10 year family trip from hell

book of the week

Wavewalker: Released

To Suzanne Haywood (William Collins £20, 416pp)

One morning in 1976, seven-year-old Suzanne Haywood (née Cook) was told over breakfast by her father that she would be sailing around the world with her five-year-old brother John and her parents Gordon and Mary. . She recalls the voyage of her namesake Captain Cook as “a spoonful of corn flakes stopped on her way to her mouth.”

Her dad’s bombshell statement sparked excitement, but it meant she had to say goodbye to her best friend Sarah and her beloved golden-haired spaniel Rusty.

One morning in 1976, Suzanne was seven years old. She was informed by her father that she would sail around the world with her brother and her parents.

One morning in 1976, Suzanne was seven years old. She was informed by her father that she would sail around the world with her brother and her parents.

If she really knew what was in store for her, the bowl of corn flakes would have definitely hit the floor.

She will never see Rusty again, and will never actually go back to school in England. Her father’s original plan was for her to sail for three years. In fact, they’ve been apart for ten years.

A few months after sailing on board the schooner Wavewalker with her family and small crew, a 40-foot wave capsized the boat in the Indian Ocean, shattering Suzanne’s skull without medical anesthesia. 7 surgeries were required. small island.

It was just one of many trials she endured. She got stuck in a coral reef. She was stranded in the “no wind zone” of the mid-Atlantic. The battery died, the engine broke and I was stranded in the middle of the ocean. caught in a cyclone. She was stranded on tropical and volcanic islands for months as her cash-strapped parents desperately tried to make money.

Insufficient drinking water. I live on canned corned beef. When her first period started, she curled up in pain on her bunk bed. . . Suzanne’s memoirs reveal, scene by scene, the raw reality behind the romantic notion of a round-the-world trip.

But the worst part for her was being “trapped in someone else’s dream, my father’s dream” from age 7 until nearly 17. Her father had an iron will – her wife said, “Once you decide to do something, nothing can stop you.

Every time Suzanne hoped she might finally be able to return home, her father suddenly made new travel plans and told her that she would be away for at least another year and a half.

He was so into sailing that he had no intention of returning to Britain, where he called the “ridiculous tax rate”. And so it went on: Fourth Christmas, Seventh Christmas, Ninth Christmas, and you think, “Will this ever end?”

A few months after Suzanne began sailing on the schooner Wavewalker with her family and a small crew, a 40-foot wave capsized her boat in the Indian Ocean and crushed her skull.

Eight years after the voyage, Suzanne began attending correspondence courses. She was sincere and eager to pass her exams, but her mother forced her to do all her cooking and cleaning while she curled up in her cabin for days suffering from seasickness. I requested.

All Suzanne wanted was geographic stability, friends, and an education.None of these were encouraged by her parents

“Monstrous” is the adjective Suzanne used to describe that 40-foot murderous wave that would give her nightmares for years.

While reading her beautifully written travelogue, I transferred that adjective “monstrous” to her parents.

It’s often said that parents in the 1970s and 1980s were more selfish than they are today, and that “kids did whatever they wanted.” What Gordon and Mary impose on their children is the most extreme example of that selfishness.

All Suzanne wanted was geographic stability, friends, and an education. None of these were encouraged by her parents. Her parents called her selfish when they dared suggest things that might help her pursue her own life goals, such as allowing her to attend boarding school. Had a cruel habit of blaming.

Her father, a sailing enthusiast, had no intention of returning to what he called a “ridiculous tax rate”.

Suzanne’s memoir reveals, scene by scene, the raw reality behind the romantic notion of a round-the-world trip

Wanting a little more independence in her early teens, she saved $100 babysitting while in Australia. Her skinny father asked her to lend him all the money, and she complied. He didn’t pay her back. When she dared to mention it for her third time, he declined and said, “I will tell you plainly.” If you ask me about this again, I will never listen. ”

Eight years after the voyage, Suzanne began attending correspondence courses. She was sincere and eager to pass her exams, but her mother made her do all her cooking and cleaning while she curled up in her cabin for days suffering from seasickness. requested.

One day, when Ms. Suzanne was about to study at the only table on the ship, her mother told her to get out of the way as the crew needed to sit there. She refused to move her (at this point I hit the air) so her mother put on loud music to distract her.

There were magical moments like when whales chased boats for days and when whales disembarked in Rio and Tonga to be celebrated by the locals and the king. Suzanne has arrived at each place with her hopeful hearts, trying to make the most of it.

She is now a successful business leader and the mother of three children. Her husband, former Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, died in 2018 at a tragically young age. (The couple was photographed in 2012)

But when you read her story, you can’t help but feel a growing sense of anger at her plight — a minor thousands of miles from home, trapped with her parents, completely misunderstood by them. It is done. Her mother, in particular, seemed to harbor a special and intense resentment towards her daughter. Perhaps caused by her own subconscious guilt for having her normal childhood robbed of her.

“I knew my mother hated me,” Suzanne writes, “for a long time I accepted the dull pain, but the pain was sometimes excruciating.”

I knew Tonga, Honolulu, New Zealand, the coral reefs, and so on, should fascinate me, but what I found most fascinating was the slow-burning mental torture Suzanne endured.

Her parents’ selfishness has risen to a new level.

Suzanne set sail alone when she was 16 years old, leaving her two children at home in New Zealand for seven months, not having enough money to live on, and telling Suzanne to pay and book all new crew reservations. , plus driving, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and chopping logs with an ax to heat a cold house.

When he finally got a call from his father, his first question wasn’t “How are you?” “How many crew members have you booked?”

Oxford was intrigued by this girl who managed to get an education on a boat.She was invited to interview at Somerville College

Without anyone’s help, Susanne took great courage and sent letters to universities around the world asking if they would allow her to enter them. To Oxford’s credit, she was the only one to reply in the affirmative. Oxford was intrigued by this girl who managed to get an education on a boat. She was invited to an interview at Somerville College.

When the 17-year-old flew home from New Zealand for an interview and successfully answered Don’s difficult questions thanks to her extensive reading, which has been trading books at charity shops in the Pacific islands for over a decade, I cried with relief. . Her future and her escape all depended on Oxford saying “yes.”

And it happened. The girl, who had never seen a play, listened to an orchestra, or visited an art gallery, was accepted to Oxford University, where she grew up.

She is now a successful business leader and the mother of three children. Her husband, former Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, died in 2018 at a tragically young age.

When Suzanne planned to write this memoir, her intimidated mother threatened to damage her husband’s career if she did so. But she couldn’t stop Suzanne from her advances. She “had no control over her own life in her childhood,” she writes. “But as an adult, I have a right to tell my story as honestly as possible.”

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