Things did not go to plan.
This is the story of that holiday, and my seven days of being
Sat. 11 Sept
This holiday came none too soon. Our last week away had been to Iceland in the middle of January, an intentionally ironic holiday designed to plunge us into enough cold, snow and ice to make our return to Sussex seem like spring. What we failed to take into account, however, was that Reykjavik enjoys a climate much like our own, and they were having a better winter than we were. So that disappointment—compounded by the fact that the one time the Northern Lights appeared during our stay was while we were sitting in our room watching utterly forgettable television—was followed by many long weeks and months of uninterrupted work.
Multiple yearly holidays may be a new concept to me—I managed the first forty-six years of my life on about three vacations, after all—but I have since come to appreciate the benefits of one week out of every ten to enjoy as I see fit.
Our autumn holiday, therefore, was not intentionally ironic; we were to spend the week snug in a little guest cottage between the Severn and the Royal Forest of Dean, taking in the wonders of yet another part of this pretty little island. It would also, I hoped, provide an opportunity for me to pay some much-needed attention to my blogs and backlog of e-mails. This resolution had less to do with the impending week of free time and more to do with my recent re-conversion to technology.
I have, for some time, been disillusioned with advances in computers and related gadgetry. Our relationship, which began in the barnstorming days of personal computing, when everything was filled with passion and possibility, began to sour about five years ago. We had fallen into a passionless routine, and all the attempts to win me back just seemed like showing off to me. A phone that takes pictures? I never wanted my camera to make phone calls, so what’s the point? And then there was the bi-yearly ritual of making me rearrange all of my files and folders and turning my familiar applications into indecipherable puzzles. And wireless computing? It all seemed just too Harry Potter and Hocus Pocus to me. I had grown used to the idea of allowing the cyber world into my home via a computer cable, as long as it remained safely contained behind a sheath of insulation. But to have it roaming willy-nilly all over the place at will, well that was just unseemly.
In the end, we decided to stay together for the sake of the children, but a frosty silence always descended when we were in the same room together.
But then I got BT Broadband, and a wireless laptop. Windows 7 followed and, after a brief climb up the learning curve, I fell in love with it. The latest acquisition was my Crackberry™ and it immediately became essential. I could take notes with it, check and answer my e-mails, post to Facebook, record voice notes and access Twitter. Eventually, after a few fumbling attempts to rekindle the passion, Technology and I warmed to each other, I re-resolved to become a Twit (That is what they call Twitter users, right? Or is that just me?), and became excited by the prospect of twitting, posting and updating while on vacation.
So I practiced a bit, and waited for the holiday; I didn’t have to wait long.
Our Going-On-Holiday routine has been well-established over the years and begins about a month prior to the event with an informal countdown and my wife becoming increasingly anxious about the fact that the suitcases are still in the loft. Then, a week before we leave, she begins to pack.
I admire this trait. She gets the full benefit of the holiday, basically stretching it out for an extra week, and it goes something like this: on the Saturday before we leave, the “packing table” appears in the living room. Over the next few days, piles of panties, socks, toiletries, slacks, blouses, brochures and provisions gather and grow. And there they remain, until the rising frequency of reminders prompts me to fetch the cases from the loft, allowing her to merrily transfer everything from the table into the suitcase.
It’s her talisman, her Zen method of easing into holiday mode, while I tend to wake up on the morning we are leaving and think, “Oh, we’re going on holiday today,” toss an armload of random garments into the mix and have a quick look at a map of Britain to plot a route.
This time, the route consisted of “head west until you hit Wales, then turn right.” In a country as small and water-bound as Britain, you can only go so wrong. If you unwittingly miss your target, the ocean will keep you from going too far astray and will encourage you to turn around and try again, hopefully paying a little more attention this time. In the States I had to rely on different clues, such as signs saying “Welcome to Vermont.” I find this a perfectly valid method of getting places by car, since years of experience have taught me that, even if I do plan a detailed route, I’ll end up lost anyway.
And so, locked and loaded, we set out through the drizzle. Our target was a mere two-and-a-half hours away so we allotted ourselves five hours because this is Britain and I had a plan.
I will be posting episodes in blog-sized chunks in the coming days.
I cannot tell you how long that is likely to be.