Issue 10: Bloody Holidays

10 Oct

As the cold and damp of autumn arrives, here at The Feminist Jumble Sale, we are harking back to holidays past.  In this issue, you’ll find donations from the usual suspects, with a selection of postcards from the edge. We manage to transport you on a cheap European break, to a West Country holiday let, and aboard a static caravan.  It’s not all sun, sea, sand and sex, though; emotions run high, lives are changed and family dramas erupt. Getting away from  it all; it’s easier said than done.  Wish you were here? Ah well, maybe next summer.

Next issue: Bloody Birthdays.  Please send us any donations on this theme by the end of November.

CONTENTS:

The Getaway – By Celia

Lyme Regis – by Emily

Caravan of Love – by Jim

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The Get Away – by Celia

Head down, I picked my way over a Nando’s receipt that had been ripped into pieces and thrown onto the pavement, avoiding the dog shit and oily puddles.

I wandered past the Georgian terraces, peered down into the basements used as home gyms, with static bicycles and projection screens. Five pairs of sodden espadrilles in selected sizes, from small child to adult male lay in a pile by the recycling bin.  The kids in blazers sat in the Range Rover waiting for their mother to emerge in gym clothes and drive them to school. There was a strong smell of skunk from a workmen’s van, smoking while they sat waiting to start work on the artisanal staircase down to the newly damp-proofed basement cinegym. I leaned against the railings for a while, unsure of whether I wanted to see you again.

I looked up when I felt you clasp my hand tightly in your dry and trembling fist and began pulling me through the extended family who were making their way slowly down the high street. ‘Twats,’ you muttered under your breath.

‘We’re going on holiday,’ you said. We had never been away anywhere before, from my flat, the damp and arguments.

We arrived at the coach station just before rush hour. I slept as the coach took us back along the streets we had just walked, only waking up when we reached the ferry.

The spray kept me cool as I watched you smoke roll ups on the deck. ‘Don’t worry about anything’ you said to me. And I thought ‘But I’m not worried about anything’. I didn’t say it out loud.

When it was time to get back on the coach I lay with my head against the window, my mouth furry from tiredness and dehydration.

My senses were made alert by the foreign surroundings. The coach speeding along the opposite side of the motorway or whatever the called it here. Grey plastic bollards and sun dried shrubs lined the carriageway. Road signs with places I’d never heard of and would never see with  strange accents above the vowels, their distances listed in kilometres rather than miles, they were closer. I felt nearer to this environment and to my senses, but not to you.

The change seemed to have had the opposite effect on you. You seemed jumpy, on edge.

I hoped you hadn’t brought any illegal substances with you in your jeans pocket. The coach sped over another open border. I saw bored prostitutes lounging on wooden picnic tables at the side of the road.

When we stopped at the service station, I bought beer and hot potato cakes covered in breadcrumbs. The bus passed memorials to war dead in fields and forests.

You began to complain of chest pains and moved constantly in your seat. I got the greasy  paper bag from the floor and made you breathe into it as I had done before to ease your hyperventilating. You dragged on it heavily. The other passengers were worried now, shooting us concerned looks. The sweat poured off you. You grunted at the passengers, now savage and shaking.

The driver stopped the bus in a wooded clearing by a lake. He moved towards us shouting in broken English. He wanted you off the bus. I didn’t want to leave you quite that way, but I knew I couldn’t carry on.

You tried to hold my hand, but I turned away to the picnic site at the side of the lake. A family sat eating sandwiches. I hoped they could help you. You took your rucksack and climbed down from the bus with your head bowed.

I carried on alone, eastwards.

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Lyme Regis – by Emily

Louise and I were sharing a twin bedroom with twin polyester bedspreads.  The room was dark, even with the lamps on, and despite it being May, was chilly.  It was half term – which always meant revision.  I had brought all by books on this holiday, but lacked the urge to actually open any of them.  My new personal stereo was a godsend.  It wasn’t a proper Walkman, and buying batteries for it used up a lot of my pocket money, but it played me Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and the Cure whenever I wanted, or needed.  The company of these bands helped me escape. I didn’t have to talk to my sister, the lyrics which made no sense but somehow sounded so meaningful took me somewhere else.

As I listened and pretended to concentrate on a dull chemistry textbook, the diagrams and text blurring in front of my eyes. I knew she would like me to talk to her, that she felt isolated.  But she was an idiot.  She didn’t like good music and worse, didn’t seem to realise that our mum and her lover were our sworn enemies.  I had no time for someone that stupid.

It rained every day.  The four of us went for walks along the cliffs, or the beach and I kept at a distance behind them, stared down at my unsuitable footwear as I trudged over the wet shingle.  The distance between us was a force field, keeping me safe, I hoped. I vaguely looked for fossils, while thinking about beautiful Sam Wainright and his ivory skin and how he’d recently broken my heart.   I wondered if I’d ever recover.  I doubted it.

The relentless rain and the four of us on holiday was bringing back memories of three long years before, when we had gone to Ireland.  I’d had no idea then what that holiday was the start of.  Patricia had still been newly installed in our lives and was desperate to make a good impression, to cement her relationship with mum.

Mum drove us to Liverpool then from Northern Ireland west to Donegal.  I had just been discharged from hospital with a new disease and lots of alien equipment which I now needed to use all day, every day: syringes, insulin, blood testing apparatus. It was all horrible and smelled weird. The hospital said I was fine to go on holiday, but I wasn’t convinced.  On the long drive, Patricia in the passenger seat sometimes rested her hand on mum’s left thigh.  I looked out the windows so as not to have to notice and think about what this meant.  She was also in charge of the tape deck, and played Irish folk music to get us in the mood.  I didn’t know any of the tunes and missed the tapes we always used to sing along to before.  American Pie and Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Driving through the border terrified Louise and me.  Actual soldiers with guns lay in ditches either side of the car as we were questioned, the car searched.  Patricia found it amusing that we were so scared.  It brought on one of her IRA songs once we’d got out of earshot of the men.

The rain poured through the thatch in our rented cottage, filling pans, buckets, bowls that needed emptying every hour.  Lou and I slept in an ex-hayloft, which was exciting, but damp.  I cried every time I had to do my injection, but no one seemed to want to help.  I was on my own, now, perhaps this is just what happens when you’re 11.  You just get on with it and look after yourself.  So when I ran out of insulin one week in to our stay,  it was obviously my fault.  The hospital had only given me half a bottle of insulin. We had to drive back over the border, late at night, to find a hospital.  Scared and cold in the back of the car, I was glad for the lack of folk music, this time.

On our way back home from Ireland we stopped over at Patricia’s mum’s scrubbed-clean council house in Belfast.  It smelled of bleach and air freshener and cigarettes.  I could understand the mother’s accent, but could feel the tangible tension between them.  Why had we been brought here?  After a night on camp beds with a carpet that swirled beneath us, Lou and I were given toasted potato bread with a thick layer of butter and the strongest tea I’d even seen for breakfast.  All of us were relieved to get out of there and head to the ferry.

Tea times in Lyme Regis were even more of a strain than at home.  As usual, mum did all the cooking, while Patricia sat about, talking shit and popping out the front door for a Silk Cut.  At the table we ate potatoes out of aluminium pans, and had even less to talk about than usual.  We half-heartedly planned walks and excursions.  I mentioned my dread of the exams that loomed. As soon as I could get back to my pretend schoolwork and rewind Burning From the Inside, I did.

One evening, Patricia took it upon herself to challenge my bad attitude. I was ungrateful, apparently, made no effort, hadn’t washed up for two days.  My rage found no words apart from the Fuck Off that had been brewing for three years.  I fled into the dingy twin room, slamming the door hard.

She burst in after me demanding I take back what I’d said.  She would not be sworn at, she said.  What a hypocrite, she bloody swears all the time, I thought.  I refused to take it back. This caused her to storm up and down the corridor for a while, before disappearing out the door.  She wasn’t just going for a fag.  I heard her putting on her cagoule and wellies. Good, I thought.  After she’d been gone half an hour, mum started worrying.  After an hour, I was in serious trouble.

I pretended not to care.  This was important for my pride, of course, but I needed to set an example to Louise too.  Someone had to show her, as she comforted mum. When Patricia finally returned, smelling of pubs, mum was overjoyed.  My sister was relieved.  I watched the reunion from the corridor and sickened, retreated back to the twin room, to Bauhaus singing about lunatics and graveyards. I lay on the bed and listed in my head all the things I hated about her.

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Caravan of Love – by Jim

You’re sitting in the lotus position on the hilltop overlooking the campsite, the dunes, the sea and the isles, with your long hair and bum fluff beard, wearing the heavy crucifix you’ve just shoplifted from the gift store way below us.  I’m looking down nervously, waiting for the manageress to run out and raise the alarm, but nothing happens.

You got me to ask the lady about an Airfix model on the top shelf back in the toy section, while you nicked the jewellery out front.  I know the drill by now and, I’ve got to admit, take a helluva pride in displaying a form of competence even you have to acknowledge.  Obviously it’s terrifying – just not as much as saying no to you would be.  I usually play decoy while you lift fags or booze, but you’ve got higher things on your mind on this trip.  You’re concerned about your spiritual development, and about your new relationship.  As well as the pendant for yourself, you’ve pinched a smaller piece to take home to Joyce. And you’ve sent her a postcard with “love and peace” scrawled on the bottom – the catchphrase you’ve adopted to go with your new style, though some of the skinhead paraphernalia is still intact, like the flick-knife hidden in the secret pocket of your Wrangler jacket.

You were describing Joyce’s vagina to me the other night, while we lay in the bunk room.  I didn’t need that, to be honest. The caravan was already rocking gently back and forth, while I tried to block out any mental image of what might be going on in the master bedroom.  You were sniggering and throwing sweets at me, the hard boiled ones Gran always sends wherever we go on holiday, along with the lucky dips and comics, in what she calls our “red cross parcel”.

I think I heard Mum and Dad shagging once before in the house, but I’ve never actually been shoogled around by the vibrations of it up to now – it made me feel sick, but sad as well. I feel sorry for them, especially Mum, that they feel they’ve still got to do that sort of thing, even though they’re virtually fossils.  It’s probably just a holiday treat cum chore, like the books they buy whenever we go away (Mum and Dad read one book apiece per annum – a romantic novel and something about spies or war).

I don’t mind the thought of sex entirely, only not if it’s too close to home or involving the elderly.  To be honest, the idea of you and Joyce going at it like rabbits doesn’t exactly fill my heart with joy either. I suppose I mainly don’t mind thinking about it just if it’s me doing it with someone decent, like Natalie Wood, or one of the Biggerstaff twins from regi class – the quiet one.  Even then, I would rather not talk about it.  But you want to talk about it non-stop.  And, as with everything else, you are so fucking angry about it, you’re staring at me like a psycho played by Jack Nicholson.  You could be a famous actor yourself with those eyes, I reckon, if only you would broaden your emotional range.

“Listen to this,” you say, picking up Dad’s novel.  “This is what turns the old bastard on.”

“It’s just a war book,” I say.

But you make me listen to every word of some rape scene you’ve found, involving Japanese soldiers and a young girl, even though you can hardly read and it’s the last thing you would want to do normally.

All this talk about Joyce’s wet fanny and gang bangs and Mum and Dad – it’s too weird.  Thank God the thought of the old ones at it is so utterly bogging, otherwise I’d probably get a stiffy, as I do most of the time these days, and I know that is what you want, so as to prove what a hypocritical mutant I am.

Towards the end of last term I had to permanently position my Adidas bag so as to shield my groin from public view.  Barry Kerr, who was next to me in Biology and is very mature about these things, admitted any tree with a skirt wrapped round it would almost be enough to get him going at the moment, and that’s pretty close to what actually happened to me when Mrs Reid’s skirt rode up her leg while she was sitting at the front of the English class. So big and ancient is her thigh, it was like being turned on by a glimpse of the Birnam Oak.

Still cross-legged on the hill, you start glugging from the half bottle of vodka you’ve bought with money from Dad’s wallet.  You say they can’t smell it if it’s vodka and if you go back late enough when they’re in bed it won’t matter about being half cut.  We can say we’ve made friends on the site.  We have actually been talking to a gang of boys you sarcastically call ‘the heavy mob’ because they are younger than you.  They are a bit older than me though and look cool in their aviator sunglasses and college jumpers, like Showaddywaddy. It’s the first time I have ever felt protected by you, because they are the sort of lads who would normally have beaten me to death if you hadn’t been there. They said I am the spitting double of you, which makes me feel good.

You get friendlier after a drink and put your arm round me.

“Faithful soldier,” you call me.  You tell me you’re going to leave home now you’ve turned seventeen.  You’re already doing an apprenticeship and Joyce has started her first job too.  You’re going to get a flat together.  You tell me I can come and visit.  I am excited because I think having an adult brother makes me cool.  I am also relieved because it means I will no longer have to be scared of you round the house, or generally feel terrible all the time about being a snob, a tit, a spastic, a sook and a specky, useless, fat, poofy, wee cunt.

You stagger down the hill with me by your side.  It’s dark and we fall through all sorts of bushes and bogs, being bitten to death by midges.  When we get into the caravan, Dad is sitting up waiting.  I am scared, but he just looks depressed.  He sends me off to bed and I listen through the door while he tells you he’s going to run you home in the morning and leave you there.  By the time the rest of us come back at the weekend you’ve to be out of the house.  You can learn the hard way what it means to be responsible and we’ll see how long you survive if you think you can pish everything you earn against a wall.

Nothing is said while we lie in the dark or the next day over cornflakes.  I’ve always liked the Kellogg’s selection packs Mum buys for going on holiday, but even the choice between Frosties and Ricicles fails to cheer me up.  Me and Mum watch you and Dad drive away and Mum cries and tells me to go for a walk, so I wander around on my own, hiding from Showaddywaddy, until I’m too

hungry and go back for a sandwich.  Mum has composed herself and tells me that you have a long road to travel but there is nothing any of us can do because they’ve already tried everything, but at least I am not like that – I will make something of myself.

I go into the bunk room and find a tiny box on my pillow.  It is a St Christopher’s medal you must have taken from the shop.  I hide it in some bushes, under a stone, nowhere near our caravan, in case the shop phones the police and they come with sniffer dogs.  But I’ll go back for it just before we set off home.  And when I’m wearing it I will try to make my eyes go like yours – scary but beautiful – though I’m not sure if it’ll work through my glasses.

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