The first non-UK holiday that I really remember was to Florida, in 1995. It was my Uncle Tony's wedding, and the whole family flew out. Except my dad. It was shortly before him and my mum split up and I think I'd twigged- I was a child from hell for the whole holiday. As my Great Auntie Pat would say between cigarette puffs, in her southern drawl- 'he is one mean kid'.
It's sad that I don't remember many holidays with both of my parents. I vaguely remember hiding in a wash basket in a caravan in Wales, and I have been told of how much people fawned over me as a baby (I was one cute kid) on a holiday in Spain, but the rest has disappeared from memory.
Me, mum and my sister went over for a two or three week break. Besides all the boring wedding stuff we were promised Disneyland, beaches, Universal and more, and I was pretty excited.
I was seven years old so my memory is hazy, but I can still remember being in my element at Disneyland and Universal. Busch Gardens less so, as something of a tropical storm scared the living shit out of us.
Being a seven year old, Disney was my favourite. Highlights included being terrified of Captain Hook, trying to fill my autograph book, and having Grumpy storm off when I said something unkind to him. Grumpy shit.
Lowlights included It's a Small World and gaining my lifetime fear of rollercoasters/heights on the runaway train. It doesn't look like much, but it was a terrible experience. I was bruised for a long time afterwards from being thrown around, and I was almost slipping under the safety barrier. Mum was scared too, and I don't think she's been on a coaster since. It seemed to go on forever, and it shook my up so much that the next rollercoaster I'd go on would be in Thorpe Park in 2013. I kept my eyes shut tight the entire way round and prayed for it to be over. Still, I'd do it again over another It's A Small World run-through.
The wedding itself was the first I'd attended. Uncle Tony married Anne, and it was nice. It was an open-air ceremony and I was dressed in my finest Catholic communion gear- a white shirt, black trousers and a lovely red cummerbund. When's the last time you wore a cummerbund?
Despite the wedding taking place in Florida, neither Tony or Anne are American. They went on to live in New York and Vegas, though Tony has now returned home. However, I do have family in Florida, including the aforementioned Great Auntie Pat. She moved to the States as a young woman and quickly lost her English accent. She now sounds as American as the rest of them. Pat married and soon had a family there, now including a great-grandson.
I wasn't thrilled to be seeing Auntie Pat. She visited England regularly and would always call me mean, and she'd steal my favourite chocolates from the Quality Street tin, just to piss me off. As she grew older she visited less, and the last time I saw her was five years ago when my Grandma (her sister) was on death's door. At that point I realised just how great she is, and I'd consider her one of my very favourite family members. She's strong and interesting, with dry wit, sharp and sarcastic. Just how I like my humour.
I'm not sure if I'll see her again as she is getting older and I am unable to afford a trip for the forseeable. I hope I do.
We arrived at Pat's house late one night. It was a small wooden house in the middle of nowhere. It was just the house, fields and sky. A whole lot of sky. We parked up some distance from the house. I'm not entirely sure why. As we approached the house the door opened, and out bound two HUGE dogs. Being the wimp that I am, I ran. Fast. I was a skinny runt in these days and I bombed it as far and as fast as my legs could carry me.
Of course, the dogs ran after me. By the time I'd made it to the front door I was out of breath and had tears running down my face. Luck didn't improve, as Pat's two year old granddaughter Shelby tortured me with crying, poking my eyes and general shenanigans for the rest of the trip. This is where my fear of dogs comes from. This is also where my fear of childen comes from.
I can't remember the location details, but we hit a beach somewhere near Tampa one day. I've not seen a beach like it since. Beautiful white sand, perfect blue sea. It didn't pass without incident. Swimming along the shore I managed to hit a rock, and I bust my leg open. I was fine until I noticed the blood. It was more blood than I'd bled before, and I still haven't bled as much since. More crying. I cried the whole way to the first aid centre, leaving a trail of blood as I went. This is where my fear of hitting my legs off of rocks comes from.
A traumatic trip. I can't find any photographs, so you'll have to just imagine my stupid crying face.
Next time: Majorca, I think. 1998ish.