Friday, 8 August 2008

Trendy, green and smug

We’re on holiday. This is the week we had set aside for our ‘last-minute break’, smug in the certainty that the credit crunch would leave luscious cottages and villas ours for a snip and a song. The more I thought about it, the more my heart sank: dogs needing kennelling; builders needing elaborate instructions and wiring diagrams; SWCBM needing supplies. Not to mention the whole elaborate pre-holiday trauma. To whit:
1. Trawling in despair around the shops trying to find suitable clothing. I really don’t do summer. I have no natural affinity with cropped trousers (or, heaven forfend, shorts) and dinky tops. With breasts the size of melons (and we’re talking honeydew not Ogen) spaghetti strap dresses and suntops are out. Swimsuits are, frankly, an abomination – eyes water when I dare to brave a public swimming pool. No, it would be yet another amorphous kaftan (and a dark muttering that M&S are making their sizes even smaller this year).
2. The whole ridiculous beauty salon fiasco. The once-a-year cringe-inducing visit to see Emma or Shelley or Donna (they of the iron-straight bleach blonde tresses and uber-long nails). The ritual humiliation of that first appraising look during which you can almost see the pity mixed with sheer horror at the Sisyphean task ahead. The stripping of a year’s worth of cosy fur; the wholesale decimation of eyebrows; the emergence of eyelashes from invisibility; the gouging of cuticles.
3. The attempt at the fake tan. I am the archetypal Celt, pale, red-haired, freckled, genetically suited to lurking in murky bogs and wafting through shaded forests. I’m like a vampire when I hit the sun: heat rash, almost instant sunburn (despite liberal dosing of factor 50) and irritability on a superhuman scale. I have learned, by bitter experience and second-degree burns, that a natural suntan is not for me yet I still crave (pathetically) that sun-kissed copper shimmer. Hence the humiliation of streaked leg and orange face.
4. The packing. Having figured out what husband and child need; not to mention what the dogs need for kennels, I have lost the will by the time it comes to my own holiday wardrobe. Stuff is chucked in with barely a thought, to re-emerge at the other end unsuitable, unpressed and smacking of desperation.

Anyhow, this is all by the by. When we realised that neither of us had actually bothered to look for that last-minute bargain basement break, the solution was suddenly obvious and easy.
‘We’ll be trendy,’ said Adrian (not a phrase that trips naturally off his tongue). ‘We’ll have a staycation.’
So here we are. Instead of burning rubber on the M5 hurtling to throw ourselves onto a plane or lurching over the channel to face 12 hours of French motorways (and our particular pastime of counting the number of men having a pee by the side of the road), we are sitting at home. It is raining of course but do we care? Nope.
Our intention is not to work. We foresee carefree days in the garden, drinking wine and reading books. No matter that the deckchairs have mould and the garden furniture is sodden. We might toss a cricket ball around in a jolly way. We will, of course, have barbecues (in the shelter of the porch) and dutifully get our money’s worth from our National Trust membership by marching purposefully around some pile or other, exclaiming at needlepoint and admiring tree ferns. Hey, we might even get feckless and go to the beach (me cowering in the shade of a cliff). Our carbon footprint will barely indent the sand.
Then again, of course, the phone might ring and we might well find ourselves saying ‘2,000 words by tomorrow lunchtime? No problem.’ to some 20-something editor (as you do when you’re freelance and still have a huge chunk of Bonkers House to save from collapse). But then, given everyone now takes their Blackberries and laptops on holiday, what’s the difference? Except that we aren’t shelling out shedloads of cash for a grim gite and dodgy kaftans and I will avoid that particularly horrible sensation of growing-out bodily hair. Trendy, green and stress-free? I call that a result.