Sunday, 26 July 2009

And that was one type of normality

Last night we dropped off Tiger at her PGL adventure camp, which means today, we look like as normal a family as you can get. We are two adults, two children, on holiday at a major tourist sight, and at that July time of year, when people think, for a family holiday, that's normal.

This version of normality is interesting.

For a start, we have walked round this earth for ten years being a family of five. At the moment you move away from the safe zone of four, then your travelling life becomes downright difficult. Cars, taxis, entrance tickets, seats round tables, overnight rooms, beds, hotels. They're all geared up for four. But suddenly, today, we are four, so we fit. We can be normal. And that feels odd.

And then there are the children. When I have the uncanny triplet set, they draw those surreptitious glances and sliding eyes, back and forth between looking-alike faces. Today I have a matching pair, but they don't draw the eye as much as a set of three. And anyway, Shark refuses to be seen with us and is marching on up the hill. I can be normal here too.

And then there's the home ed. I won't feel compelled to explain to inquisitive passers by why we are walking down the High Street on a Wednesday morning at 11am. I don't need to fret about the police or a truancy patrol. The scrutinising gaze of strangers is absent; the ones who watch us about our normal Monday morning business in June, then with a flick of the eye, judge me, condemn my parenting abilities, and sentence all of us to death by hanging. It's school holiday. I can be normal.

We normal, normal family walk up the path to the tourist sight that everyone who comes to the Isle of Wight must see.

It's probably here, at The Needles, that I start to forget about what's normal or not. I can just watch the waves and point out the way the rocks curve and bend. Now I can confess I like the Isle of Wight just a teensy weensy bit. And I am probably ashamed that I have travelled over the world and am ignorant of what's on my own doorstep. I was unaware of how splendid are the rocks round here, how astonishing and spectacular this geology, and how beautiful is this scenery both far away and close up. From a distance you can see the cliffs cut away to reveal many layers of colours and rock types; pinks, blues, greys, yellows, whites. Clays, chalks, sandstones, mudstones, all layered, one after the other, the rocks cut away like a perfect set of samples just waiting for the amateur rock lover to come along and start learning and exploring. Close up, you can see these vertical lines rise up from choppy waters, strata layers of black held up in white chalk. They should be gone, eroded by wind and sea and rain, but skyward those sea teeth still rise, defiant, and bite the sky.

And this is our normal. We are looking, feeling, learning, exploring, talking, finding out about the world. To us and the rocks, it doesn't matter if it's July, or October, or March.

But if for one afternoon this year, we looked normal, by the end of the day, we have given it up.

Settled back in the car, windswept and weary, I am missing Tiger and wishing she could take part in the chatter and I could share everything I've learned about this point in the world, and where we are now.

Yet there is one more family member to depart. Daddy Dig is travelling back home again this evening, and leaving me with Shark and Squirrel to our own devices on the Island.

No comments: