That’s over for another year.
The family holiday, smaller now than years gone by but still a family holiday. The family expedition now consists of me and my brother.
Years ago, we had three families. My brother and his wife and son, my sister, her husband, and her daughter, me and the ex, all crammed into two caravans in Yarmouth. Had to be Yarmouth, at least that has changed.
My mum, bless her, has dementia, she manages but my brother is her sole carer and once a year he gets a reprieve when Aunty Barbara comes to stay and he can get away. The thing is he has no one to go anywhere with anymore. He’s got lots of friends, they all wear boiler suits and caps and look like they belong in the cab of a steam train. He sees them every day so this one week a year is his holiday. Several years ago, friends of ours from our home town got married in Scotland, and my brother and I went up for the week. We stopped having the family holidays when the kids grew up, so this was an experience. What an experience, why didn’t I leave it there. No not me, I just can’t say no to my brother and no sooner had we got home from Scotland than he was planning our next holiday, and so it is, every year we meet up and have “family time.”
I love him, don’t get me wrong, he is a good man, but boy does he like to control my life. There’s 14 years between us, yep I think mum and dad had a bit of an oops moment there. Gwen, my sister is only a few years younger than him, so you can see, he grew up being the older brother. The fact is that as an older brother, men tend to grow up with a suit of armour that covers themselves and their little sisters, and a shotgun in their hands. Protective? Really you think so?
When I first met Mark, Alan my brother, decided to be friendly towards him. He had threatened to kill my ex who now lives in America, no nothing to do with Alan wanting to shove a twelve bore up where the Sun doesn’t shine after we split up.
I took Mark to our local town, you know the type, takes ten minutes to walk from one end to the other and everyone appears out of nowhere when there is someone new in town. It’s as if all small towners have this inner eardrum that can hear a silent whistle that sounds when someone unfamiliar reaches the town boundary and they all congregate in the market square. It’s rather spooky. We walked past the Motorbike shop and my brother walked out of the door. There are two steps from the door down into the street and Alan is a full 5ft 10inch in his wellies, Mark is a good 6ft 4inch so Alan didn’t descend the steps but held out his hand as he greeted us.
“Hello, you must be the new boyfriend, I’m the old one, how do you do?”
That would seem a bit odd coming from someone that was my ex-boyfriend but this was my brother.
I fell in love with Mark there and then in one fell swoop.
“Hello, nice to meet you.” A big broad grin creased across his face and Alan mirrored the expression, although I wasn’t too sure what the sentiment was behind it. It could have been the “I’m smiling but I’m a tiger and you know what they say about trusting a tiger that smiles at you.” It could have been a genuine, “Well done, I like you, well played.” It could have been a, “You’re an idiot but I’ll let you off, you won’t last that long.” Whatever went through my brothers mind he never did tell me of his first impressions of Mark. He likes him now and was really pleased when we decided to get married. That might be because Alan is a tad old fashioned and was quite blunt when he told me that if Mark ever disrespected me he’d shoot his bloody head off.
This is my brother and last week I was on holiday with him. The apartment was nice, it lacked in some of the nicer amenities. Things would have been a lot easier if there had been more than one towel each and the stone floor in the bathroom had more than one mat that you had to shuffle across the floor from the shower to the toilet to stop from getting frost bite. The bedroom underneath the kitchen of the upstairs apartment was not exactly good planning. I really didn’t need to know that the woman in there was on her period and that he was disappointed that they couldn’t have sex. It was obviously too much for him, they left on Wednesday. Thin floors a real no, no, on holiday.
We went to the Peak District, and it rained on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, a little bit on Thursday, and Friday, I came home on Saturday in glorious sunshine. It was ok, we had the Caverns, lots of caverns, I spent more time underground than a ticket inspector on the London underground. The sights where amazing and it made up for it.
Yes, Alan is miserable and yes, he is a tight arsed git, but he is also the funniest man I know and the most generous, the conundrum unfolds. It goes like this. He moans, a lot, about everything, and everyone, and he isn’t quiet about it. Dodging fat women in black leggings and cropped tops because he has bluntly told the world that “it looks a bloody mess,” within earshot, is not fun.
He also likes to play games with people and no end of times has he acted as though he was my fancy bit only to tell people, “She goes back to her husband when I’ve had enough of her,” leaving it there and not elaborating on the relationship between us. It can be funny to see the looks on their faces. I do get him back when people think he’s my dad. At least I see the funny side.
This day was no exception. We found a bike shop, out there in the middle of nowhere, in a small town that they call the Capital of the Peak District. Not just any bike shop, an MV Augusta bike shop. Time for fun.
The young man was determined to sell me a bike and he almost did. Smarm oozed from every orifice he had. There she stood, The SWM’s retro classic 440, racing green. How could I not succumb to her charms?
“Can I sit on her?” My power of femininity on full power, I wanted this bike.
Interlude: At this point I should mention that I have a deal with my brother. He buys all my cars for me, even now that I am married and all grown up. It was really special when I was 18 and I got my first car, an Austin Allegro. Don’t knock it, it outlasted everyone else’s first car. The reason he buys these cars is so that I don’t get anything stupid. Like the little Mini Metro Sports which would cruise at 120miles an hour, I kid you not. He also believes that if he buys me a good car I won’t want, nor need a motorbike. Wrong, still got my scooter and love it. So, I’m a deal breaker. Sue me.
For the past couple of months, he has been looking for a new car for me, one that has five doors, but alas he hasn’t found anything to his liking that will restrict me to doing 60miles an hour on the motorway! So, I’m there on the SWM 440. I felt like Cinderella.
“It fits, it fits.” Like the glass slipper the bike fitted perfectly. Feet on the floor, check. Handlebars not too low or too high, check, foot controls in the right place for my legs, check. “It’s my precious, mine, all mine.”
We were getting along famously and I asked Alan, jokingly if I could have the bike instead of a new car. Bang, it was like the starter pistol to a sprint. Everything leapt up and ran all at the same time.
The young salesman’s eyes lit up as he rubbed his hands together, you could see his mouth whispering, “commission, commission.”
Alan’s eyes twinkled at the thought of messing with his mind.
My throat dried up as the thought of what Alan was going to say next suddenly hit me.
“What would your husband say if you turned up with a new bike.”
“Thank you, I suppose.”
The young man’s jaw dropped. He turned towards Alan then looked back at me, as I faked a sulk whilst still sitting on the subject of our conversation.
“She’s not mine,” Alan declared.
“No, he sends me back to the husband when he’s had enough. Only this time he promised to send me back with a new car.”
I’m sat there, on this motorbike, in my mid-fifties with my bright pink Marks and Spencer rain mac, Alan in his best jacket, which I might add is khaki with leather arm patches. He’s wearing his checked trilby with his snowy white beard and at 67 years old looks every bit like an old retired farmer. We looked nothing like a sugar daddy and his arm candy.
“Oh yer, gave her away at her wedding as well.”
“Yes, he’s my ex-boyfriend.”
The young man did not know what to do. We’d played this game a lot and this was the best reaction we had received.
“Did you know that adultery is a crime?” The young man offered.
Quick witted bugger, we never put him right but at least we know that he will have a story to tell for a long time to come.
We ventured into Buxton and I rehearsed my lines. This time I was not going to be dragged around every second-hand shop in the town.
Can I go to Costa? CAN I go to Costa? I want to go to Costa. Please can I go to Costa?
Alan’s usual response is, “Why do you wanna go there, what’s wrong with coffee when we get back?” The answer “I don’t want to be dragged around the flea market,” isn’t apparently good enough.
I was ready, the car pulled up and I got out of the car, here goes nothing, I thought.
“I’m going to Costa to have a coffee.” I was determined.
“Ok, I’m going to go look in the charity shops.”
I almost fell over, where was my brother, what had happened to him, what alien had replaced him. Did I ask, did I enquire, did I comment, I kept dead pan and looked straight ahead of me, asked politely, “Do you want anything and when the “no thankyou” hit the air, I legged it, in a dignified, hurried leisurely way. In other words, I hoped that Alan didn’t notice how quickly I had escaped.
One Latte and a croissant. I had to sneak that in without Alan telling me it would get in my mouth. Time moved on, I got out my tablet and checked Facebook, nothing interesting, not surprised, checked my WordPress, habit, I haven’t posted on my poetry page all week. The News, miserable, and then I noticed that Alan still hadn’t returned. The mind started to play tricks with me.
He’s gone back to the Bike shop. I told you he was a generous. Maybe, just maybe he’s bought the bike. Wondering through the scenery in my brain I got into the fantasy of owning the 440 beauty, meandering through the country lanes and whizzing down the motorway. Turning up for work on it, taking off my helmet and my wild golden locks falling gracefully about my shoulders. Fantasy over, I haven’t got long golden locks, that blew it.
Finishing my coffee, I was about to leave the table when Alan marched through the door with a big grin on his face.
He has, he has, I know he has. I was excited.
“Where you been?”
“Never you mind.”
“Ok, I just didn’t think it would take that long to go around a few charity shops?”
“Ah, well you know…”
“No, what have you bought?”
“Nothing, well nothing that I’m telling you about.”
I was suspicious. It was just too much.
“Alan, what have you done?”
“I’ve, sort of bought a bike.”
I welled up, I was jumping up and down inside.
Now at this time, you just know that this isn’t going to be the bike that I was hoping for, and I knew it too. It was too much of a Cinderella ending to be true. My dreams and fantasies drained from every corner of my mind, except one. I’m keeping the fantasy of Jason Momoa. That one will never leave me, ever, not never. He’s mine I tell you, mine…Sorry I digress. But there again, Alan was gone a while and if my calculations were correct he could have got to the bike shop and back again.
He did, and he didn’t but he had.
He did buy a bike, he didn’t buy one for me, and he had been back to the bike shop. He, the miserable senile old git had bought a MV Augusta. You see whilst I was chatting up the nice young man he had been talking to the head sales guy and just been to the bank to sort out the funds.
£14K. £14K. I’m still getting over it. The man who wouldn’t buy a cup of coffee in a coffee bar because it was to expensive has just forked out £14k for a motorbike he might take out twice a year. £14,000. If I say it enough times it might not sound all that bad. And they say that farmers are poor. Relativity I suppose. You have to remember they pay £200,000 for a combine harvester.
I did come away with one thing from my holiday even if it wasn’t my dream bike, that Mark thinks is horrible, by the way and is glad Alan didn’t buy me. I came away with a new understanding of my brother. It’s not that he’s miserable, he just enjoys different things. I like coffee and croissants, he likes a cup of tea and sleep in the afternoon. I like little luxuries and instant gratification, he likes to go without and then treat himself to something grand as a reward. He’s not wrong and neither am I. We are different. But it works. For all the moaning, we laughed, we put smiles on other people’s faces. We discussed the weather, politics and religion. The conversations where over really quickly.
“Bloody load of tossers.” Conversation over. And don’t mention Trump!
I miss him and his moaning, but I do wish he hadn’t shouted out of the car window when he dropped me off on Friday in the middle of the town centre, “Hope you’re wearing clean knickers.” He’s just a nightmare, but he’s my nightmare and I love him.
That’s over for another year.