Well, I'm back from my first overseas family holiday in twelve years and all I can say is ... phew! Scorchio! Cyprus has been ridiculously hot this year. 'Hotter than living memory' sort of hot. 35-38 degrees C with virtually no wind, 60% plus relative humidity and not one single drop of precipitation. This is too much for a average Gow to handle. Hot is not good for me. I don't do hot. I'm not made for hot. It becomes a strange affair when fruit juice and bottled water becomes more important than beer. It is even stranger when the status of the ice cubes in the apartment is a matter of familial import. Indeed, the best buy of the weekend was the air conditioning in the room. £30 well spent. It was so hot you had to close the patio doors to keep the room cool rather than the other way around. Well strange.
On the positive side, it has to have been one of the most relaxing weeks I have ever had. I have never slept so much, never relaxed so much, never been able to put the stresses and pressures of life behind me so much. Which is ironic really as I knew that the results of my job regrading were lying in an envelope at home for me and I had the potential to have a couple of resignations sat on my desk when I got back. But there was NOTHING I could do out there, so fooey!
There are some inevitable ironies on these holidays. The first is that you travel a couple of 1000 miles to a different country and your kids make friends with two kids who live in Tynemouth. Like about a mile from where we live. You have to giggle.
The holiday did underpin a number of my views on this sort of package holiday in a tourist trap. I've resigned myself that I am still an old leftie at heart and my views on the role of the British abroad are pretty harsh. I hate the average british tourist and their stereotypical attitudes of cultural imperialism. I abhore the concept of going to the other side of the world, living (apparently) in a different culture for any length of time and then seeking out a 'Queen Vic' pub, a 'proper' fried breakfast and only every speaking in, and to, English. Cyprus makes this all too easy in that the UK used to administer it so everything is in English, they drive on the left side of the road, their beer comes in pints, their currency is the pound ... you get the idea! It seemed hard to find something honestly hellenic in the bloody place. Especially as the tourist area (Kato Paphos) is so detached from the old town.
Paphos itself is a strange place. It is not Ayia Napa! Nor is it a quiet docile village. It is the place where families go when their kids are in their middle teens, for that one last painful family holiday before they unleash their hormone-addled spawn on the flesh pits of the Med. Loads of teenage boys and girls wandering around with little thunderclouds above their heads DESPERATE to get pissed and shag each other, but totally unable to because their chubby little chava parents are adamant that they should sit with them at the pool bar and drink slushes. Comedy. On the other hand it is also the perfect place for the young couple away on their first holiday together. Last year they met, slurred at each other, rutted basely on the beach, vomited in unison and pledged their undying love over a split E. Now they return to Cyprus, holding hands, walking down the beach, eating in tavernas and radiating BOREDBOREDBORED around them. Again comedy.
Time share touts are another joy of Med holidays that I find almost a sport. We arrived at 06.00 and after a small sleep ventured out for food and water at around midday. We were blindsided by a couple on a scooter who asked whether we were English. Thinking, in our fuddled state 'hey, maybe these are nice people?' we said yes and they 'explained' that they were working for the Cypriot Tourist Board promoting return visits to the island as they were predicting a downturn when it enters the Euro. We were given little scratch cards and amazingly, I won the star prize! (who'd have thought it!) At this point my SCUM senses were flashing as the prizes were 'Camcorder' or '£300' or 'DREAM holiday' - I've been here before, when I was much younger and much more niaive, making a trip to Wooler to be given a bag of shite. However, to claim my star prize, I HAD to go NOW to the next resort and if I didn't I wouldn't get it. Oh there were other things flashing around but it was so blatantly obvious they were time share. I challenged them on it, and asked for ID (which they had left in their hotel...) and then they claimed that the Co-Op is a time share front. Really? Honestly? BWAHAHAHA. At this point I started playing with them when they suggested that they should come and take us to the tourist centre the next morning (hey, that deadline suddenly moved). Sure yes, come and get us. We'll be at the Water Park, but you can wait, fuckwit.
We ran into this scooter riding couple half a dozen times in the week. Each time I was nastier and nastier with them, but they had to maintain their friendly facade. Eventually on the last day, my fun having been had, I told them to fuck off. So much fun with so stupid a couple of tards.
The trip to the Water Park was loads of fun ... for the kids. I do not do risky, dangerous things. Normal laws of physics tend to break down when faced with my weight and general compressed mass. 'Kamakaze Death Slides' just fill me with dread. I did try to 'Lazy River' ride which resulted in some comedy moments as I tried to mount the inflatable tyre (nearly drowning Christine in the process) and then floated around the park. I was in the sun for around 10 minutes. I look like I have been blasted by a Death Star! I hate sunburn with a passion. Really, nothing annoys me more. It's avoidable and therefore embarassing. Grrrrrr. We also went to the Paphos Bird and Animal Park. Now I'm a sucker for a good zoo (and yes, I know how evil they are, but sometimes I have to balance that with the experience they give) and this was a good zoo. Until we got to the Parrot Show. I'm not the greatest fans of circuses and these ridiculous charades come just below them. Oh yes, how wonderful it is to see these animals do their nice 'learned by rote' routines, no doubt done through a nice session of Pavlov's Dogs-esque training. See the parrot count, bike, drive a car, put shapes into places and even feckin' rollerskate. The kids loved it. I hated it. It was embarrassing. I ended up taking sneaky stealthy pictures of the people behind me on my mobile phone. And played Solitaire.
Information deficit is something that I find very hard to handle on holidays. Without my multiple news channels and internet access, I find myself almost inert in my natural environment. I find it fascinating the information 'webs' that we have built around ourselves and our reliance on them. Apparently it has been quite wet here in the UK whilst I have been away. England managed to draw a test match against the odds when they should have won and Lewis Hamilton crashed? And other things may have happened. The flipside of this is that without TV and PC I had to go all old school and do the holiday reading, which this year was mainly a 1000 page non-fiction text on the French Revolution and the Napoleonic War. Yes, that interesting! Actually it was and it gave me the brain-space to finally get the last two parts of my Duty and Honour game sorted in my head. Some frantic scribbling later and it now feels like a 'complete' game as I have cracked the 'what the characters do' side of the equation. Hurrah.
So here I am, back again and fully recharged and ready for two weeks of frantic work hell (oh, and having a new kitchen fitted) and then off to GenCon. Woot!!!!!