For our summer holidays my wife and I generally like to get away somewhere exotic and interesting for a week or two; or failing that, somewhere warm and sunny. This year, however, for reasons I won’t bore you with, we’ve decided not to.
Instead we are staying at home and just going on short, mostly local excursions. This has nothing to do with ecological ideology or jumping on the current zeitgeist for staying at home, but I will nonetheless refer to it as a staycation, just for Jan H’s benefit.
Although I like to travel, I have previously stated my lack of enthusiasm for the actual travelling part. The notion of a staycation therefore has a certain appeal in that no long boring journeys or airports need to be involved
There was one proviso, however: we have to go to the seaside. My wife seems to share a significant percentage of her DNA with a mermaid and therefore insists on this at least once a year.
As a child I was brought up on day trips to the seaside. In those halcyon days of the 1970s we used to venture as a family to Weston-Super-Mare, conveniently located just an hour from Gloucester. However, my wife’s childhood seaside memories are from the south-east coast and she pours scorn on the idea that this ‘muddy estuary’ even qualifies as the seaside. Earlier this week we therefore made the three-hour trip to Cornwall instead.
I am well aware that there are people out there who feel that a three hour trip is akin to popping to the shops and they would quite happily commute that distance on a daily basis. Others, who share their DNA not with mermaids but with Jeremy Clarkson, love nothing better than an excuse to get the car out and drive for a few hours. Indeed, I have friends who seem to quantify the enjoyment of their holidays by the number of miles driven. To me though the journey is nothing but an inconvenient chore to get me from where I am to where I want to be. Mustn’t grumble though, driving for three hours is better than sitting in an airport for three hours, so off we set.
And to be fair, the journey was pretty damned good. Being mid-September and mid-week the kids are back in school and most caravans are safely put away for the year. It was also the first opportunity to drive our new car any distance and it is very comfortable. Once on the motorway I was able to turn on the cruise control and, although I had to be there for an occasional bit of light steering, the car pretty much took care of things on its own whilst I put my feet up.
We made excellent time. Unfortunately we made excellent time heading into a low, grey, drizzle-laden cloud which got more serious about its job of precipitation the further south and west we got.
Finally we arrived in Cornwall and set off to one of my wife’s favourite places: Boscastle. As the wind enthusiastically whipped the rain around us we made our way through the town and out to the harbour to watch the waves crashing in. After a short spell of this we made our soggy way back through the town to the pub, the excellent Cobweb Inn, to dry out and get something to eat.
And this, I thought, is the problem with holidaying in this country. It rains a lot and, despite this, most of our tourist activities tend to rely on being outside enjoying the countryside. The only things to do when it rains is either browse the shops, which all tend to be a variation on the same theme of overpriced trinkets that no-one in their right mind really wants or needs, or sit in cafes and pubs. And much as I enjoy the latter activity, being on holiday invariable entails driving to our chosen destinations and therefore means that most of the time all I can do is sit looking longingly at the interesting pump clips whilst nursing a Coke.
And so it was with some despondency that we ended our first day at our perfectly nice hotel in Bossiney.
And then the second day of our break dawned. And the sun came out. And the world looked a very different place.
Okay, it’s mid September, so it wasn’t exactly hot, and although the rain had gone the wind seemed to have picked up even more enthusiasm after a good night’s rest. Nonetheless, in the low, early autumn sun the Cornish landscape is beautiful and we spent a lovely day wandering around various ports and seaside towns taking pictures and just sitting and watching the sea.
Despite the cold weather the sea was full of surfers. Although films always glamorise the bronzed surf dudes of California, Australia or Hawaii, it is these hardy, all-weather, wetsuit-clad enthusiasts that really epitomise the love of the sport. Next time we visit I’m seriously considering having a go myself, although I am a bit concerned about the dangers: the sharp rocks, the hypothermia, the danger of being mistaken for a whale in my wetsuit and harpooned…
The problem of driving notwithstanding, the other benefit of staying in this country are the great pubs: there is no substitute anywhere in the world for the British pub. These days you can get really good food in pubs and unlike on foreign holidays you don’t need to worry about whether the lettuce in your burger has been washed in sewage or where the ice cubes in your drink came from.
All in all then there is much to be said for holidaying in the UK and I am looking forward to the rest of my staycation… and I promise to try not to use that awful word any more.