SO THERE I was at my desk, upon a seat of nails, the light through the blinds drawing stretch marks on my pallid, tear-stained cheeks.
I gazed out of the window and wondered at the little pastoral scene below me that may or may not have been whipped up by Danny Boyle ... Three cyclists, two runners and four dog-walkers. One strolling couple, holding hands. A group of tourists wearing ponchos in the blazing sun. One lanky student with wonky hair, dispensing flyers. Three people walking purposefully, in the way folk do during August in Edinburgh, forever on their way to a show. And in the near distance, Arthur’s Seat, that most reassuring of volcanoes, robed in fuzzy summer green.
“O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” I rejoiced, throwing open the blinds and waving at the shiny, happy people of Edinburgh. “What a heart-skipping, cockle-warming, soul-lifting scene.” I felt ready to make a cute little 1940s dress from the blinds and join them. I had been healed by the happiness of others.
Oh all right then. It was a bit less Sound of Music than that. What I actually thought was this: “Who are these horrendous people? Why do they get to feel the wild mane of Arthur’s Seat beneath their feet? What happened to the recession? To people no longer going on holiday? To laughter being unaffordable? To happiness being unobtainable? WHAT ABOUT ME?”
Once in a while we all feel this cruel stab of, erm, pathetic-ness. It’s our teenage selves, giving us a right good Facebook poke. Here they are to remind us to feel sorry for ourselves, that no one understands us, to tell us that the rest of the world is having a party while we’re stuck outside, big, fat, spotty noses pressed to the glass.
Today’s teenage gripe is this. This is a year when I’m not going on holiday and IT’S JUST NOT FAIR. By the way, the three days in a camper van spent trying to fashion a windbreak from a scallop shell in Arisaig don’t count. If hypothermia is a genuine risk, it’s not a holiday. What I’m talking about is a place where you can wear a vest after dark. A place where the only irritation is getting sand beneath your toes. A place where you walk slowly, read quickly and think deeply until you realise you’re not really thinking at all. A place called a holiday.
I indulged that thought for about five minutes, until my inner Ma Ramaswamy (who tends to boot my inner teenager out of the way pronto) told me to buck up, shut up and accept that the world owes me nothing. I abandoned this traditional idea of a holiday and embraced an alternative. It’s called moving in with your friends for a week.
In the time-honoured Edinburgh Festival tradition, you see, we currently have two Mexicans living in our flat. (They don’t have to be Mexican, understand, just strangers who you really hope aren’t leaving ring stains on the G-Plan furniture.) They arrived on Friday. We migrated a few miles south, to the spare room of some old friends.
Nothing has changed. Same old city, same job, same unironed clothes. Yet, somehow, I’m on holiday. A walk to work becomes a scenic meander through the Meadows. A trip to the supermarket leads to a Luca’s ice-cream on a bench. We make a Sunday roast and it’s like cooking on a self-catering holiday: hunting for utensils, turning up the radio, pouring the wine an hour earlier than is acceptable at home.
I think I’ve come up with something here. Here is a holiday that involves no travel, no stress, no money, yet you still get to leave the place where your bank statements arrive. It’s less than staycationing, but more than nocationing. Actually, it’s kind of like slow travel but at home.
You get to spend time with friends you don’t see often enough, spoil them rotten for having you (which means spoiling yourself in the process), and at some point you will return the favour and they’ll spoil you right back. Simple, sweet and, most of all, cheap. My teenage self would love it. n
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North