Just as better off New Yorkers head for the Hamptons in August and the French head en masse on holiday, clogging up roads, the British see August as the month for the summer holiday. But these are times of uncertainty and ongoing recession, coupled with the threat of a series of labour disputes at some of Britain’s main airports. With eight million Britons on part time working, and with the economy heading for a double dip recession, possibly depression, it’s hardly surprising that many holidays have been downgraded from two weeks in Greece or Spain to a week or so camping under a tent in a windblown field somewhere in Britain.
Camping has suddenly become in vogue and in a very big way. There have been television documentaries, charting the camping pioneers who would once set up under canvass in voluminous tents that were difficult to erect. There are advertisements for camping and campsites everywhere, and every other person I speak to seems to be planning a camping expedition.
So not to be outdone, we have said good bye to the usual summer holiday in the Catskills, and this year have bought a tent. In a week or so’s time, we will head to Pembrokeshire in West Wales, and bivouac with some friends and any others who have decided to temporarily occupy this corner of the countryside.
At one level, I am trying to be as enthusiastic as the children. The journey will be an adventure – it will take around five or Six hours from the English Midlands if the old Land rover makes it. We will take with us our new Labrador, Lola, and hope that there won’t be too many accidents on the way. We will pitch our tent, light a fire, eat sausages and in the morning maybe go surfing. Well, they all will, because I will have found a cafe or pub nearby to read the newspapers.
But then, there are the “what if’s”. What if it rains all of the time? What if the wind is so strong that it keeps trying to blow the tent away? What if we don’t get any sleep, because of a) the dog, b) noisy neighbours or c) the ground is just too hard and uncomfortable? I can see just how quickly camping holidays can pall, when there is so much that can go wrong. I can see that I will have to retreat to the car for comfort.
But perhaps it is now all back to the future. When I was growing up, not many people could afford to fly abroad on holiday. Then came the package holiday breaks, the cheap flights and holiday destinations, and soon even some of the most exotic places became accessible for the average wage earner.
Today, buffeted by rising prices, fewer jobs, declining income and strikes, only the Chinese can afford to fly abroad on holiday in any numbers, while we Brits retreat to our tents. Maybe next year, I will save all of this bother, and we can simply go on holiday in the garden shed.