Saturday, 23 June 2012

Seven days to a holiday . . .

Oh yes, it's THAT time of year again. Time to start rattling around in the back of cupboards for knackered looking flip-flops and tired swimshorts. Time to haul the dusty suitcase down, still bearing the luggage lables from last year's distant memory of a vacation. Time to head off on holiday.

Of course, in the good old days, it all seemed so much easier. Well, it would do, given that by 'old days', I'm referring tonthe 1970s when my parents had to contend with all of the planning and packing. How I used to giggle at their endless checklists. Thirty-odd years later I find myself in a sea of paper and stick-it notes, attempting to manouvre myself from home to holiday. Looking at the billowing clouds and thunderous grey skies outside, I am resigned to packing everything from a pair of shorts to a Balaclaver helmet. There will be suncream, Lemsip, skinbalm and a raincoat. It's ridiculous. Did my parents ever go to such lengths? Well, yes they did.

A few of those glorious seventies holidays were located in self-catering caravans on the coast. Many is the time that the entire family, 'sans motor car', hobbled on to railway platforms clutching a set of bed sheets and a pressure cooker. I kid you not. Without coming over too 'Andrew Collins' though, those childhood vacations always seemed to be set against a backdrop of glorious sunshine. Actually make that blistering sunshine. Many was the time my badly sunburned legs came into contact with the over-heated plastic covered seating in the caravan.

The days were broadly organised the same wherever we stayed. A morning on the beach, a picnic meal, long walks along the coastline or a train journey to a nearby town, back for an improvised dinner or sea-front fish and chips, then "the club". The latter would always be some on-site, formica-tabled palace of entertainment, sporting a magician, a northern comic "Take my mother-in-law . . . no, go on take her", followed by a Rita Fairclough-style cabaret singer belting out "This is my life". We loved every minute and if we weren't swaying along to some slushy number then, as kids, we were darting in and out of the tables, glowing like neon lights with our worrying sunburn.

Our only dodgy holiday was the never-to-be-forgotten misery-fest in Caister, 1978. The caravan was seated in a field of mud to which more rain water was added each day. Well, apart from one where, under murky skies, we ventured to the beach and huddled behind a wind-break, dressed in jeans and heavy jumpers. The joyless episode was made worse by the dash back to the caravan in heavy rain which thundered down on the roof. In silence we watched Scotland play Peru in the World Cup. It couldn't get any worse.

These days, most of us work right up until the minute we leave the country, resulting in the first couple of days being given over to hyper-ventialting while we try to adjust to having no timetable. This follows the nightmare job of selecting clothes and then packing the grim articles. Clearing up the house is afforded a manic few hours of hurling the contents of the fridge into a bin bag and drenching every houseplant in a Niagra of water. Then there is the task of getting yourself from home to the airport and, once there, eating your body weight in all-day breakfasts while waiting for your flight. laden with purchases from Duty Free, Sunglasses Hut, Tie Rack and We Saw You Coming, you finally stagger to your economy class pigeon hole and so it all begins.

Maybe that caravan in Caister is still for hire . . .