Last summer, I took my little family for a beach holiday. Low-key and relatively local, we spent a week eating sandwiches by the sea, stripping the girls down so they could frolic in shallows warmed by a day of sun, seeing friends, touring local wildlife parks and driving through scenery for hours while Little Girl napped in her seat. In the afternoons we’d head to the fishmonger and buy whatever had come in fresh from the boats that day before heading back to our holiday cottage for dinner. No television, no internet connection, it was as wholesome as slow-made porridge and as sweet as its brown sugar crust.
Once the girls had been sluiced of the day’s sand and put to bed, LH and I would share a bottle of wine, chat, and read a book (or, in his case, laboriously read the sports pages on the text-only browser of his extremely old phone).
And I’d sit there, trying to ignore the fact that all I wanted was more wine.
We’d brought with us the remains of a wine cask ‘for cooking’, which I drained on the first evening while he showered. On the second day we went to a winery and I bought four bottles; by day three there were two left, not three, because I stayed up after LH was in bed and drank an extra one by myself. On the third day, I supplemented the allotted half bottle with a glass or two from an open bottle left in the fridge by previous tenants, leaving barely an inch in the bottom. By day five, I claimed that the fish dish I had planned needed a certain variety of sauvignon blanc to do it justice, and headed to the bottle shop to restock.
That holiday, I thought about wine. As the sun finally dipped low enough to take my girls for an evening swim, I packed picnics and wondered whether I could manufacture a reason to drive into the town after their bedtime and buy a bottle without LH knowing. At the pub we ended up lunching at mid-week, I finished my wine before the bread came out, and spent more time wondering if I could buy another one than listening to my family’s chatter. At night I deliberately didn’t see LH’s overtures towards bed, preferring to let him sleep so I could finally drink in private.
It was something special, that week. It was Little Girl’s first real experience with the beach, and her grin, as she waded completely nude in the deserted waves, rivalled the setting sun for light and beauty. No television meant Enid Blyton evenings of reading and colouring, and with no agenda except relaxation, our days were easy and unstressed. The perfect week for reconnecting as a family and strengthening our bonds.
Except that I wasn’t really there.