IN PRAISE OF THE TRADITIONAL SUMMER HOLIDAY
Margate in Kent is ‘the original seaside’ – a sign proclaiming as much is the first thing you see after having stepped off the train. It’s probably true; the arrival of affordable rail travel made Kent an ideal escape for residents of Victorian London. It’s pier is long gone, but it retains most of the trappings of a traditional holiday town – gaudy amusement arcades, row after row of ‘luxury holiday villas’, overpriced ice creams and tacky souvenir shops. There’s probably no such thing as a ‘traditional holiday’ now though, right? For some, it’s a faceless beachside resort somewhere in the Med. For others, it’s a hillwalking exercise.
My family generally stick to what is now called a ‘Staycation’, and holiday in England. Figures show this trend is on the rise, with more and more people shunning foreign travel. Maybe staying in the country is to become ‘traditional’ once more? Then again, perhaps not: our holidays generally follow a similar routine, but would probably be described as decidedly untraditional by many. For starters, we always travel by train, so our holidays never begin with the frenzied over-packing of the car, trying desperately to squeeze in one more rubber ring. Instead, there’s a careful whittling down of what is absolutely essential, to make sure that we can successfully dash between platforms at Clapham Junction without dying of exhaustion. The British seaside holiday would not be complete without fish and chips. We stay true to this tradition, but being vegetarians (as if being a car-less family didn’t make us hippy enough), it’s chips and chips for us.
We’re always slightly overexcited about seeing where we’ll be staying, so there’s usually a couple of laps of the house, excitedly pointing out the view from the window, or the size of the kitchen, or a particularly pretty vase. Over the course of the week, we’ll have a few meals out, and a few picnics. A few ice creams, if we’re lucky. We always take a fancy box of chocolates with us, and try to ration them so they’ll last the week. They rarely do.
We always send postcards, and we always write them while sat looking out to sea. We always go for at least one really long walk, and we always have one lazy day of mooching around local shops and reading our holiday books.
The fifteen year old me would resent the suggestion that these traditions might change one day. If they didn’t happen every year, it seemed like our holiday would be less enjoyable. In all honesty, they’ve changed already. This year my younger brother left a few days early, back home for work and a friend’s party. I used to keep a handwritten holiday journal every year – that’s gone, replaced by blogs and an ability to remember every single moment through the seemingly infinite storage capabilities of a digital camera. The aforementioned long walk ended this year not with a celebratory ice cream, but a couple of pints of cider.
I guess my point is, there’s really no such thing as a traditional holiday: we make our own traditions. It’s often these things that make a holiday enjoyable, not the town we’re staying in, or the hotel, or the beach. “Maybe when you have kids you’ll have to holiday in a house with a granny annex” said my mum. I laughed. The truth is though, it wouldn’t really feel like a holiday without her there, excitedly pointing out the sea every time there’s a tiny glimpse of it, glittering out there on the distant horizon. The traditions we hold dear will inevitably change, and we must accept this… then make new ones.