Saturday, 14 July 2012

Travelling and arriving

We're packing up what seems like the entire flat to take the Boy on holiday. You'd think we were crossing the Antarctic, but we're self catering about 2 hours drive away, around where I spent many happy childhood holidays.

This got me thinking about other holidays I had when I was little. I think the holidays we had close to home were probably the best. Because out of the more distant holidays, the main things I can remember is the car journeys.

We didn't go abroad, or stay in a hotel, until I was 13. All our holidays were spent in a caravan in Scotland, England, Wales or - after the Troubles calmed and family finances increased - Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We drove everywhere.

First, we would get the caravan ready. As well as actually packing the thing, Dad had to get it ready to move. This took an age - checking the wheels, lifting the stays (I think they're called stays, anyway!), pushing it out our garden, hooking it up to the car and checking the lights. Then, after what seemed like eons, we would all get told to get in and we would roll off down the little lane at the back of our house, and out into the world.

On the way to wherever we were going, we would stop for a packed lunch. This was usually about when the excitement would dampen slightly. My parents were enormously enthusiastic about getting the jack out, securing the caravan and using the little kitchen to boil water so they could have tea. This also seemed to take ages. And we would always stop on a layby on whatever busy dual carriageway we were on to do this. I remember sitting in the caravan drinking chicken Cuppa Soup, hating the way the flimsy walls shook whenever an enormous lorry roared past. I don't know why we couldn't have just used a hot water flask like normal, sane people.

Another feature of lunches were Mum's sandwiches. They were, to be fair, pretty horrible. There was usually ham, and nearly always a lot of margarine and coleslaw. The sandwiches were usually squashed in cling film and hot. After a couple of hundred miles, the filling looked a bit like sick.

Vomit was a literal as well as metaphorical feature of these drives. I used to get horribly car sick. The fastest route to the motorway south was along a winding hill road. This usually set me off fairly quickly. Then the coleslaw and margarine sandwiches would make an unwelcome reappearance about half an hour after lunchtime. My poor mother tried everything - elastic bracelets with pressure points, boiled sweets, car games to distract me - and nothing, nothing would stop the puking. It wasn't all bad though - I vividly remember throwing up a chocolate and raisin Yorkie bar, and enjoying getting another taste of the chocolate. Eugh.

Thinking about it, I was probably not a good travelling companion. I remember a holiday around Yorkshire where I'd bought The Simpsons' album - which was probably hated by parents everywhere and certainly and vocally hated by my sister - and insisted on listening to it in the car, repeatedly. Later on, the radio was used for either BBC news programmes or a particularly crappy pop music station. My parents must have been enormously relieved when I bought a Walkman.

On the other hand, I liked boats and had no problems with sea sickness. I loved going to the Scottish islands, and the novelty of driving on and off the ferries, and exploring the vessel. Although my sister told me that the white water stirred up in the wake of the vessel was actually jellyfish who were out to get me, which I think of even now whenever I'm on a large boat.

There are actually relatively few bits of the holidays I remember otherwise - just fragments. The awful moment when the doors closed on the Tube leaving me and my parents in the train and my 10 year old sister on the platform and the panicked rush around the underground to get back to her, playing in Appleby where it always seemed to be sunny, the campsite at Chertsey and the warning signs about bathing in the Thames, going to Whipsnade Safari Park and being more interested in the really big conkers than the animals, breaking my arm near Sherwood Forest, going fishing on Lough Key, making a sandcastle on the beach in Dorset and meeting a friendly little boy who told me he was adopted. The holidays mostly seemed sunny, and I didn't particularly mind not going to more exotic places.

I suppose, in the era of cheap flights and expensive petrol, we're unlikely to do long driving holidays with the Boy - partly because I'm not as brave as my parents! For better or worse, it's much easier for us to get a cheap flight abroad than drive to the south of England or get a boat to Orkneys or the Isle of Man. I might make the Boy some margarine and coleslaw sandwiches though, just so he's not missing out.


  1. Wow. Those sandwiches sound truly revolting. Thanks for sharing? *shudder*

    1. Yeah... my husband asked why I didn't just tell my Mum that I didn't like them and they probably make the car sickness worse (it would probably have been easier to keep down something less slimy, like ham on dry bread!). I have no idea. I think I just accepted them without thinking about it.

  2. Enjoy the trip! I loved camping trips with my family as a kid and hope to do the same with our little one some day.

    1. I'm really looking forward to actual camping too.

  3. Loved your reminiscing.

    We had a lot of caravan holidays when I was a kid, and I remember how long it seemed to take to pack up the caravan before leaving. I loved these holidays though. We went to a part of the country that always has hot weather in January, and we swam in the lakes, and go apricot picking in the nearby orchards, or exploring the old gold fields. Beginning of my love for travel.

    No coleslaw and ham sandwiches (we might have had left-over Christmas ham and lettuce and tomato though), and my parents filled a flask for tea! I also have always loved eating outside - packed lunches or even just a biscuit for afternoon tea. We'd occasionally stop for a strawberry milkshake (what a treat it was) - fortunately none of us got carsick, because that would not have been pretty.

    1. I think your lunches sound nicer than ours - at the risk of sounding like one of the Three Yorkshire Men, biscuits were a big treat!