This was our war cry, our shout of freedom as we jumped feet first into the swimming pool which surely can’t have been much warmer than the air around us in this village in the south west of Scotland. But we didn’t care. We were young. Maybe seven and ten years old. And this scream of joy was our moment to show the world that we were brave enough to defy the cold and the far too conventional aluminium steps and hurl ourselves at the water and at our holiday.
When my dad asked recently what memories I had of our childhood holidays together this was the first word that came to mind. But I could have chosen many other words from many other memories because we were priviliged children who were taken to many exciting and interesting places.
I wish I could remember more about Rome than just the bouncy ball that we threw out of our hotel window and the ants which climbed up the wall like a line of soldiers to reach the little packs of jam we’d taken from the breakfast table. And the following week in Sorrento is just a flash of ‘gelati fragola’ and a blur of Asti Spumante. But I was six years old. Too young to be sipping wine and too young to hold onto the more important details.
The south of France at the age of nine is more vivid. The big stone table outside, where we took our meals. The terrifying storm which poured rain right up to the front door of our caravan. My daring new elfin haircut which caused shop-keepers back home to call me ‘son’. And the taste of the Golden Delicious apples on the long train journey back home. I can still feel their crunchiness on my teeth as I write.
Then came the Napoleonic island of Elba. I was twelve years old, lingering in the space between remaining a child and becoming a teenager. Long wavy hair and a suntan to die for. The huge yellow plums on the trees outside our cool, tiled room, the immense meat-filled pasta shells, and the taste of pistachio ice-cream, all still razor-sharp in my mind and my mouth.
Big holiday homes where we spent weeks with our cousins. Midgie-infested islands. Walks along beaches and up and down hills, laughing and joking. A horrifying bumble bee stuck on my lilac nylon nightie. There are many more moments to choose from. I can’t sort them all out in my head.
But the memories keep going back to the Cally. I’m sure friends thought we were going to the north of France. But it was in fact a Scottish castle, a palace where we were princesses for a week. A beautiful place where we ran and played and hid and swam and danced and ate to our heart’s content. And from our favourite room, number 115, our parents could hear us every morning, jumping into the outdoor pool, shouting at the top of our lungs.
Thank you both for taking us to places other children hadn’t even heard of. Thank you for opening our eyes and ears to other cultures and languages and for giving us the freedom and encouragement to enjoy every single Geronimoic moment.