Tuesday 17 May 2011

What I did on my holidays

No image of the Second World War resonates more strongly with me than that poster enquiring “Is your journey really necessary?”

If asked to recommend a single grand gesture to “save the planet”, I would close down the entire global tourism industry at a stroke.

The ever more intrusive rigmarole of airport security has heightened my already strong aversion to air travel; congestion makes the roads unbearable; while the demise of the East Coast restaurant car removes the last plausible excuse for regarding a train journey as a potential pleasure. I have never been on a cruise, but can see no reason to disagree with Dr Johnson’s assertion that time spent on a ship compares unfavourably with a prison sentence because it carries the added risk of being drowned.

Now admittedly I enjoy a huge advantage in living in one of the loveliest spots on all God’s Earth, and might take a different view if home were an inner city slum or even a dull suburb. Indeed, growing up in Longbenton in the 1950s and 60s, I greatly looked forward to my annual fortnight with my parents at the Haven hotel in St Abb’s, where the sun always seemed to shine on the sandy beach, the other guests applauded latecomers to the dining room and the children were entertained with sports and amateur theatricals (in which I resolutely refused to participate).

An early taste of Paradise: St Abbs Haven Hotel
Having belatedly acquired a son of my own I even thought of taking him there. A notion I entertained for long enough to look the place up on the internet, where I found that a developer had turned it into flats.

Last year I got away with a holiday at home because the boy was deemed too young to know or care where he was, but this year I was told it would not do. I fought hard for a cottage in Northumberland on the grounds that we already owned a cottage in Northumberland, which has a number of obvious advantages. But instead I find myself writing this in a remote corner of Wales.

Our beach in Wales: how the Tourist Board presents it
The reality: all wrapped up building a sandcastle in the rain

The rain has been lashing down more or less ever since we arrived, and there is also a scenic rivulet trickling down the wall of the sitting room. The Welsh equivalent of Bob the builder came round to look at it on Sunday afternoon, disrupting the toddler’s afternoon nap, and announced that it was due to the gutters overflowing during Saturday’s freak downpour. But later we pulled the plug on our son’s bath and watched a perfect miniature reproduction of High Force in the room below.

Our sitting room after The Boy's bath

There are two real ale pubs within 50 yards in which I could drown my sorrows, if only I could face running the gauntlet of the menacing huddle of troglodytes outside their doors, drawing deeply on cancer sticks and muttering darkly in Welsh.

In short, it’s just like being at home except wetter (indoors and out), less comfortable and more expensive. The only conceivable advantage is that the beach is a five minute walk away rather than a half hour’s drive, but this seems immaterial when it is too cold, wet and windy to do anything on said beach apart from taking a brisk walk with the dog. The scenic highlight to date was observing the amazing rainbow that formed during the violent thunder and hailstorm from which we sheltered under the awning of a beach hut on Friday evening, as our son looked at us in wonderment and pronounced “My soaked”.

An uncanny echo of Roeg's 'Don't Look Now'

Next month my wife and boy are going for a more advanced beach holiday in Majorca, where sun is apparently more or less guaranteed. I shall be at home in Northumberland enjoying a good book. Which, unless Wales bucks its ideas up pretty smartly, is also where I shall be by the time you read this.
Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

No comments: