With some much-needed time off this week, I found myself on holiday at home here in sunny Dorset.
The recent heatwave made me realise that I live in a fantastic resort. And with temperatures above those in the Med, what would be the point of going away anyway?
When you work full-time it’s very easy to stop seeing the place around you, and it’s only when you’ve to amuse yourself that you remember what’s on offer.
Of course, there once was a time that a week at home would have meant grouting tiles or staining floorboards. Thankfully, those days are in the past and it has been a joy to put on the old two-piece and breakfast in the garden in the style of a (much-older-than-Susie) Big Brother house-mate.
Looking at where I live with the objective eye of a tourist, it’s plain the old images of UK holidays that I remember from numerous UK tourism campaigns no longer fit the 21st century reality.
Imagine those postcards featuring the Tower of London and the beefeaters in their crimson outfits. Only the other week, those same beefeaters were dancing to the strains of the Pet Shop Boys and Jamie Cullum at the Tower of London festival, which looks like adding itself to the list of must-go festivals for the hip person about town. And no wellies required – all very modern.
And if you think there’s an age limit on attending these sorts of dos, I’m living proof that that’s not the case. My holiday started to the sounds of Jools Holland on the manicured lawns of the Larmer Tree Gardens on the Dorset/Wiltshire borders. In fact, it’s just a stone’s throw away from Madonna’s home (I expect she enjoyed the free concert.)
With the bright colours of hundreds of picnic blankets punctuating the grass and the odd champagne cork popping in time with the blues on a balmy night, this is surely the perfect advert for an evening under British skies.
And for those who hadn’t managed to put together a basket of edibles, there was a beer tent with plenty of staff on hand to ensure nobody got ‘bar rage’ (you know that feeling that wells up when it appears that both barmen are blind to you but are more than happy to serve the already well-oiled girl in the falling down top and her 13 mates).
There was also dozens of stalls selling goods from around the world. Truly, it really is a global village.
Lost in translation
As if Jools’ fun, energetic jazz wasn’t enough, my week coincided with the Gillingham Festival, headlined by Barbara Dickson.
With lots of local bands playing, my grandsons enjoyed their first taste of live music listening to The Steve Wilson band (Google them, they’re worth a listen). Their judgement? ‘Very loud!’
I did feel sorry for the chap who’d purchased his tickets on the recommendation of a friend, and who, having received them, duly turned up on the right night in the wrong county. He’d made his way to Gillingham (soft ‘G’) in Kent, not Gillingham (hard ‘G’) in Dorset.
Naturally he held the promoter responsible.
Of course, the other great holiday activity that needed testing to see whether or not it stood up to the experience abroad was shopping.
I’ve shopped everywhere from Macey’s to Marks’s and a holiday just ain’t a holiday without a little retail therapy. The Clarks Factory outlet in Street, Somerset, gave me the fix I needed.
And clearly lots of people are already clued in to this little shopping oasis as coaches in the car park disgorged hundreds of bargain hunters. And there are certainly lots of deals to be had, from handbags to home goods with big discounts on hot labels.
From there, we went on to a nearby cider farm, which, surprisingly, was empty. Perhaps all the drinkers were still in bed. I rounded off the day tasting and buying bottles of cider, liqueurs and brandies. It’s a great way of forgetting how much you spent.
Of course Dorset is famed for its beaches, among the cleanest in Europe.
You should have seen Weymouth and Bournemouth beaches in the height of this heatwave. Barely space between the pitches to stand your suntan lotion!
For those of us in the know the best time to head coastwards is from 5pm when the visitors head back to their apartments, hotels and caravans, leaving us to enjoy a disposable barbie as the sun goes down.
My grandchildren are as happy on Poole’s Sandbanks beach with a hot sausage in one hand and a Frisbee in the other as they are anywhere in the world.
Gripes of wrath
It’s hard to leave your agent’s hat completely at home and I forced myself to watch Grumpy Old Holidays on the telly, which featured a number of celebrities moaning about travel.
I’ve little sympathy. Most earn enough to fly First or Business class, but clearly there’s little fun in hearing about great leg room, how tasty the menu was and how comfortable the seats were.
Instead we were treated to the usual debates about luggage – can a small, wheeled suitcase count as hand luggage? And Matthew Parris’ concern that a ‘large person’ should not be allowed to spill over into a neighbouring seat.
Just a taste of what will greet me back in the office…
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