Holidays with young people can leave places looking as if a 1970’s rock band has been staying.
We have been staying in an Airbnb in France and it was a lovely one with tremendous views of mountains and lush vegetation. But it was also very, very tidy and full of breakable stuff. This would be fine if it was just my partner and me staying, but only son is not the kind of person who is easily contained within a glass and china-filled room. The tables were all glass, there was a display cabinet full of china and the owners seemed really proud of a rather expensive-looking light which, if you pressed a gadget, turned into a kind of star formation. I forbid all children from touching said gadget.
After around three days we had broken two glasses. We went out and bought some replacements and I took charge of all glass washing [both had been broken in washing-up accidents].On checking out day, we did a big clean. The hosts had all kinds of cleaning products – one for each different type of gadget or surface. We cleaned the flat from top to bottom, in part to make up for the glasses and left it looking far better than our own house ever looks.
As it was earlier than their normal waking hours, the teenagers were only just getting out of bed during the cleaning campaign and leaving trails of extra mess behind them. They had been out late the night before looking for a wifi zone after we bust the wifi allowance.This was in part because daughter two was up all night due to the heat and spent most of it looking at BTS videos.
All in all, though, we managed to include enough stuff in the holiday to satisfy everyone at least once – swimming for only son and daughters two and three; art for the teenagers; some pre-history – underground caves – for everyone [and a bit of much needed cool]; family catch-ups with nearby relatives; and some more modern history for daughter one and her parents.
We visited a maternity hospital which was set up in the aftermath of the Spanish civil war when thousands of people fled from Franco’s forces across the Pyrenees, more than doubling the population of the region. They were put into refugee camps on the beaches and elsewhere, but the numbers were so great that they overwhelmed the local population and there was little in the way of provisions for them. Many young children died from malnutrition or illnesses.
Those in the camps included many pregnant women and the maternity hospital was set up by Swiss teacher and nurse Elizabeth Eidenbenz so that they would give birth safely and in a supportive place. The hospital is now a museum, but the stories it contains are powerful ones and it lists the names of the 575 children born there in the aftermath of the civil war and during the Second World War, when refugees from other parts of Europe found themselves in the region. That is 575 children that could very easily have died. Eidenbenz’s work and that of the maternity nurses is inspiring and a timely reminder of the kind of practical help that is needed in times of extreme politics.