We have just returned from a short family break. We’ve made the same trip for the last 3 years. The now familiar setting of a quiet seaside resort several hours away from home with its many cafes, shops full of curios and curiosities, swimming pool, long promenade perfect for tricycling, and surrounding colourful summer landscape has in theory all that we can possibly need to keep us amused for a few days. Similar enough to what we already have here at home on the south coast but different because we are not at home. We are on holiday.

We’ve managed to get away with our daughter most years with varying degrees of success. We’ve had a couple of large family holidays, stayed with friends, but mostly it’s been just the three of us. We tend to self cater, preferring to be as self sufficient as possible. It’s easier (and cheaper) that way.

When our daughter was around five years old, we splashed out on a package holiday in the sun. We got around, entered into the spirit, had a laugh. We were popular with the hired entertainers in the hotel as we danced every night and applauded loudly at the end of their shows. Our girl loved that. She was on her feet a lot then, though not able to independently walk. It was clear to others that she had disabilities but not as clear then as it is now. I remember a taxi driver taking us into the countryside and showing us a tiny church we had come upon seemingly by chance. An elderly woman who was arranging flowers there touched our girl’s head and blessed her, saying she would have a good life. The driver told us she would bring us good luck.

We once stayed in a wheelchair accessible cottage in the middle of beautiful countryside.  One of the main draws was sole use of the pool. Did I say that our girl loves the water? It turned out that said pool was not accessible after all: too many steps into it and nothing to hold onto. It was also freezing. Solar heating means little when there’s no sun! We didn’t go back. Several years later we found an amazing disability-friendly beach in the south of France. Our daughter was utterly captivated by the handsome lifeguard who brought her ice cream and helped her into the sea in a specially adapted buggy. Oh how she laughed.

For us holiday comes in many guises and we have learned to adapt and manage our expectations. This time we had two good outings to the pool and two trike rides, some pizza, plenty of dvd and book time – but as usual not much sleep. We narrowly avoided a trip to the doctor but had a long chat with a local pharmacist who made helpful suggestions at what the cause of our daughter’s increasing pain and discomfort might be. An ear infection? Stomach cramps perhaps? So hard when our girl can’t tell us where it hurts, and the process of elimination can be lengthy. The unpredictability of her health is now part and parcel of all that we do wherever we are. But we continue to make plans and look forward to more adventures together.

We’ve been home for a week or so and are back to our separate lives again. I’m looking at the holiday photos. Not many this time, a few snatched shots only. In my mind I am looking at our daughter’s smiling face as she braves the bright sun, pedals along a different seafront ringing the bell on her trike, and embraces the freedom of the day.

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