Despite me writing in last month’s magazine of how much better it is to stay at home this summer, our recent appalling UK weather throughout July has persuaded me otherwise. So, it’s time for the whole family to jet off on a cheapo late holiday deal to a probably polluted part of the Mediterranean with at least (hopefully) a sunnier beach than Chesil. I say ‘whole family’ because this includes my son and his IPod, Uncle Norman’s medical kit (with pill factory and 12 different types of suntan lotion) and Aunt Sarah with her three sets of false teeth. What a joy it’s been to plan this particular summer holiday… endless arguments about where to go, what might be available at this late stage and whether we can go back to where we all went in 2002? The answer to that one is a resounding ‘NON’. Although the boys liked the French farm and liked the French family very much and especially liked the French farmer’s rather attractive daughters (perhaps a little too much for comfort), all I can remember from that time were the torrential downpours, daily sunstroke and screaming grandchildren, wasp stings and sodden socks hanging out to dry.
So it’s off to somewhere else. The last month has seen some brilliant planning on my part: four weeks of keen anticipation as I looked at online brochures and photos of nice families smiling and waving for joy as they relax by sun drenched pools. No doubt they all look happy because, due to a bit of digital photo editing, the nearby car breakers yard and pig farm have been successfully airbrushed out. Either that or they’re happy because they’re leaving rather than arriving.
However, I have persevered and booked it all, armed with the realistic fatalism that perhaps the reason this particular holiday is still available so late in July is because nobody else wants to go there. (‘Beautiful view and you really don’t notice the 200 metre tall wind turbines rotating happily behind the car park. Unfortunately, the hotel is not responsible for any headaches caused by the resulting low frequency sounds’).
I have even prepared individual maps, tourist guides and timetables and have emailed all family members about what to bring (disinfectant hospital hand-spray, water purifying tablets, phone charger, jellyfish repellent etc). All of this may still come to nought amid scenes of gloom, wailing and despair as yet another French Traffic Controllers’ strike brings forth queues for the loos and vouchers for overnight blankets at Bristol airport. Instead of a nice steak & frites under a palm tree with a glass of vino, it’ll be six quid for the airport’s reconstituted ham sandwich (“Sorry dear but ham’s off – how about our Bristol Special? – organic coleslaw and aubergine ciabatta, only £9.99…”) while sitting under the disturbingly blank flight departure screens with a plastic mug of lukewarm lucozade.
Why do I bother? Why go to all this trouble and get everyone excited only to find that the hotel we’re going to hasn’t yet been fully built and there’s a dead cat floating in the hotel swimming pool. Everything’s blocked – from the loo in our room to the grid locked roads jammed with holiday traffic…
I am predicting the following things may happen this August:
(a) Two of our children will go down with colds shortly before take-off. Upon arrival in Spain/France/Scotland (suitcases in Dortmund), immigration officials will declare our family a ‘swine-flu’ epidemic threat and cart us all off to a nice quarantined hospital where we will be attended upon by nice doctors wearing head-to-toe decontamination suits and NASA Apollo 11 style helmets. Our holiday scenery will consist of Italian landscapes of the airport surroundings and runway, viewed from behind our own airtight sanitised glass screen. Perhaps I will get a better class of sterilised continental ciabatta to eat, but I’m not banking on it.
(b) Aunt Sarah will complain every morning about the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of her hotel shower and room. After the hotel has changed her room three times and been as helpful as it is possible to be, she’ll still be grumpy and will cause an embarrassing moment when she falsely accuses the hotel staff of stealing a 5 euro note from her room. She will then have to move to the Ritz at four times the price and not talk to me until Christmas (I should be so lucky). Something like this always happens. And we always swear afterwards never to go on holiday with her EVER AGAIN. And yet we always relent and include her the following year. Why does this happen?
(c) Due to the strange climatic events caused by global warming, any country we go to will have gale force winds, a hurricane and be unseasonably cold with frost on the beach. The sea will be unswimmable owing to an outbreak of great white shark attacks and the pool will be covered with a thin layer of ice (with the as yet unremoved dead cat just below the surface). The weather in South West Britain will – on the other hand – be brilliant. Tropical breezes and beautifully balmy sunny days at 30 degrees centigrade will attract everyone sensible enough to remain at home. If only I had listened to myself from a month ago…