I’m 53 now but I persist in thinking of the year in terms of the school calendar.  My year begins in September, when I have an urge to go out and buy new shoes and tights and pencils, and put brown paper covers on all my books.

So even though I’m supposed to be finishing There Is No Dog (I’m close now, very close), in my heart of hearts I’m on vacation.  This means wearing the same slightly grubby clothes day after day, going barefoot, eating leftovers from last night’s barbecue for breakfast and swimming at night in moonlight.

There are a bunch of genuine teenagers with us here on the beach, and they are (quite naturally) disgusted at the thought of their embarrassing parents getting drunk and laughing till they fall off chairs, but the upside is that they go for days without any supervision at all.

The wondrous KM Peyton came for dinner last week with her entourage and we sat outdoors with hurricane candles, eight of us and the dogs, a bit bundled up and huddled together because – well, because it’s England and it’s summer.  I’d stopped counting empty wine bottles when the kids loomed up out of the dark saying they were going for a swim.  Two thirteen-year-olds and an eleven-year-old.  “Be careful!” we warned, ever the responsible parents.  “Try not to drown.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be in charge,” promised the youngest solemnly.

It’s a hundred yards over undulating hills of pebble to the water, and there was no moon that night, and the fabulously acerbic Ms Peyton looked at us admiringly.  “Hmm,” she said, “it’s just like the good old days, before people worried about their children dying in accidents.”

We felt very proud. And a little later, slightly chastened.  So the whole party trekked down to the water and sat on the edge while the waves crashed in the dark and the kids experimented with floating in ways that made them look dead.

“Still alive?” we shouted down at intervals.

“No.” came the inevitable reply.

I can’t bear the thought of going back to school.


10 thoughts on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation

  1. bookwitch 9 years ago

    So what’s stopping you? And I’m doing my slob bit here to help out.

    Have just sent my youngest baby home from holiday and then onto a train to go to space school on her own. And she can’t even phone me, with the mobile contract she’s on… Haven’t heard whether she arrived or is simply missing.

  2. Meg 9 years ago

    Assuming missing. Then you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  3. Kathryn Evans 9 years ago

    Ah Meg you so make me laugh and thank Dog for it….I wouldn’t dream of stopping son whittling sticks and lighting fires…though i did stop him lighting fire in middle of sitting room floor…..

  4. C 9 years ago

    This post reads like a vivid excerpt from one of your books, by which I mean that I was sucked into the scene by all the lovely imagery and witty dialogue … Ah, so anyway … Last night I stumbled upon my proof edition of What I Was, and re-read your introduction to the proof, which begins: “OK, so Stef Penney’s never been to Canada. I didn’t attend a boys’ boarding school in Suffolk in 1962 either …” And seeing as how it’s the only proof of yours I’ve got, I was wondering if the other proof editions (How I Live Now etc) also come with introductions, and if so, whether you’d be willing to put them up somewhere on the site? Just because they’re amusing, entertaining and slightly enlightening.

    1. Meg 9 years ago

      Hi C
      Now there’s an interesting question. I’m not sure whether I’ve done any other intros, and chances are they’ll embarrass me horribly if I have, but I’ll have a trawl through books/computer files and see if I can find any. It’s a great idea for those days when you just…can’t…think…of anything interesting enough to blog about… xmeg

  5. C 9 years ago

    You’ve made my August. 🙂

  6. Vivian Oldaker 9 years ago

    I loved this, Meg. It really made me laugh.
    And now I know why I haven’t anything since July! I’ve just come back from the English seaside and at the moment I think I think I could quite happily spend everyday forever walking along the tide- line in the mornings, picking up driftwood to burn in the outside “fatboy” stove – which keeps away the hypothermia that would otherwise result from sitting outside drinking wine with best friends long after a sensible bedtime!
    I wish September wasn’t so close. I for one am not ready for “back to school.”
    Your reminded me of that bit from “Swallows and Amazons” where the mother writes to the father to ask if he thinks if it’s safe for the children to go out on the water. His reply, in a telegram “Better drowned that duffers, if not duffers won’t drown.”

  7. Vivian Oldaker 9 years ago

    Dem and blast it!
    I meant to say: “Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers won’t drown.”

  8. kokorako 9 years ago

    Well thank you for this entry! As a result I’ve now tracked down and enjoyed two of the three Flambards, and just today ordered the last and the DVD. (Lovefilm doesn’t have 1-3 which is essential…). I just can’t get enough of Christina, Woodpigeon and the dastardly Mark. I love the Essexness of it (did you know there is a Flambards Experience theme park in Cornwall???). Perhaps wouldn’t have been so profligate on Amazon if it wasn’t September and the back to school feeling. Felt so defeated by sending my girls out in uniform again (despite them being happy to go) that I uncharacteristically took to my bed for 24 hours alternately shivering and wretching as if to shake off the relaxed pleasures of the summer. Bodies and seasons are strange, no wonder I (at least) need books to make sense of life.

  9. Meg 9 years ago

    Oh, lucky you, discovering Flambards for the first time. Now move on to Fly By Night, The Team, and the Swallow Summer series. And if you’re feeling really generous, share them with your daughter!

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