No sooner has the Christmas pudding settled into a warm bump on my tummy, than the family starts mithering me about summer holidays.
I hide the Radio Times (Mrs M always insists we get the bumper Christmas edition). I just don’t want to see the adverts for timeshares and city breaks, Squeezyjets and Caribbean cruises.
I try to avoid the ads on telly too. Even ad-free BBC has its risks, what with the Royle Family off to a static caravan in Prestatyn.
The first problem about planning holidays is that the boys’ school, now re-badged a Specialist Language College, always gets in first, at the start of the autumn term. Barely have I reclaimed my (ha!) study from the kids’ junk, and purged my computer of piratical download software, than they are back home from school, trailing consent forms for Madrid, Iceland and Antarctica.
Mrs M and I sigh. We know that lager works the same in any language, leaving them less than receptive at the Prado, the hot springs or the South Pole. Could not our Specialist Travel College achieve the same effect without contributing quite so much to global warming? (I am now ranting at Mrs M, who as usual says nothing).
I recall those happy days when our primary head teacher showed us snaps of Year Sixers licking ninety-nines on windy northern beaches, and when our “contribution” was measured in tens of pounds not hundreds of Euros.
So, as 2010 dawns, even an off-peak mid-week break at Center Parcs looks pricey for our summer hols. I know better than to suggest a week in my favourite holiday cottage at the unfashionable end of the Lake District. The risk of a wet muddy week in a cold damp spidery house is just well, too like home. My work often takes me abroad: it’s all very well for you, they clamour, off to sunnier climes for what you call work (ha ha), but for those of us whose journeys end in Piccadilly and Offerton, a beach and a pool are basic Human Rights.
Cabin Fever is setting in at Number 72. Any minute now they will bring up last year’s cancelled holiday in Antigua, where Mrs M and the boys were meant to join me at the end of my contract. Sometimes clients cancel: it’s just one of those things, but you can’t expect the family to see it that way.
I seize the high moral ground by asserting basic Canine Rights: Bono’s lead must be somewhere. I shall take him up past Red Row, a terrace of brick weavers’ cottages by the Royal Oak in Mellor. I’ve always liked the way “Red Row” as written looks like a full-on family blazer, but when you get there, the soft red bricks are as warm and kind as the people inside. I might even get a cup of tea if Bono promises to behave.
On the way I shall compose a letter in my head to the head of a certain Specialist Impoverishment College, and by the time I am home, I’ll feel better.