Sunday, August 28, 2005

Family Holidays

A bank-holiday weekend, and I should be hacking back the weeds in the front garden or taking the oil tank off Panne. But the motivation meter reads zero for these activities, so priority three, the blog gets done instead.

I’m just back from a short holiday in lovely Tenby, playing the part of “Uncle roG” (urgh!) to my sister’s kids. Surprise – I enjoyed myself. It’s only natural to associate feelings for places with your memories, and my memories of Tenby are from a series of wonderful family holidays there in the 1970s. Despite some truly shitty summers back then (1976 was a glorious exception) we had luck with the weather. In fact as children, we believed that Tenby had some kind of Mediterranean climate completely separate from the rest of the country. There’s a grain of truth in this notion – it certainly has a better climate than many places just a few miles inland, thanks in part to the Gulf Stream.

My sister’s kids are lovely, and not having much to do with children, I was amazed at how many hours they could spend on the beach endlessly repeating activities like filling buckets with sand and emptying them into a rock-pool, or digging holes and trenches and watching them fill up with water. Then there’s the energy factor – when was the last time you broke into a run spontaneously? Kids do it all the time; in fact it’s a struggle getting them to walk anywhere.

But the biggest surprise was seeing some of boats in the harbour. Already an anorack by the age 10, I used to know every single one of them, and four or five of the commercial ones are still there, almost 30 years since I last saw them. Impeccably maintained and sailed with care they looked as good as ever. They reminded me of a conversation I had with a car enthusiast and engineering graduate at university. His father owned a garage, and owned a number of classics at a time when the hobby was less common than today. We were talking about the oldest one his father owned, a Delage from the 1920s. I expressed surprise that it still ran. He looked at me as if I were stupid and said “It’s just like any other piece of mechanical engineering – if it’s maintained properly it’ll go on for ever.”

Not if you can’t be arsed to repair the oil tank… sorry Panne.



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