All off on summer holiday

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
The end of term didn't come a moment too soon. Fights on Sports Day.

Vomiting at the Leavers' Disco. Puddles at the End of Year Assembly. And that was just the parents.

These were the little trials and tribulations that had me reaching for the Gordon's Gin at 4.45pm precisely. Himself was dispatched to order the finest haddock that Luigi could batter in the space of five minutes. He returned with an offering which made King Alfred's cakes seem positively under-cooked by comparison. He was useless.

I had dozed off by the time he returned, but I caught a whiff of stale alcohol. He had been gone all of 10 minutes, but the lure of the Nag's Head had proved irresistible. At least he had taken care of the holiday arrangements. I had checked that everything was in place - three times.

No more plans, forecasts, assessments, case conferences or quality visits for six whole weeks. My thoughts drifted to the pleasures of the trip to Croatia we had planned.

We had spent our first holiday there years ago - before the troubles which engulfed the area. We arrived at the airport in good time. As I slumped down into the chair, I gazed round the departure lounge, seeking out potential hi-jackers and terrorists who might be on our flight. Looked fine to me.

A voice roused me from my complacency. "Hello Mrs McElroy." I froze. It was Jamie from P4. Not Croatia - please.

Jamie informed me he was going on holiday to the seaside. He was going with Paul, Georgie and Francesca - his "cousins". I knew all about his so-called "cousins".

The flight was called. Jamie and company headed for the same exit door.

Himself asked if I was all right, and I asked him to peek at the labels on the shoulder bags that Jamie's mum and "Uncle Jim" were carrying.

My worst fears were realised. Destination - Split. But maybe not where we were going? We were headed for the island of Hvar. I contrived to engage Jamie's mum in polite conversation, not an easy task.

She was unaware of their ultimate destination, probably because she was recovering from the previous night's intake at the Railway Club, or maybe because she was unaware of any towns, villages, lakes, mountains or settlements south of Motherwell. I felt a hot flush coming on. Could we get another flight? Could I get another husband? Could I please go home!

Anyway, we were spared. Jamie and his extended family were duly shipped off to another part of the country and we never saw them again.

Hvar was still beautiful. Himself lived up to form. Drink. Sleep. Swim.

Swim. Drink. Sleep. At least he didn't bother me too much, and I was able to read a few good books.

One day, he pestered me to join him on a boat trip. I reluctantly agreed and we hired a vessel which reminded me of The African Queen.

He pretended he knew a bit about boats, but I knew better. His knowledge had been gleaned on the boating lake at Scarborough. It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in sight. The sea was calm and the water as clear as crystal. The gentle chug of the engines was quite relaxing, and I nodded off.

I awoke with a startle. The spluttering noise was deafening. Engine no more. Power no more. There we were drifting helplessly on the Adriatic and not a soul in sight. Himself was without mobile phone.

We seemed to be heading for oblivion, when we spotted an island off the port side. We both paddled as hard as we could and the boat started to move in closer.

Needless to say, he hadn't a clue where we were. The relief of seeing some figures on the distant beach was enormous. I started to wave and shout for all I was worth. The coastline came nearer. As we drew in, my heart stopped beating.

Himself was standing up in the boat, eyes wide open and jaw decidedly dropping. I recognised the expression from his encounter with Miss Wet T-shirt 2001 at his brother's 21st party.

The welcoming group on the beach were decidedly lacking in the swimwear department. The island was a nudist colony. Naked. Nude. Birthday Suits.

The Full Monty. I hid in the boat. Himself stood up, as a lover of nature, no doubt.

We had to clamber out of the boat and seek help. I looked at every pebble, every stone, every bit of seaweed. Everywhere but at the unruly members of the colony.

"Well, well, well, it's Mrs McElroy, isn't it? Welcome to Naturiski. Have you come to join us?" I wanted to disappear. I kept my gaze firmly on the sand.

"Nice to see you, Father McGregor," I spluttered. I never forget a face.

Bridget McElroy

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