Probably not the best weekend to go to France by sea. It seemed quite calm as we left Newhaven though the beach looked a bit savage. A teenage boy drowned there a few hours later. On board our ferry the holiday atmosphere soon turned to tense quiet punctuated only by muffled retching as walking on the see-sawing decks became almost impossible. The French crew seemed to positively enjoy it, striding about with their disposable gloves and little jars of vomit-absorbing powder. My mother got sent flying across the floor when a particularly big wave slapped us. It was one of those slow-motion events, in which I knew I really should reach out and catch her, but somehow spent too long thinking about it to actually do anything. There was also an evil part of me that found it hilarious. Dad also got rolled (literally), but was unharmed thanks to his protective layer of blubber. Then she went into one of those very dramatic nervous shock reactions, all pale and slurring her speech. Christ, it was like being at work, but without all the monitoring equipment to reassure me that nothing was really wrong. The captain came down from the bridge and apologised. He'd been zig-zagging to avoid container ships, he explained. They gave Mum a cabin to sleep it off in for the rest of the crossing. I spent two hours watching her in that windowless cabin, wondering how my parents had turned into frail elderly people without me noticing the transition.
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