Saturday, 19 February 2011

Holiday Hell Is Other People

On holiday, the middle-class Upwards like to visit… fish markets. (It’s free!), Jen Teale recoils in horror from the possible smell and live spider crabs and goes to a mall instead. Mrs Nouveau-Richards and Sharon Definitely shop in a gold souk. The Nouveau-Richards holiday in golf enclaves, or stay in country house hotels with equestrian centres, spas and activities for children—they’re very keen on horses.

Weybridge families have a new pullalong suitcase each, and at airports and railway stations move in tight groups, like herds of impala looking out for lions and crocodiles. Their children all wear new baseball caps. The Gatwick Express is the only train they ever take. Eileen Weybridge is rather hearty and was a netball captain and always kept her locker tidy. The nuns loved her. She takes to yachting in a guernsey, cooking sausages in the galley, sleeping in wet clothes and braving the ghastly ablutions.

Upper class Stow Crats are even heartier about boats and skiing and girls are expected to muck in and not mind diving into sewage-filled harbours to defoul the propeller with a bread knife. They must be good sports and not suffer “sense of humour failure”.

Caroline Stow Crat rents a villa in Tuscany and fills it with friends. She takes her children to Rock in north Cornwall because that’s where all their friends go to drink vodka by the pint at beach bonfire parties. North Cornwall has huge beaches, dull bungalows and not a lot else. Why is it such a posh hangout? Because since Beeching closed so many local railways down the working classes can’t get there. There’s another small node of Stow Crats around Holme Beach in north Norfolk (Hunstanton, Burnham Thorpe).

The Definitelys go to Center Parcs (Sam thinks the whole thing is under a glass dome), the Teales go to a Mark Warner holiday village. Teales who have made it big buy a second home in a gated holiday development where their children can socialise safely. It is rather Stepford Wives. (They’re what Jilly Cooper called Spiralists - they leave their past behind them and fill their too-new houses with neutral objects that have no associations.)

Some well-off Upwards are catching on to the holiday village idea: it gives them the friendliness and community that they didn’t know they were missing. And you can buy an architect designed “static mobile home” for around £100,000 and install it in a park in the Lake District which is restricted to similar homes. Camping or “glamping” is all the rage (saves planet, saves money), but your yurt must be pitched on the right site with the right people. (Thanks to Hugh Pearman for fieldwork.)

More holiday hell here, here, here and here. And here.

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