Friday, 14 May 2021

The holiday hell, too, shall pass

And so the long, hot summer holidays begin. We’ve been bombarded by adverts featuring unbearably happy families leaping about impossibly beautiful beaches, roasting marshmallows over campfires with their hundreds of handsome friends, having bagged outrageous bargains every time they click on Trivago for months now — why do we have to do it in real life?

Not that I’m some bitter, twisted old hag who can’t stand to see anyone else being happy (there really is no truth to those rumours, honest) — it’s more because, being a single mum, the thought of going on holiday surrounded by masses of ‘normal’ families, gurning their joy right up in my grill, fills me with absolute dread.

And over the last summer break, I was so freaked out by my new marital status, squirrelling money away for a rainy day, we didn’t go anywhere on holiday.

Cookie had just arrived in all his furry, galumphing glory and there was no way we were going to put a puppy in kennels (not that anywhere would have had him) — and I hadn’t organised properly with The Ex about him seeing the kids for an extra week here and there. And so, for what felt like 17 years of endless summer, we stayed at home.

Once or twice we ventured out to the paddling pool at the Waterfront Café in Benson, where kind onlookers recommended puppy trainers to tame our beautiful, but wild beast (the dog, that is — not the daughter), we queued up for more than an hour in the blistering sunshine to stand in the packed pool at Wallingford for 20 minutes, we even sought shelter and air-conditioning at the movies in Reading.

But the guilt at leaving Cookie for more than an hour really took its toll on me – not to mention our Persian rug and new, ill-advised pale grey couches – and we were all so hot and bothered, living in each other’s pockets, we look back now and fondly refer to it as The Summer of Our Discontent.

But not this year. Oh no.

This year, I, Single Mum of the Year, am whisking us off to Cornwall for five days to play on the beach, scoff pasties, check out Pendennis Castle and get to know some other single parent families.

And all because Google came to the rescue and showed me the brilliant Single With Kids holiday company catering exclusively for one-parent families.

Cookie’ll get the holiday of his dreams, too. He’ll spend the week with the wonderful Philip from WalKeys, the best dog-walking/dog-sitting set-up in Oxfordshire.

Shameless plugs aside, this summer’s shaping up to be a little beauty. HOO-flaming-RAY! Now all we need to do is sort out how the hell we’re going to occupy ourselves for the remaining four weeks of school hols.

I mean, it’s all very well and good planning time away from the domestic scene — but what about those loooong weeks when you’re stuck at home trying to work while the kids beat each other to a pulp, Cookie ransacks the “pet-proof” rubbish bin again and all of them conspire against me by eating my entire not-so-secret chocolate stash.

“Who ate all my Lindor Balls?” I address The Sunshiney Seven-Year-Old this morning at approx. 5.45 a.m.

“Not me!” he answers.

“Not fair!” I pick up the Lindor wrappers and stuff them in the empty box. “I got up at 5 so I could get work done before you two surfaced. What are you two even doing up at this ungodly hour?”

“Homework,” lies my eleventeen-year-old daughter, not looking up from her phone.

“Gobbling chocolate more like,” I harrumph, cursing the 4.30 a.m. sunrise.

“It wasn’t me!” The boy calls out, still insisting on his innocence.

“Yes it was,” I reply confidently.

“Was not!”

“Was too!”

“Was n-”

“Oh, for God’s sake! Can’t you two stop your bickering?” My girl gets exasperated. “He’s seven years old, Mum, but you’re nearly 50! You should know better. For a start you shouldn’t have chocolate in the house — what would Weight Watchers say? And what kind of mother leaves so much sugar lying around? Quite frankly, I’m disappointed.”

And she strops upstairs, dropping several Lindor wrappers as she goes. Not for the first time or the last, I hang my head in shame and apologise to my son.

But that’s another story…

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