Audio version of "Last Minute Holiday" (link opens in new window)
“Are we going to have a holiday this year?” Maggie asked. We’d talked of the possibility a few months back and then promptly forgot all about it. No conclusions had been reached.
“Well the kids break up from school on Friday, so we’ll have to do something about it quick.” One of the advantages of the Scottish Education System is that the summer term finishes two to three weeks earlier than the English, often allowing you to get a better deal before all the prices shoot through the roof. “We’re also getting low on the savings,” I continued “so if we’re going to spend any money we’d better do it before it’s all gone.”
Now I know you can probably see the fault in the logic, but it does make sense in one way. This year we know we can probably afford it, if we’re careful. Next year, who knows? Of course I might be offered a fantastic book deal, and Maggie may be exhibiting her artwork in front of people with large sums of money to part with, but there’s no guarantee.
Initially I looked at the package holiday trips to the Mediterranean, but then remembered that Meg doesn’t cope well with the heat. I don’t know whether it’s another odd side effect of the DS, but we’ve noticed that she doesn’t really sweat, which means she can overheat very easily. So 30+ degrees isn’t a good option.
Eventually we managed to get a good deal on a holiday cottage for a fortnight in Brittany (North-West France) within a stone’s throw of the beach, which sounds idyllic. But with it all being a bit last minute we’re suddenly rushing about, aware of all the things we ought to have put in place several weeks ago if we were planning on going away. The “Get a Beach Body in 8 Weeks” headline on the Men’s Health magazine, next to computer enhanced photo of a young man sporting a 6-pack, reminding me that I’d left it too late for this year to make the girls swoon with lust as I swagger along the sand.
I went out and bought a French phrase book yesterday, with an accompanying CD that we can all listen to on the journey, but to be honest I’m relying on Maggie who has a better ear for languages than me. Not only did she get a better grade in school, she retained her understanding of it.
Rogan is really excited. This year he’s been doing a bit of French at school and I think he secretly feels that he’ll end up as the official family translator. When I was 12 I went through a very similar thought process when I’d done a year of classes studying the language and we were going on holiday to France that summer. To my dismay, however, rather than talking like a native I discovered that phrases such as “Le crayon est rouge” didn’t get you very far. And it was all very well to be able to say “Où est la toilette?” but it was pointless if you couldn’t understand the reply.
Driving on the wrong (sorry, that should be ‘other’) side of the road is something I’m not overly looking forward to either, although I’m sure I’ll adapt. Maggie and I spent a fortnight travelling around Europe on a camping holiday 14 years ago and I only nearly caused a fatal accident, by forgetting which side I should be on, twice.
Despite the fact that there is a ferry crossing from England to St Malo, which is less than 100 miles from the cottage, I’ve elected to go via the Dover-Calais route. It might add nearly 300 miles to the journey, but it works out several hundred quid cheaper. I may well live to regret this decision as we’ll already have had a long day’s drive down to the South coast from Scotland the day before.
Mind you, I noticed that it would’ve actually been even cheaper to buy 2 separate day-return tickets to cross the channel, than an ordinary one, although they won’t let you get away with it. These days every ticket you buy is tracked through the computer system in a mix of fear of illegal immigrants, anti-terrorism legislation and market forces. I can be tracked by my credit cards, my passport, my mobile phone and my store cards, so if I tried to pull a fast one on P&O Ferries I’d probably end up in Guantanamo. Nah, it’s not worth it for a saving of only £30.
I love diversity, different cultures, viewpoints, and ways of life. If I had the income to support the lifestyle, I would spend vast amounts of time exploring the world and visiting different countries. The xenophobic, ultra-patriotic, flag-waving nationalistic attitude of many of my countrymen drives me nuts.
Ok, I know that France isn’t exactly the furthest country from the UK, but it still counts. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived in many different parts of Britain that it only truly feels like I’m on holiday if the locals are speaking a different language. Apart from a long weekend in Portugal nearly 5 years ago to see an old friend, I’ve not been abroad over a dozen years. So despite the fears of not being understood, of using a different currency and of driving on the other side of the road, I’m really looking forward to it.
“Vive la difference” is what I say. Or at least I would if I could speak the language.