Eating out every day isn’t the only hidden cost. Of course, staying in the UK, you might not get stung for a henna tattoo at the local medina, but there is always the problem of the weather. You know, for at least one day, it’s gonna rain. Which means you’re going to be spending that whole day at the local shopping centre. Unless, of course, your holiday destination comes with a games room equipped with a PlayStation and Xbox included in the price.
There was one occasion when the kids were much younger when the Mother and Jason had spent a week on holiday in Wales. The five-star hotel in Cardiff Bay perhaps? Or a luxury lodge in an enchanted woodland? No, a budget caravan next to an RAF base where the sound of bombing and shelling could be heard all night. To make it even more gruesome, they had traveled there by coach.
The Mother could still remember the journey, all eight hours of it. When they finally did arrive, they had to wait for another hour for their accommodation to be ready. And by the time they finally stepped inside their mobile home, it was getting dark. This was probably a good thing because it gave the Mother a few seconds to brace herself before setting eyes on their accommodation. When the Mother did face her fears, daring to turn the light on, the caravan interior was revealed in all its glory. She could still see it now. The grotesque plastic ’70s pictures on the wall. The hideous tatty brown sofa and the tiny corridor which housed the kitchen. She wanted to cry.
The only thing that held back the tears was the fact that she had not paid for the holiday, not one penny. Her partner had paid for the whole thing. If she’d started crying, she knew she’d look like one ungrateful bitch. So she managed to contain herself until she made it to the safety of the toilet cubicle. Once inside, she just wanted to sob. But of course, as is traditional in caravans, there was not yet any bloody toilet paper.
Of course, this is all grossly unfair; some sites the Mother had stayed at were beautiful, the expensive ones mainly. The resorts with amazing views of the beach, the ones with a spa and a jacuzzi, and then there were the camps with subsidised bars, always a bonus. Plus, not all caravan parks had bingo every single bloody night at the clubhouse, no, honestly.
Her grandma would say “You get what you pay for,” and where else could you stay for £20 quid and a few tokens out of the Sun? Also, it would be misleading to say that there weren’t at least some advantages to holidaying in the UK. One of these was the whole experience of going out for dinner. Dining at Wagamama with your kids might set you back a few quid, but it’s never going to be as stressful as eating out abroad. For the Mother, going to a restaurant in a foreign country always followed the same pattern. And every time, she wondered why she put herself through this ordeal.
Roughly speaking, it went like this.
1 Find a restaurant – obviously, somewhere authentic where the locals go. Not one of those horrible English restaurants that cater for tourists.
2 Try to work out what meals they offer using your pidgin Spanish/French.
3 Explain to your children on a loop that the restaurant does not serve chips, pasta or pizza. Tell them they are abroad and suggest perhaps they try the local cuisine.
4 Try to order your meal, making a pathetic attempt to speak the lingo. Your accent and vocabulary are so shit, even you’re not sure what you’ve asked for.
5 Your dinner arrives, you begin to eat it, it’s delicious but you massively over-ordered. You notice both your children are pulling faces at the food as well as each other. After several empty threats from you, one child begins picking out bits of food with their fingers and sniffing it before they eat it. The other is still refusing to eat so much as a single mouthful.
Order another drink to cope with stress. Hope that by the time you’ve finished your second/third/fourth glass of wine, your kids will have finished their dinner.
7 Pay the bill, panic about how much money you have spent, and give the children a lecture about wasting food. Tell them it’s their fault if they are still hungry and that you’re not going to have anything until breakfast time tomorrow. This includes ice creams and sweets.
8 Buy the kids some ice creams and sweets. After all, it is the holidays.