It was the point at which my husband lay on the bitumen carpark of Jurien Bay IGA, writhing and howling in pain, that I realised our holiday – of which we were only 90 minutes into – was not going entirely to plan.
In fairness, any holiday that begins with both parents threatening to turn the car around and go home BEFORE WE’VE EVEN LEFT THE DRIVEWAY is never going to be a roaring success. And, I mean, I never have HIGH expectations for family holidays, but rolling around in a carpark after Alice has somehow – inexplicably – managed to impale her daddy’s toe on a discarded bottletop? That’s something of a new low, even by our shit-holiday standards. And hey, we KNOW shit holidays. We’ve had shit holidays in Manchester airport hotels and rained-out farmyard cottages, but never – until now – a holiday quite as shit as this one. THIS holiday – perhaps because it was so desperately needed – set new standards in the shit stakes.
We’d booked a holiday house in the charming seaside town of Jurien Bay, which I hadn’t visited for 35 years. Mum pulled a face when I told her we were going to Jurien Bay. It’s the same face she pulls when I say I’m going to park in the CBD on a weekday. You know that face? The GOOD LUCK WITH THAT SHIT face? Yeah, that face.
But MATE, the house looked good. Modern, weatherboarded and featuring all mod cons, it was supposedly located – AND I QUOTE – close to the beach. The photos were magnificent. The photos were also taken at least 18 years ago and in a flattering light. In addition, the photos failed to capture the home’s location on a half-abandoned suburban estate outside of the town, which felt exactly like the suburban estate where we pay a third of the price to live every day of the fucking week, but much, much (MUCH) shitter. Finally – and most significantly – the photos successfully glossed over the fact that the house was a complete fucking shithole.
The alarm bells rang when we turned up and were, like, where’s the front door? Oh, right, through that fucking jungle of weeds hiding what was once the path and – indeed – the front door. Oh, it’s a glass front door is it? That’s weird, because it’s so dirty that it’s completely fucking opaque now. We all walked in and said NOTHING, not even the kids, because we are nothing if not idiot optimists, and we were all thinking IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD, CAN IT? Even Alice. Alice, who hugged a bottle of shower gel because it was pink and bought just for her, was thinking, THIS IS BAD, THIS IS REAL BAD. And I’m walking around thinking DON’T LOOK IN THE OVEN, DON’T LOOK IN THE OVEN, and so of course I look in the fucking oven, which is the point at which I start thinking, DON’T LOOK UNDER THE SOFA, DON’T LOOK UNDER THE SOFA, so of course I look under the sofa, which is then the point that I think, DON’T CHECK THE BEDS, DON’T CHECK THE BEDS, so of course I check the (unmade) (stained) beds and text my beautiful French cousin-in-law saying I CAN’T FUCKING STAY HERE.
I realise – I hold up my hand and wholeheartedly admit – this makes me sound like the whitest, most privileged, middle-class brat in the first world. I’m okay with that. As my dear friend Mairead pronounced, when I told her when we were home after fewer than 23 hours away, it’s okay to KNOW YOUR TRUTH. I know my truth, and I know I can’t sleep in a bed that smells of fag ash and fanny.
At this point in the holiday – after a two-hour drive and a 15-minute breakdown – family relations were strained. And then I turned to Paul and said, “I can’t stay here,” and he was, like, I KNOW, but I’m not ready to admit this yet, because I booked the fucking stupid place and paid upfront with a $500 bond. But we weren’t there yet. We are still at the GRIN AND BEAR IT stage, so we got back in the car and went to buy some butter, because as well as paying upfront for the house, Paul had also forgotten the butter.
And so, the sad-angry family went to buy some butter. The sad-angry family, in a car driven by the matriarch (me, because I get car sick), turned off the half-abandoned suburban estate and on to the main road – the MASSIVE, BUSY main road which leads all the way from Perth to Jurien Bay. The sad-angry family then realised that they were being followed by an even angrier police car, beckoning them over to the side of the road. The sad-angry family were then told that the speed limit had dropped from 110 to 80 to 50 and – lo and behold – they were in the 50 km/h zone. They were not driving at 50km/h. To add insult to injury, the sad-angry family was then told it was double demerit points that very weekend, with a double fine, too.
The matriarch (me) began to cry.
Alice began to cry because she thought we were all going to prison. She still does. It’s like when I was five and my mum got into a fight with a man on a merry-go-round, and I spent a week waiting for the knock on the door. It’s obviously genetic.
Paul said, “Come on, let’s go and buy some butter.”
Which led us to the point where – and we don’t know HOW and we don’t know WHY – Alice managed to flick a bottle top in such a fashion that it wedged under Paul’s toenail and half-crippled him.
The sad-angry family made the decision – even before they walked to a café that had closed three years earlier – to go home.
The sad-angry family is now home, and happy again.
The moral of this story: don’t try new shit. It ends in tears, demerit points and abject poverty. It does make you really, really love your lovely home, though.