/vʌɪs ˈvəːsə,vʌɪsə ˈvəːsə/
with the main items in the preceding statement the other way round.
‘street pictures in the studio and vice versa‘
conversely, inversely, the other way round, contrariwise, oppositely, in reverse, reciprocally
‘unposed pictures in controllable conditions and vice versa‘
– entry adapted from an online dictionary
Every year, towards the end of July, I head north with my family to Orkney, where I was born and grew up. We stay for two weeks or so with my sister and brother-in-law in their house in Kirkwall. I am returning to somewhere; my partner and children are going somewhere strange, somewhere that they do not really know.
When we visit Fiona’s family I am viewed through the prism of Fiona’s relationship with me; in Orkney she becomes more of an adjunct to me and less a fully-dimensioned person. There are fewer people who share histories with her here. There are fewer prospects that live on in her mind when she is no longer among them, in the islands.
Our relationships to one another shift somehow when we are in Orkney. Mine, probably most dramatically. I am no longer simply Fiona’s partner or James and Alice’s father or that bloke at work; I step back into being a younger brother again, an uncle (because my niece lives in Orkney too), Frances and Graham’s son, or a person who went to school with someone.
When people hear that I grew up in Orkney, they often say that it must have been amazing; they ask me what it was like. I tell them that it was just like growing up; I say that growing up in a city must have been amazing. In truth, by the time I was fourteen (James’ age now) I already longed to get away.
I have never lived in my sister’s house: she bought it after our parents had died and after I had gone south to university. It is not my home – indeed, my home is now in London – and sometimes, when we are all packed into it, it can seem quite crowded. It is difficult to find a space for yourself, somewhere where you can be on your own.
It’s hard work being on holiday. It’s tiring. Whether you’re four or fifty. Wherever it is that you have gone to get away from it all. And if you are a parent, with a young child, it is hard to find some time when you are ‘off’, recharging your batteries in preparation for your return to the normal and your everyday life. Beaches can help.
I get away from it all by taking photographs, I suppose. By withdrawing physically and squinting through a viewfinder, I can step outside. I am on holiday.