In praise of others' holidays

PUBLISHED: 15:35 04 August 2006 | UPDATED: 22:02 28 May 2010

I love summer holidays. Especially other people s. In fact, I like them so much I haven t had one of my own for nearly 30 years. That ended with a 36-hour delay in Athens airport in a stiflingly hot boarding lounge, relieved only by lying tannoy announcem

I love summer holidays. Especially other people's.

In fact, I like them so much I haven't had one of my own for nearly 30 years. That ended with a 36-hour delay in Athens airport in a stiflingly hot boarding lounge, relieved only by lying tannoy announcements and ancient Greek sandwiches.

Ever since, I've felt that being bored by someone else's digital slide show in the comfort of your own home is infinitely preferable to being bored in Luton, Gatwick or Alicante airport.

The benefits of not having summer holidays were made beautifully clear last Saturday evening.

As the weather cooled, I spent an hour tidying the front garden. A dusty black BMW drew up and the window wound down.

"Sprechen Sie deutsch?" asked the driver - not a question I've often been asked in Coates.

"Ein wenig," I stuttered, thinking just how little school German I actually remembered. It turned out that he and his family had driven from Cologne to visit friends in Lowestoft.

Driving off the ferry at Harwich, they'd relied on his smart new satellite navigation system and had spent much of the day stuck on Leicester's ring road.

With the help of an old School German dictionary and an equally old-fashioned printed map, I showed him that all that now separated him from lovely Lowestoft was a two-hour drive along the A47. He handed me his camera so he'd have a photo with which to bore them back in Deutschland.

I carried on tidying the garden, reminding myself that two hours on Holkham Beach is quite long enough for any summer holiday: once sand gets in one bread roll, you know how it'll taste in all of them.

Every so often, the holiday stories of other people are genuinely enjoyable. A friend recently returned from Thailand.

The local tour guide had tried to sell him an optional overnight excursion. Recommending the hotel that he'd be staying at, the guide promised it came with a brick fart.

"What's a brick fart?" asked my anxious friend.

"A brick fart," repeated the guide. "Buffet brick fart. Olange juice and lolls."

Such tales make me wonder what stories the foreigners who occasionally visit Wisbech or hire a narrow boat in March tell about the mad Fen folk when they get home.

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