my father or his family, we didn’t speak the same language – literally – and I hated every minute, they were mean to me, they made fun of me and they ignored me. I missed my mum so much that it hurt and yet every year, for my years, as the summer holidays approached I knew what was going to happen and that sense of foreboding and misery really tainted a lot of my child hood holiday time, I dreaded being sent away.
Apart from Spain the only other ‘proper’ holiday I had was when my mum and my aunt took me and my two cousins to a house that they had rented in Walberswick,Suffolk, from the friend of the woman my mum cleaned for.
It was the best holiday ever! The house was on the green which had swings, you could walk to the beach and there is a bridge where you go crabbing, having picked up the lines and bait of bacon scraps at the local Spar. There was very little traffic and you could rent bikes from the garage to go whizzing around the country lanes. There was even a chap with a rowing boat who would row you across the estuary to Southward for 10p each, bikes extra. It was like the Famous Five made flesh. Picnic lunches of white bread cheese sandwiches on the beach, making sand castles with one of my cousins who was a year older than me while the other, who was 14, would wander up and down the beach looking wistfully out to sea in the first bloom of teen angst. Her brother and I laughed at her a lot, after all what more do you need to make you happy than an ice cream and a set of swings right in front of your house?
I have lots of not so good memories from my child hood but that holiday and that place stir memories in me of pure happiness. We never went back after that trip but then I had Lulu and wanted her to experience the same sort of fun as me so I started taking her to Suffolk too. When she was about six months old my ex and I rented a gorgeous house in the midst of the forest in Orford and took our mums with us, a good friend also came to stay for a few days. Then a short time later we rented a cottage in the middle of an apple orchard near Saxmundham with our god child and her parents. A few months later it was a cottage in Orford and some of Lulu’s godparents came to stay. Then last summer I took Lulu on our first single parent holiday to a cottage in Walberswick, my mum came too and the three of us had a whale of a time.You could see the sea from my bedroom and it was perfect.
In April this year I rented larger house in Walberswck and M came along with his two children, as did my mum. We have rented the same house for two weeks at the end of August for us and the children again, and of course my mum! It is magical amazing place, we all go crabbing on the bridge of my childhood memory, we cycle to the Co Op (the Spar is long gone) for papers and milk, we get in the little row boat across to Southwold, we play on the beach, get sand everywhere and then go to the Anchor for dinner and Adnams ale. It is exactly a I remember it as a child and I adore going there. I hope that when Lulu grows up that she has as many fond members of Suffolk as I do and if i’m really lucky I may be able to take my grandchildren there too.
People talk frequently about that Sunday night sinking feeling, school/work tomorrow, the end of time to yourself to do fun things like see friends and lie in bed. The mild panic when you know that you haven’t left enough time to do your homework for school or work and the tinge of resentfulness that reality must impinge so soon.
I understand those feelings, I had them when I was at school and uni and for lots of the jobs I’ve had. Mainly because I hadn’t done my homework and I wasn’t too fond of my job. However, now I really like Monday’s, they are my favourite day of the week, work is always busy so it goes quickly and I enjoy my job and my colleagues so going into work never feels like a chore. Don’t get me wrong, when that alarm goes off I reset ALOT and wish I could stay in bed, I’m not entirely mental!
My ‘Sunday feeling’ has always arrived as dusk falls on the late summer evenings, on any day of the week, including Friday!! it makes me entirely and inexplicably maudlin and I just don’t know why. I spent a lot of my youth thinking that everyone else was having the best time ever at weekends and in the evenings, going to all those parties(what parties?) that I hadn’t been invited to, I always believed that the ‘fun’ was happening somewhere else to someone else, then as I got older I imagined all those ‘fun’ people now gathered for big raucous Sunday roasts in gastropubs, drinking red wine and reading the papers together. I know that does happen as I have actually attended a few. But I have forever felt a little on the outside of these social calendar things, no idea why. Probably because I never got invited to all the ‘fun’.
I know some of this stems back to to my childhood (excuse my while I just hop onto the Doctors couch). I would have sleep overs at schools friends houses, their nice big houses with their nice big families and their parents who were still married and then I’d get the tube home to the tiny basement flat where me and my mum lived, in a slightly salubrious part of West London. Ironically enough it is now virtually impossible to buy property where I was brought up unless you are exceptionally well off, who knew Portobello Road would become so popular??
I often walked home from the station at dusk past the gorgeous big houses in Elgin Crescent and Blenheim Crescent where they rarely pulled their curtains across and I could see families watching TV, having supper and interacting in lovely kitchens that took up their whole basement, all bathed in a lovely lamplight glow. Richard Curtis had nothing on my halcyon view of how families in Notting Hill lived. I bet they had carpets and central heating and everything!
I know things are never what they appear to be, those families I watched in their basement kitchens weren’t always happy, and I have no issues regarding how I was brought up, I think my mum did a sterling job but its human nature to covet things. I now own a nice house of my very own and I have nice things, and I know other people aren’t having all the ‘fun’ with out me but I still get that maudlin feeling at dusk and I accept it is probably because the end of the day can often seem like an ending of something more significant, a time to consider and reflect if we have done all the things we should have or could have during that day, and in the light of such an assessment I rarely feel like I am winning. The summer evenings draw in slowly meaning that that period of self assessment is prolonged, maybe thats why it feels so much more pronounced in the summer?