Periodically a piece of marketing material from the Explore! travel company drops through the letterbox. My heart sinks.
Actually, before it sinks, it temporarily aches with happiness from a previous life. As I stoop to retrieve, reality washes over me. If I’m lucky, what was an ache will be replaced with a warm inner glow as a familiar face smiles back from the printed page.
The advantage of being on the same tour as a camera-wielding financial director from the said company and travelling with my partner and two bestest friends.
That particular holiday was the last in a long list that saw me visit some of the most beautiful places in the world. First alone and then with my partner I encountered experiences that leave indelible memories.
From crossing the Australian Outback on red dirt roads; swimming with a pod of wild dolphins in New Zealand; watching silk weavers in Sri Lanka or drinking beer and eating fresh grilled lobster in a Cuban family home… the list is endless.
But lives change. I am now happily married and have two children whom I love. I still love holidays, or rather I still love the theory of holidays but the concept has taken a new direction.
Spontaneity has been replaced with routine and cheap international flights have metamorphosed into highly inflated school holiday prices.
Long meandering walks and lazy afternoons people watching with a beer in hand is now a quickly grabbed coffee on the run to Kids’ Club.
Mornings visiting an historical monument have vaporised into play zones and indoor swimming pools with a dash of culture on the side, if I’m lucky. My family and I are currently working our way through some of the UK’s coastal caravan parks.
I hate caravans.
Almost every night without exception, prior to Scotland 2014, that I have slept in a caravan it has rained. Not only rained but been cold and damp inside, let alone outside.
Never say never again…
Back in 1978 I vowed never to caravan again following a particularly wet week in Great Yarmouth. My clothes were damp and cabin fever overtook not only me but my three brothers and long-suffering parents.
We were ‘outdoor’ kids used to bike riding around the estate or endlessly kicking a ball against the garage door, yet here we were trapped in a 10-foot-wide metal box with no central heating to dry a tissue let alone a swimming towel.
By midweek my poor stepfather announced that regardless of the weather we would visit the beachside funfair on Thursday.
True to his word we did. We were the only family but the ride operators dutifully let us have a turn. The wide Norfolk sky was a never-ending sheet of lead. The rain lashed down. We were soaked through to the skin. Skint but outside.
We left Great Yarmouth that holiday a day early. Despite the highlight of literally bumping into the late Larry Grayson we couldn’t stay locked up another senseless day.
The only dry thing for 50 paces was the holiday fund.
With the beauty of hindsight and the wisdom of an adult head I can now sympathise with my parents. They’d worked their socks off to take us four kids on holiday.
Our palpable sense of relief at going home must have been audible across the counties under those wide East Anglian skies. Their faces etched with having us four pre-teens constantly under their feet looked strangely relieved.
I still hate caravans despite two recent holidays. I am not a great Top Gear fan but one of my favourite episodes was watching Richard Hammond play ‘conkers’ with them.
Jealousy ran through my veins as the caravans swung in hanging high from the cranes. Smash. Smiling at the senseless destruction. It was fantastic. Joyous. Sheer brilliance. I would have happily worn the safety goggles if it meant that I could have joined in.
The funny thing is I have booked two further caravan holidays. The central heating and double-glazed windows help. I am pretending to love it.
The kids, meanwhile, are having the time of their little lives, making holiday friends, undertaking daily adventures running wild and achieving personal goals.