2015 has been a turbulent year so far and all four of us were in need of a break together, away from it all.
Our ‘go to’ holiday is a week in a Eurocamp caravan in France. This year we successfully managed a different campsite to the one we’ve been to before. It was a bit bigger, with a bit more to do, but not too much bigger, or with too much more. Successful holidays for us have been built carefully, year-on-year, from small parts of adventure and big hunks of predictability. Vary the proportions too radically and we risk suffering the fallout from boredom or anxiety. It’s hard to know which I’d opt for given a choice.
The bedrock of much that works successfully in our family is tradition and this is probably why, quite remarkably, we all managed to ease back on the emotional gas pedal for a week and truly, meaningfully relax.
Our traditions include incorrectly singing the overnight ferry ‘wake up’ tune (a hundred times), the cycle to the campsite shop to buy pain au chocolate in the morning, hours of swimming (and me screaming down the fast slide into the swimming pool), hours of rock pooling, loading up on Bugles (our French salty snack of choice) and a trip or two out to a creperie for a ‘fromage jambon’.
For me, an important part of the letting go of a summer holiday is reading. Reading (minus an internet connection) frees the spirit to wonder to other places, gives it chance to stretch it’s legs, breath the sea air and recuperate from the endless onslaught of everyday life.
This year I meandered from Amy Poehler’s autobiography, to Harvest by Jim Grace , to Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James, to The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer and back to books 2 and 3 of Clive James’ memoirs. In between I dipped in and out of Elizabeth Taylor’s enormous book of short stories – not quite a mille-feuille, but almost and just as delicious.
More than New Year, for me this is the time for resolutions. A long walk along the shoreline, a half pichet of Muscadet, a nap, a read and then perhaps another nap helps to put things into perspective. It was while I was reading Harvest that things started to fall into place. I’d kayaked across the bay a few times, the sea was lit with fragments of sunlight, families were digging for oysters in the shallows and I dried off and entered the barbarity of land enclosures and the feudal system. Someone died in the village stocks. Their dead body got eaten by a pig. I began to wonder if my recovering soul needed a less fibrous diet.
Despite bright, wondrous flashes of hope, the next few (ten?) years are going to demand that I and those around me try as hard as we can to stay strong, healthy and positive. I see no other way but to steer clear of too much gratuitous misery, hand-wringing and hopelessness, and to fill up with the good, life-affirming stuff.
I remain positive about the tremendous impact that therapeutic families like ours can have on growing lives, but we carry a heavy load on our shoulders It took a holiday to remind me what we are built on, and that is good times and a healthy spirit.