Words by Hazel Davis
I was being jostled down Edinburgh's Royal Mile, elbowed by a gangly hipster on one side and the seemingly obligatory woman-dressed-as-old-lady on the other. I had been tripped up seven times and was pretty sure someone was rifling through my bag.
I couldn’t have been happier.
My other half, Bob, on the other hand was counting the hours until we could leave this hellhole and he could look at one of his so-called “maps”.
You see, something like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is my kind of fun. All-day sitting in a dark and dingy room in awkward silence as student after student makes an ill-advised paedophilia joke is how I roll. Top it off with an overpriced baked potato on the kerb and I’m in paradise. It’s my lying on a beach in the Maldives. It’s my all-expenses-paid safari. Sadly, for my partner of *coughs* years Bob it’s just about the worst experience he could imagine. Times £££££.
That was five years ago, roundabout the last time we took a substantial holiday together. After several unhappy compromises and bitter recriminations, we agreed never to holiday together again, bar mini-breaks with the children (we had two babies since then). Which is why, since then, I have been away without him, to many fun places around the world, most of which he would have hated.
Stats I found with remedial Googling suggest that around 65% cent of holidaying Brits fall out with their families before they even arrive at their destination. I can see why. Bob and I have been together for many years and have lots in common. We hold hands in the cinema, eat out regularly and lock horns over Scrabble. We share the same parenting ideals and interior design choices.
But when it comes to 'getting away', his idea of a holiday is my idea of hell. And vice-versa.
I am a city-lover, a people-lover. My dream holiday is to jet off to a vibrant and edgy (yeah, I have a beret) destination full of weird and wonderful characters, where cafes line the streets and street-performers entertain. Every night I'd make a new friend. Bob's idea of fun? A fortnight climbing some godforsaken moor with nothing but a stove, a well-thumbed book about ecclesiastical politics and (if he's feeling sociable) his dog.
I have had the travel bug since I could walk. I arrived at primary school expecting to be taught Japanese in anticipation of when I would eventually go there (though when I did I spent most of the time gawping and eating ice-cream so there was no real time for language). Bob, meanwhile, spent his schooldays dreaming of the day he could stride manfully across the wild countryside on his own.
Our first holiday together occurred (I use that word deliberately) when we were students. It was a fucking disaster. Camping in Scotland, leaky tent, expensive B&B. The B&B was, for me, was the point at which the holiday started to get interesting: The proprietor was several haggises short of a Burns Night celebration - and served us runner beans for breakfast and forced old Scottish folk music on our ears day and night.
At the end of our stay, she invited us to stay longer - for free. I naturally considered this a splendid idea, but Bob was already in the car - with the engine running. To this day, he talks about the experience as being among the worst of his life. For him, holidays provide an excuse to escape from Other People. It's a prime opportunity to not converse with them.
There was the week we spent at home (his idea) going on day-long walking trips (yawn) around Yorkshire. By the end of it, I was sick of the sight and smell of sheep and longing for a night at a multiplex cinema. Since having children we have realised that at some point we might have to compromise but that didn’t stop me going to Berlin last weekend on my own or him going camping in the woods in Gloucestershire a few weeks ago.
It might seem like we have nothing in common - and some argue that if we can't go on holiday together we can't possibly live together 'happily ever after'. But consider the conversation I had with my friend Ben the other day.
Him: “My bird’s booked our holiday. We're going to Greece to lie on a beach. My idea of hell but you know how it is.”
Me: “Um. . . No, not really.”
Hazel Davis in New Zealand, sans Bob. (Photo by Alison Campbell)
Hazel Davis hits the road on her own. (Photo by Alison Campbell)
Bob's view of the moor (artist's impression).