First let me just say that this holiday is for a week only, people..... we still have till the 19th July to go before we break up for the summer. Heaven only knows why it is so late. I know Europe breaks up for their holidays round about the end of May or beginning of June. And our system means that our kids are writing their important public exams in the heat of the summer, sneezing away with hay fever and the like. Ideal.
However, a holiday is a holiday. Even when it is just for a week. And David and I are going to visit my son and daughter-in-law for a couple of days too, which will be wonderful.
While I was writing about the books I gathered to take to sea with me, I was remembering how amused the rest of the officers and crew were when I arrived to do a deep sea trip with Geoff, with Andrew and Diana in tow. The sight of the mountain of luggage certainly had them in stitches. But I am a mother, and I believed in being prepared.
Geoff was a senior officer in the merchant navy, and he travelled mostly on giant container ships. The accomodation was good, great even, and there was a swimming pool as well. I used to get the officer in charge to fill it with about a foot of water in the mornings, (it was about 15+ft deep I think) and we would climb down the ladder and play in the waves created by the ship's movement in the bottom, until the officers came to swim, and then it was filled completely.
But back to the mountain of luggage. I always took a huge box of paper, scissors, glue, sticky tape, pens, crayons etc, so that we could do craft things together. When you are at sea for a couple of weeks, you need to be creative. In more ways than one! We made the most wonderful collages. I usually let the children pick a theme, and covered one of the cabin walls with the background, of say, under the sea, and every day we would make more things to stick onto it. Diana loved making fish and mermaids, buried treasure etc. Andrew did the submarines, warships and divers. I did the fancy seaweed.
Well, the first time we took Diana deep sea, (she had to be 2 years old, and Andrew would have been 6) we had just been at sea for about 3 days when Geoff woke me one morning and said...I think you need to look at your daughter. (Please note the "your"....the children were mine if there was a problem!) She is covered with spots. Gee. Thanks. A great way to wake up. In the middle of the ocean with a child covered in spots. She had chicken pox. The captain got out his huge captain's guide to medicine, and came to the cabin door and asked me if I was sure it was not smallpox. I informed him that I could rule that out as it had been eradicated from the earth (this was 1983) and he was somewhat mollified. He did tell me, though, that according to his great book, Indian people ran a high risk of complications from chicken pox, and that as most of the stewards were Indian, we were confined to the cabin.
That mountain of luggage???? It saved my sanity.
We made paper chains long enough to decorate the entire ship. And it was a BIG ship. We glued and stuck things everywhere. We comandeered every toilet roll on the ship and made rockets, people, cars. You name it. When it was lunch, and everyone was having their meal, I was able to take the kids outside to get some fresh air, but not for long. The trip was over Christmas, so I knew I had a good few presents stashed away for Christmas day, and as they were the only children on board, on Christmas morning, everyone arrived in the cabin to watch them open their presents The Captain was the last to arrive. And promptly lifted the confinement order, because most of the ship's officers were scrunched in the cabin anyway.
So we were able to go and see all the decorations we had made all over the ship. It has to be the most festive one ever. And those men stopped laughing at my magic box of tricks. In fact, they used to tell their wives to bring similar stashes when they travelled. I must find time to scan in my old photos and then I can share some of them here.
One day I will write more about those days at sea....how we used to lie on our stomachs at the bow, watching the porpoises and dolphins dance in the bow wave.... how we saw whales and flying fish, how beautiful it is to get up at dawn and watch Table Mountain appear on the horizon, of storms and sunny days at sea, of wives doing aerobics in the lounge every morning, of near misses when a ship cut across our bow, of bbqs on deck, the challenges of keeping small children safe on giant ships. Of the constant sounds we learnt to identify, how we knew when we were going astern, how attuned we became to the movement of the sea under the ship....... of the day when no-one could find Geoff, and how they tried to keep me from realising how worried everyone was......
All the memories come back when I set off down a path of thought.
Maybe my life has not been so ordinary after all.