Thunder and lightning, lashing rain and wild wind have just plunged us from the worst summer in history into dramatic near-winter conditions over night.
The balmy day – singular – of summer seems so far away now. But before I have even had a chance to dig out my thermals and embarrassing bobble hat, thoughts in our house are already turning to summer holidays 2013. The reason? My 17-year-old teenwolf came sloping down to the kitchen and mentioned, casually, as he scoffed a vast trough of cereal, “Oh yeah, by the way, we’re going on a lads holiday.”
My eyeballs bulged and voice squeaked, palpitations setting in, “When?”
“August. Next summer.”
“Where?” I managed to blurt out, in a strangled squeak.
“Great,” I said, through clenched teeth, grabbing my hair in a vice-like grip with my bowel fast loosening.
Fixed grin in place, I clung to the kitchen unit until the long-suffering husband came in.
“What’s wrong with you?” he asked as he attempted to prize my finger nails from the granite work top where they were firmly embedded.
“Lads holiday,” I whimpered.
The blood drained from his face.
It’s a right of passage these days, I know that. And it is easy to say in the cold light of day, quite calmly, until I remember... this time, it’s my son. The shape shifter.
Do you remember your first holiday without your parents? How could you forget? That feeling of freedom and independence, that belief that the world is your oyster. At the tender age of 18, if my folks had realised the half of it, they would have chained me to my bed and not let me leave Aberdeen. Instead they drove us to the airport waved us off with our over-large cases and whap, there we were independent holiday girls on tour.
What unfolded over those two weeks was a series of wild nights, moped rides and getting into cars to go to clubs with complete strangers. We met an Argentinian drug dealer, saw a German being stabbed in the foot, and had no thought whatsoever for our personal safety. And no thought about any consequences of our behaviour. Our promise to one another was that we would stick together all day and all be home together at night, which we stuck to rigidly. But within those rules... when I think now about what could have happened it gives me the chills.
But boys are different aren’t they? My pal Gordon went on his lads holiday with two of his chums, Fred and Jeff. Jeff got mugged, Gordon had his clothes stolen and Fred broke his leg. There were three of them, whereas Teenwolf is going with the entire rugby team – and a few others.
The thought of 18 giant, rumbustious, rugby players heading to Greece in August doesn’t exactly fill me with joy. This is the boy that just a few years ago declared loud and proud that he would be a teetotaller. As a mum I was over the moon. Great, I thought, we will have a designated driver in the house. Sadly it didn’t last.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s no Oliver Reed, but it’s the group mentality that does give me the heebie jeebies. I will worry for the whole lot of them.
When we travelled it was a long time ago – 1981 to be precise – and the world was a less scary place. It was. Since then the drinking culture that plagues the young Brits is seldom out of the press. And it is not just when you go on a sunny holiday. That was underlined only yesterday when theme park managers down south announced things were so bad they would be breath testing students before letting them on rides. The problem? Too many have vomited on rollercoasters while drunk or hungover during the first week of university. And that’s a day out. What about seven days out in the sunshine with “the lads”? The potential consequences are reported in the paper every summer – balcony plunges, sunstroke, alcohol poisoning, unprotected sex. Yes, I am talking about the worst excesses, thanks to Emergency Ward Magaluf or whatever the latest reality show scaring the living daylights out of parents is called.
I know I have to rise above it, and believe I have done my job as a parent as well as I can for precisely this reason, to let him go with my blessing. So using this logic I should be able to drive him to the airport and wave him off with a genuine smile. In theory. So I have 11 months to practice that part, meanwhile I am googling transcendental meditation, yoga and Valium.