As we continue in lockdown and feel even more isolated by the snow that has recently marooned us indoors, it feels like a good time to remember past holidays when the sun shone and we enjoyed the freedom of travel:
Stop the bus – I want to get off
It was the 1970s when my eldest daughter was still a toddler. I was a single parent and dreams of a holiday looked doomed to stay just that – unaffordable dreams. Then I met Glenda at the gate of nursery.
She was a single parent too. She had two boys, both under five – and I thought my life was hard.
We struck up a conversation and a friendship. I quickly realised that she was much more optimistic than me. I saw obstacles and she saw opportunities. I saw holiday brochures and cringed. She bought a tent.
Caught up in her enthusiasm, I was talked into camping. After all, why shouldn’t two perfectly sane ladies be able to enjoy a week under canvas with three wild animals, oops, sorry, three delightful under-fives.
No reason at all so I bought a tent too.
I bought a few holiday essentials for my daughter; tee shirts, shorts and canvas beach shoes. Then I treated myself to a pair of snazzy striped canvas shoes; blue and white. When I showed them to Glenda she just burst out laughing, great minds and all that, she had bought an identical pair.
She laughed even more when she saw my solution to that particular problem; not wanting us to get them mixed up I had put my initials in mine. That seemed logical to me and I didn’t see what was so funny and she wouldn’t tell me.
I didn’t get the joke until we took them off to paddle and there they were, side by side at the edge of our towels – her pair of size nines and my dainty size fours.
The wait for the end of term had been a long time coming and I was afraid the weather might break before we went but, finally, it was the day of departure and the sun still shone on us as we walked to the bus station. Isn’t it amazing how much luggage will fit into two buggies?
A tent, two tightly rolled sleeping bags, changes of summer clothes, woolly jumpers and wellingtons just in case, and a toddler balanced on top to secure the load.
We were off to Skegness and the kids started their rendition of ‘Can we go to the fair?’ as soon as they saw the Butlin’s camp.
We had not foreseen this problem as we didn’t know that the bus dropped off and picked up passengers there. We had budgeted for a Butlin’s day ticket so they could enjoy the thrill of the rides without actually staying there. We were camping a mile further on, at a much less exciting venue.
Our entertainment had to be self-made; beach games, sand castles, picnics, chips on a bench for supper.
Every morning the cry went up from one or another shrill little voice, ‘Is it today we can go to the fair?’
We had booked it for the last day of the holiday to savour the anticipation but each day the call became more plaintive.
On Monday we patiently explained the character building benefits of delayed gratification. On Tuesday we just said ‘You’ll have to wait.’ Wednesday was dismissed with a curt, ‘Just wait, will you?’
By Thursday it was a frazzled ‘I am sick of telling you to wait…’
It was Friday before Glenda finally resorted to the threat, ‘If you mention fair again, you won’t be going.’
Saturday dawned bright and sunny. We had all slept well and we hadn’t heard the word ‘fair’ for nearly twenty-four hours.
I think the kids thought the wait was worthwhile as they didn’t even complain on the way. With the buggies free of the luggage, they were able to walk a bit and ride a bit.
They made full use of the ticket, trying everything at least once. On the way back they were contentedly quiet and we knew we had scored a success.
Next day we packed, loaded the buggies and trotted to the bus stop for the latest bus that would take us home. What good parents we were, and what lovely children. They were still talking about what a wonderful time they’d had. When they asked if they could all sit together on the long bench seat at the top of the stairs, we were happy to leave them there and made our way to the front of the top deck.
The bus stopped again at Butlin’s and both decks filled up. We were sitting right next to the fair. I’m sure there was a little boy about to burst but we were unaware of this volcano of excitement until he could finally contain the words no longer.
Then the little voice squeaked out over the heads of twenty or so passengers: ‘Mum, you know that word beginning with F that we’re not allowed to say…’
I know it wasn’t my daughter because she couldn’t spell but, none the less, Stop the bus – I want to get off.