I inherited my ‘toy’ gene from Pa.
We like to think of ourselves as Renaissance people, do Pa and I, with wide-ranging interests which broaden our minds and engage us in the stuff of life. It would be perverse to describe us as fickle, easily bored and attracted by novelty. I would refute such an accusation heartily; indeed, I will put that in writing as soon as I retrieve my calligraphy set from behind the knitting machine. If I can just get past the allotment magazines … and the yoga mat … and the concertina…
One of the key differences between us, though, is that Pa also has the ‘caution’ gene whereas I have a much higher whim factor. You’d not find Pa taking on any old condition without having properly researched it in What Neurological Disease Magazine and carefully reading the most recent reviews in Which. Whereas me… anything for a laugh, poop poop.
Now, somewhere at the back of Pa’s toy cupboard, probably wedged between a demi-john, a pantomime dame costume and a table‑tennis bat, will be his old cine-camera. Fortunately, his film-making phase was followed in later life by a ‘transferring to dvd’ phase. So we can still, should we want to, relive the thrill of seeing LittleBro regurgitating a green pancake, as Pa experimented with the special effects on his cine-camera.
And yesterday, as ActorLaddie and I set out to explore the area around our Rome apartment, I was reminded of the film Pa took of our first family holiday abroad.
That’s not the time that Pa took us all to Wales, having bought a full set of camping gear from Exchange and Mart. We sat and watched rain for two days, came home and flogged the tent to some other poor sucker.
No, our first proper holiday abroad was a package deal to Majorca, exotic in the early seventies. It was not a wild success. Up to that point, family holidays had consisted of rather jolly chalets in Norfolk or the Isle of Wight. Now Ma and Pa had to cope with persuading three fussy children to eat unfamiliar foreign foods: pizza, pasta and the like. And we were hot, hot, hot.
I am not naturally a hot weather person. For one thing, I have pale skin: like Woody Allen, I don’t tan, I stroke. I’d rather be curled up reading in front of a log fire than on a sunbed. Heat made me grumpy. I was also at the time in the throes of full-blown adolescence which must have added to the joys of the occasion.
For the last scene in the film of our holiday, Pa had us walking down the beach away from the camera, as the credits rolled. On the film, you can see LittleBro and LittleSis skipping along in beachwear, enjoying sand and sea. I skulk behind wearing, would you believe, black trousers and an orange polo-neck jumper, though as a concession to the heat, it is sleeveless.
So, up until last year I would have defined myself as someone who didn’t holiday in hot places. But last summer, my mind was changed. A couple of months after my diagnosis, we went to Florence. It had been booked well before Parkinson’s was even a possibility and, in the fall-out, we came very close to cancelling.
But it was wonderful: the best holiday of my life, so far. The heat made it impossible to rush around – I had to slow down; rest, read and relax. The effects of heat on my aching shoulder and neck were miraculous. And, without the vanity of youth, I developed an ‘Englishwoman Abroad’ look which works for me.
So this year, we are braving Rome. It is hot, hot, hot. 36 degrees today. And we are lounging and reading and resting, as well as popping out in the mornings and evenings to do the odd Coliseum or two. My aches have already melted in the heat and if it wasn’t for the tablets, I’d probably forget about the Parkinson’s altogether.
In any case, I’m getting bored with it. I was considering taking up the ‘cello instead. I’ve always loved the sound of a ‘cello.