The writing group was set the task to write 500 words, or less, on the above titled topic. I wrote two (only presenting one). Here they are.
The Best Holiday #1
I am in the departure lounge, though anything less lounge-like is hard to imagine: this is no place for indolent relaxation. I stand because, for someone of my shape and size, there is nowhere to sit. Even room for standing is in a patchwork of spaces between flight cases, reclining figures attached to devices, discarded food wrappers and unidentifiable spills of fluid. It is a stale ratatouille with nothing to recommend it but the transience of my part in it.
My wife and our disaffected offspring wander aimlessly through sales aisles of overpowering scent and pointless gadgetry; things that they cannot use at home, things they neither need, nor really want, but neither do they resist, as if satisfying the urge to treat themselves, to anything, is their just reward for enduring the journey. Me? I drink.
I notice that they are noticed, we are noticed, by others. People observe, especially when there is little else to do. They stare casually, without actually looking. I watch them, watching us over the tops of their screens and drinks cups, reading their curiosity, their judgement and, for some, disgust. It is quite subtle but I can sense it, even from the back; it is something to do with their body language, nudges, nodding heads and flicking eyes. Of course we try to blend in wherever we travel but, no matter what outward appearance we adopt, what clothes we wear, what languages we speak, people like us are easily marked as outsiders and unwelcome, even here among others who, like us, do not belong and are just passing through.
When we booked the agent had said “It’s our best summer holiday, and most popular. We send lots of people there, especially families”. Liar. We needn’t have come this far at all. I’m going to complain when we get back, and post on Trip Adviser. It’s all very well sending us to a planet with two suns, but how the hell are you supposed to get a decent tan when the hotel is on the dark side?
26 April 2014
The Best Holiday #2
I suppose that what defines a “Best” holiday will be different for everyone, in every place and in every time. For those who are deprived of opportunity, like my grandparents were, any kind of holiday would have been the best: perhaps a day trip to Whitby, and a chance to wear a hat for a reason other than a wedding or funeral, would do it for them.
My parents, mostly because of better education, aspired to more ambitious holidays but, while I was growing up, even they were restricted by uncertain income. In the early part of my life the near “Continent”, as it was then called, was their available playground: Calais, Le Touquet, Paris; all places then recently ravaged by war.
In the so-called developed world, the baby-boomers, my generation, have been the first for whom holidays became synonymous with travelling. The availability of relatively cheap mass travel coincided with a notion that one should travel, it was almost an obligation. Not to travel, or to not have a desire to, was a social impediment so even if you couldn’t afford travel, as it was the “Live now pay later” 60’s, people bought 2 weeks abroad on HP. Eventually to have not travelled was to be regarded as indicating a certain lack of character when applying for a job or a place in University.
My experience and appreciation of independent travel, as an adult, has been built on all of those factors: increasing income, better education, aspiration, a desire to see and do because I could. What is common to the appreciation of these holiday experiences, across the generations, is how memorable they were, and remain, and with whom they were shared. I remember, when sent to Bradford while Mum and Dad went to France for a week, sitting with my pinafored grandmother at her oil-cloth covered kitchen table and drawing with thick black crayons on white paper. I remember, later, playing with my brother among the fortifications and discarded shell cases on beaches in Normandy, and then mackerel fishing with my Dad off the beach in Beer. Newlywed, I hitchhiked across Europe: six weeks from Ostend to the Black Sea and three hours back on a charter flight. Post-divorce, there were imagined holiday romances; cross-generational holidays in Spain with my parents, my new wife and my children. These remain, in their memories and mine, as good times. Cruising the Norfolk Broads, moonlight on the Bosphorus, the vastness of the Australian interior, the velvet softness of Tuscan evenings, driving the west coast of highland Scotland, sailing down the Thames as a proper, but London born, tourist: though each would probably be remembered, and judged, differently by others who were there, they are each, in their own ways, the Best Holiday to me.
24 April 2014