Another huge benefit of staying in the UK is that you will invariably travel to your destination by car, coach or train. While contained in a vehicle, it is virtually impossible for your children to spend money. (Notice the use of the word “virtually” here.) But getting a flight anywhere often means a lengthy wait at an airport. This can only mean one thing – shops. Not just shops but cafes, bars, restaurants, pop-up toy stands. Even a flipping vending machine which sells overpriced electronic gadgets.
So here you are, at the airport, your luggage is on its way to the hold, and you still have a couple of hours to kill. In those two hours, your children come up with a myriad of things you need for the holiday, and you can’t just blame it all on the kids either. You thought you’d packed everything you needed too. But then you spot a pair of lovely white linen trousers in FatFace, just £80, that you simply cannot go on holiday without. And why shouldn’t you treat yourself to a new bikini? And, wow, that perfume smells fabulous. Before you know it, you’re reaching for your emergency credit card. Who knew it would be so easy to convince yourself that all of these plus a Dior lipstick count as essential items?
The Mother was well aware that she was part of the problem without anyone daring to point this out to her. She had set the bar high for herself, made a rod for own back, whatever you want to call it. When the school year had finished, she wanted to kick back and live like a B-list celeb. She wanted excitement and entertainment every day. But her income wasn’t equal to her desires. Her children, at least in part, had picked up those expectations too, and also expected the moon on a fucking stick. Thomas Cook adverts didn’t exactly help either.
By the last week of the summer break, you’ve exhausted every possible form of entertainment, and every day until school starts is now spent in the park. Luckily, you’re not the only one there; the adventure playground is awash with skint, exasperated parents.
Also at this point in the holiday, the food cupboard resembles Old Mother Hubbard’s. Plus your TV starts telling you about all the things your kids will need for the start of a new term. Blazer, shoes, PE kit, lunch box, pencil case – fuck off. Also about now the credit card bills have started to waft through the letterbox. They lie unwanted on the carpet like old sweet wrappers. And though they might eventually be picked up, they’re not going to be opened any time soon.
You and your partner decide that you can’t afford or justify a holiday next year. Instead, you agree to have several days out in areas of natural beauty in the English countryside. You’re sure you’ve got a National Trust membership card somewhere. By January, the weather in Britain is utterly shit, as is the political situation, and you are beginning to feel depressed. Even the pub is cold. So you begin to scan the internet for cheap flights, casually asking your partner, “How old is your Aunty Iris now? She must be at least 95. We must go and visit her, you know before it’s too late.”