The only holiday I can remember with my mother and father was to North Wales where it rained a lot and we had tinned grapefruit for breakfast. In other years Mostly holidays meant either staying on the farm where my aunt lived or going away to scout camp on my own. Both of which I pretty much detested.
As a child I hated holidays.
Separation anxiety dulls the lustre from even the most beautiful scenery.
Going away always filled me with the same dread. I would prepare myself in ways I thought would get me through. Taking my favourite books, a comic saved from the previous weekend, unread, to luxuriate in under torchlight, a stash of particularly delicious sweets, notepaper and pencils to journal my adventures. But on arrival, the same desperation to go home would fall over me almost instantly, and the long countdown would begin.
“Only thirteen more nights to get through” I might mutter to myself under my breath, trying to ignore the permanent knot in my stomach.
Just getting through the days was tough enough so on the odd occasion that some other mini-disaster befell me, such as putting my hand down on a wasp on Dartmoor (August 1976) or Stephen Stubbs crowing me with an enamel dinner plate he had inexplicably thrown into the air (May 1977), everything became even more difficult. These may indeed be trivialities but to the homesick teenager, they represented a serious challenge.
The strangest thing of all is that home wasn’t a particularly happy place either so why was I so desperate to get back there?
Maybe I already sensed the dissatisfaction and sadness in my mother which later became more apparent. Perhaps my hospitalisation with asthma at a young age contributed to my alarm at being away from her. Quite possibly it was the general air of unease at home. All this mixed in with my own unique character. Who knows?
When life feels uncertain we try and maximise what little certainty we can find. Home is certainty even if sometimes an uncomfortable one. Comfort zones contract when emotional comfort is in scarce supply.
This week in Cassis we have had two hire cars break on us so far. On top of that, I was sweet-talked by a charming market vendor into spending more than my shame will allow sharing on two lumps of, admittedly delicious, local cheese. The mosquitoes are as virilus as I have known them anywhere. So much so that I have taken to sleeping with the French doors wide open onto the garden as if to say “do your worst”. They have.
Later, on the shuttle bus towards the beach, I reflected on that little boy who pops up in me at random times. He always seems to be saying the same thing “I want to go home” and I know the feeling from decades ago. But these days something is different.
Not only have I learned that as long as I put myself, the adult Graham, in front of him rather than behind him he will feel protected and safe. A feeling he rarely had as a child.
Secondly, he is given much more confidence when I remind him that any desire to “go home” now is associated with the genuine joy and satisfaction we have in our everyday life, rather than some twisted need to be in a place that looked like home but often felt nothing like he imagined it ought to.