Last Thursday morning, after much much refreshing of the emails, the website and keeping half an eye out of the kitchen window for the postlady we got the news that we had been expecting. Kitty has a place at our village school. It wasn’t as nerve racking a wait as for some, we knew that if she didn’t get a place someone had to be hiding 30 preschoolers in a basement somewhere between us and the school and thankfully that turned out not to be the case. But it did drive it home how little pre-schooler time we have left. We’re already in the summer term here, it ends on 17th July and from then on we’re the parents of schoolchildren until 2032 at the earliest. Yes, you read that right, 2032. Eighteen years in which we can only go on holiday in the school holidays.
It made me wonder whether we ought to have planned some wonderful around the world adventure while we can still take advantage of cheap holidays, there seems to be some sort of accepted wisdom that once your children are in school you can only go away if you also happen to be a multimillionaire lottery winner. I don’t doubt that there are some places where the end of July sees a massive price hike, but if we’re going to load up all three children and their accoutrements to go on one of our dream trips I want them to be old enough to remember where we went.
And I know from experience that it isn’t impossible. My Father was a teacher for his entire professional life, he was tied to school holidays before I started primary school and long after I left for university, and yet he and Mum made it work, and we had some amazing adventures. The summer I was seven they planned out a trip to Greece, to go sailing around the islands and to meet up with the parents of a pupil who had become family friends. My little sister was four, dainty, cute, and very very blonde. Which turned out to be a huge advantage, because what you may not remember about the summer of 1987 was that there was a huge heatwave in Southern Europe. Just about everywhere in Greece reached temperatures of 45C or more, and the islands were no different. So there we were, Mum and Dad, my little sister and me, on a four berth yacht named Illustrious whose awning was an old tablecloth and whose ‘fridge’ as I remember ran off a large block of ice.
Every port we were in my Mum and sister headed off to buy ice with the latter smiling winsomely at the shopkeepers. Little blonde girls must have been a bit of a rarity because she was generally adored and admired everywhere we went, and we did manage to buy the ice we needed.
Now that I’m only a few years younger than they were when we went I can see how much planning, organising and hoping must have gone into it, and some bits I can look back on with a wry smile; the matching bright turquoise outfits for the two of us to make sure we were instantly spotable for example, or the decisions they had to make the day when it was so hot in port that we set sail, Mum helming us out with her feet in a bucket of water to try to keep cool.
So often I think your childhood memories can be influences by photos, sometimes you’re not sure whether you remember the event or just the photo but I know I really remember Greece, and I’m glad we went when I was old enough that I could. There are things in my memories that aren’t in any photos; the feeling of the heat, the taste of watermelon in sunshine, watching the little silver fish who would swarm around the melon if you threw it in the sea, eating cake on the last morning as we sailed back because that’s all that was left, and huge meals of meatballs eaten at the outside tables of little cafes, the four of us and the five of our friends on one huge table with a red checked paper tablecloth, drawing pictures and playing games on the cloth to pass the time while we waited for the food.
And I suspect it cemented my idea of a good holiday: boat, sunshine, book – sorted.
We’ve taken the girls on holiday, Kitty to Venice and both of them to Southern Spain and I know they both had a wonderful time when they were there, but Kitty has already forgotten Italy and they’d be doing well to remember Spain when they’re grown up. So for now we shall make our plans for adventures slightly closer to home and one day, school holidays or no school holidays we shall take them all on the kind of adventure that they really remember. Preferably without the heatwave.
Thanks to First Choice for the inspiration