For a pessimist, I’m surprisingly optimistic, or perhaps just plain stupid, you can decide which after you read this. Before we set off for Valencia, a friend who is presently there, texts to tell us that the weather has been ‘a bit sketchy’ and to bring warm clothes, and even raincoats. We check the temperatures and they are due to improve when we arrive. Easter is late this year, it is almost May and so we are not going to need things like trousers, and socks and sensible foot wear, (or so I tell myself.) Valencia, we have read, is the ‘ciudad de correr’ and LSB is most excited at the prospect of racing along the repurposed riverbed that splits the town in two. ‘Bring your trainers,’ he tells me, ‘and have a wee skip up and down. You’ll need your head showered,’ he adds, nodding in the direction of the youngsters. I am adamant, that I will not need trainers. I am on holiday, and will thus be devoting myself entirely to relaxation. I have two pairs of sandals and three summer frocks. I intend to float about, eating ice creams and jamon Iberico, drinking red wine mixed with lemonade with bits of Valencian orange bobbing about in it.
We arrive and though the sky is blue there is a notable chill in the air. The friend who gave us the clothing advice waves to us from the steps where she is waiting to board her EasyJet plane home. She is wearing a fleece, as are many other passengers in the queue. I am wearing a sleeveless jumpsuit. I am fucking freezing. I am also, as further testimony to my stupidity, hungover. Last night, I got firmly into ‘holiday mode’ with our neighbours at a BBQ. Wine was taken, then instead of heading home at a sensible hour, more wine was taken and the dancing began. Such frivolity, such fun and merriment. Such a desire to vomit this morning, but instead, houses had to be cleaned and bags packed and arrangements made for cats who are not coming on holiday.
I am so tender of head and grumbly of gut, that I cannot even countenance the thought of a nerve-steadying gin on the journey. This is unfortunate, as it is a bumpy sort of a flight, so much so that we are urged to ‘buckle up’ for almost the duration of the flight and to avoid using the toilet. No one else looks particularly bothered as we hurtle towards Spain, but so terrified am I that my Tourette’s comes out in full force. The man in front, an impassive sort of a fellow, (though one look at his wife explains a certain numbness to life and its vicissitudes) looks round in disapproval as I yelp ‘FUCK’ and ‘Jesus Christ.’ I am as perturbed as him by my involuntary and blasphemous utterings, but I am most rattled. The man has already horsed 3 small bottles of red into him and has 2 more ordered so he can reserve his judgement.
By the time we arrive, and another elderly chap has almost clunked the Small Child on the skull with his valise, I am seething, nerves positively asunder. ‘Did you leave your manners in Belfast?’ I ask, through clenched teeth, pulling the Small Child close. ‘I’m not actually from Belfast,’ he replies in a thick Brogue, but seeing the manic look in my eyes he quickly looks away, which is awkward, as EasyJet gangways are not wide and by now LSB is ratty too.
Sandals, I learn, are not appropriate travel footwear. Exposed toes are no match for wheelie suitcases and other passengers’ feet in crowded airports. I feel the beginnings of a blister and I have even set foot in a Spanish plaza. We have barely ordered our first plate of patatas bravas before LSB has googled the nearest H&M. My lips start to form the words ‘fast fashion,’ which he pre-empts because the link he shows me is about their new ‘sustainable cotton’. In the end, I never buy sensible shoes, but hobble about in my sandals with freezing toes. I do, however, frequent several small boutiques and after quizzing them in Pigeon Spanish about the origins of their wares, purchase a few items. They are neither warm nor functional, but will spruce up my wardrobe. I do buy one pashmina but the Older Child keeps nabbing it to wrap her doll in.
Most other tourists wear jeans and are attired sensibly. Two girls walk past in hot pants revealing acres of goose bumped flesh. Their accents are unmistakeably Irish. I open my mouth to pass comment but shut it again. I may not be wearing buttock skimming denim shorts but I’m still in no position to judge.