x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Fun on a holiday is all relative

Faced with a summer holiday spanning two-and-a-half months, there was only so much travelling with kids we could do.

Faced with a summer holiday spanning two-and-a-half months, there was only so much travelling with kids we could do. So we decided to take advantage of kind-hearted relations (mainly my mother) and send the ferals off to Europe in the first week of July. My mother has many attributes. She is fun, graceful and clever. She also has a terrible memory. In August last year she said: "I'm never having the girls together again." Happily, by July this year she had forgotten that and agreed to take them on for two months without hesitation.

We drove the ferals to the airport for an emotional farewell. After all, we wouldn't be seeing them again for six weeks. Bea, the younger of the two, started crying at passport control. "Don't be silly, Bea," Olivia, lead feral, told her. "We're going somewhere much better." Bea snapped out of it and off they marched. The plan was for them to spend a few days with my mother close to Rome and then go and stay with my aunt in northern Italy, from where they would all take a boat to Hvar, a Croatian island. Dreamy.

It all began well. But once they got to Hvar, things started to go downhill. My aunt called my mother to tell her the girls were not happy. Not only were they not happy, but they were refusing to speak to anyone bar each other. "And they speak in Swedish, so we can't understand what they're saying. We have tried to entertain them with lessons in Venetian art, but it's not working." Part of me was angry with them for behaving badly, but another part of me was secretly rather proud. I spent many holidays in my childhood being "entertained" by my aunt in museums, or at interminably long lunches where I had to learn whole sections of Dante's Divine Comedy. There are many other ways an 11-year-old would ideally spend her summer. There were several times I wished I could speak Swedish to someone and just ignore the Italian dictator by my side. Much as I loved her, and still love her, my aunt is not the most child-friendly of people.

So the ferals have been sent back to my mother. They arrived on a boat, in the middle of the night, accompanied by a ship steward. "They were ruining our holiday," said my aunt. I think the feeling was mutual. @Email:hfrithpowell@thenational.ae