In my teens my parents took me on holiday on the River Rance in France on their boat. My mother looked forward to this time and I was not to show that I wasn’t so enamoured with the prospect of solitary confinement with my parents for a month. It’s still not the done thing to complain. “Ah yes, first world problems” as my friend’s 15 year old son is wont to say.
I lined my bunk with a 3 foot length of trashy novels. The only ones I can remember now are “Valley of the Dolls” by Jacqueline Susann, James Herbert’s “The Fog” and Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, the presence of which, prompted my mother to remember that her grandmother had got her hands on a copy and had sat rocking vigorously in her chair as she read it from end to end, to the disapproval of her children.
The soundtrack of enforced solitude was provided by a male friend of mine who had made a cassette tape for me with ABC’s the Lexicon of Love on it, followed by a recording of Kenny Everett’s radio show. This tape was worn bare by the end of the “holiday”. My mother was quite fond of this “male friend”, I noticed how he could make her laugh, catching her with her curlers in he asked if she had “Jodrell Bank on her head” and she laughed, a very rare event. My father was not so approving. Because we were all quite small in our family, and unbeknownst to me at the time, my father had lowered all the kitchen surfaces and chopped a couple of inches off all the chairs and tables in the house so everything was the right height for us. Of course, when my 6 foot 3 inch friend sat down in our living room he looked like a giant. As he left, my father remarked to my mother “Have you seen the size of his feet!” (size 13). This was followed by a knowing glance, which perplexed me greatly.
The holiday was the same every year. We would motor from Jersey to St. Malo, then up the river to Saint Souliac, then Dinan, various stops along the way and then a week or more in Tinténiac. On the travelling days I’d rise out of my pit and cycle along the riverbank so I could open the locks or attract the attention of the lock keeper.
I couldn’t find any photos of 1982 so this one from August 1981 will have to suffice. The broken arm was caused when I fell off a wall on July 29th 1991 – a date easy to remember as whilst everyone else was glued to the television watching the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana, I was on the beach by the White Horse pub at Havre des Pas. When I showed this photo to my 12 year old daughter she was surprised to see that the bikini had been invented. My father is in the background.
I spent most of August hidden in the bowels of the boat, listening to radio 4 by day, radio Luxembourg by night and rationing myself to listening to my treasured tape once a day.
Nothing ever happened. I never spoke to anyone. I never met anyone. My parents liked to keep to themselves. I’d watch other boat owners getting together for drinks and BBQ’s but not us. My father contentedly poured a generous Ricard at 11am to commence the day, and my mother did cross-stitch and sometimes sat on the riverbank painting watercolours. Once I was so bored I completed a corner of her cross-stitch and she wasn’t best pleased as “the tension’s not right – it’ll show”.
A boat moored next to us. I was thrilled, as the family would have to cross our boat every time they wished to get to the shore. This exciting new development was short lived as a mooring became available behind us. I played my cassette, hoping the two blonde boys on board would notice how cool and sophisticated I was, being into ABC and Kenny Everett. Maybe they’d come talk to me? One smiled and said “Hello”. Well, that was it, ropes were untied, buoys were pulled in and we were off. Alone again – well not quite, I had my cassette tape, radio 4 long wave and about 2 feet more of books to read.