‘God, I need a holiday’.
‘I know what you mean, I’ve just come back from one and feel like I need another’.
'I’m off in two weeks. Can’t wait’.
'Where are you going?... Oooh, that sounds lovely.’
Spend enough time in the lifts in any office in Britain (and let’s face it, why wouldn't you?) and you will hear the broken record of conversations like these. We spend much of the year moaning about how much we need a holiday (well I certainly do), and a good chunk of our disposable incomes on paying for them, so why do they consistently fail to deliver on their promise of rest, relaxation and recuperation of the physical and spiritual kind?
I have a theory. A week’s holiday is simply not enough. It’s a waste of time because it’s impossible to enjoy yourself in seven days. Why? Well, a day is spent travelling, a day is spent acclimatizing to your new surroundings, and a further day is spent willing yourself to unwind. By that time you’ve reached the bridge: the moment in your holiday when you realize there are less days left than days you’ve already been away.
From this moment on, you’re on the downward spiral of anxiety about cramming in as much as you can (not least in terms of recuperation from the anxiety of normal life).
There’s just too much pressure in a week. You’re also now worrying about packing, and leaving in time to get your flight home/beat the traffic/ensure your children do not spend the entire journey bawling or attempting Houdini-style manoeuvres from car seats and wrestling holds designed to ensure the plane can take off.
Then there’s the horror of the email inbox.
In fact, scratch that, because you’ll have broken your vow not to check your emails at the point your week’s holiday is effectively over, which is on the afternoon of day four.
And now there’s the problem of having young children. I want to put it on record that I couldn't love my children any more but, trust me, going to work qualifies as leisure time in comparison to handling the complex demands of a two and a half-year-old daughter who's still trying to process the intricacies of communicating what she wants without dissolving into a balled-fist tantrum, and a five-month old son who is just beginning to learn what his limbs do, and how they can be utilized to ensure he rolls onto his face and cannot then correct himself.
Rock pooling, sand castles, picnics, splashing around in the sea or pool are all great, but, trust me, there will be no dozing on a sun-lounger or afternoons sipping cocktails while dipping in and out of the book you’ve been promising to read for the last six months.
Finally, there’s the stripping off; the moment you share with the world what your year-long diet of bacon sarnies, Salt’n’Vinegar Squares and Ripples has done to your body.
Once upon a time I boasted about the fact I could eat anything and not get fat. In fact, I used to wear a T-shirt in the swimming pool because I was so damn thin. Well, those days have gone, and like my new-found inability to dance, the fact I am regarded as an embarrassment by my teenage nephew, and my sudden invisibility to members of the opposite sex, the trauma of stripping off and heading for the water is just another manifestation of age.
Perhaps, I should book a holiday with Saga (dozing on a coach between visits to castles sounds quite nice).
Or maybe I should just stay at home.