On and off Friday

THIS week I have been on holiday, although I can’t say I’ve noticed, except that my wife has been around more than usual. How do you have a break when you don’t have a job? The week was booked long before I found myself standing on this ledge and peering over at the dizzying view.

Normally there is nothing better than a week off work, unless it’s two weeks off work. The worker says they are “off this week” and everyone knows what they mean, envies them a little perhaps, or feels slightly grumpy if they are left in the office to do extra work to cover for their happily absent colleague.

In a fairly long working life, this is the first non-holiday holiday I’ve had, the first off week when I wasn’t exactly on in the first place. But I have been keeping busy, posting on this blog every day, adding a tottering pile of words to the new novel, and exploring fresh opportunities.

Holidays are a wonder and being off makes a refreshing change from being on. At such a juncture it is tempting to comment about teachers and their holidays, the long weeks of “off” that will be coming along soon. But my son the primary school teacher might not see the funny side. Well, he sees the funny side of most things, to be fair, and he has already been exposed to a bit of family teasing about the long holidays. For all that he seems to pack an awful lot in when he is at work, as teachers do.

When he was growing up, we took teacher boy and his brother and sister on lots of holidays, mostly camping in France, nothing too grand, although there was one big family trip to Florida, courtesy of the grandparents/in-laws.

The French holidays continued a tradition, at least on my side of the family. My father was a teacher, later a lecturer, and we used the long summer holidays to travel to France. My dad has always been a full-on Francophile, something which dates to a French exchange when he was a boy.

We drove to France, two adults and three children, in a Mini-van packed with camping gear and food, and stayed there for nearly six weeks, sometimes reaching as far south as Bayonne, which my father had visited as a boy.

We stayed with the family sometimes for a while, and once my mother dragged us into the house in a panic, as Madame Ruffet (I’m making a stab at the spelling) was about to slaughter the chicken we would be having for lunch.

Other memories from Bayonne are fuzzy with time: meals that went on forever, pillows that were long hard cylinders, tiny darting lizards on a sunny wall, and my younger brother flooding the bidet.

This off week has been a time for flying visits (Newcastle, Knutsford), lunch at Bettys at Harlow Carr, with the post-prandial walk round the gardens rained off, decorating (one of the tasks my wife does she when is off) and taking part in a couple of crime-themed talks at York libraries (the sort of thing I enjoy, off or on).

Next week I will be on again which is to say off.

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