For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves that we find in the sea
It goes without saying that obviously the worst thing about No1 breaking his right arm last week is that he now has a broken arm. Broken in two places, moreover, in what the discharge notes post-surgery called an “angulated fracture of the ulna and radius” and what I, once I’d mastered my gag reflex, called “looking like Mr Tickle”.
Driving three children to hospital, propping the patient up with one hand in the front passenger seat as he tried to faint, finding a space and coins for parking, and visibly freaking out the rest of the folk waiting in A&E weren’t much fun either (well, the last part was, comparatively). Nor were the wait for him to come out of surgery and the wait to find out if the bones are healing straight, or if more surgery will be needed to pin them.
The holiday we’ve had to cancel is a shame, though. Long on children and short on cash, we camp, and it is just not a realistic option for late October. Since we’re restricted now to school holidays, the chances are that we won’t go away till next summer. We’re still lucky, and better off than a lot of people, in that we can be at home, and that we had already had a few days camping and some day trips before the accident, but It’s taking a little while to get used to the new shape of the summer.
I’ve been consoling myself with virtual vacationing. No1 is meant to keep his arm elevated and very still, which is giving rise to a lot of time where we sit watching TV while I browse the internet, wondering who are all these people who can apparently splash £10k on a family holiday. I’m not among them, but on the web, no-one knows your bank balance (except, perhaps, the Pentagon). So far, I’ve shortlisted a week in Gran Canaria, eyeballed a dozen or more villas in the south of Spain, drooled over an all-inclusive Mauritian paradise and costed a fortnight in DisneyWorld next summer. It’s been great fun. I don’t fully understand cookies, but I worry that somewhere, there’s a cabal of angry travel agents ready to turn up at my door with a print-out of my browsing history and a bill.
Never knowingly underthought, the whole experience has left me pondering holidays and their purpose: part restorative break from routine, part identify definer. I’ve caught myself thinking “we’re not ‘all-inclusive’ sort of people” and “we don’t really *do* big holidays”, unable to imagine my scruffy crew trying to fit in anywhere more salubrious than a campsite. Would we, if we could afford to? Possibly, although I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to find out. There’s a whole other post, too, in the idea of being any “sort-of” person, and how much we define ourselves and others by our consumer choices.
I’ve realised more, though, how much the promise of two weeks away has shaped my whole year thus far. We’ve had a tough couple of years, and there’s still a lot of stress and uncertainty about where we go from here. Without being quite conscious that I was doing it, I have been building up to an escape from real life, even as I was starting to stress about packing enough pants and wondering whether the destinations we’d chosen would live up to their promise. The time away would have been wonderful (if just for the change), but even in the planning, there was the opportunity to wrest back a sense of control which it sometimes feels is missing in life. Or is that just me?
Choosing where to go, what to take, the things that will fill the days: it’s the promise of a temporary happy-ever-after when reality is more of a series of pragmatism and compromise. For a weekend, or ten days or however long can be wrested away from work, we can cast ourselves into a new role, re-write the script. Come back refreshed and recharged, with the chimerical conviction that we’ll make the changes in our lives we know in our hearts will never come about. I’ve been putting off some decisions that I now have no excuse for avoiding. Time to “find” myself in the cheaper and rather more prosaic setting of home.