Saturday, 29 April 2017

'Bonds on Tour' 10th Anniversary Special...

This weekend I have been on holiday. Yes! A mini-break! I gave the French Riviera a swerve and spent the Bank Holiday weekend in Clarach Bay, Ceredigion. Three days and two nights of down time and fresh Welsh air. It’s a lot cheaper than Saint-Tropez and loads less pretentious. In the interests of clarity, I need to explain that I'm writing this before the holiday has even begun. It doesn't matter. As I type, days before it commences, I know I'll have had a fab time.

When I was a kid, family holidays always meant Wales. A caravan near Aberystwyth to be precise. They didn’t happen every year, but when they did, it was the best thing ever. A road trip, broken up by a picnic lunch in Bala (Gwynedd) and then a week in a caravan by the sea. Bala has some of the most beautiful lakeside scenery imaginable but obviously we stayed in the car. In the car, in a layby at the side of an A-road, with foil-wrapped egg butties and juice. For me, the smell of egg is synonymous with giddy excitement, to this day.

Marking my territory c.1980. 
It’s not just egg sandwiches that bring back memories. Like most people with a sense of smell, seaside ozone takes me right back to childhood – buckets and spades, walking barefoot on tarmac, and shivering in a wet cossie as you head back to the caravan for a shower. More randomly, Brut aftershave is mixed in there too. It seems my Dad felt the evenings at the on-site Family Entertainment Club were a decent enough reason to make an olfactory effort. I have no memory of Brut at any other function. Just the Club in Wales, every other year.

‘But why is she boring us with all this now?’ you mutter, as you shake your head in befuddlement and wonder WTF is going on. WTF indeed? Well let me tell you. This weekend will have been the 10th year in a row that my family have revisited the very same caravan site of our childhood memories. This weekend will have been the 10th year in a row that we’ve done 'Bonds Reminisce on Tour'! Bon Anniversaire everybody!

'Bonds on Tour' in 2014.

Each year has involved a different collection of people. This time we only have the hardcore family members (everyone else has ‘plans’) but five adults, a small child and a toddler will have been near Aberystwyth for the Bank Holiday weekend, just as a selection of the family has been, every May Day weekend since 2007.

In some ways nothing has changed since the 1980s - the geography of the Welsh coast is pretty similar – but in others ways, EVERYTHING is different. First of all, there's no layby packed lunch. We still stop in Bala in a convoy of cars, but we go to the pub to eat. The pub! Six year old me couldn’t have imagined such decadence. Secondly, whilst I leave my bucket and spade, swimming costume and jelly shoes at home, I replace those items with wine. Several bottles. 'Bonds on Tour' is surprisingly boozy. The other change we include in these grown up, modern day times, is to hire two caravans instead of one. Inevitably it means one of them becomes the Toilet Caravan, whilst the other is the Socialising Caravan, but needs must. It’s a system and it works. Can we all pause for a moment to recognise my selflessness – I sleep in the Toilet Caravan. Yes, I am a living saint.

My brother Dom, 1992.
My brother Dom, 2007.
This year will have been properly chilled out. Apart from having to satisfy the whim of two small children now and then, it will be relatively stress free. (Although possibly not for my sister, who is technically responsible for said small children.) But in a prior year, the Toilet Caravan doubled as the Revision Caravan, as my youngest brother revised for his Spanish GSCE, and I planned a day of top-notch super-duper lessons for a Local Authority inspection in the week that was to follow. Life can throw all kinds of crap at you, but it will never interfere with the 'Bonds on Tour' weekend.

So, my prediction, based on previous knowledge is that we will have eaten a lot, (been) drunk a lot, and I will have taken a book I intended to read, only to discover the caravan has WiFi and I will have spent my time reading Twitter instead. There will have been crashing waves, twinkly stars in the night’s sky, and loads and loads of fresh air.

Glan Y Mor Caravan Park, Clarach Bay, Ceredigion.
For all your family fun needs.
But now it is Monday and it is done for another year. There is every chance that as you are reading this, I am sitting in jammed traffic on a bypass somewhere, making a three and a half hour journey last nine. Fingers crossed that isn’t the case, but even so, it would have been worth it. Sometimes it’s a mistake to look back, but not with this. This weekend will have been epic.

Have a lovely week, folks.

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