I was born with wanderlust permanently ingrained in my soul. Anywhere but here was something that spurred me on to greater endeavour at a very young age. I used to wander off. Regularly. My mother would turn round and I was miles away. Again.

I always wanted to be some place else. Particularly foreign places.

My parents would up sticks at the beginning of the summer holidays and we would head out of the UK for a fortnight (I have been a huge fan of fourteen whole days ever since!).

The adventure always began with packing. Boy… did it ever! My mother is a just in case person. (In case of what? My father would gently enquire!). She truly belonged to the days of gracious liners, steamer trunks and a line of sweating porters schlepping her monstrous accumulation of luggage down the concourse in her wake. I vividly remember our early holidays. Partly because I would be squished between huge piles of suitcases throughout the journey.

Hand luggage was something that did not need to be raised by forklift. My mother once took a suitcase containing 27 pairs of shoes for a fortnight’s holiday. And no, that is not rational.

Suitcases were inevitably retrieved from the attic at least a month before departure. In vain my father would point out that everything would be creased. It was washed and packed and that was that!

In addition to these suitcases, my mother was an avid shopper. It was absolutely inevitable that she would buy more clothes on every trip. And she did. I have been forcing suitcases shut since before I hit puberty. I am a mean suitcase stuffer! One of the side effects of this excess was that the suitcases got heavier, and this was before someone thought to put wheels on the bottom. My physical size and shape have probably got a lot to do with the fact that I spent a vast amount of my early life schlepping suitcases. By the time I was five or six I was lifting cases, this stayed with me throughout my life.

Heckscher family holidays were defined by chaos. My mother whilst highly decorative, was a complete scatter brain. She could lose anything. My father was endlessly harassed, but somehow we would muddle on to the next stop and we survived these forays into France, Spain and Italy relatively easily. Both my parents spoke French, my father because he spent a good deal of the war in French speaking places, and my mother because she had been to classes at the YMCA.

I am off travelling at the end of May. And believe me when I say that this trip is going to buck the trend for Heckscher chaos. There will be lists, there will be one SMALL carryon bag – in this life there are two classes of luggage, carry on and lost – I am taking two pairs of shoes, and the flip flops I plan to wear on the flight. I was a professional administrator, it will be organised and nothing will get lost.

At least I do not wear the thing that has vexed me since I was old enough to know what they are. Contact Lenses. While I appreciate there are many wearers of these things out there, and I applaud your fortitude in wanting to stick your finger in your eye on a daily basis, and all the attendant hassle associate with the things, I will pass thank you very much.

When you have spent as much time as I have, on my hands and knees, crawling around the floor, looking for my mother’s missing contact lens, you will appreciate that the things drive me nuts. The genius who invented the pot with the springy plastic clips I personally wish to take outside and show him the error of his ways. You know it was a him. No woman would ever be that stupid. Springy plastic prongs that fire said wretchedly small item clear across a fifteen foot room? Huh!!! REALLY??

There was the joyful holiday in Greece. Not only did I have to contend with being very white and very English (sunburn, peeling like a ticker-tape parade!!), we were unprepared for electricity failures in mountain villages, cockroaches the size of dogs, my mother lost a contact lens in every place we stayed. (Three pairs). Several thousand years of culture and history did distract me from going nuclear. Just.

I love Greece. Classical architecture, history, ruins (I like ruins)… my travelling soul was appeased. My BS meter was going spare.

No, this trip will be joyous. This trip will be organised. And for one glorious week, my saintly employee will discover the idiosyncrasies of life in a Heckscher household. (Heaven help her!).



5 responses »

  1. “and my mother because she had been to classes at the YMCA”

    Something about the balance of this – your Dad learning from wartime necessity and your Mom learning by going to classes at the Y – tickled me. Your Mom sounds like my granddmother in regards to packing. My grandparents lived part of the year in Florida, and they took a boat back and forth with them from Kentucky. They did this largely because Mummmum NEEDED to fill the boat with the junk. On the other hand, these were the people who would decide to leave one morning and be packed and gone by that afternoon, nevermind that which was left behind!

    • My father was endlessly patient, seventeen years older than my mother and the only time he would get bent out of shape was when the store card bill would land on the coconut matting with a dull thud, like a telephone directory. He rarely talked about the war, he spoke French quite well, and German too. That part is a whole other post.

      Our holidays were like our lifestyle. Idiosyncratic.

    • I think I will manage it (fingers crossed). I’m staying with friends, so I can always wash stuff.

      I have been incredibly lucky, Dad was a Londoner of German descent, Mum’s Australian (she wanted to try her luck on the London Stage, so she dragged my Grandmother halfway round the world for a six month holiday in 1950, it was thirty eight years before we went back!), they both travelled a lot before I was born, and then when I was three our foreign trips started.

  2. Have a wonderful trip. I love to travel but don’t get to do it as often as I’d like. I am going to France in a month so that excited me (first time across seas).

    As for contacts, yeah, they sure can be a pain and sticking my finger in my eye took some getting used to.

    I wish you well on your trip.

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