I Have a Theory

You know when you go on holiday and all your neuroses fade away? All your usual preoccupations, worries, anxieties, hang-ups, concerns; all the stuff that oppresses you just somehow washes away in the sun and the sea (or the hills or the lakes or the ski slopes) and leaves you free? ‘Why did I bother about all that stuff?’ you ask yourself, giving a deep sigh of contentment that it’s all gone away.

Well my theory is that your neuroses are not dead, just slow to wake up. They lie around and yawn and stretch – but after a few days they realise you’re not there. ‘Hang on lads!’ they say to each other. ‘She’s gone! Who’s going to feed us now?’ So they all stand up and shade their eyes against the sun, looking this way and that – and finally they spy you on the beach. ‘There she is lads!’ they cry. ‘Off we go!’ And one by one these shadowy figures set off up the road and one by one (since some of them are slower than others) they catch up with you. But if you’re clever you can immerse yourself so deeply in the holiday that they won’t find you. They’ll scrabble about in the sand dunes or the nursery slopes and scratch their heads. ‘Where’d she go boys?’ they’ll say to each other, and shake their heads. And if you can avoid them till you go home you’ll have a nice break when you get back, until they realise you’ve outsmarted them and rush back down the road after you.

That’s how it is with me. My neuroses are like weights on my shoulders; while I was away I felt free and relaxed, but a day or two after I came back I began to feel the weights piling on again. True, it’s not so bad as before – and if you’re smart, since they come back one by one you can start to deal with them individually – but in the end they will overwhelm your resistance. Of course it’s not so bad as if you hadn’t been on holiday; the neuroses haven’t been fed so they’ve faded somewhat. But they’ve not gone away.

Mind you, I can’t help wondering if holidays are what they used to be. Most of the people I know seem to spend half the year away. At least half a dozen times a year they’ll say ‘I’m away that week,’ or ‘I’m going on holiday in November’ or ‘I won’t be here for Christmas or New Year’ or ‘don’t count on me in the summer because I’m back and forth’. So I wonder if holidays perform the same function that they used to, or whether if there are too many of them, they become a way of life that is almost work.

For me, holidays – especially foreign holidays (let’s not think about how badly Brexit is going to screw all that up) are a kind of reconnaissance, a way of finding out what life is like somewhere else. Of course I do my fair share of lying on the beach with a good book, but above all I like to get a feel for the place. What is it like to live here? How do people here think differently from us? What can I learn from this place? The idea of touring around looking at the sights and never interacting with local people is anathema to me, which is why wherever I am I always try to learn at least a few words of the language. A propos of which I learned the word ‘merse’ in Scotland (salt marsh) and that they call a bus stand a ‘bus stance.’ (This amused me with the thought of buses standing around in a variety of striking attitudes.) But my main impression of life in the Lowlands (or Southern Uplands, if you will) was that it was sensible. There seemed to be a feeling for civic and community life – free car parks, free and open public toilets, libraries etc – and a sense of open space, wide streets not enclosed by privately-owned malls. In the (free) museums people would show you round with great enthusiasm and never once try to sell you anything.

That’s it from me and the lads. So it’s goodnight from me – and it’s goodnight from them.

Kirk out

Why Holiday?

It has come to my attention that there are curmudgeons out there (you know who you are) who do not Appreciate Holidays.  I cannot understand this: holidays are as necessary to me as breathing and if I don’t get one (which basically I haven’t since 2011; the last three years having allowed me a total of five days away, two in a freezing tent in Derbyshire and three in Barrow-on-Soar) I start to go seriously weird. So here to explain, if not to convince, are some of my reasons for going on holiday.

Holidays have many joys. To have a change of scene; to let go of everyday thoughts and actions; to abandon all routine and to establish a new routine which is based on the old one but like a light-hearted version of it. Holiday routines are playful and can be changed at any time: if I want to sleep in, or get up early, or stay up late, why not?  You play at having a life; at shopping, at living in your cottage, at taking your morning walk. Even the time spent establishing yourself in the cottage is part of the pleasure of being on holiday.

To have different thoughts; different conversations; different food. We made full use of the local shops to buy wine, local cheeses, fresh vegetables from the small (and horribly expensive) greengrocer as well as ripe peaches and strawberries. We also had fresh local bread nearly every day and cooked every evening apart from fish-and-chip night.

To sit in the porch (all made of glass) on one of the window-seats and look at the sea; or to hop barefoot across the hot tarmac road with a cuppa in one hand and a book in the other and pass a pleasant hour before dinner. The cottage had a whole shelf full of novels and I wish I’d written down the ones I read; but the only one I remember was called ‘Purple Hibiscus’, about a child growing up with an abusive father in Africa. The father was a Catholic convert and obsessively religious.

To go down to the beach in the morning with my yoga mat, to find a flat(-ish) spot to do my asanas facing the waves and feeling the sun on my face. To wake at five and see the sun half a yard above the waves, casting a wide orange light like a still lighthouse (I wished I’d had a camera then) and to wake another night at midnight and see forked lightning attack the sea and wake up the whole sky – this is why we go on holiday.

I can’t help feeling sorry for those stuck in Britain and confined to school holidays, as the weather has been pretty dismal this year. We had the best of the summer as we had hot, sunny weather just about every day – and we were there for the hottest day EVER! (remember that?) although what with the sea breeze it was just about perfect. Holly is about to go to Spain for a week, for a well-earned break, so I wish her and Tom a lovely holiday and as for the rest of us, if you haven’t been anywhere and you don’t like holidays you should probably go to Dismaland.


I think this is great!  I’d love to go but it’s a bit far – and I’m happy to see they are now taking action against ticket touts.  You wouldn’t find a ticket tout in Southwold – the very air would make them ill.


Kirk out

Under Thorpe Cloud

Now, I’m not what you might call a fitness freak.  Every time I pass the gym on Upperton Rd and look at the row of people all cycling towards me without getting anywhere, I feel like laughing.  Joggers are more liberally-sprinkled on our pavements than lamp-posts, but I think jogging is a form of torture and marathons an extreme form.  On the news, both national and local, there are daily reports of outlandish feats of endurance raising money for this or that; but I don’t begin to comprehend why anyone would want to put themselves through something like a triathlon.  My leisure time is taken up with reading, watching TV, drinking beer with buddies and listening to music.  And when I go on holiday I enjoy a gentle walk; a stroll along the beach, a little light climbing perhaps, a bit of a swim.  Nothing too demanding.  Yet the last two church holidays I’ve been on have involved rather over-enthusiastic types who think nothing of shooting up a steep mountain the moment they’ve pitched their tent.  Such as this one:

which I declined to ascend at that point as I’d spent all night in a freezing tent and had to get up twice to pee.

The beach holiday, years ago, was much nicer.  Still on the first morning I wanted nothing more than to laze in the sun and hope my children didn’t drown themselves.  But it became clear that a group of these said hardy individuals were planning to latch themselves onto a rope for the purposes of pulling a bus along the promenade!  Why they would wish to do such a thing when they could be soaking up the sun, was a mystery to me, and when they had all charged up the shingle yelling ‘huzzah!’ I expressed my view to someone sitting near me.  ‘They’re bonkers, aren’t they?’ I said.  ‘Why don’t they just sit and enjoy the sun?’

She gave me a look, part-sorrow and part-anger.  Turned out she was just putting her trainers on so she, too could dash up the shingle and go pull a bus!!  I ask you!

But recently all this determined non-climbing and non-bus-pulling has started to catch up with me.  Living where we now do, I need to cycle a fair bit to get around; and so I’m having to supplement  my usual diet of fairly gentle yoga and sporadic walking with some good hard chugging up slopes and down again.  I’m getting better at it; and the other night when it was cold and wet I actually broke into a spontaneous jog!  Whatever next?

Better save me a bus, I guess…

Spring! workshop tomorrow, folks at the Embrace Arts centre.  Our workshop starts at 12 so see you there!


Kirk out


– or so we hope.  More snow this morning and people are grumbling (because they must) about Not Having Enough Grit.  Not in the John Wayne sense (although this may also be in short supply) but the stuff that melts snow.  To be fair though, how often do we have a prolonged spell of snow and ice like this?  Supposing councils stockpiled grit and then we had no snow, what would these people be saying?

Story about our neighbour:

We had just come back from honeymoon, a budget holiday which featured a lot of crashing on people’s floors and hitching.  Not the romantic break one normally expects – in fact, a friend’s comment was: “Well, if you’re still together after all that, you must be meant for each other!”  Little did she know….

Anyway, following said dream honeymoon, we returned home and were swapping notes with a neighbour over the fence.  His holiday had been a nice package to somewhere exotic.  He gestured behind him to his house:

“Not much to come back to, is it?” he said.


This phrase has passed into our family vocabulary, whenever someone is complaining unreasonably, we will chorus:

“Not much to come back to, is it?”

Tomatoes this morning – we hope!  Now I need to have a bath.

Kirk out.