I have not had a holiday this year, and believe you me, it is showing in the percentage of grey hairs which are emerging through the (now permanent) Raven Beauty hair dye with which I periodically slather my head. With one of the work nutters being very demob happy as she is off to one of the Costas this weekend, my body is crying out to be sun-baked and rested, but it isn't meant to be.
It is almost four years since I had a proper holiday - I went to Barcelona last year with the last ex for four days, one of which was spent in hospital having X-rays and leaving with my neck in a brace, but apart from that, all holidays have been off limits.
The first holiday I went on without parents was when I was 18 (the age of majority in my father's eyes, and not a day before) with my then, lovely boyfriend, Mike. Please don't anybody ask why I didn't stay with Mike...I often wonder that myself! We decided to go to Devon and scoured the newspapers for hotel accommodation. One particular hotel caught our eyes and extolled its luxuries such as heated outdoor pool, jacuzzi, private beach, en suite bathrooms (this was in the 80s when en suite was so upmarket and not standard as it is these days) and live entertainment - woohoo!
We sent off for the hotel brochure and were utterly dismayed at the prices of the Sandy Cove, but were relieved to find it had a cheaper, sister hotel in Ilfracombe, not too far away. So, we booked our en suite double room (I told my father we were in separate rooms and thankfully, he didn't ask for written confirmation of this) and set off one very hot, sunny day in July 1988.
It took ages to get there and we tried not to make too many stops as we were eager to arrive, get unpacked and hole ourselves up for our first legal love-in.
Well, to say the hotel was underwhelming is an understatement itself. I remember the staircase vividly - it was painted dried blood red and was so steep it was like climbing the face of the Eiger. Our 'en suite' was actually a toilet and bath down the end of a corridor, but as there were no other bedrooms in the attic, we had it to ourselves - in theory; in practise, anyone wandering about, lost, could dive in for a quick wash and brush up if they so wished...
Our 'view' looked out over the neighbouring pub - not the sea...well, had I squinted and squashed my face up to the far left of the window, I might have caught a glimpse of it. And the bed - which was what Mike and I had been very fussy over - dipped dangerously in the middle. I'm pretty sure former guests had got lost in that dip, never to be seen again. In the corner of the room was a huge plate fungus, thriving on the rising damp. I am not sure if the hotel had left it there in case guests wanted to use it as extra shelf space as it was so enormous, because I could have quite easily stored my hand luggage on it.
All in all, a great disappointment...and as is my wont, I moaned. I moaned so much that Mike went to the management to complain. I think he complained about the moaning, to be honest - something along the lines of, There is an irritating whine in my room, can you do anything about it? They came up to see what I was moaning about and had to agree that under the Trade Descriptions Act, it wasn't really an en suite bathroom and pest control would be called in to destroy the new cure for syphillis being cultivated in the corner of the room. This wasn't really good enough to shut me up, so I stepped up my whinging until they relented, went off to make a few phone calls and informed us that tomorrow, we could transfer to The Sandy Cove hotel without any further charges. Hurray! I was most pleased that we were able to move to a decent, clean hotel and so we went out to celebrate in style at the pub across the road.
The next morning, we got ourselves up bright and early to get washed, dressed and ready for the transfer. Mike decided to go for a bath down the corridor, and I started running the water in the sink in our bedroom. He'd trotted off for his bath, and forgotten his towels, so he was butt naked and yelled for me. I couldn't quite hear him, and went out of the bedroom, leaving the taps running, and shouted for him to repeat himself. As soon as the words were leaving my mouth, our bedroom door slammed shut, locked to everyone but those with a spare key.
I stared in realisation at the door, looked at my naked boyfriend, looked down at my then more than ample figure, clad only in a pair of knickers and panicked. In the bedroom, I could hear water starting to overflow.
What are we going to do? I flapped, of absolutely no help to poor Mike whatsoever.
Go down to reception and ask them to open the door up for us, he snapped at me.
I'm not going down there - I've only got my knickers on! I retorted hotly.
Well, I'm not wearing anything! he pointed out, rather obviously.
Tough! There's no way I am going down there...
We argued back and forth about who would suffer the most embarrassment in displaying their 'bits' to reception and as I spotted Mike's flannel on the edge of the bath, I pointed out the logic that there was one flannel, he only had only one thing to cover up, and I had two, ergo, he went and got help.
He held the flannel over his groin, and scaled the downward slope of the staircase, which was quite difficult with only one hand. I hid in the bathroom and waited for the spare keys to be produced. A few minutes later, Mike was let in, red-faced and mortified. The bedroom floor was soaking from the overflowing sink and you could almost hear the fungal spores rejoicing at this new area of dampness to reproduce in.
Like a coward, I skulked back to the bedroom once the coast was clear. Mike was not impressed by my lack of help, and the finger of blame was pointed squarely in my direction. By this stage, I had seen the funny side of it and told him that one day, when I was rich and famous, I would recount this in my memoirs. Well, I'm not yet rich and famous, but one part of the prediction has, indeed, come true!
The Sandy Cove was a much nicer place to stay at and we were fortunate enough to have a glorious two weeks of sunshine and so were actually able to experience the outdoor heated swimming pool, which was like ice, and the private beach, which involved ropes, harnesses and abseiling, so precarious was the descent.
I have not been back to Devon since then, although it is a beautiful part of England. I prefer to holiday overseas now as the weather is guaranteed, generally, and the only time I have felt like complaining about a room was when I stayed at the Al Buraimi Hotel in Oman - the sauna was out of order, the paving slabs around the pool were broken and a veritable broken ankle/split head waiting to happen, the evening's entertainment ('Housey-Housey' NOT bingo, of course, as gambling is illegal in the Sultanate!) started at 2am under my bedroom window, and the "Indonesian cuisine" was a portion of chicken drumstick in a pool of oil...However, as I was there to write a hotel review for a magazine, and as the hotel was owned by the government, I was under strict orders not to complain and NOT to write a bad review if I wanted to remain in the country as a guest of HM Sultan Qaboos...
So, as Autumn is now here, my summer holiday for 2007 has passed without trace and I shall therefore have to dream of sandy beaches, sunshine and relaxation until next year. If any of you are going to take a late holiday and would like a travelling companion, I am very good at providing non-stop witless conversation and will always get the round in if you lend me a tenner. Let me know the itinerary, and I shall be there...
PS. It has just occurred to me that here I am, having just accepted a new job, and all I am bleating on about is wanting a holiday - there's no pleasing some people, is there?