Monday, August 24, 2015


Home from abroad.

Nice holiday, it had a fantastic highlight!

Always dented a bit by a day of travelling home; checking out, getting to airport, the crush to get through, the wait. The stressy getting onto the plane, never enough space for the hand luggage, everyone seems to be pushing the limit these days, the bumpy flight, the wait for luggage. Airport to home. Phew!

The mail on the mat. The dog to be collected from the looking-after family.

One thing that's nice is seeing everyone take to their home.

The adults unpack, make tea, one does a quick One Stop run for bits.

The children fly off to all corners of the house, and back into their lives. 

They go very quiet until tea-time, luxuriating in their own space, their own bedrooms, their technology, their textable mates.

One of our foster children seems quietest.

He had a holiday 'romance'!

It started two days before we were due to fly home.

It started as a buddy thing. The beach was nice and sandy, he'd been sandcastling, there was that tiny Mediterranean tide and he did what others were doing and built a castle which the waves would reach in about an hour. 

The beach was packed and there was a family next to us, their children had the same idea. The dad and the sons, big lads, were at it like McAlpine, digging deep, so deep the dad cut his hand on a shard of a shell  about three feet down and they stopped for a bit. Their 'sandcastle' had the feel of that mountaintop placement in the Guns of Navarone (if you go back that far).

Their only daughter, about the same age as our lad, hadn't really joined in much, but had been watching. She was more interested in our boy's castle. His looked more like a home than a fort. It had four small walls and a single heap of a dwelling in the middle with a door and windows. He had planted some little sea ferns in the garden.

Now I'm doing sandcastle therapy.

So now the waves are getting close, lapping the front wall. He starts digging a breakwater pit in front. But the waves are winning, he starts digging more frantically. He is aware the girl is watching and she's making encouraging sounds; shouts and gasps each time a wave hits the front wall. 

Then she does it; she jumps down and helps. Now the two of them are digging wet sand and throwing it everywhere to try to save their 'home'.

We are lying on our loungers shouting support.

The sea wins, of course. The home is engulfed. The girl's brothers laugh half in sympathy half in jealousy that she had a better sandcastle afternoon than they did. They shout something to her.

In French.

I thought to myself; "Merde!"

Our lad and his new friend had been too busy to talk. "Busy as a one-legged man in a grass fire" as my grandad used to say.

Now we're watching it dawn on them they have no way of communicating.

Five minutes later he comes and asks for the kite. The beach is emptying, there's a nice breeze getting up. He flies, she watches. He hands her the string. She flies, he assists, miming advice about the start-up run and the ocassional tugs.

Her family start to pack up. The dad has a sprinkling of English. Nice chap, pity he smokes. They will be at the same place tomorrow. We are coming anyway.

The next day is more like Brief Encounter than Guns of Navarone. He and she make another sand home, I give them money to get ice cream. They both take their phones (there's a fantastic app called Find My Phone, can tell you to within a few feet where they are). Watch them the whole time obviously, in the queue, choosing. Coming back side-by-side, making each other laugh with the trying-to-slurp-the-cone-drips-before-they-reach-your-hand thing.

They wash their hands in the sea, then go in up to their waists. The body board gets launched, him demonstrating his Bondi Beach surf king stuff, making complimentary faces when she has a go.

We ask her parents if Ann-Katrin can join us for lunch up at the top. She does. He and she sit side by side. She out-styles my family, cutting her burger in half. He entertains her with his "fries for fangs' Dracula.

Back at the beach they collect shells and pebbles. Her family give her a punnet of strawberries and one for her friend, payback for her burger, which they share perched on his lounger. 

Not sure if he's looking a bit trapped, but honouring the relationship he's wound up in.

The day is ending. We're going home tomorrow. 

They have to say goodbye.

Her family are packing up.

I don't know about him and her, I'm feeling it.

O2 lends a hand. They swap texts. Not that they can say much to each other, it'll probably be all emojos.

Now it's the moment. "Say goodbye to Ann-Katrin". They stand opposite each other about a foot apart. They both make a sudden move as if to embrace, then freeze on it. He begins to offer a hand, then pulls it back. She goes to do the French thing, you know, the peck on each cheek, but pulls out. 

The family move off. Him and she wave until she disappears up one of the little streets.

He goes for a quiet paddle. It was all so gloriously innocent, they didn't even get to hold hands.

I'm thinking that one day later in his life, perhaps on his way to the church he'll remember his holiday 'romance' and wonder whatever happened to Ann-Katrin. And maybe even wonder what sort of life they might have had together.

By the way he is 10, Ann-Katrin 8.

Can't add any more.

Filling up.


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