Okay, let's not beat around the bush. I admit it. Meeting an old gym friend today I felt a twinge of envy as she talked about her forthoming summer vacation in France - and it's the first time for donkeys' years that we haven't been to France, too. Why no French holiday? A combination of vastly reduced income and increased cost of living coupled with a reluctance to book another holiday after last July's disastrous trip to the Cognac region with Ed, the Eating Disorder Demon, in tow.
But last year I didn't do any reading on the beach. I was too anxious about what anorexia-ridden Ben might get up to. On one side we had the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean where it meets the wide Gironde River, so you have to be especially careful about powerful currents which can drag you out to sea.
Yet Ben's anorexia compelled him to swim up and down punishingly completely oblvious of the fact he was being pulled further and further out to sea. He seemed miles out compared with anyone else.
I remember dashing into the sea and frantically swimming out to him to try and drag him back. I was terrified and I quickly realised just how exhausting swimming in such a strong current can be. I managed to reach him and drag him back, but it really was as if the anorexia demon had blinded him to the dangers. Meanwhile I was all too painfully aware of whatever it is that drives parents to put their own lives at risk to save their child from danger. After that I never relaxed on the beach again and kept an eagle eye on Ben whenever he went into the water.
On the other side were vast sand dunes and a pine forest where Ben went AWOL after one particular "I can't go on with this life any longer" occasion. I truly thought he wouldn't come back. Eventually after a very long time he did, but his depression hit rock bottom and after that we kept away from the beach, beautiful though it was...
I remember looking around me, thinking it was nightmarishly surreal being surrounded by families having a normal, happy day on the beach while our family was living out a nightmare. It was painfully surreal...
Coincidentally who should I meet on the ferry back from St Malo to Portsmouth last July but my friend from the gym, en route back home after a cycling fortnight in Britanny. But even on the ferry I couldn't relax.
By now Ben's suicidal / self harm tendancies were showing loud and clear; something that was to blight the rest of the summer for us. Suddenly I was viewing the swirling deep green water of the Atlantic Ocean on all sides a little differently from other people. I felt anxious the moment Ben went out of my sight...
But that was last year - and this year seeing my old gym buddy again reminded me of good times we've had as a family on holiday in France.
Never mind, there's always next year. And, anyway, my passport has run out.