It always struck me that setting school children the essay topic ‘Wot I Done on my Holidays’ is both lazy and intrusive. It suggests a teacher bereft of energy to hit the new term track running. It implies intelligence gathering by the school management about their pupils’ socio-economic and psychological situation. It has a whiff of social-worker officiousness. If by some chance the teacher has been shagging Leonie or Wayne from Year 10 who he/she met in Bodrum he/she is taking a bit of a chance with that sort of subject.
Sadly, most kids feel compelled to lie about their flight-delayed, rain-sodden, second-rate resort holidays. They say that they had fun on the beach and swam with porpoises. In reality they spent five days in the airport and the rest trying to avoid being beaten up by local teenagers. Mum can’t swim and Dad was drunk most of the time added to which a jellyfish swarm made even paddling dangerous. This is of course the younger ones.
Teenagers struggle to overcome their writer’s block, due to their innate inarticulacy and deep embarrassment about what they really did. ‘Logged on to www.youporn.com using Dad’s credit card and wanked myself stupid’ is not really essay material. Unless they’ve had Portnoy’s Complaint set as a GCSE read, which is unlikely, but would legitimise what might pass as a fictive attempt at identification. The really porn and very Jewish joke thing about Portnoy is of course the use of liver. This is a repellant image to those for whom melons are attractive. That said, there is a certain meaty parallel. We digress.
The concept of ‘holiday’ invariably means going away to a different location. Teenagers usually view the idea of hols en famille with horror. Indeed, it has become commonplace in England for parents to ship the kids off to some surf resort in Cornwall or France or Spain with enough money to stay pissed for a fortnight. Forget the essay, instead, more likely is ‘Dear Facebook, gave two quite nice boys a blowjob but they were very quick and I didn’t swallow. Wish that Austin the Australian Lifeguard would f*** me. Luv u Austin.’ Perhaps the most important lesson our little sex maniacs can learn is to distinguish between lust, desire and love.
Two themes emerging from this train of thought, are children and sex. Children are the primary reason for going on holiday. That is, for those who have children. Serves them right – have they no control? Sex is the other reason. Unless you work in the industry, the hope is that the holiday will produce more and better sex than you get normally. Or it may be simply about better. You might even hope it results in a baby. In which case take care about what you wish for. For single people of course the idea is simply to find a new location in which to drink, pursue extreme sports, extreme girls (or boys) and generally restock the repertoire of braggadocio for the return to the water cooler and the happy hour in your nearest Slug & Lettuce.
Marrieds with children on the other hand simply hope – in the way of hope triumphing over experience – that this August it will be better. Better being defined as an improvement in the pleasure/pain ratio. Better meaning anything will be better than staying in Surbiton and having to come up with new diversions for the kids. And so it is evident that the idea of ‘holiday’ only has real potency for the wage enslaved and families. This is why Club Med and Mark Warner exist and all travel triples in price when the schools close for the summer.
There is a frantic quality to ‘holidays’. The media, advertisers, society in general all conspire to pack as much adrenalin as possible into that appalling fortnight of escape. This is a long established convention. Jacques Tati captured everything – travel, sex, sport, families – in his film Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday over fifty years ago. To be fair, it may not all be that bad. We may well have some sun, more sex, a few good meals without E.Coli, and not be dumped by our low cost airline or cheapo tour operator. But that’s just a holiday, it’s not really a change. It’s just a way to escape routine by doing the same sort of thing again, and if it’s restful, one dreads to think about life back home. The Jewish joke about the poverty stricken large family in a single room who are advised by the rabbi to get a goat, comes to mind. When they complain to the rabbi about the goat’s detrimental effect on their already awful lives he advises them to get rid of it. They do so. “How is it now?” he asks later. “Much better” they reply.
So change is the real issue. I’m sorry to say this, but in order to fully benefit from the idea of doing different things in a different location, a bit of elitism and selfishness has to creep in. For a start you really don’t need children. As your children will agree, everyone gets in the way and they don’t want you around either, which is why they go backpacking and posh people invented boarding schools. To be clear, you don’t need children at all and should never have had them if you don’t want holidays. Except of course they often get conceived on holidays – especially the unplanned several years younger than their sibling ones. Cherie Blair (remember her?) could tell you about that.
Then, you need to be well off. Not having dependent children means you can go to all the most agreeable places in Spring or Autumn or whenever families don’t go. The climate (between roughly, 30-40 degrees North) is best then. Hotel rates are cheaper and the natives still full of brio/glad the season is ending. It is possible in this era of flexible working to do this if one is poor – and is of course more economical. Sadly for them, poor people have the most children and so cannot take advantage of the ‘out of season’ rewards. However, the whole point of going about (which is different to ‘being on holiday’) is that you can do it on a whim. Generally, the salariat can’t do this.
Going about means not ‘holiday’ but avoidance of boredom. You must have a repertoire of hospitable chums with houses in pleasant places. The resource to command the date and time and airline of one’s choice is essential: as is the ability to pronounce the word ‘taxi’ in several languages. In delightful resorts, whether Scottish castle or Ligurian villa one can distance oneself from the hurly-burly. There will be pleasing people, liberal refreshments, stimulating discourse. There may even be sex. The possibilities for are so varied; one’s lover, the maid, the wife or husband of a fellow houseguest.
Forgive me, the au pair has gone off to her parents in Croatia and I feel an urge coming on. Is this a change or a rest or what? No, it is the langour of desire brought about by relaxation and the mellowing of sufficient but not excessive good wine and the warmth of sun reflecting from water or landscape. Desire takes its time to consider aesthetics. Lust is too urgent and too uninformed. It is the province of youth and the unthinking priapism of age. The figures in our landscape may be strange or familiar. Those thighs, or buttocks and groins as they transit our consciousness, clad in something skimpily aesthetic, have become fantasy. Yet whether we discover or rediscover the body whose inhabitant we have opened our eyes to, desire lends the opportunity of time to fulfilment. Did I mention breasts in this scenario? Well, speaking as a man, and recognising that women like a good pec also – let’s hear it for the chest area.
The exposure of our bodies and our willingness to admit them to scrutiny without concern is what we do on holiday. It makes a change from all the crap inhibitions and dissatisfactions we endure day to day. Porn is a holiday from the sex you have (or don’t have) in your life. Florida is a holiday from what a really bad place Britain is to take two weeks off in if you live in some city or other and want a good value break and lots of sex. Out there anywhere in the sun and with luck, your partner will feel more warmly about you, with obvious consequences and (if you have them), the kids will be eaten by sharks. That will change everything. Well, I don’t take a lot of holidays myself. But change happens and the rest is history.