Image from ba.com
Reverse psychology has rarely been quite as obvious or potent as BA’s new marketing campaign. Don’t Fly is the tag line. #HomeAdvantage is the hashtag. See your house from the window of a Boeing 767 is the gimmic. If you’re tempted, the options are wide and varied, even if the weather will be also. Glamping, for those too cool to exist under mere tarpaulin, where you’re put up in a tepee, wigwam, yurt or similar. You could opt for a caravan or hire a winnebego. You can have the option of a Cath Kidston tent and designer wellies but to all intents and purposes you’ll be sleeping outside in your clothes. There are charities set up to avoid this.
The threat of a camping trip was enough to cement my decision to quit the Brownies when I was 9 and I’ve been able to say for my entire adult life without a shred of remorse that I have never been camping – something which I now cannot do with the claim to have never broken anything. But in these times of austerity and rash patriotism, I was last year talked into taking advantage of staying home, or rather in someone else’s home-away-from-home. Even in very recent years I would not have hesitated to say no to any variation of a staycation, especially in Wales, in winter. But somehow I found myself rushing for a Swansea bound train having engineered ways to fit both hairdryer and anything of bulk or long of sleeve into one bag. This is the length people will go to get out of London.
Seen as a prime opportunity to relive days long gone when you would go out with the sun high in the sky and be elastically pulled homeward by the draw of dusk; grubby and tired from National Trust parks. The downside is that days like those gone by, days which seem so surface-easy could easily lead you to believe that no work needs go into its successful execution. You’d be wrong. With no actual plan for entertainment, the trip was clearly not organised by A Mum (read: someone with organising skills), but occasionally on An Adventure (read: aimless driving) you will get lucky with A Discovery (read: fun accident). Mine included that straightened hair does not enjoy wind and that The Old Priory on the beach at Rhossilli featured as Gwen’s house in Torchwood. FACT!
With only an ordinance survey map, patchy GPS and zero knowledge of Wales, there was almost a Murder Most Horrid situation en route to Rhossilli. Once there I still half expected to be ‘taken out’ comedy style by the solid flat of a shoulder supported surf board thanks to a ‘disorientated surfer’; I’m implying a hired hit here! Absolutely keen Welsh surfers in the sub zero water for hours. Even in a wet suit, I can justifiably say that they’re harder than us hardy Scots.
Mapping and directionality in general are difficult to navigate on a staycation. Are you on holiday thus making getting lost = exploring? Or are you just lost in countryside reminiscent of your hometown? And unless you have travelled frequently with your fellow staycationer, the views may be stunning; the countryside air may smell sweeter than you remember; the food may taste better when you’re breathing sea air but no argument is quite like an argument in the confines of a car, while you’re accidentally driving across a golf course, which the O/S map tells you is definitely an A Road.
Pubs are your haven in the perfect storm of poor local knowledge and close confines. Pubs of any passing interest were opportunities to continue my CAMRA education via 1/2 pints of pale ale in front of real wood fires. Day trips became aimless driving ending at randomly chosen locations, like the Felinfoel Brewery…which was closed because it was a Sunday (which would never have happened if planned by someone with organising skills). However buddying up to a local landlady for stories of local history and sampling Wales’ finest somewhere, ahem, nearby to the closed brewery brought up stories of pubs she ran in London and we were back in familiar territory in her words.
Whether it is a string of summer daytrips or an actual weekend away, no trip to any part of the British coast would be complete without testing your metal by paddling in the waters of this grim little island. It hurts, I learned the hard way. Sand as solid as concrete and every inch infused with 2 parts ice, 3 parts solid, unyielding metal – the surfers can have it.
Out of our comfort zone, we probably managed to create more things to argue about in Wales than we ever would do in London but there is something to varying your horizons no matter how small or for how ever short a time. A weekend with no phone reception, some admittedly fantastic views, an inventive attempt at recalling the rules for dominos and the opportunity to be able to say that I have been to all 4 parts of the UK. Perhaps there is something to this baffling marketing after all.