Staycations, you may be aware, are huge this year. Is it Brexit? Is it last year’s heatwave, which made everyone question the point of Abroad in summer? Is it the expectation of being stranded at Gatwick for hours, if not days, or diverted because someone got at the Duty Free and tried to open the emergency exit, at 32,000 feet? Or could it just be foreign holiday fatigue – the car hire, the mosquitoes, the endless application of sun cream - driving this spike in staying close to home holidays?
The answer is, all of the above... and then there are the ‘time of life’ reasons. I’m talking about getting to that stage when you start to regret the passing of bucket and spade holidays, damp bunk beds, and everyone crammed in the car singing ‘They were coming round the mountain’.
All it takes is a glimpse of one of those children’s toweling hooded ponchos, a Thermos flask, or chipped ping pong bat, and we’re ready to pack up the car and head for the coast. We can’t wait to get started.
Because, from this vantage point, the staycation is the answer to everything: it’s easy, it's got a whiff of make do and mend about it, or at least make do; it feels like the steady, wholesome, environmentally friendly choice, a decision based on simple pleasures. You feel like a grounded, happy person just for getting the point of not leaving the UK during the summer.
And when you imagine your staycation now - from a distance, just far enough away to have forgotten exactly what they are really like - it’s Swallows and Amazons meets Emma Bridgewater, plus 21st century adult perks.
What you are picturing is basically the Sixties staycation (aesthetically) but with fleeces and flat whites, and a fridge full of decent rose and a power shower. It’s picnicking among the fishing boats, but with wetwipes and fresh mango slices. It’s surfing a bit and visiting the Danish interiors shop and probably buying something stripey. It’s everyone chipping in to scrub the mussels, with access to a gas barbecue and Wifi. Here’s what you are imagining as you head off on your staycation and the likelihood of that actually occurring:
- You plan to play Scrabble or cards every night; you manage it only once.
- You agree not to turn on the TV – general rule on holiday – but then you do turn on the TV because you are living in a house on a street with a satellite dish and the weather is foul and there’s absolutely nothing to do until the sun comes out.
- You take three fish cookery books, use none of them, and although you are living within yards of the sea you have great difficulty tracking down the sort of fish that you can pick up at Asda.
- You plan to swim every day before breakfast – because you’re right beside the sea! It’s the most invigorating start to the day! You swim a bit (there’s quite a nasty wind), twice in total.
- You intend to read all the time when you’re not sucking up fresh salty air or prepping your sea bass or nipping out in a boat (This is the life), but end up watching Netflix.
- You intend to explore and walk and explore... but it’s not that easy. On walks you keep being forced up onto banks and into people’s gardens and along the edges of B roads.
- The seagulls wake you up at daybreak, and that’s it. You came for the sound of seagulls, partly, but it’s like being in the mosh pit at an Iron Maiden concert.
- You swore you were going to light the fire every night and make the whole place hygge-tastic, but you never get the wood dried out in time. Better luck next year.