I might as well forget about the travel-writing prize. There are lots of kids in our school who don’t go anywhere much for their holidays, but there are plenty of others who go abroad, to Spain or Corfu or even to Florida. Alex Riley’s going to Mexico, if you can believe it. He had to have millions of injections before he went.
And there’s a girl I don’t know very well, in the fourth year, whose parents are taking her to Egypt. Egypt! Well really. Unfortunately she happens to be brilliant at English as well, so I expect she’ll be scribbling away about the pyramids and the camels and how sorry she feel for all the beggars. Feeling sorry for beggars is a good move for a travel writer. It shows you aren’t a heartless Western tourist. You’re a real traveller. It’s even better if you make friends with lots of people who live in tiny villages and don’t speak a word of English, and keep giving you things to eat even though they’ve hardly got anything for themselves.
I doubt if I’ll find many people like that in Weston-super-Mare....
I don’t really enjoy the first few minutes of seeing Dad again. Perhaps some people might think that a girl who hasn’t seen her father for three months would be longing to rush into his arms, and that there wouldn’t be any problems, but in my experience it’s not like that at all. For a start, I’ve usually grown a bit, and the way Dad reaches out to hug me doesn't quite match the size I am any more. His kisses bump on my nose, or he tries to pick me up then realises I’m too heavy as well as years too old. He seems to have to realise this every time. It’s as if I go back to being seven in his mind, during the time he doesn’t see me.
Then we never know what to say. That’s all right during the kissing and hugging bit, because all you have to do is say things like ‘Oh Dad!’ or ‘It’s great to see you!’
But then comes the difficult part, when everybody else is moving off the platform and we have to go too. I find myself making a fuss about things which don’t matter at all, like me carrying my own case, just to fill up the silence. Or Dad says I must be hungry, let’s get a meal, and I say I’m not, because I know I couldn’t eat anything yet, not the way I’m feeling.
So pretty often our first conversation is a bit like a quarrel. Let’s face it, often it is a quarrel. Then, if things go well, we look at each other and laugh and it gets easier to talk. But if things don’t go well, Dad get a hurt, hot look round his eyes, though he never says anything, and I start getting too eager and telling him a whole pile of stuff about school and ice-skating and Angelina and why I haven’t phoned more.
In fact, it can be awful. And the same goes for the other end, when I see Mum again and I’m still miserable about leaving Dad and knowing I won’t be seeing him again till a whole term’s gone by. And a term’s eternity. You can’t even imagine the end of it, when you’re just at the beginning.
But this time it’s all right ...