We were going to do so much. James fancied quad biking over the dunes. I fancied galloping over the sands. We both had our eyes on camels. We were going to haggle for stuff in the souk (we’re the perfect tag team, me and my boy). We were going to hike in the mountains, visit Berber villages (not in a nasty tacky touristy way of course – hmm), scramble up waterfalls, ride mules up precipitous tracks, eat strange and wonderful things, lie on our backs and stargaze. We had plans. Lots of plans. All the things that we never normally do on holiday.
James: ‘I don’t feel too good.’
Poor James. Sick on holiday. It’s grim, huh?
So we didn’t do anything really. We just waved off Rachel and Gabriel onto their adventures and…lolled. We watched the sea, the stars, the clouds, the mist. We listened to donkeys and the crash of the waves. We saw chameleons change colour as they slowly climbed from shade to sun.
Then we left the sea and drove to the mountains, to a beautiful kasbah high in the hills. And here we watched storms brewing, lightning crackling over Marrakech. We listened to crickets – or were they cicadas? – and the cry of the muezzin rising up from the village in the valley below.
And we listened to Rachel and Gabriel’s travellers’ tales – of snake charmers, of muleteers, of sweet tagines, of the £10 cup of tea at Richard Branson’s hotel.
‘It’s not fair,’ said James. ‘It’s just not fair.’ He thumped his fist into the bed.
‘Hey, it is what it is,’ I said.
‘Don’t start,’ he growled.
‘But really,’ I said. ‘It’s not what we expected but it’s fine, isn’t it?’
He rolled his eyes. ‘But I feel bad for you, Mum, not just for me. You wanted to go into the mountains.’
‘Sure,’ I said. ‘But I equally like not going into the mountains. All I really wanted was to spend some time with you.’
He smiled. Wanly.
But really. It didn’t matter. Of course I hated that he felt rough. I’d have taken it off him in an instant if I could. But as for the rest, whatever. We have these ideas of perfect holidays, perfect weeks, perfect days but truly, all we can have are perfect moments. Okay, so sometimes it feels like a bunch of them join up together and dance but really, that’s just illusion. A trick of time.
Sure, I didn't miss the irony. I'd spent an arm and a leg (well, I will have, when the bill comes in) and really we could have just laid on the lawn back home and paid off debts instead. But hey...
I loved so many moments in Morocco. Soft warm air on skin. The surprise of a toad slapping my bare calf as I walked in darkness – both of us undoubtedly as surprised by the encounter as the other. Ripples ribboning on the pool. Desultory conversations with James – neither of us talk that much (there’s not much need). The feel of my skin after having a wonderful hammam. The crunch of an almond biscuit and the sweet assault of mint tea on the tongue.
It wasn’t the holiday we planned but, in its way, it was perfect.