The Holiday – Part 15

My family don’t do sympathy. Awwwww poor you? Nope – not in their vocabulary. At least not for blood relatives.

Trip and fall? Derisive snort. Break your wrist? Cant you look where you’re going. Swollen glands? Thats what you get for snogging that boy. Crash the car? Hope you weren’t drunk.

Jump in a ditch of nettles to avoid a sheep-stampede? lose your good flip-flops, your pride and any useful skin on your legs?


At least the hysteria which greeted me stopped them from speaking. For a few minutes. Mother pissed herself (her – you know – eyes drop to below navel, voice lowers– has never been the same since – dramatic pause – Oor Derek – he had shooders like a bulls, you know). But not before saying You silly bitch! What on earth were you doing!

Derek – the farmer/scrapyard owner (not my bull-shouldered brother) – and his wife made noises about how it was easy to get caught out like that. At least I think that’s what they said. The girlfriend could not handle the situation and walked away, hugging herself, shaking a bit with the effort of suppressing the laughs.

And I stood there, legs and hands and forearms beginning to nip from the nettle stings, the cut on the sole of my left foot beginning to throb and thought – if you cant beat em, join em…

Yip, I am a silly bitch I said. Then laughed too.

Then said I think I need a big gin.


The Holiday – Part 14

Hindsight. Would that we were gifted with its piercing insights before we did the deed.

Oh, I enjoyed a moment of piercing insight, of course. After I had leapt.

I saw with absolute clarity that my cover as a sane, functioning, rational human being was blown. I could descend no lower. It was abject humiliation by dodgy ditch. And all compounded by the sheep’s arse eye-level vision.

The slathering baa-ing mess passed within inches of my face – and that was with me pressing up hard against the opposite bank – trying to haul myself up by the hedgerow.

Until I just gave up. And stood there.

I observed, detachedly, that sheep could shit, piss and run at the same time.

I had lost the other flip-flop. Sucked off into the gritty squelching stream at the bottom of the ditch. I couldn’t bend to search for it as that would involve grazing my face along the nettles.

R yoew mithered int ed lass?

He was physically shaking with laughter as he said it. He shook his head. And laughed. And laughed.

He had the sheep penned between dogs in the wider yard. And was hugging his sides as he laughed.

Yoew ad get jist ther – din’t yoew ear mi?

Gate? Gate?

‘appen yoew din‘t. And he actually snorted with laughter.

I looked up at him. Sitting up there on that quad-bike. And wanted to inflict pain. Itched to slap his laughing face.

He got down from the bike. Reached out his hand.

ere lass, gie mi yoer and…

I despised the proffered hand and him. I glared. And he smiled at me, before the laughter burbled up again and he started shaking with the effort of keeping it down. There was laughter just staining the air between us. laughter becoming the absurdity of the situation.

What the hell. At least my Mother and Megan hadn’t seen me.

I took the hand.

Two bungled attempts to haul me out later and we worked out it would be easier if I just did it myself.

He walked down the road a bit and brought back the discarded flip-flop. Trying to wipe the sheep shit from it before he handed it over.

I stood. A bit wobbly. Office white skin mottled with nettle rash – puffy red and white weals that had yet to start itching and stinging. Feet bleeding and mucky.

I looked up towards the house.

And there they all were. Staring back.

Mum, Dad, Megan, Jamie and Ana.

Derek and his wife.

And a boy I later discovered was his son.

And the sons girlfriend.

The Holiday – Part 10

In reality we weren’t far away.

We back-tracked, reversing carefully to avoid the ditch either side of the track. About a mile up there was a right hand turn dipping deep into a copse of trees and disappearing. But there was a huddle of farm buildings on the other side of the moor valley and it seemed sensible that this ribbon of road led to them.
We followed the dip through another ford and climbed up towards the houses.
The car was weighed by a heavy defeated silence. A glum air of we will never get to this place. Broken only by the fricative tug of air through Ana’s mouth as she sooked her sooky-fingers.
Finally, emerging from between tall hedgerows, we arrived in the middle of what would have been a farmyard. At one time. In the distant past. I think.

Is this a scrapyard Mum? asked Jamie.
4×4’s; motorbikes; a rusted mitsubishi; a Y reg Passat; an old mini; a tractor (small); another old mini. And atop it all – the tiara, the crown – there was an eye-nippingly bright yellow ferrari…
We were in Papa-Heaven.
A deep-tanned outdoor face appeared at my driver’s window. Derek the ‘farmer’ (he told us later he did no farming now) to welcome and direct.
I put the car window down and Derek nodded – yes, this was the cottage – and he pointed to our left.
I heard Jamie in the back say thank God – an exaggerated stress upon God. Ana stopped sooking and started unbuckling.
Wait til Dad sees this Mum… and I thought, I can’t wait…

The Holiday – Part 9

Thirteen miles. 13 miles. Thir-teen miles. 1 – 3 – miles. I tasted the numbers with my tongue, ennunciated the syllables saying them over and over. I thought of the normal meaning of the ordinary words. I pictured the 13 mile long journeys I had made up til then. I despaired.

Jamie and Ana despaired.
Meg despaired.
The car fell silent. Punctuated by an occasional oh for fuck sake Mum, where are we go-ing? from Meg. Answered by my despairing don’t swear and (more quietly) I don’t know…

At one point the satnav indicated that 13 miles had become 18 miles. And Meg and I decided we’d been abducted by time-travelling aliens with a poor sense of direction.
Somewhere – maybe as we crossed the ford, or climbed the hill side, or even, perhaps, as we turned off the main artery and onto that branch – just somewhere, the ordinary meaning of the distance; the everyday experience of a few miles had become as remote and as unimaginable as the moon and the stars. We had entered a parallel universe of sheep and moor side. A place where miles just grew and grew. Where journeys never ended. Where cars trundled along at 20 mph.
There was an eternity of road. Dotted with roadkill rabbit in various states of decay. Punctuated by sheep who seemed utterly oblivious to the car and to us. Infinity was called tarmac.
Those ’13’ miles took as long as the journey from Carlisle to Scotch Corner. They ended in the steepest dropping road I had ever driven. A road which terminated in a 270 degree bend…the bend which took us onto a track…the track which took us through 4 farms; a ford; down a gully and up the gullyside and finally to a dead-end halt between derelict farm buildings.
The satnav… yes, the satnav… had taken us

The Wrong Way.

The Holiday – Part 7

Finally Mum said we’re taking the scenic route then.

Dad just said Bloody rabbit back there – had to slam on the brakes…

…and then your Father stalled of course and the handbrake wouldn’t hold us… added my Mother.
I had a sudden picture of the two of them, point-scoring and squabbling (lovingly as my Mother described it; with feeling as my Father would add) right to the end, as they careered backwards off the road and into oblivion.
This was why I loved them. Their absolute adherence to what mattered: getting the last word in.
As the sheep had decided to move – and as Jamie and Ana were unstrapping themselves, intent on escape – Mum suggested I get back in the car and start driving before those two made a run for it. The truth was, she was bursting for a wee; refused to pee in a ditch and we all knew (from the holiday where Mamie pee’d herself) that she had limited powers of retention…
The satnav said 13 miles to Rosedale. Wouldn’t be long now…surely…

The Holiday – Part 6

Proceeding on the basis that it is always best to surprise your opponent, I smiled and said fun, isn’t it…

I detected the faintest trace of frost melting.

Well, it could be worse, I hazarded, at least its not the Dales at the height of foot and mouth…those sheep could be dead and we could have crossed through 3 army checkpoints and a ton of disinfectant by now…

They started to laugh.

Ah…such is the joy of our family holiday back catalogue… each year a rich seam to be mined for such unique little gems as the one where the toy train nearly killed Louis but he was saved by his Doodles shoe OR the one where Robert opened the caravan toilet door and saw Mum wiping her bum (and he said he had seen the future – and it was not good) OR the one where we ended up in the middle of the Belfast Orange Walk and someone from the marching bands shouted “Hoi, that you Big Stu!”…

For the record that last was so very not meant to happen – and certainly not to happen to my vehemently anti-sectarian husband – a man who (known in his youth as Big Stu) had objected all the way from Strabane to Belfast but had given in to my pleading that my relatives (wonderful educated Belfast folk) would be offended if we didn’t attend that day for dinner and that anyway, no one who knew him would see him there...

The Holiday – Part 4

In the event I was brought forcibly to a halt, about 100yds after the summit, by a couple of sheep – whose insouciance I could do nothing but envy.

Jamie and Ana – whose attention had previously been entirely taken by the apparent disappearance of Papa and his car – switched their attention to the sheep. Sheep!

Whilst the kids compared notes about the merits of their respective sheep (for they had decided ownership of said sheep within seconds) your sheep is scabbier than mine…your sheep has funny eyes…yeuch! your sheep has poo on its bum…(you get the drift) – Megan and I debated who a) was going to brave the sheep and b) the possibility that Papa and Mamie had dropped off the last corner and into the valley below.

It occurred to us both that if option b) was reality (and if there were such a thing as the next world) then Papa and Mamie were no doubt watching us, cursing me roundly and worrying about the fickleness of their grandchildren…

We hadn’t resolved the issue of who was going to look down the hill when Papa and Mamie rounded the summit…Jamie casually greeting their appearance with hope they don’t scare my sheep.

Perhaps there is a salutary lesson here for any parent/significant adult-other?

You are only ever as important as the next road-hogging sheep.