Saturday 19 August 2017

The poignant end of the two-week holiday

Brendan O'Connor: I have now discovered that two half stones make a stone
Brendan O'Connor: I have now discovered that two half stones make a stone
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

I was devastated leaving my mother's house last week. Despite the fact that the sun was briefly shining, it felt like summer was over. I actually found myself close to tears driving away. It was only the end of the first week of August, but the holidays were over, I was heading into a few weeks of intense work, and the annual gathering of the family of origin - that is as annoying as it is fun - was over too. I guess I'd also been with the kids pretty constantly for two weeks, and we were all close in that way you get.

As always, the kids seemed to have come on hugely in the two weeks. Holidays are like growth hormones, and you're always tempted to wonder what kind of superhumans they would grow into if you were on holidays all the time. Of course, I was like a different person too. Not necessarily a better one, but a different one. It was my first time having a two-week summer holiday since I began working. People say that a two-week holiday is different, that you go into a different zone of relaxation, that you're only getting into the swing of winding down in the first week.

To be honest, I'm not sure what I think of it. Two weeks was complicated. For starters I think you go a bit too native in two weeks. By the time I had to face the real world again, I had basically decided that work isn't for me. I'm not the kind of person who is cut out for having a job. Or if I do have to have a job, it should be something like a globe-trotting nomad, or professional father (only for the fun bits). It's like the soma, or whatever drugs they pump into office air-conditioning to keep you content in your job, wears off too much in two weeks and you get a little taste of freedom, you see too much of a glimpse of that little tent of blue we prisoners call the sky.

But of course, as the week has gone on, I have settled back into my box and I realise that really I love it. (What? Come on! I do! You do realise there's always a chance one of my superiors is actually reading this).

Two weeks also means a fortnight of continuous, low-level drinking, with the odd spike up to higher-level drinking. That might sound like fun to you, but I'm at the stage in life where if I drink two days in a row I get glimpses of the terrible bleakness of everything. Of course, you can put that off slightly by tippling away each day, but there is always a price to be paid somewhere along the line. My wife vacated the bed the other night because of abnormal leg activity, so the poison is clearly working its way out of me through the feet.

Two weeks also meant that I managed to put on a full half stone. This is slightly problematic because I still hadn't shifted the Christmas half stone. I have now discovered that two half stones make a stone. I'm not going to keel over or need to be airlifted out of my house or anything, but I have had to move to my slightly fatter clothes.

Also, when you have tendencies like I do, you need to address the situation before it gets out of control, because if you don't it just keeps going. We don't get fat deliberately - it creeps up on us through a mixture of bad habits and denial. For example, some small part of my brain is still blaming my weight gain on a faulty weighing scales and the fact that my shirts have shrunk. I haven't got bigger, the rest of the world has just got smaller.

It didn't help either that it had suddenly become winter when I came back. As I headed out bright and early on Monday morning to start my new regime with a first-light dip in the sea, I swear to God there was mild frost on the roof of the car, and there's no doubt there is definitely an early-morning nip in the air.

There is talk of it being warmer again by the time you read this, but I think we all know that is just a brief reprieve. The summer is over, another year of it gone by.

The sentimental part of me gets sad that the kids will never be this young and sweet again, that nothing will ever be the same, that we are all getting older and closer to death, that soon they won't want to come on holidays any more with us, that life is speeding up as it goes along, and that all these wonderful phases are just phases and we must leave them behind.

But we must remember that there are always new phases around the corner, and hopefully they will be even better, and as I start to feel that bracing bite of cleansing cold in the sea, I remember that autumn and winter have their magic too.

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