My Boy has texted me a slightly blurry photograph of two small boys standing a trifle self-consciously on a steep pathway. I can imagine him stationing them in position, saying "I just need to take a photo for Nanna..."
They are too far away for me to see the expression on their faces but I suspect they are asking: "Why??"
I show the photograph to the Youngest of the Darling Daughters who is staying overnight. "Clovelly!"
she exclaims, instantly. Of course it is! The memories come flooding back...
We are sitting in one of the World's Worst Traffic Jams. By "we" I mean two cars-full of eager holiday-makers, one car carrying
Mr B, me and our Foursome; the other transporting my sister, her fella and their three littl'uns. We have rashly promised all seven small fry that we will be enjoying a Devon Cream Tea once we get to our destination.
OK it's not as bad as Operation Stack, causing havoc on the Kent roads this weekend. But, try as we might to circumvent the traffic ("I'm sure we've been this way before! Yes, we have, there's that man outside the hardware store, looking at us askance
as if tourist traffic never, ever comes this way...") it was hours before we parked up at the picturesque and world-famous village and set off to find a quaint Devon tea-room for our promised Cream Tea.
were many to choose from, all quaint and picturesque - and all, due to the lateness of our arrival, closed. It was Disaster in Devon. Mr B and Mr S set off to find a solution. There is no getting in the way of fulfilling a promise, not where these two are
concerned. One shop owner was outside her emporium, closing up. Was there any chance, they asked, hopefully, of a Cream Tea? She answered swiftly in the negative then, screwing up her eyes, asked nonchalantly: "How many for?" Eleven, came the answer. "Come
right in!" she beckoned us. You would be mad, she was doubtless telling herself, to turn down one last Cream Tea, for eleven people, at the Close of Play.
I seem to remember that the scones were plentiful,
the jam delicious and the bowls of clotted cream positively brimming over. Appetites satisfied. A promise kept. By the skin of our teeth.
That's just one of countless memories of Summer Holidays spent with
my sister and her family and, because My Boy's photo has led me into Reflective Paths, I have been indulging myself. What about, my memory prompts me, the time we were searching, unsuccessfully, for a traditional Ice-Cream Parlour? We had to make a slight
concession but ended up in a suitable establishment, ice-cream sundaes for the enjoyment of. When we came to pay, sharp eyes were quick to note the bowls of complimentary mints by the check-out. Outside, Mr B and Mr S drew their hands from their pockets to
display a collection of mints. As one, the seven children did like-wise. Only my sister and I, honest to the last, had Nothing to Declare.
Not all my memories are Food-Related, possibly because in those far-off
days of young motherhood I was too busy to be Always Thinking About My Stomach. One Summer we had booked six-berth caravans next to each other on a beautiful camp-site. I seem to remember that in the original booking details we were next door but one - but
we suggested to the camp-site owner that this would be very unfair on the poor hapless holiday-makers who Came Between Us. He hurriedly agreed.
At breakfast one morning we were shocked to our boots by thundering
noises on the roof of our holiday home. It was as if the sky were falling in on us. A quick and fearful look out of the window showed us our second family hanging out of their windows in fits of merry laughter. The toe-rags had thrown stale bread onto the
roof of our caravan and the sea-gulls were tripping the Not-So-Light-Fantastic above our heads. Try as we might - and we tried, we tried, oh, how we tried - we couldn't come up with appropriate retribution.
one holiday the men-folk went fishing, leaving my sister and I to entertain our Collective Brood. High on a hill, a photographer was making a short film to illustrate a book on playing Chess. Our children, all but the very youngest, were prompted into action.
"Move!" the film-maker would command, at which instruction all the children were expected to move into a new position on the giant chess-board. Except that Our Debs was always just a second or two later moving into place than all the other children. Over and
over again they practised until in the end the film-maker instructed all the children, save Debs, to wait for his command then to count to two before moving. It worked like a dream - and the resultant action was for all the world like a scene from Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland. But without the Mad Hatter.
The men returned and we waved them home as their fishing boat drew into its moorings. Ashore they came, carrying their catch which included a Dog-Fish
of such repellent appearance that nobody could bring themselves to cook or to eat it. I have drawn a Discreet Cloud over the way we disposed of it.
Somewhere, in a dusty archive, there must be a copy of that
film of our Little Gang on a hillside going through the Moves to Check-Mate. Or perhaps an illustrated book? My sister and I have individually searched many a library over the years in the hope of stumbling across a pictorial record of our distinctly surreal
Every family has its own store of holiday memories like these. A fortnight away slips by in a flash, sunny photographs of children swimming, building sandcastles, playing French Cricket on the
beach are stored away in photo-files on computers or even in proper albums, you know those ones with pages and a hard cover.
The very best holiday album, I have found, never needs backing up or indexing, never
gathers dust and, what's more, the images never fade.
That'll be the one tucked inside my head.