Our younger son from time to time airs a grievance with whose origins I sympathise: unlike his siblings, he has never experienced the joys of a foreign holiday.
While we are careful not to crow about it in front of him, he is aware that, before he was born, his siblings and parents once spent ten days in Florida visiting various theme parks and basking in the solar sensation that is the Sunshine State.
This holiday was facilitated by the generosity of my husband’s sister and brother-in-law, who accompanied us to the US.
A week and a half in the company of those with whom you don’t usually cohabit can test the closest of relationships but we had a wonderful time all told and treasure a wealth of memories.
Understandably, our youngest child is envious, and often expresses a wish that he could journey abroad, with all the experiences that opportunity encompasses: travelling in a plane, using different currency, hearing a foreign language – or perhaps a familiar language in a foreign accent.
His nine-year-old sensibilities yearn for such cultural richness.
I was older than our young son when I went on my first holiday abroad, a month-long trip to South Africa when I was 12 and my brother was 13 that fulfilled a long-held dream of my father’s to acquaint his family with his birthplace.
It was a truly memorable and momentous trip, highlighted by locating kin – my dad’s numerous siblings- sightseeing, safari-ing and learning a little of the beauty of our heritage.
I will never forget the experience and, although I am by no means a seasoned traveller – I have been overseas fewer than ten times and have never been bitten by the travel bug – I am sympathetic to the desire to see a different part of the world, and was moved to indulge my son when he had a mournful moment at bedtime on the first weekend of the summer half-term break.
With despondency clouding his tone he informed me that, while he had never set foot outside England, three of his classmates – and not for the first time – were heading to foreign climes for the holidays, sunny destinations that involved plane travel, foreign currency and – it is to be hoped – an unfamiliar tongue.
I gently reminded him that, among other contraindications, we have a nervous puppy, beloved of us all, who could potentially suffer extreme distress through the provision of unfamiliar care were we to go away.
He understood but the disappointment remained, and as I consoled him a small seed took root in my brain and began to germinate.
I said nothing to him but later spoke to the rest of the family about how we could tick an item off his wish list.
We secretly schemed, perfecting a plan for the following Sunday, when we were all due to be at home together.
Despite several ill-timed slips of the tongue – all by my husband – we managed not to divulge the details of our plot until the night before, when we grandly announced to my son that we would be leaving the country for the day, and going to – Wales!
He was touchingly thrilled as we discussed how long the journey to Cardiff would take, who would go – all of us, plus Miss Pup – and what we would do once we reached our destination (we had no idea).
He went to bed with a happy heart.
Despite the excitement the following morning, we were slow to depart, and became immediately embroiled in a trail of traffic quitting Devon after the extended Jubilee weekend.
As a family of long journey lovers, we were unperturbed by the length of time in the car; we enjoyed good music, a coffee break, and the novelty of a puppy harnessed between two of the children in the vehicle’s middle row en route.
We eventually broke free of the congestion and made it onto the Prince of Wales bridge, where to our delight we soon espied a welcome sign featuring the instantly recognisable red dragon that announced our entrance to Wales – we had done it!
Our young son was greatly intrigued by the alien text printed beneath the English writing, something we came across a good deal once we were in Cardiff.
He spent a fair amount of time attempting to articulate it – quietly, thank goodness as, although not overly familiar with the native tongue, I remain unconvinced that his pronunciation was accurate.
I am not ashamed to report that we acted like total tourists while in Wales, which is to say we ate ice creams, wrote and sent postcards, and wandered around looking like numpties with our phones set to camera and our faces set to clueless.
We sampled local cuisine (the most beautiful warm Welsh cakes in a variety of flavours), espied impressive landmarks (Cardiff Castle and the Principality Stadium) and vowed to return when time was on our side.
At bedtime that evening, our youngest child gave me an extra squeezy hug, and thanked me for his trip abroad.
Ah, that all childish desires could be so easily satisfied! Next stop: Scotland.
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