Things I have learnt about holiday-me: part 2: I used to think it was just in middle England that I felt my colour but not so, dear readers, not so
I will not bore you with the trials and tribulations of my flying fear, it has been perused far too many times before. I am witheringly aware that the dimensions of my fear are such that I played no part in the organising of this particular holiday; a control I struggle to forsake. I didn’t acknowledge the holiday ergo the flight did not exist. To which end I only retained the information of who (good friends we normally share tents with), what (a villa near the beach apparently), when (half term) and why (said friends and GeordieLad had enough of the tents in June). I left where (I knew it was in Spain but that was all) and how (I knew we weren’t driving that was enough for me and my fear).
So I said I wasn’t going to write about the fear and look, a whole paragraph has passed on it. Curse you flying tin contraption.
My childhood was not made of European holidays. We did two trips to visit my grandparents in the Caribbean – ten years apart – and apart from that it was self-catering cottages in various counties across England’s green and pleasant land. They were good fun and we were well aware that mum and dad had saved ridiculously hard for a week in a British coastal town.
Once past the motorway madness, country lane discombobulation, paused travelling for mum to have her cream tea in a quaint pub, we arrived at the jigsaw puzzle country house ready for adventure into forests and seaside towns unknown. Hazy summer days on busy beaches would skim over us like smooth pebbles bouncing on a peaceful shore.
Then you notice the double-takes, the looks, a child may stare for just that little bit too long.
And there it is. Glance left and right to the nether regions of the coastal line and we were the brownest bodies on the beach, by a country mile. I don’t know if it ever bothered mum and dad; if it did they never showed it or talked about it within their children’s earshot. I’m sure they did notice and chose to plough on enjoying their holiday, I’m sure they saw a lot more – this was the 80’s after all – but we never stopped our adventures through the counties of England.
A life in the capital has led me to forget my status in the 4% of ethnic minorities, I have become accustomed to a city where – in the words of Depeche Mode – people are people. But once out of London, be it a county outside the sounds of the M25 or a popular beach on the Costa del Sunny or in a busy hypermarket, I see the question mark glances. I feel it and like a cat’s arched back raising its hair on end, I turn on my guard.
Once I was told it’s my paranoia. By a white person. I would that it were.
But when writing this, I am in a different country with family and friends. A blue sky with a pulsating sun in its belly wakes us up every morning. I sit and write by a pool with the echoes of a Spanish gardener singing across the road. And I am learning to walk (or sunbathe) with the air of someone who doesn’t give a hoot.
Look upon my afro, my brown face and despair.