Garlic Ice Cream

May 14, 2010
It’s eight o’clock on a Saturday morning at the start of half term and I have just been informed, by my very irate mother, that in two hours time we are leaving for the Isle of Wight and won’t be back for a week.
My first thought, once I have fully processed this information, is that my entire half term and possibly the rest of my life had just been ruined in one sentence.
Judging by the looks of my fellow siblings this holiday is news to them as well.
“We’re actually going?!? I thought that was a joke?”
“Why have you not packed yet?!” the dulcet tones of my, by now frantic mother, drifted gently down through the ceiling.
“Will there be internet access?” somehow my older brother is capable of reading my mind.
“No. No internet. But there is a telly. And possibly a DVD player.” My mother considerably cheers up at the thought of the lack of entertainment and communication available.
“What about phone reception? If there’s no phone reception I’m going home. By kayak if needs be.”
That was me. I had been told the Isle of Wight hadn’t changed since 1950 but I was very nearly certain that didn’t include mobiles. Wondering exactly how bad it was going to be, I beat a hasty retreat to my room to pack; my mother was in the process of ‘issuing jobs.’

“I’m hungry!” “I’m thirsty!” “I need a wee!” “Are we nearly there yet?” Surprisingly unaffected by this well rehearsed chorus, my mother smiled, shook her head at no one in particular and almost sang “We’re about ten minutes away. Put your shoes on!” At this my younger sister promptly fell asleep and my brothers started a volleyball match in the back seat, using my cousin sitting between them as a net.
Fifteen minutes later we pulled up outside a small white house with blue shutters. “Shotgun biggest room!” yelled my little brother James as we all tumbled out of the car. “Bags the room with the TV!” Issy and Jess chorused, stumbling own the steps to the kitchen after James.
“I’ll share with James if you go with the girls,” suggested Sammy, my older brother. Grudgingly, I agreed. At least they were less likely to snore.

Half an hour later, I was sitting on my bed watching a lady looking for her glasses, perched precariously on her head, in every pocket of her incredibly large bag.
“Lucinda! Get your kayak there’s no signal!”
Unable to believe what Sammy had just yelled at me, I snatched my phone, only to slump back on my bed. The reception bar was completely empty.

In the vague hope that we would find an area of the town where there was signal, Sammy and I escaped to ‘go exploring.’ Our path took us down, quite literally and very steeply, to the cliff tops and then down to the esplanade.
On the way back up the cliff, Sammy stopped for a fag and a gloat. He is leaving on Wednesday to go to Edinburgh and stay with a friend. This leaves me alone with enthusiastic parents, two siblings, no phone and no facebook.
Just as Sammy finished his cigarette, a couple of teenagers, the first we’d seen, wandered up.
“Hey. You got a light?”
“Sure.” Sammy handed over his Big Ben shaped lighter.
“You two don’t live round here do you?”
This was the older looking of the two girls. Evidently our efforts to blend in with the locals were not going very well.
“Nah. We’re just down for the week. So, does anything actually happen around here or does everyone just sit around and make airfix models?”
“Pretty much. Although, come to think of it, there’s occasionally an underground rave in one of the bunkers. We’ll let you know if there is one and if we se you again.”
The girls headed off and Sammy and I started the long slog back up the hill to home, debating how best to persuade the parents to let us got to the potential rave.

I was woken next morning by my small sister announcing that she had ‘killed her leg.’ Groaning, I rolled over to find my equally small cousin staring intently at me. “She’s killed her leg,” she said conversationally. “She’s always doing that.”
Having decided going back to sleep was not an option, I heaved myself out of bed and down to the living room. Just as I was settling down to my book, the oh-so-cheerful voice of my father interrupted me. “Get in the car. We’re going to have FAMILY FUN!”
What entailed was an hours drive to the opposite end of the island past a dinosaur farm and a fishing tackle museum to an extremely steep hill.
Spurred on by my mother’s “come on kids, we’re going for an ice cream,” we all jumped out of the car. Unfortunately, the ice cream turned out to be garlic flavoured and only obtainable from a garlic farm several miles away and, naturally, only accessible by foot.
One garlic ice cream later, it was unanimously decided by all present that James was an idiot. Unlike the sane ones among us, James had gone straight for a bottle of garlic flavoured sauce labelled ‘Dragons’ Blood. Over 18s only’ and drunk half a cupful. The first I was aware of this, James had sprinted past me, eyes watering, into the men’s and started downing as much water in as short a space or time as humanly possible.
“I thought ‘Over 18’ would mean it was alcoholic,” James offered by way of explanation.
We left with three bottles of the ‘über hot dragons blood’ for use in practical jokes.

Later that evening, James, who was still downing large glasses of water at five minute intervals, was despatched to go and buy milk while Sammy and I made tracks back to the cliff path to look for fellow youth mis-spenders.
The grassy park on top of the cliff yielded no such youths but did provide a large coach party of old people who tutted at Sammy’s leather trenchcoat and my denim skirt.
“In my day, skirts were worn to the ankle,” complained one old lady in a very loud stage whisper.
Wondering whether it was possible she was related to my head teacher and just how old she could be and still be upright, I followed Sammy down the cliff to the skate park.
It was here that we struck upon the local teenagers, albeit some of them were more like twelve than fifteen.
Following the ‘get talking to people in three easy steps’ rule (roll or produce a cigarette, ask for a light and keep the conversation going) Sammy and I got talking to the older ones in the group, having first deflected the ‘do you play Farmville?’ questions from the younger ones.
I got talking to one boy called Jack. Apparently he lives on the island but goes to a boarding school just north of London. He hates the Isle of Wight because there’s nothing to do and all his friends live in England so he has no-one to go out with in the holidays.
By the time Sammy and I left the skate park, I had Jack’s number. It took until we got home for me to remember I had no reception so would only be able to text him if I left the town.
My train of thought was rudely interrupted by the presence of Issy and Jess. “Mummy’s angry,” Jess informed us. The English are good at understatements.

The next morning I was woken at an hour I didn’t even know existed by Issy and Jess who had taken it upon themselves to act out the Isle of Wight bus timetable complete with realistic brake noises and screams from victims of their, evidently very bad, driving.
Deciding the kitchen might be quieter, I traipsed downstairs only to be confronted by yet another, annoyingly awake, person.
“Ah. Lucinda. Glad you’re awake. Could you possibly trot down to Asda (the only shop in the town) and buy us some milk and a paper?”
Doing my best to conceal my amazement that, not only were people awake but that shops were open at this time in the morning, I took some money off my father and started grudgingly down the hill.
By the time I reached Asda, my thoughts had turned to the previous night and I was hoping to run into Jack.
For some special reason, by standing on tiptoes in the middle of the biscuit aisle and leaning to the left, a single bar of reception could be obtained. It was while standing in this highly uncomfortable position, trying to text, that I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Lucinda…?” It was Jack.
“Oh. Er…Hi. Sorry, it’s the only way I can get any signal here.”
Jack grinned.
“Sure. Whatever. Listen, a group of us are gonna rent a couple of kayaks and head round to the needles then my mum’ll come and pick us up this evening. You want to come?”
If there’s one sport I can do without looking like the local town drunk, it’s kayaking.
“Sure. I’d love to come. When are we meeting?”
“Today at ten-ish. Outside the boathouse on the beach.”
“Sounds like fun. See you there.”
Wondering how exactly I was going to persuade my parents that kayaking on open sea with a boy I had met less than twelve hours ago and without Sammy, who had already left for Edinburgh, was a good idea, I trudged back up the hill.

When I got back, I was greeted with “We thought today we should go to the High School Musical Magical World of Adventure and Fun!”
I thought for approximately three seconds and, having decided I wouldn’t be missing much if I skipped it, I bit the bullet and asked my parents.
They were surprisingly relaxed about it.
“If you’re absolutely sure you don’t think you’re missing out by not coming with us then I guess you can go. Just be careful.”
Hardly able to keep a straight face, I ran upstairs to change. It looked like FAMILY FUN take two would have to wait.

By ten thirty only Jack and I had turned up out of the seven or so expected.
“I vote we go without them. I’m not waiting around for another hour while they finish their coco pops.”
“Yeah scrap the rest of them,” I said. “We’ll go it alone. Do you want two single kayaks or one double?”
By about five in the afternoon, I had had what was fast approaching one of the best days of my life.
We had opted for two kayaks for safety reasons but had only gone about a mile before realising capsizing one another was much more fun.
Deciding lunch was for boring people with money, we went on until we reached the Needles when my near- death experience tally was upped as we were nearly run over by a large ferry claiming to be offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thankful this experience wasn’t death Jack and I were aiming for the beach when a bright orange lifeboat pulled up alongside us.
“Oi! What do you wretched kids think you’re playing at? This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and an extremely popular tourist destination and kids’ messing around on kayaks destroys the dignity and repose of the area.”
Privately, I thought a bright orange lifeboat and an enormous white ferry were worse offenders. One look at Jack told me he was thinking exactly the same.
It was about six in the evening by now and therefore pitch black. This meant that neither Jack nor I saw the rocks which we both promptly crashed into.
Sharp jagged rocks plus fibreglass kayaks does not a happy holiday make.
Soaking wet, freezing cold, blind and badly scratched, I clung to the remains of my kayak. I could hear Jack swearing behind me so I knew he was alive at least.
“Over here.”
I reached out and, finding Jack’s arm, grabbed hold of him.
Together we found a rock and, buoyed by the rising swell of the sea, clambered on.
I have no idea how long we clung together on that rock but it was long enough to start worrying that the tide was coming in and shrinking our little island considerably.
Neither of us had a phone, wet phones tend not to work too well and Jack’s mum, who had been going to pick us up, had had to take his sister to hospital with a broken leg.
It must have been around four hours passed before a boat passed us close enough to hear our yells. The people on board refused to come and get us because they were worried about ‘scratching the paintwork’ (“Done in Milan daaaaahling”) but they did at least call the coastguard.

Back on dry land, the coastguard called both our parents who turned up within seconds of one another and promptly began the hugging-and-shouting routine appropriate to such situations.
I was banned from ever going somewhere alone with Jack again and grounded for the rest of the holiday to ‘keep me safe.’ At least I missed the HSM trip, even though adding two points to a near-death experience tally in one day is a bit much. Needless to say, I maintain a vendetta against the Isle of Wight, garlic ice cream and all. Funny that.

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