Because of all the financial gloom and in a bold effort to save money, I have been debating whether to stop going on my traditional summer holiday. Being a keen fisherman in my spare time, this normally involves me on the bank of a lake or river being drenched in drizzle and eaten alive by midges. So, in terms of the pleasure factor let alone the financial savings, it could be argued there might be some benefit in staying at home.
I’m also aware that long-range forecasts predict that this summer will be (and I quote) “…much warmer and sunnier than last year”. I scratch my head but can’t recall having any sort of a summer in 2008. I remember it was rainy and windy and England didn’t qualify for Euro 2008 and our dog ran into a tree and had to have his leg in plaster. Oh, and Aunt Sarah came to stay, had rather too much cooking sherry and fell asleep under the piano. That’s about it.
At the moment I’m still planning to take a last minute holiday – hopefully much cheaper at very short notice. Also cheaper because I am prepared to put up with flying at 4.30am on a delayed charter flight from Birmingham surrounded by screaming babies and their vomiting parents and end up in a damp smelling run down villa sandwiched between a car breakers’ yard and a sewage plant just 10 minutes bus ride from the sea with no running water and diphtheria lurking in the kitchenette. There you go… I’ve just talked myself out of the whole idea.
There are other alternatives to consider. For example, the ‘House Swap’ idea can be a very good value holiday. You advertise online and find a nice looking family with a nice looking house in the Alps. You go there in July at the same time as they come to you. This seems an excellent idea because it doesn’t matter if you don’t get along as you will never actually meet each other. When you arrive, you find their house is rather too near a pig farm for comfort and it’s also on the main ‘Sound of Music’ coach tour route. After being deafened for the hundredth time by ‘Edelweiss’ blaring from the tour bus, you return home to find your house slightly different. The dining room table has a long scratch right down the middle and the washing machine needs replacing after their teenage son had set fire to the kitchen. Apart from that, it was a relatively good experience for both families. Ah yes, silly me. I was forgetting about your car which seems to have had an evil smelling interior spillage next to the driver’s seat. But at least they covered it up with a bottle of powerful antiseptic fragrance (‘alpine flowers’) which was a nice gesture.
Come come now, (I can hear you saying), don’t be an old humbug! Holidays are vital and a well deserved annual break for yourself and the family. Yes, but any change is as good as a rest. You can therefore stay in your own house, make some temporary changes and then imagine you’re on holiday when in fact you’re still at home.
For example, try moving stuff around in the kitchen. If you put all the cutlery into another drawer, hide the salt and pepper and replace your nice dinner glasses with those cheap plastic ones you once bought in Bridport market, it will break the mould of familiarity and cause you much the same degree of uncertainty and stress you might have experienced in a strange holiday villa (i.e. “Where on earth do they keep their spoons in this kitchen?”).
The most effective change of all (and the easiest to put into effect) is to move into the spare room for a week. The view from the window will be new and therefore exciting. The sounds and the smells will be different each night and cause you a mild shock when you wake in the morning. “Where am I?” you will ask as you open your eyes to unfamiliar surroundings. Yes, that’s right – you’re on holiday!
You can make other subtle changes to increase the vacation effect. Retune the TV to different channels, hide the remote and remove the bathroom door and re-hang it opening the opposite way from right to left (this one causes considerable laughs particularly when you’re trying to take a pee at 3am).
Try turning off the electricity for the whole week and you’ll be forced to eat and talk by candlelight – much more romantic and saves you pounds. Change the walls by hanging up all those frightful pictures stored in your attic that you hate but don’t have the heart to throw away for sentimental reasons. Gaze anew at glossy pink sunsets and faded Victorian gardens and then, when the week’s over, you can put everything back as it was. You will then be able to accurately say with a smile: “You know, it’s nice to be away but it’s even nicer to be back home again!”