A Taste of Luxury

 

Four days of luxe in the Balearics leaves me with mixed emotions. It cost a lot. We’ve never done anything this expensive, in the more-than-a-decade since we’ve had kids: it’s their first ever flight on a plane. 

It was absolutely lovely in the main. We didn’t pinch the pennies, and largely had and did what we all wanted. 

We also succeeded with multiple modes of transport: car, bus, plane, hire car, ferry; navigating ‘sin plomb’ with aplomb, in the obligatory last minute hire-car-drop-off-petrol-top-up-panic – arriving with fully 5 minutes to spare.

A breeze through the airport, and as I sit here with bad inflight coffee in hand, it’s all been very good. 

But you couldn’t but notice that the many kind and smiling people who served us on our hols, weren’t anywhere near as flush as we are; and back at home we feel poor enough.

The nice young man, at last night’s eye-wateringly expensive restaurant, has a small son and daughter in Spain. A need for work took him hundreds of miles away from them – to serve us unnecessarily fancy food at our boutique hotel.

On the next-to-last leg we went the wrong way round the Ibiza Port one way system; and drove past a three storey yacht. Complete with polo shirted crew and chi chi cocktail party “How much would one of those cost?” my daughter asked.

Her mother and I had no idea. But one thing is for sure, absent major criminality, venal corruption or sustained workplace psychopathy – and I don’t do those – the massive yacht will likely elude us.

At the airport, the first thing ‘free wifi’ served up, was one of my colleagues tweeting from a refugee camp in Beirut, about the everyday courage of people protecting and promoting their arts and culture in Lebanon. Puts it all in context.

Jeremy Deller’s ‘We sit starving amidst our gold‘ captures the right attitude to that super yacht for me; a giant William Morris, the great Victorian social reformer, lifts and hurls one into the sea.

We had a lovely lovely time. But luxury is expensive, intoxicating and addictive. Like all such delights, it is best tasted sparingly.

Tree Hugging

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Not exactly wilderness (within comfortable earshot of the roar of the A303) but wet and muddy enough – we holidayed this half term in a forest with the inlaws.

Not under canvas, thank God, given a major gale/minor hurricane (depending on your appetite for exaggeration) blew down trees all around – but in a sturdy log cabin, courtesy of the Forestry Commission.

And very good it was too. Walking, biking, den building, hot chocolate drinking, pumpkin lantern making, trick or treating and best of all climbing up a very tall tree…

Now at 9am sharp on a damp Wednesday, the sight of eight dangling ropes confirmed my view that younger and bolder members, of the extended family, were the right guinea pigs.

However hoisting yourself with a ‘foot loop’ and ‘hand knot’ proved a little too much for my father in law’s replacement hip. He wisely withdrew. And in went ‘Dad’ as an unfancied, but unusually eager outsider.

And how glad am I that I did. Hoisting myself up a long rope, to the top of a tree, turned out to be the buzz of the week. And an whoosh down the zip cord with a reasonably elegant landing, had me crowned ‘King John’ for treesmanship – with a local beer to crown it.

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What a great feeling – hanging in the still-leafy canopy with the autumn sunlight streaming through the branches. Step in, clip on, hoist yourself up and whizz back down – tree hugging has never been more fun.

The New Forest confirmed, sometimes it is good to try something completely new.

More Sun than Shivers

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Rainy day
Heading away
Patch of blue
Half way through
Arrive at the coast
Prosecco toast
Beautiful view
Before Barbecue
A day on the beach
Tasty Cornish pasty
Bucket and spade
Castles made
Splashing in the surf
Sun kissed
And wind tousled
Uphill hike
Chilli spike
Before a greyer day
To harbour throng
Ferry wait
Great escape
Walk in the dunes
Steep hill conquered
Happy son
New sword won
And the day is done
Bright again
Beach beckons
Serious boy splashing
Brave girl surfing
She manages standing
Despite hard landings
My job’s to potter
From one to the other
Wiling away
Another sunny day
The next is duller
Overcast overhead
Family fun and games
On steam trains
Boating and putting
A fair few laughs
Despite it being naff
Final day
Clifftop ramble
Among pretty brambles
Perilous steps
Precipitous edge
Stunning view
Sea more black than blue
Then
Footling around
Stomach grumbling
Waiting for orders
Before
Late lunch outdoors
Sword fight
With small knight
Fish on the beach
End is in reach
Sun sinks
A sky of all pinks
No more drinks
Pack up the car
Final hurrah
More sun than shivers
Cornwall delivers.

Beside the Seaside

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‘Oh we do like to be beside the seaside’ as the old song goes. And thanks to a new family business venture, we’ve been spending much of the summer there, on and off.

Setting up a cute little holiday home, to entice punters and their hard-earned cash, has come with big spin-off benefits. Family days at an increasingly familiar port of call, have given the kids a space and place to roam and wander – far more than our restless urban life allows.

Less clock-watching, fetching and driving. More wandering, pebble throwing and beach combing. And we all seem happier as a result. A change of scenery and a change of pace has done us a power of good.

We can’t really afford it, it could all go wrong and we could lose our shirts as well as our houses. But human beings always rate risk higher than reward. You don’t get that many summers; and this has been a particularly sunny one.

Deux Mille Treize

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Early start
Car packed out
Road hit squarely
Awake barely
Channel tunnel
Bridges and viaducts
Coffee machines and petrol stops
A1 French roads
Reduce down to
Salt pans and mussels
Over water
Paradise lost
Paradise found
Dream campsite
Canvas, clams and camp loos
Washing up and hammocks
Sun, sea and cycling
Then en route encore
To sunflowers and cooling towers,
Overnight stop in
Rural splendour, with mozzies and Aussie
Toulouse trek
Arizona valley
The long and winding road
To
Swimming pool, shutters and searing sun
Pain, cheese and ham
Bendy roads and supermarkets
Barbecues and rosé
Hot and bitten, but not bothered
Splashing and laughing
Pink, then pinker then browned
Before lassitude and food fatigue set in
Le depárt
Massif drive and sick bags full to
Paris, pool and parking
Kir, Cupole and walking
Metro, dodo
Tour Eiffel and boat trip
Montmartre then long marche
Auchan, duck and Chunnel
“I spy something beginning with…”
Cars.
Blighty, black clouds, driving rain
Before Home, sweet same old Home
Triumph, acclaim, then bedtime
A fine vintage
Deux Mille Treize

Idling

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Brain function is low, speed dropped, the acceleration has gone. Lying idly next to my son, with the breeze flapping the blind – in my record third week of holidays – I notice indolence and a mind declined.

Still the body is stronger, the face browner and the belly slimmer so I’ve got some things right. And good times, happy smiles and big hugs from the family are a very significant compensation.

But maintaining an agile mind is like running a high performance engine – it needs quality fuel, high revs and plenty of throttle to go through the gears.

Country lanes and coastal roads are all very well, but I’m about ready for a return to the rigours of the urban cycle. Work is as important as play.

Mixed Bag

On holiday in Cornwall, trudging down a hill with heavy shopping from the ubiquitous Tesco’s over my shoulder, I reflect on the mixed bag which is this part of the world.

Tesco’s here is rather dispiriting. Tight car park (hence the trudge), narrow aisles, ponderous clientele, a lot of frozen food, only one aisle of fresh. Nice friendly staff though. Tesco’s know their demographic like no other retailer. I got what I needed but there was very little I wanted. I did feel obliged to bag an unmissable ‘two for one’ on dishwasher tablets though. Sucker…

Each Tesco (or the lack of one) reflects only two things – local planning constraints and near perfect knowledge of what local customers will buy. In Dorset the other week in a small rural Tesco’s I gave us zero chance of finding an inflatable airbed.

But there on an upper shelf it was – and with 30% off too. Naive and perhaps a little narcissistic of me to think I was the only camper with a flat airbed in that part of Dorset. Tesco’s knows better.

Today it’s a grey and rainy start in our bit of Cornwall. The same as yesterday. But it will pass. You get a bit of everything weatherwise most days here. I feel a bit grey too. Slightly jaded. Recovering from a trip down memory lane with a slightly higher octane of food and drink consumed than my engine thrives on these days.

Cornwall has rural poverty, less affluent holidaymakers and the well heeled too. Here the very well heeled are over the other side of the bay with their dinghies and catamarans. The plainer fatter folk on this side tuck into fish, chips and Cornish pasties. The slab-sided city boys of wealth and privilege visit to buy their pasties too. Dressed in yachting garb, they are also large, but in a more beefy way – as bespeaks a higher quality of calorie.

Last year we stayed the other side of the bay and I bumped into David Cameron, the nation’s Prime Minister, on the beach. He passed less than five yards from me (I’m sure he’d think in Imperial yards, eschewing le Eurometre). I looked twice to check. And then spotted his close protection officers perched on a rock poorly camouflaged in chinos. It was indeed he.

Cornwall is a funny mix. Pasties, clotted cream and clotting arteries. Richer and poorer all crowding onto the same beaches and seafronts. Sun, wind and showers blowing through – a bit of everything all mixed up together. There’s something for everyone here from PM to comparative pauper. And a world away from last week’s riots.

Not a bad place for a holiday all told – but four days in I’m giving up the Cornish pasties. They sit heavily on the stomach, whatever your demographic.