Thursday, 21 April 2016

If stretched, your bowels are as large as one hundred acres of woodland.*

I've had some shit holidays in my time.

What's worse, I forced many of those shit holidays on my children. Some of the holidays were so shit, I doubt they even realised we were on holiday.

Generally slightly out of season (my times of austerity existed long before the advent of crooked bankers and guerilla class warfare) and involving a tent, caravan or canal boat, I'd drag them away for a few days of walking around, clambering over fences, climbing trees, exploring rivers and trying to light fires.

One year, I dragged the poor buggers to my mother and father's new static caravan on the outskirts of a quaint, little fishing village.


Once we'd finished setting up whichever game system was en vogue at that time we went to explore the site. It didn't take much time.

As the sky began to turn from blue to magenta we headed back. Close to the caravan there was a small clump of pretty trees and the boys decided they'd like to round off an eventful day by acting like baboons. I left them to it and went inside, leaving the door open so I'd be able to hear the screams when the inevitable, easily avoidable, simply horrendous accident, that must surely take place, took place.

I sat with my feet on the little coffee table that would later provide support for a double bed and watched the television. Before long, the five year old came crashing through the little, rattly door.

My youngest was going through a phase that caused him to be referred to as "the fridge magnet", given his propensity for hanging off the door of the fridge and staring at the food inside whilst eating a bag of crisps and wondering "what next?" He went straight to the fridge and made himself a jam sandwich before flopping onto the seat next to me and taking the remote control from my lap as I took a twig from his hair.

"Dad, where does poo come from?"

I shook my head and smiled that smile that every father smiles whenever asked a question by a son still more stupid than he.

"From your tummy, son."

"What, MY tummy?" He furrowed his brow.

"Yes, well, anyone's tummy."

"But, how does poo get there?"

"Erm, well, your food gets digested and the stuff your body doesn't need turns into poo."

He mused over the information for a while whilst trying, unsuccessfully, to lick a blob of strawberry preserve from his own chin.

"And then what?"

"It comes out of your bottom."

The five year old wrinkled his nose.

"Eww, that's disgus... oh, Gladiators!" He exclaimed as he flicked through the few channels available on the little portable telly with the pound shop aerial.

We sat and watched Wolf and his colleagues batter people with giant cotton buds and kick them whilst dangling from hoops for half an hour or so when Jet, my personal favourite, appeared.

The twelve year old who wasn't there was almost as big a fan of the physically fantastic Ms. Youdale as his father was. I turned to my youngest prodigy...

"Where's your brother?" I asked the little, ginger, bundle of joy by my side.

He looked pensive for a moment, then his eyebrows arched and his mouth dropped open.

"Awww, I forgot..."

He rose to his feet, scattering crumbs of the light, curly, potato snacks that he'd had to follow the sandwich, the apple and the half a packet of Malted Milk biscuits he'd devoured onto the floor,

"...he's stuck up a tree and he can't get down and he said for me to come and get you."

I scrambled to my feet. By my reckoning, we'd been sat watching crap on telly while we spoke about crap and ate Quavers for  good thirty minutes, during which time it had gone dark.

"Quickly!" The absent minded child yelled as he leapt through the still open door, as if my tardiness was what had led to whatever terrible fate his brother had succumbed.

He'd done well, the twelve year old.

He'd successfully scaled the tallest of the trees to it's very top, though his forward planning had left much to be desired.

During his ascent he'd snapped off many of the smaller branches and used them as foliage-to-earth missiles to launch at his brother below. After a rousing chorus of "I'm the King of the swingers", complete with monkey noises and a shimmy that had nearly dislodged him, he'd found himself unable to come back down, there being few hand or foot holds left beneath him.

I got him down easily enough, using the same technique my own father had perfected on many of the shit holidays of my youth. He was cold, bored and his pride had been dented.

Also, his brother was "an idiot" and had "better not have eaten my Quavers".

Eventually, once he'd finished complaining about his arduous ordeal and had pestered me until I went to the co-op down the road for more Quavers, all was once again well with the world and I got to enjoy what was my favourite part of the day on a family holiday, putting the kids to bed.

The boys shared the bedroom with two single bunks and, after much giggling, flatulence and screams of "stop it Jamie, I can't breath" I went in to say goodnight and tuck them in.

"Dad, tell him, I've got Asthma you know? His arse might kill me." Never one to be overly-dramatic, my youngest did his best to get his brother in trouble, achieving a bollocking of his own for his use of "arse".

To be fair, trouble was always something my eldest was able to get into without the help of his wheezy sibling.

"Can I read my book?" The five year old asked.

"Of course," I replied, "where is it?"

He pointed to his little holdall and I rummaged around inside, retrieving his book and passing it to him. He inspected the cover, wrinkled his nose and tossed the tome onto the floor.

"I've changed my mind." He curled up with a sulky pout and a Gameboy, "I've gone off it now, it's disgusting."

I picked up the book, along with the underwear and inside out tracksuits that lay scattered around, and smiled.

With arms full I navigated my way backwards through the narrow door and out into the equally narrow hallway.

"G'night, kids." I called over my shoulder as I dumped the dirty clothing on the floor of the kitchenette and grabbed a can of Guinness from the cupboard.

I took a seat at the little bistro set outside, smoking a cigarette under the stars. The set sat upon the dozen or so concrete flags that my father had laid and that constituted a patio, it's uneven surface turning the seats into rocking chairs. My son's book was face down on the table as I enjoyed the peace and quiet and shortened my lifespan for no good reason. I considered my day, as I do when each day draws to a close, making sure I'd learnt the lessons life had delivered. That day, I'd learnt that trying to climb to the top is fine, just make sure you've a way back down if you need one and, a bonus life lesson learnt late in the evening, the importance of ensuring no ambiguity in one's questions.

I stubbed my cigarette out on the saucer I used as an ashtray and picked up my five year old's book, smiling as I read the opening lines...


* Absolute nonsense.