Sun, sea and unreasonable expectations…


Message in bottle

Well, it’s that time again.

Christmas feels like it happened about eight months ago, we’re into the new year, everyone’s stopped going to the gym and started smoking and eating lard again, and there’s only one thing advertisers think is gonna keep us going.


Yup, you can’t open a newspaper or turn on the TV without being blasted with images of happier-than-average people with their prettier-than-average families, lying on a sandier-than-average beach under a bluer-than-average sky, sitting by a turquoisier-than-average sea tanning their smoother-than-average skin.

And yes, I used ‘than-average’ too much in that sentence.

And no, ‘ turquoisier ‘ isn’t a word.

For me, the problem with holidays is the same problem with New Year’s Eve – weeks, maybe months of build-up, then a constant, relentless pressure to have THE BEST TIME YOU’VE EVER HAD IN YOUR LIFE! And even if the holiday is somehow great, it’s just going to end then you have to go back to boring old grey reality which, as we all know, is a bit rubbish.

So the situation is either:
1) you have an amazing holiday and then feel like jumping off a bridge when you have to come back home,


2) the holiday wasn’t as good as you thought it would be, and you still have to come back home (see the point above about reality…)

To be fair I am a biased when it comes to this stuff, as I don’t have the best luck when it comes to holidays. The last time I tried to have a great holiday, I was abroad for one week, then incredibly ill because of a parasite for the next three.

One memorable year I also managed to knock myself almost unconscious and spent a day in a Greek hospital. On the plus side, the treatment was unbelievably cheap and I’ve still got the head X-ray they took. On the negative side…well, it’s a hospital innit. If I wanted to spent the day in a hot room being prodded by strangers I would’ve gone back to that club in Brighton behind the ‘sauna’.

And boredom is another problem I have, although that’s mainly with beach holidays. Picture the scene: you’ve fought for – and won – the perfect sunbed on the perfect part of the beach, you’ve got your mp3 player, a book and suncream. There are no kids running around, no loud 80s music coming from a beach bar somewhere, and you haven’t even got a dodgy stomach from the beach buffet yesterday even though you’re pretty sure at one point you ate cat.

Now what?

Now you just lie there, getting increasingly hot and uncomfortable. And if you get too hot, you get to jump into the sea to cool off. This obviously takes off all the suncream, so you have to do that whole rubbing-yourself-in-public thing again otherwise you’ll be in agony for the next two weeks and not be able to have all the ‘fun’ that you had planned. Once it’s reapplied, you lie down again and get hot again, and jump in the sea again, and have to reapply suncream again, etc, etc. And the aim of this whole performance is to reach the dizzy heights of…

(cue dramatic music)

…’a bit of a tan’.

What is everyone’s obsession with this? Strictly speaking, a tan means you’ve burnt yourself. It doesn’t tell the world that you’re healthy, it tells the world that your skin is damaged. It’s the equivalent of breaking your arm in the hope that people will think the cast makes it look like you’ve got a really strong… um… bone.

(Yeah, thought I’d throw in a bit of innuendo there just to show how versatile I am)

There is one thing that I do like about holidays though – looking forward to them. There really is nothing like being in the middle of a crappy day and thinking ‘a month from now, I’m gonna be a in a different time zone from all this’. You know the feeling. You wake up on a Monday morning, wrench your eyes open and wonder what horrors your work has in store for you today, then your mind flashes to The Holiday. That perfect, shiny place that you’re going to escape to where the phone never rings and you won’t need to respond to arse-y emails from idiots. It’s almost worth the money just for that.

Although as I said before, that’s what causes the problems – the idea of the holiday is usually better than the holiday itself. Think about it, if you’ve been visualising the best holiday ever for five months then you’re bound to be disappointed when you get there only to find that it doesn’t have the singing stingrays or butler monkeys you fantasised it would.

Lastly, like any self-respecting Greek, I can’t possibly write about holidays without mentioning the food. For some reason holidays bring out the gluttons in everybody, especially all-inclusive holidays. You set yourself up for failure with them because if you only eat as much as you need, then you may as well not have gone all-inclusive. Plus, you’ve paid for this food already yeah, they’ve got your money, what kind of mug would you be if you didn’t eat it all back?! And it’s brilliant watching people on all-inclusive holidays – in what other context would you eat chicken curry, lasagne, grilled fish, roast lamb, and pizza all in the same meal? Where else would you try all the desserts every night, and have tea, coffee, eight types of juice and sparkling wine for breakfast? It’s the closest we’re gonna get to being Roman Emperors, people!

And after two full weeks of wearing one of those wristbands, you start thinking you’re entitled to anything. You get back to Heathrow at 3am and stroll behind the counter at Costa, pressing buttons on the coffee machines and flashing your wrist at security as if it’ll stop them jumping you and putting you in a headlock.

So if you are gonna book a holiday, just remember that if it’s all-inclusive, at worst you’ll come back food-poisoned, and at best you’ll come back fat and unable to run away from airport security.

You have been warned…