It’s an old-fashioned holiday: cloudless skies, constant, lazy, heat, while at home the skies are crumbling into huge slabs of rain.
We are sitting next to an umbrella by the pool, my daughter and I. My wife is inside the villa, sleeping perhaps, or doing something unremarkable. It’s easy when you’re away for little things to expand to fill great chunks of holiday time. It is all perfect, apart from the road the other side of the hedge, but I don’t mind that as much as my wife or our friends do. We have just emerged from the shiny coolness of the water and I lie steaming in the sun with my head and shoulders propped up, while my daughter sits in the shade with her knees drawn to her chin, wrapped in a towel. I put my hand absent-mindedly on her head and feel the warmth below my palm. She smiles and puts her hand on mine. Just her and me under the umbrella. Stillness around us. The breeze and the rustle of palm leaves. I am in my own world of heat and memories and she is in her own. But our worlds overlap. Is that what makes for a happy childhood I wonder? Not too much togetherness, not too much separation.
In the evening we go to dinner in the old town. We find a restaurant on the beach, where the children can run on the sand while we sample a range of wines of different hues. The giant prawns are the hit of the night. Not least with my daughter who wraps a discarded head in a napkin and christens it Sammy Shrimp. Sammy accompanies her everywhere for the rest of the evening. She looks at him adoringly. And I think he feels the same about her too.
On the way home in the taxi I am vaguely wondering what the pungent smell is and realise it is Sammy. I remove him from my sleeping daughter’s grasp and when we arrive home I toss him in the bin.
The next morning my daughter wakes up and asks simultaneously “Where’s Sammy Shrimp?”
“Er, he’s gone to back to see all his other shrimp friends” I say.
She looks crestfallen.
“But I love him.” She says, lips quivering and tears squeezing their way out.
We hug her and reassure her, as if a beloved pet has had to be put down.
She soon recovers but I fervently hope she doesn’t decide to look inside the rubbish bin.