Returning to our holidays by the seaside, we returned to our cottage one December and walked right into disaster. To begin with, the cottage would stand empty 315 days of the year. For the other 50 days, we would be there. We would often travel the 1500km in convoy with my Aunty Sally and Uncle Clive…but that didn’t mean we would always arrive together. There were times…many in fact, that we would arrive ahead of everybody else only to arrive to a flea, cockroach and spider infested abode. I have to tell you that I would rather ride on a bike with absolutely no saddle on it than confront a spider. Yes, I’m not afraid to admit that I have arachnophobia. I remember us arriving one year and not only had the roof caved in completely leaving the living and dining room absolutely uninhabitable, but the flea and who knows what else infestation had reached new heights. I held a can of insecticide in my hand and as I started spraying the carpet to rid it of fleas, I felt a tingling sensation on my hand. It rapidly grew black as the fleas saw the extension of my arm as an escape route. Being no older than 10 I dropped the can and shaking my arm in all directions whilst screaming, made a beeline for the front door. Later that day as things had settled down somewhat, my sister was to get a nasty surprise as she reached into one of the kitchen cupboards to retrieve a plate. Nestling nicely in the middle of it was a spider of note that had reached new proportions in terms of size. It ran from the plate onto her hand and up her arm. Of course the plate didn’t stay in tact for long, as she threw it across the kitchen where it promptly smashed to smithereens against the wall. All these creepy crawlies…I don’t remember this as I was a baby at the time, but Karen told me much later that when she was about 4 years old and the tides would turn, huge crabs would come crawling through the front door and into the cottage. They would creep under chairs, beds, everything. I’m grateful I can’t remember this because although I know that crabs can’t really hurt you, they still resemble spiders too much. They totally creep me out. Not a big fan!
So for the rest of the holiday apart from obtaining our Christmas tree, we dodged and crawled in between scaffolding that my father and uncle were balancing precariously on in order to fix the ceiling. My mum was not impressed with this whole situation. She of course realized that it was very much beyond anybody’s control, but she continued to whine and moan the whole holiday through. What replaced the ceiling however was very much worth it in the end as a beautiful pine ceiling replaced the old mold ridden gypsum one.
I spent most of my time on the beach in a desperate attempt to get a tan, which would inevitably end up in a burn quickly followed by peeling a few days later.
Our cottage was not far from the beach. About a 5-10 minute walk depending on how desperate for the toilet you were. This leads me to the next inconvenience that we had to experience on those holidays…the outhouse at the back, or bucket toilet as we used to call it. Not only did it stink to high heaven, it was like a moth to a flame for spiders. Given my fear, I would have to stand outside this rustic sad excuse of a toilet stall and try to pluck up the courage to go in, pee and do whatever else in record time and get out again as fast as possible. It was just easier in the end to just plan ahead, put your sneakers on and run to the beach toilets that were much better.
The best was on Christmas or New Years eve. Because we had a bucket toilet, someone would have to replace the bucket as it got too full with a new empty one. There was a service for this in our village and we nicknamed it the ‘Honey truck’. Need I say more? The crew consisted of black men who would replace the bucket with a new empty one. Most of the time we turned a blind eye to this as we didn’t want to know or see the gory disgusting details, but as we all congregated one year on the veranda to begin our New Years celebrations, the guys arrived to change the bucket as the sun was about to set…however there was one small problem. They too had engaged in their own premature New Years celebrations and were as a result…well let’s put it this way, not exactly sober. They would normally go around to the back with the empty bucket, replace it and put the full bucket on their heads and carry it like that without any hands assisting back around to the front and load it onto the truck. This time around, we all stood on the veranda as we watched with bated breath while one of the black guys walked in a drunken zigzag style with a full bucket on his head, towards the truck. Miraculously he didn’t spill a drop as he loaded it on and the truck and disappeared around the corner in a smelly haze. With that we all stopped holding our breath and you can just imagine the conversation and laughter that followed.