We booked a cheap ferry crossing to Ostend which left Ramsgate at 3.30am. There were no refreshments, and our fellow passengers were almost exclusively Belgian lorry drivers. Great mounds of flabby flesh adorned with tattoos rose and fell in heavy slumber while my husband and I struggled to keep our eyes open to watch our children who bounded up and down the decks.
On disembarking we set off towards Amsterdam for a pre-arranged visit with my aunt and uncle before continuing towards Denmark. We were held up by a motorway accident and then got lost, arriving three hours late, with their enthusiasm for seeing us evaporated. After half-an-hour of strained conversation we drove north to a campsite at Schloor and put up our tents. At supper time, we discovered we had left our camping table and chairs behind, so we ate our soup over our laps while it dripped down our clothes.
The next morning I woke up with a raging temperature and spent two days sweating and shivering in the tent, giving up all idea of proceeding to Denmark. On the third day I raised myself with a monumental effort and drove the family to the nearest beach. We arrived to find a crowd gathered on the sand around a gruesome scene of a middle-aged man being given emergency treatment by paramedics while his frantic wife and daughter looked on helplessly. He died a few minutes later.
On day five I woke up and the toddler had wet the camp-bed mattress we were sharing. "We're going home," my husband declared. I found myself behind the wheel of the car heading for England. I was the sole driver. Four hours later after meandering along the Dutch estuaries looking for a hotel, with me feeling violently ill, we finally discovered one with vacancies. We were the only guests. The proprietor looked shifty and I half expected the theme music from Psycho to blare through the narrow dark corridors.
The next day we paid our exorbitant bill and drove to Dunkirk. At the ferry terminal we were told we'd have to wait eight hours for the next boat. After pleading with officials they squeezed in our car. During the crossing I vomited several times! My eyes were wild and staring and my face a sort of yellowy-green.
Back in London I collapsed in bed. It was a bank holiday weekend and I couldn't see a doctor for four days. On Tuesday morning my friend drove me to the surgery. The doctor went away with a sample of bright orange wee I'd brought and came back. "You have Hepatitis A," he said. "Of course it will have to be confirmed with a blood test."
I still feel nauseous every time I see a windmill or a pair of clogs.