I write this from the beautiful Kent seaside town of Broadstairs, as our annual family holiday is in full swing. Seagulls laugh outside the window of the Victorian sash window I sit next to and the summer sun makes shadows in the courtyard garden. Our resident cat (Sid I call him – after “Six Dinner Sid. R calls him Treasure – I don’t know why but that’s a great name to pick as it was the name of my first dog) is sun bathing on the patio. Life is good.
Every year since R was born my mum, step-dad, sister, R & I been embarking on these annual jaunts. My partner and my sister’s husband pop down to stay with us while we’re away but then usually scarper after a day or two when they’ve had enough of the screaming children and the in-laws. I don’t blame them – it’s hard to assimilate into another person’s family unit – but my sister and I are used to each other and my mum and dad as we’ve been holidaying together forever P, of course.
These family holidays started off at a lovely horse farm in Sussex in a tiny village called Ninfield. I loved it there and so did my daughter, who was lucky enough to be there when a foal, Twiggy, was born. It was so quiet and dark out there deep in 1066 country and my daughter and I will have very fond memories of our few stays there; watching the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations on the TV one rainy Sunday afternoon; a local farm shop without a till – the cashiers would tot up our shopping on a scrap piece of paper; visits to the beach at Hastings and pottery throwing in Battle among them. I can’t listen to Bon Iver’s “Up In The Woods” without thinking of that little cottage.
As our family grew, we outgrew the farmhouse. The weather wasn’t always great either as we went at Whitsun week. So, we decided to change location and time of year. In 2012 we came to Broadstairs for the first time together and stayed in a lovely Victorian townhouse two minutes from the sea front. The weather was great and every day was spent on the beach. My sister and I were amazed to see that the wooden gondolas we had ridden on as children when we came with our grandparents were still there, as were the helter-skelter and the trampolines.
Unbeknownst to us that holiday coincided with Broadstairs folk week so the town was heaving. One of my favourite memories of that week was our first night when we all traipsed round the town looking for somewhere to eat in vain; everywhere was fully booked. We decided to get fish n chips & go back to the house in the end and good thing we did too – it was the night Mo Farah, Jess Ennis & Greg Rutherford (confession: I forgot his name so had to google “ginger long jumper” and his name came up immediately. Sorry Greg) won their gold medals. My mum did the Mo-bot in the kitchen to celebrate. That week too I listened to “Humbug” by Arctic Monkeys on constant repeat and that’s when my love affair with Alex Turner started. He makes my heart ache and my lips curl. If you like words, like Alex Turner.
This year our family has grown again. My mum and (step)dad now have 3 grandchildren to contend with. R-6 (mine) EH-2 (my nephew) and El-6 months (mine-the new addition). EH is a real bundle of fun. I love him like he was my own, even when he hits the baby over the head with a toy hammer. Yes, even then. He’s taken to calling me “Auntie Poop” as my sister’s nickname for me is Pooch. I don’t correct him.
This year we’re staying in another Victorian townhouse but this time on the other side of the high street. My first day here was a bit of a disaster as I developed mastitis (don’t ask) and had to get an emergency out of hours appointment at the local hospital. Today though (day 2) has been much better; the antibiotics have kicked in and my OH came to the rescue last night. My knight in a shining Peugeot. He wasn’t going to come and stay with us this time but he has developed a bad back and so has postponed the decorating he had planned to do. Thank crunchie for bad backs I say. His arrival means that I was able to have an extra couple of hours sleep this morning (the baby wakes at 6am most mornings. Gah.) and that R and I could have a proper swim in the sea together. I even managed a solo swim this afternoon while OH took care of the baby.
As mentioned previously I love swimming. Today I swam out a little way (would’ve swum much further if I’d thought to bring my goggles and was wearing a bathing suit which actually fit properly) and was reminded of how much I actually really bloody love to swim and especially in the sea. The further out I swam, the quieter the shouts and shrieks from the beach became, the louder the sound of my breathing became and the calmer I began to feel. I looked up at Broadstairs from the sea and floated. The waves lifted and dropped my body rhythmically as I looked at Morelli’s ice cream parlour and at Bleak House. Had Charles Dickens swam in the sea while he was there? Had the salt water that I could taste on my lips once been on his lips? What flavour ice cream should I have today? Will I one day take part in a relay swim across the English Channel? If I swam out to sea how far could I get before exhaustion took me under? Would I mind? Could I lay on my back and float to land if I did? If I lived near the sea could I make time to swim every day? What age is the minimum age to start surfing? What age is the maximum?
I floated on my back and looked up at the sky. Since our arrival, memories of holidays spent at Broadstairs with my beloved Gran and Pop had been flooding back into my mind. Sand in the bottom of the bathtub; vegetable soup in the cellar dining room of the guest house we always stayed in; waving at my parents from the beach as they waved back from the promenade; walks along the front after dinner. As I swam back to shore where my OH and El were waiting for me, it occurred to me that my daughters and my nephew are making wonderful memories of this wonderful place, just as I have.
Happy holidays world.