It upsets me to hear a child crying for any reason, but I have to admit that, on this day, I was almost glad there was a little girl screaming incessantly as we waited to take off, because it meant that if Freddie kicked off, he wouldn’t be the only kid disturbing the peace, or the first. But for now he was sitting nicely, absorbed in the new ‘Magic Writer’ I had surprised him with. He wasn’t quiet — he talked non-stop, but in a happy voice at normal volume, saying the words he wanted me to help him write. First and foremost, the words he chose were the names of people in the family.
We had made it onto the plane.
Despite her assertions that she would refuse to board, once the staircase into the aircraft stretched in front of us, Big Sister took a deep breath, swallowed her first-flight nerves, and stepped up. When push comes to shove she has the ability to face her fears; it’s one of her greatest strengths.
Those steps must have seemed gigantic to Freddie with his tiny legs, but he scrambled up quickly, with me steadying him by the handle on the top of his ‘pack-pack’ (a small backpack and leading rein combined).
I hate take-off, but Freddie never turned a hair. It didn’t seem to bother him that we were miles above the ground, flying even higher than the clouds. He doesn’t overthink things, he simply lives each moment as it comes and for what it is. He wanted to stand on his seat to get a better view out of the window. I strenuously avoided even the merest glance!
Amazingly, Big Sister actually enjoyed take-off; she peeped out of the window and was fascinated to see the ground disappearing away. She took loads of photographs throughout, and speculated on where we might be based on what she could see below us.
So, the flight passed peacefully. The only hairy moment was when Daddy took Freddie to the toilet, and then tried to use it himself with Freddie still in the cubicle. I don’t think he’ll be doing that again.
It seemed hardly any time at all before we were bumping down on Menorcan tarmac. So early in the season Mahon airport was almost eerily quiet, but that suited us very well. Our arrival there went a lot more smoothly than our departure from Manchester. We stepped out of the terminal to a freshly-laundered day, all gleaming sunshine and well-groomed palm trees.
‘This is lovely,’ said Daddy. ‘Everywhere is so clean.’
His smile was abruptly switched off though, when we reached our apartment a few miles away. He started to make discontented mutterings about price paid in proportion to level of grot encountered. It was basic, to be sure, and the bathroom was gloomy because it had no windows, but it was only meant to be a place to sleep, shower and, maybe, eat. I envisaged spending the vast majority of the time outside in that lovely sunshine. Several times he complained that there was no TV, and several times I reminded him that all the programmes would be in Spanish, which neither of us speak. Worst of all, the kettle had seen better days and I had ‘neglected’ to pack any teabags (I never had any intention of packing teabags). We decided to go and explore, and find a shop.
More complaints followed: about the wind (Menorca is a windy place, but it’s refreshing on a hot day), and about the fact that the place where we were staying was a resort, and not a ‘proper’ town (which is what you get on a package holiday).
‘But I wanted authentic Spain,’ he said.
‘In which case you’ll be drinking coffee, not PG Tips.’
We found the ‘supermercado’, which had the required teabags. We also bought a few food items that would be recognisable to Freddie, to ease the strangeness of it all for him. On our way back from the shop we discovered that one of the resorts three swimming pools was very close to our apartment. Time to break out the new swimwear …
… and relax. On a sunlounger, in a bikini. Daddy began to thaw out, and got chatting to other people around the pool. Big Sister kept Freddie amused by giving him rides in the water on a big inflatable. When Daddy went to fetch drinks from the bar, he came back with cold beers for us. Oh yes! Now I was REALLY ON HOLIDAY.
After about an hour or so we decided to venture out again, and went to find the beach. It was about six o’clock by now, and most people must’ve gone off to eat, because we had the sand virtually to ourselves. It was still reasonably warm, and Freddie hovered at the edge of the sea, daring it to get his toes. When it did he ran squealing up the beach. Daddy dipped his foot in and declared it worse than the North Sea.
‘It’s warmer than that in Cornwall!’
It would have been pedantic to point out that in Cornwall you would be dipping your toes in either the Atlantic or the Channel. Big Sister immediatley made a nonesense of it, anyway, by plunging in up to her thighs (then remembering that she had pulled her favourite jeans on over her bikini to walk from the pool). Chilled music was drifting from a bar on the dunes. It was surrounded by a boardwalk and pots of flowers, and looked very inviting.
The beer here was even better, and the children had chocolate milkshakes the smell of which was a treat in itself. We strolled back along the boardwalk in the gathering dusk, sandy and relaxed, with Daddy very much looking forward to a nice cup of tea.
Inside the apartment, which was gloomy even in daylight, it was now completely dark. Daddy flicked the light switch. Nothing. The lights, the fridge, and the kettle were all dead. There was no electricity …