Photos That Husbands Take

We are in Greece – hallelujah and praise the Lord above. We took a punt on a summer holiday, like wide-eyed Pollyannas still believing in joy and curiosity and risk and fun and, hoped for the best. Weeks before Holibob Day four of us got Covid, then recovered, took PCR tests, still came up positive, hid in the house for a bit, waded through the confusing and stressful requirements for travelling in our screwy pandemic world, booked a villa and plane tickets and crossed our fingers that the testing and the government both would let us out of rainy old England and into somewhere sunny and not deeply depressing.

Reader – we made it.

Of course, we had hiccups on the way – some random taxi vomiting, EasyJet telling us our tests had been taken at the wrong time -“you’ve missed your testing window by two hours – easy to do”, they said, and *kindly* offered us the retesting booth which probably cost another thousand pounds until one of them looked at the tests and said “actually, you are fine, please go ahead” – and then stopped us again because the scary Locator forms only showed up half the kids which is, like, against the law or something, but we eventually got on that plane, dammit.

We landed in Greece just in time for an hour-long wait at the car hire place because it seemed like HSBC were refusing to let us use our credit card to get the car out of the lot. 45 minutes later, still on hold to HSBC (“your call is important to us, please wait while we connect you to a team member who can help” ad infinitum), we sweated in the 36 degree heat and wondered who we could tap for 1700 quid at short notice. As 10pm segued into 11pm, the car hire guy realised it wasn’t HSBC causing the card to decline, but in fact, ’twas his card machine. Apparently he just needed to punch in the numbers manually. Punch? I’ll tell you about the need to punch something….ha, no. Never punched anything in my life. But anyway. We got onto the road, followed the local taxi guy who had been hired to drive us to the villa and arrived, three hours later, at one thousand o’clock.

But see here! What a joy to be on holiday! The food is very much about lamb and garlicky yoghurt things and oregano and olive oils and daytime white wines and cocktails on the beach. There is swimming, and there are beaches and pools and sunburn and heat rash and bikinis. I have packed all of my seven bikinis and mostly I feel fine in them, even though we are also here with two flawless teenage beauties who exude youth like, well, like the young do. All unmarked skin and eyeliner flicks and skimpiness. I just try to accept their glowing gorgeousness with the good-nature of a middle-aged person who had her time, once, long ago. I mostly feel like my 43 year old body could be much worse. That’s my mantra. I could be waaaaay worse. Which is a bit of a bittersweet mantra and perhaps not quite what the body positivity people are aiming for.

So yesterday we drove to a waterfall that the cocktail waitress named Connie – who grew up in the village where we are staying in an extraordinary mid century hybrid house – told us about. It required a scary drive up into the mountains and back down again, and Amanda’s hire car kept skidding in front of us. We found the waterfall, underneath some ruins, and it was all freezing rushing water, clean and clear and full of hundreds of tiny frogs in leafy little muddy pools. We walked until we got to a tricky bit and most of us climbed up a little rock face to the top. Mark took photos of my attempt, looking up my shorts and showing the clenched rough terrain of my thighs and later, a shot with me in a bikini top and my six-kids-later doughy stomach sitting atop my shorts, and posted these on Facebook.

WHY oh WHY would you do that?

I do understand that the poor man is totally lacking in vanity – for himself, as well as on behalf of me – and that his photos aren’t about my thighs or stomach as such – more about the waterfall and the adventure and the fun and the pride he was feeling that I was scarpering up a little cliff face without being a big baby about it, but c’mon man. He’s been hitched to my vain little caboose for such a long time. He’s been witness to my anxieties and fasting regimes and heavy photograph editing and so he knows. He knows. I deleted them, and he told me to get off his phone and snatched it back, annoyed that I had ruined his photo essay.

The Novel

Remember the novel? Since the full-time job came my way, rendering me unable to do anything past 4:30pm except to heat up some leftovers, add parsley and rename it to the bored and left-over-savvy layabouts I call my children before I walk the dog, do admin, put the baby to bed and do boring-but-necessary domestic stuff until the telly comes on at 8pm and I surrender myself it to, fully and wholeheartedly, the novel has lain on this laptop. There was a day that I realised the kids had infected this laptop with all sorts of bugs and viruses and so spent some time deleting everything, including the novel, but I spliced it back together pretty well, and since then it has gotten all dusty and irrelevant. I did try to fix it once, and when I got into it, the rewriting and the proper planning and the scrubbing out of lines and descriptions that used to seem funny and now just feel embarrassing, well – it was fun – but there are other demands on my time now. Now, I am one of those women who have a proper job as I am fond of reminding those layabout children.

Sample dialogue:

No, I cannot find your swimming googles…

You can fry your own eggs…

No, you’ll have to walk the dog before he dies of some urinary tract malfunction…

Somebody, make some dinner or we will be having parsley with rice and unspecified chicken again…

BECAUSE I HAVE A JOB NOW, INGRATES!

That’s the gist, anyway.

So, the novel might become a reimagined thing. Ashley and I, (co-creator extraordinaire) wondered about an Instagram drop, as it were. Think Charles Dickens dropping his chapters to an enthralled Victorian audience, storming the newsagents as each new piece emerged. The mini-cliffhangers! The complex plots! The ability to rewrite stuff in small bits! It’s a brave new literary world out there, fellas. I shall keep you posted.

In Other News

I keep hurting myself on his holiday. Day two saw me bringing the lunch stuff from the pool area back into the kitchen, wearing my old silver birkenstocks. My feet were seemingly on holiday too, and didn’t want to lift very high with each step, and the birkenstocks were hanging low, and they collided with uneven tiling around the pool and I did a slow motion faceplate onto the tiles, chipping my tooth, bruising my knees and elbows and wedding ring finger, and breaking the only really large platter they have in this stylish (but, platter-wise, unfunctional) villa. Then the day after, I was brazenly walking like a big strong girl over the same pool area and, perhaps emboldened by the lovely local white wine, rammed my foot into a sharp piece of metal guttering and sliced the underside of it open. Now my foot hurts, and my tongue cannot keep from worrying my rough chipped front tooth. Luckily I can count on my doughy bits to keep me somewhat armoured if I find myself facedown on the tiles again.

Mess and Sleep

The kids – all seven of them, not counting the blameless baby – have used 57 different cups and glasses over a 24 hour period, and left them in places that are definitely not a) the kitchen, or b) near the dishwasher. We know this because we have counted, and today is the day of the Reckoning. The older ones also like to chat and play cards with each other until about 2 or 3am, and then sleep until bloody lunchtime. WHAT IS THAT? I say this as an aggrieved middle aged person with not only a doughy belly but also an internal alarm clock that nudges me awake at 6am, and also an actual alarm clock called Remi who stage-whispers at me if I am awake at 6:15am and could he have some milk please? Oh, to be young and flawless and ignorant of drinking glasses etiquette and to have the energy to be awake longer than about 11:07pm. So last night I came out of the hot bedroom and stage-whispered to the teenagers to go to bed. At 2am, then at 2:30am. I don’t want to be a totally killjoy, but….yeah, I actually do.

Photos For Your Viewing Pleasure

Here’s the villa
Here’s the baby
More villa
Red happy beach faces
Some of us are not at all body conscious. A good thing
Late night dinners by the Aegean Sea, no less
More villa – note the glasses have been tidied away
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