Sun, sex and sangria... forget it
What does a Mediterranean holiday have to offer a grumpy, teetotal, headache-prone, sun allergy sufferer?
Sun, sex and sangria… forget it
Now I am virtually teetotal - and that doesn't mean I only drink when I'm not on the internet - finding a holiday destination has become more difficult.
Gone are the days I was happy with a sun-drenched terrace, a pint of cr�me de menthe and a stomach pump.
The sensitive skin problem, exacerbated by the violent onset of menopause, has made it impossible for me to sit in the sun, the shellfish allergy, and the decision not to drink alcohol - also prompted by the menopause - means the attractions of “a busy harbour with seafood restaurants and many thriving bars” holds no attractions for me.
I am also a complete snob about “Brits abroad”.
In Crete, I witnessed a group of middle aged British men, harangue a barmen:
- 1 £1.5million project set to turn north Essex towns into giant gaming areas
- 2 A12 reopens after air ambulance called to three-lorry crash
- 3 Man identified after dog walker threatened in Sudbury
- 4 Weather warning for Suffolk as thunderstorms expected to affect travel
- 5 Suffolk campsite named among the best in the UK by the Guardian
- 6 New curator appointed at Suffolk tourist attraction
- 7 Town take up option on Tyreece Simpson... plus two other youngsters update
- 8 School apologises for GCSE paper error as it falls to inadequate
- 9 Andy Warren: Why keeping Sam Morsy is vital for Ipswich Town
- 10 Plans for 115 homes in village gets backing to move forward
“Manuel” Oi, Manuel, Duo Cerveza por favor!”
The Greek barman whose name was not Manuel, replied in rather better English than his protagonists: “Two beers coming up.”
For these and other reasons (eg airports) I was rather hoping to go to Scotland again. It is the one place in mainland Britain where biting insects prefer my husband to me.
In 1992 the midges of Argyle set upon him and ate at him until his legs looked like salami.
The weather in Dunoon was indifferent (if gale force winds and driving rain can be called indifferent) but I loved it.
My husband, however, has his head easily turned by the prospect of uninterrupted sunshine, blue sea and local brandy. He may even glance in the direction of a bikini-clad lovely although he assures me this is entirely for research purposes. (I believe his project is titled Spotting Bikini-clad Lovelies)
Maybe we should holiday separately - he could head for the tropics while I hole up in a medieval Caledonian monastery in sackcloth underwear and read really trashy novels.
Yes, it was David Cameron who revealed he likes to start his hols with a really trashy novel although if, as reported the read is Patricia Cornwell's latest Scarpetta story he probably hasn't read Katie Price (According to one plot summary for her book Sapphire the eponymous heroine gets into no strings-attached sex when she discovers her husband's infidelity. Tired already).
You will be relieved to hear that menopause has not so far sapped my appetite for a pot-boiler even though I find it increasingly hard to relate to young, sexually burgeoning heroines and more often sympathise with their difficult and demanding mothers.
Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, for example. If ever a mother was maligned, it was she. All she wanted to do was marry off her consignment of daughters to suitable, rich men.
It is not her fault she had no sons. Science has ascertained the man with his XY chromosomes, dictates the sex of a baby. Women have no choice but to propagate women being endowed with only exes.
Moreover, contraception in Georgian England was less sophisticated. There was no such thing as “the snip”. The only snip available in Regency times was far more radical and usually employed to preserve a boy's treble voice.
There were a few homely recipes to prevent conception (eye of newt etc) although “I've got a headache,” seems to have been the most effective one and, I understand, it still works as well today.
So who can blame Mrs B for her clucking.
You might think it is easy being crabby but it takes a lot of dedicated work.
Holidays are awash with opportunities to exercise this skill. When we walk into a hotel room for the first time, I can hear my husband's intake of breath as he awaits my verdict. I am rarely satisfied.
In Majorca, one February, I was forced to ask for another room - preferably one with some heating.
On Lake Garda, Italy, the towels in the bathroom turned out to be the size and texture of tea-towels with similar absorbency, the breakfast was speck and pickled beetroot and the German teenagers in the next room were nocturnal and able to sing the entire Oasis back catalogue.
In Paris, we battled through a cobweb infested corridor and discovered a bedroom that appeared to have been empty since the allied liberation. I opened the wardrobe and fully expected a lion and a witch to emerge.
We were reallocated a room in the new wing.
My husband doesn't like to make a lot of fuss. Fortunately, I do.
And what is the reason for combined pine-scented shower gel and shampoo? It may do a reasonable job on miscellaneous body hair but, in my experience, it turns the hair on your head to something between Edward Scissorhands and Amy Winehouse.
What's more, every time you lift an arm up you are inexplicably reminded of Rendlesham forest.
My husband claims even single-purpose shower gel can be a “bit rubbish” as it tends to run out halfway down his body. I have suggested he starts from the bottom next time.
I might conclude that there is something to be said for a self-catering holiday but I can't think what. So we are ploughing through the holiday brochures, looking at resorts in the Mediterranean.
Surely there must be a few that not only provide high-class toiletries and promise no evening entertainment but also offer no day trips where tourists are forced to stop off at a local craft centre to be plied with slugs of the local moonshine liquor.
How many of us have subsequently found ourselves waiting for the flight home with a life-size hand-woven straw donkey under one arm and a hand-painted couscous bowl under the other?