Memories of family holidays

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The year is 2021. The summer holidays are approaching and by the looks of it, there’s going to be no room at the inn. Instead of booking family holidays overseas, everyone’s booking Air BnB’s and campsites with a passionate fury.

holidays, family holidays, Majorca
My mother and I on holiday in Majorca, a long, long time ago.

We’re no different as a family. We shall be going on holiday in Scotland, a chance both to unwind and for Mrs Adams to catch up with family, family she has hardly seen over the past two years because of Aunty ‘Rona.

The one or two families we knew who had booked overseas holidays this year, well, they seem to be un-booking them! I have to say, I can think of few things more unappealing than going abroad at this point in time.

There’s not only the risk of getting COVID-19 while abroad, but the self-isolation that’s required on return, the queues at the ports and airports, the testing and the risk that a country may simply seal its borders with just a few hours’ notice.

The thought of bringing a new variant back with me, well, I don’t even want to entertain that thought. I won’t mince my words, I think you need a reality check if you want to go on holiday overseas for a vacation at this point in time.

Family holidays when I was a kid 

When my age was in single figures, family holidays were a much simpler affair. Before my mother remarried, it was usually just the two of us going to stay with friends of hers in Bournemouth. I still have vague memories of riding ponies in the New Forest. I also remember finding a one pound note floating in the sea when we visited the beach one day, a couple of bikini clad young women asking my mum if I could go back in the water and find them some cash!

We had the one holiday overseas to Majorca. Back in those days it was probably quite a thing for a divorced woman to holiday on her own with her child, especially abroad. My mum still talks about that holiday to this day and recalls it as a highlight of my younger years.

Holiday plans got complicated

Overseas holidays became a bit more common after my mum remarried. My mum and stepdad very quickly had two children and so holidays had to accommodate two small people as well as me.

Schools were a bit more easy-going about pupils going on holiday during term time when I was young. I missed the odd day here and there to go on holiday but once I was at secondary school, this all changed.

We had a holiday flat in Spain at the time. Family holidays were organsied in a way that meant my mum, stepdad and brothers flew out just before the end of the school term, whereas I stayed with family friends and travelled a few days later.

At the time, I was under the impression this was to ensure my schooling didn’t suffer. As a cynical adult, I think I can say with some authority this was to save money on everyone else’s plane tickets as they were flying just before the school holidays started so were cheaper.

This also meant I flew as an unaccompanied minor. Oddly, I have absolutely no recollection of doing this, but it must have been an amazing experience for an 11 or 12 year old (I checked with my mother, I definitely did fly unaccompanied even if I don’t recall it).

In the over-protective, helicopter / lawnmower-parenting world in which we raise kids today, it’s hard to imagine anyone allowing their child to fly solo unless the circumstances were particularly extreme. Nonetheless, I flew solo and I must have thought I was the coolest kid in the world.

I also remember being taken up to the cockpit by the cabin crew and looking in wonder at all the instruments. Following 9/11, airlines banned this practice. Even Richard Branson came out and said it was a shame because looking around the cockpit as a kid was simply a rite of passage, but I guess it’s something my children will sadly never know.

Spain, bodyboarding, family holiday
Bodyboarding while in Spain. It’s heard to believe this youngster grew into the handsome, muscular man you know today.

Once in Spain, the place was my playground. My mum and stepdad were busy with my brothers so I used to entertain myself. On reflection, I am a little surprised at just how much freedom I was granted.

I would get the bus to Alicante on my own. I would go to the beach and often get myself pistachio nut ice cream. On one or two occasions, entertaining myself might have involved going to the local supermacardo and buying warm beer that I’d discreetly chug down without the rest of the family knowing, the lower drinking age in Spain was a particular benefit to a British teen growing up in a strict household.

Woop woop sound of the police

Of course there were holiday mishaps. The absolute best, the one that can still make me laugh out loud, was the time my mother left my brothers’ two pushchairs on the beach.

She got up early the next morning and rushed down to the beach to look for them before the rest of the family was awake. Alas they had gone.

In the greater scheme of things this should have been a cause for celebration as they were those cheap, old-style umbrella pushchairs that could collapse if you hit a pavement with the front wheels. My stepdad didn’t quite see it that way and insisted on reporting it to the police so he could claim on the travel insurance.

My parents arrived at the police station and were confronted by a police officer who spoke word perfect English because he had lived in London while working on a diplomatic posting. He’d also clearly had his training during the Franco era and did not take kindly to two daft tourists reporting a couple of missing pushchairs when he had proper crimes to deal with.

A report was filed but my parents were made to feel like naughty school kids. They left the police station, only to return a few minutes later because they’d accidentally parked the car illegally and it had been towed away!

I hope we make memories

It’s funny though. While most of my memories about holidays do involve Spain, that’s probably down to the age I was when we went on those breaks. The memories I have of family holidays in the New Forest, they’re as happy as the memories I have of Spain. I don’t think it matters where you are, so long as you are together as a family and having fun. I’m really not that bothered about holidaying in the UK for a second year running and I don’t understand the mentality of people who think an overseas holiday is must have. If anything, I’m sure the holidays

2 thoughts on “Memories of family holidays”

  1. Great read John, its nice to share some of your childhood memories with you. I’ve never actually been abroad so not sure on what those holidays are like but Scotland, oban and St Abbs in fact were the main places we went on family holidays.
    That is a very rare thing to see these days a young 10+ Yr old child travelling alone especially on a plane.

    1. Oh a rare thing indeed for a youngster to travel alone, especially thanks to the ‘Rona! Scotland is a great place to holiday and as I said in the post, we’ll be returning there this year at some point. Doesn’t matter where you are, a holiday is a holiday.

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