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Holidays and Other Disasters

By Ashleylister @ashleylister

Holidays. The word evokes in me a mixture of excitement and trepidation, in equal measure.I have had so many disasters and near disasters that it’s a wonder I ever set foot outside the house, much less venture to foreign climes.Add to the mix the unreliability of buses, taxis, trains and planes, not to mention other people, and it becomes clear that I really should be in my house knitting, making bread and sending out for supplies. It all began with my honeymoon in Paris, where the new husband got food poisoning and I had to attempt to translate 'my husband has diarrhoea and is throwing up,' into passable French. Judging by the puzzled looks on the assistants' faces (yes, plural, several were called over to help/snigger) I failed miserably (managing only a rather self conscious, ‘mon mari’ to a suitable standard) and resorted to the one thing I hadn't wanted to do - a laughable charade of something being expelled from my bottom (fast), swiftly followed by holding my nose and wafting my other hand under it, before executing the well known mime for vomiting.They gave me some huge, lozenge shaped 'horse' pills along with instructions I couldn't understand, and I scuttled back to our tiny, stinking box room in a back street pension. At this point, I have to say, the smell wasn't just emanating from the new husband (or we might have been divorced now) but from a small cupboard in the corner of the room. Hidden in there, for reasons now incomprehensible to me, was a large, very ripe Camembert, wrapped loosely in a piece of brown paper.  To this day, we don't know whether the husband should have taken the medication by mouth or by 'other means' but, either way, he recovered and seems to have shown no ill effects over the past forty one years. Then there was the year we set off for Turkey and ended up in a Travel Inn in Gatwick with daughter and hyper four year old grandson, asking where the pool was. There was a (fairly) simple explanation for this. At Manchester Airport we discovered we had missed the plane. By twenty four hours. As neither the husband nor I was sure whose fault this was we simply stared at each other for a few seconds before asking when the next flight was scheduled. We weren't expecting to be told it was four days hence. After a short, hissed discussion on our options we gritted our teeth, bought four more outbound tickets from Gatwick, scheduled for less than twelve hours later, and settled down to study the train timetable. It was at this point we realised the slow night train with numerous changes would pull in to Gatwick approximately four hours after we should have boarded the plane. A taxi was eventually secured at great expense, and we set off for Gatwick, booking the Travel inn en route.The following morning, after a particularly stressful conversation with the Turkish manager of our intended hotel (in which we hoped he'd understood we still wanted the rooms, and weren't cancelling the whole holiday) in yet another taxi, bound for yet another airport, we were slowed and finally stopped by a multi vehicle accident on the motorway.As I alternately bit my nails and stared worriedly at my watch, the grandson sang 'The Wheels on the Bus' on a continuous loop and scanned the horizon for a swimming pool.We eventually landed at our hotel, twenty four hours late, hot, sticky and tired, to be greeted by a bemused manager, trying to get his head around these strange English arrangements. Lanzarote was the biggie. In fact, Lanzarote was so memorable for its catalog of disasters that I subsequently documented the whole episode and distributed it to all participants. It was a treat for sixteen members of the family out of my dad's recently cashed retirement fund, and involved travelling to Lanzarote for a short Christmas break. What hadn't been on the agenda was a lost passport (involving a last minute 400 mile round dash); the realization that the sight of our Dominican son-in-law with a non-British passport would throw airport staff into a frenzy of searching and interrogation; a sudden attack of a mystery illness, a frantic rush though winding roads, accompanied by flashing blue lights, and an insurance scam resulting in the husband removing the drip from number two son's arm and making a break from the hospital whilst being chased by an irate band of doctors and nurses; a taxi dash (the taxi having been commandeered from the unfortunate couple who had booked it and were making their leisurely way towards it when the husband and son shot out of the hospital exit and jumped aboard, like something out of a James Bond film); and the consequent subterfuge and element of farce caused by three male members of the family possessing the same surname. The grand finale came as we left. Two serious looking hospital representatives were spotted at the reception desk, asking for a Mr Carrington (of which there were three).We crept past and threw ourselves on the waiting bus, yelling at the stunned driver to, “GO GO GO!’ And finally, there were the holidays that never were…. Cuba, the expensive treat to ourselves in the year of our sixtieth birthdays.The husband injured his back, skiing, two weeks before we were due to go.We were planning to get insurance the day after the skiing holiday….. A lot of money to lose and a hard lesson learnt (although we did finally make it six months later); the cycling holiday with my two brothers and their wives (a present for one brother and wife), when, a few weeks before trip, the husband got something caught in the spokes of his wheel, went over the handlebars and broke his elbow so dramatically that it required two operations and a full year of rehabilitation.We’ve rebooked for next year, when the husband will be confined to the house for a good month before we go; the weekend in Paris that was booked for the wrong dates, swearing done, losses cut and rebooked.For the same wrong dates again.We went to Windermere. If I ever invite any you to accompany me on so much as a weekend away, I think you know the correct response? Holidays and Other Disasters                                     Turkey, when we finally got there….. Not having time this week to write my own poem, I was searching around for something appropriate, when I came across the verses below.   The poem amused it as it reminded me of my childhood holidays, when my dad would take me, my mom and two brothers to stay with our cousins in Margate.  We kids were beyond ourselves with excitement and anticipation, and felt so sorry for my dad, having to drive us all that way and then drive back and go to work. Little did we realize that this was dad's holiday: a day at work, followed by a peaceful evening in front of the fire with pipe, slippers and total peace.

Holiday by Robert William Service I love the cheery bustle
Of children round the house,
The tidy maids a-hustle,
The chatter of my spouse;
The laughter and the singing,
The joy on every face:
With frequent laughter ringing,
O, Home's a happy place!
Aye, Home's a bit of heaven;
I love it every day;
My line-up of eleven
Combine to make it gay;
Yet when in June they're leaving
For Sandport by the sea,
By rights I should be grieving,
But gosh! I just feel free.
I'm left with parting kisses,
The guardian of the house;
The romp, it's true, one misses,
I'm quiet as a mouse.
In carpet slippers stealing
From room to room alone
I get the strangest feeling
The place is all my own.
It seems to nestle near me,
It whispers in my ear;
My books and pictures cheer me,
Hearth never was so dear.
In peace profound I lap me,
I take no stock of time,
And from the dreams that hap me,
I make (like this) a rhyme.
Oh, I'm ashamed of saying
(And think it's mean of me),
That when the kids are staying
At Sandspot on the sea,
And I evoke them clearly
Disporting in the spray,
I love them still more dearly
Because . . . they're far away.
Thanks for reading    Jill
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