Sitting in a teashop that pushes the word ‘cosy’ to its limit, I look at my sullen family, all wearing comically similar expressions. Damp and bedraggled they stare back at me over the milky tea and crumbly scones that sit, untouched, on our table. This is the inevitable conclusion to an ill-thought out family holiday and I cannot claim I am surprised by the fiasco, as I think back to the start of the week.
Bright and early on Monday morning I was dragged unwillingly to a dreary and colourless caravan park in Lulworth Cove, Dorset. As I sat, furious and resentful in the cramped backseat of the car surrounded by the grumbles of my protesting siblings (at eleven and fourteen respectively, my brother and sister are the living embodiments of Dr Seuss’ Thing One and Thing Two), the holiday seemed doomed to failure before it had even begun.
Our arrival at the caravan did nothing to quieten my fears. With rain pouring down the back of my neck and the conviction strong in my heart that none of my friends had to endure such torture, I was shocked. This caravan could only have been made with a family of three, at the most four in mind; there was no way it could hold the tears of and tantrums of our five-person troop, let alone have room for a large, frantic dog. Attempting to slam the flimsy door to my bedroom behind me, I consigned myself to my fate.
Despite my assurances that a ‘bracing walk’ would absolutely not ‘blow away my cobwebs’ the parents and I (grudgingly) set out on a walk along the hilltop. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the more rain a teenager must endure dripping onto their hair, ruining their hairstyle and creating a mortifying, frizzy mess atop their heads, the angrier and more aggressive they become. So it was as we trudged along. The angrier I became, the more energy and fervour my parents threw into being utterly patronising. Just as we reached the point at which I had formulated a plan to throw both the adults over the edge of the hill and claim insanity, the sun hit the water below us with a startling beauty. The reflection thrown by the glinting waves bounced onto the stone archway and Durdle Door became illuminated by the late-afternoon sun.
This moment of tranquillity allowed an unusually calm ending to our ramble, and as we arrived back at the caravan it seemed that perhaps I had been mistaken – could this family holiday defy expectations and go without a hitch?
My question was answered, as upon opening the door to the caravan, my mother was knocked to the floor by the entwined, screaming mass of both my siblings. There had been, it transpired, a fight involving a bag of flour (optimistically bought by my mother in case someone should decide to make pancakes), a pair of rollerblades and a series of snide comments made by my brother which had reduced my sister to a sobbing bundle of teenage insecurities – ‘He called me fat! Oh god, am I fat? Am I?’ From that moment onwards the holiday continued as expected – the rain did not abate, the wind continued to blow at terrifying, gale force speeds and my family sustained a continual and surly bickering throughout the days still to come.
Despite a number of snap decisions to go to the local pub after experiencing my father’s idea of a delicious, home-cooked meal – beetroot and tuna pasta – the decision was passed by my parents that our evenings would be spent playing ‘fun, family games’. Despite much pleading for freedom, the adults stubbornly enforced miserable pushing of Mrs Peacock around the seemingly endless array of Drawing Rooms, Billiard Rooms, Ballrooms and so on, until the only possible end to the evening seemed to be the brutal murder of my family; inevitably by either spanner, revolver, lead pipe or candlestick.
Now, as I sit, soggy and bedraggled, reflecting upon our time in Dorset, I cannot help but appreciate the comedy of the moments that undoubtedly passed me by. With hindsight, it strikes me that perhaps playing a few hours of board-games with my family was not the earth-ending calamity it seemed at the time. Maybe I should have made pancakes before the flour met its end at the hands of my sister. I definitely should have worn the woolly and home-made hat that my father offered me and saved what remained of my hairstyle.
As I offer my mother a smile across the table, I catch the look of eager delight on her face, and wish that I had tried harder to make the week work.
‘Ah well,’ I think. ‘There’s always next year!’
THIS WAS MY A-LEVEL COURSEWORK, AND I AM CONSIDERING ENTERING IT IN MY UNIVERSITY CREATIVE WRITING DEGREE PORTFOLIO APPLICATION, SO ANY HELP WOULD BE HUGELY APPRECIATED!