I started thinking about holidays last night – about why we have them. To relax, to get away, and, just as important, for the memories they give us.
A boy in a park in Luxembourg, who spoke about 9 languages, the last of which was English so we could communicate.
A never-ending queue at JFK airport in New York.
Being sick in my mother’s lap on a catamaran from Bornholm to Denmark’s mainland, aged 7. It was her birthday.
A green copper dome in Copenhagen. Legoland – with lego houses higher than my head. A storm with forked lightning when the power cut out and all else was pitch black.
Brief, violent thunderstorms in Johannesburg. Being locked in a bathroom in Cape Town by a strong wind blowing against the door. Sitting on Cape Point, looking out over the oceans. Fog on Table Mountain. Seeing a warthog in the Kruger Park, but letting it get away without taking a photo because mum said it move to a better angle. (I’ve never forgiven her for that.)
Having hot blueberry waffles for breakfast in a B’n’B in the Catskill Mountains.
Standing on top of the World Trade Centre building.
Walking around the top of the amphitheatre in Nimes. Watching cars attempting to drive through half a metre of water after the river burst its banks. Sitting outside a restaurant in the plaza, just watching people go by.
And Israel. And Israel. And Israel.
The heat and humidity that hits you on stepping off the plane. My Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall. Swimming with dolphins in Eilat. Sitting on the edge of the Mitzpe Ramon crater and watching attack helicopters fly past beneath me. Hiking in the Negev from before sunrise to after sunset. The midday rest in a cave, where I totally failed to fall asleep. Lying in a sleeping bag under the stars and a bright orange moon. Climbing Masada before dawn and watching the sun rise and reflect, sparkling, off the Dead Sea below. The peace and tranquillity of sitting in the desert, alone as if there was no one else in the world.
It is perhaps the last of these that stick with me the most. Those moments when you are totally calm, to sit, relax, drink in the surroundings. Think. Remember. When I look back on them now, I find many of these memories overwhelming.
It is strange to me that none of these vivid recollections – some from over 10 years ago – involve skiing, as that is what most of my recent holidays have been. Skiing, while one of my favourite activities in the world, can tend to blur memories after some years, so the only things I recall with clarity are when something went wrong. The week in Meribel when it rained almost constantly, and I read Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens twice as a result. Skiing into a submerged tree stump in Davos, breaking the ski and causing myself mild whiplash on landing.
For all of these memories, good or bad, one thing is always true. Neither words, nor pictures (nor a combination of both) can ever do them justice. They are images in the mind, locked away for ever, to be recalled and rejoiced over at will. They are what shape you; make you what you are today. They are the possibly most important part of your being.
I think I need a holiday…