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Widow’s hols

For fifty years I went on holiday with Nick – from the very first time when we stayed in a mobile home in Norfolk, the year I left college, to the last when I drove him to Dorset six months before he died. Occasionally I popped off with a friend for a few days and of course there were many years of memorable family holidays when the boys were small. And while Nick’s father was still alive (he died in 2014 less than five years before Nick did) we several times rented a big house and had a four-generational week in France, Spain or in Britain.

But mostly it was just him and me: all over Britain and, latterly, all over the world.  And now it isn’t. So what, as a widow, does one do about holidays? In practice not a lot this year because Covid cancelled everything although I did, very luckily as it turned out, have a few days with a friend in Budapest in January and a fabulous week in Texas with my younger son in February.

Then, last weekend I went to the North Norfolk coast with my elder son and his wife to a holiday let where we were joined by his adult daughters, 21 and 18, for three days. I had a lovely time – thanks to their warmth and generosity, splendid weather and a glorious location – but it’s a strange, novel feeling suddenly to be the party’s single matriarch rather than a mover and shaker.

In many ways it’s like being a child again. You simply keep quiet while your “parents” aka your totally competent, efficient son and daughter-in-law, load the car, drive it and make decisions such as when and where to stop for lunch. Your job is to smile, acquiesce and say “thank you”.

The difference is that you have a lifetime of experience and memories to inform your behaviour. You know what is likely to irritate and try very hard to avoid it. Thus, let the kitchen be your daughter-in-law’s domain and don’t dob about in it when she’s busy. Don’t express too many opinions or interrupt conversations. Don’t hog the bathroom. Have your credit card handy and pay for lots of things. Agree readily to all plans. Don’t keep anybody waiting. Oh, and encourage your granddaughter to buy a pretty top she doesn’t need so that she can come out (to the saleswoman) with the immortal line: “It’s Granny’s fault. She’s a very bad influence”.

I must have passed. They’re talking about doing it again. Phew.

Photo: In Walled Garden at Holkham Hall with son and daughter-in-law.

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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