IT STARTS badly. “Other people have proper holidays!” I wail as, in torrential rain, I skid across what Ian laughingly refers to thereafter as “the cockpit” to descend to the cramped (think average area of a kitchen table) quarters of our circa 1950s motor cruiser. The idea of a cruise on the Norfolk Broads had been a lifelong dream: I’d just forgotten that I’d first had it when I was about six and hadn’t actually revisited the idea for about five decades. A minute table, the size of your average chopping board, weeny Baby Belling, and a bit-more-than-single foam mattress covered in dark brown plastic with a pile of damp bedding in the corner, was to be our holiday home for the next four days. “I’m 63 on Monday” I bawled. “This is ridiculous. Other people go on cruises for their birthdays”. I was in such shock I couldn’t even cry.
“But we are on a cruiser, darling. That’s exactly what it is!” Ian is in his element. Wind, rain, freezing temperatures, water all around and an engine and steering wheel to play with. I’ve only had two husbands and they’ve both seen holidays as a survival course: character-building and a test of endurance. The more primitive the facilities the greater the test and by definition (their definition) the gain.
“CruisES!” I screamed. “CruisES. Not ‘ERS.’ You know, like Alan and Ann and Di and Derek have. Like Ruth when she went round the world. A real holiday where you see interesting cities and meet people and have dinner with the captain and listen to live bands!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. This is a real holiday. It must be – it cost £500.” He was busy negotiating a tricky bend, trying not to hit a sailing boat and clearly running out of patience with his hysterical crew. “Now stop being silly and put the kettle on. That’ll take your mind off it.”
The dogs like it. Only by the time they’ve bagged their place on the bed there isn’t even room for me to sit down. I vow to get off at the next opportunity and book into a hotel. Maybe a different hotel for each night of the holiday – driving between them while Ian sails the boat.
In the meantime I decide to plug my earphones into my mobile and listen to the election news – it’s the Saturday after voting day, no government has emerged and Gordon’s holed up in Downing Street with still (or so he must have thought) everything to play for. I’ve forgotten the earphones. Not to worry, there is a TV. Except by the time we’ve rigged it up for the 6 o’clock news we realise the aerial doesn’t work and there are no shops open where we could buy a radio. I have my laptop of course – but, needless to say, no wi-fi.
It’s at this point I realise that nothing more is required of me than a change of perspective: stop thinking of it as a luxury holiday – correction: stop thinking of it as any kind of holiday – and remember Malc’s words as we pitched tents (endlessly) in the Lake District. “It’s a little initiative test. You’ll love it once you’ve settled in.”
So instead of de-camping to a four-star hotel I take myself ashore the very next day and buy a nice pair of winceyette pyjamas, a fleecy hot water bottle, some soft white towels and the most expensive portable radio I can find. Just like home. In fact, just like that luxury b and b in Askrigg. Only a lot more expensive.