The modern holidaymaker is spoilt for choice when it comes to exciting and exotic destinations. Safaris in Kenya, trekking in Nepal, sailing round the Antilles or just lolling about in some third world beach paradise drinking cocktails on a sunlounger while the local inhabitants walk three miles every morning for clean water because your hotel has used the local supply for its luxury swimming pool complex. We should probably all make the most of this before economic crises, alleged global warming and mobs of po-faced political apparatchiks conspire to make travel to anywhere other than your place of work unaffordable if not actually illegal.
Which makes it a bit baffling that after a hard summer of sitting in a hut (or in JC’s case chasing rodents round a kitchen) we have chosen to take our well-earned holiday in Sussex. Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with Sussex – very attractive county, lots of interesting places to visit (I can thoroughly recommend the Brighton Pavilion if you haven’t been). But it’s hardly the Seychelles, I admit.
This is one of the odd ironies of emigration – you end up taking holidays in places where you used to live, and generally paid good money to get out of occasionally. These days JC is perfectly happy to spend a year’s holiday savings on going to Hailsham, a place he purported to despise all the time he lived there.
But leaving Hailsham aside, even the most enthusiastic of emigrants couldn’t argue that the UK isn’t worth visiting. Beautiful countryside, fascinating history, monuments, museums, all that stuff. And coastline, which is something we don’t have a lot of in the Alps. Having been brought up on the south coast, JC is entirely indifferent to the charms of the sea, but I have to admit to a fondness for British seaside resorts, with their mini-golf, fish and chips and sticks of mint rock with ‘insert name of seaside town here’ written through them. And piers – what architect on acid thought of those? I know, let’s build half a bridge straight out into the sea and stick a deathtrap rollercoaster on the end of it, what a wheeze!
On of my favourite British seaside experiences was Bognor Regis, which was a bit like having a car which could travel randomly through time, in this case dumping you unceremoniously in about 1953. The seafront was covered in formidable women wearing flowery old-lady dresses and sitting grimly in deckchairs despite the constant howling gale. There was even a man selling whelks. (Picturesque though they are, I’d advise avoiding the whelks, which turn out to be made of rubber. You can bite them as hard as you like but your teeth bounce off every time. I never did find out what they tasted like.)
So, perverse though it may seem, I look forward to our week in Blighty. In between visiting friends and over-indulging in scrumpy cider we should be able to fit in a spot of traditional seaside tourism – a quick round of mini-golf, a stroll along the pier and a bag of chips. Possibly even the purchase of saucy postcards featuring Carry On style innuendo and fat ladies in stripy bathing costumes, all of which should more than adequately baffle French friends. I might even spent five minutes sporting a Kiss Me Quick hat, assuming such things still exist, but I draw the line at deckchairs and flowery nylon dresses for at least another 20 years.