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Wednesday, 28 July 2021

We cohere and we break apart

Heavier bottles on the floor

The holiday again. 

VR said several times the most important thing was that the whole close family (minus one, for explicable reasons) would be together. And so it seemed. We arrived in three cars with an enormous – almost embarrassing – amount of drink which filled all horizontal surfaces of the utility room, see pic. Well prepared, you see.

Togetherness was symbolised by an event that first evening. The English soccer team had reached the final of the European championship and even those who disdain soccer (me in particular) felt honour-bound to watch the TV coverage. We broke the house rules (“Furniture may not be moved from room to room.”) and yelled noisily at the screen from sofas. The fact that England lost – and in a belittling way – mattered less than the sense of community.

But we were three generations with different interests. Later a split-off group visited indoor climbing walls, another went to the coast for a truncated form of surfing, out of National Service nostalgia I watched training jets take off and land at RAF Valley and discovered a decommissioned nuclear power station en route. Most times we ate together but on other occasions we fragmented.

Togetherness cannot be forced. VR read enormously, others fiddled with their mobiles. Both these activities are divisive. Occasionally, even at high noon, I crept away and lay, eyes closed, on our bed meditating on various current matters. The English tend not to be chummy by nature and holidays should offer opportunities for individual self-expression.

The unexpected gets remembered. Daniel brought a very superior game of skittles called Möllki. They played and we – the ancient grandparents – watched with interest.

Both villas were comprehensively equipped but lacked a coffee-making apparatus. We bought a cafetière and all was well in the morning. A small matter but rewarding.


  1. "The English tend not to be chummy by nature and holidays should offer opportunities for individual self-expression."

    I think that sums up my own views on the subject, RR. I love my extended family, but we all have our own lives and interests to lead. We come together as individual groups for individual occasions but fracture off to go our own ways.

  2. As a PS - I hope you managed to use up all that booze before the holiday end.

    1. Well you didn't imagine we bathed in it, did you?

  3. If you must stay in self catering accommodation always come well equipped. My father in law was a hotel manager in his earlier career, he trained at the Negresco in Nice and worked at the Shelbourne in Dublin where heads of state used to stay. So obviously, self catering was a no no for them and subsequently as family tradition dictates for my man who is quite at a loss why anybody would want to do their own breakfast on holidays

    1. Apart from the missing cafetiere both villas were supremely well equipped. Plenty of bogs, showers, TVs, glasses for different wines. We ate out a lot but there are times when one craves informality and eating hours that are not carved in stone. It's a holiday for goodness sake; there were few "musts" in Wales. Also I happen to be surrounded by brilliantly improvisational cooks, especially when it comes to "bitings on".

    2. I am with you - spent ten of my childhood summers in self catering at the Danish North Sea coast with regular kitchen chores for all kids and still had a great time - but I am regularly outvoted.

  4. "The English tend not to be chummy by nature and holidays should offer opportunities for individual self-expression." Wow, I must be English, even though I did 23 & Me and am 99% Ashkenazi, I am definitely English by nature. Sounds like a lovely quiet time with family.

  5. Plenty of bogs, plenty of bogs... Explain?

    I would've done well. Don't drink coffee and always have a book.

    1. Marly: Bog (extremely vulgar) = lavatory = (what you would genteelly call) washroom.

      re Coffee: No man (or woman) is an island. Imagine being surrounded by a herd of coffee-deprived addicts.

      re Books: As I say, books are divisive, cutting you off from those you claim to love but who may not be inclined to read at that moment. The role of the book-reading social hermit can be equivocal.

    2. Like the bogs. Vulgar words are often so apt...

      Never have grasped anything about the allure of coffee except the scent of fresh beans being ground. There used to be an tiny old mountain woman (back when I was a wee sprat in Cullowhee, NC) who would go to the A & P in Sylva, use the grinder, and then carry the resulting bag around the store, sniffing up the fresh-ground bean-scent. So either you would see her there in the act, or spot those A & P blue coffee bags, somewhere out-of-place in the store, and so know she had passed that way. I do wish they had given them to her to take home.

      As for books, you are right... yet we all need little breaks in order to enjoy one another properly. Little ventures into other worlds. And I don't know, the sight of a child at a busy family reunion who can't stop reading is sweet...

  6. Marly: As with the many synonyms for copulation, we have lots for the small room where we get rid of our waste products. My favourite is probably khazi; I have no interest in pursuing its real etymology, preferring to believe its roots are arabic and that it was picked up by members of the Eighth Army while fighting in the Western Desert (ie, near Egypt) during WW2.

    Coffee is truly an acquired taste. Like smoking (or so I am told) you have to force yourself to love its bitterness. But adding sugar and/or milk seems to suggest the addiction has not truly "taken". My association is ritualistic: two part-mugfuls of black with my brunch, always in in a bone china mug with a William Morris pattern, frequently with a slice of cake (seed cake for preference) made that morning by VR.

    "the sight of a child... who can't stop reading..." But why do so many non-mobile users abhor the child thumbing his virtual keyboard? Ignorance? Contrary to adult opinion the mobile can be the source of any information you choose. Poetry. The Goldberg Variations. The Dirac equation. Serious discourse. Theological contradictions. All there and more.

  7. Khazi... new one for me.

    I dislike coffee breath, and don't wish to have any myself! Sorry. But your ritual with seed cake (yay, VR) sounds lovely all the same.

    I think you should take a survey of local children on phone and demand to know what they are doing on phone whenever you see them. My own experience with my very own children suggests that my two readers were led away from reading into social media and gaming and weird little competitions (like dressing a Japanese girl contests.) I never saw them reading anything of interest. Alas.