Family Time by the Seaside

After work on Friday was like a mad dash to exit the city. We raced to the house, threw clothes in a suitcase, HarryPotter told me to grab duvets, sheets and pillow cases as those at the caravan might not be clean, and he rushed about looking for food when we realised that a trip to the shops was inevitable. But we couldn’t just hit the shop on the way out, because we had to stop by his parents and pick up the key.

HarryPotter’s parents live in Airdrie. Airdrie isn’t much different to any other part of outer Glasgow. Once a village that seems to have been swallowed up by the Central Belt. Rows and rows of terraced houses – two up and two down. I realised just then that Glasgow flats are all kind of built a certain way, almost in a square with the rooms to the back and the front. Goatee’s house was Victorian semi-detached, but very different as he’d completely refurbished it and opened up the spaces. But HarryPotter’s house looked so much like the house I grew up in, the one my mum still lives in. Entering the HarryPotter family lounge I was homesick.

His mum is absolutely adorable. She fussed and fussed, ‘Do you have enough warm blankets,’ ‘We just had tea. I can heat you up some,’ ‘He’s told me all about you dear. Glad to see he’s making friends at work’…as if she was talking about him making friends in the schoolyard. But even though she was fussing about like a mum – or well, like my mum – there was something kind of glamorous about her. Her hair was done, and her make-up was perfect. It was as if Sophia Loren was trying to lend me a pair of thermals (‘that caravan does get cold dear’) and reheat some left over lasagne for the trip.  

HarryPotter’s dad is the spitting image of him — same crazy hair and same ability to get lost in a tech ramble. He handed HarryPotter the keys and then went on a very long diatribe about how to switch on the gas and the electrics. Where all the fuses were, and the general construction of the caravan from the assembly line to the moment it was put on the concrete slab. Then he added, ‘Now don’t be selfish boy. You give this here young lady the big bed, and you take the single,’ then he nudged HarryPotter and said, ‘Unless you want to top and tail it,’ and gave me a little wink.

I was mortified; HarryPotter shuffled about a bit, and I quickly suggested that we needed to get on the road. HarryPotter’s mum shoved a Tupperware of lasagne at us, and we were off.

As we headed across the Kincardine Bridge, HarryPotter told me that as a kid he used to spend summers in St Andrews. They went across for Glasgow holidays, plus they spent all their bank holidays in St Andrews. His parents had a caravan on a site with a bunch of people his dad worked with, so about six families went along and holidayed together. He said that the old caravan was out of town a bit, so as a kid he and all the other children would roam the fields and the woods around the site, while the parents hung out on the grass around the caravans BBQing and drinking. (Or, as HarryPotter says, ‘Sitting inside playing cards because it was raining.’) They didn’t go into St Andrews that much, but when they did the whole brood of them went down to the seaside (or the ‘sands’ as he called it) for the day.

He said that this was when he was quite young, and by the time he was a teenager they started going abroad for holidays: Costa del Sol, Tenerife, that sort of thing. But his dad retired about a year ago, and his mum went down to part-time at work. So they bought another caravan, and evidently it’s made everyone in the old gang jealous. This one is right in St Andrews, up the side of a cliff, over looking the North Sea and the town. It’s the space the adults used to dream about when HarryPotter was a kid. His parents now spend quite a bit of time there, but HarryPotter said he’s only been to this caravan once before.

All this talk of family holiday, seaside trips, and weeks away made me homesick again. We usually went to Devon for our holidays, to see family and all. But there were a couple of trips to Centre Park, a few to Spain and once we went to Florida. As a kid I hated these holidays. Mum would fuss, my Auntie would be out looking to pull, my cousins stole my things, my sister stormed around demanding attention, and I – as a grumpy kid and an even grumpier teenager – resented the fact that my mum pulled me away from my precious friends to go on family holiday. But in hindsight, these were some of the best experiences of my life. Throughout the chaos and havoc of throwing far too many relations into one small rental unit was my Gran: full of calm, joy and peace. Always ready to have fun, make us laugh, and – as much as I can remember – never losing her temper.

I thought back to that evening Goatee and I babysat.  (It seems like ages ago now, but it’s probably only been a week or so??) How I, for the first time, thought about wanting kids, wanting to start a family. And now, thinking about family holidays makes me want that even more. I want to inflict on my children the horror and the fun of family time spent on rainy British coast. (Or maybe sunny family trips to Florida. I wouldn’t be adverse to that.)

But the last two men in my life, two men that seemed strong, stable and fatherly, proved to be anything but. I know I’m young, but if I’m going to start thinking about these things, I need to be particular about the men I date. No more falling into bed with the first man to give me a ‘how you doin’; I’m going to start looking for a man who I can spend holidays with by the seaside with, two kids in hand, and a stable happy future ahead.

Notes from the Weekend:
Family Time By the Seaside
A Night in the Caravan
A Day in the Drews
Another Night in the Caravan
First Kiss

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