The car was too hot. Jack resented the rear passenger windows of the car for stubbornly refusing to let themselves be wound down, but not nearly as much as he resented his parents for dragging him on this, the annual family holiday. Alive and Kicking was blasting from the stereo. It was the only tape his parents had in the car, and had been for quite some time, so, despite it being 1997 and Jack being only ten years old, he knew every word. It would be years before this knowledge of British ‘80s rock would help Jack imitate something people would think vaguely resembled cool; on the day in question, Jack resented the music, too.
‘What you gonna do when things go wrong?
What you gonna do when it all cracks up?’
The world outside his belligerent window was neatly divided: blue skies sat above a green, undulating hill-scape. Plains beneath the hills were patchwork fields, and something about their arrangement disconcerted Jack greatly. The straightness of their edges – marked with hedges or stone walls – betrayed a great deal of attention to detail. The fields themselves, though, were of such varying sizes and proportions that Jack couldn’t help but feel that someone had simply made a mistake. Again, this wouldn’t happen for some years yet, but it occasionally occurred to Jack, as he looked back on these yearly trips, that perhaps Mondrian had spent some time in Wales. Perhaps he’d made this very journey himself. It would explain a lot. On the day in question, though, he just couldn’t quite comprehend why it was that the farmers hadn’t arranged their fields in a neater pattern.
‘What you gonna do when the love burns down?
What you gonna do when the flames go up?’
As the car crested one of the hills and the sea came into view – still some way in the distance yet – the ritualistic enthusiasm of Jack’s parents was right on cue. Frustrated as he was by the heat, he shared in their joy, despite himself.
‘Who is gonna come and turn the tide?’
Apart from the uncharacteristic warmth, this trip was seeming as though it would fail to deviate from the established routine. They would, within the next hour, pass a sign welcoming them to Tywyn. From there it would be just a further fifteen minutes before they reached the camp-site, at which point Jack would entertain himself – perhaps by throwing a ball and chasing it, or perhaps by sitting in the shade of the car and trying to read a book – whilst his parents fought with one another and a battered old tent that resisted erection. It was whilst Jack was deciding between the book and the ball that the first unexpected, and therefore interesting, thing of the trip occurred: the car’s engine spluttered, and stuttered, and stopped.
‘What’s it gonna take to make a dream survive?’