Living Between the Lines

Talking myself into it

I am about to go on my summer holiday.
Am I excited?
Trying to be.
Am I looking forward to it?
Trying to.
Am I driving my family mad?
Do I need my head examined?

The thing is, however good a holiday sounds, I am one of those people who would be quite content to stay at home, in theory if not in practice. This may surprise you given that I have already told you all how I left my home and family and travelled 5000 miles to spend three weeks with an eccentric, undeniably strange and sometimes bizarre woman, the likes of whom I had never met before.

Was that ‘out of character’?

Well, no – snap decisions and the urge to take risks are as much a part of me as is an occasional inability to commit. I suppose we are all more complex than we think.

You see, whilst being reluctant to commit to a trip, I do really enjoy myself once there – apart from an assortment of allergic reactions that seem to afflict me on arrival.

I have found the antidote though, if not to the allergies, then to the aversion to the thought of the holiday itself. I write lists.

My lists are not of what to pack or of what to remember (I write those too) but of the benefits the holiday will have, the good things about it. I also set down anything I can think of against it. The good list invariably outweighs the bad, which proves to me that I do really like going on holiday. There is normally just such a lot of stuff to get through beforehand!

When the children were small, I’d prepare for our annual three-week trip to France with the caravan, by carefully washing and ironing everyone’s clothes and stacking the clothes ‘to go’ in seven neat piles on the bedroom floor. Needless to say, seven piles take up a lot of room.

I’d have seven other piles of clothes, close by, containing the clothes we were going to wear on the journey and invariably, would be washing and ironing until the minute we left as that ‘must have’ outfit appeared to have been worn to school or work and could not be left behind.

Having the caravan made life relatively easy of course in some respects. I didn’t have to pack suitcases. I just packed the clothes straight into the wardrobes. The caravan would of course need a thorough clean before use to rid it of its ‘stored over winter’ feeling and it had to be loaded with patio table and chairs, tents, camping larders and every item of ‘useful’ equipment you can imagine. In fact, by the time we left, not only was the caravan packed to the hilt but so too was the car. Five children normally became six as a friend often accompanied eldest daughter or her younger sister and our eight seater Peugeot 505 (later to be replaced by a Toyota Previa) was full. The travel bags of each child would be wedged firmly between the seats with towels and sheets shoved beneath.

A twenty-minute car trip to the ferry, followed by a four-hour trip across the Channel to Caan or St. Malo was then followed by a twelve-hour, non-air conditioned car journey. An overnight stop was essential. It was always, hot, stuffy and uncomfortable and I would develop a migraine at some point as I finally relaxed after the marathon of preparation I had just undertaken to get us here.

Despite this, those holidays were the best.

My youngest son was almost one when we first took the caravan to France. He was almost nine when we left the caravan at home and flew to Portugal with him and his elder brother – the start of slightly more relaxed family holidays. (The girls had outgrown us for the most part).

True, these days, I only have to think of my own packing and a small bag will suffice. We can jump on a plane or a boat without worrying about pushchairs and car-sickness and all those things that one has to be aware of when the children are small. Somehow though, I miss the hurly burly of those days – am I looking through rose-tinted spectacles per chance?

Surely, when I think clearly about it, the best holiday I have ever had was a week spent in South Africa just four years ago. We chose South Africa because the time difference is virtually nil despite the twelve-hour flight, due to the longitudinal line it sits on. The flight itself was hideous (I shall never fly economy class for such a distance again!) but the week we enjoyed there more than made up for it. In truth we needed more than a week but being limited to a certain number of days, made us extra keen to see everything and do everything that my friend’s brother – himself familiar with Cape Town, had thoughtfully written down for us.

We came back with memories and mementoes to treasure. Therein lies another tale that I shall one day relate.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that the holidays I have loved the most have also been the busiest. I love lazing by a pool and reading – but not for an entire fortnight. With the caravan, there was always a chore to be completed, children to organize and the added bonus of being able to speak French and lose the rustiness that may have crept in since school.

This year we are off to Lindos in Rhodes. This is a place I have never visited before. It is apparently a favourite with writers, artists and film directors. Sitting in the blue Aegean Sea, the island is rich in culture and steeped in history. Our villa looks delightful and my friend, who has researched it well, appears to have made an excellent choice. I really don’t have anything to put on my ‘bad’ list. This year it is all good.

Hey, I’ve talked myself into it. I am looking forward to going there – I really am!

Ok folks, I am ready – bring it on!

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • patriciaswisdom

    Great post and rather sums up how I feel – always right before a trip or vacation, I have this part of me that does not want to go….Like the week before we left for UK and 60th birthday celebration – I had spent years planning and preparing and saving funds for the walking tour of Scotland and a week in London…then that trip was cancelled and exchanged for a bus tour of the whole UK and some highlighted castles…I thought maybe I should not go – I am glad I did but the swelling of my legs and those related problems started there.

    This year my partner is on a 5 week bike ride through the mountain passes from Canada to Mexico. We do not really have the funds for this, but he truly needs the time off …
    I am trying to figure out how to refresh and renew myself…having a massage yesterday helped me put that idea back on my list. I just feel quite worn out and tired right now…and so many veggies and garden jobs to do…besides working the blogs and getting my new business going…Whew..timing is not quite right but my body is asking!
    Have a wonderful trip and I am happy you can just pack up a suitcase and head on out the door. That sounds fantastic to me…be excited

  • Katie Gates

    Oh my God, Debbie! I’m smiling and chuckling at this. This post is amusingly frenetic, and I hope you don’t mind my saying that. You clearly were equipped to be the mother of many children, and I admire you for that. (My limit is two cats.)

    I, too, am a trip-related list-maker. Specifically, a packing list (but mind you, it’s for JUST me!). Outside of trips, though, I agree that lists are a fabulous way to home in on the situation, the issues, and the needs. Nothing like a list to get you grounded, right?

    Also, I loved this word string: “an eccentric, undeniably strange and sometimes bizarre woman.” Having read your posts about your bizarre CA hostess, I know that there is nothing redundant in that description. In fact, it’s rather efficient! (I could think of so many more words…)

    Finally, after I sign off here, I must go to google. I have no idea where Lindos or Rhodes are, and I’m curious…

    Have a great trip, my friend!

  • Andrea Carlisle

    An island, a villa, the Aegean Sea, writers, artists, and film directors…hmmm. I have a feeling you’re going to come back with quite a few stories to tell us. Enjoy, Deborah. Wish I were in your shoes.

  • Deborah Barker

    Thanks for all your comments – I am currently packing and still looking forward to the trip which is preceded by another closer to home – only a week to go and I shall be off to Rhodes though 🙂

  • Deb

    I hope you had (or have) a wonderful time. I also have a hard time with the getting ready (I always worry about leaving home behind for some reason), but once on the road or in the air always manage to love my vacation adventures. Looking forward to hearing about yours.

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