Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Home Tourist - Part One

My grandmother has only travelled further than a hundred miles from her home three times in her 91 years: once to London (where she objected to the cars), once to Edinburgh (where she objected to the rats), and once to Ambleside (where she objected to the ghost). Whether she harbours a secret envy of my foreign travels, or whether she sees them as a betrayal and rejection of the familiar homestead, I cannot say. But she is unremitting in her pouring of scorn upon any enterprise involving a journey.

When I return home she will usually say something like ‘so I suppose you’re more tired than you were before you left?’ – which invariably I am – and proceeds to evidence any number of additional hindrances to one’s wellbeing, such as rice-based diets, improper plug sockets, rabies, madcap driving, and over-exposure to midday sun. And while it is always advisable to agree with her, on the matter of travel, she does make the occasional, unassailable, valid point.

To what end do we put ourselves through different time-zones, airport departure lounges, grubby public transport systems, traffic jams, unsatisfactory breakfasts, and endless queues? In our anticipation of new and exotic locations, we somehow selectively overlook the less attractive details. Meanwhile, at home, we linger on such points, believing life to be better just about anywhere else.

Tomorrow, however, an ex-colleague from the US is coming to visit, and I am designated ‘tour guide’ for my home town of Winchester. And the rather appealing thought occurs that if I can only apply her travelling mindset myself as I show her around the city, I may be able to see its attractions afresh. What better way of enhancing one’s own happiness, than to appreciate one’s home surroundings?

So like any good traveller, I will repair to my armchair to plot my course. I might even partake of a nice cup of tea and a biscuit while I do so. Granny would approve.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

On Destiny

You only have to take the most cursory look at history to realise the dubious benefit of having the courage of one's own convictions. I’m thinking Icarus, Napoleon, Hitler, Maggie Thatcher.... Anyway, my dearest K is widely known for his work in the dark art of persuasion, so much so that until we met, few if any had dared to challenge him on a whole plethora of peculiar beliefs, which together constitute certain idiosyncrasies of character that only a wife could love. So it was that, blessed with the appeal which utter confidence inspires, I blithely followed him aboard the flight he had booked, and made the unusual mistake of going on the wrong holiday.

It seemed like nothing less than good fortune when, trying to harness a wriggly one-year old Impster on my lap, the pilot announced that our flight would only take 2 hours. Indeed, I had anticipated the flight to Lanzarote taking a good 4 hours. The only obvious (and dare I say it, logical) explanation was that we were experiencing an unprecedented tailwind (my father is an aerodynamicist – I really do believe such things are possible). And as we came in to land, K pointed to the volcanic mountains and remarked that the island was really much larger than he'd remembered. Then out through customs, more curious yet, was the inexplicable absence of the car hire firm we'd booked. Tcha, what cowboys! Undeterred, we hired a different car and sought a map of the ‘island’. And in the midst of our most creative gesticulations and finest pigeon Spanish, the horror crept upon us. Quite clearly, we were in mainland Spain, aka The Wrong Lanzerote. Yes, if our stupidity is to be believed (and we’ve made careers out of it not being), then we had not the slightest notion that Alicante was on the Costa bloody Blanca. How wise was Robert Louis Stevenson when he wrote that to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.

In short, my beloved had booked flights to Alicante (ALC) instead of Arrecife (ACE). A note to self that late-night use of is a truly hazardous thing – you could end up anywhere waiting for those screens to refresh! But K is so entirely plausible as to be a liability - a reputable member of customer services at Gatwick was actually grateful to him for being told that Alicante was in Lanzarote. After all those years of ignorance!

Looking on the bright side, as far as the little Impster is concerned, she's had a super week in Lanzarote. Well, it seemed a trifle unnecessary to confuse matters when she'd just learned to pronounce the place, and 21 months is far too tender an age to reveal that grownups are fallible (or whither parental authority?).

I must confess, dear reader, that we had a rather fine holiday after all (though an extra jumper wouldn’t have gone amiss). Which begs the question of whether we were not destined after all for our destination? For who can say how often we take a wrong turn in life, only to end up at the exact place we had been headed all along? As the Spanish would have it, ‘Que sera, sera’.