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Average Holidays: Home Edition

A Week Off At Home

Since I ‘retired’ a few years ago, Lyn and I decided that it would be nice to travel and see a bit of the world. We’d spent the previous 30 years being responsible adults and raising a family rather than going on holidays. The kids came along fairly quickly and although we did ‘Disney’ as each one turned seven years old, the perfect age to visit Uncle Walt, we thought money could be better spent on other things. Also, we live in Devon and quite frankly there’s a beach down the road.

I say ‘travel’ but that’s probably too fancy a word. It conjures up images of backpacks and eating with the locals. What we do is go on fairly average holidays. Ideally a four or five-star hotel, adult only, all-inclusive. From that base, we’ll go out and explore rather than sit by the pool but defiantly not a backpack in sight.

The only other criteria are that it has to be somewhere we haven’t been before. This became a bit of a problem in the last couple of years. A bowel cancer diagnosis for me (cut out and hopefully now gone) followed immediately by the COVID pandemic stopped all that in its tracks. We had holiday after holiday cancelled the last one being Venice this July so like most other people we had a ‘week off ’ and nowhere to go.

We thought we spend the week at home but instead of seeing things we hadn’t seen before we’d do things we hadn’t done before. As part of our ‘average holidays’, I write a daily blog for family and friends to go along with the social media posts and below are two days from our holiday at home during the hottest week of the year.

I had put zero thought into going on a balloon ride past ‘I want to go on a balloon ride!’ If I had some fairly obvious things would have sprung to mind. The first is picking a day and location. I assumed, wrongly, that you go to a balloon website and just say ‘I want that one’ from a proffered selection. How it actually works is you buy the tickets first, then find out that where and when you want to go is fully booked. So planning ahead is a good idea.

The second issue was the time of day. We had picked, when paying and prior to finding out there was little choice, a morning flight as we thought that would be cool, in both meanings of the word. However, despite me saying plan ahead, you can’t. Everything about it is last minute. You have to phone up six hours before the flight to find out where or even if it’s going to take place. Ours could have taken off anywhere between Tiverton and Glastonbury, a substantial drive for us and we would have only found out when we woke up.

As our flight was at 6am I set the alarm for 3am and then did my normal thing of waking up an hour before the alarm. Phoning the hotline, I found that it was going ahead from Taunton but there was a bit in the instructions about wearing walking boots which got me slightly concerned.

I was expecting to turn up to an already inflated balloon. However, despite paying £128 per person, it’s more of a DIY thing. There were 16 passengers all together and everyone at least made a bit of an effort to help get the thing ready with three notable exceptions. The first two eventually got embarrassed enough by their female partners badgering them to do something, but the last person was made of sturdier stuff and wouldn’t shift of her arse or put her fag out for anything. It took about 90 minutes to get the thing together and the same again to pack it away at the other end with about an hours actual flight. On to the flight itself.

We only flew about four miles as there was no wind and reached about 3,000 feet. We could see Glastonbury Tor and even Lundy island from that height. It was a little cramped and slightly awkward to stand but the views were great. In between the almost constant blasts of the burners, which felt and sounded like a dragon was going to have its way with you whether you wanted it to or not, it was even quite tranquil.

Landing, as you would expect, is random. As there was no wind our landing was very gentle and we stayed upright which was a bonus. They try and pick a grass field and hope the farmer isn’t a ‘get orf my land’ type. Apparently, they bribed the farmer’s wife where we landed with a bottle of gin so we didn’t have to try and find somewhere else.

After messing around in a field for an hour and a half with no shade and temperatures reaching the high 20s we were finally taken back to our cars. It was then off to World of Bears to get Lyn her ‘prize’ for doing an activity that she ended up enjoying. Apparently, she was very ‘brave’.

Day Three: It’s No Avengers End Game 

As the day cooled we got our stuff together for an outside showing of Romeo & Juliet. This included a Morrison’s shopping bag (I did suggest to Lyn we take the picnic basket but she said what’s the point) filled with snacks and most importantly wine and made our way to Hartland Abbey. Lyn thought we’d be the only people there but I told her she’d be surprised at the things people will do and pay for. As we trundled along the drive to the Abbey we saw about 100 people already camped out in front of a makeshift stage.

We picked a spot, at the back a nice distance away from anyone else and set up. I went off for five minutes and when I returned we had got surrounded as people arrived, one family sitting so unnecessarily close behind us it must have been difficult for them to see. It has to be Lyn. I do my utter best to exude an air of ‘Don’t come near me’.

As we looked around it became clear what amateurs we were at this. Prosecco corks popped and were then poured into plastic flutes. Thermos’ of curry and rice with other ‘soft’ foods were opened and consumed. Cushions for the camping chairs were brought out. I looked into our shopping bag which contained crisps, rice crispy squares and other noisiest snacks imaginable. I also thought I’d better use the glass we had remembered at the last minute for the wine instead of necking it straight out of the bottle.

I have a confession to make. I’ve never seen Romeo & Juliet, I’ve not even watched Westside Story. Despite this, I know the plot, almost every scene and a ridiculous amount of words. Not as much as the woman in the pink thigh length dress and white knickers (that was the wrong choice of dress to wear and then sit on the floor) in the family to our right who was even laughing at the ‘jokes’. Speaking of families if you dislike your children enough to take them to see something like this you really shouldn’t have had them, but I digress.

So was the performance any good? Honestly, I have no idea. I was ‘entertained’ for a couple of hours which I suppose is all you can ask for. I think this is why actors like Shakespeare. It’s almost ingrained into us that his plays are masterpieces and that good, bad or indifferent you have to like it and if you don’t the fault is yours. Shakespeare is okay. There are some good bits, but honestly, I prefer the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I’m at it I might as well get hung for a sheep as a lamb… Citizen Kane is a shit movie.

What we did enjoy was the experience. The whole being entertained while sitting outside and being able to eat and drink. We need more comfortable chairs and quieter food but we’ll definitely be doing this sort of thing again.

As Lyn drove us back from Hartland Abbey (I’d had the best part of a bottle of wine) I looked across the rolling fields to the sea with Lundy in the distance and said ‘I’ve always liked the view from this bit of road’. I then grabbed the dashboard as we narrowly missed a bit of hedge and shouted ‘For God Sake Don’t You Look!’ Lyn said ‘You shouldn’t have said it’s a nice view!’ Obviously my fault… Lyn then said she’d not seen the sunset at Westward Ho! I’m fairly certain this wasn’t true but that was tomorrow night sorted.

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