Stephen Pietrzykowski co-runs Tough Love, a record label based in London.  He is also a 27 year old man who has just returned from a motor home trip with his parents.  He contacted Platform’s professional in-house therapists to talk through this experience.  Chicken Soup For The Fucked-Up-Parental-Role.

Like everyone normal, each time I hear the words ‘credit’ and ‘crunch’ mentioned in the same sentence, I transform into Michael Douglas in Falling Down. But the situation is getting ridiculous now. I’ve heard horror stories of young people only affording to venture out four times a week. And it’s not just socialising that’s suffering. The brokeback bank fiasco means tri-annual holidays are disappearing quicker than Woody Allen’s artistic integrity. It’s moments like this we need to be resourceful. We must not panic. We must be inventive. It’s hard times for everyone.

Everyone that is, except my parents. They’ve just bought a new motorhome that literally is a house that’s a car. It looks like it cost a million pounds and every time I picture the heaving bosom of its snow-white chassis, I shed a little tear for my evaporating inheritance. I haven’t not worked all these years just to watch them fritter away my meal ticket on decadent trips around northern Europe (and I don’t mean Scotland).

With the current financial apocalypse in mind and a desperate final attempt to experience some of that money before it disappears forever, I decided to join them on their most recent trip around France, in what would be my first family holiday since I was 15 and a free one at that.  Fuck you, money.

Selfish motivations aside, it also seemed like a perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with the old folks, find out what they actually do now they’re getting old and round, and maybe even ‘bond’. Is blood thicker than water? Is the child the father of the man? Am I adopted? Just what does my Mum have on her iPod? How much does Dad still love Dire Straits?

It was meant to last 17 days. I managed just 8.

Day 1

Today is my 27th birthday. I’m feeling old. I’m looking older. So, I’m going on holiday to be treated like a child. In an adult’s body. I feel like an anesthetised Robin Williams, but with fewer jokes. It’s this reason why I’ve also decided to not drink alcohol. Youth is mine to reclaim.

I travel from London to hometown Coventry, only to sit with no legroom for four hours in the back of a gleaming white narcissus that passes London on its way to the coast. I haven’t even done anything and feel like I could sleep for eternities. My mum plies me with Werthers Originals and all I need is a tartan blanket over my legs and my convalescence is complete.  What’s more, being an only child, I’ve always been the baby of the family, but my dad’s treating this vehicle like the porcelain baby daughter he never had.  I can’t put my hands or feet anywhere and half expect to be told to skitch down the motorway. I’m starting to doubt my own judgement. But it’s too late, we’re honking down the highway and Mark Knopfler’s spidery guitar is already booming in my ears.

After a short ride on the Eurostar, we arrive in a moonlit Calais and stop overnight in a supermarket car park. I’m told to lock the doors, because my dad’s heard rumours that tourists here get violently robbed by smack head immigrants (but, of course!). A fear-filled sleepless night on a bed-that’s-really-a-chair ensues and I’m wondering if I made the right decision. It’s not how I’d imagined I’d welcome in the rock ‘n’ roll year of death.

Song of the day: Dire Straits – “Money For Nothing”

Day 2

We travel for what feels like days in the blazing sun to arrive in some archetypal French town, where everyone has car that looks like shit and nobody works. They’re probably connected.

Having been sat down for five hours in less space than what it takes for my body to exist, I decide to take a walk. Big mistake. Apparently there are chairs to unpack, bikes to dismount and other jobs designed to turn a holiday into work. This provides the catalyst for a huge argument between a drunk father and a sober me, at some time around 1am. Emotions run high, my dad claiming, through a slurred tongue, that we’re different because “uwe like boosks und I like fish-king carse”.  Hours later, he finally resolves that he wants to get to “know me better” and my mum, through tears, states that this is the conversation they’d wanted to have with me for years. Heavy times.

It’s a watershed moment that came earlier than I anticipated. But as endearing as their efforts are, I’d still like not to have to explain what Lolita is about to them ever again. Some things just aren’t worth taking an interest in.

Song of the day: Dire Straits – “Brothers In Arms”

Day 3

With last night’s emotional hurricane forgotten about, I instead spend the day feeling like I’m trapped inside a bad American teen comedy skit. Something akin to Hear No Evil, Smell No Evil. Their respective sensory deficiencies mean that Dad can’t smell his own inexplicable odours and Mum hear her own epic snoring, which sounds like several motorcycle accidents in a laundrette.

Given the amount we have to shout for her to acknowledge us, Mum must live in almost near silence, but I’m starting to think that some of it may be necessarily selective. Dad talks about the same things all the time, always asking the same questions: Do you like that campervan? Do you like that car? Do you like that dog? I guess this is an attempt at bonding. I decide to keep it quiet about Jeremy Clarkson being a cunt and Crufts being gay.

Meeting the most boring man on the planet later that night, I too wish for selective hearing. At least my parents have alcohol to drive them through. Just how old do you have to be before it becomes unnecessary to pluralise the word ‘mile’ and need a post to stand up? Looking at this fat, stupid man that appears as if he may wobble but not fall down, I’m increasingly glad of my own father.

Song of the day: Dire Straits – “Heavy Fuel”